Jason Beem's Thursday Column for Apr. 13, 2023

April 13th, 2023

A good Thursday morning to you all! Hope everyone who has been playing Keeneland has been having a good time of it so far. Any opinions I’ve had have mostly been wrong so far, but that’s par for me and that track. I know lots of folks love those four and a half furlong races for two-year-olds but that’s just of no interest to me, especially when they seem to chalk out as much as they seem to. 

But, always an optimist racing fan, I am excited to see what happens this weekend in the Lexington (G3). I was a little bummed not to see more of the horses stuck around that 40 point mark in the Kentucky Derby trying their hand in the Lexington. I suppose most of the trainers are just assuming there will be some defections and they’ll work their way in. I suppose the day of the quick wheel back just isn’t a thing outside of a few barns nowadays. 

Wanted to talk real quickly about the “all-button” and follow up on some of what I talked about on today’s podcast in regards to it. I always caveat any betting discussions that we have with these are just my opinions based on my own experiences and talking to people who’s game I respect. I just saw an interesting example of someone playing the all-button today and it reminded me of my strong feelings, mostly against it. But these are just some thoughts. 

I think a lot of the all-button usage comes from a place of fear and wanting something certain in an uncertain game. But like many things in life, I think that comfort is really actually working against us most of the time, even though in that moment we think it’s great and we like it.

I think the all-button is also based in “what if” thinking and hope. Anytime someone is using the all-button, you can absolutely with certainty know they are wanting the longest price they have. Or at least one of the long shots. They’re hoping to catch the price. 

And it’s that point that makes me wonder why people use the all-button. You clearly want a price horse. Using the all-button suggests you think that every horse in the race can win, so why take the short priced ones at all?

What always made more sense to me was instead of taking all 10 horses in a race, take the highest priced five and bet the ticket for twice the amount. Sure you’ll be wrong many times, but when you’re right, you’re doubling up what should be a very sizable payout.

Missing out on some $200 pick 4’s or 5’s because the 3/1 shot won the leg you were going to go all in, seems much better than missing out on an extra $2,000 if you hit a price and the ticket pays $4,000 for a buck instead of you just having it once for $2,000 when the price does hit. Surely we always regret the big ones we miss more than we do the little ones? That’s an obvious yes, but I think with betting so many people live and think in the short term, they don’t even want to miss on the little one. 

Going back to the blog we did about equity a few weeks back, most often the all-button is going to end up being a negative equity leg. If favorites win 38% of the time, it stands to figure that in the long run they’re going to win at that rate when you go all. So almost two out of every five times you go all, you’re catching the one horse you most don’t want.

Having any horse you “don’t want” on your ticket seems counterintuitive right?  Why did you include the horse if that horse winning upsets you? Of course when we’re two deep with an 8/1 and a 10/1 and the 8/1 nips the 10/1 at the wire, we’re a little miffed. But that quickly goes away because hey we got an 8/1 shot home going only two deep.

But if you’re using the all-button in a 10 horse field, it’s likely that on average four or five of the horses in the race (maybe more if it’s a really close knit board or less if there’s a monster fave or two) are going to gain you equity in that leg. Going 10 deep to even catch a 6/1 shot is a negative equity move, particularly if it’s in a leg most people were spreading in. 

I understand why people use the all-button. I mean, I don’t understand it, but I do. If that makes sense. I said on the show the only time I see it being workable is if in some other legs you’re very aggressively singled or opinionated. If I’m singled to a 10/1 and two deep with a couple of prices in the next couple legs, like there becomes an option where you just don’t want to risk being wrong because even the favorites will pay out huge.

However that’s requiring a mostly skinny and aggressive ticket leading up to that. I mean if you’re single/two deep/single and those four horses are all good size prices, even going 10 deep is only gonna make your ticket cost $10 for $0.50 in a pick 4. I think where you get in trouble with the all button is when your ticket costs start really jumping up and you have more logical horses in the non-all leg, which is how most people seem to utilize the all-button. 

Anyways, just some thoughts on a popular betting angle people seem to like to use that I hate. Have a good weekend everyone!