Although I seldom bet on an each-way basis, I am quite a regular place-only bettor. I operate a separate bank specifically for the purpose.

Quite often, via the place tote, it is possible to achieve extraordinary value. Many professional punters who bet for a WIN only when they can obtain overlays on their assessed odds would be more than happy to obtain the same results.

For example, if the horse you fancy to win is showing only, say, 2/1 for a win, but is displayed as likely to pay $1.80 for a place, you are being offered a 60 per cent overlay. The correct dividend (according to accepted practice) should be $1.50. For the straight-out bettor to achieve a 60 per cent overlay, would require odds of about 13/4.

(I'll not go into the mathematics of determining what the 'true' odds are. The maths might be correct in a game of chance but they are not only boring, they bear no relation to the reality of horse-racing.)

Place tote-dividend aberrations occur quite frequently and are worth watching for.

I've found that, on a regular basis, the place tote on the LAST race of the day often presents good value for me. This is probably due to the fact that the majority of punters is trying to 'get out' and shortish place-tote odds are not going to give them the chance.

Other good opportunities often arise when a fairly short-priced favourite opens up extremely short on the place tote - at, say, $1.10 or $1.20 and remains on that dividend for most of the betting.

Punters who bet in the hurly-burly of the last few minutes steer clear of such a pitiful dividend, with the result that it frequently blows out to $1.50 or $1.60.

You are not going to get rich quick taking dividends of $1.60 but if you are right at least two times out of three you will show a profit of almost 7 per cent on turnover, which is more than many professionals make these days.

Mix regular returns of that nature in with the occasional $2 or $2.10 dividend and you'll be doing really well. You won't get rich quick, but you will make worthwhile money.

I know that a lot of punters think that betting for a place is "a wimp's way", but my attitude is that a win is a win. I don't care how I have to graft away to show a profit and an overlay is ALWAYS an overlay so far as I'm concerned.

As for the disappointment of being on only for a place when my selection wins, I always mentally balance that aspect up against the number of times my fancy is beaten but runs a place.

That happens very frequently, I can assure you.

Some acquaintances tell me they'd take too long to work out whether the dividend is good or poor, so here's the quickest way of ascertaining what the place dividend ought to be.

First decide whether you think the WIN odds are fair in accordance with your personal opinion of the race.

If so, divide the amount showing for a $1 win ticket by 4, deduct 25 cents, then add $1. Your answer will represent what ought to be the correct place dividend.

Of course, if you have assessed the runner at a price shorter than the win tote shows, you could argue that you should work out the PLACE tote dividend in accordance with that. I deem such a theory incorrect, believing that it's not value to take less than a quarter of the odds that are available.

For ease, here is what the place tote SHOULD read against some of the shorter-priced win odds.

2.00 1.25 3.80 1.70
2.30 1.35 4.00 1.75
2.50 1.40 4.40 1.80
2.60 1.40 4.50 1.90
2.70 1.40 5.00 2.00
2.80 1.45 6.00 2.25
2.90 1.45 7.00 2.50
3.00 1.50 8.00 2.75
3.30 1.60 9.00 3.00
3.50 1.65  

For example, a horse showing $3.30 for the win ought to return a 'true' dividend of $1.60 for the place. If you can obtain $1.80, you are getting a 12.5 per cent overlay.

That may not sound much, but it means that if you have, say, three bets per week over a year, you can back about twenty extra losers without affecting your 'true' 7 per cent profit.

Unless you are extremely confident about a runner, don't accept any PLACE dividend less than, say, $1.70 or $1.80.

Admittedly place-betting is a very conservative practice, but if you are a punter who possesses the good sense, the discipline and the patience to pick the right races and then the right horses, you CAN win.

If you are a good judge who can pick at least two placegetters out of every three attempts, place-only betting will allow you to greatly increase your betting turnover with minimum risk, provided you bet on a level-stake basis.

Of course you should hope to better that average. If you have three bets per week of $50 per bet for 50 weeks and obtain an average dividend of $1.80, on a two-out-of-three ratio you will outlay $7500 for a return of $9,000.

But if you can increase your average success rate to say three-out-of-four, your return for the same outlay will become $10,125, which is 35 per cent profit on turnover and beats most small business investments.

One thing you will not miss with place betting, compared with betting for a win, is those bank breaking runs of outs.

By Russ Writer