The best advice any punter can take on board is that which urges him to protect his own pocket. It's advice that the majority of punters dare to defy, usually at their own expense.

Certainly, we've tried in this magazine over the years to drum into our betting readers that money management is as important as the selections themselves. We can all find winners. Finding the ways to profit from them to the greatest advantage is not so easy.

What do experts around the world have to say on the subject? Well, there are differing ideas. Some are totally rational and will not have a bar of anything that smacks of a target betting method, or a progression method.

They believe only in value (overlay) betting, or betting to a percentage of your bank, that percentage being related to your win strike. Let's take a peek at some of the views of these international betting professionals. Amongst their comments are some nuggets of gold when it comes to staking and making the most of your winners.

The matter of intelligent betting involves three angles, factors or questions. The first question is what to bet, and the answer, in the abstract at least, is easy: Always bet the best horse.

The second question is when to bet, which involves consideration of the extremely important factor of price, or odds. And the third question is how to bet, which involves consideration of the finishing positions for which the horses should be backed (win or place).

Any betting operation which aims at a planned profit, and not a mere wishful expectancy of profit, should involve a plan to make a series of bets over an extended period, say, six months or a year.

These bets should involve only horses that are so well placed in their races that the percentage of successful returns obtained, at the average price on all winning plays, will yield a worthwhile gain.

All wagers, I believe, should be on a flat basis in the same amount, until accrued profits have raised one's available capital to a point where a heavier play may be undertaken and maintained through the unavoidable periods of loss.

The first bet of a series should not be so large in relation to the total capital held in reserve that a foreseeable sequence of losers would exhaust that capital.

A really good handicapper should have a capital of $200 before undertaking $10 wagers, or 20 times the amount of his minimum bet.

Remember this: The amateur places undue importance on the winning of his next bet while the professional is content to win a bet anytime in the reasonable future, for he knows that long-term averages is what the game is all about.

The wagering side is more in need of structure than the handicapping process. Countless numbers of players make but a fraction of their potential profits by not giving as much attention to the wagering side as they do to the selection of betting targets.

They will focus on achieving the highest possible ratio of win percentage and average payoff, which is fine, but then ignore such things as the effective wagering strategy.

The first golden rule of money management is that you must obtain the right balance of win (success %) level and average winning payoff. If the average payoff is 5/2, you must win 45 per cent (9 times in every 20 bets) to make a significant profit. An average payoff of 2/1 requires a 50 per cent success rate just to break even (including costs).

I won't comment extensively, then, about the advisability of conventional flat bet 'place' betting, where the average payoff is $1.60 or less (for $l).

(Selvidge is the proponent of the betting approach whereby you bet the base bet plus the square root of any profits.)


  • Seek where thou wilt for the winners, but bet only when thou seest value; deliver thyself from the temptation to bet in every race.
  • Put not thy faith in luck, nor in the law of averages, nor thy trust in staking systems, for these are illusions.
  • Let thy stake be related to the depth of thy pocket and to what thou regardest as the true chance of every horse; that which hath the greater chance deserveth the greater stake.
  • Thou shalt not bet eachway in big fields, unless thou art well satisfied as to the value of the place bet.
  • Bet with book or tote according to thy judgement; thus shalt thou endeavour to get the best of both worlds.
  • Let thy betting be informed by wisdom and diligence, and tempered by patience and caution, and leavened but a little with boldness.
  • Let thy bets be well within thy means; he that would make his fortune in a week loseth his ducats in a day.

Other points to stress: The importance of self-control and beating the temptation to chase losses. The temptation to regard the race as already won, before the horses are off. Allowing yourself to become so mesmerised by a horse that you can't recognise the value of its price.

Try to step outside yourself and see what it is you are really doing. Be objective. Finally, the importance of equanimity, win or lose.

The short answer is you bet only when you have value; when the odds available are greater than they should be. If you want to bet for fun, that's fine. You're entitled to go racing, back your fancy in every race and enjoy the entertainment.

But if you're betting seriously, for profit not entertainment, backing your fancy is out, right out. You have to discipline yourself to bet only when you can bet with value. This is the crux of the whole thing. The overall odds in each individual race are weighted far more heavily against the backer than they are on the spin of the wheel at roulette, but the game of horse-racing presents enormous opportunities for the exercise of skill and judgement. That's what makes it possible to win.


*Start considering win and place betting when the odds to win reach 2/1. Bet win and place no matter how high the odds when your calculations indicate that no two horses can beat your selection.

