Are You An Action Junky?
There are many different kinds of "action junky", a breed of gambler that can't get enough. Today on the blog Stephen discusses.
We all recognise something inside of us all when it comes to punting. Even the most experienced and disciplined of players can succumb to temptation, seeking out the adrenalin rush we all get when a winning bet goes in, playing again and again, often on sports where we have little clue or opinion.
It is incredibly easy to slip into bad habits and by looking at a few "real life" case histories we can learn vital lessons.
1 - The London "Office".....a nerve centre of warm business.
During the late 90s and early 2000s, before discovering the delights of Betfair, many punters regularly used "putter onners" or "commission agents" to get their cash on. This was a tricky world of shady characters, but the only route left open to many who sought to back their opinion in any worthwhile size. Often the agent would charge a percentage of any stake in "commission" for finding the layers willing to match these bets, or would simply be pleased to handle such hot business, getting the "card" and adding his own money to the customers bets.
One such organisation that played on a big scale was a London based operation which dealt with a select number of players, betting very heavily in the horse racing, cricket and rugby markets. A selection of the "hottest" judges were actively courted, and the business spread around throughout the world, with bookmakers in Asia targeted particularly in their earlier days.
The people in the "office" were all decent judges in their own right, sitting waiting patiently for the business to come in. They were then deployed to get the stakes on in numerous outlets, including a small army of foot soldiers to trawl around the nations betting shops (particularly easy in busy areas of London, where numerous shops are close together and used to dealing with "city-boy" type wagers in big size). This nerve centre produced regular profits and kept both the office inhabitants (many of whom paid a daily rate to to be in there), and the select customers more than happy.
However, the problems arose when a quiet day or week came around, with not much sport on and none of the horse judges playing for one reason or another. Here, hoarded together in a confined space, these shrewdies became a restless tribe of "action junkies", anxious to give their bulging banks a spin on virtually anything. Disproportionate amounts were effectively gambled away, playing race to race or on the live football matches, playing on the spread markets against huge in-built margins.
For such an otherwise shrewd operation, these "interest" bets ultimately proved fatal (it was far easier to get on in massive size on these "high margin" bookie friendly markets). Eventually the entire office was disbanded, with its ringleader effectively chased across the world by an array of Asia based bookmakers, demanding payment that the office collectively could not meet.
The lesson is pretty clear. Even the shrewdest professional organisation, that tasted incredible wealth and a superb lifestyle as a result for over a decade, can succumb (almost without realising it), to play on a huge size away from areas of expertise. In this instance the result was catastrophic, with many customers losing their balances and several office members their cash and livelihoods.
2 - The Betting Shop Addict
On a lower scale, but no less dangerous for personal and financial well being is the "betting shop addict". This is a growing problem and fuelled by the addictive nature of the games, roulette etc that is now available in every high street arcade.
A visit to any betting shop now confirms the suspicion that a new breed of younger players are getting snared by the adrenalin rush that these terminals can offer. They are enticed by the fast turnover of cash and the prospect of a big win, but are pitting themselves against impossible margins and have no prospect of long term profitability.
3- The Bookmaker Unable To Escape The "Rush" Of Playing Every Race
Gary Wiltshire in his autobiography Winning it Back tells of his battle against addiction, even as a very successful on-course bookmaker with over 50 pitches up and down the country. He found it impossible to miss a race, (which was fine when he had 7 races at Ascot followed by 12 at Milton Keynes dogs in the evening), but more of an issue on his days off where he found the temptation of the betting shop (or more recently the exchanges), too much to pass.
He felt an urge to be involved, unable to give up the rush of having a position. On a positive side, he has recognised these personal failings and has tried to divert his career into a number of different arenas since the on-course bookmaking world declined dramatically in recent years (fortunately he sold all his 50 plus racecourse pitches to the Tote in the early 2000s). A high profile media career has saved him from being an "action junkie", and he still has an interest at the dogs in the evenings at Sittingbourne to keep his hand in. This is a very hard game to give up once you are hooked!
4 - The Temptation To Chase Losses When It Goes Wrong
Giving up the urge to chase is the hardest part of the whole game. We have all felt that "red faced" syndrome when you feel a rush of anger when a bet goes wrong. A faller at the last fence or that last minute goal can put even the most disciplined player "on tilt", immediately scrambling around to recoup the losses on anything that moves.
One acquaintance, who regularly grinds himself in the region of 30k a year through trading football, is still incredibly vulnerable to getting hotted up. If a sizable "unders" on the goals bet goes wrong late in injury time, he can rapidly fly over to the 10.08pm at Romford dogs on Betfair, where he will try to take a grand out of the favourite recoup some of those losses. He is shrewd, knows the time of day and the price of everything football (using complex trading algorithms in-running to form the correct prices), but is still vulnerable to the temptations that can do so much long term damage to anyone’s overall profitability.
5- Weak Moments At Bad Times
Personally, I have always found that issues away from gambling affected me most when it comes to discipline and betting. I remember precisely the moment that we bought our first "big" house and mentally wondering around the garden and thinking "this is it" "cracked it" and then relaxing and enduring the worst six months of betting ever (at a time when the bills were high and lots of new things needed paying).
It is so easy to lose concentration and not spend the hours focussing on what you used to when a dramatic change in life happens. Others talk of having a family as a massive change, with children (and worrying about them), replacing areas of the brain that were previously totally focussed on remembering stats, form and run-styles. Getting the work-life balance right and settled is another brutally important aspect in staying a profitable punter, and avoiding the pitfalls of becoming the "action junkie" that lurks in all of us.
Follow Stephen on Twitter: @Stephenh61