Getting Bets On

Another fascinating article from the Horse Racing Pro.

Okay, the title is already somewhat misleading! We have covered many of the aspects of actually identifying the sort of horse that is liable to make you money. This time I am addressing a persistent problem for the successful or semi-successful punter: that of actually placing bets.

Before launching in to the rights and wrongs of the uneasy game of financial chess played between bookmakers and punters, a thorough grounding in debate, or arguing if I am truthful, dictates I ought to present both sides of the argument.

Perhaps we can look at the punter’s case first. He contends that bookmakers invite bets by pricing up horses and if they are incorrect, it is his prerogative to revise his betting accordingly. Therefore, when the bookmaker offers 8/1 about a horse he priced the night before and the going has altered, or there is a noticeable change in draw bias, the punter bemoans the fact he cannot avail himself of the price. After all, his argument will meander, the price did not stipulate, ‘only available if nothing has occurred that is likely to alter the chance of said runner since this price was framed.’ Refusing bets on this animal is tantamount to saying 8/1 is only available providing the horse is not three lengths clear with a hundred yards to cover. The bookmaker that assessed its chance as being 8/1 realises he may have got it wrong and is restricting how much is available. Surely, such behaviour is scandalous!

Okay, let us look at this from the bookmaker’s perspective. He has priced up the race in good faith, assuming that the prices reflect a rough betting pattern on the event in question. So in the case of the 8/1 chance, he would expect approximately eleven percent of all punters betting on the event to back that particular runner. When it is quite plain that, for whatever reason, instead of eleven percent of punters wishing to back it, something like twenty-five percent of punters wish to be on [making it a 3/1 chance in real terms], one of two things has occurred. Either the bookmakers have made a massive collective mistake, or something beyond their control has manifested itself making demand for the 8/1 chance radically increase. Possibly the horse is a Pricewise selection or, as earlier illustrated, circumstances have altered.

Understandably, the bookmaker needs and wants to take evasive action. That means from his point of view two things must happen: he has to restrict the bets he takes on the horse and, at the earliest opportunity, the price must be altered to a more realistic one.
At the risk of stating the obvious, I will state it anyway as it seems to be overlooked by many a disgruntled punter. Bookmakers are not there to provide a service. They are in business to make money. They are not obliged to accommodate punters at all costs. In their defence, they do try to cater for regular smaller-stake clients, those they perceive as comprising their core business. But the first sort of customer to receive a knock-back is the one they do not really want – the one that plays for high stakes.

Allow me to deviate for just a paragraph here and cite the current situation facing banks. On the face of it, their reluctance to pass on the interest rate decrease appears shameful. But is it? Despite what would be protestations to the contrary, Government has engineered this change in interest rates. By reacting in a prescribed manner by the Bank of England, banks and building societies are running the risk of exacerbating present financial problems. Government is attempting to refloat the economy by stimulating borrowing. In part, that is how we find ourselves in our current situation. As commercial businesses, banks are unprepared to be Government-managed, making them reluctant to lend money at disadvantageous rates and to people or companies that are likely to be poor risks. I am afraid under the present crisis that means all of us have to be including in this category. (However, the passing of the borrowing rate to existing mortgage holders would be a reasonable compromise.) So a present stand-off exists between commercial companies of great strength and influence, and a Government whose policies are crumbling but that holds enormous power. The fact banks are resisting, demonstrates the strength of the free market. Money does not lie; not in world economy or on the racecourse. Unless we live in a police State, enterprise and a free market will always face up to the might of Government when it suspects it is in its interest to do so.

Know thy enemy! As punters, it is important for us to understand the way bookmakers operate, just as they know how we tick. In the example given, I can sympathise to an extent with the bookmaker’s plight.

Another popular complaint from punters is that they cannot get on. Half-hearted punters will tell you they are constantly knocked back. The inference is that they are too warm for the bookmakers to handle. The truth is that often they are taking the piss. Ask to back the second favourite each-way for serious money when the favourite is odds-on and the bookmaker will not want to know. Would you? It is a snide bet. No wonder this request is refused; such a punter is nothing short of a nuisance and is prejudicing his future chances. Try asking your local greengrocer if he will sell you 3 kilos of apples (or apples’s as greengrocers spell them), at cost, and he will soon tell you where to go. The principle is the same! Give a decent bookmaker a chance of winning from you and he will reciprocate by giving you a chance of winning from him. Ask the punter that tells you he is holding his own, breaking even, or beating his bookmaker one question: ‘Did your bookmaker send you a diary this year?’ If the answer is yes, the punter is a loser! Bookmakers do not send free diaries to customers that cost them money!

In some cases, heavy-hitters or very shrewd or well-informed punters cannot get on pure and simple. To put the bookmaker’s case, their bets can be so large they tip the scales of what is supposed to be a balanced book wildly out of kilter. No bookmaker wants a field book that contains ten £20 bets and one of £3,000. The clue is in the title. He is attempting to make a book and clearly cannot do that if it is top-heavy. What the £3,000 bettor is forcing the bookmaker to do is to gamble, and bookmakers are not in that business; after all that is supposed to be our province. To restore some equilibrium to the argument, bookmakers should know by now that no book is balanced. Most races only provide three or four runners that attract significant support. But there are occasions when all those for money get beaten, meaning the layer has the luxury of a clear book. It comes and goes. I do sympathise with punters known to be warm that open accounts with bookmakers. They phone to place a bet in the region of £800 (only part of their overall bet but a reasonable request for an individual firm) only to be told they can have £25. That is a disgrace! Bookmakers should refuse to either conduct business with select punters lock stock and barrel, or accept their wagers without too much question. The problem with the present system as far as hot punters are concerned is that, rather like the betting in-running players on the exchanges, they only get accommodated on potential losers. This means the bookmaker is dictating the extent of their business, which is bad news. The money belongs to the punter and if denied the chance to back horses identified as potential winners by the bookmaker, his chance of winning overall is greatly reduced. I have known many a big-hitter that has subsequently backed only short-priced horses, safe in the knowledge he will be accommodated. Now, they are in potential trouble. The reason they get on is that they are backing horses whose chances are there for all to see. They are firing into the Master Mindeds or Kauto Stars of this world. Bookmakers will soak up that sort of business all day. After all, the chance of such horses is common knowledge. Some win, some lose. Some whip round at the start, some unseat, some break legs. But not enough of them win to give the punter an advantage; and as I reiterate, without an edge, you will not win in the long run.

