Any punter setting out to 'beat the trifecta' should immediately begin to think about multiple combinations.

As someone who has spent many years dabbling in trifectas (at one stage, a few years back, 1 bet on them to the exclusion of everything else), I can attest to the potential in attacking the trifecta with multiples.

And I don't mean simple box set-ups, like three horses combined for $6, or four horses combined for $24, and so on. I'm talking about a mixture of approaches designed to boost your chances while at the same time cutting back on your expenses.

Straight box outlays may be easy to place, but they carry lots of wasted money and combinations.

By structuring your multiples, you can use 'banker' selections to your advantage, and then have lots more horses running for you to fill remaining slots.

Firstly, though, a few things we must keep in mind when thinking about trifecta betting. The first is to be prepared to cope with losing runs. Trifecta betting is risk territory, there is no comfort zone, and even the most successful players will encounter losing runs that can prove somewhat dispiriting.

The longer-priced your selections, the more likelihood there is that a losing run will slap you in the face. If, however, your selection approach is soundly-based, and has built-in value, then any losing run should be able to be overcome and your profit position maintained.

The selection method is vital. If you play silly selections, you are going to go down the proverbial gurgler. What you need is a selection approach that provides you with some conservative cover on well-fancied runners and also gives you the chance to cash-in on some good-value runners, those that tend to pop up at 8/1 or better, whether for the win or the place.

You might find it worthwhile to consider using a mechanical system to choose your selections.

Have a look at past issues of PPM, and pick out some systems that might fill the bill.

Another approach is to use a combination of newspaper tipsters. Make up your own 'poll' of the best four or five that you know about.

You can consider using just the pre-post market. Pick out various combinations of runners (well fancied and longshots) and see how they perform.

I guess most of you will prefer to mix up your own picks with someone else's, and that's fine. If you are going to bet your money, why riot rely to some degree on your own opinions?

Makes sense to me.

It also makes sense for a punter to pick the brains of someone else, which is why I advocate a mixture of your own views and some outside opinions.

Having decided on how you'll select your horses, you now have to weigh up how much you want to spend. How much can you afford? How many bets do you want? Where will you bet?

Which races will you avoid? How many days a week will you bet? What sort of a return do you expect?

These are all important questions. Each individual must provide their own answers. What suits one person will not suit another. Betting really is an individual pursuit, even though the mass of punters usually follow each other sheeplike when it comes to betting!

To be successful, I think you need to stand alone, particularly if you want to win big. This will usually only be achievable if you're right and nearly everyone else is wrong.

Let's deal, then, with answering some of the questions. If you're a 'small-bet' punter, you won't be wanting to risk too much money. Perhaps you want to bet just $6 a day?

Even such a small sum can be accommodated, provided you are confident enough to toss in a 'banker' selection for one finish position.

Using a banker to win, you can link 4 other runners to fill 2nd and 3rd and the total cost, assuming you bet in 50c units, will be only $6.

The multiple is expressed as: A to win from B-C-D-E to run 2nd and 3rd. To work out the combination in cost terms it's a simple matter of multiplication as follows:

1 x 4 x 3 equals 12 combinations For $1 units you are up for $12, and for 50c units the cost is, as I said, only $6.

The banker doesn't have to be for the win. You can place it for 2nd or 3rd. That is: B-C-D-E to win, A to run 2nd, and B-C-D-E for 3rd. The cost is the same. If you want your banker for 3rd place, the combination would be B-C-D-E for 1st/2nd and the banker A for 3rd.

Here you have a neat multiple bet that can provide you with some nice collects. The cost is low so even a losing run isn't going to cause you to lose sleep.

You could play this multiple three times a week for $18.

The next step is to think about playing your banker in all three placed positions (to win, to run 2nd, to run 3rd). The cost to do this, assuming you use 4 others with the banker, is $18 a time, using 50c units ($36 using $1 units).

Another alternative is to use the win banker along with 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or even 10 other runners to fill 2nd and 3rd. I used this approach successfully during the time I spent in serious trifecta betting.

My approach was to take a win banker with 10 other runners to fill 2nd and 3rd, at a cost of $90 a time ($45 if using 50c units). I brought off many big-race coups.

The linkup is expressed, for working out the cost, at 1 x 10 x 9 equalling 90 combinations.

This linkup is only to be used for attacking major races with big fields where a huge trifecta pool can be confidently anticipated. By this I mean races like the Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup, Doncaster Handicap, Epsom Handicap, Stradbroke Handicap, Goodwood Handicap, and so on.

You do need to be spot-on with your banker, but if you get that right, then you are pretty well assured of landing the placegetters with your 10 other picks. Not every time, but enough times to make it all very worthwhile.

If your banker's at long odds, say 8/1 or better, then the dividend is likely to run into in thousands of dollars.

If a banker situation is not your cuppa tea, then you should look at multiples whereby you have 2 or 3 runners shooting for you in every slot, as well as some other runners.

A favourite of mine was a 3 x 3 x 7, which provides for selections AB-C to fill any position, and then you have D-E-F-G added in to run 3rd.

So, if A, B or C fill 1st and 2nd, you'd have one of them plus the other four running for you to fill 3rd place. The cost  of this bet is only $30 (using $1 units) or $15 using 50c units.

Those of you wanting to risk even more can take advantage of any number of multiple combinations.

If you fancy that you can pick 1st-2nd on a frequent basis using 4 selections, then a 4 x 4 x 8 linkup could be well worth considering. It costs $72 using $1 units and $36 using 50c units.

If you get 1st and 2nd, you will have 6 remaining runners going around for you to snatch the all important 3rd place. If your selecting ability is up to scratch, then you should be able to strike quite a few times.

To extend this, you are getting into big-money territory. For major races, and those races with 16 or more runners, you might consider bigger multiples.

What about a 5 x 5 x 10? This will cost $160 for $1 bettors and $80 for the 50c punters. Quite an outlay but one that gives you a solid chance of pulling off those high priced divvies.

If you get lst-2nd with your top 5 picks, then you still have 8 runners going for you to fill the 3rd spot. If you get a longshot filling the position, then the dividend could be a bumper one.

These, then, are a few ideas for you to think about when you go for the trifecta. My advice is to pick your races carefully, go for races with at least 12 runners (the more the better) and never overbet.

Don't delude yourself that you won't strike losing runs. You will. But carefully considered selecting should enable you to weather the storms.

By Martin Dowling