Every true punter is different in their approach to the game.
Of course, this is true when it comes to the experienced punter while a novice is usually an optimist or a dreamer.
However, no matter which category we belong to, the key objective is to pick a winner and earn loads of cash. While this may turn out to be a dream for some and a reality for a few lucky ones, there is always, and I repeat, ALWAYS, the opportunity to make money and earn a tidy profit, or if not, make your dreams come true.
Before we do hit the track with the nitty-gritty of punting, let’s assume we are all optimists and dreamers. That is a good start. In addition, be open to new ideas and advice, and you will slowly learn to ignore the bad stuff (a pretty tough but achievable task) and soak in the benefits of the good stuff.
Don’t expect miracles. There is nothing in the world that can guarantee you top dollars when it comes to punting. However, here is a chance to take note of some commonsense tips and a few tricks to help you take a logical approach on your way to becoming a pro punter.
You are welcome to soak in as much as you desire but do take note of these tips and you could end up ‘kicking well’ every time you punt.
So, let’s start with the simple stuff.
LOOK FOR CONSISTENCY
This may be no rocket science but you will be surprised at the number of people that ignore this simple rule when punting. Make the best use of guides and follow a horse’s form closely.
There is definitely a method to the madness or let’s be like a pro and say a method to sensible punting. A horse that has won and placed well in its last few outings could be just the one to back. The theory is to back a horse that has proved its ability to win or come close to winning.
They could have anywhere from a 20 to 30 percent chance of winning or 40 to 50 percent chance of a place. This brings me to the next point, which is to focus on horses that are first or second in the betting ring.
BACK HORSES THAT ARE FIRST AND SECOND IN THE BETTING MARKET
How convenient and obvious you may say. However, there is more to it than that. Statistics indicate that first and second favourites oblige a major part of the time.
‘Go with the flow’ is what some may call it but it is something you ought not to ignore. When you go by stats, first or second favourites win 51% of their races while those who are not win 49%.
Loss on turnover is around -14% in the first scenario while horses who are not first or second favourite return a loss on turnover of -22%.
LEARN TO BE A ‘STATS’ MAN
Statistics do play an important role in picking horses so you will need to pay attention closely, which you will have noticed I have already reiterated from the start.
However, what you need is a statistical edge. For this, you ought to back a sure horse when you have good information. You are at an advantage when you back at 5/1 and the horse starts at 4/1.
Let’s say Black Caviar is a sure thing and pays $1.50. Back the horse in an all-up with a PLACE and your selection to WIN. On $10 you get $15. If your selection is at 5/1 you get back $90 with an overall profit of $75 if the horse wins. This gives you a statistical edge of around 25 percent. Get a grip on the statistical aspect of racing. There is a lot to learn from it.
Knowing that 85 percent of races have been won by horses that have had their previous outing within three weeks is of great value.
SILENCE IS GOLDEN
Punters love blurting out information about a horse to others. However, the astute ones never give out prime information, be it an insider tip or notable statistics you may have figured out or learnt along the way.
The bottom line is you don’t have to really share stuff with anyone.
EVERYDAY IS NOT SATURDAY OR SUNDAY
You may be on a roll. That’s good for you. Nevertheless it is important to back the truck up rather than be overconfident. While on a winning streak learn to play it cool. Don’t pull out an extra $100 and let enthusiasm get the better of you.
It could take a couple of minutes to blow away your bank account, which is not what anyone wishes to do. Learn to exercise caution.
ODDS-ON BETS ARE A DEFINITE ‘NO’
Go ahead with odds-on betting only on place. Never think of a win, regardless of the situation. Many punters make this mistake, which is best avoided.
After all, your minimum loss and win must be even. So, when the odds in the betting ring are shorter than even-money, for example, when the odds are $1.90 for $1 invested, the golden rule is to stay away and not fall into a trap.
DON’T LIVE ONLY ON HOPES – BE PRACTICAL
All of us would sure love our favourite horse to win every time. At the same time there is always the temptation to back an outsider in the HOPES it may bring you a fortune.
This isn’t being logical nor practical at all. Sure, go for a long shot if you have a couple of extra dollars to play with or else stick to assessing a horse’s form and let commonsense prevail.
INVESTIGATE AFTER A RACE
Your horse wins, you obviously rejoice. But, when it lets you down, that shouldn’t get you down. It is time to investigate. That’s the sign of a smart punter. During your analysis you may have focused on the wrong aspect.
