This is the sixth article in our series which brings you the views, ideas and angles from some of the foremost racing experts around the world. In this article, the US ‘legend’ James Quinn discusses the prospects of making money from your betting.

UNFAIR GAMES VS. FAIR GAMES
In unfair games, a maximum boldness strategy is optimal: Craps, Roulette, Slots, Blackjack. In fair games, a minimum boldness strategy is optimal: Poker, Sports Betting, Horse Racing.

So if you were rolling the dice in Las Vegas, a game where the odds will be against you, you would be smart to bet all or most of your bankroll on a few rolls and hope to be lucky. The longer you play, the more likely you will lose.

If you’re playing the horses and you have become a talented handicapper, you’re smart to bet a relatively small amount (2 per cent of a bankroll) on a large number of races you understand, and depend upon your skill. The longer you play the more you win.

HOW MUCH MONEY CAN GOOD HANDICAPPERS WIN IN A YEAR?
It depends upon:

(B) How much you bet on key horses to win

If you know your win percentage and the average odds on your winners, you can estimate your winning edge.

Your edge is equal to your win percentage multiplied by your average odds on winners, and that product minus your loss percentage.

The amount of money you can expect to win is equal to the amount you bet during the year multiplied by your edge. So if you have a 22 per cent edge on the game and you bet \$100,000 during the year, you can expect to win \$22,000. Which is a nice profit from your hobby and an exciting game!

Here are the attainable goals for skillful handicappers:

Win % Aver. Odds Edge
30% 5-2 .05
33% 5-2 .15
35% 5-2 .22
40% 5-2& .40

The average odds are held constant at 5-2 because in reality they do not vary much on key horses to win.

The edge is equal to your return on investment (ROI). If your edge is 20 per cent, that means for every dollar you bet, you can expect to get back \$1.20. Investors, savers and business men and women would be pleased to do as well.

Notice that handicappers who improve their skill by 10 per cent (30 per cent to 32 per cent) have tripled their profits (.05 to .15). How nice! It pays to improve your handicapping.

THE AMOUNT OF MONEY YOU BET
Nobody can make a decent profit at the races by betting \$2, \$5, or \$10 on key horses to win. Bet size should vary between \$20 and \$200, beginning at the smaller amount. Handicappers can increase the size as experience, proficiency and confidence allow.

Because newcomers and casual handicappers invariably are curious to know, most leading handicappers and successful players bet \$200 or thereabouts on the one, two or three key bets to win they find on a day at the races. Some bet significantly more, and others bet less than half as much.

As a rule, handicappers can expect to find one, two or three key bets to win each day, an average of two. If regular handicappers play 200 days in a year, the number of key bets to win will be 400 and the amount wagered will be between \$8,000 (\$20) and \$80,000 (\$200).

Now would-be handicappers have a basis for estimating how much money they might make when betting to win in any calendar year. Imagine yourself a successful horse player and plug yourself in at one or more of the handicapping and betting levels in the grid below.

\$20 WIN BETTOR

WIN% ODDS EDGE BET BETS INVEST PROFIT
25% 5-2 (.12) \$20 400 \$8,000 (\$1000)
30% 5-2 .05 \$20 400 \$8,000 \$400
33% 5-2 .15 \$20 400 \$8,000 \$1,200
35% 5-2 .22 \$20 400 \$8,000 \$1,760
40% 5-2 .40 \$20 400 \$8,000 \$3,200

\$200 WIN BETTOR

WIN% ODDS EDGE BET BETS INVEST PROFIT
33% 5-2 .15 \$20 400 \$80,000 \$12,000
35% 5-2 .22 \$20 400 \$80,000 \$17,600
40% 5-2 .40 \$20 400 \$80,000 \$32,000

Successful handicappers are playing multiple tracks each day, or more precisely, one-two-three bets at each of multiple tracks. Profits that formerly accumulated just at the local track can now accumulate at two, three or four tracks each year. So dedicated handicappers, by all means, can multiply the potential profits resulting at one track from their skill by two, three or four.

None of this has any relevance to exotic wagering. Successful handicappers also play the daily doubles, exactas, trifectas and serial bets such as the Pick 3 and Pick 6 every day. The edge on any exotic wager depends upon the value expected from that specific betting situation, and is relatively unpredictable from year to year, or even from month to month, week to week and day to day.

Effective strategies for playing the various exotic wagers are important, but they are not related in any systemic way to the profits talented handicappers can expect year after year.

PRIME BETS TO WIN
A standard of excellence in handicapping is the ability to earn a 20 per cent rate of profit on prime bets to win. A prime bet means a high-probability contender that has a clear decisive edge on the field and has been offered at a fair price. Numerous handicappers are talented enough to satisfy the 20 per cent standard. But few do.

Handicappers who win 30 per cent of their prime bets at average odds of 5-2 share a 5 per cent edge on the game. For every dollar wagered to win, they receive \$1.05 in return, a 5 per cent profit.