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Jeff Tune's Gambling Blog
Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Last Saturday was the Buffalo Raceway final qualifier for the World Harness Handicapping Championship.  There were only twenty of us handicappers entered (see my previous post). The top five get paid and the winner gets the trip to the WHHC finals at the Meadowlands. The contest format was the same as before, and as usual I came prepared.  I really wasn't in love with the races this evening but who knows - anything can happen.

I had a couple horses at each track I really liked but I was afraid their prices would be too low.  My first prime horse was King Otra in the third race at Buffalo. He was 8-1 morning line but I figured he would be half that at post time.  Surprise surprise! He was 12-1 at post time!  But alas, King Otra ran evenly and finished 4th.  The very next race was my other Buffalo best bet, Most Happy Rider who went off at only 9/5.  Nonetheless I played him in the contest.  He looked like a winner in the stretch but lost by a head to a 13-1 longshot (luckily no one had this horse). Anyways I am on the board with the place money - $390.

I also bet the Meadowlands third and fourth race but only came away with $360 in place money.  Then in the sixth I passed on my first Meadowlands prime bet as he was only 3/2 odds (he won).  One other contestant hit the 14-1 winner in Buffalo's 7th to take a big lead.  However no one else was doing very well at all, or they were saving all their bets untill the late races.  My other Meadowlands prime bet didn't run a lick in the 8th, and I lost my bet in Buffalo's 8th. I now only have four bets left.  It will be tough to catch the leader but hitting the top five is do-able. Still, I need to look for some prices. In Buffalo's 10th I play the #1 horse, Gary's Party who is sitting at 6-1.  But at post time he drops to 3-1.  Gary's Party nearly goes wire-to-wire but gets beat a neck.  The $410 place money gets me into 8th place but not far from the top five.

In Buffalo's 12th I go with K C COLT, another runner who gets bet down late to 3-1.  K C COLT is game as hell going a long first over but loses it by a head. More place money but only $320. Luckily mostly short prices at both tracks so nobody is making up any ground.  Contestant Dick H. is still way ahead.  I still need to look for a price horse so I land on Relentless Dreamer in the Meadowlands 10th.  He is picking up David Miller, one of my favorite drivers.  My notes for his race last week say "ok close from last."  He's gonna have to do it again as he is from the 9-hole tonight. Relentless Dreamer is sitting at double digit odds when I place my bet.  Well, he uncorks a furious stretch run and I'm yelling for him to get up but it's a neck loss.  Another close second place finish!  He ended up at only 6-1 but the $700 place money puts me in 6th place only $10 behind the 5th place contestant! Buffalo is done and there are three races left at The Meadowlands.  I only have one bet left and decide I must wait until the last race to see where I stand.

Going into the 13th and final race nothing has changed - I am still in 6th and $10 away from 5th.  The leader is about $3000 ahead of me.  I have somewhat of a dilemma in this race.  Triple Major is a horse who has been on my horses-to-watch list for the past two weeks as he has had two tough first over trips!  But Triple Major is 1 for 45 over the past two years!  Plus he moves out to the 8-hole tonight, and maybe most importantly, goes from driver Andy Miller to Andrew McCarthy who is only winning with 4% of his drives this year. Triple Major opens up at 18-1, enough to probably make me the contest winner.  But his odds drop to single digits making my decision much easier.  I cannot play Triple Major, and I decide that I can't catch the contest leader and I am going to try to finish in the top five. There are three other horses vying for favoritism  Of the three I decide the most likely winner is Gratias Deo, a winner last week.  I'm a bit concerned that last week's driver Corey Callahan has jumped to another horse and is being replaced tonight by Vincent Ginsburg, who is batting only 6% this year.  However he is 2 for 5 with this trainer so I'm crossing my fingers. 

Gratias Deo wins easily at 5/2 and the win place money for me is $1060 which vaults me to a third place finish in the contest!  Good for $250 in prize money.  Ironically, it was Gratias Deo who I bet in the last race of last month's contest which ended with me in third place.  Deja Vu all over again!

It's actually quite a shocker that I ended up in third with only one winner on the night and five small place cashes.  In fact my final total was only $3240.  That is actually a losing night when you consider I'm betting $4000 total! I'm just lucky no one else did very good except for the top two.  Still a surprise as there were seven horses who paid double digits.


Posted by pa/tune at 10:32 PM EDT
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Monday, 9 March 2015

Mood:  celebratory

Last Saturday night I ventured up to Buffalo Raceway for the first of their four qualifier contests for the World Harness Handicapping Championship.  They hold four of these in the month of March and the top five finishers from each contest return on April 11 for the finals.  

