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DIY Punting – Understanding Betting Markets

Most punters long for the sure thing, the nailed-on cert, even though they know it doesn’t exist.

Some dream of drawing together a huge sum of money for the mother of all bets on a “good thing” , heroically risking all on one wager.

In fact it doesn’t happen, because we all know that in any one race the unexpected can happen, and sometimes does.

Most look on the uncertainty of racing as its biggest drawback, the flaw which prevents it from being a pathway to riches. Although many will have heard the old description of racing as the “glorious uncertainty”, that part of its nature is not generally looked on affectionately.

Non-punters will customarily tell us that betting is “a mug’s game” and the punter is often stereotyped as a hapless loser.

I believe the uncertainty of the sport can become not only glorious but profitable too.

Before that can become a reality for you it is necessary to reject permanently a feeling which so many punters have, that someone else somewhere else knows the winner. It is a belief which is ingrained and widespread, and it is constantly re-inforced from different quarters.

John McCririck has been a great servant to the sport and indeed to punters over the years, but he has one habit which does great damage to them.

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Following a race he will often run through the prices about the winner which were available from various bookmakers that morning. He will pick on whichever firm offered the shortest price and cry, “They knew!”. Of course they didn’t. Nobody did. They just had a different view, an alternative opinion about the horse’s chance.

That notion that someone knows the winner in advance is promoted also by unscrupulous tipsters who claim to be “in the know” thanks to their “stable contacts” or whatever other rubbish they churn out. The upshot for many punters is that they believe a winner is somehow pre-ordained, and that if only they could latch on to that knowledge in time then rich pickings would surely follow.

That is the most damaging belief a punter can hold. Of course there are owners, trainers, jockeys and all sorts of friends attached to them who on any day may feel tremendous confidence about a horse’s prospects in a race, and will back that confidence with heavy money. They may win, but they also may lose, and I know as many planned gambles that have lost as have won.

When they do come off as planned however, the people at the heart of it did not know they would succeed. They had backed their judgement and taken a risk. There really is no such thing as a certainty. Most days there will be at least one trainer surprised and bitterly disappointed by the failure of one of his or her runners, but equally there will be at least one in the winner’s enclosure who had not thought it would happen.

The idea that the winner is known in advance is also perpetuated by the immediate post-race interviews with the winning jockey and trainer. Both will usually say that they knew how good the horse was and that they had been sure it would run well. Unfortunately we do not hear from those who ran unplaced, but if we did and if they were honest we would hear that they too had been sure of a good run before the race. For that latter group it did not go to plan.

Once you have got past the idea that it is all worked out behind your back, you can start to make serious inroads into the quest for profits, and turn the uncertainty to your advantage.

Looking for what you think is a certainty will lead you towards backing short-priced favourites, and that will ensure your downfall.

Instead start to relish the idea that there is such uncertainty in the sport, think of it as something which can work for you if you can get a feel for it. Cast your eye over the results each day and notice how many winners went in at prices in excess of 3/1.

Look at how many odds-on favourites get beaten and you may be surprised. Another phrase I dislike hearing from John McCririck (and yes, I really do admire his work) is “The market got it right!” or indeed “The market got it wrong!” after a favourite either goes in or flops. Picked up from the stock market trading floor, it has always struck me as a nonsensical use of language.

The market is only the sum total of all the actions of the individuals it comprises, it has no separate identity of its own. It cannot be right, wrong or anything else as it does not exist in that sense. The phrase has the unfortunate effect of convincing many people that there really is a beast somewhere which has an all-powerful grasp of what is going to happen. There isn’t.

Making money from betting on horses is not a steady income. Although in the long term you make money, there will be times when you are losing it and your nerve will be seriously tested. There is no such thing as a regular monthly income, so forward planning of expenditure is not the same as if you earn a monthly salary. Set against that is the incomparable excitement of backing horses to make you a profit over time. Few jobs which yield a reliable salary offer that sort of excitement.

Racing really is a simple sport, and although the road to profits is no easy one the way to progress along it is to keep your approach simple. Plunging in to a maelstrom of statistics and hoping that you will grasp something that will win you money is a hopeless quest.

Far better to pare down your strategy to a basic core in which you have faith and operate it consistently. I believe the tools I have described above can help you arrive at that strategy, and although there is never a guarantee that you will make money I am sure you will have the best chance of doing so. Ultimately it depends on the decisions you make rather than the systems you employ, so there will always be room for failures as well as successes. Follow trainers in form, bet against short-priced favourites when the time seems right, and understand the horses and their jockeys as individuals with identifiable strengths and weaknesses.

There has never been so much information available to punters. Make the most of that by being selective. Try to embrace it all and the chances are you will end up confused. Know what you want to find out in order to continue with your chosen strategy and seek out just that information. Put yourself in control of it rather than allow it to swamp you. Good luck with your DIY betting, and keep your toolbox handy at all times.

Extracted from DIY Punting by Terry Burke

Today's Selection

Fontwell 4.40 Fiveways – win bet
Southwell 5.20 Thank You Joy – eachway



4 thoughts on “DIY Punting – Understanding Betting Markets”

  1. Hi, whilst I agree with most of what you say in the above article it never ceases to amaze me when the likes of Tom Segal call it right so often.I know he bases most of his tips on good research but thats available to everyone so what makes him so successful?

    1. Dion, I would say that being in a relatively priveleged position (in receipt of a wide range of info that the RP gathers) and having time (though he says he only spends 20 mins a race!) to focus on a few races a week, gives Tom the best chance

  2. What Chris said + I would imagine that he also see’s bookmaker prices before they all align around a price, so he gets to see when one bookie has a different opinion and he can explore why that might be.

  3. I well written article may I say ! A John Mc favorite comment that always makes me laugh is: ‘the each way thieves are steaming in’. You see I believe there arent any, quite the contrary for if you do have an ew fancy then the bet needs to be on at least 30 mins before the race.Seems to me a pre-ordained signal exists between all bookies and then they all suddenly offer the same prices.The ew value, if it was there vanishes in the blink of an eye as every price shortens.
    Am sure I read some story that the price of every single horse in the g.national last year shortened prior to the off!
    Study oddschecker or easy odds, it happens nearly every race these days and if the bookies know then surely others know as well??

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