St George to finally complete Melbourne Order

Like so many British and Irish based trainers, Aidan O'Brien has to date found the Melbourne Cup an elusive prize.
'The race that stops a nation' at Flemington on the first Tuesday in November is one of the world's iconic Flat contests.
A two-mile handicap, usually run on the quick ground, it is devilishly tough to win but the recent Ascot Gold Cup suggested that O'Brien's Ballydoyle juggernaut might finally be ready to crack the Melbourne puzzle.
Order Of St George produced a stirring effort to triumph in the Ascot stayers' event, run over two and a half miles.
The grit, determination and, eventually, the inevitability with which Order Of St George won his race at Ascot bodes well for Australia, a destination O'Brien has already declared is part of his plan for last year's Irish St Leger winner.
In the wake of the Gold Cup success, Order Of St George finds himself right near the top of the market in the racing betting for the Flemington showpiece and he looks like being arguably O'Brien's best hope yet of tasting victory Down Under.
In securing victory at Ascot, Order Of St George extended to five his winning sequence.
That winning run began at 1m2f last summer before Irish St Leger success arrived over the 1m6f trip. His ability to win by wide margins was showcased again on his seasonal reappearance in Ireland but it was his Ascot win that best framed his Melbourne credentials.
Stepped up beyond 1m6f for the first time in his career, there were some lingering stamina doubts in certain quarters ahead of the Gold Cup.
The race proved to be a tetchy affair, with Ryan Moore and Order Of St George meeting trouble in running amid what was a rough race by any standards.
Afterwards, the winning trainer and jockey talked about a 'nightmare' passage through the race. Shuffled back through the pack as the home turn loomed, Order Of St George appeared to have a real task on his hands to reel back the long-time leader, Mille Et Mille.
Despite the stamina doubts and the trouble in running, what cannot be argued when reviewing the Gold Cup now is that the longer the race went on, the more it became crystal clear there would be only one winner.
Moving to the wide outside to lay down his effort, Moore brought Order Of St George smoothly up to challenge courtesy of an impressive gear change that his rivals simply could not match.
That ability to overcome in-race adversity, coupled with the pace to make up any lost ground, are traits that will surely serve this four-year-old well should he make it Flemington in November.
Part-owner Lloyd Williams has tasted Melbourne Cup success on four previous occasions and his association with the son of Galileo makes Australia a logical destination.

Dermot Weld's Media Puzzle was the last UK or Irish trained winner of 'the race that stops a nation' 14 years ago. O'Brien will be keeping his fingers crossed that the impressive Order Of St George might just prove to be the missing piece in his own Melbourne jigsaw in a few month time.

Your Guide to Royal Ascot 2016

I will be detailing tips for each of the two-year-old races at Royal Ascot. Make sure you come and take a look from Tuesday 14th - Saturday 18th June.  Whether you love the pomp, fashion or tradition. Her Majesty The Queen waving to the crowd or top-class racing action with 30 outstanding races to saviour. There is something for everyone at this year's jewel in the racing crown. For each of the days, I will detail just one hot tip for each of the two-year-old contests. It's never easy to find a winner or two here but we will be giving it a good try. If you love a bet, or even better still going to the course then see what we can offer you in the way of selective tips. We have a tip for one horse sired by Frankel. It will take all the beating.       


Tuesday - 3:05 Royal Ascot - Coventry Stakes (Group 2)

A big field with 19 runners on good to soft ground. There may well be a few non-runners and if the ground becomes very testing it could be a difficult race to assess. It goes without saying this will be a tough race but I'm making one selection for each two-year-old race so here goes. I'm pretty keen on Mehmas trained by Richard Hannon and ridden by Frankie Dettori. His debut effort was decent. I was impressed the way this son of Acclamation defeated Global Applause at Newbury showed a class horse. The form was reversed at Sandown when dropping to the minimum trip but it speaks well to think Global Applause could win at Listed class. This step back up to 6f will see a much better race by Mehmas. Dettori is likely to give this grey a waiting ride and at odds of 8/1 looks a fair each-way bet.           

Bet: Mehmas @ 8/1 EW William Hill 2nd



Tuesday - 5:35 Royal Ascot - Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed)

With 24 entrants this Listed race looks very tricky affair. Plenty of winners and trying to assess both potential and limitation is no easy task. I would be betting small stakes and hoping to steal a place and get lucky for the win. Battaash won with ease on debut at Bath at odds of 14/1. I can only imagine  this son of Dark Angel came as something of a surprise but boy did he win well. The only horse for Hamdan Al Maktoum and Hanagan in the saddle gives hope of a big performance. 

Bet: Battaash @ 14/1 EW Ladbrokes Unp


Wednesday -  3:05 Royal Ascot - Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2)

Seventeen runners and a tricky race to have strong views, especially when Wesley Ward's Lady Aurelia will be favouirte. She won well in the U.S so very difficult to assess how the form relates to the UK contenders. However, it would be no surprise to see Lady Aurelia take the beating at 11/4 could well prove a very good price. Ward has stated this filly is in a different class to the others and I would suspect this is the two-year-old connections are pinning their hopes of glory. She will take the beating. 

Bet: Lady Aurelia @ 11/4 W Paddy Power 1st


Thursday - 2:30 Royal Ascot -  Norfolk Stakes (Group 2)

A small field no doubts a consequence of soft ground. Just 11 runners with 6 major hopes with others who need to spring a surprise. Can't say I'm confident about this race but Legendary Lunch should go well and I think this drop back to the minimum trip will be positive. This son of Dragon Pulse didn't seem inconvenienced at Epsom and it might just be a plus. This good-looking colt has pace and enough stamina to last to the line and at 8/1 has each-way claims.       

Bet: Legendary Lunch @ 10/1 EW 10Bet 6th


Friday - 2:30 Royal Ascot - Albany Stakes (Group 3) 

This Group 3 race for fillies. Sixteen two-year-olds take part and a decent renewal. Taking a bit of a punt here with a big priced tip. Bletchley is trained by Ralph Beckett and certainly needs to improve on her debut win at Nottingham. I don't think connections expected her to win that day and for most of the race I don't think anyone else did. However, she fairly flew home in the closing stages at 25/1. I liked the way she powered home but what I liked, even more, was the physical stature of this daughter of Makfi. She is a good-looking juvenile and for a filly big and strong. It may have been the case those in opposition were just inferior types on looks but Beckett's charge could well put many of these in the shade. With improvement to come, she is worth a speculative each-way bet.  

