EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is one of the last written for PPM by Philip Alexander, who died only recently. He was one of the UK's most noted racing experts.

Modern-day jargon insists upon calling it money management! Staking, as I prefer to call it, represents that part of betting, particularly of the systematic variety, that is every bit as important as the method of selection.

It also happens to be the most neglected aspect of having a bet that there is, and it has been exactly the same throughout the time that I have been actively connected with the sport.

Selecting the most likely winner may seem to be the most important issue, but that represents no more than half the battle. Knowing precisely what to risk on this chance in terms of hard cash is just as vital, that is if you are planning to show a profit in the long run.

Education has been the vogue for several years now and each season we seem to be bombarded by a new collection of books that instruct us, in one way or another, how to go about picking future winners.

Every one of these tempting offerings has the overall welfare of the punter uppermost in its intent! There is scarcely ever anything, though, let alone a book, that deals specifically with the subject of how to go about selecting a staking arrangement that is suitable to the needs of the individual.

Just a few days ago, I found myself staring at a system suggestion that closed with a typically casual remark. "Any simple staking plan will suffice, the one that has been used to good effect has been the 1-35-8 points, etc. A winner that occurs inside a half dozen bets can usually be relied upon to give a good profit!"

Undeniably, this is correct. The results of a fifth bet winner at any odds would have resulted in a good effect being achieved, for the simple reason that the fifth bet stake in the progression given would have been infinity itself - which does not speak so highly for advice of this nature!

Free from all thoughts of disrespect, it must be said that the average punter does not fully understand the ramifications of a staking arrangement, especially not a fairly complex one. Mainly he concerns himself with thoughts of immediate gain: a short-term solution, in fact, to the long-term problem of viability. This is a mistake which, to a very marked degree, is common enough to all punters the world over.

Anyone who has the remotest idea of simple mathematics will know only too well that a plan that is suitable for one type of selection will be entirely unsuitable for another. Some will look upon this as being no more than common sense, while to others it may seem to be nothing short of a mystery.

Neither is the subject of staking the easiest of topics to write about. But please bear with me as I try to steer you through the pitfalls of relatively straightforward stake manipulation to the more complex variety. It is not going to be easy for either of us!

Whenever any discussion settles upon systematic betting, it can invariably be relied upon to raise the issue of staking. Seemingly the two subjects go hand in hand. The sort of introductory question that is usually asked is: "Should I employ an increased staking progression to enhance overall prospects of my approach?" If the answer to that is in the affirmative, then it is inevitably followed by such as, "What is the most suitable plan, then, to fit the bill?"

These happen to be perfectly logical issues that are being raised, but before being at all positive with my reply, there are a couple of outstandingly important questions to which a truthful answer is required. What precisely is the type of selection with which you will be dealing and how do you rate when it comes to describing

Elaborating somewhat on the first of these queries, it would be unreasonable to think about using a staking plan if the method of selection was to deal with those animals that, broadly speaking, could be described as outsiders. Losing runs of extreme length would be the order of the day consequently no staking arrangement would be able to withstand the losses.

Make no mistake, there isn't a known staking plan that is the general panacea covering all eventualities. No amount of stake juggling will turn a dubious method of selection into one that produces a profit, and for that reason alone the importance of your personality comes into play. Are you the type who can be satisfied with small regular gains, or are you looking for something more spectacular?

Now do not get me wrong when I say that as high a strike rate as possible is an absolute necessity for overall peace of mind - and eventual prosperity, but this happens to be only half the equation. Together with the average starting price of winners, these two component parts form the complete picture. One without the other is like a ship without a rudder.

Accordingly, two conditions are necessary to grasp for the man who has profit on his mind. It is the combination of these two vital factors which must, on all occasions, add up to a profit or, at the very worst, produce only a relatively small percentage levelstake loss before you are in the position of being able to even think about employing a staking plan.

Under no circumstances should you feel even slightly tempted to try a staking method on any series of selections that has shown a fairly hefty level-stakes loss. This is the firmly held opinion because it is much more probable that, over an extended period of time, this loss will be compounded.

Do not be lured into accepting findings purely on face value or, even worse, accepting the word of a fellow punter. Work out details over an extended trial run before ascertaining what is revealed by the pattern (if any) of the selections. Then start experimenting by trying several types of staking arrangements to see which one is better suited to your requirements.

Normally, there are only two types of staking plan. Those that increase individual stakes after a winner, or winning bets, and those that increase individual stakes after a loser, or losing bets. Very rarely will you come across the more sophisticated type that attempts to flourish by harnessing together both concepts.

There can be little doubt that it is much safer to increase stakes after winners. By doing so, you are using "your own money"! Betting in this manner, you will never experience an increase that cannot be met by the bank because this will have just been replenished. Against that, however, is the drawback that the largest stake will always be on a loser.

Presupposing that the basic principle has been decided upon, there is no reason why the punter should not amend the idea in line with his financial means. Even the pattern of results that his analysis has led him to believe is that which can be anticipated with a fair degree of confidence may cause a slight change of direction.

Nevertheless, returning to the main point, while increasing after a winner may provide the backer with fewer anxious moments, the prospects of long-term profit are appreciably improved if you take the opposite course of action. Thus you would affect the increase in stake after a loser had been encountered, which constitutes by far the more popular approach.

Having decided this, the next determination involves the level of the basic stake in relation to the setaside bank.

Assuming you have done your homework correctly so far as the chosen method of selection is concerned, the suggestion is perfectly uncomplicated. Select the WORST sequence of results, and see how many points this would have needed if you had started there, being sure to take into account the next stake due.

In order to ensure a comparative level of safety, the recommendation is that this figure should be multiplied by at least a factor of four. About this figure being higher, I would have no qualms, but under no circumstances should it be lower. All this may seem like an extravagant gesture, but it will be found to pay off handsomely "sooner or later".

Always there must be a careful check kept upon the advancement of stakes. To say that these must be of a moderate proportion only in relation to the bank's capital is by no means an understatement. Too many basically useful ideas have been left in ruins by ignoring this fact.

Astronomical rises in stakes should be avoided like the plague for they can only spell disaster.

So we may summarise and say that to date three essential guidelines have been established for the existence of any successful staking plan:

  1. The careful examination of the method of selection in relation to the proposed staking - which should have been undertaken in the most diligent manner.
  2. Adequate bank facilities must have been arranged, with the basic stake linked directly to the availability of funds.
  3. Provided that the decision has been reached as to whether the stake increase should take place after a winner, or after a loser, the level of this increase should remain comfortably within the financial limits that have been imposed.

Unfortunately, there always remains the fourth point, which will be dealt with in the next article.

NEXT MONTH: Philip Alexander concludes his study of the money management issue in the final article he ever wrote.

Click here to read Part 2.

By Philip Alaxander