A fantastic new series that explores all the lurks.

So you want to start 1995 with a New Year's resolution to kick your bad betting habits and replace them with new resolve, new discipline and new patience? Well, sounds like a great idea to me.

The key question, though, is: How best do you achieve such a state of betting bliss? Like everything else in these busy times, it's a matter of setting goals, picking your spots, and making sure that every invested dollar achieves maximum return.

In this series of articles, I am going to take you through 100 betting ideas. They will cover the full spectrum of racing selection and investment. Once you have studied the 100 ideas I am confident you will be a better and, ultimately, a richer, punter.

The beginning of a fresh year is just the right time to get your 'house' in order to start the long haul to punting respectability.


    The targets that any punter sets have to be within the realms of reality. If you're a $10 punter don't set yourself the goal of winning thousands of dollars. Estimate your annual turnover and then aim at winning 20 per cent. If you bet $50 a week over, say, 50 weeks that's a turnover of $2500. Your target for profit should be 20 per cent of that, which is $500. Most punters will turnover a couple of hundred dollars a week. In that case the annual turnover is $10,000 and the 20 per cent target is $2000.

    To make any sense out of racing, you have to make form study a habit. Decide, before you start anything, how many days a week you are going to bet, and put aside special time to study the form for the meetings you are going to cover. And remember that you are going to have to budget for 'extras' like formguides, videos, magazines, any computerisation you use, transport to and from the tracks - all that sort of thing (even to allowing for the drinks and food you eat at the track or at the TAB). Get as much in the way of form information at your disposal as you can. Knowledge is power.

    Panic never won a war. Panic never wins the betting war, either. Once your have set yourself goals, chosen your bets, and decided on an approach, don't panic if things do not go as planned. If you have faith in what you are doing - in your selection process and the management approach you are using to bet the selections - then panic is uncalled for. Keep calm.

    We've all had those days when everything seems to go right. Yet how many of us truly capitalise on the sunshine days? Not many, I bet. The trouble is that punters are always underbetting winners and overbetting losers.

    This is why staking is important. Your armoury should include the capacity to upgrade the size of your bets when you enter the 'supreme confidence' phase. This is the time when you know that everything seems right, and that it's your day to make a killing. One extra great day per year can lift your profits enormously.

    There are so many different approaches to selecting and betting. You have to choose one that suits your personal style. It's no good taking on a staking plan that might call for big bets if you haven't got the stomach to hand over the big bills. Tailor your cloth to suit your needs, and what you can handle psychologically. You must develop a style of betting that suits you 100 per cent. If you hate quinellas and trifectas, don't bother with them. Stick with what makes you comfortable.

    Ah, easier said than done. Too many punters simply bet too many races. If you've set goals, and you have your selection method in hand, you should know which races to choose. Study the past to find the clues to the future. Which races have served you best? Which type of races have been dead losses? Stick with the winners, axe the losers.

    When you study form, make sure you study it properly. A common failing is to get a 'fancy' for a particular horse and allow that attachment to cloud your judgment. Go through the form of every horse in the race. Many punters even start from the rank outsiders and work down to the favourite. In this way, they can avoid the temptation to write off the longshots because they just can't be bothered looking at their form.

    Certain elements always have to be assessed when you are doing the form. They are Class, Weight, Form Fitness. These can be called the key factors of form. You must determine if a horse is up to the Class of the race; you must decide if he can carry his weight and win; you must decide if his form is good enough; and finally you have to assess whether a horse is fit to win. Always bear these things in mind, and answer each point objectively. A simple 'tick test' can be used against each factor for each horse. Why not make up your own ruled sheet and have hundreds printed at your nearest quick-print shop?

    When you put a horse through the form 'wringer' you should put more emphasis on recent form than on old form. One Brisbane professional says he puts a limit of 18 months on formlines, and always takes more notice of what a horse has done in the latest six months. But sometimes you can find the key to a race through a bit of old form, so it can never be ruled out entirely.

    One of the questions you must ask yourself is whether a selection can run the distance of the race? In most cases, the answer will be clear. The horse will have previous winning form over the trip. Often, though, the answer is not so clear. The horse may be untried at the distance. This is when you have to use your skill and judgment. Even if a horse is a winner at the journey, he may now face a rise in class and you have to decide if he can meet this Class challenge and still get the distance. Then there's the question of weight. A horse may win over 1200m with 51 and 52kg but can it carry 56 or 57 kg and win? Take a lot of care on the distance factor. Try to imagine the race in your mind. Look at the other runners to judge for early speed and late-closers.

    It goes without saying that some trainers and jockeys dominate racing. We all know who they are. It is especially important that in major races you give a lot of thought to the entries from the leading stables. History shows they will win a significant number of Group 1, 2 and 3 races. Lee Freedman and David Hayes are the leading duo. If it's a choice between an unknown stable and a Freedman horse, the percentages say you should stick with the strength.

    Punters are always wracked by doubts and fear. This is normal. Even the most seasoned and professional punter will be assailed by worries of various kinds. Some races will end up with you being confused by doubt. Will I bet, won't I bet? If there are doubts in your mind, if you can't really choose between various runners, then simply stay out. It won't hurt to miss a race or two. There will always be plenty more. Never be afraid of missing a winner. You will avoid backing more losers than you will miss backing winners. Caution is good sense in these instances of doubt.

    Once you have decided on the manner in which you choose your selections, and on how you will bet them, stay committed to that course. Don't be sidetracked by someone else's tips or urgings. Bet your horses and leave it at that.

    There is little long-term value in entrusting your cash to your mate's tips. If you've put in the hard work yourself, you should be quite satisfied that you have done enough and bet accordingly.

    Perhaps the only way any punter is going to make a long-term profit is by gaining value with the invested dollar. This means that you will have to bet against the public if you are to have any chance. Don't be suckered into backing under-valued horses; there's no future in it. Remember that if the bookies are posting a horse at evens (50 per cent) they will have given it a true value of less than that, probably at least 6/4(40percent). That means you are accepting poor value if you accept their even money. Make sure any bet you make is a value bet according to your informed research and analysis.

    It's not so hard to make your own betting market. You can do it off the top of your head. Price your main fancies first. Ask yourself what price you would be prepared to take about your top pick? Would you back it at 6/4 or would that seem foolish? Does 5/2 make you feel comfortable? If so, make that the cut-off point, or perhaps even a half point longer, for safety's sake. If this approach doesn't appeal, then look for a mechanical way of assessment. Allot points and work out the price that way.

    Never overbet. Chain betting reckless race-to-race betting - will never get you anywhere. You have to pick your spots. Keep the number of bets under control. You don't have to restrict yourself to just one. But something around 5 or 6 should be enough for the day. That amount gives you enough action and the chance of survival.

Next month, I'll continue this series with a further 20 great betting ideas - covering the establishment of your betting capital, how to protect it and how to make regular profits.

Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.
Click here to read Part 4.
Click here to read Part 5.

By Martin Dowling