Essay: Making the Most of Handicapping Software

I enjoy hearing from handicappers so much that I can't help but remind you how good it is to hear from so many of you, whether it is by phone, e-mail or letters. The latter aren’t anywhere near as common as they were even five or six years ago, but occasionally I still receive them. In fact, I received a very interesting letter from a NY handicapper just last week, and he wrote in detail about a couple of very interesting races he had handicapped recently. I plan to profile those races soon, and very much appreciate Bill P. for sending them in! The focus of this essay is the role of software and handicapping.

Back about 11 or 12 years ago when we were working on completing the software for the TIPS methodology and finally after a lot work by a small team, including foremost of course the programmer who worked tirelessly and determinedly to ensure that all the tipoffs were correctly programmed, as well as myself and Art Baker, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude his frequent help and yeoman efforts.

Art was more than an immense help - he served an integral part in securing a successful software program for TIPS, all on a volunteer basis. Art is a seasoned and longtime TIPS handicapper, who fiercely believes in the integrety of the correlational TIPS method; he goes way back to when my dad was actively developing and running "Tom Worth"." In the development of the TIPS software, Art spent hours helping, advising and communicating with the programmer and me to make sure the program was just as good as the paper and pencil version.

It took some doing as we wanted to be sure all the TIPS were analyzing the past performances as they should be, but it was worth the effort and finally the software was in place. Soon after the TIPS software was released, right away we started hearing great things. Handicappers were reporting successful plays in the way of incredible long shots they scored using the TIPS software.

For example, Art and J.B., both from Florida, shared their experiences with readers of The TIPS Report(which I will reference further along in this article). I was also hearing from part-time handicappers, especially in regards to how much they liked the Bonus Box feature of the software in that it was helping them cash in on some incredibly high price exactas. (The Bonus Box identifies a horse(s) to include in an exotic with the top one or two TIPS selections.) 

Naturally, I also hear from handicappers with questions, results to report, as well as those who want to discuss the software in relation to a race or two. Those who know me or have been with us for some time, know that questions, discussion points and comments are always welcome, as are hearing of any frustrations. I'm here to assist as best I can, though technical issues with software is not my forte. Handicapping, yes; computers, no!

Now, on occasion I hear from someone who questions why he or she has to even take the time to look at the past performances. In other words, some want the handicapping software to do all the analyzing and decision-making. 

In response, I explain that in my humble opinion, we handicappers should look to handicapping software as a tool rather than a way to purely automate handicapping. I believe, as my father did, that handicapping is as much an art as it is a science. We need to employ judgement as we intepret the data based on our own handicapping knowledge and observations.

Thus, when someone inquires about software, I advise to view it as an incredible timesaving tool, but a tool nonetheless that you employ to narrow the field to the top contenders, at which point you just need to to take a few minutes to compare and analyzie those contenders.  

In the case of the TIPS Software, yesno doubt about it: the software dramatically reduces the time it takes to screen an entire race card for the various TIPS, (aka tipoffs or handicapping angles), a process which would normally take even an experienced handicapper perhaps 40-45 minutes to do by hand. In a manner of speaking, by spotting the TIPS for you the software has done the heavy lifting and has saved you a truckload of time.

But don't let the software do all the thinking for you! To make a final selection, use your handicapping know-how to manually examine the two or three contenders with the highest TIPS total as well as the Bonus Box horse.

Now, for you to capitalize on the TIPS Software, you should have at the very least a basic knowledge of the TIPS Method. I believe this is a must. At minimum you should have the TIPS Update. (If you want an in-depth review of the development of TIPS, you should have my father's original TIPS Manual - still in its original typewritten format - an oldie but a classic, which means this dates back to the early 1980s and is dense reading. If at all curious, definitely call me to discuss.)

If you have the TIPS Software or are thinking of ordering it from us, you should most certainly read the Sept/Oct 2008 and Sept/Oct 2009 issues of The TIPS Reports which feature contributions by Art and J.B. Each shared extremely helpful and insightful reports on how they've used the TIPS software to isolate very profitable plays. Moreover, each generously included comments to help fellow handicappers successfully navigate the TIPS Software. (These two issues are now available as downloads, or you may order the print versions.)

If I remember correctly, J.B. in particular made fantastic use of the Bonus Box feature along with some common sense $ management to score with some 'bombs away' exotics, (such as the 3rd at Calder, 8-27-09 which paid $432). Just one exacta like that, will far more than double your investment in the TIPS software.

The title to the first TIPS Report software article, in the Sept/Oct 2008 issue, is appropriately titled and reflects my belief in how to use software, namely, "Handicapping: Man and Machine Spell Profit!!"

