Everyone is familiar with the old cliché that goes: “There’s more than one way to skin a cat”. For the punter, there can be few more important sentences than this one.

Every article that you’ll ever read in this magazine, or for that matter in anything else to do with racing, will be something that is making an attempt to cover new ground.

For example, everybody reading this article knows that there are effectively three ways of making an individual bet on a racehorse. These are comprised of a win bet, a place bet and an each way bet. All three of these are capable of infinite manipulation and adjustment, but they all conform to one basic and fundamental law.

This law is that somebody places money to say that something will happen, and they place it with somebody else who is prepared to say, at a price, that it will not. Opinion is all that comes into it; it is nothing to do with fact, because there isn’t any fact. Everything is based on prediction and, if you like, hope. Lots of that!

Dreams. That’s what it’s all about in the mind of the casual punter and you could probably add expectations when it comes down to the serious and professional investors. If you don’t expect to win, you (in all likelihood) won’t, because (and every punter in the world knows this), if you lose your nerve you can expect to lose your money along with it.

This is quite different from buying a lottery ticket, or worse still a scratchie. When you take one of those latter horrors, you really should expect to lose, but betting on a racehorse invites you to use your intelligence along with your gut feeling, along with that incomparable asset, experience.

Having got that out of the way, I’d like to have a look at one of the most contentious subjects known to the world of racing. It concerns one of the two great questions associated with racing. That got your attention didn’t it? Well, if I said that one of the two great questions is “what to bet?”, what do you think the other one is?  Good on you, go to the front of the class! Of course, it’s “how to bet?”.

This is the part that Jonny Hudson got so wrapped up in during the big interview in this issue, and it’s probably the life-and-death issue for any serious, investing punter.

I’ve been to the racetrack in the last 12 months with a very close friend who had come along to make a day of it. He sure did, making a massive amount of money and racing around the ring like a bookmaker’s agent used to in the old days.

Quinellas here, trifectas there, win bets here, each way bets there, all up doubles . . . he had a wonderful time. I mentioned it to you some time ago and I have a feeling that Michael Kemp did too: we watched, along with our pal from one of the leading newspapers, while this gentleman demonstrated that a licence to print money is not necessarily found only in mythology.

But that was one lucky Rosehill Saturday. It happens. Normally, this highly intelligent man would develop a series of strategies and plans and act accordingly. This particular day, however, the gods were with him and nothing was going to stop him cleaning up. All we could do was watch and admire the destructive path he cut through the bookmakers’ ring.

Long term, you know and I know that this is not how to bet, but who’s going to say that this wasn’t a special afternoon? A novel which I have drawn to your attention on previous occasions, Last Orders (also a fantastic film with Michael Caine and Bob Hoskins), has a professional punter as its main character. In the book, he lists his rules for success. We have to remember that this guy, Ray, has never had a job other than betting shop punter. He left school and walked straight into the betting shop.

His rules I leave for you to find in the book (they’re easy to find, as they are set out numerically), but after listing them, he provides a final rule, which is that if you have luck on your side you can sometimes skip all the rules!
His powers of control and patience are phenomenal. All right, he is a character in a novel, but I’ll tell you what, you won’t get very far into the novel without believing totally in him.

I don’t think that Ray would have anything to do with place betting, and believe it or not, that’s where we’re going now.

Yes, good old place betting. How many articles do you reckon you’ve read on place betting in your life? Would you like a dollar for each one? Be nice, wouldn’t it? Probably five figures.

Well this one, as I was driving at above, presents an argument for multiple place betting as against single place betting; which I reckon, with the advent of the online bookmaker, is a pretty hard case to refute.

Probably most of my readers are more than happy if they can identify a winner at, say, $8, which in the old language is 7/1. That’s a very handsome reward, $8, and in a normal race program if you have a bet on every race, it’s probably all you need to cut even.

The idea of $5 (4/1) as being the optimum is something that has been developed over the years by the bookmakers to establish in the punters’ heads that it represents “each way odds”, the point at which, if you back a horse each way and it runs second or third, you at least don’t lose anything.

Of course you don’t win anything either, but that’s not what’s presented to you as an argument. I’m the first to admit that I have written many articles over the years about the insurance aspect of place betting and I have also been a great advocate of separating the two banks (win and place) rather than heavily discounting win bets because there is also a place component.

For example, if you make a bet at $5 and the horse does the right thing by you, you receive $5 for the win (4/1) and $2 for the place (which is even money). If you combine these two, you are getting $7 for your $2, theoretical win odds of 5/2.

Just to make this crystal clear, you bet $2 and you receive $7, winning a total of $5 for your $2 outlay (i.e. 5/2 over the whole bet). I tend to separate the bets if I am betting each way, viewing the place bet as belonging to a different bank from the win investment.

It’s a point of view, but it also assists me, long term, to evaluate my various strategies.

