In part one of the ‘Framing a market’ podcast last week we had pro punter (and former bookmaker) Ben Krahe explain his approach to rating every runner in the race. This week we have the contrasting view of Rick Williams, our Senior Form Analyst here at Champion Picks. He operates very differently to Ben so it’s good to learn more about another way a professional goes about the business of finding value.
Punting Insights You’ll Find
- Some of the methods and people who have influenced Rick’s approach
- The process of turning raw data into a rated price
- When to incorporate subjective assessments
- How he decides which races to bet into and which to avoid
David Duffield: Let’s have a chat about framing your market and market percentages. How do you explain to people that are semi-serious punters or even just a casual punter, how do you explain market percentages to them?
Rick Williams: Basically I think the simplest analogy is … How much it’s going to cost you to return a hundred dollars, so if you had a hundred percent market and you were to back every horse would cost you a hundred dollars to return a hundred, proportionately, or if the bookie’s market were say a hundred and thirty percent, then you were to back all of those horses, it would cost you a $130 dollars to get back your $100. That’s obviously where a wider margin help to make themselves some money. We try and keep it up, our market, around 100% and in our favor.
David Duffield: Do you care whether it’s 108% market in Sydney on a Saturday, or whether it’s 135% on a midweeker. Does that come into your thinking at all?
Rick Williams: Look, I think it does but I guess it’s relative to what your rating the horses, and I guess where you sort of might be getting a lot of value for your money if it is 135%, but you do like one, you might want to go to hard in that race, but if you’ve got a really competitive market such as Sydney where they get down to 108 or 105 to 108 on a Saturday. That’s good value and good shopping, so you might want to attack it and spend up there because you’re getting good value for your money from the marketplace, and if you’re backing horses that you think are value also, then in turn you’re getting value again.
David Duffield: So the markets that we put out are framed to 100%, and there might be some that are 99 and a half or 100 and a half depending on some rounding … I had a chat with Ben Krahe, the harness racing analyst, and he frames his markets to 120% and then uses a spreadsheet to bring that back to 100. A lot of that comes down to pushing the outsiders out to an even bigger price. Do you just work the whole time with a 100% market?
Rick Williams: Pretty much. I mean I’ve got a function where I can make it whatever I want just at the push of a button, I sort of work around that, and I have a couple of prices, so when I sort of create the market, I’ll have a price that will come up on a few different factors, and sort of will help me understand. For example, I might have a horse come up 5000-to-1 or something like that on one particular scale, and then that will, I guess as you said, he will penalize the other horses, while I’ve sort of got those types of indicators in there to tell me rating set A says this is 5000-to-1, rating set B says it’s 100-to-1, well we can probably make it longer than a 100-to-1, so there’s a couple of different ways to look at it, but certainly the longshots should be longer, generally speaking, looking at the markets.
David Duffield: You’ve got a hell of a lot of data there to work with. Some of it’s publicly available form, some of it’s by subscription, like Vince Accardi and then some of it’s developed internally like the class, speed and the base ratings. How do you go from the raw data into a rated price?
Rick Williams: It’s a process that I first got into through reading a lot of books from Don Scott, which is probably something that we’ve said a lot of times, and probably what a lot of people would say. In his teachings, I guess the ratings, the side of how he would develop a rating, one of the valuable pieces of information within those books is a start on how to develop and frame a market, and turn those numbers into a price, and then from going on and doing that and having an understanding of how the maths works and how all the numbers are relative to each other and margins between the ratings, you then get a further understanding and can then I guess have more sleepless nights and develop other techniques! Really I guess it was just for me getting a basic knowledge, which is readily available to anyone if you want to Google and do the research. It’s all online, and from there, you know, building on that and developing your own theories.
David Duffield: Yeah, because it’s dramatically different to what he was doing years ago, not only in I suppose the inputs or what’s considered important, but even the process that we go through. But that’s when you’ve got your L-plates on and a lot of people start there. So you’ve got the data and those various different assessments, and they can have different ratings into the final price. What part does your subjective judgment, your experience, and your opinion, play in the final rated price?
