What better time to think about putting your betting activities onto some sort of professional basis than the start of a new racing season? Time to clear the decks, toss any lingering nonsense from your brain and focus on making money, as much as possible.

All of this, though, takes effort and discipline. It isn't easy to just wipe away a lifetime of little mistakes, programmed thinking, prejudices and personal foibles. Many have tried, few have succeeded.

To me, it all depends on getting things ordered. Having a set of values to implement and, having done so, of sticking to them through the inevitable rises and falls in your betting fortunes.

When I was handed this assignment, the editor told me to keep it simple and to 'nutshell' the advice in 10 important points. I think this is very definitely the way to go. For a start, it adheres to my required 'orderly' approach. Secondly, it's invariably a good idea to make your claims point-by~ point. You get a better feel for what you are saying and the reader doesn't have to wade through the evidence to get to the meat of the matter.

These, then, are the 10 steps to glory that I personally advocate. Many will disagree. Others will suggest factors they consider more important. Fine, we like discussion in this magazine. Drop a few lines to the editor and let him know your views.

It is essential in any line of business that you 'know the ropes'. In racing, it's a must that you immerse yourself in every aspect of the form. This covers the class of races, weight handicapping, betting structure, the trainers and jockeys, the tracks and so on. The more you know, the better prepared you are to pick winners.

Settle on a reliable formguide (like the Sportsman), buy or borrow as many books on racing as you can and read them from cover to cover. Pick out the best parts. Keep a diary of your daily betting, jot down the bets you make, noting the tracks, the actual races and the type of bet. Over a period of time this record-keeping will tell you where you are doing the right things and where you are going wrong.

This is what it's all about, right? Money, money, money. Few punters are in the game for the intellectual thrill and challenge alone. Most seek to make money. Finding the best way to bet is vital. As we have stated before, many punters can pick winners but they miss out because they don't know how to bet.

Study up on all forms of money management. Look at level stakes, progression, target betting, percentage of bank and so on. Make sure that when you do bet you are betting to a sensible formula, one that will suit your psychological profile, and one that will not cause you to panic when the inevitable losing run has to be beaten.

Get the financial side of your racing right and you are well on the way to being successful. It's not easy but it can be done.

A scattergun approach rarely succeeds in betting. You can't seriously go betting win, place, quinellas, doubles, trifectas, parlays, exactas, trebles and so on, and expect to make financial sense. Somehow or other, you have to decide on a FEW ways to bet.

It could be that some of you will always prefer straight win and place. Okay, that's fine. Do it that way. It's straightforward and it's sensible. Others will prefer win, place AND some exotics, perhaps quinellas or trifectas. Maybe you are a doubles fan? Whatever - all I say is make a choice and stick to it and don't complicate things by betting in too many different areas.

Here we come to the deep 'mental edge' of betting. Do you believe in yourself? If you do, you will not be swayed by anyone else's advice, or by movements in the betting ring. Your judgement is always going to be tested at the racetrack.

How will you react if the horse you have assessed at 2/1 is offered at 33/1? Do you entertain doubts, or grab the price with glee? Do you stutter and start to doubt your assessment?

It's important that you go into the betting ring with confidence. Half-heartedness is not enough. If you are analysing the form well, you need have few long-term worries about your opinion being wrong too many times.

You will not win all the time. The aim is to win enough times at prices good enough to ensure a profit.

This is the age-old battle. Can you win with systems? Is it better to operate a mechanical system, or pick the horses yourself? Some punters are better suited to systems. Others can't cope with them. But systems do win. And they can win year after year if they are good enough. (The Dark Horse is a classic example.)

All betting is systematic, really. We all go about form analysis in our systematic way. It's just that with form analysis we have a final subjective judgement to make. Mechanical systems take away that aspect of things. My advice is to pick whatever suits you. There is much to be said for playing a sensible system.

This really forms part of the money management aspect of things, but I think it's a key point all on its own. How conservative should you be? How aggressive must you be to ensure some decent collects?

My own view is that a fair degree of risk and boldness is required in racing betting. It's all very well to be ultra-cautious but this can just as easily lead to your undoing as if you bet wildly. Find that middle ground between cowardice and recklessness and you will have found the 'holy grail' of betting.

Don't forget that the basis of all betting is the amount of profit to be obtained on the investment. You evaluate the return against the risk.

Betting is all about survival, and just about everyone has a different opinion on how to survive. It's been said that horse racing will teach a person to lose better than any other sport. Successful bettors are those who quickly realise their faults and do something about them, thus making fewer mistakes than other bettors.

Learn from your mistakes (that's why you are keeping a diary of everything you do, and every bet you make). If you are picking lots of winners and still losing, then you MUST change your betting approach. There are many ways to lose, few to win.

Once you learn what is going wrong, you can put things right.

Your mistakes could include betting too many races, using the wrong information, being influenced by other people's opinions, making silly bets, blaming others (trainers, jockeys, etc.), failing to secure value prices, betting scared, betting without a plan.

The key step, then, is to understand everything about your betting. Get inside your own mind. Don't be afraid of changing tack if something isn't working.

Too many punters, alas, bet with money they cannot afford. If you are going to be serious about your betting, you cannot allow yourself to fall into this trap. Get yourself a bankroll before you even think of becoming even a semi-professional punter.

This betting bank must comprise money not required for any other purposes. If you use money with a question mark over it, you will be betting with frightened money, and that leads to a scared punter, and we know that scared, desperate punters rarely win. They are the born losers.

Make sure your betting bank is sufficiently large enough to cope with your projected betting activities.

Just as you would never buy an over-priced item in a shop, then in betting you should never bet an under-priced racehorse. It's a recipe for disaster. Value is the name of the game. Always has been. Always will be. You need to beat the tote and bookmakers' edge. Accept 2/1 on a horse with an assessed 3/1 chance and you are not getting value. Turn the bet around and it's value, providing, of course, your 'true value' assessment is correct.

Get it right enough times on enough winners and you will step into glory – and profit. It's as simple and as difficult as that.

These, then, are your 10 considered steps to being a more sensible, more successful punter. Stick to them and I am convinced you will improve your current betting situation. Ignore them at your peril.

By Denton Jardine