Jon Hudson, a professional punter for many years, and now one of PPM's leading contributors, reveals the secrets of how you CAN make money at punting- if only you take the time.

Is it really possible to win at punting? It's the perennial question, isn't it, and one that takes on an added dimension in these modern times, where everyone hopes for the monetary break that will enable them to throw off the shackles of the workaday world.

My answer is simple: Yes, you can win at punting. The proviso is this: Be prepared to work harder than you have ever worked in your life to make it happen. Without intense work-through form study and proper money management-you won't make a dollar from your punting, at least not on a regular basis over an extended period of time.

I'll talk about the "average punter" first. He's the type of bloke who loves a bet, and gets a kick out of winning, but he's not really serious about it all. He'll get a newspaper with the fields and jockeys listed and try to back winners, without any study of form at all.

In effect, this average punter is playing a form of racing Lotto, giving his spare cash a fling and hoping he'll get a little more back, but shrugging his shoulders in philosophical acceptance when he loses.

In contrast, the bookmaker runs his punting as a business. So do professional punters. They know all about percentages, and what they have to do to get an edge on the next fellow.

The truth is that with careful staking and careful selecting you can make a nice living from betting. You can start with a bank of $100 only, and make a steady $5 a week. But average punters are not content to do this. They are not interested in making $250 profit per year. They want instant, and regular, windfalls. Big, big profits for little or no work.

Yet any punter keen to make a success of his betting must be prepared to scrap this approach-and get deadly serious. Forget all about guesswork, hunches, following jockeys, backing false favourites, betting on the wrong races and listening to the coat-tuggers' tips.

The 10 tenets of wisdom you should follow are these:

  1. Have a cold and logical mind.
  2. Make sure you have a high regard for FACTS.
  3. Concentrate your mind and have a capacity for remembering small details, especially when studying form.
  4. Get a complete knowledge of betting figures in relation to a horse's true chance in a race.
  5. Have patience to wait for the right races on which to bet.
  6. Refuse to bet on every race and never bet just for the sake of having a bet.
  7. Have the courage of your convictions. This will enable you to bet right at the right time.
  8. Be wise, and never give back all your winnings, and never lose your head in attempting to wildly chase your losses.
  9. Never assume that any one horse has a race at his mercy. If you are going to bet, make sure you study the form of each runner.
  10. Always manage your money properly. Bet in an orderly and consistent manner. Bet within your capacity to lose.

A professional colleague of mine is one of those punters who has a bet perhaps once a fortnight. He's been doing this for years and years. He makes his living from punting. He tells me he earns around $2000 a week over the year. He bets in $500 and $1000 units for a win or place. He picks his 'spots' very carefully.

How does he do this? He has an office in his Sydney home. There is a computer installed, and this has a form data bank programmed into it. He never bets on country and provincial tracks, preferring to restrict himself to Sydney and Melbourne meetings.

He ignores 2yo and 3yo races and confines his betting to Open Handicaps, Welters and High weights, Weight-for-Age events and the occasional Mares' race.

He explains: "I've got all the time in the world to pick a horse. I wait until everything is in my favour-form, fitness, class, going, track, jockey, barrier ... the lot. When I know they are all in place, that's when I strike.

"I seek profit, not continuous action. I could have a dozen bets a year as long as I end up making a good profit.

As it is, I suppose I rarely exceed 30 to 40 bets a year-less than one a week. My win strike is around the 60 per cent mark, which other people find hard to believe, but it's true.

"Why is this so? Because I work and work on a race. I look at it from every possible angle. I sum up the chances of every horse a dozen times; I look for the nooks and crannies in the form, I check for patterns of form, and sometimes go back years to get a line on what a horse might do.

"Normal punters don't have the time or the facilities to do this. That's how I get an edge on them. I have more information at my disposal, and more time to assess it. "

Let's assume, then, you are a punter with a sizeable bank which you are willing to risk in an effort to become a full-time punter. The first thing you do NOT do is give up your job! You must be prepared to give yourself a trial period to see if you have what it takes to bet professionally.

