Betting 360 Ep 043 – Harness racing betting with Ben Krahe

Betting 360 Podcast - Betting From All Angles Our special guest this week is a professional punter who focuses exclusively on harness racing. Ben Krahe’s background as an on-course and corporate bookmaker plus his pro punting experience means that he has some excellent points to share with everyone who listens in (or reads the full transcript).

Punting Insights You’ll Find

  • The evolution of on-course and corporate bookmakers.
  • What he learned from some of the smartest players in the industry.
  • Where to start when analysing a race
  • How and why he uses a special technique to bring his market back to 100%
  • Why 3 years of stats led him to focusing on certain tracks

Today’s Guest:

  • Ben Krahe who provides the ratings for our Harness Power package.

Ben’s Parting Advice:

” To be honest I learned pretty much everything I know from him.”

David: Hi, this is Dave Duffield and I’d like to welcome Ben Krahe to the show, how are you Ben?

Ben: I’m very well thank you Dave, yourself?

David: Going really well thanks and I might as well start at the start… tell us about your early background and your interest in betting.

Ben: Well, like many of us I was probably conceived actually at Harold Park I would imagine on a Friday night at the trots. My interest started very early and I was just a punter myself. I really wanted to get into the bookmaking side of things so about 12 years ago I got my own bookmaking license and I started fielding at various New South Wales country greyhound tracks such as Cessnock and Singleton which are actually now defunct but that’s where I learnt the trade.

David: At those tracks at that time was it a thriving on course bookmaking scene?

Ben: It was probably the end of it then, it was just getting to the end of it. I was actually the only bookmaker on track so obviously the prices had to be pretty accurate. There was still the smart punters on track back then and unlike now I had to bet someone to win $2000 on track back then. You had probably 100 to 150 people on track and I was the only bookmaker, there was probably 20 guys that were smart and the rest were $5 punters. It was the end of the country bookmaking, I suppose.

David: We’ll get to the corporate scene in a moment but you must laugh looking back at what little money most of the corporates will take now when you had to bet them $2K on course.

Ben: Yeah, it’s becoming a bit of a farce but hey, we do our best and hopefully we can do our best for everyone here.

David: So when you were on course bookmaker and if you’re the only one there how would you go about pricing up the race to try and have it as a pretty good set of prices so you’re not getting stung?

Ben: It’s pretty much the same as the way I price a race now, I always do that … Being a punter … Even a bookmaker’s market for me … I still like to approach it in a punting way. Most of the races I think have only got a few chances and we’ll talk about that later, they are the races that we like to focus on and really aim at and these type of meetings. I think myself and even when I moved into the corporate world I don’t like to throw something up 20-1 if it’s really a 200-1 chance, I think that’s a waste of some percentage in your market and a waste of making some money somewhere else.

David: We’ll definitely cover that in a bit more detail later on. From the on-course bookmaking scene what was the next step in your involvement in the industry from there?

Ben: Well, the bookmaking, I learnt a lot on track and I think that’s the best place to learn anywhere. It wasn’t that we were losing money but we weren’t making a huge amount of money for the commitment we were putting in and I saw a job advertised in Darwin and that was with Alan Eskander and that was with Betstar. Basically there was myself and three other guys that were already working for him. The four of us pretty much opened the offices in Darwin. That was a good ten years ago now or eight or nine years ago, I’m not sure. We were the first ones up in Darwin for Betstar and coincidentally they’ve just been sold this week. They’ve obviously done very well for themselves.

David: Yes, not many left standing or Aussie-owned anyway. With Betstar as one of the first employers up there I imagine you probably had to be a jack of all trades?

Ben: We did everything. Racing, trots, dogs, a sport; whatever was going on, we did some media work and whatever. Pretty much anything that was needed to be done it was your to do. It’s quite good because you get to learn a lot of different things. Sport is obviously a lot different to trade than racing or dogs so it was a good learning process, for sure.

David: How early on were you going up pretty early with the trots prices, I know one of the points of difference that you guys were trying to make to stand out from a pretty crowded market place was having your odds up and ready to be bet pretty early, when did that happen and why did you take that approach?

Ben: Yeah, back in the day … Trots has always been my passion or harness racing racing and back in the day we had full support from Alan and whoever was my boss at the time and they trusted my pricing. We really became the market leaders in partners racing, we were going up on a Thursday for a Saturday night’s races which is unheard of these days and for bigger events like let’s say the Interdominion I was putting markets up six months out. Also, for stuff like if there was a derby on the next week and the two heats were on this week I’d have finals markets up this week. Not waiting to put the up next week. We really became market leaders and everyone knew Betstar to be a really good company at the time to take a bet and we were known as the market leaders in harness racing.

