With a new punting year – 1995 – looming, it's time enough for any punter with serious designs of making money to decide if he, or she, is equipped with the necessary skills and psychological makeup to be a long-term racetrack winner.

Many people manage it. They do not have a regular job. They consider their betting lifestyle is a profession in itself – thus the term 'professional punter'. It's also a fact, sad one that it is, that a lot of these pro punters eventually crash. They fall victim to themselves, either sliding slowly into oblivion or doing it speedily after a fleeting 5 minutes of fame.

Now, it is often said that you can't beat the races. Most people never do. But it can be done, as many have proved over the years. It takes skill, nerve and luck. But in most instances you have to make the luck yourself.

How do the winners win? They do so systematically, carefully, thoughtfully, unemotionally and scientifically. With intelligence, patience and self-control, you, too, can have a lucrative and challenging part-time business.

That's how you should start in 1995.

Gather together a bank. Not just a theoretical figure. Actual money in the bank. Set monthly outlays and goals.

Put unused money from the bank on short-term deposit.

Bet only with this money. Resist all temptation to bet any other cash you might have. Then make a detailed plan of attack on the races themselves. You have established what amounts to a part-time business, one which you hope can be turned into a fulltime one.

To realise success, you must be able to show that you have what it takes to confront all the challenges of racing and betting and believe me, they are many. You must, for a start, EXPECT to win, not just HOPE that you'll win. If you're only going into it all with a hope then it's not enough. The expectation of success has to be high.

When it comes to the betting itself well, this is where you are going to find the toughest problems. You will have to employ both caution and daring.

The one thing to always be borne in mind is that old axiom that you can beat a race. This is the nub of what it's about. Each race is treated as a single entity. It can be beaten. Obviously, you cannot always beat a given race with absolute certainty because too many variables are involved and there are many, many ways to lose a single race.

But by utilising the percentages you can beat a number of races. If you bet on a number of BEATABLE races then you will maximise your chances of winning. The true professionals think in terms of operating with 'actuarial' tables, just as life insurance companies do.

A life insurance company knows that a certain number of its policyholders are going to die in a certain period of time. It does not know which ones, but it is certain how many! In the same way, you cannot know which of your selections will win but you should know that you will have the best horse, or horses, often enough to show a profit.

What we are talking about is investment with a risk involved. Obviously, it falls under the broad category of speculation but the use of sound knowledge, applied consistently, gets you close enough, often enough, to secure your share of the winners.

We might ask ourselves why most bookies prosper? For a start, they treat racing as a business, not a recreational pursuit. If small punters approached betting with the same seriousness as bookies the fielding game would be far tougher than it is!

The best advice I've been given about betting, and which I pass on to you now, is to do all you can to cut the risk from your action. This is the basis on which success is founded.

Such an aim, carried out with astuteness and energy, is the best way possible to win at what is always a precarious business.

Listen to what one old-time professional had to say (back in the 1920s): "Work and hazard are essential to success in every enterprise. Work alone has raised few indeed from the breadline.

"All know that fortune can be coaxed only by moulding our opportunities and having the pluck and foresight to grasp them when they turn up. Most punters fail because they leave too much to chance. They take a risk and take the count.

"But a much more solid and methodical plan must be adopted and adhered to by all who are to leave the big crowd of little men and rise to success.

"If you are drawn to racing with the idea of making a profit, you MUST make your plans before you start. Bet according to sound lines on systematic methods, and stick to your principle whether it be based on your judgment of horses or knowledge of men.

"Provided you have the aptitude and do not allow the gaming fever to seize you, the prospect of making money by judicious business in the 'ring' is as good as in any other enterprise. You have the advantage, too, of depending to a great extent on yourself. Your big trials will be to abstain from undue plunging when in luck and from faintheartedness and timidity in adversity," the old-time punter wrote.

I have written some articles in previous years about the psychological requirements for a successful punting life. The elements of what I have stated remain much the same. I have always believed that it is relatively easy to pick horses that can win; the problem is how to bet them and to have the necessary willpower and commonsense to continue to make profits.

The biggest battle for a punter, then, is the one he wages with himself! As I have stated here earlier, most punters expect to lose and they do. This is why it is essential that a positive mental attitude is employed and this is especially so for small-bet punters.

I am not suggesting that if a punter is convinced he will win then he will win, and that all he need do is pick a horse, bet on it and collect the cash. That would be silly.

The punter, like any craftsman, must have the tools. He must learn everything he can about handicapping and he must practice long and hard. Convincing yourself you can win is a vital step to actually becoming a winner.

All punters are assailed by externally and internally inflicted doubts. We all must admit that. How do you usually feel when you have made a selection and the time comes to put your money on it?

Let's say you have decided to bet $50 on the selection. Doubts remain, though. Are you shooting at too short a price? What about the main rival in the race? Is the barrier draw really an advantage? He has lost at the track before; maybe he won't handle it again?

And so it goes on. These are the sorts of things you have to beat. It's really, in the end, up to you. Betting, especially for a living, is a lonely occupation. There are no managers or office boys to kick around. You're on your own.


  • Ensure you have a cold, logical mind.
  • Possess the ability to ignore someone else's opinion and to have a higher regard for form facts.
  • Concentrate! Take thorough note of small details in the formlines. Miss nothing when you sift form.
  • Gain a full knowledge of betting figures in relation to a horse's chance. Study how the bookies operate.
  • Have the patience to await the right races the beatable races.
  • Refuse to bet on every race - and never make a bet just for the sake of an interest in a race.
  • Have the courage of your convictions – not ‘blind at the gate’ courage but cold, calculating courage which will enable you to bet at the right time.
  • Have the willpower never to come in on tough races.
  • Use good sense! Always bet on good horses in good races and on good jockeys and good trainers.
  • Never to give back all your winnings and never to lose your head trying to chase losses in a panic.

By Statsman