The Danger Of Emotional Involvement

I was at a friends birthday over the weekend and was chatting to somebody I’ve never met before and she was asking me what the hardest part of betting is. It was a very pertinent question and one that I’m very seldom asked. In fact, the most common question is, ‘How do I pick winners?’

While it was a very easy question for me to answer, I was surprised at how little I’ve ever been asked it before.

Without a doubt the hardest part of betting is the removal of emotion from your betting. The more that we talked about this the more that I realised that this could be considered the key difference between a successful bettor and a non-successful bettor.

If you can remove the emotional attachment then immediately you start to…

  • Manage your bankroll correctly
  • Have the ability to cope with losing streaks
  • Increase stakes at the optimum moment
  • Analyse races from a logical standpoint

Those are the main changes but, to be honest, once you master your emotional involvement then everything in your betting begins to change.

If your first reaction to this statement is to think that the hardest part is finding winners then wait just a moment. I’m not saying that finding winners is easy, it isn’t, however it’s not the hardest part of betting.

Think about what bookmakers advertise and trade on?

They trade on our ability to become emotionally involved in a sporting event. Gambling addicts are not addicted to the betting, they are addicted to the emotional rush that comes with the involvement in betting. Control that emotion and you have a large part of the battle against the bookmakers won because they can no longer use your emotion to make you place bets you wouldn’t do without that involvement. In other words you will begin betting…professionally!

Don’t mistake this lack of emotional involvement with me saying that you shouldn’t enjoy the sport you are betting on. Far from it, you should enjoy watching the sport, but if your bet doesn’t win your focus should be on why and if you could have spotted the winner, not the fact that your bet didn’t win.

As bettors we need to take the power away from the bookmakers and into our own hands. The best way to do this is by stopping them using the emotional ties that you have to your betting.

Michael Wilding

Michael started the Race Advisor in 2009 to help bettors become long-term profitable. After writing hundreds of articles I started to build software that contained my personal ratings. The Race Advisor has more factors for UK horse racing than any other site, and we pride ourselves on creating tools and strategies that are unique, and allow you to make a long-term profit without the need for tipsters. You can also check out my personal blog or my personal Instagram account.


    1. I like this written by Chuang Tzu a couple of thousand years ago. It really is about the ability to exclude everything but what is relevant to the task. For the jockey that is to win. For the professional punter it is to make money. A bit like in F1 where the wins can sometimes count less than the points being racked up throughout the season.

      When an archer is shooting for fun
      He has all his skill.

      If he shoots for a brass buckle
      He is already nervous.

      If he shoots for a prize of gold
      He goes blind

      Or sees two targets –
      He is out of his mind.

      His skill has not changed,
      But the prize divides him.

      He cares
      He thinks more of winning
      Than of shooting –
      And the need to win
      Drains him of power.

  1. Very true Michael, I have to admit that even today emotion is still part of my betting problem, you can not help but get emotional when 1 of your systems has picked a 33/1 shot and its running the race of its life coming to the finish, but as you say I have learned to keep the emotion in check after the race WIN or LOSE, my whole strategy on betting is now placed firmly in the controlled state of mind knowing that my systems that I use turn over a regular profit I have been able to remove the emotional side of betting overall, but we all still get that tingle when we bash the bookies with a 33/1 winner don’t we.
    Your articles and advise has been a constant help and guidance for me over the last 4 months and this has turned me from a normal losing punter into an advised successful bettor who realizes now the correct way to profit from betting, thank you so much

    1. Thank you David. As you say we all get that emotional pang, but the trick is to enjoy it but in learning how not let it control your betting.

  2. Value is the key to open the door. The easiest way to explain this, would be in a Test Match on a good batting surface. Either of the sides will win the toss and bat, but those meanie bookmakers will go India to win toss and bat 5/6 and England to win the toss and bat 5/6. However, if they offered you 6/5 you would be getting value and you would snatch the bookies hand off. Its like a toss of a coin, its the same thing.
    However the bookmakers, will try and offer you the punter no value, on any horserace, dograce, football game or anything else they bet on. A typical horserace, will see them have a 120% book and the favs are likely to be far shorter than they should be.

    1. Absolutely Mick, understanding value is the golden key and bookies will do their best not to offer it however they have to move odds based on the market so if the market is wrong then they are going to be as well.

  3. To most people emotion is all part of having a bet.Some punters back a particular horse because they have backed it before, not because they think it has a chance of winning a particular race.
    I will admit these punters lose overall but one of the reasons they have for placing a bet is not just to win money but to get an emotional kick out of picking a winner and if it is in a big handicap so much the better
    Professional punters do have the ability to be emotionally detached and not bet in loads of races but do they have any fun or does it all get to be a bit ofa chore.

