Breaking The Losing Habit

By Joe Takach

When I was starting out gambling an old man in the betting shop once remarked to me that I would “have to learn how to lose” before I could ever learn how to win. At the time I didn’t understand what he meant but when I did, he was long gone and playing in the “Bookies in the Sky”.

When you give his statement some rational thought however, it really makes a lot of sense.

What he was trying to relate to me was to learn why people lost and then NOT DO the same exact things. Easy enough said, but not always so easy to implement, especially for those inclined to bet on every race. Because if you bet on every race, you’re already a loser as we all know. You have to “pick your spots” very carefully where you feel you have an edge of some kind and can turn a profit.

But why do people actually lose and lose continually?

First off, let me say that no matter how much valid information or inside information you might have, as soon as those gates fly open, the race is out of your hands as a gambler. Horses stumble, get bumped, miss the break, get blocked, steadied, pocketed, etc., and there isn’t a thing that you can do about it. Yes, even those really short odds on ‘certainties’.

So what are some of the main reasons why people repeatedly lose?


As mentioned above, there aren’t 6 golden betting opportunities on a 6 race card. If you are playing every single race, you are slowly strangling your bankroll no matter how good your money management system might be.


The next time you go to the track itself or into any bookmakers, take a look at how many people are studying the form in their newspaper to find which horse to bet on. You only have to stand there for 5 minutes to see they’ve done NO serious form reading and are sure to pay the price for trying to do their homework in the classroom itself. Even more likely to fail for the day, are those “punters” who are armed with nothing more than a track programme on course, I mean picking “cutsie names”, silk colours, jockeys, or trainers is a very quick path to financial ruination.


We are all guilty of this at one time or another in our gambling careers. Some of the lower class races on any daily card are simply indecipherable. Trying to find the “least slow” horse is a much tougher chore than finding the “fastest” animal! Also races with over sixteen runners in them are more often than not a total lottery and if you are doing any type of form reading, would take you all day just to check up all the runners from one of these “cavalry charges”.


If you go to the track or the bookies on a daily basis, or watch the racing on TV, you see things that simply defy belief. I’m sure you’ve heard the axiom “there’s a thousand ways to lose a race and only one way to win”. Let me offer #1001. Recently I had a healthy bet on a horse who was ahead by nearly 3 lengths nearing the finish line when he swerved from the whip and threw his rider two lengths before the line, costing him the victory. I couldn’t feel my knees until about 2 hours after the race. We all fall victim to bad racing luck, but if we let it upset us, it can force us to make a bad wager in the very next race, trying to immediately recoup lost monies instead of waiting for our next good “spot”. Not a good idea.


Sooner or later we’re all guilty of this to some degree because something takes time from our every day betting routine, giving us little solitude to make a solid battle plan for the day. If you’re seriously guilty of this, it can contribute to not only a losing day, but a bad attitude for the next day and another losing afternoon.

You should know EXACTLY what races you might bet in if your horse looks physically OK and goes down to the start well, but as far as the rest of the card goes, it should be a pass! Simply going to the meeting and “winging it” through a 6 race card is a sure path to financial ruination and/or the fuelling of a losing streak if done on a continuing basis!


How reliable is the info you use everyday? If using the Racing Post or a derivative thereof such as Raceform Interactive etc. to get the best racing information that you can buy you are at no distinct disadvantage. However, if you use private services you better be “dead sure” that the “alleged” inside information is not only valid, but available solely thru the source from which you make your purchase.


I’m as guilty of this as anyone although over the years it occurs with much less frequency that it did 30 years ago when I was still a bit unsure of myself. It happens when you quickly lose your first 2 bets and it could be through no fault of your own—-such as running trouble of your selection like getting blocked, steadied etc. Feeling distraught and knowing that your betting is solid, you plough through the rest of the card that you initially had no intention of betting when you walked into the betting shop.

Over 99 % of the time, you only “compound the felony” and further deplete your betting bankroll before the day’s end. You’re playing “their game” where you have no decided edge as you felt you did with your first 2 wagers.

If you lose your “designated” races for the day, that’s it!!! There is always tomorrow. Your head will be much clearer and you’ll have accepted yesterday’s losses as part of the game and hopefully some kind of a learning experience. To keep on pressing on losing days invites self-destruction!


There is nothing wrong with changing your mind on the day of racing, I do it occasionally, but there is ALWAYS a very valid reason for it. For example, if a horse really drifts in the betting market, I’ll pass him if he was my selection the night before. There’s no compromise here. I know some drifters do win but it is not exactly a good sign is it?

If you change your mind on a daily basis, you’re courting a long losing streak because decisions made under stress and without real thought are usually wrong ones – at least for me! So if my last night selection fails to pass muster, I’ll pass the race 98% of the time unless another horse is so compelling visually, or was my second choice in the race and is being backed heavily, that he literally takes my breath away!


Once in a great while I’ll ask a horse to run too far, or too short, or over the wrong surface, but I’ll have a damn good reason for doing so. If I’m betting on a race at a mile and a quarter and the pedigree says only a mile, I’m asking for it on the chin wishing for that extra 2 furlongs of stamina to suddenly materialize!

When you ask for more from any horse than he’s offered before, he MUST have a “decided edge” over his competition. For example, to expect an all weather horse with an all weather pedigree to win on the all weather is normal. To expect him to transfer that all weather ability to the grass WITHOUT a solid turf pedigree, with no previous good turf form under his belt, is usually nothing more than wishful thinking!


I speak from experience on this one I have to admit and not taking heed of this rule can easily undo weeks if not months of sensible betting. You can bet too big stakes as your bravado and false confidence takes hold and you WILL chase losses, often until all your bank has gone. Sure, enjoy a beer or two after the racing, hopefully using your winnings to pay for it but please don’t even consider a drink whilst at the races or in the Bookmakers.


The best way to learn about yourself along with your strengths and weaknesses is by keeping track of each and every bet for at least a year or a series of 300 bets. Over this time period, you’ll discover things that you never knew existed in your daily play.

For example, as a teenager in the 70’s, I won 3 times as many non handicap races as I did handicap races. It prompted me to become a lifetime student of non handicaps to this very day. I feel much more at home in these races and my subsequent profits prove this point year after year.

Keep a record of type of race, number of runners, the price you take when placing the bet, the jockey (pro or apprentice) and any other factor that can help show where you bet best.

If you take the time for self-examination, you’ll not only break the losing habit, you’ll be well on your way to REALLY LEARNING how to win and win consistently!


Ian Welch

Creator and owner of Inform since 2003, I have over 30 years of racing and betting experience to share. Speed ratings are my main passion whilst updating the website and writing the odd blog post keeps me busy and hopefully other users well informed.

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