Saturday, September 22, 2018

Wit and Wisdom of a Racecourse Gambler

wit and wisdom
This article was originally published on the superb Sippertoad website, which is well worth a visit.   

On the eve of St Valentine’s Day was held the February meeting of the Club, at the usual venue, Jury’s Kensington Hotel. The guest was sure to draw a big crowd, and he did. He was none other than the Professional punter Dave Nevison who, once upon a time, was himself a member of London Racing Club. In the chair was Nick Luck, but the Dave was so fluent that Nick did not have to work very hard on this occasion; he simply made a provocative introduction (he and Dave seem to know each other well) and Nevison was off.


It was noticeable that many in the audience had equipped themselves with pen and paper to note all the money-making points to be learned; after which punting would be easy, but the reality is that nothing much changes. Most of those present probably know as much as Dave. The vital difference is in commitment, hard work and the taking of eye-watering risks with big sums of money; a pattern that is not good for family life, and though Dave has four children he no longer has a wife.


This is Dave’s 16th year as a pro gambler and all previous years have been profitable, though one soon realised they had to be. He vehemently rejected the suggestion that this is a golden age for punters “Cobblers. We’re living at the end of punting.” Indeed he says that when he began as a full-time punter he just caught the tail end of a real golden age, the days of cards schools on trains and a veritable circus of ‘characters’ rolling uproariously around the country from the racecourse to racecourse.


Dave Nevison is from Halifax, “Timeform country”. Like so many he picked up his love of horses and racing from his grandfather “an awful judge” who never had any money, so “no-one loved him”, though Dave probably did. Dave bets from an early age and had some startling successes. While at school his runner was his English teacher!


Computer screens are not for Dave. He is a racecourse bettor, but he did use computers when he was a foreign exchange dealer in the City. That was his “final port of call” in terms of conventional jobs before he went to the races full-time; he goes to the course practically every day. Dave’s employer in the City was a French bank (not named) and he had eight people to supervise. He must have been one of those ‘light touch’ regulators for he seemed to spend a lot of his time in a nearby betting shop, which narrowly took priority over time spent in the pub. That is still his approach to life, to have fun and “make it pay”. When Dave ‘hits town’ for one of the big summer race meetings it is party time but by September he is knackered.


Dave is not sure that if he had to begin all over again that he would become a racecourse bettor though he loves the ambience. He says that nowadays a would-be serious punter has to specialise in one area of racing; the whole scene has become too big. Dave hardly bets in cash anymore and has several people who ‘put on’ for him, one in particular who scours the world markets through a computer screen looking for any ‘edge’ he can find. They make it pay.


As far as backing racehorses are concerned the most important point to come out of the meeting is that Dave makes up his own prices; that is the major part of his homework. He equips himself with all the aids and subscribes to Timeform but in the end, he relies on his own judgement, nobody else’s. When he finds a horse priced at odds significantly greater than his estimate then that horse is a potential of great interest. That’s how he chooses his bets. A subsidiary point is that Dave expects to profit to the extent of 5% of his turnover (if things are going very well that can rise to 7%), so he is working to the same sort of margin as his opponents, the ones who stand on orange boxes and shout the odds.


When Dave decided to become a full-time punter he had enough money to last him four months and, as he said, “The one thing I have is the work ethic.” But those were not enough. Soon his new career was under threat; with no income to rely upon the need to bet bigger sums affected his choices. It looked as if he might have to go to work for a living. He has “never skated on thick ice”, though, and avoided having to slink back to the City when he realised in time that he had to change his methods, which he did.


Dave lived in London just “around the corner” from Eddie ‘The Shoe’ Fremantle who has so often obliged London Racing Club as a guest and who was to be on the panel for the Club’s meeting next after this one. Dave recalled days that Eddie and he bullshitted one another on the train to and from such faraway places as Newton Abbot but ‘The Shoe’ provided vital pieces of education for Dave, especially over compiling his own ‘tissues.’ Another great educator was the trainer Tom Kemp, with whom Dave had horses. His other trainers have included Norman Babbage and Philip Mitchell.


Soon Dave moved on to tales of coups landed with Teenage Scribbler and National Flag both of which were trained by Karl Burke and ran in the name of his wife, Elaine. It was the first of those victories that confirmed to Dave that he could ‘make it’ as a pro punter; but much better than that “It was the best plot ever”.


Teenage Scribbler must have been difficult to train, as they say because his big day was only his second race in twenty-four months and he finished lame and never ran again after it. The scene was Catterick and the race was the Bridge Selling Hurdle; doing the steering was Guy Upton. The date was 13 February 1993 but nobody at the London Racing Club meeting, least of all the guest, seemed to realise that the tale was being fondly re-told on the 15th anniversary of the coup.


Teenage Scribbler was forecast “in the paper” to start at 14/1 but opened on course at only 6/1. The odds then drifted to the anticipated 14/1 but came into 12/1, the SP. The money was placed in £20 bets at shops all over the country. At the course, things became tense because the start of the race was delayed ten minutes due to fog. When they set off Teenage Scribbler was soon twenty lengths clear and disappeared into the murk. When they re-appeared he was still leading and won easily. The gross figure landed was about £100,000 and Dave’s share was something over £40,000. After that, he was determined to carry on.


“We did it again with National Flag” in a juveniles’ selling hurdle at Worcester seventeen months later. But it was not quite so. Though the bets were supposed to be placed only with ‘independents’ the fact was that Ladbrokes knew. That was disastrous for the odds. National Flag “opened at 3/1 after 33/1 in places”. What’s more, Dave thought National Flag was a lucky winner as a very dangerous opponent fell at the second-last flight, but National Flag was ridden by Rodi Greene and the faller had a 5lbs-claiming amateur up, at least until the second last. National Flag was bred by Darley and that ‘seller’ was the only race he ever won.


Dave gave some general advice. For instance, he said that what sets punters apart from each other, divides them into the sheep and the goats, is the sort of mind that is betrayed by a punter who wants, say, 8/1 about a horse but cannot get that price and accepts 11/2.


Dave used to want to get every favourite beaten but is not so prejudiced against favourites these days. For instance, that very afternoon he had fancied Charlie’s Double in the last at Leicester. The horse won at 25/1 but Dave did not back it because “the trainer put me off”. The trainer is his business partner John Best, with whom he has invested £1,000,000 in horses that are now two-year-olds. The idea is to campaign them in such a way as to increase their capital value as much as possible and to sell at the opportune moment. The horses will run under the name Kent Bloodstock. Dave described this as an exclusive syndicate because “no-one wants to join it”. Some details are given in a footnote to this piece.


To fool a bookie on course it can be useful to look a bit unkempt; the layer won’t take you seriously (they have never taken your correspondent seriously); the difficulty of ‘getting on’ was mentioned but not dwelt upon; Dave can quite often back three or four horses in the same race and, when he does, he tends to spread his patronage around different bookies; ante-post betting can be dangerous but if one must indulge the races to concentrate on are the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks, as alternative races for good fillies are few so the selections are more likely to run.


His biggest wins have come when he has been “on the brink” and often have come over horses he has backed in the morning and whose odds drift out in the afternoon. When that happens he goes in again. It is logical. Dave says this is what one must do if there is not an apparent reason for the drift in the odds.


Other remarks included – “You pay to learn at this game”. “Goals must be high.” “If you stop learning ….” If you start getting comfortable ……..” The racecourse betting market has been badly weakened by the disappearance of the £100 punter while “the £500 boys from the City” bet by telephone. The Scottish bookie Freddie Williams got a favourable mention because he tends to have “a bit of an opinion”. Is the soul of racing dying? “Yes.”


The groundwork for his recently-published book, details below, which was on sale after the meeting with Dave signing each copy sold, was done in the Strand Palace Hotel. David Ashforth made the recordings. The two had regular sessions there. Staff wondered what they were up to and seemed, at least at first, to be quite dubious about them. Other sessions were held in the Maple Leaf pub nearby.


For the second half of the meeting, Nick Luck reversed the order of play and threw the meeting open to questions from the floor.


There were no betting exchanges when Dave started as a pro but the information provided on the screen to people using exchanges represents the opinions of the “collective brains of the world.” That recalled an earlier remark by Dave about his days in the City where he described his abilities as being pretty good but by no means in the front rank, where the “best brains on earth” fill the places. So the real brainboxes must like money, too.


Some races are too good to bet on; many are too bad to bet on. On-course prices are effectively set by people using exchanges. “A minute before the off you won’t beat Betfair.” “In high-class races, Betfair will be right.” He has met many of the racing journalists who were his heroes as a boy. They turn out to be flawed. One of the best-known soon tapped him in the racecourse press room for the loan of £20.


Dave is expanding into ownership of horses by accident, as he put it. He was referring to a new vehicle, Kent Bloodstock. He fancies himself as a buyer of bloodstock, though, oddly, he also says, “Don’t ask me what to deduce from horses in the paddock”. With the £1,000,000 invested he and John Best could only obtain seven horses of the type they wanted. Dave fears he may have overstretched himself financially (again). Is he on the brink?


This was where last year’s Group 1 winner Kingsgate Native got a mention but Dave did not say that he stood to win £100,000 on the colt when he started at 66/1 on his debut at Royal Ascot, where Kingsgate Native was beaten a head. What he did say about the colt was that half the trainers at Newmarket and most of those in the north of England now claim “We were going to buy that” when Kingsgate Native was offered at the St Leger Yearling Sales. But it was John Best who actually bought.


Dave was on Sizing Europe at 14/1 for the Champion Hurdle and that was his charity bet. Nuff said. Last year he had a terrible Cheltenham Festival but just about got out on Kauto Star.


About small-time professional punters, Dave was scathing (he expresses himself sardonically, wittily and robustly) and described them as the sort of people you would rather did not sit next to you on a bus. They work one hundred hours a week for about £4 per hour “but they don’t pressure themselves to the point of wanting to jump out a window”.


Dave ran a half marathon on the Saturday before this meeting, the same day a race with his name in the title was run at Chepstow, the ‘Read Dave Nevison on wbx.com Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase’ (winner, Madam Harriet, 25/1). Dave was due to run in the London Marathon on Sunday, 13 April. His heroics can still be sponsored, proceeds to Racing Welfare. The sometime chairman of London Racing Club, Richard Hoiles, has contributed. You can, too. It’s an on-line thing; the address of the website is below.


Though a good deal of what Dave said sounded like an elegy for what were said to be the great days of racecourse punting – “It was just great fun” – summer beckons once again and he is gearing up for the Flat season. To cut out drossy racing he is going to confine himself to following the cameras of BBC and Channel 4 Racing around the country. So, ‘The world’s great age begins anew, the golden year's return’. It is sure to be fun in the sun and lots of money will be turned over. Let’s hope Dave retains a fair bit of it and that the horses of Kent Bloodstock come good.





Sunday, September 16, 2018

Casino Players: Devil Vs Angel

Devil vs Angel
If a gambler had two tattoos - one on each shoulder - the pessimist would probably suggest a devil while the optimist would have their sights on an angel, both whispering words of wisdom. ''Keep that ace up your sleeve''. 

There are so many forms of gambling: horseracing, the stock market, lottery, casino... 

You name it.  The big question for many is where to bet. That's where Codeta Casino come into play. 

Assessing whether gambling is a good idea relates to one major factor: whether you are a winner or a loser. That point varies from one person to the next. Because even though many puritans suggest that gambling is an offensive word, there are many punters who make their betting pay. 

The first time I went to a casino made of bricks and mortar was at the Grosvenor Casino Great Yarmouth. To be honest, it was a brilliant evening. I managed to win a few quid in the process. I would recommend the experience to anyone. As long as you bet what you can afford to lose you will leave with a smile on your face and not losing your shirt. Far too chilly over this winter period to be half naked on the Norfolk Broads. 

However, joking aside, it's an opportunity to celebrate a special occasion. If you turn up on your birthday month, you'll get a free drink, a handful of free chips to bet and even a birthday cake if you ask nicely. 

The razzamatazz of traditional casino is all good and well but sometimes you just want to bet from the comfort of your home. That's where online casinos come into play. 

Take a look at Codeta Casino because it is a touch different from the avergae online experience. I've just looked and surprised.  

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The dress code is standard real-world casino, with each dealer, dressed appropriately for if they were in an upmarket casino in a hotel or on a cruise ship. Hands are well-manicured and certainly, there were no physical blemishes on display that could distract you from the gameplay.''

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You will find the dealers personable and friendly.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Three to Consider for the St Leger

St Leger - Dee Ex Bee
Some of the world’s leading colts and fillies will descend upon Doncaster on Saturday to battle it out for glory in the £700,000 St Leger Stakes. The oldest of Britain’s five Classics always attracts a stellar field and this year’s renewal is no different. The prize money is handsome and the prestige of landing the final leg of the Triple Crown is also hugely enticing, so the leading owners and trainers in the business go all out in a bid for victory. Aidan O’Brien put in seven five-day entries, while Goldophin will be well represented and the likes of Joseph O’Brien and Mark Johnston are also in the mix. Here are three leading contenders to consider: 

Kew Gardens

This son of Galileo is leading the charge for O’Brien after winning the £200,000 Group 2 Qatar Stakes at Ascot and the Group 1 Grand Prix Stakes at Longchamp. If you check out the St Leger markets you will see that he is the clear ante-post favourite, but the price has eased somewhat after he could only finish third in the Great Voltigeur Stakes last month. However, he performed well under a 5lbs penalty, while the St Leger is a few furlongs longer than that contest, and Kew Gardens is expected to relish the step up in trip. He is a proven stayer and he has performed on most grounds, so he should be just fine unless the going becomes extremely soft. Good weather is forecast in Doncaster in the build-up to this race, which should suit him perfectly. He also has the Queen’s Vase under his belt, so he is a quality stayer and he deserves to be the favourite, but the price may be a little short for some punters. He also faces stern competition from his stablemates and there is a lot to like about Southern France, who chased Kew Gardens home in the Queen’s Vase and has improved with every race. At longer odds, he also looks like an appealing candidate from the O’Brien roster, as he looks like a smart each-way bet, but Kew Gardens is currently gaining the most attention. 

Old Persian

Charlie Appleby’s bay colt was the toast of many punters when he defied big odds to land the Great Voltigeur Stakes last time out. He got the better of the highly rated Cross Counter and finished a length and a half clear of Kew Gardens with a rousing performance. Many expect Kew Gardens to reverse that form here over the longer trip, but Old Persian has to be considered for victory. He has progressed all year, and he has only suffered one defeat in his last four. That was in the Irish Derby, and it can be excused as he had a rapid turnaround from a splendid victory at Royal Ascot, and that race panned out in a strange fashion. He bounced back in style with that victory at York and he is well backed for the St Leger. He is extremely quick, but he has not really suggested that he is dying for a step up in trip. Yet if he does manage to stay he will be a real menace to the well-fancied duo of Kew Gardens and Lah Ti Dar. Latrobe, who won that Irish Derby, has since gone off the boil somewhat and Old Persian has a great chance of revenge in this race. 

Dee Ex Bee 

Mark Johnston declared that Dee Ex Bee “could be the best St Leger horse I’ve had” after watching his progress over the past year. He was second to Masar in the Investec Derby at Epsom, and he could blitz the field if he replicates that form here. He struggled badly in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood, finishing four and a half lengths behind Cross Counter, but that does not look so bad in the context of Cross Counter’s subsequent success. Dee Ex Bee has since been given a long break in order to prepare for the St Leger and he really should be suited to the longer trip here. He has lacked a turn of pace of late, but he looks like an excellent stayer, and this is a perfect opportunity for him to roar back to firm, so Dee Ex Bee could be a really good each-way option in this race.

Monday, September 10, 2018

My Adventure Into Lay Betting: Trying To Miss The Giraffe...

One of my favourite quotes is that even a broken watch is right twice a day. As a gambler, I think most of us would like to have a better strike rate! Damn Watch.

Rambling...


Nothing changes, hey. I'm either quiet or you suffer from unending prose. The blog timeline details: spam, nothing, more spam, and My Adventure Into Lay Betting: Trying To Miss The Giraffe. [written 2013]


That latter topic sounds much more interesting. This adventure related to my laying horses to lose. That's two-year-old horses. I don't understand anything else. Now, I'm not going to talk too much about my approach or the philosophy behind my laying tactics because it is a work in progress and rather boring in its written form. 

I must admit I don't find any form of gambling particularly pleasurable. My reasoning is that I have the odds in my favour. As every speculator will appreciate, that betting slip (in mind if not in hand) often morphs into a stick of dynamite.  The fuse burning too damn quick. Lay betting can feel rather daunting. When you've laid the rag and it's travelling with the zeal of a six-to-four jolly it makes the eyes bulge, the heart race, and your pocket has a kind of lost empty feel. Not very jovial. Well, that's the nature of the beast. Equine. You know, those things the commentator keeps talking about. 


So how did the season go?


Well, I was amazed. I know what you are thinking? Is that a good or bad amazing? I just took a double-take to see if my hand had been blown off. 


For the most part, it was amazingly good - with a slight disaster at the finish.


I started small laying juveniles to win five pounds a time. That may seem a pittance but it can be a costly affair if a 20/1 shot has an exceptionally long neck. I'm pretty sure I laid a couple of giraffes this year. Last time I go to the bloody zoo and say what lovely creatures. I'm not against laying a good few horses in the same field. Races would come and go. I'd be winning ten, twenty, fifty pound a race. Everything was going well. Amazingly so. After winning several hundred pounds I considered it was time to lay each horse for twenty pounds. I knew it was a risk but time is money and all that. It made me a little nervous. The bets ranged from laying favourites to huge outsiders. It can be slightly unnerving to lay a horse which could cost a couple of thousand. I always hope they fall out of the stalls and as fat as a pig. At that moment my potential terror of what could be turns to joy. Righteousness. Being right rather than religious. Obviously, there is a good reason why I lay such horses. There is an understanding, reason, professionalism. I'm not pinning the tail on the donkey - just trying to find it. However, that doesn't mean any horse cannot win. They do. The beasts. Those chestnut giraffes can be killers. 


To be fair I laid an incredible run of losers. In a matter of months, I had turned my five pounds to four thousand. In a sizable field of maidens, I would win up to two hundred a race. However, this approach doesn't allow you to just take any old race and wave my stick of dynamite. For starters, on many days there would be a limited number of two-year-old races. Certain race types were ignored.


I had a feeling of confidence.


For a moment I considered however fast that fuse burned if I filled my lungs with joyous - winning - air I could blow away that hellish spark.


On occasions I got my fingers burned. You have to remember that although I follow a professional approach there is something very different about working in practice to paper trailing. Thankfully I wasn't hit by a 100/1 shot. That would have been hard to swallow. But if you lay a bet you should never be surprised if it wins. It is probably sensible to imagine it will blow your socks off. I laid a couple of horses which won at 20/1. Not good. Although from my understanding I wasn't wrong in my approach. Horses win, horses lose, that's how it works. I must admit that in those early months of laying what must have been a hundred plus losers on the trot it all seemed ''amazingly'' straightforward. At the back of my mind (often at the front...and certainly in my pocket) I didn't believe it would last. I didn't expect it to follow a scenic path. I've watched  The Wizard of Oz. You have to meet a scarecrow, tin man, lion and a couple of flying monkeys before you get a chance to melt a green-faced witch and steal her bloody shoes. Although - thinking about it -hadn't she already lost them? 


I hit another couple of winners. A few bets cost a good few hundred. Financially it wasn't a problem but psychologically it was tougher. The next few lay bets made me really need them to lose. With a few winning days under my belt, I shrugged off the loss and by a week or two, I was back to an all-time high. 


However, little by little I hit a plateau. The four thousand pound mark became a wall. Each time I would climb the ladder to look over the other side I would be beaten to it by a giraffe who stuck out an incredibly long tongue. Sure the thing blew a raspberry before it came into view. I went from four thousand. Three thousand. Back to four thousand. Kicked in the nuts by a wilder beast. It was a struggle. I didn't feel the approach was wrong. A few of the decisions come down to a photo finish. Prolonged agony. I realised that I needed a tweak here and there. Knock a few trainers on the head because they had done my brain in. That learning curve felt as though it was tying me up in knots. I'm sure that the watch stopped when I wasn't looking.


The end of the two-year-old season was on the horizon and I was looking forward to a rest. One of the last bets was a killer blow. It didn't finish me off but it dampened my spirits which were already low. Of all days. I had been to the funeral of my aunt and switched on the races to see a Luca Cumani debutant which I laid for twenty pounds. The favourite struggled. In turn, I had an uneasy feeling...which continued to cause concern. The beast travelled like a gazelle. I gave up trying to work out whether its neck was long or short. Its legs moved fast. It hit the front, cruising Kempton's final bend and lengthened clear into the straight. The loss I had expected materialised costing nearly eight hundred pounds. It wasn't the best of feelings. 


I'll be back next year with my tranquillizer dart.



Wednesday, September 5, 2018

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.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

There's Value to be had in this Year's St Leger as O'Brien Targets a Super Six

There's Value to be had in this Year's St Leger as O'Brien Targets a Super Six
We’re fast-approaching the off of the 2018 St Leger Stakes yet traders seem at a loss to get their ante-post market in good order with a difference of opinion between the major betting firms paving the way for value. That hasn’t gone unnoticed by eagle-eyed punters eager to get in early and secure the best price possible on their selection. 

The group one flat race run over 1m 6f on the turf of Doncaster racecourse was first contested way back in 1776 – won by Allabaculia – currently puts forward £700,000 worth of prize money, with almost £400,000 of that delivered to connections of the winner.

Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore teamed up to great effect last year when producing champion Capri, who won ahead of Crystal Ocean for Sir Michael Stoute and Jim Crowley, the runner-up edged by half a length. Stradivarius filled the major places, ending a short-head back in what was a gripping bunch finish. Neutrals will be hoping for a repeat of that drama in this renewal.

Capri was a winning favourite 12 months ago and moved O’Brien’s record to five St Leger titles following success with Milan in 2001, Brian Boru 2003, Scorpion 2005 and Leading Light 2013. Impressive, but the Irishman still has some way to go if he’s to get anywhere near leading trainer John Scott who won 16 times between 1827 and 1862.


In the early exchanges, traders have thrown their weight behind another from the O’Brien string in Kew Gardens. The three-year-old colt brings a record of three wins and three placed efforts from nine previous starts with his medals including the Queens Vase at Ascot and Prix Paris at Longchamp.

Is the hat-trick on? The latest horse racing betting with William Hill has the bay marked at 3/1 – better than the 7/2 generally available. It’s away from the jolly where the indecision lies, however. Wells Farhh Go rates as a 7/1 second favourite with some while others have the same runner at 8/1. Latrobe is 8/1 third. 


Others in the betting priced a bit bigger than they probably should be are Forever Together – 10/1 trading, 8/1 the general feeling, and 14/1 on The Pentagon who’s a 12/1 poke. The latter is another O’Brien hopeful who travels to the South Yorkshire course with form onside. 

The three-year-old colt has won twice and placed three times in eight starts, including a bronze medal in the group one Racing Post Trophy Stakes at Doncaster over a mile. That’s sure to impress each-way backers who will get place terms of 1/5 the odds the best three home.

Friday, August 31, 2018

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."

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Professional Gamblers: Jack Ramsden

OK, YOU GO FIRST...
Jack Ramsden quit his job as a stockbroker in 1980 and since then has had 13 consecutive winning years as a professional punter. His successful punting like so many other professional punters is based around speed figures and race times.

