One thing that gets my goat about gambling on horses is backing four, five, or even six different horses in the same race. It is inevitable that it happens, but when it does, I don't like it. The situation usually occurs at weekends and at the big midweek meetings when the important handicaps and competitive feature races proffer decent prices on the majority of the runners. This attracts tipsters like bees to a honey pot. Of course at Cheltenham last week, it happened a lot. I had no fewer than six selections running for me in the Gold Cup, a race in which there were only 13 runners, and it wasn't at all unusual to be backing four horses in single events.
How to deal with this situation was one thing to consider once the Festival had finished. I had to remain conscious of the fact that it is not Cheltenham every week and to take care not to blow the issue out of proportion, but the flat season will soon be upon us and with it the heritage handicaps, Ascot, York and the rest.
First things first though. Let me make it clear that I think the scenario whereby numerous selections are backed in the one race is not a bad thing for a portfolio per se. If you believe in your tipsters, which surely you must if you're investing hard earned cash on the strength of their opinions, then in the long term you must believe that each individual service will demonstrate their edge. Therefore it matters not one jot that you are staking a comparatively large amount on one competitive event; ultimately you will get your desired returns. But if like me, you wish to minimise the potential of the adverse impact that backing numerous horses in the same race without locating the winner can have on your psyche, then it is important to consider one or two fundamental principles that should guide portfolio construction and management.
So what are these principles?
Firstly, I think that a lot of thought needs to go into the type and nature of the racing services that are subscribed to. I know that this is stating the obvious rather, but I think that a crucial factor to account for when making these 'buying' decisions is the level of correlation that certain services may produce when working alongside each other. I think that generally speaking my racing services keep levels of correlation relatively manageable apart from when the big meetings come around, but 'relatively' is not quite enough at this stage, I feel. PJA NH go for handicaps over the jumps which can clash with On The Nose and 4PA. Northern Monkey seems to specialise more on the flat and does frequently clash with ProBandit, certainly whilst flat racing is restricted to the all weather. Winning Racing Tips avoid handicaps altogether so that's fine. Chasemaster concentrate on NH Chases (no kidding!) so occasional clashes with PJA NH and OTN are inevitable, but they are perhaps minimised by the fact that Chasemaster tend to concentrate most of their efforts on the Class 3/4 races and not those at the big or larger weekend meetings. So looking at this as a whole, I don't think the situation is too bad. Certainly it could be a lot worse but as I hinted earlier, it could also be a little better. The addition of another racing service would very easily disrupt the uneasy alliance that exists and I am beginning to believe that in fact, one racing service less would be a step in the right direction.
The second principle is that the portfolio should be engineered in such a way that it maximises the investor's comfort zone. Essentially this means that psychologically, the services need to match neatly the mentality of the person following them. It is when pressure is exerted that mistakes are more likely to be made. Having five or six runners in one race puts me under pressure. It may not others, but it does me.
Why did I feel so out of my comfort zone with the higher staking than is usual during Cheltenham week, and yet when it comes to the average Saturday, I would be leaving this amount staked on the horses well and truly in the shade by the amount I stake on the football? The answer I believe, is that simply I know that with the higher strike rate that comes with football betting, the chances of a complete blow out are much reduced. In fact, the chances of long losing runs, whilst always a possibility, are much less likely to happen with the frequency with which they occur when betting on horses. As an individual, would I rather the sports service with a 12% roi long term but an average win strike rate of 50%, or the racing service with an roi of 20% but a win strike rate of 15%? I know it's conservative but to me, there is only one answer.
Over time (nothing is going to happen just yet) my portfolio will evolve in a way that means it will lean more towards the higher strike rate type service. There will always be a place for five or so well chosen racing services. In the interests of diversity it must, and it shouldn't be forgotten that when the racing services get it right, they tend to reach levels of roi that can't be matched elsewhere. As a 'serious' gambler (ie. someone gambling in accordance with a plan as opposed to on a series of hunches that lack a defined strategy), that fact cannot be ignored.
And thus the guidelines that will provide the framework to my gambling future have been established. It was commented by Jason (of the HCE blog and tipping service) that it is his belief that it is an essential part of the gambler's armoury to have a plan, a framework, principles to adhere to when it comes to speculative investment and the decision-making processes that are a part of it. His comments were well-timed, for they coincided with Cheltenham where for the first time in a while, I felt out of my comfort zone.
On reflection, the Cheltenham experience has made the future much clearer and has provided me with a definite sense of purpose and direction. Prior to Cheltenham, I hadn't realised that my horizons were so hazy and ill-defined. I am not going to make drastic changes to the portfolio. There will be a couple of additions in time for the start of the next football season I'm sure, and possibly the addition of one or two other higher strike rate services. There may be in the not so distant future a racing service dropped for a temporary period whilst the adjustment occurs. I would imagine that the service, whichever it is, will still have a role to play in the future, because if the portfolio grows as I hope it will, then the wider overall spread of bets should compensate for any increased levels of correlation. But that is not for me until I am a little further down the road, a little more experienced, and a little wiser than I am now. In other words, I will be a better gambler/investor, and not feel so daunted by the prospect of poking a toe or two beyond the limits of my comfort zone.
Most of the horses selected today seemed to run a race and be competitive, although this is not reflected in the returns that they produced.
A bizarre affair, the race that ProBandit chose to play in. One of the selections, the 2/1 favourite, unseated it's rider when in the stalls. Off dashed Monsieur Jamie over the 5f at Southwell as his jockey was left red-faced, standing in the stalls like a naughty schoolboy told to spend the lesson in the corner of the classroom. Fortunately, the other tip in the race (Evens Stevens - 11/4) bolted in.
PJA NH found a much needed winner (Laustra Bad - Exeter - 9/2) and a placed horse (Viable - Kempton - 10/1) although there were three losers elsewhere.
Chasemaster's sole tip (Days Of Pleasure - Exeter - 11/1) managed third and so an each way return, and a similar result from Winning Racing Tips with their selection (Smart Catch - Kempton - 13/2) also finishing in the frame.
A blank day from three selections from On The Nose.
PJA NH: Staked 3.25pts, +0.725pts.
ProBandit: Staked 1.25pts, +0.625pts.
On The Nose: Staked 2pts, -2pts.
Winning Racing Tips: Staked 0.8pts, +0.12pts.
Chasemaster: Staked 0.25pts, +0.15pts.
Total financial profit on the racing of £15.70.
After the racing then, the fate of today's performance was always going to be dictated by Accrington Stanley, The Football Analyst's only selection for me tonight. Unfortunately they could only draw.
Unfortunately Football Investor could do nothing either, with not a winner amongst their four selections.
The Football Analyst: Staked 1pt, -1pt.
Football Investor: Staked 4pts, -4pts.
Total loss on the football of £160.
Tuesday 22nd March: Staked £378, -£144.30.
Week to date: Staked £452, -£101.
Month to date: Staked £11,956, +£269.05, roi 2.25%.
Finally today, a nod in the direction of two other blogs. Firstly Mark's Patient Speculation blog (www.patientspeculation.blogspot.com). Mark is getting a portfolio of services up and running to supplement his own racing tips and it will be interesting to see how he fares. And secondly to Cassini at the erstwhile Green All Over blog (www.green-all-over.blogspot.com) whose third blog birthday it is today. To a mere young pup of a blogger such as me, three years seems quite something. I doff my cap to you, Sir!