Tourney Talk- There are no mistakes

A man has an affair, gets caught, and tells his wife “I made a mistake.”  She doesn’t buy it.  Why?  Because that’s not a mistake.  A bad decision?  Yes.  But not a mistake.  A mistake is forgetting to grab the milk while grocery shopping.  Or failing to carry the 1 when balancing your checkbook.  But a willful decision isn’t a mistake.  And that’s why I made no mistakes at the BIG One this weekend in spite of the fact that I very quickly strayed from my game plan and hurt myself badly in the process.

Given the starting $1,000 bankroll, 57 contenders, and prize distribution, I calculated that a score of $1,400 would be needed in order to finish in the top 10, which is where the real prizes were going.  And I was right on the money, as the 10th place finisher ended up with a score of $1,356.  An NHC seat could have been had for $1,094 due to double-qualifiers.  Going in, I figured that if I played the mandatory 20 races this weekend as a $2 mythical win/place contest by betting the required $50 per race with $25 to win and place, I could probably grind out a score of around $1,500 if the cards were in my favor.  And on Saturday, for the most part, the cards WERE in my favor.

I’ll spare you a bet-by-bet breakdown, but in a nutshell, I played around with $50 win bets, $50 place bets, and some $25 win/place bets.  I made some other smaller plays too but basically I wagered as I just described.  For instance, in the first race at Laurel, I went $25 win/place on a horse who looked home free with a 1/16th to go, and got knifed on the wire to be 2nd.  In the 4th at Laurel, I went $50 to place on a horse who was 14-1 with 2 MTP, got bet down to 9-1, and won.  But I had no win bet because I figured at 15-1 the place price would pay well enough.  So that’s an example of where abandoning my $25 win/place formula hurt me.  I also had $25 to win (but not place) on the horse who tried to bite Firenze Fire.  Hurt myself again.  But I did have $50 to place on Hollywood Strike at Parx, who rallied to be 2nd and paid $15 to place.  So there, it worked.  You get the idea.

Where I really hurt myself was with my two “conviction plays” of the day.  I loved Separationofpowers in the Cotillion and I liked Instilled Regard to outrun his odds in the PA Derby.  Those were bad opinions, although I am not sure I was supposed to anticipate the trip that Separationofpowers got.  I saw her coming from farther back.  But I lost $500 (or close to it) on those two races combined.  And that was pretty much it for me.  I was down to around $100 after the PA Derby, made one more $50 place bet on a 15-1 shot at Gulfstream Park.  That horse won, of course, without the burden of my win wager in its back.  And I was back up to around $400 before ending the day at $250, and losing it all pretty much on one play at Belmont on Sunday.

Sounds like a lot of mistakes, right?  But none of them were mistakes.  In life and in tournament play, there is only what you do, and what you don’t do.  And somehow, somewhere between my flight to Dulles, my car ride to Laurel, the tournament room, my brain, my right index finger, and the betting machines, I abandoned my plan and went bust.  It’s really not easy to go back and calculate where I would have been had I stuck to my plan because who’s to say how I would have bet had my score been different at any given time.  But my most honest estimate of where I would have ended the day on Saturday had I played it like I planned is somewhere around $1,350-$1,400.  But again, I wasn’t even going to play the Hollywood Strike race as part of my original plan, and I made a nice hit on him, so in truth the application of retrospect isn’t really fair.  But, again, you get the idea.  I had a plan.  It was probably a good one.  I didn’t follow it.  And I lost.

See you at Keeneland in three weeks.


  1. AGOS on September 24, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    Very good and honest analysis of your mistakes … err, I mean decisions at The Big. Seriously, this is excellent. I do think you made a mistake varying your bets – one horse to Win, another horse to Place. Zig … Zag. You tried to outsmart yourself. Whenever I’ve done that, it usually ends badly.

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