In last month's P.P.M., I talked about the potential perils of level stakes betting. I pointed out the inherent dangers in such an approach and that how a great deal depended not only on a horse's price, but on where the winner fell in your series of bets.

What I'm going to do in this more lengthy feature article is to talk a little more about level stakes betting, and then go into detail about the benefits of proportional target betting. Now I know that I will immediately be assailed from various critical quarters for any advocacy of a 'target' approach in betting, and I have my answers ready!

But more of that later on ... For now, I'll explain more things about level stakes betting, and its pitfalls. Okay, let me say right now that I have swung firmly around to the opinion that unless you are very astute or very lucky it is extremely hard for the average punter to come out ahead with level stakes (or, as some people call it, flat) betting.

Any profit from a flat bet is likely to be temporary. Losses will probably be permanent! Now you will be asking quite reasonably, what the heck is a flat bet anyway? Simply this: Betting with any unit of money ($1, $5, $10, $100, etc.) and betting the same amount of money each time, usually without giving due and proper consideration to the likely profit outcome.

I will now show you what I consider to be a reasonable set of bets and we will see what happens to them when betting level stakes, assuming a punter can hit four winners from 10 bets (a more than healthy strike rate of 40 per cent):

Bet $5 on a 4/1 chance and lose (Loss: $5).
Bet $5 on a 6/4 chance and win (Win: $7.50).
Bet $5 on an evens chance and win (Win: $5).
Bet $5 on a 10/1 chance and lose (Loss: $5).
Bet $5 on a 2/1 chance and lose (Loss: $5).
Bet $5 on a 5/2 chance and win (Win $12.50).
Bet $5 on a 6/1 chance and lose (Loss $5).
Bet $5 on a 3/1 chance and lose (Loss $5).
Bet $5 on a 3/1 chance and lose (Loss: $5).
Bet $5 on a 6/4 chance and win (Win: $7.50).

You have had 10 bets and four winners (probably more than you could expect!) have arrived at 6/4, evens, 5/2 and 6/4. You have bet $5 level stakes on each of them, a total outlay of $50, and what have you achieved? A profit of $2.50! Take out your expenses for the day (around $20 if you'd gone to the track) and you are out of pocket $17.50.

Mere did it all go wrong? After all, you have struck four winners from only 10 bets (the average newspaper tipster is lucky to secure three winners from 10 selections) and yet you scrape out with a niggardly profit, and you are in a loss situation after taking into account your expenses! What's the game all about?

My point is that you have bet them all the wrong way. The answer is what I like to call 'Pro-Power', or the power of proportional betting. It's more or less the old Dutching technique except that what I'm talking about (at the moment) is betting on ONE runner in a race (you can also bet on more than one, which I'll explain later).

But the manner in which we attack the proportional play is a clever one, because we are bringing in a TARGET amount, and when we lose we are going to seek to recoup those losses along with our projected Target PLUS our expenses. We want to get everything back when we score a winner.

Firstly, let me deal with the inevitable doubters who will say it's mad to chase losses and set targets. I ask, in turn, why is it mad? Aren't we chasing losses every time we back a loser, no matter which strategy we adopt? If you lose three level stakes bets in a row you are chasing the losses you sustained on them.

So what is wrong with realising how much you have lost-and then realising how much you must win to recoup those losses ANT put yourself in front once a winner is struck? There's absolutely nothing wrong with it. It makes sense.

The underlying strength of a proportional bet is this: Percentage. There are, as you probably realise, two kinds of percentages. One is the business world's percentage-10% of a dollar is 10 cents, a fourth of a meat pie is 25 per cent, a fifth of a dollar is 20 cents. The second set of percentages is the 'bookie percentages' and my figures relate to this 'real world' betting percentage area.

In racing, then, when a bookie sets a horse's odds at 2/1 he is really saying the horse has a 34 per cent chance of winning; if he puts up evens it means a 50 per cent chance and so on. Using the percentages, whether you bet tote or bookie, you can frame a proportional betting attack which will eventually put you into profit.

