Ben Krahe spent many years on the ‘dark side’ as a bookmaker, initially on course and then framing markets for the corporates right from the early days.
But a little more than 3 years ago he went full-time as a professional harness racing punter and hasn’t looked back since.
On the podcast this week we ask him the same questions we pitched to Nick Pinkerton. These are questions from our listeners keen to learn more about the skills and lifestyle of a successful professional.
- How did he get started?
- What is the biggest key to long-term success?
- Why Ben turns Sky Channel off for most of the day
- The importance of a proven staking plan
- How he handles losing runs and maintains a work/life balance
David Duffield: Our last podcast episode was based around listener questions so I wanted to repeat the dose for yourself. What I’ll do is run through the questions that we received which were, “What would you ask if you sat down for a quiet beer with a professional punter?” You’re right to run through those?
Ben Krahe: Well, there’s no such thing as a quiet beer with me, but sure.
David Duffield: Alright, well the first set of questions, you could broadly categorise it as getting started. How did you gain the confidence when starting out? I know you’ve got the bookmaking background, but how did you get any confidence to basically go solo as a professional punter?
Ben Krahe: Well, Dave, to put it bluntly, I had been to some bookmakers. I’ve been in around the traps and I take a lot of knowledge from all the bookmakers and even the professional punters that punted with me. I like to put all that in the memory bank hopefully. One day, I decided to leave the bookmaking side of it and had a little bit of a bankroll behind me and decided, “Let’s give it a go for real this time.” I’ve always thought I was good enough to do it, but I didn’t have the discipline to do it. We gave it a go, and 3 1/2 years later or whatever it is, we’re still doing it. Something’s going okay.
David Duffield: In terms of getting started and then the ongoing stuff, well, I know you’re pretty meticulously do records, did you already have the mindset and also the … I’m not sure of what the exact word is. Did you do that consistently, the record keeping side of things before you went professional, or only once you got started?
Ben Krahe: I probably did it for about 6 months before. That was another thing that influenced my decision to be able to go out by myself. I just decided we’ve got to make sure you can do it.
But keeping records is the main way to do it. Now as you’ve outlined, I keep a record of every bet I’ve had, every track it’s at. I can tell you where I win and where I don’t, and that’s pretty much how we narrow down where we do a bit.
David Duffield: So we had a question. It’s probably not as relevant for you being a ratings based punter. It says, “What is regarded as an acceptable strike rate for a serious punter to aim for, or is there another measure that should guide a punter?”
Ben Krahe: Well, as you said, I don’t really go on strike rates and I don’t think anyone really does. I mean for a start, you got to make a profit that’s obvious. If you can make somewhere above … I would say somewhere above bank interest. If you can make 7% or 8% or 10%, you’re flying in my books.
There wouldn’t be 1% of punters that they even win, let alone get close to winning. If you can make somewhere around that just under 10%, by the time you think of all the turnover you’re doing in a year, that’s quite a lot. You can make six figures out of it. I’m not a millionaire and never will be but we don’t big enough to do that. But as long as we’re getting by and that’s the way I look at it.
David Duffield: You might be a millionaire if there was a bookie who’d take your bets.
Ben Krahe: No. Maybe a million baht but that’s about it.
David Duffield: Another question – what in your opinion is the biggest key to your long term success?
Ben Krahe: It’s discipline 100%. You cannot chase, David. You must know that there’s no last race. You know the last race has just been run at Newcastle today and we didn’t win but there’s no use chasing it tonight.
There’ll be another race tomorrow. Discipline’s the main thing and discipline at staking is as well. Discipline is everything but making sure that you don’t let emotion come into it and you don’t … When you’re losing, you know that the winning’s coming up, so don’t go chasing it.
David Duffield: Yeah I was about to ask that. One other question here was, how do you have the discipline not to over bet? I’m pretty sure they would mean in the good times and the bad.
Ben Krahe: Well, I start off by … I’m a little bit different here. I’ve got all my stuff on the computer at the moment but even when I’m at home, I turn Skye Channel off when the races are on for a start.
I don’t want to be influenced by Joe Blow by saying the late mail is this and it’s firmed ten points and all of a sudden I might think I left a good bet. If I’m not having a bet in the race, I turn it over to Channel V or whatever and watch the music or watch some sport.
