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Some Maxims of Punting from various sources

I don't mind betting on the races, but it's no longer what I focus on. Here are some betting rules proposed in a leading Australian punting magazine, with my comments interspersed in red.

By Richard Hartley Jnr
Courtesy of Practical Punting Monthly
Australia’s Favourite Racing Magazine

As punters I think we spend an awful lot of time dreaming up new ways to win, or perhaps just new ways to lose! Punters are, in the main, optimists and dreamers and receptive to new ideas, advice and re-programming. Trouble is, much of what they seek and find they then proceed to ignore. Going back to old habits, even bad ones, often seems easier than trying to meet the challenge of something new and unknown. For those of you seeking some revolutionary breakthrough, I am afraid this article will not be what you want. However, I fervently believe that you will be able to learn something to your advantage. Basically, I’ll be passing on some commonsense ideas and a few thoughts about getting your betting life into shipshape order. You can take as much on board as you like.


Let me start with idea No. 1 and it’s SIMPLICITY. I recall a conversation with my colleague The Optimist some time ago and what he said struck me as being so sensible. “Horses do what they have done before, exactly,” he said. And it’s true. A simple approach, then, is to ask whether a horse has done before what you are now asking it to do. There are worse ways to go about your betting. It’s methodical. The logic is simple, isn’t it? Back the horse to do what it has shown it can do. Used in conjunction with a minimum standard of consistency, this approach can prove very useful. What is a minimum standard of consistency? I would suggest a minimum of 20 per cent for the win and 40 per cent for the place, though some of you might like the bar to be lifted higher (say 25 per cent and 50 per cent).

(define what you call average, good and great in terms of winning ratios)


This means getting an advantage. If your horse starts at 4/1 and you secured 5/1, then you have an edge on the price. Over the course of a year, should you continue to take advantage of such an edge, you are more than likely to end up winning. There are various ways of getting an edge. One is to look for a sure thing at a short price and back it in an all-up with your selection BUT back the hotpot to PLACE and your selection to WIN. Let’s say you feel that Lonhro is a good thing. He pays $1.20 the place. You put $10 on and get back $12. This goes on your selection at, say 5/1. If he wins, you get back $72 for an all-round profit of $60. That means you got 6.2 to 1 for the 5/1 chance, an increase or edge of around 24 per cent.

(a little risky if you ask me, 'sure things' do lose and even miss the place, so this is a risk I'd rather not take)


If you have good information about a horse, you have an edge over all those punters not in possession of such information. If you really do know something, whether from a tip from an inside source, or just some key statistical detail, keep it to yourself.

(do your own homework and do not rely on others to do it for you!)


Hey, simple advice but how many punters ignore it at their peril? Your basic philosophy should once again be SIMPLICITY. That is, if you can’t win more than you can lose, then don’t bet. If your minimum loss can be 1 unit, then your minimum win must also be 1 unit. Even-money, that is. Just make that rule, never bet odds-on, regardless of the circumstances. This doesn’t apply to place betting, of course, because with that you have three chances to collect.

(applicable to large fields in horse racing, I'd adjust this sport - don't bet long odds-on)


Sometimes we get so carried away by a horse that we can’t see the wood for the trees. We continue to blindly back a losing horse in the HOPE it will win. Hope is not enough. Logic says you must EXPECT a bet to win, not just hope it will. So, always be honest with yourself when you are assessing a horse’s form. Don’t cut corners. Assess each horse fairly and rationally. Good old commonsense comes into play every time. If you have a nagging doubt, and you know you are casting for fish in a stagnant pool, then opt out. There will always be another day. Another horse. A better horse.

(you can't expect a 20/1 shot to win, but you can expect to get a good run for your money - be realistic)


If you don’t discover why a horse lost, or why YOU lost, you have little hope of ever learning anything. It goes without saying that we should re-analyse a horse that has failed for us. We look not just at its performance on the day but where we went wrong in selecting it. If you choose and then bet a horse, fancying it very strongly, and it runs poorly, then something is wrong. It could be the horse simply failed, maybe it had bad luck. But it behoves you to look again at why you selected it, especially if it simply ran badly after getting every chance. Why were you so wrong? What deceived you in the form? Did you put the emphasis on all the wrong aspects? And, most importantly, what made you miss the winner?

(learning from your mistakes is a key part of life!)


Dizziness due to success. A famous chess player once warned about this, and it’s something I feel punters should be aware of when the winners come rolling in, as they do from time to time. The lesson is to be extra-vigilant when you think you are getting well ahead of the game. I know a lot of punters who have blown big banks, sometimes when they changed their methods in the middle of a winning streak! Without being overcautious, don’t let enthusiasm get the better of you and warp your judgement.

