Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 3, NO. 4 / AUGUST 1984


Atari goes to the races!

This program handicaps race horses, using information taken from the Daily Racing Form.  Users of HORSPLAY must be familiar with the terminology of the track, and should have a lively interest in handicapping.  The program runs on the XL computers, but will not run on a 16K machine unless lines 100-257 are deleted.  These lines create a fancy title screen which is not needed to run the program.  Owners of 16K machines can type in and run these lines separately if they want to see the title screen.

HORSPLAY is a program that answers several needs. First, it offers a solution for horse racing fans who want to find a system that will help them beat the odds at the race track.  Second, it exemplifies the kind of practical, down-to-earth application that personal computers are designed to handle.  Feel free to incorporate the techniques used in HORSPLAY into your own programs. (By the way, Antic is always interested in hearing about creative uses of your computers.  We actively seek innovative programs which encourage the use of Atari computers. -ANTIC ED) Now, let's go off to the races!
   It's hard to beat the odds.  Some very good handicappers have tried, only to find that their selection has also become the public favorite.  I'm not against betting the public choice, providing that there's a chance for a reasonable payoff.  But how do you decide what's "reasonable?" In fact, how do you determine if any of your picks will offer a reasonable payoff? Even a "long shot" may not be enough of a long shot to be worth a bet.
   Let's carry this line of reasoning further.  What if we determine that a horse is going to pay more than it should?  This is called an "overlay," and represents the best possible betting situation.  If we can determine ahead of time what the odds on our choice "should" be, we'll be much better armed for our next trip to the track.
   HORSPLAY helps us to do just that.  It's based on a study of over 1000 races in which certain factors were determined to have had an impact on a horse's chances of winning.  The percentages gained from this study were incorporated into the program, and are combined to predict a horse's probable chances of winning a given race.  The resulting figure is then converted into recognizable odds that you can compare with the odds given at the track.
   When you're handicapping a race, HORSPLAY prompts you for answers that you can easily obtain from the Daily Racing Form.  If you wish, you can save the information on each race to disk and then recall the information later to incorporate changes such as morning scratches.  The program will recalculate the odds for you, and give you a printout to boot.  At that point, the computer bows out.  Any betting or risk-taking that follow are on your shoulders.

Dave Elwood is a design engineering specialist who has been programming in BASIC and machine language as a hobby for two years.  His favorite programming topics are related to gambling.

Listing: HORSPLAY.BAS Download