If you want to secure 'value' with your betting, how can  you do it if you don't have a guideline price about a selection?

This is a question few punters want to confront. I think they should change their mind and start to come to grips with framing prices on the horses they want to back.

If you decide that a horse is worth backing, how do you decide if it's a value bet or one that's really not worth the trouble? The simple answer is that you attempt to price the horse's chance. Do it yourself. Don't depend on the unreliable markets that you find in your morning newspaper.

These markets are a guide, nothing else. What you want to do, if you're serious about winning in the long term, is to make up your own market. Decide what you think a horse's chance is worth.

Once you've done this, and learned to do it with a reasonable accuracy, you will be part of the value revolution.

No, it's not an easy task, but it's one that's worthwhile doing, believe me. Don't just take my word for it. Other experts around the world speak in the same vein.

Like American writer and professional bettor Mark Cramer. His latest book, Value Handicapping, deals with the entire question of framing your own betting market so you can secure overlay value bets.

Says Cramer: 'It takes courage and creativity to forge your own path, which is why even a perceptive handicapper can fail to bet on a longshot he's circled as a legitimate contender and find himself watching with dismay as the horse bursts to the lead in the back stretch and draws away by 5 lengths.'

Cramer's contention is that the punter failed to back the longshot because a 'number that should have been considered a vague indicator was taken as a liberal determinant'.

In other words, the long price frightened him off because he hadn't thought about HIS price on the horse's chance.

Cramer has definite thoughts on the subject, and they bear attention by anyone who values his dollars and wants to invest them sensibly.

'The personal odds line is my protection against handicapping myopia or decision-making astigmatism,' writes Cramer.

'The downfall of most good handicappers is bad decision making. The personal odds line functions as a dependable guide for making tough decisions under stress.

'Three things may happen during crucial moments of decision making angst:

  1. I will discover that I cannot make a line for the race, which gives me an important message: I don't understand the race and should pass;
  2. The horse or horses I was intending to bet turn out to be underlays, again calling for a pass;
  3. A horse I was wavering about seems to be a clear overlay, and I can now bet with greater confidence.'

Cramer goes on to explain that the original definition of 'handicapping' involved the establishing of a hierarchy of contenders, according to their relative chances.

He adds: 'Making a personal odds line returns to this tradition, but with the benefit of sophisticated wager-value information such as trainer specialties, pedigree and pace subtleties.

'My line and your line may differ, but if we are both creative handicappers with a foundation of objectivity, we can both make long-term profits,' he says.

'An odds line is more than a technique. It is a precision tool of the mind that helps to finely tune the handicapping thought process and then resolves the dilemma of decision-making.

'Whether making odds lines becomes a permanent tool or simply a temporary exercise in handicapping, it will help good handicappers to get the profitable results they deserve.'

Cramer's remarks are timely and to the point. They should be taken seriously. The man has been through the betting mill, and he talks from experience.

In next month's March PPM, I'll be telling you how best you can tackle the actual task of making a priceline. What to do, what to avoid, how to get the right percentage and so on. I'll bring you a special price-setting mechanism that will enable even the 5-minute punter to draw up a useful priceline.

Later in the series, I'll bring you even more ideas. The aim is a re-education of the punter who, up to now, hasn't faced the reality of doing a personal priceline.

* VALUE HANDICAPPING by Mark Cramer is published by City Miner Books (ISBN 0933944-22-5).

Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.

By Richard Hartley Jnr