Odds really are the crux of the matter in horse race betting. So much of how we look at a horse race has to do with odds; morning line, our own betting line, the patterns of the betting leading up to the race, the near post-time odds, and the final odds.
There is one basic conceptual error that is widespread in horse betting . . .
Players fall into the 'system mode' - that is, they find something that works, and they start to play that situation by rote - in a "rinse and repeat" manner.
The desire for an unfailing method - for consistency - is completely natural and understandable. But - the reality of horse racing betting is always right there on the infield tote board - forever sending flashing reminders to you: "This is not a static game."
You've got a newly updated reality coming at you every 30 seconds!
Everything you brought with you; the hours of late-night handicapping, the years of testing - rejecting - and testing again, all the retooling and honing, the preconceptions and "hossy" myths of all types, your horses-to-watch list, and on and on - it all must be modified now by the current reality of those changing odds.
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So how are we to best look at those betting odds?
There are two distinct camps; those horse handicappers and horse race bettors who want to see the odds on their horses go up, and those that want to see the odds on their horses go down (?!).
The first group are the "value" bettors - those that require any horse they bet to be an overlay to their own betting line (or less accurately - to the morning line). The basic stance here is:
"I've done my work - I'm quite sure I'm a better horse handicapper than 90% of the others betting in this race, so I'll take advantage of any unrealistic betting on the part of the crowd and when they over-bet one or two horses and let others rise to attractive odds - I'll bet those."
The other group - the "follow the money" race bettors - admit there are other players who are sharper than they are - professionals and insiders who load-up on the really "good things." The basic stance here is:
"Money makes this game go. If I closely watch and follow the money, I'll be getting the best of it in the long run."
Let's say a bettor in the 'value group' has a list of 3 horses that he believes are contenders in a 10 horse field. He's made fair odds on on his top horse at 3-1 / his second horse at 5-1 / his third at 7-1.
If his second ranked horse goes off at 2-1, this player would not now be interested in wagering on this horse (to win). Let's say his top ranked contender is going off at the 3/1 he gave it, but the third ranked horse is going off at 12-1, there is where he will bet.
He's concerned with betting overlays to his own opinion - this is where he finds value. He is willing to pit his understanding of the horse race - his opinion - against the opinion of the crowd.
A bettor from the 'follow-the-money group' has probably delved much less in-depth into the handicapping of the race. He has a general feel for what he thinks would be fair odds for his contenders, but is more likely using the track's morning line as a guide.
He is watching for "action" - unexpected betting volume on certain horses. The key here is "unexpected."
If a horse that is 9-5 on the morning line is getting bet steadily, and is at 7-5 near post-time - that's likely the poorly informed crowd's money - the "band wagon jumpers" betting on a public handicapper's choice.
If however, this type of race bettor sees a horse that was 7-1 on the morning line now at 5-2, he considers that surprise betting action - probably from so-called "smart money" - the stable, or connections, professional handicappers, etc.. Though the value players might see this as an underlay, he sees it as an opportunity to follow the smart money.