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Hit the books
Tuesday, December 03, 2013 - by Frank Cotolo

January is creeping up quickly and that means all horseplayers—without exception—should be opening a new page to register the action as it comes along in 2014.

But before that, it is time to calculate the ins and outs of 2013. You have kept records, have you not? Every year I ask the same question and every year I see quixotic faces, some are obviously dripping with denial while others are agape with apathy.

“I got it all in my head,” says one, condescendingly.

“I won. I cashed a lot,” says another one, remembering only that which he cashed but never subtracting from it that which he wagered.

“I did way better than last year,” says another, who could not prove that assertion with one ink line or computer byte.

What matters at all is that you have kept records, even the simplest of accounting measures, that when added and subtracted reveal if you won or lost money that year.

No one wants to admit they lost and when push comes to shove, no one is accountable to any other person concerning their betting behavior. Unless there is an IRS matter involved (you are making a profit that affects your yearly income or because you hit some huge exotic), not you nor I have to answer to anyone about our betting bankroll.

Except we should be accountable to ourselves and we should be happy if what we make at the races affects our yearly income. Because, simply, if we don’t know we are winning then we don’t know we are losing and losing won’t matter to the IRS or the FBI or the ASPCA because all losing will do is affect us.

Maybe you cannot save the accounts of 2013 because you cannot translate scribblings you made about bets on old programs or you never gave losing streaks a thought because you cashed a decent ticket and felt better that you won again. Maybe you started to keep a ledger, but one thing in life outside the track led to another and you didn’t maintain the books. But there is little to no excuse not to promise yourself you will start to keep records in 2014 and continue through the year so that by this date next year you will be able to calculate your investments.

You may be surprised the first full year you keep records. Even if you don’t win a lot you may feel pretty good to find that you won anything, no less all of the money you wagered. Sometimes it is a great achievement for a casual player to break even for merely entertainment’s sake.

Maybe you will take a new and positive view of how you bet when you see the total of wagers for a year. Perhaps you had no idea that over the months you managed to bet two or three thousand dollars. If you win or lose betting those amounts makes the long run look more serious and that makes you more serious about how you wager.

Open the book to a clean page and be poised to do the accounting in 2014.

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Editor's Note: The views contained in this article are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association.
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Hoof Beats Magazine The forum of Hoof Beats bloggers, featuring some of the best writers in harness racing: New York writer Tim Bojarski, handicapper Frank Cotolo, Tom LaMarra, Harness Racing Communications’ Ellen Harvey and Ken Weingartner, and Hoof Beats’ T.J. Burkett.
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