Are we planning for 1998 already? Afraid so. Bit of a shock, yes?

Some of you will not need the ensuing words of advice. Congratulations. To the others I say: ignore the advice at your peril!

Did you win in 1997? It was a very hard year, I can tell you. I had some good results but also some pretty scary weekends when nothing seemed to go right. See my comments in Page 13 about this very matter.

I am going to consider two basic factors for your 1998 betting programme. They are not new, they are common sense with a dose of instruction.

(1) The Bank: Telling The Truth.

This above all ... to thine own self be true.

Polonius wasn't just clicking his chompers here when he gave this advice to his son. If you lie to yourself about things, especially money, there isn't any chance that you will end up in front. Not one chance in a million.

Let's ask a very simple question.

How much are you going to be able to allocate to betting in 1998?

If the answer is "I don't know", you have a big problem. You mean that you are hoping to be able to get a dollar from here, a dollar from there, every weekend.

That is just not good enough!

How much can you afford this year? $500? $1000? $5000? $10,000?

"Hold on," you shout. "Ten thousand dollars for betting?"

That, Dear Reader, is just $200 per week.

Five thousand dollars is $100 per week - and $200 more for the fifty-first and the fifty-second weeks.

How much do you honestly bet a week? What is your standard bet on a horse? Five dollars? Ten? Twenty?
How many bets a weekend? Five? Seven? More?

Doubles? Any trifectas? And those extras?

And you are telling me you only bet a few dollars a week?

OK we have got over the dramatics, so let's be honest.

I suspect that many readers bet more than they admit to themselves (let alone to their families). I suspect that even after all my advice earlier this year some of you do NOT keep a record. Or you fill it in after the event and doctor it up a bit. No black book, no notes, nothing.

Now that's a bit near the bone, isn't it?

"Gawd," I can hear some of you say, "that bleedin' Optimist is a mind reader now!"

But the truth is that we've all been there. The trick is to break all this down, and tell the truth. Tell the truth to yourself. Be true to yourself. You know what the truth is, but can you face up to it? It is a lot harder to win than most people think.

The bloke at the TAB who murmurs "ssssst" as "his" horse races home a winner is the biggest fraud around. Watch and see him slip away cursing not too long afterwards. He is either going along to the auto teller or he's bust and off home to make everyone's life a misery. Close to the mark again?

Sermon over. Let's look at the solution.

That bank. Let's say that you want to bet $50 a week. That's $2600 for the year. Yes, that much.

But you don't have to find the $2600, just a steady flow of a maximum of $50 per week. On a nett wage of, say, $25,000, it represents about 10 per cent. That is very significant. This betting business is not just for fun (although if there were no fun it wouldn't be worth the effort). It's first and foremost for making money.

If you manage to win, say, $100 on the first week, then your bank is at $150 and there is no need to tap into it, betting at $50 a week, for at least three weeks. If you lose everything for the next three weeks you'd have to find the $50 for the following week, but, otherwise, there is residue. And so with a few lucky days you might be able to defer any additions to the bank.

Remember that only if you lose the lot every week do you have to keep finding that $50. Otherwise you are using some of your returns each following week. Even if you lose $20 a week, you'd only need to find another $30 each time. Without the greed factor, you can probably, even if you are an average punter who loses 15 to 20 per cent per year, get by on $40 rather than $50 per week.

(2) The Methodology

This is the other side of the coin. The first is what to bet, the second is what to bet on.

Many PPM readers don't go outside this mag and its services for their selections and methods. It makes sense really, although I guess it sounds biased coming from me. But, to use my own example, since I retired from the university I have had more time to put into my race analysis. My readers and Stable callers get that work done for them. The magazine produces several fine systems every year, with all their results thoroughly documented and a total support in place for those who have any trouble following the ideas through.

It sometimes beats me why there are any punters who don't read this magazine, as it is the only one that seriously considers the investing punter. Picking winners isn't the only aim: it's quality analysis that's the heart of the racing matter.

Yet non-readers exist, and they fail to take advantage of what is available after all the exhaustive work put in by the team. Oh well, so much for what may seem like an advertisement, but those who have been with me for a long time know that this is a puzzle I have never understood. My current view is what the heck, leading horses to water is sometimes impossible. Let's all go ahead and try harder to enjoy ourselves and make money while we're at it.

I suggest, as I have in the past, a long-term method. Identify two or three concepts that work for you. If it's my analysis, great. If it's one of the systems, or two or three of them, stick. Allot your money according to what you believe is required, and STICK.

No other bets.

What, none? Well, OK, just a small number when some horse seems to be telling you something.

Ten per cent of your week's outlay, maximum. No more.

And remember, whatever can happen, will happen. There will be weeks when the results seem to be easy to pick, yet at the end of the day you have no cash and there is no real reason.

That happened to me on Caulfield Cup day. I didn't make bad or "wrong" decisions, as such. They just didn't pay off. Any serious punter knows what I am saying here. I had, however, outlaid one per cent of my bank that day, and lived to fight on. If you allocate one-fiftieth of your bank per week, as we have been suggesting, then the most damage you can do is lose two per cent of the total year's bank- There is, however, an alternative to this.

A while ago (probably a year ... how time flies) I suggested that you could allocate a fixed sum each week, then reallocate it according to your more favoured weeks. That's still possible. For example, you could reallocate your bank to the following meetings, with the remaining weeks coming back to $20 each:

Melbourne Cup $200,
Caulfield Cup $200,
Cox Plate $200,
Golden Slipper $200,
Doncaster $200,
Sydney Cup $200,
Adelaide Cup $100,
Goodwood $100,
Brisbane Cup $100,
Perth Cup $100,
Stradbroke $100,
Doomben 10,000 $100.

This allows you to have 12 top weeks with bigger outlays, and 40 quieter ones at $20 each. A total of $2600 for 52 weeks at $50 each, average.

Some punters find this more interesting, and they believe they have greater chances of winning on the top events. That's fine, if you can be honest with yourself as to what constitutes your year's betting programme. You will need to put by $30 a week for a time in January until the Slipper comes up. If you win, you will have to be strong and STICK to the $20 a week after the Sydney carnival.

Can you do it? Well, do you want to win in 1998? If you do, you will identify a plan NOW and you will stick to it.

By The Optimist