My $50,000 Year at the Races
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157 pages

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A Harvard dropout’s memoir of playing the horses—a great read for handicappers or those who enjoyed Ben Mezrich’s Bringing Down the House.

In 1977, before he was known as the creator of “The Beyer Speed Figure,” Andrew Beyer set out on a gambling odyssey, determined to prove himself as a horseplayer. He would marshal all his handicapping skills for assaults on four racetracks: Gulfstream Park, Pimlico, Saratoga, and the Barrington Fair.
The then thirty-three-year-old Harvard dropout had the credentials for this undertaking: two years earlier, his book Picking Winners had won a claim from bettors and critics alike. But the theory of handicapping and the practice of it are two very different things, and Beyer did all he could to prepare himself for this new challenge. He consulted with other professional horseplayers. He undertook detailed analyses of trainers and their methods. He refined his speed-handicapping techniques. He developed a revolutionary method for evaluating horses shipped from one track to another. He formulated a bold betting strategy. During the year, he experienced the dizzying thrill of winning more than $10,000 in an afternoon, and agonizing frustration that drove him to bash a hole in the wall of the Gulfstream Park press box. When it was over, Beyer had amassed a profit of $50,664.
His account of the year offers a rare, unromanticized look at the world of professional gambling. For horseplayers who have dreamed of beating the races, he proves that the dream is, sometimes, attainable. And he explains, in specific detail, how it can be done. There are no gimmicks in My $50,000 Year at the Races. Instead, there is a proven method of beating the races—and Andrew Beyer’s marvelously entertaining story of how he put it in practice.



