Betting percentage plans have been talked about for decades now. We've talked often about the 5 per cent and 10 per cent plans, whereby you bet to those percentages of your bank.

The percentages may vary but the principle of the approach is the same. Whatever the balance of your bank is, you bet to your required percentage.

Conservative punters might feel happy enough betting 1 per cent. On a \$1000 bank, you would kick off with a \$10 bet. As the bank goes up, so does your bet. As it goes down, so does your bet.

If your \$1000 bank dipped to, say, \$700 your bet would then be 1 per cent of that total (\$7). The strength of this approach is that it takes advantage of winning runs and goes cautious on losing runs.

There is also the angle of introducing a 'stop at a profit' level. This is when you might decide that if your bank hits 20 per cent profit you will declare a dividend for yourself of, say, half that profit, and then continue betting with the adjusted bank.

Of course there is a weakness in this percentage approach. It's in the percentage as related to the horses you back. The percentage really needs to be based on an expected pattern of winners and average prices.

You do this in a bid to protect your bank. What you must do is to determine the average price of your winners. Study your past results and see what has happened. Take a long look at your selection regime and sort out the price range you know you are going to be operating in most of the time.

If you are betting short-priced runners, then obviously your percentage can be higher than if you were backing longshots.

If you back horses at 10/1 and over, then obviously you won't get as many winners as when you back horses at shorter prices.

So how do you decide the percentages to use? Well, the idea is to split the prices into various sections. Take note of the following:

ODDS-ON TO 7/4 AGAINST:

Horses selected carefully in this price range should pick up a high percentage of races. You can think about betting to a 15 per cent level. With a \$100 bank, eight losers straight away would still leave you with \$26 in the bank.

You shouldn't encounter long losing runs with horses at such prices, so a run of eight, as suggested here, is unlikely (but certainly not impossible!).

• 2/1 TO 3/1: If your winners average out in this price range you can stick to the 10 per cent approach. A run of 10 straight losers would see your \$100 bank reduced to \$35.
• 7/2 to 5/1: Now we are getting into the price range where the percentage slips into single figures. You should consider using a 7 per cent or 8 per cent bet. Using, say, 8 per cent would allow for a run of 12 straight losers and you'd still have \$35 in the 'kick'.
• 11/2 to 9/1: The percentage suggested now drops to 6 per cent. A poor start, say, 15 straight losers would still leave you with \$36 in your betting bank.
• 10/1 or longer: This is risk territory and your bets should reflect this. The suggestion is a bet of 3 per cent or 4 per cent of capital. If you used 4 per cent you could have a run of 20 straight losers and still have \$43 left to use for recovery.

Hopefully, none of you will stagger to such dreadful starts as I have mentioned here! (If you do, it would be time to seriously question your selecting ability).

Another approach, of course, is to adjust the bet percentage each time you have a bet. Let's say your bank is \$100. Your first selection is 4/1. That calls for an 8 per cent bet. Your next selection is 12/1. This calls for a 4 per cent bet. Your third bet is 6/4. This calls for a 15 per cent bet. And so on.

You could limit yourself to a 'peak' bet of 10 per cent if that 15 per cent bet seems a touch too lofty. It all depends on your psychology as a punter and the long-term strength of your tipping.

A third approach is to bet the percentages on your own assessed prices. If you asses a horse at 6/4 you bet it at 15 per cent irrespective of its overlay price. It may be a 4/1 chance. You bet it as if it were a 6/4 chance.

There are, then, all sorts of angles to this percentage betting approach. You have to decide which suits you best. And whether you can make more profits using such an approach rather than level stakes or some other staking management plan.

By Alan Jacobs

PRACTICAL PUNTING - MARCH 1998