A long time ago, someone told me why he had decided to give up betting. "It was simple, I'd lost my nerve," this man explained. "And once you've lost your nerve it's the end of the game."

I always recall his words when I talk or write about horse-race betting. They seem to sum up such a great deal about betting and all the risks associated with it.

I put this man's declaration to a successful punter only recently but he had a different view to my own.

"If you are nervous about your betting, then you're not betting right," said my friend. "If you're nervous, under stress, it's time to take a long look at how you are going about the business of betting."

Now this chap bets in thousands of dollars and yet he invariably has a calm, measured look about him. I have never seen him curse or complain, and even when he watches a race it's with a cool and detached persona.

"I'm satisfied that when I bet I have done everything in my power to ensure I've made the right decisions," he says. "That's why I never get worked up. I don't have a stress level eating at me."

This chap may have just one or two bets a meeting and rarely will he bet a horse that isn't strongly fancied in the betting market. He aims for a nice percentage profit on his turnover and, well, he has to be achieving it because he doesn't have a job and is not a stocks-and-shares speculator.

Compare him, then, to the man who gave up years before because of the stress. Perhaps he was doing it all wrong and yet could not come to terms with his problem? I do know that at one time he had the game by the scruff of the neck; he was one of the most confident men I knew.

Yet, in the space of a few years, he was a shattered man, broken by the demands of the punt. I've seen him only a few times since his 'retirement' and he was still not having a bet. In fact, he'd lost interest in racing. Once the betting was taken away, the thrills were not there anymore.

Each of us has his own betting problems. How many of us realise we have them, though? Do we remain in a state of denial? Perhaps if we corrected our faults, we could eliminate stress and become much better punters. Are the faults, then, causing our stress? I believe so.

I've read many books on the psychological aspects of betting and all contain stories of punters 'doing it all wrong', getting the decision-making process in a knot, and then defeating themselves with poor money management, and wrong decisions made under pressure.

George Kaywood, the well known US professional, says m an interview in The New Expert Handicapper that he has crystallised his strengths and weaknesses.

"I have a couple of major weaknesses," he admits. "Body language is one. Also, I rely too much on the numbers when I am tired or distracted. It's lazy handicapping. I also play too many races, and I tend to bet the same amount on each. That's poor money management."

Kaywood also believes that punters are affected mentally by negative events in life and that poor relationships contribute to bad handicapping. His ex-wife, he says, resented the fact that racing came first on Sundays.

Says Kaywood: "Handicappers' wives can suffer as much as computer widows; the combination is deadly. Handicapping should be handled like a faithful mistress. If you are playing full-time, you need absolute, undivided family support. Any personal problems you have, with time demands especially, will necessarily interfere with your success at handicapping."

I can understand what Kaywood is saying. In my years in punting, I've seen many friends under stress from bad marriages and other personal problems, and the negativity has invariably surfaced in their betting.

How often have we heard the wail of "Nothing's going right; my wife's left me, the kids won't talk to me and I can't for the life of me back a winner!"?

So, what do we glean from all this: I guess the first lesson is that betting stress may well be self-induced by, perhaps, too many flawed judgements on your part.

The second lesson is to try to control your private life and, if there are stressful problems on the domestic front, then stop betting for a while.

NEXT MONTH: More on the 'Psycho Babble' side of betting.

Click here to read Part 3.
Click here to read Part 4.
Click here to read Part 5.
Click here to read Part 1.

By Richard Hartley Jnr