Let's talk ways of betting. How to put the 'dosh' on the tips! It's such an important facet of racing and betting that we really can't talk enough about it. And there are so many errors made by rank-and-file punters that a cure must be found!

Personally, I am an eachway punter these days. I bet my longshots, usually three of them, each Saturday at $100 eachway. The direct approach has served me well, though of course I rely on landing some big fish to keep the profit level going.

Perhaps the most common error made by punters, not only In Australia but around the world, is in the actual BETTING of their selections. Oddly enough, most punters find it hard even to stick to a simple level stakes routine. Ask yourself - honestly now - how often you have adhered strictly to the routine?

I reckon the answer is never. But don't feel too guilty. All of us are prone to lifting and dropping our bets. Usually the up-and-down path closely follows our confidence level. If we're losing we tend to 'shut up shop' and bet smaller, while when we hit a winner or two, our confidence grows and we feel smart enough to pick the card!

A punter must Pick a system of money management - and stick to it. Whether you like level stakes betting, or perhaps the America-style 'optimal percentage of stake' betting, then that's your choice. You may prefer the excitement of progression betting. Okay, that's fine, too. Or maybe you're inclined towards target betting, and a method like the 6-Point Plan (outlined on Pages 4/5).

Whatever your fancy, at least do yourself the favour of sticking to it. Don't abandon it when things get a bit rocky.

Another common error is the failure of most punters to 'beat the price'. One of racing's oldest axioms is that to beat the game you must also beat the price. To do this you have to search for bargains.

The TAB punter cannot 'shop' for price, as can the on-course punter. The TAB punter is mostly betting the horse and not the price. So what can he do to overcome this negative? Well, his first positive step must be to greatly restrict the number of bets made on any single day.

His concentration should be on 'probables' and not 'possibles'. From the betting viewpoint the best probables are those which possess good win/place prospects but, on all the evidence, are not going to be the medium of a strong public play.

One way to find value is to test the qualifications of runners against the likely race favourite. An in-form horse which has a weight advantage on the public elect is always well worth considering as a win and place prospect.

Profit on the invested dollar can also be boosted through an all-up bet on the place machine. In an all-up situation, a combination of two placegetters which each pay $1.60 for $1, returns $2.50, giving a profit of $1.50 for every dollar staked. As the Americans say, this represents excellent leverage and we all know that placegetters are easier to find and the double does not have to be completed on the same day.

There is also the place treble. This can provide the astute punter with two free bets. To open the play you must first find a gilt-edged anchor bet. You back it for a place. If placed, you withdraw your original stake, and use the winnings for a place double.

Example: You have $50 for a place on Red. The dividend is $80. You slip the $50 back in your pocket. Then you place $30 on the double for the next two selections. You are in a win to nothing situation. Two more placegetters will bring in a really good profit, irrespective of the size of the dividends.

Example: A $30 double on horses paying $1.70 and $1.60 will return you $81.60, a profit of $51.60, but overall your original $50 has earned you the full $81.60 as profit. This is 163 per cent on your money. How about that for three placegetters at short odds?

But, like anything else in racing, place betting is accompanied by errors. In most instances, punters underestimate the skill needed to pick placegetters. Too many shoot for too much 'price' because they think it's not worth betting the lower-priced hotpots.

But the great skill in achieving success with place betting is to keep up a flow of returns by backing standout propositions. But they mustn't be too short! Therein lies the problem.

The figures themselves tell the story of what you face: Dividends of $1.20 for $1 are common and you would have to cash 84 out of every 100 bets at this return before a profit begins. To show a flat stake profit on horses paying $1.30 it is necessary to cash 77 of every 100 bets to reach break even point.

As I have stated earlier, the way to improve place returns is through an all-up process. The secret of success is patience to wait for the right plays.

Quite a few punters have written to me over the years asking about losing runs and the like, and how much capital they should have for certain strike rates. This raises another common error in that most bettors are usually unprepared to cope with losing runs, both financially and psychologically.

