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Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Hidden Cost Of Being A Professional Gambler

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Another gem from the Horseracing Pro. I feel I cannot stress the importance of temperament enough in these pieces. We can all find our own method of working, and of course, if we do not deliver the necessary quota of winners we will fail. But the reverse and perverse side of the coin is that it is possible to even exceed the required amount of winners selected but still lose owing to a basic character fault. Such a fault is not something to be ashamed of, it may mean some adjustment or it may mean you have to face facts and accept you are not cut out to be a professional gambler, in the same way as some people will never be actors or salesmen. One of life’s important lessons is to be comfortable in your chosen profession. If you are not you cannot expect to perform to your best and it is preferable to turn your attention to something that suits. 

For some reason, the attraction of being a professional gambler is a strong one for many and it traverses all walks of life. I have known lawyers and doctors who envied the lifestyle they perceived mine to be. I do find this strange, as I see nothing remotely glamorous in working seven days a week, hardly leaving the office in your house whilst being a virtual slave to what is happening at various venues throughout the country. It is not a relaxing way of life. Salesmen may be pressured five days a week, but have the luxury of leisure time at weekends. Professional gamblers have to poach time. Even in the summer, catching an hour or so in the garden is prone to an interruption by phone calls and even if it is not, you are somewhat on edge, waiting for the call that may never materialise.

Between races, you have to keep an eye on the clock. You mow the lawn at set times, aware that the first race is due from Sandown at 6.20 and you have one hour after the last at Nottingham to grab a bite to eat and lug the lawnmower out of the garage in no particular order.

Decide to escape for an afternoon to do some shopping or meet some friends for lunch and your eyes are constantly on the clock. Rarely does a day go by without you having to watch at least five or six races, in some cases because you have a vested interest. It is not a pursuit for those that wish to be part-timers. Put bluntly, if you have any friends outside racing, they will consider you a pain in the backside and they are not wrong. For you seem permanently preoccupied, which, sad to say, if you are doing the job properly, you will be.

Then there are the losing runs. The times when the expenses do not cease but the profits do – in fact, they become losses – so money going out piles up on top of money going out. During such a period, you are unlikely to be the life and soul of the party – that is if you are ever invited to one.

Expenses can be a killer in any business; but when profits are not guaranteed they become a millstone. It is therefore important to assess how you will react to the dark days that inevitably lie ahead. You may not actually be losing money – you may just not be making it – which is the position most people I know find themselves in now. Frankly, there is nothing to make it on. But the expenses keep tapping through the letterbox like the bailiff at the door. Imagine that scenario when you are losing, and you have an idea of the constitution needed to make a success of this business.

Firstly, you must have a bank and it must be large enough to withstand the bad times. Once you start to fret about a depleted bank balance, your attention is diverted and you are vulnerable. Making money at gambling is all about making the right decisions. I have tried in preceding articles to explain how I arrange my life so I am in a position to function at my best. To do this you have to be ruthless with yourself.

You will gain useful life-lessons, even if you discover this business is not for you. Firstly, you have to take a protracted look at yourself. Examine your make-up; what makes you tick; what you can cope with and what draws the sting out of your effectiveness for such a job that demands intense concentration. If you are the sort of person that is easily upset, this is probably not your game as there is plenty to be upset about from the minute you wake up to the minute you go to bed.

The Racing Post can be late for a start. If you have it delivered, either the little git responsible has contracted one of those ailments teenagers get constantly and has let the newsagent down; or, if you live outside London, it may not arrive at all because the van from Reading or Manchester has broken down.

The computer can freeze for no apparent reason. You are working from home so the cistern might have developed a leak, the car a flat, a panel of fencing blown over.

I know these things can happen when you have an office to go to, but somehow they never seem so bad when you are in someone else’s employ. At least you leave them behind when you are on the train. On the other hand, at worst you can take a day off to fix what is wrong or call in sick. When you work for yourself, such indulgences mean potential lost revenue that may not come your way again. The bricklayer can defer work, so can the mechanic; the professional punter may not get another chance to back a 20/1 winner for six months – if ever. Pressure is counter-productive as well as being a killer medically speaking.

We are all susceptible to pressure in its various forms. Where possible, get rid of it. Other people cause most of the pressure we experience, so a couple of basic rules: remove anyone from your life that is responsible. Those that contact you at inconvenient times or treat you as if you are some sort of premium rate telephone service they do not have to pay for, need ejecting from your life.

Plenty of people in this business feel compelled to talk before and after a race, rambling on about a jockey who came too soon or too late or a horse that failed to sustain his effort. If you allow it, they will use you as a refuse dump into which they can empty all their pent up feelings. You are not a social worker. I have been in this position with people that have been some use to me; but their nuisance factor outstripped their input. Even constant nudges followed by blunt rebuffs failed to change their attitude, rendering them lost causes. I am afraid it is no coincidence that most professional gamblers are either single, or have very long-suffering partners that are independent.

There is nothing you can do about the Racing Post, the flat tyre or the rest of the stuff that has, or is about to go wrong, but you can cultivate a kind of immunity to adversity by placing it into perspective. If you fail to cope with the prospect of a leaky cistern, imagine how easily you will fall apart when you lose heavily and have to write cheques for the privilege.

Expenses are the enemy. They are an army you know is out there, but you want to confront as few of them as possible. This business has changed over the past few years. I contend it is no longer necessary to subscribe to a formbook. Everything you need is on the computer and, if you have taken my advice about compiling your own points of reference as opposed to those of others, it is merely your opinion that counts and to an extent, you already have your own book of reference.

You do not necessarily need two phone lines unless you are especially active. Presumably, you will have a mobile as back up but, again, it does not have to be state-of-the-art technology. It does not have to download Coldplay’s latest album, take pictures or sing God Save The Queen. Do not get a contract, buy a basic Pay-As-You-Go phone for about £30 and keep it topped up. Keep chat to a minimum, particular at peak times and, as stated, get persistent babblers off your phone altogether.

You will need a basic Sky package in order to receive the racing channels. Resist the temptation to get the History Channel, The Movie Channel or Red Hot Mammas as extra because you will not have any time to watch that sort of stuff anyway.

The expenditure of the Racing Post comes to about £700 per annum. That should be your biggest outlay. But when you add that to the Sky package, the phones (which you should be able to get a deal on with either Sky or linked to AOL), backing horses is not a cheap way to attempt to make a living.

Nevertheless, looking on the bright side, you have no travelling expenses unless you wish to go racing, which I suggest is more of a social occasion than a business one. Even so, without the cushion of a ready-made wage, such expenditure, aside from day to day living costs, will stretch your budget at times when things are going badly. That is when you find out your limitations, and we all have them. I have already confessed that mine is a somewhat timid approach to betting once I am in front. People who thrive on gambling say you must press up when you are winning. Being more of a logical thinker, I tend to take the view I have used up a chunk of luck and should be extra careful, so I am cautious, not wishing to squander winnings. This is a perfect example of knowing yourself. All I know is that this is the right approach for me. The big hitters move in for the kill when they sense Lady Luck is riding on their shoulders, whereas I am more inclined to conclude that once I have broken through the percentage barrier, I am heading for a reversal in fortune. It matters not who is right: there is no right and no wrong, only what is right for you.

Selecting the right horses is only part of the complex plan of making a living. You still have to decide what to do with them, and of course the final paradox is that you only know they were the right horses after you know the results, by which time it is too late to do anything other than what you have done.