1001 Great Gambling Tips

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Other books by Graham Sharpe from High Stakes The Gentleman’s Guide to Calculating Winning Bets


First published in 2008 by High Stakes Publishing 21 Great Ormond Street, London WC1N 3JB www.highstakespublishing.com © Graham Sharpe 2008 The right of Graham Sharpe to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the written permission of the publishers. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN 978-1-84344-043-7 2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1 Typeset by Matrix Digital Publishing, Chichester, West Sussex Printed and bound by CPD, Blaina, Wales


 To those extraordinarily helpful people who went out of their way to answer my request for their favourite betting tips and strategies by sitting down and writing them down for me to pass onto you.  To everyone who was generous enough to permit me to borrow their expertise from material they had already created.  To anyone whose work I have deemed worthy of inclusion here but been unable to contact for official permission. I have nonetheless fully credited the source.  To all the gamblers out there sufficiently intrigued by the subject to want to take advantage of expertise accumulated over years of bitter battle with the bookies and revealed here for their delight, edification and, perhaps, enrichment.  To Ion Mills of High Stakes Publishing for recognising a great idea when it was pitched to him – and getting it for peanuts!

CONTENTS Introduction..................................................................9 Chapter One Absolutely vital advice..................................................13 Chapter Two Betting exchanges........................................................25 Chapter Three Spread betting.............................................................39 Chapter Four Sports betting..............................................................49 Chapter Five Horse racing................................................................80 Chapter Six Greyhounds............................................................184 Chapter Seven Poker....................................................................196

Chapter Eight In the casino..............................................................209 Chapter Nine Punters’ log................................................................215 Chapter Ten Off the wall...............................................................231 Bibliography.............................................................235

INTRODUCTION BY GRAHAM SHARPE, WILLIAM HILL MEDIA RELATIONS DIRECTOR I don’t have the necessary bottle to be a big-time gambler, but I do like a bet and I know that over a period of time the most profitable wagers I have ever struck were when I deliberately decided to go against prevailing opinion and media pressure. As I write this book the strategy has paid off big time on three recent separate occasions, each of which demonstrate how this – well, it isn’t a system, but almost a philosophy – works. Towards the end of 2007, hints began to emerge that the new prime minister, Gordon Brown, was strongly tempted to hold a snap general election to endorse his -9-


position. The hints, and no one seemed quite sure where they were coming from, became more and more strident. Money began to be placed on an election before the end of the year, and as the speculation and media spin took hold, so the odds tumbled to the point where it was possible to get odds of up to 11/4 that there would be no election. I sat and watched and listened, and, of course, distributed the odds to the media. Political specialists I talked to told me that they had it on good authority that the election would happen. My naive questions about why a dour, cautious Scot, who had waited a decade to get the one job at which he had aimed his entire career, would now jeopardise the whole thing within weeks of taking it on were brushed aside. But Brown had no need to go for maybe three years. I could not see why he needed to make a decision to go to the country and with that risk losing what he had only just acquired. I advised anyone likely to listen to me to bet against it happening. Then, again just before the end of the year, unbeaten popular boxer Ricky Hatton went to Las Vegas to take on Floyd Mayweather – universally regarded as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world, even by those who did not like his lifestyle or attitude. Before the fight most boxing observers had advised Ricky not to take on the task and speculated that he would be up to a 3/1 outsider. By fight time, with patriotic fervour, media hype and pure optimism kicking in, Hatton’s odds had shrunk

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and Mayweather was available at odds as long as 8/13. He won like a 1/5 shot. And then along came the sacking of Newcastle boss Sam Allardyce. Up went the list of odds about who would succeed him. Harry Redknapp was not even included in most lists or, if he was, he was out with the washing at 25/1. Yet within hours he was odds-on favourite. Why? Well, perhaps people knew that original favourite Alan Shearer was not a prime target for club officials, who might want someone with experience. Okay, even if that were the case there were plenty of other candidates with better credentials than Harry. But as the deluge of cash continued it became evident that the move for Harry was coming from the Newcastle end, for whatever reason. Now, Harry is no fool. He is expert at keeping his profile very high and he knows full well what he is worth and how to keep that value at its optimum. But by now he was a 1/8 chance. Again, I wondered why a man who had never ventured much further north than Essex during his management career, who owns valuable property on perhaps the most sought-after part of the south coast, should want to uproot his family to move to the North East? And at a time when his own club was going along better than a club whose history over the past half a century has been tempestuous and seen off a whole string of bosses, all of whom left without enhancing their own reputations or the club’s

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fortunes. Had I been so inclined I would have started laying Redknapp with the betting exchanges. Not every bandwagon sees its wheels shear off from under it, but I am in no doubt that selectively opposing popular opinion can ultimately lead to financial enrichment. So, this is my main contribution to the 1,001 Great Gambling Tips you will find in the following pages. If any one of them was completely infallible there would be no bookmakers left in business. Of course, they are not. And in some cases what one source regards as a great tip, another will regard as something to be avoided at all costs. Nonetheless, it is fascinating and instructive to read the opinions and strategies of the many well-informed betting brains I have persuaded to contribute, and the varied sources I have delved into to locate relevant opinions. There may be a little bit of overlap in what they say, but if similar themes appear more than once it only emphasises the likelihood that the advice is strong. One of the great appeals of betting is that it not only offers the prospect of financial improvement, but also enhances the process of watching any sporting contest. Never forget that the ultimate realistic aim for most gamblers is not to lose too much, rather than to make a profit, and you will continue to enjoy and appreciate the wonder of wagers without ending up skint. Graham Sharpe - 12 -



Definition of the art of giving tips: ‘Impersonating God’. – the late writer, bon viveur, racing enthusiast, Jeffrey Bernard ‘Many receive advice, few profit by it.’ – Publilius Syrus, 42BC; Syrian-born writer of Latin maxims ‘The problem for most punters is that they just don’t know enough.’ Tipster Henry Rix is one of the few who makes it his business to know everything it is possible to ascertain – and helping you know it all is what this book is all about.

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‘To succeed you must not be easily swayed by the opinions of others. You have to work out your own ideas and stand by them.’ – noted pro punter Alan Potts ‘If I were you, I would not bet, but if you must bet – BET!’ – William I’Anson; as true now as when this Derby-winning trainer (Blink Bonny, 1857; Blair Athol, 1864) dispensed it. ‘The question “Can a system beat the races?” can surely be answered in the affirmative.’ – doyen of system originators Nick Mordin, 2002 ‘The best system of all is to sell some sucker a system.’ – US betting expert Sidney Radner, 1964 ‘Would have won is the same as losing.’ – Dave Nevison, February 2008 ‘A tip is an opinion. It might be a strong opinion – one stated with some conviction – but it’s still an opinion, and if all of them were bang on target then there wouldn’t be such things as horse races.’– Jeffrey Bernard, 1991 ‘The “gambler’s fallacy” is the belief that the probability of an event is decreased when the event has occurred recently, even though the probability of the event is objectively known to be independent across trials.’ – Dek

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Terrell, Kansas State University, 1994, with an observation which can affect many types of betting from casino numbers to lotteries to horse racing. THE GOLDEN RULES

We know you are a responsible gambler, but not everyone is. So, basic and boring though you may find it, please check out these rules for making sure that you do not become a problem gambler:

 Choose stakes you are comfortable with and can afford. Bet within your means.  Never bet with money you cannot afford to lose  Never have a bet for the sake of it, there is always the next race, or, if not, tomorrow.  If you think you are having gambling problems, be honest and admit it to yourself and consult reputable organisations like GamCare (0845 6000133; www.gamcare.org.uk), or Gamblers’ Anonymous (0207 384 3040; www. gamblersanonymous.org.uk) for help.

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 Never gamble when you are over-tired or drunk or under the influence of any other substances.  Never expect to win.


 Never back any reality TV contender who appears to have half or more of his/her brain still intact to win the contest.  Always assume that any official statement from a football club relating to an event on which you may be planning to bet – e.g. dismissal of current boss, appointment of another one, potential purchase/sale of players – is complete and utter tosh.  Always watch a boxing match with the sound turned down so that you can make your own assessment of what is going on in front of you. It is too easy to be influenced by commentators. After adopting this tactic for a number of fights you will become as good a judge as any pundit.

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 When paddock watching before a race pay as much attention to the body language of the humans on display as the equines – trainers, jockeys and even stable lads/lasses can betray when they are really keen on a beast’s chances or, just as important, when they are not, via speech, gestures, appearance, etc. Poker players are forever looking to spot giveaway ‘tells’ from the others around the table, but I am unaware of anyone ever suggesting taking this well-proven technique to the racecourse.  Come up with something you know about but the bookies don’t, and then approach them to ask for odds. They won’t be able to resist the challenge and could quite easily quote you over the odds – remember the Hole in One Gang, who won fortunes by the simple expedient of going into betting shops and asking for odds about holes in one happening at golf tournaments. Some bookies knew the true likelihood and quoted them odds of from 4/5 to 5/2, but some had no idea at all, and they were offered – and accepted – odds of up to 100/1, and cleaned up, perfectly legally.

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 If planning a wager on the BBC TV Sports Personality of the Year, don’t rely on your own feelings as to who is the most deserving recipient when preparing to bet. Canvass opinion from representatives of as many generations as possible to discover whether your fancy is appreciated by youngsters as well as middle-aged and elderly prospective voters.  Work quickly and take advantage of odds compilers’ reluctance to discard their initial judgement of a tournament when underdogs begin to over-achieve and fancied contenders under-achieve. England went into the five-match One Day series against New Zealand in early 2008 as overwhelming favourites for the first game, and for the series. They were walloped in the first game but still made favourites for the second – despite the evidence that everyone had seen for themselves. Bookies couldn’t bring themselves to believe they had called it totally wrong. England were humiliated in the second game, losing by ten wickets. The same thing happened in the summer series at home.  Keep an eye out for jockeys who are sharp enough to nick a few lengths lead at the start of - 18 -


jump races where far too many riders seem quite happy to amble off in their own time while the pace-makers upfront are always ten lengths into the race. Ruby Walsh is a jockey wise to this tactic while, in Ireland, Darryl Jacob has used it to good effect on horses like The Listener.  Always look to oppose publicly tipped horses. If their trainer or jockey is writing in a national newspaper and is forcefully optimistic about his or her charge; the general herd of punters will look no further and steam into them, thus decimating their odds, which are probably already under-priced because they will be highprofile contenders. A positive tip does not mean the horse won’t win, of course, but it does mean that there will frequently be better odds available for other runners with equally useful form.  Never, ever, ever back Tiger Woods or Roger Federer, or anyone else, to win a Grand Slam at pre-season odds. Bookies slash these from the full accumulative odds for fear of building up large liabilities which they can’t do anything about. Back your player for the first event and then play up your winnings at the best price available as you go through the season. I guarantee you will beat - 19 -


the pre-season accumulative odds. Not that your man will do the Grand Slam anyway, of course!  Always try to be aware of topical sports news as soon as possible – it might prevent you from backing a loser and help you find a winner. If betting each-way, make sure the jockey on your fancy is not one of those known for dropping his hands when he can’t win. Open as many on-line accounts as possible to take advantage of best odds available – often pointed up by comparison sites like oddschecker.  Never change your mind.


The crucial thing about Noel Edmonds’ smash-hit quiz show Deal or No Deal is that it generally comes down to a climax which sees the competitor confronted with a stark choice. He or she has two amounts of money which can be won – for example, in Box A there is £5 to be won; in Box B there is £100,000. Obvious! you cry – they have to go for - 20 -


Box B. Well, yes, but of course it ain’t that simple – because although they know that those two amounts are in those two boxes, they don’t know which amount is in which box – and, to confuse the issue, they also then receive an offer from ‘The Banker’ which they can accept without having to make the choice. If the two amounts on offer are the £5 and £100,000, the offer may be, say, £35,000. So, what do you do? Gamble on going away with almost nothing – or, as Noel says, a ‘life-changing amount of money’ – or take the guaranteed, but not as glamorous amount being offered at no risk? Leaving aside all considerations such as character and current bank balance, in the instance illustrated here, the competitor must opt to go for the £100,000, as he has an even-money chance of getting it. If you look at it as though he was being offered the chance to stake his £35,000 on a potential profit of £100,000, he is effectively being offered almost 2/1, about an even-money shot, so has to go for it – in theory. The mental misgivings of the competitors when faced with this type of decision are the main appeal of Noel’s show. But they can also confront punters, as a couple of cases I have come across recently have illustrated. In the first instance, a punter who had a football accumulator had seen his low stake bet build up to the point where he had one game left, with some £10,000 going on to it. If it won he would win £28,000. If he stopped the bet at that point he could just take the ten grand. - 21 -


He opted to go for it. And Hull striker Dean Windass duly scored the goal which won the punter his £28,000. To celebrate, the punter, not a Hull fan, bought himself one of the club’s shirts with Windass inscribed on the back. Why did he go for it? I asked him. ‘Well, I’d only have lost a quid if they hadn’t won,’ he said. Then along came Alan Scott from Sheffield. He found an incredible 31 consecutive football winners, selecting teams from an amazing 11 countries. His stake was only a quid but he had £6,800 after those 31 had won. But, the next day, his final game, Gretna, 1/3 at home to Morton, was being played. This punter tackled things differently and asked whether he could halt his bet at this point, even though Gretna looked like good things. He was allowed to close the bet – and Gretna lost! Yes, both of these punters could have hedged their bets by staking big money on the alternative outcomes to the games, ensuring that they would make a guaranteed profit whatever the outcome. That option appealed to neither of them; they had enjoyed the thrill of the bet thus far, which had only cost them a small amount of money, and wanted the satisfaction either of seeing the bet through all the way or of winning that big payout. Of course, in terms of the battle against the bookie, they were both wrong. They should have hedged and locked in a profit. Which shows the difference in attitude between a ‘professional’ or ‘clinical’ gambler, who is purely concerned

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with profit and who has little ‘feel’ for the events he is betting on, and a genuine punter, who is happy that his stake money is his entrance fee for the enjoyment he is about to get out of the bet and who enjoys the thrill of the chase and the fact that, win or lose, it has been great craic and he will have a terrific story to tell his mates and family, win or lose. The pros will never understand that attitude any more than the punter can understand betting as a means to a profit, and nothing else. Vive la différence, say I. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF GAMBLING

The following are preached by renowned gambling authority Stanford Wong in his Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gambling Like A Pro.

1. Thou shalt not pray before spotted cubes of ivory. 2. Thou shalt not speak the name of the Lord until all else has failed. 3. Thou shalt not worship thy winnings.

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4. Thou shalt not play seven days in a row. Thou shalt rest at least once. 5. Thou shalt honor thy mother and father, and forgive them for gambling away thy inheritance. 6. Thou shalt not kill third-base players who know not what they have done. 7. Thou shalt not adulterate thy cards, cubes or coins. 8. Thou shalt not steal thy gambling money from thy children’s college fund. 9. Thou shalt not falsely accuse thy dealer of cheating. 10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s (gambling) machine.

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‘Just because a horse is a market slider on the exchanges, does not necessarily point to the fact it isn’t fancied, it often means punters are simply hedging their bets.’ – Andy Holding in his 2003 book Winning Ways ‘You would be amazed at how many people turn down great value bets on the grounds that the price was too big to be true.’ – Paul Kealy, Definitive Guide to Betting Exchanges ‘Following gambles is a sure way to the poorhouse and always has been.’ – Matt Williams, Racing Post exchange betting guru, 2005

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‘Taking advantage of other people’s over-reactions is one of the easiest ways to make money out of any sport.’ – Paul Kealy, 2005 ‘With punters apparently happy to take odds-on about either outcome, offer to lay both sides of the coin toss for a big cricket match, knowing full well that nothing can adversely affect the outcome. You will almost certainly be accommodated on each side of the equation, guaranteeing a profit.’ – Graham Sharpe ‘What is one man’s idea of buying money is another’s idea of an unbelievable lay.’ Paul Kealy of the Racing Post reminding punters to ask for any price they fancy. ‘If you are betting in-running on a televised event, and are pretty clued-up about that sport, you will often be able to profit by remaining uninfluenced by a biased or inexpert commentator who may well be pointing less experienced viewers and gamblers towards the least likely outcome.’ – Graham Sharpe ‘I can see that they – exchanges – sometimes offer great value if you’re a punter but you’ve always got to ask yourself if you could be betting against someone who knows a bit more than you.’ – racecourse bookie Andy Smith

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‘If you see someone trading at odds-on in a next manager market then lay them blind’ – Ex-Checker in his column in Raceform Update of 16–20 January 2008. In the same column he poked fun at me for telling Racing Post readers that one of my customers had told of seeing Kevin Keegan with a Newcastle club official shortly before we took money for the former boss to return, cutting his odds from 25/1 to 6/1. Ex-Checker poured scorn on the very idea, and thought this was hilarious – but possibly not when, on the day his column appeared, Keegan was appointed boss. FLETCHER’S TOP EXCHANGE TIPS

Iain Fletcher, author of acclaimed book Game, Set and Matched that chronicles the year he spent as an exchange pro, has the following advice:

 Be disciplined.  Never gamble drunk.  Always have a plan and stick to it.  Have the best computer and fastest Internet connection you can afford with up-to-date protections, firewalls and anti-virus programs.

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 Stick to sports or events you are successful on.  Never lose more on a trade than you were trying to win.  Cut bad trades immediately.  Never chase a loss.  Never gloat over a win.  Always analyse good and bad trades.  Keep detailed notes of bets and eliminate frequent errors.  Remember, however bad it seems emotion can only make it worse – there is always another day and another opportunity.  If it is a fun bet, stake it small enough to remain a fun bet.  Research your opinions.  Celebrate a win, but then move on.

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 Set a time period for a thorough overhaul of betting strategy.  Remember, your first bet of a trading plan becomes a gamble if you don’t stick to the planned second bet – this is more important if it goes against you.  Keep some liquidity in account for ‘in-running’ opportunities.  Put up the price you want taken in advance – don’t rely on your ‘finger on the button’.


Tony Calvin is senior press officer with Betfair and when I approached him and his colleague Mark Davies to ask whether they would contribute to this book, they could not have been more obliging. The exchanges are no easy field for the less-thanexperienced to negotiate, so these pointers should prove invaluable, and contain much of considerable interest to even the long-standing exchange aficionado.

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Always try and predict the way the market is going to go, instead of looking for a winner. There is a phrase among exchange bettors: ‘Don’t tip me a winner, tip me a price.’ The reasoning behind this is that if you can identify a steamer (a big shortener) in the market before it becomes a gamble, you can back it at the highest price and lay it off at a much reduced level, thus ensuring yourself a free bet. Bets don’t get any better than that. So keep an eye out for such gems as team news in Carling Cup matches and the like. Never be scared to request a price. If you don’t ask, you definitely won’t get. Betting exchanges match people who disagree on the outcome of an event; the more opinionated the layer, the bigger price the backer is likely to get. Sometimes, the price a layer is willing to offer will surprise. On the other side of the coin, don’t be put off in offering to lay an eventuality at a much shorter price than you think it should be. Many favourites are over-bet, even on a betting exchange.

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Always read the grey market text and rules and regs when betting. You wouldn’t sign a contract or agreement in any other walk of life without reading the small print, so betting should be no different. This is true of all bookmaker markets, not just betting exchanges. Never over react. It is all too easy for some punters to see ‘free money’ on the screen when they see a horse trailing the field, or seemingly ruled out of an ante-post race. However, in-running winners that have been backed and laid at 1,000 are becoming near-weekly occurrences – Family Business fell and remounted to win in 2002, and those who laid Kicking King at the maximum price after he was seemingly ruled out of the 2005 Gold Cup won’t need reminding of what happened next. Then there is the 2008 Derby winner, New Approach, for so long a non-runner. In horse racing, know the traits of horses, jockeys and courses. Some horses may go off as a short-priced favourite and win. However, many exchange punters will look beyond the obvious.

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For example, they may actually lay a horse they think is going to win before the race, because they know (or history tells them) that its running style will result in it trading at a bigger price in running – this is called a lay-to-back by exchange users. Inglis Drever is a classic example of a top class horse doing this, time and time again. Similarly, some jockeys’ riding styles often give a wrong impression about how a horse is really travelling. And some courses tend to throw up stunning turnarounds due to the stiff and attritional nature of the track – step forward Towcester. Do your homework, as many people on the other side of your bet will have. Betting at 1.01. Betting in the heat of the moment often leads to bad decisions, but try and take time out to avoid becoming a member of the unwanted and burgeoning Betfair 1.01 Club (punters who have backed at the minimum price of 1-100 on the exchange and lost). Try to look for potential pitfalls before you leap in; for example, has the horse that is ten lengths clear with ten yards to go hampered any rival during the race? Backers of Altay at Lingfield in

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January 2003 will know what I mean; it won by four lengths, only to lose the race in the stewards’ room for a minor infringement, and then was reawarded the race on appeal at a later date. That was no consolation to his backers on the day, though, who lost. However, there are times when a 1.01 chance should be 1.001. How big are your cojones, though? Always look to take a profit. There are two schools of thought on this. The first is that each bet or trade should be based on its individual merits, and the above is generalized nonsense; the second is that you should always look to take a profit when trading, or at least manoeuvre yourself into a no-lose position when the price or event unfolds in your favour. The latter approach is best, especially as betting exchanges work to very tight margins, typically 101 per cent, so closing out a position is not as punitive as it can be with fixed-odds and spread betting firms. And the person who coined the City phrase ‘You never see a poor man take a profit’ wasn’t wrong, was he?

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Specialise. Betfair offers a mass of markets on its site, and clearly the number of people who know their Bandy will be considerably less than those who know their Premiership football. Put in the hours of research and the odds are you will know more than the person you are betting against. Providing you can find someone to match your bet on Bandy, that is… But you get my point. Look beyond the obvious. Take advantage of illiquid markets. Because of the nature of an exchange, most books tend to gravitate towards the 100 per cent mark. However, some markets are not as popular and may be virtually empty. See this as a great opportunity. If you price these up to 120 per cent, it is not too unlikely that your lay bets will be taken – giving you a healthy return for little or no risk. And if one of your lays is taken, then you shouldn’t be too worried; because you have priced it up to a defensive 120 per cent, then hopefully you should have laid under the odds anyway!

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 Take advantage of the betting histories provided, both on markets and your personal account. At a touch of a button, Betfair allows its customers to call up their entire betting record in the past three months, broken down into sports, to the pence. Use this information to help you identify how you can improve as a punter – or indeed, just simply accept that you are clueless at betting on some sports! There is a very good reason that traditional bookmakers don’t give their customers such readily available and detailed information. Similarly, traditional bookmakers don’t publish their field books. By clicking on the graph icon on the site, exchange bettors can get a trading history for every runner/option. Use the info to help you improve/analyse your betting behaviour. Use the free form products/betting options supplied. Because betting exchanges have no direct interest on whether their punters win or lose, take advantage of the free form products they provide. For example, Betfair often allows its customers

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to download a free Timeform card, and they are readily acknowledged as the best form for students and handicappers in the country. Also, keep on top of new betting products. The ‘Keep Bet’ option introduced in December 2007 on Betfair, which allows you put up an in-play bet as soon as the market is loaded, is proving a valuable tool for in-running bettors, as is Betfair SP. Exchange beginners should take it slow. Once punters are confident on exchanges, many find it a premier betting experience. Many never get to grips with it. Initially it can be confusing to some, so newcomers to the site should take advantage of the minimum £2 bet to acquaint themselves with the workings of the site. To that end, the bigger exchanges will provide online (and live) demonstrations that punters can download or attend. Take advantage before progressing with your betting. Look to oppose the general consensus. Bad punters lose money; that’s a fact. If you can understand what makes a punter bad then you

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are on your way to success – you just have to do the opposite. Sometimes a bet looks obvious – all straightforward logic points to it. You can bet that all the bad punters will be backing it and the price may be too short. In this situation your gut should be telling you to lay regardless of the fact that the bet has ticked so many boxes; it’s just too obvious. Don’t chase your losses. It’s not really an exchange tip, it’s a tip in general, but when you’ve had a bad day you should walk away early. You may be angry and upset; you’re not in the right frame of mind to be betting, so don’t do it. Tomorrow is another day.


