Professionals brand them the 'stingers'. It's their way of describing the often devastating effect of long losing runs. And, yes, professionals, no matter how good they are, suffer from them more times than you might think.

I was in England recently and a professional punter pal endured the worst losing run of his 30-year betting career, a frustrating, mindblowing, confidence-zapping 28 losers in a row. It almost broke him, not in the pocket but in the mind.

There is nothing worse than seeing your judgement, honed over decades of brutal front-line betting, torn to shreds each day on the racetrack. You reach a point where you think you might never pick another winner!

So how long is a losing run? Well, what does a banana taste like? How long is a piece of string? So it's a silly question. A losing run can be as long as you make it, believe me.

You can attempt - and I stress the word attempt - to anticipate what sort of losing run you might have to endure. To do this you work out your average strike rate.

If it's a whopping 50 per cent (maybe for the place, hardly for the win!) you could rightly expect a worst losing run scenario of only four or five on average, with a maximum around the 12 to 14 mark. Still pretty shaky stuff, right?

But it gets worse. If you can pick 40 per cent winners, your average losing run will probably be around six or seven, but you can expect a longest losing run of some 18 to 20 cuts. Few people can pick such a high number of winners anyway, so the theory will probably remain just that.

There are punters who can manage 33 per cent winners, usually those who slavishly back favourites. A punter whose average strike is, say, between 30 and 35 per cent can expect to hit a losing run of between 9 and 12, and a probable losing run, at some stage, in a worst-case scenario in the vicinity of around 26 to 37 losers!

Have a good think about that one. Most punters, the ones I know anyway, can loiter somewhere between 20 and 25 per cent winners. Now it's my contention that a 25 per cent strike rate will draw an average losing run somewhere in the range of 16 to 18, and a longest losing run possibly up around 48 to 55 (worst case scenario).

The punter who picks around the 20 per cent mark will have an average losing sequence every now and then of between 25 and 28, and a probable longest losing run of at least 75.

If you're a bettor who can't hit those marks, then you should really gear yourself up for long streaky problems! If you hit with only 15 per cent winners, then your average losing run will be around the 40 mark and your longest losing sequence way up around 110 to 120.

This may seem fanciful to you and I don't suggest you will ever actually hit the longest possible run of losers - but the spectre is there, believe me, and you need to prepare yourself for the worst when you draw up a betting money management plan.

If you know you can hit only 20 per cent winners, then your betting bank should reflect the fact that you may strike a shocker of a 'stinger'. If, say, you bet in $5 units, then I suggest you would need a minimum bank of 75 x 5 ($375) to begin betting. You may never have to draw on it all but you should have it there, anyway.

Mind you, if you did happen to back 75 losers in a row then I would humbly suggest you take up gardening or lawn bowls and give the TAB or the racetrack a big miss.

To avoid drifting into long losing sequences, make sure your betting is done on a sensible basis. Take risks by all means, but make sure they are considered risks that are well thought out, and not dreamed up in a drunken haze at the pub or pokies club.

A UK punter has the following approach which he swears has kept him safe from 'stingers' all his betting life. It goes as follows:

  • Don't bet on 2yo races or Maidens.
  • Avoid first-up horses.
  • Eliminate any runner under 2 / 1 and any over 5 / 1.
  • Get rid of any runner listed No. 1 on the tipsters' poll.
  • Eliminate any runner placed six or worse at its last start.
  • Don't consider any horse with a win strike under 40 per cent.
  • Don't consider any runner which has not had at least one win in its last four starts.

By Des Green