Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Profitable Sports Gambling Begins With Discipline

An article I found from Ross Everett a freelance sports writer and respected authority on sports betting odds comparison. His writing has appeared on a variety of sports sites including sports news and World Cup betting sites. He lives in Southern Nevada with three Jack Russell Terriers and a kangaroo. He is currently working on an autobiography of former energy secretary Donald Hodell.


I get some of my best sports gambling concepts from non-sports gambling books. That’s not really surprising, since there are so few serious works addressing sports handicapping and gambling. Of all the various gambling related disciplines, sports gambling is perhaps the most complex. The paucity of written work on the subject is downright shameful in light of that fact. Since there’s so little specific literature available some of the best theoretical resources available to the serious sports gambler can be found in books written for the serious poker player.


Poker literature is especially applicable to the sports handicapper because both can be very profitable for a knowledgeable, experienced and skillful pro. Poker expert Bob Caro has noted that while there are a number of professional gamblers specializing in poker and sports wagering there’s not a single person who can honestly say they play roulette for a living.

The simple fact is that the house edge in roulette cannot be overcome by any combination of skill, experience and/or discipline. When you win, it is because you get lucky. When you lose, its because you didnt get lucky. To add another Caro concept to the equation, the decisions that the player makes when playing roulette simply dont matter”at least in terms of overcoming the theoretical edge enjoyed by the house. In the long term, it doesnt matter whether you choose red or black, odd or even, or certain numbers. You may get lucky with your choices or you may not, but these decisions do not impact the house edge one iota.

Caro stresses the paramount importance of discipline to a poker player’s long term success and profitability. It’s important to keep in mind that to succeed as a professional gambler that you need to approach a trip to the casino with a diametrically opposite mindset to that of the recreational gambler. A recreational gambler heads to the casino to *avoid* discipline and ‘unwind’. The professional uses discipline to his advantage.

Caro’s emphasis on discipline in poker is also true for the serious sports gambler. The foundation of a professional sports bettor’s long term success is to approach it with the same discipline, rigor and professionalism that he would any other job. If you continue to think about it in the same terms as the recreational gambler does, you’re in for a difficult road. The more seriousness that you bring to your sports betting, the higher the likelihood that you’ll be successful.

There’s nothing wrong with being a recreational sports gambler, or a recreational gambler of any sort. They’re vital to those of us who do this for a living since they’re what keeps casinos and sportsbooks in business. Ultimately, the best handicapping is pointless without a sportsbook to take the action.

If your goal is to bet recreationally, that’s great. Unless you have the dedication, desire and discipline to approach it at a profession a recreational approach to gambling is ultimately better for most people. You might benefit from some greater money management discipline, but at the end of the day as long as you don’t bet more than you can afford to lose it’s really no big deal.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

How Gambling Killed Kenny Uston

Ken Uston, blackjack,
Ken Uston was a professional gambler with a love of blackjack. Born in New York in 1935, his mother a native of Austria and his father a Japanese migrant businessman.

Uston went to Yale University at the age of 16, then studies an MBA at Harvard. He had varied jobs including Senior Vice President at the Pacific Stock Exchange. 

He enjoyed playing blackjack at weekends and read Thorp's Beat the Dealer becoming a genius card-counter. 

In 1983 Blackjack Forum interviewed Uston. He said he became fascinated by blackjack and its strategies after meeting professional gambler Al Francesco in a poker game. Francesco had launched the first ''big player'' type of blackjack card counting team and recruited Uston to be his main team player. A team of card counters would wait until a table became extremely positive and the ''big player'' would place big bets. Uston was promoted as the ''big player''. He later co-authored a book called The Big Player which effectively barred Fracesco's team from playing in Las Vegas. 

In 1978, Uston started his own profitable blackjack team. He was soon barred from casinos in Atlantic City. In 1979 he filed a lawsuit claiming casinos did not have the right to bar skilled players.

