I am going to keep this very simple. My apologies to people who already know quite a bit about the subject, but we do have new subscribers joining us every month, and a lot of what I have to say will be new information to them.

It must be very annoying when you are watching the TV screen either at home or at your friendly TAB, and you see dividends way above what you will receive flash up on the screen. This is part and parcel of the multi-TAB situation in Australia.

I have no idea when the two big players will get around to amalgamating their pools: at the moment we have to put up with them playing ducks and drakes as to which races their quadrellas will be on.

For example, on March 11 the Melbourne quadrella on the NSW TAB was not on the final four races, but on March 18 it was.

It is anybody’s guess as to which races it will operate on during the carnivals. I assume that the TAB must have some “expert” (we are told that they do, and after all, somebody came up with Spinner) who decides which races are the appropriate ones.

They may well differ from those which pertain to the Victorian TAB. I’ve lost count of how many punters have grizzled to me about doing their homework and making their bets, then finding that they have applied their selections to the wrong races.

It’s all very well to go on about “checking your bets and checking the race numbers, etc,” but really when something as basic as a quadrella is concerned, one has to ask why it cannot simply be on the last four races every day, as it is in Victoria.

With the daily double, the extra double (soon to depart, I believe) and the quadrella, it is beyond belief in the 21st century that these can’t be on the same group of races every week.

For example, the Victorian TAB daily double was always on races five and seven for a long time. Now we have nine races, I have no idea what they are thinking.

NSW can be totally unpredictable although they have tended to stick to races seven and nine lately. I’d like to think it could be a permanent arrangement but I wouldn’t put money on it.

Different TABs offer different services, but basically if you understand one, you can understand all of them.

UniTAB has caught up in the field of exotics and offers marginally better options in some instances. But one of the biggest questions concerns the size of the pools.

If you have $150,000 in one TAB trifecta pool, and $600,000 in another, you could imagine that there were more chances of striking a bonanza in the latter case.

But that is not necessarily the case. This is because, and I’m speculating here, a pool four times as large (but on this scale) can be expected to reflect very much the same spread at four times the amount.

The other side of this coin is that you have no way of knowing what kind of investor is involved with either pool.

This means that dividends will differ.

As an example, it could be that a vast majority of the money in the smaller pool is covering all the favoured combinations, and that only a minimal amount exists on the really “way-out” trifecta combinations.

Again on the other hand, it is possible that the bigger pool is the one where people have tended to focus more significantly on the favourites. Nobody can do any more than try to second-guess this kind of situation.

As I said above, theoretically, the spread should be about the same, but there is no argument which will prove this one way or the other.

So it comes down to sheer speculation. This is accentuated when you have opportunities such as flexi bets, allowing thousands of small punters to throw in horses which they would normally have been forced to disregard.

I have never seen a study based on comparisons between pools which offer flexi betting and those which do not, but I would be surprised if the dividends for the non-flexi bets were not considerably higher, when longshots are involved in the final results.

We’ve got into this about as deeply as I want to at the moment and we will be picking it up again next month. Let’s have a look at what we’ve established in general, then focus firstly on single bets.

We have several major TAB players. At present they all offer their individual pools. It is extremely unlikely that their dividends (any dividends) will be identical, apart from very short priced place investments.

Even your favourite backer will probably find that there are occasions when the interstate TAB pays significantly better than his (or, on the other hand, that he has been fortunate in that his TAB has been the best payer.) This brings me to the next stage of this analysis.

Probably most people who are reading this have no problem understanding the figures which are written on their television screens every Saturday afternoon.

There are two companies, Sky and TVN, broadcasting the racing, and they both do an excellent job in this respect. You can compare the prices offered by the three major TABs for a win and place.

The terrible tragedy is that we are not able to compare these win and place dividends with the price fluctuations of the bookmakers. The reason behind this is perfectly obvious, but in the 21st century, when we are able to make bets on the telephone with our bookmakers, you have to wonder how long it will be before common-sense will prevail.

Being able to see the three TAB dividends is at least a huge advantage, because we are able to see whether any of them is out of line with the other two.

It could be that it is our state’s TAB dividend which is out of line. If so, it will be out of line either to our advantage or disadvantage.

Take as an example, you want to have a bet on a horse which is showing $2.50 on your local TAB, whilst it is showing $2.60 on another TAB and $2.80 on its home TAB.

The chances are under these circumstances that the home TAB is closer to the truth, because the on-course punters in that particular city will be balancing the TAB dividend against the bookmaker dividend. It is true that this may not be the case, but it is a very likely scenario.

If the situation is reversed, and your home TAB is showing the best of the three dividends, but is firming, the likelihood is that your TAB where the race is being run is still correct (or closer to correct).

Under these circumstances, the price on your TAB is likely to drop right near the death. This is telling you one of two things: punters on your TAB are taking advantage of the “overs”, or interstate punters are also doing this. Or both. It is terribly obvious in small pools, for example the dogs in the evening.