Here is the contest format:  You must make ten mythical $200 win/place wagers.  Five of the ten wagers on any of the Buffalo Raceway races and the other five on any of the Buffalo Raceway or Meadowlands races.  As usual I came prepared - I had handicapped in advance, watched replays, and had plotted out my contest strategy - which races I would play/pass.  

My first bet was my best bet of the night at Buffalo.  ELITE was coming off a long, tough first-over trip last week where he only missed winning by a neck. Tonight he had the rail post and he was going off at an unbelievable 8-1.  I played him in the contest and put some real money on his nose also.  He looked like a winner at the top of the stretch but could not get by the 4-5 favorite, and lost by a neck again!

My next bet was in the 4th at The Meadowlands.  SMART ROKKER was shipping in from Freehold where he won his last race with a very tough first over trip.  And for that effort he received the highest last race Trackmaster speed figure of this bunch!  Despite this he was being ignored in the betting and was 14-1 at post time! Driver Brett Miller got him up to win by a neck, and my resulting win/place total was $4640 which vaulted me into first place.  Only one other contestant in the contest had him (there were 44 players in the contest tonight).  I added to my total on five of my next six bets.  The other contestant, Dick H. moved into first with a 10-1 winner. He and I were way ahead of everyone else and with two bets left, I needed only $700 to pass him.  I struck out on my ninth bet and decided to go with my original pick in The Meadowlands finale - GRATIAS DEO, 5-1 ml odds..  It was getting late and I placed my bet and left early to head back to Erie.  I checked the results when I got home.  GRACIAS DEO finished second to a 37-1 longshot winner. I got the $600 place money - not enough to pass Dick H.

Well, I didn't see the official final results until a couple days later but someone had that 37-1 winner in the finale and as a result easily won the contest (there should be a cap on longshots in this contest).  I ended up in third so I qualified for the final on April 11.  I really can't complain about my results - out of my ten bets I had three winners and five seconds.  Three of those second place finishers lost by a neck!     Stay tuned!


Posted by pa/tune at 7:28 PM EDT
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Friday, 23 January 2015
Blackjack Again

Another Thursday night, another match play in hand, and a couple of $5 blackjack tables going.  I started out the night betting some Woodbine harness races but kept wandering out into the casino to check the BJ situation.  I didn't find a seat (or a desirable one) right away.  But soon it was after 9:00 PM, and being a school night I figured I better sit down and play pretty soon.  I sat down at a $5 table and dealing was Matthew.  I got a blackjack my first hand!  Matthew was a friendly, fun dealer and the table was friendly and fun too. These are the BJ tables I like and it was no surprise I had some good luck.

I played almost two shoes of blackjack - that's a long time at a table for me.  And Matthew dealt the whole time!  I got three blackjacks along the way (Matthew got zero!).  One hand I wasn't sure about.  I had 99, dealer showed an 8.  Should I split?  I wasn't sure but I thought I should.  I had brought my BJ cheatsheat along but it was in my jacket which was back at my seat in the simulcast area.  I asked the table and dealer if should split it.  Dealer said no, player next to me said yes.  I split.  Got a 8 on one hand and a 2 on the other.  I  doubled that one and got a 4 for 15.  Dealer busted! Turns out a couple hands later I realized my BJ cheatsheat was in my back pocket!  Yes, you should split 9's against the dealer's 8.

The only negative was that I lost my match play at the BJ table.  I left the table ahead $47.50.  One sidenote about this fun table.  There was an in-between bet that you can make - dealer's up card must fall in between player's two cards.  And if the player's first two cards and the dealer's up card form three of a kind, then the player wins 30-1.  Well, the dude sitting at first base hit three of a kind twice in a row!  What are the odds??!! Needless to say the table was hootin' and hollerin'.

note:  the probability of hitting trips here is .0054, and overall the house edge on this bet is about 3.00%.


Posted by pa/tune at 9:12 PM EST
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Friday, 16 January 2015

Well the winter weather has kept me from heading up to the casino but I finally made it there last night.  I wanted to play some blackjack and use my $10 match play coupon!  Weeknights always feature a couple of $5 blackjack tables and sure enough I saw an empty seat. It was right between a big guy and a big girl and even though I'm a slender guy, I didn't want to squeeze in next to these two.  Plus the big guy was smoking a cigar.  A few moments later a seat opened up at the other end.  But the guy next to it is smoking a cig and setting it down in an ashtray right where I would sit.  Even though this table is winning I take a seat at the other $5 table.

