Money management is an element of punting that all too often remains a mystery to bettors.

Get a group of punters together and it's more than likely they'll chat about how they go about selecting horses.

They rarely touch on the important subject of staking, or the need to manage the investment of their cash.

Most punters devote their lives to picking winners but go to the tracks and the TAB agencies with only a vague idea about how they will bet on their selections. This makes about as much sense as setting out on a long road trip without a definite idea of where you are going, or where you are going to stay. Chances are, you'll lose your way.

Even if you get through to the final destination the odds are that you will have wasted much time and effort along the way.

The same principle applies to the punter who develops his selection skills but fails to give enough thought to the problem of a correct betting approach.

He may be able to select many winners but unless he knows how to handle his money properly he stands very little chance of coming out a money winner himself. This is because his money will have been placed on incorrectly - too much on some horses, too little on others and so on.

It is through your outlay of money that you either win or lose at racing. We are not decrying the importance of picking winners - of course not - but what we do say is that to become a winning punter you need more than just that one skill.

You need to become a sort of businessman cum banker cum investor.

Your emotions come into a thing like this, as they do in all aspects of punting. And the more you can control your emotions the better off you will be.

How often have you got on a losing streak, then lost your head and plunged willy-nilly into a flurry of senseless bets on horses you have never heard of before? Everyone has done it at some time. It's called 'chasing your tail' and it rarely gets you out of a hole.

You would not be the only punter in the world to have picked out winner after winner by studying the formguides, only to blow your money when the actual betting time comes along.

You may have backed five good winners on the day, but allowed yourself to be lured into betting on a dozen other races - races in which you did NOT pick the winners. So out go your profits in crazy bets.

Plan Your Selections
We sympathise. It's not easy these days to avoid falling into the syndrome of wanting to have a bet on every race on every card.

On-course punters can usually watch live TV coverage of race meetings in three or four States - a potential 32 races every Saturday, as well as having the chance to bet on a provincial meeting as well.

The first thing you have to control is the emotional need to try out your luck on too many races. To stop yourself slipping into this mode, we suggest you allow yourself plenty of time to do ALL your selecting before you get to the TAB, or the races.

Then you must make a pact with yourself not to have any other bets. It doesn't matter how many times someone whispers a tip in your area, or how many times you fell the 'urge' to have anotherlash.

Place the bets you had planned then forget the rest of the races and simply enjoy yourself.

The point about doing your selecting tat home' is that you can be calmer and more rational there than in the atmosphere of a TAB, or a racetrack.

The pattern of your selection results have an important bearing on your prospects of making a profit on your betting. Stop for a moment and consider just what kind of a judge you are when it comes to selecting a horse in a race.

You may like to bet on favourites most of the time. You may prefer watching for outsiders, or perhaps you are a punter somewhere in between these two types.

Some punters are 'loose' in their approach; they usually end up backing horses at bigger odds, giving them a smaller winning percentage. Other punters are more demanding in their form requirements and invariably will bet on lower-priced horses, giving them a higher winning percentage.

Theoretically, any approach is a good one as long as it makes money.

Whatever your method of selection, the ultimate test is to see if your selections can produce a level stake profit.

Let's have a look at an example: Punter Bill averages 5 winners out of each 20 bets, giving him a winning 25 per cent average. His average price on winners is 7-2, and this gives him a profit of $50 based on $20 bets.

Punter Jack selects 8 winners in 20 bets, a 40 per cent winning average, with an average price of 7-4. His profit, then, is $40. There is little to choose between the two, in terms of profit, but if we take a closer look we can discover other things.

Punter Bill has more bets than Punter Jack. He is much 'looser' in his requirements for a horse to qualify to earn his betting support. All punters have to relax their selection standards if they are to back horses at bigger odds.

In other words, Punter Bill is willing to support horses with less pure winning potential in order to secure bigger odds.

If he can maintain consistent results something that is difficult, given his approach - the fact that he has more bets will work to his advantage. In fact, the more bets the merrier IF the quality remains the same.

Punter Jack's results indicate that he is a more careful man when it comes to selecting a horse. He doesn't enjoy as much betting action as Punter Bill but he does have a higher winning percentage with horses at smaller odds.

