With the Grand National just around the corner, you might be preparing to have a bet on one of the oldest sporting events in the world.
The famous horse race took place for the first time in 1839. The 2019 version will be the 172nd time the famous fences of Aintree have captured the racing world’s attention.
Plenty of people will have a flutter, even if they don’t normally bet on sports.
However, if you know how to play poker, you probably already have some of the skills required to make intelligent Grand National bets.
Use bankroll management
If you’re a smart poker player, you’ll know the importance of bankroll management. The Grand National meeting at Aintree will have multiple races, not just the big one on the Saturday, so if you’re planning on spreading your money across a few races – or even just making a few bets on one race – you should treat your bankroll in the same way you would look at your poker finances.
You’ll want to figure out how much you’re prepared to lose – and you may end up losing at certain horse racing meets – and set yourself limits so as to not gamble beyond your means. There is variance in horse racing, just as in poker: you won’t win money betting on the favourite every time, just as you won’t win every poker game, even if you feel you’re better than the other players at the table.
Just as importantly, though, smart bankroll management in horse racing ensures you won’t lose more than you can afford. If you set yourself an upper limit before the start of each meet, you’ll still need to be disciplined. Don’t just throw in an extra bet above and beyond your limits because of a hunch.
Field size matters
It is also worth considering the size of the field when preparing to bet on a horse race. The Grand National tends to have 40 runners (though the record for the race is 66), and 100/1 shots Foinavon and Mon Mome have both upset the odds to win the race.
It’s the same with poker. A player might be the hot favourite for a tournament, but the sheer number of runners reduce their chances of victory. We had to wait several years for the first two-time European Poker Tour champion because even the best players struggled to conquer huge fields. The Grand National is the same. Only a handful of horses win multiple titles and the favourite is rarely if ever a sure thing.
With everything else being equal, a smaller field means a better chance of winning. This is something worth bearing in mind before placing a bet, and is part of the reason why betting on a horse to place (also known as an each-way bet) is popular in big-field events like the Grand National.
You can treat the Grand National like a big-field main event: your odds of winning might be smaller than in a softer or smaller field, but there can still be money to be made if you make adjustments with that in mind.
Adjust to the conditions
Speaking of adjustments, smart bettors will be aware the conditions play their part, and change their betting patterns with this in mind. Certain horses will have a track record of performing better depending on whether the going is soft or firm. Difficult conditions can level the playing field to the point that a sure thing in better conditions is now just one of the pack.
You might be wondering how poker can help you here. But it’s all about making adjustments based on new information. It’s basic poker strategy, but applied just as easily to the horse racing world.
For example, you might sit down at the poker table and start bullying your passive opponents, increasing your stack in the process. But if you’re moved to a different table, leaving you sitting to the right of an aggressive opponent with twice as many chips, things will need to change. You might need to begin playing a little more conservatively, because your circumstances have changed.
Similarly, you might have identified a horse you’re ready to back for victory, only for heavy rain to hit unexpectedly a day or two before the race. The conditions in which your horse normally excels will no longer exist, which means it might be time to revise your plans and think twice about the big bet you were planning to place.
Think long term
Whether the Grand National is your first time betting on the horses, or whether it’s something you’ve been doing for years, a smart approach akin to how you treat poker can serve you well.
Similarly, just as poker players will look at making the right strategic play rather than being results-oriented, short-term success or failure shouldn’t be the be all and end all.
If it’s something you’re planning on doing regularly, horse racing betting shouldn’t just be about individual wins and losses – it should be about walking away knowing you have made the right wager in the circumstance. Oftentimes, when you do that, the wins will come hand in hand.