''In Uston v. Resorts International Hotel Inc., 445 A.2d 370 (N.J. 1982), the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that Atlantic City casinos did not have the authority to decide whether card counters could be barred absent a valid New Jersey Casino Commission regulation excluding card counters. To date, New Jersey casinos—by statute—are not allowed to bar them. In response to Uston's legal victory, Atlantic City casinos began adding decks, moving up shuffle points, and taking other measures to decrease a skilled player's potential advantage. ''      

Uston adopted a number of disguises to continue playing blackjack. He had an aggressive, flamboyant playing style. 

In an article in Blackjack ForumArnold Snyder describes playing with Ken Uston at Circus Circus Las Vegas near the end of Uston's life. He states that Uston was disguised as a worker from Hoover Dam and got away with spreading his bets from table minimum to table maximum on a single-deck game. Since this took place at a time when card counting was well understood by casino executives and managers, and since the primary clue by which casinos detect card counting is a card counter's "bet spread" pattern, most card counters would also consider Uston a genius of disguise, and/or "card counting camouflage".

Uston went on to write Million Dollar Blackjack detailing his winning techniques.

He was the subject of a 1981 segment on 60 Minutes, and in 2005, he was the subject of the History Channel documentary, "The Blackjack Man"

On the morning of September 19, 1987, Ken Uston, age 52, was found dead in his rented apartment in Paris. The cause of death was listed as heart failure.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Buying a Retro Slot Machine: 1936 Watling Rol-A-Top

So you like a gamble.

Take a look at this photograph, taken by Mark Bialek. I found the photo on a website for antique slot machines called Old Time Slots. What a selection of beautiful slots. I guess all of them, one-armed bandits. In my opinion, they put these modern slots to shame. Soulless pieces of junk with a pixelated screen.  Sure the sound resembles coins being paid out, but you get a receipt rather than a handful of cold, hard cash. 

The yellow one in the middle looks like 1936 Watling Rol-A-Top. The pink one to the right is 1937 Mills Melon Jackpot. Superb. While the slot machine on the left looks like a 1929 Mills/National Jackpot. 

Who wouldn't want one of those in their living room? To be honest, I'd like all three. 

Much has changed in the gambling industry in recent decades. The internet opened the door for many platforms such as Online Casino Deutschland who give the best free bets and spins for those who don't want to leave the comfort of their home or don't have a Mills Melon Jackpot sitting next to their chair. 

I have always wanted to buy one of these old slot machines. I say that in preference to so many of the old fruit machines and especially these new ones. They are built on psychological research to get you playing more. That one reason why unlike the old days it is nearly impossible to understand what constitutes a win. A very clever ploy. So you think you have won much more often that you have. 

Betting on these modern fixed odds betting terminals as they call them is bad news. Even the name sounds as comfortable as sitting on a chair covered with broken glass. Compare these to the old-style slot machines. 

It is like sipping champagne to someone with a pint of lager. I know a lot of you like lager and I've had a few pints myself. 

When betting it always pays to think about the consequences and be careful. Betting fixed odds can never be more than fun betting. Why? Because long term you cannot win betting fixed odds. It's not skill based unless you know a way of cheating.  

I am pretty sure I'll have one of these old slot machines in the next few years. Convert it to taking pound coins and keep it as a money box. If you want to come round and play it and will some loot that's fine with me (joke). It's illegal unless you have a licence. But if you lose please don't cry over my chrome machine and seize up its arm. 

That's just not sporting at all. 

Saturday, 27 July 2019

The Art of Winner Finding

The Art of Winner Finding
Another great article from the Horseracing Pro. Foreword by Bob. Here's another of Spy's inimitable views. When you read it take some of his modesty with a pinch of salt! He actually does very well with his betting and racing has provided him with a living for some 20 years now! But I absolutely agree with his fundamental point. One man on his own just hasn't the time or the ability to go through all the racing, form lines, videos and sift views from a stable of contacts in 24 hours.

You need help. Help from experts. Expert form advice, expert race readers, and expert contacts.


