The Importance of Your Punting Mindset

In my experience, successful betting is 65% psychological and 35% technical.

The psychological side of betting is greatly under-estimated by the average punter, but that’s where the battle is won and lost.

The battle begins with making sure you approach the game with the right mindset.

What is the right mindset?

Your mindset will shape your beliefs about racing and betting, which in turn drives your pattern of thinking, which creates your actions as a punter and then reactions to whatever happens.

Mindset can be your greatest strength as a punter, but also, paradoxically, your greatest weakness.

Of all the successful punters I know, no two approach the technical side of the game in the same way (i.e. form study, betting decisions etc.) but they all share incredibly similar traits when it comes to their mindset.

So, what is the right mindset?

The best way I can think of to summarise what the right mindset is to have as a punter would be:

“To keep an open mind and think in terms of probability”

There are no absolutes

Too many punters view racing with a closed mind and rigid beliefs. They think in terms of absolutes or black and white, rather than probability.

That manifests itself into thoughts such as:

“This thing is a certainty”

“That horse has no chance”

“I can’t possibly see this horse missing a place”

“This horse can’t run the distance”

“There’s no way it can win from that barrier”

There are many others…

They develop strong opinions off limited evidence or flawed theories and only notice things that confirm those beliefs, while ignoring everything else. They don’t leave their mind open to alternative theories, learning and growth.

They can’t believe it when something unexpected happens and often think there is some conspiracy theory about a race, horse, trainer, jockey etc to explain it.

The problem with this type of mindset is that it sets you up to become endlessly frustrated as a punter. It impacts your betting decisions and prevents you from reaching your potential.

Racing is chaotic and unpredictable by nature. There are no absolutes or certainties.

The horse that looks like it can’t possibility miss a place will miss a place a certain percentage of the time.

Horses that seem unbeatable at $1.20 do get beaten, more often than you think (about 20% of the time in fact.)

Horses that appear to have no chance of winning do win a percentage of races and will sometimes beat the fancied horse you backed. That longshot may never win another race in their career, but chose this particular day to pull out a fluke performance and beat you!

Horses that have failed numerous times on wet ground in the past can win on wet ground at their next start. Horse’s that have an outstanding wet track record do fail in the conditions sometimes.

Horses that are seemingly drawn well in barrier 3 or 4 will get caught wide a certain percentage of the time.

Fast beginners can hopelessly miss the start.

How you react is the key

Perfectly logical speed maps can end up looking nothing like the eventual settling positions in a race, not because one or more jockeys are deliberately trying to lose, but simply because there are no guarantees when 10+ horses jump out of the barriers.

Races that look to have no speed on paper can end up run at a very fast pace and vice-versa.

A horse can lose due to nothing more than a bad ride, being desperately unlucky in the run, getting injured and even throwing the jockey.

You can lose 10 photo finishes in a row, have a winner disqualified after weighing in light, lose a protest that looked no chance of being upheld… the list goes on.

Being able to effectively handle and process these types of events is big part of the psychological battle in punting.

If you don’t have the right mindset, they can destroy you.

The key is to open your mind and accept the unpredictable nature of racing and betting.

It doesn’t matter how confident your views are, there is never a guarantee that something will happen. Even something you couldn’t possibly expect to happen will happen a certain percentage of times.

When something unexpected or unfavourable does occur, you can’t afford to react like the punting gods have cursed you and that you are the unluckiest punter in the world. Even if it seems like it ‘always’ happens to you.

That is a victim’s mentality, it’s not the mindset of a winner.

The Greek philosopher Epictetus is quoted in his teachings as saying “it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

That’s especially true in punting. Expect that a certain percentage of the time you will be totally on the wrong end of things that couldn’t possibly have been predicted. That’s the nature of betting and we all experience it.

Successful punting is not about avoiding those things, that’s impossible. It’s about how you react to them.

Having the right mindset doesn’t mean you don’t get frustrated or have any reaction at all. It means that you learn to process those things, put them into the context of the uncertainty of racing and move on without carrying that baggage into your future betting decisions.

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