There are many punters vehemently opposed to place betting. There are others who can't get enough of it. The latter group, I suspect, is made up of those punters who like to get regular returns on their betting.

They cannot cope with the long losing runs that accompany other forms of betting. I can understand this. When you are betting small amounts of money it is comforting to know that more times than not you will be paid a  dividend.

From a financial standpoint, it's a matter of whether place betting can present you with a profit over the long term, or not. The same punters who plod away with place bets probably don't bother to check their actual profit/loss situation.

It's enough for them to enjoy what they are doing and to be seen to get regular dividends, small as they may be.

Looked at starkly, place betting really isn't for the faint-hearted, though some might suggest that that's exactly who it is for! A friend of mine who tried a lengthy period of betting only for the place likened the experience to having the blood slowly drained from your body.

"For quite a while there is still life," he said. "But you know it's just a matter of time until the final drop is squeezed out of you. That's how place betting got me. I was picking up the divvies but inevitably there was a leakage of money from the bank, drip by drip."

My pal initially tried to bet with the bookmakers at the track, but found their ridiculous odds no alternative to the tote. He wonders now why the bookies bother if they a-re going to offer such pathetic prices.

When he turned to the tote, he found that divvies were much better, but they tended to be erratic. Horses at the same win price were apt to deliver totally different place returns.

My friend used an approach that I can recommend as well for those punters anxious to bet for the place but wanting to have a little something on for the win as well. This is the 1 x 4 approach, whereby you invest ONE unit a win, and FOUR units for the place.

His choices were those horses he was truly confident could finish in the first three - no ifs and buts, no doubts at all.

My friend found, however, that over 12 months he would have made a great deal more money if he hadn't bothered with place betting at all. If he had invested each 5 unit bet for the win, the returns would have given him a very nice annual profit.

By betting for the place with four-fifths of his bet, he beat himself. But this aspect of things is always going to be a worrying point with place betting.

I told my friend that if he had been betting win-only he might well have not backed many of the horses he did. A totally different psychological game would have been entered into. Without the safety net of the place component of the bet, the 'mind' might well have taken different directions!

The magic in place betting is to realise what you are up against. Get the figures in your mind. In other words, discover what you need to obtain in the way of dividends in order to come out with a profit.

If you don't adopt this sensible approach, you will simply be kidding yourself as to the profitability of your place betting enterprise. And here, of course, I am talking about punters who are SERIOUS about their betting.

If you're not serious, you are never going to bother with keeping records, or setting targets, and all the things that go with being successful, even moderately so.

Let's look at strike rates and required dividends for the place. If you are a hotshot selector, you will be able to strike with ONE placegetter every TWO bets. That means a 50 percent strike rate.

But with place betting you need to be much more than a hotshot selector. You need to be RED HOT. With the divvies that are paid on well-fancied horses, your strike rate is going to be required to hit the 70 percent rate at least!

Even then you will need to average a dividend of $1.70. If you were able to get 70 collects at $1.70 per 100 bets, your return would be $119. That gives you a 19 per cent profit. Say you were betting in $100 units, you would make $1900 profit over the 100 bets.

Think about this aspect of your place betting intently. Look at the following figures:

OutcomeReq. Div.Profit
50 placers from 100$2.3015
60 placers from 100$1.9014
70 placers from 100$1.6012
80 placers from 100$1.4012
90 placers from 100$1.3017

Could you manage to achieve any of these figures? Could you, perhaps, better them? After all, a 12 per cent profit from 80 out of 100 placegetters certainly doesn't seem so attractive.

If you could improve that average payout to $1.50, you would then get back $120 for every $100 you invested - a 20 percent profit. Looking better. Taking the average to $1.60 (tough assignment!) you would get back $128, or 28 percent profit.

Keen place punters, including some I personally know, will aim for annual profits of between 12 and 15 percent. They will tell you it is unrealistic to look for a greater return.

What you need to do to enjoy the 'magic' is to think only in PLACE PERCENTAGE TERMS. Forget all about  one-quarter the odds. You are not interested in what a horse is paying for the win, only what it is paying for the place.

It's like a person buying food for one person. He or she isn't interested in large helpings, only small ones. Knowing the price of a large, family-size pack is of no interest. Only the price of a small package is needed.

So it is with place betting. You find out how good you are, you set your target, and you then attempt to secure the returns you need to make it all work.

If you KNOW you can strike 80 times in 100 bets, you KNOW you need to average $1.40 at least to begin to make a decent profit. It's not as easy as you think. You will need some good-paying place divvies to counteract those that inevitably will pay less than $1.40.

Let's say in 10 bets, you have the following: TWO losers, EIGHT placers at $1.20, $1.70, $1.90, $1.30, $1.40,  1.10, $1.90 and $1.50. These total $2.00 in profits. So your average divvy for the day on those which ran a place has been $1.50 ' That's okay and it puts you well on target.

But suppose that $1.90 dividend had not been hit? That you got only seven placers and not the eight you wanted? Now your average dividend has been trimmed back to $1.44.

Missing your targeted number of winners by two could mean you slip well under expectation. It means you need to perform much better than your required average in future.

One way to give a fillip to your returns is to consider all-up place bets in a bid to boost returns. Play up any winnings from one placer to another. A $1.50 and a $1.90 all up on the tote will return you odds of 1.85/1.

A $1 bet on each would return you $3.40 (profit $1.40). But the two linked together for $2 would return you $5.70 (profit $3.70).

NEXT MONTH: How to choose the right bets, the horses and races to avoid, the meetings on which to specialise.

Click here to read Part 2.

By Richard Hartley Jnr