So far in this series, we have published a range of snippets covering many aspects of betting and selection, all culled from back issues of Firepower newsletter.

The segments were compiled by various Firepower-P.P.M. writers and have proved more than useful to many subscribers, especially those with not a great deal of money to invest!

The aim of the segments is to inspire rank-and-file punters to have a deeper understanding of everything they do connected with selection and betting at the races.

You have a $20 bank. You want a fun day at the races. What do you do? One way is to pick out 5 horses as your specials. All must be 3/1 or better. Bet them all to win at $1 each. Pick out 2 as place specials and couple them in a place double for a $5 bet. Then choose one of your five, no lower than evens, as your prime bet. Back it $10 to win. This plan gives you plenty of action for a small bank. It also provides you with a chance to make a good profit. A win at evens on your $10 special (which will actually be carrying $11) will show you a small profit on the day.

An instant spot-bet plan for a day at the races, using, say, a $100 bank. Select 5 horses for the day. Back the first $20 to place. If it places, take out the stake ($20) and distribute the profit equally over the remaining 4 horses. If the first horse loses, go to the next horse and treat it as the first of the day. Each time a horse places, withdraw the stake and allocate the profit to the remaining horses. Each horse has a basic $20 place bet on it, plus any profits passed on.

If you back horses at longer prices, and find many of them run a place, then consider ratio betting. That is, bet 3 times as much for a place as you do for a win. If you bet $1 a win, then put on $3 a place. A placegetter at $1.30 will see you just about square. A placer at evens will put you $2 in front (or 50% on turnover). A 20/1 longshot, just missing out but paying $4.50 the place, will return you $13.50 for your $4 outlay.

Many Firepower readers (and readers of this magazine) have asked over the years about the meaning of 'chain betting'. This is when a bettor bets race-to-race at every meeting, the bets more or less being linked in a never ending chain! Think of it: 30 bets a day at $1 each! You need to earn $31 just to make $1 profit. If you can back 6 winners from 30 you'll be doing extra well and they'll need to average 4/1 each if you are looking to simply break even for the day. Not recommended!

Always check as much as you can to determine why a horse lost in a race. Was it the wrong distance? The wrong track? Too much weight? Bad jockey? Bad ride? Did it suffer interference during the running? Was it slowly away? Was it forced too wide? Did it fail to handle the track conditions? Was it outclassed? Did it need the run? Did it just have an off day? These are just some of the questions you can pose. Check video replays and study stewards' reports. Mark pertinent points with color pens.

Backing favourites is fraught with risk. Let's say you pick 3 a day (Favs average 3 wins out of 10). You are likely to get one winner on average, probably around 6/4. Bet $2 to win at 6/4, lose $2. Bet $2 at 6/4, lose $2. Bet $2 at 6/4, you win $3. Nett outcome on transactions for the day: Bet $6, return $5. Loss $1. Multiplied by 52 times a year you bet $312, you get back $260, a loss of $52. Winners would need to average 2/1 for breakeven. This is another method that's not recommended.

Like to bet on jockeys? Be careful! They can sustain tremendous losing runs. One sensible approach is to (a) follow the top 2 jockeys in the latest poll, or choose 2 top riders, (b) back only their mounts that are 1st or 2nd on a reliable tipsters' poll. If one of the jockeys is not riding, then bring in the third top rider.

A neat little system for finding horses to follow: Consider only races between 1000m and 1600m. Consider only the top 3 horses named in your tipsters' poll (SMH, Australian, Courier-Mail, etc). Check to see how they perform. If they LOSE then mark them down as horses to follow. But you only back them next start if they are between 5/1 and 20/1 in the betting. Give them one start each. You can find some nice winners with this system.

We've mentioned it before; it bears mentioning again. If you're an unsure punter, then go for insurance. You 'save' on one or more runners while backing your main choice to win you a decent return. With, say, $20 to invest, A and B can be the insurance horses. C is the main choice. A is 4/1 and B is 10/1. For A, divide 4 into 20, giving you a bet of $5. For B, divide 10 into 20 giving you a bet of $2. The remainder, $13, goes on C. If C fails and one of the others, A or B, wins then your dough is saved and you get away with a small profit.

Get out when you're ahead! Pro punter Sam Rowett says in an article in the Chicago Bettor's Newsletter that this is the best piece of advice he was ever given. He makes a point of stopping betting as soon as he makes a profit for the day. It doesn't matter how small. It takes discipline, he admits, but in the long run it's worth it. Sam bets a max. of 4 horses a day.

Punters seeking big wins from longshots must be prepared to take risks. You look for all horses that won 3 starts ago and then didn't win at their next 2 runs. You back these horses if they are 10/1 or longer in the betting. You can back more than one horse per race. This is a nice plan for value placers.

NEXT MONTH: In the final part of this series, we present a further 12 snippets of advice on selection and betting from the Firepower newsletters.

Click here to read Part 4.
Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 1.

By Peter Travers