Keeping self-control at the festival is hard but your finances will feel benefit
Ten rules to remember when Cheltenham euphoria hits your senses
Cheltenham is like Christmas for punters – an excess of temptation, lots of good things, long anticipated and, of course, potentially very expensive. Just as with Christmas, it provides an easy excuse to throw aside all self-discipline and the financial repercussions can be long-lasting and serious.
In the lead up to the feast there are countless tips coming from every parish in Britain and Ireland and myriad tales from festivals past of over-indulgence and excess portrayed as heroic derring-do.
It is all too easy to get caught up in the romantic talk of yesteryear when legendary punters strode up to the bookies armed with wads of notes and came away with carrier bags full of cash and pockets bulging.
The stories of other punters who bet the house and lost do not make it into festival folklore and there seems little glory attached to recounting how caution and restraint meant punters walked away from Cheltenham with their finances intact.
Yet there’s nothing heroic about losing more than you can afford, or worse, encouraging others to jump in too deep with you.
So, assuming you are going to have a bet or two at Cheltenham rather than just enjoy the aesthetic pleasure of the Cotswolds, here are some guidelines to try to remember when the tide of festival euphoria hits your senses.
1. Make a plan and stick to it
Decide how much you are prepared to lose and divide that fund between the bets you are going to have. Be aware you may lose the lot as you have no divine right to back a single winner throughout the four days.
2 You don’t have to bet on all 28 races
In fact it would be madness to do so. Pick the contests in which you can see an angle, find an edge and ignore the rest. Betting just £10 each-way may not sound very reckless, but multiplied by 28 races it will set you back £560 if you don’t have a sniff of success. Can you afford to lose that much this month? Settle the bills you have to pay first and do not rely on finding the winner of the County Hurdle to clear your credit card debt.
3 Take advantage of offers but don’t let them take advantage of you
The bookmakers want your money (yes really) and they will try to attract you to betting all week with their firm with some tempting lures in the opening races. Some may be worth having but read the terms and conditions very carefully. In particular, check whether you receive money back or just the chance to bet again. How many times do you have to turn over your stake? Remember the more times you bet the more likely it becomes that the book will win.
4 Don’t bet under the influence of drink, drugs or peer pressure
Some might think drinking and Cheltenham go hand in hand but just remember the most celebrated punter of them all, JP McManus, the Sundance Kid of lore, never touches a drop. Drink inspires recklessness, and hangovers are not exactly conducive to clear thinking. You may want to celebrate, but make sure you have a winner or two first to make it justifiable.
5 Don’t be fooled by bankers
This is not the City and no-one will bail you out when a banker fails to deliver on its promise. Short prices usually mean raising the stakes or raising the heart-rate with accumulators that come unstuck on the last leg.
6 Don’t chase your losses
The ‘lucky last’ and ‘getting-out stakes’ are just cliches. The festival finale each day presents a dangerous way to try to claw your way back into the black.
7 Be honest about how much you bet
Tell those closest to you how much you are putting on and how much you win or lose. Keep a strict tally and don’t fall for the ‘breaking even’ self-delusion.
8 Don’t get involved in other ‘opportunities’
How sad will you be if your homework and planning pays off and you back a festival winner only to fritter your hard-earned away on a FOBT.
9 If you win, don’t assume punting is easy
Winning can be a lot more dangerous to your long-term financial health than losing and thereby learning a lesson.
10 Remember this is fun
It’s supposed to be an enjoyable experience so, to adapt the much-used slogan, stop before the fun stops. If you have left it too late, it means you have already done your dough.