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Expectations - A Source of Betting Frustration?

Maintaining expectations in line with the reality of betting is one of the most important elements in being a successful punter. Unrealistic expectations eventually lead to frustration and disappointment. Such emotions are dangerous from a betting perspective... they make it hard for you to think clearly and often lead to hapharazard betting decisions, which you later regret.

Experiencing those emotions often enough leads many punters to question whether they can really win at this game? Such mental uncertainty and frustration is a barrier to winning that many punters never break though and it all stems from having unrealistic expectations.

Perhaps the most basic yet important expectation that influences our state of mind each day is what we think our winning chance is on each bet. If you’re like me, you only bet when you are confident that your horse or one of the horses you are backing will win…sounds obvious, doesn’t it? You might have varying degrees of confidence with each bet, but in your mind you expect to win on the race or go close... that’s why you are betting in the first place, it’s as simple as that.

However do you really stop to reflect on what your actual chance of winning on a race is? In my experience many punters subconsciously overestimate their chances of winning a particular bet. 

What is your winning chance?

Your winning chance is best reflected in the price of the horse you back. If the horse you back is $5.00, then on average your winning chance is anywhere from 18% to 22%. Long-term this creates a profit range of  -10% to +10% on turnover.

If you think about your mindset when you watch one of your bets go around at this type of price, is that the sort of expectation of winning you have in mind? I would bet that many punters expectation is at least double that (closer to 40%), if not more.

Let’s face it, you had enough confidence to bet in the first place so it’s natural that you would watch the race with a high expectation of winning, especially when your horse is near the top of the market.

The reality is though that you won’t win nearly as often as your subconscious expectations and that’s where the trouble starts.

Odds-on horses

These short priced hopefuls have a unique effect on the mindset of punters. For some reason, many punters seem to believe that when a horse tips into the odds-on range, it’s obliged to win almost 100% of the time and when one does get beaten, it's a major shock!

Backing a few odds-on losers in a row see's frustration quickly build and can often lead to illogical thoughts that odds-on horses are more difficult to profit from than others... that somehow the fact that the horse is odds-on has an extra negative influence on the its winning chance. I’ve never understood why punters view odds-on horses differently to others.

Consider a horse at $1.80… realistically you can expect these types of bets to win anywhere from around 51% to 61% of the time. Even at the upper end of that range, close to 4 in 10 will still be beaten.

It's probably fair to say that when most punters watch a $1.80 chance go around they're expecting it to win more like 80% to 90% of the time. They expect it should be a rarity to see a horse at this price get beaten, rather than expecting that it will lose almost just as often as it wins. 

What about at an even shorter price? If you are backing horses at $1.50 and maintain a strong 12.5% profit edge, then you are making plenty of money, but will still lose 1 in 4 bets. Judging by my experience in seeing punter's reactions when a $1.50 chance is beaten, their subconscious expectation of winning is significantly greater than 75%... perhaps closer to 95%, almost a certainty!

If you reflect back on your thoughts when watching a $1.50 chance, do you subconsciously look at the horse as virtually a good thing that is only beaten on very rare occasions?

The conflict between such expectations and the reality of winning chances is a major source of frustration and disappointment for many punters. 


Longer priced horses

The importance of having realistic expectations about your winning chance is even more important when it comes to horses approaching $10.00 in the market and longer. Realistically you have approximately a 1 in 10 chance of winning, yet most punters watch the race with a much higher expectation.

If I wrote a number between 1 and 10 down on a piece of paper and then asked you to guess it, your expectation of success would almost certainly be lower than on the $10 chance you last backed, but in reality the two are the same. It's likely that if I asked you to bet me on guessing that number on the piece of paper, you would be much less confident and bet less than you did on the $10 horse racing chance. That is the best way I can think to demonstrate what it means to have an unrealistic expectation of winning.


The impact of unrealistic expectations becomes magnified when the inevitable nature of betting comes to the surface and you experience a losing run.

If your expectation of success on each individual bet isn’t in line with reality, then a string of losses can spell disaster for your state of mind. Unfortunately that’s where many punters end up.

Maintaining Perspective

One of the keys to maintaining a healthy punting mind is to watch each race with a clear thought of your realistic winning chance and most importantly to keep the outcome in perspective. 

If that $1.70 chance you back gets beaten, there’s no reason to curse all odds-on horses. Simply recognise that at least 1 in 3 are at that price are likely to be beaten. Also recognise that even at $1.70 you can expect to experience three, four or even more in a row being beaten. That's what maintaining the correct perspective means.

If you win two out of three in the long-term you will still show a significant profit.

Equally, when you back a $10 chance, recognise that regardless of how confident you are, the reality is that you only have a 10%-12% chance of success. Don’t get too disappointed or frustrated when a string of them are beaten. At this price you are likely to have significant losing runs, much longer than you subconsciously expect. 

In Summary

There are no absolutes in betting, only probabilities. Having a good understanding of probability and what it means to your real chance of winning is absolutely essential. The more effort you make to master this aspect of betting and avoid unrealistic expectations, the more successful you will be.

Bet Smarter!