Using your Gut in Tournaments

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Using Your Gut In Tournaments

By Michael Beychok

2013 NHC Champion

So, I won a tournament this weekend. No, not the big 50k like my fellow TTE contributor Dr. Anthony Trezza but a tournament that was important to me nonetheless – a satellite to the Saratoga pair of live contests next month.

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve won a tourney so it was quite a good moment. I had informed my wife earlier in the week that I was going to Saratoga to play a tournament. (You husbands out there you know I had asked permission earlier of course). Her question to me was “how much is the entry fee?” I told her but added that I was going to try to win my way in instead of paying the fee.

72 hours later I had two seats to the tournament and household bliss was intact and enhanced.

Here’s how I did it.

I’ve written previously about a “method” of handicapping I use on occasion that utilizes some methods explained so well by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink. This type of decision-making involves trying to make decisions based on very little information combined with what we commonly call our “gut”.  How many times have you said or heard a fellow contest player exclaim, “Damn, I had that horse but changed my mind at the last minute.” Hundreds? Thousands? I’m guilty of it many times over. We have all heard the phrase, you think long you think wrong and in a contest that is usually always true.

I had played three hours of tennis Saturday morning in the Louisiana heat and humidity and sat down to handicap the races and knew immediately that I had neither the brain power nor the stamina to go for 2-3 hours over the contest race card. From my own experience I know that there is no real in between in handicapping time allotment for me. Either it is 2-3 hours or more or it is the “blink” method that shows the most success.  So I went with the latter.

I handicapped – if you really want to call it that – in about 45 minutes. I had my Thorograph/Bruno workouts/trainer stats and Brisnet PPs all cued up on the laptop and basically went through each until I saw something that stood out as a key factor.

For example, in the first race featuring Fish Trappe Road I knew that horse from his last race having bet on him in the Twinspires Players Pool at 25-1 and knew in his current form he was going to be tough to beat. Selection.

In the next race Fruity had a nice workout and best jockey against a bottom of the barrel group. Selection.

In the Belmont Derby I always take the Euros so I took the O’Brien that had the highest odds.

And so on and so forth leading up to the race that really sealed the win for me, the race at Santa Anita featuring the return of Firing Line. I knew that I could not use Firing Line because of his expected low odds. So, I was already looking for a long shot and found it when looking at the Thorograph numbers and the Bruno workout report was STRONG on Conquest Cobra. His odds were going to be high due to the reputation Firing Line brought to the table so it was a quick and it turns out – right – decision.

I changed only the last two picks in the sequence to block, which I effectively did on the final race when I selected the same horse as the player in second place thus locking up the win before the race.

We can talk a lot longer about what my reasoning on my blocking strategy was but that is for another day and Dr. Trezza is much better at that than I am but in this case it worked.

Saratoga_OnSale_Slide_479x381I had 7 winners out of the 12 races. I’m not bragging I’m just sayin’ that the results illustrate that in some situations this method of handicapping works. Now, some might say, “yeah, so does throwing darts.” And, that of course is true as well.

But, the point I would like to leave readers with is not that everyone should adopt this method of handicapping for all your contests. That is silly. This is an illustration in how using your first instinct, not over thinking a decision and trusting your “gut” can lead to some success.  See ya at the Spaaaaaaaaa.

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Michael Beychok
2012 NHC Champion and Eclipse Award Winner Beychokracing.com Michael Beychok aka "whodatchok" was the 2012 National Handicapping Champion winning $1 million and the Eclipse Award for best handicapper of the year. A horse owner, Michael has been handicapping horses for 40 years and playing contests for over 15 years. He is the all-time leading money winner in handicapping contests.

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