DeRosa: I overlooked vertical wagers for too long

DeRosa: I overlooked vertical wagers for too long
Photo: Ron Flatter

I was disgusted, OK?

That's why I am finally getting around to reporting my 2022 wagering statistics. 

I went into Dec. 1, 2022, thinking I had a big chance to post a winning year. My ROI was -1 percent. Have a good December and we're popping champagne and not just for the ball drop.

I went into Jan. 1, 2023, well, disgusted. My ROI for December was -90 percent. The worst month I've ever had. Just abominable.

And worse: It snowballed. My ROI in January was better (how could it not be?), but starting off the year at -50 percent after ending the year at -90 percent was super disappointing.

Admittedly, I should have done this exercise in earnest to hold myself better accountable. I think that would have helped in January. I cut back and took a breath, but I needed to do more to stem that tide. I knew the bottom-line results, but that kind of streak isn't just bad luck.

So I did a regrouping of sorts, and things are going better. I have not erased the January deficits, but I am close even after a poor Derby week. There were some highlights in 2022, though, so what did we learn?

Well, first that final bottom line. My ROI for 2022 was -8.9 percent, a slight improvement off the -9.3 percent from 2021. My two-year ROI of -9.0 percent about matches my 10-year ROI of -9.6 percent. Am I destined to be a -9 percent bettor? Gosh, I hope not.

Of course, it really is not about being positive over a year or month or week or day. It's about being a +EV, or positive extra value, bettor. Arming myself with the physical and mental tools to be a sharp bettor and expect to win long term.

Avoiding these types of discussions, as I did earlier this year when totally tanking in the last month of the year, is not a way to be a +EV bettor. But as I foreshadowed above, there were positives in 2022 to build on.

My two biggest scores were on trifecta wagers. In both instances I targeted a longer price, used with some logicals while willing to toss other horses clearly taking money in that pool. I do not bring this up to say I suddenly became a vertical-playing savant but rather to illustrate the power of thinking of where the public is going to make mistakes throughout a wagering day and taking advantage of those opportunities.

I far too often try to pick winners and then string them together. Far more often than not a lot of the "winners" I'm landing on are underlaid. I have worked hard so far this year to pass on races where confidence, price or both of those things lack. Handicapping a card and playing a multi-race sequence "just because" is death. I know this is obvious to anyone reading this, but it helps to say (type) it out loud (on the screen).

A couple topics from previous years in review also remained relevant.

I still feel very strongly that betting not in the moment costs me (and anyone) money. You have to be able to adapt to how the track is playing, late odds changes, scratches, etc. All that is to say, caveman plays hours before a sequence starts and unconditional win bets ahead of time are not part of my program anymore. I think it has improved things, or at least helped keep disaster at bay, December not withstanding.

Also, do not bet to place or show. My ROI alone on these wagers is enough to trust this edict, but I've run the numbers every which way – W, WP, WPS, WS, PS, ladder, etc. – and betting to win is always the best ROI (or at least the least worst). If you handicap the winner, then bet to win. If you handicap to determine the final finish and have a clever opinion about second or third, then play a vertical exotic if you have another overlay to hook it up with (see above).


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