Rick Williams: Look, I sort of run a formula and it tells me at least the numbers, and then I sort of go over and we’ve got an automatic function that could produce a map, but I sort of go over that, and will put in the spreadsheet just to get a clearer picture, and sort of from there you can sort of picture horses that might be advantaged or disadvantaged, so you may make an adjustment there for how much of an advantage or disadvantage you think the horse will have.
If it will be leading, or if it will be last, in regards to jockeys or other things, there’s other ways that you could obviously use your own decision making, but pretty much your numbers are your numbers, and you’ve got to believe in them and stick with your processes and I guess as you go along and get a bank of information you can go back and learn more about different things about your numbers and different ranges and zones of accuracy, so they will teach you lessons, as well as things like your general fundamentals. Is the horse going to handle the track? Is it going to run the distance? Is it going to get across from the barrier? So certainly all those things also come into play.
David Duffield: So Vince and yourself have the same mindset in that the data that’s going into it, you’d like to leave … raw’s probably not the word, pure might be a better word in that you don’t want to make massive adjustments for luck in running and the like, but what about when if you’ve come up with the base rating based on the algorithm that you’ve developed, how much room is there to move into tweaking that rated price, or is it more about if you don’t have confidence in whatever the output is, it might just be a race that you pass on, rather than dramatically changing the rating?
Rick Williams: I guess ideally you want horses that stand out on variable factors, and that’s sort of what you’re looking for, so you’re looking for horses that stand out on the different measurements, and they’re sort of the ones you hone in on. You get a lot of races where you might have 12 or 15 runners, and certainly there’s a few runners there that are overlays, but they might not map too well, and on the raw information there isn’t really that big of a gap in ability on what the information’s telling us, so there might be a length or two different over four or five runners, so I guess generally speaking, if you ran the race a lot of times, you would get a lot of outcomes.
We try and isolate where we think that more often than not we do have that edge from a factor we’re looking at that will sort of hold us in good stead in the long term, and I guess Nautical was, just as an example, on the rankings ranked really well, and that was the only horse on our scale that was over 100 and it was well clear of the next, so that’s what we’re looking at, not just the rankings or where they are or the price, but how much better is the information saying the horse actually is?
David Duffield: Yeah, and that’s what we use internally, Tips and Ratings members get the rankings, but we have the actual rating itself, just to see the differential from one horse to the next, or in other races, there might be a couple of standout runners, and then a massive gap to the next horse.
Rick Williams: Yeah the rankings are good because they give you a very quick overview I guess of the race because when you’re looking at 78.9, 68.2, 50.4, if it wasn’t colour-coded and ranked, it’s very hard to get a quick understanding of exactly what you’re trying to deal with, but I guess from a usability point of view, the ranking and the colour coding just really gives you an opportunity to hone in and see the race from a different angle, and then you can go and work with your numbers.
David Duffield: And you mentioned Nautical as a standout, but there are some races where there isn’t a lot between a few of the runners. It’s not often that we or anyone backs a 100-to-1 winner, talk us through the Beeleeup race and how the speed rating was a standout there, and how it came up as an overlay.
Rick Williams: Yeah, it was just a standout. He came through two races where it was beaten by Il Cavalo, and it didn’t rank really that high on class, but if we sort of measured it on class, it was probably too short at 100-to-1, but when I looked at the speed, and sort of how fast the horse had been running, and certainly factored that in, and looking at those two things as purely independent measurements, there was no doubt that Il Cavalo is a horse that had promised a lot early on and sort of had a few issues, but does look to be back in very, very good form, and I think the traditional class methods sort of didn’t highlight the strength of those two Il Cavalo wins, but certainly it was picked up when evaluating how fast the horses were running, and Beeleeup was clearly on top for speed, but we also have to balance it out with the class and factor in other things, so just because it’s on top on speed, you can’t just make it an even money favorite. There’s other things, but certainly it came out around $34 and we’re lucky enough to get it over the line.
David Duffield: So you’ve got the ratings that said there’s an automated aspect and then your own assessments, then what’s involved in the decision making as far as which races to get involved in betting wise?
