This is a WARNING. You are about to read an article that is not for the faint-hearted. In fact, its brutality is comparable to that depicted in Braveheart! Read on at your own peril.

Over the years, PPM has published many articles wherein the authors have detailed their 'how I win at the races' strategies but, in this article, I'm going to detail a 'how I lost at the races' scenario, so we all can learn a little more about what can happen when nothing seems to go right, no matter which way you turn.

In the spring of 1998 I struck one of the most feared punting horrors ... a seemingly never-ending run of outs. It was a losing streak that eroded ALL of my earlier profits for the calendar year. By Christmas, I had actually lost money for the first year in four years of very dedicated punting.

Previously, I'd often thought of how I would handle a devastating run of outs; now I can sit back and reflect about how and why it all happened so I can plan for the time when it will - inevitably - happen again.

So what happened to transform me from winner to loser? I began my punting year in January and by mid-June I'd accumulated a pleasingly healthy profit from what I can only describe (humbly) as a dazzling run of successes.

If I needed a split on the home turn, or at the 100m mark, it came, and when I needed a photo-finish, it went my way, more often than not. At times it seemed eerie.

Perhaps at some stage of this dazzling run I should have taken stock but when you're on top of the mountain, who wants to stop and reflect?

It was my intention in 1998 to really test my mental boundaries, my luck, skill and bet amounts ... and any other 'limitations', because I finally had a punting bank worthy of those first faltering steps towards the ultimate aim: professional punting.

I'd set myself a three-year plan and if I won in that first year I'd have the blueprints ready for the following year and finally, in the third year, I would have expected to have ironed out many of the 'kinks' in my betting and selecting processes and started to show the real fruits of my plans.

I started betting $X, which was 1/400th of my betting bank, and, as my confidence soared, I began to tempt the odds. By August 1, I had increased my bets to 5 times $X, or 1/80th of my original bank. (Note: I use the term '$X' to help you line up your own bet sizes as the X to one punter might be $2, to another $20. I suggest you just transpose your own figures into the X component and somewhere along the way you'll start to feel edgy about the amounts you are calculating.)

I had increased my initial bank by over 33 per cent and was basically betting with the 'bookies' and tote's money'. But, and let's not forget this, it was around this time that I became a tad greedy. Alas, from August I, almost as if some sort of mystical force was against me, the bad run began.

It's from this point on that I want YOU to learn what happens when YOU defy the odds and try to push too hard.

From my first 25 major bets of 5 times $X I had a miserable 3.5 winners and nine 2nds, which shows I was one/two about 50 per cent of the time, but of those nine 2nds a frustrating eight were beaten by a long neck or less! (I noted that in the May PPM, The Optimist detailed a run of over 60 bets where he had twenty 2nds - I would not be surprised if a few of those 2nds had the race won in the shadows of the post, nor would I be surprised if a couple of my 2nds were his as well!)

How would you handle this mentally? In the comfort of home, while reading this article, you might say, "I wouldn't be happy but that's racing".

Don't believe it. When using REAL money, we are dealing with realism and not fantasy paper bets.

I can tell you I was fairly cut up about it by the time the eighth photo went against me, especially considering four of them led by 2 lengths or more at the 100m mark and were beaten EACH time in the very last bound. Who could blame me for seething with anger and frustration?

I'll never forget backing Theatre on Coongy Handicap day when race callers Bryan Martin AND Greg Miles hailed him the winner and were shocked to see the photo go to Show No Emotion. Even Max Presnell, the Sydney Morning Herald columnist, jokingly asked if the photo-finish camera was working properly at Caulfield that day!

Anyone with the videotape of that race should go back and have a look. I still cannot see how I was beaten.

Apart from the shocking run of 2nds, what else caused my losing year? Using that great, invaluable analytical tool we punters all wish we had, hindsight, I believe I tempted fate in several areas.

Firstly, I raised the betting amounts far too quickly for my major bets (those that got to 5 times $X) and I often think now about advice I received from a punting friend, Rudy D, that no punter should change his bet sizes until at least after about 150 bets have been made, in order to allow for the cyclical nature of the punt to work its way through the selections.

If I'd done this I would still have lost money from August 1 ... BUT I would not have lost for the year. Ouch! The pain of that statement just trickled through the keyboard and it hurt.

