Saturday, December 8, 2012

When you choose, you lose! Greed and ignorance are a punter's worst enemies, we all know, but too many choices can be deadly, too.

(Click here for Wednesday-Sunday Target GG updates)

Let's face it, the more choices we have to make, the more likely we are to screw up, which is why I have long been an advocate of choosing from as few options as possible, and sticking with just one of two or more alternatives whenever practicable.

It's not a popular point of view.

And if I'm against hopping from Player to Banker at baccarat or from Red to Black at roulette or thinking too much at any casino table game, then my advice must rule out the pro-sports schedule, with dozens of games every day, and horse-racing, which can have up to 16 contenders in a single contest.  Right?

Not so.

The key to success in a casino is to back a single option, and then apply the Target Betting rules with unwavering confidence and consistency.

It's the same with sports betting and at the races, except that instead of following a single series from first loss to inevitable turnaround, you create multiple series or lines, and apply the Target algorithm separately to each one of them.

You can't bet every game or back every nag in a race, so you whittle down the field using filters or parameters that, like the Target rules themselves, never vary.

Forget past performance and weather conditions, players and jockeys and all of the factors that the experts claim can be predictive, and stick with plain and simple numbers.

When I started my (almost!) two-year transparent sports betting trial, some readers were insulted by the very idea that random bet selection could be far more effective in the long run than expert analysis of all the factors that can have bearing on the outcome of a game.

But my primary commitment will always be to the proven notion that when applied with discipline and consistency in accordance with the right rules set, progressive betting can overcome negative expectation.  Better yet, it will create a long-term player edge that is every bit as reliable as the house advantage in any game we care to tackle.

The conventional wisdom is that "the math" is against me.

But I have demonstrated over and over again that in fact the numbers are on my side, and anyone with an open mind and the means to apply fair and accurate tests to the Target concept will inevitably back me up on that.

I don't claim to have invented progressive betting (it has been around as long as gambling, probably) but my adaptation of it is entirely my own.

As many of you know, I started out analyzing blackjack, then created models that proved the power of progressive betting against baccarat, craps, roulette and any game that doesn't amount to suicidal nonsense (the wheel of fortune and keno, for example).

The bad news that emerged was that the Target method requires a very wide betting spread, and a bankroll that is beyond the reach of more than 99% of all the world's gamblers.

The good news is that most gamblers expect to lose and won't help themselves do otherwise, leaving the field wide open for a betting strategy that in the long run beats most other investment opportunities in terms of rate of return and reliability.

I have used Apple shares in the past as a benchmark for a comparison between Target betting on pro sports or horse-racing and a "non-gambler" investing in the stock market, and now is a good time to revisit the example.

In mid-September, Apple's shares reached a record high of $705 a pop; on Friday last (Dec 7) they dropped $14 to $533.

For the Vanguard Group, which is one of Apple's heftiest institutional investors with 41 million shares, the current slump amounts to a $7 billion -- yes, billion! -- hit.

Does that make Vanguard a foolish, irresponsible investor with a total disregard for the numbers?  Hell, no!  Apple is generally perceived to be a long-term sure thing, with a share price north of $750 probable once market volatility subsides and the world's coolest gadget maker launches its new take on TV technology in 2013.

It might seem facile to compare horse-race betting with stock market investment, but in the eight months since I first started a serious study of Target and the gee-gees, the betting strategy is ahead by a six-figure sum after at one point suffering a loss of...well, a helluvalot.

It would be infinitely more facile to suggest, as some do, that given a sufficiently enormous bankroll, any betting proposition with a negative expectation can eventually be made profitable for a well-heeled player.

The millionaires and billionaires who built Las Vegas, Macau and countless pale imitations include many who lost vast sums making the same dumb assumption that a losing streak can be turned around if you throw enough money at it.

Big money is essential to long-term success at gambling, just as it is in stock market investment.  But it guarantees a profit only when its muscle is allied with a disciplined, workable plan.

The enemy of success is, you could say, out-thinking the challenge.

A year or two back, the world's first publicly-traded sports investment fund was launched in Europe with great fanfare and around $5 million behind it, trumpeting the idea that sophisticated computer analysis of every available betting proposition would guarantee huge returns.

Well, pffffffffffffftttt...!  The fund went out of business, as did a US-based project called InvestaPick, which made one bet a day from each of three independent funds or bankrolls.

The European fiasco blamed "a long run of bad luck" and confirmed that all the expert analysis in the world won't help you if you keep on making the wrong choices.

Too much thinking wiped out both ventures, although InvestaPick kept reinventing itself by rewriting history, posting past results with new betting rules applied whenever the red ink got too deep for comfort.

In my transparent sports trial, I ended up almost $200,000 ahead by July, 2012, after posting my picks online ahead of game times every day, followed by results each night or the following morning.

In the summer of 2011, I dug myself into a six-figure hole by deciding that the biggest bets should be applied to games that offered each day's shortest odds.

In doing so, I broke my own rule that random selection is the safest way to go, better by far than human intellect.

And once I abandoned my foolish heresy (with every bet publicly posted ahead of the game, as usual) the numbers took over and Target climbed back into rich green returns.