David: You’ve put up what you think are a good set of prices and there’s a little bit of margin in it of course but how soon would you have to react to what the market’s telling you? Did you have some pretty smart punters betting with you?

Ben: We did and we were on a good basis with some media there so as soon as we went up it would go out in the media and it would only take five or ten minutes to know which one you’ve got wrong, as it does now. You would be reacting pretty much straight away after you were putting a market up. We’d go up pretty competitive at 130% and work our way down to probably 110% back in the day. When all bets were taken you could actually make a good book so it was quite exciting times.

David: Those were the days, hey?

Ben: Those were the days. They’re gone now.

David: What else did you learn by being involved in other sports? Whether that’s horse racing or even sports betting, was there anything you learned there that you applied to your true love? Being the harness racing?

Ben: Well I just think you can take little bits from everything. When I became a bookmaker at the dogs I knew nothing and you learn the very hard way. Then I worked for Alan and I learned everything that he knows, he did things differently than let’s say my next employer, Hamish Davidson, he did things a lot more different, a lot more mathematical whereas Alan was like a market leader and weighed up the swings and troughs in the market whereas Hamish created them, the markets. I think through the three or four companies that I’ve worked in I’ve taken something out of every one of them. It’s taken me a long time to get to my position and hopefully now we can put that to good use.

David: Definitely. Tell us about Hamish Davidson, I know in the industry he’s obviously very well regarded, I’d say amongst the general punting public he doesn’t have a high profile. What did you learn from him?

Ben: I learnt everything from him mate, to be fair he is excellent and he’s got a bookmaking family, his Dad’s still … I’m pretty sure a bookmaker at Sydney and his brother Stuart obviously was on the rails there. Hamish is a price because he wants to be unlike others that the TAB will go up $3 and everyone follows at $2.90 or $3.10, Hamish will go at $3.50 or $2.50, he’s at price because he wants to be at that price.

If it’s NRL and everyone’s let’s say six start the favorite, he wants to be eight or seven and a half he’ll go there. There’s a reason he is that and without giving anything away obviously … He builds books and he still builds great books whereas pretty much everyone now just trades and everyone just wants losers. Hamish will still take great bets off people and the reason he does that is because he wants the bets at the price he is. He’s not just copying anyone, so I learnt a great deal about setting markets, especially in sport with him and a complete different way to think about things.

I implemented those when I went back to Betstar later on in my career and helped some of the guys in the sports there implement those ideas as well.

David: You talked earlier about a balance book and you could do it in those days, for someone like Hamish it doesn’t sound like that’s a focus for him?

Ben: In sport he does and that’s because him and other bookmakers and whatever … People that are smart they’ll still punt on the side to make a book or they will go and lay something and bet there to make a book if they’re standing an outsider and they don’t want to be. They will go and lay the favorite to make a book. He can still do it but probably to a lesser extent in the racing because the clientele might not be there and as with any bookmakers in racing it’s just whoever you … Especially if you can’t get off with another bookmaker these days you’re pretty much stuck with what you’ve got. Hence why bookmakers are now not taking bets off smart people because they get stuck with them.

David: Speaking of not taking bets, the next step for you was Bet365, their approach was a little bit different to the way you wanted to do it?

Ben: Yeah, look and I don’t want to go in and slag any bookmakers off but obviously they’re one of the first of the new brigade to come in, they’re great if you can get a bet on there, they’ve got the best product in the world there. The fixed price with the best of two tote guarantees is great if you can get a bet on there. It’s just unfortunate that these bookmakers that are worth billions of dollars, millions and millions of dollars won’t even let anyone… Even such as myself on just to win $500 and that’s all we ask.

That’s a whole other forum that a lot of people are angry about and I don’t really want to get stuck on that here but it would be nice just to get on to win $500, that’s all we ask. They’re amongst … Everyone else … They just close your account as soon as you do anything smart, not necessarily win, if you produce something that looks smart, that’s when you’re in trouble.

David: Okay, so from the corporate bookmaking world, you’ve been punting on your own for a while now so tell us about your current focus and in particular, you’ve really narrowed it down to your most profitable venues in your most profitable sport.

Ben: Correct. I’ve actually produced a … Well, I’ve stolen, I’m not going to lie to you, a spreadsheet off someone and what it does is we’re pricing to 120% – 130% market which is what most of the corporate will go up and then this converts it to what we call 100% price but it actually skews it a bit towards favorites. To put it in layman’s terms a 100-1 runner might only really be 200 or 250-1 in a 100% market.

