Target betting versus level stakes betting? How do you think each betting approach would fare against the other? I posed the question to a pal of mine and he reckoned level stakes would win out most times.

His belief, I think, is shared by most punters. They are, you see, afraid of target betting. Why? Because a succession of 'experts' have spread so much propaganda around which lambasts target betting that it's no wonder they cannot see the wood for the trees.

The popular attack on target betting is that your stake level - that is, your unit bet - builds up to a frightening degree and you are risking big money to win very little. This may be true with a target system that merely doubles up and chases - but a carefully controlled target approach can work wonders.

It can turn LOSS on level stakes to PROFIT, and when you get a level stakes profit it can IMPROVE on the percentage return on outlay. If you study the two 'tests' accompanying this article you will see this graphically displayed.

With the target betting method I have used, everything is always under control. Stakes do not rise sharply; in fact, they are contained to a most conservative degree.

The rules of this target approach are as follows:

  1. Your aim is to win 1 (one) unit per race.
  2. Always begin a series with a 1 unit bet, even if you might not need to invest 1 unit to achieve the 1 unit target. After the first bet, you can 'tailor' your bet according to the odds available, as long as the amount you invest is enough to enable you to achieve the target figure.
  3. After a loser, you add to the target figure another 1 unit to win from the next race, plus whatever amount you lost on the previous bet. This happens whenever a loser is struck.
  4. Always end a series once a winner is struck.
  5. Adopt one of two ways for your betting - (a) end any target series when a meeting ends or (b) carry over any series from one meeting to the next.
  6. Do not bet on any horse which is odds-on in the betting.
  7. A maximum bet rule applies. Your maximum bet rises by 1 unit after each loser. Never
    bet more than what your maximum bet is at any stage.

Randwick, July 24

W. Magic (1)11 2.35
Series closes: Profit 1.35
Tristo Bay 1 1  
N. Forget (1) 3 1 5.75
Series closes: Profit 3.75
Rouquin (1) 1 1 2.90
Series closes: Profit 1.90
Petty Off. 1 1  
C. Rogue 3 0.5  
Tudor Row 4.5 1.5  
Paris Fire 7 1  
Meeting/series closes: Loss 4
TOTAL FOR MEETING: Bet 8, Return 11, Profit 3
LEVEL STAKES: Bet 8, Return 11, Profit 3
Randwick, July 24
W. Magic (1) 11 2.35
Series closes: Profit 1.35
Tristo Bay 1 1 
K. Tale 3 0.5 -
Rouquin (1)4.53 8.70
Series closes: Profit 4.2
Neat Actn11 
Tudor Row4.51.5 
Paris Fire71-
Meeting/series closes: Loss 4
TOTAL FOR MEETING: Bet 9.5, Return 11.05, Profit 1.55
LEVEL STAKES: Bet 8, Return 5.25, Loss 2.75
For the purposes of this test, we used the first approach of checking each tipster at one meeting. This method of betting virtually ensures that your target never reaches any ridiculous heights due to long losing runs. 'For example, you will never have more than 8 bets at a meeting (assuming 8 races on the card) and you can have less if you wish.

Over the years, I have done a great deal of testing on this target approach. In most instances, the target approach has got the better of level stakes betting. 

You can, if you wish, halt any series at any time. For example, maybe you strike a run of four losers; instead of continuing with the target figure rising, you can simply rule off the series and start a new one.

This, to me, smacks of lack of courage, and not too much confidence in your selections, but I know that some punters favour it, preferring a high degree of caution to the risk factor involved in following the target plan.

Personally, I feel that if you are betting only on 8 selections per day, you can afford to just keep going. Because you 'pare' your bets according to a horse's price, you will find yourself betting rather conservatively, anyway, and you certainly can't lose big money because (a) the maximum bet size will keep this aspect in check and (b) you won't be betting big on outsiders - you won't have to because of the target figure.