Bet: Bletchley @ 25/1 EW Ladbrokes 2nd


Saturday - 2:30 Royal Ascot - Chesham Stakes (Listed) 

The final two-year-old race of Royal Ascot. The Chesham Stakes Listed race over 7f on soft going. Fifteen juveniles take part all race bar one debutante who will need to be smart to win this on his racecourse bow. I mentioned that I had a tip for one of Frankel's offspring and two turns up here. I'm sticking with John Gosden's Cunco to seal a great early-season for the wonder horse/stallion. Cunco did a lot wrong on debut and the preliminaries just about scared every backer off and the layers circled like vultures thinking this chestnut simply couldn't win after being coltish and hot under the collar. However, in the race itself, he was a true professional and made great headway in the final furlong to beat another of today's runner, Isomer, who is held in high regard by Kingsclere. This step up in distance should help and Gosden doesn't send his juveniles to class races they cannot go well. Have each-way claims. 

Bet: Cunco @ 9/2 ew Boylesport 3rd

You Won't Win

I know it's not horse racing but this article on blackjack, written by Arnold Snyder, is fascinating simply for his frankness in explaining his thoughts about the chances of winning in a game he has dedicated his life. If you are interested in blackjack, card counting or strategies, it makes sobering reading. Not sure if it has relevance to horse racing betting or trading but it makes a point or two that we may all relate.

[Written from the depths of a once-in-a-lifetime magnitude losing streak...]

I am now in the process of editing a new book which, by the time you read this article in Casino Player, will already be published. Blackjack Wisdom is a compilation of some seventy-five magazine articles I have written over the past fifteen years or so, many of which initially appeared in Casino Player.

As I wrap up this project, I must confess that an entire chapter has been excised from this book—and the single longest chapter at that. “Bucks in Flux” was, for many months, the working title of Chapter One. This chapter was composed of more than a dozen articles I had written over the years for various periodicals, all with a common theme—negative fluctuations.

Among these articles were such gems as:

“Is It all Just Luck?” from Card Player,

“Speaking of Streaking,” from Casino Player,

“Those *!%]#* Fluctuations,” from Poker World,

“Good Guys Lose and Bad Guys Win,” from Blackjack Forum, and many other fine essays which, I must admit, bore some of my favorite titles. Perhaps I will include this chapter, or portions of it, in Blackjack Wisdom II. Perhaps I will simply let these writings die, uncollected in any anthology. But I have trashed the entire chapter at this late hour, with a decision instead to end the book with this article you are reading right now. So, you—my Casino Player faithful—do not have to buy the book, since you already know how it ends!

Essentially, each and every one of the “Bucks in Flux” articles delivers the same depressing message, a message I have espoused in every one of my books, a message which can be edited down to three words:

You won’t win.

Do I really need fifteen articles to say those three words? I don’t think so. Though it occurs to me that all blackjack books should have at least one chapter titled: “You Won’t Win.”

The message delivered by most blackjack books and systems has always been the same baloney. Stanley Roberts’ Winning Blackjack was once advertised with the slogan: “Make every casino in the world your personal bank account!” Ken Uston’s Million Dollar Blackjack was promoted with: “Make $500 per day any time you want!” And these aren’t phony systems; these books contain legitimate card counting strategies.

You can’t always tell the real systems from the phonies by looking at the advertising. Promotion is a promotion. Authors of blackjack books, like authors of all “self-help” books—from weight-loss systems to multi-level marketing programs—are reluctant to deliver the message:

You won’t win.

Nobody wants to hear it.

When I self-published my first book, The Blackjack Formula, in 1980, and advertised it in Gambling Times magazine with the catchy, upbeat slogan: “Card Counters Beware,” stating in the ad that most of the blackjack games available in the casinos of the world were unbeatable with any card counting system, the publisher of Gambling Times, Stan Sludikoff, told me bluntly that I would never make any great amount of money trying to sell books with that type of pessimistic advertising.

Stan was write. Seventeen years later, I’m still just scraping by, still delivering that vastly unpopular message:

You won’t win.

Of course, there are a few players who do win. Professional card counters exist; they’re not entirely mythical. It’s just that I know that these professional players are so exceptional, so obsessed, so dedicated, such gluttons for punishment, so terror-stricken by the concept of working a nine-to-five job, so few and far between in every sense of few and far between, that, honestly, you are highly unlikely to be one of these human anomalies. And the most honest thing I can say to you, if you tell me that you really want to become a professional blackjack player, is:

You won’t win.

And the reason is fluctuations.

If you are anything like the masses of humanity, if you like to be rewarded for your efforts within some reasonable time frame, you won’t be able to take the fluctuations. Those negative downswings will be bigger, and harder, and longer lasting, and more upsetting, and more unbelievable, than your level of toleration. Your losses will tear at your heart, and fill you with emptiness, and leave you in a state of quiet desperation. I hear this from players over and over again. I hear this from players who claim to have studied diligently and practiced for hours on end, for weeks and months with a singular dream—to beat the casinos.

And they don’t win.

And they ask me why.

And I say, “Oh, it’s just a normal standard deviation. A negative fluctuation. It could happen to anyone.”

But it happened to you.

Your money.

Your hours.

Your months of dreaming.

And you didn’t win.

So, over and over again, in my books, and my columns, and my magazine articles, I feel compelled to deliver the message I have been delivering since my very first book in 1980:

You won’t win.

Some card counters will win, but not you. Some card counters will actually experience inordinate positive fluctuations! Wow!

But not you.

You won’t win.

Other card counters will be having champagne parties in their hotel rooms, celebrating that marvelous life of freedom and money and adventure that just seems to come naturally with the lifestyle of a professional gambler. But not for you. You will be among the unfortunate few who, statistically speaking, will be located in the far left tail of the Gaussian curve. Someone has to be there. It will be you.

I have been in that tail; it is a cold and lonely place. I suspect many of those who write about this game have been there, and they know what a cold and lonely place it is. Every professional card counter I know has been there. And if they have played blackjack professionally for many years, they have been there many times. These players have hearts stronger than mine, and I suspect, stronger than yours.

This much I know: it is easier to make a living writing about this game than it is playing it.