Secondly, I tested fate too often in Class 6 races on city tracks, especially on those relaxing Sunday and midweek night races at Moonee Valley.

My statistics for those races are not pretty. On too many occasions I was attempting to line up form from Class 3, 4 and 5 events in all parts of country Victoria alongside Class 6 city form.

It's almost impossible to compare all these formlines and I failed dismally. I might add that the 'One Metropolitan Win in the City in the last 12 months' races or other Open Restricted events were profitable but the Class 6's - no, no and no again.

Thirdly, I chopped and changed my minimum acceptable betting price too many times by attempting to make an exact science of pricing my selections and sometimes missed winners by a fraction of a point which, naturally, is annoying and mentally dangerous.

Select a minimum price and stick to it - don't chop and change or you'll be caught in what the Americans call 'switches', where you switch from this to that, you zig when you should have zagged and you zag when you should have zigged.

After much tossing and turning I've finally set myself guidelines that I will attempt to stick with through to the death. You will note I have said "will attempt" and it is THIS major hurdle I will battle because I have a weakness for chopping and changing far too often and it has cost me dearly.

Fourthly, on my downward slide, I bet on 2yo races (handicaps and set weights) and 3yo handicaps, where I now know my record is dismal, to say the least, and which are on a par with Class 6 events.

I now know that I am best at selecting in Open class and jumps races, whereas the 2yo's and 3yo's are often attempting new distances under different conditions and you are only guessing far too many times.

Let's face it ... some commonsense initially in the major problem areas may have saved me, but the nature of the punt decrees you will make mistakes and you must learn with real cash. YOU are reading about my mistakes.

Ponder over them in relation to your own punting.

Last, but not least, I dabbled in too many exotic bets, especially trifectas, where my skills are not the strongest, by taking the fairly amateurish key box (standout) A to win with BCDEF, etc., for second and third, ranging from 1 unit to more, depending on my confidence in the A selection.

Basically the strategy is fair but it's not as mathematically sound as it could be and in the long run the percentages grind away against you and, for me, they produced a loss.

The above major reasons are NOW known to me because my selections have been logged in great detail since March 7, 1998, and, boy, have some of the findings been a revelation!

I cannot recommend highly enough a study of your own selections by listing such things as Class of Race, Distance, Track Conditions, Prices, Jockeys (apprentices versus seniors might surprise you!) and Trainers, for starters, as well as first-uppers, second-uppers and days since last run.

Do this with a couple of your friends under strict guidelines or test yourself against some of your favourite public tipsters - I guarantee it will be well worth the effort. Please believe me. If I can get nothing more through to you in this article, the time has been well spent.

The one other factor, of course, is the psychological stages you go through while such a bad run is happening. Although PPM has had many articles on the psychological aspect in betting, nothing can quite prepare you for the days when you undergo a bad run.

By considering my 1998 experiences, you will have some idea! If you've been recording your selections, it's vital  you find the areas where you repeatedly fail so that you can eliminate them from your serious, larger bets: they just turn over money at best and during a bad run of outs they will drain you mentally as well as through the pocket.

I can assure you, no matter how mentally strong you think you are, that you'll be unnerved by a bad run, so start  recording everything NOW. Nothing is too trivial for your initial analysis.

What now for this intrepid punter? Well, I decided suicide was a losing proposition so, in the manner of all  top-class horses who fight back and dig deep into their reserves, I intend to fight back, but this time with more patience.

Above all things, though, I will be a win bettor as this is where I believe I am at my strongest. With win betting you have to deliver only ONE result, with quinellas there are two results and trifectas have three, and so on down the exotic betting trail.

I've taken a step or two backwards - I will take it fairly easy and use the findings of the research done on my past selections (just over 700 by the time this article is published) in an attempt to recover the losses from 1998 (which, by the way, were not massive in dollar terms).

By Christmas this year, I will have, hopefully, recovered from my two backward steps by taking four steps forward. Whether I end up betting in hundreds of dollars or hundreds of cents doesn't bother me as for most of my betting life I've been a small-bet punter.

What would really bother me? Not having learnt anything from the black 1998. I hope you have benefited from reading this article.

By Roman Kozlovski