American Turf Magazine
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Mar 07, 2014



The calmest people at the racetrack are the pros; the most frenetic, those who expect to win every bet they make or at least go home with a profit every time they visit the racetrack. The pros know it is the law of averages they are bucking and that their expertise turns that law in their favor; they are not making the same mistakes the amateurs are making and therefore are winning the money the amateurs are tossing off by their lack of expertise.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying: Never try to “get even” at the race track…the pros never do. The “must get even” attitude can make racing a rather expensive pastime when actually it’s a relatively cheap way to spend an afternoon of sport. But it can be and is expensive for anyone who “goes overboard” at the mutual windows.

For many bettors, a $10 or $20 bet falls into the “plunge” category, and all too often this bet is made in an effort to “get even” for previous losing bets. It is no coincidence that such bets almost invariably wind up on losing horses. It would be unusual if it were the other way around. And here is why.

The main reason this bet usually is on a loser is the fact that the horse was picked in a moment of distress, at a time when the bettor was more concerned with “getting even” than concentrating on picking a likely winner. Add to this the fact that he has decided to “go overboard” and bet with money he cannot really afford to lose, and it is easy to see why the financial pressure has made it impossible for him to concentrate on his selection. Thus his ultimate choice probably will be the favorite, or a close second choice, and it very well may be in a race that he would normally pass up as “too tough.”

What every serious player must understand clearly is that it is literally impossible to win every day. The most efficient professional operators frequently have losing days. Lady Luck is a fickle jade, to begin with; in addition, there is always the chance that on a “tough card” there will be only one or two spots that offer sound betting opportunities, and if neither pays off, it has to go down as a losing day. But there is always tomorrow, more races, and a new chance to make some money.

A bettor who tries to “get even” apparently is unwilling to recognize that tomorrow must come. For him, “tomorrow” may be several weeks away if he doesn’t get to the race track every day as the “pros” do. But that should not alter his attitude toward the obvious fact that if today’s races do not offer a logical spot for an investment to offset previous losses, then “tomorrow” must be awaited.

Trying to “get even” on a race lads to one of two mistakes: either betting more than you can afford on a “solid” horse, or shooting for a “longshot with a chance” with your usual wager. Both are errors that no “pro” would commit, but of the two, the latter is the lesser of two evils. At least the longshot “might win,” and if it doesn’t, you still haven’t hurt yourself because you made your usual bet. But once you step in with money you did not expect to use — and cannot really afford to lose — the winner becomes a “must” and you watch the race with a tense attitude, rather than as a carefree investment that could prove profitable but won’t hurt if it doesn’t.

Sure, it’s no fun to go home a loser, and there’s a certain satisfaction in trying to make up for losses before the races are all over — even if you don’t succeed. It’s not the smart way to play, though, and in the final analysis you are hoping to make your race play show a long-term profit, not to make a dogged effort for a profit every day.

Once the habit of trying to “get even” is established, it’s a short step to the temptation to overbet with money you never intended to risk. Sometimes it works out — the horse wins and the player congratulates himself on a nervy move that paid off. But for some reason unknown to man it usually works out just the other way; the old axiom, “scared money never wins” is a truism known well by every professional bettor.

You can bet the trainers never get themselves involved in this type of situation. A horseman might miss by a nose with his intended good thing and drop a bundle, but you won’t see him digging into the past performances trying to pick a “get even” winner. He’ll wait until he can find another good spot for his horse, when he’s justified in making a good bet on it, and THEN he’ll go into action. But it won’t be with money he can’t afford to lose; it will come out of his “betting bankroll.” And it may be a week or so after he lost the photo finish.

The way to avoid this temptation to overbet is to take no more money to the track with you, than you can afford to drop without financial injury. And if you go with a friend, make him promise a firm "no” if you ask him for a loan.

However you manage it, once you’ve established the habit of conservatism in betting with your own money, you’ll soon see how often it keeps you from taking a bad beating on a day at the races. Note that I said, “betting with your own money,” which means that all the foregoing applies only to overbetting from your own capital — not from accrued profits. On a good day, when you get out in front early and find things going your way, it’s perfectly right and logical to “send it in” when you spot a horse you like and can make the larger-than-usual bet out of profits. Just as bad luck runs in streaks, so does good luck, and some big cleanups have been made by normally conservative players “running it up” with hefty bets made out of previous winnings.

But this only happens on a player’s “hot day,” and obviously on such a day he will never be tempted to bet with money he can’t afford to lose — he’ll have his previous profit to work with. It’s when things go badly on the early races that the bettor must guard against the urge to “make it up” with one hefty bet that “must win.” Just remember the professional’s rule-of-thumb: “if you MUST win the bet — don’t make it!”


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