Perhaps the first lesson to be learned from betting, especially on horse racing, is that, no matter how encyclopedic your knowledge or how sharp your betting skills, you cannot hope to win every bet. Of course, you may experience periods when your judgement appears nigh on perfect and you back winner after winner but, equally, you will almost certainly experience periods when, as the result of ill-judged selections, or just plain bad luck, you cannot ‘buy a winner’. So being realistic, and perhaps combining your picks with free bet opportunities on YesBets and the like is step one.
The subject of losing runs, which are an ‘occupational hazard’ for any punter, leads quite nicely to the second lesson, which involves the establishment of a betting bank, or ‘tank’. A betting tank is, quite simply, an adequate sum of money set aside solely for the purpose of betting on horses. Calculating the size of your betting tank, based on your strike rate and average winning odds, is a straightforward process. Establishing a betting tank guarantees that you always bet within your means and, consequently, are less likely to experience the negative emotions, such as anger, despair or guilt, associated with losing money, which can lead to chasing losses and, potentially, financial disaster.
Lesson three is that any staking plan that advocates increasing or decreasing stakes in response to a series of results simply perpetuates the so-called ‘Gambler’s Fallacy’ and is bound to fail in its objective. A previous series of results, good or bad, has no effect, whatsoever, on the probability of a win or loss occurring in the future, and no juggling of stakes can produce any beneficial effect on profit or loss when compared with level stakes.
The fourth, and final, lesson in this short ‘parable’ on the dangers of betting faced by the recreational punter starts with a quote from the venerable Barrington William ‘Barry’ Hills. The former Lambourn trainer, who reached the top of his profession largely through astute punting, once said, ‘If you could buy money they would sell it in a shop down the road’. Of course, ‘buying money’ refers to betting odds-on, where winnings are a fraction of the initial stake. As Hills quite rightly pointed out, a punter who places a bet of £700 on a winning selection at odds of 4/7 is more likely to experience relief at not losing £700 than euphoria at winning £400.