We’ve been thinking a lot about missed opportunities for the last week in the Tuley’s Takes home office. This topic would be considered evergreen, as it’s relevant year-round for sports bettors, but I believe it’s especially topical now as we prepare for major sports to return. We will see many once-in-a-lifetime betting opportunities that will be missed if we’re not prepared to take advantage before they disappear.
I’m sure many of you have this feeling about the stock market. It plunged in March, and many stocks were available at bargain prices. Were you able to buy low? I certainly didn’t do enough.
But the thing that really got me thinking about this topic happened Saturday. Per usual, I wrote up a couple of horse racing best bets in my “Tuley’s Thoroughbred Takes” column at VSiN.com, and then I tweeted my plays in the free National Handicapping Championship qualifying tournament at horseplayers.com for readers who were looking for more long-shot plays. As I’ve explained, these are contest plays in which you have to go for the gusto to have a chance, and I don’t always bet them individually. However, if I think I have an overlay, I will still bet it in case I have a winner but don’t end up high on the leaderboard.
In Santa Anita’s seventh race, the Crystal Water Stakes, I liked No. 3 Grinning Tiger, whom I thought had the early speed to steal the race on the lead. As I wrote last week, I’ve had more success in stakes races than cheaper races and was concentrating on these on a stakes-heavy day at Belmont and Santa Anita. Grinning Tiger was in the final four of picks I was considering writing about, but he didn’t make the cut.
Anyway, with picks like this, I’ll usually make sure to put $5 or $10 on them in case they win, so I placed $5 to win on Grinning Tiger when I put in my advance picks. He was 20/1 on the morning line, and I didn’t expect him to go off much higher in this ungraded stakes with just eight entrants restricted to California-breds. But sometimes the public surprises us, and Grinning Tiger was ignored at the betting windows. Unfortunately, I was distracted with some other contests and didn’t notice Grinning Tiger was going off at 90/1 until the horses were loading in the starting gate. I tried to bet $10 to win and place at the last minute but got shut out. Grinning Tiger went right to the lead and led at every call, winning by a length and a half and paying $186 to win and $48 to place. My $5 win bet returned $465, so that was nice and pretty much bailed me out of what was overall a miserable day.
However, that $10 win-and-place bet would have returned $1,170. In addition, if I’d had time to get more plays in, there’s a very good chance I would have backed up my straight bets with an exacta wheel (a $2 wheel on 2/all would have cost just $14 with seven other runners) or a trifecta key (a 50-cent key with 2/all/all would have cost just $21). The $2 exacta paid $803.40, and the 50-cent tri returned $1,627.75.
That’s what I call a missed opportunity.
And this wasn’t a woulda/coulda/shoulda situation when a long shot or underdog didn’t fire. This was a value play I had handicapped correctly and fit right in with bets I make every day, but I blew it by not keeping a close enough eye on the tote board. Hopefully it’s a lesson to always be vigilant in checking the odds on your bets, whether it’s horse racing or sports betting.
The silver lining is that we can learn from our mistakes and keep an eye out for the next opportunity.
I feel like this could be turning into our own version of “Story Time with Chris Andrews” from VSiN’s “A Numbers Game” show with Gill Alexander, but I should share another cautionary tale from the past.
When I think of missed opportunities in sports betting, my mind always goes back to the one and only XFL season in 2001. If you remember it or saw the “30 for 30” documentary, XFL games were running long on NBC and famously pushed back a “Saturday Night Live” episode starring Jennifer Lopez. “SNL’s” Lorne Michaels complained, and it resulted in the XFL instituting rule changes to shorten games, including keeping the clock running after plays that went out of bounds. I was surprised when oddsmakers failed to lower the betting totals for the four games the next weekend. I wrote about it in my Daily Racing Form column at the time and bet every Under but was betting only $110 per game. I remember going 7-1 the next two weeks and the trend being profitable the rest of the season. That was nearly two decades ago, so I don’t recall what the betting limits were at the time for XFL games, but I certainly should have been betting a lot more. It was a missed opportunity.
Fortunately, we have happy tales too. Recent VSiN readers will recall last year when we jumped on the First Period Over/Under bandwagon brought to our attention by Pauly Howard and Mitch Moss on their “Follow the Money” show. We rode that trend with the First Period Overs on the #FollowtheMoney5 (plus Unders on the Dallas Stars) from January until the end of the regular season and through the first week of the playoffs before the well ran dry.
So that’s the lesson for this week as more sports get added back to the betting boards. We’re entering uncharted territory as the NHL and NBA restart their 2019-20 seasons and college and pro football teams miss out on spring practices and get ready for training camps under conditions different from any the coaches and players have ever faced. Oddsmakers are bound to overrate some top contenders and overlook some dark horses, and betting trends will develop.
I’ll do my best to foresee these teams and trends as we roll out betting previews for all these sports (and hopefully MLB too). But betting opportunities also are bound to arise once the action commences, and only those who adapt quickly and are ready to fire away with their bets will be able to take advantage.