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“Any fool can pick 30% winners”

It CAN Be Done!

It CAN Be Done!

I've been reading a book by a young Irish fellow called Kevin Blake. It's about betting on horses, and specifically it's about how he made over £40,000 from betting on horses this year on Irish flat racing.

The keys, you may not be surprised to learn, were discipline, selectivity, discipline, form study, discipline, specialization, and discipline.

The book, "It Can Be Done", is a good read and it's full of strong insights.

But it might be a bit lacking in fun.

Most pro backers are serious types who spend much of their time studying the form book and video replays to eke out their profit. In fairness to Kevin, he doesn't fit that archetype too snugly.

If that sounds a bit dull, then I have some good news. The book was a catalyst for me taking an early look at my own betting profit and loss for the year (I normally do this at calendar year end), and the results were as pleasant as I expected.

In a nutshell, I'm showing a profit of £6,186 from my betting so far this year on a turnover of almost exactly £20,000. I want you to note two things:

1. I love a bet, and I have lots of action bets, and I have fun with my betting.

2. I do not bet massive amounts, in terms of stake size.

I want to remind readers of my unshakeable contention that betting for fun and profit is possible, and that these two are not mutually exclusive. And I'll share some of the keys to my philosophy, such as it, in this post.

Key Principle #1: Have fun!

Firstly, I do not set profit targets. My target is to have fun. I set enjoyment targets. That doesn't mean I don't want to win. Of course I do. But if winning is at the cost of entertainment, then I might as well get a job. (You know, a proper job, not goofing about on the internet scribbling a few paragraphs about whatever tickles my fancy).

No, it starts with fun. I'll bet almost every day. Some days, especially on Mondays when the racing is generally desperate, I might have one little bet in the afternoon, or do a placepot for a bit of interest while I'm doing whatever else I'm doing.

On Saturdays, I generally don't bet much because racing outside of the festival meetings is never more competitive than it is on a Saturday.

But on Sunday, and from Tuesday to Friday, I take a keener interest in what's happening.

Key Principle #2: Get V-A-L-U-E

If you still don't 'get' this, you're completely and utterly doomed. Betting 3/1 when you could have bet 4/1 is just plain unfettered idiocy. And, forgive me, if you're still doing this, you're either very rich and are keen to become less rich; or you're a plain unfettered idiot.

Look. You cannot can't CANNOT win if you habitually take under the odds about your fancies, no matter how smart you are. (And, in case you didn't get my, ahem, inference in the above, you're not very smart if you habitually take under the odds about your fancies).

geegeez trumpets the best bookmaker offers because the very best chance you have of winning is to avail of any concession you're still qualified so to do.

Let me put it another way, and this is becoming something of a catchphrase for me. Any fool can bet 30% winners.

Just grab a betting slip, or pull up a bookmaker site, and etch onto it/tick the box which says 'Fav'. Simple. Dull. Uninspired. And a little bit sad.

It will also ultimately cause a financial death by a thousand cuts. Slow. Painful. Inexorable.

Now don't get me wrong. There are plenty of occasions when a market leader can be a value bet. But simply backing the 'fav' is a mug's game. It's the ultimate mug's game. And if you do it, you're a mug. Get over it, and try something different. You might surprise yourself.

So what is value? Well, you've heard the coin toss example probably a million times. The problem is not 'what is value?', but rather 'how do I identify value?'

And here's a thing: that's an open book of a question. There is no right answer.

Many people say to quantify value, you must create your own 'tissue', or forecast betting odds. That's all well and good, but on what do you base those odds?

I've done it a few times, and it's an interesting exercise for sure. Comparing your tissue with the actual starting prices will tell you what sort of a handle you have on the market.

But generally, I determine value by feel. If that sounds cheap - perhaps even a cop out - then so be it. The fact is, I don't have all the time in the world to review the racing. I run a business akin to a (very) small iceberg, the main visible element of which is this site.

