Random
Odds**
**

- By
Charles Carroll

One of the most useful
things that you can do to fine tune your handicapping regardless of how
you handicap is to make your own odds line. Whether your
off-track handicapping is focused on speed, pace, class, pedigree,
trips, trainers, or all of the above, if you've never done it before,
making your own odds line will be an eye opener. It is also
fundamental to modern value betting. The next few articles
will
cover some of the basics and some of the things that are interesting to
observe when you begin paying close attention to odds.

Making odds is one of
those things that can be surprisingly simple, or remarkably
complex. Simple is really all you need in order to add the
huge
benefit to your handicapping that making a line can provide.
Later, if you are going to move into value betting, you will probably
want to refine the odds process considerably.

There are two useful
parts to making a line; one is the exercise itself and what it tells
you about your own handicapping. The other is that it is
absolutely essential to value betting, which well get to
later. Even though Ive written a computer program that
automatically makes an odds line that I have extreme confidence in,
whenever I feel that my handicapping is getting stale Ive found that
the fastest way to give myself both a tune-up and a reality-check is to
handicap a few races and make a simple odds line by hand.

Nobodys done a better
job of explaining odds and odds lines in succinct fashion than Barry
Meadow in his now classic Money Secrets At The Racetrack. In
order to construct an odds line, you need some kind of a mental
template, and the one he suggests is this: If this race were
run
100 times, how many would each horse win? Personally, Ive
always just used the more straight-to-the point analogy of, What
percent chance of winning does this horse have? Both mental
pictures arrive at the same result percentage representing each
horses probability of winning. I do like Barrys image though,
because it forces you to think about the uncertainty of racing just a
little bit differently: it forces you to get past the
I-like-the-three-horse-syndrome.

Say you do like the
3-horse. In your mental pre-race movie, the 3-horse stalks to
the
top of the stretch, where the 1 and 4 fade from their speed duel and
the 3 romps home in a hand ride. Now, rewind the mental tape
and
run the race again a hundred times. Does the 3-horse always
win,
or does the 4 which you were always a little worried about sometimes
hang on and nip it by a nose? Maybe after four or five
runnings
of the same race, the 1-horse nips them both. After 15
runnings,
the other stalker, the 6-horse, has its jockey wake up to make a bid
and surprises the whole field.

This type of analogy is
also good for envisioning high uncertainty races. Say youve
got a field of ten, well-bred, well-trained Kentucky three-year-olds
who have been eating out of sterling silver buckets at places like
Lanes End all their lives, lined up in the gate at Churchill in June,
and running for a nice purse. If you run this race 100 times,
does every horse in the field stand a chance of winning at least once
in a while? Youre darned tootin. Highbred
three-year-old
races are not un-handicapable, but they are among the most
situational. Both your handicapping and your odds line need
to be
in tune to __todays race__ and __todays factors__.
The
same field next Wednesday may give you a totally different result.

On the other hand,
picture the more common fields at most tracks. Could there be
some horses entered that will **never** hit the wire
first even if
you re-run the race from now to eternity? You bet, and this
fact **horses
that would never, or very, very rarely win** comes into play if
you
are going to devise a more mathematically sophisticated odds line, but
for now lets just note that such horses and such races do occur.

By taking the first step
and either picturing the race run 100 times, or by simply postulating
that based on your best handicapping you think the 1-horse has a 25%
chance of winning; the 2-horse, a 10% chance; the 3-horse a 20% chance,
and so forth, for the whole field, you come up with a percentage guess
for each horse. Whats the first thing you notice?
Chances
are it will be that __your percentages add up to a hell of a
lot more
than 100%.__

**First lesson of odds
making**: we tend to over-estimate
contenders. If you
have four horses that you think have a decent chance to win in a
12-horse field, and you hang a 30% probability on the standout, 20% on
the second standout, and 15% on each of the other two then that leaves
only 20% for the other eight horses. But maybe you gave one
or
even two of them an 8% to 10% chance and you are **way**
over 100%.