‘If you hear the man on the box (TV) mistakenly say that second placed Raikonnen has emerged ahead of leader Alonso after the pit stop, when you know the pictures are in fact showing their respective team mates rejoining in fifth and sixth, get cracking. It happens, and people do fall for it…’ – a Grand Prix edge for exchange punters, suggested by the Racing Post’s Definitive Guide to Betting Exchanges. - 37 -


‘An independent 2005 survey showed that punters would win ( by) following drifters on Betfair and lose if they jumped on the bandwagon and joined in a plunge…’ – Paul Kealy, Racing Post

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‘For a potentially rumbustious fixture you are never going to be offered a spread which represents value for money to buy.’ – Under the heading ‘There is never any value in buying cards in derbies’, Kevin Pullein considers bookings index betting (Racing Post, 13 January 2008). ‘Don’t be afraid to go against the crowd. Prices will move in accordance with the volume of money, meaning that if you are able to identify a bet which goes against the obvious, you will normally obtain better value.’– BetMessenger. com

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‘Keep records of your bets so that you can see where your strengths and weaknesses lie.’ Advice which could be applied to most gambling disciplines from BetMessenger.com. KARIM’S SPREADING THE NEWS

‘Spread firms will, more often than not, be out to accommodate buyers of popular markets at a price they consider plenty high enough.’ Karim Fatih of the Racing Post advises punters to consider selling markets. ‘It is imperative to open accounts with all firms and to shop around, without exception, for the best possible price.’ – Karim Fatih, Racing Post, 4 February 2008 ‘Much money is made in spread betting by swimming against the tide of popular opinion. Just because a card contains a bunch of small fields on soft ground it does not mean that winning distances will be enormous. Similarly, ultra-competitive contests run on fast ground don’t always lead to photo-finishes.’ – Karim Fatih, Racing Post, 18 February 2008 ‘Put the same thought into closing bets that you do into opening bets. Consider each bet on its merits – even (especially) closing bets – and only close if you are confident that the price is wrong and that you are getting a value trade.’ – Karim Fatih, Racing Post, 17 March 2008 - 40 -



Chris Shillington of IG Index supplied the following advice. He told me, ‘I have worked in the game for six years now with experience of trading, PR and business development. I hope to stay within sports spread betting and therefore hope to be at the forefront of directing the industry over the next ten years or so. Or you could just say I love a punt!’

What is spread betting?

Spread betting asks a punter to go high or low of a price offered. If you think the outcome of the event will be higher than the price quoted you ‘buy’ and if you think it will be lower than the price set you ‘sell’. Each market is set in units. For example, runs in a cricket match means each run will be one unit, or for goals in a football match, one unit will be one goal. Once you have decided whether you want to be higher or lower you simply add a stake per unit. For example, you might buy at £2 per run in the first innings of a Test match.

Industry overview

Sports spread betting started in the early nineties and nearly two decades later it is just about a mature betting - 41 -


medium within the gaming industry. As with all industries the hard and fast rules changed rapidly during their infancy but settled once its natural position was met. Initially sports spread betting was an industry that only attracted ‘buyers’: people who wanted to get long of every price. For example, if the first innings runs in a Test match between England and Australia were priced at 350–370 runs, then traders for the various spread betting houses would have seen on average 75 per cent of market players as buyers. Similarly if total goals in a game were 2.7–3.0 the same premise would apply. This pushed up the prices set by our market traders and meant that ‘sellers’ in the industry generally cleaned up. The spread companies are far nearer the true prices these days but remember traders have so many more markets to make they can’t always be right. There is still money to be made if you obey the following pointers and make sure that your staking and market assessments are disciplined.

Tips for beginners

Once you’ve comprehended the concept of spread betting you will most likely want to tip-toe into the game with caution. The reputation is that spread betting is extremely volatile; this can be true if you choose particular markets but there are more that are not.

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Always look at prices you wouldn’t like to be on before you look at prices you do want to be on. Choose an involatile market for your first bets; for example, total goals in a football match, bowlers’ wickets in a Test match or indeed total tries in a rugby game. Have a small bet on a few games of your choice and see how you get on. Worst case scenario, a £2 play in any of these markets should not cost you much. Do your research. With the internet and the endless written material available to all it is very easy to make some statistical based assumptions about a game. For example, if you are playing the time of the first goal in a game between Manchester United and Arsenal, your research might indicate that the first goal in the game over the last ten years on average comes in the fiftieth minute of the match. The spread betting price will be around 37–40, and therefore you would surmise a buy is appropriate. This can be done for pretty much any market and then you can ascertain if your gut feeling is right. People who understand sport but not betting, or in particular spread betting, dismiss the value of betting by gut. More times than I care to remember I have heard a person who is knowledgeable on sport say, ‘I feel that…’. This is loose talk but should not be dispelled when making your bet. If the bet doesn’t feel right it will more often than not be a loser for you.

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People starting spread betting should always try and find one or maybe two markets they feel comfortable with per sport. There is no point trying to familiarise yourself with all of the markets straight away or you will become confused and most likely poorer than when you first started. There are markets in spread betting that present confusion for the novice spread punter but time and experience will render them your friend. Walk before you run!

Tips for intermediates

You now know your totals markets betting from your match bets and your indexes. It’s therefore time to look at the more intrinsic do’s and don’ts of spread betting. One of the keys to spread betting is looking at markets where you think punters will naturally want to be one side of the line, therefore pushing the price in a false direction. For example, the time of the first goal in a football match is a natural sell because anyone’s instinctive will is to cheer an early goal. A typical price for say Tottenham v. Man United would be 34–37 minutes. What generally happens is that punters look to sell this market and thus the spread betting traders are forced to lower their price in the hope of getting some action on the other side of the line. In this example, the price could drop to 31–34 and then you would want to be a buyer. Okay, it can be uncomfortable viewing for the first 30 minutes but in the long term you - 44 -


should make money. The same theory can be used for so many markets, like runs in a Test match or total aces in a tennis match. Like all good fixed-odds punters you must keep a record of all your bets. Only then will you be able to see which markets you are good at predicting and which ones you aren’t. In spread betting there is not a fixed liability on your bets, so you can be very good at betting one type of market, such as shirt numbers in football, but have a disaster on just one game. Even if you are a loser overall on the market because of one disastrous bet you know your betting plays are good. If horse racing is your thing give real consideration to playing the match bets. If you have a view on two horses and they are in a match bet together, only one of your views needs to be right for you to win usually. For example, Pink Potato is a 1–2 length favourite over Big Bob and you think PP is ‘nailed-on’ for the race and BB is a no-hoper. Even if Big Bob runs a big race but is beaten by Pink Potato you should still be in the pink. In fixed odds betting if you have a wrong opinion about one horse you are never going to win. This is the same for all match betting.

Tips for experienced spread punters

You’ve now got some good spread betting experience and want a few more in-depth tricks of the trade. - 45 -


Staking is a key factor in any betting and in particular spread betting. The issue is as follows: In fixed odds betting if a horse is 10/1 and you believe it to be a 9/1 shot to win the race you would stake £10. If it’s a 10/1 shot and you believe it to be an 8/1 shot you would stake £20, and so on. In spread betting this rule does not necessarily apply. Yes, grade your bets in a linear fashion depending on how far wrong the price is away from what you perceive it to be; however, always build in a ‘blow-up’ factor. By this I mean always ask yourself, does this bet have a possibility of going horribly wrong on me? For example, you might surmise that the total shirt numbers in a Chelsea v. Blackburn game is far too high at 32–35. If you made an aggressive sell at 32 you could of course be striking a brilliant bet. However, any number of scenarios beyond your control can occur; for example, a low numbered shirt is substituted/sent off/injured and replaced by a very high number shirt. This can happen for several players and then you are staring down the barrel of a huge loss even though you made a sensible bet. These are the joys of unlimited liability betting but they are also the catalyst for higher rewards and high-adrenaline betting. Remember, the more right you are, the more you win. Nowadays spread betting traders have to price up a vast array of markets on a vast range of events. With the advent of Sky TV and the explosion of sports channels, twinned with the volume of live sport and ways to bet on - 46 -


it, demand on traders is huge. Therefore, not every price can now be right. In a football match if Aston Villa are 5/6 to beat Newcastle then that is the price. However, more of the exotic markets on the spreads are sometimes going to be plain wrong. If you spend the time looking on the sites you will find a long price. It’s just that it might be ‘How many players will be wearing gloves in the Premiership this weekend?’! You now have to offer clients as many markets as you possibly can to trade on. However, especially on the more specialist markets, we tend to get turned over on a market we thought might just see a few small trades but ends up being a huge company position. This is the game we play and over time we hope we can win, but often we do not. On a similar note a golf or tennis spread trader might have to price up two tournaments over a weekend. That’s a lot of games to mark up. Not all prices can be correct. Fact! Finally, we come to betting in-running. This is a doubleedged sword. On the one hand, if a bet is going well you want to take your profit and leave with some cash. However, there is always the issue that you are paying the spread to get out of the bet. The same, of course, is true in fixed odds punting. For example, say you buy the time of the first try in a rugby game at 22–25. After 20 minutes and no try the price is 40–43; you close your bet for a 15point profit. Profit is always good but you have had to pay - 47 -


a three-point spread to get out of the bet. Unless you are convinced there is an imminent try there is a stronger case for staying in the bet. This is true in more cases than not. Yes, it’s annoying if a guaranteed profit turns into a loss, but over time you will make more using this strategy. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but be brave… fortune favours it.

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‘Building up a database of how players have fared when winning or losing sets at various stages of matches is an invaluable in-running tool.’ – James Pyman of the Racing Post on tennis betting ‘There is a considerable body of evidence which says that, contrary to the general perception, winning the toss has very little effect on the eventual result in the one day game and none whatsoever in first-class games of three or more days.’ – cricket betting expert John Ize ‘Cover yourself if backing a boxer travelling to a foreign country, by having a saver on the draw. Biased judges can often be reluctant to allow the home fighter to be beaten in - 49 -


front of his own fans. There are often more ways than one for a fight to be drawn, and a draw gives promoters the chance to stage a lucrative repeat performance.’ – Graham Sharpe, who profited at 40/1 from Lennox Lewis’s scandalous failure to be given the verdict against Evander Holyfield ‘In ante-post horse racing betting the rule is usually “all in, run or not”. Try asking your bookie to offer you “all in, drugged or not” when betting on athletics or cycling.’ – Graham Sharpe ‘We must get used to the fact that most of the sport we watch on TV is not as live as it is often claimed to be. And with American golf it is often not even close to being live.’ – This cautionary warning, which must be heeded by inrunning punters, is from Paul Kealy of the Racing Post. He pointed out that ad breaks often mean that shots are later shown ‘as live’. Also, of course, you only need watch two TVs showing different coverage of the same event to see for yourself the inherent delays in transmission methods, which can make a huge difference if you are trading whilst watching the slower version against other punters using the faster. ‘The best advantage a punter can secure is if they take a stance against a bookmaker who has taken a stand on any given event.’ – Malcolm Boyle, betting expert, 2006

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‘Avoid the big name clubs, who are invariably bad value because of their public following.’ – racing bets guru Mark Coton on football LOUGHRAN LORE

Angus Loughran – aka Statto – is acknowledged as one of the shrewdest brains in sports betting and, despite some personal difficulties during early 2008, is still much respected within the gambling industry. A familiar face thanks to his TV work, a familiar voice thanks to the radio and familiar to readers of many columns, he collated eight of his key strategies for us:

1. When having a football bet on the weekend coupon which is available in shops on Wednesdays always consult Racing & Football Outlook, which is published on Tuesdays, as their odds comparison site offers the chance to get the early value first thing on Wednesday before the inevitable price changes. 2. When having a Grand National wager always take a price as the offices spend the final few minutes before the off shortening all the fancied horses. To protect your liability, look to firms paying five places if you are having an each-way bet. The - 51 -


Tote found this costly when lady jockey Carrie Ford finished fifth on the well-backed Forest Gunner. 3. If you see a price you think is wrong and you have a reasonable reason to believe you are right, take it, as if you are right somebody else will if you don’t. Odds compilers are only human and do make mistakes – the hard part is firstly spotting the rick, and secondly, getting on. 4. Find an area near home with a good selection of betting shops. It is fine to have a favourite shop where you watch the afternoon’s action when shows are the same, but so many punters don’t make the effort to seek out the early value on their fancies, be it racing or sports, particularly football. 5. If you like multiple bets check which firms have the best offers. Some have huge bonus offers; some pay double odds on one winner in Lucky 15 bets; others pay treble. Over the year this could make a huge difference. 6. If playing on distance bets on horse racing try to get an accurate weather forecast. Rain will - 52 -


increase the winning margin mark. If you can find out before the bookies you have the value. 7. Watch the weather closely in golf betting. ‘Late early’ or ‘early late’ can often have a huge advantage – sometimes as much as ten strokes. Consult the draw and the weather and you can reap the rewards in match betting. 8. Use as many sources as you can to formulate your betting pattern – local papers often provide hidden gems which go unnoticed elsewhere. The internet can be a great help here.


Derek (he prefers Del, so I insist on calling him Derek) McGovern is the Daily Mirror’s betting guru columnist, former Racing Post sports betting editor, and brother of award-winning, but far inferior writer (Derek assures me), Jimmy. Derek once went into print saying that the three most influential people in sports betting have been him, me and – oh well, who cares about the other one! So, you’ll see that I have a lot of respect for Derek’s opinions, which have often also been aired on the radio and TV, thus proving, of course,

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that when it comes to betting, he knows what he is on about. Judge for yourself… ‘Contests with only two possible results have always been an Achilles heel for bookies.’ With some of the recent accusations about tennis matches it is easy to see why that is the case. ‘Never, ever back Ernie Els – the man’s a bottle merchant supreme.’ McGovern first said this is 1999 and believes it to this day. In June 2008 he told me, ‘Yep, I definitely stand by that Els thing. Witness the tournament towards the end of last year that he threw away.’ ‘In sport an each-way bet more often than not is a wasted bet. In a contest like Wimbledon or the Open Championship I would far rather back two players on the nose than one player each-way. And straight win bets on players who do progress to the later stages often offer opportunities for hedging.’ Now, we move on to a few of Derek’s most successful betting coups, and how he landed them, in his own words.

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Lance Todd Trophy

The greatest success has to be Ellery Hanley at 8-1 to win the Lance Todd Trophy (man of the match) in the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final (I think it was 1989). The award was voted on by a panel of rugby league journalists, one of whom told me two days beforehand that Hanley would definitely get the award so long as he didn’t have a stinker. Hanley was the best player in Britain by miles... he never had a stinker. Moral: ‘They’ say don’t bet on anything that talks – don’t believe ‘them’.

England’s Euro 2008 qualifier

In 2007 England travelled to Russia for a crucial Euro 2008 qualifier. They flew in on the Monday (for a Wednesday game) and Moscow was covered in snow. Sky Bet, clearly believing that the temperatures would be freezing on match night, offered 20-1 for no England outfield players to be wearing gloves. Now, this would have been a great bet even if temperatures were below freezing. The England players were being crucified by fans in the build-up to the match and we all know what the average English fan thinks of players who wear gloves. Imagine losing while wearing gloves – you would never be forgiven. - 55 -


More importantly, Sky Bet had not checked the weather forecast. An unseasonable mild spell was predicted for Moscow, starting on the day of the match, and by kick-off time, the temperatures were as mild in Moscow as they were in Market Rasen. No outfield players wore gloves. Moral: Cold hands, warm wallet.

England v. Scotland

When England played Scotland at Wembley in the second leg of a Euro or World Cup qualifying play-off (can’t remember which), they were already 2-0 up from the first leg at Hampden. Scotland were big outsiders at something like 6-1. It was my opinion that if Scotland were going to win it would be by 1-0 (because they had no decent strikers) and that if it was 1-0, the winner would be scored by midfielder Don Hutchison (again, because they had no decent strikers). I’d never had a scorecast bet before but backed a Scotland 1-0 victory / Hutchison to score at 100-1. Moral: Hutch became a Star-sky.

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Liverpool v. Arsenal

Liverpool played Arsenal at Anfield towards the end of a season when Robbie Fowler was in his pomp. Arsenal had three days earlier clinched the Premiership title, and a few days later were due to play in the FA Cup Final. In other words, why should they try a leg at Anfield? They didn’t. Liverpool were 5-4. Liverpool won 4-0. Moral: Look out for two-legged non triers and you won’t get legged over.

Crash at 10-1 to win the Best Picture Oscar

I wrote in the Mirror that ‘Crash at 10-1 is the best bet you will ever strike’. The reason? The red-hot favourite at something like 1-8 was Brokeback Mountain, which I’d watched a week earlier and considered the biggest pile of tripe ever shown on British cinemas. Crash was world class. Moral: Not all crashes cost you money. ROEBUCK ON SPORTS BETTING

Dan Roebuck is a familiar name and by-line to readers of the Guardian who enjoy a flutter, writing a regular column

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keeping them up to date with what has, will and may happen on the punting scene. For us the self-confessed Arsenal fan (but we won’t hold that against him) spells out some of his favoured sports betting strategies.

Back the lower league team in the early rounds of the Carling Cup when they are away against Premier League opposition.

The perceived wisdom amongst punters is to back the lower league team when they play at home against a top division side, but this doesn’t always ensure a long-term profit. Market makers will offer cramped prices when an in-form Championship side hosts a below par Premier League team, with the added factor of a weakened line-up from the latter affecting the odds even further. Reversing the strategy, though, can prove rewarding as compilers don’t appear to take the same view. The 2007/8 Carling Cup proved just how lucrative backing the lower league team when they travel to a top division club can be. Coventry defeated Manchester United at Old Trafford, landing odds of 10-1, and Leicester beat Aston Villa at Villa Park, where 5-1 was available. Only ten ties in the competition that year came under the category of ‘Premier League at home versus lower league’, giving backers a 50 per cent return on their money. The previous season, four from 13 ties - 58 -


went to the lower league club, including Notts County’s 11-1 win at Middlesbrough and Wycombe’s 17-2 success at Fulham. Again, the bet was more than worthwhile for level stakes backers.

As long as Arsene Wenger is in charge of Arsenal, always back the Gunners to win their FA Cup ties.

Okay, so I might not be tipping anything spectacular here, but Arsene Wenger’s record in cup ties is just phenomenal. In the FA Cup, under the Frenchman, the north Londoners have lost fewer than ten of well over sixty. He has coached a team to win their national cup on six occasions in three different countries. In England, his side have never been victim of a giant-killing act in either domestic cup competition, a run that spans 32 fixtures (29 wins and three draws). Round by round, level stakes backers of Arsenal in the FA Cup have had recorded profits in seven out of the last 11 seasons.

Back Andy Murray to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Andy Murray will win a Grand Slam tournament one year, of that I’m almost sure. The question is, which one will - 59 -


he win? If you concur, you could back him to win any of the four major tournaments at the start of the year at prices between 12-1 and 33-1. A better bet, though, is to back him to win the 2009 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. At the start of 2008 he was a 9-1 shot to do so. Even if you could get 33-1 about the Scot winning each individual grand slam event the percentages don’t add up to give you a 9-1 shot. And let’s face it; if Murray wins a grand slam event he would be ‘no offers’ from most bookmakers to win the BBC gong. If it was a particularly poor sporting year for Britain, he could even win it for finishing runner-up at Melbourne Park, Roland Garros, Wimbledon or Flushing Meadows – as Greg Rusedski did in 1997.

Lay Tiger Woods in every Ryder Cup match he plays in.

Barring another major injury or a dramatic loss of form, Tiger Woods will be sent off favourite to win every Ryder Cup match he plays in for the foreseeable future. Whether in singles, fourballs or foursomes, I’ve yet to see Woods, or a partnership involving Woods, chalked up as second best in the betting when he has teed it up for the USA in the biennial clash against the Europeans – meaning his record of W10-L13-H2 has given layers a profit over the

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five cups he has played in (up to and including the 2006 renewal). Whatever the reason, the world number one is clearly not suited to team golf and, while he has played in all five matches in every Ryder Cup he has participated in, his record is a layers’ dream. He missed 2008 but is likely to be helping the US defend the trophy in 2010.

Sell two




finishing World







At a press conference in September 2002, Tiger Woods was asked which was more important to him, the WGC AmEx Championship or the Ryder Cup? He replied the WGC Amex. ‘Why?’ responded the journalist. Tiger turned and said, ‘I can think of a million reasons.’ Woods was referring to the $1 million dollar prize money on offer for first place at the event. He came in for plenty of criticism for the remark, as it was deemed to belittle the Ryder Cup. But shrewd punters took note. In the history of the World Golf Championship events Woods has won 12 out of the 17 he has competed in and crucially, for this bet, his averaging finishing position has been 2.1 (up to and including 2007).

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Back Pakistan to win every Karachi Test match.

The National Stadium in Karachi has been a stadium rich in compelling contests between its hosts and the rest of cricket playing world for nearly half a century. But make no mistake, if you are betting on one side or the other to win then you must back Pakistan. Of the 40 Test matches played there, the home side have won 20 and lost just twice. The home players always seem to find some inspiration when they play at the National Stadium. This is a ground that saw Fazal Mahmood and Khan Mohammad take 20 Australian wickets between them in the 1956/7 series and where Pakistan scrambled home, reaching 66 for 7, to defeat England in 1984. At time of writing, Pakistan have won nine of their last 12 Karachi Tests. MASSAGING A TIP INTO A LITTLE RAY OF SUNSHINE

Andy Totham, betting supremo of the Sun, tells the remarkable story of how he turned a tip into a fait accompli, making himself and everyone in on the scheme a very nice pay-day – except for my company, who were the victims of the Totham ‘sting’! The occasion was the 2003 FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Southampton at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

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Bookies always like to churn out special markets for the big games and in their efforts to hit the 100-market mark they can often push things in our favour. And so it happened... hidden deep among the multitude of markets from William Hill for the 2003 FA Cup Final up popped a market called ‘Massage Parlour’. Quite simply it was 9-2 for the Gunners’ Ray Parlour to be treated by the physio on the pitch at any time in the match. Now, players always claim they never read papers – in the same way they never bet or drink! But on the morning of the game we knew, just knew, that someone in the Arsenal camp would spot our Sun headline urging Mr Parlour to hit the deck during the match. It wasn’t match fixing – just a small manipulation of a 30-second spell during the game. Nothing more. Nothing less. ‘Come on, Ray – do it for us punters,’ begged our article. And on we plunged – friends, relatives and work colleagues alike. Even my dad had a tenner and he bets in five pence stakes! But would Ray Parlour take the bait? Would he play along? In centre midfield the feisty redhead was always likely to pick up a knock and as the game kicked off we watched intently, caring not a hoot about who won but plenty about Mr Parlour’s well-being. By half-time I was convinced we’d been done. Parlour had ridden some heavy tackles and been sent sprawling by one particular assault from a Saints muscleman. But

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each time he got up, dusted himself down and carried on without the need of physio Gary Lewin. Bastard! ‘Keep the faith,’ I told the many co-conspirators who rang up nervous, sweating and anxious during the halftime interval. But I didn’t really believe, either. Nearly 20 minutes of the second-half passed with Parlour calm, unflustered and dominant in midfield, riding tackles like the consummate pro he was. We’d given up on the bet. And then out of nowhere… Halle-bloody-lujah! Southampton’s Chris Marsden made partial contact with our Ray and he fell to the turf. The cameras panned away. Agony for us. Was our man hurt? Oh please. Not a broken leg or anything like that. But a little muscle strain worthy of Gary Lewin’s cold sponge. Still the cameras focused on the play. Yet suddenly as the ball went out for a throw-in there was music to our ears! Cheering inside the Millennium Stadium. I kid you not. Cheering. And why? Because that oh-so-wonderful Mr Lewin was sprinting onto the pitch to tend the even-more-wonderful Mr Parlour now laying prone. Oh, Ray. Oh, Gary. You beauties! The phone went ballistic – everyone texting or ringing with the same message: ‘Did you hear it? The cheering. The sponge. The dosh.’ We jumped around the living room, already planning a heavy night of celebration. Years on, we still have the 30-inch widescreen TV and top-of-the-range music system we bought on the back of that Cup Final bet. The kids call the TV ‘Uncle Ray’. - 64 -


I’ll never know if Mr Parlour ever did read that article but the memory of that cheering still brings on a warm glow and proves that hundreds of other people certainly did read it. And bet it too. So, at last, I’ve found out just who was to blame for what we regarded at the time as a slightly unusual gamble which came off. I must admit that bookies can, just occasionally, let their guard down and provide punters with an almost potentially self-fulfilling betting proposition. And we did it again only recently when offering 100/1 about Craig Bellamy, then at Liverpool, scoring a Champions League goal and then celebrating by mimicking the action of swinging a golf club – having been disciplined by his club after a notorious incident involving both a golf club and team-mate John Arne Riesse. Sure enough, there was an old-fashioned gamble on the bet: Bellamy scored, Bellamy waved around an imaginary golf-club, and we were well and truly teed off! PULLEIN’S POINTERS

Lateral-thinking sage Kevin Pullein has done much to justify that paper’s description of him as ‘the greatest football tipster in the business’. Here are a few pearls of wisdom from him.