Being able to back what you wish to back is imperative for the professional punter. Depending on the individual concerned and the type of his business, to place his bets successfully, he has to be prepared to adjust his approach. Some very big players have a network of people who place bets for them. Bookmakers categorise punters’ business. Good customers, (that is to say habitual losers) are A Grade and their system slides down according to the win-to-lose ratio of the client. Placers of bets on behalf of others normally hold losing accounts, so bookmakers are reluctant to refuse their bets even if they know they are backing a warm horse. At first they will surmise such a bet could be a coincidence and will accept it on the assumption that even if it wins, they will get the money back. But the intelligence of bookmakers is sharp. Please note, by intelligence I am not necessarily talking about their IQ factor. No, I am referring to their ability to isolate what is happening, their MI5-type capacity if you like. Once they know you are placing bets for one of the big ten or twelve players in the business, you are tagged and reoccurrence of such business means refusal. As a result, the really big players are always on the lookout for new agents to handle part of their business, which, if mixed in with everyday stuff, has a chance of slipping under the wire.

Some of the bigger players open deposit accounts on behalf of ordinary people and run the business as if they were the individuals concerned. The bank details are all correct, cash is withdrawn and deposited at the behest of the punter and the real person, who is impersonated when the punter makes his phone calls, paid a commission. Some of the most successful and biggest players have to go to such lengths in order to place bets.

You may wonder what sort of punter is forced into taking such action. Firstly, there is the big hitter – the man betting in unquantifiable sums. His instructions can often be to ‘Get on as much as you can.’ No limit; no strings attached: £100,000, half-a-million, a million. He will accept whatever is returned. As you can imagine very few such punters exist. Even with the guarantee that such business guarantees the procurement of inside information, possibly of the highest calibre, I would dissuade involvement. Anyone dealing with this type of player is liable to sleepless nights. Being owed half a million by the King of Zongo Zongo is all very well, but should he be mauled to death by a rampant lion in his sleep, obtaining it is a different matter. Apart from the obvious drawback of getting paid (everyone dies – ever thought of how difficult it might be to persuade Mrs Zongo Zongo that you are owed the money – particularly if she ushered the lion into his bedroom?), your personal betting, if you are counting on King Zongo Zongo’s connections, will always involve you taking under the odds. By definition, your function is to ensure the king receives the best odds available. You are merely receiving the crumbs left on the table, or in this case, possibly the bones. No one, other than a close ally, blood relative, or someone you owe money to, should be granted credit. Some rules in life are incontrovertible. This I suggest is one.  

So if you are successful in this business and bet in reasonable sums, just how do you get on? I shall use myself as an example because that way I shall not offend anyone and I am addressing a subject I know something about. As far as I am concerned, the fewer people privy to my business the better. But it is an unfortunate fact that the bigger the player you are, the more likely it is that you are compelled to recruit helpers. Personally, I am not big enough to resort to these tactics. And although I often use commission agents, I have a fair relationship with one firm that allows me to do business on advantageous terms because my stakes are not so big that I knock them over, and they respect my opinion. I realise some of you may accuse me of consorting with the enemy but mine is a one-off case, which, without going into detail, I can justify. Putting it bluntly, I used to work for the firm concerned. I play the game with them; in return, they play it with me. But I am under no illusion, they will do me no favours and the bigger my stake, the less likely they are to be obliging.

I have been in the business a while and built up useful contacts along the way. The same will happen to any aspiring punter who makes the grade but, as with all matters, it takes time.

I have two additional pieces of advice for those wishing to make a living backing horses. We have established it can be done but is very difficult. Unless you are Michael Tabor, in which case I suspect I lost you a long time ago; as expressed in my last piece, expenses make life hard. If an opportunity presents itself to make money from a sideline allied to your racing prowess, then take it. Most professionals do have regular incomes of some sort. It takes pressure away from those losing runs and means you have a specified amount coming in each month, even if sometimes more goes out. My situation is a perfect example. Bob Rothman (a man I have known for a long time) pays me to write up my racing notes and compile articles for this site. He underpays me of course, but because he is a  pleasure to work for, trustworthy and does not encroach on my lifestyle, I do it. As I write, it is an arrangement that suits us both admirably. In truth, I am paid to do something I enjoy and most of the input to the site is the result of work I would be doing in any case. The only downside is that I am allowing private thoughts and opinions to enter the public domain. However, such is the nature of the beast – the price those of us in search of a regular wage must pay. Many of the horses I nominate on Bush Telegraph shorten up in the market. Now, there are two reasons for this. Firstly, if I back them then I am in-part responsible. This is not because I smash horses up as my employer might do, but because those who handle my business respect my opinion and they are liable to follow me, often for higher stakes.

Secondly, most of the time what I say is correct. Therefore, because I have hit on the right horse, others are waiting in the wings to invest their cash, which will affect the betting market. If that sounds conceited, that is not my intention. I have already explained that I spend a great deal of time watching and analysing races. This work pays dividends and often means I know more than the opposition. It does not guarantee success but means most of the time I know what I am doing.

