In last month’s article in this series on international professionals, we introduced Steve Zacks from the Handicapper’s Edge at

In discussing betting, Zacks points out that a punter should start off with a game plan for the year but the plan sometimes may need adjustments.

He says: “If things have changed from one year to the next or started heading south at a particular time of year, there might be external reasons for this change. If you have done the evaluation in question one and have not found the answer in your own work, then perhaps the change originates in external causes.

“When I first started going to the races, periods of extreme weather, then usually the long dry spells of summer or prolonged rainy periods in the autumn, could have significant impact on the track surface thus affecting one’s normal performance if you did not adjust.

“Nowadays, the switch to the variety of artificial surfaces, many of which play very differently from one another, has severely affected the play and the success rates of many. Suppose you are an expert at evaluating early speed and pace plays. Keeneland, particularly at the spring meeting, could once have been your key meeting for the year. Now that has, for the most part, gone by the wayside.

“There could have been positive effects too; if your focus is normally on sustained running styles, you might have had a career year in 2007 due to the switch to artificial racing surfaces. External factors can work both ways too!

“Another question to ask: does what you are doing still have the same impact as when you started using it? The change in recency outlined above is indicative of this type of change.

“While the game itself may not have changed, the returns from certain angles may have been altered by the widespread distribution of certain information. The easy access to speed and pace figures and trainer stats severely lessened the returns for many of these factors turning once profitable angles negative. If you did not adjust, you might be hitting at the same win rate, but the dollar returns may have been sharply reduced.

“It is just possible that the game you play from a handicapping perspective may not match up with your preferred wagering style or profile. There is more to winning than picking winners. You must know how to take advantage of them.

“This involves both developing and matching your handicapping and wagering skills to your bankroll. Playing trifectas and superfectas on a small bankroll is a lot different from playing on a large one; you need to have the mental capacity to cope with long losing streaks to carry out the former.

“This is one of the problems that I constantly encounter in my personal play. My game is tailored to finding overlaid longer-priced winners. I get my share and do okay, though I am not yet ready to retire to a Polynesian Island. I often have long losing streaks and more frustratingly many streaks where there are few winners and numerous seconds and thirds paying generous prices behind.

“This is the nature of the game I play and most of the time I deal with it just fine, though I experienced a very frustrating two hours last week when four out of five $10 win selections placed with returns of $50 and $30, $25 and $12, $20 and $10, and $24 and $11. And of course the fifth one failed to win, leaving me with a $50 loss. Playing the game I do, I know that there are just too many horses that do not show up; my game is not as profitable playing across the board as it is to win – though the frustration level can be higher.

“If I possessed greater skills in putting together vertical plays perhaps I could do better. But I know that as a longshot seeker, I tend to pass over too many logical horses to be successful and with a limited bankroll and being anti-ALL button, I have to live with the consequences.

“At least I am aware of what I am doing, and at least I have done the necessary work to know that betting to place or show is not the answer – in the long run anyway!

“I can only hope that some of these ideas will help you to make yourself more aware of your game and hopefully lead to improvement in the future. Now it is time for that island in the Pacific.”

NEXT MONTH: More advice from the men who know . . . the international professionals who make a living from betting on the races.

Click here to read Part 5.
Click here to read Part 6.
Click here to read Part 1.
Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.

By Brian Blackwell