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and they're off!

i went to the horse track for the first time this past friday, prompted by my friend Dan who is much more familiar with it. It was a pretty fascinating and enjoyable experience; not just the actual sport of horse racing and the complexity of betting strategies, but also the kind of crowd that it generated which i was looking at through slightly tinted lenses as i have a particular impression of the sort of people that go to horse races and that was met with more mixed crowd than i would have thought.

probably the most fascinating thing about the betting structure which is not something that i knew ahead of time is how the odds are generated on the fly. As in, the program defines what the expected odds are based on what experts predict, but the actual payout odds are defined based on how much is bet on that horse versus what is in the total prize pool (minus a "rake") which changes constantly up until race time. this means that making the most profit on any situation is a combination of the facts and statistics given about the horse and jockey and a measure of group psychology or maybe just last second betting to determine what horse that is likely to win/place/show gives the best payout odds.

Dan had some good insight having had the most experience, enough that he was able to win what's called the Exacta Box 3 times in a row through a combination of quick analysis, intuition, and some luck in how the races turned out. All of those bets were $6 bets that would pay a certain amount based on the horses that he picked for the exacta, which in one case was somewhere around $100. I tried the exacta two times and didn't win on either (although i got very close on both), but i did end up winning on a couple of other win and place bets to minimize my losses.

One of the decisions that i made early on - and this is really the point of the entry - was that i was going to do most of my betting based on intuition. There was a ton of information available to me on the horses, jockeys, odds, &c, all of which can contribute to making a good potential positive EV bet. But it was way too much information for me to handle on a first time go. So after getting the basics from Dan about how to read the stuff and then getting a brief after the first race as to why he picked who he did which made a lot of sense to me, i stuck with that and mixed in a little variation just to keep it interesting. Taking one aspect of the data available and making the most of it until you get used to dealing with it and thus then being able to instinctively deal with that data before absorbing more is a key component to how i learn these days. And i trust my instincts when it comes to this sort of thing; they usually don't steer me too wrong.

it was a pretty refreshing sort of experience, not unlike when i went ice skating or skiing or skydiving, but in a different form. I was flooded with a lot of variables and sights and sounds and senses and culture and expectation that i only vaguely knew anything about, and it was wonderfully overwhelming. I doubt that i'll make going to the track a regular occurrence, but it's a great social time killer for once or twice a month.

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