When I started out to make money from horse-racing I was given two tips. They proved very helpful to me. But first, let me tell you some other things.

My first attempt at making the racecourse my work office was a real flop. The capital I had saved up didn't last very long. I had to return to the bush to earn enough to return with a second bank.

What I did wrong the first time was just about everything. I overbet on those races that other more sensible professionals were studiously avoiding. I did this because I wanted to play the game hard.

Others before me had made the same mistake. I didn't have the patience nor the discipline to choose the right races, and when I lost I got too emotional. I let the bad runs upset me and hit my concentration.

I tended to blame everyone and everything else for my mounting losses. I didn't study the form enough. I bet carelessly and didn't "defend" my bank in the early days. It ran out before I knew it.

The second time I came back I was more clued up. One pro I met during my first foray told me to make my selections and mark each race as BETTABLE or NONBETTABLE. Then, he said, let the months go by and see how many of your selections win in each section.

You will find, he advised, that the NB races are no good at all for you. And he was right. My winning selections on the B races far outnumbered the winners in the NB races.

I was also told to go over my selections to try to work out why they had failed, why I hadn't picked the winner, and how could I ensure that I didn't make the same mistakes again.

"You don't get upset by all the shocks you experience," said one longtime punter. "You get even."

So that's what I did. I invented the Jacobs Post-Mortem on all the races on which I bet. I kept notebooks and diaries and filled them with information.

I discovered many instances of where I had erred, how I had overlooked certain facts in the form, how I had misinterpreted formlines, or taken too much for granted, or not pursued a formline deeply enough.

By using this post-mortem approach I gained valuable experience which helped me avoid many losers in the future and gained me many a winner.

I tried as much as I could to eliminate emotion from my selecting work. I was ruthless in picking out the races on which I would bet.

In those races where the runners were too close to each other in ability, I just drew a line through the field.

Long term I came to realise there was no financial future in trying to determine which horse would win. I moved on and chose easier races.

Form upsets were something else that I learned to take in my stride. I found that any of the top trainers could provide shocker results, from Lee Freedman through to Jack Denham and so on. Whether they were shock winners, or shock losers, they happened.

My post-mortems were especially detailed when the result of a race was a shocker.

Invariably, I discovered that the shock should not have been too much of a shock. Usually, the formlines could point to why a horse failed or why it won.

Apart from the money lost on betting with these upset results, or with any losers come to that, you need to handle the effect on your confidence. Losing runs can be very depressing.

They sap your confidence. You need to avoid them as much as you can ... and avoiding those "close contest" races, the Non-Bettables, is one way to cut down your risk of hitting the wall.

If you are making your own selections, and betting money on your judgement, confidence is a vital thing. We've all struck losing runs and we'll run into them again and again. What we must do is learn to live with them, and to make them as painless as possible.

I recall one of the old professionals I knew and he had a tale to tell about this confidence problem. He was a real veteran and had known Walter Mitchell, the famous professional who was one of the best around in the old days.

He was a weights expert. Perhaps the best ever. He never listened to tips and would back his judgement to the hilt.

He began his punting career with less than a thousand dollars and ran it up to more than $70,000 (equivalent to a couple of million in today's money) betting in Australia and India.

I hasten to add that he is said to have lost the lot in a card game.

Mitchell told my professional pal the following: "Take a tip from me and never become upset over upsets. They happen. They are a part of racing and you can't do anything but grin and bear 'em. In this game, flukes don't go away."

Walter was talking about the real unaccountable upsets, not the ones in which some solid contender beats you, or one engineered as a result of clever planning by a shrewd stable with a horse whose form had been carefully hidden.

He was stressing that if the totally unexpected happened you could not blame your figuring if it was correct. If you did this, you ran the risk of becoming discouraged and would lose faith in your ability.

He pointed out that a few genuine upsets do not mean your approach is wrong, or that you cannot pick winners. His advice was to keep doing what you are doing because in the end it will overcome all the upsets and the indecipherable happenings.

Much has changed since Walter Mitchell's days, of course. Racing has changed dramatically, and his "weights" approach to selecting is now scorned and dismissed in favour of speed ratings and the like.

But his general philosophy about the act of betting itself, the act of trying to pick winners, remains valid.

I gave up professional punting some years ago. Ill-health forced me out of the game. Although I made a reasonable living, I was not well enough in myself to keep up the grind of coping with more and more meetings, more and more form to analyse and so on.

I went to Hong Kong for a couple of years and tried my luck there in a small way. It was easier to follow the form than in Australia because there are only two tracks, but it was just as difficult to find a winner, and there were just as many shock results.

So the same problems confronted me as a punter that I had encountered in Australia. I managed to pay for my stay in Hong Kong mainly because of a few big returns on the Triple Trio. I went into a syndicate with a couple of friends and we did reasonably well though I admit I got out by the skin of my teeth in the end.

What helped me was the strength I had built up in my mind by all my years as a serious bettor in Australia.

My friends were excitable and kicked the walls when the shock results came in, and were often ready to chuck in the towel.

I talked them back into confidence. We kicked on and came good again several times. One long losing streak virtually wiped us out. I had expected it because we were betting on exotics and were trying to hit multi-million dollar payouts.

We never made one of them but we did win enough to square the ledger and get out with a small overall profit after having paid our way for two years. Not bad, I suppose.

Back in Australia, I'm a once-a-week punter now. Just recently I decided that I enjoyed the game more by  restricting my involvement.

I get out to the race meetings in Sydney and take a couple of hundred dollars with me and just have fun.

Now, I suppose, I am the old professional handing out advice, as per this article. Hopefully, the advice will help some young punters setting out with dreams of making it big.

It's the simple bits of advice that mean the most in this betting game. We tend to overlook the basics but we shouldn't.

Check and check again, think carefully about your bets, find out WHY things did or didn't happen. And don't get upset by the shockers. Instead, learn from them.

By Alan Jacobs