We've all heard the phrase 'a bad day at the office'. Punters will alter that slightly to read 'a bad day at the track'. They happen. Too often for comfort for many battling bettors.

Sometimes it's no fault of the punters. 'Black Saturdays' crop up when form seems to mean nothing. Favourites fall by the wayside, roughies pop up out of nowhere ... we all know about those horror days.

Unless you show great discipline, the days when your luck seems to have vanished can end up hurting you a lot. Credit bettors have been known to blow huge amounts by chasing their losses, in vain. Cash punters suffer, too, but not to the same extent because once their pockets are empty they must stop betting. No choice!

How do we cope with the black days? How do we chase the gloom away? Well, the punter who panics, or becomes unbalanced and desperate, has no chance. The longer he continues to bet, the more he is likely to lose.

System punters are also at risk. Let's say you are operating system and it throws up four bets for the day. To your chagrin, they all lose. By race 6, say, your bets for the day have been blown away. What do you do?

The sensible approach would be to shrug your shoulders and walk

off the track, or out of the TAB agency or club. No more bets. But will that happen? The temptation will be to start scrabbling around for more bets ... to get out of trouble!

This is a bit like the man who commits a murder to solve a personal problem. He creates a greater problem in a bid to eliminate a lesser one. What I'm saying is that you have to know when to apply the brake on your betting.

Some punters do it naturally, with discipline. They decide they can afford to lose a certain amount and they halt their betting the moment their losses reach that amount. This, of course, calls for considerable self-control.

The money brake is better than nothing and will work provided all your betting is balanced and carefully planned.

There is, of course, one clear-cut approach to busting the gloom of losing days. I talk here of betting on more than one horse in a race. If you do this, the prospect of disastrous losing sequences is minimal.

Years ago, I was discussing this very subject with a canny professional punter. At the time, which was in the early '80s, he was at the peak of his betting profession and he concentrated on multiple-win betting.

He told me: "My approach is never to bet my cash unless the figures are my way; I want a chance of collecting that considerably outweighs my chance of losing. This is the safe way to bet and I wonder why more punters are not bothered enough to do it.

"The other day, I was looking at my betting books and I saw that I'd selected only two straightout winners in my last 33 bets. . .

I recall interrupting him at this point to say that surely he must have lost a lot of money? No, he replied. In fact, he won during that period. Of those 33 races on which he bet, he collected in all but five of them.

Why? Because he was backing more than one horse per race. It didn't matter if his top pick didn't win because he would have two or three others running for him as well.

"I dread to think about what would have happened if I'd been betting straightout for the win on the top selections," he told me. "As things turned out, I won on all but five of the races, even though at one stage I had a run of 16 outs with the top picks."

This man's approach is a classic example of PLANNED BETTING.

It is the considered approach of many professionals. It protects them from devastating losing streaks, and yet provides them with a great chance of maintaining a good profit percentage over 12 months.

These men say this: The only sure way to protect yourself against a long-losing 'gloom' sequence is to back more than one horse in a race, and then only in those races in which you consider it is odds-on that you'll find the winner, even if it is only as a saver.

You can work this approach with newspaper selections. Pick out your favourite tipster, note his three tips, check the prices, pick out the best races, and then bet all three tips in the chosen races, provided you can guarantee yourself at least 25c in the dollar return.

A lot of punters have an aversion to backing more than one horse in a race. I don't really know why. The same punters will think nothing of betting eachway.

Prior to each meeting, my advice is that you go carefully through the day's cards. Try to restrict yourself to one meeting or, at the most, two meetings. Decide which races offer the best betting opportunities.

You must always do this. just make a mental or written note on every race with a view to deciding which will give you the BEST CHANCE of a decent profit. The eliminated races are simply thrown in the wastepaper basket. Don't even think about them any longer.

On a day's eight-race card, there should be three or four betting opportunities. Now you use your skill and judgement to make your choices. You may think that Race A can safely be narrowed down to two chances, one at 2/1, the other at 9/2.

In Race B, though, the task looks harder and you can trim the chances down only to three, at 7/4, 7/2 and 8/1. Race C is an easier race again and there are two chances, one at 4/6 and the other at 5/1.

Race D is the toughest of all; there are four chances at 3/1, 9/2, 6/1 and 12/1. How much can you make on these races? Betting to prices, Race A would see you bet 33 units on the 2/1 chance and 18 on the 9/2 chance, a total of 51 units. Whichever one wins, you are going to make a good profit.

You'll get back 99 units if the 2/1 chance wins, and the same amount should the 9/2 chance get up. That's a profit of 48 units.

In Race B, you can back all three for an outlay of 71 units, again giving yourself a 29-unit profit whichever one wins. Race C is a bit tricky as the 4/6 horse demands a bet of 60 units and the 5/1 chance calls for 17 units, a total of 77 units. This allows you around 23 units profit should either win.

My recommendation is to mark around 80 units as the maximum to bet.

Race D is another interesting one. The four chances call for bets of 25, 18, 14 and 8 units, a total of 65 units. This is not a bad spread. You have four horses running for you and you make a profit of 35 units whichever happens to salute.

One of my professional betting mates says he will usually collect on three out of four races using the multiple approach. Let's say this happened on this series of four bets. And let's assume it was the 77-unit bet that failed. The profits on the other races were 48, 29 and 35, a total of 112. Take away the 77 you lost and your profit on the day is 35 units.

On outlay, that's a return of 13.2 per cent, a good enough result for serious players. There is, of course, another way to approach multiple betting and that is to assume you only have a certain amount to bet each race.

To get your exact bet on each runner, you do the following: Let's say your selections are 3/1, 4/1 and 9/1. The percentages total 55. Let's assume you are prepared to bet $20. The size of your bets on each horse is determined by the proportion of its percentage against the total 55 per cent. You find this by dividing each horse's percentage by the total percentage.

The 3/1 chance's percentage is 25 and this is divided by 55 to give you the answer 0.4545. This is the proportion of the stake to be placed on this horse. The actual bet is calculated like this: horse 3/1 equals $20 x 0.4545 equals 9.09, or rounded off $9.

The 4/1 chance has 20 per cent and divided by 55 it equals 0.3636. Thus, horse 4/1 equals $20 x 0.3636 equals 7.27, or rounded off $7. The third horse at 9/1 has 10 per cent of the total. This is divided by 55 for 0.1818, multiplied by $20 for 3.63, or rounded off $3.50 (or $4).

There are your bets: $9 on the 3/1 chance, $7 on the 4/1 chance and $4 on the 9/1 chance. If the 3/1 wins, your return is $36, a profit of $16. If the 4/1 wins, the return is $35 (profit $15) and if the 9/1 wins, the return is $40, a profit of $20.

By Martin Dowling