(get cocky and you soon get caught out)


As in all forms of life, racing has its greats, its journeymen and its ordinary participants. It’s your job, as someone wanting to make money from the game, to choose the right people for the job. If you’re risking your hard-earned money, do you want an inexperienced boy to carry the torch? Do you want a jockey whose record shows a small percentage of wins? Do you want the horse to come from a stable that rarely gets a winner? I wouldn’t think so. My personal aim is to always try to stick with the strength. I reason that there are only a handful of powerful figures in racing, and they are destined to win more than a fair share of the races. I like my bets to carry that sort of “superstar” weight. When Damien Oliver, Glen Boss, Darren Beadman, Noel Callow, etc. are aboard, I feel better and if there are good trainers as well, that gives me an even rosier glow. You, too, should think carefully on this score. It’s one way of cutting back on your bets. Forget those in “minor” hands and wait for the horses that come from the power players.

(don't necessarily agree with this one - a good horse with a weaker jockey might be 10/1 instead of 4/1 ridden by a big name. Value plays a key part.)


The racing media being what it is, we are assailed daily with the views and thoughts of various jockeys and trainers. My advice is listen to them . . . but don’t take it as gospel. A friend of mine says we should always ignore what the jockey says. He doesn’t care who it is or what they say. His argument is this: They ride, that’s their job. Sometimes they study the opposition but who knows how carefully? Often they have never even been on the horse that they are talking about. So when you see Jockey X giving his mount the “rev up” on Sky, or predicting that it will win a major race, treat it all with caution. Weigh it up. Use your own judgement in deciding if the jockey has it right.

(very few trainers and jockeys do more analysis of the opposition than a half-serious punter - with the occasional exception, ignore them!)


If your betting stresses you out, then you are probably betting too much. That is, too much money and too often. It can mean you are betting more than you can afford. It means you are afraid of losing. It can mean your confidence is shot to pieces. If you’re at this stage, and racing has become less enjoyable than it was, then stop and smell the roses for a while. Have a break, build up your cash reserves again, re-examine what you’ve been doing, and when you feel refreshed then enter the fray again. But don’t return unless you’ve ironed out the problems that saw you under stress in the first place. Otherwise, you will end up on the same old merry-go-round.

(there's more to life than betting - never bet more than you can afford to lose. If your day depends on the success or failure of one bet, then cut back or you'll cut years off your life. Problem gamblers tarnish the reputation of all gamblers)


If you’re serious about this business, then give yourself time to do what needs to be done.
You know you have to study form but you can’t do it properly at work during a tea break, or even at lunchtime. Form study needs time and space. You need to think to make important decisions. So do yourself a favour and set aside some time each night to examine what’s going to happen the next day. Even an hour can be enough to look at two or three races in detail. You’ll be happier with the results than if you had simply rushed through the fields without proper analysis of every starter.

(expect to make money betting? Then treat it like a job. Put the time into it. A plumber didn't learn his trade in one day, neither does a punter)


Psycho peril is the tag I give to that awful state of mind when confidence ebbs and you seem totally unable to get back on a winning pathway. It’s very true that when you lose confidence it can mean big problems. Betting is all about confidence, and so is the selection process. A punter suffering "psycho peril" will find himself unable to make definite decisions. He’ll to and fro over various candidates and inevitably end up backing the loser and rejecting the winner. It’s a bad place to be when this sort of mental blackness takes over. So what do you do about it? Maybe the first move is to take time off. I know it can be tough to call a halt to your betting, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet. A rest can help you clear your mind, and forget about the losing streak. You can return in a week or so, feeling refreshed. Another approach to beat the blues is to re-assess your entire approach. What are you doing wrong? Can things be improved? Why are you losing so many times? Are you making stupid decisions and forgetting about your normal approach? It’s important to answer these questions fairly and honestly.

(no point spending all your life gambling if you can't enjoy it. Take a break from time-to-time, both when things are bad and when things are good.)


It can be advantageous to take stock and check out what the great punters of the past did to make themselves successful.
Pittsburgh Phil is an example. His maxims are important ones and well worth consideration. Let’s look at the major ones:
(a) Winners repeat frequently, while the beaten are apt to be beaten continually.
(b) Don’t believe you can beat the races without hard work.
(c) People who usually behave sensibly will behave stupidly once they set foot on a racetrack.
(d) Don’t win a lot one day and give it all back the next.
(e) Go about your business methodically and remain calm.
(f) The punter who loses his head, loses his money.
(g) Always have an opinion of your own. And stick to it.
(h) The only way losers can change their fortunes is by studying the form and analysing the methods of winners.
(i) Find out what winners know that losers don’t.