Rick Williams: I think that certainly you want to make sure that your horses are suited, and I guess suited means there’s no query on them running the distance. They’re going to get a good run, they’ve got a good jockey on them, or I’ve got a jockey you may not rate as high as some of the others, I sort of am a believer that the less decisions a lesser jockey has to make, the better, so if you like a horse with a lesser jockey, you probably want a good draw and a good map, as opposed to a good horse with a lesser jockey, and a bad draw, and a bad map, so you’re looking at different things like that, and certainly where the horses are at in there preparation.
Are they able to repeat their recent efforts, or are they over the top, are they ready yet for the trip, or are they half a run short? I guess no matter how much you sort of try and get the computer to do the work for you, there’s still definitely an element of touch, of going over, and it’s hard to escape half a dozen basic fundamentals we are all brought up with, but I guess it’s how we work those fundamentals from to get your final rating.
David Duffield: So you’ve chosen the race to get involved in, what about the decision making as far as backing a full stake on a runner versus wanting it on your side as a saver.
Rick Williams: Yeah, I think certainly to back your top raters is something that I like to do, and I generally like to take on a horse that I rank on top, even if it’s sort of not at a price, generally it’s not a horse I’d like to take on unless there’s some others that are pretty close, I tend to pass on those races, otherwise if they tick all the boxes and the price is there, certainly the top rater would generally get locked in as a main bet, and then quite possibly we’ll look to back another horse or save on the others, keeping in mind that we don’t want to be spending too much money.
On each race, the strategy is to try and probably average around two units, but it all depends on what we think the price should be and what’s available, so sometimes it might only be one bet and spend 1.2 units, other times we might be really confident we’ve got the race wrapped up in two, and we might spend a bit more, say 2.8, so generally speaking, you try and keep it around the same level of risk per race, but there are times where you can go either way and spend less or more.
David Duffield: Yeah, and very few people, at least that I’ve spoken to, would look at the odds before doing the form, they wouldn’t look at the market, and then work backwards from there. Almost everyone wants a fresh set of eyes, and they come up with their own analysis and then compare it to the market, but once you’ve done that, do you use the market in any way as a guide? What impact does the currently available odds play once you’ve got the rated price finalised?
Rick Williams: For me, it’s a big impact because I sort of look at it and generally there can be discrepancies, and I like to know why there’s a discrepancy, so what it does is it gives you an opportunity to compare your work to someone else’s. I may have a horse at $16 and the market may have it at $4, and you know it’s interesting to go over and check why. What have we missed? So it’s certainly good for that, and certainly when you’re around your studying process, all of your databases, the closing market certainly is very accurate guide long-term, so I think that certainly once you’ve done your markets, you can’t ignore what the market is doing, and you do need to pay attention to that and make adjustments where necessary, and double-check your work and make sure you haven’t missed anything because sometimes you can miss things.
David Duffield: But in that scenario where you’ve rated something $16 and the market’s $4, if you go back and do all the work, and you’re just confident that your assessments stand up and you haven’t missed anything, you’ll stay rock solid at $16 and let the race decide who’s right and who’s wrong?
Rick Williams: Pretty much. You just want to make sure that you haven’t missed anything and if you think you’re right, then you just sort of got to back yourself. You might think you’re half right and they’re half right, some things aren’t black and white, some things are grey, so you might do a bit of a merge, so not everything’s black and white in racing, so you might not think that the horse lost that much ground when it was held up. The market might think it lost enough ground for it to be that price, so you sort of might agree to disagree and meet in the middle, so there’s a lot of different ways to sort of do it, but I think certainly the most important thing is just really looking at the market before you dive in at the value prices, cross-check your work and make sure you’ve got it all in line.
David Duffield: Good stuff, alright. We’ll leave it there for now. I just thought it was interesting to get some insight into the way you go about it. A lot of people operate differently. I’m not saying that there’s one right way of doing it, it’s just to give some insight into our approach, and hopefully people gain some insight from that.
Rick Williams: Yep, no problems.
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