In any case, instead of filling an entire chapter of this book with some fifteen articles, written over a period of seventeen years, every one of which simply says, you won’t win, I’ve tossed the whole chapter out in favor of leaving you with just those three words of blackjack wisdom:

YOU WON'T WIN

By Arnold Snyder
(From Casino Player, November 1997)
© Arnold Snyder 1997

Sporty the tale of a professional gambler

In memory of Sporty Jim. I found this article, which is a number of years old, but enjoyed the sentiment what this reader says about 'behind every username there is someone with a story to tell'. Well, this is his story. For me, this is what makes blogging so interesting: our ability to see through another's eyes. I hope you enjoy.  

On the buses

Regulars on the Betfair football forum may recognise my name. It can be very lonely sitting on the computer all day, especially midweek, and I really enjoy the forum and the good banter you get there. I have also made some very good friends through the forum. One of the interesting things about the forum for me is the fact that behind every username there is someone with a story to tell, but for the vast majority, the story remains untold. I am pleased to take this opportunity to share my story with anyone who is interested – I hope that you enjoy it.

I am 56 years of age, married for 27 years with 2 daughters. One a lawyer the other an accountant - they take their brains from their mother. My interest in betting began at school where I started betting on the horses. Like most punters I lost more than I won, mostly because I took no interest in studying form, my technique for picking winners was betting on short priced favourites and following newspaper tipsters. Sad eh?

I left school at 16 and started as a civil servant in 1965 in Glasgow. In those days, you had to finish high up in the exam or else you were off to London. Fortunately, I got to stay in Scotland so maybe the girls did take their brains from me after all! After three years in the civil service, I met a friend of mine who was earning twice as much as me as a bus conductor. To my mother's dismay, I promptly left the Civil Service and became a bus conductor.

Part of the reason for my career change was I believed that if I could get hold of enough cash I could make a living from gambling. Being a bus conductor gave me the chance to earn decent money quickly. Six months later I had £800 in the kitty and the newly christened ‘Sporty' left for a new life as a professional gambler. Surprise, surprise eight weeks later I was back on the buses having blown the lot. Looking back I was very na├»ve, the poor value offered by the bookies combined with the 40% (yes 40%!) tax on football winnings left me no chance. Add to this the fact that the only football singles you could bet were on cup ties, and you will realise how exchange bettors today have never had it so good.

Sporty Bookmakers part 1

Undeterred, a year later in 1970 I had saved up an even bigger bank and I was ready to try again. This time, there was to be no return to the buses and I have never since worked for anyone else. I soon found out that a massive black economy existed in the bookmaking industry, and that it was possible to place football singles and more importantly tax-free bets if you struck up relationships with the right bookmaker. Also at this time, a good friend of mine suggested I get a bookmakers permit and become a bookie at the local greyhound flapping tracks. This was the start of Sporty Bookmakers – a trading name that was to last until I sold my betting shop in East Kilbride in 1986. My first stint at this flapping track lasted just a week, I had come out on top, but wasn't convinced it was for me.

However, six months later Falkirk dog track opened and I was there as a bookie from the start, combining this with my football punting. Was I successful as a bookmaker? To be truthful in the early days at the track I was happy on far too many occasions to lay the outsiders and keep the favourites to myself. I was a gambling bookmaker. I survived, but it really was a roller coaster experience. One week I would have £5,000 the next week I would have nothing.

Mount Vernon Flapping Track

It was around this time that an interesting opportunity arose. I was offered the chance to take on the lease of a local flapping track at Mount Vernon. It was very run down but the rent was cheap and the costs were low especially with my family helping out. A flapping track offers the lowest grade of greyhound racing. Most races were handicaps, with fancied dogs giving a head start to the others. A typical race would see traps 1 and 2 going off scratch with the other dogs getting between a 1-yard head start in trap 3 and an 8-yard head start in trap 6. The responsibility of handicapping fell on the shoulders of my staff and I and we had to contend with all sorts of scams from dodgy owners. It was common practise to enter the dogs at different tracks under different names. Other tricks included feeding the dogs before the race and giving them pills to stop them running well, either so the owners could bet on other dogs, or to get them a better handicap in a subsequent race, enabling them to pull off a coup.

We knew the owners who were most likely to try it on and did our best to counter them. We always made sure that untried dogs were not placed off a good mark. As handicappers, it was our role to make the races as competitive as possible and to do our best to prevent the owners from taking the bookies for a ride. After all, if the bookies were losing their money they might have chucked it in and without bookies we had no business.

We made some decent money from Mount Vernon, but at the end of two years worried by its increasingly dilapidated state, we walked away from it, leaving the landlords to run it, as nobody else wanted to.

Sporty Bookmakers part 2

Half way through the Mount Vernon adventure I bought my first betting shop in Glasgow. I gave this my best shot, but there were problems, notably its high rent and rates but also the fact that it needed a lot of work doing to bring it up to scratch. However, investing this money was out of the question as the shop was in a part of Glasgow which was the subject of ongoing talks for it to be demolished to make way for a new shopping centre and car park. I was between the devil and the deep blue sea. When the opportunity arose I was pleased to sell the shop to Mecca. I was, however, happy to hold on to a number of works pitches which had come with the shop. This worked on the basis that a bookie would have a number of agents collecting bets for him in each factory in exchange for a commission. Despite being perfectly legal, these pitches were in many ways a throwback to the old days of illegal bookmaking with every customer having an alias. Lisbon Lion, Lucky Jim, The Scout, Joe 67 and Paradise are some of the names that stick in my mind to this day.

It did become more difficult though when I sold the betting shop as I had no way of finding out the results without ringing up some bookie friends and asking them, but I couldn't do that too often without making a nuisance of myself. Eventually, Ceefax came along and solved the problem. The other issue was recording the bets, which came through by telephone – as many as 600 a day. When the first answerphone was invented it was a godsend, but you couldn't just buy one you had to hire it at a cost of £600 a year and take out a two-year contract! Despite all this the works pitches were very lucrative, particularly due to the number of doubles and trebles I used to take.