My plan is this: We want to win EXPENSES plus PROFIT TARGET plus LOSSES (on previous races). Those three aspects are the cornerstone of the betting plan. The expenses I talk about might be made up of as follows:

Form guides, newspapers $5.00
Transport to/from track$4.00
Meals, drinks$5.00
Race book$2.00
See how easily those expenses mount? And why should you ignore them? That's your money we're talking about and you deserve to get it back. The only way to do this is to budget for it in your betting.

No sensible businessman 'writes off' expenses. He has to get them back, he has to reimburse himself or his business for them. The punter is in the same position. He always has to frame his betting to incorporate retrieving what he has paid out as part of his daily gambling.

So that's where Expenses comes into the scheme of things. So let's just go over the three major points again:

Expenses-Profit Target-Losses.
What I am saying is that if you start off knowing what you want then you will know how to bet properly. Seeking a certain amount of money, and knowing what your selection is going to return, you can easily and safely work out what your next bet should be.

I'll now take you through what you could have achieved with the earlier set of bets I laid out on the theoretical flat stake method. This time we'll use proportional target betting, aiming for $10 profit each time we score with a winner, meaning also that we always bet enough each time to recover previous expenses and losses where necessary.

(assume minimum bet $2)
Expenses: $20. Profit Target: $10. Total Target:$30.
Bet 1: 4/1. Stake $8. LOSER. Loss $8.
Expenses: $20. Profit Target: $10. Losses, $8. Total Target: $38 (rounded off)

Bet 2: 6/4. Stake $27. WINNER. Return: $67.50.
To date: Stake $35. Return $67.50. Profit $32.50.
Expenses recovered. Target achieved.
Profit Target: $10. No losses to recover. No expenses.

Bet 3: Evens. Bet $10. WINNER. Return:
To date: Stake $10. Return $20. Profit $10. Target achieved.
Target: $10. No losses to recover. No expenses.

Bet 4: 10/1. Bet: $2 (minimum bet). LOSER. Loss: $2.
Target: $10. Losses: $2. Total Target: $12.

Bet 5: 2 / 1. Bet: $6. LOSER. Loss: $6.
Target: $10. Losses: $8. Total Target: $18 (rounded off to $20),

Bet 6: 5/2. Bet: $8. WINNER. Return: $28.
To date: Stake $16. Return: $28. Profit:    $12.
Target achieved. Losses recovered.
Target: $10. No losses to recover.

Bet 7: 6/1. Bet $2. LOSER. Loss: $2.
Target: $10. Losses: $2. Total Target: $12.

Bet 8: 3/1. Bet: $4. LOSER. Loss: $4.
Target: $10. Losses: $6. Total Target: $16.

Bet 9: 3/1. Bet: $5. LOSER. Loss: $5.
Target: $10. Losses: $11. Total Target: $21.

Bet 10: 6/4. BET $14. WINNER. Return: $35.
To date: Stake $25. Return $35. Profit $10.

Let’s add up, then, what we have achieved here. Total bets in the various series were as follows:
$35, $10, $16 and $25 totalling $86. Total returns were: $67.50, $20, $28 and $35,totalling $150.50, giving a clear profit on the Pro-Power bets of $64.50, or 75 per cent on turnover.

Okay, I can hear you saying that we had to outlay a lot more than the $50 the level stakes betting called for. This is true, but what if we had bet only half of what I have outlined: $43 instead of $86. You still would have ended up with a profit of around $32-much, much better than the measly $2.50 you ended up with betting level stakes (10 bets at $5 each).

It doesn't matter which way you look at it, Pro-Power betting will put you in front as soon as you strike a winner. There need be no fear in your heart of chasing till doomsday. Any series of rational bets is going to produce a winner within a reasonable amount of time.

But now let me take you a step further and to the point where MASSIVE profits can be made using the Pro-Power method. I refer here to proportional target betting using OVERLAYS as the bets. That is, you draw up your own set of prices and you bet them in proportion only when you can obtain better odds.

