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Winning Without Thinking
Dr. Z’s Mathematics of Gambling
by William Ziemba

I recommend Nick Mordin’s, Winning Without Thinking: A Guide to Horse Race Betting Systems (Aesculus Press, UK). I have known Nick since he wrote an article about the Dr Z “place and show system” for the British race fancier. Nick has an extraordinary eye for thoroughbred condition and is a great student of European and North American racing. His background includes long stays in England, South Africa, and the Saratoga and Belmont areas. He presents a computerized approach to betting that exploits odds mistakes, as in the Dr Z systems, Roman’s work on dosage for the Kentucky Derby and other races, Kelly and fractional Kelly betting systems, and his own systems based on behavioral finance biases.

In plain English Nick discusses systems with positive expectation after transaction costs. Technical material is reprinted at the back of the book including technical papers underlining the theory. These include Roman’s 1981 Daily Racing Form article on the dosage system with an updated list of Chefs de Race, the Kelly 1956, a 1999 article by MacLean and myself on growth versus security tradeoffs through factional Kelly strategies, and the 1986 Bolton-Chapman paper that was published in Management Science, pioneering the Hong Kong factor model approach to estimating probabilities of horses chances of winning. Additionally there is an updated application to Hong Kong and Benter’s paper on his Hong Kong syndicate, the world’s most successful betting operation. The latter two are reprinted from Hausch, Lo, and Ziemba’s Efficiency of Racetrack Betting Markets, Academic Press, 1994, now back in print.

Nick observes the following:
• Horses do not improve with first time blinkers.
• 3-year-olds do not do better against older horses late in the season.
• Horses carrying more weight win more frequently.
• Fillies need more pedigree stamina than colts to win at any distance in the top class.
• Horses that weigh more do better and colts, weighing about 100 pounds more, usually dominate fillies, especially in longer races.
• Horses defeated as favorites in top races and then stepped up in class in their next race do well.
• Wide margin (five or more lengths) maiden winners win frequently the next time out.
• Female jockeys win more than males and are usually under bet.
• Well-bred horses win less often than poorly bred ones in low class races.
• French and German horses win more than expected in England and the US.
• The breeding emphasis on speed has led to lower racing times in longer races over time; longer distance runners are slowing down by 0.13 of a second per year while sprinters are going 0.03 seconds per year faster.
• Higher-class races have closer finishes.
• Fillies are pushed harder earlier in their careers and as very few colts become stallions they race longer than most mares.

So, good reading, good betting, and good luck!

This story was first published in the Winter 2002-2003 issue of Gambling Times Magazine.

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