Why Keep Records?

Punters often ask why the keeping of records is considered so important by professional bettors. The answer is simple. We learn much more from our failures in life than we do from our successes. Sometimes it’s because our failure is public, involving some degree of humiliation, which of course we never want to repeat. Sometimes it’s because our failure could be in a relationship (social, romantic, or business), where we experience emotional pain, or financial loss. In these and similar situations we tend to look deeply into what went wrong. If we’re honest, we will even seriously consider whether all or some of the failure was our own fault!

Let’s consider a person selling door-to-door, an occupation many consider to be very high-pressure. This person would have constantly to deal with this perception on the part of potential customers. One good way would be to imagine the roles reversed, and for the seller try to deal with the audience as they would like to be dealt with. Of course, sometimes no rapport can be struck which would facilitate a sale, despite initial prospects looking good. When this happens, naturally the missed income would be rued, along with what would appear to be wasted time. The time would indeed have been wasted had the seller simply (under their breath while leaving) called the prospect a “turkey”, or some other derogatory term frequently used by the sales fraternity to describe people who they can’t bend to their will.

A far better answer to this problem would be to replay the conversation mentally, the seller imagining re-phrasing their statements immediately before the sale went pear-shaped, and imagining also what the prospect might have said to those alternative propositions. This might need to be done repeatedly, trying to think of whatever the person might say to their blandishments. When they had something they thought might work better, they could try that on the next person who raised that objection. One problem here could be that there could be some lengthy period of time between encounters of this type, and the seller, not wanting to forget the new new Idea, and be caught wrong-footed when the situation was ‘live’ again, could introduce the prospects’ objection for them, in a conversational manner. They could then answer it in the manner of a third-person account of some other, previous discussion, at another time and place. This would transfer the perceived pressure away from the immediate prospect, showing that it had been satisfactorily dealt with for other prospects before. Using this methodology, the seller would be able to devise answers to almost every conceivable objection dogging that type of sales work, and could reasonably expect very few occasions where the prospects expressed the opinion that they felt pressured. This indeed is one of the methods used by successful salespeople. It is a truism in the sales business that

“There is no substitute for knowing what you are going to say!”

The point I’m making here is that this work involves recording things. How many appointments are there each day, how many doors have to be knocked to get those, how many sales result, the financial profit from each, how many days in a row produce sales, and so on. But the most important thing by far, is

“The seller accepting the fact that when the sale fails, it is usually their fault.”

Of course, sometimes there is no reasoning with certain people, or they simply lie about their reasons for not buying; but even in those cases, it can still be found that it pays to consider how it could have been done better. Over time, using this strategy, a steady improvement in sales statistics, as well as a decline in the amount of stress (a common commission salespersons’ experience), can be expected.

Hopefully, you can see the parallel nature of this situation, with that of punting. We could, when a horse we’ve bet on fails to do what we want, blame the animal, the jockey, the trainer, the weather, the stewards, etc, etc. But what good does that do us? It is far better to start by assuming that perhaps our analysis was wrong (even if it was not), since that will lead us some way towards a refinement.

Punters who don’t keep records normally have no idea how many bets they have, or what the proportions of each type of bet are to each other. Once we start keeping records, we discover that some bet types are more profitable than others. This enables us to adjust our approach, resulting in (theoretically at least) a much better strike rate and POT. Eventually, we move towards our goal of a method which will be profitable.

This process is only possible if we keep detailed records of every one of these bets. Without that information, there is no way of knowing which selections are consistent performers, and which could be profitably excluded. When we start this process we often surprise ourselves, when analysis reveals that areas which we’d thought useful, were in fact a drain on the process. Of course, the time spent gathering and recording the information might seem like work to some folk, but if such activity leads to something we want, it’s worth it.

Part of this recording process involves analysing results by comparing what would have happened if different staking methods had been used. This means going over the same list at least several times (sometimes many more times), greatly adding to the time investment required. Again, that can seem like too much work for most punters, who, let’s face it, are betting because they want to get money quickly, without having to work hard for it!

Some of us may know punters who have lost tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars over many years. A frequent refrain from these types is the phrase:

“I like favourites”

When we point out that it’s a known statistical fact that it’s impossible to make money backing favourites (unless one has some detailed method of identifying so-called ‘false favourites’ from the ones which do win often enough to guarantee a profit), these types usually shrug their shoulders and say:

“Well, how are you supposed to do that?”

We then point out that it is indeed impossible, unless one records and analyses the results of every bet, and that it is most likely that they choose favourites because they represent the work of thousands of other punters’ selection processes, which they are either too time-poor or lazy to replicate for themselves. It’s a fairly safe assumption that many, if not most favourite backers, make the same error, which would go a long way towards establishing the dismal success rate of favourites, which hovers between the 30-33% range.

However, even with such a poor return rate, there are people who do profit from backing favourites, but they have detailed selection processes, and cleverly-constructed staking plans, to overcome the inevitable runs of outs, which are an unavoidable hazard in horse racing.

In summary, the extra work we can choose to undertake can provide the bonus of knowing we’re succeeding at something where 98-99% of punters fail; making a long-term profit. Most punters bet for many years of their lives. Even long-term losers, if their habit isn’t out of control and they do it basically for fun, enjoy their occasional good wins. But if a punter wants to bet for a long time, why not plan to be a long-term winner? It’s a lot more fun. And as an added bonus, fun usually ceases to be regarded as work…

Experience has shown that it can be great fun to face the challenge of confronting a pile of apparently inscrutable statistics, and unravelling the paths (there are many) to a successful series of punts.

If we ever get the chance to see a professional punter in action (an example of which was shown on TV some years ago), we’ll be struck by how they have everything written down in a book (or these days, it’s likely to be an iPad). These are people who are willing to bet up to a million or more in a year, and make 10-20% profit. It’s a safe bet they have more detailed records at home or in their offices. Whatever the methods employed, and there are many which can be successful, record keeping is the boss-stone in the arch keeping it all hanging together.