The best advice anyone can hand out as far as 'money management' is concerned in betting is that you adopt a safety first approach. It may seem dull and lacking the excitement of risk-taking but, in the long term, it usually pays off.

We've all heard about the professionals who stop betting once they're ahead. How many punters possess the discipline to follow this line of thinking? Very few, I suspect. But there is some sense in doing just that - packing up when you're ahead.

The truth is that knowing what to bet is only one of the two basic requirements for success at the races. The second is knowing how to bet. Few punters possess both attributes.

You see, to have proper money management you need to have a high degree of mental discipline; you've got to be completely in control of your emotions, you must be careful you do not overbet, you must never overreact to success or defeat. It's all a matter of maintaining your betting balance.

The bettors I chat to in TAB agencies, or at the track, seem to have only a slight knowledge of how to handle their money. They'll throw bets here and there, they'll panic and up the ante when they're losing, and, as a result, judgement goes awry.

My own approach these days is a pretty simple one and it's summed up in the following words: LIMIT YOUR LOSSES BUT NEVER LIMIT YOUR WINNINGS.

Now the first thing to do to limit losses means you have to decide BEFORE you go to the track exactly how much money you can afford to lose. Make it a sensible figure, one that you'll feel comfortable with should the worst happen.

Make sure you do not exceed that figure. In fact, take only that much money with you to the track or the TAB shop. By doing this, you will be in the right frame of mind for the day's action.

Setting a loss limit - and keeping to it - frees you from the sickness of busting your gut to get even late in the program, when you've been hit by a run of bad luck or bad judgement. You don't have to win on the day; there are always other racedays to come.

What you also have to remember is that you cannot bet on every race and expect to win. Betting on every race is a form of monetary suicide. You may get away with it now and again but you'll end up losing eventually.

Even if you limit your betting to every other race you will have gone a long way to beating the 'chain betting' syndrome. It's important you bet only on those races where you are confident you can win - not just those where you merely hope to win.

Never force yourself to like a horse. If you come across a race where it's hard to make a decision, then just forget it. Wait for an easier race. They will always come along.

Be cautious with short-priced horses. Try to make it a set rule that you never bet under even money.

Only back a horse at 2/1 or under if it is truly a sound prospect.

No matter which approach to selection that you make, it's always sensible to remind yourself that you will very rarely over a year be able to have more than a 30 per cent strike rate. That's three winning selections in every 10. This is a good, solid strike rate. It's more likely you will be hovering around 15 to 20 per cent.

That means your average bet is going to need to be up around the 4/1 to 5/1 mark just to break even. This is a key point that you must never forget.

Now we come to the actual day's betting. I've mentioned earlier those punters who close shop when they're ahead. This is okay for some. I prefer to keep betting on the premise that I bet heaviest when I'm winning.

My experience is that winning streaks in racing have to be capitalised on. A winning punter is a confident one.

So, if you find you are winning, then bet on (not madly!) until the streak ends, as it will eventually. By then, though, you should have taken advantage of it.

My ideas can be summed up as follows:

  1. Bet the biggest when you're winning. (But don't go stupidly overboard.)
  2. Always include a win bet - and forget about place betting unless you are seriously going to look at all-up wagers, linking two or three place bets together.
  3. Bet on the longer-priced runners that you choose with as much confidence as you do the shorterpriced runners. It's no use going to the trouble of finding a longshot winner and then betting it small simply because it's at a long price!
  4. Set yourself a limit to lose - and don't exceed it.

In the area of exotics, like quinellas and trifectas, there are many, many ways you can invest your money. It's a subject I am going to be looking at in the second article in this series in next month's December P.P.M.

I have always found trifectas to be a fascinating form of betting. But, like anything else in racing, they have to be attacked on a methodical basis. Losing runs can send you into a state of despair, so you have to work hard to ensure you bet only on the bettable races.

Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.

By Jon Hudson