As I write, I have narrowly failed to receive a payday on Whistledownwind, a horse foolishly campaigned over an incorrect trip before going to Jeremy Noseda and inched out today over a more suitable distance. Unfortunately, the cat is out of the bag and Whistledownwind will not be available at all prices from 10/1 to 7’s next time. But it is an example of how, when you feel you know what is not obvious to all and sundry, you can mop up while those who were on their third pint as you worked are left scratching their heads.  

The Lost Art of Tic-Tac

Tic-Tac sign language is a lost art amongst bookmakers in the UK. Very few bookies still use the signals previously popular on racing courses across the United Kingdom.

The signals varied by region but all communicated odds. Some are shouted verbally as well in cockney rhyming slang.

For many punters now involved in horse race betting they are unlikely to encounter Tic-Tac but it can be a fun way to communicate with friends and colleagues while at the races.

Becoming a Professional Gambler

I found this article on Slipperytoad website, originally published by Punt.Com blog, and it makes fascinating if not a little pessimistic reading.

Forums, blogs, bookies and betting websites are full of people dreaming of becoming professional gamblers. Being your own boss, working when you feel like it, making loads of money and watching sports for a living is certainly appealing to most people. Let this post (and the rest of this blog) be a reality check.

I see a lot of people giving up jobs to do this after a short time trading. They think it’s easy and straight forward, they think it will last forever… They haven’t thought it through.

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I’ve been a professional gambler now for over 3 1/2 years. Before that I gambled for 2 years before I took the decision to do it. It was the biggest decision of my life, certainly not one I took lightly. Giving up a guaranteed income and job prospects to gamble with my own money was extremely risky to say the least.

When you give up your job, you’re not only going to be risking your money gambling, but your entire future job prospects. Let me tell you, gamblers are not viewed in the same way as someone who works in a normal job. Compare the reaction you get when you tell someone you are a gambler to when you tell them you work in a bank. Even if you compare it to being a “day trader”, the reaction is a mixture of contempt, fascination and disbelief.

Most people will flatly not believe you. Gamblers are the vagrants of society. The losers that hang around bookies, wasting their family income on an addiction. No one believes it is possible to win, and if you have – it’s just luck. Like it or not, this is how you will be viewed. Some will feel sorry for you, others will not give you the time of day. You are going to be one of society’s outsiders.

Family relationships can be strained and tested. It takes a lot of understanding from family and friends and this can weigh on your mind whilst you are gambling. A stable family life is important, it spills over into your work – few jobs are affected as much by this. You need stability and space to work well. And vice versa, a bad day at the office should not affect the way you treat those closest to you, can you really say that you won’t be in a terrible mood when you lose £xxxxx on some tennis player that gave up?

Your financial future is now uncertain. You are no longer contributing to society, you are not paying tax – an advantage to the gambler sure, but it doesn’t improve your self esteem and further enhances the feeling of being an outsider.

Try to borrow money from the bank? It’s easier said than done. This is why you need to try to secure your future financially as far in advance as you can before you make it your sole income

What about future job prospects? If you need to work again, do you really think future employers are going to be happy with you spending a year or two gambling for a living when they read your cv.

How much have you won before you turn pro? It’s hardly ever enough. You need to make many times your current income before you do it. Make sure you have savings that are stashed away, preferably making you a reasonable amount of interest. I might have turned professional a year before I did, but I had to make sure I was safe financially before I did so. Not only for my lively hood, but so that I could work confidently and without pressure. You cannot perform in this game if you are too worried about losing your hard earned cash. Pressure on your profit and loss is deadly.

What about when you do take the plunge, your day to day life is going to change dramatically in ways you may not have imagined. Interaction with other people becomes scarce. You will be spending long periods of time alone, clicking away staring at a screen all day. The temptation to live up to the stereotype is obvious. Why bother making an effort when you can get up, do some work and go back to bed again.. Discipline. Working alone throws up serious challenges. Your health and fitness can suffer drastically. The way you interact with other people can take a tumble. Prepare for this in advance.

It’s not all excitement and glamour. It can be downright boring doing the same things day in day out. Boredom for some gamblers can be their most dangerous adversary. You can end up working on things you don’t need to be. Betting too much and over trading for the sake of it.

Gambling certainly doesn’t owe you a living. A normal job pays you for turning up, no one’s going to do that here – they are going to try to take money off you for turning up. It’s you against a world of other people, all of whom have opinions, some of them most definitely better informed than you. Just how professional are you when it comes to the crunch, are you certain you are at the top of the tree? How consistent is your performance going to be to combat everyone else and stay ahead of the game. There are some brilliant brains out there trying to beat you at every turn – be wise to the available strategies and the people you are up against and give them respect – it’s your money and therefore livelihood they are after.

There are very few real professional gamblers, the reasons above outline why. It’s incredibly tough to do. You are going to be tested mentally every day and you will need to guard against developing bad psychological habits. There are reasons why gambling can cause problems for most people. There is a fine line between problem gambling, pathological gambling and professional gambling. Many professionals develop problems, be aware of the risks. Here’s a site about different types of gamblers. It suggests there are fewer than 50 gamblers in the US that make over $100,000 a year. With all the negative problems you can face as a professional gambler, you better make sure you are being compensated. Ask yourself what a fair amount is for enduring these problems, if you aren’t already making that then is it really worthwhile.

Think about your life situation and your family life. You are risking your money and theirs. I was fortunate when I began that I was young, single and in a job that didn’t pay that much and I was able to spend as much time as I liked pursuing it, without overheads and relationship damaging consequences. It’s extraordinarily time consuming to begin with, especially as you are going to have to work hard to increase from little to a sum of money suitable to work from. Don’t underestimate the time this takes, and the time you will be spending away from family chasing something that might not even work out.

