The debate rages about levelstake betting versus target/progression betting. In the April PPM, contributor 'Anomaly' Nick presented the first part of his case against target/ progression betting in reply to my article in the February issue.  Click here to read the article by 'Anomaly' Nick.

I have little doubt Nick and I could write books on our theories about staking - his case heavily slanted towards mathematical simulations and mine towards safety brakes - but, in the long run, each punter must decide his or her own path.

In his article, Nick clearly states in Step No. 1 that all punters need to know their own betting profile, and I endorse this 100 per cent. He also says, "No-one knows when the fickle finger of fate will arrive. But it's worthwhile to realise that every extra bet you make using a progression staking plan increases your chance of having a horror stretch and blowing your entire bank."

This is, of course, correct BUT aren't level-stake bettors also in a similar position? Doesn't every bet they have increase their chances of a bank blowout?

Although Nick condemns target betting as a certain long-term losing proposition, he has a few 'eachway bets' when he says, " . . . if your average odds are 6/4, then the SPDP (Six-Point Divisor Plan) may be a workable plan", and, when discussing if a punter's bets have LONG-TERM LEVEL-STAKE PROFITABILITY, he says, “If the answer is NO, then you should use progression staking because you may still win …”.

In the section entitled 'Simulation No. 2: Using the SPDP with a Safety Brake', Nick acknowledges that my major safety brake, after three consecutive losses, changes my approach from being a true progression plan but it does improve one's chances of staying alive.

Hey, I get the feeling that Nick sees a light at the end of my tunnel as the above statements do not say 'NO, NO, NO', but seem to say 'well, maybe if . . . '. Could this mean the approach I have advocated does have a chance, Nick?

He also says he would like to see a progression plan that can recover from a continuous losing sequence of 30. I thought my article highlighted just such a problem and handled it with relative ease, though I will confess to having 'selected' three handy winners. But, after a massive losing run of outs, isn't any punter entitled to a change of luck?

In the section 'Using a Simulation to Compare Level Staking with the SPDP', Nick provides six methods he uses to test his theories, with one of them being the strict SPDP approach. However, I need to point out that my approach is a variation of the standard SPDP that he tests. This is because, after three losers, I add I point to the divisor, thus helping to keep the losses down during a really bad run.

I feel this is a powerful part of the approach I have outlined. It doesn't guarantee success but it goes a long way towards easing the pain of a long run of outs.

After 30-plus years as a keen punter I have become acutely aware of the psychology of punting. Psychologically, the target bettor has that 'warm' feeling of confidence that the next winner or two will clear most, if not all, losses and provide a profit, but the levelstake bettor MUST keep backing a constant number of winners to remain mentally strong.

Let's take, for example, a levelstake punter who has struck 20 losers in a row. He is staring down the barrel of a loaded gun. If the bets are \$10, it's only a \$200 barrel but if they are \$100, then it's the beginning of real money and real pressure. Can this punter go on? Would he change strategy and start taking too many risky bets to pick up the outstanding units? We don't really know but it could happen.

After 20 losers, the target bettor is really just beginning to raise his bets and is confident to continue betting, relatively unfazed.

To give yourself the best chance of winning with target betting, the selections must be formfull (last start winners /close-up 2 lengths or less), fit (not first-up or second-up), on the first 3 lines of betting (newspaper or on-course), fairly handicapped and able to pass the usual distance and track-condition requirements. In other words, SENSIBLE SELECTIONS.

In one respect I agree with Nick when he says that if the average odds of the horses you support are 7/1 (note 'average' - indicates longer prices as well), then target betting will be an unmitigated disaster. The quickest road to ruin with target betting is to believe you can win on regular 7/1 or longer shots.

I also totally agree with Nick's assertion that if you have a selection plan that gives you 8% profit on turnover, year in, year out, why risk going bust with a progression staking plan. BUT, how many punters are capable of doing this?

What about the punter who loses 4% on turnover, which is within reach of most punters prepared to do some real form study? This punter loses year in, year out anyway so why not bet progressively, but sensibly, as I advocated, and try to turn that loss into a profit? Nick says that there is an ever-existing possibility that the SPDP will go bust. Hang on, doesn't this apply to the level-stake punter as well?

I am mindful of the respect I have for Nick's mathematical ability. However, I find it hard to take his pure  mathematics as gospel when related to horse-racing, where the odds are not an exact science. Nick may well statistically 'prove' that I will go broke after one year or 39 years but there is really only one way to find out and that's to do it!

My reply will not quell the differences Nick and I have on this issue but one thing I am sure we both will agree upon: it's a thought-provoking subject and I hope, through our writings, it has made YOU think. If so, Nick and I, in the words of Damon Runyon, will be pleased 'more than somewhat'.

By Roman Koz

PRACTICAL PUNTING - MAY 1999