Many readers ask if there is such a thing as a sound staking system for place betting. I usually refrain from trying to answer the question.

This is because the readers fail to provide me with the pattern of selections they back. Where a staking plan is concerned a pattern of selections and how they usually perform is essential. Selections which average, say, two winners in five at 5/2 would call for an altogether different approach to one which gives a winner in six at 6/1, although the flat stake return would be the same.

The man who put place betting into the headlines, and turned many punters into dreamers, was Chicago O’Brien. It was O’Brien who coined the term, “Pick ‘em to win and play ‘em to place”.

He was a keen student of form and he had great contacts in the game. He would allow race after race to go by without making a bet but when he came to a race in which he considered one of the runners was a certainty he would bet BIG for the place.

This is what he said at the time: “In racing, there is no such thing as a certainty. A horse can be tried as a good thing, but happenings in a race can knock holes in pre-race theory making.

“A bump, a check, a blocked passage, being forced wide on the turns, can mean the difference between a win and a defeat.

“I’ve seen all these happen to stop certainties from winning. Many, many of them missed out but the one thing that I noticed was that MOST of them invariably ran second or third.”

O’Brien, after studying trends for a long time, embarked on his personal betting odyssey. For the place. Over the years he had been putting his money down on the nose and he knew there were hundreds of times when he lost due to wretched luck or in tight finishes.

Checking back, he found that if he’d bet for the place he’d have reaped a handsome level stakes profit, as against a loss for the win.

O’Brien set the trend for punters worldwide. In Australia today, a huge percentage of punters like to bet just for the place and even if they don’t win they don’t lose very much at all. Returns are consistent, losing streaks are few.

Professional punters hold varying views about win and place betting. There was an article I read back in the early 70s in which two pro punters gave their opinions.

The win-only man said he averaged three bets a meeting. He hit with 40 winners every 100 bets and over a period the average winning odds were 2/1, meaning that on every 100 races he collected 120 units, a profit of 20 per cent.

His bets were $1,000 a throw so that was an excellent return.

The place punter bet in similar amounts but on more races. He said his cashable dividends average 2/1 ON. Again, if he’d wagered 1 unit on each selection he would need to cash 80 bets per 100 to achieve the same profit of 20 cents on the invested dollar.

Both men had some things in common. They bet to more or less the same constant stake. They ahead the patience to wait for the right bets to come along. They didn’t chase losses and nor did they depart from their normal wagering by increasing their stakes when winning.

The place punter said: “I put myself on a par with the other chap. In some races he has savers or he might back two or more runners to win the same or nearly the same amount. I believe my approach, though, is superior. Whenever I make a bet in a field of eight or more runners I have three chances of collecting a dividend.

“A horse beaten a dozen lengths into third gives me the same result as would a runaway winner. At the figure of 2/1 ON I have to strike 80 placegetters every 100 bets and that’s a high average to sustain, and in some periods I have been below it.

“On other occasions I’ve topped it. Eighty per cent sounds a lot but it’s not as difficult as it may seem. After all, in every 100 races I have 300 chances of a profit.”

The straight-out punter naturally pointed out that the place punter should go over his past records and note the win prices of the horses, which won when he had backed them for a place, and compare the two returns.

The place punter put forward the same argument in reverse! And he added: “I don’t have long losing runs and I know that the win punters do. That gives me a comfortable feeling.”

So, there you have it, place betting against win betting, take your pick. You can restrict your losses at the very least by going “place only” and you can boost your returns with all-ups.

By Denton Jardine