In this article, Philip Roy reveals the thoughts and advice of several of the world's most eminent psychologists as they talk about how to have a winning approach to betting. If you're seeking the right frame of mind to conduct your betting, then read on.

Many and varied is the advice to the punters of this world as to how they should approach the never-ending task of making selections and betting on them. To many people, it's all a matter of the mind. Trainer Gai Waterhouse subscribes to this belief - she's a shining example of positive thinking.

A number of eminent psychologists around the world have attempted to tap into the actual 'psyche' of gambling. What they all seem to agree upon is that when you have a bet you are, in fact, betting more on yourself than on a horse.

Dr Robert Anthony, an American psychologist, lecturer and author, believes that 'betting on yourself' is what it's all about. If you can't trust yourself, if you are possessed by inner doubts and turmoil, then you won't win.

Dr Anthony became interested in horse-racing a few years ago, just as a hobby. He soon discovered that if he was to win then it was vital he have the correct mental attitude.

"It suddenly came to me that the process of betting on a winner at the racetrack was exactly the same as betting on oneself to win at whatever one chose to accomplish," he says.

"In other words, we have to eliminate our losing patterns and choose winning patterns that will assist us in accomplishing our goals and objectives. Betting on yourself is the risk you must take to see if your beliefs about winning and losing are correct."

Dr Anthony, in a classic American-style summing up, points out that gambling really boils down to the fact that the 'best bet' you will ever make in life is on yourself. Believe in yourself, he says, and believe in your right to have what you want, and you'll be a winner.

So how does Dr Anthony Suggest that a punter desperate to succeed actually go about making his dreams come true? Firstly, he talks about the problems that must be overcome - like the average punter's need for 'instant gratification'.

By this he is referring to what is known as the 'chain betting' complex, where a punter attempts to bet on every race, or far too many races, and ends up getting absolutely nowhere, and also the average punter's laziness when it comes to putting in the time and effort required for form analysis and study of money management techniques.

He explains it this way: "What separates winners from losers is the loser's compulsive need for immediate gratification. Losers are reluctant to invest their time, effort and money in advance unless they can be assured of an immediate return. Winners, on the other hand, are willing to pay the price in advance, knowing they can only receive in direct proportion to what they are willing to expend."

Another prominent American psychologist, Dr Andrew Shapiro, talks of the 'strong desire' required if a punter is to win.

According to Dr Shapiro, the baggage many punters carry is I negative baggage' which prompts a climate in the mind of fear, anxiety and disillusionment.

"Anyone who is negative about themselves will be inclined to allow such thoughts to dominate the actions they take, and never more so than when trying to make racing selections.

"If you can get a feeling of desire into your approach you will start to do much better, because desire is a creative force, and lights up your psyche with enthusiasm."

Dr Anthony is much in agreement with his medical colleague. In his excellent book, Betting On Yourself (Berkley Books, New York), Dr Anthony draws up what he calls a 'master formula' for achieving riches at betting.

There are five aspects of his formula - definite ideas about how much money you want; the persistent desire to be rich; possession of a confident expectation of profit; an unwavering determination to be wealthy and, finally, a willingness to pay the price to be rich.

A most interesting chapter in his book deals with gambling itself and its associated problems.

Personality testing, says Dr Anthony, shows that gamblers generally have a higher than average IQ (which is at the least somewhat comforting!). But, wait, there's more.

Research has shown that the most significant discovery has been that the gambler's true pathology is not gambling itself, but LOSING. This is characterised, says the doctor, by a gambler's inability to distinguish between positive and negative expectancy events.

"Gamblers live in a fantasy world wherein they continue to visualise the big score without evaluating, through knowledge of the odds and probabilities, their actual chances for success," says Dr Anthony.

Dr Howard Sartin has conducted a number of authoritative methodology tests into gambling. His findings led him to put together what he has called 'win therapy'. He has treated many problem gamblers.

His approach is most interesting. His first group of problem gamblers entered into a clinical contract requiring that no bets would be placed until Dr Sartin and his group could consistently produce a MINIMUM win factor of 45 per cent at an average tote payoff of $4 on a $1 bet. The approach also included the use of a money management process that assured them of a profit.

A modified form of this approach is recommended for any Aussie punter who wants to ensure that when he does bet that he has a bold chance of winning.

For instance, why not set yourself a three-month test to see if you can achieve, say, a 25 per cent win strike at 4/1 or longer average price, using five selections a week? That's 60 selections over 12 weeks, so you will need to strike with 15 winners at an average of at least 4/1.

Could you do it? It would indeed be a great test of your skill and character to see if you could. It would test your mental toughness.

It is this sort of mental testing that the psychologists are talking about when they mention the value of desire, patience and putting in the work needed to be a winner.

If you have the patience to truly test yourself out, without actually putting money on, and if at the end of the time you can face up to the result - good or bad - then you would have gone a long way to steeling yourself for the long-term.

Dr Anthony says the average bettor has to possess 10 attributes. For example: A winner makes commitments, a loser makes promises. Another example: A winner says 'let's find out' while a loser says 'nobody knows'.

Perhaps his most interesting attribute is enveloped in the following example: A winner sees an answer in every problem, a loser sees a problem in every answer.

** Dr Robert Anthony's book Betting On Yourself is available from Berkley Books, or the Gambler's Book Club.

Self-Help Advice
Dr Andrew Shapiro recommends the following advice for anyone who has been losing at betting and is keen enough to begin the battle to turn things around.

Don't be afraid of being wrong. Most losers have a compulsive need to be right, but it needn't be so. Learn through trial and error - but learn without losing your money. 'Road test' your skills and your courage.

Believe in making your own luck. Only losers think about suffering bad luck.

Don't be scared of losing. Losers are secretly afraid to win.

Write down all that you want to achieve in your betting. Highlight the main aims.

With your financial goals, mark down a long-range figure required - then split it into separate smaller goals.

Write down as many positive things about yourself as you can in relation to your betting. Put them in order. Then make sure you use those attributes to the best advantage. 

By Philip Roy