In his report, Art significantly notes how the TIPS Software allows you to adjust the points awarded for your favorite tipoffs. Because the TIPS Methodology is correlational handicapping, this customization is a valuable feature. As my dad would say, adjust it to reflect your "playing personality." In this case, you can have the software pinpoint those tipoffs which you have found significant and successful for you.

For example, if you have found that certain tipoffs are more effective at the tracks you follow or for the types of races you prefer to handicap, then you can adjust the software to screen for those TIPS. One of our workout patterns was among Art’s top favorite tipoffs and thus, according to Art, whenever any of these handful of tipoffs were isolated by the program then the software would award maximum points for those particular TIPS. Thus, Art has essentially personalized his TIPS software to search for those TIPS handicapping factors which have proven successful for him, especially those he has found to be especially significant when found in relation to one another. 

The software has saved Art hours of handicapping time, yet it has also given him the benefit to do the final handicapping and decision maker by taking just a couple of minutes to examine the one to three horses isolated by the software. Because he's familiar with the TIPS method and its logic, he can quickly and confidently gauge whether or not to wager on any of the top contenders identified by the software. 

As handicappers, we want to be in the driver's seat in applying our know-how and experience in making the final selection. 

In the case of the TIPS Software, for example, as J.B. wrote in his report, one shouldn't simply select the horse with the highest TIPS point total. Examine the individual TIPS, look for significant clusters and/or pairs, and especially look at the Horse TIPS as they can be quite signficant, especially if there are more than a couple. This final process, taking the time to look at the TIPS and not just the TIP count, can make a huge difference with your bottom line. In fact, J.B. and Art note in their respective reports that a couple of subtle judgment calls account for their success as profitable handicappers.

In Case Study #2 in Art Baker’s article, “Man and Machine Spell Profit,”  he describes how within seconds the TIPS Software isolated a 30-1 horse at Keeneland, Cure For Sale. He immediately recognized the horse had a lot more going for it than a handicapper might suppose at those odds. For one, with a remarkably high number of 5 Horse TIPS showing, Art reflected on what that might signal about trainer intentions. 

Art, who is among the very best of handicappers, succinctly and expertly details his thinking process in weighing Cure For Sale as a potential selection. As you can read in his report, upon reviewing the software's analysis, he ranked Cure 3rd in this race. His faith in both the software and his judgement sealed his decision to wager on Cure.  

Cure went to post at 60-1, led from the first call to the finish and paid $124.80 to win and $38.20 to place. The exacta with the second odds choice, (3-1, Locata), returned $621.20. The post time favorite, Impressionism, ran 3rd to round out a $3,029.60 triple.

This is not the first, (or last), 30-1, 40-1 or 50-1 horse the software has isolated; there have been many. The TIPS Software was programmed carefully and is very true to the spirit and identification of the tipoffs. As good as it is, I continue to strongly encourage you the handicapper, as I first did 11 years ago when the software was released, to invest the extra few minutes to review the potential selections. 

The software for our simpler, more straightforward spot plays are quite effective and fast as they too can handicap an entire card in a minute or so. My advice for these software programs is the same:

  • Read and become familiar with the paper and pencil version of the method related to the software. 
     
  • Once the software has identified the top contenders, take a few minutes to look over the suggested selections. Because you have versed yourself with the original paper and pencil method, knowing the logic behind the method will help you assess which, if any, of the top contenders appears to be the most solid. Even by taking these few extra minutes you are still saving an enormous amount of time. 

Over the past week, I've had the pleasure of talking at length with several handicappers who use the software for Four Aces+2 and/or the Big Easy spot plays. One was a gentleman with whom I spoke on Tuesday, February 19 in regards to the Four Aces+2 software. I reviewed a few races with him for that day, and then we briefly discussed Golden Gate from the previous day, President’s Day. The selections he found with the software matched up exactly with my paper and pencil selections, which I had given out in my daily selection service. All four of those selections won or finished in-the-money including the 5th race winner, Warren’s Lil Margie, who returned $11 to win and $3.20 to show. It was great talking with him and comparing "man vs. machine"!

In yet another exchange, L.C., a terrific East Coast handicapper who has been using as his “go to” methods, The Big Easy, (profitably for close to 2 years now), and The Four Aces+2 sends me emails to keep me up to date from time to time. Even though he began using The Big Easy paper version, (actually he began with a basic, ‘spare’ one page paper outline I sent him of guidelines, before the actual method was back from the printer), but eventually he ordered the software for both The Big Easy and Four Aces.  Leo, (L.C.), as I noted, he does send me e-mails from time to time, and he sent  me a couple recently which he generously gave me permission to share, and I will.

