The Mastermind

Luke is a 37 year-old Victorian – a country raised, public educated, middle class raised child who has grown up to be a successful punter and Betfair trader – who could possibly be my betting saviour. And yours!


Then again, I know I lack the discipline, as you may well do. He does not.

At the very least, he offers considerable sage advice on strategy and approach, which is worth consideration even for those of us who might lack the will power to immerse ourselves in it.

I have long felt there has always been one critical factor missing – for me – when it comes to doing the form and attempting to win on the punt. That is crystal clear thinking.

I’ve wanted to meet the Dalai Lama, the De Bono or the Einstein of the punt. Someone to advise me that I’m thinking straight – that I’ve mastered lateral and critical thinking and deductive reasoning.

To ensure that I have not committed the cardinal sin of science. To have come up with a conclusion and then geared the experiments (in this case, the form study) to justify it.

Nor do I want any horse racing betting approach to be entirely ratings based or to be guided by someone who is preoccupied with one strategy only in attempting to unravel the complex pursuit.

Luke seems to have the balance about right. While most of us fail in the three critical prerequisites to any pursuit – capital, research and discipline – Luke is convincing when he talks of gradually building capital, constantly refining your research and genuinely committing to improving what you do and how you do it.

Without sounding the slightest bit ‘wacky’. Had he been, I would have tuned out. I didn’t.


Rules to live by, bet by, and invest by

1. Your post session review should be as important as your pre-session form. How can you improve if you don’t review the decisions you made leading into, and during each betting session?

  • Be critical of your form and wagering decisions. Create a list of self-rating categories – emotional control, integrity of effort, bet sizing and so on. Doing this will help shift your focus from the result to the process.
  • The process of self-rating will also aid in your wagering becoming more challenging and enjoyable. It doesn’t matter how good a punter you are, you will make mistakes – the problem for most punters is that they don’t know what they are doing wrong so can’t correct their shortcomings.

2. Punters need to become more self-aware

Understand their strengths and weaknesses and where they sit in the wagering ecosystem. You must be able to articulate your edge on the market. You need only one angle to be better than the next punter.”

3. Consistency is a key

Everyone can make a good bet from time-to-time. The key is to make more good bets and less bad bets (it is inevitable we will make some).

  • Firstly, patience through a days betting session. You cannot create bets if they are not there. Often your best play is to stay patient saving your bullets for another day. You need to wait for them to come to you. Consider a ‘sniper’ type approach rather than a machine gun approach, Stay patient – as the saying goes, emotions come and go, but steamed off money is gone forever. “

4. Have patience growing your bankroll.

It really doesn’t take too long to grow a smaller bankroll into something substantial if you stick to your plan. If you harbour ambitions to become a professional, thirty years from now, what will it matter if it took you an extra three to five years to reach your wagering goals? I used an adaption of the ‘Kelly Criterion’ to build my bankroll.

  • Your bet size should be in relation to your estimated edge on the market – bet up more when your edge is greater and you can bet more safely the greater your assessed probability of a horse winning is.
  • When I started, I bet more aggressively. As my bankroll grew, I reduced my risk tolerance as I wished to eliminate the possibility of tapping out during a downswing. To help with your bankroll management, use online betting simulation programs to give you an excellent idea of what you can expect given certain staking parameters.”

Embrace the Basics

Luke also embraces the basics in terms of learning and behaviour which most of us would dismiss as too hard, too consuming or too boring.

“Do all the simple things such as eating clean, exercising and sleeping well,” he says.

“Set process oriented goals,’’ he adds. OK, that’s the sort of contemporary jargon that we can easily recoil from but really, it’s straightforward.

I like the focus he places on learning and reading. Can you be bothered? Probably should be.

“There are many good poker books related to mental conditioning/emotional control.  The information is directly transferable to wagering. The Mental Game of Poker by Jared Tendler is a good place to start.

“And all punters would be well served studying behavioural finance – a field pioneered by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.  A classic publication is ‘Judgement Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases’,” he said.

“Or at least watch some of the clips on YouTube,” he adds. Sounds more like a softer option I would take up.