He recently stated I cannot stress too strongly the importance of race times. They bind my whole approach together. There are fewer good times recorded over jumps but everyone seems to know about those horses and they are too short to back. Join our professional gambler newsletter by clicking here



Even cutting out the endless looking up of form books, I still spend two or three hours every day working out my bets. Jack continues, I'm constantly on the look out for the 3/1 chance that starts at 8/1. There are 30 or 40 of them a year and they are there to be seen. At those prices, you don't have to be right all the time! His premise is that while a good horse is capable of doing a bad time, no bad horse is capable of doing a good time.


He is unusual in that he has his own bookmaker, Colin Webster. There relationship is indeed unique, Colin pays Ramsden £5,000 a year for his advice and also has the job of getting his bets on with other bookmakers. Another unusual trait of Jack Ramsden is his liking for the multiple bets. His reasoning is that they are an extension of his policy to go for large prices and he reckons that on 4 occasions he has won over £200,000 on multiple bets.


Another piece of advice from Ramsden is regarding each-way bets. His advice is to ditch them. He states: I analysed my betting a couple of years ago and found that if I had doubled my win stakes instead of having each way bets, I would have been much better off. I think all punters would benefit by cutting out all each-way bets and sticking to singles.





Jack met his wife Lynda Ramsden when she worked at the Epsom yard of John Sutcliffe Snr, where Jack, one of Barry Hills's first owners, had horses. Ramsden was working in the City, but the City wasn't working for him. "I was a pretty useless stockbroker," he admitted. The Couple married in 1977 and then started training racehorses in the Isle of Man. I few years later moving over to England and North Yorkshire where they  trained for many years.


More pro gambler tales:


Dave Nevison

Phill Bull
A Tale Of A Pro Gambler

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Concept of Value Betting

It is one of the oldest arguments in betting: are you better off looking for value or looking for winners?

To me, it is a no-brainer. Value is king. I am amazed anyone considers it a matter of debate, yet many do. Their thinking goes like this: what is the point of backing something because you think it is a big price if it has little or no chance of winning?

They will hold up as an example a football team that is playing away to the opposition that is generally accepted to be superior. Fulham against Manchester United at Old Trafford, for example. Fulham may be 12-1 but if you dare suggest that is too big a price, you are liable to be shot down in flames by those who believe that because the Cottagers are such big outsiders there is no point even contemplating whether or not they actually represent a value wager.

There is no point backing a string of big-value losers, they will reason. Refrain from getting embroiled in a debate with people who think this way. They are irrational and cannot possibly be winning punters in the long run. In betting, and in football, in particular, the value lies more often than not in the bigger-priced contenders. This is largely because of the average punter's fixation with the very shortest prices on the weekend football coupon.

Bookmakers can usually tell whether they will have a winning weekend simply by looking at the results of the top teams in the English Premiership and Scottish Premier League.

In the autumn of 2003, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Celtic and Rangers all won on the same weekend eight times out of 11.

This caused a drop in bookmakers' profits as punters landed some significant accumulators. By the start of December, a blind £10 weekly five-timer on the quintet was showing a profit of £310. With their profits being dented, the layers reacted by strangling the match odds of the five teams that were hurting them.

Predictably, it did not prevent punters steaming into the so-called Big Five, even when they stopped winning so regularly. And with the hotpots shortening, their opponents were offered at even longer odds, leading to some decent paydays for those punters who took the rational view that the value lay with the long-shots.

The bottom line is that everything becomes good value if the price is right. You may head out of the house one day armed with £20,000 with the intention of buying a Mercedes. On the way to the showroom, you pass the Toyota dealership where the comparable car in their range is on offer at £14,000.

Your heart was set on the Merc but here is a car every bit as good for £6,000 less. You don't know why it is being offered so cheaply, but it is. You buy it and, whether you bank the six grand or use it to take the family to the Caribbean, you have made a value investment. So it is with betting. You intended to back Manchester United, but when you saw the prices and realised Fulham were so big, you backed them.

Many punters would, quite rightly, not dream of having a bet without searching for the best possible value, yet there are plenty who have no grasp of the concept of price-sensitivity and just back their fancies with the same bookmaker, be it on the phone, the net, or, more commonly, in the shop (internet punters tend to be more sophisticated and more aware of the basic premise that if you take the trouble to root out the best possible price you have a far greater chance of being successful over a long period).