Quinella betting is as popular as ever with Aussie punters. In this special feature, The Optimist and Jon Hudson discuss new ways of winning with this simple 'exotic’ bet.

THE OPTIMIST (T.O.): Let's start this discussion with a firm statement from myself-I like having a crack at the quinellas, but only in certain races and only by applying firm staking principles.

A scattergun approach is not on at all when you are dealing with quinellas; like all the exotic bets you have to take into account the value of each combination. I suppose, as in many other instances, we should immediately recommend Don Scott's Winning More for detailed information on quinella punting; it really is a goldmine of facts for anyone seriously interested in quinella betting on a professional or even amateur basis!

JON HUDSON (JH.): Agreed. Just incidentally, do you know that quinella is actually a Spanish word meaning, naturally, 'first two' just thought I'd throw that in as a piece of trivia. Generally speaking, your chances of winning a quinella are higher than those of winning a double, provided you have a solid selection method.

T.O.: I've noticed over the years that quinellas are always popular with the punters who bet in small amounts. This means-I'm afraid to say-that the quinella pools are full of what Don Scott quite rightly calls bets which lack purpose or direction, and this is more pronounced in quinellas than with doubles, trebles and quadrellas.

What I'm saying is that the smaller punters between them pour absolutely hundreds of thousands of dollars into quinellas every week, and yet most of this money does not have the backing of any degree of thought or skill It's a bit like Lotto money, with punters throwing in for a big win at hopeless odds over a period of time.

JH: Fact is, though, that 99 per cent of punters haven't the time or the inclination to go pricing the value of each quinella. It's simply too much work, especially if you're in a crowded TAB agency or on a busy racetrack. So quinella punters must seek other ways of winning, don't you agree?

T.O.: Absolutely. The approach I am going to suggest operates around a standout bet. This is the horse you really fancy to win the race. It becomes the pivot of your quinella attack. There are a number of ways you can operate. The first is to take your standout bet with the first six horses in the betting, excluding your standout, of course., Now this is a very simple plan and it can provide you with some nice divvies.

An alternative is to link your standout selection with the first three horses in the tipsters' poll, or even the first four or five. You can secure excellent returns if your standout performs well on a regular basis.

JH: Are you suggesting a punter can work these staking plans on every race?

T.O.: I wouldn't advise it. As with all things in punting, you have to tread somewhat carefully, so choice of race on which to bet is all-important. I would select at the most two or three races per meeting. This should provide you with plenty of action.

JH: A friend of mine has been making decent profits for some time using a simple box method. He waits until five minutes before start time and then just links the first six horses in the betting into the maximum 15 combinations at $1 each. He tells me he's had an enormous amount of fun with this approach and has made it pay its way.

Obviously, by covering himself with the first six in the betting order he is giving himself a nice chance of landing some excellent returns.

T.O.: Yes, that's not a bad idea. Another approach is to use quinella betting as a 'saver' factor for your straight-out win betting. Let's say you have chosen your standout bet, the horse you think can win, but you reckon there's one main danger. My suggestion is that you link both for a quinella.

In his excellent book, Commonsense Punting, Roger Dedman talks about this aspect of quinella betting. He says to take as an example a race in which your selection is 2/1 but the second favourite, at 4/1, worries you. A straight-out bet of $80 to $40 could be 'saved' by having '$10 on the second favourite.

If your standout wins you win $70, if the second favourite wins you are square. If, instead, you had $10 on the quinella, you could expect a dividend of around $5.40 (for $l), or a return of $54. Now, if your standout wins you still win $70 but if, as well, the danger runs 2nd then you win, altogether, $124. If the order is reversed you still make a small profit.

JH: Yes, it's a great approach, and your saver need not be limited to the one quinella. You can, as Dedman points out, couple your standout with several of the dangers.

T.O.: Another thing I've noticed with quinellas is that ones in which the shorter-priced horses finish lst and 2nd often. pay very well indeed. I guess this is because many punters don't take these combinations because they fear they will pay too short. This negative aspect can have a very positive impact on divvies.

JH.: Probably one of the safest approaches for a small punter is to take the race favourite with the next three horses in the betting. Now this requires only three quinellas at $1 each, but you can get some excellent returns.

A recent Bundamba meeting is an example. Total stake for the eight races was $24. Returns were $13.30, $2.10, $13.50, $1.90, $20.10, making a total of $50.90, for a profit of $26.90, or more than 100 per cent on outlay. On the same day, at Rosehill, the stake again was $24, and the returns were $5, $6.50, $9.60, $7.30, $3.40, $28.50, for a total of $60.30, and a profit of $36.30.

T.O.: Many years ago, I knew a chap who studied form with a relentless determination. His aim, he told me, was to reduce each field to four main chances. He didn't care which horse won. Part of his betting approach was to link these top four chances in quinellas.

With four horses you have a total of six quinellas. His average bets per meeting totalled two. I'm talking past tense here but in fact he is still going strong, and when I talked to him recently he told me he was comfortably getting a 100 per cent plus return on his outlay, which is amazing isn't it. His figures were an outlay of just over $1800 for a return of some $3680 so far this year.

JH.: Yes, if you put the work in there's no reason why regular and excellent returns cannot be obtained. It's when you start placing daft here-and-there quinella bets that you will come unstuck. Seems to me that the key factors are to keep your outlay within sensible proportions and you ensure that your selections are sound enough to achieve a high strike rate.

T.O.: Some simple arithmetic can let you work out what is required. If we assume you are going to bet on three races a day at $6 each and you are going to have a strike rate of one in three, then you are faced with the situation that to break even your winning quinella is going to have to pay $18. This is a tough task. What you must aim at is a two from three strike, so two $9 quinellas will see you square.

JH: The more adventurous punter who likes action plus excitement should consider the double-up quinella approach. This operates on the basis that 75 per cent of the return on a winning quinella is re-invested on the next quinella.

Let's say you strike a $15 quinella on race one. You pocket 25 per cent, say $4, and then re-invest the remaining $11 on the next quinella, along with the bet you normally would have had. If you strike this next quinella, you could be in for a large return. Let's say you were taking $1 units on three quinellas in your first race. That's a $3 outlay. Your return is $15. You pocket $4, and then add the $11 left to the $3 you would be outlaying on the next race, making $15 in all.

You can now have each combination five times instead of once. If your next quinella pays, say, $7, you have $35 coming your way. In your pocket now is that $35 plus the $4 you retained from the first bet, making $39 in all. Your initial $3 bet has been turned into $39.

T.O.: We should mention betting to value again before we go. Don Scott has made much of this aspect. It is a fact that you can give yourself much more of a fighting chance of winning with quinellas by backing according to price. Some time ago, Equestrian released the marvellous Black Box computer cartridge (for Commodore 64s) which instantly worked out bets according to prices for quinellas.

You merely entered the TAB number and expected odds for each horse and the Black Box told you how much each combination should be bet. For instance, TAB numbers 1 (13/4), 3 (6/1), 4 (8/1), 7 (15/1), 8 (12), would, if you were prepared to bet a total of $40, mean putting the following amounts on: 1/3 $9, 1/4 $7,1/7 $4,1/8 $5,3/4 $4, 3/7 $2, 3/8 $3,4/7 $2,4/8 $2,7/8 $1.

J.H.: Don Scott explains this pricing approach in his book, too, so any punter desirous of getting into it should start adopting a serious profile! Further to that ' they should buy a copy of Roger Dedman's Commonsense Punting (available from Mittys) because it has a number of very useful tables of odds.

By The Optimist and Jon Hudson