jim grant

Recently we’ve looked at punting advice from some different sources, including investment legend and billionaire Ray Dalio. It’s worth exploring: having a bet is, after all, a form of investment. So today we’re going to look at another major Wall Street figure: Jim Grant

Jim Grant founded investment newsletter Grant’s Interest Rate Observer in 1983, and it’s still going strong – in hard copy form, no less – today. He’s famous for a string of successful predictions, including calling the sub-prime mortgage crisis that led to the 2008 financial crisis. Here’s a very good profile of him.

Jim Grant listed his most important lessons learned from over 35 years in the financial markets…. here’s our punting perspective on those tips:

1. The key to successful investing is having everyone agree with you — LATER. The most popular investment of the day is rarely the best investment.

Popular teams and hype horses are often under the odds just through weight of money. Have the courage to be a contrarian and remember that since a very high percentage of punters lose, ‘fading the public’ is a great way to get started. Don’t love a horse, love a price.

2. You aren’t good with money. Because humans aren’t good with money. We buy high and sell low because it’s what comes naturally. It’s difficult to control emotions. It’s more difficult when money is involved.

Many punters follow market movers, but at the bottom of the market. Getting on because a horse has been backed from $4 into $3 is not a smart strategy. It may run well, but the value is likely gone. Taking the emotion out of punting is easier said than done. But a dedicated betting bank and long-term mindset is essential.

3. Everything about investing is cyclical… prices, valuations, enthusiasms. And this will never end.

Everything about punting is cyclical as well. Both winning and losing runs are inevitable and that is why bankroll management is so crucial. You can have an edge yet still go bust by over-staking. Identifying an edge on the market is crucial, but most will gradually disappear over time. The smartest operators are constantly evolving their approach.

4. You can’t predict the future. Nor can the guy who claims he can. You can, however, see how the crowd is handicapping the future. And by observing the odds, you can try and find the best value.

Successful punting is about assigning probabilities to the likelihood of any event happening (eg a horse winning a race, or a team winning a game) and then backing the overlays. We don’t know whether the coin will land on heads or tails, but what is certain is that if we keep taking $2.20 we will win long-term.

5. Every good idea gets driven into the ground like a tomato stake.

Video replays. Weight ratings. Speed maps. Sectionals… all of these can provide an edge for early adopters, but over time they are gradually priced into the market so that value becomes much harder to find.

6. Markets are not perfectly efficient. Because the people who operate them aren’t perfectly reasonable. The debate over efficient markets has raged since the birth of public markets. Grant comes down on the side of inefficiencies – lucrative inefficiencies.

If betting markets were so perfectly efficient, how do professional punters and large betting syndicates survive? There’s still value to be found across racing and sports betting markets. It’s just that it becomes a little bit harder each year, which makes the punting game a survival of the fittest.

7. Patience is the highest yielding asset. Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s longtime partner in Berkshire Hathaway, explained the importance of patience this way:

“How did Berkshire’s track record happen? If you were an observer, you’d see that Warren [Buffett] did most of it sitting on his ass and reading. If you want to be an outlier in achievement, just sit on your ass and read most of your life.”

Every successful person (and punter) I know is a lifelong learner. Nobody claims to have created a golden goose. Instead they’re always looking to refine their approach and that inspiration can come from many different sources inside and outside of the betting industry.

8. Leverage is like chocolate cake. Just a little bit, please. Markets will always correct.

And so will the betting gods. ‘Reversion to the mean’ is inevitable so don’t let it surprise you. You’ll never know exactly when variance will hit, but rest assured… it’s coming.

9. “Don’t overestimate the courage you will have if things go against you. Consider all the facts – meditate on them. Don’t let what you want to happen influence your judgement. Do your own thinking. Don’t let your emotions enter into it. Keep out of any environment that may affect your acting on your own reason.”

Those quotes were borrowed by Jim Grant from the late Bernard M. Baruch, who was renowned as one of the greatest investors who ever lived. Their application to punting is widespread: Have a plan for when your bank is heading in the wrong direction. And stick to it. Hope is not a strategy. Always stay disciplined.

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