Losing Control, and How to Get it Back…

There is one area of this game I really need to improve on. And that is discipline. Well, it is more about how to keep control, in the context that I know I will always bet on horses that I shouldn’t….




We have all been there. Sat in front of the TV (ATR/Channel 4/RUK) we are transported to a world where we want to bet on everything. Not much. Just an ‘interest bet’. For me this is likely to be a Saturday afternoon, or during one of the big meetings. We know we shouldn’t. We know we haven’t looked at the race in any depth. We haven’t considered all of the runners or their suitability to the race conditions. But, we want to have something on so we can ‘enjoy’ the race. When looking in the morning we know what races we don’t want to bet on. We put a line through them. But, come 2 minutes before the off we find ourselves betting anyway.  

The point of what you are about to read is not for me to repeat that nonsense about ‘discipline’ –ie don’t bet on races you haven’t looked at properly etc etc. It is unrealistic. I am going to continue placing these interest bets, the question is how to control them. I failed to do this last Saturday, again.

As you know I bet £20 per point. When you read on the blog ‘1 point win’ – that is £20 win for me.

These bets should be reserved for those races I have researched. I can spend 20 minutes – 1hour looking at a ‘Tip of the Day’ race, and then bet 1 point accordingly. For a Sprint Handicap, such as the Bunbury Cup (yes I highlight that because I found the 25/1 winner 😉 ) I can spend between 1.5-2.5 hours looking at the race. All this time and effort equates to 1-4 points on a race.

My problem is when I find myself betting £20 (1 point) on a race/horse 2 minutes before the off, that I have literally spent 30 seconds looking at. It is idiotic and irrational. Everything I know will sometimes go out the window… I find myself being convinced by the last trainer that has just been interviewed. When betting £20s on ‘interest’ bets, this approach, or lack of, becomes an issue.

Every day I write down the bets I place and the result so at any point I know where I am financially. I have a separate bank account that all by betting accounts are linked to, so again, over time, I know how I am doing.

Occasionally on a Saturday this list of bets and specifically the losses, can make painful reading.

Take the Saturday just gone, the last day of the Ebor meeting. At 1.30pm, on races through to about 4.30pm, I had bet about £40 across those races I had looked at and wanted an interest in. Half of this was on Banzari which was one of the Tip of the Day selection (a researched bet, despite the result!) ,the rest were some £5 interest bets across the Ebor and a couple of others. So, at 1.30pm I had bet £40 – fine. No problems.

By 4.30 I had actually bet, and lost, £185. £145 more than planned. Gulp.

My £5 on Quick Jack and Wicklow Brave turned into 20s on each for example (yes I think I was chasing –in the easiest race on the card ahem) Now, come the end of the day I had got this back to minus £10 but that misses the point somewhat. While I don’t ‘lose control’ like that very often, it happens, and there have been Saturdays/big Festival days when I haven’t got that money back, and cut my losses.

The important point to note here is that I don’t lose control in terms of stake size. I am simply spraying around £10s and the odd £20 like confetti – but it doesn’t take many bets like that to create a large deficit in an afternoon. I am not suddenly betting £50s or £100s.. And I am able to stop. £200 is probably my psychological barrier and if I hit that I will stop. It is a horrible feeling when you take a moment to think about what you have just done, and of course I promise myself never to do it again! (I can recall about 5 times this has happened since Christmas I think)

At this point it would be easy to repeat the words – ‘discipline, discipline, discipline’. ‘You will only be a successful punter if you are disciplined’

Well, yes that is true. But it is also true that I will be betting on a Channel 4 race again, 2 minutes before the off, that I haven’t researched. It will happen. It shouldn’t happen as much, but it will. I have faced up to that reality.

However I couldn’t afford too many -£200 afternoons on ‘interest’ bets before it would create a hole. I should have more control at moments like that. That is the issue.

So, the question is how best to manage this. Well a few things have helped me (although clearly I need to listen to my own advice more)…

  1. I try and ensure I haven’t ‘missed anything’. Tip of the Day as a process has helped me. Having gone through the stats, gone through every race looking at Pace etc, and had a glance at those races I like analysing and betting in (Sprint Handicaps on the flat, 3m+ Handicap Chases over jumps) I know I haven’t ‘missed a bet’ or a potential winner. I take time to make sure micro system bets are place, tracked horses have been looked at etc.
  2. With the knowledge that you are going to have an interest bet or two…set yourself a budget and reduce stakes dramatically. Why oh why some (hmm most) of my ‘fun bets’ end up being the same amount as a well-researched bet I have no idea. It is part in the context of having done quite well since last November I think – and if I am on a losing streak I do reduce my ‘interest’ bets. However it is no coincidence that when my ‘fun/interest’ bets are £2.5 or £5 I do ok. Probably because I am having more fun, and because I am more willing to find a ‘value bet’. It is amazing when you have lost a bit too much sat on the couch how your eyes are drawn to the top of the market when ‘chasing’. And rarely does this work out from my experience. Losing £35 on 7 C4 Races is much better than £140.
  3. Withdraw money from betting accounts – From my experience it is much easier to place bets when you have a few hundred sat in different accounts. Come last Saturday between Bet365, Paddy Power, BV and Betfair there was around £700 spread between them. Betting £10s and £20s like confetti doesn’t seem that bad, until you add it up. Mentally/emotionally it is easier to place larger ‘fun’ bets when the money is sat there. However if you have to deposit the money it makes you stop and think about what you are doing. It does for me anyway, even though it is still easy to deposit money in no time at all.
  4. Ultimately – just stop and walk away. Despite what some of you may think from what I have written I know I am in control of my betting. I measure my control via stake size. I know that if I have a bad ‘session’, in the context of my bank and my winnings, it isn’t disastrous. And I am confident I will get it back at some point. I will curse myself, and remind myself how much richer I would be if I stuck to the ‘researched bets’… But – if my stakes started spiralling – to £40s or £50s or even bigger, then I would start to think I have a problem. Whatever your normal stake size, if you find yourself betting much bigger than this on a single horse, I would turn of the TV and walk out the house.

I like betting on horses (I don’t bet on anything else). If I am watching a race I like having an interest in it. Sitting in front of Channel 4 on a Saturday afternoon is my opportunity to ‘switch off’ and enjoy watching racing. During the week I only watch those races I have bet in if I can, so Saturday is a chance to relax in front of the TV. This is more enjoyable when I have bet on a race I am about to watch. But normally I will have only studied one or maybe two of the 7/8 races in depth. With decent tools like HorseRaceBase and Geegeez Gold it makes having an ‘informed’ interest bet easier, but still dangerous.

I will continue having my ‘fun/interest’ bets, but I need to buck my ideas up, and start implementing some of my own advice on a more regular basis. So, next time I am sat in front of Channel 4 on a Saturday afternoon, I will set myself a budget, and I will reduce stakes to £2.5/£5 and see how I get on. Losing £200 on ‘interest’ bets in one afternoon is not much fun at all, and I clearly have much to improve on.  

If you are more disciplined than me I would love to hear what works for you, and your mindset/approach to this great game of ours….



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21 Responses

  1. Hi Josh, I had the exact same issue last sat! Good to know I’m not the only one with this discipline issue. Great piece, I’m going to try and refer back to it going forward.

  2. I bet 50ps ..when iam watching channel 4 …or big races . i..keep a record of all bets no matter how small …

    1. Very wise I say, certainly getting in the habit of betting smaller stakes than usual on interest bets is the way forward, and trying to keep that discipline. Thanks for commenting.

  3. I started a Google Doc recently to keep a check on a couple of tipsters to see how it went keeping records. It’s never been an interest for me although I do realise that many will say it’s the thing to do.
    Any way….I also added my own bets to the spreadsheet for interests sake, and it made me back more horses !!
    I could not believe that over 6 days racing the number of bets I had actually placed had increased and so had the monies I lost
    It was as though I had started to chase my losses, because I could see I was losing because of the spreadsheet was showing a LOSS
    Then I started NOT adding horses to the list in the hope they would begin winning….it had got out of hand and it didn’t make me feel any the wiser
    I gave up keeping a betting list for the simple reason it was winding me up and I was stressing out because of my records
    It certainly needs discipline and I suppose if you are convincing yourself that you are betting to increase your income then recording your bets could well help
    but beware….it only took me 6 days to come under pressure….find yourself losing and the tension could get to you

