A recent study suggests that just a single-figure percentage of horse racing punters make a profit in the long term. According to the British Horse Industry Confederation, at £10 billion a year is bet on horse races, so what ‘edge’ has this tiny minority of punters established over the hoi polloi, which allows them to generate a profit where others cannot? The answer to that question can be summed up in a single word, ‘discipline’.
Bookmakers are in business to make a profit and successful punters must adopt a business-like approach to their betting activity, based on record-keeping, staking, strategy and work ethic if they are to have any hope of doing likewise. Unsuccessful punters often rely heavily on ‘luck’ and are willing to accept almost any explanation for backing a loser, other than that their judgement was at fault.
Unsuccessful punters often keep no records at all and therefore have little, or no, idea about their strike rate, return on investment or profitability. In so doing, they deny themselves the opportunity to create, and refer to, the most valuable betting information they’ll probably ever come across. Perhaps understandably, they tend to take a very short-term view of their betting activity, calculating their profit or loss on a daily basis, if they do so at all. Successful punters, by contrast, not only keep accurate records of every bet they place for future reference, but analyse the form after, as well as before, the race.
Unsuccessful punters tend to focus on finding winners, regardless of the odds on offer, and fail to understand that a high strike-rate doesn’t, necessarily, translate into profitability. Successful punters, on the other hand, tend to focus on finding value selections – in other words, horses that are available at longer odds than their chance merits – and may be prepared to sacrifice strike rate in favour of profitability. Of course, they understand odds and percentages and can recognise value even in short-priced selections. They’re much more likely to shop around for an extra point, or even half a point, to increase their profitability in the long term.
Continuing the mathematical theme, unsuccessful punters typically have little interest in odds, percentages, probability or staking. They tend to bet haphazardly, based on how things are going at any given moment, rather than knowing what stakes to use, and how to use them, regardless of whether they’re winning or losing in the short term.
On the subject of ‘value’, successful punters typically don’t just rely on the same information that is available to everyone else. They may, for example, produce their own private handicaps or speed ratings or simply focus on a particular ‘niche’ of horse racing, in which they become expert. By their very nature, successful punters are more likely to investigate information, such as overall and sectional times, speed maps, etc., which are not readily available, but can nevertheless provide them with an ‘edge’ in their betting activity. As a result, they’re confident and unlikely to be swayed by journalists, TV pundits or anyone else with an opinion; successful punters lead the market rather than merely following it.