Can you wait for a race in which you can find the winner in two selections and then cash in by backing one for the win, the other for the place?

It's a staking tactic I know is used by at least two professional punters in Sydney, and it goes back many years, though I would venture to suggest that few punters today use such an approach.

Now, whether a punter bets for the win or place, odds are still odds, and their percentages are still percentages, so the idea of backing two horses for win and place can be used to advantage in the one race.

Long-term success, of course, depends, as it does in all areas of betting, on how good your selections are, and how beneficial are the winning prices. Nothing is easy, is it?

Reducing prices to percentages is something we should all know about, otherwise we shouldn't be risking our money on horse racing. The simple formula is to add ONE to the price and divide into 100. Thus, if a horse is 4/1, the percentage is 4 plus 1 divided into 100, equals 20. There is a percentage in every price.

One of the professionals I know who follows this approach is not an impatient man. He is quite prepared to wait, and wait even more, until the right opportunity presents itself.

Generally, he'll find a couple of races a day, occasionally three. He bets in the ratio of the percentages. He backs his top fancy for a win to return him $100, including the stake, and supports his next-best for the place for a similar return.

He says: "If only one of my horses either wins or places I have a return, and some profit, while if both click in the anticipated order I am a good winner."

While I was talking to him, he had just had a double collect. He secured 6/4 on his straightout selection and took $60 to $40. For the place, his selection was showing 5/4. He staked $44 for the place. This horse, on the TAB, ended up paying $2.60, which suited my friend fine.

His total investment was $84. He received $100 back for the winner and just over $114 from the place bet. The full return, including stakes, totalled $214 for a profit of $130.

If he had collected on only the winner, he would have won $16 while if the win bet had gone down but the place had been okay he would have made $30.

So it's not a bad position to be in, is it? My pal explained that, with a few exceptions, he operates only when the total investment on his two selections is less than $100, which means he is assured of some capital gain provided one of his selections hits.

In the next race he bet on, he went straightout on an even-money chance, betting $50, and went for the place on a horse paying 6/4. The bet was $40. In all, he bet $90. As things turned out, the win bet went down but the place bet came up, so he got away with a $10 profit.

Shooting for a third race on the day, the result went the wrong way for him. His win bet, $33 at 2 / 1, ran 3rd, while his place bet, $50 at evens, actually won the race. But he wasn't grumbling. It happens.

The bet returned him $100 on an outlay of $83 so he was $17 ahead.

I pass on this approach because I feel it has great merit for those punters prepared to pick and choose the races on which to bet. You need to be pretty sure of what you're doing.

But, remember this, you will basically only need your PLACE horse to get into the first three to make a small profit on the bet.

I decided to have a go at the approach myself and took the opportunity for a midweek test on a country meeting. Now that's a tough ask. But I am a pretty good follower of country and provincial racing; I think we can find as many good betting opportunities at these venues as we can at the city tracks.

I concentrated on the Port Macquarie meeting, and quickly found two races I thought I could "hit" with two picks a race.

In the Quality Open, I was reasonably confident that barring ill-luck, the topweight Beamer would be a big  winning chance. All he had to do was jump out and get to the front. For the place bet, I turned to Sir Vignon, who was paying around 5/4. Beamer was 2/1.

My bets, then, were $33 on Beamer and $44 on Sir Vignon. The result was that Beamer did exactly what I thought he'd do; he jumped to the front, set the pace and just kept on going, giving nothing else a chance. He ended up paying $3.10 (NSW TAB) so I got back $102.30.

It would be nice to report that Sir Vignon ran a place, but he didn't. He finished a disappointing 5th. So my total bet, then, was an outlay of $77 for a return of $102.30, a profit of $25.30. That's a profit on turnover of 32.9 per cent ... very satisfactory.

I chose the final race for my other bet of the day, and here I was very quickly on to Crimewave, the topweight. He'd run behind My Chanticleer at his most recent start and that looked a solid formline to me for an Open Handicap at especially as he had only 56kg to carry.

He, too, was around Port  Macquarie, 2/1 so the win bet was $33. My place chance in the race was Rodeo Chute Out. He had come in for support, had sound form and I thought the formbook would need to be turned on its head if he were not to at least run a place. He was at 4/5 (around $1.80) so the bet was $56.

In all, then, I bet $89. Crimewave did the right thing and won by under a length and paid a bit under what I had expected on the NSW TAB. The dividend was $2.70. Rodeo Chute Out ran 2nd and paid $1.80.

My returns, then, were $33 x $2.70 equalling $89 from Crimewave, and $56 x $1.80 equalling $100.80 from Rodeo Chute Out. In all, a collect of $189.80 for my $89 bet, a profit of $100.80. That's 113.3 per cent profit on the bet.

So, I had chosen my races very well. I was able to correctly nail the winners and in one of the races I had struck the winner and the runner-up. In total on the two races, I bet $166 and my return was $292.10, a profit overall of $126.10, or almost 76 per cent on turnover.

Now, I didn't need to be a genius to pick out these two races and pick the winners and one placegetter. After all, both winners were very well fancied; they were sent out favourites, so it wasn't as if I were plucking big winners out of nowhere.

I think this exercise showed very clearly that if you pick your betting spots with care and good sense, then you will strike a lot of winners and, of course, a lot of placegetters.

The professionals who use this approach are canny bettors. They know what they are about, and they look for that percentage edge they know they can secure if they act sensibly and with moderation.

To fail, you have to bet two horses in a race and see both FAIL in the assigned tasks. Your win bet must lose, and your place selection must lose. Now, if this happens too often, then I suggest your entire selection process needs a thorough overhaul.

I pass the idea on for those among you who might feel that it suits your temperament as a punter. Even if a punter could find just one race a day it would be a profitable play.

It's a method which, during a good run, would quickly build a small bank to something very worthwhile.

There's a decent protection mechanism working for you with the place bet and that, in my opinion, makes this staking approach a slice of wise money betting.

Remember: Pick the races carefully on which to bet, and spend some time choosing the two best horses to run for you. You'll have fun and you'll collect many times.

By the way, you don't have to bet to take out $100. If you want to take out $50, just halve the total. If betting a 6 / 4 chance, bet $20 instead of $40 and so on.

By P.B. King