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‘When betting on whether [football] managers will lose their jobs, what matters is the world as it is, not as it should be.’ Pullein points out in January 2008 that it is, ‘pointless worrying about what should happen. Just think about the sort of things that do happen.’ ‘When thinking about whether a bookmaker’s price might be wrong we could start by assuming it is right. We would then examine all information from every perspective to see whether there was any way it could be considered consistent with that assumption. Only if the possibility was very small indeed would we accept the alternative, conclude that the price was probably wrong and have a bet.’ ‘Teams who appear to be either home specialists or away specialists are really experiencing a freak sequence of results, which started for no reason and will soon end for no reason.’ ‘You are almost always better off betting in singles rather than in multiples.’ ‘Try to make sure that you are watching because you have had a bet, rather than having a bet because you are watching.’

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‘No matter how good a British club may be, they are rarely quite as good as the bookmakers would have us believe for a European tie.’ ‘Assess teams on their merits and ignore reputations’ – Pullein’s May 2008 play-offs’ advice WHEELY SOUND INFORMATION

Bruce Millington is editor of the Racing Post and a huge fan of both Crystal Palace and cycling. The Tour de France is a fantastic spectacle, whatever you think of the riders and their chosen methods of lasting the course. Bruce makes sure you won’t suffer a financial puncture if you follow his pointers:

1. Don’t be afraid to back a rider who is not his team’s leader at the start of the race. The market tends to underestimate the chances of progressive types who are not number one in their team at the outset. The bottom line is, if they are riding well enough, they will assume team leadership during the race. Miguel Indurain in 1991 and Alberto Contador in 2007 are examples of riders who dethroned their team leaders during the race to win the yellow jersey at big prices.

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2. Stick with breakaway riders who are in form. On intermediate stages that suit neither sprinters nor pure climbers there is often a chance to back a winner at a decent price. Don’t be put off backing someone just because they were in a long break earlier in the race. It’s a sign that they are on form rather than that their exertions may have left them too fatigued to figure. 3. Don’t write off a sprinter because of one bad performance. Luck plays a big part in sprints. A split-second gap may appear for a rider one day but not the next. 4. Be prepared for agony. You back a guy at 14-1. He soars up the steep climbs like an eagle. He time-trials like he’s on a motorbike. He’s in yellow with a big cushion and just a couple of easy flat stages between him and victory. All of a sudden he gets busted for drug abuse and is thrown out. It happens. 5. Then again, if you suspect the runaway leader’s towering performances may be fuelled by illegal substances, don’t be afraid to take a chance and back one of the other prominent riders at a big

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price on the basis that the man in yellow could be about to have his collar felt. 6. Beware Tour of Italy form. It rarely counts for anything when it comes to the Tour de France.


Keith Elliott, acknowledged doyen of golf tipsters and author of the hugely respected Elliott’s Golf Form annuals, imparts the following wisdom: ‘A player [golfer, in this instance, but might equally apply to snooker, darts, tennis and other sports – GS] who has become a first-time father, especially of a son, will show considerably improved and possibly winning form in the rest of that season, and especially in his first full season as a father.’ ‘A player with an early tee time on the first day tends to have an advantage over his rivals who start much later on.’ ‘A player who has shot a very low round will normally suffer a reaction in his very next round.’

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‘A proven winning player who has a long, winless run because of injury, illness or a change of clubs will tend to show vastly improved form once he gets on the comeback trail.’ ‘A player in serious contention in a Major will probably suffer a severe reaction if playing again the following week.’ CHAPMAN’S CHAMPION GOLF CHAT

Jeremy Chapman is the undisputed master of golf betting, as Racing Post readers can attest. Here, Jeremy gives us the benefit of his wealth of wisdom and experience in a quest to ensure profitable punting on the sport’s American tour, where conditions can be distinctly different from the British scene and local knowledge is essential. Nothing is more natural to golfers than to have a bet on the outcome, whether it’s on the Sunday morning game at your club, on getting up and down out of a trap or just a simple test of golfing knowledge with your pal. You can bet for just a golf ball, a dollar or massive sums like Titanic Thompson who made a handsome living fleecing gullible millionaire tourists in Florida on big-money matches they had no chance of winning. Lee Trevino and Raymond Floyd, to name but two, cut their teeth as young pros playing matches for more money

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than they actually had in their pockets. They HAD to win to survive, even if it meant playing with a Dr Pepper bottle. Clever bettors in the UK have cleaned up more than once, with one computer wizard from Oxfordshire, Graham Hill, taking the bookmakers for £815,000 for an outlay of just £100 simply by combining ten golfers in the Doral Open in Florida in their threeball matches in cross-doubles, trebles, four-timers and accumulators. Nine of them won and the other, Billy Mayfair, was a joint-winner. Had Mayfair won outright, the winnings would have been significantly greater. [Mr Hill was especially shrewd – sharing his bets across three different bookies to avoid exceeding any of their individual payout limits – GS] And two wise guys from Essex once sweet-talked unsuspecting small-time bookies into laying them odds of up to 100-1 about holes in one taking place in certain televised tournaments including the US Open and British Open. Of course, everyone who watches or follows golf on a regular basis knows that holes in one are regular occurrences, and there’s one every second week or so. The odds are therefore little more than even-money, yet they were able to get 50-1 and 100-1 from mug bookies who knew horses but nothing about our favourite sport. It was a nice, legitimate scam that cleared over £500,000 for them and got them a riotous trip to Las Vegas and a pair of Mercedes cars for their endeavours.

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So how can you win? First of all, pick your opponents carefully, just like Titanic Thompson did, so that you always have an edge. You don’t want to take on golfing anoraks like me because I’ll take you to the cleaners more likely than not. Secondly, be prepared. As Gary Player once sagely said, ‘The more I practise, the luckier I seem to get!’ Get all the reference books and memorise as much as you can. You can’t operate without a laptop or computer, so get on the right websites like Pgatour.com, EuropeanTour.com, Golfobserver.com, Golfonline.co.uk, and anything else you can find. You can even read my occasionally useful advice on www.racingpost.co.uk every Wednesday. Golfobserver does a lot of the hard work by giving you a player’s performance at a particular tournament going back to the year dot (or 1990 anyway, which is more than enough as old form is well-nigh worthless for finding winners). PGA Tour’s writers keep you up-to-date with players switching to new clubs – that always takes time getting used to – or who are rusty after injury layoffs. Knowing the golfers to avoid is just as important as picking the winner because it saves you backing losers. Tourcast is a great weapon for being ahead of the game. It can often show you that even though a player has shot a low score, tee to green he’s been all over the place and the score is founded entirely on exceptional putting. Those are rounds to ignore because nobody holes a bunch of 30-foot putts day after day.

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Above all, watch every bit of golf that you can on TV. Thanks to daily coverage of all the main tours – PGA, Champions, LPGA and European – you can familiarise yourself with pretty much every worthwhile golfer on the planet. If you can’t watch it as it happens, get someone to tape it for you. I watch up to 40 hours of golf every week and it’s not because I want to. To be totally truthful, most of it is boring, but it’s homework that has to be done. You can tell by the way people walk, the decisiveness over their shots, the speed that they play at and the way they accept the bad luck with the good whether they’re in the right mood to win in the near future. If you’re a Tiger Woods backer, you need to know which tournaments outside the Majors he’s up for and which he sometimes uses to try things out. Never oppose him at St Andrews or Augusta. Even if you fancy somebody else, always have a saver on the great man there. And he’s very keen on money, which is why he has such a stellar record in the World Golf Championship events. Torrey Pines and Bay Hill are other spots where you oppose him at your peril. But you can take him on at the Accenture Match Play (even though he’s won it twice). Short-haul golf is not really his bag as he shows time and again in Ryder Cup. He’s at his most vulnerable there as Peter O’Malley, Nick O’Hern (twice), Chad Campbell and Jeff Maggert have already proved. You need to know who are spring players and who do best in the fall, who have poor/great records on certain

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courses, and which players target certain objectives and use minor tournaments to experiment, as Phil Mickelson often does. Hearts are always in mouths whenever Mickelson plays because you know that, if he gets off to an indifferent start and can’t make up the ground quickly, his attention span is not good and he quickly loses interest. In golf betting, patience is a major virtue, as is the ability to soak up punishment as well as Muhammad Ali did because there are spells where you are going to lose, lose, lose. Two months can easily race by without a winner but the beauty of golf betting is that in fields of 156 or 180 the odds are so good that one winner can wipe out a host of losers in a heartbeat. Bet only in tournaments where you have past course form as a guide. Avoid tournaments on new courses. And if it is choice between course form and current form, as a general rule side with current form. It is more important. And accept you cannot get everything right. It was impossible to make a case for, say, Craig Perks, winner of the 2002 Players Championship, or Ben Curtis in the 2003 British Open. Ditto for Chris Couch, Andre Stolz and all the other curiosities who win once in a blue moon and are never heard from again. My greatest successes, however, have come with such people; Matt Gogel in the 2002 Pebble Beach Pro-Am, for example. But he could be justified because he had nearly won there before, only losing because he could see Tiger himself in his rear mirror down the stretch. - 74 -


Brian Henninger was another huge winner for me in the 1999 Southern Farms because he had won on the same Annandale course five years earlier, done nothing in between and the odds-makers had forgotten all about him – for once, being distinctly over-generous at 100-1. Pebble Beach was kind to me again four years later when, for the first time in my tipping career, I forecast the first, second and third in the right order (from four selections) in a field of 180. Nothing too sensational about that if they had happened to be the three favourites but, in fact, my heroes were Arron Oberholser, Rory Sabbatini and Mike Weir at juicy odds of 33-1, 50-1 and 40-1. And the luck stayed with me the following week when Sabbatini went one better, again at a tasty quote. Those were good days and another two came in mid2007 when Mark Wiebe won at 80-1 on his Champions Tour debut, and in three selections I gave the first three home in a LPGA tournament: Maria Hjorth at 33-1, Stacy Prammanasudh at 66-1 and the favourite, Lorena Ochoa, at 13-8. Wiebe was a big price because, although a dual main-tour winner, he wasn’t a ‘name’ and had been out of circulation for a long time. Only I had noticed he had been warming up for the big day on the Nationwide Tour and holding his own against the very promising youngsters who perform on that satellite circuit. The winners that give the most pleasure are never the obvious ones. Anyone can find those. It’s only a question - 75 -


with them of getting the right week(s). No, it is coming up with somebody that takes people by surprise. Bernhard Langer came within a whisker of winning the Colonial at 125-1. Why such a big price for such a great player? At 49, the assumption was that he was simply preparing for his new life among the round-bellies. But when you are as fit as a flea, as Langer is, age is only a number. Do not be put off by it. Although their nerve may betray them more than it did in their primes, they are more reliable under the gun than the youngsters striving to keep their place on tour. Over-40 winners in 2007 included Vijay Singh (twice), Paul Goydos, Fred Funk (over 50!), Mark Calcavecchia, Scott Verplank, Woody Austin, Steve Stricker and Stephen Ames. Don’t kid yourself that luck doesn’t play a big part. Golf isn’t like chess. It’s more like roulette. You will often find the man you picked winning the following week, just like the zero comes up on the roulette wheel the go after you’ve put your chip on it. That’s about as irritating as it can get. You can justify supporting one player who plays fabulously. Unfortunately there is somebody else who plays even more fabulously for that one week. That’s bad luck. But you must weigh that against all the good luck that comes your way – like Pat Perez taking eight up the last at Pebble when a par five would have done the trick in 2002. He must have known my money was on Gogel. As long as your judgement is proven over a long period – and I’ve been in this golf tipping business for 36 years - 76 -


now – you will probably succeed in the long run. But there are no guarantees. Losing years have to be borne with fortitude. They come even to the best. I’ve had two of them in the last ten. SOME WORDS OF WISDOM ON U.S. SPORTS

‘You can set the trap for those too eager to accept that everything will go according to the offence’s plan… price the match up as though the expected touchdown has been recorded. And you will be amazed at how many times you will see someone take your price only to see a breakdown in play.’ The Definitive Guide to Betting Exchanges illustrates how to profit in-running on the exchanges during an NFL game. ‘From my experience a good number of the lines are compiled by the office junior who doesn’t have a clue what they are doing, and even if you spend an hour working out what the lines should be from the stats then you should make a decent profit.’ William G Nevin, US sports expert and former head of sport for BetUSA.com, prior to the 2008 Superbowl, on why specials (or prop bets, as American punters know them), can offer value. ‘I’ve won all my life and what I do is very simple. I am a contrarian. I take the team that nobody wants to back and that way I always get value. The team I am backing have - 77 -


been losing, they’re angry, they’ve got a big target on the opposition’s chest and they’re going for them.’ Top US sports betting handicapper (tipster) Wayne Allyn Root in February 2008, who insists, ‘I have never had inside information. I don’t want information.’ He also believes, ‘Early money is smart, late money is the guy on the street looking to get a bet on before kick-off.’ ‘The best point-spread in a [American] football game may fluctuate during the days leading up to the game. Pros bet early in the week, because that’s when the betting lines are weakest. As the lines move in response to the pros’ bets, the lines become harder to beat because they more closely reflect the direction in which the money is moving, or being bet.’ – The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gambling Like a Pro, 1996 ‘Oppose favourites that performed much better than expected in the previous week. The average bettor thinks such teams are at the start of a hot streak. This is a classic case of what psychologists and economists call the “winner’s blessing” effect. On average, these punters are just plain wrong. Still, the money goes down in support of their misguided beliefs, and shortens the odds of the “hot” team below what they should be.’ Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams points up a theory supported by a prestigious study into this phenomenon in US sports (Betting To Win, 2002). - 78 -


‘Don’t be drawn into backing teams solely because they have a big-name quarterback…look for teams who improved towards the end of the previous season, as the momentum can often be carried over’… – Phil Agius of The Post with NFL advice. TIPS FOR POOL HUSTLERS

These pool tactics are from L Jon Wertheim’s entertaining Running the Table, and quote US pool veteran Greg Smith. ‘If you see me playing and think you can beat me – what’s the first thing you say to me?... You say something goofy – and they’ll think you’re such a Doofus they’ll be lining up to play you.’ ‘Don’t walk into a place with your own cue. Use a house cue. If the house cues are shit get someone to fetch your cue. They pretend it’s theirs and then you ask them to borrow it.’ ‘If you’re playing me for 500 a rack and you bust me and walk out with 5,000, how many racks have you beat me?... Not 10, 11. Because if you’re a real pool player you give a guy a free game. You say, “This one’s on me. Beat me and I pay you 500. I beat you and you owe me nothing.” It’s out of respect – and you never know when you might need a loan or whatever.’ - 79 -



‘Watch horses, and follow the ones that really catch your eye; you can often do well by spotting a few improving three-year-olds and sticking with those. Always remember; you don’t have to bet – so if you don’t have a sound reason for betting, leave that race alone.’ – John Francome ‘Avoid stables that are out of form and follow stables in form.’ – Brough Scott ‘If the perfect betting system existed, bookmakers wouldn’t.’ – Graham Sharpe

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‘Don’t back any horse who is going to fall.’ The Racing Post’s David Ashforth, who added, ‘Only take a board price if it going to be longer than the starting price. More seriously, look out for special offers guaranteeing the better of the two.’ ‘If you fancy a 33/1 shot as much as a 5/1 shot then have twice as much on the 33/1 shot.’ It works for champion tipster Henry Rix. ‘A consistent strategy of betting on horses starting at shorter odds will yield a better return than betting at longer odds,’ declared boffin gambling expert and author Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams, who backed up the claim with stats in his 2002 book Betting To Win. ‘I believe that punters who impose restrictions on themselves – never betting odds-on, for example – act against their own interest. The only limitation should be never bet beyond capacity to pay.’ – Peter O’Sullevan, 2004 ‘Follow a winning two-year-old until it gets beaten, and then back the one that beat it.’ – veteran jockey turned author Jack Leach ‘Keep backing Ruby Walsh in staying chases and you will be quids in.’ – Tom Segal, February 2008

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‘Will it act on the ground?’ Probably the most innovative betting man of the twentieth century, Timeform founder Phil Bull’s defines the most important factor a punter should take into account. ‘It is obvious that for the most part the top courses, which feature competitive racing between horses of the highest class, have the worst record for favourites. You should, therefore, make it a rule not to bet [on favourites] at Ascot, Doncaster, Hamilton, Newbury, Newmarket, Salisbury, Sandown, Warwick and York.’ – ‘Statistician’ in 1992’s Betting Systems That Work. ‘There can be no greater joy for a bookmaker than to see the word “favourite” on a betting slip, as such indiscriminate favourite-backing will always lose in the long run.’ – Craig Thake, Racing Post, 1992 ‘There is no point in striking a bet if it is not going to make any difference to your life.’ Mark Coton’s number 96 in his 1994 One Hundred Hints for Better Betting. ‘It is popularly supposed that somewhere along the line between the stable door and the jockey is a mine of information, which, if only one could tap it, would lead to untold wealth. Owners and trainers do, occasionally, have something up their sleeve – but even they have to answer

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to what has been called the glorious uncertainty of racing.’ As true now as it was when bookmaker Joe Lee made this observation in 1954. ‘I have achieved consistent profits from betting… I back horses with good recent form, preferably winning form, who are running against limited opposition within their class, when at their peak, progressing or very likely to progress or improve.’ Simple, isn’t it? Well, it was in 1988 for pro punter Clive Holt. ‘I do not back odds-on favourites. You can buy money at the bank – you don’t have to buy it at Ladbrokes.’ – then Irish Premier Albert Reynolds, Sporting Life, 10 January 1994 ‘Only your experienced turfite comprehends the enormity of the idiocy of backing horses by systems.’ Arthur Binstead’s 1903 observation in his book Pitcher In Paradise. ‘There is no such thing as A value bet, there is only MY value bet and YOUR value bet, because the recognition of value is a matter of personal opinion.’ – pro gambler Alan Potts, 1995 ‘Systems? Bookmakers love them.’ – jockey-turned-author Jack Leach

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‘A foolproof system is the stuff of dreams and dodgy small ads.’ – respected observer of the betting scene, journalist Greg Woods of the Independent (Getting the systematic message yet?) ‘The only way to beat the bookies, as every punter knows, is over the soft part of the skull with a crowbar.’ A slightly drastic system suggested by maverick writer/punter Matthew Norman. ‘If I were a serious punter I would go racing wearing a Walkman, pick out and back the horses I fancied, and in no circumstances whatsoever talk to a trainer.’ And former permanently red-shirted trainer Jack Berry should know... ‘Contrary to what people might think, backing big odds-on shots is not a mug’s game. It’s just that many mugs seem to do it.’ – Paul Kealy, 2005 ‘Ignore my tips.’ – Racing Post star writer Jon Lees ‘I would never advise a stay at home backer to trouble about races at Yarmouth, Folkestone, Lewes, Pontefract and Worcester. These are the meetings which, as far as my experience shows, do not provide results favourable to anybody but those on the spot.’ ‘Lewes’ is the giveaway – this advice from respected racing writer NR Pegg, alias Gimcrack of the Daily Sketch, was proffered in 1933, - 84 -


when there were evidently some odd things going on at these tracks. What a relief no such situation occurs anywhere these days! ‘Those boring old sods that tell you to be selective, nick half a point here or there and keep a record of every bet are missing the point. Do we really care if we get 11/4 or 3/1 about a 5/2 shot? The answer, unless you’re JP McManus and betting in hundreds of thousands, is no. Do we care if we get 20/1 about a horse that has a 20/1 chance of winning? Of course we do and that is basically all that value betting is.’ – former ‘Pricewise’ tipster Tom Segal, 2002 ‘The pocket calculator possesses a vast potential for finding winners that few have dreamt of or appreciated.’ And if you want to check out writer John White’s assertion you’ll need to find yourself a copy of his 2001 book Racing Systems with the Pocket Calculator. ‘Alan King regularly runs more than one in the same race and the lesser-fancied runner should never be discounted.’ – Racing & Football Outlook, 8–14 January 2008 ‘I have two rules in betting, although my bank manager wishes it were more. First, never bet odds on, and secondly – and this should be branded on every racegoer’s forehead – always check the Tote.’ – Alastair Down, 1998 - 85 -


‘Be wary of a long-distance ante-post punt on a horse whose chances might be diminished by extremes of going; you cannot tell far in advance that he’ll have conditions in his favour on the day.’ – John McCririck ‘I don’t just back any favourite. I watch it run a few times and then back it until it loses.’ The system which worked for punter Roger Darlington, who became famous for carrying huge stakes to the track in plastic bags – as when he put £30,000 at 2/7 on Chester House at Chester in May 1999; it won, making him £8,571.42 richer. Disgraceful, ridiculous system – didn’t he understand what plastic bags are doing to the environment? ‘The parade ring can be a great source of winners, particularly in two-year-old races, and you should always try to go and look at them. I have known a few good judges who made more money out of betting on what they had seen in the parade ring than any amount of “information” could have brought.’ – John Sexton, former president of the Horserace Writers & Photographers Association. ‘I’ve won on front-runners, but they need to be guaranteed stayers, and generally I’d prefer to be on a horse that likes to come from off the pace.’ Jockey Richard Hills discusses turf racing at Nad Al Sheba in January 2008, adding, ‘A low draw is a big help on the turf, especially over a mile and a half.’

