It doesn’t matter how good a punter you are, there will be many times when you will make mistakes. Bad mistakes. Stupid mistakes.

The main thing is to learn from them. View the aftermath of your error in a cold, hard, realistic light and make a vow not to repeat what you’ve done wrong.

It’s a simple exercise, but one that a huge number of punters fail to carry out. They make the same mistakes, and new ones, over and over.

Stupid bets, according to the US form analyst and professional punter Barry Meadow, fall into one of several categories:

  1. You have no real opinion on the race but decide to bet anyway, just to have some action (see our story on pages 20/21).
  2. You like a horse, know his odds are not what they should be (that is, lower than they should be), yet you bet anyway.
  3. You change your bet due to a comment made by a friend or even a stranger standing next to you.
  4. You are losing for the day and decide to get out by making a larger than usual bet on a late race.

These situations are what is known as out of control times. They help to add a burden to the already sagging shoulders of many punters.

Meadow reckons you need to plan your possible bets in advance. List the day’s potential bets on a sheet.

List the name and number of the horse, along with your estimated odds needed to bet it to win, and if you’re considering the exotics then write down the potential exacta or trifecta inclusions.

Now, the list is your starting point and I don’t suggest, and neither does Barry Meadow, that you can’t stray away from it during the course of a day.

You may have to make changes because of scratchings or perhaps a change in track conditions.

Basically, though, this list is your defining look at the day’s racing.

Meadow says: “You are most likely to make stupid bets when you’re losing. Most of us get upset, to at least some small degree, when we’re wrong. If some troubled trip means we’ve lost our big bet of the day by a nose, there’s a natural tendency to want to bet to make up.

“This is the most dangerous time of your betting day.”

This is when the change of mind comes into play, you’ll go “safe” and ditch a horse you chose in the morning and back the ruling favourite, or vice-versa, you’ll suddenly drop the “too short” hotpot for some hack at 10/1 because the odds look so appealing late in the day!

Meadow says: “The horses don’t care whether you’re ahead, behind or even for the day. A horse you don’t like at 10am, when you were handicapping with cool reason, shouldn’t suddenly start looking good when your wallet is a bit lighter.

“Sometimes, one stupid bet gets compounded by a second or third stupid bet, to make up for the first one. That’s why some players believe in leaving the track early if they are having a bad day.

“While mathematically this makes no sense, for those bettors who have trouble controlling their gambling, this could be a wise solution. There’s always another day, and maybe a better one.

“If you do make a stupid bet, that’s that. Some of them do win. And when they don’t, there’s not much you can do about it anyway.

“A tennis coach once told me to assume I’d get three bad calls per match. So when one came along I’d say, “There’s one,” rather than getting angry at the unfairness of it all.

“It’s the same with stupid bets. You’re going to make some occasionally. It happens. Just don’t make the mistake of compounding your error.”

Apart from stupid bets, punters are always confronted with the problem of how to behave when you’re nicely in profit. There’s an awful tendency to give it all back!

I know we’ve drummed it out in many articles in the last 21 years, but is really is a sensible idea to keep a ledger setting out day by day betting investments. It’s your TRUE record of what’s going on.

I once impressed on a friend that he should record his bets because he was constantly broke, and constantly betting whenever he got his week’s wages.

“Just do it and see what is happening,” I advised him. Finally, he relented. With my help, he began to write down all his bets.

The results shocked him. He hadn’t realised before just how badly he was betting, just how many losers he was backing, and just how much money he was blowing.

As a result of this little exercise (it took only a few weeks to discover the horrible truth) my mate pared back his betting to a fixed sum every day. I’d like to say he started winning but I can’t but what I can say is that he started losing a lot less money than he was before!

If you keep a record of your bets, then take a “review” every month or so of how you handled being in a profit situation. You can discover this by doing the following:

  1. Find out how many days you wound up a loser after having shown a profit;
  2. How many days did you run in strife through chasing losses in a bid to get square?

If either has happened to you make a firm resolve to implement a new approach to the future. Such a policy properly carried out could make a big difference to your bank balance and peace of mind.

Let’s say you start your day with a bank of 10 units (a unit can be any amount you like). If you back a winner and go, say, eight or even less units in front, put away a portion of it, plus your original stake so that when you cease operations you will still be showing a profit.

Do this every raceday and at the end of the year you will be much better off than if you had given all your bank a “fly”. It’s not easy to win by betting so it makes sense to never allow a daily profit to turn into a daily loss.

Example: Your bank is $100. On the first race you bet $10 and strike a winner at 6/1. Your profit is $60.

Now, put HALF of the profit AND your $10 stake into your other pocket. That’s $40 in all.

Now, you have the rest of the profit, $30, to bet with without touching the bank.

Remember, you can never run into trouble if you’re betting with the bookmakers’ money. If you get some, always store a percentage away, together with your day’s bank, and then bet on with “their” money.

On a bad day, don’t let a few setbacks throw you into a panic. Setbacks happen to everyone. It’s how you deal with them that matters as far as the long term is concerned.

Paul Whittaker, a UK professional, says: “Nine times out of 10 you’ll drown if you madly chase losses.

There’s always another day. Should you lose a portion of your bank and there is no logical bet on which to recover, wait patiently until one comes along, even if it is the next day, or the day after that.

“The two groups of punters best liked by bookies are those who play up stake plus winnings, and those who refuse to cut their losses.”

Finally, you may be wondering just why it is you make stupid bets because most of us instinctively know when we are doing just that.

Karen Fox, a social anthropologist, and author of the best-selling book The Racing Tribe (Metro Publishing) explains: “People are attracted to betting not just by the prospect of winning but because we all have a deep-seated need for risk-taking.

“This urge to take risks is hard-wired into the human brain; it’s part of our evolutionary heritage. Our ancestors experimented with fire, explored unknown territory and tried to ride wild horses.

“Nowadays, our lives are much less risky, but the wiring is still there and we still need the excitement and adrenalin rush of risk-taking, we can get this from betting a few dollars on a horse.”

Psychologist Maurice Walpole adds: “The risk-taking factor is always present in human beings, but the need to express the risky side of our psyche is harder for some punters to control than others.

“Thus we see wild, silly betting when a punter is under pressure. The risk-taking element in the brain takes over. Some can easily resist it, others have no chance unless they exercise enormous control over their natural impulses.”

By Richard Hartley Jnr