I wonder how many of you have, like me, fantasied about being a successful professional gambler of some sort? I mean – what a life! Fast cars, beautiful houses, great looking sexy partners, not having to go to an office every day – work in your pyjamas if you like! Well that’s the fantasy, but what of the reality?

Well, I think, like anything else in life really, you need knowledge of your subject and to learn the pitfalls before you get good at it. Take betting on horse events for example – where on earth do you start with something like that?

I mean, I like many others, in the past have restricted my horse racing gambling to an annual flutter on The Grand National. And usually my strategy for choosing a horse was based on its name or the colour of the jockey’s outfit! That is not a great method by the way – it rarely paid off – if ever in fact.

So, let’s face it, I know nothing at all about successful horse racing betting. So what are the basics? I decided to do some research and discovered that to be successful you really need to know something about the following three pretty basic things:

a) Form

So what is “form” as it pertains to horse racing? Form is a summary of the recent performances of any particular horse. How well has it done recently in races? Is the horse “on form”? I guess that’s like any sport really. I mean if a particular football team has lost the previous 5 matches by ten goals to nil, then it is perhaps very unlikely that they will win the next one. Makes sense!

b) Who is the jockey?

I guess this is quite important. It might even have an effect on the horses “form” perhaps? Take the unsuccessful football team mentioned above for example. Perhaps they had a bad manager or coach who had, in football parlance, “lost the dressing room” – which means had the players lost confidence in their coach or manager? If they had then they would not be confident or enthusiastic on the pitch. They would be down instead of up and ready for action.

So then if the football club decide to get in a new coach or manager who could gain the respect of the players then perhaps their form would suddenly improve? It has happened in football history, but does a horse really care who is sitting on its back? No, I don’t think so, but there have been riders who have continuously been succesful in the horse racing careers – Lester Piggot and Frankie Detorri are two names that spring readily to mind – so for whatever reason jockeys like that have “something” that helped them to be successful that probably went beyond simply technique – although that is obviously a major factor.

c) Odds

Simply put “odds” indicate the return you would get should your horse be successful in the race you are betting on. I guess the odds also reflect the horses chances in any particular race because if the odds on a horse in a race are say 100/1 then it is considered to have little chance of being successful because the bookmakers are willing to pay you one hundred times what you bet! They wouldn’t do that if your chosen horse had a good chance of winning the race. Conversely, if your horse was considered likely to do well or even win the race and is considered to be the “favourite” then the odds you might get would be more like 2/10 – meaning that the bookmaker would pay you one fifth of what you bet on the horse should it win. So if you bet say ten pounds on the horse then he would pay you two pounds back (plus your original ten pounds stake of course).

In the above example I have kept it very simple and envisaged that any bet would be placed on a horse to win a race. And of course you can do that type of bet. But where it can get very confusing is when you look at the myriad a different types of bets you can actually place, many of which have strange and baffling names – apart from the simple “win” (or “single” bet) you can also have the double, the treble, the accumulator, the trixie, the patent, the yankee, the super yankee, the heinz, and inevitably the super heinz. and many more in fact.

An explanation of those types of bets is beyond the scope of this article though but may be part of a follow-up article (should I get round to it) in the near future.

Have fun! And remember, should you decide to try your luck on the gee-gees, to gamble responsibly!

By John Bookman - Newmarket News Contributor.