Show me an average handicapper who bets well and I'll show you a winner; show me a good handicapper who bets poorly and I'll show you a loser!

No, I can't claim this as being an original thought. Frankly, I can't recall who said something very much like it; perhaps it was Australia's flamboyant punter of the '20s and '30s, Eric Connolly?

No matter who said it, the words are worth remembering. I can count on one hand the number of punters I've met over the years who really knew how to bet properly. By that I mean they had the money management side of things down to a tee. No stupid bets, little risk taking, an orderly approach, nothing too outrageous ... it all adds up to success for them with their betting.

In contrast, I've known many nifty handicappers who could pluck winners from nowhere yet their selection skills were not matched by an associated money management approach. All were conspicuous failures. Indeed, one poor soul tried to hang himself in his garden shed so frustrated was he by his failure to turn winner-picking into dollar grabbing. His wife, who just happened to be looking for the potting mix, appeared upon the hanging scene. Hobby was just about to place the noose around his neck.

"Don't be so bloody silly," she barked, and my mate Jim realised the hopelessness of his actions, rather like the punter who in desperation backs a 100/1 shot in the last race and knows, instantly, it's going to lose, that there's no gain to be had in the bet.

Luckily, sad and bizarre tales like this one are rare. Most punters shrug their shoulders over losses and steel themselves for another day at the rock face.

This stoic attitude, of course, does nothing to solve the problem of wayward betting habits. Only hard lessons learned, and advice taken, will change the course of things.

I'm afraid I have no instant or miraculous solution, mainly because each punter has his or her own individual failings. Some bet too much, often 20, 30 or 40 bets a day in win, eachway, place, doubles, quinellas and so on.

Others will unerringly have more on losers than on winners. Still others bet one way on Saturday and another on Sunday.

Though I can offer no salving balm, I do believe the average punter can go a long way to betting better by merely simplifying the approach. In short: not so many bets, not so much spreading of the total stakes, and a touch more risk and adventure!

Planning is important. Even if you bet for recreation, you owe it to yourself to protect your money while at the same time giving yourself a solid chance of making a good profit. Whittling the day away with bets on everything that moves is NOT the way to go.

My personal approach has always been to try to limit the spread of my bets. I'm the type of punter who does not get a lot of satisfaction from rushing around willy-nilly in the betting ring, seeking value on a dozen or more horses a day. I like to enjoy a casual day at the races; I take the time to stroll over to the stalls, to watch the horses being led around before the races; I like to have a nice lunch with pals, and to have the odd beer or two (never more).

Sandwiched between all this is my serious betting. One or two key bets in a day, rarely any more. All my homework is done the night before and it takes an avalanche of informed inside mail to make me change my mind! That or a drastic change in track conditions.

In recent years, I've framed what I call my Double Whammy approach. It works well for me, and I'm pretty sure it will work for most punters if they give it a chance.

The plan came about following some discussions I had with my colleague Mark Merrick. We're often getting our heads together to nut out new ideas to get an edge, and the Double Whammy, based on a plan devised in the UK, came to fruition in the late '90s.

I wanted to adopt a plan that could help me make the most of a couple of bets a day. I also wanted the plan to be effective even if the straightout win bets are lost.

The rules that Mark and I drew up are easy to follow. Let me make it clear, though, that the approach probably won't sate the appetite of those punters desirous of a lot of betting action. I doubt any moderate plan will do that because chain-bettors are usually unchangeable because they seek out thrills and fun and are just not interested in pulling back from that mindset.

However, if you think you can nail a couple of winners, then the Double Whammy is well worth the time needed to investigate.

Note: This plan is not a selection method. It's a staking approach that offers good profit possibilities for punters who can come up with sensible selections. The bets must be solid, standout chances.

  1. Bet only on those days when you are confident you can select two winners. (This rule can be bent; you can set aside, say, two days a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays, for using the approach on the general assumption that your selections will be chosen with a high degree of confidence.)
  2. You bet 4 units for a win on each selection.
  3. There is a further bet of 4 units on the first selection and if there is a return (that is, if the horse wins) you invest another 6 units on the second selection.
  4. There is an additional bet of 12 units for the place on the first selection, with any return to be placed all-up on  the second selection.
  5. The total outlay is 24 units (30 if the extra 6-unit bet comes into play). A unit can be any amount from $1  through to $10, $20 and so on.

Now, let's look at the possibilities. If both selections win, you will enjoy a wonderful day. Even with short-priced winners, the prospects are attractive. You'll have 8 units on the first selection and 10 on the second selection.

Should the first horse win, and the second one lose, you can still show a profit or, at worst, cut your straightout loss. If both horses are beaten but manage to run a place, then the all-up place bet can reduce your loss or even put you in to profit.

Were you to get, say, two winners at $4 for the win and $1.50 for the place, the situation would be as follows:

BET A: 8 units ($1 each) to win, return $32, profit $24.

BET B: 10 units win, return $40, profit $30.

BET C: 12 units all-up double, return $27, profit $15.

TOTAL BET: 30 units ($1 each), return 99 units, profit 69 units.

Now this is not a bad day's betting action. Even if your two selections didn't win but ran placings, you would win on the day. You would lose $12 on the win bets (there would be no $6 bet on the second horse) but you would get back $27 from the place bets, giving you a 3 unit profit.

If you strike with winners, then you've had a very good day. Sure, getting two winners at 3/1 is not always going to be easy, but you will get them. Other times, your selections may win at 2/1 and 6/4, or evens and 3/1 and so on.

If you pick the bets carefully you will enjoy many good days. You will certainly do better than spreading $1 and $2 bets all over the place.

If you are not happy about the 12unit place bet aspect, which is a safety first approach, you could simply use those 12 units and incorporate them into your win bets.

Over the course of a year, betting a couple of times a week, you could emerge with a handy profit. If your selections are sensible ones, then the worst you might expect is a smallish loss. That might well be an improvement even on your old way of betting!

By Peter Travers