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‘Early speed is essential at Nad Al Sheba, where it pays to be wary about form on all-weather surfaces elsewhere.’ – David Lawrence of the Racing Post, 15 January 2008 ‘If you randomly backed females rather than males, you would lose an extra £11.10 per every £100 you bet.’ David Renham of the Racing & Football Outlook in January 2008, revealing the message from his survey of all mixed-sex races since 2000 – the news was even worse in all-weather races where backing fillies randomly would cost you an extra £19.10 more per £100 than colts. ‘Be wary of front runners over one mile two furlongs and beyond.’ All-weather guru Richard Young remarks on Lingfield in January 2008, adding, ‘Watch out for the likely front runners over five furlongs. Given the nature of the track it isn’t a surprise that front runners do better over that trip than any other at Lingfield.’ ‘Listening to owners’ tips…’ Finance director of Goffs Bloodstock Sales reveals his ‘worst habit’ to the Irish Field in January 2008. ‘A bet of £5 or £10 is quite respectable in most circles and, although there are some very heavy gamblers at racecourses, they are a small minority and there is no need to imitate them.’ Social anthropologist Kate Fox’s

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2002 warning that we shouldn’t feel obliged to match stakes with others. ‘Never be afraid to win too much,’ says bookmaker Victor Chandler, adding, ‘If I have a simple rule, it is not to back short-priced horses.’ ‘During 1938–39 bookmakers stopped accepting bets on a system that was based on a wins-to-runs record as people were winning too much money.’ Alan Wilcock must have your attention by now; read on… ‘The system was based on consistency and class. Bets were limited to horses who had won a third of their starts and finished placed in at least half of the races they did not win.’ Wilcock insists, ‘This is a system that has stood the test of time and will continue to perform.’ – Racing Ahead, March 2008 ‘Don’t be tempted into doubling or trebling short-priced horses on a daily basis unless you want to ingratiate yourself with the betting shop manager.’ A pointer from racing analyst Prince Rajsinh Rajpipla in 2002, who added, ‘Backing anything on a regular basis under 2/1 is an expensive luxury.’ ‘You must always take note of horses that appear to be enjoying the experience of going to post.’ Advice from racecourse bookie Barry Dennis, who also believes that

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punters ‘should always visit the parade ring and become adept at noticing fit horses’. ‘Look for horses that won at Newbury, Cheltenham and Sandown last time as the form tends to work out well.’ Racing Ahead Weekend advice for jump racing at Kempton (23 February 2008). ‘Form from Ayr holds up well.’ Suggestion for finding winners over the sticks at Newcastle (Racing Ahead Weekend, 23 February 2008). ‘Ignore tips. The nearer to the horse’s mouth, the worse they are.’ – Jeffrey Bernard, 1991 ‘Get to know the professional gamblers that always loiter near the rails bookmakers. Then, when these guys make a move, the punters must try to be one step ahead of them, or at least right next to them, backing the horses they’re trying to back.’ Barry Dennis, 2002; the media friendly layer. ‘Never lay an Alan King horse in-running.’ – Mel Collier, Racing Post, 27 February 2008 ‘Be wary of apparently top class horses running in claimers – they probably have a problem, or else why are the

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connections willing to let them go cheaply?’ – rhetorical question from pro punter Alan Potts ‘One in six races in National Hunt racing is won by a horse with odds of over 10/1’ – useful encouragement to back longer odds runners from punting author Ross Newton ‘I dislike horses who carry their heads too high, even at the walk. In my view, it’s usually a sign of poor temperament and an undesirable racing attitude.’ – Channel 4 commentator Simon Holt ‘Most tips are trash and racecourse rumours are usually rubbish. Have faith in your own instincts and your own observations and you will back more winners, and enjoy them more.’ – Simon Holt ‘The biggest bugbear is conditions race form in handicaps. Time and time again horses which put up an apparently much-improved effort in a conditions race appear to be “thrown in” when dropped to a handicap next time. The racing media invariably latches on to these horses, despite the fact that experience should have told them they nearly always get beaten, usually at a shocking price.’ – punter guru Mark Coton, 1990 ‘Punters should try to keep their turnover high and bet as often as possible. It keeps you in the game and takes the - 90 -


pressure off. If you only bet rarely, but have a big bet when you do, you really have to get it right. For me, it makes more sense to divide that one stake up and have 50 bets in the same time, at a fiftieth of the stake. You’ll get more winners, the losers will matter less and your confidence will go up.’ – noted judge, punter and journalist Eddie ‘The Shoe’ Fremantle, Counter Attack, 2002 ‘Trainer form is that most elusive of elements, like a bar of soap in the bath. As soon as you identify it, the confounded thing slips out of your grasp.’ James Willoughby of the Racing Post reminds us in January 2008 that stable form is not a constant and that you must weigh up the chances that you are jumping on a bandwagon which is just about to leave town, before lumping on a yard which has been flying. ‘It has often been a good strategy to get a penalised lasttime-out winner back out as quickly as possible on the all-weather.’ – James Pyman, Racing Post, 21 January 2008 ‘Races often go to the horse with more natural speed who has the ability to quicken away from rivals off a slow pace, rather than those with a breeding that makes them well suited to the race distance but who need a strong pace to achieve full potential.’ More James Pyman all-weather advice – particularly for the Polytrack courses. - 91 -


‘If I think they’ll run well, I won’t talk to you beforehand.’ Trainer Henrietta Knight explains to Robert Cooper of At The Races why she didn’t want to say anything pre-race before her 13/2 winner, Mous of Men at Doncaster on 27 January 2008. So if you do hear her chatting to the media before a race, she obviously won’t fancy her runner, whereas her absence from the airwaves would seem to be a tip in itself. ‘The saying goes “there are only three things that matter in trying to find a winner in horse racing: the going, the going and the going.”’ – Nick Wrathall, BettingBanter.com ‘A recent survey suggested that over 60 per cent of punters were not worried about actually winning money, being more interested in the thrill of the chase.’ Racing expert Malcolm Boyle in 2006, showing that there are plenty out there happy for you to steam in for some of the profit they spurn. ‘There is a huge betting edge awaiting anyone who takes the trouble to understand international racing form.’ This tip is from Nick Mordin who, in January 2008, pointed out opportunities of exploiting ‘a huge distortion in betting odds whenever well-regarded runners from Britain or Ireland face high-class opponents who have only ever raced abroad’. ‘Back the remaining runners at the meeting of a trainer who has already had a winner there that afternoon.’ – ‘Fenman’, Racing Ahead, February 2008 - 92 -


‘Before a race I am keen on what I back to be nicely relaxed, not spend what is the equine equivalent of a couple of hours of primping in a health resort or beauty parlour. I have done no serious research, but am convinced that the express route to the poorhouse is to back best turned out horses to win races.’ – Sir Clement Freud, 16 February 2008 ROGER’S PLUM TIPS

Roger Plummer is a member of the Daily Mirror’s racing desk – one of the men behind their legendary Spotform ratings. Here is his input. I’m not really sure why Graham asked me to contribute to this book because I have always considered that winnerfinding is all about opinion and has very little to do with systems or looking for patterns. Not for me the ‘always back Seb Sanders when he is riding at seven stones ten, wearing green colours, on the final day of the month, for a trainer whose birthday is six days away and whose wife has just produced twins’ approach. Whatever precursors I look for to aid my winner-finding belong to a long-forgotten age when there was no racing on Sundays, some Tuesdays during the National Hunt season were blank, horses ran only on grass and a sevenrace card was a thing of wonder. As you can see I have reached the grumpy-old-man stage of my life and get misty-eyed when I hark back to - 93 -


the days when horses were trained with specific races in mind. I find it very difficult to come to terms with today’s ‘run your horse, feed it while parked in a lay-by overnight and run it again the following day’ training approach. Still, if anyone is continuing to read this rant, here are some pointers. As I have said, backing horses is all about opinion and following your own judgement. Try to watch as much racing as you can and make a special note of the replays. When viewing the re-runs don’t be too concerned about what’s going on up front, but look to see if anything made up significant ground in the closing stages or if anything was impeded at a crucial stage. I picked up a couple of tips from an ex-Timeform man. First, always consider any horse that carries top weight and is top rated by a reputable handicapping team such as Timeform, the theory being that, despite being the class runner in the race, the horse is still well treated. Also, take it that the trainer knows best (although this theory probably belongs to the good old days mentioned above). If a horse is tackling a trip well below or beyond its norm or is racing on a certain type of going for the first time, trust that the trainer would not be running their charge if he or she did not think the horse could cope with the new criteria. Finally, a non-horse racing tip: Never back Leeds United when they are favourites. In fact: NEVER BACK LEEDS UNITED TO WIN AT ALL.* * Editor’s note: Roger is a long-suffering Leeds fan.

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Professional punter Dave Nevison has trenchant views on the way to beat the bookies, some of which he shares with us here, for which I am very grateful (even though he is almost impossible to get hold of on the phone as, I am assured, he never answers a call from anyone whose number he doesn’t instantly recognise on the grounds that they are probably after money from him). ‘I might have one horse at 2/1 favourite and another at 10/1. If the best prices for them on the racecourse were 2/1 and 16/1 I’d back the 16/1 shot, even though I thought the 2/1 favourite was more likely to win, but in my view it wasn’t value whereas the other horse was.’ – from the best-selling A Bloody Good Winner ‘If you just back the horses you fancy, which is what most punters do, you will eventually go skint… I don’t fancy anything until I know what price it is.’ ‘It is very easy to be put off horses that drift in the market and very hard to stay with them, but if after having a look at the reasons you thought 7/1 was good value, you still think your reasons are valid, you have to put more on.’ ‘I will spend extra time studying handicaps with 16 or more runners because bookmakers pay one quarter the odds - 95 -


the first four places when the mathematics suggests that they shouldn’t.’ ‘I don’t back horses on information… It’s always worth asking yourself, if the work rider knows so much, why is he still shovelling shit at six o’clock every morning?’ ‘I wouldn’t be frightened to back his [Mark Johnston’s] stable’s second string in a maiden race because you know it is there to win if it can, whereas with some other big stables you suspect that their second string is not there to win.’ ‘One of my jockey angles is to oppose [Richard] Hughes in match bets because he strikes me as a jockey who doesn’t believe in riding out hard once his chance of winning the race has gone.’ ‘I certainly think jump racing is straighter than Flat racing.’ ‘I tend to look for a horse who, given that the circumstances of the race suit it, is likely to repeat a previous performance.’ ‘For me, the horse with a reputation is the one that is there to be beaten.’ ‘I would never bet on anyone staying in the saddle in a novice chase perched up like that.’ Nevison is not a fan of jump jockey Jacques Ricou’s style of riding. - 96 -


‘I always think that if a seriously good trainer – rather than a desperado who just needs a win – wants to run his horse quickly (after another race) then why should I start considering bounce theories and other such nonsense.’ Mind you – not everyone is a Nevison fan. Here’s some advice from Racing & Football Outlook reader John Mitchell from Bournemouth, in February 2008: ‘Whenever Jason Weaver and Dave Nevison are on the telly and tip a favourite under 2/1 on the All-Weather, don’t back it to win, lay it on the exchanges and you will make a small fortune!’ MARCUS MY WORDS

Daily Mail racing writer Marcus Townend is another generous enough to share his most private betting philosophies with us.

 Follow course form and track specialists at venues which ask horses particular questions like Brighton, Fakenham and Chester.  Latch on to significant jockey bookings that deliver an above average strike rate, like Tony McCoy for Pat Haslam.

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 Spot big race entries, especially in the prestigious two-year-old races, for small stables which would not normally block enter in this type of race.  Follow Scottish trainers at Scottish tracks.  Spot a promising apprentice more than worth his claim; he'll invariably be snapped up for fancied rides.  Jockeys and trainers often seem to strike lucky on their birthdays, or maybe it just seems like they do!  Returning from injury or long-term absence, jockeys often seem to line up a fancied ride.  If you are at the races with the wife and she picks out a 50-1 no-hoper, don't put her off. If you do successfully, it will invariably run the race of its life and probably win. You'll never be allowed to forget it.

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Sun form expert Andrew Ayres told readers how to spot a winner in the paddock:

 Scrub anything that sweats up and avoid horses with their ears pinned back, suggesting they want to be anywhere else.  Look along a horse’s flank and you should be able to see ribs without him resembling a xylophone.  The hind quarters drive horses forward, so we want proper muscle definition here.  Watch closely when the jockeys are legged up. Some horses wait for this moment to wake up.  The canter to post is our final clue. As a general rule those with a high knee action prefer soft ground. Daisy-cutters come into their own on a faster surface.

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Will Lefebve, as well as being a good friend and a loyal Cheltenham Town supporter, is a former Press Association racing correspondent who has enjoyed a lifetime associated with horse racing and two four-figure placepot successes. Here are his top betting tips:

 If you fancy a horse for whatever reason and it is a significantly bigger price than anticipated, don’t be put off backing it – and don’t reduce the size of your wager.  Always back 20/1 or bigger odds shots with Totepool – there’s nothing more satisfying than getting paid odds of, say, 80/1 by the ‘Nanny’ when the bookies’ return is a mere 50/1.  Accept winning with a smile and make the most of it. Take defeat on the chin. Remember this: unless you know God personally, nobody forced you to put the bet on.  If you enjoy a bumper win immediately hide a good proportion of it in your back pocket (get it into the bank asap) and bet confidently with the remainder. - 100 -


 Never even think – let alone call out – ‘Fall, you b*d’ if you have backed a horse lying second or third as another runner comes to the last clear. Remember, there is a human being on that horse and both he and the animal could get seriously hurt if they fell.  If you’re going racing with a car- or coach-load of friends, organise your own private tipping competition (applying, say, a points basis of five for a winner, three a second, one for a third) for perhaps £2 per head. At least that way someone will go home smiling and with a profit.  Never chase losses and bet only what you can afford to lose – the advice my father gave me when I became old enough to gamble.  Know, or try to work out, how much you have to come back when your horse wins – mistakes can happen, usually by accident, when winnings are calculated.  Stick to betting with better known companies, especially when using a debit or credit card, rather than recently established, potentially ‘fly-by-night’ companies. - 101 -


 Think long and hard before taking an ‘early price’ in the morning. In my personal experience, unless you’ve received a solid tip from a reliable source when there is likely to be a wholesale gamble, SP often beats these odds. A lot of early prices are designed to reel in mug punters.  If you know someone – a trainer, perhaps – who regularly gives you reliable advice, don’t analyse what he tells you and then ignore it just because, for example, you don’t rate the jockey. I did once, and it cost me a 6/1 runaway winner. Forever after, the trainer reminded me and called me a ‘bloody wally’.  Ignore ‘premium’ telephone tipping lines like the plague. They’re very costly, particularly if you are kept hanging on the line for ages before receiving the actual name of the selection(s). Instead, follow the advice of your favourite newspaper tipster.  If you have had a bet but didn’t get the chance to see or hear the race, double check that the horse actually ran as you will otherwise get your money back.

Will enlisted friend, fellow racing buff and bookmaker Graham Thorpe, to chip in with some tips of his own: - 102 -


 Give great respect to the best-backed horse in the race – by no means always the favourite.  Look for something to oppose the favourite with in the last race of the day – aka the ‘getting-out stakes’ – which usually represents the worst value of the day with bookies well aware that punters will be looking for a winner, almost regardless of the price.  Don’t be afraid that you have missed the price if a horse is shortening. If the ‘momentum’ is with it, it may well shorten even further.  Pay special attention to the draw – it is a bigger factor than many punters allow for, and not always fully reflected in the odds.  Ask for the ‘fractions’ when betting with a racecourse bookie. Most will oblige with a 500 to 15 about a 33/1 chance, or 100 to 6 about a 16/1 shot. Every little helps.  Take a good look at the second favourite when the market leader is odds-on. Always consider it as an each-way bet.

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 Back the trainer(s) in form. Trainers with the best wins-to-runs ratio over the past 14 days are listed in the Racing Post. Be with these hot-shots.  Check the each-way terms. Some on-course layers may have different terms to those you expect. Don’t lose out as a result.  Be disciplined and keep a record of every bet you make. You will soon see the type where you are consistently scoring, and those that are frittering away your profits.


‘Back horses on the day – it is ground which decides winners.’ Martin Pipe, pre-2008 Festival, who added, ‘Not too much to drink. It affects the vision and judgement.’ ‘Never disregard a horse who has often shown a palpable liking for Cheltenham or more than once shown better form there than anywhere else, particularly at the March meeting.’ Festival advice from Channel 4 and Racing Post’s Alastair Down, who also suggests, ‘Always ask why a horse is running at the meeting. The harder the reasons are

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to discern the more they are worth a second look if the trainer is not a complete nincompoop.’ ‘Never take the official going description for granted because as often as not it will be wrong.’ Mel Collier gives Cheltenham Festival advice to Racing Post readers in February 2008. ‘Find this year’s most ridiculously underpriced runner, whose odds owe considerably more to hyperbole than to its exploits on the track, and lay it all for all you’re worth.’ – Pietro Innocenzi, Racing Post, 1 March 2008 ‘Don’t forget there are other meetings going on. Make sure you scan the runners elsewhere in case that horse you’ve had your eye on for the last couple of months turns up in a Southwell seller.’ – Pietro Innocenzi, Racing Post, 1 March 2008 ‘Always remember that finding winners at Cheltenham is very hard, as the track is tricky and the competition fierce, so don’t beat yourself up about it if things go pear-shaped.’ – Tom Segal, 2 March 2008 ‘In the Festival handicaps, if a trainer has the favourite then back his or her second string. If they have more than one second string, split the stakes.’ – Daniel Hill, Raceform Update

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‘Backing horses getting the run of the race and fielding against those short-priced ones who haven’t got into any jumping rhythms are particular favourites.’ Spotlight writer Richard Young’s Festival strategy in-running (2 March 2008). ‘If you have the discipline to wait for the ground, to trust your own eyes, to plunge on the each-way bankers in small fields and keep the stakes small for the big handicaps, you are onto a winner.’ – Stuart Barnes, Sunday Times, 9 March 2008 ‘Almost without exception the races will be run at a strong pace. This is not the case with the majority of hurdles and chases during the season, so give preference to the form of races that have been truly run. So much the better if the going corresponds closely with conditions at Cheltenham.’ – Frank Carter, Racing Post, 5 March 2008 ‘Playing a dangerous game on the placepots is a good ploy, opposing the logical selections with high permutations. The strike-rate is low, but with such inflated pools it has serious potential.’ – Spotlight writer Alastair Whitehouse-Jones ‘I try to have the horses trained for Cheltenham if they are good enough. We try to peak for it.’ A pointer towards runners owned by JP McManus at the Festival (Sunday Times, 9 March 2008).

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‘Be prepared to change your mind. You may have fancied a horse for a long time for a certain race, but are now having doubts. Don’t just stick to your original choice just because you feel you have to.’ – Racing Post’s Daniel Hill ‘Under no circumstances have a bet in the first race. As a confidence-booster there is nothing quite like the knowledge that, with only one race run, you are already doing better than almost everyone else.’ – David Ashforth ‘“Eyes not ears” should be the motto hanging over the bedroom door of every punter before they leave home or hotel room for battle at Cheltenham.’ Advice from Stuart Barnes (Sunday Times, 9 March 2008) who added, ‘Having your biggest Festival bet on the Foxhunters, straight after the Gold Cup, is not the way to profit...’ MCGOVERN’S DO’S AND DON’TS

The Mirror’s betting guru Derek McGovern has come up with a list of do’s and don’ts for the Cheltenham Festival which, perhaps, should not be taken over-seriously.

 Never take your credit card to the meeting. Take someone else’s.

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 Don’t be tempted to back the horse with the prettiest name. My dozy missus will be on that and I don’t want the likes of you ruining the price for her.  Despite what boffins say, it is possible to back 25 consecutive losers at the meeting. In fact, it is probable.  They say keep yourself in the best company and your horses in the worst, but at Cheltenham it’s usually the exact opposite. The number one tip is don’t go near the place.  Pretend to be Irish so when one of their raiders wins you increase the chances of being bought free beer. Leave just before your round.  Never trust anyone, except me on this occasion.  If in doubt, have a bet.

And finally, ignore this at your peril at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival:  Ten out of the last eleven Champion Hurdle winners won last time out. - 108 -


 Seven of the last eleven Champion Chase winners won over course and distance.  Nine of the last eleven World Hurdle winners raced three or fewer times that season.  Nine of the last eleven Gold Cup winners had won or were placed at a previous Festival.


Nick Wrathall is the brains behind the innovative and successful (yes, I have been known to contribute to it!) website BettingBanter.com. Here he unveils his own insights into how to stay the right side of the bookie-punter equation:

 Observe the 10 per cent rule: if you’ve decided to invest £1,000 in ten tranches of £100 and your first horse loses, then stake next time not £100, but £90, then 10 per cent of what you have left and so on.  Most gamblers chase each loss. When they lose they bet more heavily on the next one. When they win they tend to hold on to the profit for - 109 -


later. That’s the wrong way to gamble. It should be exactly the other way around.  Superior novice hurdlers who won last time out making their seasonal debut in novice chases are usually a good bet (contrary to popular belief). In fact, on average, you win more times than they fall.  In big 16-plus runner handicaps, more than 50 per cent of the winners come from the first four in the betting. Eliminate the rest and concentrate your study on these fancied horses.  The professional gambler has to learn to live with disappointment without allowing it to cloud their decision-making ability. Whenever I have a losing streak, I take a holiday. It’s very hard to continue making the right judgements if you’re losing. You tend to chase your losses. DON’T.  Take a careful note of horses that Ladbrokes duck. They have a team of spies who are second to none, and when they show they don’t want to lay a horse (by going under the prices the other bookmakers are offering) there’s usually a good reason!

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 Some good horses ‘bounce’ after a long absence (i.e. they run a good race and then a bad one.) No one knows exactly why, but the experts believe that the old injury starts niggling again and results in inconsistent form.  An each-way double on two 5/1 chances doubles your money if placed, and pays 35/1 for the win. Find two solid horses with a good chance of winning and an outstanding chance of being placed, and you can make a lot.  The quickest horses have a ‘daisy cutter’ running action where their hooves just skim the ground. It’s efficient and wastes less energy in picking up their legs too high. Great on firm ground. But on wet, slushy ground, they can’t pick their feet out of the mud properly, a bit like running through the sea at the beach. Result? They lose.  When the favourite is heavily odds-on, the second and third favourite usually represent tremendous each-way value. Find two races like this, have an each-way double, and you can win even if your horses lose (as long as they are both placed, of course).

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Tony Lewis is an experienced, reliable, respected tipster for the Daily Star who is no stranger to going through the card. He is also a great connoisseur of fifties and sixties music. Here he shares some of his most lucrative hints for punters:

 Pay particular attention to course and distance winners, especially if they are in good recent form. It's particularly useful at tracks like Southwell, Chester, Cartmel and Fontwell.  Never back a horse in a handicap or group race over seven furlongs if it has not won over the trip. This is very much a specialist's distance.  Be very suspicious of horses who take a big step up in class, especially when they are likely to start at cramped odds.  Never, ever back a maiden filly at odds on and swerve maidens (non-winners) in handicaps. Yes, horses frequently have three runs ‘for a mark’, but those that are gambled provide no value and you'll end up with far more disappointments than winners. - 112 -


 Possibly the best hint. Watch as many races as possible and look for horses that have travelled up well and then quicken up in the last furlong or so. Many experts will tell you that they don't actually quicken, it's just that others are slowing up. Ignore them. This type of horse often wins again and again, especially three-year-olds.  I know it's obvious but when a horse incurs a penalty for winning under a fully fledged jockey and is then ridden by a half-decent apprentice to cancel out extra weight, it's a very positive sign. Check the trip and going are roughly the same though.  Horses that turn out again shortly after winning an apprentice or conditionals race incur no penalty for about seven days and are therefore well in.  Avoid odds-on shots. You don't have to bet.  Don't back any French-bred horse in the John Smith's Grand National. Horses like this have the suffix (FR) after their name in the Racing Post and only one has ever succeeded in more than 150 years!

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 Always value good winning form over good losing form. Horses are like sportsmen in as much as their confidence needs regular boosting. They are pack animals and the good ones always strive to prove they are leaders.


Neal Wilkins is a veteran turf watcher, former Press Association racing correspondent and right-hand man to the eponymous Victor Chandler of the prominent bookmaking company. Neal kindly provided his betting hints, together with the advice to ‘take a look’ at a horse which was running that afternoon. I did so, noticed that its name was an extremely appropriate one given my football loyalties, observed it being backed down from double-figure odds to fourth favourite, and indulged in an each-way bet, which looked like paying off until the beast clouted the last but one fence and lost momentum, ending up fourth. Not a bad tip, though, I reckoned. Here are Neil’s other pearls of wisdom:

 Never ring and ask a person for their opinion if you do not intend to take any notice.

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 Always stick to your original selections and number of bets and do not chase losses.  Do not allow the price of a horse to affect the size of your stake. Winners at 33/1 pay for a large number of losers.  Do not back a horse trained by the first person you see at the track. There is no statistical reason to do so.  Pay huge attention to the trainer’s cold list in the Racing Post. Even the top stables have blank periods and they cannot explain why this happens when they continue with the same tried and trusted training methods, food stuffs and placing of horses.  Take note of significant jockey bookings. AP has got a good percentage of winners on Charlie Egerton-trained horses and has formed a profitable partnership with Tor Sturgis.  Take note when smaller yards target the same races each year.

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 An up-and-coming apprentice can be a very useful ally to profitable betting. Their allowance can be a vital tool in keeping one step in front of the handicapper.


Nick Mordin is a unique, quirky, free-thinker who in 2002 estimated that he had spent 30,000 hours researching racing results with the aim of uncovering ‘the principles that govern the betting market and racing results themselves’. In his book of that year, Winning Without Thinking, Mordin outlined his Ten Commandments for developing a profitable system:

1. The goal of a system is not to pick winners but to identify a type of horse that the betting public consistently underrates. 2. The best systems are based on facts which defy most punters’ expectations. 3. Be suspicious of any system based on information that can easily be gleaned from your daily racing paper. - 116 -


4. If a system is based on readily accessible information, it must use that information in an unexpected way. 5. If you can’t describe a system in a short sentence the idea behind it is almost certainly not strong enough to make it produce the greatest profits over a particular period. 6. Don’t bend the rules of a system to fit the results. 7. Do not expect a system to continue being profitable when the circumstances that gave rise to it change. 8. Avoid systems whose success is based on an inadequate sample of results. 9. Always remember that the betting market will eventually adjust to take account of any successful method for identifying winners. 10. Don’t follow any system blindly.

