The psychology of racing is a highly interesting field. Because a punter's psychological approach will, in the end, determine if he wins or loses. I am totally convinced of this claim.

In years and years of following the turf, I have seen punters come and go-and many of those who fell by the wayside were excellent judges. They failed because they lacked the positive psychology that would enable them to win. Too often, they let themselves down.

In contrast, I know a number of professional punters who are only average 'handicappers' and yet who manage to win-and, in some cases, win big--every year. The reason is that they have the necessary willpower, and that special brand of courage, required if you are to beat the races.

In other words, they know when to bet. They do not shirk a tough assignment. They are positive when others are negative. Instinctively, it seems, they know 'exactly the right horse to bet in a time of crisis, and how much to bet. The punter with the brains but the losing psyche will not possess this magic edge – the edge that means the difference between winning and losing.

So, I can hear you asking, how does one achieve the winning state of mind, especially after years and years of possessing the losing one! Well, you must EXPECT to win. This may sound simplistic, but it's not. The fact is, as I have propounded before, the majority of punters expect to lose, not win. They budget for a loss even before they lay a bet. So why do punters have this inbuilt feeling that they are going to lose-and what can they do about it?

This overpowering feeling that you are going to lose is the reason why so many punters pick winners but don't back them! They drew back at the last minute because they didn't believe in themselves and believed they were going to lose! On another tack, this very feeling causes punters to back losers, while passing over the winners.

What I am now going to suggest is something of a psychological exercise in positive thinking. It will appeal, I'm sure, to those of you who know that you lack the will to win. You really do want to be a successful punter but you don't know how to begin, or how to sustain the effort.

Now, let me say this: I am going to be a successful punter. Now you say it. "I am going to be a successful punter." Congratulations. You've taken the first step in getting started on the road to becoming exactly what you say you are. You've announced that you WILL be a successful punter. The question is no longer open to debate.

The question now is how you'll back up that statement, Simply saying the words may not make you a successful punter. But it's unlikely you'll become one without saying them. The easy part of the entire exercise is to say that you will become a successful punter. You've been punting, probably, most of your life, and you know you aren't a successful punter.

What you must realise immediately - and which you probably already realise, anyway -  that punting is an act of courage. Discipline, boldness and determination - as well as a lot of intellectual effort-are mixed up in punting, and a punter must possess the courage to believe that what he backs is worthy of being backed.

It's difficult to have that courage, because punting is a lonely business. Just look at the people on a racetrack, and how absorbed they are in what they are doing. Each is wracked with doubts, wild hopes, superstition, dreams, frustration, depression, optimism, pessimism ... you name it, a punter somewhere is afflicted!

If you're the sort of punter who winds up the day with a pocketful of losing tickets-$5 here, $10 there-you are 'm need of a strong dose of discipline, in regards to selection and staking. And, believe me, you are not in the minority, because most punters bet too much. They consider themselves 'small' punters but, in fact, they bet an enormous amount of money over a year-money that is never placed in an orderly manner on what might be considered a rational set of selections.

Consider the case of a punter who goes to the races on a Saturday. He can bet on, say, eight races in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane (32 in all, sometimes 33 or 34), and will also have the choice of betting on smaller venues as well. So, he has the prospect of betting on up to 40 races a day.

Let's say he bet on only half of them, with 10 bets at $5 and 10 bets at $10. He has bet $150. Over a year, that means a total of $7800. Small punter? Not really! This $7800 is a lot of money. When you take into account the tax paid to get this amount nett in hand, it means the punter is actually using close to $10,500 of his hard-earned money a year (assuming 33 per cent tax).

So why use this significant amount of money in a careless way? It's silly to do so, because you are lengthening the odds against yourself of making a profit in the long-term. Better, I think, to try system betting. I know systems have a long history of criticism, but a good system will, at the very least, limit your losses. On a best-case scenario it will put you into profit.

Look at it this way: Betting haphazardly-like a mug!-you might lose $5,000 a year. Betting a good system will probably, at least, cut your losses by half. So, you are losing only $2500 a year. Certainly a far better outcome. The system has saved you $2500, or $50 a week.

Whenever a punter asks me how to beat the races I invariably tell him to find a good system, get together sufficient capital to carry the play over the worst possible losing streak, then play every selection as the system demands for one solid year. What has to be appreciated, I tell the punter, is the requirement to stick with the system, regardless of losing runs. If it's a sound system it will come good.

Long before the year is out you will be in front. A good system, of course, needs a good staking method, and this is another issue you will reed to address. The combination of a good selection system, and a clever staking approach, will enable you to equip yourself with a fighting chance to beat the races.

Going to the track, and betting on this, that and the other races, will give you, in the long term, little chance. Once you have made yourself realise this fact the better able you will be to change your ways.

The simple truth about racing is that no matter what you do the odds, or the percentages, are stacked against you because racetrack punting is what the theorists call a 'negative sum game'. Put in another way-people who bet on the races must, as a group, lose money because the track (tote and bookies) returns only part of the wagers that are made.

The implication is quite clear: To take money from betting at the races you must not only do well individually, you must also outperform the betting crowd as a whole, and by a significant margin. Is this possible? Yes, because anything is possible, but whether you are likely to succeed depends very much on yourself.

A positive attitude can make the difference between winning and losing. Personal input-many hours spent studying form and videos-can also make an enormous difference. Strict discipline in regard to staking (following a good staking plan) can mean the difference between loss and profit.

If you have been losing for years it's probable that by now you have fallen into a hideous pattern of betting-a pattern that has you in a vicelike psychological grip. Try as you might you cannot stop betting in this manner, even though you have the constant feeling that such an approach is doomed.

Why do punters bet on and on in the same vein when they lose three out of four weeks? It's because they kid themselves the next big win is just around the corner, and that although their haphazard approach lost last week, this week it will come through with flying colours! It's the same thinking that propels people into spending money on lotto each week-the big win is just around the corner.

It rarely is! Of all the millions of people who play lotto each week, only a miniscule percentage win a major prize. Everyone else does their dough in varying degrees.

It's much the same with the punters who bet on the races. Only a skilful minority of professional punters are able to win steadily; the 'herd' makes the pools for them, and steadily takes a loss on their expended dollar.

You have to do everything in your power to join this minority It can be done by changing your present losing punting lifestyle into a winning approach. Easier said than done, I know, but in next month's May issue of P.P.M., I'll be discussing in some detail ways and means you can revaluate your entire approach to betting.

How do you set a long-term profits goal? How do you decide which staking plan to adopt? How do you know when to bet, and when to stay out? How do you find the right system, or how do you find the correct way to select your bets? All these questions will be addressed in my next article. I'm sure you will find much to help you.

Click here to read Part 2.

By Statsman