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   Handicapping Essay: Slump Buster

"Slump Busting" approach for handicappers

Note: Today we revisit an essay from 20 years ago, with just a few edits. I believe it can benefit all of us because, just as in life death & taxes are a certainty, so is the occasional handicapping slump.

Nearly everyone in every profession and avocation experiences a downturn from time to time. When a baseball hitter endures the inevitable hitting slump, when he cannot “buy a hit” for love nor $, and his batting average is plummeting quicker than a boulder down a steep mountainside, he is willing to do almost anything to start getting base hits again. Similarly, there are times when an NBA player cannot buy a basket, everything he shoots rolls around the rim and out or just plain misses, and he cannot seem to get the "shooter's roll" where the ball rolls or bounces off the rim and into the basket.

Unlike professional athletes whose slumps are visible to those watching the game and have support in the form of coaches and teammates to help get the athlete "back in the game," we handicappers generally toil in anonymity and are without a staff to coach us out of the slump. We may have a friend who also handicaps and thus can lend a sympathetic ear and offer advice for getting back on track. Or, you may have a favorite book or article on handicapping that provide you with insight, inspiration and reminders of how to get back to the basics and refocus on the handicapping factors and types of races where you have experienced your best successes and most consistent profits. Most often, many of us are left to figure things out on our own.

If you've been in a long slump, it makes good sense to take a break for a few days. Use the time to reexamine your work for common threads. For example, for large wagers, I usually require a certain number of Horse TIPS with an advantage between my potential selection and the next ranked contender. Perhaps my records will reflect I deviated from this, thus accounting for some of the downturn. 

If you are mainly a mid-range to longshot handicapper, (about 4-1 to 8-1), you can certainly expect your share of runouts, especially in the win slot. Of course, when you do collect on a few wins on your long shot selections your bankroll and psyche can recover nicely.

Three professional handicappers, Al Newman, Jim Lippitt and Bob W., were kind enough to give me a few pointers along the way, (about 1992-93), and share their terrific successes and how-to’s. Jim, who primarily makes large wagers, generously allowed us to publish his 8+ months of selections using our Place-To-Win Spot Play, sharing his fantastic collection rates, (over 80% to place and 90%+ in the show hole), so we could gain insight from his results.

We featured every selection of Jim's in the June 1993 inaugural issue of the TIPS Report. He used Place-To-Win as a blue-chip stock type of investment. His extraordinarily high collection rate coupled with a 50%+ roi, afforded him the time to offset occasional run-outs in the win slot and then later in his exacta approach, (where at one point he lost 38 straight exacta wagers). He was quite comfortable with his ‘Blue Chip Place-to-Win’ approach, which indeed helped him minimize the occasional week or two stretches of long shot runouts.

Jim was wagering over $100 on every one of his Place-to-Win selections and accumulated a huge profit during these months. (I have mentioned before that when my dad and I met him in person in Connecticut, he shared in a matter of fact manner that he had used the profits from his Place-to-Win investments to put over 50% down on the new, high-end mini-van he was driving.)

Because Jim keeps daily records of his wagers and results, whenever he hits a streak of runouts, he can easily refer to his track record and see that the wins far outweigh the losses. His records remind him to stay focused, not chase down losses and continue handicapping with his usual approach.

As handicappers, we need to find a strategy to lift us out of a downturn - a 'slump buster' if you will. For example, when I hit a slump, I return to basics by using two tactics which I equate to all the years I’ve been playing basketball. I’m a decent mid-range shooter, (about 15-18 feet), but whenever I found those shots not falling as often as normal, I would invariably focus on two strategies.

  • First, for my size, I am a decent rebounder and when in a shooting slump, I focus more on rebounds than on shooting.
  • Second, when it came time to shoot the basketball, I would first focus almost exclusively on shooting “lay ups” which is a shot taken right next to the basket. As those ‘lay ups’ continue to fall, gradually I would then begin taking occasional shots a bit farther out, 4-8 feet, and as my confidence begins to rebuild, I would then begin taking open shots from near the free throw line.

These tactics help take my mind off missing shots and instead on making productive plays.

If I hit a slump in cashing in on my selections, I go to my handicapping ‘lay ups.’ For me, this means two things:

  • First, maiden races have always been a strength for me, and thus my first step is to focus mainly on maiden races, especially maiden claimers, which I view as a handicapping equivalent to a layup in basketball. 

  • Second, I then structure my wager in a more conservative manner, by wagering to place or more likely to show only.

This way the probability is high that I’m cashing in a high % of my wagers and can rebuild my bankroll in a steady manner, not to mention my confidence. Gradually, I would add in an occasional high % exacta, and before I know it, I’ve rebuilt my bankroll and my confidence.

The lesson here is that you need to find what works best to pull you out of a slump in a steady and positive manner. What you don’t want to do is blindly placing bets on almost anything, thinking you’re bound to hit a big payout.

As we’ve discussed before, daily recordkeeping is key in helping you assess and can even serve as a roadmap to pulling yourself out of a slump.

For some handicappers, their records may show that their best handicapping strengths might be Stakes races, regular claiming races or perhaps claiming races on the dirt in sprints only. Only you know what your strengths are. Once you have assessed them honestly, you can develop your own “slump busting approach.”

In that vein, there are six back issues of TIPS Report, (all with reports from professional handicappers using high % spot plays and high % collection rates), that illustrate how they made handsome profits.

You can order them individually, as a bundle or as part of combo package that includes the spot play(s).

The combo packages are specifically geared toward growing profits by using straightforward and easy spot play methods.

All options are listed below. Use the links to order, or order by phone or mail.

Individual TIPS Report  $8 each + S&H
June 1993
December 1993

Sep/Oct 1995
Jan/Feb 1996
Jan-Feb 1997

Jul/Aug 1997

TIPS Report Bundle  $44 + S&H
Includes the 6 issues listed above.

Combo Package #1  $55 + S&H
3 TIPS Reports (June 1993, December 1993 & Jul-Aug 1997)
Place-to-Win for Routes Spot Play Method
Place-to-Win for Sprints Spot Play Method

Combo Package #2  $35 + S&H 
3 TIPS Reports (Sept/Oct 1995, Jan/Feb 1996 & Jan/Feb 1997)
Show-a-Profit: A Maiden Method

Give us a call at 401-921-5158 to order by phone or to talk with Jon.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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