In some respects this is the most difficult article I have written for PPM and in another respect it will be the most important because the reflection I have to make is fairly stark and quite humbling.

Over 12 months ago I decided to embark on a punting journey where I started with a punting bank of $5,000 with the hope of multiplying that into $7,600 by attempting to win 1 per cent per week or $50 per week.

In the March 2005 edition of PPM I detailed some mind numbing highs and lows but I found myself in front by $820 based on an outlay of $8,155 and my progress was positive. The journey since has been extremely interesting with several stumbling blocks along the way, some of which I felt would be a problem before I started and others which surprised me in the way they crept upon me.

The bottom line is that I have lost money up to and including Saturday, November 19. From an overall outlay of $15,375, covering many betting types and bet sizes, I have returned $14,940, which leaves me with a 2.82  per cent loss on turnover.

Before I start becoming too sombre let me state I am not totally unhappy about this as it has made me realise that I need to completely reassess what I can actually do as opposed to what I think I can do. Dollar-wise, the lost money is recoverable and, of course, I shall attempt to do so as quickly as I can…if there’s one thing I am in this world it is persistent!

Initially I wondered if bet sizes larger than normal would worry me to the point where I’d be a certain loser because I would be betting scared money. As you might have read in my most recent article on this journey I detailed bet sizes. Around $200 bets were fairly common and my worst losing day was the 2004 Cox Plate day where I lost over $800. After that meeting I felt like I had been battered by Mike Tyson over four rounds, but I recovered by stepping in with further gusto and I am now positive that large bet sizes are not a major issue for me, though like all of us with commitments in the real world, I still take deep breaths when the bets are larger.

So where did I stumble when I should not have? At one stage I was feeling very chipper about my progress; this was just after the 2004 VRC carnival at which point I had recovered the lost money from Cox Plate day, had jagged some nice exotics along the way and the POT was going along quite OK.

Upon reflection, and studying the up and downs of my foray into exotics, I can see where all of a sudden I started to believe I had the exotics under reasonable control and I started to pump money into them with fervour I now find beyond belief. Although I at least kept the bet sizes sensible I was not successful in that area for too long, which is funny because I have never really been all that interested in betting on exotics, preferring the steady grind of win and place betting.

There is something mentally comfortable about win and place betting compared to the exotics and it must be the more regular collects! While I began to concentrate on the exotics I eased back on the bigger win bets after the carnival and started to lose consistently in the manner of a dripping tap which started off as a puddle and soon became a small pond to the point I began to feel blood in my wallet.

Just after the New Year I decided the exotics were not working for me and I eased back on them with the bottom line being that I was just short of $1,000 down overall by mid-January after being $820 in front a couple of months earlier. That was 20 per cent of my bank and it hurts me now to think of how infatuated I had become with exotics, though I have to say that not all of the $1,800 turnaround was just the exotics; I also had a losing streak on the win and place side.

I had to start again. I had lost the plot. I started a series of smaller attacks based on Perth betting, top-weights, trainers and my favourite, my ‘Elite’ selections where I concentrate on the Group type races. During the autumn I started to peg back the losses but I was still a long way behind the target of increasing my bank by 50 per cent.
Bang! Two things happened which knocked me down again.

One, a terrible spate of wet tracks in Perth which had an old mate of mine, PPM contributor Ken Blake from Perth, declaring that in the 23 years he has been there it was the worst run of consistently wet tracks he could recall. You just cannot bet in Perth on even dead tracks because the dry tracks are the norm and most runners are not wet trackers, so after losing some hefty wagers on horses obviously lacking any ability on dead tracks I closed shop in Perth.

Secondly, to add to my woes on the punt, I developed a serious health problem for a person with monocular vision by contracting fluid behind the retina. Basically, I could not read properly for the best part of three months while waiting for things to return to normal. I had to stop ‘doing the form’ because the fine print in the formguide looked like I was reading underwater. Also, I was forced to avoid computer screens as much as possible at home and in the real world.

I don’t want to get philosophical but there are times in life when you wonder what it’s all about and this was clearly such a time for me. All in all I had to stop trying to punt as I had to work first and that had become difficult to say the least.

But hang on! I’ve been a punter for too long to just throw in the towel as easily as that. While sitting in the backyard one day I remembered a comment made by Arn Rogers, the editor of the old style Turf Monthly, who said something along the lines of ‘the average punter does too much hard work – a simple, sensible system will in the long run achieve the same results.’ He didn’t say anything about winning overall but his point basically was that we punters spend hours and hours weighing up factor after factor and in the final analysis all that time spent had hairs on it for the average time strapped punter.

I thought about this and decided I had nothing to lose by developing a couple of ideas and betting on them as long as it did not involve copious amounts of my time reading the formguide. This occurred during the winter months so I had no intention of betting large wagers so I thought I would try Arn’s approach on a small basis. I drew up a system based on a simple selection approach from the newspapers which would take me no more than five minutes per meeting and I called it The Killer. Those selections then had to pass a series of filters to get rid of dodgy bets. I bet via Betfair on the remaining selections with the use of a staking plan combining win or place bets depending on the odds available.

Here I am 17 weeks later, as I write this post-Melbourne Cup carnival, my four-star attack is yielding just over 14 per cent POT, based on betting like a madman in five states per Saturday. I also started to look at betting on respected trainers and as I write this I have them whittled down to two obvious standouts – Gai Waterhouse and Lee Freedman after starting with a list of 10.

Each of those would be profitable to follow with careful formwork and seeking value but the problem is what to do when there are multiple runners in a race from all stables and all with a chance? You just have to whittle them down and I came back to the obvious two. I had also tinkered with topweights or those near top...weights earlier in the year and I have just trimmed down a little system for that as well.

Just last week I quickly calculated my trainers and topweight system figures and the POT figures are frighteningly exciting BUT I do remember feeling like this about my exotic bets so I am not going to get too fired up just yet.
Well, there it is. The equivalent of about 12 calendar months and the venture has failed. It failed because I had too much confidence based on some basically fluke results in an area I must admit I do not have great knowledge about…the exotics. I guess to some extent, though I do not want to use it as an excuse, physical issues and making the mistake of betting on shifty tracks in Perth when I should have known better also added to the mix. 

At present I find myself looking forward with anticipation to punting more seriously on the systems I have developed, as the bet sizes have been fairly low and only ‘doing form’ on the Group races, per my Elite selections and selected Perth races.

I shall continue with Lee Freedman and Gai Waterhouse (especially at Randwick where she stars) as well as the topweights system. I shall still play the exotics but in a fun way with friends in a syndicate format and will no longer take them as a serious betting option because the patience and skill factors required will beat me again I’m sure.

There are areas of the punting world where you can be just out of your depth. I have mostly been a win or place bettor who uses Target Betting as a staking attack and history has shown I do best when I concentrate accordingly so why not stick to it?

The lessons I have learnt in the past 12 months have once again reiterated the old problem of betting outside one’s personal comfort zone, whether it be bet size, staking or types of betting or all combined.

Well, will I try again? I will only say this: ‘You had better believe it!’

By Roman Kozlovski