The annual Cheltenham Festival is a peerless race meeting.
The racing is guaranteed to be of the very highest quality, and the razzmatazz and glamour that goes with it will be as appealing and exciting as ever.
And, whatever else may happen, one thing I can guarantee is that over the next week, your email inbox will be flooded with messages from bookies and system providers, offering time-limited offers that are too good to refuse.
In short, everyone – and I mean everyone – will agree that Cheltenham is A Good Thing.
And yet I wonder.
You see, the purpose of my site is to explore the possibility that sports betting may represent a serious investment opportunity.
And, when considered from this point of view, it’s quite easy to argue that Cheltenham is a disaster waiting to happen.
The Cheltenham Festival comes with several major risks for the serious punter.
1. It encourages betting as thrill and recreation… which is precisely how the bookies want you to look at it.
Consider all those sobersides warnings about bonus offers being withdrawn if ‘abuse’ is detected (where abuse is effectively defined as ‘creating positive outcomes at the bookie’s expense’).
Invariably, they come with patronising little lectures like this one from Bet365: “All bet365 offers are intended for recreational players and bet365 may in its sole discretion limit the eligibility of customers to participate in all or part of any promotion”.
Translated: “It’s all right for us to be businesslike about this stuff, but you have to do the decent thing and spray your cash round like an idiot”.
So… if we approach the Festival as a sort of huge betting party, are we at risk of singing to their tune?
And if you think I’m being a killjoy, then you are free to sign on to the greatest bookie lie of the lot — namely that losing money can be fun!
Trust me, banking profits is a lot more fun.
2. Cheltenham is all about drama and emotion.
One of the lessons I’ve had to learn, often the hard way by enduring long, losing runs, is that it’s important to distance yourself from ups and downs.
Take the emotion out of betting and, over time, you will, other things being equal, be more successful.
Cheltenham, by contrast, is about ramping up the winning and losing feelings that cause so many to do stupid things.
3. The racing will be high quality and super-competitive, which makes picking winners very difficult indeed.
I can’t over-emphasize this point.
Un de Sceaux may be 1.62 in the Arkle Trophy but there are some other wonderful mounts in that race.
‘Favourite’ does not mean the same thing at Cheltenham.
Scan the card and you will find very few no-hopers here.
4. The Festival is short-lived so there’s a serious risk you over-bet and/or chase losses in order to finish the week in profit.
I know… we all tell ourselves we’ll never do it!
Thing is, sober level-staking approaches may look a bit mundane when you’ve lost three or four on the bounce and there’s just one big race before it’s time to finish for the day.
Where’s the harm in just trying to win a little extra back, eh?
5. On the subject of sobriety… please don’t drink and bet!
If there is one thing a bookie loves more than a mug punter, it’s a tipsy mug punter!
I say this with a mixture of shame and authority, as I once lost over £200 at one of the summer meetings in York, and still have no idea what happened after the first bottle of bubbles!
6. Perhaps most subtly… Any success you have won’t really make much difference over the course of a year …
By definition, Cheltenham almost has to be all about recreational betting. Simply because you can’t come back the week after.
But we need year-round strategies, dear reader, not one-off gimmicks, if we really are to make our betting count.
You need a system, not entertainment.
And remember – there is nothing you can do if your Cheltenham-only system or tipster gets it wrong. You can’t revert to plan B the following Monday!
So… should we bet on Cheltenham at all?
You probably, by now, think I’m the least fun person in the whole betting world!
But you know, I will be betting at Cheltenham.
How so?, I hear you cry. 🙂
In two ways:
a) Any system that I use all year round, and which just happens to throw up a selection during the Festival, will operate as normal.
Yes, it’s really OK just to approach Cheltenham like any other meeting.
From a financial point of view, betting at the Festival is clearly neither better nor worse than a wager on a wet Wednesday at Wolverhampton!
So if, for instance, your system bets on handicaps normally, then bet on handicaps at Cheltenham, using the same rules.
This makes it an emotion-less act, rather than a dubious champagne moment.
b) There are lots and lots of brilliant bookie offers .. with potential for arbs and high value trades all over the place!
Take the Arkle Trophy again.
PaddyPower are offering free bets if Un de Sceaux wins, and BoyleSports are giving away free bets, via their mobile service, if he doesn’t!
Honestly, it would be rude not to.
If you must just “bet for fun” (how I hate that phrase!), please set aside a pot of cash that you’re prepared to lose.
And don’t shed any tears if and when you lose it.
Please let me know below how you’ll be approaching next week’s event. 🙂