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Why use a Horse Racing Advisory Service?

It is often suggested that if a racing advisory service was any good, they would not need to offer the advice in the first place. Furthermore, some reckon that backing someone else's tips takes the fun out of horse racing, in which much of the excitement is believing that you have used your skill and judgement to beat the bookmaker. This is a perfectly acceptable prerogative, but there are reasons why the use of a horse racing service should not entirely be dismissed out-of-hand.

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Ninety-five per cent of gamblers fail to make a profit over the long term. For many of these, particularly the more risk-seeking gamblers, the overall loss is not so important as the feel-good factor of each win. Nevertheless, for others, the prime objective is to actually make some money. Naturally, part of the excitement of researching your own bets has been lost, but the punter can, and indeed should, maintain interest through effective money management . Tipping agencies do advise stake sizes, and sometimes even a staking plan, but rarely do they seek to inform the punter on how to manage their betting risks.

From the punter's perspective, a professionally organised advisory service should be regarded as a business. Yes, it is true that a successful bettor does not need to sell his knowledge, since he can profit quite happily by backing his own selections. From the tipster's perspective, however, earning revenue via the sale of his information is a sensible policy. His tips will not perform all the time, and if income from sports betting is not simply a luxury, then shortfalls in cash flow could be potentially detrimental. If, instead, his members support his income through regular monthly payments, the mortgage and bills can be paid.

Anyone seeking to purchase advice, however, should ensure that he has thoroughly researched the betting record of an advisory service. If there isn't one, don't use it. If one exists, make sure that it has been independently proven, and that the results can be verified. Furthermore, do not be fooled by excessive claims of profits, which in almost every case are a misrepresentation of what has actually been achieved. A "300% profit in one season" means nothing without information about the money management strategy. Instead, find out what the yield, or profit over turnover, of a betting record actually is, and decide whether the number of bets the service advises will be suitable for a reasonable growth of the bankroll without excessive risk.

In addition, the punter should also consider the following issues with regard to the practicality of an advisory service. Firstly, will it always be possible to obtain the advised betting price? If the advisory service has a large number of clients, excessive attention on a particular bet will often lead to a price shortening before the start of the event. If you are late on the bet, the price at which you take it may no longer represent value. A professional service should recognise this feature, and accommodate accordingly. If it doesn't, consider looking elsewhere for advice. Secondly, will it always be possible to bet at the advised stake, or at the stake which you have determined is necessary for your money management strategy? For heavily backed selections, bookmakers, particularly the online firms, will frequently seek to limit their liabilities by reducing the size of the maximum allowable stake. For single bets, this is not so often a problem, but for doubles and larger multiples, stakes sizes are sometimes limited to under £50. If your usual stake size is £100 or more, this may introduce problems for the control of the staking strategy. Thirdly, is the advisory service using recognised bookmakers or obscure firms with limited available currency types and higher deposit and withdrawal costs? Prices with the less familiar firms are generally higher to attract custom, but the punter may be compromising on reliability. It is not unknown for some online bookmakers to become insolvent, with punters losing all the funds in their accounts. Finally, how much does the advisory service cost, or more significantly, what proportion of profits is lost through membership fees? A typical sports advisory service costs in the region of £25 per month or £250 per year. If your stakes are £100, the yield is 10%, and there have been 250 bets during the season, this expense will make up only 10% of your profits. If, on the other hand, your stakes are only £10, you might want to consider a cheaper alternative.

Ultimately, there is no principal reason not to compliment your own betting selections with those from an advisory service if you feel this is warranted. Some punters may even prefer to have someone else do the hard work, gaining pleasure only from the knowledge that they are winning money. Others simply may have no time to spend analysing and forecasting sporting events, but in order to maintain an interest will happily purchase some advice. Whatever you choose to do, whether to back your own selections, someone else's, or a combination of the two, it will always pay to risk-manage your strategy, and analyse your record.

[Adapted from Fixed Odds Sports Betting: Statistical Forecasting & Risk Management (2003) , by Joseph Buchdahl, published by High Stakes Ltd.]

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