For example, let's say your target figure has gone to 10 units. Your next selection is a 5/1 chance. You will only need to bet 2 units to achieve the target (5/1 x 2). So, although your target has risen, your bet is actually being kept very low.

In the four examples I have chosen of this target method at work, you can see that at the Randwick meeting of July 24, both Tony White of the Telegraph-Mirror and Wayne Hickson of the Sportsman achieved profits from target betting - yet Hickson had a level stakes loss of 2.75 units. Using target betting, and betting 1.5 units more overall, this loss was turned around into a 1.55 units profit.

White had a level stakes profit of 3 units on an outlay of 8 units, and with target betting, and outlaying 8 units, there was also a profit of 3 units on his main selections for the meeting.

At Caulfield, we chose Tony Meany of the Herald-Sun for the test. On level stakes, his four winners from the meeting showed a level stakes profit of 4.35 units, but with target betting, with a 9 unit outlay, the profit was 8.1 units. For the Doomben meeting, we used the selections of Bart Sinclair, racing editor of the Brisbane Courier-Mail. At level stakes, with an outlay of 7 units, he returned a profit of 2.85 units, but with the target approach, and an
outlay of 7.5 units, the profit was 3.6 units. (There was no bet in the seventh race because the selection Bound To Play was at odds-on).

Whether you, as an individual punter, have the psychological makeup to operate target betting is something you have to discover for yourself. I know of punters who simply lack the discipline which is required on a long-term basis; they are easily discouraged by a few losses yet while dropping out from a target system they will still
keep betting using no particular staking plan at all!

One of them told me: "It's all in the mind, I know, but I feel as if I'm in a strait-jacket when I use a staking plan, especially one that involves target betting. I feel I am not being given enough freedom to change my bets to take advantage of big-priced winners.

"I like the freedom to wheel around on bets and change my mind. With target betting, you are locked in. There is no real avenue for creative punting.

Another pal, a long time professional punter, told me: "I tried target betting many, many years ago and while I found it useful I felt it wasn't for me, mainly because as a professional I needed to hit hard on occasions, and it didn't allow me to do this."

But another friend, a moderate punter who is content to see small profits arriving week by week, said: "It's been a great boon to me. I actually only got into it because I read about target betting in Practical Punting Monthly some years back, and thought it was a neat Way to go.

"What I do is link a month's racing together, but only Saturday meetings in Sydney, because Sydney racing is what I concentrate on.

"I find that I rarely have long losing runs, probably because I am a rather cautious selector. I find target betting more fun than level stakes betting, and it's better than straight progression staking because that is a touch too risky for me." 


Caulfield, July 24
Golden Phx (1) 1 1 2.30
Series closes: Profit 1.3
Raging Angel 1 1 -
S.Ballroom (1) 3 1 5.20
Series closes: Profit 3.2
On C. Court 1 1 
Centip 3 0.5 -
Swift Talent (1) 4.5 2.5 7.60
Series closes: Profit 3.6
Valdazair (1) 1 1 2.00
Series closes: Profit 1.0
Mr Elegant 1 1 -
Meeting/series closes: Loss 1
TOTAL FOR MEETING: Bet 9, Return 17.1, Profit 8.1
LEVEL STAKES: Bet 8, Return 12.35, Profit 4.35
Doomben, July 24
Mandarin 1 1  
Raaj Til (1) 3 1.5 3.70
Series closes: Profit 1.2
Best Bounty (1) 1 1 2.95
Series closes: Profit 1.95
Classic Mom (1) 1 1 4.45
Series closes: Profit 3.45
Beau Budget 1 1 
Soc.Excited 3 1.5 
Quality Raid. 5.5 0.5 -
Meeting/series closes: Loss 3.0
TOTAL FOR MEETING: Bet 7.5, Return 11.1, Profit 3.6
LEVEL STAKES: Bet 7, Return 9.85, Profit 2.85

By Richard Hartley Jnr