I know this post is quite pessimistic. I think it’s supposed to be. I’ve heard it said before that professional gamblers are pessimists, I’m not sure I agree completely, but in this post I certainly think it’s a good idea to be. No matter how much you think you are ready, wait a while longer. Wait until you are sure you aren’t just lucky, then wait some more… Know why you aren’t plain lucky, and be big enough to admit defeat if you have been.

The Gambler's Mindset: Luck

Successful pros like Joe Hachem may seem to have more to smile about, but it's a chicken-and-egg situation. You might not be able to magic up a lottery win, but you can certainly increase your chances of being one of life’s winners. Lucky people smile twice as often as the unlucky, and engage in more eye contact. In our everyday experience it can seem that some people ‘have all the luck’ and others appear to be jinxed.

We can all think of lucky people who seem to be in the right place at the right time, meet the right people, win all the money at the gaming tables and go from one success to another. I recently read a news story on the internet highlighting that luck is indeed about being in the right place at the right time. The story concerned a waitress at a Las Vegas casino who won $362,259 during her lunch break. After playing for 15 minutes, she won the largest slot jackpot payout ever. However, only three months later, her car was hit by a drunk driver who had 17 previous arrests for drunk driving. She was seriously injured and her older sister was killed. This time she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

McGambling’s golden arches

When applied to the world of gambling, our belief in luck has huge political and financial ramifications. Until 1978, Nevada was the only US state where gambling was legal. By 2005, almost all states had a lottery (although ironically not Nevada), and today, casinos have even sprung up on Indian reservations. This ‘domino effect’ phenomenon has been described by media commentators as the ‘McGambling’ and ‘Las Vegasing’ of the US. In short, politicians view legalised gambling and people’s belief in luck as a magic bullet to cure ailing state economies that are motivated by the ‘pathology of hope’. The UK doesn’t appear to be that far behind. Canada also now has a large number of casinos and not just confined to Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver; with the business case often trumping the social or moral case when planning decisions arise. Unlike the U.S though there's a lax regulatory regime managing internet casinos with Canadians able to deposit and play quite easily at these types of offshore casino sites.

Given people’s widespread beliefs about luck, there’s been relatively little psychological research on the subject. Professor Richard Wiseman at the University of Hertfordshire has spent many years studying luck and believes he’s discovered four principles of luck and knows how to help people improve their good fortune. The results of this work reveal that people aren’t born lucky. Instead, lucky people are unconsciously using four basic principles to create good fortune in their lives. These could also be applied to gambling situations. Wiseman’s research has involved him being with those who define themselves as either lucky or unlucky, and examining the reasons why. Wiseman started by asking randomly chosen UK shoppers whether they had been lucky or unlucky in several different areas of their lives, including their careers, relationships, home life, health and financial matters. Of those adults he surveyed, 50% considered themselves lucky and 16% unlucky. Those lucky or unlucky in one area were more likely to report the same in other areas. Most experienced either consistent good or bad fortune. Professor Wiseman therefore concluded that luck could not simply be the outcome of chance events.

So what do lucky people do that is different from unlucky people? Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing and acting upon chance opportunities by networking, adopting a relaxed attitude to life and by being open to new experiences. Also, lucky people listen to lucky hunches. They make effective decisions by listening to their intuition and gut feelings. For example, they take steps to actively boost their intuitive abilities by meditating and clearing their mind of other thoughts. Thirdly, lucky people expect good fortune. They are certain that the future is going to be full of good fortune. These expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies by helping lucky people persist in the face of failure, and shape their interactions with others in a positive way. Finally, lucky people turn bad luck into good. They employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and often even thrive upon the ill fortune that comes their way. For example, they spontaneously imagine how things could have been worse, do not dwell on the ill fortune, and take control of the situation.

So can ‘lucky’ people win at gambling without trying? Professor Wiseman tested this proposition by getting 700 people to gamble on the National Lottery. The ‘lucky’ participants were twice as confident of winning as the ‘unlucky’ ones. However, results showed that only 36 participants actually won any money, and these were split evenly between the two groups. The study showed that being lucky doesn’t change the laws of probability!

Luck is a mindset

Research has also shown lucky people use body language and facial expressions that other people find attractive, smiling twice as often as the unlucky and engaging in more eye contact. Also, they’re more likely to have a broad network of friends and take advantage of favourable opportunities. Lucky people view misfortune as shortlived and overcome it quickly. Those who expect to fail may not even try. Lucky people try to achieve their goals even when the odds are against them. Luck isn’t a magical ability or a gift from the gods. It is a mind-set, a way of perceiving and dealing with life. This is something gamblers should know and try to apply to their daily gambling activity.

Read more fascinating gambler psychology stories here: Bet You Buy The Red Car

Professional Gamblers: John Aspinall

Aspinall's whole life was dangerous and controversial, and in the popular press there was much speculation that he had aided the disappearance of his gambling crony Lord Lucan. But by far the most important part of his career was his work with animals. He insisted on treating them not as beasts to be exhibited, but as friends to be pampered. He ensured that they should have adequate space to live in the same kind of groupings as in the wild, and took the greatest trouble to reproduce the variety of their natural diet. 

His gorillas, for example, were given all kinds of berries, and treats such as roast meat on Sundays and chocolate bars.

"Aspers" himself, determined to annihilate the gulf between the species, delighted to romp with tigers and gorillas. His keepers, usually chosen without reference to qualifications, were encouraged to behave in a similar manner. In his book The Best of Friends (1976), Aspinall insisted on the individuality of animals:

 "There are bold tigers and timid ones, honest tigers and treacherous ones, predictable and unpredictable, noisy and silent, hot-tempered and good-natured."

