They called him Louis The Snip. He was, in his heyday in the 1930s and 1940s, one of America's most successful punters. But Louis Holloway was also a man who spent his life trying to help other punters.

He wrote books, newsletters, booklets, magazines and created systems for some 50 years until his death from a heart attack in 1976. By then he was known as the 'doyen' of system sellers, but a man with a reputation for honesty and fair dealing.

He left a treasure trove of punting advice. Among the collection was a booklet published in 1939 when the world was more concerned with a man named Hitler than it was with making a dollar at the races.

Louis The Snip had this to say about betting: "The average player finds himself cashing the small bets and losing the big ones, so we must adopt rules to govern his actions. The ideal wagering system has no rules. You should go along making small bets while you are losing and then make large ones when you are on a winning streak.

"This is virtually impossible for 99 out of 100 cases, so we seek mathematical means of accomplishing our ends. It should be interesting to the player to note that no wagering system has ever been devised that will beat games of chance.

"If mathematical wagering systems cannot overcome the small percentage of roulette, what will happen to those systems when applied to racing, which takes out a much larger percentage cut? This should forcibly bring out the importance of making your selections profitable before you begin applying a system of wagering (staking).

"In racing you have a better chance to combat the percentage because you have no limit to your bets, you get varying odds and you have some idea as to the probable outcome, instead of leaving it all to mere chance (as with roulette, etc.).

"Mathematicians and scientists have attempted to phrase laws governing averages, chance and probability. They can accurately foretell your cash balance when playing any gambling device over a period of time; they know that the flip of a coin will come up nearly equal in a few thousand tosses and they know the approximate number of times a roulette numeral will come up in a million spins.

"But they cannot pin down Lady Luck and govern her immediate actions. They are forced to admit that in games of chance any natural uncertainty does not run true to a mathematical formula over a short period of time.

"Here is a rule to remember: There will be long runs of good luck and long runs of bad luck and those streaks will be longer than mathematical formulae concedes to be possible!

"Some day, perhaps, you will be able to foretell when you are entering either streak of luck. At present, however, the race player should not try to outguess chance. He may know that the law of averages will reassert itself but he cannot say whether it will do so immediately or next week.

"Stick to Picking the best horses in the race, and do not pin your hopes on pure chance. Make racing a business, not a gamble."

Louis Holloway followed his own advice to the letter - and whenever he began playing a new system he always ensured, over a period of years that it could make a level stakes profit.

He wrote: "Very few players use flat play (level) stakes and very few use staking plans. Just what they do use cannot be named. They will go along making small bets and occasionally a larger one; they will split bets, increase bets, decrease bets; bet some to win, some to place; they'll bet bigger for the place and take under the odds time and again.

"In fact, they do almost everything that is contrary to good business sense, and then wonder why they are not showing a profit. They invariably get caught in the switches and have small money on the good bets and big money on the poor ones.

"A good percentage of bettors playing the races right now would change from being losers to winners overnight if they would be consistent and bet exactly the same amount on every horse. Flat betting is not taxing on the nervous system and has many advantages.

"Since you never know when you will strike a winner or a loser, quit trying to guess and cover them all the same way. You will come out far ahead in the long run. Flat play never causes you to overbet a race and that is not such a bad idea for you have learned by now there is no such thing as a sure thing."

Louis The Snip strongly recommended level stakes betting for those people just starting out on the betting game. And he always warned them: "Whether or not you make a profit on flat bets is purely a matter of selection. This can be counted as another advantage for it makes you work harder to pick solid investments.

"I repeat, not until you can make your selections show a profit on flat play are you ready to adopt a staking plan. If you cannot pick enough winners to make a profit then don't count on a progression betting method to pull you out."

Louis never stopped emphasising the point that to win at racing a bettor had to "do a better job and work a little bit harder than your fellow racegoer. Your enemy is the wise guy next to you."

In the early '70s, when editing a monthly journal out of Las Vegas, Louis The Snip wrote the following sage advice:

"The horse with a good last race is overplayed in view of the value of that last race. You have to watch out for the mid-pack horses, those horses that were unplaced last start but which finished not too far from the placers.

"The only ones to throw out when you're assessing a race are those who were way back in their last two races. This kind can win but 30/1 shots are too rare to bother your statistics. If you can find a horse tapering into form, so can others. Nothing wrong with it, but you'll accept short odds for the privilege.

"As far as I am concerned, only FOUR things count: Speed, Class, Condition and Price. But with all the books and calculators out telling you how to find the Class horse, the obvious top-class runner is overplayed (overbet). Look for a nearby similar Class horse who might, in turn, have better condition or speed.

"Let's talk a bit more about condition: Any horse that shows a good last race is automatically not ruled out unless he has been in too often lately, won too much lately, and seems to be barely making it in his last race.

"This is what I call a weak favourite. The public is over-sold on all those pointers about adding up the total of the recent finishes, recent consistency and the like."

Louis's advice was to be wary of the fit, form-horses but always try to find a rival that has shown slightly less obvious condition and form.

He also was dubious of placing too much emphasis on the recency of a horse's last start, saying: "This business about days-to-last-start is now overplayed. Some horses coming back quickly may indeed be well intended but the road to a certain place is paved with good intentions. Be careful, too, of workouts. You can't trust the times from the morning gallops because you don't know the weight of the exercise boy or the trainer's instructions to him.

"You are also just taking the clocker's word for it. The only value of workouts is an indication that the horse has four legs and has some experience!"

Louis The Snip liked to think of himself as a keen spotter of horses returning with winning runs after lengthy breaks. He once wrote:

"Horses away for 30 to 90 days are usually just rested and they are the ideal kind for tapering back to a win. Watch those date gaps more than you watch the date of the last race."

In this regard, Louis was talking about a horse's history of wins after certain breaks from racing. (This information in Australia is available in the Wizard formguide. It publishes each horse's 'days off' gaps before each win. These can then be measured against the horse's latest spell to see if there is any similarity. Pattern winners are detected in this way.)

On his life generally, Louis The Snip had this to say:

"I was born in Canada but raised through school in the midwest. I had a carefree boyhood and young manhood, with emphasis on tennis and swimming. I won my share of medals but I never quite made the Olympics, though at least I was in the same pools as Weismuller, Crabbe and Adolph Kiefer.

"I started my interest in racing one night in Florida at a dog track; I'd say in 1931. I didn't know a win from a show. My first bet didn't win but a guy near me directed me to a show (3rd place) window where my ticket was worth \$6.20. So I set about studying dogs and horses and I was the black sheep of the family for several years.

"My policy was to always study or research an idea thoroughly, make it hold up and give it a cheap test under fire. If it held up I would go for it with bigger money."

In 1962, Louis published a book called The Giant System Book and some of the systems contained in it are still worthy of close analysis today, some 33 years later. Here are two.

THE LONGSHOT CLOSER

1. Look for a horse which has run 2nd or 3rd at LONG ODDS (20/1 and better) at its last two runs.
2. If it drops in class at its next start, back it.

THE FOURTH ESTATE

1. Check all runners which finished 4th at 20/1 or longer last start.
2. Back these horses if they are at 10/1 or lower in the betting for the current race.

By Jon Hudson

PRACTICAL PUNTING - OCTOBER 1994