There's a devil in each of us when it comes to betting. Most punters can identify their own individual devils betting too much, listening to their mates' tips, riot studying the form, failing to bet enough on the winners... And so it goes on.

Betting at a T.A.B. agency presents its own perils to the poor old punter. There are devils aplenty in the 'lucky shops' (as the Victorian T.A.B. people once fondly nicknamed their agencies during a promotional drive). Once you set foot inside an agency, it's very much like when you step through the turnstiles at a race meeting.

There is every chance you will foolishly leaves your brains behind at the door. We've all heard about the Pumpkin Head Syndrome at the track; well, the same thing applies at the T.A.B. Unless you are very, very careful you could become yet another victim of the P.H. Syndrome.

Now, there's a pretty cosy feeling around you when you enter the T.A.B. isn't there? Usually, you'll be a regular, there'll be some pals sitting around studying form and peering at the TV price monitors, you'll feel 'at home' in the agency and well aware of how the system works, how the race meetings come up on the screen, and how to fill in your computerised coupons.

You might be in one of those T.A.B.s that offer a free tea or coffee and a cream biscuit. If so, good luck to you.

You are probably on good terms with the agency staff and you like having a little chat to them, and a laugh and so on.

In other words, friends: YOUR DEFENCES ARE DOWN. You have strolled into a situation fraught with danger. Because you're comfortable, because you've done it before and you're doing it again, you are 'soft' on the underbelly.

Because you are in what the psychologists call 'Happyville' you will be imbued with a feeling that this is a good place, that you are 'safe' and nothing can go wrong. Which is exactly what you should not be feeling.

What I am saying, in essence, is to be on your guard when you enter the T.A.B. Don't allow the friendly ambience to lower your warning armoury. Think about the money in your pocket, about what it took to get it there (all that hard yakker!) and remind yourself to respect it.

Of course, when we talk about 'devils' the greatest of them all on any racing day is the availability of races on which to bet. Let's just take an ordinary Saturday. You enter the agency at noon and you have four major meetings in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide - a likely 32 races in all. Then there will be a meeting at, say, Kembla Grange, of 8 or 9 races. That's 40 or 41 races to tempt you.

Later in the day, the 'extras' come in, like Toowoomba twilights and Ascot in Western Australia, two or three hours behind the Eastern States and starting to overlap the end of the major ES race meetings. Before you know it, it's 6 pm and you are challenged by the greyhounds and trots!

And this is only Saturday. If you're a midweek punter, the madness continues. Even Mondays and Tuesdays now have at least two gallops meetings and often three, sometimes with 9 and 10 races on the card.

All this means that you must stop and consider your position. You are like a general going into battle. You have only so many troops at your disposal. You have to ensure they are used to maximum effect. Otherwise the battle is lost.

The problem with sitting in the T.A.B. is that you like to fill the time with A-C-T-I-0-N. No-one really likes to sit around for 30 or 40 minutes between bets. You get to looking at the fields for the next race and you pick out a horse and you note that it's paying $13 for the win.

The irresistible urge is to get up, fill in the ticket and have $10 on it. You think to yourself, 'I've picked this horse, what if it wins and I have nothing on it?' It's an understandable reaction. Sometimes such a spot-bet will win; most times, I promise you, it won't.

So, in my opinion, you have to go marching into the T.A.B. with a plan of attack. You have to marshal your forces and slip on the cloak of discipline. This means you have to stop yourself from betting on too many races, and concentrate only on selected races.

This is good advice, but 99 out of 100 punters will ignore it, even though at first they might convince themselves they will follow it. It's the ongoing betting mania that causes even the most dedicated punter to cast aside his best intentions!

There's the bloke sitting next to you, who starts chatting away and tips you a couple of hotpots. There's your best mate, who fancies himself as a tipster, and who also throws well-meaning advice your way. He might also coax you into tossing $20 into a kitty for a lash at a few quinellas or trifectas.

Then there's that ever-tempting 'Late Mail' on the radio, giving a special in every race, supposedly culled from inside contacts at the track that very morning, but more than likely just a rethink by the tipster! It's amazing how many punters throw their dough on these Late Mail horses; the result is they are overbet and subsequently underpriced, and their strike rate is ominously low.

