Beating the races is entirely a question of HOW and WILL. You need to know how to beat them, and then possess the will to carry through with your resolve.

Some punters alas, the majority have not yet found a way to go about the business of making turf betting a paying proposition. Others know how to do it, but lack the will to do those things so necessary to achieving success.

At times, I do become a little bored with the pessimists who claim, "It can't be done!" In almost every case, an investigation of the howler's background uncovers the fact that he holds this negative view because of his own failure to make good in his punting. His opinion, then, is based on a personal failure.

If you accept an opinion based on such a fallacy then you'd have to accept that the possibility of success is a negative in every field of human endeavour because there are always failures in each field.

For example, I can't paint a portrait but does that mean portrait painting is an impossible accomplishment? I can't build a house, so does that mean no houses can be built? Of course not. It merely means I lack the talent and training to properly perform these tasks.

It's pure nonsense, then, to assert that punters can never win at racing. They can. Anyone who has spent as much as a year around a racetrack must know that a good number of punters are beating the races, and doing it consistently and for big money.

The 'regular' professional punters are well-known faces to those punters who attend the major and provincial tracks, be they in horse-racing, greyhounds or harness racing.

They all will tell you that success at betting, like all other undertakings in life, requires the casting aside of personal whims, likes and dislikes, and the acceptance in their place of the precepts and principles necessary to punting success.

For example: The punter who won't concentrate his betting on choice investments is sure to fail. You simply can't bet on every race and hope to succeed. Why not, then, put aside your likes and dislikes and adopt the winning principles? Why deprive yourself of an enjoyable winning career?

At this point, some readers may like to get up and yell, "Okay, mister, I have the will to win, what I want to know is the HOW. Come on and explain how I go about the business of winning."

All right, I'll explain. Firstly, you have to remember that there are several ways of solving the problem. A good system will turn the tide for you, any sound method of handicapping will see you through, and a wide knowledge of racing 'angles' may prove sufficient to make racing pay you decent annual dividends.

Systems, handicapping, angles-you've tried them all, I can hear you say. Yes, you have tried them, but for how long? Have you actually given any method or system a real chance to win for you?

Unless you differ from many punters, the chances are you have not. Be honest with yourself. Have you ever played a good system every day for a year?

Most punters, you see, can't handle losing runs, and every system, no matter how brilliant, will strike a losing run or two at some time. And the minute a punter starts ducking in and out, permitting his likes and dislikes to influence his bets, he is courting disaster.

My prescription for success is as follows: Find yourself 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, come hell or high water.

Stay in there and keep at it, regardless of the downs. If your choice of systems has been sound, you'll find that long before the year's end you will be out in front. All you need is that good system, capital and lots of old-fashioned Aussie guts to keep you in line.

It IS tough to beat the races, but I believe the biggest battle is the one you have to fight with yourself.

Taking this a step further, I put it to you that most punters lose so much that they now never expect to win. They expect to lose, and only hope they will win. Your average punter gets his formguide, pops down to the local TAB, risks $20 and shrugs his shoulders when he loses it, with the comment, "Ah, well, I knew they'd get it, but it was worth a shot."

The punter, you see, didn't expect to win. He had probably already budgeted for the drop of the $20 from his wallet. Recognise yourself? Almost every punter does it, or has done it, and the question is-why? Why does a punter expect to lose?

Now, racing is what in casino terms would be called a 'house game'. And in a house game of any sort the house will end up with the money of the careless and foolish punters. In poker, if a group of players sits there hour after hour, with the house taking a cut of each pot, all of the players eventually will go broke.

And so it is with punters at the races who go to the track, or the TAB, and bet on every race on the card. The house cut will murder them.

However, the poker player who sits in on the game and plays his cards smartly for an hour or so each night CAN win consistently. The house 'take' is of little concern to him, for he does not stay around long enough for the house to clean him out.

The same goes for the astute punter who can stick to a tried and proven system that throws up selective bets, or the punter who has the discipline to restrict himself to one or two solid bets per meeting, or per week.

The TAB 'take' of 15 or 16 per cent is not going to bother him or prevent him winning. To emphasise my argument even more, I'd like to refer you to a recent survey of any and all things, and events upon which people speculate, like stocks and shares, bonds, gold, commodities, lotto, scratch-and-win tickets, etc. The survey showed that of them all horseracing was considered the most predictable.

This raises the question, why? Why, when racing is so predictable, do so many people lose? The answer lies in the mind. Put another way, in the outlook of the punter. He expects to lose, and he does.

This is why a proper mental attitude is so essential for any punter, especially what is known as the 'small punter'-the $1 and $2 punter who probably gets through $20 to $30 a week at the TAB (that's up to $1500 a year, remember!).

Still want to argue about the loser mentality? Okay, how many times have you got home from the races and said something like, "If only I'd backed so and so," or, "I picked out that 33/1 winner and didn't back it," or "Every horse I picked won, except the one I backed."

Sound familiar? Of course it does. In making these statements, a punter is sincere. He did pick but not bet the winners. He did pick the daily double, only to talk himself out of it. He did pick a longshot winner and then didn't back it.

He sees, then, where he could so easily have won, and curses his 'bad luck'. But is it right to call it luck? Hardly. He did not bet on his winners because to have done so would have been to win, and the idea that he must lose is so deeply imbued in his mind that it causes him to back losers while passing over winners.

I'm not suggesting that if a punter is convinced he will win, that he will indeed win, and that all he has to do is pick a number, bet on it, and collect the rewards. That would be silly. The punter, like any other craftsman, must have fools. He must learn everything he can about handicapping and he must practise long and hard.