To do well in this business you would be well advised to do one of three things. Either

•Build a team


◦ ... of form experts, race experts and contacts whose opinion you trust implicitly. This does NOT mean you will always be right no matter how good the team is. Apart from the normal good luck/bad luck in racing from time to time team members will fall for "put-aways" and be put away by connections, just like anyone else. It's part of the game. But a good team will identify more fancied horses and spot more "moody" put away plays than most do.


◦This is the most satisfying as you will enjoy the camaraderie of your team (albeit mostly by telephone as generally they are widespread geographically and incredibly hardworking because they love racing and they love the challenge of solving the racing puzzle)


◦ It will also be very expensive because your overheads will be enormous and the only income is generated by betting. The more successful you're betting the harder it will be to get bets on (in your own name) It's a wonderful "Catch 22" and yet we all love the buzz of this business so much we are hooked for life!


•Bet for a Professional Gambler


◦ ... Find a Professional Punter or group of Professional Gamblers and bet alongside them. You wouldn't ask a road sweeper to perform brain surgery so surely it's smart to take advice from someone who already has proven he can win and not someone who just claims he can.


◦The best way is to place bets on them but you will need an enormous float if you do and you must be VERY sure you are dealing with a Genuine Professional Punter who really can't get bets on or you could be ripped off - too many con artists use this sort of story as a scam. To handle a Professional's business you will probably need to be able to guarantee getting bets of £1,000-£5,000 on at a time, secure prices and be on call 24/7 as well as the ability to move large sums of money in seconds. If you've ever bet live horses you will know how hard that can be! I have many clients who have already had their accounts limted for betting "live" horses in hundreds let alone thousands!



◦PS If you can get £1,000's on, can secure the odds and will guarantee to pay me when I win then please email me right away!


•Work with a Genuine Professional Gambler


◦ ... and share the burden of expenses or getting money on. This is the method I offer as it makes it possible for a part time Trader to enjoy access to genuine information without a huge financial committement.

I OFTEN START my pieces with anecdotes and see no reason to break that precedent today. The story that precedes this offering concerns a boxer faced with the doctor during a bout at Madison Square Garden. It had been a bad night thus far for the pugilist, who was slumped in the corner between rounds whilst his seconds frantically worked on his cut face. As was his job, having witnessed a punishing round, the doctor needed to establish the battered fighter was Compos Mentis. Correct with the number of fingers held before him: next the question if the fighter knew where he was. ‘Sure I know where I am,’ he replied, spitting blood as he spoke, ‘I am in Madison Square getting the shit kicked out of me!’


Told he could continue for the next round, the boxer then had to listen to all the advice from his corner. ‘If you’re so god-damned clever, you get in there and finish it off for me!’ he replied before the clang of the bell.

Boxing is a tough game – it is a tough as they come. It requires a team of experts to groom the boxer to give his best in the ring. And the paradox is that, as with sportsmen of all types and performers in general, those dispensing said advice are theorists as opposed to operators. That is to say - they tell those that can do what they cannot - how to do it! That is the job of a coach and is no reflection on either party.


The same applies to horseracing and betting where there is no shortage of advice proffered to would-be professional punters. Not all the theory in the universe will make you into something you are not. If you are not cut out to be a professional punter, it is important you cotton on to such a fact sooner rather than a few grand later.

We have looked at some of the finer points of punting for a living but one of the most important components in this business is your make-up or personality. For the purposes of the point I wish to make, I will take myself as the role model for this article. I will analyse my qualities and lack of – warts and all.


First, my strong points: I am pretty good at dissected races and quick to jump on a betting opportunity, which often means I can identify a race that presents a distinct advantage. This is where you doubt the credentials of a leading player for whatever reason and feel it is ripe to be opposed. Often I find that, for all the time one can invest, the true good thing jumps out of the paper even before you have waded through the business of deciding whether the formbook suggests it can win. This is something of a contradiction to many of the other scraps of formulae I have passed on. I keep hammering several points home; one of them being there is no actual blueprint for this business. Like the bout of boxing, such a movable feast requires constant adjustment so those who succeed have to think on their feet.


