The Key to Winning Contests
Dr. Anthony Trezza
I don’t remember the first time I heard the phrase “You learn more from losing than winning”, but I do remember not understanding it when I first heard it. Maybe it was one of my baseball coaches? Possibly one of my many educators? Regardless of where it originated, it did not register until I hit the fifth decade of my life and in particular my handicapping contest life.
When I first entered the handicapping contest scene in May 2014, I was unaware how different the contest world was from the true parimutuel world. In my opinion, they might as well be ketchup and ice cream. They both taste good separately but together let’s just say they don’t mix very well. This is not to say that playing in contests hasn’t helped my parimutuel game, in fact, it has completely revolutionized it. What I am saying is that contests require more than just winning a bet.
Here’s what I mean. When I decided to go feet first into the deep end of the pool with handicapping contests, all I knew about horse racing was pick a winner and move on. Never gave a thought about ROI (return on investment) and I never gave thought about all the horseplayers in the stands and who they were betting. All I knew was that if I came home with more money in my pocket, then I was a winner. Even if I broke out even, I considered myself a winner based on the fact that there was entertainment value attached. I can tell you, breaking out even at the track means you are a loser in the contest world. It is all about ROI.
So I played for several months using my parimutuel side of the brain and not my contest side of the brain. Yes, it has been discovered they are on opposite sides of the brain. And basically for those few months as a rookie, “I was breaking out even”, which meant I was dropping serious cash into the contest well. I was having fun but not showing profits. More importantly, I wasn’t learning how to become a better player.
This was when the light bulb moment happened. I thought back to that moment when I first heard that phrase, “Idiot, you learn more from losing than you do winning” (I threw the idiot part for dramatic effect). That is when I decided to look into my games and see what I was doing right and more importantly doing wrong. Yes, I know many top contest players talk about going over horse races the day after and re-handicapping the races, and I agree you should take the time to review the replays to improve your handicapping skills. But I believe it is way more significant to review how you played the game. Are you predictable in your choices? Light bulb moment- this is a contest!
Looking back on the old contests, I came to realized one thing – I was predictable. While I was so intent on studying other players habits, I forgot to change mine! And although the bottom line is ROI, and picking winners when it comes down to finishing a contest you better be unpredictable down the stretch. I honestly feel that this is the one characteristic that separates the average player from the expert player.
This point could not be more validated after my recent debacle at the live Monmouth NHC challenge. For some strange reason, I always learn a lot about myself after leaving Monmouth, but that is another blog for another day. Before leaving the contest, I bumped into two of the nicest guys on the circuit Brett Wiener and Lawrence Kahlden. They are both phenomenal handicappers and contest players and both happen to be 100K winners on Derbywars. And yes, they razzed me about not being part of that exclusive 100K club.
We chatted a while about the NHC circuit, online contests and the Arlington Million. And then it happened. Brett and Lawrence validated my life as a contest player. Brett stated that he has been watching my contests from early on, and my game has tremendously evolved. He stated, “You’ve become better because you are unpredictable.” Lawrence chimed in and said, “Yeah, I remember that high stakes contest a few weeks back when I was up by a few bucks, and I swore you would have picked the 4/5 shot, but you chose the 12-1 shot and beat me with a place price.” “You’ve become totally unpredictable.” Boom. Unpredictability.
So as I exited Monmouth’s Tele-theatre, I was greeted by my three sons who had been enjoying the races themselves. I shouted with excitement, “How did you guys do today?” They all said together, “We won!” Then they chirped back, “Dad, how’d you do?” I looked at them with a huge smile and said: “Let’s just say I learned a lot more from losing today.” They stared back at me confused as three deer in headlights. I once again smiled and said, “Don’t worry kids, you’ll get it one day.”