The argument over each way betting never goes away, does it? A reader from Perth raised the matter with me in a letter just recently.

He said that he'd read in PPM that each way betting was bad but he maintained that he has been doing so successfully for a number of years and sees no reason to change.

He raised the issue of a punter who bets for a win, and backs four horses a race, as against him backing $50 each way.

The reader, Tom J, said: "I have $50 each way on every race (100) and back 20 winners at 4/1, with another 40 selections running 2nd or 3rd at 4/1. How would I go against a win punter who bets four horses a race at 3/1, 4/1, 6/1 and 8/1?"

This man's total investment is $10,000. He gains $5,000 from the 20 wins while on 40 races he breaks square, and on the remaining 40 bets he loses $4,000. The result is a net profit of $1,000, or 10 cents on his invested dollar.

Let's assume that another punter backs four runners a race for the win. So let's take a look.

In backing each of the four runners at the stated odds to return $100, including stake, the investment comes to $70 a race. He would drop $1,400 on the 20 losing races. On each of the winning 80 races there would be a profit of $30, or a total gain of $2,400.

The net profit would also be $1,000 but the win punter's relative yield on turnover would be just over 40 per cent greater.

His total outlay would be only $7,000 for a gain of slightly more than 14 cents on the invested dollar, even though in each race he was laying odds of 7/3 ON backing a winner.

If the each way punter had reduced his outlay to $7,000 by betting $35 each way his profit would still have been 10 cents in the dollar at $700.

A friend of mine who I chatted with about this scenario told me he greatly believed in the four horses, a race strategy. He's been using it for a long time. And he does NOT bet each way.

He says: "I rarely bet to win the same amount on each horse. I like to make a multiple bet of $100 a race with three 'savers' so in the case you're talking about I might have gone for the win on the 4/1 chance, and this would have resulted in a profit of $1,000, the same as the bloke who had $50 each way. That is, by giving myself the same number of 4/1 winners as he got.

"Loss on the 20 blank races would have been $2,000. In 60 plays the transaction is squared. The profit on each race in which the 4/1 shot hit would be $150. The saver bets would be approximately 75 to 25, 84 to 14 and 88 to 11, so with $50 invested on those three there is $50 left to bet on the 4/1 horse."

That throws an interesting light on the idea of backing four horses in a race. In respect to the entire aspect, the man with the each way approach had one chance of winning and two of breaking even in a race. In backing four horses to win the same sum in each of the 100 races there are four chances of showing a clear profit.  In the final example, there would be one chance of winning and three of saving the bet.

I guess you can take your choice. Each approach offers some degree of comfort and the chance of making a decent profit, provided that you can achieve the desired value prices.

That's the rub. Betting four horses a race is a nice concept but difficult to actually carry out in real life terms. Not that many punters are about to do it.

The friend of mine says he is more than happy to have four horses running for him. Provided he maintains his strike rate of 30 per cent winners he says a profit is his at the end of each 12 months.

"I bet about four races a day, and usually end up winning or breaking even. My main selection to win will usually be around the 3/1 to 4/1 mark in the betting, which actually means I have priced them at half that price.

"That is, I'm betting them at threes and fours but I regard them as at least 2/1 chances in the race. I've maintained this approach for a long time. Losing runs are virtually non-existent. Nor should they be when you consider I'm backing four runners in a race!

"I'd be kicking myself if I did strike a losing run, even if it was only two or three races."

By P.B. King