I thought we'd take time out to pause and reflect in this part of my series on staking. I'll be discussing further ideas next month but for now let's think about NOT staking in a systematic manner.

This approach can often be referred to, disparagingly, as "haphazard" punting, and I guess this might well be true in a lot of instances. Yet there are many professionals who bet successfully without bothering to lay their bets in any structured way.

They rely on their gut instinct to get it right. They might bet up big on one horse, lower the bet on another, dive into the exotics on a race and ignore them the next, and so on.

In other words, a very random approach but one which works for them, though we must concede here that the people I'm talking about are tried and tested professionals with a somewhat fearless approach to their betting.

How does this sit with those practitioners of the art of systematic staking? Those deeply into careful money management? Well, no doubt it shocks them. But listen to one well-known Australian racing authority, respected for his successful forays: "I like to treat every race on its merits, each is different, and deserves a different approach. I make snap decisions at the races, with minutes to go. I hate being tied down by restrictive rules."

One of these days we're going to persuade this man to tell all about his betting approach in PPM because he has a fascinating story to relate.

But let's now look to one of Britain's most respected professionals, Alan Potts, author of the best-sellers Against The Crowd and The Inside Track. There were many who believed that Alan was a strict staking-plan man but that's not the case.

This is how he explains his approach (and remember that he is hugely successful, posting a $150,000 profit in one year in the UK):

"I've never used a staking plan that would dictate how much I'm going to have on my next bet before I've worked out what that bet will be. I simply bet each horse using a total stake within a specific range (currently E400 to E1000).

"The amount is based on my gut feel for the edge contained in the price, the availability of that price and, to a degree, an element of rounding if betting on-course.

"If I'm backing a horse at 6/1, I'll take advantage of the option to bet EIOOD/160 four times, rather than mess about in order to have exactly E600 or E650.

"I don't know of any on-course full-time punter who operates a staking plan and, in fact, I don't even know any who work with a 'bank'. Both are essentially defensive strategies and defensive punters don't tend to last in the ring.

"By the time they've worked out what to do, their colleagues have snapped up the price they were contemplating.

"Personally, I regard my bank as all the capital I have to hand. The idea of losing my bank doesn't arise, because I'd be looking for a new career long before I reached that point.

"I also think that proportional staking is crazy. I once backed 37 straight losers in the autumn of 1992. If I was using proportional staking, I reckon I'd still be trying to get back to my starting point now, ten years later."

Alan Potts made these forthright statements quite openly on the forum conducted by the UK Smartsig magazine. This is a forum in which many of Britain's leading form experts take part.

So here we have a successful professional, a man who has written excellent books about his betting life, telling us that any thought of proportional staking is "crazy" and that he knows of no serious punter working on the track who operates a staking plan.

Well, that's pretty much "sit up and take notice" stuff, isn't it?

Alan goes further: "As far as the amount of capital