I’m going to write this as though you know nothing whatsoever about betting on line. Of course, that may well be the truth, and equally so, you may know as much if not a lot more than I do about the whole thing. However, online betting starts from the very beginning and we might as well start with it.

You will note from the title of the article that I’m not trying to include everything, nor am I trying to include every website. I have to be selective or I would fill the whole magazine, and at the same time I have tried to be totally non-partisan and unbiased. Frankly, that isn’t easy all the time, because everybody obviously has their favourites and their preferences.

I mentioned not so long back my frustration with one particular major website and I was interested that the emails I received were from people who were having exactly the same problem. One gentleman very kindly provided me with what solved the situation for him, but regrettably it didn’t work for me (that’s why I didn’t publish it, sir, if you were wondering: I think you may have just got lucky but it doesn’t work on our machines).

Since I am on the subject at the moment, and it is a major website I’m speaking about, I really have no idea why it continues to happen. My computer is capable of sourcing any Internet address except this one without a problem and that includes all the Internet racing websites with their codified scrambling to prevent freeloaders and crooks. (Very late note – would you believe it seems to have been fixed at long last? Great news!)

With that out of my system, so to speak, we will start with joining processes and then move on to one of the biggest organisations, which is Sportingbet. I am not dealing with Betfair today, on the grounds that it is a different kind of organisation, I have given it considerable attention in the past, and if enough people want it then we will give it an article on its own, since it is a quite different concern. By the way, be careful with the various names as some of them are quite close to each other.

One of the first things to remember about joining any of the organisations is to ask them in a very un-Kennedy-like fashion “what they can do to you”. They all offer joining incentives and from time to time their offers can be very attractive indeed. After you have read this article, you can go online and see what they are offering without any prompting, but you can usually do better by scouting around.

For example, even after you join some of them, if you simply leave a very small or even a zero balance in the account you will find that, after a period of time, they come looking for you. They offer all sorts of most attractive deals. As an example, this year I have had offers from one very large concern to match dollar for dollar up to a deposit of $400.

Another organisation offered me $200 maximum, another would match my first bet up to $500, another as recent as last Saturday, June 28, offered to match any $50 bet that I made at the Sunshine Coast with a bet of equal size on the Grand National Hurdle, and so on. These offers go on all the time from the big boys and with a little bit of judicious handling of half a dozen accounts, you can indeed stretch your betting dollar very significantly.

When you join, you should check around your friends to see if any of them are clients of that particular organisation. If they are, the chances are that they will be paid $50 or $100 for introducing you. Perhaps you can come to an agreement with them that half of the introductory free bet is yours.

Of course, you will also receive a free introductory monetary reward which varies from time to time and from company to company. Again, it pays to know the tricks of the trade. There is nothing to stop you signing up with Mark Read and the hugely successful IAS company and also with his fledgling Canbet organisation.

My personal view on this once you have signed up, and I stress that it is simply my view, is to use IAS, but as I say that’s a personal thing. I got a bit tangled up with trying to understand exactly what the ground rules are for the 25 per cent losing bet rebate that Canbet promotes, and while this might be an attractive thing for some readers and investors, I can’t be bothered jumping through the hoops. IAS is, however, a very frequent gift offerer, and the gifts are significant. We’ll come back to it later. 

Anyway, just remember that there are subtle differences in all of them and you really have to know where you are putting your money down. Elsewhere in this very magazine, there is a comment to the effect that you can find yourself very unhappy about certain exotic dividends when the operator offers home state returns. That’s one example of the reason behind your having more than one account.

Another point: you can get credit from most of the organisations if you want it, but frankly I wouldn’t, simply because it’s just too easy to bet. I have held credit accounts for many years with a couple of leading on course bookmakers and they have done the right thing by me, but it’s a different thing to being able to click the box on your computer.

Since they will mostly let you deposit by credit card anyway, or from your bank account, it’s a smart move to put your own limit on the amount that you can deposit on any one day. You may have absolute faith in yourself at 11am, but by 5pm when you are losing, well, that’s where the risks come in. Having a limit or a brake on your amount of finance on any raceday is probably a good thing.

Before you join, you also need to decide just what it is you want of your account. The one thing we all want is to win but we all have different ways of approaching that objective. For example, some of us have no interest whatsoever in exotic betting and might be more relaxed with a more simple website. Others may have a particular interest in exotic betting; if this is so for you then you need to very closely examine the rules and the kinds of bets which are being offered.

Every website that I’m aware of spells out its rules. There was one that I was going to criticise on this score, but it very recently got its act together. Somebody must have told it that I was coming! More seriously, if you don’t read the fine print you may have every reason for gnashing your teeth one day. It is only the luckiest among us who will come to grief over the limits (for example, Sportsbet and IAS place $100,000 limits on any one multiple – I don’t think I’m likely to get near to that too often).

Also, there are all sorts of conditions as to how and when you can place your bets and what sort of deductions are likely to take place under certain instances. You may argue that you don’t want to know much of this and that it has no interest for you, but the first time you lose a decent amount of money because you didn’t read the rules you are going to be cheesed off.

