Drowning by numbers. What a way to go. Much of the year, for punters, is spent treading water; trying to keep ahead, or at least not behind. Five or six times each year we really make waves, and the rest of the time we try not to sink or be eaten by the sharks.

Not an easy challenge, this punting. But we are all in the swim, so let's take the plunge and see if we can establish some ways of identifying the main currents.

Last month, I identified seven ways of making 1999 more profitable for us all. I will run through them quickly to refresh your memories, because with all the great reading in your January magazine you might have forgotten some of them, and I do believe that they are important.

  • Establish a bank.
  • Remember that every bet not made is a bet not lost.
  • Make a decision about the tracks you will, and will not, bet at.
  • Come to a conclusion about the conditions you will, and will not, bet under.
  • Be able to sit out a race, and even a meeting.
  • Join up to SKY TV if you cannot go to the track.
  • Check the index in your formguide before you go through the fields.

The suggestion that drew the most comment, to my surprise, was the final one, No. 7. Readers called to say that they had never really given much thought to this before, and that it was, of course, crucial to independent judgement. It passes as just one of those things yet, when it's pointed out, it's remarkably applicable to race investment.

I went back through my articles and I could see no trace of it mentioned in the past, although it is something I use religiously. Perhaps I have mentioned it, but I couldn't find any reference. Odd when something like that turns up, and you think it is so basic that everyone will nod and say "yes", and yet what happened was that for several readers (at least) it was a revelation.

This month in Educating the Punter I got a bit carried away and before I knew it I had written just about the whole article on the February racing scene, and then it struck me that what I had done was a vital part of anyone's betting technique. It is absolutely essential that you know what racing is coming up.

So, the next point is:

Have access to a decent racing calendar for the immediate future races.
It would be nice if you could arrange for it to include the results but, if you cannot manage that, at least you need to know what races are coming up. For example, if you are a Melbourne fan, you need to be aware that the racing in February and March will only be surpassed by that in October and November. They are the four biggest months of the southern calendar.

For Sydney, you need to be aware that February represents a hotting up period, with March and April highlighting the carnival. The Golden Slipper is run on March 27 and the Doncaster/Derby and Sydney Cup on April 3 and 10 respectively. They are dates a racing person needs to be aware of, and to have fixed in mind so the progress of the best horses can be monitored.

Also, there are maybe thirty or forty more races that you also have to know of in terms of sequence, distance, conditions, etc., pertaining to events in each of the two cities this autumn.

Make your decisions as to your betting techniques now, with room for at least three adjustments.
List the things that make up your betting artillery, then allow for maybe three major new weapons to be invented in 1999, and a handful of small guns to be assembled.

The guns may come from PPM articles, plus your own experience and those things that go to make up the thrill of horse-racing. The big three (or four, or two) weapons may not be invented yet by anyone.

For instance, Statsman could come up with another blockbuster. Or I could (it's about time I did, and I'll be working on it), or one of the team could talk to someone who tells him something he hadn't thought of, a new angle, and from it you suddenly realise that it is another major building block in the never-ending struggle.

The possibilities are almost endless, but the guarantee is that these days the cost of PPM makes it the cheapest major artillery you can invest in, and that, as the magazine grows, it becomes more sophisticated, gathering major ideas from all over the world.

To get back to that first sentence, when I say make your decisions now, you ought to be able to decide what your fundamental betting strategies are. Look at the next point and see what I mean by "having decisions in place".

Make a firm decision as to the bank(s) you will operate.
They have to be free of other responsibilities, for example bill paying. They must be losable, because as sure as you're breathing you will lose a bank, if it is a bank you cannot afford to lose!

Every year punters fall by the wayside before their main chances even race, because they are thousands of dollars down after following the difficult form patterns of early autumn (February in Sydney is a good example). Then there are others who will bet more than (say) 10 per cent of their bankroll on one race. That way lies madness. Maybe once or twice a year it is a go, but only if you make up your mind at the beginning and establish an additional
(say) five per cent for such times.

It's not a bad thing if it is established and you make a firm decision as to how it is to be applied. For example, as you know, I set aside a good whack for Melbourne Cup day betting, because there is so much mug money on the TAB that day that I like to believe I can, over a period, take advantage of the situation. I have come out of it well in 1988, 1989, 1992, 1995, 1996, but not 1997 or 1998. Overall I have done well from it, and five of the past ten
years have returned worth while dividends for the time spent on that day.

On the other hand, the other big day I have tried to establish as a "lash" day is Slipper Day, and while I have picked six of the past ten winners, including two at very big odds, I have not been able to boast about any overall exotic landslides. I have not been able to home in on the big trifectas. The Cups sustain the Slippers, so far as my exotics are concerned. So far as the single bets go, though, I am happy with my betting on the Slipper. How can I write all this? Because I keep meticulous records.

Keep meticulous records.
Never fool yourself. Write your bets in before the race. It's amazing how many losers you tend to forget by next day! Equally amazing is the temptation to ignore a weekend, or start all over again, after a wipeout. See? I do know what it's all about. I've been there. The only truth is your bank balance. If you have less this evening than you had this morning, you lost today.

Talk your way around that one if you can!

Never start a new method with more than the basic or recommended amount.
For example, if you had Statsman's Golden Bullet, and you decided to bet with a $10,000 bank, you need to be well aware that there are runs of cuts, and that the figures are based on $10 bets, and that while a phenomenal 35 per cent of selections won overall (five plans including the Silver Bullet), 65 per cent lost. Statistically, this means that sixty-five in every hundred lost.

There is nothing at all to say that in a run of, say, a thousand races, you could not have a run of 150 cuts. Then you'd need to get 350 winners from 850 bets (41 per cent) to get the average back to the 35 per cent. But by then, if you were betting $50 instead of $10, you'd be in so deep you'd never get out. And note that there is only the need for a 6 per cent climb after those first 150 failures, for this kind of thing to be a possibility.

You don't need that $10,000 on hand. Remember: it may never happen. In fact, I would bet short odds it wouldn't. But it can! And you have to bet within the logic of the system. Just realise that anything that can happen will eventually happen, some time, some place, some year. Be equipped to ride out the bad things and enjoy the good bits.

Egad! I'm out of space again and we are only up to Angle twelve. If I were to do seven next month, and seven for April, that would be twenty-five and a one tip bonus.

In the meantime, think hard about that first dozen!

Click here to read Part 3.
Click here to read Part 4.
Click here to read Part 1.

By The Optimist