Twenty-five? Why not fifty?" I asked. "Because it's a good number," came the reply.

I would be satisfied with just one good idea on how to improve one's betting this coming year, but the Editor said twenty-five.

"0h, and remember to include a couple of strategies. New ones."

New strategies? Just pull them off the nearest tree, maybe? So, in the end, I spent a long, long time thinking about a little two-page article, which by now is looming into a six-page affair.

If I start off with the most obvious, then work up to the less thought-about, how will that do? Let's go that way then, with the first seven ways.

Establish a Bank
Without a bank you are history waiting to be written. I could suggest that a bet made without a bank is a one-off, eye-blink bet. It lasts an instant, and there is nothing before it and nothing after it. There is no part of a plan involved, no group to which it belongs, no identifiable process, no logic of progression, and no common sense associated with it. It is made, and that is that. The race that follows is not the bet.

The bet is a moment in time which, whether it wins or loses, will disappear without trace in the universe.

So it wins? Great. So what? You use the winnings for what? A series of bets? An all-up try? Who cares, because you have no strategy and will eventually pour it all down the TAB drain. It isn't really a part of anything ongoing.

If you like this suggestion that anyone betting without a bank is a nut case, and exists for the moment, make sure it never applies to any of your habits.

Remember that every bet you do NOT make is a bet not lost.
A bet not lost provides you with another unit to try to win with. If you have an odds' limit at the lower level (e.g. 2/1), stick to it. Of course, there will be times when the TAB is showing $2.90 and you are prepared to relax the rule, but $2.70 is never a bet.

Some people like to limit the top end too, and some of Statsman's best systems have had rules that demand no bets above, say, 12/1 pre-post. There is much reason in this sort of thing, as it is likely that the first seven or eight horses have been reached by the time you get to those sort of odds, and so you really are dealing with the outsiders after that.

However, I don't normally consider anybody's odds but my own. Whenever I identify a 50/1 horse and really like it (not often, but it happens) I will be more likely to double my bet on it, than halve it. Like the American Dick Mitchell has suggested, I make the majority of my profits on five or six days in a year, when I am right and the majority is wrong.

Anyway, back to the point. Abet not made saves you for another time and another bet, and saves one unit at least.

Make a decision about the tracks you will and will not bet at.
It's not easy when your horse turns up at a track where you don't do well, or on a particular route that has not served you kindly in the past. A fair example for all punters would be the straight at Flemington.

The distances from 1000 to 1200 metres are hard enough to work out, but then you have the problem of the two sides of the track (and the centre!). When even the riders and trainers do not know which side will be the faster, sometimes until after the race, how can we?

I am almost at a point in my own betting where I wipe these races (yes, even the big ones) except for the very top riders and the proven specialist horses. Morphettville is another that comes to mind as a sprint track I cannot fathom.

Come to a conclusion about the conditions you will (and will not) bet under.
For instance, if you have never been to Rosehill on a wet day, you cannot begin to understand what the horses and riders go through. Some decide to go wide and try their luck, then somebody comes through on the fence and blows that theory away. Next, someone sticks to the fence on a favourite and runs ninth, and so that previous rails win is regarded as a fluke.

Nobody knows, in other words, once Rosehill is wet. But at least we know that we don't know! We can agree on stopping betting once it is established that Rosehill is slow or worse. And also, we have to know what times represent slow, so we are ahead of those who make the official decision. It isn't uncommon to go three races before these folk realise what we have known since half-past twelve.

Be able to sit out a race, and even a meeting.
If there are no horses you fancy, or if your methodology or system bets say that there is nothing doing today at Randwick, be able to shrug it off and agree. Don't go looking for the adrenalin bet.

In Plan of the Month this issue (page 34), I advise that we stick to two States, and therefore two metropolitan tracks, on any one day. Any more is hard work. I have tried it, and I admit to doing it once or twice in 1998. The fact that I am not going to do it in 1999 ought to tell you something about that.

Join up to SKY TV if you cannot go to the track.
This is not a free advertisement. Well it is, I suppose. It's just that there is so much to be learnt on that channel. I have it on the best authority that a certain member of our staff spends hours and hours every day watching the channel.

I know from mail that many of you have redeveloped your interest in night racing, and that the gallops have made so much more sense since you have been able to monitor the meetings. Those who work fulltime during the week are able to tape the racing and watch it at their leisure.

I would say that not having SKY is like not having access to any of the leading formguides.

Imagine the racing world of 1999 without the statistical genius of the Wizard, the massive information of Sportsman, and Winning Post, Best Bets, Truth, etc. It doesn't bear thinking about. Back to the Dark Ages, or at least FJ Holdens and Collingwood winning premierships.

Check the index in your formguide before you go through the fields.
This is to identify horses that you are interested in, before you are caught up with a whole swag of information that can overwhelm your thinking.

My view here is that bets must be limited in some way or other. If you are the kind of investor who has a list of horses, or uses some sort of selection process where you know the horses ahead of time, underlining the horses in the index can be an excellent starting point.

I had a recent example of this in a letter from a reader, Delma Smith, where she said that during the Melbourne carnival she had a list of ten horses already picked out, but that I twice mentioned horses in my Pinnacle recording that were not on her list. She followed me and omitted her own two, and guess what? Hers won and mine ran places.

Maybe she could have had some nice exotics if she had followed her own logic, who can say? Her point was that she had not noticed her picks were running against my choices. This can happen in a number of ways, one of which is through looking at the pre-post markets and the polls before looking at the fields. Not a good idea.

The bias is already in place when you do that. So the best way, I feel is to use the index and the fields first, then do whatever you want to do after that.

Seven rules down, 18 to go. Next month I will up the tempo a little, with some specific ideas about profit expectations, such as what is reasonable and what is not.

Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.
Click here to read Part 4.

By The Optimist