If you know how your odds are related to percentages it is easy to pick out two or more horses and them to make you a profit, no matter which ones win. Professional punters use this approach all the time.

Bookies are thoroughly familiar with the percentages of the game and any punter with a serious intention to make money at betting should follow the lead of the bagmen and get to know the percentage tables equally as well as they do.

The percentages are determined by the simple process of dividing 100 by the odds plus one. For example, let's look at 4/1, 5/2 and 6/4.

4-1 plus 1 = 5; divided into 100 20%.
5-2 is 2.5 plus 1 3.5; divided into 100 = 28%
6/4 is 1.5 plus 1 2.5; divided into 100 = 40%

The table of percentages accompanying this article will provide you with the full list you'll require. Give yourself a few exercises with them; get a friend, or your wife or husband, to call out the prices and you come up with the answer in percentages. After a while, you'll know them off by heart.

What is the function of the percentages, you might ask? The bookies describe them as 'the common denominator' into which the various odds can be translated, the aggregate of which gives the bookie an overall picture of the market.

From this, he can assess his 'margin of error' if or when he adjusts his prices. Most bookies can swiftly get an appreciation of any situation during betting on a race.

If a bookmaker's total of the percentages for all runners does not amount to 100% or more it means astute 'figure-minded' punters can back every runner and show a profit, no matter which runner wins.

One little table of odds bookies remember is the following, known as the '100 Per Cent Table':

4/6 and 4/1 each of two = 100%, as do the following, 4/5 and 7/2 each of two, evens and 3/1 each of two, 5/4 and 5/2 each of two, 6/4 and 9/4 each of two, 2/1 each of three, 3/1 each of four, 4/1 each of five, 5/1 each of six and so on.

You can see what it means by referring to the percentage table on page 11. Example -'5/4 and 5/2 each of two' means 44% plus two at 28%, equaling 100 per cent. Get it?

The punter has to use the percentages to beat the bookmaker. The most well known approach is to bet your horses according to the price - say, your picks are priced at 5/2 and 4/1. That's 28 per cent (5/2) plus 20 per cent (4/1), a total of 48 per cent. To bet to take out a total of $100, including stake, you'd have $28 on the 5/2 chance and $20 on the 4/1 chance.

If one of them wins, you win $52. Of course, if the percentages of your horses add up more than 100 then you can't win. Most pro punters don't go beyond 80 per cent; this gives them the chance of a 20 per cent profit.

Some professionals prefer 'saving' on a couple of horses and going for the big money with their main chance. The formula for doing this is simple you merely add ONE to each price and then divide that sum into the total stake to discover how much to invest on your 'savers'. The balance of the stake is placed on the first choice.

Let's assume your three horses were: A (top choice) 3/1; B 5/1 and C 6/1. Your total stake to be bet is, say, $50. You divide 50 by 6 (for horse B) which equals 8 (rounded). Then you divide the $50 again, this time by 7 (for horse C), which equals 7. They are your bets to 'save' on the race. They total $15.

The remainder of the $50 stake ($35) goes on A your No 1 choice at 3/1. The outcome can go four ways: The worst scenario is that you fail to land the winner and you lose the stake! The next is that one of the two 'savers' wins the race. In the case of the 5/1 chance you would get back $48, for a loss of $2. If the 6/1 chance won you would receive $49 for a loss of $1. The reason why these bets result in a small shortfall is due to the 'rounding down' when completing your earlier divisions.

Should the No 1 choice win you get back 35 x 3/1 plus your stake - a total of $140, for a profit of $90. The ACTUAL odds you have achieved about the winner are, of course, lower than the 3/1 SP. You have in fact accepted odds of around 7/4 (a $50 bet returning $140).

But that's all right. You have to remember that you did have two other horses running for you as the insurance factor and, to have those on deck, you have to PAY for them by the devaluation of the actual price on the No 1 horse.

This approach is known in the betting business as 'cutting the risk'. The late Eric Connolly once wrote on this subject and even now, decades later, his words are wise and should be heeded by any punter who aims to become a winner.

Said Connolly: "Cutting the risk associated with betting is the basis on which success is founded. Such an aim carried out with astuteness and energy is the only way you can win at what must always be a precarious business.

"Most punters fail because they leave too much to chance. They take a risk and take the count. But a much more solid and methodical plan must be adopted and adhered to by all who are to leave the big crowd of little men and rise to success in the small crowd of big men.

"There is no surer route to get-poor-quick than attempting to get-rich-quick by pure chance or pure luck. Instead of entering the game with a set plan for accomplishing their goals, they blunder on, hitting and missing, minus any foundation or system, and therefore without an ultimate winning chance.

" Lacking authentic knowledge, they often have no natural aptitude for the hazardous venture they undertake. If you are drawn to racing with the idea of making it a paying venture, you must make your plans before you start.

"Bet according to sound lines on systematic methods and stick to your principle whether it be based on your own judgement of horses or knowledge of men.

"Many dashing bettors have come into the game on a tidal wave of fortune, resting solely on their luck. Their reigns have varied but most of them went out with the ebb, for luck is too crumbling a foundation on which to maintain a fortune, most of all on the turf.

"Of those who have risen to prosperity from scratch, by sheer temerity and gameness, a few had the good sense to quit when it was in flood. They cut out foolhardy betting, knowing that as it did make, so it would break."

Connolly quotes the case of the late Ned Moss as an example of what he was talking about.

"Perhaps Ned Moss is the most conspicuous example of those who shot off the wave of luck before it dumped," said Connolly. "Still a solid, game bettor when the betting is good, Ned has long since cut out those intensely brazen risks which characterised his meteoric rise.

"He purchased himself an annuity when he first began his prosperity; he made sure that ill-fortune would never return him to the breadline."

Connolly was a great believer in the 'insurance' approach to betting. He would often plunge on a horse, but would invariably soften the risk by taking a few 'savers' in the race. Thus, if his hotpot was knocked off there was a very good chance he would lose nothing on the race because one of his savers got up and won.

This is what he said about 'saver' betting: " You cannot always beat a race with absolute certainty; there are too many variables involved and too many ways to lose a single race.

"By utilising the percentages you can beat a number of races. If you bet on a number of beatable races you will get the percentages working for you. Never bet a quarter or a half of your bank on one horse, as gamblers do. Cut your risk down to a manageable level."


1/266 4/660
20/15 25/14
33/1 3 50/12
100/1 1  

NEXT MONTH: More pertinent tips and information on adopting a 'multiple bet' approach to racing.

By Martin Dowling