Thus, you could have a horse priced at 2/1. Your expenses are $20 and your Profit Target is $10, making $30. The proportional bet for a 2/1 chance in these circumstances would be $15. Okay. Now the reality is that the horse you have priced at 2/1 is being offered at 5/1. It's a good overlay. So you bet it-as if it were a 2/1 chance!

Let's assume it wins: Your $15 has been invested at 5/1, giving you a total return (including stake) of $95, A whopping profit on your 2/1 chance. The value of securing the better price has been admirably reflected in your return.

Can you see the undoubted benefits of betting in this manner?

What you are really doing is bringing all the elements together, and betting just enough each time to ensure that you get the return you want, enough to recover expenses and losses, and rein in your profit target. Simple, effective, safe.

There is a stupendous advantage here over ordinary level stakes betting-and without risk. The only risk is that you will be silly enough to pick too many losing horses, leaving yourself open to blowing your capital before the winner arrives. But I seriously suggest that any sensible punter will not let this happen.

Even should you go seven or eight losses in a row and then strike with a winner at your ninth bet, the Pro-Power technique ensures that you will be in profit! Especially so if you are betting overlays and securing that extra edge of percentage value!

Think about this approach seriously, and don't have any concerns about how to work out the bets. That's simple. If you're not too bright at maths, just use a calculator. Let's take an example:

You have a target of Expenses $20, Profit Target $10 and Losses $15, making a Total Target of $45 (rounded off to $46). Your next bet is a 4/1 chance. How much do you bet? The answer is $12. This would return you $60 in all, inclusive of your stake. This will give you all you want. In this series you have bet a total of $27 (12 this bet plus the other $15 in losses) and you've got back $60, a profit of $33.

But what if that 4/1 chance had been offered up at 6/1, a lovely overlay? You'd have bet that $12 at 6/1 not 4/1 and you would have got back $84 and not $60-an extra $24. Once again, the beauty of the PR overlay bet is highlighted.

Let's have a look at another possible bet: Your Total Target is $50 and your next bet is a 3/1 chance. What would the bet be? Remember that you have to win $50. You merely divide the Total Target figure by 3 and you get the answer: 16.6 which you round off to 17. A bet of $17 at 3/1 would return you a profit of $51, and then you have your stake of $17 back as well, a total return of $68.

If that 3/1 bet had been offered by the bookies at, say, 5/1 you would have had your $17 on at 5/1 for a return of $102, putting you miles in front. See what I mean by Pro-Power? It's effective and it can't be beaten unless you never back another winner!

The point to bear in mind when you are trying,- to decide how much to bet is to divide the Total Target required by the price of the horse you are backing.

Another example: Your Total Target is $10, and the price of your horse is 7/4. This means 10 is divided by 1.75, giving you 5.7, or $6 rounded off as the bet. If your Total Target had been, say, $40 you would have divided 40 by 1.75 giving you the answer 22.8, or $23 rounded off.

A $23 bet at 7/4 would return you $40.25, and then you have your own stake to add to it ($23) making the total return $63.25. Get the picture? I'm sure you do, and I am also confident you are now experiencing something of a tingle. Simply because here is the answer, surely, to all the strife of betting-it's a method that enables you to GET INTO PROFIT with just one winner. That's all you need.

Back five, six, seven, even eight losers and you can still count on Pro-Power to deliver the bacon when a winner arrives. This is because you are betting in the right proportional manner. Better still if you can secure reliable 'true' markets and bet the overlays because Pro-Power will become even more supremely invincible.

The key factor with Pro-Power is keeping track of Expenses and Losses from race to race, then adding the required Profit Target. The order in which you should go is this:

Know exactly how much you have spent, and how much you have lost. Add this figure to the Profit Target figure you have in mind (it can be any amount you like) and then bet to win this amount, depending on the price of the horse you are backing. Its price will, of course, determine how much you invest.

NEXT MONTH: More about Pro-Power and how you can use it to back two or more horses in a race and on daily doubles and other exotic forms of wagering.

Click here to read Part 3.
Click here to read Part 4.
Click here to read Part 1.

By Alan Jacobs