I was having a few beers recently with a keen punting friend of mine and during the inevitable racing discussions he emphatically stated he would not back any horse under \$3.00 (2/1) though he did weaken by adding “I will take \$2.50 (6/4) about a champion”.

His reasoning is simple: he believes for every dollar he outlays he wants to be rewarded relative to risk, and who are we to argue with that premise? The word “value” in the punting world can be stretched across quite a spectrum.

I know from my own punting exploits there are times when I virtually exude Pavlovian salivation when I receive 2/1 about a horse if I perceive that it should be about an even-money chance. Sadly, on many occasions the “overs” means zippo and no win results; however, the next time a similar occurrence presents itself the horse may well win and over two bets I have outlaid two units and received back three which is the same as backing a \$1.50 winner.

When I mentioned this to my punting mate I could visibly see the sneer as the mere mention of odds like \$1.50 has him shaking his head even before he speaks.

I could see he was unconvinced so I asked him what his figures were on his bets for the last 100 races he had bet on. He outlays \$100 on each selection regardless of price once he secures over his assessed price; thus, if he prices a horse 3/1 he will have his \$100 on and if he prices his next betting race selection at 5/1, he will still have \$100 as his stake. In the last 100 races he picked 15 winners ranging in price from 2/1 to his longest price at 8/1 returning \$10,875 for a \$10,000 outlay. This made 8.75 per cent profit on turnover, which is excellent as far as I’m concerned.

This chap is not interested in setting the punting world on fire but just wants to make a profit, which he says he does and I believe him. (By the way, we had had a conversation on the phone earlier in the day about his punting and I asked him to bring the results of his A and B selections down to the local for a couple of frothy ones plus a chat about my own A and B selections in Perth.)

What started our conversation (via the phone call)  was that even though he was in front he said he felt he was struggling to come to grips with the fact that several of his second selections had won and one in particular was nearly his top selection winning at 12/1.

The problem for him is that he is a one horse per race bettor and all of us who bet seriously know how it feels. Only just recently I backed Vain Crusader in Perth based on some good recent runs only to see my B selection Wire Detonator, which I had priced at 3/1, win at 7/1 with not even a small saver taken.

However, after sculling the pot I had in front of me (a rare Saturday punting experience these days for yours truly), I came to my senses because I realised, as my figures have shown, that I am best with my A selections when I fancy them and that is that.

Sure I can back 20/1 winners and 15/1 placegetters with small bets because I have that sort of flippant approach to the bet size when betting at those odds in the right races and don’t lose sleep if they get beaten. That sort of punting psychology opens the way for another article down the track!

I asked my friend to have a look at the concept of backing BOTH his A and B selections and I almost had to physically grab his head and steady it as it started rocking violently from left to right and right to left the same time as he uttered “No way”.

Now isn’t it amazing how some people, when asked to consider a different punting approach, immediately flee into their belief comfort zones and virtually refuse to acknowledge any other course of action? Once he settled down I asked him, “Are you prepared to back a single horse at 2/1?”  His reply was “yes” as long as he had priced it 2/1 or less.

Amazingly enough, after some more fierce cross examination (that means after another few pots of beer), I found out he had only a vague idea of the percentages of the racing game offering the excuse that he was only interested in backing winners.

One of the good things about some hotels is that they provide drink coasters that are blank on one side so I scouted around and grabbed a few and physically showed him how a 2/1 chance equals 33 per cent (2 plus 1 equals 3 and then 3 into 100 equals 33) and 3/1 chances are 25 per cent and 4/1 chances are 20 per cent and so on. On one coaster I got him to list all the main prices from 2/1 to 20/1 and their roughly rounded down percentages; thus 2/1 = 33, 3/1 = 25, 4/1 = 20 per cent, 5/1 = 16, 6/1 = 14, 7/1 = 12 per cent, 8/1 = 11 per cent, 9/1 = 10 per cent, 10/1 = 9 per cent, 12/1 = 7 per cent, 14/1 = 6 per cent, 15/1 = 6 per cent, 16/1 = 5 per cent and 20/1 = 5 per cent.

I now posed him this question: “If you rated two horses in the one race and your A selection was rated at 6/1 and B selection at 7/1 and you received those exact prices about both runners, what did the percentages add up to?” A quick look at one of the coasters provided the correct answer, 26 per cent.