He himself was an excellent judge of his charges. A Passion to Protect, a film about his work, showed him having his eyelids delicately picked by the gorilla Djoun; receiving newly-born tiger cubs dumped in his lap by the mother; and being surrounded by an affectionate wolf pack. Of his 30 best friends, he once remarked, more than half were animals. In 1993 he was perfectly happy that his grand-daughter should play with gorillas; indeed, he remarked, "I'd rather leave them with gorillas than with a social worker."

While experts were initially sceptical of his approach, they were eventually obliged to admire his remarkable run of breeding successes. Until 1956, no gorilla had ever been born in captivity, and not many more were added in ensuing years. Yet after 1975, gorilla births were common events at Howletts, and eventually passed the half-century mark.

Aspinall also bred hundreds of tigers, including the first Siberian tiger born in Britain. More than 50 other species profited, including the first snow leopard born in captivity; the first honey badger to be bred in a zoo; the first fishing cats in Britain; the first Przwalski's horses for 30 years.

But these triumphs were overshadowed by the deaths of five keepers: two killed by the same tigress in 1980; one crushed by an elephant in 1984; another savaged by a tiger in 1994; and the last trampled by an elephant earlier this year. There were also occasional maulings: of the 12-year-old Robin Birley in 1970; of the model Merilyn Lamb in 1969; of a volunteer at Port Lympne in 1994.

Though Aspinall succeeded in warding off attempts by the Canterbury Council to enforce more orthodox methods of husbandry at Howletts, these accidents evoked criticism which portrayed him as a playboy living out his fantasies. Such attacks were the more virulent because of the provocative manner in which Apsinall set forth his own views. In his mind there had once been a golden age in which animals and humans had been equal. Mankind, though, had launched a vicious campaign against the beasts and Aspinall saw it as a duty to fight for the victims.

He castigated the human race as a species of vermin, and positively welcomed natural disasters as a means of reducing the plague of homo sapiens. He would gladly end his own life, he declared, if he could take another 250 million with him. There was something to be said, he felt, for Hitler's ideas about eugenics. "Broadly speaking," he said, "the high income groups tend to have a better genetic inheritance."

Aspinall's special antipathy was clever women of Left-wing views; they made him fume. His quasi-fascist views earned him obloquy, and tended to obscure the extraordinary nature of his achievement. By 1996 his two zoos contained 1,100 animals, and cost £4 million a year to keep, of which the public contributed a mere £330,000. The task of providing the remaining funds left Aspinall quite undaunted. His panache and self-belief always allowed him to live entirely on his own terms.

John Victor Aspinall was born in Delhi on June 11 1926. His father, supposedly, was Robert Aspinall, a surgeon; his mother, née Mary Grace Horn, was sprung from a family resident in India for four generations. John was the second, and very much the favourite son. Later he gave out that, at 26, he had discovered his true father was a soldier called George Bruce, and that he had been conceived under a tamarisk tree after a regimental ball.

John was largely brought up by an ayah, and in early years was more fluent in Hindustani than in English. At six, he was sent back to prep school near Eastbourne. In 1938, Aspinall's mother, now divorced, married George Osborne (later Sir George, 16th Bt), who paid for John to go to Rugby. There he made the rugger XV, but his boisterous bolshiness caused the school to suggest in 1943 that he might not want to return for the next term. The most influential event of this period was his reading of Rider Haggard's Nada the Lily, which sparked a lifelong obsession with the Zulus and tribalism.

After Rugby, he spent three years in the ranks of the Marines. Afterwards he went up to Jesus College, Oxford, where he soon discovered that he had a talent for gambling. He risked his entire term's grant (£70) on a horse called Palestine in the 2,000 Guineas; it won, albeit at very short odds.

At Oxford he made friends who would prove vital to his later life, notably the Goldsmith brothers, Jimmy and Teddy, and a fellow gambler, Ian Maxwell-Scott. When his final exams beckoned, Aspinall preferred to attend the Gold Cup at Ascot.

At that time it was not permitted to hold games of chance regularly at the same place. Aspinall therefore began to set up games of chemin-de-fer at a variety of addresses. His charm, admitted even by his enemies, attracted such players as the Duke of Devonshire and the Earl of Derby, while his entertaining was conducted in the most lavish style. With his percentage of the stakes guaranteed, he was soon becoming rich.

He married in 1956, and went to live in a flat in Eaton Place, in which, quite suddenly, he began to instal various animals. There was a Capuchin monkey, then a nine-week-old tigress called Tara, who slept in his bed for 18 months, and two Himalayan bears. Inevitably, the neighbours were disturbed. Seeking for alternative accommodation, he put down a deposit of £600 on Howletts, a neo-Palladian house with 38 acres. A successful bet on the Cesarewitch enabled him to pay off the remaining £5,400.

At the end of 1957 the police raided a gambling party he had organised. The subsequent dismissal of the charges was a virtual admission that private gambling would be sanctioned, and indeed the Gaming Act of 1960 opened the door to casinos. In 1962, Aspinall opened the Clermont Club at 44 Berkeley Square. Though he was in a parlous financial state at the time - and thus allowed Mark Birley to establish the nightclub Annabel's in the basement - he raised £200,000 in loan stock. Membership, limited to 600, included five dukes, five marquesses and 20 earls.

The success of the Clermont Club, and investment advice from Jimmy Goldsmith, enabled him to finance Howletts, and to see off the complaints of angry neighbours. "You are slipshod and impatient," Lord Zuckerman, the doyen of zoologists, told him. But Aspinall was also irrepressible.

In 1972 he sold the Clermont Club to Victor Lownes for £500,000 in order to devote himself to Howletts. By now he was employing six gardeners and 12 keepers; the weekly bill for food amounted to £3,000. The stockmarket crash of 1973 left Aspinall more or less bust, forced to sell pictures and jewellery so that his animals could eat. Yet he still managed to pay out £360,000 for Port Lympne and its 275 acres, neglected since the death of Sir Philip Sassoon in 1939.

