Indecision Paralysis

Indecision Paralysis

Indecision . . .

What causes it? Why is it sometimes such an overwhelming feeling?

Of course, if you’ve just lost several wagers in succession, and see the bankroll diminishing fairly rapidly – then it seems almost a natural response. 

Nature has evolved to protect us in this way. It’s why we’ve survived and flourished as a species – because we think about things that cause us pain, and tend to avoid those things in the future.

But – digging deeper – I think there are three important things going on here – primary things that can lead to inconsistent wagering, and lowered bottom-line profit . . .

We are involved in a game that pounds (and confounds) us with information overload. This is why I think players like the ‘black-box’ answer (other than the time-saving) . . . so that they don’t need to deal mentally with so much information.

One might think lots of information would be a good thing – right?  But the result of having access to all that information very often leads to what’s been termed, “analysis paralysis.” Rather than clarifying – after considering all the many factors for which we have stats and information, we are beset with ever more possibilities, ‘what ifs,’ and alternative scenarios.

Then – if we make a decision (make a wager) – lose – and then later can plainly see that we focused on the wrong thing in making that decision (for that particular race), and it’s obvious that the winner was right there in front of us – if only we’d put more weight on that ‘other’ factor we’d seriously considered . . .

This, of course, can lead to self-doubt – especially since the brain seems to recall those “bad beats” and “bad decisions” far more readily than it remembers the good decisions.

And self-doubt leads to hesitation and indecision.


So how does a bettor overcome this inclination that seems to be almost second-nature?

Let’s look at it in the light of using a particular handicapping method – whether one of Horse Racing Gold’s, or one of your own, or a synthesis. 

I have always suggested:  Test a method on paper first.

Now – paper tests always have a way of turning out better than real-money wagering, but that is where to start. You get a “feel” for it – you tweak a little bit here and there (which by-the-way then requires a new testing phase to compare the tweak to your ‘control’ – the method as originally given). You gain a conviction that the potential is there.

Next – begin real-time betting at a ‘light-bet’ level. This allows a bit more ironing-out, and conviction and skill both gain in strength.

. . . After the player has a decent real-money test under his belt at this lower bet level, he can move to a regular campaign-level approach – using full bankroll and appropriate bet amounts.

What will have happened during this process?

  •  The player will have made the method “his own.”
  •  She will have gained the strength of her convictions, and be willing and able to pass through tough streaks and bad beats – without wavering, or
    falling into indecision, and ‘trigger-finger paralysis.’
  •  He will be willing to live or die with his decisions (and happily – we are participating in an event where this is not literal!).

So – I guess I could close by offering a summation . . .

Cinch it up, and then let ‘er rip!!


– Gary


  1. Gary, I’ve been paper testing many fairly simple systems that I’ve come up with over the past several years. Depending on the number of playable races for each system, I end up with 250-500 races to evaluate for the amount of data I have. For systems with 500 race samples, I’ve achieved up to 20% ROI (win betting). For other systems with smaller sample sizes (150-250) I’ve achieved up to 50% ROI. Obviously this gets me excited but I’m wondering what you consider to be a reasonable sample size for paper testing? I realize that a successful set of 250-500 races may just be a blip on the screen over a long period of say 5000 races and therefore misleading. I’m sure this is a consideration when testing your products. Is there anything you can share? I enjoy your web site and the products I’ve purchased.

    • Rich – The number of races that provide a “valid” and projectable test is a subject of much controversy. I do not agree with those that use figures like 10,000 races, or even 5000 races.
      I handicap a lot of races everyday (4 to 5 days a week) – and to run a 10,000 race real-time test with small test wagers would take a couple of years minimum.

      If a player makes nothing but $2 to $5 test wagers for two years . . . ?! and then what? What if he discovers a ‘tweak’ during his testing that he thinks will improve the results – at around the end of the 1 yr mark?! Does he now begin again and test for an additional 2 yrs . . . just to “be sure.”

      Some “handicappers” use this kind of thinking as a way of avoiding risk, and really are then participating in the game as a hobby only.

      The average odds/pay you are getting plays an important part of course. The higher the average payoff your method produces – the longer the test needs to be in order to smooth the possible anomalies in the order and frequency with which these higher payoffs occur. However, if your average payoff is somewhat normal (whatever that is!) – say 7/2 – then a shorter test can be fairly accurate – enough to at least end the “toe-dipping” and go ahead and take an initial plunge.

      For the methods we release, I generally follow the same pattern. I back-test against the 500 to 600 most recent races that are in the HRG Index data base (actual races of public record released to our clients) – then run a 90 to 100 race real-time money test at a very low wager amount.

      If the real-money test verifies the back-testing results – then to my way of thinking – that’s good enough to go on with it.

      If others demand a longer test to feel more ‘assured’ that the stats will hold – then they can certainly do that. That’s part of what the post was getting at. We keep our methods priced fairly enough – about what the average player spends on all the extras (beer, food, programs, parking, gas, etc) in a single day at the track . . . that purchasing and researching them on one’s own (via the same process we use; back testing and a longer series of ‘test-level’ actual wagers) is absolutely the right thing to do. – Gary

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