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Mordin – whose excellent website can be accessed at www.nickmordin.com – revealed how to find the Grand National winner in a 2008 Racing Post Weekender article, instructing:

1. Award five points to entries that raced off a handicap mark of at least 137 that same season. 2. Five points if they had previously reached the first three in a steeplechase with at least 13 runners. 3. Five points if they had already won over at least three miles. 4. Another five points if they’ve won over three miles three furlongs plus, or reached the first three in one of the big five Grand Nationals – Aintree, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Midlands. 5. Five points if they did not race as a novice chaser in the previous season. 6. Five points if they had completed the course in a field of 18 or more on a chase track where more

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than 8.5 per cent of runners have fallen in the past decade. 7. Five points if they are set to carry less than 11 stones 2 pounds. 8. Five points if they ran over hurdles this season. 9. Five points if they’ve won no more than once in their last six runs. 10. Five points if they were not bred in France. 11. Five points if they’ve ever earned a Racing Post rating higher than 145. 12. Five points if they haven’t worn any headgear this season. Mordin suggested using horses which score 55 or more points as a basis for finding the winner, and explained, ‘Some of them, I concede, look a bit odd. But believe me, they work.’ NATIONAL IMPORTANCE

After reading Nick’s National nuggets, I shall introduce you to Sharpe’s National Importance guidance, as successfully - 119 -


utilised by the readers of Esquire magazine, to whom it was first unveiled:

1. Bet to win: Rather than back one or two eachway, back two or four to win. This rule does not apply to ‘pin money’ punters with only one selection to back, as they will get the hump if it finishes second and they get nothing at all back, even though the return will probably only just cover the outlay! 2. Good going: Forget anything priced over 40/1 if the going is soft or better. 3. Past experience: Don’t worry if your fancy has never tackled the race or run over the course before – Red Rum won first time out in the event, and you can overdo the previous experience card. 4. Get heavy: If the going gets heavy, form can go out of the window – time to back a couple of outsiders. 5. Ones to watch: Those who ran well at Cheltenham but without having too hard a race are worth putting on the shortlist. - 120 -


6. Ones to miss: Dour stayers aren’t the best selections – they will probably stay the trip – but at a pace to suit themselves. 7. Form factor: Look for a gradual improver from a shrewd stable which has been trained just for this day, but never forget the hurly burly of this race can scupper even the best laid plans. 8. Stick to your guns: Do NOT change your mind once you have picked out a runner. 9. Talking shop: Never be intimidated from having a bet because you are a betting shop novice – either bet online or remember that betting shops want your business and, of all days, staff are ready, willing and able to be gentle with virgins on National day. 10. Real McCoy: He hasn’t won it yet – but Tony McCoy WILL do a Frankie Dettori – who had never won the Derby until 2007 – and eventually win the biggest race in his chosen sport. So always have at least a couple of quid on him so that you can celebrate along with AP when it happens.

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Here’s a system for consideration – backing every horse in the National with a ‘double letter’ element to its name – Miinnehoma; Tipperary Tim; Bobbyjo, and Monty’s Pass have produced an almost three-figure profit to a £1 stake since 1961! Another National system, proffered by Racing Ahead magazine’s David Renham is as follows. Selections will be 1. priced 20/1 or shorter [not sure how you know in advance, mind you – GS]; 2. official rating (handicap mark) to make horse NOT one of ten highest rated in the race; 3. Irish bred (signified by IRE next to name); 4. aged 8 to 10. Renham claimed significant profit over ten years of the race. FLINT AND NORTH’S TEN GOLDEN RULES

In their book Why You Lose At Racing, Jeremy Flint and Freddie North listed ten rules designed to help prevent just that happening:

1. You don’t have to bet – patience and choosing your moment to strike are virtues often rewarded.

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2. Every runner has a right and a wrong price. 4/6 may be generous while 6/1 may be niggardly. Learn to estimate odds in advance – then look for value. 3. Tote odds often provide you with extra profit. 4. Even form figures that read 000 or 00 or just 0 need the closest scrutiny. 5. Tote speciality bets often provide amazingly good value – especially when favourites are beaten. 6. The state of the going is perhaps the most important single factor of all. 7. Leading jockeys often give a clear indication of their own assessment of their chances. With opportunities to ride at more than one meeting, their mounts at the selected venue should be the subject of special study. 8. Each-way bets on two-year-old races opposing the odds-on favourite will not endear you to the layers, but they should yield a profit. All you need is a thick skin!

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9. Bookmakers welcome punters who speculate on the open and difficult looking handicaps. You should avoid them. 10. It is fatal to chase losses or think in terms of getting out on the day. There is always tomorrow, and the day after.


Similar to a betting exchange inasmuch as you are in practice betting against other punters, it does make sense to consider whether the horse you fancy will be a better betting proposition on the ‘machine’ than elsewhere. Jeremy Flint and Freddie North examined this matter in their 1978 book Why You Lose at Racing, and came up with a still-relevant set of guidelines for would-be Tote punters: Good for Tote odds

Bad for Tote odds

Unfashionable small stable Large, well known stable – albeit not local to the runners course Minor jockey or unknown apprentice’s mounts

Leading jockey

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No recent form

Recent good form

A corner horse (one whose actual odds in the ring are somewhat shorter than anticipated)

Well tipped

Top weights in handicaps

Owned or trained by connections with good record on the course

Penalized horses

Lightly weighted

Untipped horses

Owned by high profile, famous people

Unraced animals Amateur’s mounts in races also open to professionals Women’s mounts in races also open to men SYSTEMATIC RIP OFF?

Classy TV illusionist Derren Brown performed a very useful task in exposing system scamsters in February 2008 when his Channel Four show promised to reveal the perfect racing system which would guarantee to produce winners. And it did. Except that everything wasn’t quite as advertised, even though he had persuaded virtually every paper in the land - 125 -


– not least the Racing Post – to run preview pieces hinting very strongly that it would be. Once the show began it very soon became obvious to anyone with even the briefest of experience with betting just what was going on. The programme focused on a young lady called Khadesha who had been given four consecutive winning tips by Brown and had now begged, borrowed and blagged four grand to put on the next – and final – horse Brown was going to give her. She duly turned up at the racecourse and watched as Brown took her £4,000 and stuck it on the horse he named, which promptly finished a poor fourth. Cue looks of panic and consternation as Khadish realised that her money was lost, and that there was no perfect system. Except that, for her, there was, as Brown had not put her money on the beaten horse – he’d put it on the winner, and she was 13 grand to the good. Possibly. Brown revealed the way he had actually constructed the perfect system. He had originally contacted some 7,000 people out of the blue, giving them a tip in a six-runner race. One-sixth of the people had been given each of the six runners in the race. Of course, over 1,000 of them were on a winner. That thousand then received another tip. Once again, onesixth of them were winners. Same thing for the next race. Eventually, as the sixths divided down, Khadesha was the only one left who had been given only winners and was, of course, believing that Brown had supernatural powers. He didn’t. He hasn’t, although he is a supreme illusionist who makes tremendously entertaining TV shows, and spends a - 126 -


great deal of money doing so – everyone else in the programme who had put money on his losing selections had been given their cash back. But he can’t tip winners. Just remember that the next time you are tempted by a tipster, making extravagant, unlikely and almost certainly fraudulent claims to the contrary. There is no shortage of people prepared to try to persuade you that they can put you on to ‘good things’ every day of the week, that they are privy to ‘inside info’ about ‘job horses’ sure to charge home at 20/1 – if only you will cross their palm with silver in any shape or form. Do not submit to the temptation or you will surely find yourself severely disillusioned and very much the poorer. If you won’t believe me, listen to respected TV news presenter Dermot Murnaghan, who revealed to the Sunday Times in January 2008, ‘I once subscribed to a telephone horse-tipping service that promised me huge success. It cost several hundred pounds a year for the service, but the real losses were on the races. However many thousands of pounds it promised in winnings, believe me, the truth was the reverse times ten.’ Of course, there are some extremely reputable and worthwhile operators whose advice is to be trusted. But these are not the guys you will find writing to you in headlines, promising winners galore and cash aplenty. The search for the mythical Holy Grail, the key to The Da Vinci Code, the secret of eternal life, the mystery of the alchemists’ art or where Derek Thompson gets the energy to maintain an almost permanent media presence – these - 127 -


are as nought compared with the frantic cravings of a vast number of punters to discover the perfect winner-finding system. That system does not exist; not in any legal format, at least. But a few years back I suddenly found myself the target of people endeavouring to convince me that it did. A Cornish gentleman, prepared to permit me to know him only as Mr Winner, had clearly spent time considering how best to harness the potential of his own version of the perfect system: ‘I know, I’ll blackmail the bookies with it – and I’ll start with that bloke Graham Sharpe at William Hill.’ Mr Winner discovered my office address and wrote to me, outlining his financial demands and threatening that in the event I declined he would unleash the full might of his system on my company. I make a small diversion at this point, to tell you the cautionary tale of Cliff Goodwin (seriously, that really was his name), managing director of a company called KSB Software, based in the North East, who had contacted his local paper in Newcastle, informing them that he had devised an infallible, computer-based winner-finding system. Cliff’s ‘Master Tipper’ programme was guaranteeing a 90 per cent success rate. Was I aware, asked the reporter, that my industry was about to be put out of business by one punter and his computer? Never able to resist a challenge, I told the paper I would invite Mr Goodwin and Master Tipper to set up in one of our Newcastle shops and do his best to close us down. They were - 128 -


welcome to come along and watch – and I’d even start him off with £100 of bets to place on behalf of a charity of the paper’s choice. I flew up to Geordieland (also a horse I have backed many times) – receiving slightly less media coverage than had I booked a ticket under the name of Keegan. The local media turned out in force to film, record and report the confrontation. A quietly confident Cliff Goodwin plugged in, telling me that he was concerned enough for the future well-being of the nation’s bookies to promise that he would keep the price of his programme high enough to deter all but the most fervent of winner seekers from buying it. Hardly the greatest sales technique I’d ever heard. Came the big moment, and Cliff’s computer coughed out its selections for the afternoon’s sport. They came under orders for the first of Cliff’s runners. The cameras rolled and a hushed atmosphere of excited anticipation descended on the shop. Master Tipper’s tip, Absonant, was 11/8 favourite. The horse ran out at the third hurdle. Cliff was only slightly nonplussed, although I’m sure I recall him giving the computer a hard, meaningful glare. His next three selections fared better, in that they all made it round the course – in their own good time, and not troubling the judge in the process. I went back to London. Cliff went back to the drawing board. - 129 -


But, to return to the patiently waiting Mr Winner. He had written to me: ‘I have always believed that there was a system that would work. During the holidays last year [in Cornwall, perhaps, I wondered] I came up with what I considered to be a foolproof system. I watched the results every day, and every day my system worked and showed an average profit of £2,000 each week. At present I am the only person who knows it. When I realised the full potential of it I decided to offer it to you, thinking that you would want to buy it so that you could take out a world copyright on it. This would mean that I could not sell it to any other punters. My price for this system is £500,000.’ What a thoughtful, caring chap, I thought. If only someone had at that time come up with a TV programme called Dragon’s Den, Mr Winner could have gone to them for his money. ‘I obviously do not expect you to send a cheque for £500,000 through the post. When you have made your decision please send your reply to the address shown on my SAE. [Nice of him to put a stamp on the envelope, wasn’t it?]. If you do not pay I promise that I will not only use it myself, but I will tell it to a few mates and move around the country and win that money within five years.’ Now, this was worrying. This man had mates! I wrote to Mr Winner, inviting, nay daring him to go right ahead and set about bankrupting us with his system. I might have forgotten to inform my bosses of this potentially ruinous strategy. - 130 -


Shortly after he rang – I actually spoke in polite terms to this chap with the comic Cornish accent – to tell me: ‘Last week we [oh no, he did have real mates] ’ad £560, all right?’ Thinking about it now, he may have said ‘orl roight’. I can’t be sure. Then Mr Winner put pen to paper again – ‘I did as you suggested. In the week ending 17 April my total profit – excluding petrol – was £875.50. As you can see, I’m very serious about this matter of getting my deserved £500,000.’ Yes, so serious that even if I believed his current success rate, it would take him over ten years. Declaring that he was now thinking of advertising the system, Mr Winner continued, ‘If your bosses are daft enough to say no without even seeing me face to face then say so, as it will save me wondering whether to order my new Lotus now as there is a 20-week waiting list, or leave it until the money comes pouring in from my advert. Do not forget that it is cheaper for you to pay me for my system than be made bankrupt.’ And with that parting shot, Mr Winner was gone – never to be heard of again. And for all I know he may well be living it up on a tropical island with enough money to burn. When I was in Cornwall recently I did hear a number of people who sounded as though they may be close relatives of Mr Winner, but I suppose I shall never know what became of him. Mind you, does that Harry Findlay sound a bit Cornish to you? Recently, I deliberately went out of my way to encourage dodgy-seeming characters to supply me with their marketing - 131 -


materials and come-ons, purposely to be able to advise you just what to look out for and discard forthwith, if not sooner. ‘PLOT HORSE’ screamed the first missive I received. ‘No “bull” on this service – only the CREAM of racing information. We are not going to bore you with how good we are plus endless lists of past “winners” – we firmly believe that the proof of the pudding is in the eating! You are in for a treat this coming Saturday – special ONE HORSE PLOT – indeed INFORMATION OF THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE CALIBRE.’ There followed a premium rated phone line, on calling which I gave up after seven minutes without being informed of the name of the ‘Plot Horse’. Do not fall for this type of scam. ‘Try us out,’ wheedled the next scamster who did at least have a classy-looking logo on his headed paper. ‘We are confident that after the first three gambles you will see for yourself how good our information is and be delighted you called us. The cost of this information is the odds to a £50 bet on the horses.’ Ah, yes, the old ‘just pay us the odds to £x’ con. I’m sure this particular example was as honest as the day is long (I am writing this on the shortest day of the year, it should be noted). But let’s just suppose that the perpetrators weren’t that honest. Suppose they decided to do a Derren Brown and pick a six-runner race and give a sixth of the people who contacted them the name of the first horse on the racecard, the next sixth the name of the second horse, and so on. Eventually they would have a sixth of the people they were dealing with guaranteed to be on a winner and very impressed with the service – so impressed - 132 -


they would be positively gagging for the next selection and happily encouraging all their mates to get involved. Avoid at all costs. ‘You have probably been dealing with some fly-bynight tipster and consistently losing your money,’ said the next fly-by-night tipster to contact me. ‘Why not contact a professional and be a winner,’ he asked, clearly rhetorically, as there was no question mark appended. Why not, indeed? Maybe this chap knows one, I thought. ‘I WILL WIN YOU MONEY REGULARLY.’ Okay, okay, no need to shout at me. ‘I have contacts in the north, at Lambourn and at Newmarket,’ he continued. ‘Ring me this Friday evening between 5.30 and 10.30.’ What, for five hours? No chance, mate. Well, I did ring – and, guess what, he wanted me to put cash on this horse, whose name would cost me nothing – although, if I wanted any more, I should put a sizeable sum on at the best odds for him and send the cash off. I’ll think about, I told him. But don’t you think about it for one nanosecond. Now, then, this sounds more like it: ‘Here is the ultimate, winning horse racing system, no ifs ands or buts.’ I don’t know about you, but I have quite a fondness for ‘ifs’, I rather enjoy ‘ands’, and I don’t know how I’d ever write a book without ‘buts’ – however, I’ll read on. ‘There has never been a more effective or successful way of getting results – it is not a gamble but a sound investment, dedicated to making a huge profit from the bookmakers. Will make you a profit of £350 a week. Guaranteed.’ Yawn, yawn. What do I have - 133 -


to do? Oh, fill in a form, get a stamp and send a cheque for £45 – what, he hasn’t even got a telephone? Forget it. Then I was sent ‘The amazing good life’ system; followed by the ‘Be £11,240 richer’ system; not forgetting the ‘Win over £844 in cash in less than seven days’ system; or the ‘If this gets beat I’m giving up betting’ (I bet he won’t) system. I was encouraged to have a go with the ‘Advisory service that keeps its promises’ system for which ‘You pay only when you win – what could be fairer than that?’. I was almost tempted by the work-rider who wrote to me explaining that ‘I get very limited opportunities to make contact with the racing fraternity off-course’. Very limited? What’s the point of telling me that? How is that a boast? As a boast it is very nearly as persuasive as his guarantee that ‘should any two of my three horses not win then your £50 will be replaced with a free £50 bet wagered on your behalf as a double at the Brighton meeting on Wednesday’. Wow, how about that!? There were literally dozens more of these things, all useless, worthless and not worth the flimsy paper they were printed on. At least this one was a little different: ‘I have been thrashing the British bookmakers for two years. Many of the best horses are now taking regular milkshakes.’ Thus read a letter from a racing tipster calling himself Tim ‘The Vet’ Eastman, who wrote to numerous potential clients, offering for £999 to provide them with the names of 250 horses certain to win races because their trainers have been feeding

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them ‘milkshakes’ designed to help improve performances by masking the presence of banned medication and drugs. Eastman, who gave a bogus address in Guildford in his letter, laughably bragged that subscribers would earn £3 million within five years, claiming that the guarantee was underwritten by a respectable financial company and making many other unsubstantiated claims for his dubious services, such as having won $18 million in the States in nine years. He offered no reason why, should that be the case, he would feel the need to share his secrets with outsiders. Concerned that recipients of the letter could well be cheated out of potentially large amounts of cash, the Horseracing Regulatory Authority’s Owen Byrne intervened, telling anyone tempted to take it seriously that ‘it’s quite obvious it’s pure fantasy’. As I was writing this piece in 2008, I read in the Racing Post a story by Graham Green, warning: ‘Fraudsters operating under the guise of Independent Equine Agents are again preparing to fleece punters.’ The article revealed that there is some hope for unwary potential victim punters, quoting BHA spokesman Paul Struthers as saying, ‘The Office of Fair Trading’s Scambusters have our full support and we will continue to work closely with them to ensure that those who use the lure of racing to try to con innocent people out of their hard-earned money are stopped.’ Hear, hear to that, say I – but people must realise that they can be their own worst enemies by being gullible enough to fall for such schemes and scams.

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Okay then, perhaps these systems and their perpetrators are yesterday’s men, perhaps the real place to find guaranteed winners is on the internet. I logged on to www.google.com and fed in the words ‘racing tipsters’. Up came a possible 49,100 sites. No, I certainly did not investigate all of them – nor, indeed, many of them. One look at the headlines ‘Bank Booster’, ‘Free Trial’, ‘Superb Tips’, ‘Awesome £6,790 profit since July 07’ – didn’t say whether that was 2007, 1907 or 1807, actually – put me off. I scrolled through a few of the offerings, finding only web versions of the traditional mailings. Admittedly there are sites out there boasting free tips and forum chats with like-minded people which can do no harm but do not promise to make you money. But, really, stake my word for it – if any system whatsoever could provide consistent profits, firstly, why would anyone want to let you know about it and secondly, if it did what it said on the tin, where would you eventually find the bookies prepared to take your bets? Look, one of the great problems with system sellers is that they can always produce stats to back up their claims, but listen to experienced betting man Sean Trivass, telling readers of Antepost magazine in March 2008 that ‘most [systems] simply backfit old racing statistics to find a winning method from past results, with little chance of it ever succeeding again’. Trivass also took a look at what is on offer online and even paid good money to download some systems. ‘I must admit,

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at first glance, they made a lot of sense,’ he said. But once the second glance went in, Trivass was not too optimistic: ‘Some are, in my opinion, deliberately designed to be so complicated that they are impossible to manage, and the punter parting with his hard-earned never really gets the chance to find out whether it works or not – and will find it difficult to get their money back even if they can track down the culprit.’ Believe me, please. The best system is this one – ignore all systems which will cost you money to operate. And you can have that one system, guaranteed to make you more – or cost you less, perhaps I should say – money than 99.99 per cent of all other systems, totally free, with my compliments. Just as I was putting the finishing touches to this section of the book, I received this letter – very resistible, but typical of its type. If you receive one, bin it at once.

Dear Sir, We are highly respected as consultants on all financial markets whether it be commodities, shares or betting. You may be aware that ‘The Jockey Club’ restricts racehorse trainers and owners from backing and laying their own horses, as are the directors forbidden to trade in their own shares without informing the FSA.

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We currently have 50 horses in training throughout the UK and are obviously privy to the finest information. We are not tipsters looking to sell you information or a service of any kind. It is possible that in return for paying you a regular monthly income you can assist us in using our money to profit from our privileged position. There is no financial risk to you and it is not time consuming. No experience is needed. Please call without obligation. Yours faithfully, xxxxxxx

Just to show there’s nothing new under the sun – the Morning Chronicle in 1818 ran this advert: ‘A gentleman of respectability has discovered a method of winning at any game of chance, fairly and honestly, to a certainty, by a method hitherto unknown – he will sell the secret for a consideration.’ And I bet he received dozens of replies! MOORE OR LESS

James Moore is an experienced journalist, punter and Sheffield United supporter, who was a key writer for the ill- 138 -


fated Sportsman. Now with The Independent, he explains, in convincing style, a colourful system to which he has been introduced. There is nothing worse for the experienced punter than watching the odds on banker, which was supposed to offer a get out of jail free card in the last, go down by a short head to 33-1 outsider. That horrible sick feeling is made much, much worse if you are unfortunate enough to be standing next to a hen party screaming with delight having all had minimum £2 each-way bets on the seeming no hoper that beat your selection by a head because the bride-to-be ‘liked the colours’. It is scarcely less irritating when the person next to you is not from a hen party but is Scott White, who has seemingly represented the PR interests of half of Scotland’s financial services companies when he is not furiously punting at racecourses up and down Britain (and France, and Ireland). White, it should be said, does not scream with delight. He simply nods sagely and says knowingly, ‘Colours,’ when his 33-1 shot comes in, before re-attaching his sunglasses and heading off to pick up a fistful of fifties. And yet he’s a knowledgeable and annoyingly successful punter. What’s going on? Well, there is a method to his seeming madness. The colours system he uses is based on the theory that poor owners do not win rich races and it therefore pays to back the richest, most powerful owners with the financial - 139 -


firepower to buy the best quality bloodstock. It is the racing equivalent of supporting Manchester United or Chelsea. When following the system (which is most of the time) White backs horses running in the colours of the most powerful owners. They will include runners whose jockeys bear the midnight blue livery of the likes of Mrs Sue Magnier; the royal blue of Godolphin; the green, white and pink of Prince Khaled Abdullah; and the green and red of the Aga Kahn. You could also include any of the Maktoums who make up the Godolphin syndicate when their horses run in their own, individual colours. The red blue and white of the Cheveley Park stud and the blue with a white chevron of the Ballymacol Stud can also be considered as ‘colours’ owners, as could Princess Haya of Jordan. The system can be applied to the jumps too. But during the winter months colours horses might be those running in the famous green and gold of JP McManus; the blue, green and white of David Johnson; Andy Stewart’s red white and black; the green, yellow and white of Trevor Hemmings; and Graham Wylie’s distinctive beige and brown. The obvious flaw in the system is that horses lining up for the richest races will often be dominated by colours horses. It therefore requires a little refinement. First of all, when using the colours system it helps to have a good knowledge of said owners and where their horses do well. Horses in the Magnier colours (or those of Ballydoyle co-owners Michael Tabor or Derrick Smith) have a terrific

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record in the Derby, for example, while you’d probably want to avoid the royal blue of Godolphin in that great race. By contrast, the latter’s horses could be profitably followed in races such as the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, or the King George and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at the same venue in the middle of summer. The same holds true for the jumps. JP McManus has the resources to buy some of the best jumps horses money can buy, but backing his colours blind at venues such as Taunton or Plumpton all but guarantees a quick trip to the poorhouse. Sadly all too many of them are simply not much good, and even the masterful Tony McCoy (his retained jockey) can’t always conjure a silk purse from a sow’s ear. But for those at the top of JP’s pyramid it’s a different matter, particularly at the Cheltenham Festival in races such as the National Hunt Chase. The system can be further refined by utilising the concept of value – backing colours horses at a higher prices than their ability/past form suggest they ought to be running at and backing an owner’s second string in a race. Examples of colours coups identified like this include 2007’s Coronation Cup winner Scorpion (8-1) which turned over stable mate Septimus (3-1), and was available at some very fancy prices in the days leading up to the race. Over the jumps Butlers Cabin – the McManus second string – came home at 33-1 in the aforementioned National

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Hunt Chase at the 2007 Festival. Garde Champetre, which looked to be the first, managed only ninth as the 12-1 joint fourth favourite in a field of 19. Sometimes when a race is made up entirely of colours horses (common in Group Ones on the flat), you might have to simply rely on old-fashioned form study. But in races such as the Derby, or the 2000 Guineas, where plenty of owners simply like to have a runner for the sheer joy of it, it can dramatically reduce the size of the field. Unfortunately following this system does mean you would miss out on the likes of Sir Percy (6-1 winner of the 2006 Derby), Motivator (3-1 winner of the 2005 renewal) or Cockney Rebel (25-1 winner of the 2007 2000 Guineas). None of the owners of those relatively cheaply bought horses had colours which would qualify. However, on the plus side colours horses owned by the likes of Prince Khalid Abdullah and Cheveley Park often turn up in the big and valuable flat handicaps, making the choice from big fields much easier. The system also allows for betting heavily on oddson shots in races such as all-weather maidens, where colours horses occasionally turn up at short prices. ‘You just have to ask yourself why that horse has been entered in that sort of race,’ says White. ‘The trainer will not want the owner to leave embarrassed, and that’s the clue.’