OK, let’s say you’re prepared to join. Which one? I started with a reference to Sportingbet, which is very large and a very exciting website if you’ve never been there. Have a look at it and see how you feel about it. Is it easy to understand? I think it is for anybody who is reasonably computer literate, and if racing is your main concern, then all you have to do is click that button up in the left-hand corner and everything else will fall into place. Let your mouse hover (don’t click it) over anything you want to understand a bit more about, for example the Best Odds column.

Using that one as an example, it will tell you what you can have by taking that option (usually the better of that particular TAB and the starting price). You will also see all sorts of optional columns involved, such as trifectas and first fours.

It is very much in your interest to check exactly how these will be paid (for example, will you get the best of the three TABs, the best of two, or the home state dividend?). This is also a very good source of the fluctuations in the actual betting, very up-to-date and very accurate. I haven’t seen any recent sensational offers from Sportingbet to existing members, but they do offer you a good deal if you want to join.

Sportsbet is probably, to my mind, the most accessible online betting agency. I find its outlay very easy to follow, and they seem to go out of their way to create an atmosphere (for example with their very large football competitions which have been going all season – they are free and they are fun). They are not into first fours, except in the bigger races (metropolitan) and they pay the home state dividend, so, in line with what I referred to above, you’d really have to be mad to take a first four on a UniTab race.

Their basic offering for betting in the metropolitan area is pretty hard to beat: they offer a bet called “ city best”, which consists of the best of the TABs and the starting price. That’s pretty hard to beat, although of course there will be occasions when top fluctuation is better than all of those. From where the average punter sits, I believe it is quite difficult to speculate about top fluctuation, when the alternative is that there are three other possibilities all running for you.

I have seen many instances of top fluctuation on metropolitan meetings being around the $4 or $5 mark, and the best TAB dividend being anything up to double and more! Sportsbet also offer quite generous and tantalising joining opportunities.

IAS is an easy website to manoeuvre and has a unique offering: they calculate their own prices which they called super bets and these extend right across the spectrum. To be honest, you are very rarely going to be out of pocket by using the super bet option. I have had some very pleasing trifectas, compliments of this service.

Furthermore, in my experience this website offers the easiest and most explicit method of multiple win or close betting. If you want to have, say, five horses in every combination, then whereas it will take you half a day on some of the websites, IAS will offer you every combination that it is possible to imagine, right up front on the one screen.

It will also immediately calculate the total cost of any combination. Using those five horses as an example, it will offer you ten doubles, ten trebles, five quadrellas and one quintella, mixed for win or place according to your choice. They will all be there right up front, together with (once you insert your investment amount) the exact cost for each bet and for the total. I’ve never been able to fault this: early on I tried to trick it but it had my number and never made an error. It doesn’t offer first four investment; well, that might be a good thing! When did you last get one?

Racing Odds has recently changed hands. It is a very reliable service and, just like the other big ones, offers excellent fixed prices all afternoon along with a bet which they call the Ultra. You have to read the rules to find out how this works (start by hovering your mouse over the word) because your opportunities will vary according to the significance of the actual race.

For example, if you are betting at Ararat you will receive the better of the home state TAB and the starting price, which is the Ultra bet, whereas on a Saturday in some circumstances you can have the best of the three TAB dividends. Given the dashing nature and keen racing mind of the new owner of the service, I would be very surprised if it doesn’t extend those metropolitan offerings to something like Sportsbet offers, so keep your eyes peeled.

Racing Odds also has a cute little box on the home page of its website where they set up a multiple for you. All you have to do is fill in the amount you want to bet. I am told that it does very well, although because it is mainly football and boxing etc., it doesn’t usually grab my eye (but it might yours!).

Betezy offers generous “overs” on home state TAB, or the best TAB dividend. While you may find their homepage unusual and certainly not as user-friendly as the others, I have listed (my opinion again, but I have watched this for quite a long time and my opinion hasn’t shifted), this betting shop offers something that nobody else offers and that is a complete summary of all the TAB prices of every race run that day. So for systems’ fans, it offers a sensational source of anomalies and comparisons.

On occasions, I have known them to offer as much as one dollar over a particular TAB price. That’s pretty sensational if you fancy the favourite and it is, say, $3.50.  You can see the star on their homepage, and when that is against a certain race, they are offering a dollar above the price on any horse in the race with SuperTAB. Incidentally, they offer quite an attractive joining deal upfront. Put $1,000 in and they will add another $250. That’s pretty well in line with most of the best offers.

Out of space, and not a mention of the TAB websites. You can probably work them out for yourselves, but in what has become a very mercenary world, it seems to me a pretty hard call to ask anybody to bet win or place with one TAB when they can assure themselves of getting the best of the whole three big ones, and quite often starting price as well. There’s no more loyalty involved, it’s dog eat dog in racing investment, especially since the bottom line is profit. Well, we have a letter’s page, so what do you think?

Click here to read Part 2.

By The Optimist