What I do say is that if a punter is convinced he can win, then that is a most important step to actually winning. Convincing yourself that you can in sounds easy, but it isn't. Fighting externally and internally inflicted doubts is extremely difficult.

Every time someone tells you that you can't win at punting, you have to tell yourself that you can. In other words, counter aggressively the negative. Always remember, too, that one battle doesn't make a war. In the same sense, one loss, or one series of losses, doesn't mean you should give up trying to win.

Never go to a racetrack thinking in terms of how much you can afford to lose. Rather, think in terms of how much you want to win. To achieve success, set up a standard amount in which to bet$2, $10, $20 or $50, whatever-and then figure out what would be a fair return on your annual investment-say 10 to 20 per cent.

Then you can think towards that goal, and never back down. This may seem like preaching, but all it is really is a psychological technique aimed at giving you a proper perspective and the right mental outlook for punting. These are tangible assets.

Frankly, unless you can think in terms of success, you cannot learn to act with success.

Now to another step in the chain. I have suggested earlier that a punter should find a good system, and stick to it.

Well, I know that many punters loathe systems. They can never follow them, no matter what. They prefer a more orthodox approach, like personally handicapping races, using, say, a Don Scott method.

This is fine. And it's normal. No two punters are alike. Some are suited to system bets, others are suited to handicapping, and form study. I know a friend who has bought every book printed about handicapping, and he has studied speed ratings and toyed with the Scale of Weights, and yet he has never won money.

Why? Because his punting attitude is not in tune with his knowledge. I told him some time ago, "Jack, you're a systems man and while you play around with handicapping you're going to get nowhere fast." Fortunately, he took my advice, found a good system-The Dark Horse-and has been winning ever since!

Let me now refer you to the late, great professional punter Eric Connolly. He had sensible views on punting, and the following are some of them:

 "I would urge the racegoer not to bet on all races, and I know most of the fellows don't like that, but it's the only way. Limit bets to two or three an afternoon and bet only on certain races you consider you can sew up.

 "Instead of backing a horse or two in every race, I suggest they hold on to their capital. Then, when the right race comes along, lay it out in such a manner as to make a book against the bookmaker. That is, go for a win on one or two of the runners and a save on the other chances.

 "To the punter who doesn't have the time to study form, I suggest he confine his bets to good horses, ridden by good jockeys and prepared by good trainers. It would pay every racegoer to study the winning jockeys' list. He will notice that there are dozens of riders whose average is one winner in every 33, 50 or 100 races, and these are the ones to avoid.

 "One of my main commandments is never to lay odds-on. There is nothing the bookmaker likes better than to have odds on chances to deal with. And the very fact that they always seem to be so keen to do business when a horse is at odds-on, and looks a paper certainty, is surely sufficient reason why small punters should skip such races.

 "It is better in the long run to pass them up completely as a betting proposition. Remember this very important point: If you lay 10 to 5 on a horse and it's beaten, you have to put the same amount on two winners at 2/1 ON to just break square."

Eric Connolly stated over and over that the cardinal sin of any punter was to bet on too many races. 'No matter how you may bet," he told friends, "you can't buck the percentages, yet thousands of racegoers try to do it every time the barrier goes up."

I can only echo Connolly's words. And add these: The best advice Eric ever handed out was that punters should consider themselves like shoppers. When a person goes into a shop, he is not forced to buy. He is allowed to wander from department to department to inspect the goods on sale. There may not be a single article that he likes, so he keeps his money in his pocket. He doesn't want to throw it away on something he doesn't want. He continues to shop and the next day, or the next week, he does find something he wants, and if the quality and the price are right he buys it and is well satisfied.

There is no reason why a punter can't be like a shopper. By paying his entrance fee, he has gained the right to enter the racetrack and then it is up to him. If he wants to throw his money away on every race and take any price, irrespective of quality or value, then the bookmaker and the tote will welcome him just as the shopkeeper welcomes shoppers who shop in an extravagant, unthinking way.

If, on the other hand, the punter goes ,ring shopping' for value, and bets only when he knows he is getting value, then the bookie will both fear and respect him.

Eric Connolly puts it this way: "In the course of a month, a punter betting on every race in Sydney might have, say, 40 bets. If he bet the same amount on each horse he would have to back winners whose odds totalled 40 just to break even, and month in and month out that would be impossible.

"The race to race punter is only created for the bookmaker and he can last only as long as a cricketer who tries to slam four runs off every ball."

Summing up, then, the winning punter is a self-made man. He possesses daring, caution, discipline, common-sense and the will to win. He shrugs off negative thoughts. He shrugs off the urge to bet blindly on every race. He shrugs off feelings of panic and despair when a losing run strikes. He looks for value, and does not bet unless he gets it.

If he's a systems follower, he follows the rules and gives the system every chance to deliver, and refuses to drop off when it encounters a sticky time.

He is a man who looks to a 12-month spread to determine how he is going. He doesn't seek haphazard short-term goals, but sets himself an achievable profit figure and sets out after it, determinedly.

Are you this sort of punter? If you are, then all well and good; the advice in this article would have served only to reinforce what you already know and do. If you are not a winning punter, this article should be a necessary weapon in the fight to change your losing lifestyle around.

The fact is you don't have to lose. You can win. All it takes is personal strength to think in terms of winning, and then to adapt yourself to backing up this resolve with the best selections and the best staking you can find.

Be you a systems man or a form figures man, you need to apply yourself to the task with diligence, calm and determination. The money is all waiting to be won. Don't let someone else win it.

By Statsman