Underlays vs. Value Plays

sports-bets-1ikggtp_01When a horse that was 9/5 on the morning line drops to 7/5 or less by post time that is a normal occurrence as favorites are almost always over bet by the “gotta back a winner at all costs” crowd, but what should you make of a horse that began its day at morning line odds of 7/1, 8/1, or maybe higher that by post time is at odds of 5/2 or 3/1? The typical bettor will see this phenomenon as evidence of “smart money” bet by the stable, or others “in the know,” and they may be right.

There was a time I would have bet a horse in such a situation, provided there were no strong Value Plays available in the same race. I called such bets Action Plays in my first book. While the potential for profit is there, I no longer make wagers based on this type of betting action, preferring instead to focus on finding solid Value Plays.

One of the keys to tote board handicapping, what I have come to call handicapping the handicappers, is to notice atypical betting action. The novice board watcher will often assume an unanticipated heavy volume of wagering by the public on one horse is evidence of a coup in the making while a seasoned board watcher will have learned to toss said horse aside as a losing proposition in the over all scheme of things. A seasoned board watcher will look for a situation such as the following, wherein the number six horse began the day at 10/1, dropped immediately to 7/1, then edged slowly upward until post time. As the horses began to enter the starting gate, the horse was at 14/1 and a solid Value Play.

MtoP  #1    #4    #6
M/L:  5/1   7/2  10/1
21    7/2   9/1   7/1
20    4/1   9/1   7/1
19    4/1   9/1   7/1
18    4/1   9/1   7/1
17    9/2   8/1   8/1
16    9/2   8/1   8/1
15    4/1   8/1   8/1
14    4/1   8/1   8/1
13    9/2   8/1   8/1
12    9/2   8/1   9/1
11    5/1   8/1  10/1
10    5/1   8/1  10/1
9     5/1   8/1  10/1
8     5/1   8/1  10/1
7     9/2   7/1  10/1
6     5/1   8/1  10/1
5     9/2   7/1  11/1
4     5/1   7/1  12/1
3     5/1   7/1  12/1
2     9/2   7/1  13/1
1     9/2   7/1  14/1
0     4/1   7/1  14/1
0     4/1   6/1  15/1
0     7/2   6/1  16/1
0     7/2   7/1  17/1Horse_50x50

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