So, the key is to look for what went wrong with your selection. There could be reasons as varied as a step up in distance that you did not notice, the horse was back from a spell, change in jockey, track conditions, etc.
CHOOSING A SUPERSTAR OR COWBOY?
Whether it is a horse, trainer, or jockey, there are a few that stand out and give offer greater potential when it comes to betting.
Choosing from among the best is definitely on the cards unless you prefer to risk your money on the relatively new, unknown, or inconsistent. I would rather go with the known especially when it comes to a horse / jockey combo with a keen eye on the trainer as well.
If there aren’t too many from the cream of the crop then cut back on your bets. Horses will automatically begin to show their prowess as they get into the groove, which is why form guides are so important. Stick with strength and you have a fair chance of coming out on tops.
LISTEN BUT DO NOT HEED ALWAYS
Everyone, from infamous punters to horse owners, trainers, jockeys (ex and current), and track reporters at large will have their views that aren’t necessarily the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Of course, it pays to heed what they have to say but leave it at that. Your judgement is what counts and there will always be post mortems from the very same who aired their opinions. For the most part, remember, what they have to say is their own personal opinion, and not the gospel truth.
PUNTING SHOULD BE FUN – NOT STRESSFUL
For stress free punting, the first thing to do is set a budget. Never ever go beyond what you can afford. Put in too much money and that’s the day you will bring on the stress.
Learn to enjoy racing. The fear of losing shouldn’t get to you. If it does then it is time to take a break. Keep a close eye on your cash reserves and build up confidence. Letting stress get the better of you could put you in an unfavourable position and a cycle that is hard to get out of.
IT TAKES TIME TO LEARN
If you choose to be a regular punter, there is plenty you have to learn. And, this takes time. Set aside a time that is convenient to catch up on the latest in horse racing and study form.
Focus on the races that you plan to back horses on over the coming weekend. You will be surprised at how an analysis can make you more confident. Think of every wager as an important decision. That is very important. In addition, you are going to go through a learning curve, so enjoy the ride.
TAKE TIME OFF WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH
There is nothing like a breather when you seem to be on a losing run. It could hurt your confidence, which in turn may cause you to make unfavourable decisions.
In this kind of a situation it is best to back off, clear your mind, and come back a week or fortnight later, refreshed, and with a brimful of confidence. During your break, rebuild your approach and assess what could have gone wrong. This can help formulate ways to improve your strategies rather than make hasty and stupid decisions.
LEARN WHAT THE INFAMOUS PUNTERS DID
Plenty in the racing fraternity pay heed to Pittsburgh Phil'S maxims. The wily punter studied the racing industry well enough to make it big time.
● One of Phil’s favourite strategies was to keep pursuing winners since losers were most likely to do so consistently.
● Then again, his famous piece of advice for punters was to make their own calculations rather than compare them with others.
● Another thing about Phil is that he never lost his temperament. His advice is to keep a cool head in the morning before you plan to pick a winner.
● For him, the golden rule is to study the likes and dislikes of each horse, which includes their performance on different tracks.
● Look for an intelligent jockey. That is one piece of advice from Pittsburgh Phil that you must pay attention to.
● He also considered top weights to be a disadvantage in a handicap unless the horse is top class.
● One of my all time favourites from Phil, which is incidentally why I play with a cool head is - lose your head and you will lose your money. That is straight from the horse’s mouth.
Go ahead and read all about Kerry Packer ‘the big fella’ and a host of other punters. There is plenty of tips to pick up from these men. Grab a few books. The knowledge you can gain is most valuable.
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?
This is a big question that your budget will have a great influence on. Trust your own judgement. No one can say whether a few dollars or a couple of hundreds is enough.
If you are overcome with greed, you will pay the ultimate price. Your means is your safety zone so make sure you stay within that zone. When you feel a horse has something of a good chance then back as much as you feel comfortable.
WHICH IS THE BEST PLACE TO BET?
Then again, you can choose to bet in the ring. No matter where you choose to place bets, do so with a clear mind.
If you come across a race where two or more horses are fancied then it is time to study your form guide carefully and then confirm your opinion. If you are still in two minds then the choice of backing both horses is always a viable option.
However, make sure the odds are not too low or else skip the race and look for better odds in other races. Never back a horse with not much value for money.
