17 betting lessons from Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill

Former Pommy Prime Minister Winston Churchill is famous for his prolific writing, rousing speeches and strong leadership against the Nazis in World War II.

At first glance that may not sound like it has much relevance to betting, but you will soon see that there is much to be learned from many of his famous quotes:

I am an optimist — it does not seem to be much use being anything else.

A punter without optimism has no chance of being successful. If you don’t think you can win then there is no doubt you will be proven correct.

“True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information.”

The same goes for analysing a horse race and being able to accurately assess the winning chances of each horse. There is no such thing as having all of the information you need. And what information you do have may conflict in a number of ways so the ‘true genius’ of a successful punter is in being able to gain insight from form analysis and then using it in such a way that beats the market.

Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and the glory of the climb.

It’s a bloody difficult game that we’re trying to beat. The efficiency of markets means that most successful punters operate on what many would consider to be surprisingly small margins. So you may as well enjoy the journey and the constant quest for improvement.

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

We have covered racing myths many times and have often emphasized that constant repetition doesn’t establish fact. You may hear the same thing many times from many people but that does not (in isolation) make it true.

The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.

Spot on Winnie. Many punters suffer from ‘recency bias’ whereby we are convinced that whatever has been happening in recent times will continue to occur indefinitely. This can be overcome by going back further and using larger (more statistically significant) sample sizes. Or it can be as simple as forgiving a horse one bad run if there were genuine excuses.

The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, malice may distort it, but there it is.

The same goes for your betting results (the ones most punters fail to keep). To quote someone other than Winston Churchill “You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

There is no such thing as a foolproof approach. Even the most successful punters in the world are constantly reviewing all aspects of their approach. Punters need both the courage and the available betting bank to continue on during the inevitable periods of drawdown.

It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.

Planning is guessing, so you’re better off focusing on shorter term goals, whether that means this month, quarter or year.

I pass with relief from the tossing sea of Cause and Theory to the firm ground of Result and Fact.

Don’t get caught up in subjective assessments of why something is working or not. Stay as objective as possible.

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that your plan simply has to work. The results will tell you exactly how you’re going.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

Unless you are exclusively a lay bettor (or that rare species known as a place only punter) most of your bets will lose. You need to possess or develop a mindset that can cope with this.

Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities, because it is the quality which guarantees all others.

Much like optimism, a punter without the courage of his convictions is a lost cause.

No hour of life is lost that is spent in the saddle.

And no hour spent improving your betting knowledge is wasted either.

I wonder whether any other generation has seen such astounding revolutions of data and values as those through which we have lived. Scarcely anything material or established which I was brought up to believe was permanent and vital, has lasted. Everything I was sure or taught to be sure was impossible, has happened.

This was probably true a century ago but surely it’s even more pertinent today. We’re in the midst of revolutionary technological change and in many ways punting has become something akin to information warfare. Those with the best data and smartest application of the insights gleaned from it are the most successful.

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.

Many punters operate in a similar fashion. They try to spend five minutes doing the form themselves, or they listen to a media spruiker, or follow a market mover, or chase losses. It’s only when the losses pile up that they truly take stock of their betting activities and resolve to make the changes necessary to get on the right side of the ledger.

Of course, when you are winning a war almost everything that happens can be claimed to be right and wise.

And sustained success as a punter can lead you to believe that everything you do contributes evenly. That’s a false assumption though. Don’t assume that the winning will automatically continue or that every aspect of your approach is optimal.

Sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer

The same goes for the punting game. You have to stay in the game to win so protecting your betting bank is of the utmost importance. Our approach is to never risk more than 2.5% of our bank on any race.

Winston Churchill may have died almost 50 years ago but hopefully you have gained some punting insight today from his most famous quotes.

Good luck
David Duffield