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Between March 2010 and April 2017, this blog recommended wagers on 520 individual races on Jump Racing in the UK, resulting in a PROFIT of £1,525.39 on cumulative stakes of £5,726 - this is equivalent to a Return On Investment of 26.60%.


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Wednesday 21 September 2011

A time to bet like men

The 340th edition of the Wayward Lad blog.

From time-to-time it pays to look back at recent events and take stock to see where you did things right and where it went wrong. I was particularly enamoured by the recent series of articles on successful “modern” punters – however, only Patrick Veitch was the only one to tick the box of being truly “modern-day”.

I’ve been punting on horses since I was 7-years-old, my first wager being a “bob” each-way on Ribocco ridden by L. Piggott in the 1967 Derby won by Royal Palace (Ribocco was 2nd so I turned a tiny profit – and the “seed” had been sown!). In the intervening years, I have always maintained and interest in horseracing, both flat and jumps. When I started working at the age of 20 in 1980, I immediately found a good use for the incoming wages tho’ success was sporadic as I insisted on having multiple bets. My favourite was a “Yankee” – and I had all 4 selections win for me once which brought-in the equivalent of a full weeks wages. However, experience has taught me that the only way to truly win is to have a significant amount on a horse that is under-valued by the markets and to get your money (proper money) down.

I think I read in a book by Clement Freud that his maxim was “don’t have a bet unless losing would hurt (financially)”. In other words, don’t have a token £10 each-way. If you are going to have a “bet”, do it properly and have a day’s wages (or the equivalent) on it. That is, if you are on £40,000 a year and take home (after tax and NIC) £550 a week (or £2,200 a month), then your minimum bet should be £110 – which is a day’s wages. If you’re not confident enough to do that – and confidence is a huge factor in playing the horses – then don’t place the bet.

In doing this you will learn several important lessons very quickly. (1) Discipline – unless you are made of money and you have so much it means nothing to you then, if you stick to the “day’s wages” rule, you won’t squander your valuable hard-earned on trivial wagers. You will develop the discipline to wait until an opportunity arrives. (2) Race-reading – if you are not betting on multiple races then you will (hopefully) watch them instead without a financial interest. As such, you will learn to race-read. It is only natural to focus your attention on the horse carrying your wager, and so miss other potential developments in the same race. Watch as much racing as you can and learn from it. (3) Character – not everyone is born to be a gambler, and gambling’s gut-instinct is not something that can be learned. If you cannot bring yourself to “put the money down” then really and truly, playing the horses is not for you. We are all capable of making valued judgements and we do it regularly when buying a car or house, or in choosing partner or a new job offer over another. It is another part of character that goes beyond these decisions as with gambling it’s all or nothing. You want a losing wager to hurt, but not so much you cannot recover from it and that it makes you feel bitter.

What took me to writing this was a race yesterday at Newton Abbot. Regular readers of the blog will know that last jumps season I posted a “Horses-to-Follow” list, nominating horses with potential to improve. By the looks of it, I spotted the potential a year too soon in some of them as Absolute Shambles has recently completed a hat-trick of wins during the summer months, and yesterday another from the list won – QHILIMAR. When looking at the following days races on Monday evening, QHILIMAR jumped-out at me as he had the right trip looked well-in off OR127. At the time, he had been price-up by one bookmaker at 10/1, but was between 8/1 – 9/1 with a few others. Given he’s won when fresh several times I considered him a 4/1 chance in the odds-line I prepared. I thought I’d leave it overnight before having a wager and see what the morning brought – wrong move! By the time I checked on oddschecker at 9:30am, the “value” had gone and the best I could find was 11/2. Although I felt confident in the horse’s ability, my confidence did not match my character to have a wager at my minimum stakes. Your see, even today, over 40 years since my first wager, I still sometimes lack the confidence to bet like a man.

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Betting on horseracing should be a pleasurable experience - never bet more than you can afford to lose.

Thanks from Wayward Lad.


  1. Ian,

    Great read.


  2. Hi Ian, don't regularly read your blog but the title of this post caught my attention so I thought I'd give it a read.

    I disagree entirely with the main jist of Freud's and your own argument. Waiting to find a selection that you're confident about and not having trivial wagers, is sound advice, but following up with a stake that would hurt you financially if it lost is very very "brave", or even naive? We've all had selections that we've been ridiculously confident about and they've got beat, on the other hand we've had selections that have only been tentative and have gone in (usually at big prices).

    Essentially you'd be limiting yourself to only a couple of bets a week and although it would be all fine and dandy if they were winning, the scope for big losing runs spanning many weeks would be a real possibility surely? Most (not all) people's confidence would be knocked, viscous cycle incurs (can't be confident about a selection that you would be have usually been).

    Of what staking I'd recommend? A general betting bank and staking on confidence. It's still something I personally struggle with from time to time but I've only been betting myself 3 years. Recording every bet being the most important area of learning discipline.

    Hopefully you can understand the point I'm trying to make!

    Best wishes,

  3. I understand entirely Josh.
    It's something I have wrestled with personally for years. At times, I have averaged 6 wagers a day 6 days a week and (to be honest) altho' the profits are better (only just) than having money in the bank, the time spent on formstudy does not justify the return nor the effect on your personal life. And a bad day at the office is multiplied 6-fold!
    If you read my results page (Flat season) I have recommended 64 wagers in 20 weeks since Easter, an average of 3 wagers a week, and the profits are solid. The stakes I recommend are what I believe readers can afford and are not what I personally wager.
    If I suddenly suggested a 10pt stake when I average only 1.50pts per wager, would readers really wager £100 instead of £15, even tho' I might be staking a lot more than that?
    Of course, nothing is a certainty and confident wagers do get beat. But if you look at my selections you will see that some appear again and again, that's because I believe them to be better than they seem and, in racing, ability usually prevails.
    Along with recording your wagers, I would also keep a racing diary and make notes of why you don't bet as well as when you do. And note special information, for instance I read a few years back that Aidan O'Brien sends his best 3yo's to the Chester May meeting, it's one of his favourite places. Knowledge like that fills the wallet.
    When you see (what you consider is) a "rick" in the market, you have to jump in with both feet.
    All the best.

  4. Hi Ian

    Just found this post of yours, plus the corresponding comments, and I would just like to say what a fantastic read.

    Thought provoking to say the least, I believe that staking and the psychology of this game are inextricably linked and as you and Josh put so well; it really does come down to the individual and their tolerance to risk.

    Keep up the excellent work mate.