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Americas #1 guru tells how its done


In this article, and in other articles in coming months, we are publishing the be
st of Barry Meadow.
So you wanna be a professional gambler? Its difficult to estimate the number of f
ull-time professional thoroughbred gamblers, but its likely that most whove tried
to do this have failed.
Why? Several reasons:
The takeout is large.
The competition is keen. The proliferation of computer programs and the detailed
information they provide has helped to level the playing field.
Computer programs that can identify overbet and underbet combinations have made
it possible even for novices to correct imbalances in the pools.
More information is available overall. Players all over the world can watch race
s live, check the late odds on the Internet, and get the latest track gossip. Mo
re players are informed.
The game requires capital. People whove saved $2,000 and try to become full-time
gamblers are probably fooling themselves. They cant safely bet much more than $4
a race with such a small bankroll, and thats not enough to make real money.
The game requires a lot of time and study. Many players who are good handicapper
s cannot bet with discipline under the last-second decision-making pressure thats
a key element in this game.
While quitting when youre ahead may be psychologically a plus, there is no mathem
atical reason for doing so.
If you are a long-term winning player who never plays unless you have an advanta
ge, its foolish to quit while youre ahead. If you are a long-term LOSING bettor wh
o plays without an advantage, consider this a hobby.
If it is a hobby, as it is for the vast majority of those who attend the races,
money management shouldnt be a priority. Instead, enjoy the races, the social asp
ect etc. If you want to quit while youre ahead, behind or even, play parlays or p
rogressions or some due-column thing; feel free.
None of this changes a long-term negative expectation. You never know whether yo
ur edge will come in race one or race 10. You never know whether you will cash a
ticket in the first or the tenth.
I have never heard of any pro player (poker, horses, sports, blackjack, harness
racing etc) who believes that you should quit when youre ahead. Because if you ar
e a professional, you will simply get further ahead if you keep playing with an
Its often said, This is a wide open field, its a great betting race. NO. Its only a g
reat betting race if your opinion differs from that of the crowd.
Just because a field is large and wide open doesnt necessarily make it a good bet
ting race. If you have no opinion on the race, or you also believe its hard to ha
ndicap and looks wide open, its not a great betting race for YOU.
When bettors discuss the possibility of making a living at the track, I ask them
about the records they currently keep. Have they been winning steadily using RE
AL money, or is their success based on paper bets and data-mined results?
How comfortable are they making large bets (nobody makes a living with $30 bets)
? What improvements have they made since they started betting?
You cant simply remember those wonderful days when everything you did clicked, an
d you brought home $12,000. You must remember the days when you went zero for ei
ght and nobody even got in the call.
The best way to objectively look at reality is through records. If youre serious
about this game, you should focus on improving. Every handicapper, even those wh
o have won consistently for years, is befuddled by some things.
No matter how skilful you are at betting the horses, you are at times going to m
ake stupid bets. Heck, Ive been doing this for more than 30 years, and I still ma
ke them.
Stupid bets fall into one of several categories:
You have no real opinion on the race, but decide to bet just to have some action
You like a horse, know his odds are lower than they should be, yet you bet anywa
You change your bet due to a comment made by a friend or a stranger;
You are losing for the day and decide to get out by making a larger than usual b
et on a late race.
All these indicate a lack of control. And if you cant control what youre doing at
the track, then assume your betting is simply a hobby that is going to cost you
a few dollars over the course of the year.
The best way to go is to plan your possible bets in advance. That means listing
the days potential bets on a sheet. Mine, which I compile each day (generally the
night before the races), lists the following:
The race number for each race that interests me, along with the post time.
The name and number of the horse I like, along with the odds necessary to bet it
to win, along with the place percentages I need if Im considering betting the ho
rse in both slots.
Potential exacta partners and the payodds I will need to lodge a bet.
Daily double payoff requirements for any doubles that interest me.
I may make some changes to this list after getting the scratchings and track con
You are most likely to make stupid bets when youre losing. Most of us get upset,
to at least some small degree, when we are wrong. If some troubled trip means weve
lost our big bet of the day by a nose, theres a natural tendency to want to bet t
o make up. This is the most dangerous time of your betting day.
Sometimes, one stupid bet gets compounded by a second or third stupid bet.
Thats why some bettors believe in leaving the track early if they are having a ba
d day.
While mathematically this makes no sense, for those players who have trouble con
trolling their gambling, this could be a wise solution. Theres always another day
, and maybe a better one.
While in general its best to see why play offers the best value in a particular rac
e, some bettors might be better off sticking to one type of bet, such as win or
exactas or trifectas.
By doing this, a player can concentrate on the races which seem to offer the bes
t value for that particular bet. He also avoids the lament I should have bet him
in the trifecta thinking, which can be so destructive.
Bettors with smaller bankrolls should avoid exotic bets altogether, because of t
he low strike rate.
I confess that I bet a lot of low-priced horses. But before I take a short price
on a horse, it has to meet certain criteria.
On my ratings, he must rank no lower than second in the field.
He must expect to be in the top half of the field early (especially in US dirt t
rack races).
He has to have a competent trainer and jockey.
He cant have any form questions, no precipitous class drop, no poor last race etc
His running style figures to a be an advantage in the field, considering his bar
rier draw and the other runners.
His trackwork must be acceptable.
He must have demonstrated his suitability for the distance and the track going.
Filter should be used as a guide to help steer you towards the horses you want t
o back, and away from those who are less likely to win or who do not offer you t
he value you need.
Passing a race never hurts. But if you do decide to bet, in races where you have
to grasp for any semblance of anything, try to look for change distance switche
s, blinkers, new trainer/jockey etc. Avoid taking low odds on those obvious trai
ner-jockey combinations the public always hammers.
Hurrying to make up could be a mistake. You lose a race, maybe in a photo finish
, and maybe for big money. Youre angry and you want to immediately make up for yo
ur bad luck (or your handicapping error).
So you rush into the next race, maybe betting more than you should in a quick ef
fort to recoup.
And then if that bet loses, you find yourself betting quickly again, maybe even
on a race you havent
analysed. Before you know it, youre officially on tilt!
Staying in control of your emotions is a significant part of being successful at
the track. Hang around a racetrack long enough and all kinds of crazy, bad thin
gs will happen.
The best way to react is NOT to react. Assume that some bad things are going to
happen over the course of the day. When they happen you wont be surprised.
Check out Barrys website at