I there's one thing that just about all professionals agree on it's this: Compile your own set of odds on each race you plan to bet.

It's simple advice, but vital. To succeed in your betting (at least from a long-term perspective) it's essential that you know when you are getting value and when you are not.

If you keep on backing genuine 3/1 chances at 2/1 it's a recipe to fail. Why? Because those 3/1 chances will win 25 races per 100 races. At their intrinsic true price, the return would be level for the punter.

But you are backing them at 2/1, so you'd have 25 winners at 2/1 for a total return of 75 and a loss of 25 units.

The respected English expert Mark Coton makes much of the 'value' issue in his book 100 Hints For Better Betting.

"Value is all," he writes. "The best habit any of us could acquire would be to ensure we obtain value for money on every selection we make. Unfortunately . . . this one is far easier talked or written about than put into practice."

Coton believes punters should follow the lead of top sportsmen.

"They spend many more hours on the practice ground than they do in open competition and we backers could take the hint," says Coton. "Our problem is that we spend nearly all our time in the field and far too little reflecting on our performance and refining our technique."

So what is Coton's advice? Tell yourself that value is everything!

All of us are likely to run our eyes over the form for a race and, after a while, decide which horse or horses we feel are best equipped to win. That's fine, as far as it goes.

The world experts, though, are adamant that it's only a part of the

battle. The next move is to assess the actual chance of your selection(s).

As Mark Coton says, you then have to ask yourself what price you are prepared to take for the selection(s). What is the lowest price you'd be prepared to take?

Maybe you have chosen a horse in an Epsom Handicap. There are some 18 runners, and your fancy is drawn wide. You think it can win but, realistically, what chance does it actually have?

If a bookmaker offered you 3/1, would you accept it, just because you wanted to back your selection? If you don't compile your own oddsline, or at least make a stab at assessing a minimum price, then you really have no way of knowing if you're securing value or a rubbish price.

J. Levin Browne, an American professional from the 1970s, wrote in his newsletter On The Turf that he'd never venture onto a racecourse unless he had personally priced each and every runner on the card.

"The price I require means everything to me," he wrote. "Without a price assessment for the horses I like, I am like a man going out to do business without his trousers on."

Our own Richard Hartley Jnr has written many times before about the importance of value. I well remember a few years back when Richard received more than 30 letters from readers following one of his articles about betting.

Many of those readers got back in touch with him a year or more later and told him how they'd turned their betting around by going for value instead of just betting blind and taking any old price.

Richard says: "No matter what method you use, you should always keep a number of pertinent points firmly in mind when you are betting. Never bet unless you are really sure that you are fully satisfied with your choice.

"Never bet just for the sake of having a bet, and always be satisfied that the price you are taking is worth the risk you are taking. Because that's what betting is all about, risk, and how we can lessen that risk.

"It's like holding your hand over an open flame. Be reckless and you will get your hand burned, probably badly. Be very astute and careful and you will be able to warm your hand and never get it burned."

J. Levin Browne adds: "Much depends on whether you value your money. Bet carelessly with your money and it will disappear. Invest it wisely, on horses that represent value, and you will beat the game. It won't be easy, but being your own odds compiler is essential.

"I have always maintained that all the hard work is more than worth it."

Click here to read Part 1.

By Philip Roy