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Here's provably the worst mistake in sports: Leading by three points late at college basketball and not fouling.
There are two ways to get tied when you're up three with seven or eight seconds left in the game: Somebody throws in a simple three-pointer; or you foul on top, and the other team has to make the first free throw, miss the second, get the rebound, and throw in a two-point shot. The refs could probably make around 30 percent of their three-point shots from the college line. I have never seen anybody make one free throw, then miss on purpose and get the rebound and then score a two. Once. Ever. Has there been such a case? More shots are made from pudgy insurance sales people at halftime contests than scoring three the hard way. You be the coach. Leading by three, foul late and win 99.9 percent of the time. Or play tough D and win 70 percent of the time. The pros are a little different with the bizarre continuation rule that stipulates that anybody thinking about shooting gets to count a bucket if it is scored. Yet despite all odds, still they refuse to foul late, they get tied often, and lose in overtime.
Being dead wrong is so easy.
Mistakes are repeated hourly at horse racing.
The opening 2013 Kentucky Derby pool has been fished. The favorite is Nobody, the field at 8-5. The favorite single horse is Verrazano, the name of, first, an explorer, then a bridge in New York. Verrazano just beat four horses, several of which almost had to ask directions to the finish, in a race in Florida, and has zero Derby qualifying points. The second favorite single horse is Flashback, which beat three horses at Santa Anita. People, it's your money, but it's usually a good idea to play in a futures pool a horse that is apt to be a shorter price in the Derby. Defeating fields of 3 and 4, there's often more traffic in workouts.
The most repeated mistake in horse race wagering is searching for value and making a bet based on odds, not ability.
Down through all the handicapping pieces, I have had the following thoughts about value shopping, or bargain hunting at the horse races.
All winners have value. If a 100 percent return isn't enough, if an even-money horse won't put you where you need to be, use the likely winner in an exotic wager.
Looking for value is like dumpster diving. It is seldom done by winners. It is usually done by somebody down a few hundred. I need some value. I need two aspirin. Same tone, same theme.
If you like 1-1 and 10-1 horses equally, play them both. If you can't afford to play everything you like at the horse races, buy a lottery ticket.
What's the difference in a 10-1 horse that you really like, and a 10-1 horse that has "value?" You actually think the first 10-1 horse can win. The other one is a prayer. But if you're a lousy handicapper, it's all about tripping over a winner, who cares how you get there, right?
I have never seen a college hoop team up three points with six seconds left foul the opponent and lose. And I have never heard a horse touted for its value win.
Since when is losing the right thing to do?
Write to Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org.