The simple things in life are often the ones we tend to ignore. It's the same with betting. Too often, too many of us try too hard to maximise profits and end up losing out because we forgot the simple, basic rules.

The art of money management is something that eludes most bettors. We've talked before in this magazine of how a punter can be a terrific selector and yet still lose because he can't bet properly.

Let's get down to the basics then: We know we need to obtain value. We know we need to 'grade' our selections, or price them as accurately as we can. But what can be termed 'value for money'? In its simplest terms it means obtaining fair and reasonable odds on a well formulated selection which has a positive chance of winning the race.

Attractive odds are worthless if a horse has no real chance of winning.

Now, we have to understand that it is completely impossible for anyone to state categorically what a horse's right odds are. It can only be someone's personal judgement when drawing up a price.

The UK writer Peter Braddock has some pertinent points to make in his excellent book Braddock's Complete Guide to Horse Race Selection and Betting. This is what he writes: "A fair price for a horse in a race in which there is no foreseeable competition is evens. Odds-on is not acceptable because the profit for the backer is reduced to unacceptable or non-existent levels.

"If there is a serious danger to the selection the backer must look for longer odds to compensate for the additional risk; 2/1 is the least acceptable odds. Two serious rivals, the backer must look for 3 / 1 or more; three serious rivals warrants 4/1 or more, and so on.

"Favourable conditions, such as weight, distance and/ or going, require the reduction of odds by a fraction of a point. Similarly, if these or other elements are to the disadvantage of a selection, then fractions of a point should be added.

"By this method the backer can calculate odds that are fair and equivalent to the practical elements influencing the winning chances of a selection. The backer with this formed and detached assessment of the odds can readily make a reasoned comparison with the actual odds offered by the bookmaker, and not be unknowingly beguiled to accepting less than fair value."

Braddock's words sum up the situation. Look at the form, make your choice, compare it to its rivals, assess the other factors, and then put a price on the selection and the competitors. It's not really hard, provided you have confidence in your ability.

My personal theory goes along the following lines:

  • Back only those selections which are at a better price than my own reckoning. This is a basic tenet of any money management approach, and underlines Braddock's advice, and the advice of any reasoned commentator.
  • Vary my bets by having MORE on my selections which are at the shorter prices. By this I mean my shorter prices. Generally, I like to double my bet on any selection of mine which I have priced between evens and 2 / 1 and on which I can secure a better price.
  • Increase bets even more in very good races. This is a matter of class. I always feel more confident when my selections are made in quality races. I do try to steer clear of poor class races but sometimes even an Open Handicap or a Welter can be of inferior quality to another similar class race.

With money management, it's really all about sensible use of your money. Don't throw it away on bad bets. Always ask yourself if the bet is really worth having. Is it worth the risk involved? Only when you are satisfied the odds are on your side should you plonk the money down.

Get yourself a bank, write down all your bets and note the class of race and all other pertinent details, don't overbet, always obtain value (and have the strength of character to turn away from poor value bets), and don't embark on high-risk staking plans unless you are totally convinced of their effectiveness.

Braddock's Complete Guide to Horse Race Selection and Betting is published by Longman Group UK Ltd, Longman House, Burnt Mill ' Harlow, Essex CM20 2JE, England.

Copies may be available in Australian racing bookshops, approximately $65.

By Mark Merrick