    1. A very good point Dave. I would say that it is not a chore for the majority of pro punters, however it is very much a job and treated as such. There will always be some emotional pleasure from seeing a horse run a good race but it is kept well away from any influence on betting decisions.

  4. Yes Indeed, emotion is what we as humans are made of: Without emotions we would be zombies, but you are quite correct when you said that emotions are the enemy of logical betting procedures:

    I do however believe that being totally emotionless is impossible no matter what degree of professionalism we may attain, but keeping it under control is about the best we can aim for, and even then we will get hyped up from time to time depending on the ups and downs of everyday betting in the sports markets:

    I defy any professional punter not to get emotional when he sees his horse slip and fall ten yards from the finishing line when in front by a distance, or to watch several perfectly good logical bets go down the drain caused by bad jockeyship or some other mishandling practices:

    However if we always strive to think logicly and not allow emotions to cloud the issues then I think we will have more success than the average punter who half eats his betting slip before the race has ended, but to think we can totally escape from who we are is unlikely unless we have had proper training or a cast iron grip on oneself passed down to us through our genes by some distant zombie ancestor:

    1. I totally agree with you Rocky. Over the last few months I have seen my selections being beaten by short distances time and time again, both at short odds and long odds. There is no doubt that emotion gets involved, however I am able to not let that influence my future betting decisions. For me the way I found to do this was to use database handicapping which removed the decisions from me and put it into the hands of the developed algorithms.

  5. I have found the best way to assist in removing emotion from my betting, is not to
    watch the event I am betting on. That does not mean I do not watch a race, or a
    football match.

    But if I am trading a football match, I do not watch the game but have Flash scores
    set up so the shout goes up when a goal is scored. My next action depends on the
    odds then available. No emotion, just figures.

    Likewise with racing, I find using Bots help me with emotion & discipline. I set up all
    the parameters, odds stake, stop loss, win etc and let the bot take over.

    All not perfect, but as I say, a big help to take out emotion.

  6. Finding winners is easy, avoiding losers not quite so easy. This is where value come in.
    Emotion must enter into the equation to a certain extent because we are human.
    Winners cause elation and losers disappointment. But this can be managed (not eliminated) by ensuring a truly professional approach and following the four points outlined.
    You must keep records and keep your betting banks separate from every day finances.
    The betting bank must be money you do not need – this reduces emotional connection. Try to treat winners and losers with equal disdain – they are just a means to an end. But always look for a reason why a horse did not win and try to learn from each race to improve your chances.
    This does involve watching races even if you have not had a bet.
    There are many strategies that can give you an “edge” and I try not to follow the crowd. This means that I get bigger prices but lower win frequency but the horses I back have a reasonable chance of winning or placing at big odds. So if the odds on offer are bigger than the actual odds then a profit on a series of bets should ensue. This is where keeping past results is important.
    Mick sums it all up – value is the key.

  7. Hi Michael
    You are right about temperament.I first had it brought to my attention by Mr Van Der Wheil.I think I have now learnt to take the advice given and it has helped me to some minor success in the last 3 months.Using a system I have devised myself,and starting with a minute betting bank of £66,I have had a bet every day on one horse following the Van Der Wheil staking plan.So far every sequence has come to a successful conclusion including a recent run of 9 successive losers when I kept calm and carried on!My bank now stands at almost £99.My first bet in each sequence is pence only as I have been very cautious,but if the success continues I shall gradually increase the opening bet.
    Best wishes

    1. Thanks John, well done on keeping calm. Make sure that you don’t raise the opening stakes so high that the max stake will be above your comfort level.

  8. Discipline is the word for the suppression of emotional influences that lure people into chasing losses or betting on silly long shots when they know it’s not a value bet.
    Keeping calm when a losing streak happens is important. Keeping calm when on a winning streak is arguably more important so you don’t suddenly blow a wad on an emotional bet that you would not normally make.
    Good post.

  9. Yeah, good comment, and goes hand in hand with the discipline to maintain a systematic approach to the business of punting.

  10. I may well be the most unemotional punter of all times. I am currently unemployed having lost my business in this great Irish depression, and make my living on betting horse racing. I don’t particularily like horse racing, have never been to a race course and have no idea how to pick a winner. I pay a number of tipsters and by very careful management of my bank I am doing ok. I have averaged over 450 euro profit per week for the last 3 months. To avoid getting emotionally involved I NEVER WATCH A RACE ON WHICH I HAVE A BET.
    This behaviour I am sure is totally alien to all regular punters, especially those who love the sport, For me; if I love a sport (ie. Gealic Football) I watch it, if I want to make money I pay for the information to give me a chance of making my living

    1. Thanks for the very helpful comment Pat. I hope that others will take something useful from your method.

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