Remain Calm: 5 Ways to Stay Positive When You Aren’t

By Ray Wallin

Have you ever had a bad day at the track? I have. I can guarantee that you have. Even the guys I know that make their living playing the races have.

If you have been around professional gamblers, they will all tell you that “it is a marathon, not a sprint” and to remain committed for “the long haul.” Deep down you know they are right, but when you are having a bad day or week, it is hard to stay positive.

Next time you are having a hard time staying positive at the track, ask yourself the following questions.

#1 Is This Worth Getting Upset Over?

Back in my days of gracing the second floor of the old Meadowlands grandstand there was a colorful individual named Lamont. Every night was a range of emotions, like the old opening of Wide World of Sports would say “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” One night Lamont would be cheering and beating his chest in triumph, some nights the dented garbage can by the simulcast monitors felt his wrath, and other nights we saw both.

We all suffer bad beats or that sure thing that didn’t show up. Does sulking and screaming accomplish anything? If you had such a large sum of money riding on that one race that you lost a significant portion of your bankroll you should reassess your money management skills.

The point is that you have another race going off in a few minutes. You need to review the will pays, assess the horses in the paddock, and place your wager. You need to do all this with a level head. If you are still fuming about the last race you won’t do any of that well.

#2 Am I Overreacting to the Situation?

Let’s stay with our friend Lamont. Did channeling his inner Steven Seagal on that garage can help the situation? He felt better for a second, but overreacting didn’t change the outcome of the race. The stewards didn’t take pity on Lamont and put the inquiry light on. If anything, Lamont made a spectacle of himself and embarrassed both himself and his wife, who would come with him a couple times a week.

So what, you got beat? Even the best handicappers lose more bets than they win. Time to keep your emotions in check and move on to the next race!

#3 Can I Control The Situation?

After losing a race our friend Rail Guy loves to criticize the jockey. “Dat bum shoulda let him loose on da lead insteada holding him back.” I am sure that Rail Guy has never been closer to a horse than the paddock rail, let alone ridden one, but he fancies himself an expert.

Whether it is our horse racing expert Rail Guy’s critique of the jockey’s ride, a horse that encounters a troubled trip, or a horse that doesn’t feel like racing, there are factors that you cannot control. Chances are when you are betting you are either sitting at your computer at home, sitting in a casino racebook, or stationed strategically somewhere at the track. You are not sitting in the saddle of a 1,200 pound animal that is built for speed.

Is there anything that you could have done differently that would have changed the outcome of the race? Unless you were the one streaking across the track during the stretch drive, there was nothing you could have done.

You need to accept that the only thing you are in control of is how you react to the situation.

#4 How Does This Make Me A Better Handicapper?

Like the proverb says “instead of complaining that the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.” While the only roses you may care about are the ones that the most precocious 3-year-olds are running for on the first Saturday in May, you need to find a positive amid your bad days.

After a bad day at the track you need to do a post-mortem on your handicapping. Why did you lose? Was it bad handicapping or was it due to factors that were out of your control? Did you miss that lone early speed horse or did your horse run into trouble at every turn in the race?

What did you learn today? Did you find that a sloppy track surface at Monmouth favors speed? Did it favor the inside posts? Is Journeyman Joe the jockey a better in turf races than those contested over the main track? Did your smart money management limit the damage to your bankroll or were you hemorrhaging money? Did your sure thing get a rough trip? Can you remember that for his next race when he will be overlooked off of this lackluster effort?

The point is that there will be some tangible piece of information that you can take away from even a bad day at the races. It is up to you to use that information to your advantage by tweaking your handicapping, noting horses that had bad trips, and how unique situations may need to be handled in the future. All these things will pay off,

#5 What Can I Do To Make Myself Feel Better Right Now?

Pretend you are our friend Lamont. You showed that garbage can who is the boss. Then you stood it back up and shoved it back into position. Sweaty and out of breath you look around and realize the spectacle you made of yourself. Your wife is pretending to not know who you are and people are staring and laughing.

Did all that really make you feel better?

No, it didn’t. What can you do to make yourself feel better instead?

There are a couple of things you can do, but everyone is different so you’ll need to figure this one out for yourself. You may want to stop betting for the day. You are having a bad day, it may be best to call it day and head back home. You may want to take a long walk, head down to the picnic area to get away from the grandstand or do a lap around the inside of the casino. Maybe it would be a good idea to grab a snack or focus on the crossword puzzle in the newspaper that some degenerate left on top of the dented garbage can after Lamont stood it back up.

You know what will calm you down and what will make you feel better. Like Nike’s slogan says, “Just do it.”

The next time you are having a bad day at the track, try to make the best of it. No one ever had a good day when they were completely irrational. Get your head back in a good place and your bankroll will thank you later.

Ray Wallin
Ray Wallin is a licensed civil engineer and part-time handicapper who has had a presence on the Web since 2000 for various sports and horse racing websites and through his personal blog. Introduced to the sport over the course of a misspent teenage summer at Monmouth Park by his Uncle Dutch, a professional gambler, he quickly fell in love with racing and has been handicapping for over 25 years.

Ray’s background in engineering, along with his meticulous nature and fascination with numbers, parlay into his ability to analyze data; keep records; notice emerging trends; and find new handicapping angles and figures. While specializing in thoroughbred racing, Ray also handicaps harness racing, Quarter Horse racing, baseball, football, hockey, and has been rumored to have calculated the speed and pace ratings on two squirrels running through his backyard.

Ray likes focusing on pace and angle plays while finding the middle ground between the art and science of handicapping. When he is not crunching numbers, Ray enjoys spending time with his family, cheering on his alma mater (Rutgers University), fishing, and playing golf.

Ray’s blog, which focuses on his quest to make it to the NHC Finals while trying to improve his handicapping abilities can be found at www.jerseycapper.blogspot.com Ray can also be found on Twitter (@rayw76) and can be reached via email at ray.wallin@live.com.