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I managed to persuade top tabloid tipster David Mitchell of the Daily Mirror to give me his top ten great racing tips:

1. With the current maximum number of meetings jockeys can ride in per week being nine, look out for a top name having just the one ride on an afternoon card before going on to a later meeting, or making the teatime effort at a late fixture for the one booking. 2. Never, never, never back a horse in a three mile plus chase with over 11 stone on its back. I know the odd one will creep in but, generally, this is the best value call in racing. 3. Look for a top man over jumps doing a light weight for a yard he seldom rides for. 4. Number crunch the stats of an established race before you have a bet. They are readily available and mean everything to finding winners.

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5. Check trainers you follow at a course where you know their target horses: Victor Dartnall and Nick Williams at Uttoxeter, for example. 6. Always look for course specialists at ‘freak’ tracks such as Carlisle, Kelso and Towcester. Southwell is a punter’s paradise as long as you stick to the regulars and take your time in picking when they are handicapped to strike. 7. Know your trainers and look for well-handicapped horse transfers to yards which are renowned for their first time out strike-rate. Sir Rembrandt was a classic case in point when he won at the Paddy Power meeting in November 2007. He left Robert Alner for the harder training regime of Victor Dartnall and was a 15-2 certainty on the day. 8. Watch the top apprentices in the Heritage Flat handicaps. With confidence high in the saddle those seven-pound, five-pound and three-pound claims really do make a difference, as Dark Missile (22-1) and William Buick showed in the 2007 Wokingham.

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9. Please don’t get lazy on draw preferences which are more important than I can emphasise. Use the draw as a crucial part of ‘working’ a race when you are getting the likely tactics sorted out. 10. Always read ‘Value Scope’ in the Daily Mirror on Saturdays.


Here are some words of wisdom from the Channel 4 and Timeform sage, Jim McGrath: ‘You can analyse all the other factors – jockey, trainer, trip etc – but if the ground is wrong, none of it really matters.’ ‘Try to leave placing your bet as late as possible. It’s difficult to keep an eye on movements in the betting ring AND get a good look at the horses but if you’re at the course you can gain a good impression of a horse’s well being by studying him in the pre-parade ring and then, if you like what you see, nip off to the ring to get on.’ ‘Keep an eye out for horses moving up in distance if they have been noted as running on well towards the end of a shorter race.’ - 145 -


‘If a horse runs badly, and there is a good excuse, give it another chance. But if you don’t know why it ran badly, leave it alone.’ ‘Don’t take the form in two-mile “bumpers”, National Hunt Flat Races, as an indication of equal merit with form over two miles on the Flat.’ ‘A major (betting) move at a big meeting is much more significant than at a small meeting, where crowds are sparse.’ ‘Be wary of first-time blinkers when fitted to stayers. With sprinters they often give a horse an edge.’ ‘If a small trainer sends a horse on a very long journey to run, that could be the opportunity for a value bet.’ FRANCOME’S PADDOCK POINTERS

In an interview by Peter Thomas of the Racing Post in January 2008, John Francome revealed the fruits of his years of experience, by pointing out what punters should look for whilst perusing in the paddock:  Ignore horses who are edgy and not cool, calm and collected – unless you are aware that this is their usual demeanour. - 146 -


 Forget about paddock inspection for jumpers, who spend too much time wrapped up in rugs.  Study horses with the light behind you and your head held still.  Never only look at the horses you fancy – check out the whole field.  Look for a coat with ‘real lustre’.  Sprinters must have broad chests, be well muscled and look powerful, from front, sideways and behind.  Try to listen out for the horse’s breathing – ‘You don’t want something you can hear coming a mile off.’  Big feet are an asset on soft ground.  Two year olds – the bigger and taller, the better.  Horses displaying evidence of sexual excitement – ‘You’re better off leaving them alone until they’ve had their knackers removed.’

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As well as being a long-suffering Preston North End fan, Tony Paley has a formidable racing and punting pedigree, having edited the (then) Sporting Life Weekender and more recently played a significant role for the racing desks at the Observer and the Guardian. Tony thinks deeply about the battle against the bookies and here are some of the most crucial fruits of his labours over the years:

1. The first question to ask when you want a bet is: How will this race be run? And the second: Will it suit the horse I am interested in backing? 2. Watch as many horse races as possible, even if the over-excitable Mark Johnson or the terminally bored Graham Goode is commentating. 3. Look at every horse in the race, not just the one you’ve backed. 4. Concentrate virtually wholly on the better class of animals in the higher-grade races. 5. Cram as much form study in as time will allow. - 148 -


6. When you find a horse ‘coming to the boil’ and running into form back on a winnable rating, stick with it. It will almost certainly pay its way in time. 7. The going and the draw are the two most important variables in determining the outcome of any horse race. 8. If there are doubts about the going, draw bias, the price or any other highly important variable, wait till the very last minute until having a bet. 9. Keep your pockets sewn up when the ground is officially heavy. 10. The influence of weight is vastly overrated. In the majority of cases horses will not reverse the form despite being better off at the weights. 11. Only forgive a horse an unlucky-in-running run once. The vast majority who repeat the offence will repeatedly find trouble. 12. Follow horses that travel well in races and/or have demonstrated a turn of foot in a truly run race.

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13. Look, look and look again at the stats history of the big races but use them intelligently. Buffoons on television telling us that no horse above draw nine can win the John Smith’s Cup should remember that that is only true when the ground isn’t on the soft side of good. And that’s a fact. 14. It’s the Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot, the Derby, the Grand National. You don’t HAVE to have a bet. 15. Concentrate at specialist courses like Brighton or Goodwood on horses that have demonstrated an ability to act at those tracks or have so much in hand their relative inability to do so won’t matter. 16. Study courses until you can study them no longer. Take on board that Ascot’s short straight requires different qualities in a horse than York or Newbury’s galloping terrains. 17. In sprints concentrate solely on horses in form. 18. The number of race meetings is set to continue growing at an alarming rate. Have an area you can specialise in, whether it be group races, sprints or middle-distance handicaps. - 150 -


19. Think like a bookmaker. Compile your own betting forecast, but above all be honest with yourself. Ask yourself if you would really offer those odds if you were a layer. 20.Must-have books for any serious punters library: Nick Mordin, Betting For A Living; Alan Potts, Against the Crowd; Mark Coton, Value Betting. The best to start with is the Racing Post’s Definitive Guide to Betting on Horses. 21. Go to the paddock. Learn the different types of physique and the good and bad signs displayed by horses before the race. Nick Mordin’s book The Winning Look covers all the bases. 22. Never underestimate the psychology and emotion involved in gambling. If your mood swings are extreme you’ll find it difficult to survive the inevitable losing runs. 23. Put a bank together, one you’re comfortable with, and have a staking plan sorted out, one that suits your particular style of betting.

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In 1998 John McCririck listed his top dozen systems:

1. Back the horse that won the same race last year. 2. Back horses blinkered or visored for the first time. 3. Back the outsider of three. 4. If a top jockey is riding at his absolute minimum weight back his horse. 5. In handicaps restrict yourself to horses running off their old mark when their new rating will be higher. 6. In amateur and apprentice races, go for the most experienced and best jockey, whatever he or she is riding. 7. Consider the effect of the draw sensibly. 8. When studying a maiden race, find out whether any of the runners are engaged in big races later in the season; those that are must be highly rated.

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9. Back the animal whose stable has sent it the longest distance for the race. 10. If the stable has more than one runner, go for the outsider. 11. Totally illogically, support horses with the same initials in forecasts. 12. Go for any horse whose racecard number is the same as its starting stall position.


Phil Bull should be declared the patron saint of racing punters. The bearded, cigar-chomping founder of the Timeform system was a keen punter and deep thinker. In 1970 he was interviewed by the Daily Telegraph magazine, to which he provided his own version of the Ten Commandments or the Lord’s Prayer for Punters:

1. Seek where thou wilt for winners, but bet only when thou seest value; deliver thyself from the temptation to bet in every race.

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2. Put not thy faith in luck, nor the law of averages, nor thy trust in staking systems, for these are delusions. 3. Let thy stake be related to the depth of thy pocket and to what thou regardest as the true chance of the horse; that which hath the greater chance deserveth the greater stake. 4. Thou shalt not bet each-way in big fields unless thou art well satisfied as to the value of the place bet. 5. Bet with book or Tote according to the judgement: thus shalt thou endeavour to get the best of both worlds. 6. Thou shalt not bet ante-post except upon horses that are known to be definite runners. 7. Beware the man who would sell thee a system; if thou knowest a profitable one, preserve it to thyself in silence. 8. Double and treble if you must; but bet not upon objections, for thou hast not the evidence and the stewards know not what they do. - 154 -


9. Let thy betting be informed by wisdom and diligence, and tempered by patience and caution, and leavened but a little with boldness. 10. Let thy bets be well within thy means: he that maketh his fortune in a week loseth his ducats in a day.


Daily Express racing correspondent Rolf Johnson suggests several interesting winner-finding methods. Back horses who finish last in their previous race (flat only). As I write this, in the last week Unlimited 33-1, Avontuur 12-1 and Waterside 8-13 illustrate variations on this theme. Unlimited came from a race where three horses had won next time (I mark these in my form book); Waterside, though he had finished last of eight had still run to 90 – virtually the same as his previous outing, so he was being consistent; while Avontuur – well, that’s more difficult – as was Mudawin when he won the Ebor at 100-1. But this is the ‘science’. Finishing last means it’s likely the horse had an easy race, or there was an obvious problem, which might be cured next time. If connections decide, say in Avontuur’s case, that it didn’t handle fibresand at - 155 -


Southwell, then switching it to polytrack might be an answer – the principle is that something radically different is tried. Waterside was dropped from a hot handicap to a claimer – the tendency is to drop horses in class when they’ve had an apparent stinker. Sometimes this drop is over the top. Finally, because of the previous finishing position, the odds are most likely to be exaggerated – whatever the real chance of the horses. Take all these factors together, and then think twice, and you will find yourself amazed at the number of times this happens. Value – tosh. It’s not just that value is utterly subjective and as such you can’t (shouldn’t) take anyone else’s opinion as gospel. All tipsters’ careers, like those of politicians, end in failure. (I’m waiting for one of them to advertise himself as ‘the tipster the punters fear’). ‘Value’ doesn’t exist until the result is announced. Value has become a cliché, a sucker punch to draw us in to backing something we otherwise might not. Look, there’s a package holiday deal – great value. You go for it, then the firm goes bust; you’ve done your cash. Nothing is of value unless you can trade it – and that’s why Betfair is the success it is. With Betfair there is an opportunity to retrieve a position that would otherwise have been lost. How long it will last? The Betfair market has matured so quickly it is almost as perfect as it can get. Bet to rhythms. We all know Sir Mark Prescott doesn’t start in earnest till July. Bill Turner will have runners ready for the first week of the season. Sir Michael Stoute’s two- 156 -


year-olds are the latest to start. Don’t worry what price Richard Hannon’s juveniles go off at. I could go on and on, but make a study and try to work it out for yourself. I would once always back a Martin Pipe-trained runner which hadn’t been out for 900 or more days – they invariably won. Then everyone caught on so it was time to move on. Keep adapting. Having worked with Ryan Price, David Elsworth and Toby Balding, I could write a book on each of them. Observe trainers’ practices yourself and you can write your own book. Look at horses. They’re your counters, why ignore them? They are silent yet will tell you most of what you want to know if you observe them. Every horse is a picture: look at it, value it and bid for it. Goodness, though, there are so many variables – walking the course is another and how many of us can do that? I certainly don’t mean to inhibit anyone but the importance of study was shown when the prosecution witness in last year’s ‘Fallon trial’ suggested Darren Williams had gone right across the course at Newcastle on Chispa and therefore wasn’t trying. What he failed to point out was that the same tactics paid off in the three other races on the straight course at Newcastle that day. Remember, though, the jockeys at Newcastle were making the manoeuvre for the benefit of their mounts – we’re back where we started, with the horse. Since racing expanded to the monster it has become, you must not only reduce the frequency of punting, but also decide which areas to concentrate on. At Timeform - 157 -


we were always taught juvenile hurdlers were the best medium for jumping: on the Flat, three-year-old maidens. I wouldn’t presume to be categorical about what another person’s speciality might be, but stick to it. There is so much racing few punters can realistically cover the whole spectrum. I know this is a hard discipline to maintain but you’ve got to ask yourself the most important question – do I really want to win? Or am I punting as an entertainment? Over the years there is always one kind of jockey who gives you an edge – and the beauty is that it’s never the same one. So if you can latch onto the apprentice who is claiming more allowance than he or she should be, don’t hesitate to follow them – not blindly, but whenever you have from three to seven pounds on your side, don’t knock it. It can even be ten pounds if the jockey is riding for his stable. At Wincanton in January 2008, one jockey – Liam Treadwell, who had ridden out his claim against Tony McCoy, Ruby Walsh et al – was able to claim three pounds as he was riding for his own stable in a boys’ race. Did he win? You bet he did. Watch for runners after the line. We scrutinise them in the paper, in the form book, in the parade ring and going down to the start for clues. Then the important bit, the race. But what about after it? At places like Goodwood and Salisbury or Brighton where the pull ups are short, it’s difficult to get an impression of whether a horse is winding down crossing the line or capsizing – similarly at Epsom

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where they disappear round a bend, downhill, shortly after the winning post. But when you see something galloping on after the winning post down the back straight at Newcastle or Newbury or carrying on up the hill at Sandown, ask yourself why. Did it need further? Were the ones in front stopping? Ask all the questions you would want to know the answers to – if you hadn’t turned away to celebrate the winner or bemoan getting beaten. WHAT NOT TO DO

Geoffrey Gilbey, racing writer in the Daily Express and Sunday Express, came up with a 1933 definition of ‘mug punters’ which stands out as being true to this day:

 Those who have a bet on every race, on every day of the week  Those who back horses because they like their names  Those who back jockeys’ tips  Those who double up on the selections of a racing journalist when he is out of luck

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 Those who plunge on a horse because they know somebody who knows somebody else whose kitchen maid is walking out with a lad in the stable where the certainty is sheltered

Recognise yourself? Then go back and read again the positive advice contained in this book. RACING POST ROYAL ASCOT RULES

Respect horses with previous course form – Paul Kealy Concentrate on unravelling two - or at most three - races per day – Mel Cullinan Don’t rely on horses coming into their own with, or being found out by, the stiff finish. It isn’t there any more – Richard Austin Pile in again if your selection drifts – Pietro Innocenzi

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The 1950s may have been the heyday of the racing system. And the acknowledged doyen of the systems world in those far off times was one RW Wood, the Nick Mordin of his day. This was a man so obsessed by the subject that he created a vast collection of over 1,500 racing systems, quite happily paying for them – shelling out over £2,000 in the process; no mean sum back then when the average weekly wage was probably well under a fiver. So, for your delight and edification with no unnecessary prevarication, prepare for elucidation and enlightenment as I proffer up for your future enrichment 50 from the fifties – systems, that is, one or two now redundant, but most still useable, should you wish.

1. Provided that nine or more run in the Derby back the second and third each time they run the same season. 2. In the City & Suburban and Great Metropolitan, if 16 or 17 run, follow the winner until it wins again, and the second until it wins or loses twice. If more than 17 run, follow both the winner and second until they win again or until the end of the season.

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3. Follow the next season, twice only, all that start at less than 20/1 in the Atlantic Stakes at the Liverpool July meeting. 4. In the Wokingham Stakes back the first five in the betting next time out only, provided at least 12 ran. 5. Follow the next season, twice only, the winner of any race at Epsom, provided that there were 17 or more runners. 6. Also follow twice only, the next season, any horse that ran second in a field of 19 or more in any race at Epsom. 7. Back the two horses that are second and fourth in the betting forecast of your mid-day paper. If you want to bet in one race a day take the principal race only, but always keep to the principal race. No bet if there are less than seven runners. 8. Any horse which runs first, second or third, and runs again within eight days (excluding Sundays), is to be backed each-way. Should it lose, but get placed, back it once more.

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9. Back every horse that has run second the last time out. If it wins never make it a loser till it does lose [I didn’t invent this system! GS] then do not back it again until it gets second. 10. Back the most tipped horse in the fourth race of the day up to August 1. After August 1, back the most tipped horse in the last race of the day up to November. During November you back the second most tipped horse in the last race of the day. 11. [Those who remember serial losers, Amrullah and Quixall Crossett should look away now! – GS] When a horse has run ten times without winning, and is still in the same stable, follow it with a small stake each time it runs. If there are more than one in a race, back the lot, as the prices are always big. You can afford to follow each and increase slightly after each failure, as you missed them during their long run of ten losing races. 12. Back the favourite of the second and last race at the Principal Meeting each day. Commence with a stake of £1 then double up on both races until a winner. Each race must be worked separately.

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13. The world’s simplest system – and certainly one of the best – is to support non-handicap favourites, especially in the second half of the flat racing season. 14. Select the non-handicap race with the smallest field, provided that the forecast favourite is at odds against and there are six or more runners. The system bet is two points on the favourite and one point on the second favourite. 15. There are several ways of picking out likely horses for trebles. SP favourites will appeal to the majority. One suggestion is that the SP favourites in three non-handicap races be chosen daily. 16. Pay special attention to the favourites in two-yearold non-sellers. 17. This system operates on the Classics only and can claim 17 winning seasons in the last 21 (as of 1950). The plan is as follows: Back the (named) favourite in the 2000 Guineas. If this does not win, back the favourite in the 1000 Guineas. If this fails

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to win, back the favourite in the Derby, and so on until a winner turns up. Use the following simple plan: one point First Classic; two points Second Classic; four points Third Classic; six points Fourth Classic; nine points Fifth Classic. 18. The winners of important or very open handicaps are often fourth or fifth quotations (newspaper SP forecasts). 19.The system horse in any five furlong race is the highest-weighted winner last time out. If there are no runners which won last time out, the highest-weighted second is chosen. If there are no qualifying seconds, the highest-weighted third is supported. Never more than one horse per race is backed, for in the event of there being two horses that won or were placed last time out and both are equally weighted, the race is void. 20. From all horses in the race (handicap) who were placed second or third last time they ran, take the one carrying the most weight and the one carrying the least. Of these two back the one with the more recent placing, PROVIDED there is a horse in the race who won on his previous outing and - 165 -


who is not carrying LESS weight than the TOP WEIGHT [still following here? GS] of your seconds and thirds. It does not matter if there are other previous winners carrying LESS weight than the top weight [keep up now, GS] of your seconds and thirds, provided at least ONE previous winner is carrying equal or more weight. If there are two or more horses carrying most or least weight, take the one with most recent placing. If still a tie, decide on a second over a third. If still a tie, nothing is done on the race. Operate on only one meeting a day. [Simple, what? GS] 21. From the beginning of November, backers should support the SP favourites in chases of all lengths that are not handicap chases. These favourites do best in the period before Christmas. 22. Take the selection of a reliable correspondent or paper catering entirely for racing enthusiasts and back the first selection. If a loser, the next selection is backed and so on, until a winner is found. The betting stops at the first winner.

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23. They say that January is a bad month for the backing of favourites. The system I have used in January (and later) with excellent results well deserves to be called a ‘Certainty’ system, yet the one rule is absurdly simple. It is this: Back the favourite in any type of race that has six runners or less. 24. Following a stable during the jumping season can be profitable. Small stables are better to follow than large ones for the reason that the smaller trainers, whose very living depends on getting winners for their clients, do not throw away entry fees or incur travelling expenses on horses that have not outstanding chances of winning. Choose a small one – or two – and stick to the stable entries. You will be on the jobs that are readied. 25. Best races for favourites ‘over the sticks’… Cheltenham: Hawling Hurdle; Cirencester Chase; Tewkesbury Chase; Gotherington Novices Hurdle. Liverpool: Champion Chase; Valentine Chase; Liverpool Foxhunters’ Chase. Sandown: Chertsey Chase; Lilac Open Chase; Warren Chase; Withington Chase; Grand Military Hunters’ Chase.

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26. Follow all those that start at 20/1 or less in the Stewards’ Cup; the first in the betting back next time out only. The others, back until they win, or lose five times. 27. Keep a list of the naps given by any number of newspaper informants. After, say, six days, look over your records and back the nap of the informant who has lost most in succession. 28. Select a six-furlong event, choose the most valuable. The selection is the latest WINNER last time out, providing it has not missed any engagements since winning. If no winner, turn to SECONDS; and if no seconds, to THIRDS; if nothing discovered, pass over the day’s racing. 29. On course method: Back all horses in twoyear-old non selling races and three-year-old Maiden Races which start odds on, for Place only, providing there are at least five runners, with Minimum Stake. 30. Back any horse for the next two outings that has been the medium of a ‘Job’ and been beaten, providing it runs second or third. Only take horses

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that ‘fall’ at least six points from the price quoted in betting forecasts. 31. Back all horses which won the previous day at any meeting. Should two system horses run in the same race the bet should be worded to back either if only one runs, but if both run NO bet. 32. During the months of March, April and May take the first horse down which won on either of its last two outings in the first five-furlong race down the programme, if no race of this distance take the six furlong, then the seven furlong. Should there be two races or more which qualify take the one with most runners. 33. For June take the selling race and if more than one take the most valuable, if of same value take shortest distance. To find the horse take the one which was second in either of its last three outings, working upwards from the bottom of the race. 34. For July take the first horse down in the first race which won on either of its last two outings, but preference is given to the horse which won last

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time out. If no horse qualifies in that race take the sixth race, then the fifth and so on until a horse qualifies. 35. For the month of August take the fifth horse down which won the last time out in the first race. Should one fail to qualify take the first horse down which won last time out in the last race. No race to be taken with less than seven runners and if more than one meeting, take the most important. 36. For September take the first horse down the programme which won either of its last three outings previous to the last time out, and if more than one meeting, take the most important. 37. For the months of October and November take the first horse down which won either of its last three outings in the last race at the most important meeting. If no horse won take the first horse which was second in either of its last three outings; failing that, take the horse which was third in the last three outings.

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38. Back the horse carrying the most weight of those placed last time out this year, but which is receiving NOT LESS THAN five pounds FROM THE TOP WEIGHT – but if only one horse is so placed, three pounds qualifies. 39. From the runners in each race select those finishing first or second last time out. Take away from these any quoted in the betting forecast of the early morning papers at less than 2/1. This will probably leave a sole selection to be backed each way. If two or more remain back the one best placed last time out or invest to win only on each. 40.Back the first and second favourites in every race. Each horse should be backed with a level stake but after a losing week [Just the one? – GS] the stakes for the following week should be increased by one quarter, coming back to the original stakes when a profit is shown. 41. List all horses that win races of six or more runners of from one mile to one mile and a quarter by four lengths or more. If two or more run in the same race back the one that won by the greatest number of lengths. - 171 -


42. Select a two-year-old race and if the first horse mentioned in the betting forecast is more than 3/1, the horse to qualify is the second. 43. List two-year-olds beaten a neck or head in a field of ten or more. Follow all horses with a level stake the next time out until the animal in question is beaten. If two horses to be backed run in the same race back the one with most recent form. 44.Have three bets per week and stake as follows: £1 to win, the treble; £1 to win, three cross doubles; £1 to win, each horse singly. The choice of the horses rests with the backer. 45. Take six reputable [That’s the end of that system! – GS] sporting journalists attached to daily papers. Make a note of their daily naps and do not begin to bet until six consecutive losers have been given by one tipster. Then follow him until a winner turns up or four consecutive losers are backed. If more than three tipsters nap the same horse, ignore it, as the price is likely to be short. 46. List all first favourites placed second in fields of eight or more and beaten by not more than one and a half lengths. Back these next time out - 172 -


irrespective of the date when listed, provided they give six pounds or over away. 47. List all winners of £1,000 races or over [suggest rather heftier value these days, GS]. Back them next time out, also the time after, provided the weight is not increased by more than three pounds for every length the horse won by. 48.Choose two races in each of which the issue seems fairly clearly to rest with three horses. Suppose horses are A, B, C in one race and D, E, F in the other. Double them as follows – A.D., A.E., A.F., B.D., B.E., B.F., C.D., C.F. Try this, the WINS will surprise you. 49. Note the ‘most tipped’ horse of the day from the summary of any mid-day sporting paper. When the indicated horse has lost twice consecutively back the horse indicated on the third and fourth days only. If the horse wins on third day, ignore the fourth day’s indication and wait for two more ‘most tipped’ horses. 50. The last system Wood recommended in his legendary 100 World Famous Racing Systems (price 20 shillings – or, to you, a quid) is presumably - 173 -


his least favourite, or perhaps his most favourite, thus signing off with a flourish. Decide for yourself – and use it at your peril… ‘Horses backed are the ‘most tipped’ in each race obtained from newspaper summaries. The prices in the papers are halved, say Campanula is 9/2 you call this 9/4 [with him so far? GS]. To win £1 you would put 9 shillings [45 pence] on, and if this loses you back the next horse to win £1 and your 9 shilling loss. Each time you lose you add your loss to the amount you desire to win. When you get a winner, start again. Do not bet on the Flat for first three weeks of the season. Start at commencement of the Hurdle season. For one bet per day the most tipped horse in the last race, if absent, the next most tipped and carry on until a winning balance.’ [See you in the Poor House!! GS]

‘There is a world of difference between intelligent betting and stupid gambling. The very word “gambling” suggests recklessness and folly, but if you are putting money on horses without some definite plan you are gambling – and a gambler cannot win consistently.’ – RW Wood

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 Keep an eye out for bookie incentives for opening accounts – particularly when big meetings are on. Free bets, concessions, match-bets, special offers abound.  Check the small print of your credit card – some providers have begun charging a fee for online betting transactions.  If you do fall foul of the above ‘take on’, ring the customer service line and plead ignorance – you’ll probably get the fee refunded (I did!) – but only once.  Use close family members who never bet and have no interest in it to get more than one go at concession offers.  Consult websites like freebets.co.uk to keep tabs on special offers.

