One of the rarest feats in baseball is the unassisted triple play, in which one fielder gets three players out in a single play, without any assistance. So rare is this feat, in fact, that according to the Baseball Almanac, unassisted triple plays have happened only 12 times in the history of the major leagues. Players who perform such a near-miracle automatically get their names and the deed recorded in the history books.

In investing, one of the surest ways to make a profit is to have a company you own get bought out lock, stock, and barrel. Most of the time, when such a buyout happens, the owners of the company getting bought out receive a nice premium to the market price immediately before the announcement of the purchase. That premium is an incentive, paid by the buying firm to assure that shareholders approve the merger and tender enough of their shares to make the acquisition a friendly one.

Once such an acquisition is announced, the stock of the firm being bought typically jumps to cover most of that incentive, thereby removing the ability of any new investors to significantly profit from the deal. For instance, this May, when Midwestern electric company Cinergy (NYSE:CIN) announced that it would be bought out by rival power generator Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK), Cinergy's stock jumped as high as 7.97% off its previous close on the trading session following the announcement, making for a spectacular leap in the staid business of public utilities.

The value bloodhound
If you want to make money off such a deal, therefore, you have to be invested in the target company before such an acquisition is announced. Of course, if you know an offer is coming down the pike, you ordinarily can't buy shares in the target firm without running the risk of being prosecuted for insider trading. To successfully profit from buyouts without resorting to illegal tactics, you have to be on the lookout for the conditions that make an acquisition likely.

Fortunately for those of us at Motley Fool Inside Value, the conditions that make a company ripe for a buyout are very similar to the ones that make a company a likely value investment. When a firm has a large moat protecting its operations, has strong cash flows to reward investors, and is trading dramatically below its true worth as a business, it's ripe for the taking. And that's true whether you're an individual investor looking to pick up a few shares or an investment banker looking to profit from facilitating the next big mega-merger.

Inside Value's lead analyst Philip Durell has been so successful at digging up values, in fact, that not only has his service more than doubled the market's returns as measured by the S&P 500 since inception, but also had three of the selected companies targeted for potential buyouts within the past year. Philip's tremendous track record is the investing equivalent of baseball's unassisted triple play.

Chronicling the accomplishment
Philip's first buyout came from Canadian door manufacturer Masonite. In late December 2004, Masonite announced that it was being acquired by buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, at a significant premium to the Inside Value price. Between Philip's selection and the company's eventual buyout, Masonite shares rocketed by better than 37%, in just about seven months.

Next came long-distance phone company MCI (NASDAQ:MCIP). In February, fellow telecommunications giant Verizon (NYSE:VZ) decided it wanted to buy out this bankruptcy survivor and early Inside Value selection. In an action that sweetened the pot even further for MCI investors, fellow Baby Bell Qwest Communications (NYSE:Q) launched a bidding war against Verizon, attempting to get its own hands on MCI. In the little more than six months between Philip's selection of MCI and his recommendation of a sale on the buyout news, MCI's shares shot up more than 44%, creating a tremendous return for subscribers.

More recently -- just this month, in fact -- lottery services company GTECH Holdings (NYSE:GTK) announced that it has been approached by an as-yet unnamed suitor for a possible buyout. On that news of yet another possible acquisition from the Inside Value family, GTECH shares took off, and they recently traded some 46% above where they were when Philip picked the company just this past April.

Ordinarily, when the news keeps repeating the same story, it gets a bit boring. But when you're a shareholder of a company getting bought out, there's nothing boring about the acquisition premium lining your pocket with cold, hard cash.

Next batter, please
While an unassisted triple play is enough to land a player in baseball's record books, no major-leaguer worth his salt would expect one such event to put him on easy street for the rest of his life. Just as the best ballplayers continue to hone their skills throughout their careers, Philip remains on the prowl for the next value-priced company for his subscribers. Philip's skills clearly remain in peak form. While not quite a buyout offer, beer giant Anheuser-Busch (NYSE:BUD) announced that legendary value investor Warren Buffett had acquired a stake in the company shortly after Philip had picked it for Inside Value.

Philip excels at finding companies with strong moats and solid cash flows while they're trading below their true worth. As a result, his subscribers have been richly rewarded, both through buyouts and ordinary share appreciation. Click here to take a 30-day free trial of Inside Value to discover which of his selections have actually outperformed all of his picks that have been approached to be bought out. If you're looking to find out where the next market-beating value investment might be discovered, then click here to join Inside Value and get a head start on the next 12 months worth of Philip's picks.

At the time of publication, Fool contributor and Inside Value team member Chuck Saletta had no ownership position in any of the companies mentioned in this article. He does, however, proudly count himself a customer of both Cinergy and Verizon. Duke Energy is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.