Each evening, after a day's punting, 1 sit down at my desk in my office at home And fill in a special book. This is my bets book, and it contains every financial aspect of my punting activities.

Not only do I list all my bets in complete detail (race type, horse, jockey, trainer, barrier, weight) but I also jot down each and every piece of expense that day's punting cost me.

For example: Three morning newspapers at 50c each, a Sportsman form guide $2.50, transportation (say) $15, entry fee $5, programme $2, food $10, and any other incidentals, like an afternoon newspaper and telephone calls.

Why do I do this? The answer is simple-I want to know where I am going with my betting. I want to keep track of everything I do and everything I spend. It's no use getting to the end of a year's punting, believing you are in a profit situation, when you haven't taken into account all the expenses associated with your punting!

These expenses can run into thousands of dollars per year. Newspapers alone can be expensive, probably around $2 a day if you are serious and take, as I do, at least four. At $14 per week, that makes $728 in a year. Then there are your form guides; let's say you get the Sportsman each week, plus the Sporting Globe once a week. That's a total of $7 a week, or $364 a year. Get my drift?

Punting is not simply about going to the TAB, or the track, and adding up your profit or loss situation from betting alone. You must take into account everything associated with being a punter. If you don't, you are fooling yourself. Can you imagine a businessman adding up a 'profit' without taking account of the cost of running his business?

Bad gamblers fail to keep a proper account of their outlays. Losing gamblers are the worst offenders. Many punters, not wanting to know the full extent of the weekly battering they cop, turn a blind eye to losses. They probably would receive a big surprise if they knew the exact amount of money they lost each week in terms of bets and expenses.

A friend of mine some years ago decided to keep a check. In three years he was down more than $8000 in losing bets alone, and he wasn't what could be called a big punter. In those three years, though, he lost an average of around $50 a week. He reckoned that on top of this he would have spent another $50 a week in related expenses. That makes about $16,000 down the drain. If my pal had kept a check of his betting he could well have done something about the dollar drain a long time before he did.

To keep a check of your betting, I suggest you buy a big, lined accounts book. Then set it out as follows:

Date        Bet Type        Stake        Placing        Win    Lose        Balance

Always have a set bank when you start, and then use the balance column to let yourself know immediately how much you are ahead, or behind. On a separate page, list all expenses associated with your punting. To keep a track of the exact bets you make, use a separate book and rule off the pages as follows:

Date    Track   Horses/s     Bet     Type     Tnr     Jock     Wgt     Barr.     Price         Plcd

Alternatively, you can list your bets under their separate categories like Win, Place, Each-Way, Quinella, Double, Trifecta, Quadrella, Treble, etc.

The reason for this? After a while you will soon know which form of betting is winning for you, and which form of betting is a loser for you.

If, after about six months, you are showing steady losses with, say, trifecta betting, then it would be sensible to reconsider your approach and, perhaps, switch to something else? If you have no record, you have only a murky idea in your head about which forms of betting are sending you broke.

In his excellent book, The Guide To Good Gambling, Dr Clive Allcock makes the following comments: "Even if you do not recover every bet, at least record the total bet, whether you won or lost, and keep a progressive tally of how much in front, or behind you are, at the end of each year.

"Keeping a record of every bet has the advantage of enabling you, on those soul searching Sundays, to look back at your betting ... and allows you to learn your strengths, and your weaknesses, and so hopefully shape your future betting skills."

It's interesting to note, as Dr Allcock points out, that research shows 95 to 99 per cent of all punters lose over a period time, and 70 per cent of them expect to lose! They only hope to win.

Older punters, having been through the mill, mostly expect to lose. And yet, 99 out of 100 of them would probably have no idea at all of how much money they had lost in a lifetime of betting. If they did know, it would probably shock them. Even if a punter lost just $20 a week over 40 years he would be more than $41,000 in arrears! Enough to have made him relatively comfortable in his retirement!

So, the facts speak for themselves: Do yourself a favour and keep a close tally of all your betting activities. Don't let them get out of control. If you see 'danger' signs, then do something about it.

In simple terms-act professionally. Studies have shown that merely by starting to keep records you can start the move to cut down on your betting, especially if you are losing. Why? Because the evidence of a problem is there in front of you and not in the back of your mind, where it can be conveniently forgotten.

By David Whitney