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Prolific racing author and writer Sean Magee offers you his awesome insight. ‘A bet on a race brings hope into lives which otherwise would be hopeless’, declared the nineteenth-century writer George Moore in his novel Esther Waters, but my own betting career has been pretty hopeless in itself. Having committed the cardinal error of winning with my first ever bet – Morecambe in the 1958 Cesarewitch, who won me enough to purchase a D-type Jaguar (Dinky Toys version) – I have spent half a century trying, and completely failing, to bring to my betting even a modicum of the discipline which all experts insist is essential for any successful punter. So it is impertinent in the extreme for me to offer any hints for other punters – who by definition are better at the pursuit than myself – but here are half a dozen suggestions.  Don’t be afraid to follow your heart as well as your head. The idea of backing a horse because you want it to win rather than because you think it will win is derided by “serious” punters. But when you do win there is an extra lustre. Your soul is replenished, as well as your pocket. I backed Uncle Ernie, 20-1 winner of the 1997 Grand - 176 -


Annual at Cheltenham, because he was one of my favourite chasers, and because a few weeks earlier he had licked me when I visited Jimmy Fitzgerald’s Malton yard to pay my respects.  If you think you might back a horse but are in two minds about whether to have the bet or not, make the bet. I have never got over changing my mind about I Cried For You, just before the 2001 Cambridgeshire. As I waited for the bookmaker to answer the phone I overheard the Channel 4 Racing pundits sowing seeds of doubt regarding whether James Given’s gelding, a proven sevenfurlong horse, would stay the nine-furlong trip. I put down the phone without making the bet, and the form book tells how I Cried For You “was travelling embarrassingly easily entering the Dip and found plenty under pressure” before running out the easy winner at 33-1. Sheer agony. I decided there and then that the pain of backing a loser is as nothing to the torture of missing a good winner.  Read the Damon Runyon story “A Nice Price”, in which the gambler Sam the Gonoph learns that one bookmaker is quoting Yale at 1-3 to win the annual rowing race against Harvard: “I do - 177 -


not know anything about boat races,” Sam says, “and the Yales may figure as you say, but nothing between human beings is one to three. In fact,” Sam the Gonoph says, “I long ago come to the conclusion that all life is six to five against.” Sam’s observation that all life is 6-5 against is one of the most famous of betting quotes (right up there with the psychiatrist friend of Jeffrey Bernard who described betting as “collecting injustices”), but for a punter the insight that nothing between human beings is 1-3 can prove profitable when scanning the sports betting pages. Liverpool v. Barnsley and Barnsley v. Chelsea in the 2008 F.A. Cup come readily to mind as examples.  Politics can prove a wonderful betting medium – not because rank outsiders often win a political contest, but because by their very nature political fortunes flip-flop, and you can regularly manoeuvre yourself into the joyous position of having backed each of two at odds against. The trick is being able to detect a change in the political weather and strike at the optimum time. A week before the 1992 general election one bookmaker had Neil Kinnock-led Labour at 1-4, with John Major’s Conservatives on 5-2. With

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two days to go a Kinnock victory looked even more certain, and the same firm went 1-6 Labour, 7-2 Conservatives. Those with their ears to the ground sensed a late swing to the Tories in the wake of Labour’s notorious Sheffield rally, and many political savants made a killing by lumping on before the bookmakers got the message.  When betting on a horse race, always check the Tote price of your fancy before making the bet. Cases abound where the joy of backing a long-priced winner is shattered by the realisation that a simple glance at the Tote odds might have brought a much bigger return. Imagine this: you’re at Cheltenham in March 2008 and you fancy a small flutter on Mister McGoldrick for the Racing Post Plate; you have a tenner with a course bookmaker at 66-1, which turns out to be Mister McGoldrick’s starting price; he wins unchallenged; you’re on Cloud Nine as you trouser the £670 – then plummet through the cloud when you see that the Tote win return is £147, or 146-1, fully 80 points – 80 points! – better than SP.  Always give due consideration to a horse which has won the race in question before, whatever

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his recent form – and especially if the race has an unusual feature. For example, the Gold Cup at Ascot is the only top-flight contest of the Flat season in Britain run over 2½ miles, and given its extreme long distance it is no surprise that the race has produced plenty of dual winners and, in the great Sagaro and Yeats, two triple winners. Royal Rebel, 8-1 winner of the Gold Cup in 2001, seemed to have lost his form on the runup to the following year’s renewal, but there was obviously something about this eccentric contest which brought out the best in him, and he beat the great Vinnie Roe a neck at 16-1.

Finally, a blast of reality from W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman – of ‘1066 and All That’ fame – who in their book Horse Nonsense declare: ‘It hardly matters which horse you back. An enormous majority of them will lose the race anyway, so if you want to boast of your losses afterwards you have a pretty large choice.’ NOW SEAN TWO

Sean Trivass of bettingbanter.com, a very experienced punter and writer, sets you on the right path

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How to bet like a professional.

In a world full of technology, the problem can be information overload, and you have to make your own decisions having sifted through the many levels of assistance available over the internet. I like to deal in facts not rumours so race times come pretty high on my list. It may seem glaringly obvious but each and every race is always won by the horse in the fastest time on the day, be that after a late sprint or a war of attrition, and looking for a horse who has already recorded respectable times over similar distances is a good starting point. Next on my list is always the going - although some will tell you the best horses will handle any going that is the most unutterable drivel and every horse has his or her optimum conditions which should be glaringly obvious from a quick look at its win record. If the ground is wrong it does not mean they cannot win, but it does mean their chances are reduced accordingly. Course and distance is always a decent measure as well, as here in the UK we have such a wonderful variety of race courses, left handed right handed, flat, undulating, uphill and downhill finishes. Although some courses are comparable, the easiest option is to look for previous course winners as there is evidence they do handle whatever can be thrown at them.

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Finally, I always prefer to back a horse with a fitness advantage over his or her rivals when the opportunity arises. That cannot always be the case with unraced animals and at the beginning of the new season but generally speaking I like a horse who has run within the last 21 days, as any longer than that implies there may have been training problems. There is no substitution for race fitness however hard they gallop and an unfit horse rarely wins a race. So, in conclusion – look for a horse who has already recorded an acceptable time, has won at the track and preferably over the distance and on similar going, and has raced within the last three weeks to prove his fitness.

 Never ask a horse to do more than it has already proved – if its rating is higher than it has won off before, then where is your evidence it can do it today?  Watch the Draw – there are certainly advantages especially over sprint distances at some tracks – know what they are and use them to your advantage.  When a trainer is in red hot form step in to the breach and gamble away please – it is amazing

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how often winners follow winners once a yard hits form and although the prices can be lower than you may expect as Joe Public does the same, winners are always good news regardless.  Top weights in handicaps – there is an old saying that they don’t give weight to donkeys and it seems that the horse carrying number one wins more often than its fair percentage. On better ground where the weight may not slow them down quite as much they should never be ignored.

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‘Never, ever give in to the temptation to buy your own dog. Just don’t do it. It may seem like an unbeatable plan: to form a syndicate, take your mates to the races, order scampi and champagne, and make like Vinnie Jones – but, it’s a very bad idea indeed. However tough you are – you’ll be ripped off. The seller, the trainer and the bookies can all see you coming a mile off, the dog’s got a cat’s chance in Cruft’s of winning a major race and any cash he does earn will barely cover half the price of his daily steak.’ Greyhound owner Mary Wakefield warns against emulating her (Daily Telegraph, 14 May 2005). ‘For a free night out this is turning into a bloody expensive evening.’– A guest of mine at Wembley dogs in the 1990s, - 184 -


then radio producer Neil Crespin, having backed the eighth straight loser he’d been tipped by a venue insider! Proving the point that tipped dogs are no more likely to win than your own selections. ‘Trap numbers are not form. Nor are they a substitute for it. Since any kind of irrational, indiscriminate betting has a favourable influence on the odds of the greyhound with the real best chance of winning, it is actually beneficial for the intelligent bettor that trap numbers should remain part of greyhound folklore.’ David Bennett on why you shouldn’t touch indiscriminate trap number betting, but should persuade anyone else you can to do just that! ‘Greyhounds develop and maintain distinct styles of running and the punter can exploit this fact by working out which are most likely to avoid the melee. If he can name the runner which turns the first bend in front, he is often on the winner in races up to 500 metres.’ – all-time greyhound betting great Reg Potter, 1989. ‘Times are the main basis of greyhound form, but punters should beware of backing dogs on the strength of performances put up a number of weeks earlier. In horse racing, form some three months old can still be relevant but in greyhound racing such form is often not only irrelevant but can even prove a snare for the inexperienced punter.’ Potter again. - 185 -


‘Dogs are remarkably consistent creatures. They can clock times within 0.01s of each other in consecutive races but they often have cycles of form in which they come to a peak and then decline a little. Hence, recent performances are much more important in assessing a runner’s chance.’ – Reg Potter A 1996 study in America’s Economic Journal which covered 3,795 dog races concluded that, by backing the number which had just won the previous race, in the next, you would make a 9 per cent profit on tote returns. KATE’S DOGGED DOSSIER

Kate Miller promoted the Greyhound Derby for two years in her role as the public relations voice of sponsoring bookies, Blue Square. Now in a similar role with William Hill, she comes from a family steeped in bookmaking and greyhound lore and contributes the pick of her dog punting philosophy.  Watch for the weather - As a general rule you should ‘Wager wides when it rains and railers when it rays’. Wet weather assists dogs drawn in traps 5&6 whilst counting against them and towards dogs in 1,2,&3 when warm. Additionally, if the weather is freezing, the track will have been salted and this can also provide a wide bias. - 186 -


Watch out for a bitch in form and keep backing her until she loses. She won’t need flowers to keep her sweet either. Another tip with female greyhounds is to look for when they last had a season. Count back the weeks since her season (it will state in the racecard) At around 16 weeks afterwards she’ll be reaching her peak. Have a look at your dog on parade. The late Gordon Hodson - who trained for the Duke of Edinburgh firmly belived that your greyhound should look like his or her mind is on the game. They should be alert, eyes bright, a good shiny coat, and concentrating on the traps ahead. If the dog you’re backing is running in an open race, have a look at who is leading up the dog on parade. It will usually be a kennelhand. If it’s the trainer themselves, take the hint!!!!! Be wary of backing dogs with four-bend form in sprint races. Sprinting is a specialist distance, and those who excel at it, do so for a reason.

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Male dogs rarely win on their racing debuts, but watch out for any degree of ability. Young dogs will usually ‘course’ the hare and lose a lot of distance at the bends in their early races. Watch for pace over the back-straight and if they’re overtaking other dogs there, it won’t be long before they win. If its a big race night and Charlie Lister has runners, back them! Charlie Lister is one of the legends of the modern greyhound era. He wants to win the big races and his dogs are trained accordingly. Tracks with hydraulic traps confer an advantage to dogs drawn in the middle. Avoid backing trap one in the Derby Final. Theory has it that the roar from the crowds prevents dogs housed in trap one from hearing the hare. The same rule applies to bitches in the Derby. Although plenty reach the final, the last bitch to cross the line first was Sarahs Bunny back in 1979.  If a trainer has two greyhounds running in a race, don’t automatically dismiss the bigger priced one. It’s uncanny how often they win!

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Experienced writer on betting, David Bennett came up with what might be described as a betting advice parable in his 1989 Guide to Greyhound Racing and Betting, whose message holds true today. It was the last race. The favourite opened at 6/4. The bookmakers were inundated. They cut the price to 5/4. Then to Evens. Then 4/5. At this price the flow of money was stemmed. The Foolish Backer was still in the bar. ‘What’s the time, barman?’ ‘Better hurry, sir, if you want to get on the last race,’ replied the barman. The Foolish Backer arrived in front of the bookmakers and cast his eyes down the list of runners. He pulled out a ten pound note. ‘Odds on, eh?’ he mused. ‘Must be a good ’un.’ He approached the nearest layer. ‘I’ll have eight quid to ten.’ It was close. The second favourite, which had been on offer at 3/1 and 7/2, was badly crowded at the third bend. In the run up it began to close on the early paced favourite which was in the lead. ‘Come on, my son,’ bellowed the Foolish Backer, when he saw the favourite’s lead being cut back.

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The two flashed past the line together. Luck was on his side. The favourite had held on. He scrambled to get his winnings. The queue was long. Some collected £25 to a £10 stake, others £22.50. The Foolish Backer £18. On the way out he bumped into old acquaintance, the Wise Backer, and asked, ‘Did you have the winner?’ The Wise Backer shook his head. ‘I backed the second favourite. I thought it was good value at 7/2.’ ‘Didn’t win though, did it,’ said the Foolish Backer. ‘I had the winner, though.’ ‘What odds did you take?’ asked the Wise Backer. ‘4/5.’ ‘You could’ve got 6/4.’ The Foolish Backer shrugged. ‘A winner is a winner at any price. I won eight quid. That means I’m only down five quid on the night. I had four pick ups. How many did you have?’ ‘I had two winners.’ ‘So how much did you lose?’ ‘I’m about £15 up.’ The Foolish Backer looked at the Wise Backer suspiciously. ‘How d’you manage that?’ ‘I had five bets. A fiver on each. Three losers. One 11/4 winner, one 7/2 winner.’

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‘Blimey!’ grunted the Foolish Backer. ‘If you don’t bet on every race I don’t see the point of going to the dogs.’ At the main gate the two parted. Before going home the Foolish Backer called at the pub and spent some of his winnings on a couple of beers. The remainder he put through the fruit machine and went home with nothing. But he’d had a good evening. He’d been out and thoroughly enjoyed himself. And that, after all, is the point of ‘spending money’, isn’t it? OUT OF THE TRAPS WITH H EDWARDS CLARKE

After almost half a century in the greyhound game at Wimbledon Stadium, racing director H Edwards Clarke gave dog punters the benefit of his accumulated knowledge in 1989: Trap one: ‘The ability to run a curve is a more important quality than sheer speed.’ Trap two: ‘Although the majority of patrons will be making their way to the bar, the dedicated student will continue to watch what happens in the next 60 yards and note his card accordingly.’ As H Edwards Clarke points out, ‘there may be a race result as soon as the dogs cross the line, but the dogs do not know it’, so vital clues to future prospects of staying longer distances or not may be gleaned from watching them all the way.

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Trap three: ‘Those who have made their greyhound racing most pleasant and profitable have invariably given infinitely more thought and consideration to the character and capabilities of the dogs that happen to occupy the traps than they did to the allocation of the traps themselves.’ Trap four: ‘There are a great many dogs that do not fit neatly into the official grades. It is among these indeterminates that some of the best things from the punter’s point of view are to be found.’ So, it is worth spotting dogs running below their potential ability. Trap five: ‘The only way to succeed in making greyhound racing profitable is to become an expert at your local track – become as expert as the racing manager.’ Trap six: ‘There is nothing so clearly indicative of good health as a sleek glistening coat. A glossy silky sheen is the hallmark of a dog that is on its toes and ready to go… The way a dog carries his tail is an invariable indication of its physical fitness. It’s anything but a healthy sign if it hangs down straight, limp and loose. Tail carriage can be one of the most reliable barometers of tip-top racing fitness… the base of the tail of a really fit dog will often jut out a little and not lie flat on the buttocks.’

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In 1953, university graduate in statistics (MA; Oxon) Roger Grey hounded bookies by publishing the book 100 Famous Greyhound Systems. Said the book blurb, ‘He has devoted many years of unique study to the compilation of this unique collection of first class greyhound methods.’ And it cost the not insubstantial sum of 40 of your English shillings, or two quid. Well, it was worth it; after all, Grey came up with a great new term for greyhound racing – he called it ‘greycing’. Neat, eh? Here’s your chance to judge the standard of its offerings, via six of the systems I have picked out: Trap one, the two-three plan: ‘Based on the second and third selections for each race of a chosen newspaper expert. At the first race of the meeting both these dogs are backed, so that if either wins, you will show your required profit for the meeting. If your wager in the first race comes unstuck, in the second race you bet to recover your losses and make a profit and continue betting like this from race to race until you get a winner.’ Trap two, the guaranteed return plan: ‘In six dog races take a four-dog forecast combination on the first four dogs in the betting. This will cost you the price of 12 forecast

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units. At the same time take two place tickets on each of the outsiders. The total outlay per race in 2s [10 pence] units thus comes to 32s, but whatever the result you can be sure of visiting the paying-out window, and often you will show a profit.’ Trap three, the length-form plan: ‘Keep a record of all dogs which win a race by six lengths or more, and also note those which are beaten a neck, head or short head. Back each of these dogs on subsequent outings until it wins, or until it has had five unsuccessful races in a row. Never bet at odds-on.’ Trap four, weight systems: ‘Quite frankly, I have never come across a satisfactory system based on the weights of greyhounds.’ Trap five, system no 4: ‘Back each-way on the tote any dog which finished second last time out within two lengths of a winning odds-on favourite.’ Trap six, system no 15: ‘When any trap has won twice at the meeting you are attending, back it in the remaining races, stopping betting when it wins.’

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Roger Plummer of the Daily Mirror’s racing desk shares his strategy for picking the winning dog. I once mentioned to Harry Lloyd, one of the best greyhound judges I have ever met, that I was struggling to find something to back in a race at Hackney one Saturday morning. After careful consideration Harry said to me, ‘Back the one with the curliest tail.’ So, just for a bit of fun, I studied the greyhounds as they paraded, noted the six dog had the curliest tail and had a couple of quid on. Needless to say, the dog obliged and, from that day on, if anyone asks me what to back at a dog meeting, I always impart the aforementioned advice. Now I can’t say this is going to be a 100 per cent successful because it all depends at what time during the parade you view the dogs, I have noticed that the dog with the curliest appendage five minutes before the race is not necessarily the main qualifier just before they enter the traps.

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‘Try not to think you’re better than you are.’ – top player Erik Seidel, 2005 ‘You will have more money not betting on bad hands than you will win betting on good hands.’ – Russel Crouse, 1941 ‘Don’t lend money to another player. The money you lend will often help break you.’ – expert US card player John Scarne, 1961 ‘Call more in limit games; call less in no-limit games. Get it backwards and lose.’ – all-time great Doyle Brunson, 2005

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‘Don’t try to bluff a poor player, a heavy winner, or a heavy loser.’ – John R Crawford in his 1953 book How to Be a Consistent Winner in the Most Popular Card Games ‘The prime rule of Poker is: don’t try to beat the other players; let them try to beat you.’ – John Scarne, 1980 ‘If you’re afraid to lose your money, you can’t play to win.’ – Johnny Moss, 1981 ‘For the most part, the younger the player, the looser they are, and the more likely it is that they will bluff.’ – writer Andy Bellin, Poker Nation, 2002 ‘Play with poorer players.’ – US writer Carl Sifakis ‘Many of us are much too concerned with how we look at the other players and their cards. Not often enough do we ask ourselves what the man who is trying to beat us is thinking when he looks our way.’ Dale Armstrong, 1977, who also insists, ‘Never show your hand to anyone who hasn’t paid to see it.’ ‘Build up a record of the best players and avoid them when choosing a table. You’d be surprised at how many of the professional players do this quietly.’ – All The Aces column, Daily Star, 13 December 2005

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‘Our advice is to nurse one all night, play like you’ve had a case.’ Advice on mixing drinking with poker from Poker Player magazine’s Rick Dacey in December 2005. ‘When a greener novice than you shows weakness or hesitation: RAISE THE SUCKER BIG TIME!’ – Rob Boucnik, Odds on Sport, Feb 2001 ‘The proven best procedure, when suspicion is sufficiently aroused, is to remember an important engagement elsewhere and leave the game to keep it.’ Writer Dale Armstrong’s 1977 advice on what to do when suspecting a cheat has joined the game. ‘Raise or fold. Calling makes for losing.’ – 2005 WSOP winner Joe Hachem’s ‘best advice received’, Times, 28 January 2006 ‘You’ll likely make a lot more money in a lower-stakes game that you can run over than you will in a higher stakes game where you have to fight for every chip.’ – TV poker personality Phil Gordon ‘If a man thinks he’ll win at poker, then he’s more likely to prevail.’ – Doyle Brunson ‘If you don’t have a fighting hand, drop it and wait for another.’ – number one of Maverick’s ‘Ten Commandments’ from 1959 - 198 -


‘The best players listen to music to block out unnecessary information and stimulus. The lesser players need to pick up on everything they can.’ – David Flusfeder, Seven, 6 January 2008 ‘Professional players actively seek out “double dippers” for sophisticated slaughter… monogamy in poker is rewarded.’ Marbella Slim warns against playing more than one table simultaneously online (Daily Star, 2 March 2006). ‘Throw away your cards, not your chips.’ – Win at Poker, 1947. ‘When you’re on a rush, cash in by raising the next couple of hands. The table will believe you.’ – Antonio ‘The Magician’ Esfandiari, The Sportsman, 26 March 2006 ‘Usually, the more you can get a man to talk, the more he’s likely to give you the keys to his destruction.’ – Doyle Brunson ‘The most valuable step that a beginner should take is to forget everything they think they already know. It is probably untrue.’ – poker writer Howard Swains, 2006 ‘If you stay sober all day on a Friday or Saturday and go online around 9.30 in the evening with one of the big sites, a frighteningly high percentage of the people will actually - 199 -


be drunk or on the way. This is fertile ground for a sharp, focused poker player.’ – All The Aces column, Daily Star, 2005 ‘Anger is the worst enemy of a poker player.’ – poker writer Sarah ‘Lady Luck’ Beretta ‘Misplaying hands deliberately can at times be a higher art form than playing to win.’ – Anthony Holden in Big Deal ‘There can be no question that most “normal” poker players underestimate the [importance of the] math grossly, while over-estimating the psychology.’ – Danish superstar player Gus Hansen, Europe Card Player, January 2007 ‘If an opponent is bluffing, you’ll often see a marked increase in the pulse, visible right on the side of the neck.’ – Doyle Brunson, 2005 ‘If you never bluffed at all, you would win more than you would if you bluffed all the time.’ – Victoria Coren, 2006 ‘Many players jiggle their knees. If this stops it’s a really good sign of a bluff.’ – top player Caspar Berry, 2006 ‘Don’t eat during a tournament. It decreases your brain power and makes you lethargic.’ Food for thought from British pro David ‘Pommo’ Pomtory from 2006. - 200 -


‘That’s the hardest thing in poker – you fall in love with your cards and can’t bear to throw them away, although you know that only a miracle can turn them into the winning hand.’ John McCririck, for once speaking poker sense, in 2004. ‘Mathematics are a good servant to the poker player but a bad master.’ Sixties poker writer Hubert Phillips sums up. ‘Never make put-down remarks in the chat box if someone is playing badly. Be supportive and encourage them. Why? Well, first of all it’s polite – but more important you want to keep losers in the game.’ Columnist Marbella Slim, 2006, showing that manners maketh a winner! ‘If you have A–K you’ll flop at least a pair about 37 per cent of the time.’ – Phil Gordon, 2006 ‘Pressurizing someone who cannot afford to lose might be ruthless – but nobody said winning was easy.’ Park your moral scruples at the door and get on with it, or don’t even come through the door, advised poker author Trevor Sippets in 2005. ‘The costliest thing a player can bring to the table is a goodluck charm.’ Forget about superstition – it’s unlucky, believes Doyle Brunson. - 201 -


‘Don’t ignore house rules – as cricketer turned poker pro Shane Warne did on his first day in the new job in January 2008, when he was given a five minute enforced time out when caught sending a text message at the table.’ – Graham Sharpe A THEW TIPS FROM JULIAN

Julian Thew is one of the top British pro players. A regular tournament and big-money prize winner, I persuaded him to furnish readers with several of his top hints for successful poker.


