How should you bet? The question is posed again and again. Many and varied are the answers. Experts, I suspect, will still be thrashing the subject over in 50 years' time!

I could list dozens of examples. What about the one that says you should ignore a race unless you can narrow it down to one or two chances? There are many who say this ultra-cautious approach is wrong.

The aggressive bettor will say that if there are, say, four prospects in a race - and they are all strong chances - then the race presents itself as one in which a big hit can be made.

What if the betting public happens to ignore two of the strong prospects - and they are on offer at attractive value odds! The aggressive bettor may well have decided that each of the selections has an equal chance, yet the prices being offered allow him to back them all and make a profit.

He could consider betting them in quinellas or exactas, and using them as bankers in a trifecta. All ways of securing profit on the foursome (or threesome or fivesome) could be considered.

Many punters, again going for the cautious approach, take out what are known as 'insurance' bets. But the critics of this approach reckon you cannot insure a bet. That's why they say that betting longshots for a win and a place is stupid.

They claim that if you price a horse at, say, 4/1 and you secure 20/1 and you are confident of landing these bets 20 per cent of the time, then betting for the place doesn't make sense. You would make more money using that place stake for extra on the win.

Some time ago, a well-known American expert wrote that the first rule of money management was to bet the same amount every time to win and to place.

There is a body of opinion which goes directly against this level stake philosophy. They say you have to take into account a horse's actual assessed chance in a race before making a decision on the amount to bet.

The reasoning is, for example, that a 6/4 chance, if correctly assessed, deserves more money to be bet on it than a horse assessed at, say, 4/1. On the percentages, the 6/4 chance is rated to have a 40 per cent chance of winning, the 4/1 chance a 20 per cent chance. In other words, the 6/4 chance has a 100 per cent better chance than the 4/1 chance.

Why, then, put the same amount of money on each? Shouldn't the 6/4 chance attract a bet twice the size of that to be placed on the 4/1 chance? If you had $6 to invest, with level stakes you would put $3 on each. Betting to the percentages, you would have $4 on the 6/4 chance and $2 on the 4/1 chance.

Betting to chance, both would return you the same amount of money ($10) should they win. With level stakes, though, your return on the 6/4 chance would be $7.50 and $15 on the 4/1 chance. So if both horses win, at level stakes you would get back $22.50, and by backing them the other way you

would get back $20. Level stakes is better if both win - but if only the 6/4 chance gets up, you win $1.50 at level stakes, but win $4 using the other method.

If only the 4/1 chance wins, you win $9 at level stakes and $4 using the other method. Sounds good, except that in the long term, the 6/4 chance will win twice as many races as the 4/1 chance.

I suppose we could argue the merits of level stakes versus betting to price for a long, long time!

Then there's the issue of how much of your betting bank should be bet at any one time. Some say that 10 per cent is a safe figure. Others scoff at this.

If you have a bank of, say, $1000 you would be betting $100 if you operated at the 10 per cent of bank level. You would not want to hit a long losing run.

Critics say the 10 per cent is far too much. They say that the maximum should be 5 per cent, and probably even less than that. A 1 per cent bet on a $1000 bank would be $10.

The argument of the 10 per cent buffs is that if you are going to bet in $10 amounts you are not serious about winning! They will say that if you lack the confidence to bet 10 per cent of your bank at any one time, then you should not be betting!

A friend of mine, who has been betting seriously for many years, says: "I pick my spots carefully, so I have no compunction in putting down 10 per cent, or sometimes more, on a bet. I have confidence in what I do, though I know that many punters are not as confident as I am when they bet.

"The 1 per cent of bank approach is for those punters who tend to be cautious or who simply run scared when they bet. My own opinion is that you must be prepared to risk at least $50 from a $1000 bank on a single bet.

"If you aren't, then all I can suggest is that you change your selection approach, or give up the game altogether."

It all gets back to the question of what sort of betting suits your personality, and whether you are a rule-keeper or a rule-breaker!

By Richard Hartley Jnr