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Finding an edge – the key to becoming a successful punter

October 6, 2020 | By More

The market is flooded with straight-forward, easy-to-use strategies for a successful life on the punt. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though most people do. The way to a successful life on the punt is to find an edge. The path that is less travelled but provides the advantage necessary to beat the market.

Max Manewer believes that finding an edge is the key to becoming a successful horse racing punter. Max is a 10+ year member of the Thoroughbred Village horse racing forums. His original thoughts below are well worth keeping in mind as we devise our own methods to beat the market. Enjoy!

The narrow gate

A verse in the Bible’s New Testament equally applies to punting. 

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”

Matthew 7:13-14. 

The narrow punting gate is that of hard-nosed realism. Most who show a profit at the end of the year do so through insights not available to the market. Real winners rely entirely on publicly available information but processed in ways not generally adopted by many players. Finding an edge, the ‘narrow gate’, requires effort, vigor and total attention. There are no shortcuts to success.

Avoid the well-travelled road

The fabulously wealthy English business mogul, Sir James Goldsmith, said that if you see a bandwagon, it is too late. He was speaking about business or investment opportunities, but it certainly applies, probably even more so, to race wagering “edges”. You see people trumpeting betting ideas, in detail, and broadcasting it far and wide. However, you can be certain that if it was ever profitable, it won’t be for much longer. Over-betting will quickly render it unprofitable.

Finding an edge is an evolving endeavour. An edge at one moment in time is more than likely to vanish at some point in the future. One particular example comes to mind. The “advantage” of horses backing up quickly (eg; within a week of its last run) as a betting medium. It was real enough, and lasted for many years, but once commentators started promoting it, the advantage gradually evaporated. Today it really isn’t worth much. It no longer helps by applying a filter to the backups, such as only betting “seasoned” horses. This was the most profitable category but the results now are less than inspiring. Equally, giving preference to horses that are sharply shorter in the market today than their previous start. This conferred a distinct betting advantage at one time, but not so much these days with people spruiking “SP profiling”.

Data analysis is critical for punting on horse racing

Just about all “conventional wisdom” of punting has a negative market correlation. It is often worse than using a pin, to follow commonly held perceptions of a good selection method. The game stacks against the punter. To achieve any real success, a punter must follow the hard reality. Not vague perceptions. The punter must have a maths “nous”. A certain amount, but not a great deal. An understanding of what constitutes a sufficient sample of bets is essential. To assess whether results for a particular punting method is more than just a lucky run. The volume of bets required to make a sound judgement is greater than most people imagine. However, simple mathematical formulae, such as the “Chi-square test”, easily help to gauge and interpret results.

Finding an edge in the information age

In today’s betting environment, information processing is more sophisticated and widely applied. Thus, the chance of finding an edge is much reduced, however it’s not impossible by any means. Follow what the data tells you, in a statistically sound way. Like we suggested for quadrella betting, you don’t need to bet real money to test ideas out. Unless your object is to win, you are foolish to bet in the absence of a well-researched method.

The question is largely about effort. What expenditure of time, and money, is a prospective bettor prepared to make in search of an edge. Not only in betting money but also, potentially, for data subscription services to examine and test hypotheses. You certainly will not win without an “edge”. An angle that is not widely known or applied by other people. Certainly not a bandwagon load of people. You need ideas. They can be wacky as you like, but they need to be clearly defined. They also need to be tested, either retrospectively or experimentally without betting, until their validity or otherwise is unquestioned. Their relative worth as a punting methodology, should be clear backed by hard scientific evidence, in hard dollar results.

Search for a point of difference

The punter must have a “point of difference” compared to the vast mass of other players. A positive method rather than a “hit and hope” approach is essential to win on the horses. Finding an edge is not doing “normal” things that punters do which only leads to normal results. The remorseless logic of market percentages and pool take-outs dictate that “normal” activity leads to losing money. Remember there are multiple ways to skin the punting cat. Only a madman would spruik a successful method into the general circulation. It will soon be destroyed by over-betting and be no use to anyone.

Many punters imagine, wrongly, that “discipline” and betting bank management are the key to winning. Whilst these things are necessary, they are not sufficient to turn the tide. For that you need an edge, or multiple edges. A recognition of a pattern in results, that the market has neglected. These can be things that appear unlikely or irrelevant. But when profit and loss figures are favourable, it’s not important that they conform to any conventional kind of logic. The task in finding an edge is to ferret out such things. In the sheer complexity of racing, and its manifold factors that are almost never independent variables, therein lies your chance.

If punting was a simple cut-and-dried matter, no-one would ever win. Except for the bookies and tote, that extract their percentages like poker machines. The beauty, and horror, of race betting, is in the never-quite-fathomable complexities that go into the results.

Original thoughts of Max Manewer, member of the Thoroughbred Village community.

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