Tipping Services. We all know of them. Many of us follow one or more, and many of you will follow Stat of the Day, geegeez.co.uk's own "anti-tipping" service which is currently enduring a difficult run. Let's call it a correction.
In this post, I want to talk about tipping services generally. Not about how to tell a good one from a bad one, or what measures you should put in place to protect yourself from unscrupulous charlatans. You can find that (useful) info elsewhere if you need it; or you can be assured that the services we trial and review here are almost always legit (after several hundred reviews there is the occasional bad apple in the barrel, sadly, but we do a lot of legwork to save you the time and effort).
No, I want to talk about the psychology of following a tipping service.
When we sign up to a tipster, we are essentially deciding to trust someone else's opinion. There should be good reasons for that, reasons way beyond the bold claims of an email or a sales page. Reasons even beyond solid proofed results over a notable period of time. We need to be clear about things like losing runs, how selections are arrived at, when they're delivered, whether quoted prices are attainable, and so on.
The Trouble with Hugh Taylor...
As an example, Hugh Taylor of Attheraces is a superb tipster, perhaps the best public picker in the game. But... he makes his picks on the morning of the racing, which for many people is a no go due to work or other commitments; and the prices, often only available in one place, evaporate in seconds; and even if you're able to get those prices, your betting accounts very quickly get marked and then restricted.
In other words, following Hugh Taylor simply isn't something which is feasible beyond a few short weeks. That's not his fault, but we need to be clear that those superb - and legitimate, to a degree - results are published for academic purposes only, as nobody can achieve them or anything much like them for very long.
Ditto to a lesser degree Pricewise, although the Racing Post no longer publishes an advised price because the nature of a price being printed in the newspaper the next day while markets continue to operate overnight is anachronistic.
So we need more than just good results to have success following a tipster.
The answer vs the working out
When we were back in school, maths exams would award marks for getting the correct answer. But there would generally be at least as many marks available for showing your "working out". That is, the rationale you followed and the means by which you arrived at the number you ultimately scribbled on the paper.
Tipping is the same. Some guys send the name of a horse and invite you to get on with it. No reasons, just a name. That's all well and good when they're winning - actually, it's not, but the malaise of this method is masked under such a scenario - but as soon as the losing run comes, what is there to fall back on?
Even if the deliverer of those names is really good, how can you know that?
It's my opinion that the best tipsters explain how they arrived at their selection. In that explanation may be more nutritional value than the pick itself, often much more.
For example, last week while sitting in for Chris on Stat of the Day, I flagged a horse called Secret Return at 8/1. He was sent off 3/1 favourite but finished nowhere. Now 8/1 is normally a good bit bigger than we post on Stat of the Day, but I wanted to share the name of someone I felt would be worthy of note in coming weeks. Here's what I wrote:
I wanted to highlight a new trainer who is definitely one to keep onside regardless of how today's (longer odds than usual) selection runs. His name is Paul George, and he's the son of Karen George. Since taking on the license he's hit the mark with some big priced winners, including 33/1 and 50/1, from just 18 starters so far.
Four of those 18 have won, and it would have been five but for Essgee Nics unseating - in a National Hunt Flat race - when leading inside the final furlong. Obviously with those big priced winners, George's figures are positive: he's +83.5 so far.
Like I say, Secret Return was well enough beaten on Saturday (though remains one to keep onside), but since then Paul George has run two horses, one of which won at 8/1 (the other was beaten at 28/1).
George has started really well and those who took the hint will have recouped their losing stakes from Saturday and then some. That's what I mean by the value in the working out.
It's the same every day with Stat of the Day where Chris crunches a plethora of data and produces noteworthy takeaways on an almost daily basis. Even when the picks are not winning - more on that in a minute - there are things to note for followers' own wagering. And, to be fair, it's the same with Hugh Taylor's tips. And with anyone else worth their salt.
Why follow a tipster?
So, why follow a tipster? As with most things in life, there are many paths that lead to such a decision. Some people are too busy to spend time in the form book, others don't trust themselves, and still others are simply not interested in the racing and see betting merely as a means to getting a few easy quids.
That last-named group are usually the first to cry foul, because they're not invested in the game and consequently derive no joy from the passage of a race: the result is all for them. No thrill, just bottom line. They take no accountability for their actions but, rather, want to outsource the getting of money whilst also abdicating the responsibility for the investment. Each to their own and all that, but there's little for such types here at geegeez.co.uk.
Most Gold subscribers who follow Stat of the Day also make their own selections from the data content we provide. One supplements the other, with the weighting varying from user to user. And, even in a losing run, those subscribers are informed along the way, the old grey matter inevitably absorbing snippets from day to day.
