How can a punter win what the professionals call the 'hot cash' at betting on the races? Thousands of small punters dream of hitting the big time, yet few realise the dream. American expert Rufus Perry believes it's all a matter of HOW you bet.

Perry, author of a best-selling book called Play The Races And Win, made his own fortune at betting. But he did it by making a lifetime study of systems and staking plans.

"Rufus never did it easy," says one associate. "He worked enormously hard, and he studied all the angles."

The 'hard work' aspect of gambling is one that is constantly stressed by professionals. Perry, in his study of the various aspects of betting approaches, listed three important avenues for all bettors to consider.

"Ways to win come under three headings - picking the best horses, getting better odds and insuring against losses," he says.

On methods of betting he lists:

  1. Aiming For Winners
  2. Aiming For Odds
  3. Aiming For Insurance
  4. Progressive Systems
  5. Playing Overlays

The system he used for much of his betting life was what he called the 'Selective Odds' Plan and the rules are as follows:

  1. Use the tipsters' poll as your guide. Use one which has 6 tipsters. If your paper has more than 6 tipsters then cut out the tipsters you feel do not perform well and limit the poll to the best 6.
  2. Group all 'first selections' and bet the one that gives the highest closing odds - IF 3/1 or better.
  3. If there are no 'first selections' paying 3/1 or more, then play the top 2nd pick of the tipsters, providing it is at 3/1 or longer.
  4. Should there be two 'second choices' with the same number of tipster votes, bet the one at the highest odds.
  5. If you have two 'first selections' on equal odds of 3/1 or better, then bet the one chosen by the most tipsters. If still the same, ignore the race.
  6. Avoid any horse at 20/1 or longer.

Glendon Jones is another expert who has taken the time to thoroughly analyse all factors of betting. He talks about the 'inner struggle' that punters face when trying to bet and make a profit.

Jones has handed out his views in a widely-praised book called Horse Racing Logic in which he says: "It does not take a genius to beat the races, but it does require a mind able to work through a puzzle or problem in a reasonably unbiased and logical way.

"Judgement at the track refers to the ability to mentally weigh and compare several interrelated tangible and intangible factors and make decisions that, on the average, are correct."

Jones believes in hard work, persistence, decisiveness and patience. He warns that the road to betting success is "piled high with obstacles" and these include the tote take, long boring periods of poor opportunities, periods of emotional and financial hardship, loneliness, hard work, fear and greed cycles, self-doubts, the physical demands of attending the races, and self-recrimination because of mistakes.

The balancing plusses, he adds, are a sense of freedom, the challenge, the potential for large income.

"Successful horse playing entails a lot of waiting for favourable situations," says Glendon Jones. "Some days there may be four or five good bets, other days there may be none." He warns against impatience and boredom.

What can a punter reasonably expect if he attacks betting in a serious way? Jones says: "The consistent winner has learned over time that, when doing a proper job, the hours are long, the work is intensive, the bets are few, the percentage returns are usually modest, losing days are not uncommon and winning streaks rare."

He advocates that punters set low profit expectations and explains his reasoning like this: "High expectations force a player to be more extreme, to take excessive risks by wagering on exotic bets and seemingly large but nonexistent overlays. The resulting disappointment can be psychologically defeating, to the extent that it leads to further unreasonable behaviour, setting up a vicious circle that terminates in collapse."

Jones believes many punters are ruined by greed and fear. He says greedy betting behaviour can feed on itself and "one failed greedy bet usually leads to another larger bet, and so on, until the player decides to make one last bet to get even. By this time, emotion controls judgement so that the last bet is among the worst."

Generally, the world's experts who have made money at racing, and continue to do so, agree that the 'hot cash' is achievable if you work at the game hard enough, and refuse to buckle to its siren temptations of greed, overbetting and its continual offer of underpriced horses!

Says one leading Sydney professional: "You can start out as a low-bet punter and gradually build up. But there are three main things you must think about when you decide to bet: What are your profit expectations, how many bets will you have and how many losers can you afford?

"For myself, I aim for around $50,000 profit. I might not achieve it, but that's my aim. It isn't too big, and it isn't too niggardly. To achieve it I have to turn over around $300,000 a year, which means I am looking at between 16 and 17 per cent profit.

"A punter who bets, say, $100 a week would be seeking a profit over a year of some $800 to $900. That doesn't seem much but it's still the same percentage return I seek, so everything is relative. For a small punter to expect to win more than 20 per cent in hot cash is, in my opinion, a pipe dream."

This professional bets in what he calls a 'safety band' of between $250 and $400 on horses he regards as 'value' overlays.

"I take the view that if a horse isn't really worth the lowest bet of $250, then it's not worth a bet at all," he explains. "I never have bets for the sake of having a bet. Betting is too serious for that."

Joe Riley is an American professional who has made 'hot cash' pay for the last 30 years. He relates the story of his success in the following way: "My job has always been to detect when the betting public is in error. I chase the betting bargains. Sometimes it can be a favourite who is at too big a price, other times it's a second or third choice or possibly a longshot.

"These bargains don't happen in every race. But if you always keep in mind that the key to winning is to do what the public does not do, then you will be on the winning path.

"You need to study what I call 'power factors' and some of these are Class, favourable form cycle, good training gallops, easy laststart winners, a favourable jockey switch, recent racing and a good win strike. Use these properly and it makes it all simple."

Longshots and Dutch
Punters who bet 'Dutch' are basically taking out insurance on the horse they figure to win. Many professionals, who operate on gaining just a small percentage edge, back in the Dutch manner and they are happy to make even a small percentage profit.

American professional, George 'The Grizzly' Grogan gained fame many years ago for his uncanny ability to win every year using the Dutch approach. He put out a series of pamphlets outlining his theories in the late 1940s.

His experiences have been mirrored here in Australia by a number of successful professionals down through the years, But Dutch betting, though it looks easy, has to be carefully handled, You need a longshot or two in the selections.

You cannot bet Dutch unless the prices on offer give you a reasonable expectation of making a decent profit. Let's look at the Grizzly Grogan approach. He recommended that you never bet if the prices of the horses you have chosen add up to more than 60 per cent, using bookmakers' percentages.

We'll assume you want to back three horses at 3/1, 4/1 and 9/1. Their percentages (25, 20 and 10) total 55 per cent. Let's say you want to bet a total of $20, The size of the bet on each horse is determined by the proportion of its percentage of the total 55.

For the 3/1 horse, its 25 per cent is divided by 55, giving the answer 0,4545. This is the proportion of the total stake of $20 which is to be bet on this horse. The actual bet is calculated thus: $20 x 0.4545 equals $9.09, rounded off to $9. You then do similar workouts on the other two selections.

The 411 horse ends up with a $7 bet, and the third horse at 9/1 is bet for $3,60 (or rounded up to $4). The total bets are $20. If the 3/1 horse wins, the return is $36, if the 4/1 chance wins the return is $35 and the same with the other horse at 9/1 (or $40 if you bet the $4).

You stand to make at least $15 on the bet, no matter which horse wins. This is Dutching.

By Jon Hudson