These were turbulent times for Aspinall. On November 8 1974, the day after Lord Lucan's disappearance, Aspinall's friends - but not, to Private Eye's cost, Jimmy Goldsmith - gathered for lunch at his house in Lyall Street to discuss what should be done. The tabloids suggested, without a shred of evidence, that they were all privy to dark secrets, and that Lucan might have turned up at Howletts and implored Aspinall to feed him to his tigers.

Aspinall declared on television that if Lucan showed up he would embrace him, but this was no more than the tribal loyalty which he demanded from his friends. Those, like Dominic Elwes, who were thought to have broken the code, were ostracised. Elwes made the mistake of selling a sketch of the interior of the Clermont to the Sunday Times, and when he found himself cut off from the company that he adored, committed suicide. At his funeral Aspinall, while praising Elwes's gifts, referred to "a genetic flaw" - and found himself punched on the jaw after the service.

Free Horse Racing Tips, Click Here!In 1978 the need for cash forced Aspinall to return to gambling. Within four years the casino he set up in Hans Place was making £8 million a year. He decided to move to larger premises in Curzon Street, and to offer 20 per cent of the shares on the stockmarket. In 1983, he netted £20 million from their sale.

Aspinall and Goldsmith still owned the remaining 76 per cent of the company, though Aspinall's share was made over for the upkeep of his zoos. When the company was sold in 1987, he realised £23 million. But by 1992 he was in financial difficulties again, having lost large sums in Goldsmith's failed attempt to take over Rank Hovis McDougall. In consequence he opened another new casino in Curzon Street in 1992. Within a year it was flourishing.

In recent years he was dogged by cancer. His courage, doubted by none, was exemplified last year by the manner in which he shrugged off a vicious mugging near his home in Belgravia. John Aspinall married first, in 1956 (dissolved 1966), Jane Hastings, a Scottish model; they had a son and a daughter. He married secondly, in 1966 (dissolved 1972), Belinda "Min" Musker, a grand-daughter of the 2nd Viscount Daventry; they had a daughter who died in infancy. He married thirdly, in 1972, Lady Sarah ("Sally") Courage, widow of the racing driver Piers Courage and daughter of the 5th Earl Howe; they had a son.

The strange world of how to win at horse racing with hypnosis?

I originally went to the race-track not because I had any intention to gamble, but because a friend who was working at the racetrack wanted me to meet the horse he was grooming - "Totally Ruthless". 

I was fascinated with the atmosphere. My first visit there made me feel as if I just stepped into a fairy-tale - the lights, sounds, smell and the overall energy of excitement were unlike anything I have ever experienced before and as you may guess, the moment I'd step on the racetrack, I'd step into an altered state of mind.

I'd get a thrill just from hearing the names of the horses like "No Sex Please", "Overnight with You", "Cinnamon Toasted'. At first, I didn't bet. I merely went there to soak up the atmosphere, to experience the trance, to get high on all the excitement. I would get high on the sounds and even on the smell of the racetrack.

I was soaking in the atmosphere of the racetrack and I soon discovered that as I tuned into horses, I would intuitively and effortlessly pick up the winning horses. I was doing well enough that people took notice and they started asking me which horse to bet on.

For a while, the racetrack was like my second home, or an office. If anyone wanted to meet with me, he had to show up at the racetrack. I lived and breathed horse racing. A friend of mine who never went to any racetrack before, started to accompany me to the racetrack. We were betting triactors (trifecta) and the first dozen times we won every single race we bet. Then we lost one and he got rather disheartened. Well, I never said we would win every single race and considering the races we won, and the odds of winning, I think we did extremely well.

In the beginning, I didn't pay much attention to the stats and previous performances and frankly speaking I did better than when I attempted to rely on stats. And while I still recommend reading the stats, unless you actually have some insider tips, I consider it very important checking out the horses before the race. When you rely on stats, you are betting with your head, when you take the time to observe the horses and let your subconscious soak up the information, your intuition may guide you in ways that are far more accurate than any stats and past performances.

Stats can help you greatly in races where one or two horses have clearly much better past performance than the rest of them, but observing the horses can help you to get the information about the condition and the mood of the horse just before the race and even if you consciously do not know how to read the signals that horses are giving, your unconscious mind and supply an amazing amount of information and sometimes in very interesting ways.

The way this has worked for me is that sometimes just before the race, a song would begin playing in my mind which happened to have key words that related to a horse in the upcoming race. For example, I may hear an old song about a girl called "Cinnamon" in a race where the horse by the name "Cinnamon Toasted" was about to race - and win the race. To you, Intuitive information can come in many other way - you may have a gut feeling, or have an image of a winning horse, or someone may say something, but whatever happens, you'll just know which horse to bet on.

Win at Horse-Races CDs are designed to make you consciously aware of all that you need to know to pick the winning horses in the races you are betting on, to access intuitive knowledge as well as to program your subconscious for winning while betting either on standardbred or thoroughbred horses. Win at Horse Races hypnosis CD will condition your subconscious mind with winning by rehearsing your subjective experience.

Win at Horse Races subliminal, supraliminal and supraliminal plus CDs contain direct suggestion to help you access your intuition and pick the winning horses and while they can work perfectly well on their own, for best results I suggest you also work with Win at Horse Races hypnosis CD.

The Highs & Lows Of Terry Ramsden

A story written by Jason Bennetto, originally published in The Independent on Thursday, 7th May, 1998, charting the highs and lows of Terry Ramsden. He was the archetypal Thatcherite success story. The son of a postal worker from Romford, Essex, he rose to become one of the country's richest men and most powerful racehorse owners. His millionaire lifestyle, built in the early 1980s on trading in Japanese bonds, included the obligatory executive jet, Rolls-Royces, homes around the world, and the ownership of a football club. His gambling record was the envy of every trackside punter - a regular winner both on the racecourse and at the bookies.

