How do professional punters really operate? It's a question I am often asked by punters desperate to be 'in the know' on the activities of men who actually make a living at the races.

Naturally, the answer is that they bet in many and varied ways. More often than not, though, the average professional would be a win-and-place punter.

But not straight each-way. More likely he would be betting at least twice as much for a place as for a win, and often three and four times as much.

Before going into that aspect of professional turf speculation, I'll talk about capital and staking. These are two vitally important points.

Some punters think that a good staking method can overcome the weakness of poor selections. This is not true. Always remember the maxim  that if a selection method cannot show a level stake profit it will be most surprising if any reasonable staking method can turn the losses into a profit.

It's important to remember, too, that a staking method must not make demands in excess of your operating capital (or bank).

What's the use of a wagering method that calls for a bet of $150 when your bank is only $100? It means you are being taken out of your depth financially, and that is not good.

Just look at small business failures. Generally, these ventures fail because the operators do not have enough capital. And, quite simply, you can't make money without money.

When choosing which method of betting you will employ, I suggest that you base your choice on the following basis.

  1. Is this staking method compatible with the type of selections I am making?
  2. Do I have enough money in my betting 'bank' to carry the whole thing through to its logical conclusion?

If you answer 'no' to these questions then I would steer clear of what you had in mind. Think again.

A staking method of stiff progression, for instance, could lead the punter of longshots into deep trouble. It would be a one-way ticket to liquidation.

Flat bets for a win only are used by a few professionals. But they are the ones who will wait weeks, sometimes months, for a bet. They are patient and when they strike they place bets of $10,000 and $20,000 on their selection.

More value, I think, is in betting for a win and a place on a sliding scale for the place bets.

Straight eachway bets are sucker bets, really. How often can you expect to receive a place dividend of 2-1 to cover the bet if the horse fails to win? Very rarely.

Arithmetics tell us that a punter can win just as much betting for a place - trouble is, he has to put on more money to do so.

Even betting 50 cents a win and $1 for a place - although okay-will not guarantee that the net profit to place will equal the profit to win.

This is because that when the horse fails to win, finishing 2nd or 3rd, there is immediately a 50 cents loss on the win  This teaches us that it is best to bet one unit a win and three units a place if we are to begin to cover ourselves in the event of the selection losing and running a place.

Therefore, the 50 cent punter would place 50 cents to win and put $1.50 on for the place. Bigger punters would bet in a similar ratio, say, $50 a win and $150 a place.

Conversely, if a punter backs only for a place, then a $2 bet will average out a net profit roughly the same as for the net profit on 50 cent win bets. There are exceptions, but I believe over a long period of time this would apply.

Remember, though, that you will need a bigger betting bank to produce the same profit for place betting as you would require for win bets.

Again, we come back to the importance of having a betting bank substantial enough for your needs.

So, what kind of betting method is suitable for the average guy, or gal ? I stress that we must look towards the professionals for the answer.

They must have the answer, because they punt for a living six days a week. Unless they have a sound selection and staking method, they would not be surviving.

The pro punters with whom I associate make little secret of what they do. I would say that nine out of ten operate on the win and place basis, with the odd ones going all-out on multiple doubles, trifectas etc.

Most divide their bets on a one to win and three to place basis. A few go so far as one:four.

My own view is that an excellent progression/regression wagering method that is sound in every respect is the one where the size of the bets is regulated by the amount of the desired net profit, and the odds at which the selection is paying.

If a punter wants a $50 net profit, and the selection is at 2-1, then he would wager $25 to win. If his desired profit is $100 and the horse is at even-money, then his bet is $100.

A losing bet is ADDED to the desired profit goal, and the amount of the next wager is based upon the odds of the next selection.

Let's run through an example to show you what I mean.

Let's assume the profit we are after is $50 and our horse is at 2-1. To get that $50 we need to invest $25 at the 2-1.

If this horse lost, we would then have a profit goal of $75, made up of the $50 plus the $25 we lost on the first bet.

Let's say the second selection is at3-1. This means our bet would be $25 again in order to achieve the desired $75 profit.

But, if this second horse was at even money, then the bet would be $75 to win, to achieve the $75 we require.

It's most important to note that the professionals who use this method make a point of STOPPING betting for the day if once they have achieved their desired profit.

They don't carry on once this has been gained. In other words, they are clever boys.

The required capital for this method is governed by the amount of desired profit, and the winning percentage the selection method produces.

I suspect many punters would not have the capital to pursue this particular method.

Punters in this small-bank category must consider SAFE methods of operation. They need to be conservative.

If you are prepared to operate as the pro punters do, then my suggestion is that you determine to stop punting once you have achieved a profit of 50 cents on each invested dollar. Using this idea, your needed bet would only need to be one unit a win and three units a place.

If this method is used in conjunction with sound, sensible selections - ones that show at least a small profit to win on a flat bet - then the average racing fan should find it a terrific winning method.

What you are doing is playing things safe, much as most pro punters do. They know that even the best of 'good things' can be beaten, often by as little much as a nose.

So the pro adopts a betting method that guards against those all-too-common defeats. He adopts a degree of protection for himself by making use of a betting scale that will get him 'out' for the day if his first selection fails to win but runs a place and pays $1, or even money a place.

On the one to three scale, a place divvy of $1 will offset the loss of the win bet and still produce a 50 cents profit on the invested dollar.

Professionals operate on far bigger sums. Most want to earn a minimum of $100 a day, so on the above scale the pro will be investing $200 a race - $50 a win and $150 a place.

Let's assume that his selection runs 2nd. He has lost $50 on the win bet, but he has $150 going for him for the place, and the horse pays, say, 90 cents for the 50 cent unit. This gives him a return of $270. He has made a profit, still, of $70 on his $200 bet. The place dividend would have to drop down close to 65 cents before he failed to make a profit on placegetter.

A punter satisfied to earn a profit of $50 day can bet on the scale of $25 a win and $75 a place. If you want to earn $25 a day then your bets would be $13 a win and $38 a place.

Some of you will want to know what the professionals do after a total losing bet. Do they increase their wagers next time around? Answer - No.

Pro's know that even controlled progression can become a dangerous quagmire. Anyway, the sound selections of the professionals mean they seldom strike more than one or two losing bets in a day.

Finally, the point to bear in mind is that the professional punter regards himself as a businessman. He hates the word punter because he sees his bets as investments, much as businessmen do who buy and sell shares on the Stock Market.

Unlike the average racing fan, the pro takes a long-term view of his activities. He doesn't worry about losses on one day; instead, he knows that what counts is the tally at the end of a year.

He wants a profit balance at the end of 12 months, just like any businessman.

The long-term view prevents him falling into the panic traps that snare so many punters.

He is aware that there will always be another race meeting. No last-race desperation bets for him. He takes his defeats on the chin and lives to fight another day.

What the professional has is more or less a road map of his selection method and his plan of betting. He will never deviate from the map, knowing that - like all good maps - it will, ultimately, lead him to his destination.

How different from the average punter who constantly hopes to arrive at his destination by taking a myriad of byways seeking a winner?

If you feel you do not have enough capital to attempt to follow the staking methods I have outlined, then the only advice I can offer is that you wait until you have amassed enough.

You will need patience, but that's better than lurching from race to race, hoping for a long-priced winner to come along to end your misery.

Remember, then, the following rules for survival in the punting jungle:

  •  Acquire a sound method of selection of your bets.
  • Find the right staking method.
  • Ensure you have enough money in your betting bank.
  • Forget about trying to get super-rich in one day.
  • Cease betting as soon as you have made your desired profit.

By Jon Hudson