If you’re a place bettor, and yes, there are still armies of you around, then you must be the sort who likes lots of returns even if the profits are niggardly (or the losses smallish).

The question I pose is this: Are you aware of what is actually required of you to stay ahead of the game?

It’s pretty basic stuff but when I asked a handful of fellow punters about it recently not one of them had a clue.

I wanted to know if they realised how many placed horses they’d need to make a profit. What if they had a strike rate of 50 per cent? What sort of divvie would they need to make 15 per cent profit?

Okay, it’s a bit tough to lay it on someone at a moment’s notice. Anyway, the answer is not a pineapple, it’s $2.30 (for $1). That is, if you can back five placegetters in every 10 bets, you will need to average $2.30 to get your desired profit.

Five places at $2.30 means $230 for every $200, or 15 per cent for you. Here’s a further rundown of what’s required depending on your strike rate:

5 from 10 means $2.30
6 from 10 means $1.90
7 from 10 means $1.60
8 from 10 means $1.40
9 from 10 means $1.30 or $1.20

Not that you are ever going to realistically strike nine placers from every 10 bets over an extended period but I thought I’d pop it in anyway.

What is more gettable is, say, seven from 10, which means you will be aiming for an average divvie of $1.60. That puts success in arm’s reach.

Overall, I suggest you should be aiming for a long-term profit of 12 per cent to 15 per cent on every series of 10 bets.

Forget about the old quarter the win odds thing, too. Doesn’t happen much these days. Get a fifth and you’ll be doing well.

Let’s look at the situation on an annual basis. You could aim for 12 per cent on turnover for the first year, betting $50 per time to a $1,000 bank. Say you have an average of two bets a week. That’s $100 a week, $5,000 a year (assuming a holiday for two weeks).

Turnover profit is, therefore, around $600. A very nice earner.

You could build up your bank from profits. As your confidence grows, why not your bank? Start betting in $75 units, then $100 and so on (assuming you are winning, of course).

People think that place betting is bad because it is slow in building up but they forget the most significant thing in the whole world of betting and that’s the fear of missing a winner.

What I mean is that you don’t have to run with fear and you don’t have to bet like mad. You PICK YOUR SPOTS.

A friend of mine, who DOES win through place betting, tells me that if he has any doubts about the ability of a horse to win, he doesn’t back it for a place.

He bets for the place most selectively. If a horses has any strong minuses he just doesn’t bet, and he doesn’t get all angry and twisted if the horse gets up.

He says: “I don’t chase the big hits, no gold at the end of the rainbow. I want to be able to sleep at night. My bets are all carefully thought out. I try to eliminate risk, insofar as I can. I’m the boss. The decisions are mine.

“Sometimes when I go home I’ve had just one bet for the day, for a thousand dollars or sometimes $2,000 and I’ve struck a $1.50 placegetter, so I’m home with $500 or $1,000 profit. And really because I have done my homework I was never worried about the bet. Short of the horse dropping dead, or something awful happening in the running, I was on a sure thing. I make sure the trainer is right, it might be Gai or Snowden, and I ensure the jockey is right, maybe Blake Shinn or Beadman or Oliver.”

This chap, by the way, has made an absolute fortune from backing Weekend Hussler for the place. He’s been snipping  away every time the great horse goes around.

He tells me: “When you find a horse like the Hussler you have to stick like glue. They are money in the bank jobs.”

The Optimist is a man with firm views about how to maximise your winnings through place betting. This is how he explains it:

“Let’s say you bet $50 each the place; two place, return $140. Can’t be done. You lose if the third one loses. If the loser is the first one in the series, the temptation is to raise the bet to get the loss back. Must not do.

“What you could do is to have a proportion of each win bet set aside for an all-up double or treble. So let’s say you anticipate a return of $1.40. The bet is $50, your regular bet. The return is $70.

“Five dollars of this goes onto the next selection as a double and five dollars as a treble. Good grief, you say, only five lousy dollars? Yes, five. It is 10 per cent of that original bet, and another 10 per cent has gone on the treble. That makes things look different.

“And you stand to make 20 per cent on the original bet anyway, even if the next horse loses. Okay, I know about leading horses to water, and I know that some readers will say they can’t wait that long to start making money, but I reply:

“Over the years, have you been a regular winner or a loser?

“If the latter is the case, you are in the vast majority, and unless you do something radical, you could stay there. Maybe, and I only say maybe, this is the way for you to change your entire outlook on the world of racecourse investment.”

The straight patent can make you a nice profit even with low paying returns. Let’s look at three placegetters coming up at $1.40 each. You bet $50 on all aspects of the bet, which means a total of $350 (three singles, three doubles, one treble).

The singles return you a total of $210 for your $150 outlay. You then have three doubles at $98 each, a total return of $294 for your $150. Then the treble, which will return you $137 for your $50.  In all, then, three $1.40 placegetters have returned you $210, $294 and $137, making a total haul of $641 on an outlay of $350.

This is a profit of $291, or 83 per cent on your outlay. Think about that. You have backed three horses which were very well-fancied and all they have paid is $1.40 each and yet you have received back a profit of more than 80 per cent.

Another way of looking at this is to say: Why not use the money you spent on the single bets to increase the bets on your doubles? So each double would have been taken for $100 each.

Doubles: A and B for $100, A and C for $100, B and C for $100, and then ABC for $50.

Now your returns are $588 on the doubles, and $137 on the treble. That’s a return of $725, and a profit of $375 more than 107 per cent.

See what I mean? It’s not a bad approach is it? And if you’re skilled enough to nab placegetters that pay better dividends than in the example, well, you are cooking with gas.

By Mark Merrick