Not long after I took up punting, at the age of just 16, I began to bet on trifectas. I confess that the prospect of winning big for a small outlay was my main motivating factor!

I now know that the same motive propels 99.9 per cent of all other punters in attempting to name correctly the first 3 horses home, in order, to land a trifecta dividend.

Anyone who has tackled such betting knows only too well how difficult it can be. There is no other way to describe the challenge. It is difficult to reap a long-term profit from trifecta betting.

It becomes even more of a problem for most punters because they tend to bet in singles (trying to pick the first 3 in one line of numbers) or boxes (linking 3 or more runners to cover all possible outcomes).

Trying to nail a trifecta is an almost impossible task if you choose, say, 7-6-4 and expect the horses to finish exactly in that order. Yet countless numbers of optimistic punters make this bet every day.

As with all other forms of betting, the key problem with trifecta betting is getting enough VALUE to make a long-term profit. Don Scott complained many years ago about the value problem and he predicted it would remain a problem, if not a bigger one despite a gradual rise in the pool size.

Scott was bleak in his assessment of the chances of the average punter making a profit, writing in Winning More as follows: "Fortunately, for the skilful players, the unskilful players do not go down permanently with their certainties. They return for the next meeting with a fresh pay packet and undiminished enthusiasm."

Scott was being cynical, of course, but there is a truth to what he wrote. Clever players do benefit from bad bettors because they get it right more times and for more value than they get it wrong.

So, how does an ordinary punter lever the trifecta to his advantage? Is the outlay going to be horrendous? Will long losing runs kill the game? Is the value going to be there?

These are all legitimate questions. Let me try to answer them: (a) The outlay must NOT be horrendous, otherwise the punter is never going to make a profit; (b) you will strike losing runs, the length of them is going to be determined by your own skills, or lack of them, in selecting and staking; (c) the value is there for thinking punters who can frame their bets properly.

Scott talked about ignoring races with 10 or fewer runners, eliminating bad-value chances and then combining the best 3 or 4 value chances in trifectas.

The trick is to analyse a field and then put a value on each runner. For example, you might have your top fancy quoted at 2 /1 by yourself and you see it's available at 5 / 1. This is a value horse.

On the other hand, your second pick, priced by you at 4 / 1, may be on offer at only 6/4. This is a bad value horse. Under Scott's approach, this horse would not be included in your trifecta bet.

The reasoning is that bad-value runners will drag down your overall strike rate and will not provide you with real value dividends.

There is much merit in what Scott proposed. I would urge you to try to follow his example as much as possible, though I realise that the majority of punters don't have the time or inclination to personally 'price' every runner in a race. Anyway, do your best even if you give only a token value to each of your selections.

ANGLE 1: Select a maximum of 4 horses. Give each a theoretical value. The horse with the biggest value price is made the Banker. It's linked with whatever of the remaining 3 selections you choose to bet.

ANGLE 2: Select 3 horses. Use the value ones to run 1st and 2nd and then link the other horse and 4 others to run 3rd.

Choose the best race of the day with 11 or more runners. Pick out your Banker and, if it's at a value price, take it to win and link it with 4 others to run 2nd and 3rd. This is a low-cost bet at $12 for $1 units.

ANGLE 4: Go for two value Banker bets to run 1st and 2nd and link them with the field to run 3rd. In a field of, say, 16 this would cost $28.

ANGLE 5: Choose 5 horses at value odds, Use the two best value selections as Bankers and couple them to run 1st and 2nd with the other 3 to run 3rd.

By P.B. King