IT is that time of year when wallets are de-loused and forgotten password emails are spat out by internet betting companies as bookmakers greedily await the gullible masses.

While not quite the tax collectors in the temple, there are few arch-villains quite like the modern-day bookmaker. Whether it is concocting markets with dubious outcomes such as prices on Ian Paisley Jr to be the next Celtic manager or haggling over payouts on what constitutes a tackle, it is never been much of a revelation to learn that the odds are – literally – stacked in their favour.

Too often, the failure of the regular punter comes from an obsession with chasing value at the expense of all logic. The Grand National, scheduled to take place on Masters Day 3, has long been a case in point as bettors have embarked on all manner of fishing expeditions in the mistaken belief that it is some kind of extension of the national lottery.

Hence the millions of pound coins lumped on to horses with the name of Auntie Sandra’s first boyfriend, or Uncle Charlie’s favourite number or sundry other fatuous reasons.

But the outcome of the Grand National has long been decided by strong, rarely-shifting trends pertaining to the age of the horse, the weight it is carrying, its class and its previous course form.

Picking out a winner in The Masters is similar. It is the one Major that boasts recurring trends that can help give us some kind of idea of who might be pulling on the green jacket on Sunday night.

Believe it or not, at least three of the four Grand National measurements can be attached to the trends that dictate a Masters winner: age, course form and class. For example, Retief Goosen was a regular go-to guy for each-way bets at Augusta. Why? Course form. Goosen finished 2nd, 13th, 13th, 3rd, 3rd, 2nd, 17th between 2002 and 2008 – at worst he was a habitual 5/1 shot to finish top South African which in those years often meant him simply having to outperform Ernie Els.

For reasons of simplicity, we will take a look at the outright market (feel free to do them each way if the price is healthy enough) and it is quite easy to rip through the entire field by setting some fairly obvious filters to the list of entrants.

All of the previous 10 winners of the Masters were ranked in the top 30; the same number had also played in at least one Masters. Meanwhile, there is a 100 per cent record over the past 10 years of players who had posted a previous top-40 finish. If we forget course form, briefly, and look at age, the profile dictates that nine of the last 10 were aged under 40.

One of the most surprising trends concerns starting odds: short-priced contenders have fared badly on the stats with eight out of 10 previous winners returning at 16/1 or better.

This is not an attempt at providing some revolutionary formula. There are countless guides elsewhere that will give granular detail on scoring averages, strokes gained tee to green and stats concerning approach shots.

The key message here is that gut instinct too often governs common sense or in some cases the bleedin' obvious. But some very cursory reading can give you a clear divining process from which to draw your contenders; by doing just that the profile of the winner should look something like this: under 40; ranked in the world’s top 30; at least one previous Masters, made the cut the previous year, a top-five finish earlier in the season, not the defending champion or the world No.1, oh, and a previous win on US soil but not the Texas Valero Open that Jordan Spieth has just triumphed in.

Start to apply these stats and some big names will fall off your shortlist. Try to resist the urge to listen to what your heart is telling you, though. There will always be exceptions when it comes to trends but more often than not, arriving at the selection process with a firm idea of what the profile of a winner looks like is better than opting for someone with none of the trends in their favour on a whim.

If this was a television programme in the 1970s, it would now be the point when the watcher would hear the sound of data being fed into the “big computer”, there would be whir, some professorial bods would look at clipboards and a machine would dispense a ticker-tape readout with the answer on it. Oh, for those days. A foot-long roll of receipt paper would certainly help with the size of the list that is about to come next...Here is what the science says when we input the contenders into that computer:

Abraham Ancer (best priced 80/1), Brooks Koepka (22/1), Corey Conners (80/1), Matt Wallace (125/1), Patrick Cantlay (22/1), Ryan Palmer (150/1), Viktor Hovland (33/1), Xander Schauffele (22/1) and Sungjae Im (80/1).

Good luck with whichever name you plump for, just don’t opt for Auntie Sandra’s first boyfriend...unless he was called Xander or Sungjae, of course.