05/14/2014 8:50AM

Bernier: Value line fine-tunes betting strategy


Guest handicapper Matt Bernier discusses the importance of using a value line to uncover overlays and underlays.

Creating a value line is imperative when it comes to truly honing one’s wagering skills. Christian Hellmers was the first person to really emphasize to me just how important it is to have an opinion and set a percentage to win on each horse, for better or worse. The beauty of the value line is it allows you to quickly identify where your opinions on a particular race differ from the rest of the betting public – and when to take advantage of that.

The concept of a value line is very similar (in a way) to the morning line at racetracks across the country. What’s the difference? A morning line is predicting the odds for each horse at post time – not necessarily the most likely winner. Your value line isn’t predicting who the public is going to bet on – it’s assessing each horse’s chances to win the race based on your opinion. A value line allows you to pinpoint overlays (and underlays) between your opinion and the public’s and take action accordingly.

A value line is created using roughly 100 points (you’ll find that there are many decimals and fractions involved in the math when creating a line. Some people are meticulous about totaling 100 points, but I’m not nearly as stringent – sometimes my numbers will total 99, sometimes they’ll total 102. I just look for it to be within a couple points), whereas a morning line is created with as many as 125 points to account for takeout.

Most people create their value lines starting with the most logical win contenders and work their way backward toward the horses they believe are least likely to win in a given spot. I prefer to work the opposite way. I’d rather go through a 10-horse field, identify the horses I don’t think have a legitimate shot at winning, assign them their small portion of points, and then really dig into the contenders and allot them their appropriate points.

At first, creating a value line will very much be a trial-and-error process – you’ll have times where you go through an entire field and have the point total reach 108, and you’ll have times where you have the total only reach 96. Adjustments need to be made accordingly to ultimately get as close to that 100-point total as possible. This may mean taking a few points from the third choice and delegating them to one of the longer shots in the field, or it may mean dropping the “pretenders” down another peg and making one contender that much stronger.

Let’s use Wednesday’s second race at Belmont as an example.

(Number, name, morning line, percentage points, value line)
1) Mach Seven (15-1 ML; 3% chance; 30-1 VL)
2) Stowe (12-1 ML; 7% chance; 12-1 VL)
3) England (6-5 ML; 25% chance; 3-1 VL)
4) King Gettigan (4-1 ML; 14% chance; 6-1 VL)
5) Giulio Cesari (15-1 ML; 11% chance; 8-1 VL)
6) Wood On the Fire (8-1 ML; 4% chance; 20-1 VL)
7) Dexter Cheesestake (6-1 ML; 22% chance; 7-2 VL)
8) Wild About Dixie (12-1 ML; 7% chance; 12-1 VL)
9) Say Nay Nay (20-1 ML; 4 % chance; 20-1 VL)
10) Come On Charlie (30-1 ML; 3 % chance; 30-1 VL)

Knowing how trainer David Jacobsen and rider Javier Castellano are bet by the public, I’m sure England will go off as the favorite – and likely lower than his morning line of 6-5. On my value line, I’ve made England 3-1 and don’t expect to see anything close to that. Therefore, England is not a likely candidate for a win bet.

However, I’m hopeful that I can get fair value (or fair odds) on Dexter Cheesestake. While he is 6-1 on the morning line, I think he has the look of an honest contender here based on the work trainer Michelle Nevin has done in the past in similar spots. If he’s 7-2 or greater come post time, I’ll go forward with a win bet; anything below 7-2 and it’s either a pass or I’ll try to incorporate him into some sort of exotic wager.

Matt Bernier is a 24-year-old handicapper and cast member of the reality-show “Horseplayers” that airs on the Esquire Network. Matt won the very first handicapping tournament he entered in October 2012 and hasn't looked back since. In 2013, he was one of the youngest qualifiers at the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas.