Bad day at the office?

It seems the results are not going the way of many backers of late. If all else fails I can lend you my Do Not Disturb Sign. Take comfort in the fact that you are in good company because every successful gambler has days they would rather forget. Take a read of these sobering stories of bets gone bad.

Don't do it, Dave!

You know that feeling, when you've bet a bit more than you meant to? Dave Nevison, the well-known professional punter and hugely entertaining columnist in the Racing & Football Outlook, was in that position for the William Hill Trophy at the 2007 Cheltenham Festival.


He'd done a couple of spread bets that covered the whole Festival, buying favourites and selling total SPs. In essence, that meant that he would win money if favourites did well and if the odds of the week's winners added up to a low total. If favourites fared poorly and a number of big outsiders won, he would be in trouble.

The very first race was won by a 40-1 shot, which was pretty bad news, but it got a lot worse in the William Hill, the fourth race on day one. In addition to his spread bets, Nevison had had substantial wagers on two of the co-favourites, Juveigneur and Distant Thunder, so his position on the race was firmly established. All his eggs were piled on top of each other in the one basket.

It nearly ended well. Juveigneur and Distant Thunder seemed to have the race to themselves on the run-in but, in one of those finishes that only Cheltenham can produce, both were run down in the final stride by Joes Edge, a 50-1 shot.

The short-head by which victory was achieved cost Nevison £46,000, thanks to the various combination of bets he had placed. "I felt as if I'd soon be looking for a false beard and a cheap ticket to Paraguay," he wrote in his autobiography, A Bloody Good Winner. It didn't come to that – incredibly, he ended the week in profit.

It is never a good idea to put yourself in a position where you have basically backed the same outcome in a variety of different ways and will suffer horribly if anything else happens.


What would Sigmund say about this? 

The late Clement Freud has many fans among followers of racing, having written entertainingly on the subject over many years. But we may never have heard of him if the 1949 Gold Cup had gone the wrong way.

Freud had just become manager of a hotel in Devon. On the morning of the Ascot race, a wealthy customer asked him if he had a bookmaker (which he had) and then asked if he could place a bet for him — £100 on Benny Lynch at 100-1.

Benny Lynch was one of two pacemakers for Alycidon and therefore, Freud felt, had no chance. He stuck the money, the equivalent of eight weeks' pay to him at the time, in his pocket and called it an easy profit.

But Raymond Glendenning's radio commentary frightened the life out of him. As Freud recalled it, Glendenning said at one point: "Benny Lynch is 15 lengths ahead and shows no sign of slowing down," following up shortly after with: "The lead is down to 10 lengths but he doesn't look like getting caught".

If Benny Lynch hung on, Freud would owe his guest £10,000, no small sum now but a serious bundle of hay in 1949. He reckoned it was "20 times the average reason for jumping off Beachy Head".

Glendenning's judgement was off by a mile, if his commentary has been accurately relayed by Freud. After helping to force the pace, Benny Lynch was swept aside by Alycidon with more than half a mile to go, but in the meantime a valuable lesson had been learned. Freud vowed to take gambling more seriously.

That resolution would presumably resonate with anyone who ever laid a big-priced winner on Betfair. A backer by temperament, I can understand why someone might lay outsiders as part of a balanced book on a race, but it is beyond me why dramatically inflated odds are available about the outsiders on Betfair.

For example, it is baffling that anyone would want to lay Soldatino at more than 300-1 for the Triumph Hurdle (a bet struck by the very shrewd Mr Hayler) when the horse hadn't yet run in this country and there was no sensible way of gauging his chance. If someone wants to back the horse, you can bet that he's not beaten yet. It can always go wrong.

I wouldn't advise any friend of mine to do this!

I've heard of some dumb bets but this one takes the Terry Ramsden Award for Profligate Punting. It concerns a former colleague (I can't use his real name, so he may as well be Terry) who got paid £1,000 one Friday afternoon for his part in a project we'd recently finished. It had been hard work and it was nice to have the money but we all needed it and had certainly earned it.


Terry went out and got smashed. At about 1am, he called me asking for the number of an all-night bookie. He wanted to get a bet on Vallée Enchantée for the King George at Ascot the next day and he wasn't sure he'd be awake in time for the race.

If I were a good friend, I'd have gently found a way to talk him out of it, but I must be a rotten friend because I pulled a plastic card out of my wallet and gave him a number. He sounded really grateful.

Bookies make it easy for you to give them your money but it's still impressive that Terry was able, while hammered and calling from some noisy bar, to open an account and place a large bet. He was still able to make himself understood at 2am, when he phoned up to put a bit more on, and again about an hour after that. By this time, Terry had bet the entire grand he'd been paid just hours before. He'd been excited about this horse all week, for reasons I can't recall, but it still seems unlikely he'd have risked that much if, say, he'd spent Friday night at home with a pizza.

Incredibly, he was given a chance to get out if it. At about 10am, his bank called to report some unusual activity on his account - had he authorised a £1,000 transfer to a bookmaker? Knowing he'd done a silly thing, Terry nevertheless took the honourable course and confirmed that he was the sort of mug who placed bets while normal folk were asleep. Unexpectedly conscious, he managed to get himself to Ascot, where we stood by the paddock, looking from the majestic Doyen to Vallée Enchantée, who looked almost as green as Terry.

By this point, he knew what was coming and stood up to it like a man. Others might have tried desperately to lay it off but, like a sinner accepting his punishment, he went meekly to the grandstand to meet his fate and turn himself into a cautionary tale.

If, having read this, you can struggle through life without getting sloshed and calling up your bookie in the middle of the night, Terry's grand will not have been lost in vain.

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