Flat stakes . . . safest and the best. That's the refrain we punters have been programmed to believe down through the years. It's hard to shake it off.

But do we really have to live in a "flat world" as bettors? Can't we break out and have a go at another way and still emerge with our money, and a bit more, in our pockets every 12 months?

The answer is YES, with some doubts. Yes, it's possible to throw away flat stakes and to try something else, but it's that "something else" that causes the problem. To which avenue of betting do you turn? And how do you know it's going to be the right one?

Well, you don't! Like anything else in this wacky world of racing, it's all a matter of trial and error and there are absolutely no guarantees. That's how tough it is.

One of the best ways to go about things is to pick two horses per race and back both. How do you do this in a sensible manner? That's easy.

You can back them equally or, better still, support them in such a way that if either wins, the profit will be almost or exactly the same.

Obviously, the prices about the pair have to be right, otherwise you'll have to declare "no bet" on the race, and wait for another one.

It could also be that the second horse is too short and the first fancy is at reasonable odds. In instances like this, you can support the horse at the good odds for a win or eachway.

But my advice is that you wait for those races where you can back both. What you do is this: Add 1 (one) to each of the odds, and place the smaller stake on the longer priced selection and the higher stake on the shorter-priced runner.

Let's look at an example: Assume that 4/1 is obtainable about Horse A and 6/1 about Horse B. All you have to do is add 1 to 4 and 1 to 6, making it 5 and 7 respectively. The 5 units goes on Horse B and the 7 units goes on Horse A.

Should Horse B win, the profit will be 30 minus 7 units, giving 23 units. If Horse A is the winner, the profit will be 28 less the 5 units on Horse B, making it also 23 units.

Get the picture:

Horse A: 4/1, Bet 7, return 35 units, less total 12 units bet, equals profit of 23 units.

Horse B: 6/1, Bet 5, return 35 units, less total 12 units bet, equals profit of 23 units.

Now, we can take this idea a step further. Why not adopt the same staking approach with two horses in DIFFERENT races? Doing this, you can get two winners and two lots of profit.

Of course, what you need to realise with this bet is that by backing two horses in the same race you are not actually getting that 4/1 or 6/1. Only ONE horse can win. Therefore, to work out the real odds you are taking about one of the two horses winning, you need to assess the bet on the winner at the total stake of 12 units.

Thus, your 12 units stake wins you 23 units profit, which is just under 2/1. Keep this in mind when you are backing two horses in the same race.

Let's talk a little now about flat stakes, because we need to be clear in our mind about its worth to us as punters. We can't knock it on the head too much because, overall, it has much to recommend it.

Just on 70 years ago, Robert S. Dowst and Jay Craig wrote a book called Playing The Races. It was a big seller and ran into more than a dozen editions because the authors were rightly recognised as two of America's most outstanding experts on racing and betting.

They wrote in their book about flat-stake progression. They make some pertinent points which need to be raised in this series of articles as we delve into the various aspects of staking and money management.

Dowst and Craig wrote: "Psychological factors tend toward abandonment of flat play by individuals. A