Whether you make a living playing the races or pocket some serious folding money when you aren’t working your day job you need to be mentally strong. So what sets apart the winning from the losing horseplayers?
#1 They Move On
It is the twelfth and last race of the day as you head to the Monmouth Park paddock to look at the field of green maidens. There is Rail Guy again, still talking about the troubled trip in the first that cost him a ton of money. “Dat five horse knocked out my four and cost me a couple of Benjamins.” Every trip to the paddock he has told this to anyone he could find, whether they wanted to hear it or not. He talked about it so much he didn’t even bother to look at the horses in the paddock for the upcoming races.
Truth is that winning horseplayers don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves after a tough beat. Each race is a new race and new opportunity to win and they don’t let the last race cloud their judgement on the next solid betting opportunity that they find.
#2 They Embrace Change
Horse racing is a changing game. Horse run less often throwing out some of the recency “plus factors” and “principles” that authors like Tom Ainslie wrote about in Ainslie’s Complete Guide to Thoroughbred Racing. For example, his “Plus Factor #25” is the horse having its last race within five days of today. That was out of the Third Edition published a mere 31 years ago in 1988, with the First Edition going to print in 1968!
Like prize fighters in the 1920’s, some of the great racehorses of many generations ago used to run every couple of days. But how many boxers and horses in recent years can you remember that came back in five days or less?
Mentally strong horseplayers welcome change and adapt their handicapping accordingly. There is no hard and fast rule that will be profitable forever.
#3 They Stay Happy
Back to Rail Guy. Did a troubled trip cost him a few bucks in that first race? Yes. Was there anything he could have done in his handicapping that could have accounted for “dat four horse slammin’ into da five horse”? Nope. Was there anything Rail Guy could have done to anticipate that his horse would be out of the race a moment it started. Again, the answer is no.
Winning horseplayers don’t waste energy on things they can’t control. Some days you benefit from some traffic in the stretch and other days you get slammed coming out of the gate. You have no control over that so you can’t let it bother you.
#4 They Are Willing to Take Calculated Risks
Unlike our friend Rail Guy who always knows a guy who knows a guy who knows that “da five horse in da fifth is a lock”, we all know that there is no such thing as a sure thing in racing.
Every wager that you make is a calculated risk. I am a firm believer in the 90% Rule (my Sixth Pillar of sound handicapping), or only playing a race where your confidence is 90% or higher. A winning horseplayer isn’t heading up to the windows to place a bet without a plan. A winning horseplayer isn’t going to add horses to their exotic wagers while placing the bet without evaluating the horses and cost of the wager first. A winning horseplayer isn’t going to place a wager that loses money if it wins.
A mentally strong horseplayer has checked the payouts and knows what they can expect to win versus what they have wagered. A mentally strong horseplayer is confident in the selections they are putting money on at the windows.
#5 They Celebrate Other People’s Success.
At the end of a long day at Monmouth Park, Rail Guy is still talking about his bad beat in the first race. He is also cursing the group of guys who apparently come once a year, all pick a horse and they play the picks in an exacta and trifecta box in each race. Seems they hit a couple of big payouts based on the “name-of-the-horse” angle and “my-kids-liked-the-color-of-the-silks” angle. “Dat sort of thing never wins over time,” Rail Guy mutters as the guys are high fiving each other and in disbelief on the wad of cash they’ll have to tell their wives about.
Mentally strong horseplayers are not bothered by the short term or long term success of others. In fact they are happy that someone had a good day and they will be back to the track soon to dump money back into the pari-mutuel pools and keep the sport of racing alive. Mentally strong horseplayers know this game is a daily grind to churn out a profit and that there will be both good and bad days. They smile at the group of moms away from the kids that made a few bucks and had a good time as they tuck the racing form under their arm and head home to start the process all over again to make a few bucks tomorrow!
It isn’t always easy to change your mindset, but by doing so you will become a mentally strong horseplayer. Not only will your attitude change, but your bankroll will grow along with your mental strength!
Ray Wallin is a licensed civil engineer and part-time handicapper who has had a presence on the Web since 2000 for various sports and horse racing websites and through his personal blog. Introduced to the sport over the course of a misspent teenage summer at Monmouth Park by his Uncle Dutch, a professional gambler, he quickly fell in love with racing and has been handicapping for over 25 years.
Ray’s background in engineering, along with his meticulous nature and fascination with numbers, parlay into his ability to analyze data; keep records; notice emerging trends; and find new handicapping angles and figures. While specializing in thoroughbred racing, Ray also handicaps harness racing, Quarter Horse racing, baseball, football, hockey, and has been rumored to have calculated the speed and pace ratings on two squirrels running through his backyard.
Ray likes focusing on pace and angle plays while finding the middle ground between the art and science of handicapping. When he is not crunching numbers, Ray enjoys spending time with his family, cheering on his alma mater (Rutgers University), fishing, and playing golf.
Ray’s blog, which focuses on his quest to make it to the NHC Finals while trying to improve his handicapping abilities can be found at www.jerseycapper.blogspot.com Ray can also be found on Twitter (@rayw76) and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.