This is the second part of the final article written by the UK expert Philip Alexander shortly before his sudden death earlier this year. Philip was regarded as one of Britain's top experts on betting and money management. Philip offers some provocative thoughts about staking.
Unless you are betting for sheer pleasure, or to maintain interest, or simply because the money is burning a hole in your pocket, backing horses can only be a very serious business. The whole operation should not be undertaken lightly, unless you wish to go broke!
Already a few words have been offered last time as to how you might determine the size of your bank, but before doing so, however, there is one fact that must be accepted unconditionally.
Losing runs that stand an excellent chance of exhausting your capital resources are always lurking just beyond the next selection, waiting hungrily to start your downhill slide into oblivion.
They remain just as much a part of this high-risk business of gambling on horses as is the old enemy, the bookmaker. Their presence is ominous and the possibility of their erupting on to the scene must be guarded against at all times.
Oddly enough it does not seem to matter in the slightest how you go about arriving at your selections there is still a good chance of the bank-destroying sequence being there in some shape or form.
Following the naps (best bets) of a well-known newspaper correspondent may appear to be one of the safest ways of holding back the tide. The argument put forward in favour of this ploy is that the nap selection is supposedly the best bet of the day as stated by the correspondent.
Shortly before writing this article I was browsing through an old copy of the UK Racing Post when my eye came to rest upon that section devoted solely to the nap selections of a group of the country's leading racing journalists.
Without wishing to start a heated argument on the subject, it must be assumed that these good and abstemious gentlemen represent the finest collective body that has an unequalled knowledge of up-to-the-minute racing prospects.
In this respect at least you would expect them to be far and away better at picking tomorrow's good thing than mere punters. Yet no fewer than 80 per cent of them had shown a longest losing sequence of 10 or more.
Now if they, with all the latest information at their fingertips, fare so badly, what chance does the man in the street stand of avoiding such runs, let alone make an overall profit in to the long-term bargain of things?
Disastrous by any stretch of the imagination was this finding, and (1 should add quietly) it was a certainty that some of them would suffer even worse runs before the season came to a close.
In fact, had you chosen one correspondent from a leading Sunday newspaper in the United Kingdom, you would have experienced an adverse sequence of 30 losers on the trot. Needless to say, he must remain anonymous for it would be totally unfair to broadcast his shame to a readership that is removed by some 12,000 miles!
As a theoretical exercise let us assume that a punter backs on average three or four horses per day, on four days of each week, for 52 weeks of the year.
So in 20 years of habitual gambling of this magnitude he would have backed 20,000 horses, give or take a few hundred. Samples of this size when subjected to a recognised statistical trial indicate that the chances of a 50 per cent strike rate showing a longest losing run of 13 must not be considered as being out of the question.
Working on similar lines, a strike rate of only one winner from every four selections (which is much more probable you must admit) could be expected to double the length of the much-feared inevitability just mentioned.
In the harsh light of reality that bluntly means somewhere in the region of 26 losing bets! Therefore, it follows that naps are definitely out of contention as being the long-term solution to the process of regular selectivity!
Hypothetical though these calculations may have been, it is a very prudent person who always retains figures such as this at the back of his mind for future reference.
Possibly the presence of numbers of such vast proportion will act as a deterrent of some kind. Especially is this hoped for in the event of him considering the prospects of turning his attention to an increased staking progression!
In particular, reference to these points makes the idea of doubling up a quite unacceptable proposal, for adverse sequences of only half the length of those already discussed would be quite sufficient to exhaust most betting banks, as well as putting an enormous amount of strain on the poor punter's nerves.
Even shorter losing sequences can spell trouble with a capital 't', so the outlook remains decidedly bleak for anyone who undertakes this suicidal mission.
Unscrupulous tipsters will still continue to assure the uninitiated that this is a sure-fire way to attain untold riches. After all, doesn't their unsubstantiated literature prove it to be so? Again, in theory doubling up after a losing bet will eventually provide the required amount of profit. All this is feasible just so long as the due winner is returned at a starting price that is better than even-money.
Alas, has no one ever heard of the punter’s dreaded enemy number one, the infamous Sod of Murphy's Law fame? As sure as the judge makes out that we have again picked the wrong runner in a photo finish, this black-hearted varmint has the nasty habit of making a mockery of certain successful animals that are supposed to be returned within a specified price range!
Irrespective of your method of selection, "seconditis" is the feared affliction from which-.we have all suffered on occasions far too numerous to recall. But why should this malaise occur when that doubling-up procedure is just beginning to make your palms sweat during the race itself?
So for the umpteenth time, this is a manner of staking that should be severely left alone at all times. Even increases limited strictly to 1-2-4 points are out of the question so far as this writer is concerned.
Similarly, a further form of stake manipulation that should always be given the elbow is that which relies upon the starting prices of the individual animals concerned recovering the accumulated loss plus a predetermined amount per race.
This is generally referred to as Retrieve Staking, and whilst it may appear to be innocent enough, it is not, often proving to be more costly than doubling-up!
Sanity when it comes around to the subject of staking, is an issue without equal, for the bottom line must always be the determination of the way you propose to bet, namely should this be level stakes, or some form of staking plan. As 1 have written previously, a method that is incapable of producing a useful strike rate, allied to a level stake profit, should only be considered under the circumstances already discussed.
Many of you will undoubtedly get the impression that a definite amount of time and space has been wasted by deliberating last month's promised fourth point.
But it happened to consist of two parts, one that covered the "inevitable" (the advent of the long losing sequence) and the other part the "unacceptable" (the self-destructive fatally flawed or simply disastrously impaired way of stake calculation). Indeed, it may well prove to have been time that could have been better spent. It all depends on how the reader chooses to accept the obvious degree of sincerity present in my initial words of warning.
Do not be lulled into believing the persuasive talk of fellow punters. Ignore their words about the manner in which they can circumvent the necessity of having an adequate working bank.
Click here to read Part 1.
By Philip Alexander
PRACTICAL PUNTING – OCTOBER 2003