Just for the heck of it, I did a check recently on Late Mail selections on the Sydney and Melbourne meetings over a 4-week period. The result was a 19 per cent strike rate!

Needless to say the average price of winners was around the 2/1 mark. See if you can make a profit out of that.

The other testing area when betting in the T.A.B. is to get your money management into some sort of order. The tendency of most punters, when they get their T.A.B. Hats on, is to spray bets left, right and centre, with no thought of tomorrow.

There is ' I am afraid to say, little future in such betting. Oh, you might have your winning days, but you'll also have a host of losing ones. By succumbing to the plague of 'too many bets, too many meetings, too many losses' you are becoming a victim of the T.A.B. sickness.

But there is a way you can beat the devil, get your betting into order, and still enjoy lots of action. My advice is that you set up two betting funds. One is your 'quality action' bank, the second is your 'slush' fund. Each is operated separately.

Let's say you have $100 in your pocket. You hope to come out of the day's betting with $50 profit at least. But you know you won't be able to last out the day without having a potpourri of bets. What do you do?

The average punter will merely adopt the 'crash or crash through' approach - $5 eachway on the first race $10 a win the next, a $5 daily double here and there, an Extra Double for $5 here, a Treble for $5 there, then another $10 win bet - and so on. Before he knows it, after a few losses, he has only $50 left. The betting then becomes defensive.

Maybe even smaller bets are placed, giving him less chance of squaring the ledger.

By adopting a 'twin banks' approach you can have your cake and eat, too. My suggestion is that you decide how many 'star' bets you have for the day. You may have picked out 5 in all from the main meetings in Sydney and Melbourne. You now work out the average price of the specials.

Let's say they are at 5/2, 4/1, 4/1, 2/1 and 8/1. That's a total of 20.5. You divide this by 5 and you get the average price of 4/1. Taking into account the fact that your bank is $100, you will need to bet around $15 each on these specials (assuming win bets). That means $75 of your bank will be invested on the specials.

You still have $25 left in the 'slush' fund. At $1 per bet, this gives you room to have 25 more bets during the day. There is a possibility that you could pull in a few winners with these 'mania' bets and so ensure that you don't lose all the $25 (you'll rarely make a profit on it, unless you pull off a healthy $1 double that pays $25 or more).

But at least those dollar bets are going to tame the savage beast lurking inside you! Meantime, you have those 5 juicy specials running for you at $15 level stakes each.


  • Never get too relaxed in the company of friends and in the comfortable ambience of the TA.B. 'seductress'.
  • Respect the money in your pocket - never spray it around willynilly.
  • Don't get overcome by the gnawing need for action. Find a way to control chain-betting.
  • Ignore the 'Late Mail' notices pinned on the agency walls - these tips will never lead you to the Garden of Eden.
  • Get your money management into order - find yourself a sensible staking plan and stick to it.
  • Make sure you pick out a few special bets for the day - and ensure you have the biggest bets on them.
  • Follow our advice and try a day with a 'twin banks' approach, one for your best bets, the rest - the 'slush' fund - for the little bets throughout the day.
  • Once you've decided on a plan of betting for the day, don't give up halfway through proceedings.
  • If necessary, set yourself a target to win on the day - and once you've reached it, pack up for the day.

If we assume that you get two out of the five winning, at 2/1 and 4/1, you will get back $120. Let's say you only lost $15 of the 'slush' fund. Therefore, your day's betting - and you've had plenty - is an outlay of $100 for a return of $120 on the specials and $10 from the 'mania' bets, a total of $130 in all, or a profit of $30, or 30 per cent on turnover.

Might not seem much, but it's a healthy profit as far as betting figures go - and you've enjoyed a lot of action, and your main betting has been under a lot of control.

With this approach you can enjoy your day at the tote, you can have plenty of bets, albeit small ones, and you can still have the chance of enjoying a really big day should your specials deliver the goods.

Remember that you don't have to have 5 specials; you can go in with two or three if you like. I wouldn't, though, try more than five or six.

By Martin Dowling