Mention target staking and some people go crazy! That's madness, they say, you'll go broke. Okay, I accept that if you are shooting for a target and you keep on backing losers, then you'll go broke. But do the same at level stakes and you'll end up broke as well.

Betting is all about backing winners at value prices. Once you have mastered this problem, you can proceed to think more about the way to bet your winners. Enough has been said already about level stakes betting. I agree it's the safest way to go. It's also the dullest!

If you like some risk in your life, and there are many punters who do, then a switch to a staking plan is something that will be attractive. The reasoning is simple: Every punter wants to maximise his prospects for profit. Why settle for X amount when you can get Y and Z as well with a bit of intelligent thinking?

There is a school of thought that says you can't make money from level stakes betting in the long run. Earl E. Thomas is an American expert, who many years ago brought out a number of publications on the subject.

This is what he had to say: "Any profit from a flat bet (level) is temporary. Losses from flat bets are usually permanent. If I make flat bets all month long on favourites, second, third and fourth choices, I'll wind up broke."

Thomas's answer is the same as one I had in my series Pro Power Betting a few years ago proportionate betting. The underlying key to this style of betting is 'Percentage', i.e. the bookmaker's percentage.

Thomas's proposition is that you bet to prices using a target factor; that is, each bet is tuned to retrieve all expenses and losses plus a predetermined profit figure. In other words, he is betting to prices and to a target, and a winner retrieves all losses and outgoings in one fell swoop.

Frankly, I can't see much wrong with this, providing you are betting rationally, because no matter what form of betting you adopt you have to back winners. The simple formula, then, is that the punter must keep score of the following from race to race: EXPENSES plus LOSSES plus PROFIT.

Says Earl Thomas: "You cannot bet any old amounts on odds which differ from race to race without considering your profit angle. And your profit angle MUST include expense, loss and profit considerations." Thomas provided a massive book complete with all the individual workouts for all prices and any variation of expenses-losses-profits! You simply flick through his book to find out how much you should invest on the next bet.

For instance, if your target was \$25, your total E-L-P was \$60 and your next bet was on a 4/1 chance, then your bet would be \$21. This would return you a total of \$105. Take off the \$60 you were behind, plus the \$20 you just bet, and you are left with a profit figure of \$25.

There are easier target plans. For instance, one that my colleague Jon Hudson produced about seven years ago. This has been a most popular plan with a number of P.P.M. readers who were canny enough to stick with it.

The rules are as follows:

THE TARGET PLACE PLAN

1. To earn \$2 a race, your initial bet is \$6.
2. If your first bet pays a dividend, the series is ended, whether or not the profit is \$2.
3. After a losing bet, increase the size of your bets by 25 per cent - so the scale would be \$6, \$8, \$10, \$13, \$16,\$20,\$25,\$31,\$40,\$50,\$63,\$80 etc., in round figures. You only increase your bets after a loser. If the horse is placed, you repeat the stake unless your target has been reached.
4. Your target increases by \$2 each race you lose on. So if your first bet lost, your next target would be \$4, and so on.
5. When your profit equals or exceeds \$2 a race for each race you have bet on, the series is closed and another one started.

The essential point about this plan is that you must back crackerjack selections. Any horse bet must have excellent prospects of at least filling a place. One pr two bets a day is enough.

The more cautious among you may feel this method is a bit too risky. What about, then, a plan for target betting which should see you win two out of every three races?

The idea is simple enough: You try to win ONE UNIT OR MORE on every horse you back in every race, and the only races bet on are those in which there are two runners quoted at 3/1 or less. Both the first and second favs must be at 3/1 or under and we always assume that the price will be 2/1; sometimes it'll be more and sometimes less but it should average out in the long run.

The professional punter who drew up this system many moons ago said: "I'd judge that when two horses go off at 3/1 or less, one of them will win 75 per cent of the time. So my basic idea is simply to play for a set profit in every race. Our average price is around 2/1, so we divide the amount we want to collect by two. Our 'due' represents prior losses plus the desired profit in the coming event.

"I expect to collect in about two of every three races. Since I am backing two horses a race, however, our collections come from one bet in three. In actual fact, I set up two columns of betting for each horse and play them separately. Each column is aimed at winning so much per race plus previous losses."

What I suggest is that you test out this method on paper. Check back on past results to see how you would have gone. Another way to back these two horses per race, to each win the same amount, is to use the following formula:

A is favourite at 2/1, B is 5/2. You simply add the odds and reverse them. For instance, A is 2/1 (2 added to 1 is 3) and thus 3 units -ire bet on Horse B. Horse B is 5/2 and a half added to 1 is 3.5) so >.5 units are bet on Horse A.

Your bet then is 3.5 units on A and 3 units on B, a total of 6.5 units. The bets would read 7 to 3.5 on A, and 7.5 to 3 on B. Victory by either horse will return you 10.5 units, for a 4 units profit.

Another target betting method is one that Martin Dowling has used for many years. He obtained it in England from a pal named Don Rice, and ever since Martin has referred to it as the Rice Bowl Plan!

The rules of this plan are easy enough to follow: You start off at race one with the aim of winning \$1 (or any amount you like). If your first horse is, say, 5/1 you will need to bet only \$1 on it to achieve your initial target. If you like, bet a half unit.

Let's assume the first horse loses.

You proceed to the second bet and your target is now the new 1 unit figure, plus the one you wanted from the first bet, plus the unit you lost on the first bet. This makes a target of 3 for the second bet.

Your bet maximum is determined by the length of the losing run. So for this second bet you cannot bet more than 2 units. Likewise, on your fifth bet your maximum allowed stake will be 5 units.

Never run a series beyond a bet of 7 units. Place the 'losses' in reserve to be got back later in a gradual process by splitting them over several series. To play even, safer, you can stop a series after losers.

By Alan Jacobs

PRACTICAL PUNTING – AUGUST 1995