Therefore, technically I know what I am doing. Now to the part that cannot be quantified – the ability to transfer theory into practice. In the case of being a professional punter that is the bit that involves actual betting – the decision as to whether to bet or not and how much to stake. Here, we are talking my weakness. Most successful punters I know have at least one grey area. They identify it and use others to plug up the gap or gaps. Surprisingly, most successful punters know little about actual form, less about horses. But they are good at betting. They are the equivalent of the city traders who can be fearless. Their sixth sense does not come in evaluation of cards and races but in knowing when to lay down their cash.

People who are good at winner-spotting would also make good detectives as there is a fair degree of sifting of facts required. They achieve much of the work on instinct and intuition.


Successful backers take all the advice on offer, have a knack of deciphering the difference between a message or opinion that reflects hope as opposed to confidence, and act accordingly. And when they bet, they bet. They pull up serious money and make it count.

One of my biggest weaknesses is timidity. I have to admit I am not a fearless punter. I keep my head above the roaring ocean waves without going under but am never on the prow of the ship. And I like to make my mind up on the day’s proceedings in advance, hating to be at the whim of messages that may trickle through during course of a day, particularly in races in which I have no view. I do my work either the day or night before, finish it in the morning and that is it as far as I am concerned! This is a failing but one I cannot address. I am not intolerably opinionated, but I dislike putting myself in the hands of others. I will always listen, in some cases bet solely on messages – some of which are top class – but I dislike striking a bet that has not been properly thought out – at least by me. That is my approach and it means I miss backing plenty of winners. Subconsciously, I feel I have done the work on the day and that there should be no need for further reference to the formbook. Instantly unfathomable messages are largely ignored. I repeat – this is a failing.


My best course of action would be to employ someone to listen to what I say, to my evaluation of races and then who, in a dispassionate manner, places the wagers. There would surely be no shortage of applicants for such a position; but I am equally sure such a relationship would not work. The reason is I like to maintain control and am reluctant to delegate when it comes to money. Therefore, as a result, my business suffers, as it would be far more effective if I worked in tandem with someone else.


However, importantly, I know and recognise this weakness and work round it. Personally, I will never be a Bob Rothman, Harry Findlay, or a Patrick Veitch. That is not solely because they are richer than I am, but that they have the temperament to take enormous risks when the time is right. They will increase stakes when winning, whereas I tend to protect profit and throttle back, playing it safe. That means I jog along, not getting into too much trouble but not roaring round London in a Ferrari either.

If you are tempted to try this business, then it is important you give yourself a reality check. Even if you fail to become a big-hitter in the ring, it should prove beneficial. Eventually, betting on anything – be it cards, roulette, horses or football – will expose your weaknesses from which there is no hiding place. Kid yourself you are right when all around can see you are not and you will pay the price. Punting does not allow a margin for error. But consistency can make up for deficiencies. I am not advocating being consistently wrong, but so long your actions are consistent, to a degree you can work round your shortcomings.

Being a professional punter is akin to being a professional in anything. You are effectively in the same position as writers, actors and sportsmen. There is no one paying your National Insurance stamp, no one shelling out sick and holiday pay, no guarantee that you will be insured by the trappings those conventionally employed enjoy.


As I said at the beginning, some are better doing the fighting others saying how it should be done. So long as the mixture is correct, it can work. The problem comes when the fighters are doing the directing and the corner men the fighting!

Monday, 8 July 2019

Pro Gambler Favourite Bets

Professional Gambler Favourite Bets
There is one thing all pro gamblers have in common: they want to win money from bookmakers. However, from there many have conflicting ideas of what makes a good bet. See what these three yesteryears to modern-day professional gamblers had to say on this fascinating subject. What bet made them tick? Learn the secrets from the likes of Jack Ramsden, Alex Bird & Harry Findlay.    


Jack Ramsden quit his job as a stockbroker in 1980 and made a name for himself as a professional punter. His successful punting like so many other professionals were based on speed figures and race times.

Ramsden's advice on each way bets 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.

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

Alex Bird was the original professional gambler who made a fortune after the war at Britain's racecourses. He learned his trade working for his father who was a bookmaker but soon decided that it would be more profitable to be on the other side. He had many different ways of beating the bookmaker, but probably his most famous was his success in betting on the result of photo finishes. Unlike today photo finishes would take about 5 minutes to develop so there was always an active betting market on the outcome. Bird very early on noticed that when horses crossed the line together an optical illusion meant that the horse on the far side invariably looked like he had won. He also discovered a simple technique which meant the illusion didn't occur. He stood at an elevated vantage point as near to the winning post as possible, he would keep very still, close his left eye and create an imaginary line across the track at the finishing line. He used this simple system for the next 20 years to make himself a fortune. With a reported 500 consecutive successful bets.

Another favoured method he used to make money was to use his influence in the ring to create a false favourite. He often placed huge bets often as much as £50K at a time however he couldn't get these sort of bets laid in the betting ring so he would employ an army of helpers around the country placing bets in off-course bookmakers. If Bird fancied a horse but felt the odds were to short he would place a bet of up to £10K on another horse in the race. He would then ensure that it was "leaked" that he had placed the bet. Prices would then dramatically alter as the "mug" money poured onto his horse. This meant that the price of the horse that he wanted to back heavily and clandestinely off the course would drift out in the market. His army of helpers would then back the horse off course all over the country.

These are Alex Birds Golden Betting Rules:

1. Never bet when there is a change in the going. There is nothing to upset form quite as much as a change in the going.


2. Be aware of the over rounds being offered by bookmakers and don't bet when they are unfair. At some smaller meetings, bookmakers will sometimes create a book 40% or 50% in their favour.


3. Be an Each-Way thief. Do this by finding races with 8-10 runners which are not handicaps, and where there are only a few form horses in the race. Then oppose the favourite and combine the second and third favourites in each-way combination bets.


4. Look for up and coming apprentices. A good apprentice with a 7lb claim can be worth his weight in gold!


5. Never bet on the first show, you will find that the majority of runners increase in price. Taking second show prices will increase your winnings by 10% over a season.


6. Never bet in handicaps.


7. Never bet in 3-year-old maidens, particularly those only for fillies.



Harry Findlay, a flamboyant and highly successful gambler, gives the impression that he can hardly believe his luck in owning a horse as good as Denman, arguably one of the most talented novice chasers in its time. He said: "Denman had got that sort of thing about him, people either want to take him on or they like him, and that's the sort of person I am. There was no middle, grey area with Denman, there's no grey area with me. That's my type of character."

On gambling

"If you look up gambling in the dictionary, it doesn't say 'this means a sure way to make a steady profit over a period of time', it says 'gambling: a form of interest that can either ruin you or make you a fortune', and that's the way it is."


On Horse Race Betting he said: "There's no difference between getting 1-2 about a 1-4 chance and getting 4-1 about a 2-1 chance. People who say 'I won't bet odds-on', they're just idiots. When you want to bet an odds-on shot, you can get on - when you want to bet a big-priced one, you can't."


On why you shouldn't hedge


"When you pick a 20-1 shot to win the Grand National, don't have £200 at 20's and then go and lay £600 at 5-2 and, when it wins, get £2,500. If you believe that 20-1 shot, have £200 at 20's and then go and have another £300 at 14's and then £400 at 10's and then, when it goes off 5-2 or 11-4, don't hedge if you still fancy it."



Thursday, 20 June 2019

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.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Weird and Amazing Facts about Horse Racing

Horse racing is a thrilling and fantastic game for many people. But as there is money involved, it becomes a great sport for betting enthusiasts. Getting to know the amazing facts about horse racing can make you peep into all new world of stallions. 

How it started and a few records?

For the successful horses, the owners would pledge their lives. Yes, they can earn more on stud than on the racecourse, and $100 million is involved in horse racing every year. It all started with the chariot races of Rome, and they are the organized form of horse races, from where today’s horse races are derived. These races trace back to 4500 BC in Central Asia. 


  • Till date, there is no record that a horse more than 18 years of age has won the race. 
  • A racehorse on an average weighs 1000 pounds, and the recorded that is lowest for a jockey is 49 pounds. 
  • The highest aged jockey was Levi Barlingume, who raced till 80 years of age, which was until 1932. 
  • Humorist was the winner of the Epsom Derby in 1921 that ran with only one lung.


Big-hearted horses have more chance to win 

You will also be excited to know about the organs of the racing horses. Yes, only the horses with large hearts have a great chance to win, compared with the rest those who have smaller or average-sized hearts. 

If you are one of the groups who thinks that horse racing is not very animal-friendly, and they have stopped putting money in it. You have options to participate in other sports or you can play casino games at Betfair to get the same thrilling experience. 

Slow or fast? 

If you are looking for something funny then here is some amusing fact for you. Time is significant when it comes to winning a race. In 1945, the recorded time for winning that is the slowest of all time was set. Never Mind II, the horse refused to move from a fence, and the jockey had no other go, but to abandon the horse. But, to his joy, all the runners of the race had either been disqualified or fallen. So, he rushed back to complete the 2-mile race in 11 minutes and 28 seconds. This means he would have been at leisure. 

Facts about different breeds

Most of the times, you will find that the thoroughbred horses are chosen for their speed, agility, and determination. They had Arabian ancestors and were produced in England. The Arabian racehorses that raced more than 1000 years ago are of just ½ the size of the thoroughbred horses. Compared with these, the quarter-bred horses that are specially bred for quarter-mile races are smaller and less muscular. For harness racing, the standardbred horses are used. They are best suited for trot than gallop racing. 

Dangers associated with horse racing

While it can be seen a great sport, no one can deny that many a times horse racing involves the fatal end of the horses on the race course, with broken spines. Horses are also killed because of the use of drugs that are meant for improving speed but are illegal and restricted. Thousands of former racehorses end up at slaughter beds. Even younger horses, say of age 3 and 4 are made to risk their lives on tracks.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Professional Gambler & Bookmaker: Freddie Williams

Freddie Williams Bookmaker & Gambler
It's November 2005. The location: Cheltenham racecourse. It's about an hour before the first race - the opening day of the Paddy Power Gold Cup meeting. 

Under a grey sky, with steadily dropping temperatures, the crowd gathers. In the betting circle bookies are pitching. 

Barry Dennis shouts prices back and forth. Gregory and John Hughes watch the crowd. Andy Smith and John Christie await the first bets of the day. Mickey 'The Asparagus Kid' Fletcher, his face like a 'Wanted' poster, scowls from the sidelines. But Scotsman Freddie Williams, a famed drama actor, hasn't yet arrived.


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Miniature in stature he may be, he's known as the biggest bookmaker at Prestbury Park.

Freddie delays his entrance, sitting comfortably in his Jaguar a hundred yards away in the members' car park. His daughter Julie, and other members of his on-course team are already in place on the pitch. Freddie, the softly spoken boss, confers with them by phone, always monitoring the early activity and estimating the moves of the day.


At the Cheltenham Festival in March 1999, JP McManus - a feared pro gambler of racing legend - has a colossal £100,000 each way at 7/1 on his own horse in the Pertempts Hurdle Final. This wasn't some transaction by chance. It was a very deliberate, planned, almost hand-to-hand combat in the heat and gun-smoke of the Festival. Shannon Gale, trained by Christy Roche, finished fourth and JP collected £175,000 from the each-way part of his wager. If he had finished first, Freddie Williams would have had a payout in the ballpark of the £900,000. To clearly understand what makes him such an accomplished man we need to take a look at his whole life. What makes his story so interesting is not just his enthusiastic embrace of customary betting and his detest for the cautious, corporate approach of the big betting-shop chains but also credit that this is a man came from a modest beginning and earned the right to be a player on the greatest racing stage of them all.


Freddie was born in 1942 in Cumnock, East Ayrshire. His father was a miner, like his father before him. Freddie, like the rest of his male relations and colleagues, would have gone down the pit himself had he not failed the medical exam at the age of 15. Instead he became a mining engineer.


