Emotional Mastery: Don’t Let Your Heart Rule Your Head

Emotional Mastery: Don’t Let Your Heart Rule Your Head Acclaimed Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky once said, ‘A real gentleman, even if he loses everything he owns, must show no emotion.’ A ‘real’ horse racing punter, on the other hand, should never be in a position to lose everything he owns and is free to show any emotion he feels, provided that emotion doesn’t interfere with his betting activity.

 

Let’s start with never being in a position to lose everything you own. If you’re thinking about betting seriously on horse racing, you must acknowledge that losing runs are inevitable. You must also acknowledge that you are ultimately responsible for your own actions. No-one is forcing you to bet, so it’s up to you to set aside an adequate sum of money, known as a betting bank or betting tank, which you can lose without compromising your quality of life in any way.

 

Even if you experience a sequence of unfavourable results, the worst that can happen is that you lose your entire betting bank and have to start all over again.

 

Now let’s consider emotion and how it affects your betting decisions. Another important function of a betting bank is to detach you, emotionally, from the money you bet on horse racing. If you bet with money that you’ve borrowed, or that’s earmarked for paying bills, losing takes on a great deal more significance, emotionally, than if you bet with money set aside exclusively for the purpose. This emotional attachment can lead to feelings of anger, disappointment and resentment, none of which are conducive to your psychological and physical well-being.

 

Furthermore, such negative feelings are likely to affect your ability to think clearly when it comes to placing your next bet. If your judgement is clouded by desperation, or fear, you’re much more likely to make rash decisions than if you think of every bet you place as a cold, calculated business transaction. Logic has been described as the language of the conscious mind and emotion as the language of the subconscious mind; consistently profitable betting on horse racing relies on the former, not the latter.

 

It has been suggested that the best way of avoiding emotional attachment to the money you bet on horse racing is to avoid watching the race(s) on which you bet altogether. As a serious punter, who’s spent thousands of hours watching horse racing, on and off course, I can see how this might work to avoid feelings of betrayal or frustration over ‘unlucky’ losers but, if you’re still emotionally attached to the money with which you bet, I frankly don’t see what difference it makes.

 

In fact, one of the most satisfying aspects of betting on horse racing, apart from financial gain, is seeing opinions formed on paper translated into events in the real world. If you don’t watch the races of which you bet, you’re denying yourself this satisfaction, not to mention the opportunity to draw your own conclusions from watching a race first-hand.

The important point is that, as far as any future betting activity is concerned, you remain indifferent to any individual result, favourable or unfavourable. A degree of emotional attachment to horses and horse racing is what elevates champion thoroughbreds to more than just numbers on a race card and, along with the ‘glorious uncertainty’ of the racing game, makes the sport as enjoyable and exciting as it is.

 

However, euphoria after a win can be just as dangerous as despair after a loss. If you back a winner, you’ll naturally be happier than if you back a loser but, either way, you shouldn’t attribute any individual result to your astuteness or lack of it. Try to think of all results as neutral, rather than positive or negative, as far as your skill, judgement and self-worth are concerned. In other words, if no individual result censures or endorses these qualities you’ll find it easy to focus on your next bet, rather than your last one, and bet consistently, however things are going.

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