I recently returned from a lengthy holiday to find my "mailbox" at PPM bulging with letters from readers. It’s amazing how much mail this magazine generates!

Among the letters were several requests asking my thoughts about various aspects of betting, and whether I thought there was any merit in backing more than one horse a race.

My answer is YES, provided you look upon a two-horse bet as ONE bet. You’ll get the real odds in truer perspective this way. For example: You back two horses in a race at 2/1 and 4/1.

Your potential return is 3 units from the 2/1 chance and 5 units from the 4/1 chance.

Okay, but in reality your bet is 2 units on each. There can only be one winner. So if your 2/1 horse wins and you get back the 3 units, you have actually had a bet of 2/1 ON.

You bet 2 units and you won 1 unit. If the 4/1 horse wins, you get 5 units back but, of course, your bet was actually 2 units. So the odds you took were 6/4. You bet 2 and you won 3.

I think it’s always well worth remembering this when you go about backing two or more a race.

From the letters I get, there seems to be a great many punters who, for one reason or another, like to have a bet on every race. They say it gives them "an interest" throughout the day and I can well understand this.

If you’re living alone, a pensioner maybe, then Sky’s TV racing coverage may help you get through the day.

So having a small interest in a lot of races is fun and provides some excitement in your life.

One reader asked me if there is a method of backing in a lot of races which will reduce the possibility of loss or, maybe, even produce a smallish profit.

Now, so far as I’m concerned, you have to be careful about backing in every race.

In theory, anyone who does this will probably lose about 14 per cent annually, maybe more, of total investment.

There are some very clever race-by-race punters who can turn their theoretical loss into a profit by employing staking methods. One is the 6-Point Plan, which has been featured before in PPM. The 6-Point Plan will win on all selections providing the bettor has the necessary capital and sticks strictly to the rules.

A reader recently sent me a file of staking plans which he had collected over the years. In one it was claimed that a bank of 80 units was all that was needed to produce an annual profit on a special system that called for the punter to invest on well-fancied horses in the same race.

I’ve seen variations of this plan around, and we may well have touched on it in years gone by in PPM, but the idea certainly bears repeating.

(PPM always has new readers coming in who are hungry for systems and staking plans!)

The rules are basic for the staking plan that the reader gave me. If you want a financial interest on every race, or lots of races, and you demand consistent returns (even if not a profit every time), then you may well find this plan is what you are after.

THE TRIPLE TREAT PLAN

1. Decide which tipping section you will use for your three bets in the same race. You can use the first three in the pre-post market, or the top three in the tipsters’ poll, or perhaps your own selections.
2. Write down the names of the three horses. When the shortest-priced of the trio is at 9/4 (\$3.25) or better, then put ONE unit to win on each of the three horses.
3. If the shortest-priced of the three is from 6/4 to 2/1 (\$2.50 to \$3), put a double stake (2 units) on it and 1 unit on each of the other two.
4. If the shortest-priced of the three is below 6/4 (\$2.40 or under), the stake on it is 3 units with 1 unit on each of the other two.

The backers of this plan, including the reader who passed it on, say that it can be used on as many races as you like every day.

My own view is that it would work even more safely if you were to carefully choose which races you were going to bet, and not just bet willy-nilly on every race.

There are a handful of races each day which offer the opportunity to make such bets and to provide you with a handsome winning strike rate. Plus positive returns.

My view is that you err on the side of caution. Don’t get too carried away. Pick out the major races on a card and play them, and ignore the weaker races.

If you have an eight-race programme and there are two Open handicaps, then try them, but with a proviso: If a race has more than 12 runners, ignore it. The more runners in a race, the harder it is to find the winner.

Of course, even with this plan you have to remind yourself that by backing three horses in a race you are dramatically shortening the actual odds you are betting.

Let’s say you have three horses in a race at 6/4, 5/1 and 11/2. Your bet under the above Triple Treat Plan would be 2 units on the 6/4 chance and 1 unit each on the other two. That’s a total of 4 units.

If the favourite wins, at 6/4, your return is 5 units . . . but to get that you have actually bet a total of 4 units. So you have, in effect, taken 4/1 ON. You bet 4 and you won 1.

Let’s take another example. The favourite is 3/1, and the other two runners are 4/1 and 11/2. This calls for just 1 unit on each. You stand to pick up 4 units on the 3/1 chance, 5 units on the 4/1 chance and 6.5 on the 11/2 chance.

If the 3/1 chance wins, you get back 4 units but your overall profit is only 1 unit because your total bet was 3 units. You have taken 3/1 ON about the favourite.

If the 4/1 chance wins, you get back 5 units. Your profit is 2 units on a total bet of 3 units. So you have taken 6/4 ON.

If the 11/2 chance wins, your return of 6.5 gives you a 3.5 units profit. You bet 3, you win 3.5, so the odds you’ve taken about this one are around 10/9.

Isn’t it amazing how skinny the actual odds are when you look at the bet in this way? It’s why it is so important to bet "value" as much as you can.

I guess another way of betting the three in a race would be to bet them according to prices.

Let’s say you want to bet \$20 a race. Your three are priced at 2/1, 4/1 and 5/1. That means on a 100 per cent market you would be looking at bets of 33, 20 and 17, equalling 70.

Because you only want to bet a total of \$20, you divide these sums by 5. Thus, the 2/1 chance would be bet for, say, 7 units (rounded up), the 4/1 chance would be bet 4 units, and the other horse would be bet 4 units (rounded up). This is a total of 15 units.

You stand to make 5 units profit whichever one wins. The catch is this: How many times can you make a successful strike? A run of losses will put you right behind the eight-ball.

I hope these few thoughts on multiple betting have helped you get things into perspective. As always, I would be delighted to hear from any reader who has angles on what I’ve talked about.

By Philip Roy

PRACTICAL PUNTING - APRIL 2004