Michael Pizzolla’s ValueCapping Rant: Winter Racing 2014, Deja Vu, Happy Holidays

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From The Desk Of Michael Pizzolla

Monday, December 23, 2014
Las Vegas
5:57 PM

Dear ValueCapper and Friend,

First and foremost, my heartfelt holiday wishes to you, your families and friends.

I was reading over a Rant I wrote back in 2007, and it struck me that the more things change, the more they remain the same!

What reminded me of this was an incident in the race book the other day.

Mind you, I try to keep a low profile when I’m in the race book, no screaming at the screens (any more) no calling horses ‘piggies’ at the top of my lungs (any more), no cakewalking away from the window with a pile of ‘benjis’ after a score (any more).

Ah youth.

And yet, I don’t know why, I attract horseplayers of all types who feel compelled to come up and speak with me.

Some have provided me with some of the most memorable and enjoyable moments of my year. For example, earlier this year, I met an ex-NFL champion at the book. He’s a BLAM Wizard, and we had the most wonderful time talking about ValueCapping, about perseverance, about the discipline it takes competing as a world-class athlete and how that applies to our great game. I waked out of there exhilarated and inspired.

And then there’s the other kind of encounter.

Like the one that greeted me the other day.

I’m staring at my computer screen, minding my own business, when between my face and the screen a pointed index finger appears. At the other end is a red-faced fellow who screams at me-“#**&@$ winter racing. And it’s all the fault of #**&@$ guys like you! #**!”

After a moment of being stunned, I managed to straighten my shoulders and say, “And Happy Holidays to you, sir!”

For some reason, this infuriated the fellow, who lit into me with a torrent of profanities. Some of which I had never heard, and I grew up in New York City!

Between the f bombs, I managed to determine that he was convinced that me and my computer were manipulating the board and the odds and that’s why he was losing money.

The crack security team noticed this fellow, racing form in one hand, bottle wrapped in a paper bag in the other screaming at this other odd fellow in a suit and tie, and figured something was up.

After some pointing and nodding from the race book manager, the fellow was escorted from the premises, still screaming at me.

I looked back to the board of a modest claiming race at Tampa Bay and went back to the business of ValueCapping.

I passed the race, but I was reminded of an email I had gotten a few days before from a brilliant Wizard who asked if I thought there was manipulation of odds going on by big bettors who would make a big bet on a horse, cancel it, and then bet on the horse they fancied in the first place.

As part of my reply, I told him about how I had seen this strategy backfire:

“I was at the track many years ago with a group of very big bettors. It was a slow day, and they found a horse in a maiden race that they loved, with a morning line of around 4-1.

They chose what they thought was the worst horse in the race, a horse that hadn’t picked up its feet in three races, and put a substantial bet on it so that in the opening flash, the horse went from a morning line of 20-1 to 8/5.

They chortled as the horse continued to maintain those odds, even dropping to 6/5 at post time.

The horse won by 10 lengths.

What they didn’t know was that the trainer had given the horse some performance enhancing drugs, everyone in the backstretch knew about it, and the trainer’s family and friends were at the track betting the horse with both hands.

I don’t worry too much about this, rather just make sure that I’m getting the overlay I want on the horse I’m betting. One strong betting pattern I’ve noticed is when a horse has a big ValueTech Ratio, say the BLAM odds are 3-1 and its Contention Line is 12-1. By BLAM’s procedures, the horse is a strong horse, but the public, using conventional methods should not see it as such.”

This incident at the book also reminded me of something that happened back in 2007, something I shared with the Wizards:

“A fellow came up to me in the race book the other day, after one of the many winter cancellations and wanted, I suppose, to let me know that he wasn’t just a horseplayer, but a man or erudition.

So he says, ‘Hey, they cancelled Penn National again’. Then, in a big voice, ‘Now is the winter of our discontent.’

Normally, I would have chuckled, nodded, and gotten back to my work.

But, hey, Penn National was cancelled, there was precious little going on, and I was waiting to see what the crowd was going to do with a race later that evening.

So I opened my big mouth.

I told him that he forgot the rest of that quote—that after ‘Now is the winter of our discontent’ comes the real meaning—‘made glorious summer by this sun of York.’

Of course, he looked at me as if I had three heads.

I said it means that the time of discontent is over!

He left to go bet a harness race.

Well, the ‘sun of York’ that has made the winter for this son of New York bearable is the new software that I have been working on night and day.

Now there’s good news and bad news about this.

The good news is that I’m in a ‘creative’ mode.

The bad news is that I’m in a ‘creative’ mode.

You see, the ‘creative’ mode can be one of the most dangerous for the handicapper.

Let me explain.

In any endeavor, to get better, to refine technique, there is always the eternal cycle of creation, maintenance and dissolution.

Create. Maintain. Destroy.

After a period of maintenance, the old is destroyed, and the new is created.

And, as evidenced by the big bang, that creative process can get a little messy.”

What’s so ironic about this is that tonight, as I write this seven years later, I’m in the very same place, hard at work on the new ValueCapper Software.

Here’s how I described my process when developing Black Magic: The Ultimate Handicapper Software:

“For the past months, my life has consisted of little else but caring to the physical needs—you know the necessities, food, water, air, golf—and working on these computer programs.

Here’s the rub.

I’ve always found that it’s very difficult to analyze or explain something at the same time you’re doing it.

So, over a golf ball, if you’re thinking about every little thing your arms hands hips eyes have to do, you won’t be able to put the club on the ball.

Same with baseball.

As Yogi Berra said, ‘how can you swing and think at the same time?’

So it is with handicapping.

When I’m on all cylinders, I recognize the races to play, the opportunities, the patterns, all of that almost in one fell swoop. Because I’m a ‘natural’? NO! Because I’ve looked at thousands and thousands of races!

Well, when working on a program, taking apart every part of every number, working with databases of hundreds of thousands of races, then programming in things that you see in a glance, but have to give the computer precise rules—it’s like trying to think about how you walk while walking.

Better get yourself a helmet.

I have to separate the time in the race book investing and the time researching. As in about 12 hours per day every day doing nothing but working on the software.

That’s what I’ve been up to lately.

It is a labor of love, truly. The hours fly by in a blink. It is what is making the winter of my discontent really like a glorious summer. Only with less golf.

The moral of this story as it applies to your handicapping is this:

Separate your practice and analyzing time from your wagering and investing time.

I’d encourage you to spend time practicing on races, recognizing patterns, doing all of that.

But put some time between that practice and when you go and invest.

Practice mechanics, play by feel.”

Seven years later, I’m in that very same place, burning the midnight oil, working on the ValueCapper Software. I’m confident it will mark a real breakthrough, streamlining the entire process of ValueCapping, and incorporating 7 years of refinements on one screen, at one glance.

It’s been a massive project, but through it all, I am buoyed by those of you who have made great progress, and have shared with me your journey. It really thrills me to hear of the scores, of course. But more than that, the process that went into making them and the insights you’ve had about how ValueCapping applies to all decisions with which we are faced.

Also, the support of the BLAM Wizards on the Wizards’ Forum for each other, sharing techniques and insights with a generosity of spirit that truly reflects the holiday spirit, inspires me every single day.

I hope this finds you well. Thank you so much for all of your support and encouragement, and my very best wishes for a fantastic holiday for you and yours.

All the best,


Michael Pizzolla

P.S. As always, if you have any questions or comments, just drop me a line at Michael@posttimedaily.com

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