The dealer is Bishari who is a nice enough guy but is beating up on the players.  Soon dealer Charles takes over and he is extremely lucky.  I get one blackjack along the way but I never win two hands in a row!  Needless to say I don't play very long and leave down $18.50.  I decide to use my $10 match play at the roulette table!  The match play coupon is good for any even money bet at tables games - blackjack, roulette, craps.  I figure my best bet is roulette.  Odds of winning an even money bet are 47.37%.  I'm guessing this is better than winning a single hand of blackjack and sure enough, a quick search tells me that the odds are around 43%.  I'm not sure about a pass line bet in craps but I'll pass on that.

I decide to bet my $10 on 1-18.  I don't look at the wheel and I hear the dealer announce "11".  Nice!  I win $20 with the net table game profit a big $2.50.  Funny thing is when I go to Las Vegas and have a single red chip left in my pocket I always play it at the roulette table right between 11 and 12.  I will report back on my next table game/match play adventure!


Posted by pa/tune at 5:35 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 16 January 2015 5:40 PM EST
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Tuesday, 6 January 2015
2014 RECAP

I've always said I have three goals when betting horses.  My goals are to win money, cash tickets, and have fun.  Well, I accomplished two out of three in 2014 and you can probably guess which one I didn't.  Yes, I lost money in 2014.  Cashed lots of tickets (more than in any previous year), had tons of fun, but lost money.  

I started losing early in 2014 and never climbed out of the hole.  The first five months were dismal, summer was pretty good, and fall was probably break-even.  This seems to be a common pattern almost every year so I should probably take it easy until May and then bet with both fists during the summer, lol.  

There were some positives.  Number one was that I had a winning Presque Isle meet.  PID is my home track and I did fairly well betting there this summer.  Also, I again did well at Hoosier Park.  I really need to focus on this track - it's sometimes tough because of their early post, and also it conflicts with Presque Isle. Woodbine harness was dismal in early 2014 but I did much better in late 2014.  So hopefully I can get a good start betting WDB in 2015!  I once again did pretty good handicapping the big thoroughbred races.  Loved Cal Chrome in the KY Derby and played a slew of exactas with him but didn't have the $340 exacta with Commanding Curve, grrr.  I did have some win money on 9-1 Tonalist in the Belmont.  I also finished in 3rd place in an online Triple Crown contest (thanks to Tonalist).  I won a nice wine sampler from a great Calif. winery!

I finally visited Keeneland!  I loved the track and will definitely return.  I'm thinking about Breeders' Cup!  Also, I would like to get up to Thistledown in 2015 - it's been nearly 15 years since I've been there!  I also want to check out the new Mahoning Valley Racetrack.  It's not too far a drive for me. 

Finally, I only played blackjack a handful of times in 2014.  Lost $52 for the year.  I'm itchin' to play and I have some match play coupons so wish me luck!

Here is the breakdown for 2014.  Actually very similar to 2013.  Harness edged out thoroughbred again. Bet type was almost identical to 2013 (again, I cashed lots of small pick threes).  Woodbine Harness was number one in cashed winnings but was not a profitable track! Last year's number one track, The Meadows, slipped way down - they race almost strictly during the day now.  I cashed tickets at 23 different tracks. 

 Thoroughbred vs, Harness 

 Harness winnings       -       51%

Thoroughbred winnings   -   49%

 

By Track 

Woodbine Harness    -      17%

Presque Isle Downs   -      14%

Hoosier Park      -             13% 

Mohawk             -             12%

Saratoga           -              11%

Meadows         -                 7%

Gulfstream         -               5%

Woodbine Thoroughbred  -   4% 

 

By Bet Type 

 Pick Three   -   42%

Win     -            32%

Daily Double  -  11%

Exacta     -       11% 

 

 


Posted by pa/tune at 9:22 PM EST
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Friday, 2 January 2015

Happy New Year!!  I am back to even.  I have a new bankroll.

I bet a little Gulfstream on New Years Day and spent today betting Gulfstream and Tampa Bay along with a little Fair Grounds.  No winners yesterday but I got the ball rolling today with a couple of small pick threes - one at Tampa Bay, and one at Fair Grounds.  I'm looking to start out the year strong.  I just never got out of the gate in 2014 and played catch up all year.  More on that in my 2014 recap coming shortly.

I received a coupon from the casino for $100 in match play for table games.  I have ten $10 match play coupons.  The first one expired before I could use it so I have nine left and I intend to use them all.  I will be playing some blackjack in the next few weeks and blogging about it! Good luck to all in 2015!!

