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Maintaining your expectations

Maintaining your expectations in line with the reality of betting is one of the most important mental aspects of punting.

Unrealistic expectations eventually lead to frustration and that’s a dangerous emotion when it comes to betting. When you are frustrated it makes it harder to think clearly and makes you more prone to haphazard and reckless betting decisions, which you later regret.

When you are regularly frustrated, it’s also easy to become disillusioned with the betting game. We’ve all been through it at different times in our betting journey.

One of the key expectations we need to manage as punters is our expectation of winning each bet that we place.

If you’re like me, you only bet when you are confident that the horse(s) you are backing will win… sounds obvious, doesn’t it? You might have varying degrees of confidence with each bet, but in your mind you expect to win or at least go close, that’s why you are betting in the first place.

However do you ever stop to reflect on what your actual winning chance on the bet is? In my experience most punters subconsciously overestimate their chances of winning a particular bet.

What is Your Winning Chance?

Your winning chance is best reflected by the price of the horse you back. If the horse you back is $5.00, then the price suggests your winning chance is likely to be anywhere from 19% to 24%… depending on the actual profit edge of the bet (19% = -5% edge while a 24% chance of winning would signify a +20% edge on the bet.)

If you think about your mindset when you watch a bet go around at this price, do you watch with an expectation that you are somewhere around a 20% chance of winning? I would bet that many punters expectation is at least double that (closer to 40%), if not more.

Let’s face it; you had enough confidence to bet in the first place so it’s natural that you would watch the race with a high expectation of winning, especially when your horse is near the top of the market.

The reality is though that you won’t win nearly as often as your subconscious expectation and that’s where the trouble starts.

Odds-on Horses

These short priced commodity’s have a unique effect on the mindset of punters. For some reason, many punters seem to believe that when a horse tips into the odds-on range, it’s obliged to win almost 100% of the time and when one does get beaten, it’s a major shock!

Backing a few odds-on losers in a row can see frustration quickly build and lead to illogical thoughts that odds-on horses are more difficult to profit from than others… that somehow the fact that the horse is odds-on has an extra negative influence on the its winning chance. I’ve never understood why punters view odds-on horses differently to others.

Consider a horse at $1.80… based on the price, you may expect these types of bets to win in the range of 52.7% to 61% of the time. If you have a 61% SR backing $1.80 chances then you are actually making close enough to 10% POT, which is an excellent result at that end of the market. It also means that close enough to 40% or 4 in 10 of your bets will lose. It shouldn’t be that much of a shock when a $1.80 chance is beaten.

It’s fair to say that when most punters watch a $1.80 chance go around they’re expecting it to win more like 70% to 80% of the time. They expect it should be a rarity to see a horse at this price get beaten, rather than expecting that over the long term it will lose at least 4 in 10 times.

What about at an even shorter price? If you are backing horses at $1.50 and have an excellent +12.5% profit edge, then you may be making money, but will still lose 1 in 4 bets.

Judging by my experience in seeing punter’s reactions when a $1.50 chance is beaten, their subconscious expectation of winning is significantly greater than 75%… perhaps closer to 95%, almost a certainty!

The conflict between such expectations and the reality of winning chances is a major source of frustration and disappointment for many punters

Longer Priced Horses

The importance of having realistic expectations about your winning chance is even more important when it comes to horses approaching $10.00 in the market and longer. The price suggests you have approximately a 1 in 10 chance of winning, yet most punters watch the race with a much higher expectation.

If I wrote a number between 1 and 10 down on a piece of paper and asked you to guess it, your expectation of success would almost certainly be lower than the $10 chance you last backed, but in reality the two are similar.

It’s likely that if I asked you to bet on guessing that number on the piece of paper, you would be much less confident and bet less than you did on the $10 horse racing chance.


The impact of unrealistic expectations becomes magnified when the inevitable nature of betting results in your experiencing a losing run.

If your expectation of success on each individual bet isn’t in line with reality, then a string of losses can spell disaster for your state of mind. Unfortunately that’s where many punters end up on a regular basis.

Maintaining Perspective

One of the keys to maintaining a healthy punting mind is to watch each race with a clear thought of your realistic winning chance and most importantly to keep the outcome in perspective.

If that $1.70 chance you back gets beaten, there’s no reason to curse all odds-on horses. Simply recognise that at least 1 in 3 at that price are likely to be beaten. If you win two out of three bets at $1.70 then you will show a profit.

Also recognise that even at $1.70 you can easily experience three, four or even more losers in a row. That’s what maintaining the correct perspective means.

Equally, when you back a $10 chance, recognise that regardless of how confident you are, the reality is that the odds suggest you only have a 10%-13% chance of success. Don’t get too disappointed or frustrated when a string of them are beaten. At this price you are likely to have significant losing runs, much longer than you subconsciously expect.

In Summary

There are no absolutes in betting, only probabilities. Having a good understanding of probability and what it means for your real chance of winning a bet is absolutely essential. It’s important that when you place a bet, you are consciously aware of your actual winning chance and watch the race with that in mind. The more effort you make to master this aspect of betting psychology, the more balanced your state of mind will be.

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