It takes a lot of maintaining. There are a lot of people involved. I have a young son and a lovely partner with whom I want to spend time. And I like beer. Not as much as I used to, but I still like it.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Time is limited for me, as it is for most other people. But that doesn't mean we can't bet profitably, and enjoy the process as well. Value is key.

Here's a shortcut to finding value

By far the biggest blind spot in the early markets is a recency bias. Specifically, a bad run last time out can double a horse's odds. Take Bobs Worth as an example. He was 5/2 for the Gold Cup before disappointing in the Betfair Chase last weekend. He's now 5/1. Has his chance halved as a result of that seasonal setback? Well, time will tell of course, but to my eye he has so many more positive runs to that one negative effort.

And, here's where the concession thing comes in, if he runs poorly again he might not even go for the Gold Cup. So, backing him at top price with a bookmaker offering non-runner free bet, feels like a smart thing to do. My entire Cheltenham ante-post portfolio so far - which is only about six or seven bets - has been struck with BetVictor, with no bet bigger than the £50 limit on that free bet concession.

Why would I bet anywhere else if they're matching the top price? To do so shows at best a lack of value acumen, and at worst, plain unfettered idiocy. 😉

The point: look beyond a bad run, especially if there's a probable reason for the bad run. Ground, trip, fitness, pace setup, missing the break, whatever. If a horse failed to get his normal luck in running - or ideal race conditions - last time, there's a good chance the market has under-estimated that horse's chance today, assuming race conditions are more in its favour this time.

[Post script: Bobs Worth didn't win the Gold Cup, but he was sent off the 6/4 favourite. 5/1? About a 6/4 shot? Any and every day, please.]

Here's another shortcut to finding value

Check the bookmaker concessions. Check the best odds available. And be sure to bet at the best odds available, and the best concessions. For as long as you can before they close you down.

I've got a good few winning accounts, and a few losing accounts. For whatever reason, I've only got one restricted account. [Update: I've got several more restricted accounts now]

If you don't currently have an account with the firm offering the best price, open an account with them. Here are three reasons why:

1. You'll get the best odds on your fancy today

2. They'll almost certainly give you some free bet bait to sign up (always great when you were going to sign up anyway)

3. Next time they're top price, you won't have to faff about.

And here's a third shortcut to finding value (lesser known)

Look out for tote rollovers. In Britain, these tend to be the exclusive preserve of the relatively high ticket bets, the totejackpot and the Scoop6. But in Ireland, there are frequent rollovers for their jackpot (which consists of just four legs), Pick 6 (which often features a couple of 'gimme' races), and trifecta, which is always on race six, even when that's a seven horse National Hunt Flat race!

There was nothing especially clever in the below winning bets, except that I was smart enough to know that the rollover meant I was getting value:

Tote value, across the Irish Sea

Tote value, across the Irish Sea

A couple of things to note on there.

Firstly, that €120 Pick 6. I would never normally play that Pick 6, because I consider it too hard. But the first race featured a 1/5 shot, which duly won. And the fourth race featured Hurricane Fly - at 1/16! - who scraped home.

Not only that, but Ruby Walsh rode the first FIVE of those six winners, and none was outside of the first two in the betting.

Leg six was a big handicap, which is why I took plenty of bullets (ten). It was won by a 10/1 shot.

The dividend for this most easy of six race accumulators was €648.20. The cumulative odds were just 311/1. More than double the odds. Thank you rollover.

And what about that jackpot there? That was nice, eh? €72 staked and €1,786.80 returned.

Listowel's Harvest meeting, and just races three to six to solve. Aidan O'Brien's 5/1 third choice wins the opening leg; the 9/2 favourite wins leg two, a handicap; Johnny Murtagh trains and rides the 10/1 winner of the penultimate leg; and, clear form pick, Hidden Cyclone takes the final leg at odds of 2/1.

Cumulative odds of 1,088/1, pay out at 1,785.8/1. That time it was due to a jackpot guarantee for the festival meeting.

The image is unedited - those are all of the Irish tote bets I've had since 20th September. (Spot the action bets!)

Be aware of when and where the rollovers are. And if you don't have an Irish tote account, get one!