(excellent advice. And people who want to be winners can examine what losers do and avoid it)


This is a factor of our punting life that proves a constant worry. My suggestion is that you trust your own judgement when it comes to backing horses.
If you’ve assessed a horse as a 3/1 chance and it’s on offer at 10s, then get in there and back it.
Always, of course, bet within your means. Once you step aside the safety zone you’ll find that mistakes start to happen, and bad decisions happen, and you wind up with a "scared money" monkey on your back.

(there's always another race, another game - so don't put your life on it!)


Racing fans can get just about all they need now on the Internet. What a change from eight years ago when PPM first went online with our website! Everyone’s on the bandwagon today, and that’s a good thing. The huge amount of information readily available has to be an enormous aid for punters.

(do your research and don't take shortcuts)


At PPM and the PPD Club on the Internet, we’ve proved that long-range betting, both win and place and doubles, can pay off handsomely. Maybe it’s time you forgot the doomsayers and had a go at this form of betting? It’s risky but the rewards can be enormous, as our esteemed editor Brian Blackwell has proved in the last couple of years.

(not my cup of tea but it works for some. Long-term betting is far more popular in the UK than in Australia)


We can never know enough, no matter what part of everyday life you are part of . . . and racing is no different. Read up all you can and then pick out the best bits. It doesn’t matter who says it, you can consider it and then accept or reject it. A bit of money spent on a $50 book may give you one GREAT idea that can turn you from a loser into a winner.

(research the methods, not just the sport itself)


You have a couple of fancies for the day and can’t make up your mind if they represent value. The temptation is to muddle around and try a few dollars on the first one, even though you’re not sure. If this is the case, stop yourself. Missing a loser is not as good a feeling as backing a winner but one of the worst sensations is backing horses about which you are not sure and which lose.

(avoiding losers is just as important as backing winners - have discipline)


If you’re a hit-and-miss punter who oohs and aahs when your fancy gets beaten by a horse you thought was the danger . . . time to think about backing two a race. When you strike a race where you think two or more horses represent value, the first thing you should do is review your analysis and confirm your opinions. If you are still convinced, then be prepared to back both horses according to the level of value that’s available. Ensure the combined odds are not too low. If you get 5/1 about the two horses in a race, for example, you are effectively backing a 2/1 shot. This will suit some betting styles but may be a little too conservative for others. The alternative is to forget such races.

(useful in certain cases, but I'd prefer to back two 20/1 shots for a combined bet of 9.5/1)


Always remember that taking "unders" is a long-term disaster area. If a horse isn’t value for money, then don’t back it. Simple as that.

(learn how to assess prices yourself and be disciplined about the prices you take - or you'll go broke)


Take a long-term view about your betting. Don’t panic after a few losing days. Keep the goal in mind of an annual profit.

(one race, one day, one week means little. Everyone has losing streaks, keep your eye on the long-term figures IF you have confidence in your methods)


A form idea is to keep close tabs on what I call "momentum" horses. These are horses who improve sharply from run to run. Their winning form is good form. Lonhro has been an example. Many other top-liners fall into the same category. Just keep on backing these smart, formful horses. Look for horses able to accelerate at the end of a race; those that can put a race beyond doubt in a few quick bounds.

(good horses keep winning, but their prices get shorter each time - not one I'd stick to personally)


No matter how you approach racing, the formguide reigns supreme. And there are lots of them around, in paper form and on the worldwide web. Recent form is the form that needs your closest attention. Form from a year ago may be relevant in a minority of instances but it’s recent form that gets the winners.

(all factors are relevant, some more than others)


Get a good grip on the statistical side of racing. It will pay to have in the back of your mind certain factors that make racing tick day in and day out. Examples: 85 per cent of all races are won by horses that had their last start within the previous three weeks. More than 60 per cent of winners ran between first and fourth last start. Around 66 per cent of all winners are in the first three in the morning betting market in your newspaper.

(statistics and lies, you can make what you want of those figures. They are Australian, a bit dated and specific to that region of racing)


It’ll pay to keep in mind that you are betting against your fellow punter. You need an angle that he doesn’t know about. If you can find a new angle, you may find the horn of plenty.
Racing is all about angles on this and that aspect of form. Most angles have been discovered, used and mostly discarded. Can you find a new one? Statsman did recently with his amazing High 5 system. There are still lots more winning angles to be discovered from the formguide. Spend some time checking out aspects of form that you feel could lead you to winners that produce a long-term profit.

(whether betting on a tote, Betfair or with bookies, you are betting against other punters, so you need to do the 'hard yards' to know a little more than they do)


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