After a few years Freddie went to work for a soft drink company. Everyone knew bet in those days, and the backbone of gambling in the mining communities was 'pitch and toss'. Horse racing, especially jump racing, was exerting a far greater allure.


I was lucky to earn a pound a week at the time. I kept my money in a tin box. There were illegal betting offices all around Ayrshire and I put every dime I could on Pas Seul. He made it to the last stretch but then he fell.' Williams laughs sorrowfully at the memory. 'Kerstin stayed on to win the race.


Pas Seul made no mistake the next year, though.' Freddie's was not alone in his love of a punt.In fact it was shared by his workmates at Currys.


He bought his first bookmaking pitch at Ayr in 1974, followed by one in Hamilton and one in Musselburgh. He would go on to own seven betting offices. After Currys was bought out again in 1991, Freddie, already worth over a million, started his own bottled-water business called Caledonian Clear.


Some of competitors like to say that it must be very nice to try bookmaking when you have another job paying your bills.However, Freddie emphatically denies racing job is some sort of sideline. 'Bookmaking is my livelihood and my passion in life.' Freddie has said.


The enthusiasm and nerve Freddie brings to his job is something the Southerners had not witnessed for themselves until the massively overdue reforms that allowed racecourse pitches to be bought and sold at public auction in the late 1990s. The old-fashioned system of Dead Man's Shoes, the bookmaking pitches were restricted to successive generations of the same family, was a sort of Masonic protection swindle that shut out new money and new faces from the ring.


The Scotsman got an early start on 1st January 1999 and again in March. It didn't take McManus to seek him out. As well as conflicting Shannon Gale, the bookmaker also accepted Nick Dundee. Dundee was the Irish banker of the week. The young novice ran in the colours of McManus' close friends John and Sue Magnier. But Freddie didn't fancy Nick Dundee. 'I was going 11/8, One gentleman wanted £80,000 on, and I laid it to him, but I didn't take down the price. He looked at me for a moment then asked for the bet again. So I laid him another £110,000 to £80,000, but I still not taking down the price.'


It was a close-run race. Then it happened Nick Dundee's legs buckled landing over the third last fence. Plus, presumably, the sound of one Scottish heart beating faster. Freddie was not always so lucky.


Although the bookie and punter seem to be natural enemies, they also tend to respect each other alot. 'We're friends,' says Williams sincerely. 'John was in business as a bookmaker for 15 years. He had a good bet on Dawn Run when she won the Gold Cup in 1986 and that helped him to change his life. However, he told me that if she'd lost, he'd have been skint the following week.'


Freddie admits, 'Festival trading is totally draining, which is why I stay in a nice, quiet hotel. When you get back, all you want to do is eat and sleep. I'm afraid I'm well behind in the entertainment stakes.'


There was plenty of entertainment on November '04, though: The Rising Moon, running in the McManus colours, was the medium of a £100,000 plunge at 3/1. Half an hour later, JP's Spot The Difference won the Sporting Index cross-country chase. Someone stuck on £28,000 at 7/1 for a payout of nearly two hundred grand.


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Frederick Sidney Williams, soft-drink manufacturer and bookmaker: born Cumnock, Ayrshire 28 October 1942; married Sheila Edwards (two daughters; marriage dissolved 2006); died Cumnock 21 June 2008


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Freddie Williams: Bookmaker of amazing boldness by Tony Smurthwaite, The Independent 



Freddie Williams was the buccaneering bookmaker who left onlookers amazed by an incredible boldness that, at the end of one remarkable day at the races, had cost him £1m. He attained celebrity status as the immovable object that met the irresistible force of J.P. McManus, the singularly audacious punter whose huge wagers during the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival each March are one of horse-racing's constants.



Their personal conflict might have bankrupted lesser players, yet relations were always cordial amid McManus's six-figure investments. Such Corinthian spirit, made easier by each man's wealth, captivated many who followed the betting moves at the leading racing and greyhound meetings, and made Williams a hugely popular and high-profile bookmaker.


