Are you the cautious type of punter? If you are, then PPM's expert Mick Collins has some sensible advice to help you cash in on your conservatism.

Multiple betting in a single race. How many punters just never think about it? Heaps, I can tell you. And this is a pity.

For a lot of punters "going multiple" could be just what they need to turn loss into profit, or at the very least send them home even on the day. What I am talking about, really is insurance betting.

Firstly, let's discuss the problem. It's a fact that old habits die hard. Most punters have picked out just the one horse in a race all their life and they're not about to change, whether they're winning or losing during that lifetime (probably losing!). Australians still have their few dollars each-way on the TAB despite the fact that the place divvy might not be enough to cover the straight out investment, should their horse run 2nd or 3rd.

They just don't think about 'covering' their bet in some way. They ignore the opportunity to take out a bit of insurance by backing more than one runner. Even the simple thing of backing in the ratio of one unit win and three (or four) units a place is beyond them. A punter betting in the ratio of one to three would still show some profit if his horse ran 2nd or 3rd and paid as low as 70 cents for 50 cents.

'Pairing' is a form of betting insurance which should appeal to punters who up to now wouldn't give a second thought to backing more than one runner in a race. It can be a really solid form of punting approach for TAB punters who can find one 'strong' selection and then choose a likely danger for the insurance side of things.

The inner strength of the method is that you don't have to confine yourself to one racetrack. You can work on any TAB meetings. Initially, pairing was created for backing two horses in different races with one of them acting as the 'saver' component of the bet. But it also can be operated on several races.

Here's an example: You decide that Horse A at 2-1 is the bet of the day. This is the horse about which you are really confident. Let's say that Horse A is racing in Sydney. Horse B at 3-1 is another Sydney runner who appeals to you as a winner. In Melbourne, Horse C catches your eye at 4-1.

What you do is take Horses B and C as the insurance bets, and go for the big win on your best bet, Horse A. Let's suppose you have $10 to invest. Firstly, you put aside the 'insurance money'. This is, according to the prices of Horses B and C, $2.50 on Horse B (the 3-1 chance) and $2 on Horse C (the 4-1 chance). All you do is add one to each price and divide into 10.

You now have $5.50 left, which you will bet on Horse A at 2-1. Now, there are several possible results. If all three horses lose-well, you've blown $10! But let's look on the bright side.

If Horse A wins at 2-1 and the other two horses lose, then you collect $16.50 for a clear profit of $6.50. If your best bet Horse A loses, and Horse B loses, but Horse C wins then your bet is squared, because you'll have a $10 return from your $2 bet on the 4-1 shot.

Should Horse B be the only winner, you'll get back $10 for a break even on the transaction. But then again, what if Horse B and Horse C won for you with Horse A losing? In this case you'd collect $20 for a profit of $10 (100 per cent on your stake!). Should Horse A and one of the insurance horses win you'd get back $26.50, a profit of $16.50. If all three happened to win, your return would be $36.50 for a profit of $26.50.

The only way you can get beaten is for all three horses to lose. So what you have is a multiple bet with a difference. Unlike a multiple bet on a single race, with this approach you have the chance of scoring on all bets.

A well-known professional friend of mine has worked on pairings like this for years. He started off in the 1950s taking two specials in Melbourne and two in Sydney. He was then investing 60 pounds a week. He backed these specials to return 60 pounds, including his stake.

What he did was add one to the price of each runner and divide into 60 to decide how much to place on each horse. If the figures didn't work out, he'd drop one horse and concentrate on three.

"I must say I haven't had many losing days," he told me recently. "I invariably managed one winner from the four and, of course, that was enough to enable me to come out smiling, with all monies saved.

"I can't remember a long losing run. I suppose I've been lucky in that respect, but I always made sure I chose wisely. I never tried to buck the odds. If I wasn't sure, I'd miss the meeting. I still do."

My recommendation is that this 'pairing' form of insurance staking should be adopted by those punters who like a few bets a day and who are willing to achieve modest but steady profits through wise selection.

By Mick Collins