Publié par
Date de parution 01 avril 1980
Nombre de lectures 2
EAN13 9780547839783
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 4 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0075€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Table of Contents
Title Page
Table of Contents
Charting My Course
Gulfstream: Palmy Days
Pimlico: There’s No Place Like Home
Saratoga: Graveyard of Champions
Barrington Fair: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Crime
Making Figures
Appendix A
Appendix B
About the Author
Copyright © 1978 by Andrew Beyer
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.
Past performances and result charts from the Daily Racing Form are copyright © 1978 by Daily Racing Form, Inc. Reprinted with permission of copyright owner.
The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows:
Beyer, Andrew. My $50,000 year at the races.
1. Horse race betting—United States. 2. Beyer, Andrew. 3. Gamblers—United States—Biography. I. Title. SF332.B49 798'.401 78–53918 ISBN 0-15-163693-1
eISBN 978-0-547-83978-3 v2.0513
To Ann
I am deeply indebted to the Washington Star and former sports editor David Burgin, who permitted (and even encouraged) me to combine my newspaper duties with my peripatetic gambling.
I also wish to thank David Obst and Dan Okrent, who conceived this book; Tom Stewart, who edited it; Dick White, who offered valuable comments on the manuscript; and the Kid, without whose assistance I would not have experienced a $50,000 year at the races.
Charting My Course
When I started playing the horses, I often dreamed about being a great professional gambler. This was more than a materialistic goal; it was a romantic vision. A man who could live by his wits at the racetrack would have the most independent, exhilarating, satisfying existence that I could imagine.
By the start of 1977, my fantasy had become a real possibility. I had already paid my tuition as a student of handicapping for many years. I had bet avidly, and lost consistently, while I grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, attended Harvard, served in the Army, and worked as a sportswriter in Washington, D.C. Finally, in 1970, I achieved my first breakthrough. After making more than a hundred trips to the track, after devoting practically all of my mental energy to the Racing Form, after pushing nearly $20,000 through the betting windows, I showed a profit of $99.60. No matter that my hourly return was less than that of the average migrant farmworker; I could (and often did) proudly say that I beat the races.
Over the next few years I continued to beat them steadily enough so that I felt qualified to write a book on handicapping, Picking Winners: A Horseplayer’s Guide. But my pride in my own modest accomplishments was beginning to turn into frustration. I thought that I should be able to win $50,000 in a year and prove that I could make a good living at the track. Instead, I had won slightly less than $10,000 in my very best year, which hardly certified me as a legendary high-rolling gambler and didn’t even justify the enormous amount of time I invested in handicapping. I felt like a track star who can run a mile in 4:02 and knows that somewhere within himself he has the potential to break four minutes and join the elite. But how does he bridge that gap?
I wasn’t sure, but I was determined to try. I wanted to make an all-out effort to realize my full potential as a horseplayer. And I would never find a more auspicious time to do it than 1977. I possessed a healthy bankroll; I was free of financial pressures and responsibilities; I had a job as the horse-racing columnist for the Washington Star which allowed me to go to the track wherever and whenever I wanted.
But before I could undertake this serious gambling venture, I had to understand the reasons why my past successes had been so limited. And I had to formulate an intelligent strategy for the year ahead. So I turned for guidance to the only gambler I knew who had achieved the goal for which I was striving.
Charlie had grown up in a lower-middle-class New York neighborhood where playing the horses was a way of life. He was probably not endowed with significantly greater intellectual gifts than the pals with whom he cut classes in order to play the daily double at Aqueduct. But Charlie had become a paragon of the professional horseplayer. Even in the jealous little world of the racetrack, he commanded the respect of everyone who had ever watched him operate.
“Is there anything,” I asked him, “that you and all the other pros in New York have in common?” His answer was a revelation. “One thing,” Charlie said. “We’re all specialists. I know one guy who does nothing but bet horses who have been running in sprints on the main track and now are going a distance on the grass for the first time. He doesn’t get many plays, but he wins enough of them to make money. There’s another bettor here who only plays maiden two-year-old races according to the prices that the horses were sold for as yearlings. It sounds crazy, but he makes it work.”
Charlie, too, was a specialist. He knew how to watch the post parade and tell which horses were ready for a maximum performance. He knew how to watch races and observe things that no one else could see. He would judge horses according to his own very subjective visual impressions. A few times a year, he would find a situation where a horse had impressed him in his previous races, looked good on the track, and was entered under optimal conditions. From these rare situations, Charlie would earn his livelihood. He had no desire to broaden his handicapping skills. “I’ve got a good thing going for me,” he said, “and I don’t want to tamper with it.”
Charlie had become an extraordinarily successful professional gambler because he recognized his own narrow areas of expertise and capitalized on them. I had not. I had begun my handicapping career the way most people do, looking for some universal formula that would produce nine winners a day. And I never quite relinquished the hope that I could master every facet of the game. After Picking Winners was published, my ego was so inflated that I refused to acknowledge my own shortcomings as a horseplayer. I wanted to use every handicapping tool and master every type of race. I paid for my hubris. I was like a good singles hitter in baseball who suddenly gets delusions of grandeur, starts swinging in vain for the fences, and then finds that he can’t even hit singles any more.
After my conversation with Charlie, I finally realized that there is nothing shameful about winning money with limited, specialized skills. So I took an inventory of my handicapping methods, looked back over my past triumphs and failures, and identified my own strengths. Obviously, I wasn’t about to ignore the fundamentals of the game, but I wanted my serious bets to be grounded in one of the three areas of handicapping where I felt confident of my ability.
Speed Figures . I became a winning horseplayer when I discovered speed handicapping, a technique as intellectually stimulating as it is profitable.
I was enthralled by the mathematics involved in expressing a horse’s performance as an unequivocal figure. I translated the time of his race into a numerical rating. To this I added the track variant—the product of some elaborate calculations—which indicated the inherent speed of the racing surface over which the horse had competed. The resultant figure gave me a whole new way of looking at the sport.
Never again would I have to judge a horse with such crude yardsticks as the class in which he competed and the number of lengths by which he was beaten. Now I could say that Horse A had earned figures of 82, 86. 84 in his last three starts. Horse B had run 79, 88, 78. So I would prefer Horse A unless I saw a reason why B was likely to duplicate his next-to-last performance.
When I started using figures I was dazzled by horses who had run extraordinarily well in their most recent race. But I soon found that speed handicapping is most effective when one horse has earned consistently higher figures than the other horses in the field. If I locate an animal whose last three or four performances are better than the last three or four races of all his opponents, I know from experience that he has a solid 70 or 80 percent probability of winning. There is no more reliable type of bet.
As I played horses like this in the early 1970s, I felt like a practitioner of an occult art. At that time most horseplayers were skeptical about the utility of speed handicapping; no book had ever explained how to make figures. So I was able to collect big prices on outstanding horses that the public overlooked.
Those glorious days are gone. Picking Winners and other books helped create a legion of new speed handicappers. Hucksters are advertising figures-by-mail services. And almost all horseplayers have increased their awareness of the importance of the times of races. This is unfortunate, because in order to win significantly a gambler has to stay a step ahead of the general public.
But while the payoffs on figure horses have decreased in recent years, I observed one common situation in which most speed handicappers went wrong. If a Maryland horse figured strongly in a race at B

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