I said, “Looking at your coaster then, isn’t backing two horses in the same race at 6/1 and 7/1  the same as backing roughly a 3/1 chance forgetting the fractions?” I could see he was struggling with this concept so I said, “Well, let’s see how this works another way with the percentages. If you have \$10 on the two horses you have outlaid \$20; are you happy with that?”

He gave me one of those “I’m not a dill” looks but said, “yes”. If the lesser priced of the two wins how much do you get back? His reply was \$70. “OK, then if you have outlaid \$20 for the race (2x\$10) and received back \$70 your profit on the race is \$50. This is the same as going up to a bookie and asking for \$50/\$20 on one horse (you outlay \$20, the right hand side, you profit \$50, the left hand side: add the two sides gets you \$70).
After this explanation, plus the coaster calculations, I needed some stress relief so I said I was going to the gents and could he keep busy  and calculate the odds of backing  two horses in one race that were 5/1 and 8/1 and in another race if his two selections were 6/1 and 12/1.

When I returned he showed me his figures and in scenario one (5/1 and 8/1) he had the percentages totaling 27 per cent (bit less than 5/2: \$3.50) and in scenario two (6/1 and 12/1) totaling 22 per cent (7/2 \$4.50). I asked if he saw the fact, via the percentages, that he was still betting at better than 2/1 on both scenarios to which he agreed. Now although we had consumed a few pots by this stage I could see he saw what I was trying to point out re: his initial problem of missing the 12/1 winner.

The answer to this revolves around just simply backing both ONLY when both the A and B selections are at his assessed price or more as long as the percentages involved were 33 per cent or higher (the equivalent of 2/1 or longer). However, the scenario that now needed dealing with was what to do if his A selection was under his required price but his B selection was above his required price. In the first instance he could simply just back his B selection and ignore the A selection. This made sense to him as it was the obvious way to go: no rocket science needed on that front.

There is another train of thought I posed which involved adding up the assessed prices he had set; that is, 6/1 and 7/1 totaling 26 per cent ( a fraction below 3/1: \$4.00), and if the bookies’ prices added up to 26 per cent or more then he should back both even if one of them was unders and the other overs.

For instance, he prices A at 6/1 and B at 7/1 but the bookies are offering 5/1 on his A selection (16 per cent) but 9/1 his B selection (10 per cent) which also totals 26 per cent (the same as his own assessment total). I reasoned that backing his A selection in this case was not a really bad thing to do, as in the long term the AB combination was the same and we were only talking about one betting point of unders on his A selection. I could see the wheels turning over but he simply said, “I would rather just bet at my assessed price or longer. I would only back the 9/1 chance.”

In the long term I had no problem with his strong belief in his own pricing, as he is a fairly opinionated punter and his pricing came about after quite some deep thought about all the possibilities surrounding the event. What I did have him agree to is to have a look at his figures as per backing both A and B when BOTH were overs.

A couple of days later (possibly he had a headache the next day: I know I did), he called me to let me know that his figures showed an extra 3.2 per cent Profit On Turnover and that excited him but when we subtracted the 12/1 winner there was not a great deal in it in the finish.

What we found is that although he did back extra winners, his run of outs on his B selections were longer than on his A selections and even a juicy 12/1 winner wasn’t enough to really justify the extra outlay. He agreed to monitor the situation for another few months which is the obvious way to go. I suspect his figures will stay about the same or even show a loss on his B side but time will tell on that one.

This article covers one punter’s experiences and introduction to percentages, as my pal openly admitted to not really knowing all that much about then even though he was a seasoned punter.

Years of experience in assessing the prices of his chances by instinct had him comfortable with his own approach and even though I was able to show him a different scenario in the final analysis, he decided to stick to his own methods.

However, you the reader might want to explore the concept of not accepting less than a certain price about a race. If, like my friend, you will not accept less than 2/1 (33 per cent) you might like to consider some races in this vein. Say you disliked a favourite and your A B C and D selections were at  6/1, 12/1 and 15/1 (totaling 28 per cent) and maybe even a 33/1 roughie (3 per cent) with all totaling 31 per cent.

By backing the four runners you still keep above your 2/1 (33 per cent) minimum requirement and you have four runners against the favourite going for you. Open races like the Melbourne Cup (unless Makybe Diva was running), Caulfield Cup, Doncaster or The Epsom are classic races where you could back even six or seven runners whose odds percentages would add up to no higher that 33 per cent. Keep this multiple approach in mind: it could open new investment strategies for your own punting.

By Roman Kozlovski

PRACTICAL PUNTING – FEBRUARY 2008