For us, if I say 100-1 runner at 250-1, for me that’s not great overs so I’m not really going to back it. What this system that we’ve developed does it sort of skews that right out of the gate, you might need 700, 800-1 for that 100-1 runner to win. What it does is it compresses the favorites, the ones that are in the middle of the road pretty much stay the same at 100% and the longshots go out. Not to say that we won’t be selecting longshots but the way that we do things is that …

The way that I rate horses, I don’t want to waste percentage on longshots as I spoke to you before. Other bookmakers very often go up 15, 20-1 about a horse which is 5%. For mine they’ve only got really a one or half percent chance of winning. If they’re 200-1 we can focus … If they’ve got three or four horses at 20-1 that should be 200-1 they’re wrong by 15% in my eyes and we can manipulate the market and back the one’s that really do have a chance if they’ve got the wrong price about.

David: The favorite longshot bias we’ve written about and spoken about for a long time and it sounds like that’s the 120% down to 100% spreadsheet justs automate that process, makes the favorites shorter and the longer shots longer?

Ben: It does, it does. I’m more than happy to back longshots but I don’t want to be backing if they’ve just got no chance whatsoever and the meetings that we’re going to focus on with the stuff I’m doing there’s going to be a lot of horses that have got no hope of winning with a start.

David: What is your starting point for analysing a race? I know the horses are well known to you because you concentrate in New South Wales but what’s the first thing that you do when you’re looking at a race?

Ben: We’ll be concentrating on New South Wales and only on certain tracks there, we’ll be concentrating on anything in that Hunter Valley to North West region, for instance Newcastle and Tamworth and those type areas. We’ll also play Menangle and anything else in the city. I’ve concentrated on these areas because I’ve done three years of research, I kept three years of stats by myself, every bet that I had, every track and these are ones that are the most profitable and it just turns out that way.

With really concentrating on these three or four tracks a week I think we’re going to draw the most profit out there. Now, obviously yes, it’s a small pool of horses so the same horses are running around against each other so the form usually holds up, that’s the first point and reason I want to concentrate on these tracks. When I look for things to look at, speed maps are the most important thing in trots, it doesn’t matter if you’re running around an 800 metre track or a 1400 metre track, things in the top three or four are going to win most of the time, it’s just as simple as that. So speed maps are very important.

Especially when we go to places like Tamworth and these places which we will concentrate on and we do have great success there. If you’re leading on an 800 metre track you’ve got a real good start on the rest of them. When we go to Menangle which is a much larger track, it’s funny because the leaders still seem to win there because a lot of the drivers will just wait and wait because they think it’s such a long straight that they’ve got plenty of time but invariably the legs will get away with three quarters and then they only have to sprint home themselves. Speed map in my eyes is number one thing.

Number two thing for me, a lot of people don’t take it into account is distance, they think because trotters run a mile then they’ll 2800 next week or 2400 or whatever. A lot of horses can’t run past that mile so I do take into account whether they can actually run the distance. Drivers are a big thing and driver changes are a big thing for me, they’re massive. Lauren Pennell isn’t there at the moment but she is a great example … When she hops on a horse that a guy has driven they just seem to improve.

A lot of horses run for certain drivers, a lot don’t. I really take into account a driver change and a positive driver change at that. Another thing I also like to look for is whether or not … What price the horse was last time in pretty much the same class and because we do concentrate on the same tracks the horses will be in the same classes and run against each other. If something was even-money favorite last time it may have run a bad race, if it’s sent out at 10-1 next week well I want to be on it.

I’m happy to forgive it, there was a reason it was even-money on last start, why would you let it go around at 8 or 10-1 this week? At best it might only be really a 3 or 4-1 shot if it’s bad run, if that’s what you saw. Last week’s price and whether or not there was actually money for it, I have a good thing about remembering which horses have been backed so for me I take that into account as well. And obviously form, form’s obviously a big thing but these are things that I really …

They stand out for me. If something was 50-1 last week and it ran a good second this week and it was sent out a favorite in the same race well there’s no way I’m going to be on that. For mine there was a reason it was 50-1 last week, yes, it may have improved and it might deserve to be 10 or 12-1 this week but why is it favorite? They’re the type of things that I look for as well.

David: So then you’ve got your rated prices for every runner and you cover every race, you’re betting into most races unless there’s not a lot of trial form or exposed form …

Ben: Yeah.

David: Then from there you’re backing all the overlays and also how would you describe your betting style? You know, preferred bet types?

Ben: Yeah … Look, I might do things differently than others but the way I plug along I suppose, I’m not in it to make $10,000 in one day and I’m definitely not going to lose that much in one day. I’m happy to make my percentage and I sort of grind it out.

For me, I might be backing three, four, maybe even five runners in a race so for me anything that’s over the 100% mark, sorry, better price than what my 100% price is I’ll be backing. The reason I do this is because I’m a very aggressive pricer so if I think something’s a $1.30 shot I’ll make it $1.30, I’m not going to go out there and make it an even-money shot like the paper will let’s say for example or some other corporate might do. I’m a very aggressive pricer so most times there might be two or three bets in a race. I’m happy to back all of the horses myself that are better than the 100% price that I’ve rated them.

