There's probably nothing more depressing than hitting a losing run at the races. Well, maybe losing your job while holding a $250,000 mortgage could be considered a little more depressing, but you know what I mean.

My personal cure for getting out of the losing blues is to go looking for new angles. My assumption is that if I'm losing, then I'm doing something drastically wrong and I'd better start finding out what it is, or set about dumping my approach and replacing it.

Losing runs invariably make the punter question his own self-worth, and his own skill as a punter. How galling is it when the bloke standing next to you has picked the winner and you hadn't even given it a thought?

How could that be? What was he doing right and what were you doing wrong?

Get it wrong too many times and you end up bereft of confidence, hating yourself and the horses, along with jockeys, trainers, bookmakers, fellow punters and anyone else who comes within kicking distance.


It may not be that your form analysis is wrong. There are countless numbers of fine handicappers who have simply fallen by the wayside because they were victims of psychological impediments with their betting.

Call it psycho-babble if you like, but this aspect of betting is so important that I have spent much time over the years appraising and reappraising my own psychological failings.

Years ago, I determined I was far too cautious in my betting. I was betting like a timid bank manager which, incidentally, I happened to be in my former life before retirement and a plunge into seven days a week betting (ah, bliss).

Discovering what your problem is can be only half the battle. Finding a cure is often a cruel process.

Let's look at one common problem for a start: Bravado. Now, it's been medically recognised that many punters, in their deep subconscious, use betting as a way of proving their manhood. A big hit emphasises their male power.

What this leads to is the syndrome of making what are impossible wagers in a misguided bid to strike really big wins. Only rarely do these bets pay off, but the addicted punter keeps going, desperate for the big thrill, the "buzz" that comes with a giant windfall.

The cure? The punter needs to associate such betting with personal idiocy. He needs to understand that tilting at windmills is not going to bring the rewards that are dreamed out. All that's gained is a broken sword or, in the real life case, a broken pocket.

In similar vein, punters who bet too much are very much in the same boat.

In the book Greatest Hits, by Mark Cramer and Bill Olmsted, the company's staff psychologist, Dr Sigmund Fraud, writes about what he calls the "urge for action", when too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing.

The cure, he opines, is to equate sex with gambling. Have sex nine times a day, and you become desensitised. Therefore, why not apply that same theory to your betting. Understand that as with sex, betting nine times a day, and more, is too much, especially week after week!

Your senses become desensitised, you lack sharpness, your mind is dulled, your physical situation becomes weaker.

Now, think of your betting as a relaxed, restricted thing that allows you to breathe and enjoy the experience. Isn't that how it is with sex as well? Quality not quantity!

The urge to follow "the crowd" is another major problem with punters. When I said earlier that I used to be a far too cautious punter, it was simply because I suffered badly from the "follow the crowd" syndrome.

Dr Fraud calls it "the fear of betting on longshots, the fear of betting against the top Beyer figure". The good doctor is referring here to the Andrew Beyer speed rating figures which are published in all the formguides in the USA.

Dr Fraud's tongue-in-cheek cure is to advise sufferers to watch a movie about lemmings committing mass suicide. Visualise, he says, that each lemming is carrying a racing formguide with the best Beyer figures circled.

The cure is not such a joke. This is what the punter has to realise. While the crowd will be right some 30 per cent of the time, the returns will never amount to a profit. Inevitably, the cliff face looms and the lemmings march over the edge.

Failure to maintain proper accounting records of your betting is another key failure of the majority of punters. The main excuse is that it takes too much time and it's just not worth all the effort.

This is nonsense, but it never ceases to surprise me how many of my fellow punters cling to the excuse and refuse to be prodded, cajoled or dragged screaming into maintaining profit and loss records.

Dr Fraud says: "Players who don't keep records create their own false handicapping myths because they have no notion of their strengths and weaknesses."

How right he is! He compares it to throwing out all your receipts needed for taxation purposes. Would you do that? Would you throw out all those receipts that could save you paying more tax than you need to? You'd be mad to do so, and just as mad to ignore the ups and downs of your betting career.

We have mentioned earlier the problem of macho betting. There is another problem in much the same mould, except that this is a lack of confidence in yourself. In other words, you fail to make the right, positive betting decisions because you don't have what it takes, personal confidence, to do it.

There is no easy answer. Each man, or woman, is an individual and no amount of reading or studying books on positive thinking is going to change one's personality.

It's often a case of you have confidence in your decision-making judgement, or you don't.

Psychologists will say that you should study history or look at successful people who are really 'ratbags' as human beings. How did they get to the top? Because they had confidence in themselves and they made the right moves.

The lesson you should learn from this is never to feel ordinary. If you feel like that. you will invariably lack the instinct needed to make good betting decisions.

In short, then, "talk" yourself up, listen to your "inner voice" and once you've made a decision, stick to it. Never dither or allow a friend to talk you out of your plan.

Your personal attitude will be called into play whenever you strike a losing streak. These are going to happen, no matter how smart you are, What you must never do is to fall to pieces once you're enmeshed in the negative run.

When I talk about a losing streak I mean something that's really bad ... 20 or more losers in a row. Often, we will strike losing runs that are just part and parcel of a normal betting cycle. These may be seven or eight successive losers, or even 10.

The cycle becomes a streak when it hits double figures and then proceeds to mount.

Your first step is to examine WHY the losers refuse to stop arriving. Maybe your handicapping or system needs a reappraisal? Maybe it's just you making all the wrong decisions?

My cure is to suggest that you cease betting for a while. Give yourself a holiday. Don’t look at a formguide or watch a race for a week or two.

You can then return to the fray totally refreshed and probably with some answers to the problems that were besetting your betting.

Take heart in the fact that you are not alone with your betting problems. Even the very best handicappers have their personal torments.

US expert Barry Meadow, whose excellent articles appear regularly in PPM, admits: "Every day I suffer a crisis in confidence. But the next day I think I'm gonna win. I try to maintain a positive outlook while having no inner confidence whatsoever.

"Six winners in a row and I'm hot ... six losers in a row and I'm due."

By Philip Roy