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orse alk
Can you stick to your guns?
Do you have a system for your UK racing betting - and if you do, have you really seen it through and does it work?

Many students of form and fans of horse racing are eternal optimists – but most unduly so. If you looked back on your horse race gambling history over a long enough period – the chances are that it will have proved a failure. This is the case for almost all gamblers as the bookmakers’ attrition erodes profits.

So why do we all keep doing it? As Einstein once said – the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again – and expecting different results or words to that effect.

Well we do it because we’re unduly optimistic and we also lack self-discipline. And it’s this last factor that is most interesting when thinking about a system to beat the market.

That’s because we could all probably have a fair crack of the whip at this. Most racing fans study form and we’re all capable or factoring in trainer records at courses, and looking at a whole barrage of other stats that give us a fighting chance. We’re also all capable of hunting around for the best odds available and steadfastly refusing to accept anything less than “X” price we’ve decided on.

What’s more – there are endless apps and software programmes that take all the parameters that we want to input into them and do all the hard work for us – even in searching continually for odds. In short – there are likely more systems than you need.

But here’s the thing – we don’t test them rigorously enough. How many of us can honestly say we’ve devised a robust system, then truly tried and tested it over a sufficient length of time? There will be some gamblers who’ve been able to answer a resounding yes to all this – but most can’t. And of the ones who have – most will have found their system wanting. So it’s the system itself that needs tweaking.

But more often than not – we’re too weak to adhere to the principles we’ve set ourselves because it requires too much self-discipline and it’s a little too boring during the test phase, as we get to grips with things.

Despite all this, we should still try. The advent of the betting exchanges has made it perfectly possible to make a steady living by betting on horse racing - and many people do achieve this albeit in different ways.

And with the biggest exchange of all, Betfair, the amounts wagered can be huge – so there’s no shortage of market depth. But you still have to have an edge to beat the market. That’s because the exchanges charge a commission – usually around five per cent per winning bet. In other words, you have to be five per cent better than your rivals to come out on top. And even then you’re likely still only breaking even. So the exchanges’ commission works in much the same way as the house edge does in casino games like roulette; you get pretty close to even money - but not quite.

So this is where the system you’ve devised (whatever that may be) and the self-discipline really come into play. The tiniest of margins can make an enormous cumulative difference over a long period of time and with every single trade you place - you have to bear this in mind at all times in order to come out ahead. Remember, too, that no-one can get everything right all the time – or even most of the time. It’s simply a matter of searching for what you deem to be good value, striking the best bargain you possibly can, and trying to push the envelope as much as possible to overcome that five per cent.

You may find some of the apps supplied by Betfair and others helpful in this regard – it really all depends how techie you are and how much of an analyst you like to be. It also depends on whether your system is to place multiple bets on multiple races each day, searching for value or glitches in the market etc., or whether you’re more of a student of form, placing one relatively larger bet every now and again. Each system has its merits as does backing and laying in running if you find you have the eye for this sort of thing, a good SIS feed and you’re quick on the draw. But it’s hard to master this art.

Of course, the most important person to validate your system with is yourself. But it also pays to have a partner who can challenge your thinking, your system and your decisions (though it has to be said, this is easier if you’re more of an occasional gambler look for relatively fewer punts). The trick is to test the system you have devised, honing it continually until you feel you have it right. Then either put it into practice in demonstration mode only (but always using real time races and prices etc.) or play for small stakes.

The essential thing during the testing process, though, is to treat it like its real – like the money really matters. This isn’t an easy thing to achieve, however, so it’s best to try to build your stake up gradually – adding a little more real cash along the way IF it’s successful. In this way, you can hopefully arrive at a point where you have a meaningful stake through your own endeavours, with the addition of a little real cash now and again as you build.

On the other hand, you’ll probably do what most of us do – and fail either through your system not being robust enough, or you lack of self-discipline. But at least by testing it first, you’ll either have lost nothing (working in a simulated mode only) or relative pennies.

Good luck – and try to stick to your guns.
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