Greyhound Handicapping: Don't Talk Yourself Into Losing

April 10th, 2013

Do you remember the first time you hit a big longshot payoff at the dog track? I do. It was a win bet on a female greyhound who ran the outside, but only did well when she was in an inside box. She had to be able to "hook" to the right on the break, or she didn't run.

Her lines often read "wide" or "outside", so when people saw her in an inside box, they figured she'd get blocked, so the odds on her were often pretty good. I saw her win from the 1 box and remembered her unique running style and made a mental note to play her next time she was in an inside post.

Well, a few days later, she was and I did and she won and I got almost $20 from a win/place bet. I also played her in the quinella and made over $20 on that, so I was a very happy camper. I couldn't wait to find more spot play longshots like that one and I began to look for them with a finetooth comb on every program. And I started losing money.

In the thrill of hitting a big payoff, I had forgotten why the odds are long on longshots. It's because they don't have a very good chance of coming in. When you're playing spot plays, you have to realize that you're going to lose many more bets than you win, so they have to pay enough and you have to be selective enough to pull it off. I wasn't. Expecting to find spot plays and good longshot bets in every race is NOT the way to make money.

It's a rare program that has more than one longshot on it. It's almost unheard of to find two on a program. And, if you find three, throw away the program, because you're seeing things that aren't there. Instead, handicap your programs the same way you always do, but be alert for a longshot to show up. That's what I do.

Instead of looking for longshots, I just start out looking for dogs to eliminate because they don't make the grade, then I handicap the rest of the dogs in each race, trying to find the one that has something extra going for it. When I find that dog, I decide whether I'm going to play it to win, to win and place, or in exotics. That's how I've made the most money over the years, not by picking big longshots.

I live in a state where deer hunting is a popular sport. First time or young deer hunters get something called "buck fever", which can lead to some mighty dangerous situations. They're so excited about getting that big buck, that they start to see deer where there aren't any. For them, trees, cows, birds and even other hunters can set off a volley of shots with sometimes tragic results. Longshot fever, while it doesn't lead to such dramatic results, is similar.

You hit a big payoff on a longshot, and you start seeing them everywhere. You want the thrill of hitting another one, so you talk yourself into playing dogs that are longshots because they don't have a chance in Hades of coming in. You convince yourself that - this time - the dog who hasn't won in 16 races will suddenly figure out this racing game and win for fun. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.

Only play a longshot if you have a very good reason to think that it should be at lower odds. Dogs that need a certain post to win and are in that certain post are a good bet. Dogs that need a certain post and the break and are in a race with much faster breakers, aren't a good bet.

Dogs with much slower times than the other dogs are NEVER good bets. Don't go there. Longshots are like four leaf clovers. Hard to find and there aren't as many as there are three leaf clovers. So, be on the lookout for them, but don't talk yourself into playing them more than once in a long while, because that's when they come in.