EARLY LAST MARCH WHILE ordering a cup of coffee at the Clubhouse Turn Café inside Tampa Bay Downs, I overheard a patron boisterously proclaim to everyone within earshot that he had caught the daily double for $116.

Normally my spirit would revel alongside such a celebration but hereâ??s the thing: Three weeks earlier I saw this exact same soul shouting obscenities in the menâ??s room because he had visited the ATM on three separate occasions since coming through the turnstiles.

No one always wins, but if you swipe the plastic with any kind of regularity while gaming, chances are that means your balance sheet is bleeding red. Now understand, I donâ??t judge. In fact recently Iâ??ve burned through a few C-notes myself. But I can report to the penny how much has been donated to the counting roomâ??s coffers over any sustained time period because I write down every single one of my wagers.

If one is serious about making money at the ponies he must treat the endeavor like a business and that entails a keeping a detailed record of all transactions. I often receive a response coated with disgust if I float this hypothesis out to one of my brethren, who mistakenly believe it is too time-consuming to be worthwhile. I admit that every individual snippet of action may require some fresh discipline, but doing so simply makes for a better horseplayer.

In most instances when a losing betting slip hits the ground, the handicapper does a brain dump then moves toward the next race. In this scenario the reason for defeat is never fully scrutinized. If a handicapper charts the dayâ??s plays, he is able to go back and discover the error in his ways then take steps to ensure a similar mistake will be avoided in the future.

If a player wishes to better themselves using this technique, a small investment is required. Any old spiral notebook will not do for the task of registering wagers because there must be stout attention to detail. To reap the full reward of equine documentation youâ??ve got to grab a hammer, break the piggy bank and scrape together enough loose change to purchase a four-column accounting pad.

Now when charting bets, itâ??s imperative to be specific. In every instance I personally note the date, track, condition of the strip, race number, Thoroughbredâ??s name(s), post position, wager amount and type of bet (Ex: 2/28 – Tampa Bay Downs (fast) – Race 1 – Flying the Flag (#7) – $2 Place). After the race is complete and posted official, I proceed to enter my results. The first column is reserved for winning bets and in this instance, Flying the Flag returned $3.80 in the place pool. Subsequent to subtracting my initial investment of $2, I am left with a profit of $1.80, which is entered into the first column. If Flying the Flag would have failed to crack the top two positions I would have entered ($2) into the second column which is reserved for losses.

When my session comes to a close I tally up the dayâ??s plays (in this case I won $29.30) and enter the results into the third column. After every session hereafter this number will be adjusted accordingly, thus forever eliminating balance speculation. In the ledgerâ??s fourth column I record expenses incurred while gambling. This might seem like overkill, but programs, gas, concession food and tips all erode the bankroll. Only after the player realizes the cost of gaming will he devise ways to reduce this collateral outflow.

All of us who periodically chase greenbacks know that when Lady Luck vanishes, things get dicey, but that is when our book of numbers serves its greatest purpose. Being able to see how much you are down is a very sobering reality and tends to decelerate oneâ??s compulsion to chase losses. The practice of documenting wagers also will reveal your overall strengths and weaknesses as a handicapper. For instance, after evaluating several of my sessions from early last year it was obvious that throttling down my exacta play was imperative. On the other hand I was surprised to discover a winning percent of .750 with regards to place and show wagers. Over the next few months I employed a new strategy using these statistics and slowly erased my debt.

In closing it is probably clear that applying the approach described above will take a dash of serious commitment, but name me something of worth that doesnâ??t? Take the challenge and perhaps someday youâ??ll be included in the small 3 percent of horseplayers who consistently walk out a winner.