Off-Center and the Losing Game
Whenever one begins to discuss the “inner game,” most players just say, “Yeah, yeah. Let’s turn the page and move on to something that will make me a better selector.” What they fail to realize is that the way the inner game is handled affects the selection process, and, ultimately, the bottom line.
In order to beat the horse racing game, we, just like the animals we wager on, must be in top form. This includes having control over our “inner self.” Think back to your greatest successes. You felt great. You were confident and secure in your abilities. The majority of the decisions you made seemed to work out well. When you did make a mistake, you accepted it and continued on, unshaken. In today’s vernacular, you were “in the zone.”
When things went bad, however, they seemed to get even worse. At these times you doubted your selections, your analysis, even your basic skills. Often you would select the right horses but not bet the race properly. At other times you might even miswrite tickets.
We humans are a delicate breed when it comes to confidence, courage and inner strength, all things essential to our success. It does not take much to cause us to lose our psychological equilibrium. I refer to this as getting “off-center.”
When I am “centered” I am a strong, confident, dynamic winner. I find a way to win. When I get “off-center” I find a way to lose. It is that simple.
What causes a player to get away from their center point? Obviously, a losing streak can do it. So can a couple of “bad beats,” if you let them. For some players even an extreme winning streak can take them off-center. (Ever know a player that makes periodic scores then always manages to wind up broke?)
In act, there are many things which can cause a player to lose inner balance. One of these is the nature of the game itself. I am not referring to horse racing but the real contest the player is involved in.
When players go to the track, there are (basically) three things which can happen: They can win money, lose money or break even. If they lose cumulatively over a period of time, eventually their bankroll goes away and the game is over (until they can accumulate another bankroll and start another game). If they win cumulatively over a period of time, the money in their pocket grows and grows, but the game never ends because the opponent they are playing against (the General Public) never runs out of money. In other words, they are playing a game that CAN ONLY BE LOST! They can never win because as long as they are ahead, the game continues.
Psychologically, this can be very bad. It is one reason why even consistent, winning players get burned out and need some time of to recharge their batteries. To make matters worse, a player may win for several months, withdrawing thousands from his bankroll as profit. But everytime he hits a bad streak and goes broke, it registers as, “Oh well. Broke again.” It is very tough to stay “up” when you know that you will eventually lose.
What is the answer? Simple, really. Just change the way you keep score. Set aside a portion of your total bankroll as a “playing bankroll.” Then set a goal and play until that goal is accomplished (or the playing bankroll is lost). Now you will have a chance to win as well as lose, because you have limited your “opponent’s bankroll. You have leveled the playing field. If you keep records, over a period of time you will develop a “session” win percentage, which will add to your overall confidence.
For example, suppose that you currently have $500 to start playing with. Take (say) $250 as a playing session and play until that $250 doubles. When the $250 has become $500 you will have a total of $750 (remember your other $250?). Now, reassess your bankroll situation and start a new session with $375 (half of $750).
An excellent way to play is to take 40% of the total bankroll and play until it triples. I find that playing with less than half of my total bankroll makes me feel very confident because even if I “blow” the whole session I haven’t lost even half my stake. When the bankroll triples I will have won 80% of the original starting bankroll, and the total bankroll has now grown to 180% of the starting point. I make a 30% withdrawal (leaving 150% of the original) and the whole procedure is repeated.
Note that if I had lost the first session, I would have readjusted the bankroll to $600 and my next session would have been $240 ($600 x 40% = $240).
In the 1970s I built a blackjack bankroll from scratch (Well, $60 is pretty close to “scratch.”) this way using a Fibonacci routine. (Fibonacci was a 13th century mathematician that introduced the decimal system to Europe.) In the Fibonacci, the totals of the last two numbers in sequence are added to get next number. Thus:
is an example of Fibonacci.
Here was my “problem:” I had $60 and wanted to turn it into a significant amount of money. I developed a “Fibonacci-type sequence that looked like this:
|Step#||BR||Play||If Won||If Lost||If Won Step||If Lost Step|
|3||210||150||+300||0||step 4||step 1|
|4||360||240||+540||+60||step 5||step 2|
|5||600||360||+900||+180||step 6||step 3|
|6||960||600||+1,500||+300||step 7||step 4|
|7||1,560||900||+2,400||+600||step 8||step 5|
|8||2,460||1,500||+3,900||+900||step 9||step 6|
|9||3,960||2,400||+6,300||+1,500||step 10||step 7|
|10||6,360||3,000||+9,300||+3,300||step 11||step 8|
|11||9,360||5,000||+14,300||+4,300||step 12||step 9|
Notice how the table flows. I started with one $60 session. If I won that session I would advance to session number two, a $90 session. If I lost either of those first two sessions, I would not be able to play another session and would have to start again with a new $60.
If I got past the first two sessions, a loss would take me back two steps and I would continue on. My goal became to win the twelfth session.
Look at the “Next Step” columns. Whenever I lost a session it caused me to take two steps back, while a win took me one step forward. In other words, I had to win 2-out-of-3 for a long enough period of time to move down to step 12.
I realize that this is blackjack and not horse racing but their is an analogy. Back then each session was a 30-unit play. Thus, session number one was 30-units of $2 each, and session three was for 30 units of $5 each.
How did all this turn out? Well, I can tell you that I spent months going back and forth, hardly getting beyond the first three sessions. When I got to session number four I would get some irritation from the dealers because they did not like making $8 payoffs, although there were no complaints when I moved to $30 units in step 7.
I recall getting to step number seven once and losing three in a row. It was very tough going back down and starting over.
How did it eventually turn out? I got into the zone and stayed there! I won twelve in a row in a twelve-day period! (And got barred from the Horseshoe at the same time.)
Am I suggesting that you should bet your units like this? No. Horse racing is a different game and you probably need to bet more aggressively than that. Besides, you may be an exotic player. What I am saying is that you need to organize an approach that you are comfortable with that provides the opportunity to grow yourself a bankroll that has significance to you.
Once you have created a significant bankroll, your strategy should change. That approach is outside the scope of this article.
Followers of the Sartin Methodology used to track their bets in a 20-wager session. That fits in nicely with this program. You could start with 20 bets of $10 each and play until the session doubles or is lost. (The 20-race cycle actually has nothing to do with the session; the session ends when the goal is achieved or you run out of money.)
|Step#||BR||Play||If Won||If Lost||If Won Step||If Lost Step|
|3||700||500||+1,000||0||step 4||step 1|
|4||1,200||800||+1,800||+200||step 5||step 2|
Do not feel that your units have to be constant. You can manage each session anyway you like, betting percentage of bankroll, flat bet, plunge when you wish. I am not trying to tell you how to bet a race, but rather how to manage your bankroll’s growth. The important thing is that you manage the sessions according to some long-term plan that leads to a meaningful goal for you.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally written in 1992.