Betting against crowd is something we have talked about many times in P.P.M.  In this article, Alan Jacobs tells how Dennis Walker, of the Rating Bureau, shoots for windfall with his exotic bets.

The fact has always been crystal clear that to win at betting on racing you have to value. In other words, you try to nab winners that are falsely paying more than they should be paying! Easier said than done.

Dennis Walker has plenty to say on this subject - and he should know. He regularly strikes big divvies, especially when betting trebles on the Queensland TAB.

"I've enjoyed some success adopting the principle of betting against the herd," he says. "That is, my selections come from systems that utilise rules contrary to the normal, for example, lowly-rated jockeys, bad barriers, a rise in weight, and so on.

"The only reason we often get value is because of a perceived problem or obstacle that could make it difficult for a horse to overcome. I use the example of Mamzelle Pedrille a few months ago in Brisbane. There is no doubt in my mind that the only reason I was able to procure 8/1 about a promising Sydney galloper from the Ron Quinton stable (winner of her last 2 starts) was that she had drawn barrier 15 or 16 and, according to the pundits, could not win from this barrier at Doomben.

"She jumped well and took up a position about 5th before showing them her stuff in the straight."

Dennis says his favourite bet is the treble (conducted by the Queensland and South Australian TABs).

"The treble appeals to me more than all-up betting because the TAB take is 20 per cent of the pool once-only," he explains. "This compares with the somewhat higher take when a win dividend (after 15 per cent is deducted) goes into a new race win pool in an allup bet and is again subjected to another 15 per cent slug and yet another in the third leg.

"At a recent Eagle Farm meeting, for example, I outlaid only $42 and my collect was $1890.55, representing odds of about 44/1. The actual winning odds of the combination were 3780/1, but I am always prepared to reduce my odds to give me a better chance of collecting and winning.

"These are the odds I like. I really have an aversion to losing money so there are several tricks I adopt to help me. My favourite personal treble plan is to win every treble that is likely to pay $1000 and more.

"I am not greedy so I only take them for a half unit (50c) which means I will collect a half dividend. The real reason has nothing to do with not being greedy. It's just that when I lose I prefer to lose less money.

"For a treble to pay more than $1000 there usually needs to be more than 1400 possible combinations, or all favourites must be beaten. This is not as difficult as it first seems as you can expect only one leg of the treble to be won by a favourite, on average. To obtain the possible number of selections, simply multiply the number of runners in each of the three legs (ie 10, 14, 10 runners equals 1400 possible combinations).

"I am not suggesting avoiding betting on trebles where there are fewer runners but keep in mind that a large dividend becomes highly unlikely. In the treble I have just mentioned, the treble had 12 runners in the first leg, 13 in the second leg and 16 in the third leg, so there were 2496 possible combinations.

"Previously, I would have taken 300 of the possible combinations but I am learning at being smart every day. In the earlier days, if I missed so much as one leg I would have lost $150, but now the loss is reduced to $42. In short, I can now afford to lose 3.5 times more often than before without reducing my chance of winning the trebles I am seeking (those above $1000).

"How do I do it? I simply complete my selection process as normal, making a case for every top-rated selection, horses dropping in class, and horses with a high career place strike, etc. Then I knock out all horses likely to pay a dividend of less than $5 TAB (that is, 4/1). It's not as hard as you might imagine.

"Recently I was asked how many horses to bet in each leg and my answer was that a set combination of 5 x 5 x 5 would be unsound for the simple reason that there may only be one chance in the first leg, six chances in the second leg and 10 chances in the final leg.

"This would still only cost $30 for half units and could give me more chances of winning than the 5 x 5 x 5 combination, especially if my good thing won the first leg!"

Dennis Walker's treble approach, then, is a simple one. Make your selections, knock out the bad-value runners and then bet on!

By Alan Jacobs