Sporty Bookmakers part 3

However, this side of the business went into decline as the factories in which they operated started to close down. The outlook was starting to look bleak, when I got a lucky break, a phone call out of the blue asking me if I would like to run a betting shop in East Kilbride. This was to be for a three month period due to the owners' illness but it eventually stretched out to four years. Unlike my previous betting shop, this one had prospects. It was struggling because the owner had alienated most of his customers due to his abrasive attitude and his open hostility to anyone who dared win. I set about trying to win these customers back and attracting new ones. I particularly targeted the Chinese community who were well known as big gamblers. It was possible to make great money from these guys but you also had to take big risks, as they had a habit of placing their large bets at the last minute giving you no chance to lay off your liabilities. One time one of my Chinese customers won the impressive sum of £2,500 when one of his accumulators came good at a competitor's shop. My staff thought I would be delighted to have escaped this loss. On the contrary, I was gutted that he had gone to the competition at all!

Having been happy to take a back seat, the owner of the shop took a keen interest again when Ladbrokes appeared on the scene offering big money for the shop. I had done very well out of it but I had concerns about the future of the business. I struggled to see where the future punters would come from, the next generation didn't seem to be coming through and I couldn't imagine who would be in the shop in ten years time. I and the shop owner came to an arrangement, Ladbrokes took over in January 1986 and I moved on. This was the end of the brief history of Sporty Bookmakers.

Sporty Race Nights

Fortunately, while I had been running the betting shop another string to my bow developed. My brother was organising a race night to raise funds for a charity he was involved in and he asked me to organise the betting side for him. The evening was a great success and I immediately saw a business opportunity. I made enquiries with the English company behind the event and in 1981 they made me their agent for Scotland, resulting in the launch of Sporty Race Nights.

The way a race night works is that you hire a set of films, normally eight horse races, each with eight runners. You bet on runners based on their number – there is no skill, it's just a bit of fun. It works on the basis of a tote, with half the money going to the organisers to pay their expenses and normally make a profit for charity. The rest of the money gets shared out between those people with a ticket for the winning horse. In addition, people could become a horse owner by buying a horse and a sponsor would put up a prize for the winner.

These events were excellent fund raisers and substantial sums could be made. As a business, it was slow to start, in 1982 we had 23 orders, but this gradually increased until by 1985 we were over the 400 mark despite the fact that I was only working on the project part-time. This was around the time that Ladbrokes bought the shop, so I decided to go full time.

To maximise the opportunity I needed my own films. I knew Jim McGrath the race commentator and was lucky enough to have his help with this surprisingly tricky task. I started by getting some races from Australia, then a few British races and then the New York Tracks sold us 80 races. We were flying. In 1989 we bought the English Company that I had been an agent for and the business went from strength to strength. In our best year throughout England and Scotland, we did over 5,000 events.

When I came out of the betting shop I started to go football matches again. As a young man, I had followed Celtic all over Scotland but this time, I started to go to lower division games as well. I would have a few quid on and then go to the match. This led me into a period of time where I became very hot indeed at Scottish football.

That wraps up the first part of my story – I hope you have enjoyed reading it. If you ever fancy a chat you can always find me on Betfair's soccer forum.

Hail hail!

Sporty

Next month. Sporty tells of the year that Forfar won the Scottish 3rd Division and he won £300,000.

Click to read Part 2

In memory of Jim who passes away in 2015. Thanks to Chris Miller a good friend of Jim's. Condolences to family and friends. 

The gist of part 3


Sadly, there never was a part 3 - at least not in print. 

The phone call took place as usual but Mike, who used to ghost-write the articles, started a new job down in London, I was finishing my degree at university, and the web server for the p2pbetting site changed hands leaving the site down for a while, so the newsletter didn't happen for the next six months and never really returned in the same depth afterwards.

However, I'm told part 3 was basically about Sporty making easy money on Betfair for a good few years until he eventually got stung by the Tottenham 3-4 Man City game in the FA Cup. Spurs were 3-0 up at half-time and the market obviously reflected that, but Sporty reacted quicker than anyone else to Joey Barton being sent off as the teams walked off at half time, which most people seemed unaware of until they came out of the second half.

By that time, Sporty had basically emptied his bank, both laying City and backing Tottenham, and the market soon enough reflected the fact he was sitting on cracking value, albeit backing at 1.01 or laying three-figure prices! As we know, City came back to win 4-3 and I have a hazy recollection of Sporty ringing me straight after the game.

I was pissed up in the pub and obviously over the moon, so I don't think I did much to help his state of mind at the time! I had no idea how much he had lost, it was only a few weeks later I realised it wasn't your average once-a-year kick in the bollocks - it was pretty severe!

Anyway, last I heard, he was working for Tony Bloom, passing on info about the Scottish footy and being paid a decent retainer that meant he could settle down, relax and take things easy a bit more. I remember him laughing and saying "I'm too old for all this now" when telling me about it, I'm not sure how soon afterwards it was but I think the Spurs-City thing certainly  had a big impact and made him take stock.

I know he spent a lot of time in Tenerife after that as well, so I really hope he had some good times out there, sat back and enjoyed whatever he had built up over the years. He was a real gent, an absolute pleasure to have known, even though I only really knew him for about 4-5 years during the Betfair days.

Professional Gambler Series: Dave Nevison

Punter makes easy money the hard way

There are barristers and stockbrokers who are neighbours to Dave Nevison and even a woman four doors down called Gloria Hunniford who has made a career out of sitting on sofas. But when Nevison himself emerges from his Sevenoaks home each morning he is embarking on a quite different business. He is going to the racecourse to make money.




There are barristers and stockbrokers who are neighbours to Dave Nevison and even a woman four doors down called Gloria Hunniford who has made a career out of sitting on sofas. But when Nevison himself emerges from his Sevenoaks home each morning he is embarking on a quite different business. He is going to the racecourse to make money.


Of the dozen or so men countrywide who are thought to make a career out of backing racehorses Nevison, at 38, is just about the newest on the block. Along with the Runyonesque pairing of Eddie "The Shoe" Fremantle and "Beardy" Alan, his is now one of the most recognisable faces in the rings of the southern circuit.


Nevison says he makes "a comfortable living" from punting, which should be measured against the fact that he used to work in the City. Certainly he still has the keys to his £500,000 property in green and pleasant land, and next month celebrates his sixth year on the racecourse.


