Using the computer to beat the horses?

Mar 2, 2010 4:59 PM
Book Reviews by Howard Schwartz |

Author says it can be done successfully

Bob Pitlak, who’s been handicapping thoroughbreds for more than 30 years, has written a book which should appeal to those who want to use the computer to pick winners. Titled PC Tools for the Thoroughbred Handicapper (159 pages, paperbound, $24.95), the book contains 11 detailed chapters which describe and explain a set of more than two dozen spreadsheets and PC programs that range from simple odds/probabilities calculations to creating a personal odds line, to analyzing exactas, to correlation and regression analysis.

Using charts, formulas and tables with many examples, Pitlak discusses developing a jockey database, betting for value, the Sartin Method, velocity calculations, analyzing daily doubles, tracking your wagers, favorites and false favorites, jockey-trainer combinations, and quantifying class, among other areas.

In the first chapter, for example, he explains how to use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to help determine odds and probabilities. Knowing that not everyone understands how to create formula and charts, there’s directions to a website to download the finished product.

"The ultimately successful handicapper will be one who has access to a great deal of data and the ability to manage and convert their data into information," Pitlak says. That information comes in the form of concrete numbers, which can be derived from the tools provided in the book.

Smartly, Pitlak, who hails from Vermont these days, references other important books that pertain to computer and handicapping. (Sadly, almost all are out of print.) For those who want to download the tools he describes in his highly readable book, he tells you where to access them or how to contact him personally with questions.

There’s a handy vital discussion of the Kelly Criterion (Percentage of Bankroll Betting) for those who need help in understanding the value and importance of bankroll control versus flat betting. This too can be run through a spreadsheet to see how it will work with individual handicapping.

Overall, this is an intelligent book, needed by anyone who understands the value of accurate, updated data and who wants to experiment or fine tune their skills with a computer to beat the races.

This book and many more are available from Gambler’s Book Shop in Las Vegas. The store’s website is You can order there using your major credit or debit card or by phoning the store Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time at 1-800-522-1777. The store, opened in 1964, is located at 1550 E. Tropicana Suite #4, between Maryland Parkway and Spencer Avenue, just a couple of miles from the famous Strip.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Howard Schwartz