'All horse players die broke': that must be the most famous line in racing literature the world over.
The man who first said this was not Damon Runyan as believed, but his friend E Phocion Howard who actually died broke to prove his point. There was a time when everyone also believed 95% of racegoers are losers. This implied that maybe 5% can be called long-term winners.
But, a recent statistic revealed by Betfair (the most popular UK-based betting exchange) showed that to be a huge exaggeration. If 'long term' is defined as 'five years', then maybe only 1 in 5,000 horse players ends up showing actual profit!
The reason is not difficult to understand. Most punters, at least in the beginning, make the mistake of thinking this to be 'easy money', so it is no wonder they pay a heavy price for this erroneous assumption. Unmindful of the pitfalls, they are wiped out due to their ignorance.
Those who cross the first hurdle and try to learn the fundamentals, fall at the next. They don't realize that 'betting' is, at the core, a psychological activity (as opposed to 'handicapping' which is an intellectual process). The lack of this distinction leaves them unprepared to face the mental demons of need & greed, fear & euphoria, inevitability of short winning runs & long losing streaks.
The result is obvious. Money is the first casualty. Then goes peace of mind. Then the family peace (remember, no wife can endure a losing husband), and finally, if heed is still not paid, health.
Why is this game so difficult to beat? Is it only because of the takeout & taxes? Or is there anything radically wrong with the approach most players adopt when tackling this game?
My Stable is an experiment to investigate this question.
In this experiment, we will go 'back-to-the-basics' in the sense that we will be doing it in an old-fashioned way. Remember the old timers who just had a list of their "follow horses" ready before the start of the season? I personally knew a couple of Parsee men (long live their tribe!) in the 1980's who enjoyed their racing because they religiously followed their "horses-to-watch" list, and never ventured a bet outside of it whatever the temptation. I actually suspect patience and discipline, the two essential allies you need on your side in this battle of nerves, come more easily to those who don't invest their time and energy in elaborate study of relative strengths of too many runners. Because human mind is such that once it gets invested, it genuinely starts feeling it has a profitable opinion about the race, and it's not wise to skip it—so a bet is in order. That I think is the tragedy of some of the most brilliant handicappers around as despite having great knowledge they end up making too many bets for their own good.
My Stable will thus save us time, not force us to fritter away energy, and that should help us keep more focused on our small number of stable horses which we will review every week after observing the track trials data & video of weekend races, adding some and removing some.
So here is how we begin. Based on whatever little insights I have about this game, we will first set up our own small stable of very few horses (nearly 30-40 of about 1,000 currently stationed at Bangalore), and then do everything 'contrary' to what most horse players do.
Most players look at all the races, we will not. They generally study each and every horse in each and every race, we will simply ignore all races & all runners, and focus only on our animals.
They give a 'macro' look to every horse on the card, we will focus in a 'micro' way only on our stable's runners. They short-list contenders and then put them under microscope to decide who has an edge and who can they bet on, we will only need to check which of our horses have chosen to run on the card—they are (or rather, may be) our contenders.
They may spend hours deciding the bets, we hope to make our decisions in minutes. They don't keep record of their bets, we will. That's the only way to judge performance and gain further insights.
I cannot predict if we will make profit or not, but if you believe 'time is money', then we are going to save loads of it, with peace of mind as an added bonus.
May the journey begin.