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31-May-2006
Victor Niederhoffer Reviews Betting on Myself: Adventures of a Horseplayer and Publisher, by Steven Crist

Crist, while a medieval English major at Harvard, had an epiphany when he was introduced to greyhound racing in Wonderland in Boston. Everything he had done with English seemed irrelevant and everything he loved to do was handicap the races. He figured out that speed rating in the beginning and the end of a race were important. He became the racing writer for the NY times, started a competitor to the Daily Racing Form that was unsuccessful, and then finally bought the Daily Racing Form.

The book shows that he likes numbers but has no appreciation of how to analyze them quantitatively. He is good at collecting data. And he has a nice ear for seeing what's wrong with racing -- namely that everything starts with the public, but that the public is treated with disdain by the track and owners. His discussion of breakage is interesting in that on show bets on almost all tracks they round 219 down to 210 so the house take goes up by another 5%?

The public in the markets is often treated the same way as the public at the races and there are many good lessons that one can learn from the pitfalls of racing that one can apply to markets. He believes that handicapping horses is a respectable occupation but still thinks it somewhat impossible to overcome the track vigorish. His specialty was the Pick Six, where he was known as king of the Pick Six. However, his methods of handicapping seem qualitative with no system involved. The book suffers from an inability to generalize from his experiences, and a lack of statistical training and worse yet, no attempt at rectifying the situation.

There are some humorous anecdotes, e.g. how Governor Cuomo refused to get off the phone with him, and made him miss a Pick Six that he would have lost, thereby saving him $1400.

The last part of the book describes his takeover of the Racing Form and gives some inside info on what it's really like when you're dealing with hard hitters on the other side. The funniest part there occurs when he's negotiating a 50 million deal while doubling up on his dental work so his third party from the job he was just fired from can still pay.

One of the more erudite and amusing parts of the book comes when Crist discusses the importance of changing the cycles of the speed rating with Andy Beyer, who had dropped out of Harvard 10 years before Crist to write about racing for the Washington Post. They discuss the various speed parameter adjustments that should be made for the weather and wind and the stage of the meeting. It's exactly what the speculator must do if one wishes to keep on top of the changing relations in markets.

In short, a series of anecdotes that provides a cautionary tale of what not to do in racing and markets, and how dangerous gambling is.

 

 

 

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