Our recent  two-part interview with  US handicapping guru Mark Cramer prompted a spate of letters from readers keen to learn more about Cramer's quirky approach to selecting winners.

The man himself refers to his style as that of a "kinky handicapper" and this just about sums up, very accurately, what he's all about. He's looking for the things that ordinary mortals may miss in the scheme of things.

Reaction to Cramer's ideas - wild as some of them may seem - is invariably enthusiastic and almost cult-like.

After publication of his best-seller Kinky Handicapping, the Paris-based writer was receiving mail from an assorted bunch of horse players. Fan letters began "Dear Kingmeister" or were signed with "Kinky Forever". There were even notes from punters who regarded themselves as kinkier in their approach to gambling than Cramer.

"Cramer, you think you're the King of Kink but my handicapping is kinkier than yours," wrote one fan with a big ego.

Cramer believes the success of all his books is because there's a growing army of punters, all around the world, willing and able and keen to embrace alternatives to the prevailing handicapping traditions and thinking.

Says Cramer in Kinkier Handicapping: "To survive as a regular horse player requires an against-the-grain philosophy. Whether we like it or not, we horse players are considered anti-social, so we might as well avoid conformist handicapping methods."

In a nutshell, then, that's the Cramer pitch: you do just about everything differently to everyone else. As he sees it, ani he's probably right, millions of punters in every country, which has horse-racing, are hidebound traditionalists, adhering to handicapping methodologies derived from what Cramer calls "mainstream thought processes and conformist mentalities".

In Cramer's opinion, punters who adopt different methods and who make money are unsung heroes, modern Don Quixotes who do not want to abandon one day of their lives to complacency or predictability.

In this age of celebrities, he says, these "rebel" horse players should be heroes in the media for having achieved the impossible dream.

And what about some advice from Cramer for men and women like him? It seems that the BIG piece of advice is this: If you handicap a race and come up with much the same order of selection as the pre-post betting market, and other tipsters, then you have done exactly what the public is going to do, and you've made no unique discovery at all!

Should you bet in races like this? Cramer believes that, yes, you can, if you give the favourite a 50 per cent winning chance and it's available at, say, 5/2. In this case, you've worked out something the public hasn't.

But, Cramer insists: Ask yourself if you have an uncommon insight into a race, and if the answer is NO then leave it alone.

In other words, if you have the same opinion as everyone else, it's probably not going to do you any good. You have to spot the races where you can command an "edge" and if there's nothing much going for a race then simply ignore it.

We know that passing up races requires some discipline and what Cramer calls "inner strength" but a race passed can be equivalent to a winning bet.

"You will see these passes accumulating and you will see an accumulation of losers that will be equivalent to a few big winners in your ledger," Cramer writes in Kinkier Handicapping (his second "kinky" book).

These slices of advice should be enough to set any punter thinking about his or her approach to betting. You may care to ask yourself how many times have you bet a short-priced horse because you were caught up in the public fever?

How many times have you bet for the sake of it when the race itself offered you little or no "insight" that everyone else didn't know about, or might not know about?

In other words, have you been demanding a better than fair return on your bets? If you can't get it, don't bet, says Cramer, adding: "When you do discover what you believe is a valuable insight, write down the odds that you will require for a fair payoff. Demand a favourable, advantageous return."

Cramer adopts mechanical criteria for automatically passing a race. He lists some of them as:

(a) Can't eliminate half the field? Stop and go on to the next race.

(b) The field consists of proven losers at the class level.

(c) The only contender or contenders have no winning trainer-jockey combinations.

These, then, are a few of the thoughts of Mark Cramer. He has many others, making him the leader of the pack when it comes to betting in a different light to the crowd.

Read more about Mark Cramer at: www.cynthiapublishing.com

By Philip Roy