When you hear of his big wins, the liberation of money from the bookmakers, the parties, it can be immediately intoxicating. But just contemplate a moment before you take your coat from its peg. "Someone once said that is a very hard way to make easy money," Nevison says. "When you get it right a bloke just opens up a big satchel and hands over great wads of cash. But I think you'll find my hourly rate is probably not that high. Against that I am out in the fresh air every day doing something that I love and getting rewarded for it. But, make no mistake, you have got to keep a grip on yourself and you have got to put the hours in. There is simply no substitute for hard work."


Nevison has been getting up at 4am for some time now. It makes a change from joining the pinstripe wave crashing into the City, from existence as a foreign-exchange dealer. "I was a bit mug-punterish then," he says. "I was a City fizz kid. It was lager every lunchtime and lager every night and I wasn't compos mentis about my racing even though I'd bought a few horses.


"For the last two years I was virtually punting and getting paid in the City. Eventually I got the tap on the shoulder and the suggestion that I might as well move my office to Coral's. We were going our separate ways. I told my wife I was going to go punting full time."


There was the pot of his £70,000 pay-off to play with but also anxiety in the household. However, Lotte Nevison no longer waits at the train station with child in pushchair wondering how the family wealth has fared that day.


So what is the Nevison system? He does not trust his eyes, paying little attention to paddock inspection or how a horse moves to post. He does not trust his ears much either and rarely acts on "information". "It can be a question of spotting things early," he says. "There's the obvious. If Lord Carnarvon wanders up to the rails at Windsor and has £25 on a two-year-old it's past the post. And other things as well.


"I made an awful lot of money two Flat seasons ago when Dandy Nicholls came on the sprinting scene. It's common knowledge now but back then I was backing horses at 16-1 that go off at 7-2 now. There was also the time when Tony McCoy was claiming 5lb against professional jockeys when he was 7lb better than them anyway. You had a stone advantage."


The bulk of it, though, is the mundane - hours in the formbook and analysis of speed figures. "I've never been a short-priced player," he says. "I basically price up every race myself and have a serious look at anything that's over 15 per cent higher than I've got it. My strike-rate isn't that high, but I think you've got to make a judgement about whether you either want to back winners or win in the long run. The profile of a professional gambler seems to be of someone who will wait and wait for a single horse to have his £500 on, but, emotionally, I don't think that works. I don't know a single person that operates that way at my level.


"When you play for value rather than winners you can quite often end up backing more than one horse in a race. And one of the biggest problems in gambling is being able to handle your losing runs. We all have them and they're hard to handle but, because I cover more options, mine are by definition shorter. If I don't back a winner when I go racing it's an unusual day. There are an awful lot of people who go racing every day, but they've been successful in another life and the pressure is not on them to win. They're not doing it to put their kids through school.


"In the time I've been doing it I've seen many, many people come and go. They've been people similar to me who have suddenly come into some money and decided to have a go. It's the mental strain, the emotional up and down of it that gets them."


If Nevison does have a single piece of advice for those who choose to put their money in jeopardy, and various nuggets are soon to appear on an Internet site, it is to stick to a single branch of racing and, with patience, master it.


"There are the old chestnuts such as backing only in Group races, but while they may be very true they don't give you much of an advantage," he says. "Anyone can back Lammtarra for the Arc, but you don't win much money. In Group Ones, certainly towards the end of the year, it's easy to find winners, but difficult to make a profit.


"The races I like are handicaps up to a mile. In three-year-old handicaps over 10 furlongs plus and any handicap over a mile and a half plus you've got to be really sure there's going to be a pace. You don't get that problem in sprints with big fields. And if you can be reasonably sure about how a race is going to be run you can be reasonably sure about what is going to win it."


Only Nevison himself knows where he stands with the old enemy when, at day's end, he leans back on the front door. But as the door is entrance to a significant property and there are further trappings in place the signs are good. "Most of all I enjoy the constant battle and the banter with Barry Dennis and the boys at Lingfield's all-weather," he says. "It is one of my favourite hunting grounds and thanks to them the kids now have a nice, new car for the school run."


Dennis himself says he is prepared to continue the contest. Dave Nevison has therefore found the happy Christmas Day no-man's land between punter and bookmaker. For that, as in many things, he is one of the turf's more unusual figures.



2:10 Leicester Racing Tips (30th May) TOTEPLACEPOT PLAY EVERY DAY NOVICE MEDIAN AUCTION STAKES (CLASS 5) (2yo)

Novices Median Auction Stakes over 5f on good to firm going. Eight two-year-olds, four with race experience in quite a restricted race type. Just a quick review. Roger Varian is a talented trainer and Pretty Vacant will go off a hot favourite after a decent debut  when runner-up at Haydock. This grey son of Elzaam cost just 10,000G as a foal. He has a slightly awkward running action, flicking out his near fore leg but it certainly doesn't stop him running fast. He wasn't fancied on his racecourse bow, drifting quite alarmingly in the betting from 9-2 - 8/1. All were debutantes which make assessing the form difficult but at this grade, you would have to feel this juvenile will take all the beating. 

Cosmic Beau looks poor after his last race at Bath. That was run at a ridiculous pace and he literally had no chance to finishing the race. The complexion of that race changed markedly in the final furlong with leaders hitting the wall and those outpaced seemingly running on with spirit. Dascombe's son of Dandy Man was relatively fancied that day and a huge price here. It wouldn't be a surprise to see this colt backed. 

Richard Fahey two-year-olds have been running well and his connection with Cheveley Park Stud often a winning recipe. Rosebride is a daughter of Mayson out of a twice-winning mare who was placed at Listed class. This outfit should be respected and this bay filly hails from a stable who can go very well on debut and especially so with these connections. 

Richard Hannon has a huge string of juveniles and while their early-season successes have been dented by Mark Johnston they have plenty of talented colts and fillies. I often find this stable difficult to call with their debutantes. Mum's The Word runs in the familiar silks of Andrew Tinkler and this son of Mayson was purchased at the yearling sales for 52,000G. The mare was unraced.  

Richard Hughes has taken his time to find his feet with his two-year-olds but a few have shown promise. Goodwood Crusader is unsurprisingly owned by the Goodwood Owners Group. This bay colt is an Irish-bred son of Sir Prancealot who cost 44.000G at the yearling sales. Difficult to assess Hughe's debutantes although relatively fancied in the betting.

