When we talk about 'level stake' betting what are we really saying about our punting technique? Is the fact that we only dare bet each horse for the same amount of money indicative of cowardice or plain common sense? Is level stake betting a copout, in fact?

There are many punters who will agree with the final theory-that by squaring off the same amount of money on each bet you are simply avoiding the issue, the issue being that each horse has a different chance of winning, and some deserve higher bets and others smaller bets.

I guess we could argue the fact for ages and still not come up with a definitive result. Some punters just like level stakes betting, and it certainly is the best guide we have to the potential profitability of any given set of bets.

But, as one veteran pro told me recently, level stakes betting is a long term grind, especially for the punter betting on only two or three horses per day. It takes him a long time to get good profits from 50 bets.

What I am going to propose in this series of Successful Staking articles is a collection of interesting progression plans, some gleaned here in Australia, others from America and the United Kingdom. I'll also present for your consideration some other staking ideas which are currently working for professional punters around the world. I am sure many of you will find them a useful alternative to level stakes betting. They are designed to put you on what I like to call a 'profit curve' that can go up sharply if your selections are sound.

Firstly, some logical progression tables. These were very carefully drawn up by P.P.M's computer ratings expert Neale Yardley, and will see you 'right' if your selections meet the criteria under which the progressions were established.

An expected winner at 4/1 every 10 bets results in the following progression programme: 1-1-1-1-2-2-3-3-4-5. An expected winner at 8/1 winner every 20 bets would call for the following progression: 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-2-2-2-23-3-34-4-5-5-6. An expected 2/1 winner every six bets requires the following progression: 1-1-2-3-4-6 (if needed beyond this the bets would be 8/12).

Let's check out the last one. You are backing horses at 2/1. You go five losers in a row, and are 11 units behind. Then you strike with a 2/1 winner. Your bet is six units. That means a return of 6 x 2 equalling 12 plus your own six equalling 18 units. In all you have staked a total of 17 units, and you have got back 18. The progression has ensured you recouped all losses and gave you a profit.

Had you bet the total 17 units at level stakes (say three units each bet) you would have struck the one 2/1 winner, for a return of eight units, but a total overall loss of nine units. Not too great! This is an example of how a progression method can boost the profitability of a selection method.

What about a look at the 8/1 winner method? Let's say you got 12 bets without a winner. Using the suggested progression the 12 bets would have set you back 16 units (eight bets at one unit each, and four bets at two units each). Your next bet would be three units. If it won at 8/1 you would get a total return of 27 units. Your total stake was 19 units. The
progression has put you eight units ahead. With just one winner from 13 bets!

And now the 4/1 winners, progression. Let's say you went eight bets without a winner. The progression bets would have cost you 14 units, and your next bet would be a four-unit bet. If it won at 4/1 you would get a total return 'of 20 units. In all, you have staked 18 units for a return of 20 units-a profit of two units with just one winner from nine bets.

If you expected, say, a 9/4 winner at regular intervals and. wanted a progression plan to cover such a contingency, you would need to bet as follows: 2-2-2-3-4-5-8-12-17-24-36. To cover a run of 10 straight losers (heaven help us!) you would need a bank, of 115 units. A winner at 9/4 at any stage will recoup all previous' losses and there'll be a profit should a winner arrive at 5/2 or better.

Let's assume you went eight losers in a row; that would call for an outlay of 38 units. You next bet in the progression would be 17 units. It wins at 9/4. You' get a total return of 55.25 units. In all, you have staked 38 plus 17 equalling 55 and you have got back that amount, plus some loose change. All things equal with one winner from nine bets! Not bad, eh.

Here, then, are classic examples of the efficiency of well-thought out progression betting tables. They do not require massive increases in bets; instead they ask YOU only to adopt a mild progressive increase each time you, strike a loser. Nothing to get frightened about at all. As well as this, the progressions offer you the chance of profit as long as you strike the required 'right price' winner. The higher priced the winner the more the profit, of course.

If you're currently betting at level stakes-and many punters are-you may find it an interesting challenge to switch to the progression. The key thing to remember is that if you want to bet in a successful manner you must go about your punting in some sort of systematic manner. Control your betting at all times.