*Bet heaviest when you are winning.

*Always include a win bet in your wagers. Place-only betting rarely turns a profit. Bet on your longshots as confidently as you bet on the favourites.

I've found that winning at the races runs in streaks. I don't ascribe this purely to luck. A winning bettor is a confident bettor.

He makes his selections fully expecting to win. He isn't plagued by nagging doubts that can result in last-minute changes of mind that are usually disastrous at the track.

Equally important, a winner is betting with his winnings, not with the money he brought with him to the track.

My second rule for maximising gains is 'never eliminate win from your bets'. By this, I don't mean that you should always bet win only. By going just for the place, by eliminating the win bet, you eliminate your chance for the biggest possible payoff on a horse.

My final rule is psychological. You must learn to like longshots as much as you like the favourites. By this, I don't mean that you should search wildly for longshots in every race; you won't find them easily.

What I do mean is that you must have confidence in your handicapping and the courage of your convictions. A longshot, by definition, is a horse the public doesn't think will win. When you pick a longshot, you'll probably have to spend the pre-race period in the grandstand listening to people around you tell each other how little they like your selection.

Don't pick your longshots lightly or quickly, but once you find one you like, stick with him unless there's good reason to change your mind. The only way you will beat the game financially is by uncovering those good 4/1, 6/1, 8/1 and 10/1 shots that will make up for the losses you'll inevitably have.

The surest way to get in trouble financially at the track is to bet too heavily on short-priced horses. When you put your money on an 8/5 shot, do it with the full understanding that it won't make you rich. A successful bet at 8/5 will win you $16 (for $10).

If that's a big-enough return for you, fine. If not, wait until you find something you like at longer odds.

Because handicapping and betting are exercises in establishing probabilities, a player can do everything right and still tear up tickets. As a matter of fact, unless a player is extremely selective and bets nothing but the most outstanding prospects, more bets will be lost than won.

Irrelevant! What matters, of course, is the size of the payoffs collected on the winners ... the odds.  And it is rigorous handicapping that makes possible the recognition of those profitable odds.

How much a handicapper bets at the right odds depends largely on the individual temperament. The best advice for players remains that offered by Tom Ainslie. He suggested that a player bet only 5 per cent of his bankroll on a playable race.

He formulated this conservative approach with a healthy respect for the risk-filled nature of betting horses. This plan provides the player with a strong defence against the inevitable losing streaks that often bankrupt other players using less restrictive approaches.

I have been at some pains to stress the dangers as well as the advantages inherent in the use of stake-adjusted formulas. This is because a long losing run on which all betting enterprises may founder is a threat whose occurrence must always be considered as a possibility, however remote.

Yet nothing can eradicate the consequences of a disastrous run of losers, whether you use a staking plan or not. Given the extreme difficulty of winning at racing, let me state my belief that the use of staking plans can increase profits to such an extent that no backer who hopes to win a worthwhile sum can really do without them.

Provided that reliable selection methods are used, staking plans, for better or worse, may be the only way to win consistently and well at racing.

As you will have noted, the experts have varying ideas on how best to tackle the matter of staking, but all are aware that the punter has to do all in his power to protect his pocket.

What they basically advise is conservative betting with just a touch of flair and daring. Those who advocate the 'maximum boldness' approach are not that enamoured of level stakes betting. English professional David Rosness says: "All my wins have come when I've had the guts and the inclination to have big bets. My plunge bets as I call them. Without them, I think I would have given up betting merely because of boredom by now.

"Boring betting - the same amount on every horse - leads to the punter getting really frustrated. When this happens, he can lose all reason, or just quit because he feels he isn't getting anywhere.

"Your betting has to have an injection of life on a regular basis, even if it means a loser is backed. You need to generate excitement so that your mind is refreshed and challenged, and you can keep on top of the whole thing."

The following are the books from which the above quotes were taken. We can recommend all of them for absorbing and constructive reading.

  • Dowst Revisited, by Ron Thacker (Gambler's Book Club, 1977).
  • Money Management, by James Selvidge (Parker Productions, 1984).
  • Bull The Biography, by Howard Wright (Portway Press, 1995).
  • How To Win At The Races, by Sam Lewin (Wilshire Book Company, 1969).
  • Winner's File, by Henry Kuck (Wm Morrow & Company, 1993).
  • Horse Racing, by Statistician (Foulsham, 1992).

By P.B. King