    1. Hey Josh, snap. Ebor day was a bad lapse for me too. I am completely disciplined with my 2yo bets, always a percentage of the bank, never bet unless race fully analysed, no nurseries. But then there are the fun bets, I have often resolved only to have £2 bets on the Saturday fun bets but then the devil on my shoulder starts up with ‘what’s the point of just a £2 bet, particularly if I have picked one close to the top of the market £2 at 7/4, where’s the fun in that, so up the stake to £20 or £25 with predictable results.

      I think that your idea of always withdrawing, The Rhythm Method, shall we call it is a good idea. I know that I was influenced on Saturday by having a few hundred in several bookmaker accounts due to a particularly good recent run. A good time to remember that around this time last year I hit my highest ever betting account balance and then lost the lot following my biggest ever bet on Cotai Glory when good old George Baker fell off followed by a couple of weeks of injudicious loss chasing.

      I shall withdraw post haste.

      1. Haha – I dont think poor George could do much about that from memory! That must have hurt, the worst possible defeats.

        Norman…record keeping is no doubt an issue for another day. I keep up to date records for the two services I have launched to date, but when is comes to my day to day bets I must admit I dont. I write down on a pad of paper my days bets so I can see how well I am doing. But, I find record keeping tedious at best and rarely can I be too bothered. That is one of the good reasons for having a separate bank account as financially I know how I am doing. I keep records for the ‘official’ blog activity as well, and HRB will keep records for how the micro systems perform (albeit not at morning prices). Everyone to their own, I can see you point. I should probably keep better records but in general I bet in the same kind of races if i am approaching them ‘cold’ (no stats,micro systems etc) and have a pretty good idea on where my strengths are

  4. A very informative piece as ever Josh.

    I tend to have a couple of bets a day Mon to Fri at most and even though i might be watching the racing on say Racing UK or ATR i can watch it without having a bet. Then the big midweek festivals and Saturday’s come along and suddenly the interest bets start to spiral, I was luck on Saturday that I ended in profit on the interest bets due to a 14/1 winner in the the Lucky Last at York. But I often see can see my Saturday profits halved or loses occurred because I have ended up having 10 or 12 bets rather than say three or four.

    I am a bit of sucker when it comes to big handicaps, I just love the puzzle and I like solving that puzzle. Maybe its the emotion of it all you have spent time analyzing a race that you just feel you have to have a bet in the race even if the price isn’t right.

    Moving to a more stats based selections approach has worked for me. Looking at my results spreadsheet since the start of the flat season I am in a nice profit with 21% win strike rate, A lot of the emotion is now taken out of my betting by taking such an approach and its working Mon to Fri but then comes York, Goodwood etc and of course Saturdays and the interest bets take over.

    Not sure what the answer is but your suggestion seem sensible to me on paper but then they always do on paper till they meet the emotion of this sport that were in.

    Its funny because like yourself I only bet on horses i don’t even do the lottery so its hardly the thrill of the gamble in play.

    In reply to Norman I was in your shoes in the past I gave up on keeping records as it was becoming a bit scary looking at the losses but in the end it does work it makes you see which type of races you are making money on and which your not. What sort of tracks work for you and which you don’t do well at etc. That said if its putting pressure on you I can understand why you have given up on it.

    1. Yes I enjoy the puzzle of big handicaps and if I have spent ages looking at a race I will normally find a bet – usually the prices are decent enough, and I have never gone I wont back X at 14/1 because I think he should be 16s. My ‘value’ judgements are based on ‘feel’ I suppose, nothing too mathmatic. I can watch racing without having to bet, but I suppose I want to enhance my enjoyment – smaller stakes is the way forward, and I do pick enough ‘last minute’ winners – but it is when the stakes get bigger than I tend to back losers. Betting Gods sending a message maybe!! and of course you always miss something when only looking at a race briefly, which is another reason to only have ‘fun’ money on, or to get more disciplined like yourself and not bet at all.