You should take an evening to watch the dogs on the telly, but make sure you have absolutely no money in your TAB account and no way of putting any there!

This is because you will be absolutely fleeced the first time you try to take advantage of what you think are attractive odds on the evening dogs.

If you have not done this before, you will be flabbergasted by the stunningly stupid odds that appear on one TAB or another, and then suddenly disappear just as quickly.

Right on the jump time, the odds will go in all directions. You might have a dog on the Queensland TAB showing $16.50, whilst it is showing $1.80 in Victoria and $2.10 in NSW. No, I’m not kidding and I’m not exaggerating. And the truth is that the pool could be as little as a few hundred dollars.

Some poor unfortunate at a local pub somewhere in Queensland gets terribly excited. He has found the anomaly of a lifetime. He and his mates rush over to the betting window and have $50 each on the dog. Let’s say the dog duly obliges, and up go the dividends.

NSW pays $2.00. Victoria pays $1.90. And Queensland pays $1.65! Our three pretend punters have stopped celebrating just long enough to look at the screen.

Well, I have been kind to them and given them a bit more than 30 bucks’ profit for each of their $50. More commonly, they would have had time to see the dividend on their dog fall from $16.50 to $1.65 in one fell swoop. They’d have been angry and frustrated.

I’ve used this example to show you that you are not going to make your fortune betting on a very small pool, unless you have the money in hand to perform a rather slick sting (like the one recently effected on the Gold Coast).

For the average punter this is out of the question.

So, now that we understand that the dividends vary, and I think we’ve also agreed that most of us are unable to permanently take advantage, by being able to flit from TAB to TAB, or bookmaker to bookmaker all over the country. Here is the way to take maximum advantage of the situation.

Remember that, regardless of how you feel about the matter, it is still illegal to bet with anybody who is not licensed in an Australian state. So far as I can see, that doesn’t restrict the ordinary punter in any way, as all of the people I will refer to hold these licences.

The difficulty is one for the various racing bodies to sort out amongst themselves.

For example, if you want to match it with a betting exchange, you drop your tax takeout. But that isn’t our issue.

What we are interested in is how we can do best for ourselves. One of the biggest single ironies of the lot, in this respect, is that you will do a lot better by staying at home than by going to the track. Several of Australia’s biggest bookmakers have already discovered this, and some of them stopped going to the track quite a while ago.

It’s true that they do have runners at the track, but it’s also true that a lot of their betting is done from the comfort of their own office lounge rooms. This does not mean that they are in any way novices. They have the most sophisticated and up-to-date computer programming to assist them.

I have no particular brief for any of the large national racing organisations, so I will outline for you some of what is available and I will leave you to investigate these services and to make your own decisions as to which (if any) you will look at with a view to using, for your own betting operations.

I used a pretty extreme example of TAB anomalies with that dog story, but it will do. There’s not much I can do to help those guys in that pub. But there is an enormous amount that you and I could do to help each other.

And maybe even more importantly, to help ourselves with our betting successes!

Racing services such as Sportingbet, IAS and Betezy are now available where you can log on and make comparisons between all of the TAB offerings at the drop of a hat.

Furthermore, you can open an account with any of them (some of them offer credit accounts, but for obvious reasons I would advise you against this unless you are a big player).

An added attraction from just about all of them these days is an initial free percentage increase in your first deposit, so that if you deposit $100 with them they will credit you an extra $10 to your account.

They also run all sorts of little gimmicky offerings which can result in quite nice rebates, free bets, etc. Aside from all the frivolity, they are highly professional organisations and offer you a surprising range of choices.

You can choose to accept the best TAB dividend (and in one instance better than the best TAB dividend!). You can also choose to accept the top bookmaker fluctuation, and you (in some cases) do not have to do this before the betting opens. This gives you the advantage of having some idea as to where your horse is in the market.
Further to this, you can choose to have the best of one of the TABs (they usually nominate which one) or the bookmakers’ starting price.

This means that the final TAB dividend and the final bookmakers’ price are compared, and you get the better one.

I wonder how many times you have backed a horse on your local TAB, and been quite happy to get $4.10 until you look in the paper the next morning and find that the damn thing started at $7.50! That really hurts.

The reverse can also occur, but where it does, you get a TAB dividend.

If you prefer, you are able to say that you will have the best of the three major TAB dividends, or as I said, in one case you can even have a marginally better dividend. It’s only a couple of cents.

For example, the $3.10 divvy becomes $3.12, but why not have it?

I can tell you from experience that this kind of betting is very satisfying when you know there are large pools involved on a Saturday, and there is significant difference across the three TABs in the price for a horse that you particularly like.

It isn’t going to be a massive fortune-building thing, but I can give you numerous examples of horses at $6.00 on one TAB, $6.50 on another, and more than a full point above this on the third TAB.

Being able to simply take the rest of the three is an amazing advantage. Throw in the bookmakers’ odds, all there before your eyes, and draw your own conclusions.

Next month I will talk with you about the multiples and the opportunities there.

By The Optimist