There are many reasons for betting on the gallops, not all
of them to do with money. Compared to sitting in a noisy, garishly lit casino
for instance, many people feel the racetrack is an enjoyable experience in
itself. The open air, the colours, the space to move around, the quaint
rituals of the on course bookies, the terminology, the excitement of the races
themselves, all these are things that contribute to the pleasure of the racing
Some people enjoy the release from the pressures of life, some
dream of striking it rich, others perhaps merely want to escape the spouse for
a while! The biggest motivation though, for most committed punters, is the money
side of it. The thrill of a big win is what makes it all worthwhile and they
obviously hope to come out ahead over time. Most don't. This is clear.
With bookies framing the market to somewhere around 110%, and the tote considerably
less generous, the pool originally contributed by punters is much bigger than
the pool from which they share the returns.
So is punting on the horses a mugs game, as you so often hear?
Not necessarily. This is because of the skill element. Gambling
pastimes can be divided into two types, those requiring skill and those where
the returns are fixed. A game like Roulette is a good example of one with fixed
returns, as is Lotto. You can vary the way you select your numbers as much as
you like but there is no 'good' or 'bad' way to bet, your expected returns are
always the same.
However, certain games like casino Blackjack require decisions
which do affect your expected returns. There is a skill element to them. Games
which have a fixed expected return are generally bad to play because you cannot
win in the long run. Your statistical disadvantage will gradually grind you
down even if you are lucky enough to start out ahead for a while. So whilst
some of these games seem reasonable for the punter in that the statistical disadvantage
is only small, in reality these are the true 'mugs games' as you ultimately
Gambling pastimes involving skill can further be divided into
two categories, those where you are competing against the house and those where
you are competing with your fellow punter. The latter are more common and represent
the best chance the skilled punter has to come out in front over the
Very common are totalisator type situations, where people
are encouraged to bet on the result of something, usually a sporting event,
and the house simply acts as a middle man, laying off one bet against another.
If you take 10-1 on a certain tennis player to win Wimbledon, the bet is being
balanced by other punters who preferred to back someone else. Sportsbook, or
whoever the middle man is, does not have to worry about what the real odds should
be, as long as they get enough punters disagreeing with each other to balance
their book. Naturally their book always adds up to over 100% and therein lies
Some brave gaming houses like Ladbrokes will
take bets that cannot easily be offset, on things like whether aliens will have
landed on earth by the year 2050, but the odds they offer in such cases are
extremely conservative. (At least in my opinion!)
It is the bookie and totalisator type situations which, although
they are usually framed to well over 100% and appear very ungenerous, actually
offer the punter a chance to get the edge. This is because such a large
number of people bet on events with a skill element, without having a reasonable
degree of skill. Why is this the case? I don't know, but it may have something
to do with the average IQ of the general public. Actually, that is perhaps a
little harsh. There are reasons why people may choose to bet on something requiring
knowledge they do not really have.
Firstly, harking back to the opening paragraph of this article,
they may particularly like a certain gambling activity for reasons not related
to monetary returns. The atmosphere and excitement of racing events could be
a reason. Another classic case in Australia is football betting, where loyalty
to particular clubs gets in the way of reason. Fans who only follow the game
in a generalised sort of way may like to bet on their team as a show of loyalty,
perhaps not even waiting for final team selections.
This is where the well informed punter can make some money.
If your level of knowledge or skill is sufficiently above that of the average
bettor, you can offset the percentage removed by the house and still have something
left over. This is where the professional stockmarket speculators, sports punters
and racing punters slot in. They know their particular game so well that
they are willing to sacrifice the house percentage, knowing that their edge
over the remaining players is greater than that amount.
How do the gallops stack up for this kind of activity? Quite
well. There are a very large number of poorly informed punters in the
gallops market. The strange prices you sometimes see on the Tote are testament
to this. Also, walk around any racetrack or into any TAB and you will see many
tickets being good naturedly torn up by people who are not really there to win,
they are there to enjoy themselves. They expect to lose, and of course they
usually do. Melbourne's spring carnival, especially it's showpiece Melbourne
Cup, brings these happy-go-lucky punters out of the woodwork in droves. Millions
of dollars are bet by people who wouldn't know a fetlock from a dreadlock.
Where do you fit in? I can't answer that question. However,
you are on the internet doing research, so it's a fair bet you take your punting
more seriously than the average person. Maybe you already have the knowledge
built up over years of following the racing game to offset the bookies take
and possibly even make a bit extra. If so, good.
The difficulty lies in the fact that even with very good general
knowledge about the gallops, if you are making a living in some other area it
is very hard to fit in the immense amount of research, replay watching, analysis,
information gathering and other preparation needed to be really top notch. This
is why we do not dismiss out of hand the services that charge for professional
market framing. If such a service is good (a big if) and the amount paid
for its information is only a small percentage of your total turnover, in
some cases it may be well worthwhile.
In summary, gallops fits the criteria of being a gambling pastime
involving a high degree of skill, thus lending itself to professional punting.
The professional punter must have a high degree of knowledge and skill (or access
to same) in order to gain a sufficient percentage edge over the average bettor
to both offset the substantial 'house' take and still turn a meaningful profit
on both turnover and hours invested.
Overall, we recommend that if you do not have the time to be
fully professional yourself or alternatively find one of the rare good tipping
services, that you restrict yourself to extremely modest stakes, expect to lose
a little, and consider that loss as payment for your enjoyable outings to the
Footnote: Smartgambler's parent company OZmium Pty
Ltd, has acquired rating and information service Pro-Punter,
the best on the market. (See previous page) If you are considering a serious
foray into racing, pay them a visit. They are now the de facto racing section