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Discipline and Gambling. Not that again?

Published: Feb 24, 5:02pm Last Updated: Jul 21, 1:01pm martinr on Strategy 23 Comments 9113 Views

The subject of discipline in regards to gambling has been covered before. 

I don't know if I can add to what's out there on the issue but for my first blog, I'd like to look at something that I feel very strongly about.

For some people of course the issue of discipline just isn't a factor. 

Discipline and Gambling


Recreational punters every day spend a few quid on games of chance where the odds are stacked against them, such as lotteries, without a second thought. 

You need to always have the odds in your favour, our value betting article has information on this subject. 

Sports fans will play the Pools or the Placepot or Jackpot on Saturday with no thoughts or concerns about discipline, or the terrible value they are receiving from the true odds! 

Responsible Gambling

The recreational punters are not the people who are targeted by the responsible gambling messages, but they also aren't the type of people who are likely to be reading this.

This is primarily a betting site, and to be reading this you are likely serious about gambling for profit.

The rewards are there for anyone who has the discipline to only bet when they have the edge. 

Unfortunately though, anyone seeking to make money from gambling has to rely on a lack of discipline from other punters. 

The thing is, if all gamblers had the discipline to only bet when they were confident the odds were in their favour then bookmakers would soon go out of business., bookmakers rely on the all too human weakness that is a lack of discipline.

I have empathy for punters who struggle with discipline because I've been there, done that, and still go back there.

 I'm not ashamed to admit my lack of discipline because I know I'm not alone, I don't intend to stop gambling because of it though. 

I'm convinced that self-discipline can be mastered and controlled, and a vital step on the way to that is facing up to it and recognising it for what it is; a basic and fairly common human weakness.

I think it's important to recognise that once a gambler has mastered the "art" of self-discipline then they will then be relying on the undisciplined behaviour of other gamblers for profit. 

That could, and probably should pose a bit of a moral dilemma. I don't want to ever be smug in the knowledge that I was benefitting through someone else's pain.

So what is a disciplined punter?

A disciplined punter only bets when they have an edge. Once they have found an edge, a reliable staking plan has to be found and adhered to.

It's pretty much that simple. 

Getting that edge takes hard work, and that in itself requires a certain amount of discipline, but finding that edge is the fun part. 

For me anyway, it's one of the attractions of gambling. Years of study and an insatiable appetite for the knowledge that's needed are the sorts of things that might be needed to get an edge. 

All good stuff as far as I'm concerned. Maybe there's a great tipster that has a proven profit record over a long period that can be followed, but personally I prefer to find that edge through my own study.

The staking plan is equally as important as the selection system, and this requires equal discipline in practice. 

A lot of gamblers find spread-sheets indispensable for staking. Set and forget spread-sheets are a great tool for recording bets and sticking to a staking plan. The recording of bets in itself is good practice.

What is my betting discipline problem ?

I have good intentions regarding discipline but I keep slipping up for these reasons!

1: Boredom. 

If my selection system doesn't have a runner in the next couple of races what the hell am I supposed to do when the race is on?

Discipline and Gambling

I think this is a pretty common problem a lot of gamblers have. They could spend ages finding 2 or 3 rock-solid chances on a race card and have every intention to back only those horses yet find they can't resist having a quid on another race while waiting.

If you're watching the race then why not try looking at it as a learning experience for the future, rather than as a betting opportunity now? If you're serious about making gambling pay then you need as much information as possible, and it is so much easier to view a race objectively when you're not focusing on the one or two runners that you have backed.

In fact it's possible that the only races you should watch are those that you don't have a bet in. That might seem a cold and boring approach, but I'm sure it's an approach that bookmakers would rather you didn't take. It removes a lot of the emotion that comes with watching your money go around.

I deal with boredom by constantly looking for an edge. Studying form, trainer and jockey profiles, watching race replays (a massive help for me but a data muncher through my iPad), looking for patterns and trends, and browsing OLBG. 

2: Chasing losses.