RECENT FORM OR CONSISTENT FORM?
By now, you have definitely understood the importance of the form guide, many of which can be found online. Recent form is what needs special attention while you can look for consistency over a season.
Horses that have the ability to up the tempo in the home stretch are undoubtedly better bets.
CHECK AND MORE CHECKS
There is no way that you can pick a winner in every race. Awfully good punters can squeeze in around three for every 10 wagers, which is an indication of doing well.
Around 20 to 30 percent winners at an average price of 4/1 per winner will make you break even while at 5/1 you could make a 20 percent profit. Therefore, keep tabs on your bets and how much is coming in or going out. Hard work does pay off in the end.
In the process, make sure to look at video replays and take note of the stewards’ report. This can give you a good clue as to what to look out for the next time. Even the smallest information can prove to be valuable.
BETTING IS NO FOUR LEAFED CLOVER - MAKE PLUCKY DECISIONS INSTEAD
If you can’t make up your mind then you ought not to place a bet. A wavering mind can prove disastrous in the long run. There is no ‘horse will win or horse will not’ approach that can make you successful at betting.
Many punters do make that mistake in the beginning and so did I. Only back with a firm mind or you may end up backing a loser instead of a winner.
FOLLOWING POSSIBLE PATTERNS
There are two types of patterns to follow. One concerns a horse’s form and the other your winning and losing patterns. There could be vital signs behind both patterns.
When it comes to horses you will find a lot of method to the way in which their races are selected and prepared for. Many of them are able to stick to these patterns. If you have been on a winning or losing streak, stop and take time to analyse how this may have come about. There could be positive or negative aspects in terms of selection, form, betting odds, and a whole lot of other related factors.
While doing so, it would be prudent to keep notes, which what you bet, the reason why, and the outcome. This can have a positive influence on your ability to become an astute punter.
BE ALERT IN THE PARADE RING
Body language can say a lot. Often, it is easy to spot a horse brimming with confidence. Their gait, canter, and overall appearance before a race especially with the jockey in the saddle, can speak volumes about their potential performance.
This can give you a nice edge over the rest. Even the best campaigners can have a bad day out in the ring. After all, horses can have their mood swings and emotional moments too.
BE AN OPTIMIST
Remember the Law of Attraction. It can work. You got nothing to lose by being an optimist either. There will be good days and there will be some awful ones in terms of betting.
If you are on a downward spiral, take a break and then get back. However, if you avoid pessimism you won’t have much of a reason to feel down. As long as you stick to your budget and not dip into your savings account or put your house up as collateral, you have every reason to remain an optimist.
A SYSTEMATIC APPROACH
There are a few systems in place and sometimes they do work so do pay heed to some of them. For instance, some experts recommend backing the next horse that has had an recent outing as compared to a favourite who is unraced.
SINGLE WIN BETS ARE BEST
There cannot be anything safer and simpler than placing single win bets at level stakes. Never make price the determining factor for a win.
Your bets ought to be placed on the probability of winning and placing and the size of the stake. The key is to look at the rating and stats of the first favourite and then the other runners to determine whether the favourite is a sure contender or could be upset by the second favourite.
If the answer is in the negative for both then it would be prudent to back your horse to win.
WHAT ARE THE ODDS?
Maintain a minimum acceptable price. This is sound advice from the pros.
SPRINTS vs. STAYING RACES
Each type of race has its distinct features and level of excitement. Some pros believe in concentrating on mile races and beyond, for which the ‘luck’ factor doesn’t figure as much as it does in sprint races.
Besides, studying form seems to be more relevant when it comes to distance races. There could be a lot of sense in that but the bottom line is to bet wherever you feel comfortable. In other words, don’t put all your money on the Melbourne Cup or Cox Plate if you have good leads in sprint races.
DON’T BACK THE FIRST RACE – A MYTH
Some punters avoid the first race like the plague. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Go ahead and bet if you are confident. On the other hand, you can use the race to determine track conditions and the effect of the barrier draw.
In short, observe as much as you can so that you can use these strategies for the day.
GREED EQUALS LOSSES
Playing every race isn’t what sensible punting is all about. You could skip a few races, which is no problem at all as compared to making the most of every race where you end up a loser.
SPREADING YOUR WAGERS
Don’t put your eggs all in one basket. This holds true when it comes to punting. Spread your bets evenly. That is what every sensible punter does.
