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Handicapping & Wagering Guide

Getting Started

Bankroll and Budgets

When and How Much to Bet

Straight Betting

Exotic Betting - Intrarace

Exotic Betting - Multirace

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Bankroll and Budgets

Determining the size of your bankroll and your daily budget amount for the track must be done before you actually get to the track.  Take the cash out before you get to the track and do not take your ATM card in with you.  Also, remember to allow a few extra dollars to eat or buy a drink.  Every horse players bankroll size and daily budget amount is different.  Your first trip to the track I would suggest taking $20-$40 for the entire day, because unless you are lucky are probably going to lose at least a portion of it.  And I would restrain from betting online often until you have good understanding of the game and how to bet.  If you are an inexperienced horse player you shouldn't be experimenting with real money, you can practice new handicapping techniques and betting strategies without actually betting for real. 

I don't have a bankroll that I play with, instead I take $100 per day each day that I go to the track.  Because I live in a state that does not allow parimutuel wagering, I am not allowed to bet online and the closest track to me is Colonial Downs, almost 3 hours away. So, I only make it to the track 5-8 times per year.  For me $100 is an amount that I can lose and know my children are still going to eat.  I don't feel guilty when I leave the track if I have lost the entire amount.  Remember, scared money never wins, so it is important to have a daily budget amount that you can walk away having lost the entire amount and not feel guilty.  By setting a budget amount that you feel comfortable with you'll save yourself from the guilt losing and the headache of explaining to your spouse why you drew out too much money from the on-track ATM.

I know some horse players who set a yearly bankroll amount, then divide that amount by the number of days they allow themselves to bet.  So, if they have a $2000 yearly bankroll and plan to go to the track or bet online 20 days per year, then they are allowed to bet $100 per day.  Or, if they have a a couple of Prime plays (which we'll cover later) or plan to bet on a big race day they can double up on their daily amount.  Their daily budget would then be $100 per day for 18 days of betting and $200 for 1 day of racing.  This way they can plan at the beginning of the year to have $100 per day for 18 regular days of racing and $200 once for a big racing day like the Kentucky Derby or for a day where there are a couple of Prime bets.

Having a bankroll and/or a daily budget you'll be able to plan the amount you bet into each race based on your handicapping.  You can put more money into those races where you think you have a good chance of winning and less or none at all in races you deem as wide open.  We'll go over ranking these races a little later, but it is very important.  The bottom line is you have to come up with a bankroll and budget that you feel comfortable with, even if you lose it all.

There are two other things you need to decide before you get to the track is how you are going to treat your winnings and what is your strategy if lose your first several races or a good portion of your daily budget.  One of my friends wraps it up and doesn't bet anymore if he loses half his bank roll for the day, even if he has a prime bet later on the card.  He's a decent handicapper and most days he could make up the loses, but his mind just shuts off if he loses the first few races he plays.  This summer I watched as he lost his half of his budget in the first 4 races.  In the 5th race he won a little back.  Races 6 and 8 were prime betting situations, but he closed up shop and didn't bet anymore that day.  Both prime bets won and he would have tripled his daily budget, but once he gets in his mind that he is losing it affects the way he bets and so he knows he is better off to pack it up, enjoy just watching the races and come back another day.

You also need to prepared for winning.  It's easy to convince yourself to put your early in the day winnings into races later on the card, because you are playing with house money.  While you can increase your bets if you are winning, you also need to decide on a certain percentage that you will set aside to protect or increase your bankroll.  For example let's say there are 5 races on a card you want to bet.  You have a $100 budget for the day which allows you to bet $20 per race. 
After having bet $40 total on the first two races, you hit an exacta in the second race that pays you a total of $200.  You now have $260 in your pocket, $60 left from your daily budget and $200 from your winnings in the second race.  You could take $120 to play the remaining 3 races and save $140 for your bankroll.  At this point in the day you just doubled the amount you can bet on the remaining races that day from $20 to $40.  And, even if you don't win anymore the rest of the day by banking the $140 you've increased your daily budget for next time by 40%.

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