Parlay betting! It arouses all sorts of reactions whenever it's mentioned. There are many who say you can't win with parlay betting, especially when you are going for three or four winners in a series.

I can tell you of one bloke who lives near Newcastle who can knock that particular theory on its head! He's landed parlays worth almost $30,000 in the last couple of years. So the big ones can be landed, and punters are landing them every day of the week.

The Yankee is the best known way of attacking the parlay. For those who don't know, it's a parlay of four selections embracing six doubles, four trebles and a 4-horse accumulator. You can take the parlay on one ticket on the NSW TAB. In States like Queensland, still catching up, you have to fill in the various individual tickets.

If we call the horses A, B, C and * the doubles would be A all-up B, * all-up C, A all-up D, B all-up C, B all-up D, C all-up D. The trebles would be A-B-C, A-B-D, A-C-D, B-C-D. Then there would be the accumulator of A-B-C-D.

It's an easy operation and one that has been discussed in PPM before. The Yankee parlay I am about to outline is a modified approach and calls for a bank of 16 units. It provides for the same coverage as the straight Yankee PLUS one unit on each of the four selections. If all bets lose, the loss is 15 units.

This Yankee can be bet straightout, on the place machine or on two horses per race. You can start the operation and finish it on the one day, or spread the bets over an indefinite period. You might, say, start with the first bet on Saturday, the second on Tuesday, the third on Wednesday and the fourth the following Saturday. It all depends on how much you fancy a horse.

The clever approach is to be very careful and patient. Don't just pick out any four horses, cross your fingers and hope for the best. Seek out good, solid selections that offer some value. The punter who can wait for the soundest possible selections to complete a series will reap the highest rewards.

The betting approach is simple. To complete a series you are called on to have a maximum of four bets and each wager is exactly half of the banker's holding. If you start with 16 units, the opening bet is 8 units (half the capital). If it loses, the next bet is 4 (half the remaining balance). Another loser would call for a bet of 2 units and, finally, if that also lost, then a bet of 1.

Firstly, let's assume the punter wins all four, for straightout or place. The dividend for each, we'll say. is evens. The horses are ABCD. A unit can be any amount. For the purposes of this exercise we'll assume $1 units.

Starting capital is $16. The first bet on Horse A is $8. Return at evens is $16 for a profit of $8 which is now added to the capital, taking the total to $24. Now the bet is on Horse B at half the capital, equalling a bet of $12. Its evenmoney price returns $24 for a profit of $12. This gain is switched to the bank, taking it to $36 (24+12).

The wager on C, then, is half of that, equalling $18. Again it returns evens, so the return is $36 for a profit of $18. This is added to the bank taking it to $54 (36+18). Once again the next bet is half the capital, in this case $27. If D wins and returns evens, the profit is $27 again, building the bank to $81 (54+27).

The winners have returned a nett profit of $65 on the four evenmoney collects. As you will realise, this profit could have been achieved with placegetters and not only winners. In percentage terms, your total money bet was $65 and you have won the same amount, a 100 per cent profit.

Even had Horse D lost, the three returns on ABC would still have produced a profit. With place betting on this plan, you can expect many times to achieve the ultimate. With straight-out betting, it won't be as comfortable a proposition.

Often you will find that a failed parlay, even with a couple of winners, leaves you worse off than if you had backed each horse at level stakes. But parlay betting is all about risk, and shooting for major collects. The defeats have to be taken on the chin because you are casting the line for bigger fish in the long term.

An example: Let's say your first two selections won at 3/1 each. You would have $8 on the first one, for a profit of $24. Add this to the bank and you have a total of $40. Next bet is $20. It wins at 3/1. You add the $60 profit to the bank, which has now built to $100. Next bet is $50. It loses. The bank is now $50. The bet is $25. It loses. The bank is now $25. And that ends the parlay. The profit is only $9.

If the winners had fallen on Horses C and D, the situation would have been much different. You would have lost $8 on Horse A, reducing your bank to $8. The bet on B would have been $4. This loss would have reduced the bank to $4 so the bet on C is only $2. It wins at 3/1, giving you a profit of $6. Add this to the $4 bank and it rises to $10. The final bet is $5. It wins at 3/1 for $15 profit. This is added to the $10 and the final tally is $25 - giving the same profit as the previous arrangement but at a much smaller outlay.

Let's say, though, you are betting for the place. If you strike four at $1.60, odds of 3/5 each, the return will be around $44 for a profit of around $28.

With 52 weeks in a year, you could be looking at a flow of wonderful returns, even on such short-priced placegetters. A keen form student exercising dollops of patience would have to think there was something awry with his judgment if he couldn't pick three out of four most weeks, and four out of four many times.

On the place machine, there is no doubt this can be a most powerful form tool. But it is up to the operator to have the good sense, the discipline and the patience to pick the RIGHT races and then the RIGHT horses.

If you can't find a standout, then just forget it for the day. Wait for the next day's racing. There is no hurry. There is always another raceday.

If you would prefer to back two horses per race, then the approach is the same, except that you split the bet in half ($8 bet becomes two $4 bets and so on).

Backing two per race would be ideal for those punters who don't want to back for a place. It's also ideal for the many punters who like to have a back-up selection instead of having to put all their selected eggs in the one basket.

A final word or two on the parlays: Be selective, don't throw reason out the window by chasing massive wins on outsiders, be patient. The punter prepared to lay out $160 per Yankee all-up could win $71 even if all four placegetters were at 5/1 ON ($1.20 for $1). That's a percentage profit of more than 44 per cent.

By Jon Hudson