You’ve probably heard plenty of bad advice from seasoned punters about how to guarantee a profit off racing. This is why you’re reading this post from your cubicle at work, instead of from your hotel room in the Bahamas. Here are five basic rules to follow when betting on racing that actually work and will allow you to make a profit off the racing at Royal Ascot in 2016.
1. Use free bets
Brand loyalty is one thing, but using the same bookmaker for every bet you place for the rest of your life is daft. There are at least 20 bookmakers in the United Kingdom who are licensed and regulated and will pay you with free bets just to open an account and make a deposit.
Use free bets and you can immediately add the value of the bets you place on Royal Ascot to whatever winnings you generate from the meeting. That means if you are prepared to cash in free bets for $100 using your Royal Ascot bets, you can immediately add the $100 in free bets you’ll earn to whatever winnings are generated by the qualifying bets.
Even if you’re absolutely hopeless at betting on horses you’ll at least break even, and can then convert your free bets into hard cash using bet matching.
Now that you basically can't lose money on the meeting, you only need to win one bet on 30 Royal Ascot races to make an overall profit.
2. Bet modest and bet flat
We’re obliged to provide a disclaimer before we continue: even good advice on how to make a profit off Royal Ascot 2016 is not going to put you in a hotel room in the Bahamas for the rest of your life. If that were the case we'd obviously be sitting in that hotel room in the Bahamas ourselves and not sitting at a computer giving you this advice.
However, a weekend away in Cornwall is entirely within reach if you have realistic expectations and are prepared to gun for modest profits over the course of the meeting rather than a massive payout on a single make-or-break bet.
In fact huge bets are far more likely to put you in the poorhouse than make you a profit. Even if you win you’re likely to try to repeat this feat in future, lose, chase your money, and make a long term loss.
So the first tip we have is to bet modestly and bet flat. Figure out what you can afford to bet on each race, and then bet that exact same stake on each selection in each race. That way you won't sacrifice the profits from a string of small winning bets on a big losing bet, and if you place a couple of winning bets at decent odds your overall winnings will quickly offset modest losses.
Whatever you do, do NOT double your stake after each loss or try any other version of the Martingale strategy that will require you to auction off a kidney on e-bay the Monday after Ascot.
3. Use money back specials as free insurance
Not only are bookies happy to pay you to pay them, some also make it very easy to turn losing bets into free bets. This is usually in the form of a money-back special on your bets if specific conditions are met during the course of a race.
Now, not all money-back specials are born equal. Some will deliberately set qualifying conditions that are statistically unlikely to be met in a race. Others are so good they’re actually quite easy to cash in on, like offering to refund your bet if the antepost favourite wins the race.
You’ll need to use some common sense here. Make your selections for Royal Ascot races before you go shopping around for money-back offers. If you find a money-back offer at a bookie that will effectively insure your selection, then bet that horse at that bookie.
This can turn a number of potential losses into refunds. With the objective here being to place more winning bets than losing bets, you’re well on your way to turning a profit on Royal Ascot 2016.
4. Do your own research and ignore pre-race commentators
When it comes to dispensing terrible advice, there’s nothing like the commentary delivered by television pundits while they while away the time before a race starts. As the horses canter to the gates you’ll start getting the sense that every horse is a potential winner, yes even that 500/1 bay who broke all his legs last season and now runs his races sideways.
If these guys knew what they were talking about you can be absolutely certain they'd have quit their jobs in the television studios years ago, and would be out drinking champagne with everyone else instead of trying to think of something to talk about between races.
So when a television expert starts talking up a particular horse trading around the 20/1 mark because they have picked up a spring in its step, it’s time to press the mute button. This kind of talk can easily make you second guess your original selection, and start knocking out hasty, poorly thought-out last minute selections.
The best way to bet on horses is to have a thorough look at the form and preferences of credible contenders, narrow your choices down to the horse that offers the best combination of form and price, place a bet on it and just stick with it. Give up on winning every bet – it’s not going to happen, and the belief that it can will make you lose more often.
5. Ignore the banker and go for value
Sound counter-intuitive? Why shouldn’t a punter try bet on a horse that has a very high probability of winning a race?
The simple answer is that there’s little benefit to backing a horse priced under evens.
If you win you’re going to win back a fraction of your stake as a profit. This won’t even cover the cost of another bet you lost, which means you need to place big bets to get decent returns, and right there you've strayed off the righteous path of flat betting.
If the favourite loses, and by our estimates this happens at least half the time in races where the favourites tend to do exceptionally well, then you lost your stake chasing a small reward.
Where a race has an under Evens favourite, rather look for a horse who will pay out a profit on a place bet or an each-way bet. Often you can find an entry with an excellent chance of placing who’ll pay out far more generous odds on the place than the favourite would on the win.
And if your selection upsets the favourite, which can easily happen, you’ll find yourself sitting on a handsome return.
Putting it all together
As you can see, there is no single strategy that will generate you a profit. There are instead a number of strategies that make mathematical sense, and dial back the house edge on the betting markets to the point where you have a higher probability of winning over the long term than losing.
You’ll need to use them all in combination to get the best results.
Cash in free bets to bet on Royal Ascot with bookies’ money, make your selections by doing careful research rather than listening to talking heads, go for horses that offer value rather than an illusion of certainty, match your selections to money-back specials where possible and use flat betting with a view towards generating an overall profit.