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Best of Howard Schwartz

Gaming Guru

 

Handicapping 101 -- Super for Beginners or Pros Who Need a Refresher Course

12 May 2004

Thoroughbred racing, which is in much need of new players to regenerate the sport in the 2lst Century, got a much needed boost in the way of a book to attract those bettors with the arrival of Brad Free's Handicapping 101 (Finding the Right Horses and Making The Right Bets) (235 pages, hardbound, $24.95).

The author, Southern California handicapper for the Daily Racing Form, says his book "...offers a contemporary explanation of basic handicapping truths - what works and what does not." His book supplies "...a sensible approach using proper tools."

As Free states, "Successful handicappers do not need to know everything. Handicapping 101 will separate the feasible from the impractical, reality from fantasy."

Free focuses on what he calls the key factors - condition, class, speed and pace. He supplies a plan of attack for winning at the races. He prepares you for the "war" which takes place daily at each track among horseplayers. The smartest will survive.

The author explains what books he's read and the impact each has had on his education as a horseplayer. With simplicity and clarity, he takes the bettor through the oft-times complicated world of past performances, examining the age, health and earnings factors in a section titled Past Performances.

This key section sets everything else up for the beginner in particular. It's surprising how many people do not know how to read the Form or understand all the abbreviations. In a brilliant and vital section on form, Free discusses the three categories most horseplayers will encounter: those horses which race regularly; comebackers; and first-time starters. He compares them, offers examples, situations and much food for thought in regard to the impact of trainers, jockeys, finish position, running style, turf horses, negative drops and warning signs.

Many horseplayers, even those who consider themselves experienced to a degree, do not understand class structure - and author Free explains it well. Another chapter is titled Speed and Pace. Here Andy Beyer and his speed figures get special attention. How did they originate and how does one use them intelligently. Also - when should the horseplayer question "big figures" which may be a fluke? Free explains what an unusual surface, unusual pace, class change, multiple levels and insufficient recovery time might do. Too - a horse may show sudden improvement. Here the bettor must evaluate the impact of a barn change, a maturing horse.

Free is quick to acknowledge those writers and theorists which affected his own way of thinking and betting. Among them are James Quinn (Handicapper's Condition Book) and Tom Brohamer (Modern Pace Handicapping). In his section titled Secondary Factors he salutes the contribution of Lee Tomlinson whose now out of print work Mudders and Turfers (a pedigree guide) helped many a bettor collect a winning ticket. He follows with a look at jockeys, trainers, imports, weight, equipment and medication.

The chapter on Betting Theory is a combination of advice and his own experiences at the track. Making value bet decisions - sensible wagers. Free calls it separating reasonable contenders from hopeless pretenders. Chapter Seven discusses The Wagering Menu, which explains straight betting versus the exotics including the Pick Three, Pick Four and Pick Six. He concludes the book with common sense approaches to handicapping, including having a Daily Wagering Plan, using Self Analysis and Having a Bankroll and Having Confidence in a Slump.

This is a fine gift item for someone who has many questions and a genuine interest in becoming an intelligent horseplayer. Many books for novices are too simple or lack depth beyond a cursory explanation and no in-depth explanations or examples. Here Free draws from some of the best in the business, combining the best approaches with his own experiences. It's educational, readable and makes sense.

Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:

www.gamblersbook.com
Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:

www.gamblersbook.com