The one constant thing that makes racing continue is the hard, cold fact that most punters lose. They might not die broke, as the old saying suggests, but they don't die rich.

I would proffer the opinion that the majority of people lose at punting because they have absolutely no 'order' about their selection method or their staking.

They do not use their betting capital in an intelligent manner. Yet in many instances, these haphazard punters are astute businessmen!

When they don their racing and punting hats they simply fall to pieces.

I've heard it said, by professional punters, that the average punter thinks too much about winners, and not enough about winning. Some even have systems that regularly produce profits, but they fritter them away on side bets, and are constantly looking for ways to have extra bets.

This is not the way to win. In fact, it's a recipe for disaster and I cannot emphasise enough the importance of keeping the lid on your hunger for action. Too much action - just for the sake of it - spells danger to your wallet and its contents.

It's no good betting on favourites one day, then switching to outsiders the next. It's no good placing $10 on a favourite in one race and $2 on a favourite in another. There is little sense in placing more on to win than you put on for a place.

The other week, a punter friend showed me his betting ticket from the tote. I was shocked. I thought he was a sensible, cool-headed person. But he had placed $10 for a win and $5 for a place on his best bet of the day.

What he was trying to prove I'll never know. He didn't either.

If you are determined to beat the races - and that's what we all want, isn't it - you have to adopt a method of play that is consistent, logical and intelligent. You also have to keep an accurate record of what you bet. Have a plan and set yourself goals. Once you have decided what to do - adopt a system, pick 'em yourself or whatever - you can proceed, with caution to picking up profits.

Problem is, I fear, that a large section of the punting fraternity does not possess the intelligence to make their own selections. It is better for these punters - and they will know who they are - to use the selections of a good racing journalist.

Year in, year out, the average punter would be very lucky if he could out pick the professional.

I know a professional punter who has a nerve as cold as Antarctic ice. He plunges ferociously when he thinks he has a winner and he confided to me that he is disappointed if he doesn't get six winners from every 10 bets.

He covers himself for a place, too, at a ratio of five place units for every one win unit, and reckons to win more than $100,000 each season. Yet he might have only one bet per week in those 52 weeks.

The best bets of the better racing writers in capital cities often end up making nice profits, especially if you support them for a place as well.

Bart Sinclair, of the Daily Sun in Brisbane, has a good Best Bets record. An example was on December 7, when his best bet was listed on race morning in the Daily Sun as Beau Zephyr. It won at 3-1 and paid $3.40 and $1.55 for $1 units on the Queensland TAB.

His second best bet was Latin Flair, which ran 3rd (a good thing beaten, according to its jockey) at 9-4, paying $1.70 for the place.

In Sydney on the same day, the Daily Mirror's Steve Brassel's best bet was Chanteclair, which won at 6-4. John Holloway's best bet was At Sea, a winner at 9-10.

In Melbourne the same day, the Daily Mirror's Melbourne expert John Panozzo (one of the best judges in the business) gave El Ceree as his best bet. It won at 6-1. The Mirror's Track Tout in Melbourne gave Ankara as his best bet and it scored at 3-1.

These are just a few examples of winners you can easily obtain by following the tips of the newspaper experts. They do try very hard to name winners because their reputation depends on them (and their jobs!). Sometimes you will have to be careful with newspaper best bets. Track conditions can alter drastically in the space of 24 hours. A tipster might select a horse as a best bet with the knowledge that the track will be fast. But then the rains come and the track ends up slow. That best bet in your morning newspaper might be a duffer on a wet track.

So do be careful when track conditions change dramatically.

Naturally, the newspaper experts are going to have bad runs, just like everyone else. A friend of mine, who follows three tipsters in three States, always stops betting on their best bets once they have picked 3 losers in a row. He then waits until they have chosen another winner before following them again.

"I miss a winner every now and then, but I sure miss a lot of losers, too," he says.

If you are going to bet on Best Bets, then do exactly that. Don't be like a punter friend of mine, who I'll call John (to save him embarrassment). He decided to follow the Best Bets of the Sydney Morning Herald's Bill Whittaker.

He went to the races with $20 intended for that best bet, at $5 for a win and $15 for a place. All well and good, but then he got sidetracked. He decided he wanted further action, so cut his bet back on the best bet to $15, in order to invest the $5 on something else. It lost, of course. Then he got a tip from a pal and just had to have $5 on it. It, too, lost. That left him with only $10 for his best bet.

It won at 4-1 but his bet by then was a simple $5 each way. He picked up $25 profit on that bet, but had to take off the $10 he had already lost, so his profit for the day was just $15.

If he had stuck to his original plan he would have received back $20 for his $5 win bet and another $15 for his place bet, making a total profit of $35.

"You can't beat 'em," he told me. I replied that, no, you can't beat them the way you do it.

What is it, then, that makes a punter chase too many bets? It's probably the fear of missing a winner. They spread their money too thinly to give themselves a chance.

They are, in effect, trying to pick a winner and not beat the races. Anyone can pick a winner or two, but not everyone can actually win cash money. Scattering bets around like confetti is doomed.

To beat the races, you must first learn how and when to bet. Arrange your bets so that when you do hit winners your losses will be erased and a profit will emerge.

The following suggestions should prove helpful:

  1. Never bet more than 1/10th of your betting bank.
  2. Do not bet when the tracks are rain-affected, or on a barrier position, or on a particular jockey.
  3. Confine your bets to solid selections. Throw away hunches, dreams and longshot wishes.
  4. Laugh off all the 'hot tips' you are given. You will find that most of them fail to win. Ask yourself questions about     the person handing out the tip - is he a winner, does he know what he is talking about, has he access to inside     information?
  5. Try to avoid betting on restricted class events.
  6. Don't go mad on a horse, just because he appears to be unbeatable. Steady as she goes is the rule.
  7. Never panic. Do not try to recoup losses in one go.
  8. When selecting a method to follow, ensure that it suits your purposes and your frame of mind.
  9. Never expect miracles.
  10. If you follow a newspaper tipster, always check on his ability first. Be sure in your own mind that he can deliver the goods.

By Martin Dowling