This is a good one. How many times does the phrase "don't chase your losses" come up when looking for betting advice? It's not bad advice by any means. Chasing losses is the road to ruin, no doubt. 

Discipline and Gambling

But it's something that is so much easier said than done. The emotion that comes with a loss can trigger an urge to recoup immediately, and the best advice I can give to temper that urge is to have your betting bank completely separate from your living expenses. If you're betting with the petrol money or the phone bill money or the money set aside for the weekly night at the pub then there will be pressure to recoup a loss. 

You simply can't make rational betting decisions if you're stressing that the phone bill, or whatever, won't get paid this week if you lose.

For me, just putting aside a set amount to gamble with each week doesn't work. I have a lot of bets each week and I require a betting bank that will survive a long run of outs.

 Don't kid yourself that by putting 50 quid aside each week to lose is fine if you know from experience that you'll dip into other money once that's gone. 

Instead, consider having a break from gambling for a week or two and review your betting style. Bookmakers accept bets as low as 0.01 per line via the Internet, so a betting bank doesn't have to be huge to start with.

You have to find ways to take the stress out of losing. 

There are staking plans that require you to chase losses. They're referred to as "recovery" plans and I know there are people that operate these plans successfully. They will work for someone who has an unwavering belief in their selection system and knows they are getting the right odds for their selections. They're not for me, but I don't condemn them. 

They usually require very exact stake amounts from bet to bet and are best operated with the help of spread-sheets. They can possibly encourage disciplined gambling, but you need to be totally aware of the size of bets required during long losing streaks. Things can get stressful deep into a losing streak with these plans.

To work out roughly what sort of losing streak a selection system might encounter, multiply the odds of a single event occurring by seven. 

So if the true odds of Hayley Turner winning a race at Lingfield are 7/1 then allow for a losing streak of at least 49 (edited from 35, sorry). T

Things can get stressful around the halfway mark of a losing streak that long if using a recovery staking plan.

If your selections are the result of form study, race replay study, etc and are based on your own judgement, then there is probably a dent to the ego when you re wrong.

I reckon this might be a trigger to chase a loss as well. A loss is quickly and conveniently forgotten when followed by a winner. If the losses are adding up and the ego is taking lots of hits then the need for a winner could get bigger and bets are made on races that normally wouldn't be.

Basically, we have to learn to deal with losses when gambling. 

They're going to occur on a very regular basis and there is absolutely no way of avoiding that. 

Accepting a loss isn't easy for lots of people for a few different reasons. 

The best thing is to recognise why we have the urge to chase a loss and try to deal with it accordingly.

3: Overconfidence. 

This isn't as destructive as chasing losses, but falling into the trap of over-betting on something when on a winning streak is also a trait of the undisciplined gambler. 

Discipline and Gambling

It's a result of thinking we're the beneficiary of that strange concept called "luck" instead of realising that our win is simply a statistical inevitability and the result of any study we have put in before placing the bet. 

The horse we bet on has no logical knowledge of our individual circumstances and is definitely not going to stick his head out that extra inch to accommodate our "lucky streak".

There's a definite advantage in increasing our bet size as our bankroll increases, as a percentage of the bankroll. 

That's capitalising on the magic of compound interest, and if our selection system is profitable then the bankroll will benefit. But increasing the size of the bets just because we feel "lucky" is a gambler's weakness, and bookmakers love it.

There is simply no relation between one bet and another in regards to the chances of it winning or losing. 

A run of 10 losses doesn't mean that a win is any closer, and a run of 4 winners doesn't give the 5th bet a greater chance of being successful than it otherwise would be. 

Most people know this, yet for some reason, they will still increase their bets when on a run of winners. Logically, it's not a sensible practice.

There are various strategies to help with discipline and one that might be scoffed at by some people is meditation. Having a clear mind when punting can only be of benefit, and there are various meditation techniques that help to focus the mind.

The most important thing is to recognise if discipline is an issue. It is for me and I'm determined to master it so I can enjoy my gambling and make it profitable.

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