Both sports and horse-race betting have an enormous advantage over casino table games in that game and race results are readily verifiable and no one can cheat...including me.

I have kept quiet about the progress of "Target GG" because I needed to build up a substantial results database tailored to my peculiar needs, and with just my fingers to do the typing, it has been a long and drawn-out process with a lot more time and toil in store.

The data have to be accurate, obviously, but far more important is that every relevant fragment of information must be entered into a succession of worksheets that are interactive, and able to provide instant answers to any what if? question that an inquiring mind might come up with.

It came as a big surprise to me that horse-racing databases that already exist are entirely focused on arcane details that are virtually meaningless to anyone but thoroughbred trainers, owners and riders, skipping the morning line and post-time odds, for example.

I really don't care that a given entry has won five of his last seven outings, for example, or that his times are improving and that he's at his most competitive in a field of seven or more.

What matters to me is the payback when my horse is first or second past the post, recognizing that unlike in sports betting, where the odds applicable when you bought your winning ticket are what you get when you cash it in, the numbers on the tote board often keep changing even after the gate goes up. 

As always, past results have to play second fiddle to present and future outcomes, because we all need confidence that a method that has been historically profitable won't suddenly crash and burn.

With that in mind, I intend to keep past results and the details of my methodology to myself, at least for the time being, and revive the concept of transparency on these pages.

Right now, I'm betting on at most three or four of the 20 or so tracks that are running races every day in the USA and Canada, backing up to five entries in every race.

Bet #1 is linked with bet #1 at the same track in the previous race, bet #2 with #2 and so on, but beyond that, there is no relationship between the five bets on any race.

My current open tracks are Aqueduct NY (AQU) and Gulfstream Park FL (GP), with Betfair Hollywood Park CA (BHP) tacked on to results from Santa Anita CA (SA) 30 miles or so across Los Angeles County.

Target GG struggled for the first couple of weeks after Aqueduct opened on November 2, but it's well ahead now, as it is at Gulfstream Park after a few rough days when the five-month winter meeting began on December 1.

Meanwhile, I'm in deep red ink at Hollywood Park, having wiped out the profits from 24 betting days at Santa Anita.

I am every bit as confident as Vanguard is in Apple that the current losing streak at BHP will come to an end long before all my profits to date are wiped out and I have to start raiding my initial bankroll all over again.

What I'm doing here is let the tote pick my horses for me, which is the equivalent of the "Ask the Audience" option in TV's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"  I do, I do, and since I know about as much about thoroughbreds as I do about pro sports teams, I am happy to be guided by the popular vote.

You will find regular Target GG updates on the Sethbets website, although given the relatively vast number of bets each day and the fact that odds keep changing up to and beyond post-time, I won't be able to put up my selections ahead of time as I did with the long transparent pro sports trial.

There's still no room for cheating, though: I bet the first, second and third favorites to win in every race, and when the field is large enough, additional money goes on the fourth and fifth favorites.

In the past few months, I have looked at a variety of exotic bets and rejected them all.  There's a reason bookies and the tote encourage them!  I am a plain and simple bettor, never venturing beyond place bets for relative outsiders, and win bets on the "top three" in any race.

The database I have put together so far endorses the experts' expectation that favorites will win a third of all races.

It also supports advice I was given by a top racing official more years ago than I care to count:  "Bet the second favorite to win, my boy, and you'll stay out of serious trouble."

The favorite noses past the #2 more often than not...but odds on the second favorite routinely make up the difference.  If all you take away from this blog is that ancient piece of advice, you will not have wasted your time here!

Each day's update will include a link to the official results page (thanks a million, Equibase!), which includes the odds that prevailed at the off.

Get ready to see some very large numbers, in both red and black ink.

The reality is that no one can hope to win against any betting proposition unless they have the resources to bet a very wide spread.  Mine is from $25 to $25,000 and will widen as time goes by.

Think of Billy Walters, the Las Vegas punter who's too big to be called a whale (which is in any case a term used to describe losers who blow hard and then go under, and Walters has been on top of the bookies for decades!).

Mr. Walters doesn't win all the time, any more than I do.  In a very flattering "60 Minutes" segment a while back, he conceded that he routinely has losing days, weeks and months, but so far has never suffered a losing year.

Winning is all about hanging in there, and sticking with the same strategy, no matter what.

The Target GG rules for horse-race betting provide for filters or parameters that disqualify some races because of ultra-low odds or too few entries, but for now I am betting far more often than I believe is optimum.

For a few more weeks, I'm willing to endure the extra stress and effort that comes from jumping into pretty much every race at the tracks I have selected.  As I said earlier, the fewer choices I have to make, the more successful I'm likely to be.

I'd say Wish me luck! but luck's not what I need.  The numbers have everything taken care of, and as always, I'm counting on them.

_ An important reminder: The only person likely to make money out of this blog is you, Dear Reader. There's nothing to buy, ever, and your soul is safe (from me, at least). Test my ideas and use them or don't. It's up to you. One more piece of friendly advice: If you are inclined to use target betting with real money against online "casinos" such as Bodog, spend a few minutes and save a lot of money by reading this. _