Now let’s get back to that wonderful feeling we described above when we back a winner at $8. How many of these kinds of winners do you normally manage? Have a look at a recent meeting held at Rosehill where the fields resembled dog fields rather than horse fields. In the eight races, they had the starting entry total of 72 horses, a total average of nine per race. Interestingly, the odds-on favourite won the first race but it was nowhere near favourite in the pre-post betting.

In the final race, the winner, backed into favourite, was nowhere near favourite in the pre-post market either. Elsewhere in the magazine we talk about top ratings and you might like to have a look at those in this regard, but for this example if you were trying to get a lead from the pre-post favourites, you were not destined to have a very happy afternoon. Not for the win, anyway.

However, if you had identified a handful of these pre-post favourites that you thought were pretty certain to run well, without your being sure they were going to win (and most didn’t!), what might have happened had you linked them up in place multiples? 

In the first race there were only five horses and the pre-post favourite ended up running second and paying $1.80. The second race favourite is still out there somewhere, whilst the third race favourite won easily and paid $1.60. In the fourth race the pre-post favourite again ran second and paid $1.40, and in the fifth we had another second for $1.70.

This was followed with a failure in the sixth event and the seventh. To finish the day, the pre-post favourite let everybody down in the last race. Not so hot? Four out of eight? Yes that’s true, but now I’d like to propose something else as a way of making money on place multiples.

Your pre-post favourite has to be one of the four shortest pre-post favourites of the day. To put this around another way, you want the four shortest pre-post favourites. Forget the other races. If there are five because of an equal pre-post favourite, get rid of the one in whichever race has the greater number of starters. If you’ve still got a clash, I’d be inclined to forget the meeting.

What I want to do now is take those four qualifiers and put them into a decent multiplier. Four trebles and one quadrella. Now I’m not going to play games with you here, because I have too much respect for your intelligence, so I’m going to tell you right from the start that one of the four we’ll end up with crashed out. We now have $1.80, $1.60 and $1.70.

I am recommending four trebles at one unit and one quadrella or accumulator at half a unit. The total outlay is therefore, in dollar terms, $4.50.

Applying this rule, with all the horses offering odds-on dividends and one of them losing (thereby killing three of our four trebles and the quadrella), we get a return of $4.90.  It’s only 40 cents, but on outlay its 9 per cent.
It might not be quite as safe as the Bank of England but it is pretty close, and there will be days, many, many of them, when you will rack up all four. I’d like to put a question to you:

When did you last back a winning treble or a winning quadrella?

I didn’t hear the answer . . . would you say that a little bit louder please? Oh. That long ago? And yet by betting within what must surely be a pretty secure zone, and managing to lose in one of your four races, and with the other three returns all coming in under $2, you made a profit here! That’s interesting . . . isn’t it?

Remember way back further up the article where we were asking the question about the $8 winner? What do you reckon it would take to get three places up and receive $8? Well, if you had managed to get $2 about each of those three placings, and that’s not beyond the realms of possibility, you’d have got your $8.

True, it would have represented only even money really, maybe a little less because you outlaid a total of $4.50, but think about this:

Say they all placed.

If they all placed at $2, your return would be $40. That’s because you would multiply 2 x 2 x 2 four times for the trebles, and 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x ½ for the quadrella. Arguably you could put a whole unit on for the quadrella and it probably wouldn’t break your bank would it? But let’s stick with this very conservative bet.

What we have here is three horses managing to grab a paying place at $2 each, and we are, by a common mathematical multiplication, converting this into a return of $40 for an outlay of $4.50.

That’s a price of $8.88, and while it’s indeed closer to nine than to eight, you can see my thinking. Is this an easier way to get yourself an $8 or $9 return, than by searching through the formguides and your various selection programs, looking for a certain 7/1 winner?

It could well be, under many circumstances. By the way, betting with the online bookmakers you have another natural advantage, which is that you do not need to restrict your bets to the one meeting or even to the one state.

Just looking through the formguide for the same day I used this example, I notice that at Eagle Farm all four selections ran a place for us, paying dividends as high as $2.40. Another one paid $2.00. Nice day there! Melbourne managed three of four, and so did Morphettville.

My basic inclination is to follow the old principle “keep it simple stupid”. The “KISS Principle”. Under those circumstances, you could look at the trick of multiple place betting as being a way of seeking a steady income by applying a patient and conservative approach to your betting.

Here is my suggestion, and you can, as you always do, go away and experiment with it: every weekend, choose the four most likely winning horses racing either on one program or Australia-wide (depending on what you can access). Have a field size limit. You might decide that races with less than eight starters are going to offer you a much better chance of a dividend under these circumstances.

Now combine those four horses into four place trebles, and add one place accumulator/quadrella for an additional half a unit. If you want to have your “lotto ticket”, I don’t suppose that you’d be doing too much harm by having another half unit on the win accumulator/quadrella.

I know what it feels like when they all win and you’ve only backed them to place, and since you believe that they are the best four chances anyway, I can’t see what harm 10 per cent of your outlay is going to do (and it might just come off!).

Give it a whirl, and by all means if you come up with some clever alternatives and options that you are prepared to share, send them in.

By The Optimist