 


Posted by pa/tune at 9:23 PM EST
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Thursday, 18 December 2014
Winter tracks

 

 Thursday Dec. 18

Every year around this time I face the same dilemma.  Which tracks to play? Historically I don't do well in the winter months.  It used to be I could play The Meadows as they raced at least one night a week but they race only days now.  Woodbine is the only harness track I play right now, but I did horribly there last winter (I'm actually doing fairly well so far this meet).  The problem is I hate the half-mile tracks, never do very well at the Meadowlands, and no Dover for me.  I'd like to begin betting Balmoral but they start so late.

And what about the thoroughbred tracks?  I'm usually betting on Saturday afternoons.  I don't play the Calif. tracks, Aqueduct/Parx/Turfway are all dreary in the winter.  I am probably best at handicapping turf races so that leaves me Gulfstream, Tampa Bay, and Fair Grounds.  Looking at the past 3-4 years, Gulfstream Park has by far been my most successful winter thoroughbred track.  GP is certainly a speed-favoring track on the dirt but closers do well on the turf (although in past years the turf course can change to favor speed).  Don't be afraid to play against the favorites - the big name trainers and jockeys will be overbet.  Local jocks like Edgard Zayas are winning alot of races (note: veteran Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado is riding better than ever!). 

I had a rare weekday off today so I handicapped Gulfstream and Fair Grounds.  I picked the winner of 7 of the first 9 races at Gulfstream!  Including cold exactas in 4 out of the first 5 races!  Pretty much all heavy favorites however.  I don't like to bet favorites but I did cash a decent pick three when 9-2 Aripeka got up to win a turf route.  Fair Grounds is even more speed-favoring than Gulfstream!  In the 7th I liked My Shout who appeared to be the speed of the race.  At 12-1 odds I put some win money on this guy.  Jockey Robbie Albarado took him to the lead and My Shout was game in the stretch run to score by a neck!  Turns out I also picked the $152 exacta also but didn't play it!  Oh well, at least this winter is looking promising.


Posted by pa/tune at 10:51 PM EST
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Sunday, 27 July 2014

I arrived at the Saratoga clubhouse Thursday seconds before the 5th race went off.  I got a bet in just in time.  Didn't win that one however.  I didn't have time to handicap the races but luckily I did bet the 4th in advance on my way up. I placed a win bet on a John Shireffs-trained horse who got the job done at 5/2.  I spent the remainder of the card making small win bets on longshots without any luck. Lost a little for the day.  Beautiful weather at the Spa!

 I wandered over to the Parting Glass Thursday night to catch Andy Serling's radio show.  His guests were Tom Durkin, jockey Rajiv Maragh, and trainer Christophe Clement. Definitely worth catching if you are in Saratoga (or on the internet).

Friday I hit the very first daily double!  But it only paid $8.60 and I lost money on my bet. I had an Ipad with me so I handicapped a Monmouth pick three and I hit it - .50 payoff of $26.35, which put me slightly ahead for the day. Then later on hit a nice $57 double for a buck.  Michael Matz with Michelle Nevin.  FYI, Michelle Nevin is 40 percent second off the claim!  Her gelding Writingonthewall got up by a nostril and a nice $19.80 return.  I finished Friday $50 ahead for the day.

On to Saturday - Jim Dandy Day!  Once again I was handicapping a bit on other tracks.  I hit a VERY small pick three at Woodbine (did you know they offer .20 pick threes?).  Going into the Saratoga 5th, I was alive to three horses in the pick three but not to the $58 winner.  However, the dude sitting behind me had him to hit a nice 4-figure pick four!  The Saratoga 6th was a mile-and-a-half on the turf.  Knowing that Jonathan Sheppard horses can run all day I placed a win bet on 7-1 Razzle Jazil.  He wins it! Going into the Jim Dandy I am about exactly even for the day.  I love Tonalist in the race and I am alive to him in a double.  I bet a few more doubles with Tonalist and four others in the finale.  But Wicked Strong gets the jump on him and Tonalist finishes second.  And of course one of my horses in the finale wins at 7-1.  It would have been a good day at the windows had Tonalist won but it was a slight loss on the day for me. 

Sunday it rained a good deal in the AM at Saratoga so races were taken off the turf and there were plenty of scratches. It was getaway day for me but that doesn't mean no betting.  I stopped at Vernon Downs about two hours west of Saratoga to play a couple Saratoga races.  I play doubles on the 3rd and 4th race.  Both favorites win but I get about double my bet back. So a slight win for day five.