For mine, I don’t even want to be interested in … I mean you can take an interest in it but unless you can sit there and watch the races and not have a bet on it, turn them off until your race comes on. That’s my first bit of advice.
Secondly is that you’ve got to have a staking plan. You’ve got to stick to it even if you’re winning and the next bet looks like the best bet in the world. You’ve got a price , so you’ve got a certain stake. Stick to it and the reason you are winning is because you are sticking to it. The day that you start to double your bets or triple your bets or something like this, you can wipe out a whole day’s work in one race by doing that. That’s the most important as well.
David Duffield: Okay. This was an interesting one. My biggest pain is me. In your punting life, have you ever felt this way? It’s an up and down business. Could you share some strategies on some ordinary periods?
Ben Krahe: I mean, everyone goes through them and everyone thinks they’re a jinx or they think if they back it that it’s not going to win and these type of things.
You’ve got to realise that it’s got nothing to do with you. It’s all happening out there. It’s nothing to do with what you’re doing. You just need to do the right things and do it consistently. If you have a bad day, bad week or whatever, hopefully your staking plan will allow for those times. Here at Champion Picks, I had a real bad three weeks, I think, at one stage where we really lost quite badly but we’d won that much beforehand. Hopefully, you had enough in the bank to cover it and we know that it’s going to come good. That’s what it did. It came good at the end of the year.
I know we’ve had a bit of a slow start at the start of this year, but we know that tomorrow, next week or next month, will be a winning month and we’ll cover it.
You’ve just got to accept the loss when it happens. There’s bad luck, yes. There’s no such thing as your due. These type of words are just stuff that mugs say.
There’s bad luck, yes, but you get good luck when you get the wins as well. You’ve just got to make sure that you can’t let it get you down. If the last race of the day is finished, turn off the TV. Turn off the computer. Go and spend some time with the family. Go to the pub, whatever but forget all about it and just remember that tomorrow, there’ll be another race.
David Duffield: Yeah. These are related and it’s an amalgamation, I suppose, of a few questions but they are related to, how to stay confident when three or four punts go wrong and how to handle the round of losses, how to deal with the psychological trauma of a long run of outs, how to handle losing odds on selections. Was there anything else that you wanted to add because this was a very common question?
Ben Krahe: Yeah. Look, I think that keeping records is a really important part of this. If we’ve kept every record when we’re having a bad trotwe can go back and see, hang on a minute, we won for … I think we had 24 days in a row or something or you won something ridiculous you know Dave .
You can go back and say, “Hang on a minute, there was a winning patch here. There was a losing patch there.” It will turn around in the long run. We know it’s going to come back again. You’ve just got to be positive. You cannot let it get to you.
There will be losing times. Every person in the world will have losing times. It’s just ridiculous to think that you won’t.
If one will have a bad month, maybe even a bad year but you’ve just got to be confident in what we’re doing and being confident in your results and just remember that the good times, and just remember when you get the good times again to not over bet them and just keep plugging away at what we do and that will cover the bad times.
David Duffield: We had a question about how do you manage time, family, work and punting.
Ben Krahe: Well punting’s first isn’t it out of all those?
Look, it’s a good question. I’m in a different situation. My wife works 9 to 5 and I’m in a different position probably for most people since I’m four hours behind than you guys.
I get up and do some work early and I pretty much work the whole day while she’s at work. When she gets home, I try and make sure I do some stuff with her. I think it’s important to not all be about punting. Whether it’s just going and have a game of golf or whatever, or going down to the pub or doing something with your wife, or even turning a footy match on and don’t have a bet in it. Just sit there and actually just watch a match for the enjoyment.
These are the things you need to do to switch off. Don’t stress that you lost. Don’t go over celebrating because you won, because remember that that’s the money that you might need tomorrow. All these things, you’ve got to be able to switch off and when the last race has been run for the day, yeah, go and do something completely different.
David Duffield: Well, of all the guys I speak to and I came across a few these days, I think you’ve got one of the better work-life balances amongst them all because you certainly put in the hours but there’s also plenty of time I think from what I’ve heard and seen, socialising, golfing, whatever. Just something away from the desk. A lot of people get chained to the desk.