Williams's most bruising encounter with McManus came on a day he would never forget, as it was to end in terror. It began at the Cheltenham Festival on 16 March 2006. McManus had struck a £100,000 bet to win £600,000 on Reveillez, who won, then followed up with £5,000 each way on Kadoun, another of his horses, at 50-1. When Kadoun won, in the last race of the day, Williams owed McManus more than £1m. As if that were that not bad enough, on driving away from the course in his Jaguar with his daughter Julie and her boyfriend, Andrew, Williams was ambushed by an armed gang. Though the three escaped physically unscathed, the ordeal shook them badly. The assailants were said to have made off with £70,000.


It had long been Williams's ambition to be a bookmaker at Cheltenham. Born in the coal-mining heartland of Cumnock, South Ayrshire, he developed an aptitude for laying odds at a young age, watching the miners playing endless games of pitch and toss. "There was nothing to do then but work and gamble," recalled Williams, whose grandfather and father had both gone down the pit. Freddie's first role model was his great-grandfather. When a pit accident robbed him of an arm, cut off in an accident, he recovered to set up in business as a coal merchant.


Freddie was bedridden as a child and missed out on pit life after failing a medical as a result of polio. He swept floors in the local Curries of Auchinleck lemonade factory, and acted as a bookie's runner before graduating to lay his own odds in a small way at Auchinleck greyhound track.


Though his schooling was interrupted and his education compromised, Freddie Williams had an aptitude that allowed him to rise to manager at the lemonade plant. A buy-out among staff increased his involvement, and later he took over the business. In 1991 he sold his stake and four years later opened the alcopop manufacturer Caledonian Bottlers, which boasted a state-of-the-art factory employing 50 full-time staff, and used natural Scottish spring water.


Williams maintained, however, that bookmaking, not bottling, was his livelihood. He had established a bookmaker's pitch at Ayr racecourse in 1974, where he became known as a daredevil, and then put his name down for a coveted spot at Cheltenham. But the "dead man's shoes" system of bookmaker pitch transfer was a source of great frustration, and Williams languished on the waiting list for 20 years. In one interview, he said: "I started off at 120 on the list and by the 1990s I was at number 40. It was never going to happen, but then the rules changed and you could buy a pitch. I was the first to buy one. I thought, 'Here I am! I'm not just here for a day out – I'm taking on the biggest hitters in the game.' "


So it was that on 1 January 1999, Williams arrived for Cheltenham's traditional New Year's Day meeting. McManus tested his nerve immediately, placing £90,000 on the Queen Mother's runner Buckside. The 2-1 favourite led at the last fence, but faded into second place. Seven weeks earlier, Williams had undergone a quadruple heart bypass.


He never looked back. In March 1999 he took on McManus and other big hitters over the three days of the National Hunt Festival. He clearly loved the cut and thrust, never flinching no matter how high the stakes. "Fearless" Freddie was soon in his pomp, making appearances on Channel 4 racing where he shared his love of the betting ring, and the game of wits, bravado and instinct he waged with customers, who ranged from heavy hitters to £2 punters at Glasgow's Shawfield greyhound track.


Shannon Gale marked the start of battle royal with McManus. Williams accepted a bet of £100,000 each way on the 7-1 chance. Honours were shared when the horse ran fourth, ensuring an each-way payout of £175,000 rather than the £875,000 had it won.


Williams enjoyed studying his clients as much as the horses, seeking give-away signs of confidence or uncertainty. He stood at other racecourses and at greyhound tracks, and owned a string of racehorses. In 2004 he bought the 78 St Vincent Street restaurant in Glasgow, installing his daughter Julie as manager, it was said to stop her following him into the betting game. When his marriage broke down in 2006, it was reported that a £1m divorce settlement had been agreed.


Williams worked until he dropped, suffering a heart attack after a day spent working at Ayr races and an evening working at Shawfield. His philosophy was summed up in the view that the final race each day did not mean an end to the winning or the losing. "There is no last race," he would often say.