But, as I've hinted, following a tipster is not an abdication of responsibility. On the contrary. If you work for someone else, or someone else works for you, both of you are accountable for achieving - or not achieving - your goals.
The tipster follower's obligations include trialing a service before diving in (to check the volume of bets is acceptable, that the staking and time of delivery suits, that the odds range and associated losing runs are tolerable, etc etc); having a bankroll in line with expected downturns (and actually committing to using it); and making a strong determination to trust the service provider.
That last point is important. Most people who follow tipsters have lost money in a similar scenario before. Many will have repeated this cycle a number of times. As such, there is an expectation of failure very soon after joining a tipster who has suffered a handful of losers. Those previously burned - whether it was their fault or not (and, sorry, but generally fault lies at least in part with the tipster follower) - decide to bail early in the process to avoid what they perceive as an inevitable crushing loss.
And then they move to the next service.
And guess what?
This is just stupid, right? If that's you, please stop. Just step out of the tipster arena and try and pick your own winners. Or do something else entirely. Because your fear of failure is preventing you from any chance of success.
Again, if that's you, please don't be upset by the message. Think about it. Think about how you engage with tipsters and what you can do differently to give yourself a better chance, either in the tipster sphere or on your own.
Because here's the thing: most people join tipping services when the service is trumpeting a significant winner or winning run. Sadly, we've already missed that nirvana moment, and typically they are few and far between.
"After a good run, expect a bad run; after a bad run, expect a good run"
That adage was told to me aeons ago and I've always kept it in mind. Nobody and no endeavour is immune to variance, to "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune".
Variance is a statistical measure of how far data is spread out. There are more complex (and more accurate) definitions, but that will do for us here. In the case of racing results, it helps understand winning and losing runs and is relatable to average odds of winners and average win strike rate.
Let's take the classic coin toss example.
Heads has a 50% chance of winning, as does tails. But over the course of three spins, one or other could easily 'win' all three spins. However, over the course of 10,000 spins we'd expect something extremely close to a 50/50 split of heads/tails winners (assuming the coin is legit, etc). It is possible from that data, via standard deviation and other stuff I don't really understand, to calculate expected losing runs.
Using a set of verified results from a tipster service - or from one's own betting performance - we can perform a similar exercise.
The point here is more general, up a level. It is this: in any given sequence of bets there will be winning and losing runs which are out of line - often far out of line - with the overall average performance.
Five consecutive spins landing on heads is double what we'd expect, and thus tails has had no wins. But we wouldn't go changing the odds on tails coming in next, would we?
It's the same with long term proven tipping services. They will have winning runs, and they will have losing runs. Over a meaningful period of time, those will largely even out.
It might even be argued that the very best time to join a proven service is when it is in the teeth of a losing run.
What of Stat of the Day?
So Stat of the Day has had a rubbish August, part of a moderate summer overall. That's hard to swallow, especially for newcomers to it: they've not had the golden spring or winter which preceded the current downturn to sustain them.
Have a look at this chart.
In the context of just over 2000 bets spanning nearly seven years, we can see that the current downturn is only the third worst overall. The worst was between October 2015 and May 2016. But note how by the end of 2016 the losses were eradicated, and by May 2017 that downturn was a distant memory.
Likewise in late 2012 and into early 2013, there was a slide. By the end of 2013, that was reversed and a largely unabated winning run sustained itself until mid-2015.
The trend (dotted) line is really clear in this graph, meaning there is a very strong overall correlation between time (and, given the metronomic one-a-day nature of SotD, number of bets) and profit.
Assuming nothing has changed in the selection methodology - and NOTHING HAS CHANGED IN THE SELECTION METHODOLOGY - the reversion to the norm will come.
We have lots of very long-term subscribers who love Stat of the Day. The reasons are in its consistency - relatively, of course, see above - and in the general availability of prices, and in the explanation behind every pick, and in the accessibility of the service (published tea time the night before racing), and in the reliability of the tipsters and the plaform, geegeez.co.uk, on which they are published.
Tipping services are an up and down game. There are some good ones out there. I don't mean the over-exposed ones where you can't get on; but rather services like Racing Consultants and Cleeve Racing and, yes, Stat of the Day.
All of those services have losing runs. Losing runs do not invalidate the prior and future success of the services; they just twist your melon, man, as The Happy Mondays might conclude.
So, if you want to follow a tipster, do your due diligence (or allow us to do it for you) and know that it can be bad before it's good.