Ben Krahe: Well, Dave, I sort of get up at 5:00 in the morning here and yeah it’s an early start but I can get 3 hours done before my wife goes to work. I go and have some breakfast with her. Have a coffee and then I sit down for the next 8 hours or whatever it is till 4:00, till she gets home and I do work and I do these 3 days a week during the week. Twice a week, I go and play golf, so I just get some work done before I go and then I get a game of golf in twice a week and Saturdays and Sundays, you should put a couple of hours in.
It all adds up to 50 hours a week which is a good week. I sort of space it out too. That’s the benefit of working from home and for yourself.
I can do it when I like. I do have deadlines to meet obviously. If I want to get up at 5 in the morning and get a good 3 hours work done before anyone’s around, it’s a good thing to do. As I said, I break up my week with a couple of games of golf. Friday, I night I go down to the pub with the boys and have a game of pool and just forget all about even whether I won or lost. I just want to get that right out of my head and have some relaxed time because it can’t be all about this.
David Duffield: Well, this question isn’t from the list. Now, it’s from me, but how do you get up at 5am when you go to bed at 3:30?
Ben Krahe: Very funny.
David Duffield: Yeah, you can pass on that one that’s fine. Okay. Form analysis was the next category.
Ben Krahe: This is not a video chat, is it? You don’t have to see what I look like.
David Duffield: What do you consider is most important when assessing the form in a race and just bearing in mind, we’re talking harness racing?
Ben Krahe: Yeah. For me, the number one key in harness racing is speed maps. I think it’s actually … I’m an ex-greyhound bookmaker.
I’ve done my time working for other bookies doing races and whatever and speed maps are important in any code you’re in. It’s got to be good to be out the front for mine. Yes, they might go too fast in front and it’s not as good but, for mine, 70% or 80% of races are won by the horses in the top 3 or 4 for trots. So speed maps are really important.
Second thing is I really like class. I think again it’s a major importance in all codes. It’s pretty obvious that if a horse had won three or four races before and it’s running against a bunch of maidens or ones that have won one race it’s going to have more ability than the others. It’s going to be somewhere in the market unless it’s horribly out of form. Horses are running in or out of their class.
Again with class, horses are dropping down and class was going up and class is a major part of what I like to look at.
A third major part of what I really like to look at is the price a runner was last time it ran in a similar type race. Let’s just say we’ve got a very easy maiden just for arguments sake and something was 6/4 last start but it only ran 5th. There wasn’t really an excuse as to it running like that but it just ran fifth but it was well favoured at 6/4.
Next week, it comes out in a very similar race, similar type horses, nothing that different. It might have a better barrier draw or worse, whatever but it might me 5/1 or 6/1 next week. For mine, I want to be all over that horse. If it was 6/4 last week, I live by the “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” sort of philosophy. There must have been a reason it was short. If they want to sent it out at 5 or 6 to 1 next week, well, I’m all over. I don’t care if it ran 5th, 8th, 10th, 2nd, whatever.
So I will have a real hard look into what price it was last start and whether or not it should have been price. I’ll take a great deal when my form comes to how well favoured last time and whether it was backed or not too.
There’s a difference between something starting at 2/1 on and drifting to 6/4 or something opening at 3/1 and firming to 6/4 as well. I like to take that into account as well.
David Duffield: Do you have a list of trainers/drivers that are questionable, so maybe not dishonest but probably more importantly named unreliable and how would you apply that to the form? So we’re not looking to slander anyone here, but how do you deal with, I suppose, the ‘red hots’ reputation?
Ben Krahe: Well, they don’t help by calling it the trots and it rhymes with ‘red-hots’ do they? That one’s up in the head, that one. That list is in the head.
David Duffield: So there is a list?
Ben Krahe: Oh there’s a list definitely. There’s a list. There’s a list for that. There’s a list also for trainers and drivers that go better, let’s say, at different tracks. There’s a list of trainers and drivers that I want to be on more than others. There’s a list of drivers that, you know, when you get a driving change from a bad driver to what I considered a good driver. There’s a list for those as well. That will all be applied somewhere in the rating the horse process. There is a list, yes.
David Duffield: Yeah. I can’t bring myself to bet more than one horse in a race if one doesn’t stand out a value or it’s winning hope, I stay away. Is this the correct approach?
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