He was a true Eighties self-made man with his cockney vowels and shoulder length hair. Yet Terry Ramsden, 46, looked anything but a high-flying, city whizz- kid yesterday as he stood in the dock at the Old Bailey. A bankrupt with debts of more than 100m pounds, he was jailed for 21 months for trying to conceal about £300,000 from his creditors.

Ramsden's roller-coaster career began in the City at the age of 16 as an insurance clerk. He quickly realised he could make more money by working for himself and set up his own business, making £25,000 in the first month. 

But the vehicle for Ramsden's career was a company in Edinburgh called Glen International which he bought in 1984, when it had a turnover of £18,000. By 1987, the figure had risen to 3.5billion and Ramsden was said to be the nation's 57th richest man. The venture was based on his knowledge of the specialised and volatile market in Japanese warrants. These were options to buy shares in Japanese companies. He gambled on a rising market and got it right.

After hitting the jackpot, he was quick to adopt a suitably flamboyant and high-flying lifestyle to go with the new-found wealth. Along with his Porsche, Ferraris and Rolls-Royces, he was interested in racehorses - lots of them. At one stage he owned 75.

One of his biggest successes on the racecourse was when his horse Not So Silly won the Ayr Gold Cup in 1987. Small of stature, but invariably accompanied by minder, he was a regular visitor to the winner's enclosure.

"I'm a stockbroker from Enfield. I've got long hair and I like a bet," he once said. He also owned a Georgian mansion on a luxury estate in Blackheath, south- east London, where he could relax in a swimming pool with hologram shark fins beamed on to the water, before flying by helicopter to Walsall Football Club, of which he was both owner and chairman. He lived with his wife, Lisa, and their son, Jake. They also had homes in Scotland, Bermuda and Portugal. 

But in 1986 the market and Ramsden's luck changed. The 1987 crash knocked hundreds of millions of pounds off the value of his securities. He started to run out of cash to keep the huge and complex portfolio of securities afloat and his marriage was on the rocks. Added to this, he was estimated to have lost 58m at the racetrack - there were even stories of him parting with 2m in a single day. Within a year, Glen International crashed, owing 98m, and he moved to the United States.

In September 1991, a warrant for his arrest was issued on fraud charges and he was detained in a jail in Los Angeles until his return to Britain in February 1992. 

The next month, Ramsden was declared bankrupt - with the Inland Revenue demanding 21.5m and other creditors bringing the total debt to near 100m. Ramsden escaped with a two-year suspended sentence in November 1993 after he pleaded guilty to offences of recklessly inducing fresh investment in his empire. 

As a bankrupt, Ramsden was required to disclose all his assets and income but failed to reveal the existence of a hidden trust and concealed his ownership of three million shares in the Silversword Corporation, a Canadian company in which he had a controlling interest. Thousands of pounds was paid from the trust fund to Ramsden's mother, Florence, a former cleaner, which she passed on to her son. He also failed to mention winnings of £77,000 in 1992, from an accumulator bet involving five horses and a dog.

Last year, the Serious Fraud Office announced that Ramsden was to be prosecuted for failing to disclose assets.

At his trial, Ramsden admitted failing to disclose about £300,000. It was also revealed that the fund had also helped pay for a house worth £323,800 for his wife and son.

Jailing Ramsden for 21 months, Judge Peter Beaumont QC also ordered him to pay £10,000 towards prosecution costs. He told Ramsden: "You broke the law and must now be punished." The judge said he would serve at least half the sentence in prison.

Ramsden, of Fulham, south-west London, pleaded guilty to three charges of breaching the Insolvency Act by failing to disclose all his assets. Anthony Arlidge QC, for the defence, said: "He was motivated by a desire to win back his wife and restart his family life. He accepts now that is no longer possible." He added: "He is a man of considerable talent, who for a long time was extremely successful. Rightly or wrongly, he felt his failure was not his fault but due to the misguided views of others."

10 Dark Horses

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Horse Racing Tips - How to Use Them to Find Good Bets

Racing Tips
There are all kinds of horse racing tips available to the people who bet on the races. Some of those picks are very valuable while others are just a come on to get you to spend money for more information. Like any other form of investing, wagering requires some planning and good information so that the investor can make a good decision. So the question arises, "Should I use those tips and if so, how should I use them?"

My advice is to proceed slowly when gambling and trust me, betting on horse races is gambling and very risky, in spite of what some tipsters would have you believe. The best way to find good information is to test it first. Ignore the sales pitch and rhetoric and instead, get picks and test them with paper bets or very small bets first.

When you go to a doctor for a serious condition and get a grave diagnosis, your fist step should be to get a second opinion. I advise you to do the same with horse racing picks. You may read what the handicapper has to say about a race and the horses and then read what someone else thinks about that same event.

Do they agree on any points? Do they disagree? Often you'll find that public handicappers like horse racing angles and will spot them from time to time and write about them. Unfortunately, they sometimes place too much importance on these little gems and that's where you, the consumer, have to use your judgment. If two prognosticators like the same runner for the same reason, they may be onto something, but if you get two completely different opinions, how do you know which one is right?

That's where testing and evaluating come into play. If you follow these tipsters for a while and get to know their strengths and weaknesses, you'll be able to tell when they are on track and when they are off course. That is an excellent way to let other people handicap the race for you while you simply handicap them. It doesn't matter how you form your opinions about a race and the runners, it just matters that at post time you can fairly evaluate each horse and then spot a good bet.

When I say a good bet, I mean one that has a positive outcome. In other words, the return outweighs the risk. How will you ever know that? Once again, it comes down to experience and following the handicappers long enough to know when they are on target or when they are off. A big part of horse racing handicapping success is experience and patience.