L.C. makes great use of the Big Easy software and views it and the method so reliable, it is like a “deposit slip” for him. That is a powerful statement! While The Big Easy is his "go to" method, he also uses the Four Aces+2 Software. I've included below one of his more recent emails, noting that after nearly 20 months of using the Big Easy, including about 17 months of using the software, The Big Easy, is still as profitable as it always was.  I would say that he is a bit over the top in his compliment to me, but wrote what he wrote.  He has similar confidence in the Four Aces+2 software, although he still uses the Big Easy more. However, he still takes a few minutes to review, (by hand) to make sure of his final selection(s).


Below is his e-mail from Feb 19:

From: Leo jr <lb@gl.com>
To: TIPS Report <tipsreport@aol.com>
Sent: Tue, Feb 19, 2019 5:46 am
Subject: Re: big easy

Good Morning Jon,

Yes, I continue to use the Big Easy software with great pleasure. I DO NOT use the software's top pick however.

Instead I apply the paper and pencil rules from the info.presented by the program.  

Using the paper and pencil rules in conjunction with the program I am averaging 40-45% Winners and 65-75% to Place. The prices tend

to be on the "short" side ( $3.00-$6.00 ) to Win and some tracks, e.g CTX, PENN. and GG, are better than others . However the averages and steady profits I've quoted have been steady for @ 2 years. I can still analyze @ 10 tracks in about 30 minutes letting the program do the analysis and then applying the paper and pencil rules to the information presented. I hope this has been of some help !  I'll be happy to answer any other questions.

Your genius continues to shine, Jon.

Warmest Regards,

Leo


Here is a 2nd e-mail from Leo from the following week when I asked him about the 4 Aces:

-----Original Message-----
From: Leo <lb@gil.com>
To: TIPS Report <tipsreport@aol.com>
Sent: Sun, Feb 24, 2019 10:00 am
Subject: Re: e-mail

Jon,

Please feel free to share my thoughts with anyone !.

Yes, I have and am using 4 Aces as a back-up to the Big Easy ! Again, I'm using the software for analysis but making my selections per the "paper and pencil" method. Very effective. Has reduced my handicapping time by hours !

Who's looking good for the "Derby" this year?

Warm Regards,

Leo

PS- Now living in the shadow of Belair Stud!


Leo is handicapping, exactly the way that Art and J.B. did when they were using the TIPS Software 10 years ago, and hitting those “Grand Slam” home runs, with Art cashing a $123 winner at Keeneland, and J.B. isolating an $89 winner at Calder, which helped him collect an exactas as high, (or occasionally higher than that of his $432+ exacta), while in the same race 3 of his 4 his top TIPS selections combined for the $4,334 trifecta.

J.B. wrote that while the software isolated the Trifecta, “as you can see, the trifecta was there for me to play, but my confidence was too low.”  

However, he still cashed a huge exotic in that race, and went home many dollars richer!

Art, J.B., Leo are winning, $ making handicappers. All of these winning handicappers have a few factors in common:

  • They let the computer do the “heavy lifting.”
  • Because all of them have read the original spot play methods that I wrote, (and have at least a "working knowledge" of the TIPS Methodology), and thus know the thinking behind the handicapping logic. While they let the computer separate the wheat from the chaff, they still take an extra couple of minutes to view the information on the final two or occasionally three contenders before making a final decision.
  • They have confidence in the computer, but still do a final “manual” check of the contender(s) in order to confirm their final selections.
If we refer back to Leo’s email, we can see that with the spot plays, the computer has all his contenders at 7,8, 9, even on occasion 10 tracks in just minutes. Then Leo can manually eyeball those couple of horses per race, and make his final decision, because he knows what to look for because he has read the paper and pencil version of the method.  

Computers are fantastic tools, and can be terrific time saving devices for us in our handicapping. However, let’s not be pennywise and pound foolish with our most valuable commodity—namely our time. If I mentioned that the computer could reduce your handicapping time by perhaps 75-80%---it's fair to say that you would be interested in that prospect. So why not take just a few extra minutes of the extra hour or two the software has saved you to maximize its effectiveness by briefly examining your final contenders with your own handicapping intellect.

Let’s not be “pennywise and pound foolish” with our time.

Let me know if you have any questions on any of our software for the following methods or spot plays:

TIPS Software

Four Ace+2 Software

The BIG Easy Software

The Even Finish Software

Call me at 401-921-5158

or email me at tipsreport@aol.com

I look forward to hearing from you!

Yours in sport,

Jon Worth

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