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2nd April 2015
Good afternoon, friends,
In this issue of Punters’ Verdict….
Inform Racing – just one more thing….
We are nothing but scrupulously fair here at Verdict Towers and, if and when appropriate, we always like to give the right of reply to the tipping services we review….
More often than not the replies we receive can’t be published in a family-oriented organ such as PV. The language is too agricultural, the threats to our various body parts too extreme…. We wouldn’t want to frighten the children.
But now and again we find ourselves in contact with a tipster still in possession of his various marbles. So it has been with Ian Welch over at Inform Racing – the service we put in the dock last week. We knew we were dealing with a normal and balanced human being when he began his reply by saying our review seemed ‘very fair’. That doesn’t happen very often….
There were no dark and sinister threats. There was no intimidation. No men were sent round to break our windows or steal our cats…. Ian just wanted to clarify a couple of points and to point a couple of things out. No problem….
Moving onto to other things….
The lure of the ‘blower’….
I’ve always been interested in punters – from early childhood.
In the beginning it was all about being fascinated with what went on behind the door of the local turf accountant’s office. Back then the windows were covered. You couldn’t see in. But, if you happened past when the door was open, you’d catch a glimpse of the activities within.
The big thing for me was hearing faint strains of the ‘blower’ – a disembodied voice describing horse races as they were run or simply making fascinating statements I’m not sure I understood at the time: ‘At the post’, ‘Off at Warwick’, ‘Weighed in at Chepstow’, ‘Stewards Inquiry’…. That was a voice from another world – a world I wanted part of.
In many ways I think it was written for me to take a strong interest in racing and to bet. I can’t recall a time it was going to be any other way. It interested me – enthused me – in a way very few things did. Whilst other kids were bedazzled by emerging arcade games like Space Invaders, Asteroids and Phoenix, my focus was on another game entirely.
Betting is life….
Later, when I was actively betting and old enough to visit betting shops, my interest in punters was much more about how successful they were (assessed through observation) and how the better exponents of the game came up with their selections – how they thought, what they looked for, what they looked at and how they bet.
Over time you find – at least I have – that many of the people (if not all) in your social circle are there because like you they bet and you travel across the plains of the sporting year with them. You exchange views, opinions and information, you might land touches together, you console (or ridicule) one another’s losing streaks. And you all speak a dialect and live an experience that non-players or occasional bettors don’t really get. It’s a lifestyle – or at least a way of life.
As your relationship with other hardened punters deepens over time you get a sharper insight into what type of punter they are at base. You get to know in detail how they play and – on some level at least – you get to know something of their internal world.
You get to learn where on particular scales they reside. Are they fearful or fearless? Cautious or fast and loose? Unsure or certain? Conventional or unorthodox? Intuitive or rational? In tune or out of step with the herd? Lucky or unlucky? Come-day-go-day or emotionally involved (these guys really suffer)? Or, on all counts and more besides, are they somewhere in-between?
I don’t want to get all philosophical about it, but betting is life. How you play is pretty much how you live. What you get is pretty much what you deserve. And how you handle the ups and downs of betting says a great deal about how you cope with the high points and low points the real-world throws at us all.
That’s how I see it anyway….
What kind of punter are you?
I think it’s an interesting exercise to observe how individual punters work. For example, how do they respond to good fortune?
Now up in the North they have an expression that is sometimes heard in betting shops when some skilled or lucky punter happens to land a nice touch. ‘Put a nail in it, lad!’ The advice is basically to hang on to the winnings, to take the money and run, to avoid giving the bookie a chance to get his hands back on the money.
Is that how you play? When you win a decent pot is your instinct to squirrel the winnings away – to hang on to what you have won? It’s certainly how I used to play when I was starting out. I was frightened of losing what I’d been fortunate enough to win. I’d hang on to those pound notes like they were sprouting beads of gold. It was as if the longer I held onto them the longer the win – and the feeling that came with it – lasted.
These days my attitude is different. At some point I realized that a punter is much like a horse. He goes through peaks and troughs of form – and when a patch of good form is encountered that is not the time to hang up the guns. When you hit a bit of form it is a good time to kick on and do all you can to capitalize.
How about losing runs? How do you handle those?
Spend a reasonable amount of time in any betting shop and you’ll encounter multiple punters ‘on tilt’. Their response to backing a series of losers is to get the spade out and keep on digging that hole. The bets get bigger and more frequent. Discrimination goes out of the window. They can’t wait to get the next bet on. They are desperate to recoup their losses and stop the bleeding as quickly as humanly possible. More often than not the wound just gets bigger. The losses accumulate, the losing streak gets longer and the situation gets more desperate. And, as we know, desperate money seldom wins.
That’s how I used to bet. A Saturday afternoon could go badly wrong if I backed a string of losers early on. I think I placed bets as if I was entitled to win. And when that entitlement wasn’t forthcoming straight off the bat my response was to keep on swinging until it was. When the bets I’d planned to place went west the bets I hadn’t planned placing were more heavily financed. Now and again I got lucky. More times than not I left the betting shop with empty pockets.
Over time you either accept that betting inevitably leads to losses, you give up or you learn. And I learnt. I learnt to accept that losing days were part of the game. I stopped chasing losses with additional bad bets. I smartened up. When my planned bets went down I accepted it phlegmatically. I waited for another day. And if I felt jaded, ill-prepared or off my game, I learnt to stand back and give it a break for a few days. I would ease back into form rather than force it.
The truth about streaks?
If a recent study can be believed my development as a punter has gone the right way. I am right to kick on when I am winning. And I am right to hold off when events are conspiring against my bets.
Mathematicians from University College London recently examined 565,915 online sports bets placed by 776 people. Their research led them to conclude that there is some basis in the idea of cutting your losses when bets lose. They found that placing losing bets increases the likelihood that your next bet will be a loser.
Conversely their study also led them to conclude that winning streaks exist – that they are real and based on punter behavior rather than randomness or Lady Luck.
They found that once a punter places a winning bet he is more likely to win again next time. Their research revealed that in groups of 6 bets the probability of the first bet winning was 48%. By the time the winning streak had produced 5 winners the probability of the 6th bet winning too was as high as 75%.
They did issue a proviso with those figures – outlining that punters who place a winning bet tend to seek out subsequent bets that are safer – reflected in shorter prices. As the winning streak goes on punters, it seems, are prepared to accept smaller returns to keep the run going.
I am always slightly skeptical when I read about studies and reports that say this or say that. Unless you have full access to the methodologies used and the full data examined you can never be sure how reliable the conclusions are.
But I can’t help noting that the findings of the study tally with my own betting experiences and observations. They provide a little encouragement that I’m on the right track.
If you’re on a losing streak – and inclined to chase – consider holding off. Chances are you’ll improve your ‘luck’. And when you’re backing those winners – if you’re inclined to back off and put a nail in it – consider kicking on and playing up your good form. That way you might turn one or two winners into plenty more. At least that’s what the experts reckon!
What do you think?
I’ll be back with the Verdict next week.