One of the more frequent requests we receive here at Equestrian is from punters who have trouble allocating their available cash each week.

I have written many times - so have other columnists - about setting up a bank and looking to the long term, so let's not go over that again. But assuming that you have decided to take a long-term approach, the question till persists:

How does one remain consistent week-by-week, on a strict budget?

We decided to divide this article into two parts: the first will deal with punters who are geared to bet $20 and $50 week, week in, week out, over a year.

The second part (next month) will be devoted to those who can outlay $100, $250 and $500 per week.

We won't take time to recommend methods of selection; I am going to assume that you will make up your minds as to how you go about selecting your horses, whose ideas you like, and we will talk here as if that part of things has been done.

So let's start with those two figures above. Which one do you fit into? Twenty a week? That's a thousand a year. Fifty is two-and-a-half thousand a year.

Quite a lot when you see it that way, but maybe not as much if seen as a proportion of your weekly wages. If you bet less than twenty a week, you can simply halve, or quarter, the ideas for twenty although at times my ideas won't tighten up to the extent you might require.

The only object of this game is to beat it long term. That will only be done if there is a set of better days which more than outweighs the bad days. I recently hit with a horse named Call Me Spike. That win will keep my bank solvent for at least three months on its own, as I also scored the trifecta and quinella, as well as the extra double in NSW. The week before I had just missed out, and the week after I almost pulled it off with Lusty's Bank at 20/1, but the record books will tell you that I didn't manage it.

So the Call Me Spike day has to be seen as one of (I hope) seven or eight that will occur in a fifty-two week year for me, along with maybe a handful (say, another eight) reasonable days, and another eight to 12 that will cut even or better.

Even a $10 punter has the chance to reach for the stars I expect I will lose moderately on another 15 days and lose more heavily on the other 10. That makes about 52, give or take a week. I cannot be any more accurate than that and I base it on several years' experience.

I have talked to other regular serious punters and they agree my experience does seem reasonable. This is especially so amongst those whose word I respect most (there are some people who will tell you they win well nearly every week . . . they are, not to put too fine a point on it, fibbers).

So, in a nutshell, around 15 of my 52 weeks will be good weeks, another 11 or 12 quite OK, and about half the year will prove hard to take and difficult to cope with.

The most difficult days are those where you just miss a big one, after having got everything right, but you see something happen that breaks your heart; for example, a run not presenting itself to your horse when it is cantering, or some other fool causing interference that puts your fellow out of business. On the other hand you can be lucky as well; for example, as we were when Merlene won the Golden Slipper two years back, and Guineas' win last year. It's roundabouts and swings, but sometimes I can feel frustrated when it all falls apart and I can see why, with a re-run, I should have won a lot of money. So it goes.

OK, then, let's start with a $20 per week regular plan. The first question is the old one: a lot for a little or a little for a lot? In my view that depends on your personality and ability to weather the rough patches.

If you can stand and wait (there's a poem that suggests it's the best way to go), then with 52 tries of your $20 you will probably hit seven or eight good ones and an equal number of smaller returns. Say you decide that your best bet of the day in Sydney and Brisbane will be your anchors, and that in each case you will stand it out in a trifecta with five others at 50 cents per unit. The cost is $20:

A/B.C.D.E.F (50 cents, $10 Brisbane).

G/H.I.J.K.L (50 cents, $10 Sydney).

Given that these two are your best bets and you can identify 20 per cent winners, you ought to find a few good trifectas, whatever your method of selection.

You can make your chances greater but the odds will shrink if you choose something like the favourite you feel most confident about, in each state, as your anchor. That will mean you can expect around 30 per cent winners from your anchors, and if you were to take the next five in the pre-post market there might be something worthwhile long term.

Alternatively, stick to one state and take the first two selections you fancy with the next five:

AB/ABCDEF (again $20).

Alternately again, you could take your best TWO chances with the next three you fancy;

AB/ABCDE (cost $12), and have a $2 quinella AB and back each for a win with $3. You won't (probably) cover your bet if you don't get the trifecta or at least the quinella up, but you ought to at least collect something!

It could surprise you to learn that most of the people whose ideas I sought suggested that you should consider backing more than ONE horse in ONE race, by whatever means you fancy. They reasoned that if you were only outlaying $20 a week, and it would all be on the one race, then there had to be some means of boosting the profits if things worked out, and there had also to be some safety valve. Think about it.

One more thing. You could, at one end, have 40 bets of 50 cents each. And you'd go broke. Maybe not tomorrow, but eventually. The single best advice, though, is that if you are limited to $20, restrict yourself to a small number of races and attack every one using the same set of principles.

For the $50 punters, I would advise you to (as above) stick to a handful of races. Your choice of your selections is your own but go for something that you have faith in. Again there is the choice of mode, and I would feel that, at $50 a week, you have to look at your expectations for the year.

If you want to double your money, you will have to adopt some kind of mild progression (perhaps 2 per cent of the best point your bank reaches), so that you bet from profits but never regress. It can take nerve when things aren't going all that well. It's that "lot for a little" thing again. My own view is well known: punting is a business, where you try to make money. It can be fun too, but its main aim is to win money.

Whose money? The other punters' money, not the machine's. The machine wins every time. So, with that $50 a week, why not have a two-pronged attack? Say your selection method produces winners on average every fifth bet. Aim $20 of the weekly $50 at a win bet on the best bet of the weekend, this bank to adopt the recommendation above and remain at 2 per cent of the highest point reached by the bank. The bank will commence at $1040 (52 x $20).

The other $30 per week could be more adventurous, where you perhaps have three other bets of $10 each, using the same banking principle. Back two horses in a race at $10 each and have a $10 quinella. This means that the $30 (over a year $1560) is broken into three equal bets of $10 each for the first week.

Say one of those two win bets wins at 7/1 the first week, but you miss the quinella. The return is $80 for the $30, and the bank will become $1610. So the next bet will be 2 per cent and each bet is $11.

A dollar may not seem much, going from a bet of $10 to $11, but you have actually increased your stake by 10 per cent and IF that quinella hits, whacko!

Click here to read Part 2.

By the Optimist