Form Master|Amstrad Action)Applications Divers
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The Budget hits vice-ridden STEVE CAREY pretty bad. In a desperate search for a remedy he turns to betting. Now read on...

Just suppose a Martian were to land on earth. The odds are he or she (it?) would be more than a little amused by man's little foibles. Why are they doing thai?1 might well be his favourite question: 'Why are people sucking smoke from lighted sticks when they know it kills thems' To dance in hot rooms to that racket is fun?' Why does Bobby Robson carry on picking Terry Butcher?'

But even if he could understand all these things, how on earth do we explain why people persist in putting money in slot machines, and bet perfectly good money on horse races?

It is. after all, a pretty stupid thing to do. But if you must do it, why not try and do it logically, betting on horses that the available evidence suggests are more likely to win?

Described modestly by Cascade as 'undoubtedly the best horse racing form calculator ever invented'. Form Master has been developed and refined from a manual system 'over a period of decades.' and is the product of 'over seven years of computer software development.' All of this is no more than you'd expect for what is probably the most expensive piece of CPC software on the market. and in any case it would have to be pretty special for you to recoup your invest ment.' Perhaps Cascade are wise to insist that what you're buying is a system rather than a program (that's why, Im told, the disk coats the same as the tape). But spending money on a form predictor system would surely impress our imaginary Martian more than picking a horse because ycu like the sound of its name.

The 100 page manual is a crash course in sensible betting, and has little to do with the CPC. In fact you and your Martian mate could improve your betting chances considerably without ever loading the program. simply by following this advice. It hardly needs pointing out that bookmakers only make a living because they come out on top more often than not. Or to put it another way because punters lose money more often than not.

Crash course

Information: that's the key. it is no use sticking a pin in a piece of paper, or picking a runner because you like the sound of the name. But where do you get the information? The Sporting Life or Racing Post, that's where. And if you thought computer manuals - and magazines - were bad for jargon, just wait till you see the race-cards in these papers!

One way Form Master limits your opportu nities to lose is by restricting the races you should consider betting on. Dont bother with any race in which the prize money to the winner is less than £4.000, for instance, since the lower the prize the less likely is thai the horses will be raced to their full potential. The jockey is not going to nsk causing injury or distress for peanuts. And forget races in which the jockeys are amateurs or ladies.

Neither should you consider a race in which more than 16 horses are competing, since the time involved in rating them would be prohibitive - and in any case, as anyone who's ever watched the Grand National Knows, such races become lotteries or cavalry charges, with the best horses not necessarily placed. Accordingly Form Master doesn't allow you to rate more than 16 runners.

The time it takes to rate horses is considerable, at least in the early days. It is useful to know, then, that there are horses, just as there are races, you can ignore. Forget a horse that's never had a win, for example, or if the win was a walk-over, or a two or three horse race.

You are also advised to ignore a horse that's heavily fancied, being shown as 11/10, evens or worse. Now this looks decidedly odd: why should you write off a horse that's almost bound to finish well? The reason is thai such a racehorse represents poor value: such horses do not win as often as you'd expect

If time is short, you may restrict your rating to the first five horses in the probable bet ting forecast: which have come in the first tour in their last race; which was unplaced last time but is now ridden by the leading jockey at toe course and is carrying at least 21 lbs less; or any horse that way unplaced last time, but is now ridden by the leading jockey and this race's prize to the winner is at least half that of the last race

Under starter's orders

It should be becoming dear that what we're dealing with here is a sophisticated betting forecaster, and if you feel squeamish about complicated tabulations and cross-referencing you'd he well advised to hunt out the old pin, shut your eyes, lay your bet and wait for the damn beast to arrive in its own sweet time.

Still feeling enthusiastic? You come now to the Important Part : entering the data. In all there some 30 questions to respond to for each horse, and it must be said thai for the first lew times you'll wonder why on earth you shelled out a hundred big ones for a confusing system that may or may not work when you had a perfectly confusing system going that got guaranteed results (ie, lost every time). After a while, however, you get the flavour of the thing.

And they're off!

When you've finally discarded unsuitable races, eliminated all the inappropriate horses and discovered what Form Master makes of the ones that remain, you come to the crunch: parting with the cash. Anyone who's splashed out £100 on a betting program may need to be reminded that caution is the order of the day. The manual recommends that you set aside as a bank only an amount of money you can afford to lose. Pay the mortgage and the bills, gel in supplies of baked beans, feed the cat and don't exceed your budget. It's recommended too that you divide your budget into 20 equal units and never bet more th" unit on each race. That way. when it's getting dark and your 'certainty' still shows no signs of coming round the final bend, you can console yourself with the thought that you still have lots more money to throw away before it's time to barricade the door and hide from the bailiffs. (Australian Peter Carey's brilliant Booker Prize winner Oscar and Luanda, by the way. features betting addiction as one of its many major Themes. And no, he's not related. Well, not to me.)

Entering the data gets pretty heavy going (pun intended) in places, especially when you are required to enter the horse's last three form figures. This is not as easy as you would think, because Form Master will only acccept figures 0 (for not placed). 1, 2, 3, 4 and -(meaning no data to insert at this point). Furthermore a horse may pull up, fall, be brought down by another horse and so on -all of which have their own alpha-codes, which must be converted into placings or ignored according to the long and detailed instructions. This is the toughest pan of the system and takes-longest to understand. It takes ten pages in the manual, and even after you've read it you still wont know what on earth is going on.

Eventually, however, light dawns and the thing starts to hang together.

Some of the answers you are required to give appear somewhat esoteric, such as the number of days since last outing, the stall draw position and the distance the horse has travelled to the course. But as the manual points out, if a trainer has travelled 400 miles or more (round trip) it is unlikely that the inconvenience of the travel and potential disruption to stable routine is without purpose -and profit. At this point you need to turn to the cross-referenced gazetteer of main train ing centres and trainer locations relative to the UK racehorses included in the Appendix.

Into the home straight

The program assigns values to each of your answers and adds them together to give a final rating with a maximum of 150 (flat) or 125 (jump). Top-rated horses rated less than 50 should be ignored; top-rated horses rated 75 plus are prime candidates for a result. Provided there's at least a ten point gap between first rated and second rated horses, you should he onto a Good Thing.

The program clearly hetravs its origins in the visually unexciting screens" don't expect fancy graphics or flashy displays. And its irritating to have to press Return as well as a Y/N to enter a yes or no response - why cant it be a single stroke Y/N? Still, one gets the feeling that users have their eyes focused very much on the race card rather than the CPC screen

And that., of course, is how it. should be: you want pretty graphics, go buy a Raff Cecco game. You want a horse racing predictor system, you should consider Form Master. The only certainty is thai you cant pick all of the winners all of the time: but if you follow Form Master closely enough, you should find yourself doing OK.

You might even wipe that infuriating smile off the Martian's face...


★ YEAR: 1989
★ AUTHOR(S): ???
★ PRICE: £99.95


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L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent  du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.