They say there's no value in place betting and that you can't make a profit long term. Well, that's what THEY say and they're entitled to their opinion (whoever THEY are).

But the reality is something different. I've talked to a lot of punters over the years and have discovered many who like place betting, and who do make a profit from it.

No, not by betting for a place on every race, but by selectively choosing a few prime bets each raceday. These happy place punters are content with raking off $1.30 or $1.40 for a $1 bet.

The trick is to spot the right plays, and to bet them inventively enough to ensure you are raking in enough dollars to make it all worthwhile.

Staking is all-important. Straight place bets, using level stakes, may well pull in the dough for you but the returns will be small overall - not even coming into the 'little fish are sweet' category.

So what does the average punter do? Well, the plan I have always liked is the one which takes the form of a Yankee, but with a difference. Firstly, the task is to choose the three horses you consider are the best WIN bets of the day (say from evens upwards) and the idea then is to bet them to PLACE.

We link them in three doubles and a treble. But there's a twist. We start with a bank of 200 units (it can be any amount you like) and we operate on 20 per cent per meeting until the bank has reached 400 units, then we cut back to 15 per cent. At 600 units, we withdraw 300 and start again with 20 per cent of the bank until we reach 600 again, and so on.

This way, we take 150 per cent profit each time we get to 600 units. We never drop our bets below the amount of the very first bet (that is, 20 per cent of 200 units).

The bets are divided up as follows:

DOUBLE NO. 1 (call it A- B)      30%
DOUBLE NO. 2 (call it A-C)      30%
DOUBLE NO. 3 (call it B-C)      30%
TREBLE          (call it A-B-C)      10%

What this means is that the attack is split into three doubles worth 90 per cent of the bet and a treble taking up 10 per cent. Okay, to work out each bet, let's assume your bank is $200.

You are operating for the first series of bets on 20 per cent of that bank $40. Now the $40 has to be apportioned for the doubles and the treble. Ten per cent of $40 is $4, so with each double assessed at 30 per cent, you place $12 on each of them, a total of $36. The remaining $4 is bet on the treble.

Should your bank be $100, and I guess this is a more realistic figure for most battling punters, then the doubles would be bet at $6 each and the treble at $2.

The following is what you can expect to receive for various place tote returns on a double ($6) and a $2 treble (in brackets):

$1.30 each: $10.15 (4.40)
$1.40 each: $11.75 (5.48)
$1.50 each: $13.50 (6.75)
$1.60 each: $15.35 (8.20)
$1.70 each: $17.35 (9.80)
$1.80 each: $19.45 (11.65)
$1.90 each: $21.65 (13.70)
$2.00 each: $24.00 (16.00)
$2.20 each: $29.05 (21.30)
$2.50 each: $37.50 (31.25)
$3.00 each: $54.00 (54.00)

The interesting point is that a double with both horses paying less than even money can make you a profit for the day. From the list above you can see that just one double with both legs paying $1.90 will return $21.65 for your day's $20 outlay.

Let's assume you operated on the Randwick program on Saturday, September 24, and you played relatively safe and chose as your three place bankers the following trio: Procrastinate, Danewin and Brave Warrior. Two were placed and Danewin won. The place dividends on the NSW TAB were $1.80, $1.30 and $1.70.

How would you have gone with your $6 doubles and your $2 treble how would that invested $20 look at day's end? Here's the result:

Total Bet: $20 Total Return: $53.60
Total Profit: $33.60. Profit on turnover: +168%.

How about that for a day's betting? Not a great deal of risk and yet you have made almost 170 per cent on your money. Okay, what if you'd got only two placed horses up? Well, on the above divvies the worst result would have been a return of $13.25 on your $20, a loss of just under $7.

If you'd been betting to a $200 bank, instead of $100, you would, of course, with the three horses being placed, have made just over $67 profit on the day from a bet of $40.

If we assume that we operate a method like this with success, the question that next has to be asked is, how you pick the horses? It's a moot point. Many punters will simply rely on their judgment and that's fair enough if you are confident in yourself that you can do the task.

If you want a mechanical system, there are plenty around, and certainly one of the best for many years has been our own Plus 15 For The Place system, which we first revealed in April, 1985, and updated in May, 1990. It's a beauty for selecting prime place bets.

The rules are as follows:

  1. Get a newspaper tipsters' poll that contains the selections of at least 10 tipsters. If you can't find one then collate a panel yourself by combining the tips of your favorite experts from various publications.
  2. The contenders are the horses that top the poll for the various races but to be considered they must be 15 points or more ahead of the second horse in their poll (assuming the allotment of 3 pts for top selection, 2 pts for 2nd pick and 1 pt for 3rd pick).
  3. Once you have isolated these contenders, you check to ensure the horse/s is between 2 and 5 years old (inclusive) and is not carrying 58 kg or more (ignore apprentice allowances).
  4. The final check is to see if the horse won its last start or finished 3 lengths or less from the winner. If it didn't, then it is eliminated.

This is a system which isolates strong place bets. Generally, you won't get more than 3 a day at any one meeting, probably less, but those that do crop up are usually outstanding bets. The strike rate has been maintained at between 85 and 90 per cent.

Another plan is one confined to Open Handicaps at metropolitan meetings on Saturdays. It regularly comes up with excellent placegetters. The rules are as follows:

  1. Operate only on Open Handicaps /Quality Handicaps at metropolitan meetings in Sydney and Melbourne.
  2. Consider only last-start winners on metropolitan tracks in the same State as the current race.
  3. Horse must be drawn between barriers 1 to 8 in races under 1601m. Barriers not to be considered in races further than this.
  4. Horse must be trained on the track where the current race is being run.
  5. Horse must be ridden by a top jockey (i.e. Moses, Cassidy, Dye, Oliver, King, etc.).
  6. Horse must be at 5/1 or under in the pre-post morning betting market (Australian, Sydney Morning-Herald, Brisbane Courier-Mail, Adelaide Advertiser, etc.).

Using this system you can come up with some fine place specials. You will never get too many bets, but those that do crop up will be gilt edged.

NEXT MONTH. We look at three excellent place selection methods, one of which aims to find
placegetters at double-figure odds.

International experts vary in their thoughts on place betting. In his book Winning Made Easy, the renowned Don Scott says that, in general, he does not recommend backing horses for a place because "the dividends are poor."

Scott makes the point that a horse at around 4/1 for the win should pay at least evens the place, a $2.00 dividend, but "most of the time the dividends are less - $1.90, $1.80 or even $1.70."

Alan 'Ace" Davidowicz, an American professional, believes place betting is viable provided the bettor refrains from over-betting. His suggestion is that only one horse is chosen at any meeting and it has to be one of the three best-fancied runners on the card.

Davidowicz says: "You find the three best chances, say the three at the shortest quote on the morning line, and you examine them intently. Weed out the two most vulnerable and then go for the loot on the final standout."

Our own systems expert Statsman says: "Considering that you get three chances to win, it's surprising how many people continue to ignore place betting. I suppose we can attribute their reluctance to the average punter's desire to win as much money as he can with as little money as possible.

"Through win betting, and via the exotic betting pools, he can sometimes achieve this aim. With place betting, the chances of return are higher but the dividends are, consequently, lower. Wise punters, though, can concentrate their attention on place betting.

"But they must choose their races carefully and close off as many danger loopholes as they can. Good races, good horses, good jockeys, good trainers - I cannot emphasise these points too strongly."

Click here to read Part 2.

By Peter Travers