In the second part of our Great Debate feature, two of our contributors, P.B. King and Mark Merrick, continue the analysis of form handicapping. This month they discuss the pitfalls facing punters.

MM: Whenever I am asked about the greatest pitfall likely to trap punters I always say it's the overbetting problem. Too many bets. It's something I learned the hard way, and everyone I talk to about it admits they had the same struggle, with many admitting they still haven't conquered it.

PBK: Well, much depends on whether you bet for fun or seriously. Most punters seem to bet for the fun and excitement and challenge of it all. They never expect to win long-term. These are the ones who will embark on the chain-betting sprees, giving themselves no hope of winning, yet most don't seem to mind. It's like the average casino visitor. He goes into the casino with $100 in his pocket and will be amazed if he leaves with $10, let alone win anything.

MM: Agreed, yet I suspect that even recreational punters would like to streamline their betting technique to enable them to at least slash their losses. While we're talking about chain betting, the thing that goes hand in hand with it is haphazard staking. The punter goes on a day's betting with no idea of how he will bet his selections.

PBK: I've seen a few professionals vanish from the scene simply because of that exact problem. They were marvellous judges of form but you wouldn't trust them with your son's pocket money.

MM: Next to chain betting, and bad staking, I think the major pitfall facing us as punters is the matter of price, or perhaps I should say value. Securing value. It's harder than it might seem.

PBK: Yes, even being on course is no guarantee you'll be able to get a good price. Bookmakers are a fading force; they just can't bet the prices like they used to because there are fewer punters at the track and they are more astute than they used to be. In the good old days there was plenty of money for all runners in a race, but now the bookies are lucky if they can lay just a few runners.

MM: What do we tell the punters then? I think that you have to weigh up the worth and value of every bet, then only go into action when the response to your study and thinking is positive, which means the possible profit is worth the financial risk that's involved.

PBK: I guess this means that every punter should make some attempt to draw up his own prices? That's a tough one for them.

MM: Sure, but you don't have to spend day and night on it. just taking a guess is better than nothing. Using your instinct to say, well, I think this horse is a 3/1 chance and I won't take any less. At least the punter is doing something to make an assessment. After a year, he will be in a position to know how good or bad his judgement has been!

PBK: There's also the question of whether to back for a win, the place, or eachway. Sometimes eachway is safe but the punter could find that he would be much further in front over the long term by backing win only.

MM: Sure, but once the eachway comfort zone is removed there is a temptation to change your way of thinking when selecting, and it often happens that the winners don't arrive.

PBK: Yes, I think most punters want to feel secure, or they want to get something back on a regular basis, even if it's only part of what they invested. The fact that some money is coming back keeps the confidence level up. With straight win bets there can be dispiriting losing streaks which affect confidence and the ability to think straight!

MM: My final advice is for the punter to restrict himself to four or five bets a day if he already bets eight or more. And to try to secure a good price.

PBK: I'd say that price is all-important and I'd recommend two bets a race rather than one eachway bet.

Click here to read Part 1.

By P.B. King and Mark Merrick