Staking has been covered many times in P.P.M. and now I've heard of one more plan! Using place bets, a friend told me he had not had a losing year for six years.

Now that's a bold claim but he had the records to prove it. He felt the strength of his betting was a very careful selection of his bets, mostly choosing short-priced favourites, and then applying his staking plan as a place bet.

"With this plan I am guaranteed to ultimately finish in front," he proudly boasted. How could I disagree in the face of his profits? So let's have a look at his plan. Basically, he bets in 'cycles' and aims to make a profit over each one.

The first would be one unit, say \$20. If that was placed, then that cycle was over and a profit was declared. But if it lost the next bet was the same amount (\$20). If this lost the third bet would be \$20. Let's say that this one was placed and paid \$1.60, for a return of \$32. The next bet would be \$40. If that lost, the next bet would be \$40.

In other words, you increase by one unit (\$20) each time you have a collect but hold your bets at the same level each time you lose, until there is a profit on a series of bets. Let's look at a few examples:

Bet No. 1: \$20. Result: 2nd \$1.30. Collect \$26. Profit \$6. Total Profit \$6.
Bet No. 2: \$20.
Bet No. 3: \$20.
Bet No. 4: \$20. Result: 3rd \$1.50. Collect \$30.

You now have a loss of \$30 on this cycle, so the bets must increase to regain the losses.

Bet No. 5, then, is \$40. Result: 2nd \$1.40. Collect \$56-but you're still behind \$14, so up goes the bet to \$60.
Bet No. 6: \$60.
Bet No. 7: \$60. Result: 1st \$1.20. Collect \$72 but still behind \$62. Be brave!
Bet No. 8:\$80. Result: 1st \$1.50. Collect \$120. Now only \$22 behind, relief is almost in sight.
Bet No. 9: \$100. Result: 2nd \$1.30. Collect \$130.

A profit has been achieved over the cycle of \$8, giving a total profit on the two cycles of \$14.

Now you can see that this approach grinds away and can make small but steady profits - if you can be consistent with your selections. My friend claimed 85 to 90 per cent with his, and I recently followed a run of odds-on favourites, with careful selection, through a run of eight placings in a row, so a good run is possible.

Sometimes the dividends are surprising - a horse wins paying \$1.40 a win and \$1.20 a place. Clearly value. You need those with this approach. But can it make a profit in the long haul, presuming your heart can stand the pressure of large bets relative to the small returns?

When I asked my friend whether or not his approach had made money on a level stake basis, his answer was a bit of a shock. Over the six years, at level stakes, there had been a loss of 3.6 per cent. But, he said, his staking had ensured that he finished in front.

I beg to disagree most strongly. You may find it hard to see why, when he had shown a profit over such a good period of time. However, at Monte Carlo, there are people who have existed on their winnings on roulette just by betting one colour (red or black) for many, many years. Yet on a wheel with only one zero, the percentage against you is 2.7 per cent.

What this means is that the average player will lose that amount of their capital in their gambling lifetime. Some will lose more, some less. So some, just by sheer luck, will finish in front, probably praising their 'skill' and not realising just how lucky they have been.

You see, when looking at a sequence of bets, you must not look at bets in sequence, or horizontally, but vertically. To explain this, using a double-up bet:

Result.
LLLWWLWLLLLLLW

Bet:
1 2 4 8 1 1 2 1 2 4 8 16 32 64
(a profit of four units).

The correct way to look at this is as follows :

We have really had four games of one unit bets, three games of two, two of eight and one each of 16, 32 and 64. If you can get this into your thinking you will see why you must always make a profit at level stakes in order to win at racing, or any form of gambling. In the long run, an you are doing with a staking system is having a number of bets of different amounts and ultimately all will have to show a profit at each amount or you will lose-given sufficient time.

My friend was lucky, though I cannot persuade him of that, and I guess it is hard to agree with my argument if you have a successful record to support you. I hope he is one of the lucky ones who stay in front for a long time, perhaps for as long as he gambles, but I fear that sooner or later the worm will turn and that losing streak we all fear will claim him.

Maybe he will lift his average returns past the level needed for consistent profits, and then any staking plan will win for him.

Dr Clive Allcock is the co-author of the best-selling book The Guide To Good Gambling. He is an occasional contributor to PPM.

By Dr Clive Allcock

PRACTICAL PUNTING - DECEMBER 1990