It’s very difficult to make a profit betting on horse races because the market is self regulating. In other words, it adjusts to the conditions. The bettors set the odds in a pari-mutuel system and the public is very good at determining the chances of a horse winning a race. The reason you can’t make money betting on their top choice is simple.
The track has to take money out of the pari-mutuel pool in order to pay itself and the state. In a perfect world, the bettor who is as good as the rest of the crowd at picking winners will still come up short to the tune of whatever the takeout may be. So if the track is taking 17% from the win pool the bettor will lose 17% plus whatever the breakage may be.
In spite of this daunting setup some people still try to make a profit by using the odds on the board. To use those odds the would-be tote board analyst must have something to compare to and to determine that there is an irregularity or inconsistency. For instance, if he knows that the chances of Horse A winning are one out of three, and yet the horse is at 4-1, he has a winning bet.
Other than handicapping, however, what can he base that opinion on? The reason people turn to tote board betting systems is to avoid handicapping. Some people consider it a wise guy’s way of betting on horses. That may or may not be true, but one thing is certain, if you bet on horses that are at the right odds you’ll make a profit. The tote board player needs to know the probability of winning. The thing that usually determines that probability, or at least an indicator, is the odds, themselves.
If the odds will stay the same after the race starts and the betting pools are shut down you can use those odds to find a bargain in the show pool or win pool. Dr. Z and his tote board system proved that many years ago. The problem, however, is that those odds rarely stay fixed and there are other last minute bettors looking to exploit inconsistencies in the pools. While you’re making your place or show bet other tote board players are doing the same.
Other than finding those inconsistencies from one pool to the other I’d say the tote board is only useful as a tool is you use a good handicapping system to find a horse that is under-valued by the crowd.