Once upon a time, punters either used a system to identify their selections or they selected the one that appealed to them the most based upon a horse’s form, for example, or they simply stuck a pin in the race card and hoped for the best.

I use to visit quite a few betting forums and I started seeing terms such as ‘Filters’ and ‘Methods’ being mentioned quite a lot.  Now, I think that I know what people mean when they use the term ‘Filter’, but ‘Method’?, I hadn’t clue one what one of those was. 

I contacted a friend of mine and asked if he knew what a ‘Method’ was.  He found it very difficult to provide me with a precise definition and gave me an example instead.  We ended up having a very interesting conversation, and it was that conversation that prompted me to write this article.

So, let us begin by defining what a ‘System’ is.

The accepted definition of a System is: An entity which has an input, a process and an output.  A toilet is an excellent example of a system.

Without an input, there will be no output.  Without a process, the output will be the same as the input (provided an input exists)

Now let’s look at a system with regard to horse racing.

What is the input to any system?  The list of horses in the race.  Yes, jockeys and or trainers could be the input.  However, jockeys ride the horses and the trainers train them.  So, the horses still, essentially, form the input.

What is the process?  The application of a rule, or set thereof, which is used to determine which horse(s) should backed or layed and which should not.

What is the output from the system?  The horse(s) that should be backed or layed. i.e. the tips.

An example of a system is: Lay all horses that are odds-on in all handicap races.

What is the input to this system? - The list of horses competing in each race.

What is the process? - Select all odd-on horses that are running in handicap races only.

What is the output from this system? - Horses that should be layed.

What is a Filter?

A Filter is used to de-select a horse(s) following its selection by a system.  In other words, a filter is a rule.  If it is a rule, then it is part of a process since it operates between the inputs and the outputs of a system.  There is nothing which sets it apart from any other type of rule since a rule is a rule.  

That has neatly dispensed with filters.

Now let’s take a look at the term ‘Method’. 

What is a Method?

The friend that I spoke of gave me an example of a method.  It involves identifying the horse whose pre-race odds shorten the most (in percentage terms) and the horse whose pre-race odds lengthen the most (in percentage terms).  Then the two percentages are compared in absolute terms and the horse with the greater odds change, in percentage terms, is backed or layed, as appropriate. 

For example, if the odds of the horse, whose odds have shortened the most, have decreased by 20% and if the odds of the horse, whose odds have lengthened the most, have increased by 25%, then horse whose odds have increased by 25% is layed. 

Now, why is this a Method, as opposed to a system?  Well, there you have the better of me.

As far as I am able to determine, the above is just a set of rules which, if operated, form a process, or part thereof.  If the process is supplied with an input (a list of horse’s odds in a race), then it will produce an output (a list of horses to be backed or layed).  So, we have an input, a process and an output. In other words, a system.

So, a Method is part of a system in the same way that a filter is part of a system in the same way that a set of rules are part of a system.  In other words, they are all the same thing.

Now, let’s say that a Method isn’t a rule or part thereof.  What else, then, could it be?  Well, it can’t be an input, because the input is the list of horses in the race.  It can’t be the output, because the output is the tips.  It can’t be the process because a process is simply operating a set of rules on the input to produce the output (i.e. the tips).  The only thing left that a Method could be is the system itself.  So, if a Method is a system, why not call it a system?  Why use the term Method?

Well, my best guess is that selection systems have attracted a lot of bad press over the years since most, if not all, have been shown to be unprofitable over the long-term.  If one was profitable, we’d all be using it, not still talking about them.  So, tipsters no longer find it as easy as they once did to sell their systems or the tips from them.  Therefore, what have they done?  They have put some spin on the term System and come up with the term ‘Method’.  Then, they try to persuade the un-suspecting public that ‘Methods’ are different and superior to ‘Systems’.  This, in turn, implies that systems are un-profitable whereas ‘Methods’ are not.  They then come up with another unprofitable system and re-badge it as a ‘Method’ in the hope that they can fool the world into thinking that it will be profitable. 

So, when someone says to you, I don’t use a system, I use a Method, you now know what one is and how to reply.