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Five New Year's Resolutions for Any Bettor

Five New Year's Resolutions for Any Bettor

Dec. 28 (Bloomberg) -- The start of a new year is always a good opportunity to take stock and work out where you can make more (or lose less) from your gambling. Here are five resolutions that would improve any bettor's performance in 2008.

1. Keep records.

This is every pro's first advice. Alistair Flutter, who has made a living from gambling for more than 10 years, says, ``If you are serious about gambling and don't keep records, then you are an idiot.''

Someone who says ``I'm breaking even on the year'' usually means they are somewhere between $3,000 and $20,000 behind on their betting action. Not keeping records allows you to kid yourself that you are doing better than you are. Records let you analyze your strengths and weaknesses and eliminate those sports where you struggle to make a profit.

If there's just one thing you do to improve your betting, start writing down every wager.

2. Become a specialist.

It pays to specialize. In the major sports such as NFL football or the big European soccer leagues -- Italy's Serie A, English Premiership, Spanish La Liga -- there are tons of information for bookmakers to work with. Every major club has reporters whose only job is to write on injuries, the latest squabbles between the coach and his players, and what's going on in the boardroom.

In smaller sports there might be two reporters in a whole nation who make a living from covering that sport. Yet the bookies still have to post odds. Make it a specialty and you'll be able to spot when they have put up a favorable line.

Scottish Specialty

One of Europe's top professional gamblers, Tony Ansell, has made his fortune by specializing in Scottish Division Two and Three soccer matches. Most of the players are semi-professionals or amateurs and Ansell makes it his business to know the squad's activities. If the team has been celebrating a player's birthday the night before a match or the goalkeeper's wife is sleeping with the striker, Ansell will know.

The other advantage of being a specialist is that other winning bettors will seek you out and will be happy to reciprocate by giving you their picks on their specialties. Most top gamblers realize they can't be experts on everything.

3. Search for the best odds.

Would you buy a plasma TV without checking around for the best price? Probably not. The same is true of your bets. You shouldn't just go to the first bookie and take the offered odds.

This is especially true if you are betting a local team with a bookie in your town. If you are in New York and the line on the Giants is +7 in Las Vegas, you're likely to be offered +6.5 in New York as the bookie adjusts for the weight of money being placed on the local favorite. Losing that half point will, over the course of the season, make a big difference. There are plenty of online odds comparison services that will show you the odds in real time from as many as 30 sportsbooks.

If you're an online poker player, search for the best ``rakeback'' deal. Poker sites often give back a percentage of the house ``rake'' that you pay on every hand at the end of the month. This can be as much as 40 percent, and a good rakeback deal can make the difference between a monthly profit or a loss.

4. Manage your money better.

Keep a separate account for gambling and don't mix it up with your household cash. Gambling money should be money you can afford to lose. Poker players have an expression for a player who sits down with cash that is meant to be used for a credit- card payment or rent: ``scared money.''

It is much harder to make sensible gambling decisions when, in the back of your mind, you're thinking of the dreadful consequences of losing all your cash. I keep a separate bank account purely for gambling money and only withdraw from it when I have reached a pre-ordained limit.

5. Stop chasing your losses.

It is human nature to double your bets to try to recoup a loss. When the roulette wheel has come up red seven spins in a row, it's tempting to plunk a huge bet on black because it's ``due.'' The ball drops in red and the gambler is left wondering why he risked so much on one spin. Las Vegas casinos know that the gambler's instinct to chase losses is what will pay the electricity bill for all those neon signs that can be seen from the moon.

If you set yourself a limit at which you walk away from the table or stop placing sports bets, then you will start to have the discipline to become a winning player. Even the top pros chase their losses (it's known as ``going on tilt'' in poker) and while it is hard to cure, it is an impulse you have to learn to control if you want to make money from gambling long term.

If you can keep all five of these resolutions, your 2008 gambling should see an impressive improvement on the last 12 months. But even sticking to one or two of them should improve your cash flow considerably.

(Joe Saumarez-Smith is chief executive officer of Sports Gaming, a U.K. management consulting firm to the gaming industry. He also owns European online bingo companies and odds comparison Web sites. The opinions expressed are his own.) Spend
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