The Frog

I feel as though I am a frog in a pot that is slowly being heated. Will I have the wit to jump out before
I am cooked?

Racing has given me a great living throughout my working life and I’m very grateful to it.  I suspect I’m about to be “restructured”.

My constant and main source of income has been punting into the tote pool exotics – quinellas, exactas, trifectas and quadrellas.
In the late 1970’s, when fielding at the Harold Park Trots, I took a bit of a “set” against an old “war horse” resuming from a long spell in the main race of the night – I think it was Paleface Adios. On paper, he was a racing certainty but he was old, coming back from what was thought to be retirement with a couple of substandard gymkhana trials.
Bookmaking, I tried to oppose the “great horse”: opening him at 4/6 ($1.66) and easing him throughout betting to evens ($2). Notwithstanding his status, he was “hard to lay”. I might have “knocked” two or three thousand out of him.
Trifectas had just started and I wrote out a long, complex list of trifecta bets leaving the short-price favourite out of a place and despatched a clerk to place them. I figured: if it were to be beaten, it would be likely for him to be not in the first three. I now know this to be a statistic phenonomen called the Damaged Goods Effect. I outlaid $2160 and the champion duly “missed the hole” i.e. unplaced. My second, third and fourth “picks” filled the placings I had my largest bet on the winning combination. It paid $62,000. A bit of cheese. An average house cost about that then.
Trifectas had my attention.
We realised trifecta “boxes” (where a punter names three or more horses and they are taken in every combination – 3 runners mean six bets, 4 runners twenty four bets etc.) were heavily promoted and utilised and that this was an inefficient way to bet. A bit of statistical work was done and eventually we had a large cumbersome desktop computer whose programme, being fed the assessed prices, spat out stakes but only for combinations featuring runners in betting favouritism order – a sixth of combinations.
It worked a treat. We won about 5% on turnover then. The technique has been improved greatly over the years. It is now “computer to computer” with no operators. It has been very kind to me.
But this has all changed. I just had four losing months.
Three things have happened. Firstly, there is more competition: big Hong Kong and American groups have joined in. Secondly, the commission “take outs” have gone from about 15% to 20%. Thirdly, the pools have collapsed. My records show 2015/16 will be down another 6%.
Pools punters are abandoning the pools, enticed into TAB fixed odds, Corporate Bookmakers and other sorts of betting.
If it was only the pools dropping, I’d cope. The trouble is the competition has increased rather than matched the reductions. If the pools were 100X and they were made of 70% recreational betting and 30% professional, that works. But pools are now 60X, it may be they are made up of 20X (from 70X!) recreational, 40X professional.
No good for me. I think I have to jump out of the pot!

Gai’s Gazette – Edition 26: July/August 2016

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