The Morning Line is a
125% line, and it is not (or should not be. I have a story about when
it
once was) a handicapping line. In other words, the Morning
Line
should not be a track handicappers prediction of the outcome of the
race, but rather his prediction of what the public odds **should**
be, given the factors that the public is known to use. The
125%
is intended to cover the take-out, but for handicapping purposes, we
stick to 100% for our total.

The second step of making
a simple odds line is where you really learn to fine-tune your
handicapping: Make your percentage predictions for all the
entries total 100%. Again, no matter what kind of handicapper
you
are and whether or not you roll this into your everyday routine, this
is
one of the most useful exercises you can do to build your handicapping
muscles. By adjusting your percentage predictions for each
horse
until the total for the field is 100%, you will have to think about
your handicapping (and eventually your betting) in ways you never have
before.

Once you are satisfied
with your percentage predictions and they add up to 100%, you may have
something like: 1-horse, 12%; 2-horse 6%; 3-horse 25%;
4-horse
3%; etc. for the whole field.

There is a fairly simple
way to mathematically convert probabilities (the percentages above)
to odds but it is a heck of a lot simpler to use a table. For
convenience, there is an odds table posted on this site (check the
"Article Library" links). You can save the odds table page onto the
desk top of your handicapping computer so it is just a click away when
you need it, or you can find these tables in many books, notably Barry
Meadows and Dick Mitchells betting books. These will give you
direct conversions of percentages to odds. For example 50%
= 1 to 1 (even money); 22.22% = 7 to 2;
4.76% = 20
to 1; etc. When you look at the tables and begin to use them
with
your own predicted percentages, you will begin to see some really
interesting and from a profit standpoint, really **important
things**.

One of my favorites is
one of the most basic. Random odds or Natural Odds, is simply
the probability of any given entry winning, if all other factors are
equal. Examples are used like dropping ten marbles
simultaneously
from a ten-story building. Unless its done in a vacuum, the
marbles will fall differently, but totally unpredictably.
Each
marble has a 1 in 10 chance or a 10% probability of hitting the ground
first; so random odds are 9 to 1one chance of a positive outcome,
nine chances for a different one. Say you handicap a race
with a
10-horse field and have a good, solid feeling about your
work. If
ability and all the other factors that we handicap had no meaning, each
horse would have a 10% chance of winning and its natural odds would
be 9 to 1. However, all those factors do matter, so you give
the
4-horse a 25% chance of winning (3 to 1), another contender a 16%
chance (about 5 to 1) and the rest lesser percentage probabilities. In
this 10-horse field, as soon as you give any horse a greater than 10%
chance of winning, then some other horse or horses must have less than
10%. **The more horses you put above 10% and the
higher you put
them, the lower other horses must drop in order to maintain a 100%
total.**

So you get to the track
and guess what? You were right! The 4-horse is the
favorite
and is absolutely destined to win, but the crowd didn't miss that fact
and it is odds-on at 4 to 5. All of your three contenders are
standing at odds **less** than what you predicted
commonly called
underlays. And, all exotics using them are
pathetic. The
only thing you notice is that a horse that you made 12 to 1 is standing
at a whopping 30 to 1 on the boards! Wow! What an
overlay!
At this point you need to put down your Budweiser.

You just did a fabulous
job of handicapping. The only problem is that the crowd did
too. You gave this 12 to 1 horse a less-than-random chance of
winning. **First law of odds making:**
__if you
believe in your work, then a horse you give less than random odds of
winning is not an overlay at any price__. Betting on
a
less-than-random horse is betting directly against your own
handicapping skill.

Were you
wrong because
you made the favorite 3 to 1? The public made it odds-on at 4
to 5. Did you underestimate the ability of this horse by
almost
30 percent? (Your 25% vs publics 55.6%.) Not
likely.
You were probably more right than they were. Thats next
week.