The Daley Express hails from Ed McMahon's stable. He is a talented trainer who suffers from a lack of patronage but knows a good horse, very much like his father. This bay colt is a son of Elzaam who was purchased by the trainer at the yearling sales for £30,000. He is bred from a mare trained by McMahon, Seraphina, who actually won the Brocklesby Stakes on debut in 1999. She was a capable sprinter who may never have tasted victory again although narrow loser of the Lowther Stakes Group 2 when a 66/1 shot & fourth in the Chevelely Park Stakes Group 1. She concluded her career at three when placed at Listed class. Ed McMahon can win with his debutantes although most of this two-year-olds are better on their second start [similar to most trainers]. An interesting juvenile. 

Brian Meehan has been quiet with the two-year-olds he has sent out this term. Jet Setter started his career in a hot debut at Windsor behind Legendary Lunch and Copper Knight, who are no slouches and the winner holding some impressive engagements if not heading to Royal Ascot. This son of Fast Company cost £57,000 at the yearling sales out of a poor mare. He was a big price that day and showed pace before dropping away in the closing stages. With over one month off course, it could be the case this chestnut needed the run that day and a different horse will be seen today. He is pretty friendless in the market but if backed it would bring more confidence. If priced 13/2 & less SP I would expect a bold show. If weak in the betting, best watched.   

Mister Moo is best watched. 

Conclusion: An intriguing race. Pretty Vacant has an awkward running action but physically a decent-looking juvenile. He ran well on debut and although the form is difficult to assess it looked a respectable performance. This colt looks professional and the newcomers will need to be pretty straight and experienced to press this youngster. Rosebride is worthy of note on debut from a stable who can send out a winner, especially for these connections. Mum's The Word hails from a strong stable although difficult to predict. Another one who is difficult to assess is Goodwood Crusader simply with a lack of data for Hughes in his formative year as a trainer. The Daley Express is well bred and if taking after his mother a horse who could spring a surprise when unfancied in the betting. On balance, I'd take a watching brief but at big odds, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a fair effort. The betting will detail the hope of Jet Setter. If fancied in the market he may have a fighting chance. Cosmic Beau ran much too fast last start and looks a lot worse for that crazy test. It wouldn't be a surprise to see this colt backed from big odds. Pretty Vacant sets the standard although a skinny price. I'd be tempted to back Cosmic Beau on the exchanges at huge odds and hope to lay at shorter odds for a no lose bet. However, this is just an aside. Generally speaking, a watching brief.   

The Shadow: a gambler's tale

I found this old posting from 22nd May, 2008. It gives a fascinating insight about some of the UK's most influential gamblers: their character, speciality, wagers and trials and tribulations. 

Great racing days stick in the memory usually because great bets were struck and won or lost and that in turn starts me off recalling all the great gamblers I have known over the years. Some of the big pro gamblers I have only known casually but others have been close personal friends. 

The heaviest gambler I have met is probably J P McManus but I have only known him just enough to be on nodding terms and because so many of his huge punts have been very secret the buzz of seeing him in action scaring the pants off the bookies was not as high profile as most of the others of his kind.

Much more high profile was Alec Bird whose speciality was place only betting. His standard bet was two hundred grand place only on a red hot favourite. He would be quite happy with a ten percent return on his money. 

The shrewdest professional gambler I have known is the legendary Phil Bull the founder of Timeform. So knowledgeable and so thorough was Phil’s grasp of every aspect of racing and gambling that unlike any other pro gambler I have ever met or heard about, he would be quite happy to chew on his cigar, sip his glass of champagne and have a bet on every race on the card. To Phil, it was simply the challenge of solving a very complex puzzle, the amounts he won were of no consequence whatsoever to him.

Probably the nicest big punter on the racecourses today is good old Barney Curley. Barney is a lovely man, frail and showing his age these days but he is approachable and friendly as always. He has a trainer’s licence these days of course and he still put the fear of the Almighty through the betting ring when one of his runners looks to be a Barney Curley special. 

The maddest, wildest and the most reckless gambler I have ever known is my friend and once East End gangster knew far and wide as “H”. Those who have been around the East End as long as I have will know just who I mean. H is two years younger than I am and these days he is flat broke living in a housing association studio flat in Loughton, passing the time while he waits for a liver transplant looking after the gardens of the flats he lives in. I know personally and for certain that he lost millions on the horses and dogs. I myself got down fifty grand in cash for him rushing round the betting shops of the East End getting a grand here and two grand there on a hoss called Admiral’s Cup. I got the last two grand down in a shop in Canning Town just in time to see it get beat a short head. He never turned a hair. The story about H I have told before is when he and his wife and me and my wife were invited to Ladies Day at Ascot many years ago. I looked respectable in a morning suit and a topper and our wives looked gorgeous but H turned up in a morning suit and topper but wearing his lucky black bootlace tie with its solid gold steer head fastener. The Jobsworths on the entrance to the Royal Enclosure copped the nark to H’s tie and would not let him in. H went berserk and stormed off to Tattersalls where he proceeded to try to wipe out every bookie with massive stupid bets. He must have been nearly half a million quid down by the last race when he persuaded one of the big chain bookies to let him lay a bet of two hundred and fifty grand on a hoss called Kris at even money. This time, his hoss won by the shortest of short heads and a wait of about five minutes while they magnified the photo finish. Once again he never turned a hair. Not the slightest sign of emotion. Now he cuts grass and prunes rose bushes for old ladies for a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Kid Delicious: Pool Hustler

When cleaning a pool table, you have to go with the grain - follow the weave of the felt so it doesn't disturb the natural pattern in the swath. Lightly brush across the surface, do not put too much pressure or you'll rip the felt. Hustling pool is pretty much the same process - go with the flow, follow a pattern, inconspicuously sweep the room, don't force it, let the mark come to you and don't get ripped off. It's hard to be a modern day pool hustler, what with movies, books and the Internet always leaking tricks of the trade. It takes a creative hustler to make a living at it anymore.

That is exactly what Danny Basavich was - a creative hustler who used improvisation and quick thinking to hustle. Basavich is a legend known in billiards circuits as Kid Delicious - a man who traveled the U.S. and parts of Canada, sharking the local talent - including an alleged $5,000 take right here in Myrtle Beach - for a half a million dollars in a little more than 5 years.
Free Horse Racing Tips, Click Here!
On Saturday, Kid Delicious was scheduled to display his table talents at new pool hall Shore Thing Billiards on Lake Arrowhead Road, but the event was postponed in light of the threat of Hurricane Irene. He was scheduled to give individual lessons, do a demonstration of his billiards prowess, followed by challenge games with attendees - if there were to be any takers after his demo. But organizers have tentatively rescheduled the event for Oct. 8 at Shore Thing.