  5. we have all been there josh.instead of interest bets why not use other small profitable free sites that have a results archive of at least six months and a ROI of 10% or more.they are out there.keep clear of the big free tipsters.your tips are well researched as are some others.i have a base of about 10 free sites with a profit as above so giving me plenty of bets.very rarely do i watch saturday racing as its too distracting with races coming up so rapidly.after 50 years of betting i have learnt not to trust my own snap judgements as a basis for making money.

    1. Cheers John…I know there are some good sites out there etc, but I would still back myself, even if only looking at a race for a minute or so, as odd as that sounds. Although, in saying that, as long as I know why I am backing a horse I am happy to take other people’s advice – I just need to start betting £2,5s/£5s, and to have a word with myself more often! the discipline is there, if I just actively apply it.

  6. Hugh – I like the rhythm method concept – I usually take out 50% of any profit an the end of the month and spent it on something enjoyable then I get the feeling of reward each month.

  7. Josh,
    Good article,, and to be honest we have or are all guilty of this….In my case a number of times I have looked at a horse
    really fancying its chances only to be swayed by other means to bet on something more “appropriate”.
    Then sit there watching as your original fancy comes and wins.. Oh the pain!!!
    On the television its compulsion to cover these horses ,, hence more money than intended is bet,
    Sometimes it works in your favour giving fresh hope, but if it dosnt, then it can become expensive,,,,
    So now its down to my fancy only ,,win lose or draw,,,, always another day so to speak…..

    1. Thanks Henry…ah yes, convincing yourself away from a winner is a horrible feeling! Always go with your gut instinct I say, or at least put a ‘saver’ on to limit the emotional/financial damage.

  8. Hi Josh,
    I imagine that it will not be long for you before you find that all the bookmakers will restrict you,for myself the only ones i can have BOG with are Betfair and Racebet.
    Last tuesday wanted £7.50 ew on Bradley Dredge in the Made in Denmark Golf at 50/1 with Ladbrokes and they came back with 50p ew they do not like consistent winners,so in time you will not be able to get your £20 on.
    For about 6 weeks used 10Bet,they stopped me so on 10 August withdrew £1451,after 6 phone calls they finally paid it into my bank account on 21 August.
    it was a very worrying 11 days for did not know if they were having financial difficulties so it may be better to withdraw often than leave money in the bookmakers accounts.
    All the best,

    1. Yes it is rather frustrating…Skybet have now added restrictions and for first time yesterday Betfred didn’t let me have my full stake on. I just need to break it down and split stakes up a bit between bookies, and maybe face up to not always getting the best price. I suppose there is always Betfair, it is just judging when to take the right price…and in truth I dont know how many horses I have backed that drift and then win. Glad you got your money in the end

  9. Hi Josh,
    I think this article mirrors what happens on most houses on a Saturday afternoon.
    Unlike you I also bet small bets on football coupons
    Banker Treble
    Btts 3/4 fold
    Early game interest etc and come 5pm these fun bets have mounted up to a considerable sum which if placed on the banker of the day might have resulted in a nice win. Find the money back for 2nd RacingPost/WH offer tends to make me feel well if it gets beat it will be second and I’ll have a free bet anyway however the days when they are not 1st or 2nd can be painful.
    Like you I also managed to “get out ” on one at Chester so damage was limited.
    Nice of you to share your experiences and for us “mugs ” to know we are not alone.

    1. Thanks Jimbo – we are all ‘mugs’ at some point during a punting week no doubt! It is just trying to make sure those occasions are infrequent!

  10. Hi Josh, well said. why don’t you set a minimum stake then add on for type of race, course ect then you will have full control of your money. I know that it is pretty basic but it works for me.


    1. Basic is always the best starting point Barry. You are right, I think setting a minimum of £2.5 or £5 for me is the way forward, and also linked to how long I spend looking at a race. Even when looking for a short amount of time I know what race types I do better in so adjusting stake accordingly makes sense.

  11. Thanks for your comments gents, I will get round to replying. I am currently on a coach from London to Bristol,has been a fun afternoon of travelling, with 3hs left.

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