Pushing My Luck on the Preakness

(Photo: Tsutomu Takasu)

The dangerous thing about gambling is that you happen to win sometimes, just by chance.  The gambler is quick to take credit for successes, but can always find some external factor to blame for losses.

Case in point: my Kentucky Derby picks.  I picked three horses out of twenty starters: one to win, one to place, and one to show.  The horse I picked to win had some terrible luck, hurting his ankle and eventually finishing 19th.

The horse I picked for second, I’ll Have Another, ended up winning the race.  Bodemeister, my third-place pick, finished second.   A two dollar exacta-box on my top three horses would have cost $12 and would have returned $306.

I also picked a horse to finish last, Daddy Long Legs, and he indeed finished dead last.

So, like the gambler I am, I take credit for the good outcomes, and write off my horse finishing 19th as merely bad luck.

And, of course, that means I will push my luck on the Preakness, which goes off today.

I wish I had more exciting picks, but this time my algorithm likes the two favorites, Bodemeister and I’ll Have Another.  For third, I’d go with Optimizer.


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  1. Christina says:

    There is an interesting argument to be made here. Since we are not entirely rational beings, we have this thing called “loss aversion”. We tend to not make less rational decisions after we have lost (damn you hormones!). So, be careful Dr. Levitt. Rely on your rationality (or the data) and don’t let your emotions get the better of you. The opposite is true too! We tend to become overly confident and dish out more than we usually would (Oh, I am on a hot streak right now (those don’t exist, so don’t let your brain fool you!)).

    Also, how exactly did you decide on your picks? You should make sure that you hedge your risk well too. Just for thought, algorithms only work in a perfect world with perfect horses. But the world isn’t perfect and neither are horses. Do you have an input for the probability of a horse having bad gas that day? Probably not :)

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