In a past PPM article I spoke about the importance of formulating a pricing methodology to determine which selections represent value to the invested dollar.

Horse-race betting requires a solid understanding of, and respectful homage to, the issue of value, however much the definition of value differs from punter to punter according to their pricing styles.

Regardless of the pricing style, a dollar is still worth a dollar and it's crucial that a day's bets are weighed up accordingly. For instance, take these two scenarios on Cox Plate day: in one race a horse is paying $3 the win in a 12 horse handicap while in the wfa Cox Plate itself, Sunline is paying $3 for the win.

Even a novice punter would opt for Sunline as the better "value" but day after day punters violate the general principle of weighing up the daily value of their dollar and will still bet such a mug's bet as in the handicap when a better winning chance offers itself during the day.

I am about to outline a method of pricing which "forces" the punter to bite the proverbial bullet and price selections more savagely than they first thought was possible. But first, a short step backwards.

Most keen punters are conversant with the Don Scott approach of "betting to prices" where the bettor creates his or her own odds line for each race by estimating the minimum acceptable price for each horse. Debates rage over what percentages should be used, with some price-raters sticking to the Scott principle of 80 per cent while others extend this to 90 per cent, 100 per cent and even longer to 120 per cent.

Keen price assessors feel 80 per cent is too tight and does not produce enough bets because the selections are conservatively priced (that's not a bad thing, by the way) while at 120 per cent far too many bets will be made. Common consensus decrees that 100 per cent is a fair figure to use as it allows the bettor to bet against the general 15 per cent TAB takeout around Australia, and the broad 20 per cent takeout by the bookmakers.

However, such things are not set in concrete and the individual may still wish to vary this to suit themselves.

All of this would be fine if there was only one race per day but in each State there are generally eight races and the punter should also be considering another approach to pricing and that is PRICING THE PROGRAMME.

This involves pricing each of your first selections over the eight-race programme as if they were all in the one race! Now admit it: you haven't thought of this before but some explanation behind the general wisdom of such an approach will soon show you what a vital part in your daily punting activities this approach can be to ascertain the real value for the day.

By forcing yourself to make the tough decisions of prioritising each of your first selections you are really raising the bar and adopting a hard-nosed approach to pricing. It will force you to say to yourself, "If my best bet for the day is 2/1, then how good a bet is my second best bet of the day in comparison?"

For example, let's say that after your usual judicious approach to formwork you have decided your selections for the day are:

Race 1: Horse A
Race 2: Horse B
Race 3: Horse C
Race 4: Horse D
Race 5: Horse E
Race 6: Horse F
Race 7: Horse G
Race 8: Horse H

Your best bet of the day is Horse E which you rate a 2/1 chance, which in percentage terms is 33%. Thus, if you are using the 100% priceline, that leaves you 67% to spread over the remainder of the programme.

Some quick wild calculations have you jot down Horse B at 5/1 (16%), Horse H at 4/1 (20%), Horse A at 7/1 (12%), Horse G at 8/1 (11%), Horse D at 10/1 (9%), Horse C at 6/1 (14%) and Horse F at 12/1 (8%). Those mathematically inclined can instantly tally up the percentages of the whole programme to equal 123%, or 23% over the 100% required.

This is where the really, really tough decisions need to be made. For instance, should Horse E be eased to 5/2 (28%) or even 3/1 (25%) for starters to loosen things up a fraction or should the 2/1 stand and all the others be eased? This is where it all happens. Decisions have to be made.

My approach would be to extend Horse E a fraction and ease all the others accordingly by a point or two. The final prices will be Horse E at 9/4 (30%), Horse B at 6/1 (14%), Horse H at 5/1 (16%), Horse A at 10/1 (9%), Horse C at 12/1 (8%), Horse D at 14/1 (7%), Horse C at 8/1 (11%) and Horse F at 20/1 (5%) totalling 100%.

The aim of this exercise is to set the price of your best bet as close as possible to a price you really consider it to be and to extend your worst selections of the day. This approach forces you to really seek super value about those selections of yours in the tougher events which, when you think about it, makes sense.

Horse E might only have two or possibly three genuine chances to beat while your roughest for the day may have eight genuine contenders to beat.

It's amazing how savage you can be when needing to assess your day's betting by pricing the programme. By the way, the principles behind this approach don't just stop at your first selections because it would be quite simple to slot in your second selections to the process as well.

You will need to change the percentages as, overall, your second selections will not have the same strike rates as your first selections, so allotting the same percentages does not make sense.

Your second selections could, for instance, be priced to 80 per cent and all you have to do is now slot in the second selections behind the relevant first selections and voila! you have a priceline as tight as a fish's armpit.

For example:


8H 5/1 16
2 B 6/1 14
3C 8/1 11
1 A10/1 9
7C 12/1 8
4 D 14/1 7
6 F 20/1 5


5 I 7/2 22
8 J 6/1 14
2 K 9/1 10
3 L 10/1 9
1 M 12/1 8
7 N 14/1 7
4 0 16/1 6
6 P 25/1 4

With such tight pricing, the assessor is now seeking value extraordinaire across the whole programme rather than concentrating on one race at a time.

The 2/1 Cox Plate scenario mentioned earlier has been addressed and value second selections come into play as well, if the punter wants to include them. It makes sense to employ such a pricing methodology as the 'easier" races, with fewer chances (i.e. Race 5), will be priced to take a fair proportion of the available 100 per cent and 80 per cent price percentages respectively while the "harder" races (i.e. Race 6), with many chances, will demand a price commensurate to their difficulty.

It will be rare to be betting in the "harder" races but isn't that the way it should be when comparing dollar values on the day?

By Roman Koz