How many, I often wonder, even have a set 'bank'? Not many, I would guess. The punters I see at the races seem to be betting willy-nilly with any loose money they might have. Only a few that I know personally are clever enough to bet to a preconceived plan.

One chap contacted me some time ago and explained how he bet mainly shorter-priced horses and that over a  year or so his longest losing run had been seven. He now intended to bet to a percentage of capital and wanted to know how much of a 'bank' he would need, based on his experiences to date.

Most professionals say that on strong selections a punter should multiply his worst losing sequence by 3, so in this reader's case he should bet while bearing in mind that he may have to cope with a run of 21 losers. His bank should reflect this.

It may seem ultra-cautious but it's the wisest possible approach. Capital needed for percentage play would be 20 units and the bet 5 per cent of capital. Bets should be increased each time the bank increases by 20 per cent. With a bank of $100 the first increase would be at $120, the second at $144, etc.

Some punters may prefer the US 'optimal' betting attack. Using this you work out what your advantage over the game is and bet accordingly to a percentage of your bank.

To work out what your advantage is, you first come up with your actual win-strike percentage (let's say you pick 30 per cent winners). Then you work out the average odds of the winners (let's say they are, on average, 3/1).

Your advantage, then, is 30 per cent, and the percentage disadvantage against you is 70 per cent. You divide the average odds figure (in this example, 3) into 70, which gives you the answer of 23.3.

You then DEDUCT this from your strike rate (30 per cent) and you see that your actual advantage over the game is around 7 per cent. Thus, you can risk just 7 per cent of capital each bet. If you had a $100 bank your bet would be $7.

As another example: Your strike rate is 23 per cent and the average price of your winners is 7/2. That means your percentage disadvantage is 77 per cent. Divide 77 by 3.5 and the answer is 22. Now you deduct this from your strike rate of 23 and the answer is that you have a 1 per cent advantage over the game - not much at all. Your bet should be 1 per cent of your bank.

Perhaps the greatest error made by a vast majority of punters is to slavishly follow favourites. They believe favourites will make them money. In the long-term, they won't. Not enough of them win, and those that do, win at prices that won't make you a profit.

Generally, favourites will not win more than 3 out of 10 races and if we assume the average winning price is, say, 2/1 (it's probably lower!) then the level stakes return is 9 units for every 10 outlaid. And this is looking on the bright side! It means the favourite backer has at least a 5 per cent disadvantage.

Great professionals of the past always tried to back against 'weak' or 'false' favourites, of which there are many. Among them was Charlie Cox, who cut a swathe through LJK bookies in the '40s and '50s. He had this to say about his approach: "It is when I reduce a field to, at the most, three horses with chances that I think about betting, particularly if the favourite has a weakness.

"A favourite with a weakness is a horse which the close study of form indicates does not have a chance equal to that of one or more of its rivals. There are many false favourites. And when there is, it means getting better price-value about the form horses which figure to beat him.

"Even if a punter has to back as many as three in the race the value can still be there. One of the secrets of successful professional betting is that the pro is never afraid to back more than one horse in a race if the odds are right."

NEXT MONTH: More about multiple betting in the same race - all the tricks of the trade, as revealed by the professionals.


  • Decide on a staking plan - and stick to it. If in doubt, or lacking in the psychological makeup to cope with big bets, maintain strict level stakes betting.
  • Discover your advantage over the game - how much of an edge, if any, do you have? Or are you working at a percentage disadvantage? If you have a positive advantage, based on your win-strike and average dividends, then bet to that advantage.
  • Seriously consider all-up place betting. Find a gilt-edged proposition, back it for a place - then use any winnings to invest as a double on two other sound chances.
  • With any form of betting, prepare yourself for losing runs. Always err on the side of caution when anticipating losing streaks. If your average losing streak is, say, 8 then you should prepare for at least 24 straight losers. Just in case!
  • Don't blindly back favourites. Look for the value runners which can tip out the favourites.
  • Never be afraid to spread your bet over two or more fancies in the same race, if the prices are right.

By Martin Dowling