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About the Author

If you want to learn how a horse owner and insider handicaps just go to and get the truth. Bill Peterson is a former horse race owner and professional handicapper. To see all Bill's horse racing material go to Horse Racing Handicapping, Bill's handicapping store.

Horse Racing Gambling for a Living

Imagine you have a son or daughter who is of college age or ready to go out into the world and find a job. This young adult comes to you and tells you that he or she has finally made a choice of career. You are happy for your off spring and ask what that career might be.

"I want to handicap horse races for a living," he or she says.

How would you feel about that? If you are like most parents, you'd be disappointed and worried that your child had gone off the rails. A handicapper for a living? A professional gambler? That doesn't sound very good if it is someone you love, someone you want to succeed in the world.

There are, however, many people who are trying to do just that as you are reading this. Sometimes it is because that person thinks it will be an easy life with lots of freedom and easy money. Others believe it is romantic to make a living with your wits and watch horse races each day.

For other people it is more of a necessity. They may not have many options in this bad economy and they have run out of other choices. In desperation they decide to try to make money betting on horse races, vowing to work at it like a job and to make it pay. Some people who sell racing tips or handicapping systems would have you believe that it isn't even gambling if you have the right information. When a desperate person reads that line they often convince themselves that they aren't really gambling, just learning how to invest.

Take a few tips from an old timer who has placed many a bet, handicapped many a race, and stood in the winners circle with his own horse a few times, betting on horse races is gambling and is risky. It can be thrilling, financially rewarding, and costly, too. If you are seriously going to try to make money on horse racing bets, get the facts and make a solid plan for your future.

Can anyone really make money playing the horses? In my opinion and based on my own experiences, yes. Is it easy, glamorous, or thrilling? Yes and no. The truth of it is that you will have to work very hard and the failure rate is very high. When you choose handicapping as a career you are not only gambling on horses, but your own future as well.

The way that most successful horse racing handicappers succeed is to immerse themselves into the game and live, eat, breath, and think horse racing. They also stick to a strict money management scheme and work harder than most people with a steady job. It is thrilling to win money by betting on horse races, but I can tell you from personal experience that it is gut wrenching to have a large bet on a horse and to need the money to pay your bills and see that horse lose by a nose.

Walking out the track with empty pockets and wondering how you're going to make it is not fun. I wouldn't change the way I've lived my life if I could because I've enjoyed the highs and learned from the lows, but on the other hand, I wouldn't recommend the life of a horse player to someone else. I'm not trying to discourage you. I now make a living teaching other people how to handicap horse races and if no one plays the races, I'll be out of a job. On the other hand, I like to see people succeed and the only way you'll do it as a horse player is if you start with your eyes open and prepare yourself properly.

By Bill Peterson

Article Source:
About the Author

If you want to learn how a horse owner and insider handicaps just go to and get the truth. Bill Peterson is a former horse race owner and professional handicapper. To see all Bill's horse racing material go to Horse Racing Handicapping, Bill's handicapping store.

It's A Gambler's Life For Me - By Neil Walsh

Life's A Gamble
What was your first experience of gambling? 

I used to go into the local bookies with my mates when we were aged 16-17. We would sit in there all day, smoking cigars, reading newspaper form. We had no idea what we were looking at. We just put stupid multi bets together all day. I then graduated onto putting my Grandad's bets on every Saturday when he got too sick to get to the bookies. He would do a 10 pence each way patent every Saturday.

What was your biggest gambling success?

In 2010, I won £3200 on a £10 football sixfold bet Sky Super 6. Three draws, two away wins and one home result. I used to do this bet religiously as part of the Super 6 competition they run every week. One day I got up early to go to Anfield to watch Liverpool v Portsmouth, as I was leaving I remembered I hadn’t put my bet on, so I booted up the computer, went to the site and just looked at the fixtures and clicked the first result that popped into my head, without the usual hours of research. When the full-time results were read out over the tannoy at the match, I wasn’t sure I had won and I had a five-hour drive home, uncertain as to whether or not I had won.

What was you biggest gambling mistake?

I maxed out a credit card and dumped over a grand on top of the league Chelsea beating bottom of the league Wigan away at evens. A week earlier they had smashed Arsenal three or four nil. Wigan equalised in last ten minutes of the match from two nil down. I felt sick. I nearly got divorced over it.

What would you improve in horse racing? 

Sectional times on the flat. The all-weather would be ideal from a punting point of view.

Who do you admire in racing and why?

With the latest headlines of 4000 career winners, it has to be AP McCoy. The number of horses he gets to win that really shouldn’t is unreal. He is totally dedicated to winning. Riding hurt, but he puts in a shift every time and as a punter, I appreciate I will get a run for my money.

Name your favourite racehorse of all time?

Seagram, as this was my first winning selection in the Grand National.

What's your personal gambling ambition?

Would love to give up the day job and be a professional horse tipster/gambler.

Who would you like to be for a day (sport)?

I always fancied being the guy in the pit crew who held the pole out with the sign for the driver to stop. I reckoned he had the easiest, safest, job in the pits and probably got well compensated for it.

Best advice was given?

I’m not sure. I don’t take advice too well.  I’m sure I’ve been given loads of good advice I just don’t seem to have the ability to remember it or take it on board. 

Dream holiday destination?

I would like to go to America and drive along the coast either in a camper van or motorcycle. I would like to eat a hotdog at a baseball game and visit the grand canyon along the way. Someone told me sitting by the grand canyon “puts life into perspective” and it has stuck with me.

If you had a dinner party, who would you invite and why?

Jamie Oliver to do the cooking. The Dalai Lama and George Harrison for some existential conversation around the table and some Beatles anecdotes. Tom Segall, so I can get on at the price before he announces his selections and Jim Morrison for the after party “entertainment” in a bag.

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