Belief and Disbelief

Belief and Disbelief

There is a hurdle that every unsuccessful handicapper must get over in order to finally become profitable in this game – and it’s a high one – a biggie.

It has nothing to do with your actual handicapping, or the particular method or approach that you use (as long as your method is based on viable factors).

It has to do with your most basic beliefs . . .

Answer to yourself this question:  When you lose a wager, do you ever feel any of the following:
– discouraged
– disappointed
– bummed out
– ticked off

Many players often feel one of those (or similar) – but why is that?  Some will say, “It’s only natural – I want to win!”  – or – “Obviously – I don’t like losing money,” etc.  Yes – unfortunately some form of negative reaction is a natural response – but again, why do we respond that way?

I think it’s because players constantly forget the most basic law of horse racing: Anything can happen in a horse race. After doing our pre-race prep – after all our in-depth handicapping (or maybe not-so-in-depth?!), we actually believe that we will win the next race.  And we trust in this belief – to the point of being perplexed – even surprised when we lose. 

The problem is that we forget the reality of probabilities: the outcome of the next event (race) has nothing to do with the outcome of the previous event, nor indeed with any factor ‘known’ to us.

Because the average player refuses to admit he doesn’t have any advantage at all in the next individual race – he gets discouraged when the wager in that race is lost (especially when by a short nose!).

The solution (for your peace of mind as well as for your bankroll) is to truly realize there are unknown (and unknowable) variables that can affect the outcome of any horse race.

YET . . . there are successful professionals in the game.  How can this be if the results of the next race are unknowable – and this is also true for each ‘next’ race into the infinite future?!

The answer to this paradox is the basis of  ‘probabilities.’  

Though you have no edge whatsoever in the ‘next’ individual race – you can have an overall edge on the game over the next 100 or 1000 races.  In this dichotomy you must have solid confidence – to the point that you never go ‘on tilt’ because of any individual, or short-term group of outcomes/wagers.

If you’ve ever been to a casino – then you know this is truth.  The entire industry is based on the profits that stem from a small edge multiplied over repetitions through time.  And a casino very rarely gets upset, or worried about any individual ‘roll,’ ‘spin,’ or ‘pull’ – no matter how much they stand to lose on the result of that individual event.

My advice is to verify your advantage . . . and this may take awhile – perhaps hundreds of races, or even thousands.

(But – I’d start with 20 or 30 races, and begin to make tentative assumptions with the results of those – continuing to tweak and fine-tune while always maintaining accurate records of each new tweak – versus the ‘control.’)

Then – when you have established a long-term edge of any kind – make it your firm and unshakable belief that the ‘next’ race result is of zero importance to your total game.

If you want to progress beyond the “gambler” mode – you need to become a bit of a “Stoic.”  Don’t be the “thrill-seeking,” “juice,” “bragging rights” kind of player.

Be satisfied with establishing a small edge (and then seek to increase the number of repetitions) . . . the entire multi-billion dollar casino industry has been built on that very premise.


As always – comments are welcomed.                           – Gary / Horse Racing Gold




  1. Gambler’s fallacy: Expecting long term probability to manifest itself in the next race (or in a very short series of events, as in one card). N’est-ce pas?

    • Dave – Vous avez tout à fait raison. Which is why this is a game of patience and psychology – how to react to the inevitable disappointments – how to ignore that smirk the ‘racing gods’ always seem to have on their faces (!?). It’s a constant game of tag with Murphy (he of the ‘bleeping’ Law), so learning how to capitalize gains and minimize losses is key. The majority of the time we’re just ‘chopping’ around – waiting for the next streak (positive or negative). – Gary

      • Good one, Gary. I had to look that up. I don’t speak French, but I know a phrase or two. My Spanish is limited to “Una cerveza por favor.” And during a losing streak my English is not repeatable in polite company.

      • Dave – Can I suggest widening your Spanish (at least your bar Spanish) to include “otra” and “mas.” That helps –
        especially after one of those losing streaks! 🙂 – Gary

  2. I’m not at all surprised that this topic generated far fewer comments than most posts.

    Telling. 🙂

    Keep up the good work.

  3. Good article Gary. Really it’s the old…..short term vs. long term thinking. It’s impossible to over estimate how important this is. I’m constantly amazed at how many players are going from race to race….that’s how far their thinking goes…..”long term” means the 9th race…:) These are the same people who really seem to think it’s impossible to profit in handicapping horses…AND refuse to believe you if you say you are. You are lying???
    I sometimes wonder why they bother. The game is tough…..but if your thinking is clear, and you have an edge, and remember to think long term… can ….and is currently being….beat. believe it or not!
    Thanks Gary

    • Joe – Appreciate the comments – you are right on.

      The thing that constantly amazes me is that the same guys and gals who have been successful in their business lives – and this success attained ONLY because of hard work, and serious, consistent application of skills that were hard-won over many years . . . somehow hold onto a fantasy that success in handicapping and betting the races can be had by sloppy, half-assed, mis-application of a deficient skill set with little or no self-dicipline. (!! was that last sentence long enough?!).

      The average situation is that novice handicappers (and one can still be a novice even after 20 years in the game!) con themselves into thinking they gave it a good shot – and because they weren’t successful, believe others aren’t either. The truth is that they never even came close to giving it the same shot/commitment they gave their profession, business, or job. Thus the statistic that only around 5% of all players make any profits in this extremely challenging game.

      – Gary


  1. Odds | - [...] posts back ( – I discussed the fallacy in believing that the next race would be a win –…

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