Rules. You may not want to admit it, but it is always true in gambling that hard guidelines are a big boon in formulating strategies to defeat bookmakers.
There are no quick ways to make cash from betting on horses. The bookies work continuously at prising money from gamblers, so you shouldn't expect to do less.
Coral, for instance, not only has a form expert but a speed ratings buff, a breeding analyst and a man whose job it is to collect inside information.
A Punter should take his or her betting just as seriously, but if you follow the 37 Commandments shown below, you will give yourself a much better chance of getting in front and staying there.
The first question to ask when you want a bet is: 'How will this race be run?' And the next question: 'Will it suit the horse I am interested in backing?'
Observe as many horse races as possible. Even if the over-excitable Mark Johnson or the 'I'm bored' Graham Goode is commentating.
Check out every horse in the race, not just the one you've backed.
Focus your attention and without exception on the better class of animals in the higher-grade races.
Pack in as much form study in as time will allow.
When you note a horse 'coming to the boil' and running into form, place your bet on a winnable rating, stick with it. It will almost certainly pay its way in time.
The going and the draw are the two most important variables in establishing the outcome of any horse race.
If you have concerns about the going, draw bias, the price or any other highly important variable, wait till the last moment before placing your bet.
If the ground is declared heavy, keep your pockets sewn up!
The effect of weight is vastly overrated. In most cases, horses will not change the form, no matter how beneficial they are in terms of the weights.
Only give a horse one chance when he has an 'unlucky-in-running'. The majority who repeat the offence will continuing finding trouble.
Make a note of horses that travel well in races and/or have demonstrated a turn of foot in a truly run race.
The Ei Ei Memorial Rule. Be partial to the horses with a willingness to win.
Do not back a horse in a major handicap when its the horse's first time out - unless it is trained by Sir Mark Prescott.
Research the stats history of the big races, but use them intelligently. Idiots on television telling us that no horse above draw 9 can win the Magnet Cup should remember that this is only true when the ground isn't on the soft side of good. That's a fact.
Be cautious of each-way betting. In the long run, you're almost certainly going to win more having all-win bets of €50 than €25 each-way. And, anyway, if you're undecided about placing an each-way because you're unsure if your horse will win, why are you having a bet?
If there's a big race meeting such as the Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot, the Derby, the Grand National. You don't have to bet.
Focus your attention at specialist courses like Brighton or Goodwood on horses that have demonstrated an ability to perform at those tracks, or have so much in hand their relative inability to do so won't matter.
Study courses until you can study them no longer. Take into account that Ascot's short straight will require different qualities in a horse than York or Newbury's galloping terrain.
Seven furlongs is a distance for the specialists. End of story.
In sprints, concentrate solely on horses in form.
Check out entries for big races and keep them. They are packed with information about what trainers expect and, even more crucially, know about the horses in their charge.
Also, research and keep all the stable interviews with trainers. They'll often give information about going and distance preferences for their horses.
Don't pay over the odds for tips. There is enough quality information around for the cost of a newspaper. Graham Wheldon gives tips in the 'Racing & Football Outlook'. Andrew Barr has his own column in 'Racing Post Weekender'.
The number of race meetings will continue to grow at a fantastic rate. Have a place you can specialise in, whether it be Group races, sprints or middle-distance handicaps.
Behave like a bookmaker. Compile your own betting forecast, but above all, be honest with yourself. Ask yourself if you would really offer those odds if you were a layer.
If you want to become a serious punter then get the following books. These are a must for any serious punter's library: Nick Mordin, Betting For A Living; Alan Potts, Against The Crowd; Mark Coton, Value Betting. Probably the one to start with is the Racing Post's Definitive Guide To Betting On Horses.
Set up accounts with as many bookmakers as you can, in order to take advantage of the best prices available.
Get onto the Internet and use the free Racing Post form at racingpost.co.uk. The races are displayed in a line-byline format, which is much easier to operate and far more useful than the form in the newspaper version.
Buy a good form book. Timeform's Perspectives and Superform are excellent and are more than adequate. Stick with the one that suits you.
Get a bank together that you feel is comfortable, and get a staking plan sorted out that suits your particular style of betting.
If you're at the track, don't go for a drink before the race, watch the horses going down to the start. You'll gain a lot of knowledge about what sort of horses are suited to different types of ground and what good and bad points the horse has before running.
Don't be taken in with all the recent press about ignoring the effect of the draw. Stalls positions are often of great importance to the conclusion of a race, especially in the big handicaps. There is some truth of the long-distance races like the Tote Ebor at York, the Cesarewitch at Newmarket and the Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot. You'll find Graham Wheldon's detailed analysis of draw biases in the Racing Post Definitive Guide book (see the 27th Commandment) or at the front of the official Form Book.
The well known jockeys consistently win big races. Consider carefully before backing runners in the major races with lesser-known or inexperienced riders on board.
Choose to place your largest bets in a period, normally between June and September, when the ground remains fairly constant.
Never underrate the psychology and emotion involved in gambling. If you get extreme mood swings, you'll find it difficult to survive the inevitable losing runs.
Check out the paddock. Learn the different types of physique and the good and bad signs displayed by horses before the race. Nick Mordin's book The Winning Look covers all the bases.