There is much to be said inĀ  favour of level-stakes betting and more still to be said for a sensible 'graduated' increase of stakes during a winning streak.

Level stakes, of course, can be deadly boring for the punter who seeks excitement and the prospect of big windfall returns. It's something we've talked of before in PPM.

A friend of mine, who I regard as a clever punter, uses a sound method of staking. The plan is to have a bank of 100 units and to back two horses in a race on which you operate, thus (hopefully) avoiding long losing runs which can play havoc with a punter's peace of mind.

The approach is to bet 2 units on your first choice and 1 unit on your second choice. As soon as the bank grows by 50 per cent, you increase the stakes by a half.

If your bank grows to 150 units, you would increase your original stake by 50 per cent. You would have, then, 3 units on the first pick and 1.5 units on the second pick.

If the bank grows to 200 units, you again increase the stakes by a half. The original stake now becomes 4 units on the first choice and 2 units on the second pick.

If a 50 per cent increase is lost, you always return to the previous betting unit.

Using this approach, you are always betting heavier while profits are accumulating and lighter when you are losing.

The point to bear in mind is to increase the stakes when your luck (and skill) is in, and reduce them when things are going wrong. Thus you are chasing your winnings and not chasing losses.

I think the best way to approach staking is to choose a betting method that suits your selections. For example, you would have a different approach backing favourites to backing longshots. And a different staking plan when going for place bets as opposed to win bets.

The tried and proven 6-Point Divisor Plan is still regarded as one of the best for those punters who draw up sensible selections. It's a fact that by using the 6-Point Divisor Plan, you simply have to win eventually.

You can use a safety brake factor to prevent bets becoming too big in the face of a losing streak.

The idea of the 6-Point Divisor Plan is to make 6 units profit in a series. You don't have to make 6 units. You can end a series as soon as a profit is made.

My own view is that a profit should be accepted as soon as it's made, whether with the 6-Point Divisor Plan or any other staking method.

There is an old stock exchange truism that 'no-one will ever go broke by taking a profit'.

This applies with just as much force to any form of speculation, including betting on horses.

You should keep a notebook of your bets, or use a spreadsheet on your computer. You can then make a note of two important points:

(a) On how many days did you wind up a loser after having shown a profit?

(b) How many days did you run into strife through chasing losses in an effort to get square?

Should you have suffered either way, then it could be a good idea to make a firm resolve not to be bit again.

A punter pal of mine discovered a few years back, after a bad losing year, that he'd had 33 losing days on which he'd been in profit at some stage of the day, and if he'd kept only half of what he'd been winning on those occasions he would have gone close to breaking square on the year, rather than being hit with a substantial loss.

Let's say that on a particular day, you have got $80 ahead Take $40 and put it in your 'other' pocket, the not-to-be-touched pocket. Then continue betting.

This same friend switched to the 6-Point Divisor Plan a little while later, and has never looked back. He bets only twice a day, and rarely on horses over 4/1, and the 6-Point Divisor Plan has served him well.

He winds up a series when a profit is achieved, and starts a new series immediately. He regards it as safe, sensible betting that will never see him down and out.

The 6-Point Divisor Plan may seem tricky to operate at first glance, but once you have grasped the essentials it's very simple.

Basically, the aim is to win 6 betting units every time you back a winner, or winners, whose odds total 6. A unit can be any sum you like ($1, $2, $5, $10, etc.).

If you bet in $2 units, the objective would be to win 12 when the combined odds of your winners reached 6 or more.

To work out your stakes you would have a DIVISOR of 6 (the units to be won) and an OBJECTIVE of 12 (the money to be won).

The first bet, then, would be 6 divided into 12, meaning a bet of $2. If the horse lost, your Objective would rise to 14, which is the original 12 plus the 2 you've lost on bet No 1.

The second bet, then, would be 6 divided into 14, which equals 2.3 units. Round this off to 2.5. If this horse lost, the Objective rises to 16.5 units, with the Divisor remaining the same at 6.

The next bet is 6 into 16.5, which means a bet of 2.75 units. Round this off to 3.

Let's say this horse wins at 3/1. Your bet is 3 units at 3 / 1, giving you a return of 12 units. The situation now is that you have bet a total of 7.5 units, and Your return is 12 units, for a profit of 4.5 units.

That means you have gained 4.5 of your required 6 units. If you wish to continue the series, you deduct the 4.5 from 6, meaning your Divisor is now 1.5 and whenever this happens it's best to start a new series.

This would mean a new Divisor of 6, plus the 1.5 you need from the first series, and a new Objective of 12, plus the remaining 7.5 units from the first series' Objective.

That makes a total of 7.5 units Divisor and an Objective of 19.5 units, making the first bet 2.6 units.

If you strike a losing run at any stage, and feel your stakes are getting out of hand, simply introduce a new Divisor of 6 and a new Objective and add them to what's remaining in the current series.

My own preference is to rule off a series whenever a profit is made, and then begin a new series. Also, whenever the Divisor falls to 3 or lower, introduce a new Divisor and Objective.

The safety rule can be applied at any time you consider the stakes are increasing too steeply for the capital you have on hand. The Divisor may be, say, 6 when you strike a run of outs and the objective grows to 60, which then calls for a bet of 10 units. By adding a new Divisor (6) and a new Objective (12) the figures would be changed to 12 and 72 respectively. Now, the bet called for is 6.

Never hesitate to bring in the safety brake. It reduces your liability and will not alter the eventual result.

A word of warning: the 6 Point Plan is sound but with any form of mechanical staking you need to use commonsense and never allow yourself to get into difficulties. Try it out on paper first to see if it suits your style of betting, and your psychological requirements.

Can you really see a series through to the end? Can you cope with a losing run? Will you adhere to all aspects of the rules of engagement, or try to fudge them when the going gets tough?

Try to answer these questions honestly. And, please, do check things out on paper; don't just wade in with your money, hoping for a big result on Day One.

In the March issue of PPM, I'll be taking the 6-Point Plan a few stages further. Can it be improved? Can you REALLY win by following it through a series of bets? Can the tips of a newspaper expert be used to make a killing with it?

These are interesting questions, ones that I'm sure have popped into the heads of many readers as they peruse this article. I hope my next couple of articles will be able to satisfy most of your questions.

Indeed, if you have any, just send me an e-mail to info@practicalpunting.com.au.

Or drop me a line at P.O. Box 551, Dee Why, NSW 2099.

Click here to read Part 2.

By P.B. King

PRACTICAL PUNTING - FEBRUARY 2000