When you think about professional gamblers, what comes to mind?
In truth, it could be anything: insightful, sinister, corrupt... The adjectives could go as long as you want. In truth people who make a living from gambling are, in general, one of two things: knowledgeable within their chosen niche or corrupt.
I guess the latter does a disservice to the professional status of the true gamblers as the corrupt aren't really anything but criminals.
From my point of view, I have read about many professional gamblers - the vast majority being interested and dedicated to horse racing. In this modern world of betting exchanges and laying horses and trading we have a new breed of gambler.
However, my observation is more about the retro gamblers of past: Alec Bird, Phil Bull, Dave Nevison, Harry Findlay et al.
I know some of you will be reading that list and think, 'He wasn't much of a gambler'. Or you have umpteen gamblers you would add to the list. Admittedly it is a short list. I often irritate people by adding Terry Ramsden to my list of professional gamblers just to get a response. Although he lost a lot of money betting on horses he did, don't forget, make millions as a stock broker which is still a professional gambler as far as I can see.
Anyway, I don't want to get into all that.
The one thing I noticed when reading about each of these aforementioned names is that they had very little in common.
True, they bet on horses!
I often ask people what does a tiger and a table have in common?
For example, Phil Bull was all about the fastest horses with regard to the clock.
All these professional gamblers had their own niche, a skill honed by years of trial and error to one day beat the odds. Not one, as far as I am aware, waved a magical horn from a defunct, hapless unicorn or recited a spell stolen from some old dear who lived round the corner from Rumpelstiltskin.
It's funny to read how a given gambler would say never bet in this race type or price and there is one of their counterparts detailing how they make regular money doing exactly that.
Any half wise gambler can appreciate that every winner is the answer to the question in that if you can understand what made it a winner could well be used to find more winners. Also, every loser is quietly whispering to you why you should have listened.
The very truth of winning and losing is there before you - waiting like hieroglyphics to be understood.
The problem is most gamblers never stop to think. It's all about the next race if not simply the buzz.
Have you as a gambler ever stopped to question why your horse won or lost? You may be thinking that sounds a boring endevour. However, if you don't understand the reason you are missing the best part of the race.
My niche is two-year-old horse racing. I don't pretend I understand any other age group. I enjoy saying I know nothing about the National Hunt or even three-year-old colts, geldings and fillies.
I don't need to know about them.
What makes you a winner or a loser when it comes to gambling is what makes you different from the crowd.
If you are a favourite backer - the eternal favourite backer - you may as well give up.
It's the same if you spread yourself too thin.
''I follow all types of horse racing.''
I hope if that is your answer you have some very clever way of working because my day has just 24 hours.
Ever wondered why those contestants have a specilised subject? Because if they didn't they'd be pretty much like you or me.
If you want to be a successful gambler you need to know your subject better than your average bloke down the bookies.
If you are not - give up.
It will be a long road and painful experience to realise, if you ever do, that you literally backed the wrong horse.