So Myrtle Beach wannabe pool sharks and would-be hustlers will have to wait if they want to take on the Kid.

Pool hustling is the art of a pool player hiding his true skill while gambling in order to lull the opponent into a false confidence until the stakes are raised and the pool player reveals his true ability to easily win games. The best hustlers often appear to just be lucky and use persuasion to encourage their opponents to keep gambling by continually offering chances to win their money back. It's not illegal, as long as the bets are between individuals and not part of an organized gambling system. Morality is another matter because deception is a key factor - it's really hard to play people for money if they know you're a famous hustler.


All this hullabaloo for an appearance must take some getting used to for Kid Delicious, a man who used to make his living in anonymity. This article in itself could be career death to a hustler - but it's not the first to chronicle his adventures. Instead, it may be one of many signal horns announcing the rebirth of a talented pool player.


What's In a Name?

Daniel Basavich was a chronically depressed, overweight kid from suburban New Jersey. A kid with a raspy voice that sounds like Marlon Brando with a Jersey accent, who dropped out of high school but managed to acutely develop two subjects at an early age - Geometry and English. Only in Basavich's world, English is the angle at which you hit a cue ball to modify its roll and Geometry covers the angles of a billiard table, the straight lines and vectors associated with a bank shot or an ideal leave. At 15, Basavich started spending a lot of time in a pool hall close to his house. He polished his game, learned the terms that are intrinsic to the craft.

At 17, he ventured to New York and attempted to hustle a local pool player with the moniker Kid Vicious. While destroying Vicious' reputation, someone yelled out, "Vicious just got beat by Delicious." With his weight at almost 300 pounds and his jovial playing style - the name stuck.

Allen Salyer, a local amateur pool player, first-time promoter and the guy responsible for bringing Kid Delicious to the beach, described Basavich's affable nature, "He is an atypical pool professional, kind of an underdog...eager and generous." That seems to be the consensus throughout Kid's career - a heart as big as his gut. "He's not a strikingly athletic human," said Mitch Laurance, play-by-play billiards commentator for ESPN and husband to billiards legend and Grand Strand resident, Ewa Laurance. "Danny definitely has that every-man appeal."


That is probably why he fit in so well when he moved to West Haven, Conn. and literally lived in a pool hall called Chicago Billiards Hall. The owner, Ralph Procopio, was the patron saint of hustlers and funded Kid's tutelage. It was here he learned to be a true hustler. When asked about the Chicago Billiards Hall, Basavich says, "I miss it like crazy. When I travel to Connecticut, I go and visit Ralph P. at his bread factory." It's at Ralph P's place that Kid meets his partner in crime, Bristol Bob.


The High Run with Bristol Bob, 007 and a Broomstick


Bristol Bob or Bob Begey was a funhouse mirror reflection of Kid - attractive, in shape, short temper. In 1997, the odd couple climbed into Kid's 1982 Cadillac and hit the road becoming traveling hustlers. They moved quick - from town to town - making big scores.

Kid explained his best run, "Two days in Oklahoma City I won 10 games of 9-Ball for $5,000 a game for a total of $50,000. Then continued for the next 3 weeks and won another $50,000 still in Oklahoma. Another time I won $30,000 in Philadelphia and the pool player gamblers lost another $30,000 on side bets."

It is even cited in the Sports Illustrated article, "The Amazing Adventures of Kid Delicious and Bristol Bob" by L. Jon Wertheim that he hustled "$5,000 in Myrtle Beach" during that period. Female billiards champ Ewa Laurance, aka "The Striking Viking," spent a fair amount of time with Kid when he was on the pro tours. When we asked her about Kid pilfering this bounty from the beach, she said, "You can't be sure if that's a story or a true story." But their exploits are as close to facts as you can get with hustlers as sources.

Nevertheless, Basavich's and Bristol's run is the stuff of legend. They did bar tricks, trick shots, used Sneaky Petes - which are professional-level cue sticks that have been disguised to look like house cues. Kid hustled college kids at pool halls near universities. He acted like a pudgy, clueless freshman with money to burn - the more games he dropped, the more college kids he drew, soon he had a line of kids with fat pockets to pluck at his leisure. Kid even used a broomstick a couple of times to run the table. Kid and Bristol Bob divided the winnings 50-50 but Kid says Bristol Bob was more than a business partner. "He was my very good friend."

They worked the rooms as a team and when we asked Basavich how he knew which guy to hustle, he said, "First sign of a mark is not knowing what a handicap is. Or what ball in hand is. Who to hustle is, a wise guy with money. When I was young, I would play long games for big money, like races to 10 ahead for 12 hours. People always thought I would wear out because I was overweight." Kid's game tightened on the road and he became a 9-Ball artist. "I love 9-Ball, the style is cautious and smart like a chess game. And you must be aggressive at the right time," he says.

Bristol Bob and Kid Delicious relied on one another. Bristol Bob encouraged Kid to lose weight and reminded him to take Paxil for his depression. Kid tried to show Bristol Bob how to tame his anger. They added a third partner, a silent one, known as 007. His real name is Greg Smith. More than a hustler, 007 was a billiards spy. He knew covert information on when to hit different pool halls and who to hit. Kid and Bristol Bob always sent 007 a percentage of their winnings and their union proved to be very fruitful.


Kid also sent money home to his family to save for a rainy day but hustlers live a lifestyle of constant celebration - enjoying the temptations of the road. "Basically he spent all the profits, wasting a great deal of money celebrating after a big score. Poor money management seems to be a characteristic of road players," says Salyer.

But there were more bumps in the road than celebratory hangovers. Between Bristol Bob's anger and Kid's depression it wasn't always easy. "I never got angry when playing so I didn't get in any fights. If I felt there was trouble brewing I would lose to break even. A few times I had to defuse some trouble when Bob's temper took over."

