In this week's Punting Confessional, our warts and all look at the life of a "professional punter", Tony Keenan begins to explain why it isn't always prudent to continue betting all year round. Sometimes it's better to take a step back, have a fresh look at things and come back recharged. Tony has very recently decided to take a break from betting and here, he starts to take us through his thought process, all starting at...
...Gowran Park – August 15th
Racing was cancelled at Gowran this evening but it didn’t matter to me as I’d opted to take a break from punting for a time after the previous Friday’s meeting at Tipperary where despite giving the card a thorough study and finding a number of horses I felt were overpriced, none came close to winning. It had been the culmination of a really poor punting period over the past 6 weeks since the start of July with only Galway providing any sort of relief and I was haunted particularly by the two meetings on July 12th at Dundalk and Leopardstown – hereafter to be known as Black Thursday – where to put it mildly, I’d done my brains.
I’ve written about losing before but clearly it is something one could return to again and again, being a constant in any punter’s life, and having just had probably the worst period of losing in my gambling life it seems as good a time as any to come back to the subject.
So what were my reasons for taking a break? Firstly, I wanted to protect some of the profits which I made up to June; having worked hard for them, I didn’t want to give them back in a period of losing or at the very least limit my losses. Playing with scared money is never a good way to be and as I’ve said before the best punters tend to have a certain blasé attitude to the money they play with but there are times when the fear factor can creep into anyone’s game and it had certainly crept into mine.
Also, I was quite tired of the game and not really enjoying it; when you’re punting every day, there are going to be times when you’re just not feeling it on a given day but my lack of enjoyment was a little more sustained than that which suggested a break was called for; sometimes in life, you can hate the things you love. I suppose this sort of break may not an option for someone reliant on gambling for their sole income but thankfully I am not in that position and can afford to take pause.
As to the causes of this prolonged losing streak, my first port-of-call would be the most obvious one: it’s simply a product of randomness. I back a lot of horses that are away from the front end of the market so longer losing streaks are inevitable and really the hot first half of the season when I could do little wrong was unsustainable; these things do balance themselves out in the end.
As I wrote about a few weeks back, the soft ground certainly hasn’t helped and this has been one of the main differences from this summer to previous ones; we often get rain in Ireland but not to this extent. There is a degree to which it has turned the formbook on its head a little and made it difficult to read and given that’s the source of my bets it was always going to make life difficult.
Of course, I’ve had a bad punting summers in the past though the very nature of gambling means that is not predictable when you will make money from one year to the next; May could be a brilliant month one year, a shocking one the next. Sure, there may be times of the year when one seems to do better than others consistently but in reality it’s best to treat each race, meeting or month as an independent entity with the potential to go totally right or totally wrong or more likely something in between.
Consistency of profit may be a chimera but that said summer is a time when I would like to be making a turn as my other work commitments are lessened and with lots of racing on, there should be many betting opportunities.
The huge amount of racing could in itself be part of the problem and though many would argue differently, personally I think that there is too much racing on and I say that as someone who follows Irish flat racing only; I find it just about manageable as it is but perish the thought that I’d have to do jumps racing as well as that and really I don’t know how anyone who follows English racing with the amount of it on survives. My ideal punting week would be a scenario of three or four meeting where one had time to analyse past events, study the upcoming races, get on and still have a semblance of an ordinary life. In the summer, this becomes difficult with racing on five, six or maybe seven days a week.
Most of this is bookmaker-driven where they want to create a situation of constant betting opportunity where there is always the lure of action and knock out any period when a punter may take time for considered thought. This is particularly true of the racing calendar at the height of the summer but thankfully we are not entering a period when the number of meeting slows which should suit my punting temperament better.
Racing has a 24/7/365 structure that can promote obsession; with the few exceptions of Good Friday and Christmas Day, you can almost always have a bet on a horse, be it in Britain, Ireland, America or Australia. I tend towards being an obsessive type so over the years I have tried to counteract this by focussing mainly on Irish flat racing so racing doesn’t become the only thing I’m doing.
In the main, I’m not the sort of punter who can open the paper or pull up the laptop for five minutes, do some reading and have a bet; I like to have more information than that with my racing analysis combining form study, video replay, pace and tissue prices and when you’re applying all those variables there’s a lot of mental intensity involved, so much so that I can’t realistically sustain it the year round and instead choose to focus on just one type or area of racing and even then I still need to take breaks within that.
I’ll be back next week to develop this point and hopefully come up with some ideas to break back into form.