If you want to get a room full of handicappers up in arms then bring up the subject of betting lines. One extreme will tell you flat out that you will never make a profit if you don't have a betting line. The other extreme will tell you it's a colossal waste of precious time. The first group believes it's possible to out perform the tote board with their "true" odds. Their lines looks something like this:
Horse #2 is a bet at 5-2
Horse #6 is a bet at 7-2
Horse # 9 is a bet at 9-2 Or any variation thereof.
They will tell you they've handicapped so many races they've developed a sixth sense about the probabilities of racehorses to win and no matter how much psychological pressure they're under objectivity rules and they can repeat the "true" odds time and time again. They never fool themselves.
The second group of extremists look at the tote board and decide on the fly which horse to bet. They say things like, "I wouldn't bet that horse at 2-1 with your money. I'll take the 6 horse at 12-1". They're approach is dependent on emotions. After a series of loses they might talk themselves into a 6-5 shot as an "overlay".
There's a middle way. I call it the Circle Approach. As you're handicapping circle your contenders. If you have 3 contenders then you bet the horse(s) that's 4-1 or better. If you have 2 contenders then bet the "overlay" at 3-1 or better. If you have 3 contenders, say, and they're all under 4-1 then go for coffee or a beer, the race is a pass........and so on. To get the full bang for your buck it's a good idea to know what a legitimate favorite is. It's also a good idea to know what a "prime" bet is and the odds you can take on your good thing. My prime bet must be 9-5 or better because that's what my records tell me. Yours may be different. When a legit favorite or a prime profile show up you let the middle way go. Doesn't this sound easy? All we have to do to make a profit is become very good contender selectors. If our contenders win, say, 85% of the time we will do very well in the money department. Where's the nearest Mercedes dealership?
Here's the bad news. There's always bad news. Betting the Circle Approach -or any approach for that matter -will mean that you will have long losing runs. Most of the time you will be wagering on horses that are 4-1 and above. There's no way around those long losing runs. In a previous post I said, "If you have a 50% edge on the game and your win percentage is, say, 25% then you must be prepared for 18 losses in a row! The equation is the logarithm of .005 divided by the logarithm of the probability of failure - log(.005)/log(.75) = 18.41, round it to 18. Once again reality hits us square in the face." Well damn.
We've circled back to the boring topics of psychology and money management once again. And there's the reason most handicappers don't turn a profit, I believe. Is there a guarantee here somewhere? Yes there is. Handicappers that develop mental discipline (we must face the long losing runs with a winning attitude), a sound money management program, and good contender selection skills plugged into the Circle Approach, the Promised Land of a Positive ROI is just over the horizon.P.S. As always, don't believe me or anybody else until you've tested it for yourself.