Be warned: Dutch betting can quickly turn into 'double Dutch' trouble! I give this warning at the start of this article because some punters may be led to believe, or may already believe, that 'Dutching' a race is an easy path to riches.

Well, it isn't - and the only chance you have of making it pay off is if you are an excellent handicapper. This seems to be the general consensus opinion of the world's leading handicappers.

Dutching is all about attempting to beat the bookmaker at his own game, by backing more than one horse whose total percentages are under 100 per cent. Normally, a Dutch bettor will bet horses whose percentages total around 80 per cent; then if he secures the winner he stands to make at least 20 per cent on his bet.

If, of course, he has drawn up his own prices and then bets overlay prices, he can win a lot more. For example, let's assume firstly that Punter Bill has chosen four horses to bet in a race but he has not drawn up any exact prices himself.

His horses are priced with the bookmakers at, say, 4/1, 9/2, 8/1 and 10/1. Converting these to percentage terms we see that they total 20, 18, 11 and 9 equalling 58 per cent. This leaves the bettor with plenty of room for profit. He can bet all four horses for $58 and no matter which one wins he will make $42 profit.

But what if the punter had drawn up his own prices on the foursome and was only going to bet the overlays, those selections available at a greater price than the one he had assessed?

Let's say Punter Bill had the horse offered at 4/1 as a 6/4 chance, the horse offered at 9/2 as exactly that, the horse offered at 8/1 at 10/1 and the horse offered at 10/1 at 4/1?

Now his Dutch betting would be different. He would bet 40 units on the 4/1 chance, 18 on the 9/2 chance, nothing on the 8/1 chance and 20 units on the 10/1 chance. Now he has outlaid 78 units, but his dividend prospects are far rosier.

Should the 4/1 selection win, he gets a return of 200 units. If the 9/2 chance wins, he gets a return of 99 units, and if the 10/1 chance wins he gets a return of 220 units. If this handicapper is proficient, and can maintain a solid strike rate, as well as secure good overlays, he could be among those who make Dutch betting pay off.

How did Dutch betting get its name? According to Tom Ainslie, in his book Ainslie's Encyclopaedia of Thoroughbred Handicapping, it goes back some time.

He writes: "It is said that a character called Dutch learned how to exploit the system by creating what came to be known as a Dutch book. A shrewd shopper, he specialised in betting on every horse in a race in such a way that the odds percentages added to less than 100.

"Scaling all bets in proportion to the percentages, he and his followers were guaranteed a percentage of profit representing the difference between their 'book' and 100. Dutch sweetened the kitty considerably whenever he could refrain from betting on a low-odds horse in the expectation it would lose. If the forecast was correct, proportioned bets on the other runners enlarged the profits by the percentage of the eliminated horse's odds."

Here, then, is a classic way to set about Dutching - find the races in which the well-fancied runner is a real risk, and then bet the best’ of the others. A recent example was the race in which Mahogany was sent out a very hot favourite at Moonee Valley on January 26.

A friend who bets Dutch all the time decided that Mahogany was a risk. He reasoned that the horse was a few lengths below his peak of some 12 months ago, and that he would struggle to beat at least two or three runners in the race, especially coming under pressure in the final 150m.

Leaving out Mahogany, he priced Spartacus as a 2/1 chance, Khaptingly as a 4/1 chance (started 12/1) and Flavour as a 5/1 chance (started 13/4). Thus he outlaid only bets on Spartacus and Khaptingly, a total of 53 units on the race, and with Spartacus winning at 9/2, he collected a profit of 128.5 units.

My pal was right in forecasting that Mahogany would be struggling in the last stages of the race. Spartacus came again to draw clear and beat him.

Tom Ainslie warns in his book that Dutching will fail unless the bettor is an extremely sharp and clever handicapper. He's right. You do need to have your wits about you and one of the key things is to pick the right races on which to bet.

Rufus Perry, author of Play The Horses And Win, says: "Technically, a player is making a Dutch bet when he puts money on the nose of just two horses in a single race. Only one of those horses can win, so the other bet
is sure to lose.

"But with the Dutch system it isn't wasted. It is a form of insurance. It's like following the procedure of a handicapper, who discards certain horses in order to give the remainder a clear, competent rating.

"Out of, say, 12 horses he finds five that can really run. Regardless of odds, any of those five is a likely winner. By betting on them all, the player spends $10 and is almost certain to collect on the horse that does win.

"In substance, he is reducing his odds on the horse that turns out to be a winner. His $2 ticket costs him $10. A horse that brings in a profit of $22 on such a ticket is running at 11/1 where the rest of the players are concerned. To the Dutchman the nag is only at around 2.2 to 1."

Perry says many handicappers make a decision to price all outsiders at 20/1 or 30/1, regardless of their actual chance. Thus, a bettor could bet six good chances and up to six outsiders and still leave himself room for profit, especially if he could eliminate the favourite from contention.

If a punter avoided the favourite, he might have runners at various prices, plus the outsiders, and feel very happy about the race. Let me give you a recent example:

On Saturday, January 25, I decided that I would bet against the early favourite Prince Regalia in the 4th race at Rosehill, a Class 6 over 1350m. My decision was reinforced when rain hit the meeting and track conditions deteriorated.

Putting aside Prince Regalia, I had Little Lucifer at 2/1, My Cliffhanger at 9/2, All The Rage at 7/1, Kantoa at 10/1 and the rest nowhere. This was a good race to Dutch. I secured 7/2 about Little Lucifer and bet him for 33 units. My Cliffhanger touched 5/1 and I bet him 18 units. All The Rage was always at an unbettable price (3/1 out to 4/1), while Kantoa was available at 16/1 so carried a bet of 9 units.

In all, then, I bet a total of 60 units. My return when Little Lucifer won was 148.5 units, a profit of 88.5 units. My bet was never in doubt; Little Lucifer streaked away to win and if he hadn't done that I would have had My Cliffhanger land the money. He ran 2nd, ahead of the fading Prince Regalia.

A nice race, then, to have avoided one well-fancied runner, and to have backed all the other strong chances who were at value prices. The trick, of course, is to be able to do this enough times to keep ahead of the game!

This is where your personal handicapping should come into play. You have to be sensible, patient, disciplined and shrewd.

Ensure you secure the best prices, and always make sure you have a decent slice of profit coming your way should one of your selections win.

Sometimes you will want to bet on a race but the percentages will not work out for you.

That's okay, don't worry about it. Simply forget the race and move on to the next.

The one thing we do not have to worry about these days is races to bet on. We have many more than can be handled by anyone except the most ferociously desperate punter!

My advice is that you stick to the city meetings, and the strong provincials; specialise in one State; pick your races carefully; always draw up your own value prices; always bet only the overlays, and, finally, try to bet in those races where you can eliminate the favourite from winning contention.

By Alan Jacobs