Kid is known for his lively crowd interaction. "For someone to be hustled, they have to allow themselves to be hustled. The best hustlers make you want to just be around them. Danny definitely does that, he makes you feel warm and fuzzy," says Ewa Laurence. But Kid's depression was always a heavy obstruction, "I am always second guessing myself emotionally, I put on a happy face but inwardly I want to cry."

Even with a spy directing their route, the hustling duo still walked into uncertainty, every time they swung open a pool hall door. "The toughest place was Jack and Jill's in Baltimore, Md., in back of a shopping center...lots of drugs and shootings. Also in Dallas, a Latin place, everyone had guns. The hardest place to make money was in Tulsa, Okla. because there were so many unknown but great pool players," says Basavich.


In 2002, Begey decided to call it quits. Kid kept on traveling, picking up games. But the outlaw life of pool hustling was dwindling as the attention of gamblers diverted to a surge in poker. Kid says he and Bristol Bob still stay in touch. "We speak on the phone every few months but we have separate lives now. Bob still plays pool and also paints pictures of pool players."

The Push-Out


Basavich stuck his toe in the pro pool circuit as early as 2000 but it didn't fit and he stayed on the road hustling. Then, technology struck, in the form of the Internet. Ewa Laurance elaborates: "The Internet makes hustling impossible, you hustle one day and the next, everyone knows who you are."


How could he hide? He tried disguises, colored his hair - but a 300-pound, goateed pool hustler stuck out like a shark in a swimming pool. "At the end of hustling days I traveled for a week and everywhere I went people know who I was and wouldn't play me any more. When I was around 17 to 19, I traveled to Buffalo and Montreal and could always find games. But by the age of 23, I was known in almost all 48 (mainland) states."


So in 2004, he went full-time pro - becoming rookie of the year. The previously cited Sports Illustrated article ran during Super Bowl week of 2005. He wasn't earning the money he did as a hustler, but he climbed the ranks in the pros. He played some exciting matches, beat some of the best in the UPA (United Professional Pool Players Association) and won a few titles in 2004 and 2005. "I enjoyed the good quality of the pro tour tables. When I was on the road I had to play on many strange and old tables that didn't react properly and made the game more difficult," he says. And Kid made a big impression on Mitch Laurance during his days in the pros. "His style of play is, at least in a competitive situation, also totally unique, a combination of twitches and wear-it-on-your-sleeve emotions during a match, wrapped around an obvious talent for shot making.," says Mitch Laurence. "Compelling and intriguing, you were never really sure of what was coming next."


Kid laid out the secrets behind his "compelling and intriguing" skills in two instructional videos, "The Kid Delicious Advanced Clock System and Banking Secrets" in 2006 and "Big Time Delicious Racking Secrets and Ultimate Pro Shot making" in 2007. Also in 2007, "Running the Table: The Legend of Kid Delicious, the Last Great American Pool Hustler", the book adapted by L. Jon Wertheim from his S.I. article was released. The book was a hit and word spread fast about it being optioned into a movie. But the talks stalled and stayed stalled.


Years passed, Basavich spent time with his supportive family, Mom and Dad Delicious - his father has become one of his son's biggest fans and took on a moniker of his own...Daddy D. Kid settled down, having a son of his own. But his career as a pool player seems to have stalled as well. Salyer comments on Kid's hard times since being the last great hustler, "Kid had lost his job selling cars because he couldn't take the hard sell and questionable tactics they use...surviving by selling sports cards and giving lessons."


That's what makes Kid distinctive, a walking contradiction - a hustler who can't deliver the hard sell or deal in "questionable tactics."

When asked about his future Basavich says, "I plan on making more videos and hope a life story movie is in the works again. I also have a production company trying to make a reality TV show about pool. I don't go on the road much now because I love my family and staying with them. My son is getting bigger and when he's older I will have more time to play pool."


The Leave

The name of the game in hustling pool is staying off the radar. When a hustler's identity is revealed - he loses the power of the sneak attack. He can no longer draw in the enemy by feigning weakness - no more skillful ambushes of the mark. It is the rare hustler who makes his name a household one, after the hustling days are over. The pool halls are filled with guys who are self-appointed kings of the hustle. When Ewa Laurence was asked if she ever hustled she laughed a little and said, "I have a few notches in my cue, mostly putting male egos in their place." That is what most wannabe hustlers are... easily dismissed braggadocio players.


Not so, with Basavich. His reputation has been largely verified by his playing. And after all those years of hustling, he doesn't come out looking like a thief or a bad guy. The pool hall crowds, the fans of his pro career, his peers, even the guys he beat out of money seem to be cheering for him. All accounts paint a young man who simply did what he was good at and made some money along the way.


Where does Kid Delicious belong in the known canon of hustling legends? What place in the hall of pool giants does he have? Can he stand up next to the likes of Titanic Thompson or Cornbread Red?


"Danny is a throwback to the old hustlers," says Ewa Laurence. "Danny had a short flash but his antics make for a very enjoyable evening."


He's still young, in his early 30s, and a legend needs time to simmer - time to lay low before a furious return. That fury may be a movie about his life or a TV show or it may be traveling, building his name again on the circuit. "Danny could make a comeback but the question is...Does he still have the desire?," asks Ewa Laurence. "Does he want to win? You have to be dedicated."


The future is determined by what is done in the present. So what about Kid's here and now? Why Myrtle Beach? Is he trying to find ways to generate a buzz about his name, Kid Delicious? Or is he content with his past laurels and simply biding time until Hollywood comes calling?


"I see a lot of similarities between Kid and myself," says Salyer. "I was riding my lawnmower one Sunday, and I was thinking about how...he is struggling, like I am, and he is so very talented...I am racking my brains trying to figure out a way to help him get back into the mainstream of pool...He is hard to get a hold of. He doesn't do e-mail or Internet. His dad does that for him. I pitched it to Daddy D on Facebook...Then one day my phone rang and it was Kid Delicious."

Even if Kid never has a movie made about his life. Even if he's never a reality TV star. Even if he doesn't make another run professionally or if he never sells another instructional video, Basavich's legend will be secured - secure in the fact that a 32- year-old man is rich with a lifetime of autobiographical tall-tales - secure that, ranked or not, he's still one of most incomparable pool players in the land - secure that though he's lived the life of a hustler, he's regained his honesty and integrity - secure with the story about an overweight, depressed kid from New Jersey who became something inspiring...the story of an underdog prevailing.


Source