American Turf Magazine
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May 29, 2015



The calmest people at the racetrack are the pros; the mostfrenetic, those who expect to win every bet they make or at least go home witha profit every time they visit the racetrack. The pros know it is the law ofaverages they are bucking and that their expertise turns that law in theirfavor; they are not making the same mistakes the amateurs are making andtherefore are winning the money the amateurs are tossing off by their lack ofexpertise.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying: Never try to “geteven” at the race track…the pros never do. The “must get even” attitude canmake racing a rather expensive pastime when actually it’s a relatively cheapway to spend an afternoon of sport. But it can be and is expensive for anyonewho “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” forprevious losing bets. It is no coincidence that such bets almost invariablywind 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 factthat the horse was picked in a moment of distress, at a time when the bettorwas more concerned with “getting even” than concentrating on picking a likelywinner. Add to this the fact that he has decided to “go overboard” and bet withmoney he cannot really afford to lose, and it is easy to see why the financialpressure has made it impossible for him to concentrate on his selection. Thushis 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 “tootough.”

What every serious player must understand clearly is that itis literally impossible to win every day. The most efficient professionaloperators frequently have losing days. Lady Luck is a fickle jade, to beginwith; in addition, there is always the chance that on a “tough card” there willbe only one or two spots that offer sound betting opportunities, and if neitherpays off, it has to go down as a losing day. But there is always tomorrow, moreraces, and a new chance to make some money.

A bettor who tries to “get even” apparently is unwilling torecognize that tomorrow must come. For him, “tomorrow” may be several weeksaway if he doesn’t get to the race track every day as the “pros” do. But thatshould not alter his attitude toward the obvious fact that if today’s races donot 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 leastthe longshot “might win,” and if it doesn’t, you still haven’t hurt yourselfbecause you made your usual bet. But once you step in with money you did notexpect 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 carefreeinvestment 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 certainsatisfaction 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 thefinal 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’sa short step to the temptation to overbet with money you never intended torisk. Sometimes it works out — the horse wins and the player congratulateshimself on a nervy move that paid off. But for some reason unknown to man itusually 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 inthis type of situation. A horseman might miss by a nose with his intended goodthing and drop a bundle, but you won’t see him digging into the pastperformances trying to pick a “get even” winner. He’ll wait until he can findanother good spot for his horse, when he’s justified in making a good bet onit, and THEN he’ll go into action. But it won’t be with money he can’t affordto lose; it will come out of his “betting bankroll.” And it may be a week or soafter he lost the photo finish.

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

However you manage it, once you’ve established the habit ofconservatism in betting with your own money, you’ll soon see how often it keepsyou from taking a bad beating on a day at the races. Note that I said, “bettingwith your own money,” which means that all the foregoing applies only tooverbetting 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 perfectlyright and logical to “send it in” when you spot a horse you like and can makethe larger-than-usual bet out of profits. Just as bad luck runs in streaks, sodoes good luck, and some big cleanups have been made by normally conservativeplayers “running it up” with hefty bets made out of previous winnings.

But this only happens on a player’s “hot day,” and obviouslyon such a day he will never be tempted to bet with money he can’t afford tolose — he’ll have his previous profit to work with. It’s when things go badlyon 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’srule-of-thumb: “if you MUST win the bet — don’t make it!”


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