RESPECT EVERYONE IN THE RACING FRATERNITY
Never disregard a novice, be it a trainer, jockey or horse. Everyone has a beginning. What is more important is to follow their campaigns and form closely.
UPDATE YOUR LISTS
There comes a time when you need to separate the winners from the losers. This will do a world of good for your punting skills while you learn to follow the fortunes of winners and put the losers at the back of your mind.
This won’t make you a dreamer. All you need is to set realistic goals with regards to expected profits, the amount you can afford to lose, and the possible races you would like to bet on.
This will also keep you from stepping over your budget.
Nothing can undermine the importance of money management. You may hear about all the fearless punts by infamous punters. However, not all of us are capable of doing just that.
Manage your money well and that is enough to tide you through the toughest times. The golden rule is never to let money ultimately begin to mange you.
You won a great deal today so you go out and enjoy a few rounds with the guys. That’s good but you also need to keep records for the day. Make a note of all your bets so that you can analyse them.
These records will help with your future bets while you learn to put everything into perspective.
BIG RACE BLUES
Whether it is the Caulfield Cup, Melbourne Cup, Australian Derby or any other major race, what many pros do is spread their bet. A win plus a few savers on other potential, strong contenders can help you have a good day.
TO PLACE IS SAFE
No one will call you a coward. If you do not have a penchant for taking risks then place betting is just the right thing for you. Doubles and trebles can prove to be profitable.
BOXING IT UP
Placing multiple bets can help cover a number of possibilities when you feel the odds are good. If you choose an exacta – where you pick the first (horse A) and second horse (horse B) in correct order – you can opt for a boxed exacta so that your win on horse A, and a second place win by horse B and vice versa.
WHAT ABOUT TRIFECTAS AND QUINELLAS?
In trifectas you pick the first, second, and third place horses. This gives you a chance even as a modest bettor to make a big payoff. Go for it only when you have sufficient knowledge about the horses.
Many trifecta bettors choose to play a multiple horse trifecta box with the chance of one out of six combinations paying off. Quinella betting requires you to pick the first and second place finishers in either order. A multiple horse quinella box offers you the chance of winning one out of six possible combinations.
POINTS TO PONDER
A horse has a good chance of winning, go for it.
Don’t bet if you aren’t comfortable about a horse. There is always another race and another day.
A horse that is just moved up in class is not a good bet yet. Give preference to winners and strong placers in the same class.
Value odds are likely to fetch you a winner. Over time, you will learn to spot them quickly.
Avoid betting on a horse that is overly backed. This isn’t a good value wager.
Fast starters ought to be considered when the track conditions are slow or heavy. Statistics indicate that horses with an early lead under these conditions are most likely to put up a winning performance.
Bet to win when betting straight.
Bet each-way when the odds are relatively high.
SADDLE UP TO A FORMIDABLE HORSE / JOCKEY COMBO
A jockey can either make or break a horse’s chances of winning or placing well. A jockey with a poor win record of 3 percent or less over the past year cannot be expected to bring out the best in a horse.
Therefore, make a careful evaluation of the horse and jockey. Need anyone say more about the Black Caviar / Luke Nolen or Manighar / Luke Nolen or Sepoy / Kerrin McEvoy duos that have set Australian turfs ablaze?
DO A SPEED CHECK
What do you do when there are more than one strong contender in a race with similar stats. The secret is to choose the horse with the maximum speed in recent outings.
When it comes to horse racing and betting there is no shortage of advice. However, what matters is if you are cut out to be a pro punter. It is always prudent to find that out sooner than later.
Through a practical approach you learn to spot a race that presents a distinct advantage and transfer theory into practice. Let’s admit it. Every punter has a grey area which you should learn to identify in yourself. Instinct and intuition too are an integral part of punting.
What separates successful punters from the rest is their knack of identifying the difference between good and bad advice and the ability to act accordingly. That is when they pull in serious money that counts. You don’t have to be a fearless punter, I am not one too.
It is all about keeping your head above water. What I have learnt to do is strike a bet that has been properly thought out. Learn, listen, evaluate. That is what can help you place better wagers. Some learn to punt better than others but as long as the mixture is right, it can work.
So, there you have it. Learn to bet safely, hone your betting skills, spread your risks, and stay away from some.
Making sound decisions is what punting is all about. This is what every practical punter learns to do over time.