Copper The Public

Secrets of Professional Turf Betting

I continue with my ritual of writing something that is both interesting and helpful. The challenge will be deciding what to write about. There is just so much “content” out there.

This piece could be about the news but changes constantly. It could be about secular trends in macroeconomics and technology. It could be about the latest “hustle and grind” advice or “overcoming failure” porn. Pass.

I am going to briefly touch upon chapter one of The Secrets of Professional Turf Betting (1956). This book about playing the ponies turns out to be very relevant and I don’t think I’m the first but merely the latest observer to pluck some “tips” of inner game wisdom from this out of print text.

Let’s take a look at the “tips” from the first chapter and consider their relevance to risk taking and profit making both life and the markets.

“It is possible for any man (or woman) who has the required even temperament … ‘to get off to the races’ with small capital…. Plus a knowledge of how to cash in on the application…

The careless, the inconsistent, the people who must be ‘in action’ every minute, the stabbers at the moon, the followers of free public selectors, the people who go…’just for fun’, the players who are ignorant of the principle of winning, the people who do not keep up to date with all the new ideas and trends — all such people must lose.

“The faces in the group of losers keep shifting, as unprepared, ignorant, or unstable people try the game for sport and excitement… But the winners sit right there every day…

“…[T]hese same consistent winners retire to the same comfortable homes…or luxurious restaurants for dinner…

“…[N]ote these successful people. They are composed, quiet and unhurried. They keep their own counsel, talking to nobody before the races, merely nodding to acquaintances….They never boast. They never complain.

“But if you watch them, you will see that… they follow a race intently. And then after the finish, pull handfuls of winning tickets from their inside pockets, to figure up the total winnings….

“These people are the professionals-consistent bet winners. History records that they come from all walks of life….These quiet professionals are quite inconspicuous, unless you look for them, because there are so many careless, gambling crazy amateurs rushing this way and that way, muttering, shouting, jumping from one crackpot idea to another, betting on hope and fear and emotion-instead of knowledge and percentage.

“In fact, a few of these winning professionals make little effort to use either time, weight, class or condition to determine the horses on which to bet!

“These professionals win because they know…the same principle that must be used to beat any speculative game or business from which a legal ‘take’, house percentage, or brokerage fee is extracted. That principle is: “COPPER” THE PUBLIC’S IDEAS AND PLAY AT ALL TIMES!…”

“To ‘copper’ is an old expression among the speculative fraternity, meaning to ‘bet against’.”

I can think of two speculative specialties, completely different from each other, where coppering the crowd is relevant.

Coppering the public is at the heart of success for two different market “operators”:

The value investor who bargain hunts when all have cried doom (or shorts an investment when an investment narrative has become free of gravitational limit) and the professional speculator who “rides trends” despite our profound mean-reversion seeking hard-wiring. Both are playing against the weakness of the public’s desires, which are to run towards the popular and away from the hated and their strong impulse to call a “top” or a “bottom” in prices.

The value player has bought a dollar for fifty cents and then cashes out when everyone is offering considerably more than a dollar and the “trend” speculator quietly rides a speculation ignoring predictions following through on a pre-planned trading plan.

Both are professionals and derive their excitement elsewhere in life and take profits from those who seek something more than profits from the marketplace. The market pros are, just as described in this old book, also generally working quietly, sometimes unknown, practicing a disciplined, self-aware approach.

When the crowd notices, the pros have generally moved along. All professionals, or aspirants to professionalism, are coppering the various weaknesses of the public, and this year will be no different this or any other year.

Good luck with your coppering.