Day six - Monday.  I am home and it's my last day of vacation.  I spend the morning doing laundry and handicapping Saratoga and the Meadows.  More rain at the Spa so once again races are off the turf, many scratches, sloppy sealed track.  Not good for betting the Spa so I focus mainly on the Meadows.  My best bet at the Meadows wins but only returns 2-1.  Picks threes aren't clicking but I do catch a 7-1 winner in the 11th.  I'm betting a little at the Spa but it's a chalkfest early on.  I did play a single $2.00 pick six and I get a little excited when I hit the first three legs.  I have a couple longshots in the latter three races.  Longshots indeed do win the last three legs but not my horses.  A slight loss for the day for me.

Definitely had a great time the past six days.  I cashed tickets each day and ended up with a small profit. The Saratoga experience is not to be missed.  This was my 24th consecutive year of going.  As usual I went to Breakfast at Saratoga in the morning.  So relaxing and fun to see the horses, jockeys, and trainers.  Angel Cordero was wandering around, and I got to see Palace Malice workout.  He'll be going in the Whitney next weekend.  And downtown Saratoga is great.  SO much music going on - there is probably close to a dozen bands playing in the four-block stretch of downtown (and that doesn't include all the street musicians you see).  If you haven't visited Saratoga during the racing season, make sure you get there!

 

 


Posted by pa/tune at 9:05 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 9 March 2015 8:26 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Ok, I am officially on vacation.  I left work at noon to play some Saratoga and a little Meadows.  Well, it turned out to be some Meadows and a little Saratoga.  Sat out the first three Spa races but hit my first Meadows bet - a 3-1 winner.  The Meadows offers only four pick threes a card and I played every one today.  No luck in the first three but in the final one I was alive for .50 payouts of $165 and $365! Exciting but not to be.  I didn't really like the Saratoga card today so I was just making small win bets on longshots with no luck.  But the late double bailed me out again! VERY similar to my late double score from Sunday (see last blog entry).  I played just two combinations.  In the 9th, Alan Garcia got the Graham Motion-trained Daring Dancer up by a head to win the Lake George Stakes on the turf.  Then in the finale it was George Weaver again! Hot Squeeze went wire-to-wire to win it at 4-1.  Double returned $41.00.  So my Saratoga angle for 2014 is a George Weaver-trained turfer, off the layoff, in the last race. 

 

So ends day one of my six day Saratoga betting spree.  I promise I will blog a little about each day.  Check back! 


Posted by pa/tune at 7:14 PM EDT
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Sunday, 20 July 2014
Saratoga!

For the next six weeks you will find me sitting on my back porch handicapping the races - it's Saratoga time!  Saratoga opened Friday and I handicapped all the races the past three days.  I had to work Friday so I only got a couple of bets in. Bet all day Saturday and about half of today's races.  Here are some of the highlights:

I was fuming midway through Saturday's card when one of my fave Sar trainers, Tony Dutrow won with Big Trouble.  Dutrow is lethal at the Spa, especially with dirt sprinters.  I had picked him third in this stakes race and I walked out into the casino for a quick hot dog.  Not quick enough as I come back to see the race going off and Big Trouble win at 11-1! Grrr! In the next race I like the #1 horse a little, Fade to Black.  When I see that NYRA handicapper Mike Beer picks him I place a win bet at 16-1.  Fade to Black loses by a nose!  But wait! There is an inquiry and objection on the winner.  It appears that Fade To Black was squeezed into the hedge but the results stand official.  The winning horse pays $15.40 and is trained by. . .Tony Dutrow!!  Double Grrrr!!  Luck finally turns my way in the next race as my 9/2 horse wins by a nose.  Then I hit a small exacta in the finale to actually win a little for the day.

Today I lost a bit early on but then really liked the Mott-trained Crown Queen in the 9th.  She was the 2-1 fave so I played exactas with her on top of six others.  But I do not have the 10-1 second finisher.  But I get bailed out with the late double.  The first part is the Grade One Coaching Club American Oaks.  I like the three faves, Stopchargingmaria, Unbridled Forever, and Taketheodds.  The finale is a head-scratching $40,000 maiden claimer on the turf.  After giving it a good long look, I figure when in doubt go with George Weaver on the turf.  He's also pretty good with layoff horses.  I decide to just play a couple doubles - Stopchargingmaria and Taketheodds with the Weaver-trained Hard Rumor.  Stopchargingmaria wins pretty easily at 6/5 and Hard Rumor gets up at 8-1.  A nice $47.00 double!

I will be up at Saratoga this week and will try to blog a bit.  Check back for all the fun reports! 


Posted by pa/tune at 8:51 PM EDT
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