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Punting personality traits and winning and losing

(From the book "A Bettor Way" - published 2005)

Here's one insight that applies to every punter: Your personality has as much to do with how you will bet as any other factor you encounter at the track.

Why? If you can't stomach losing and hate risk, even if it leads to long-term rewards, you can't realistically expect measurable profit. You need to assess your temperament before adopting a wagering strategy.

Your betting might be characterised as much ado about nothing, or just for the fun of it. This book groups this kind of punter into the “risk-averse” category.

Betting is, inherently a risky business, so a big challenge will be learning to accept or even welcome that risk. Within the handicapping arena, risk-averse punters may be comforted when their pick is at unusually low odds, instead of seeing this as a negative in the quest to make profit. This is all relative. A risk-averse handicapper is still much more comfortable with risk than the typical risk-averse citizen, who may stuff money into a mattress or only invest in the very safest choices.

The other extreme is someone who can't visit a wagering facility without succumbing to the desire to “Let It Ride” and take one big chance before leaving. This player would go HOME broke repeatedly without applying some strong self control. This group is referred to as the high-risk category, very comfortable with the most aggressive of risks.

Tactics For the Risk-Averse Punter

For the risk-averse punter, underlays and favorites are not the answer. Punters that feel uncomfortable with a lot of risk are vulnerable to playing underlays. Vulnerable, due to a self-imposed mental barrier when the logic used to pick bets is:

“X is the favorite, and of all the horses is the most likely to win. How can I bet against the most likely winner? It must be the best choice to make a winning bet. You have to pick winners to cash tickets, and you have to cash tickets to make money.”

This seems like flawless logic. Nevertheless, the favorite may be more likely to win than any other horse, but is still more likely to lose than win.

Using this kind of logic, the risk-averse punter – more than anyone else – finds it hard to pass a likely winner at unacceptably low odds – if the punter in this category pauses to consider whether or not the odds are acceptable. Rather than pass the 6-to-4 favourite that should be 2-to-1, the 6-to-4 odds are taken as a reassurance that “You are more on track than you even thought you were.”

A Better Way For the Risk-Averse

The risk-averse punter who really intends to make money needs to do one thing: migrate away from underlaid contenders towards high probability, fair value situations. Learn to pick and choose situations that have a high probability of winning but still offer fair value relative to the chances of winning. It is feasible to accept wagers at low odds as long as the chance of collecting on the bet remains solid. For example, getting 6-to-4 odds on something with a 50 percent chance of occurring is a huge value ($2 bet for $5 returned 50 percent of the time equals $5 for every $4 bet, 25-percent profit) and cashing tickets will be a common occurrence.

Rather than accept underlays and console yourself with the knowledge that you have the majority opinion, look for anything with reliable value such as:

– class droppers

– Older maiden races, any horse who last finished second.

– horses returning to their previous winning distance

These are just a sample of long-term, high win-percentage situations. Through your regular research, you can uncover many others. They may not lead to big win prices very often, but the betting public does have its occasional misread leading to a big payoff. Knowing that you are playing scenarios that frequently yield winners will help you resist the “underlaid-but-still-likeliest winner” plays that are the undoing of many risk-averse players over the long haul.

Summary For Risk-Averse Punters

Risk-averse punters will be helped in the long run if the following concepts are kept in mind to key on value and profitability:

– Even if playing long shots is not your style, there are plenty of opportunities to find overlays even at modest odds. A horse who should be 4-to-5 and pays 2-to-1 is a more than 100-percent overlay.

– Build a list of highly successful scenarios to look for. One to two dozen such angles can be enough of a portfolio to find several reasonable value bets each day.

– Set aside a small percentage of your daily bankroll for exotics. These can be used to supplement a “best bet” win bet. If you handicap the race right and win, it is always nice to turn a base hit into a HOME run.

Control Measures For the High-Risk Punter: Controlling the Fever

High risk does not imply educated risk. High risk does not imply calculated risk. “Wild stabbing” is a better description if this is your strategy for betting success, recklessly endangering your bankroll.

This section is geared for the person who is time and again lured by potential payoffs…who watches the TV screen looking for huge sums, and fabricates hypothetical situations that could produce those outcomes. Fabricating, because the person practically has to invent the scenario to make it sound logical.

For the typical high-risk player, the handicapping factors that matter most are whichever ones help the case of the selections he has in mind to produce a real payday.

These are people who fall in love with horses they would not have considered contenders the night before. Stinging from a loss, they may look to the next race to redeem themselves. They may go after a long shot with little chance or plunge too heavily on undervalued exotics. These handicappers love two horse exactas and doubles. Putting two “good ones” together and offering twice what a win bet will pay seems like a gift to them – even if the chances of success are far less than the odds would seem to indicate.

The sad part for many of these players is that once they are down, their focus never seems to shift to more reasonable propositions. Someone in this category who starts his day with $100 and already lost $75 of it, is not likely to see the 3-to-1 shot in the next race that should be 6-to-4 as an opportunity for a win bet of $15. If the horse wins at these value odds, he would cash for $60 and be a long ways back to even. It is more likely that the $15 will be invested in exactas and trifectas with long shots that will probably lose and cost the punter a perfect chance to back a solid prospect.

Eavesdrop at the track before the last race of the afternoon and you will hear some of the most incredible fantasy suppositions imaginable.

“If the 5 horse steps up and runs with the favorite early, they may both weaken, and then the 2 should finish better, and go outside both of them, which will hang him wide when the favorite tires and drifts out. That will set up my 7 horse to drop to the rail and come up on the inside, which the 7's jockey usually never does, but the 7 is wearing blinkers and that will keep him running straight as a string up the rail. So the jock's got to try to go through there. And with the favorite tiring and the 5 all done, the 2 and the favorite will complete the trifecta.”

Now there's over-thinking a race, and there's over-thinking a race.

If you find yourself constructing complex if-this-then-that scenarios to justify how your exotic bets will work out, you are over-thinking it.

Most high-risk punters would use that $20 weighted heavily toward the exotics, with maybe $5 to win and $15 in exotics. The horse may win and the exotics still lose (after all, it's harder to hit the exotic). It is that fantasy of the “Mission Impossible” scenario all falling into place – “The 3 does this and the 5 does this and the favorite does that...” – that lures people away from reasonable or sensible or logical alternatives. A value horse to win may stare you right in the face, and you may not see it because you are focusing on who will run second and third and fourth and fifth.

A Better Way For the High-Risk Punter

If a high-risk punter intends to make money over time, it is important to capitalise on value opportunities with higher chances of hitting, usually through win bets. If planning to bet $20 on exotics using a key long shot, regularly bet $5 to win on that long shot. Being close on a handful of exotics tickets is not as rewarding as money in your wallet at the end of the day, and a small win bet will often cover the money bet on exotics.

Summary For High-Risk Punters

High-risk punters will be better served in the long run if the following steps are kept in mind to avoid chasing rainbows:

– If trying to make a “big score,” identify the opportunities before the day begins, not with 3 minutes to go before they jump.

– Make sure that long-term win betting is profitable before you test your skills on exotics. If your win-bet selections are not profitable over time, your exotic plays are even less likely to win.

– Always prefer a win pool overlay to a chance for an exotics score. If a horse you strongly feel has a 33-percent chance of winning is at 12-to-1, bet it to WIN! So what if the exacta and tri will-pays are huge? Your opportunity to cash on this overlay shouldn't be foiled by other runners not fulfilling their part of your exacta or tri tickets.

A Bettor Way can be ordered at


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