The Punting Confessional – December 20th, 2012
Bar weekly fixtures at Dundalk, there’s little flat racing to speak of at present in Ireland so this is the time of year when I look back at how the previous twelve months punting has gone. This week I will write about how this is done generally before moving onto the specifics of my own punting year in my next article.
The first thing one needs before attempting analysis of anything is critical distance; I see no point in trying to analyse while in the midst of a problem as one is too close the issue and prone to all sorts of thinking biases. Like revenge, analysis is a dish best served cold and must be done at a slight remove; this is not to be done on impulse.
The nature of gambling is to be just that – one need only look at the 24/7/365 nature of the betting ‘product’ (god, do I hate that term) – and there are times when the trigger needs to be pulled quickly but this isn’t one of them and the best way to look back on your gambling season is with some sense of reason.
One needs to be both realistic and honest in one’s analysis; we can all delude ourselves and make ambitious targets at times but the best way to counteract this is to have data to hand. Compiling data – and by this I mean betting records – is boring and laborious but ultimately worth the effort; how else can one make sensible decisions?
I’ll say more on this as I go through the punting year in what, broadly speaking, is a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats or SWOT analysis.
Strengths: Your strengths can come in many forms but can only be gauged from looking at your records. Are there certain types of races you play better than others, handicaps or group races or maidens? An experienced punter may develop a gut feeling over time but for those starting out it is important to back up opinions with data. Do you make money at certain times of the year more so than others?
I’m unconvinced about this one though as it has more than an element of randomness about it and I tend to be more interested in where – i.e. race type – rather than when the profit was made. Remember that strengths should be focused on and developed; they are where one makes money so don’t neglect them.
Since I began punting about eight years ago, I have come to see that the psychological side of the game is at least as important as the actual form study. What traits have you got that make you a good punter? Are you objective, calm, intuitive, stubborn, consistent or otherwise?
As Tom Segal never tires of pointing out, one needs to punt to your personality but you can only do this if you know what your personality is and remember there is more than one way to turn a profit.
Weaknesses: Anyone who claims not to have weaknesses, as a punter or person, is deluded. Many of the weaknesses are simply the opposite of the strengths; are there race types that you continually call wrong or psychological issues that bedevil you? The latter are difficult to shift but one can certainly become better at different types of races over time if you put the effort in; one does need to ask however if the effort is worth it? No one can be a master of all race types and specialising in a certain type of race has long been a way of getting ahead.
One key area to watch out for here is repeatedly falling into the same type of traps from year to year, backing the same type of ‘wrong’ horse again and again. We all have types that dupe us from time to time, be it from a trainer we follow or an angle we like, but the aim is to cut down on these as much as possible. The idea that repeating the same process but expecting different results is a sign of madness is worth thinking about here.
Opportunities: Many opportunities have presented themselves in betting in my life – notably the arrival of the exchanges – but what I mean here is more along the lines of planning for the next punting year. What areas would you like to know more about before the next season rolls around? There are always new angles emerging but I think it can be difficult to see the woods from the trees when in the midst of punting and these may be best explored during some downtime.
I for one cannot sustain the level of intensity required during my punting high season – basically the summer months when flat racing is in full flow – the whole year around and hence largely ignore the jumps. This is a good time to think about gambling books you might like to read or areas to be researched.
It is also a time to set goals. I seem to recall something from a business studies class that said goals should be achievable, measurable and specific and the textbook was right. Make sure you are basing goals on realistic expectation; if you are trying to set a profit target for the next year, don’t pull a figure out of the sky but instead look at the sort of profit levels you’ve been reaching in the three to five years previous and bear in mind any change in your circumstances that may affect them one way or the other.
Threats: One threat to be aware of is the diminishing edge and be careful not to pursue a previously profitable angle off the edge of a cliff; I’m thinking of something like the draw angle in English flat racing which accepted wisdom now says is overdone by the market. This of course links in with opportunities as one should be on the lookout for new edges.
If you are a remotely successful punter, getting on will increasingly become a threat and the knockback is certainly one of the most frustrating parts of punting and can mess with your psychology; it’s enough to have to pick the winner without struggling to get the money on.
Be prepared for this happening, make arrangements to get around it and accept there are times when things just won’t work out.