The following is an extract from an excellent new US book called A Bettor Way by Dean Arnold.

Here’s one insight that applies to every bettor: Your personality has as much to do with how you will bet as any other factor you encounter at the track. Why? If you can’t stomach losing and hate risk even if it leads to long-term rewards, you can’t realistically expect measurable profit.

You need to assess your temperament before adopting a wagering strategy. Your betting might be characterised as much ado about nothing, or just for the fun of it. This book groups this kind of player into the “risk-averse” category. 

Betting is inherently a risky business, so a big challenge will be learning to accept or even welcome that risk. Within the handicapping arena, risk-averse bettors may be comforted when their pick is at unusually low odds, instead of seeing this as a negative in the quest to make profit. This is all relative.

A risk-averse handicapper is still much more comfortable with risk than the typical risk-averse citizen, who may stuff money into a mattress or only invest in the very safest choices.

The other extreme is someone who can’t visit a wagering facility without succumbing to the desire to “Let It Ride” and take one big chance before leaving. This player would go home broke repeatedly without applying some strong self control. This group is referred to as the high-risk category, very comfortable with the most aggressive of risks.

Tactics For The Risk-Averse Player
For the risk-averse player, underlays and favourites are not the answer. Players that feel uncomfortable with a lot of risk are vulnerable to playing underlays. Vulnerable, due to a self-imposed mental barrier when the logic used to pick bets is: ”X is the favourite, and of all the horses is the most likely to win. How can I bet against the most likely winner?

It must be the best choice to make a winning bet. You have to pick winners to cash tickets, and you have to cash tickets to make money.” This seems like flawless logic. Nevertheless, the favourite may be more likely to win than any other horse, but is still more likely to lose than win.  Using this kind of logic, the risk-averse player, more than anyone else, finds it hard to pass a likely winner at unacceptably low odds. Rather than pass the 6/5 horse that should be 2/1, the 6/5 odds are taken as a reassurance that “you are more on track than you even thought you were.”

A Better Way For the Risk-Averse.
The risk-averse player who really intends to make money needs to do one thing: migrate away from underlaid contenders towards high probability, fair value situations.  Learn to pick and choose situations that have a high probability of winning but still offer fair value relative to the chances of winning.

It is feasible to accept wagers at low odds as long as the chance of collecting on the bet remains solid. For example, getting 6/4 odds on something with a 50 per cent chance of occurring is huge value ($2 bet for $5 returned 50 per cent of the time equals $5 for every $4 bet, 25 per cent profit) and cashing tickets will be a common occurrence.

Through your regular research, you can uncover many others. They may not lead to big win prices very often, but the betting public does have its occasional misread leading to a big payoff. Knowing that you are playing scenarios that frequently yield winners will help you resist the“underlaid-but-still-likeliest   winner” plays that are the undoing of many risk-averse players over the long haul.

Summary For Risk-Averse Players.
Risk-averse players will be helped in the long run if the following concepts are kept in mind to key on value and profitability:

  1. Even if playing longshots is not your style, there are plenty of opportunities to find overlays even at modest odds. A horse who should be 4/5 and pays 2/11 is a more than 100 per cent overlay.
  2. Build a list of highly successful scenarios to look for. One to two dozen such angles can be enough of a portfolio to find several spot plays each day.
  3. Set aside a small percentage of your daily bankroll for exotics. These can be used to supplement a “best bet” win bet. If you handicap the race right and win, it is always nice to turn a base hit into a home run.

For the typical high-risk player, the handicapping factors that matter most are whichever ones help the case of the selections he has in mind to produce a real payday.

These are people who fall in love with horses they would not have considered contenders the night before.

Stinging from a loss, they may look to the next race to redeem themselves. They may go after a longshot with little chance or plunge too heavily on undervalued exotics.

These handicappers love cold exactas and doubles. Putting two “good ones” together and offering twice what a win bet will pay seems like a gift to them – even if the chances of success are far less than the odds would seem to indicate.

The sad part for many of these players is that once they are down, their focus never seems to shift to more reasonable propositions.

Next month: More on this topic from Dean Arnold. His book A Bettor Way is available from most Internet racing bookshops.

By Dean Arnold