When we talk of the 'professionals' in the game who are we really talking about? Bookies are professionals. They live off racing. Few bettors are professionals. Those that can claim to be full-time professionals are few indeed.

But the ones that survive in the rather brutal betting world seem to do so for a long, long time. They are not shooting stars. They are in it for the long run.

It's these professionals whose advice we have to listen to most carefully, because they have 'been there, done that' where punting is concerned. Most have been severely bruised at some stage of their betting life - and yet they have come through as winners.

Like Desmond Wrigley, a New York punter who has made a living from betting on the horses for some 25 years. Like Clive Holt, a British professional and author of some best-selling books. Like Sam 'The Genius' Lewin, one of the great American professionals from the 30s and 40s. Like the late Rem Plante, who helped forge a completely new approach to betting for Australians. Like the American 'speed ratings' ace Andy Beyer, a household name around the world through his writings on betting and racing.

Let's have a look at what they have to say about this 'winner mania' problem we all try to conquer!

To win in this game, you have to go in with a clear mind. Anyone trying to win while consumed with a dozen domestic problems is going to face a tough time. Stress will stop you being a winner. On top of all this, you have to be prepared to get your head down into some serious work - and even before you do this you have to map out a plan for yourself, adopt some long-term goals, so you know what you're after, what the task is.

There are a number of areas in which you need to become proficient: (a) good handicapping (b) good book-keeping and data collection (c) money management (d) psychological preparedness.

In other words, you've got to be good at everything in a technical sense, and then you have to win the fight with yourself. It all comes down to you in the end.

You have to love what you're doing. You have to accept what you're good at and what you're bad at. Find the space in the racing business that suits you. If you're no good at taking risks, then cut yourself down so that you bet conservatively and you don't feel sick at the thought of losing a bet.

Get your handicapping skills up to scratch, keep accurate records, maintain a sensible money management plan, and get your head in order! Those are my four pieces of advice."

If one seriously wants to make a profit from racing, it has to be treated as a business. It is then not gambling. The majority of racegoers are gamblers. Most of them have only a faint knowledge of racing, if any at all, and therefore their punting is purely gambling.

It is from these gamblers that bookmakers make a living. They thrive on 'stab in the dark' punters, from gambling racegoers who have virtually no idea whether or not their fancies have any winning chance.

If you are watching the betting you will be amazed at the amount of money being placed on no-hopers, horses who have by virtue of their class, form, or any other reasons, not the remotest chance of winning or even running a place.

The smart punter, professional or otherwise, knows very well what he is doing. His logical and scientific approach to the many problems in the various races has enabled him to single out the very few horses who have, on form and weight, the best winning chances.

Avoid unnecessary risks as much as possible. Each time a risk can be avoided, the winning percentage will be enhanced." (The Australian Horse Racing & Punters Guide, out of print.)

Every professional I ever knew made sure he always knew how much he could lose.

Before you leave for the track decide exactly how much you can afford to lose. Once having arrived at a loss figure you can handle comfortably, make it your business not to exceed that figure.

I can't stress too much the importance of setting and sticking to a daily loss-limit. This will send you off to the track in the proper frame of mind, secure in the knowledge that you can put your money behind your judgement fearlessly, without worrying about whether you can afford it.

Setting a loss-limit and sticking to it will free you from the disease of trying to get even late in the day when you've had some bad luck early. Remember that financial success at the track doesn't require coming out ahead every day.

Nobody, not even the most skilful professional gambler, can win all the time; don't expect yourself to be the exception. If you are losing on a particular day, strive to keep your bets within the range decided upon - sometimes this will remove your chances of coming out ahead that day, but that's part of the game. If you limit your losses, you'll have funds left to try again another day. " (How To Win At The Races, published by Wilshire Books.)

I lost my betting bank twice in two years - but I was still learning. I soon came to realise that winning consistently was nowhere near as easy as I had first supposed, and through all this the foundations of success were being laid.

I was never reckless or impatient and each setback was met with increasing equanimity. I didn't know it then but I was getting used to losing – a negative statement if ever there was one.

Have no doubts, though, you have to be able to cope with losing in this game, otherwise you have no chance of winning. Anyone who has bet seriously for any length of time will know exactly what is meant by that statement.

I've never been a big hitter; even now I rarely win more than £1000 at one go, but from that modest start I've derived enormous satisfaction from being successful in such a high risk pursuit.

The betting game has provided me with the pick of fast, luxury cars, winter holidays in the Caribbean, Africa, Australia, America, Israel, Hong Kong, Singapore and all over the Canaries, plus the Mediterranean, of course. It has provided me, my wife and our four children with a Listed Georgian country house, complete with coach house and stables, set in its own acres of parkland.

None of that would have come my way if I was still jointing electricity cables for a living. (Winners Back Winners, published by Fine form.)

You must know yourself when you are at the races. If you don't know who you are, the racetrack can be a very expensive place to find out. Gambling is a form of play in which we can get in touch with ourselves and discover our real identity.

A lot of gamblers use the track to try and discover who they really are. The price they pay for this indulgence is that they lose more money than they planned to lose. They lose more because they play more races than they should - and the more you play the more you lose.

What I mean by self-knowledge is to know how to behave at the racetrack. What are your biases? What kind of races are you a sucker for? Are you a sucker for stable information or are you addicted to the tip sheet and the program selections?

Get yourself basic knowledge of probability theory. You can't manage your bankroll without understanding probability. You have to know the size of bankroll needed in relation to the percentage advantage you have with your particular betting approach." (Harness Racing Gold, published by International Gaming Corp.)

The advent of the exotic wagering era has introduced to the sport unprecedented potential for pain and suffering ... A handicapper who concentrates on the exotics will necessarily endure longer droughts and losing streaks than a more conservative player.

No matter how prudently a bettor plays the exotics, he will never avoid the psychological stress involved. A bettor cannot become totally preoccupied by these high risk forms of gambling. He must play them as part of an overall strategy that includes slightly more conservative wagers, just as a smart investor may have some of his money in treasury bonds while he is speculating in foreign currencies.

While I rarely bet to win, and never bet to place, exactas still constitute a substantial portion of my action. And I will play trifectas and 'pick 3s' with enough marginal combinations and savers that they don't necessarily constitute an all-or-nothing gamble.

Even when I am betting seriously on a 'pick 6', I will play my key horse or horses in other wagers. If I am singling a 5 / 2 shot in the 'pick 6', I will probably bet him in the exacta, too." (Beyer On Speed, published by Houghton Mifflin.)

"If an able handicapper of overlays is so shaken by a string of losers that he starts to bet on favourites then his chance of success is nullified until he gets back on the decently-priced animals that will result in a fair profit over a period of time and a sequence of bets.

A person flat-betting at a certain level should not let a string of losers influence him into switching to a low betting level, for when the winners start coming in again it will take much longer at the reduced betting unit to recover losses and achieve a profit." (Dowst Revisited, published by Gamblers' Book Club.)

Professional handicappers actually have a better chance of making money than with other investments. When they invest elsewhere, they have risk. They do not know if the investment will make money.

Even when they do make money, they cannot predict how much, or when it will occur. " (Ten Steps To Winning, published by Liberty.)

Click here to read Part 1.

By Philip Roy