The Punting Confessional: it’s good to talk!

Tipperary, May 3rd

Clichés on communication abound: ‘it’s good to talk’, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, ‘two heads are better than one.’ Like most clichés, time has eroded much of their meaning but it is important to remember that they have more than a grain of truth to them and the value of talk should not be underestimated by punters.

Gambling can be the loneliest of interests; at best, it is looked down upon by society, at worst, participants are scorned as irresolute addicts with nothing else in their lives. Trying to talk a normal person about your punting, by which I mean someone who doesn’t gamble or at least doesn’t gamble seriously, is a waste of time and many simply don’t believe there is any such thing as a profitable gambler; the cliché ‘you never see a poor bookie’ is often accepted as read.

Winning punters are of course a subset of the group and a small one at that; the nature of the game – bookmakers factoring in a profit margin that should ensure they win long-term – means that successful gamblers are rare. And finding one you can talk to about your punting can be a godsend as you may as well tell the sun not to shine as speak to a non-gambler about how well you played yet failed to win, how brilliantly you read the market or how you were beaten by an unforeseen lack of pace or draw bias. Punters are the only people who really understand punters and winning punters are the only ones that understand each other.

I am fortunate in that I have another winning punter with whom I am in contact on an almost daily basis and it certainly lightens the load of gambling seriously. We would speak before every Irish meeting and run through our thoughts on the card but as with so many of our conversations in the past, our chat last Wednesday ahead of the Tipperary meeting on Thursday spread out into wider issues of gambling and where we are going with it.

There are however important ground rules to our discussions. We won’t speak about a race before both of us has been through it in detail lest one of us influence the other before we have formulated our thoughts.

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I think this idea of working in a vacuum is vital in punting and ignoring outside influences is something that can be applied even you don’t have another punter to speak to; one should avoid looking at tissue prices or reading influential thinkers like Hugh Taylor or Tom Segal before studying a race. This applies to both individual races and meetings we have been reviewing with the idea behind it being that what one of us will miss, the other will pick up on and it is hoped that it is not a case of fools seldom differing.

We tend to strike a balance between offering constructive criticism and giving confidence boosts depending on how things are going. During losing runs, the latter dominates but we also tend to question what we are doing quite regularly whether it is the type of horses we are backing or a broader issue within our methods. For instance, I might question his having too many balls in the air, playing in too many markets, pre-race and in-race as well as in pool bets, while he may knock my lack of thoroughness in form study, often beginning with the line ‘did you not see the way horse X did something?’

I may advise him on the importance of having a routine and quiet space to set about going through a race whereas he may remind me to forgive a poor run when the price is right. These are just examples and the roles could easily be reversed in different circumstances but the important thing is that we are unafraid to challenge each other and don’t simply agree for the sake of it; doubt is a crucial characteristic of any good punter.

One of the best things about having a good punting friend is that you can help clarify each other’s thinking and pick holes in each other’s theories. Vague ideas tend not to be stood for and when you have to justify your thinking to someone other than yourself it makes you work through it properly. I am thinking here of two horses I have mentioned in my reviews on www.horse-racing.ie lately. I wrote about how Solent Ridge may well be a fast turf horse that needs firm in the going and doesn’t seem effective on the all-weather at Dundalk but I have been told by my colleague that in reality the polytrack there is very similar to quick turf and there shouldn’t be much of a difference; Solent Ridge may just be an inconsistent sort.

Another horse I wrote up recently is Inishmot Duchess who seems to peak on her second start of the year, having run both her best races at that stage of her last two seasons. Again, this is a vague theory and while the idea that a horse may need an outing is valid, the fact that they only peak on their second start is not as factors such as form, conditions and handicap mark are more important.

When working with another punter, it is probably a good idea to deal with someone who has a somewhat different skill set; you probably don’t want to be polar opposites or you’ll never agree on anything but it is a good idea to have alternative views on things. A lot of this comes down to individual learning styles; my friend is a very visual person with an almost photographic memory of how a race unfolded whereas I am trying to improve in that area; I am much more textual and am better at reading the market and compiling tissue prices and putting a figure on the chances of a horse doing something.