If that means holding down your day job, and working hard at night on your form study, then so be it. There is more to punting and winning than picking the right horse. You've then got to summon up the courage and faith in your own judgement to back it properly!

Without the security of a weekly wage packet behind you, there is every chance you could go to pieces under pressure. Don't laugh-many have done just that.

I recall a pal of mine who prided himself on his punting fearlessness. He was fearless, too, but he had a well-paid job at the same time to fall back on should things go awry.

Then came the day he decided he was mad to keep working. He resigned and went punting full time. In three months, he had blown his entire bank.

"What went wrong," I asked. He looked disconsolate. "I chickened out," he replied. "When it came to backing the horses I lost all my confidence. Suddenly, it wasn't fun anymore. It was hard work, and frightening work. I just didn't possess the nerve.

"I kept thinking to myself that I couldn't allow myself to lose. I thought of my financial responsibilities; suddenly, my judgement was gone. I couldn't make a selection like I used to. I was betting with frightened money."

This is but one case history. There are thousands more. Only a handful of professional punters survive the test of time, and they are the ones who possess the skill to analyse form, and the courage to bet up big, and not be afraid to lose.

Even if you are not going to try being a total professional, you should get your punting affairs into order. Buy yourself a book in which you can jot down all the bets you make-stake outlaid, horse, type of bet, meeting, date, track conditions, result.

In this way, over a period of time, you'll be able to pinpoint the areas where your betting is falling down. You may be able to isolate and then eliminate those forms of betting which are not pulling in the results for you.

It is also wise to keep a complete record of your bets. Too many punters go through life never knowing how much they lose on their betting activities.

Two things worth noting are as follows:

  1. You should have an annual profit objective. Businessmen set themselves this sort of target. Your objective should take into account your degree of risk and be based on turnover. My advice is to seek a return on your turnover of between five and 15 per cent. This is a realistic objective.
  2. Have a tactical plan. Don't place individual bets in a haphazard manner. Take into account, too, that you are going to run into bad losing streaks. Everyone does. There is a cyclical nature to racing and betting. Winning and losing periods come and go. Most professionals cut back on their bets when they realise they are on a losing streak. When things pick up, as they inevitably do, the professionals increase their bets to take advantage of the good cycle.

It's most important, I believe, to restrict the number of bets you have. Look at it this way: If you bet eight horses a day at level stakes (say $10 win each), you are going to have to back winners whose odds total eight just to make the smallest of profits.

If you pick one winner only, it's going to have to be at 7-1 to enable you to break square. If there are two winners, they will need to be at 4-1 each just to give you two units ($20) profit.

However, pick one horse and bet $10 and you only need it to win at evens to give you a 100 per cent profit. See what I mean?

Remember, too, that every loser you do not back is equal to a winner at even money. Think of your punting in this way and you will be well on the way to cutting out all those useless bets which you know you shouldn't have bothered about.

The facts of life are these: You can only get out of racing what you are prepared to put into it. If you want a bit of fun, some relaxing entertainment, then treat punting as that, and don't risk too much of your hard-earned money.
Always remember, though, that you are doomed to end up losing. You'll have your wins, yes, but in the long haul you are going to end up behind.

If you want to get a lot out of racing, then you'll have to be ready to put plenty into it. You simply have to study and learn all the angles, and you have to treat your betting as a business.

You must learn, too, how to handle money. It's all very well winning with $2 and $5 bets-but what about when you up the ante and start betting in $50 and $100 units? Could you handle the pressure? Will you change your approach to selecting and investing? Where before you were prepared to accept a certain amount of risk, will you now be able to act in the same way knowing that you have big money to lose?

My final tip: Don't rush things. You've got plenty of time to streamline your approach. Test yourself thoroughly and up your stakes slowly. Always bet within your means.

By Jon Hudson