One progression plan that I like very much comes from what is known as the 'flat stake progression' school, You start with flat stakes and remain on them until the unit has been increased 10 times. Let's assume your flat betting stake is $2. You bet in this amount until you are showing a profit of $20. At this point the betting operation changes. You bet one-fifth of the sum in hand. For instance, if you are winning $20 the next bet would be $4.

During a winning cycle the bank can build swiftly. You can cease betting whenever you are satisfied with the profit. You can then start a new series with the same flat stake unit, or a higher one. If you begin with $3 the switch to one-fifth would be made when you were $30 ahead; with a $4 starting unit you make the switch when $40 ahead. With progression betting, you have to get the scale of bets balanced in an orderly and appropriate fashion. Many such progressions are out of kilter. They increase by too much, or decrease by too little (or too much). There are scales, originally published decades ago in America, which provide such balance.

There are five scales-5 per cent, 10 per cent, 20 per cent, 25 per cent and 30 per cent progressions. The first mentioned is designed for selection plans which choose good priced horses, those selections which are apt to strike the occasional long losing streaks. The 10 per cent progression is for solidly handicapped horses, providing a mixture of short and long-priced selections and a fairly consistent winning average.

The 20 per cent progression is adaptable to 'standout plays', those for mainly return short odds on frequent winners. The same, but even more so, applies to the 25 per cent and 30 per cent progressions. What these scales mean, put simply, is that you increase your bets each time by the desired progression.

Let's say you decide on the 10 per cent progression, using $10 bets. The progression would be $10, $11, $12, $13, $14 etc. All you do is add 10 per cent of the last bet. In the same way, the other progressions apply. Once you strike a winner, and make a profit, you drop back to the beginning and start again.

A further simple and effective progression plan goes like this: 1-2-3-3-44-5-5 and then level off. You move ahead, as usual, one notch after a loser and go back one notch after a winner, providing it pays better than 1/2. The Americans who devised this suggest you have three banks of 30 units each. If you bet in $10 amounts then you would need a $900 bank (to be on the safe side).

They also suggested that this method could be profitably used by backing favourites for the place. The only stipulation was that the favourite had to have one of the area's top eight jockeys aboard. (This idea is worth checking out; give it a dry run, or look back on past results to see how the favourites fared using the progression plan).

What you have to remember about betting is that you should never increase stakes too rapidly. The punter who gets into big figures with a bad run of outs can be defeated simply by running out of money, not by any further losers. You cannot be too greedy. The greedy punter is in too much of a hurry to get his money back. If he wins at first he exhausts his good luck with too many more bets and when the bad luck sets in he escalates too quickly, too much and lands in deeper strife.

An American professional punter, James Rowe, says he is not a fan of progression methods. His favourite approach is as follows: Start each day with a $15 bet. If it loses, lower the next bet to $10. If it wins, however (the first bet, that is) increase the next bet to $20. just increase by $5 after a win and decrease by $5 after a loss. Retain $10 as the lowest bet.

This method, he says, averages out to $20 flat bets, but it can end up more profitable if you continue the sequence for more than one meeting before reverting back to $15.

Rowe's approach is an interesting one, and although he says he doesn't favour progressions, this approach certainly seems like a variation of a progression! Those of you who like an easy approach, as Rowe's is, might care to test it out on your own selections at the races.

The final plan, which has been mentioned before in P.P.M., will interest those among you who like to bet more than one horse per race. It is based on flat stake progression. It is unlikely to set you on the path to winning a fortune but on reasonable sets of selections it can supply you with steady profits without fear that you will suffer heavy losses.

Your opening bank is 100 units. A unit can be any amount you like. You stake 1/20th (5 per cent) of your capital on each race chosen. If you had a $100 bank you would bet $5, split $3 straightout on your top selection and $1 each way on your next best. Increase your stakes when your bank has increased by 25 per cent, but always bet 1/20th of the total bank.

These are just a few ideas to help you get on the profit curve path using progression plans. Always keep in mind that you must choose sensible selections, with the chance of a decent win strike rate, if you are to expect any staking plan to help you. No staking plan is any good if the selections are duds.

Click here to read Part 2.

By Alan Jacobs