I was recently at a race track and saw a man I know, who is a pretty good handicapper most of the time, go on tilt. That is a term poker players use to describe the vulnerable and sometimes volatile condition a person might experience after having a bad beat. In this man’s case, his horse was beaten by a 60-1 longshot at the finish line.
He ranted and raved a while and then went to the self service betting terminal and angrily punched in more bets. He was bound and determined that he was going to win, no matter what it took. Unfortunately for him, what he really needed to do was to stop gambling until he’d cooled down and could make rational decisions, not emotional reactions.
There is an acid test that you must perform when you take a bad beat, and we all do eventually, if we keep betting on horse races. The test is to decide if you are making rational decisions or emotional reactions. Emotional reactions will ruin you at the race track or casino. While the thrill of winning is a big part of playing the horses no matter how professional we may become, overall, our first line of defense is our ability to keep a cool head and make good decisions based on mathematical and historical facts.
In other words, we learn lessons and use the past and good math to find profitable situations, like anyone else who speculates. Once you lose the ability to look at a situation objectively, you may as well stop betting. If you are going to be a professional horse player, whether trying to make a full time living or just to show a profit by betting on horses, then you have to understand that monitoring yourself and maintaining your equilibrium is a must.
My friend who lost his temper and began making angry bets wasn’t paying attention to what he was doing or his feelings and where they were coming from. Losing to a longshot is part of life and sometimes we are the ones who bet the longshots and celebrate when they win. There was probably something else bothering him in his life and the loss just seemed to make it that much worse. That is why many professional gamblers lead such minimalist lives, the fewer things to aggravate, the fewer reasons to go on tilt.
So if you happen to take a bad beat at the race track and start to go on tilt, ask yourself this one question, what else is bothering me and why am I getting so angry when I know this is part of betting on horses? Then take some time off, regain your composure, and start all over, it is part of the game.
The most consistent horse racing systems have to have the basics and a handicapper must understand the basics. I have been around horse racing for 50 years including as an owner. Without the basics the rest is not going to do any good.
Bill Peterson is a former horse race owner and professional handicapper. He comes from a horse race handicapping family and as he puts it, “Horse Racing is in my blood.”