Getting back to my initial struggles, Luke does emphasise the ‘clear thinking’ aspect and ‘putting in’ during a betting session. “Get in the moment – work on having a clear and uncluttered mind so you can get the best out of your effort.  Work hard – don’t get lazy just because it is wagering,” he said.

“Working that bit harder may not be sexy but it’s about what the punter wants or needs and there’s obvious benefits whether you’re an aspiring pro or a recreational punter.

“And if you’re serious, you have to work on emotional control and confidence in your approach. I use a mental performance coach, who has worked with everybody from high profile athletes to poker players, and I might have a session a month with him, which I find extremely valuable. It’s all part of trying to constantly improve what I do,’ he said.


Betting Strategy

Luke’s emphasis is on finding an edge when it comes to his betting strategy.

In addition, what appeals to me in his approach, is that there is a significant subjective element to his final judgement after his well-modelled ratings have been run. “I find the more time I spend on a race manually, the better the result but there has to be some level of structure to the subjectivity,” he said.

As to the nitty-gritty, Luke says he would generally rate the jockey and the horse’s fitness as two factors he would weight above others. “Identify what you think is important and what’s time effective. For instance, I’m not big on the trials as the opportunity cost is too great in terms of the time involved compared to what else I could be doing with that time,” he said.

“The significance of jockeys cannot be ignored. As is the case with any other sport, some are better than others are. In Queensland, for example, I would argue that Jeff Lloyd’s balance and rhythm gives him an edge over most of his rivals at the moment,” he said.



More from the gospel according to Luke

  1. I don’t know of any of the world’s most successful syndicates/punters who don’t have jockey as the most important variable. It is also a variable where there is still a strong edge in for those who can accurately assess jockeys. There are two reasons for that…
  • The jockey has a much greater impact on the performance of a horse than what most punters believe. Tactics are, of course important. However, even more important is the balance and rhythm of a jockey. This isn’t as easy for the recreational punter to gauge.
  • The jockey is one of the most elementary of form factors. Even your rawest recreational punter factors in the jockey. Public perception heavily influences the market. However, the public often get the jockey ability incorrect opening up profitable betting angles.
  1. Speed maps are more important than most believe. Aim to back runners settling closer to the pace. Look deeper into the form than simplistic statistics such as records in going, distance, track, jockey on the horse etc. These are mostly often over-played.”

The Betfair Market

In terms of the markets, Luke says ‘wait’. “Even in the form process, look at the markets last…which is hard. I would advise ignoring the markets, until late Friday, for a Saturday meeting. Generally, I believe it’s counterproductive to bet early.

“However, I’m not going to discourage the smaller, recreation punter from betting early if he has a firm opinion and perceives early value. But the later the market the more accurate overall assessment and the Betfair race day market is sharpest of all but not infallible so you can still get an earn from the exchange.

“I do put a lot of effort into reading markets and trying to understand how punters, at large, are thinking. It’s not always as simple as what’s backed and what’s played. I liked Kenedna in the Vanity at Flemington but the market was hard against it that day,” he said.


Familiarise yourself with The Betfair Exchange

“I think all punters must become comfortable with the exchange Betfair. It is such a key tool in the wagering process. It is a fantastic platform to get a bet on as Betfair affords punters flexibility in their wagering decisions.

“You can back at what is often an inflated price in relation to other outlets. You have the flexibility to oppose runners by laying.

“It is possible to make money through trading. A greatly underutilised method on Betfair is boosting your odds through sharp trading. For example, you wish to bet $100. You have a firm opinion the market will shorten. You match $200 at 3.0 on the exchange and manage to lay $100 at the bottom of the market at 2.5. You end up with your $100 on at effective odds of 3.492 rather than 3.0. That is the equivalent to creating a 16% edge! That can really add up over the course of a year.”

Luke also strikes a chord with me in that he has faith in racing. “I think the game’s very clean, simple as that,” he said. Hallelujah to that.

And, of course, if we start from that premise that is fundamentally clean we can then certainly trust our data. Now it is just a case of getting the mind right.

Therefore, on Luke’s advice; I’m off to walk around the block before I do the form on the next. I’m going to pledge to read every book ever written on gambling, as he did from the beginning, and remind myself that every edge will eventually diminish.


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