This is the final article in our three-part series in which PPM. experts Statsman, Jon Hudson and The Optimist discuss their approaches to selecting and staking.

Statsman: I'd like us to talk now about staking. We've discussed aspects of the selection process, but what about actually putting on the bets. I feel this is just as important as picking winners. It can turn small profits into big ones, and help you avoid big losses, yet few punters to my knowledge really place a great emphasis on getting their staking right.

Jon Hudson: Exactly so. My belief for many years is that many punters are price-scared. By this I mean they work out that a horse can win but don't back it because the price is too long! If you have done your homework, and you believe you are right, you should never be afraid to back that judgement, even if everyone else tends to disagree with you. Frankly, the time to avoid betting your hotpot is when the price is too short.

The Optimist: My advice is that punters make a New Year resolution or two-to control their betting pattern. Firstly, they need patience, and then a proper bank and then they have to ensure they never risk more than around two per cent of it at any one meeting.

Statsman: Good advice, too, is for any punter to keep a proper record of his bets. Not enough punters do this. They just bet and bet and wouldn't have a clue as to their actual financial position. This is worrying.

Jon Hudson: Over-betting is the downfall of most punters. They don't know when to stop. The more races you bet on, the lower is your winning average and the greater the percentage working against you. If you back a horse in every race you have to back an enormous number of winners just to keep out of trouble. It's impossible to bet on a vast number of races and show a profit. You have to pick the eyes out of a program.

The Optimist: Giving it all back when you do win is another widespread problem. It has always annoyed me to hear about punters who moan about losing after being in front earlier in the day. If you are smart enough to win early, then pocket enough to at least keep you square on the day. Don't fritter it all away.

Jon Hudson: I'd like to say something about those punters who attempt to achieve the impossible. They go to the races with a small amount of money and attempt to win thousands. They go for the longshots, but unfortunately in a race of, say, 12 runners there will be around six longshots. Which one are you going to back?

Statsman: This gets back to multiple betting in my view. Don't just back one horse in a race, but try to spread your bets over two or three, so that you can at the very least 'save' on the bet should one of the dangers to your main fancy get up and win.

The Optimist: There's a very good article on staking in this current issue of P.P.M. (see pages 4/5) and I would hope that all punters take note of what is written there. It makes a lot of sense.

Statsman: Summing up what we've been saying, then, I think the main points are to bet patiently, conservatively, with value in mind, and without being persuaded not to back to see you have chosen if they come up at long odds.

Jon Hudson: Value really is the name of the game in this business. Taking under the odds will, eventually, send you broke. A punter must remember that each horse in a race has a certain percentage chance. It might be 50 per cent, it might be five per cent, so the task is to find that 'true chance' as best you can, and bet accordingly. But you never bet a horse if you can't get the right price. Why take 6-4 about a horse that has only a 3-1 chance? It's madness.

The Optimist: Getting back to earlier points in this series, I think we have to stress that a punter must find 'key factors' to help him in his selecting, and then trust in his judgement when betting, always with the thought in mind not to risk all his eggs in the one basket while at the same time refraining from betting on too many races.

Statsman: I've seen punters betting a few dollars on horses in every race at two or three meetings. The task they face is horrendous. Just imagine if you put $1 on a horse in each of 24 races (three meetings) on a Saturday. You have staked $24, so you have got to back winners whose odds can return you that $24 before you make a cracker. Even if you hit five winners at 3-1 each, your return would be only $20. You would still be losing $4 after striking five winners.

Jon Hudson: Yes, it's always illuminating to show those figures to rank-and-file punters because I'm sure a lot of them don't realise the task they give themselves. Now, if that same punter had chosen, say, four horses and got one winner at 3-1, he would at least have broken even on the day. He had only to find one winner to achieve that at 3-1, yet with 24 bets he would have needed six winners at 3-1 to break even on his $24. It's a heady task!

The Optimist: Concluding, then, think we all agree that form study is the key to winning. Finding the angles, or key factors, and then putting your money on in a controlled fashion, whether you are backing for a win or a place.

Statsman: And, of course, you always read P.P.M., because every month you'll find a new idea put forward for examination.

Jon Hudson: My strongest advice to punters is to find value. Seek it out and use it to your advantage. If you can select one winner in four then don't take anything under 4-1. If you can get your one winner every four bets backing them at 4-1 plus you'll end up ahead of the game.

Click here to read Part 1.
Click here to read Part 2.

By Statsman, Jon Hudson and The Optimist