This is the first article by our new columnist, Geoffrey Hutson, a Melbourne University research scientist. Geoffrey will discuss many aspects of betting in his monthly column. He is, in his own words, 'a serious small-time punter' and he mainly bets on the multiples, especially doubles, trifectas and quadrellas, usually on Sydney and Melbourne meetings each Saturday.

What are your chances of making money betting in dribs and drabs as against making money betting more selectively? It's a question that dominates the minds of just about all punters, I would guess.

The more conservative bettor will invariably stick to the old bits-and-pieces approach, hoping against hope to double the bank. But there is another way. I believe I can point out, quite scientifically, that the punter who employs the 'maximum boldness' strategy stands a far better chance of ending up in the profit.

The amazing difference between bold and conservative betting strategies was demonstrated to me recently in two calculations. Let's do the cautious gambler first. He starts with an initial fortune of \$100 and his goal is to double it to \$200, betting \$1 each bet.

Two scientists, Dubins and Savage, authors of a book with the sub-title 'How to gamble if you must' had a look at this sort of betting and they used blackjack for the testing. The probability of winning in blackjack is around 47 per cent. Using this figure, D and S worked out that the probability of doubling the gambler's fortune from \$100 to \$200 was 0.000006, or about no chance at all, unless you think six chances in a million is a chance.

In comparison, let's look at a gambler applying the maximum boldness strategy. He starts with the same money, \$100, the same probability of winning (47 per cent) but his objective is to win \$1,000 and he bets boldly. He risks all his money, or enough to reach his target, each bet. In this case, the probability of achieving his objective is 0.08 - in other words, about 8 chances in 100.

So, comparing the probabilities of the two strategies - bold versus caution - then the bold gambler is over 13,000 times more likely to increase his stake 10 times to \$1,000 than the cautious gambler is likely to double his money to \$200! Incredible stuff.

Now, while D and S applied their thinking to blackjack, the same principle applies to horse-racing betting. Punting, as we all know, is an unfair game. The chances of winning are almost always less than 50 per cent, even though the return on any one bet can be better than even money.

The long-term chance of obtaining an even money return is probably 25 per cent or less but this would favour a maximum boldness strategy even more than shown in the calculations above.

Why, then, do punters in general ignore this proven mathematical fact?

The answer is simple - for the action! We enjoy having a bet on every race, or say 10 bets at \$10 each every day. We like a couple or more collects. Who wants to be blown away on the first race of the day, or the first bet of the day? Okay, fair enough.

But, if you are serious about wanting to increase your chances of winning in the long term - and I am sure you are! - then the key is to apply the 'maximum boldness strategy'. In simple terms you must do the following: