To read Part II of this two part article click here
The Mystery of Horse Betting Odds Explained
Understanding how horse betting odds are created and knowing which groups influence these odds will help you make better handicapping decisions and spot valuable overlays (horses which should be bet because they are better odds than they should be).
As discussed in previous articles, the way to make money at the races is not by picking winners, but by picking winners that pay more than they should. Anyone can pick 33 percent winners simply by following the public betting favorite at post time, but this has been proven to produce a flat bet loss over time. And this is quite understandable considering that the odds displayed on the tote board at post time are influenced by three groups of people who are wrong 66 percent of the time.
Morning-Line Makers, Public Handicappers and the General Public
The first group of people that influence the odds displayed on the tote board at post time includes those who create the morning line (the pre-race odds that appear in the racing programs and other racing publications); public handicappers and the general public.
Morning-line odds are created by anyone from race office employees to public relations hacks to newspaper handicappers, many of whom have neither the time nor the desire to create a proper morning line. These morning-line odds makers are up against it from the start, having to predict what the public will bet on each horse in each race up to 48 hours prior to post time, meaning that late workouts, scratches and other changes cannot be taken into account. Add to that the fact that many of these odds makers have other more important job responsibilities that actually hinder their ability to create a proper morning line.
If they work for the racetrack (which many do) the morning-line makers may be influenced by the fact that neither the front office at the track nor the horsemen want to see horses listed at 99-1, (making the horse unattractive as a betting proposition and insulting the owner) or 2-5 (making both the horse and the race unattractive as a betting proposition), despite the fact that those odds may be correct. Instead, 99-1 shots are commonly listed at 30-1 and 2-5 shots are listed at anywhere from 6/5 to9/5 to attract more betting.
Public handicappers working for newspapers and other off line and online publications are also influenced by the morning line - in fact those that aren't really handicappers (and there are many) base their selections on a combination of inside tips (almost always wrong) and the aforementioned shaky morning lines. And public handicappers have a strong influence on the general betting public.
The public looks at the morning line in the program, looks at the public handicapper's selections, sees that they are basically the same, and mistakenly assumes, these guys must know what they are talking about, and compounds the inaccuracies even further by betting more money on their selections.
Casual players who would not bet a horse listed at 99-1 on the morning line might not have a problem betting thesame horse listed at 20-1, especially if the horse is picked to finish in the money by a public handicapper. The same is true of a horse that is listed at 3-1 on the morning line but that that shows up as the 8/5 favorite on the tote board after some early betting. The public believes this horse to be a good thing simply because his odds are lower than the morning line, and they jump aboard to make the horse pay even less that it should. Conversely, if a horse is paying 4-1 when the morning line says it should be paying 2-1, the general public may avoid the horse, thinking that the horse is cold on the board and the smart money is elsewhere.
Another scenario where both the morning-linemakers and public handicappers tend to err is when an entry of two horses is concerned. Even when the best horse in the entry should be 4-1, the odds makers will sometimes mistakenly assume that the entry should be lower odds because there are two horses with a chance to win. Public handicappers often have a similar opinion, thinking their chances of picking a winner for their adoring public are better if they get two horses for the price of one. The public looks at the low morning line and the public handicapper's selections and compounds the error further by betting more money on what is sure to be an underlay at post time.
To read part II of this two part article click here
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