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Punter or Actuary?

I received an email this week from a guy who described himself as an actuary - no, not a Hugh Grant type person - an actuary.

According to another web site,, "Actuaries use mathematics and statistics to determine the likelihood and risk of a particular event occurring and provide solutions and recommendations based upon their findings."

They work a lot in the banking and insurance industry and government and they research all sorts of statistics to determine boring and mundane things like what range of premiums to charge 32 year old non smokers for life insurance based on the statistical probabilities that they will die before they are 33 and other "stuff" like that. They "set the odds" for, not only insurance companies (who rarely lose in the long term unless mismanagement is in play), but also in the courts system to determine economic losses in the form of wages and compensation and such in cases like that.

The Australian Government web site describes the duties of the actuaries they employ as "involving the impact of uncertain events, often in the distant future, on assets, liabilities or revenue flows."

I'm sure you can see where this is all heading. These folk do not gamble! They very coldly and precisely match past historical data to future problem solving criteria and come up with what they believe is the most likely outcome for any uncertain event.

So where do you fit in to the picture? Are you more typical punter than actuary, or do you logically (and it has to be your developed logic!) take the time to assess, based on past performances, what is the most likely result of an uncertain event like a horse race?

Do you run round like a chook with its head cut off before each race looking for a tip, an omen, a reason to back something, see what's firmed in the last 5 minutes or have you already got in place a selection based on the best possible analysis that you can do given the time you have available to you?

A saying that we often post on the front page of this site: "In punting, my greatest enemy is time. This is good because my greatest enemy used to be me."

In this day and age of abundant information, most of which is freely available on the internet, there is simply no need, nor justification, to be the old fashioned punter hanging about in a smoky old TAB, losing the backside out of your pants regularly on a Saturday. It's gone past that. Time has moved on. The sport has changed and evolved in to something quite different.

If you are time-poor, there's heaps of software out there to do the "heavy lifting" of mundane things like even eliminating horses you think can't win (based on historical long term data) and leaving you with a reduced list of those you think can. Discarding 70% of the names in front of you is a great starting point for clarifying your view of any race and will undoubtedly lead to greater success - even if that just means less losses!

So if you want to be an actuary more than a gambler, you simply have to have that long term data available to you to analyse in the first place, and because of the overwhelming weight of data that is available, the capacity to analyse it efficiently - and by that I can tell you a pen and large sheet of paper will never do it as well as even the most basic computer programme, provided, of course, (and aren't there always provisos?), the programme is actually written by someone that has a rough idea of what the hell they're on about.

What I used to think was excitement no longer is for me. There was a time in the distant past where I would actually go to the races, spend the afternoon betting on the nod with a couple of bookmakers that I had come to know, (well they knew more about me I suspect and my penchant to "chase" irrationally) get half to three quarters full of "ink" and often win substantial amounts of money (well, they were to me) but just as often lose substantial amounts of money.

These days the main excitement is asking "is it better than $2.50 for a win or a place?" - see My Staking Plan - as before the day begins I know exactly which horses I want to invest my hard earned on and that list is absolutely "un-editable". Another side benefit of knowing you action plan in advance is that you know exactly what times you need to be "tuned in" to what's happening and you can make the rest of the stuff you have to do "fit around" those times.

There is way more future in being an actuary than a punter when it comes to making a small profit (or a larger one if you have that desire) from racing and gambling because there are, by the very nature of it, far more punters than actuary-type people playing with it. Do the research - find out for yourself - act upon the outcomes. Three steps - that's all.

This article is copyright 2012 . All rights reserved. May be copied freely for personal use and yes you can put it up on your web page providing this copyright notice stays in tact.