Indeed, it is probably fair to day that I have changed my punting modus operandi somewhat since working with another. Having initially been a trends devotee (hence my Twitter tag @RacingTrends which I just haven’t been bothered to change) I have moved on to a point where my analysis of racing is made up of form, video and pace which has certainly been a progression; I feel I understand racing much better and have made more money using these tools so something must be going right. Trends were something of a safety blanket, offering the security of numbers, but in reality are a mostly an ineffective tool that suffer from small sample sizes.

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5 replies
  1. Denis Mc grath says:

    Hi Tony I have a very simple view on Gambling and i only gamble on the nags nothing else and i mean nothing else .The only thing i am intersted in is picking up more than i put down end of story ie PROFIT.Can i also add that i will never back an AIDAN O BRIEN horse again purely and simply none of us punters have a clue as to the quality of their string as was highlighted last week end .BY THE WAY I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU THAT IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO HAVE A SOUL MATE WHO UNDERSTANDS PUNTING AND IS OF THE SAME MIND SET .I HAVE LISTENED AND CONTINUE TO LISTEN TO THE IDIOTS WHO COME UP WITH THE SAME OLD MANTRA DAY IN DAY OUT I HAVE TO GET AWAY ONCE THEY PIPE UP .ANOTHER OBSERVATION IT IS PRACTICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO GET ANY TYPE OF BET ON IN THE SHOPS NOW A DAYS THEY WILL TRY EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK NOT TO PAY YOU .IE YESTERDAY STRUCK A BET WITH BOYLE SPORTS FOR SMALL STAKE TOOK A PRICE AT 4/1 WENT TO COLLECT MY WINNINGS TO BE TOLD IWAS 48 SECS LATE SO ONLY GOT 100/3 WHY WHEN I STRUCK THE BET DID THEY NOT SAY YOU ARE LATE WITH THE 4/1 RATHER THAN GETTING INVOLVED WITH GRIEF AFTER THE EVENT .WHILE I AM ON ABOUT THE SHOPS THE QUALITY OF THE STAFF IS DEPLORABLE HAVE NOT GOT A KERRY BLUE HOW TO DEAL WITH THEIR CUSTOMERS DO THEY GET ANY FORM OF TRAINING OR DO YOU JUST HAVE TO BE BREATHING TO GET A JOB .PS WATCH THE BOOKIES THEY WILL DO YOU NO FAVOURS AS BARNEY CURLEY SAYS IT IS LIKE GOING TO WAR US AGAINST THEM SO BE PREPARED .HAPPY PUNTING TO THOSE WHO DO IT ON A REGULAR BASIS AND DO THOSE WHO DONT TAKE UP KNITTING AND KEEP YOUR BORING IGNORANT COMMENTS TO YOURSELVES.REGARDS DENIS MC GRATH

  2. ger k says:

    hey tony enjoying your articles on here.after being a keen follwer of nh in ireland last couple of years i.ve decided to take a much keener interest in the flat this year.no fallers,races seem to work out that much better,i find it easier to review the form with the races obviously much shorter and as you’ve mentioned before more of teh horses seem to be trying to my eye than in the nh.
    just wondering if your review of dundalks meeting on 3rd of may on irish-racing.ie is going to become a regular feature as it was an interesting take on how a pro reviews a race?also wondering if you’ve noted how ballydoyle second strings seem to be popping up at huge prices again this year?

  3. Mondo Ray says:

    Hi, Matt or Chris; thanks for your help reconnecting me with Gavin on the trends site last month. I got an email explaining the problems he was having and given an extension through May, but nothing is coming up. The site is still stuck on Punchestown & Sandown and I’ve tried the refresh a few times, tried emailing but Daemon Mailer says the site is rejecting everything, tried going indirectly via Google to get contact, but looks like I’m stuffed. Seriously thinking of reclaiming payment (which isn’t actually much – £14.95?) from Paypal and warning them it’s a dodgy site.

    Last resort – Matt, some advice here please?

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      It’s definitely not a dodgy site Ray. In fact, it’s working fine for me. Suspect there might be a problem with your firewall or some such, though I’m no expert. I’ll email you Gavin’s email address and you guys can resolve. Nothing to do with me, except I am friends with the guy!

      Matt

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