Many years ago, the American Turf Guide tackled the subject of 'what does the average bettor really know' about racing. Writer Rufus Gorman conducted the question-and-answer session.

The principles apply equally to Australian racing as they did to American racing in the 1960s. Although each country's racing routine has its own shape and form, the 'basics' are much the same, be it a race in India, England, New York or Melbourne.

Gorman raised the following question: Do you really know enough about the game to beat the races?

His answer was, yes, most punters do! And, he added, even the losers have enough basic turf knowledge to be winners, if only they knew how to use and harness their knowledge.

Gorman wrote: "It is one thing to have a college education, and another thing to make use of it to get a good living. Most punters have read enough about racing to be well versed in how to pick winners.

"All they need is the know-how to use the knowledge they possess."

Gorman raised seven key questions, and said that any punter who could answer all of them in the affirmative should be beating the races consistently.

"If you answer NC) to any of them, then all you have to do to become a steady winner is to alter your betting to get a YES answer to the particular question," Gorman wrote. "I am assuming that you have enough knowledge of racing to be able to look at the past performances of a given race and pick out the best horse in a reasonable percentage of races."

QUESTION ONE: Do you start the day's betting full of confidence?

When you go to the track (or to the TAB, or just sit at home watching Sky on TV), do you do so full of confidence that you're going to enjoy a winning day? Or do you approach your day at the races with trepidation?

Faint heart never won fat bankroll, remember that. And your mental attitude has much to do with your chances of success. To be a winner you must feel like a winner.

Check your answer: YES or NO.

QUESTION TWO: Do you limit your betting to a select number of races each day?

Betting on more than four races can be a bad habit. There will be exceptional days when four good winners will turn up, but don't get into the habit of looking for that fifth one! If you don't find four, then settle for three bets, or two, or even just one.

Bet only when you think you have the best of it, and try not to bet on more than four races a day.

Check your answer: YES or NO.

QUESTION THREE: Do you automatically pass on races for Maidens?

A good spot sometimes comes up in Maiden races, especially in those for 2yo and 3yo Maidens, but not so often in Maidens for older gallopers. You will never pass up a good bet by avoiding Maiden races for these older types. Think seriously, too, about avoiding any form of Maiden race.

Check your answer: YES or NO.

QUESTION FOUR: Do you favour stables, jockeys and horses with the winning habit?

You don't have to be a racing fan very long before you discover that certain stables, jockeys and horses win more than their 'fair' share of races. You get so that you can glance at the name of the stable, jockey or horse and tell at once that it has the winning habit.

You always get your money's worth when you bet on one of these. This doesn't mean you may never go outside a certain group of winning stables, jockeys or horses, but it's a good idea to demand in every case that one of the three must be involved before you bet.

That is, you may bet if either the stable, the jockey or the horse has a winning habit and, if all three come under this heading, then you really have something special.

When I refer to a 'winning habit' I am referring to horses with a better than 33 per cent win strike, jockeys in the top 10 and stables the same. We want to look for stables that send out regular winners.

Check your answer: YES or NO.

QUESTION FIVE: Do you increase your bets when winning and ease off in a losing streak?

Most bettors do the opposite. When they're out in front, they get conservative and forget that everything runs in streaks and a streak of good fortune should be capitalised on.

When they're in a losing streak, punters tend to throw caution to the winds and try to force a winner, making larger bets in the hope of recouping previous losses with one killing.

Both ways are wrong. When you're lucky, when you have the bookmaker's money, that's the time to 'send it in' when you like a horse. When things are going badly, as they will at times, even for the sharpest of bettors, increasing the bet is only going to result in larger losses.

Luck seldom rides with the desperate plunger. Scared money must lose. Remember this the next time you are tempted to try to get square with a single bet.

Check your answer: YES or NO.

QUESTION SIX: Do you stop betting for a while when you cannot afford to lose?

As noted earlier, scared money must lose. Scared money is money you cannot afford to lose. When too much depends on your success, don't bet.

Sure, you might get away with it now and then. But if you've been betting on the races very long, you know that the winnings always seem to come when you don't need the money particularly, and losses become chronic just as soon as you dig too deep into the bankroll and start betting with money you need at once for some other and more important purpose.

The ideal way to operate is to have a private bankroll for betting purposes only. Then you don't feel the losses that are part of the game, as you are not taking the money out of your personal funds.

You are not afraid to operate, because the money you are using is tantamount to chips in a poker game. The professional poker player does not stop to ask if he can afford it before he makes a call. If he has the chips and the call is the proper play, that's what he does.

It should be the same with the racing punter. He should have a stack of chips (bankroll) for racing purposes only, so that when the time comes to make a bet on a solid chance, he can go into action without jeopardising his family funds.

Check your answer: YES or NO.

QUESTION SEVEN: Do you continue to read, and to add to your knowledge of handicapping, including the latest systems and angles?

This is vital, because racing does not stand still. Changes occur from time to time and new angles are cropping up. The punter who regularly reads magazines, like PPM, and books, will be able to keep up with all the changes in the world of betting.

Check your answer: YES or NO.

Now, check your answers to each question. If you are winning, then all your answers should be YES. I don't think anyone could be winning consistently if any of his answers were NO.

These seven points are basic in beating the races, and only a lucky punter could ignore any of them for any length of time and emerge with a profit.

If any of your answers were NO, then make up your mind to change your style of betting so that you can answer YES to these questions. You'll be amazed at the difference it'll make in your financial standing.

You'll also get yourself a new attitude. You will become an 'operator' rather than a 'horse player' and you'll enjoy the feeling of immense satisfaction that must come to anyone who has licked the problem of beating the races.

And you'll also find that betting on the races PROPERLY, which means conservatively, can be just as much fun as shooting for the moon and hoping for, but not expecting, a terrific profit.

Of course, Rufus Gorman's seven questions are really the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a total approach to betting ... but they are a good starting-off point to determine your own attitude to betting.

Maybe you are too casual? Maybe you don't study the form enough? Maybe you rely too much on other people's views?

From time to time, all punters should take time to re-evaluate their whole psychological approach to their betting. Weed out your mistakes and weaknesses.

By Damien Whitchurch