David: Do you do anything on the exotics or lay betting, anything else?

Ben: I had a bit of a dabble in lay betting, for mine Betfair is where the smartest punters are and to be fair I’m turning over enough doing it this way, I’m not going to lie to you I wasn’t … I do do a bit of lay betting but as a rule I don’t. It’s only if I really see something terribly short that I just can’t agree with. It would have to be a fair bit shorter for me to get into it, I’m happy to be just back around it and hope I get a result that way. For exotics … I’ve dabbled in them and there’s some good examples maybe on the …

If there’s a 10s on pot … I’m probably not going to have a bet on the race because there probably won’t be any overs there but if there’s a 10s on pop we might be able to throw in an exotic or two and hopefully if we come to those type of races I might put a suggestion in for an exotic in that race. Those type of races for me though, the best amount of money can be made on place betting. Let’s make an example that number two is $1.10 in the market and number one might be 20, 30-1 a win price but you may be able to get $3 or $4 a place for it, you can see the two leading, one will be sitting on its back and might be a great place price.

For mine, I steer away from the exotics because most of my stuff I do is based on price and I have to get the price to get value. Exotics for mine might be rare, I can throw some in for suggestions for people but I like to bet all my stuff on fixed odds and make sure I know that I’m getting better value than what I think it should be.

David: I wanted to get you on the show because there is a level of interest amongst punters and the people who get our newsletter for the Harness Racing side of things but also we’re always looking to add to our range of products available. Guys that are very successful at what they do but a lot of people are having problems getting on so that’s an issue for you, just getting set for a reasonable bet so we’ve had a few discussions and I’ve seen a lot of your work and proud to have you to our analysts’ table. There might be depending on when you’re listening to this …

The opportunity might have already gone so it’s not necessarily something that you can just snap up, it t may already have been closed because we want to limit the amount of people that can get your stuff because otherwise you’re just going to cannibalise each other or crush your own market.

Ben: Yeah, that’s right.

David: So if the opportunity is still available it will be on the website, on the show notes here but basically it’s going to be a service that focuses on New South Wales and some certain tracks in particular. At this stage it’s around three days a week but pretty much every race within that. Every runner gets a rated price, there will be some speed map comments and there will be a brief comment on the race. Then you’re backing every overlay but we’re trying not to hammer our own prices too much so really hoping people will spread the timing of their bets and the location of their bets. Does that cover or summarise the service people will be getting?

Ben: Yes it does. Like you said, we’ll concentrate on three meetings to start with. The Tuesday meeting at Menangle where again half of the horses probably can’t win so that’s a really good track to bet at. Then we’ll do a Thursday meeting which is invariably Newcastle or Tamworth or somewhere in that region. Again, we’ve had some great success there and then for the people who are out on a Saturday that want to have a bet on a Saturday we’ll do a Saturday night meeting as well.

The percentages are still good there, they’re not as good as a Tuesday or a Thursday but we’ll still have some fun there and we’ll definitely be winning there as well. I really look forward to it and like you said, we’re going to limit this membership, trots is a bit of niche thing so we don’t want … We don’t want too many people getting this thing. The people that do buy into this are going to be getting a very … What’s the word for it? A selected few are going to get it so hopefully we can really go well.

David: Exclusive is probably the correct word?

Ben: Exclusive is the word, that’s correct. I’ve been making a good somewhere between seven and ten percent for the last three years and like I said to you before, we’re not going to make $10,000 in a day but we’re not going to lose $10,000 a day. Whatever your bank is if we can grind out 10% constantly each week that’s a good little tax free earn for you.

David: Yeah, definitely and for the first month … We may continue it after that but definitely for the first month you’re going to man the live page and share your thoughts with all the members?

Ben: For those who haven’t actually seen my work on Twitter, we do some work there and we’ve got some good followers. Unfortunately for them they’re going to have to now pay if they want to get the tips, but this will be obviously a very similar type forum and at least for the first month for every meeting I’m going to man that … Hopefully we can say, “Hit the trigger and back these ones when we need to back them.” Any questions you have as well about anything, any punting, anything that’s not too stupid a question, if you don’t understand even what we’re talking about by percentages or whatever. Happy to chat about it, like I said I’ll be manning for the first month every meeting at least.

David: Excellent. All right, if there are people listening in and there’s still spots available definitely get in contact with us. Give us a call or you can sign up online, if not you can join the waiting list and then be like the Trial Spy and the New Zealand service where it’s closed to new members but a couple of times a year we open it up. If that’s the case that’s all right. Hopefully the people listening in have learned something from the discussion today. Thanks for your time Ben and I look forward to working together.

Ben: Thank you David and have a great night.

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