Despite all the fuss about exotic forms of betting, punters remain loyal to its oldest relative, doubles. The punting public love 'em-but they rarely have the skill to make them pay.

I've dabbled in doubles for years. More years than I care to remember. Last year, I made \$23,000 profit on my doubles betting, and I did it easily by following a simple set of rules when making my bets.

Instead of merely taking multiple doubles, all for the same amount of stake irrespective of true chance, I bet according to expected dividends. This is the way all punters should operate if they are truly serious about making money from their doubles punting.

Most punters who take doubles couple several horses in each leg and then hope and pray that the longshots win, which they rarely do. How many times have you collected on the double but not even recovered your investment?

You must keep your bets in line with the prospects of the horses you are taking. Let's say you pick out a 3-1 and a 25-1 chance for your first leg and a 6-4 and a 10-1 in your second leg. It stands to reason that the longer-priced horses have LESS chance of winning, so why put the same amount on them as you would on the more strongly fancied candidates? It doesn't make sense. You should have MORE on the shorter-priced horses.

The tables I have produced to accompany this article will prove most helpful in giving you a guide to staking. They are from Roger Dedman's wonderful book, Commonsense Punting, which is available from Mitty's Bookshops throughout Australia (this book is well worthwhile buying. incidentally, and is thoroughly recommended).

Let's say you have picked out horses at 4-1 and 5-1 for the first leg of the double, and horses at 3-1 and 13-2 in the second leg. You want to back the doubles to return you an amount near -to \$100, whichever one happens to win.

This is a total of four doubles. Using the chart figures, you would invest as follows (a unit is 50 cents):

4-1 into 3-1 = 10 units
4-1 into 13-2 = 5 units
5--1 into 3-1 = 8 units
5-1 into 13-2 ±: 4 units
This is a total bet of 27 units (or \$13.50).

If your 5-1 into 3-1 double came up you would receive \$96 back (you have bet an actual \$4 on the double itself. If your 4-1 into 13-2 double came up the return would be \$94 (approx).

Your problem, naturally, is to know which prices to use. Those of you with home computers and the Viatel service will be able to work off the screened TAB figures for a guide. Those who spend all day in TAB agencies can do the same. Those at the track can work off the tote or bookies' figures.

Stay-at-home punters, however, can only use the pre-post betting markets in the morning newspaper, or take those given out on Saturday mornings on the radio. These are a fair enough guide. This is an area where you can't be 100 per cent accurate.

At least, by using the charts you will have some idea of what your dividend is likely to be, and how much you should invest. It's been my experience that in the majority of instances the doubles dividend on the tote is better than expected.

Now I'll look at something that occupies the mind of many punters-field doubles. I'm reliably informed by TAB officials that field doubles are enormously popular.

Frankly, this amazes me. It's been my experience that field doubles are not worth a cracker, but, then again, people continue taking them so maybe they do work for others.

A punter taking such a double obviously hopes for a longshot to win the 'field' leg. Trouble is, they don't do that very often. Thus, the divvies are too small for field doubles to produce much in the way of profit.

We all know that most races are won by horses priced at under 10-1. How often have you taken a field double only to find that you would have made more money by simply placing the money on your 'special' straight-out?

Couple this with the fact that a lot of silly money is going on the outsiders in doubles legs and you find that quite often the very big divvies one could expect are not forthcoming.

The stark truth is that field doubles are a cop-out for punters who can't be bothered to properly analyse their races. Why on earth would you put money on some of the 'no hopers' that clutter up every field? It's patently silly. If you have a race of 16 runners, I'd bet that it would contain at least four or five horses that wouldn't stand a chance of winning. Your money is wasted on them.

Better if you increased your stake on the more strongly-fancied horses. You are throwing your cash into the tote bin by dabbling in field doubles.

Most professionals-and I'm one of them-will advise you that if you insist on taking field doubles then you should take the field in the first leg rather than the second leg. Most bettors go the other way and live in the hope of a longshot bobbing up in the second leg. So they take their 'special' in the first leg with the field in the second.

Statistics will show that bigger dividends result from longshots getting up in the first legs of TAB doubles than they do when the roughie bobs up in the second leg.

Now for a look at some 'speedy' forms of attacking doubles betting.

• A popular idea is to concentrate on two races. You take three selections in the first leg and place the same amount on each. If one of them wins, you invest the entire return in equal amounts on the other three horses in the second leg. If two short-priced winners get up, no damage is done.

If better priced horses win then all the more for you. As an alternative, you can back the first leg trio on a pricepercentage basis. Thus, if they were 3-1, 4-1 and 4-1 you would have 25 units on the 3-1 chance, and 20 units on each of the other two. If your second leg horses were similar prices, you would divide the return from the first leg winner in equal amounts on the three horses in the second leg.

You would have 100 units returned on any of the first leg winners and so you would then invest 33 units on each of the second leg picks. If a 4-1 chance won the second leg you would have a total return of 165 units, a profit of 100 units on your original outlay.
• Try to avoid putting odds-on favourites into your doubles combinations. They are a dead loss. Small punters tend to shy away from backing something to beat a short-priced favourite and they'll try a double as a way to achieve a reasonable sort of return on it.

What do they do? They take the hotpot with the field! Hardly worth the time and money. You back two winners and still lose, or make such a niggardly profit it just won't be worthwhile. Better to try to pick a horse to knock off the favourite. Take this horse as your 'banker' in the first or second leg of the double and then couple some main chances with it (up to, say, five or six).
• You can use some doubles as savers. You can back your main selections to win \$100, but with any others in the multiple combination you back them to 'save' your stake only.

These are just a few ideas to help you sort out a play on doubles. As with all forms of betting, BE CAREFUL. Make it  a rule never to bet beyond your means or haphazardly. That is the way of ruin, sooner or later.

By Des Green

PRACTICAL PUNTING - JULY 1987