Why TTE Exists


Ever since we launched TTE – debuting with Barbara Bowley’s exclusive video interview of Affirmed’s jockey Steve Cauthen after American Pharoah won the Preakness and before he broke Triple Crown winners’ thirty-six year drought – we have been surprised by how positively the horseracing community has greeted us. This is true not only of veteran horseplayers and organizations (e.g., the NTRA) but also brand new players and unseasoned but highly promising and enthusiastic rookies, some of whom have been contributing articles for the site and tweeting frequently about TTE.

Our website analytics tell us that our website visitors are a young crowd, 61% of them are 34 years old and younger and 46% of them are female. Our Facebook page “likes” are overwhelmingly coming from people with Spanish surnames.

In short, TTE has been attracting the very demographic that the horse racing industry has been trying so hard to bring forward for decades.

And we have only just begun …

Bloomberg Press on September 10, 2015 ran an article entitled “You Aren’t Good Enough to Win Money Playing Daily Fantasy Football.” The authors Joshua Brustein and Ira Boudway write specifically about Draft Kings and Fan Duel. Their article helps us address the question of why Anthony Trezza and Barbara Bowley started TTE in the first place, and why Michael Beychok joined in so quickly upon hearing Barbara announce TTE’s formation on a Derby Wars’ Wednesday night broadcast.

What the Bloomberg article speaks to is how as the fantasy sports world expands tremendously, the people who are winning the big checks of $1 million and more are a select few who are wagering large sums in a huge number of games using heavy-duty computer data crunching programs to find and exploit a small edge. By contrast, most people in the burgeoning fantasy sports world are losing money. The article’s authors go on to note the turn-over in the ranks of those playing, even as those ranks are overall growing despite it being not at all easy to win and quite easy in fact to lose money.

Bill Littlefield at Only a Game interviewed Brustein and Boudway on September 19, 2015. I’m going to excerpt and discuss two segments from that interview:

BL: Joshua, these players who play hundreds of times a day — and they’re using statistical models and spreadsheets and automated systems to generate and manage hundreds and hundreds of entries at a time — what’s that like day-to-day?

JB: It sounds a lot like work: you kind of sit down at your computer. The point isn’t to come up with that one perfect lineup that’s gonna hit for $15,000 off a $5 bet but to place hundreds of bets and make your eight percent return.

BL: There is a little bit of skill involved. This isn’t exactly like walking into the convenience store and buying all the lottery tickets available in the store because you figure you’ll come out ahead.

IB: Yeah, that’s right. You have to know both the sport pretty well and be very up to date on the latest players and injuries and streaks and so on. But you also have to really know the games themselves, the daily fantasy structure, because a lot of it depends on picking players that not everybody else is picking. So a lot of it is experience with daily fantasy; having done this hundreds and hundreds of times, they hone in on systems that work.

In contrast to the commercials that present million dollar winners as average Joe’s standing in a sports bar or sitting at home watching TV, the tiny number (1.3%) of really big winners look more like CPA’s or traders, sitting at their computers for long hours, playing hundreds or even thousands of games per week.

BL: Ira, you guys cite a couple of studies that have shown that most players lose money, but there’s a little graphic at the bottom of the DraftKings commercial that reads: “The average user’s winnings for the last 12 months: $1,263.” Are you telling me I can’t even believe the fine print?

IB: Well, I mean an average — if I’m in a room with Bill Gates, our average wealth is in the billions, but it doesn’t tell you very much. We use data from RotoGrinders which is a community of 20,000 players. It showed that at least the volume of wins is concentrated among the top 10 players winning 873 times a day when they play, the top 100 players winning 330 times [and] the rest of the field of 20,000 winning an average 13 times. So that doesn’t tell you how often they’re hitting for how many times they play, but it gives you a sense of how it’s concentrated. And Sports Business Journal did a look at three months of baseball data and found that only 1.3 percent of players across that three-month span finished in the green.

It should be pointed out here that there are those such as our very own TTE co-founder Anthony Trezza who came over to horse race contests from a background winning big fantasy sports contests and who continues to win substantial sums in those sports without spending 8-15 hours per day crunching numbers on his computer and playing thousands of games each week.

How does he do that? Stay tuned in what follows.

Note here two facts: a) despite winning contests in fantasy football, et al, Anthony is spending most of his time now in horse race contests (what does that tell you about the virtues of horse race contests?), and b) you can learn to win here through TTE and enjoy the experience of being a winner because we are dedicated at TTE to training you in the skills you need to run with the winners.

We are a site run by horseplayers for horseplayers. You don’t need to be a day trader or a CPA to earn your 8% return or better at horse racing. But you do need to invest in certain monthly handicapping tools and you do need to learn how our sport and how contests in particular work and how best to approach these games. The combination of skills you need to win the BCBC, NHC, Players Challenge, HPWS, and DW’s $100k game, are not going to be spread out evenly in the playing population. But we do provide the means by which you can do well, not lose money, and take tremendous pleasure from this game for decades to come. And you will gain the tremendous personal confidence that comes from knowing that you are a winner who knows what she or he is doing and not just feeding the pockets of the 1% who win huge jackpots.

This question of a pyramid effect we are well aware of in our own game of horse racing contests: the very large prize contests ($50k and over) are very rarely or not at all ever won by non-elite players and even making enough money to play regularly and stay in the sport is challenging for those playing for relatively small stakes such as $30-$90. How do you attract people to make this sport grow and how do you keep people playing in the face of this by changing the face of the sport as a whole and on behalf of those who discover the kind of education and community that we offer?

It is precisely this dilemma that TTE exists to address: retention, education, training, and popularization. We exist to make this game accessible and more enjoyable for anyone who plays and engages what we put forth by increasing their knowledge of thoroughbred horseracing and contest play in particular. Instead of selling people picks, which is what others do, we aim to train and educate people about the sport and about how to play contests smartly.

We know the solitary difficulties this sport features because we play this game just like you. We see what has been unrecognized by others: to give concrete expression to the need for community in this otherwise solitary sport. So not only do we at TTE exist for the sake of retention, education, and popularization, but we are explicitly devoted to promoting a stronger sense of community.

I do not use the word community here lightly. Two of us here, Barbara Bowley and myself, are trained social scientists (she’s an Anthropologist via Columbia University and I’m a Sociologist via University of California at Santa Cruz via Harvard before that) and the primary subject of study in both our disciplines is society and what promotes and what undermines community. So we bring keen professional eyes to this along with our personal experiences as elite horse contest players. What we see beneath the surface appearances of this scene is something, in other words, that we have been specifically trained to notice.

I bring this up in relation to special and innovative features that TTE will be unveiling in the near future for members as premium paid items. I also bring this up because, to return directly to the point I began this article with, we understand the reason why TTE has been greeted so enthusiastically and why we believe there is “blue ocean” ahead for us and you who join with us: we are based in and on a social and educational model first and foremost and not first and foremost a market model.

The two models are very different in terms of their overall orientation and what they foreground versus what they background. We are not pyramid promoters but community builders based on reciprocal beneficial relations. We genuinely want to help others get more out of this game that we so enjoy and we are even this early beta stage in our growth doing very well in that goal.

So when we say that we are for horseplayers by horseplayers, we are not just blowing smoke; we really mean it.