Punter Jack knows that a superior horse will sometimes go off at attractive odds, but that most good things are bet like good things, at short odds.

We ask ourselves now who is the better punter, Bill or Jack? Which one has the greater chance of success?

Okay: Firstly, 25 per cent of winners doesn't mean that Punter Bill will have 5 winners out of every 20 bets, or even 10 winners from 40 bets.

It really means something like 25 winners out of every 100 bets, with the very real possibility of some long losing spells between winners.

Punter Bill may well cash three winning bets in one day - then go for many, many days, or even weeks, without having another collect.

Results like this are not unusual and unless Bill is a very strong-willed and experienced punter, with lots of financial backing, he will discover that things can get rough indeed during those losing runs.

Most punters will have experienced losing streaks. They find that no matter what they do they can't pick a winner. Their confidence evaporates. They are under pressure, their nerve fails, and they lurch from disaster to disaster.

This is the inherent danger when you adopt a loose approach to selection. By supporting bigger-priced horses with less chance you increase your chance of striking debilitating losing runs.

Punter Jack won't encounter losing streaks as severe as Bill's because his approach is to back horses with a higher winning potential. His average price is not as high and he won't have as many bets but for every 100 bets that the two punters make, Jack will secure 15 more winners than Bill.

Just take a moment to consider what this means: If you were Jack, you would be making 15 more trips to the payout windows then Bill. Your chances of striking a bad losing run are much lower than those facing Bill.

Weighing up the pro's and cons, then, we come to the conclusion that Punter Jack, with 40 winners every 100 bets, is in a far better position to win than Punter Bill.

But having decided that, we bring in another aspect to the discussion - capital requirement. That is, your bank. The money you will need to ensure you can bet to advantage.

Inadequate money has been the cause of financial ruin for many punters. When you operate on a small capital, the mental strain is too great.

Once again, we get back to the emotions of betting.

So, how much capital do you really need. Simply, you need enough so that money is never a factor in your daily betting. No matter what happens today, you must be in a position to come right back tomorrow and bet just as much. And the next day. And the next.

Consider Punter Jack: He averages about 8 winners out of every 20 bets, so with a win percentage like that he should not experience any protracted losing runs - most likely never more than six or seven consecutive losers.

And that's when he's going bad! However, in gambling, it is dangerous to depend on 'average' results, because you can never depend on them. When people and betting are linked then anything is possible.

What you have to do is look at the very worst that might happen. This will prepare you for when it does happen.

To head off any eventuality the wise punter should have enough money to see him through at least three times the numbers of losers he might normally expect.

While Punter Jack would ordinarily never go more than 6 or 7 bets without a winner, he should have enough money in his betting bank to cope with a losing run of 20 bets.

By doing this, he will prevent himself from getting close to the edge of his stake, and that means he will never have to suffer from anxiety about losing his bank.

We have already stated how emotional anxiety can affect judgement. The simple rule is this - if the size of your betting bank worries you because of its smallness then you don't have enough.

Money that is needed for other purposes - for the home, rent, food, bills should NEVER be used as a betting bank. This would be foolhardy.

It would give you added pressure, and lots of anxiety, and you would never be able to cope with the pressure of 'protecting' that money while betting.

Your betting money should be just that - money which is not required for other purposes. It is your business capital and it should be treated with respect.

Make it 'work' for you, as you would make money work for you in any other form of business.

Once you have decided on a betting plan, you must give it total commitment. Be prepared to place your entire capital on the line.

If you are a competent selector, and you are adequately financed, you need have no worries, but you still need to have made the commitment to go all the way.

There should be no holding back. The only way in which you will achieve the maximum return from your betting bank is to stick to a wise, pre-determined plan, riding out losing periods without wavering.

The worst thing is to change a betting plan halfway through the action if something doesn't go to plan. You have to be ready to face rough trots; you won't beat them by fiddling around and losing your nerve.

So there are the facts: You have to work out what percentage chance you have in your selection process and then find a plan to bet on those selections, using a betting bank that will cover you for a losing run of THREE times what you might normally expect.

Don't settle for less than that. If you have the money then cover yourself FOUR or FIVE times. You'll feel much better knowing that even before you start you are financially stable.

Be cautious and you will not regret it.

Be prudent.

Most of all BE SENSIBLE.

By Martin Dowling