Those who play the horses today generally fall into one of five groups:

Fans- these are the ones who play the Kentucky Derby, names, birthdates, and any other hunches that come to mind.

Syndicates- These are groups of people who invest together in a system of wagering that often employs one or both of the next two categories.

Bettors- These are players who are smart gamblers. They find and identify angles or something that works for them at a good value and go after it. They know how to bet smart.

Handicappers- These are the ones who back their opinion. They calculate the probable outcome and wager they will be right. They do not always bet smart.

Gamblers- These are the ones who would and do bet on anything. I’d include those who play someone else’s choices in this group whether they pay for those opinions or not.

Obviously, you can belong to more than one group.

Yes, you can be a bettor and a handicapper, but it isn’t easy. These last two groups make up most of the handle and odds are if you are reading this you make up one of them. The majority of players fall into one of these groups and which one you are in goes a long way towards how successful you are going to be.

Years ago, the sharp handicapper had the edge. That playing field has been leveled and even tilted towards the smart bettor. Of course, if you are a good handicapper who also knows how to bet, then you are in the best position. Unfortunately, many handicappers do not bet well, and many good bettors can’t handicap a walkover.

To survive and have a chance at being profitable, you need to know how to bet smart. You don’t necessarily need to know how to handicap. It feels odd for me to say that but in today’s game it is true. I’ll explain.

I know a very successful player who looks at the past performances of a race for all of five minutes. If you’re a handicapper you know there is not a lot you can figure out in a 10 or 12 horse field, or any field for that matter in five minutes. At best you are getting a slight glimpse into what the probable outcome is. This gentleman looks for angles he has had success with. Sprinters stretching out to a distance first time. Closers cutting back in distance. Speed in a race without a lot of front runners. Closers in a race with a lot of speed. This all sounds simple enough. Here is where he separates himself. He knows how to bet.

When he spots one of these angles and decides he is going to go after it he understands something I have written about and spoken about for years. He is willing to lose but wants to make it count when he wins. He only goes after these angles when the odds are long. The longer the better. He’ll play the horse in exacta boxes. He will single the horse on multiple tickets in the pick 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s. The ticket may look like this, 5x5x1x5x5. Remember the single is a big price horse. They could be 20-1, 30-1, who knows. He is more than willing to tear up a thousand dollars’ worth of these type plays on any one horse. Can you imagine what types of hits he makes when he connects? How about the times he connects when the single is not the only longshot in the bet who comes in! He does not have to be right nearly as many times as most handicapper do, let alone the other groups. He has his edge. We will all be wrong a lot more than right in this game. It has to count when you are right, or you have no chance.

This is where the smart bettor has the advantage over the good handicapper. We all want to feel smart. We inherently want to be right and cash tickets. Betting takes more. It takes a certain discipline and understanding of how this game works. It is not for everybody.

There are many sharks in the water. There is a ton of both good and bad information out there. Drugs, legal, illegal, and therapeutic all are out there and affecting races daily. This reduces the significance of good old-fashioned handicapping. Prices are down on many horses due to the sharks and information overload. Drugs are moving horses up. Sure, you can factor these things in, and most of us do but at the end of the day you have to know how to bet.

The way I discussed here is just one example. Different things work for different players. My advice is find what works for you and hone it to perfection.