Key Principle #3: "Let The Bet Make You"

There's an American bloke called Michael Pizzola. He writes about racing, and he lives in Las Vegas, and he lounges in the racebooks (betting shops) there. He writes very, very articulate and compelling books, and some of his core ideas are generic. One I really like is his strap line, "Let The Bet Make You".

What he means is simply that if you don't fancy something in a race, don't have a bet. You don't have to bet. You won't stop breathing if you don't bet. Most days, you won't even have to wait more than ten minutes for another wagering opportunity.

If you really must have a bet when you don't have an opinion, make it a very small bet. When it wins, you can buy a cup of tea and a sticky bun. When it loses, you won't kick yourself too hard.

That's the thing about discipline: it doesn't need to be a straightjacket. It's your leisure pound, and you can spend it as freely as you choose. But once it's spent, it's spent. Unless you backed a winner. Bet more when you have more of a view. But never bet too much.

Key Principle #4: Contrast is Key

Have you seen the Instant Expert reports on this site? You know, the traffic light thingies, with loads of numbers on them. The idea is that they'll help you see, at a glance, horses in a race which are suited by today's going, class, course, distance and field size, and that may be handicapped to win.

The amber and red box outlines are deliberately similar colours, in order to accentuate the dark green boxes which symbolize a positive profile.

The ideal situation is a horse which has a line of dark green in a race where very little else can offer much, if any, of that verdant hue. Here's an example from the day I wrote this post:

Spot the well treated horse...

Spot the well treated horse...

Although Seebright had no form in today's class (normally a key consideration for me), he was strong in all other departments, and within sniffing distance of his last winning mark.

Moreover, his last winning mark was last time out, implying that he's still progressive. And, furthermore, and materially in this race, none of his rivals had previously shown any alacrity in this grade before.

Seebright won at 7/4. I had £20 on him at 9/4 with a Best Odds Guaranteed bookmaker. He was favourite. I backed the favourite. At half a point bigger than his SP, it was a value bet, irrespective of the outcome.

But, despite knowing that Seebright had won his only previous start after a layoff, I didn't especially fancy him - or anything else - this day, and so I bet accordingly. It was, in truth, an interest bet.

My only other bet that day was a £20 double with Seebright and Neptune Equester. The latter was second, albeit beaten half the track. An interest bet loser. No major damage inflicted.

Other days are, obviously, further from the payout window.

Summary

The point of this piece was not to gloat (especially) about winning at betting. After all, there are plenty of people out there with far more to gloat about than me. Rather, what I've tried to outline is a vague blueprint for profitable and enjoyable betting.

Profitable and enjoyable betting.

Those are the cornerstones of what geegeez is about, and it's testament to the approach that our three daily tipping features - Stat of the Day, Double Dutch and The Shortlist - have been profitable to follow since inception.

They all use best odds guaranteed bookmaker offers, and none would be profitable without them (except the top-rated The Shortlist selections - read about their amazing profitability here). The same is true of Tom Segal's excellent Pricewise column. The same is true of Hugh Taylor's excellent value pieces on the ATR site. Higher profile they may be, but the principle is alive and well all over the place, if you care to look, and to act.

Finally, here's the summary of my betting activities, based on a sanitized download of my bank statement (i.e. I removed the occasional non-betting bank transaction - you know, like the mortgage, and the electricity bill).

Betting P&L 2013

Betting P&L 2013

There may be some who don't believe this account to be true, and frankly I've long since grown tired of the bitches and the trolls that hide behind their screens in cyberspace, so I won't be saying anything further than that I can assure you this is the full and complete record of my wagering deposits and withdrawals...

...except that it doesn't include things like the €344 I have in my Irish tote account, or the £700 of unsettled bets I have running on. 😉

Good luck with your betting. First and foremost, enjoy it. And if you've any tips for readers on how to improve their own bottom line or fun factor, leave a comment below, and share your investment advice!

Matt

p.s. Want to know more about Instant Expert? Take a look at this page.