Last month, Barry Meadow talked about the negative vibes that affect many punters. How do we overcome the feeling that we’re never going to win? How do we tackle the message that when you bet you can't win. In this second part of the article, Barry reveals this vital betting topic.

To improve your results, you might have to discard some comfortable habits and replace them with new ones.

This might mean anything from learning a new computer program to abandoning your current group of racetrack  acquaintances. If everybody you hang around with loses, and they expect you to lose, you might subconsciously be ensuring your results don't exceed theirs.

Just because most people lose, it doesn't mean YOU have to lose.

There are many roadblocks to success at the track. Many of them originate in our own minds. Change your ways of thinking and you just might find you will change your bottom line.

That doesn't mean that winning is simply a matter of positive thinking. You can tell yourself daily "I'm a winner", but at some point you need the results to make your affirmation a reality.

And part of that means working, and giving up the idea of some magic that will transform us from loser to winner.

All of us long for magic in everyday life, like love at first sight, a religious vision, a lottery win.

Most of us eventually learn that the magic comes in simple, day-to-day struggles, not from a lightning bolt.

In handicapping, many of us long for magic as well. All would be well if only I could buy a better speedratings number, or find a system that really works, or develop a betting strategy that can turn losses into profits, or follow an astute professional handicapper's picks.

Somewhere, out there, is THE secret. If only I could get my hands on it!

If your original assumption is wrong, any conclusions you might draw after that assumption are likely to be wrong as well. So you've got to be sure your assumptions are correct.

Believing in magic, and in the infallibility of our assumptions, is pervasive, and not just restricted to those who watch Ricki Lake on TV. In an article that appeared in the Mensa Bulletin (members of this organisation test in the upper 2 per cent on intelligence tests), Tom Napier wrote, "Mensans devote immense effort to convoluted systems of thought without considering that their foundations may be false."

So if these bright bulbs don't have a handle on this, what about the rest of us?

In life outside of handicapping, assumptions which may be false still may have value. For instance, let's say I believe that everything happens for a reason. A baby dies in an accident. If I assume that everything happens for a reason, I might conclude that his death was part of a grand plan which might lead to greater good.

Maybe he would have lived long but suffered horribly from some disease; maybe his death will inspire his father to straighten out his own life; maybe his accident prevented an even greater accident; maybe God needed an extra angel in heaven.

But what if everything happened for NO reason, and is simply random? Now I can find no comfort in the baby's death.

So what conceivably could be a false belief (everything happens for a reason) may actually turn out to be more beneficial than what might be true.

But not in handicapping. Due to the takeout, most players must lose. How much they lose varies greatly, depending on many factors, like how much they bet, how often they bet, how skilful they are as handicappers, how much luck they get, and other elements.

It's likely that in the long run, a player who masters the skills of handicapping and knows how to use handicapping's tools will outperform one who doesn't.

The basic skill is to understand horses and racing. Tool mastery includes gathering the proper tools (such as past
performances, trainer stats and trackwork reports) and using them to understand today's race.

Then it becomes a matter of betting sensibly, and with discipline.

In the long term, there's no room for false beliefs. The problem is that most people have short-term memories. They'll remember some angle they used to cash a $47 exacta, or another that landed them a 14/1 winner.

Their mistake is in thinking that much LONG-TERM value can come of this.

Some bettors win for a while and then start losing. Often these players believe that whatever they used was the reason they won, and that "it just stopped working" was the reason they lost.

More likely, their win was simply the result of fluctuations, the same fluctuations that happen when you flip coins and sometimes get 12 heads in a row.

They have now regressed to the mean, the losing mean. Their luck has evened out.

These fluctuations, more than anything else, help explain results. You're hot, you're cold, you're in between; all are normal parts of any long mathematical series, which is what gambling is.

Even a run of 1000 bets (unless they're on 2/5 shots to place) is far too small to demonstrate a player's competence or incompetence. The variations in win percentage and, especially, payouts, are too wide.

Stir high payoff, low probability events such as superfectas and pick 6's into the mix and you can well understand why a player can be the crusher one year and the crushee the next.

This is a tough game, although you wouldn't think so judging by the posts you see on various Internet handicapping forums.

These are rife with Braggadocio, of longshots unearthed and profit percentages that would stagger the real professionals I know. Methinks some of these guys are living in their mum's basement, typing in $2 bets and sweating out every result ... but never mind.

I've always felt that if you're going to succeed in this game, you should have a realistic approach.

We all love to dream. Dreams give us hope. Without hope, what do we have? I had always dreamed of playing in the National Basketball Association but it turned out I was short, slow and untalented. But, heck, dreaming about it was fun.

In the same way, it's nice to dream of huge returns on investments and gigantic racetrack profits, simply by obtaining the right computer program or the right trainer stats. But guess what? It's probably not gonna happen.

Is it impossible? No. I would never go so far as to say a player couldn't win 20 per cent or 30 per cent or 8000 per cent over the long run. Only that it's unlikely. Really unlikely.

Most tales of big ROI's involve either relatively few bets, or a big exotics score. Sure, you can win 20 per cent over 700 bets, particularly if some longshot hits, but it is not likely you'll win 20 per cent over 7000 bets.

But does that doom you to lose? Not at all. Just because a game is hard doesn't mean you can't be successful at it.

Being a surgeon is hard, piloting a jet is hard, and playing in the NBA is hard. But every day, people achieve these goals.

Start by believing. Then WORK to make your goal come true. It can be done. It's up to you.

Barry Meadow, regarded as one of America's greatest modern-day handicappers, has a monthly newsletter  Meadow's Racing Monthly, which is available from TR Publishing. Check out his website at:

Click here to read Part 1.

By Barry Meadow