This is the second part of our series in which the world's top handicappers outline some of their views on form analysis and betting. The series will be concluded in the November issue of P.P.M.

A lot of punters get too carried away when they find themselves a new system, or get a tip from someone. It's a factor in betting that most professionals are aware of, and over which they can often chuckle, having been in the same situation themselves at some point.

All professionals will tell any keen amateur punter that finding the right selections is only half the battle. The other half is managing the actual betting side of things.

William E. McBride, author of The Gambling Times Guide To Greyhound Racing, has strong views in this area. He says: "Before you put your money on the line, there are some things you must understand.

"The most important of all is that no matter how sharp your system, no matter what percentage of winners you can pick, it is entirely possible, even easy, for the best handicapper at the track to still LOSE money.

"Doing your homework, building your system, scoring your programs and making sharp selections takes a certain measure of time and effort. When you have done this, you are only halfway to a profit."

McBride says the other half is "intelligent betting and money management. While there is no way to make money by smart betting without a good system, a good system alone is absolutely no guarantee of a profit."

McBride recommends that a punter repeat five times the following words: "Betting correctly is just as important as handicapping correctly." Firstly, he advises, you have to decide what your level of betting should be.

He says: "Some of us are born $2 punters and feel stressful when we exceed that level. For many folks, it just feels more natural to buy five $2 tickets than it does to buy one $10 ticket.

"It is often said that one should not risk more than one is prepared to lose. That's easier said than done. I am not prepared to lose even $5! It doesn't give me pleasure to lose. A fan once turned to me just before the last race and said, 'Boy, it sure is tiring to lose!'

"That's the truth. Nobody likes it. It makes the drive home at least twice as long. But on the other hand a $5 loss won't push me into bankruptcy... The thing is, nobody can tell you how much is too much but yourself.

"There are few rich enough to pursue a losing system or a losing betting practice. Even with moderate betting, say an average of $10 a race, you might be wagering $120 a night (greyhound racing, USA). If you lose half of that, and keep doing so three times a week for six months, that would be a total loss of $4,680!"

McBride suggests that a punter's starting point should be based on the premise that he is entering a part-time business. Your business is going to involve being smarter than the average race fan at selecting winning combinations.

He says: "You won't have much overhead, but you'll have to burn some midnight oil to develop your methods. You won't need to advertise, for your 'customers' are readily available. You'll have to get to your place of business regularly, but you won't need to punch a time clock.

"You'll have to keep your mind on what you're doing at all times, but it sure won't be dull. You will need some capital to start the business; you either have it, or you don't - you can either save up enough or you can't."

McBride warns that because of the element of risk involved the starting capital should not be borrowed. He adds: "The question then becomes, what can you afford to lose if your methods or willpower become faulty - if your business doesn't succeed?

"That's your loss limit. It may be higher than the actual start-up amount, but you had better determine in advance exactly where the line is, so you will know when you get there, and stop. Or, better yet, recognise when you are headed there and retrench before you blow away the working capital."

McBride cautions against the compulsion to plunge or to bet too much. In the same vein, the US expert Tom Ainslie has some words of warning.

In his book Ainslie's Encyclopaedia of Thoroughbred Handicapping, he says: "Many good handicappers hate to sit in idleness waiting for the next big opportunity to arise. They crave action.

"Some, including a few who have broken into print, try to alleviate the problem by betting minimum amounts on most races, reserving their bigger outlays for selections they regard as prime.

"This conceivably works for persons genuinely able to differentiate the prime from the humdrum, but I suspect that most players afflicted with so grave a need for gambling action are never in full control and must sometimes decide to make large bets on horses that do not deserve such support - just to make the action more exciting."

NEXT MONTH: Tom Ainslie makes telling points about 'basic minimums' and losing runs, and tells quinella and exacta punters exactly how much they should bet on their combinations. Don't miss this excellent final article in this series - a 2 page special.

Click here to read Part 3.
Click here to read Part 1.

By Jon Hudson