11/07/2013 11:02AM

Bob Pandolfo: Streaks—good and bad—are part of the game


Everyone wants to be consistent, but everything runs in streaks: the weather; the stock market; the economy. Life runs in streaks. Throughout the course of our lives, the average person experiences their own share of ups and downs. I remember when I used to play a lot of basketball with friends. One day I'd hit jump shots one after another like I was Pistol Pete Maravich and always get the roll.  The next day every shot hit the rim like a brick. Why does that happen? No one knows, but it does.

So it's no surprise that gamblers also have streaks. This is one of the biggest challenges a gambler has. Can they weather a storm? The wins will come, but can you take the losses?

Being able to handle the emotional roller coaster of streaks is something that a successful gambler must be able to do.

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When you read about Harness Racing, and racing in general, there is a lot of talk about multiple-race exotics. Much of the handicapping advice that's being given on TV and the internet revolves around the Pick 4 or the Pick 5 wagers. More money is bet in the exacta pools, but, the sport has decided to promote these multiple race wagers instead. And the wagers are attractive, especially when there is a low takeout and .50 cent option.

When you're playing these types of wagers spread across four or five races, streaks come into play in a big way. Catskill Steve has been handicapping the 50 cent Yonkers Pick 5 for the USTA on their www.ustrotting.com website for the past few months. He emailed me less than two weeks ago expressing frustration because he had not hit after 18 nights. Then he hit for over $900. It wiped out all of his losses and put in him the black. A few days later he hit another for $479.50 and now he has a good profit. His average wager has been around $30.00.

That's the thing about these multiple race bets. Everyone wants to hit one right away, so they have a cushion and some confidence. But you know that rarely happens. Chances are you're going to have to sweat out a losing streak right from the start.

Let's look at what it takes to show a profit in these wagers. Bankroll is important. Players who have deeper pockets have a much better chance of coming out ahead in these wagers. If you're only betting Pick 4's or Pick 5's, you could go weeks without cashing a ticket. So these types of wagers are good for players who have a big bankroll because they can afford to have 18 straight losing days.

Another factor is the minimum wager. Even with a $1.00 minimum, betting fifty to sixty combinations, you could easily lose 15 or 20 straight bets. That's why the 50 cent wager has become increasingly popular. Many tracks now offer either a 50 cent Pick 4 or a 50 cent Pick 5, or both.

Unless you have a big bankroll, you might want to concentrate on the 50 cent multiple race bets. And it's not just about bankroll. Some people simply don't have the stomach for losing. For most horseplayers, betting horses is a form of entertainment. If you're betting $60 worth of $1 Pick 4's every day and you lose 25 straight days, you're down $1500 and haven't had a winner all month. Gee, that sounds like a lot of fun. With a 50 cent Pick 4, your $60 is going to get you twice as many combinations, and that makes a huge difference.

It's easy to find these 50 cent wagers. First of all, the type of wagers and the minimum amounts are listed at the top of the racing program and past performances. And, if you bet online, or using a SAM machine at the track or off-track betting center, as you click on each race it will show you the minimum wager that's accepted for each race.

I think in the future you'll see more 10 cent and 50 cent wagers, even in the Pick 6. And the pools will be huge. The lower minimum wagers provide a player with more leverage and help protect against run outs (I’ll cover that next). And, let’s not forget that many of these multiple race wagers give you a better chance of showing a profit because they have lower takeouts. Many tracks are offering 15% Pick 4 or Pick 5 wagers. This is a much better deal than some of the other bets and it increases your chances of showing a profit at the end of the year.

We all want to avoid losing. But we also want to avoid losing streaks and run outs. What is a run out? A run out is when you make a long series of bets without cashing a ticket. Run outs are tough, not only from a financial standpoint, but psychologically a long streak of losing bets can take all the fun out of betting horses. I know I don’t like it. These lower minimum wagers give a player a better chance of avoiding a run out because you have more combinations. You will cash more tickets.

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But we all have to be aware that streaks are part of the game. Personally, I'm sort of an old school bettor. I will press a hot streak and back off a cold streak. Many people who write about betting say that you shouldn't do that. They advocate betting the same amount all the time. That philosophy is based on the theory that you don't know when you're going to hit and you don't want to bet more on the losers than the winners. It's also based on looking at gambling the way an investor would.  I understand all that. But gambling is not investing. As I've said before, investing is a misnomer. When you buy a stock, you're making a bet on that company. It's just like betting on a horse only the race takes longer to finish.

Good gamblers know when to press their bets. I've always raised my bets when I'm hot and vice-versa. I've found that when betting horses, I can get on a good streak that can last from two to six months. Bad streaks usually only last two or three months. But I want to maximize my returns when I'm hot. Naturally, if I get into a slump, chances are that the first 3 or 4 weeks is going to be the worst part of it, because at that point I'm not aware that the hot streak is over.

A lot of this is intuitive; that's an important part of gambling. Let's face it, you know when you're going well. For one thing, you're picking a lot of winners. You're showing a profit. When I'm on a good streak, I've noticed that I can have two losing weeks in a row, but still be on a hot streak. I still have confidence, especially if my horses are racing well but just missing. When my horses start finishing last, then I know I'm in trouble.

If you're a horse player, it's unlikely that you're gong to win every week. But the thing is, you can feel it when you're hot and when you're not. I'm not saying that I send it in when I'm hot, but I do gradually increase my wagers. The thing is, the hot streak is real and it's not going to last forever. I try to maximize my returns during that time.

To find out more about Pandy’s handicapping theories check out his www.trotpicks.com or www.handicappingwinners.com websites, his free picks at handicapping.ustrotting.com/pandycapping.cfm or write to Bob Pandolfo, 3386 Creek Road, Northampton, PA 18067.