Patience is the cornerstone of good poker. All too often, when we start out all we want to do is to get involved in some big pots, run several elaborate bluffs and end the evening raking in everybody else’s chips. Well, I’m afraid to inform you that most of the time our cards should be hitting the muck pre-flop. Don’t let TV poker fool you into thinking that you should be giving non-stop action regardless of what your starting hand is; it just doesn’t work like that. Get used to holding and wait for those good starting hands or favourable situations.

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Watching for tells

Tells have a near-mythical status amongst newcomers to the game. A tell can be anything from spotting an opponent’s betting patterns and noticing when he strays from the norm, to detecting a sometimes subtle change in someone’s mannerisms. Be warned, though; when dealing with a seasoned pro, any information they are seemingly displaying is usually there for a reason and should therefore be only be taken on board with extreme caution!

Table image

Being aware of how you are perceived at the table should be central to your game plan. After all, if you’ve sat there, granite-like, for the past two hours, you may find that you struggle to get any action when you do eventually wake up with a hand. The flip side is that if you’ve been playing a very open and imaginative game you may find it harder to get a bluff through, as players are more likely to look you up. Both of these extremes can be exploited, you just need to be aware of how you look to your opponents.

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Pay attention

It always pays to keep a close eye on your opponents: have they been losing or winning; are they here to gamble it up and have a good time, or are they frozen like a rabbit in the headlights? All this information is out there and by piecing it together you can start to get an indication as to everybody’s mindset. This free information is a valuable asset for the observant player.

Sunglasses and iPods

I’m not a huge fan of shades at the poker table, but they are not without their uses. The big international tournaments can play 12-hour days for up to a week and I’ve yet to meet a player who can relentlessly focus for 100 per cent of that time. Sunglasses and iPods afford you the opportunity to sit back a little and tune everybody out.

Set yourself a limit

One of the hardest things to do in poker is to stand up and walk away whilst a game is still in full swing. Some days it pays to realise that today just isn’t going to be your day.

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The great thing about poker is that there will always be another game and if it’s not going your way today, taking a bow and living to fight another day is often the best course of action.

Tournaments, part one

You can’t win a tournament in the first few levels; by this I mean that, no matter how many chips you manage to garner as a result of your wily play, unless you make it to the final table it is impossible to win. So pace yourself and wait for the right opportunities to present themselves; hopefully it will be a long night.

Tournaments, part two

So you made the final table. Congratulations. Now the hard work really begins. It is essential that you make it to short-handed play; that is the last three or four players. This is where the serious money kicks in. My normal strategy at any final table is to try and sit fairly quiet, avoiding any unnecessarily risky plays until I reach this short-handed stage. Once there, you can hopefully exploit that solid image you have been nurturing and bring out the more aggressive plays.

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I’ve saved the best for last. It took me years to eventually realise this: if you always play your hand with position – being the last to act on every betting round – then you will find it is far easier to win at this game. You get all that information about everybody else’s actions before you have to act, and in a game where small edges count for a lot, that is a significant advantage. THE SIX BEST WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR GAME

The following tips come from Bet365.com’s Advanced No-Limit Hold ’em Guide, March 2008, produced with InsidePoker.

1. Play more poker: ‘There is simply no substitute for practice and learning from your mistakes.’ 2. Read books: ‘If you only read one book it should be one of the Harrington series.’ 3. Join online forums: ‘The Two Plus Two site – forumserver.twoplustwo.com – for example represents the accumulated knowledge of a lot of very experienced players.’ - 206 -


4. Take some lessons: ‘Our picks of the bunch (of online sites) are CardRunners for cash games and PokerXFactor for tournaments.’ 5. Vary your game: ‘You’re not doing yourself any favours by specialising, especially without at least some grounding in poker’s other formats.’ 6. Take breaks: ‘Taking a break once in a while is only going to do you good.’


Snooker world champion Steve Davis is now a keen poker player. He gave Sport magazine readers his top hints in June 2008. Amongst them...

 If you are in a hand and a flop comes, don’t look at the cards, look at your opponent.  Even if you are out of the hand, try to concentrate on what’s happening. You can learn more from watching players.

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 If you’re a beginner, start off with a minimum buyin stake to protect yourself. Increase this as you get more confident. Last but not least... Read, learn and inwardly digest the poker odds, to be aware at all times how likely or otherwise you are to make the hand you want.

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‘A good dealer wanting to help you win can do so.’ Brett Morton suggests making friends with the dealer if possible. ‘The change people on the slot floor have to hang around the casino when you don’t, so they generally know which are the better machines. If you ask nicely and offer a token of appreciation when they’re right, you may find it pays!’ – pro gambler Stanford Wong, 1996 ‘I reckon I can get a bit of a vibe from the way he spins the ball. Pick a number and go two numbers either side so I cover about five or six numbers.’ Aussie spin ace Shane Warne told the Financial Times about his cunning roulette system, based on a croupier’s ball-spin action. - 209 -



If you are playing roulette you will soon be introduced to the Martingale system and/or its many variations. Beware. In theory it is an unbeatable system. In practice there will come a time when you are betting a huge amount in an effort to win a minuscule profit – always assuming you have enough money to stake and that the casino will accept the size of wager. Martingale systems are based on a theory of doubling the stake plus a bit more every time you lose on an even-money chance. Be aware that should you bet just eight times without success your cumulative loss will already be 255 times your original stake. Here is one system which does offer a reasonable chance of success to small money gamblers. It was devised by one Jon Harris, apparently ‘an ardent student of gambling’. The system is designed to cover 30 of the possible 37 numbers and make a ten-unit profit on each winning spin. The system is played on one of the dozens and either high (19 to 36) or low (1 to 18). The only numbers against you if you go high are zero and 13 to 18; or zero and 19 to 24 if you go low. Bet 20 units on the dozen and 30 on the ‘chances simples’. If the dozen wins you lose 30 on the chances simples but win 40 on the dozen. If chances simples wins you lose 20 on the dozen but win 30. - 210 -


You might opt to wait until the numbers against you have come up twice in six consecutive spins. You might not. Always play on a wheel with a single zero if possible, but watch out for casinos – usually American – with a rule that zero coming up also means that all even money bets are lost. Also on a roulette wheel, you might try the ‘Sleepers’ system taken from Alex Passe’s Roulette Systems. Record each number for 108 spins. Check which numbers have not come up at all, then bet progressively on those numbers until they win. Usually there will be between two and five sleepers after 108 spins, and once betting begins a single chip is bet on each. If the sleeper does not come up during the first 34 bets, the bet is increased to two chips for 17 spins, three for the next 12, four for the next nine and five for the next seven. There are very few sleepers which do not come up in 187 spins. Bets are placed on each spin of the wheel, on the column and dozen which came up on the last spin. In the case of a loss, the stake is increased by one unit for the following spin. In the case of a win, the stake remains the same. A starting capital of 12 chips will enable a third bet to be made on both a column and one of the dozens even if the first two bets are lost. Play should be stopped when these 12 chips have been doubled. - 211 -



Brett Morton wrote Roulette: Playing to Win in 2004, and emphasised his ten ‘basics’ which will help to demonstrate that ‘a disciplined player can win consistently enough to ride the odd defeat and to end up ahead’:

1. Money management is more important than choice of bet. 2. Do not let losses mount so that the climb back is impossible. 3. Be modest in your win expectations. 4. Stay at the tables as short a time as possible. 5. Play as few betting sequences as possible. 6. If in doubt, reduce your next bet rather than increase. 7. Be sober. 8. Know whether you are up or down all the time.

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9. Remember that your next bet may be the start of disaster. 10. Remember there is no sure bet!

‘Past numbers are a route map. They may tell you that the numbers have been truly random or that the dealer is favouring Red or Odd or a segment of the wheel.’ – Brett Morton, 2004 HOW TO AVOID A RIP-OFF CASINO WEBSITE

It is hard enough to win, without having to chase your winnings or discover that you have been playing on a ‘dodgy’ site which had no intention of allowing you, or anyone else, to win. Here are some precautionary hints from www.ikcasino-games.co.uk:

 Make sure the casino is licensed – search the licensing information on the site. If you can’t find any, ask their customer support. Don’t gamble with them if you can’t confirm their status.

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 Make sure the casino has 24/7 customer support with a freephone number. Check it out before gambling to make sure you’ll be able to get through if necessary.  Verify payout percentages – check out whether the casino has their payout percentages verified monthly by an independent auditor. Look at previous months to make sure the payout percentages are consistent; these should be available online.  Read promotional terms and conditions. Learn how to collect bonuses and how to play them right. Take a copy of the terms and conditions for reference.  Play for free. Most online casinos have a play for fun option. This helps you decide whether you like the games software.  Don’t start by gambling big amounts until you trust the site. First gamble small amounts, cash out if you win and see how fast you are paid.

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PUNTERS’ LOG This punting diary shows the reality of life in the 2008 betting jungle. 8 January: Make your own mind up. Even the pros can be thrown off track by the comments of others, revealed Dave Nevison at Leicester: ‘I didn’t lose on the race, but I bottled it in terms of getting involved because of all the other judges on the track going on about what a dog the Reveley horse is.’ 9 January: It doesn’t hurt occasionally to try a long-odds flutter on your favourite tipster. Raceform Update’s all weather specialist Simon Mapletoft landed all five of his selections at Wolverhampton – a 2,500/1 accumulator.

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10 January: If in doubt, follow the market. Classy chaser Celestial Gold, off the track for 644 days, looked to have best part of 60 pounds in hand of his rivals in his comeback race at Hereford, a novice hurdle in which he was entitled to be a 1/5 shot. He went off at a shade of odds on and was pulled up. Those ignoring the signals were delighted to hear trainer David Pipe comment afterwards, ‘This run will have brought him on a lot. There will be bigger days ahead.’ 11 January: Racing Post tipster Malcolm Heyhoe revealed his gambling motto: ‘If in doubt, leave a bet out.’ 14 January: Sod’s law can always unravel the best-laid plans. Young jockey Denis O’Regan rode a finish a circuit too soon at Fakenham, thus losing whatever chance his mount Harringay might have had and earning a ‘Dennis the Menace to punters’ headline in the Sun. 15 January: Sometimes it really does pay to follow the springer in the market, as backers of Fade to Grey, off the course for 570 days but returning at Kempton to contest a two-mile classified race, discovered. Offered at 66/1 on track and briefly at 109/1 on the exchanges, before collapsing to 8/1, the Shaun Lycett trained gelding, tenth of 13 over the same trip last time out, won by a neck, winning owners Bill Hinge and Gary Smallbone, plus pal John Searchfield, a small fortune. ‘We’ve won £150,000,’ said Hinge. William Hill alone took a £750 each-way bet at 50/1. - 216 -


16 January: Never get involved in ‘next manager’ markets, unless you genuinely know something. Kevin Keegan was revealed as the new boss at Newcastle, but he was the seventh contender to top the betting market. 17 January: It ain’t over till it’s over. Coming to the last in the novice hurdle at Thurles, 5/4 joint favourites Cooldine and Scavenger had it between them, with the latter looking like he was going better and coming down to 1.5 in running, moments before he toppled over. 18 January: Bear in mind that the going is often a matter of opinion rather than fact. ‘Spare us from clerks of courses who are “optimistic”, and give us some who are more realistic when racing is clearly threatened,’ declared tipster Graham Cunningham. 19 January: If you missed the wedding, don’t turn up for the funeral. ‘Soccer boffin Kevin Pullein has not had a losing Saturday since October 20,’ shouted the Racing Post’s Sport pullout section, advising readers to turn straight to page 27, where KP told followers to stake 0.5 points at 12/1 on there to be more than 17 corners during the Championship match between Watford and Charlton. There were 13. 20 January: Bakers can produce bread. George Baker was beaten on his only mount of the day at Wolverhampton – but - 217 -


punters who had backed every one of his rides at the track over the past five years would have been £131.42 up to a £1 stake. 21 January: It’s all about interpretation of form. Peter Thomas reflected on the defeat of Twist Magic, favourite for the Festival’s Champion Chase, at Ascot by stayer Tamarinbleu: ‘In advance of the race, he had a stone in hand and would cope with the ground. Having been beaten, he drifted from 6/4 to 9/4 for Cheltenham. Yet yesterday morning, people like me were saying it was only the going that beat him and he’d actually run a scintillating trial that should have seen him cut to even money.’ 22 January: That’s what mates are for – winning money from! News emerged of a soon-to-start betting site, MatesOdds. com, which was claimed to be designed to permit friends to make one-off bets against each other, and to be free of charge to use with no commission charged. 23 January: You did WHAT!? Attending my first evening allweather meeting at Kempton – and joining a crowd of about two dozen other people – I couldn’t resist following that old racing adage and backing the first runner from the stable of the first horsebox I saw arriving at the track. Consequently I was on Musical Spirit from the Mouse Hamilton-Fairley yard in the opener, which duly threw in a gallant effort and finished second at 3/1. I backed it to win.

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24 January: Maybe there is some honour amongst MPs. Cabinet minister Peter Hain stepped down in order to clear his name after problems over donations to his campaign to become Labour’s deputy leader resulted in the police being called in. William Hill’s political compilers were taken by surprise as they had offered 7/1 about Hain stepping down – largely because they believed that the honourable days of resignations were a thing of the past. More pragmatic punters obviously profited. 26 January: You can’t please all the people all of the time, as I discovered when, in my weekly Daily Express column, I tipped Derby to beat Preston in the FA Cup, only for them to crash 1-4. I received an email from a disgruntled reader wondering whether I was tipping in code and actually advising them to lay everything I suggest, rather than back them. 27 January: Punting ideas go in and out of fashion. ‘There is also the subtle aspect of the timing of today’s race and how it affects the form cycles of the leading contenders. This is a growing area of interest among racing professionals,’ declared James Willoughby as he tipped Sizing Europe to win the AIG Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown. Must be something in it as the horse won at 10/3. 28 January: Don’t count your chickens… Tipster Mark ‘The Couch’ Winstanley told readers of how he made himself ‘look

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a Grade 1 toby jug by screaming “Oi, oi, dial the distance Our Vic” in the owners’ and trainers’ bar at Cheltenham before the horse got collared on the run-in’. 29 January: Alan Scott from Sheffield picked out 32 football matches and staked a £1 accumulator on getting all of them right. With selections from 11 different countries he copped 31 and had £6,802 running on Gretna to beat Morton, the last game. He asked Hills to let him call a halt at that point. We did, and paid him out – just before 1/3 shots Gretna got beat. 30 January: Nothing new under the sun? I read and reread James Willoughby’s article in the Racing Post explaining the revolutionary new ‘concept of form cycles’ which ‘turns orthodoxy on its head by concentrating on where the horse is going, rather than what it has achieved’. But however many times I read it, it just sounds to me like trying to second-guess a trainer as to a horse’s main target(s). 31 January: All talk? You had to fancy Richard Lee’s Pedro’s Brief after he said of the Wincanton runner, ‘He’ll love the track, as it’s right-handed, and he’s been specifically trained for the race.’ The horse went off at 4/1 joint second favourite of ten, and went very well – until unseating jockey Charlie Poste at the eleventh.

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2 February: What do trainers really know? Or, what do they want us to know? Having told punters that Stoneacre Chris was the best prospect of the six runners he was saddling for the nine-runner maiden over five furlongs at Lingfield, Peter Grayson’s unraced runner finished second at 20/1. Not a bad tip. The winner was Grayson’s 40/1 shot, Stoneacre Pat! Meanwhile, Amir Khan landed odds of 11/4 to beat Gairy St Clair on points, but I’d been put off backing that outcome against a boxer who had never been stopped as he had just arrived in this country at short notice from Australia and who could tell whether he would be either jet-lagged, and/or demotivated as a result? Khan won every round but couldn’t put his man away. 3 February: ‘Remember not to get too excited about Cheltenham [Festival] too early and wait for the bookies to start offering non-runner no-bet terms before really getting stuck in.’ Solid advice from top tipster Tom Segal. 4 February: Favouritism can lead to complacency. Twelvepoint favourites and going for the perfect 19 straight victories to clinch the Superbowl, big odds-on favourites New England Patriots were beaten by the inspired New York Giants. 7 February: To lay off, or not to lay off? Having ignored the nay-sayers who were convinced that 12/1 shots Egypt had no

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chance of retaining the African Nations Cup but believing that they would be a better team without the disruptive individual Mido, I was delighted as they thrashed favourites Ivory Coast by 4-1 to reach the final against Cameroon – almost equally written off, pre-tournament. They duly won the final. 9 February: So, what is value? After Denman strode home at 1/4 to win the four-runner Aon Chase at Newbury, owner Harry Findlay said that he had backed him, and he bet big, big, big at 30/100, adding, ‘There will be no better value all season.’ 12 February: If it looks too good to be true, occasionally it will be worth backing. England, hammered in the opening one dayer in New Zealand, were oddly made favourites for the second – and lost by ten wickets. 13 February: Money for nothing? Any thoughts that backing the most expensive purchase in a race might be a profitable system took a blow when it was revealed that the world record purchase – $16 million for The Green Monkey, bought at the Florida Fasig-Tipton sales in 2006 – was retiring at the age of four after failing to win any of his three races for US trainer Todd Pletcher. 16 February: Sometimes you’ll call it wrong. Arsenal were brushed aside in the FA Cup by Manchester United after looking like they could barely be bothered to turn up at Old

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Trafford for the tiresome purpose of playing the game. Wenger rested most of his big players with Champions League coming up a few days later. I’d read the signals wrong and thought that he was just saying they were injured to take Sir Alex by surprise on the day. Doh! 17 February: Time isn’t always a reliable yardstick. Clockwatchers were given a cautionary reminder by Racing & Football Outlook, which pointed out, ‘The usual suspects were guilty of moving running rails without informing the public again last week, with hurdles races comparatively quicker than chase courses at some courses and vice versa at others with identical ground.’ 18 February: He could be right… Days after Marcus Townend gave me his list of hints which included backing jockeys making a return to the saddle after lengthy injury, Alan Munro returned to riding in Britain after an 18-month absence, and rode General Blucher to victory in his only ride of the day at Lingfield. Marcus wasn’t the only one who noticed – the horse was 8/11 favourite. 20 February: Even the experienced can act like novices. Mel Collier confessed in the Racing Post to ‘hitting the back rather than the lay button by mistake in running, then staring slack-jawed at the screen which had a horrible scarlet sheen, when it should have been all green’.

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23 February: Wasn’t that lucky? Isn’t That Lucky won at 8/1 to set up an eight-horse winning accumulator which paid £1 million for 50 pence to client Fred Craggs who placed his bet at Hill’s branch in Thirsk, Yorkshire. Last selection was A Dream Come True. 24 February: ‘The irony of all of this is that incorrectly withdrawn horses have an incredible strike rate and, as Marmooq did, usually end up winning!’ said William Hill spokesperson Kate Miller, spotting a potential system as the 7/1 shot, which was announced as having been withdrawn, ran and won. 27 February: Flat bounce? Letter writer Patrick Durney of Newbridge, County Kildare gave interesting advice to Racing Post readers about the so-called ‘bounce’ effect often used to explain away a disappointing run: ‘Everyone seems to subscribe to this ridiculous myth, which is not scientifically proven, because it does not exist. It is just another convenient way for a trainer to explain away a poor run which the stewards will accept without hesitation, with the support of journalists.’ 28 February: If he doesn’t know, how could you? Trainer Peter Grayson (him again – see 2nd Feb) sent out seven of the nine runners in Lingfield’s five-furlong maiden stakes – best fancied of his, 11/4 favourite Rightcar Dominic was third; the one he tipped, Stoneacre Chris, 8/1, was second; - 224 -


while his well-backed pre-race 7/2 shot Stoneacre Sarah was the winner. ‘Would Grayson have been so keen to run so many in a race in which the winner was by far the best backed of his entries if we had a system, as in France, whereby all his runners were coupled in the betting?’ It was asked in some quarters. No, I’d say. 29 February: ‘The best way to maximise resources is to pick two or maybe three races and go through them so thoroughly that you have them better analysed than the bookies do,’ is Spotlight writer Mel Cullinan’s Cheltenham Festival advice in the Racing Post. 1 March: ‘Mr Pointment has never been in better condition,’ enthused the headline over Paul Nicholls’ column in the Racing Post – hours before the major Grand National fancy ran a lifeless race. Never forget, they are not machines. 3 March: There’s always someone waiting to sponge off you… It was revealed in the States that after dead heating at Gulfstream Park in January, Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Golden Velvet was found to have had a piece of sponge deep within her nostril, probably placed there to inhibit her breathing, thus stopping her from winning. 4 March: Watch, but don’t always believe those opinion polls. Having almost crowned Barack Obama as the king of Texas and president of the USA, he went and lost to Hillary Clinton - 225 -


in the Texas primaries, where he had been 1/5 to win, did likewise in Ohio, and opened the race up again. On the same day, the Guardian racing correspondent really stuck his neck out about the outcome of the Gold Cup: ‘If the race is run to suit Kauto Star, then Kauto Star will win. If it is run to suit Denman, then Denman will win,’ he announced decisively, going on to hedge even that bet by predicting that if Denman won, Exotic Dancer ‘would not need to find much to run Kauto Star out of second place’. 5 March: Nothing new under the sun – except in Britain! The Tote launched a new Win, Place and Show variety of betting markets for clients, based on the US model. Also, ‘If I’d known she was 100/1 I’d have had a bit on,’ said owner/ trainer Paul Murphy (son of Ferdy) after his Elzahann won a bumper at Catterick. Add your own comment here! 7 March: Proof that punters would back McCoy on a donkey… Given the all-clear to ride after recovering from his serious back injury which had kept him out for some seven weeks, Tony McCoy was immediately backed from 7/1 to 5/1 to be the top jockey at the forthcoming Cheltenham Festival. 11 March: It was a nightmare for betting shop staff as Katchit won the Champion Hurdle at 10/1. With a horse called Catch Me finishing down the field, they faced a host of claims from

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punters whose slips carried the words ‘Catch It’ or ‘Katch Me’, when they had obviously meant Katchit. And had Catch Me won – well, work it out for yourself! 14 March: The big showdown between reigning champion Kauto Star and new kid on the block Denman produced a bloodless victory for the latter – and for co-owner, megagambler Harry Findlay. 16 March: Looking back at the Festival, the Racing Post’s Tom Segal commented, ‘Memo to self – Cheltenham is too hard on the day of race, so must grab the big prices nonrunner no bet next year.’ 21 March: For the first time betting shops were permitted to open on Good Friday – to the apparent rage of ‘Christian groups’ who sent out press releases abhorring the practice. Nonetheless, as there was no domestic racing available, shops got by on a diet of South African (Greyville); French (Deauville) and German (Bremen) racing, plus four greyhound meetings – at Hall Green, Walthamstow, Swindon and Monmore, together with the usual virtual racing, numbers games and Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). No one was forced to enter the shops and, in William Hill’s case at least, staff were volunteers. Seeing as The Vicar won at Huntingdon’s Easter meeting, it seems that the deity was not overly concerned.

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23 March: After 10/1 shot Smokey Oakey (co-owned by actress Dame Judi Dench) had won the previous day’s Lincoln Handicap, Racing Post tipping guru Tom Segal declared, ‘In the Lincoln build-up every trainer referred to the draw. Forget it, boys, no one knows where the best place to be is anymore.’ 25 March: Fabio Capello surprised punters by naming 10/1 shot Rio Ferdinand as skipper for his second game in charge of England, away in France. The next night England surprised no one by losing 1-0. 26 March: Brendan Gallagher, boss of County Kildare-based Emerald Bloodstock Services, had to go public to warn that the name of his company had been hijacked by conmen out to fleece punters in a mailshot scam. 27 March: Habitual winners? Advice from the Racing Post’s Kevin Morley: ‘Trainers are creatures of habit, and nothing emphasises this point more than bumpers. When punting in NH Flat races, your first port of call should be investigating who has the best records at which tracks.’ 29 March: Arsenal went two goals down to Bolton and had only ten men – but they overcame Betfair odds of 64/1 to come back and win 3-2.

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1 April: No joke… ‘Watch out for offspring of King’s Best, Kyllachy and Dr Fong on soft ground on the flat. Steer clear of the progeny of Singspiel, Dansili and Desert Style under the same circumstances,’ counselled the Racing Post’s Simon Rowlands. 4 April: New racecourse Great Leighs missed this latest scheduled but postponed opening date. 6 June: The Office of Fair Trading launched a campaign to protect punters from wasting money on dodgy tipsters. They didn’t seem to consider the philosophical question of the morality of people happy to accept the possibility of making money from potentially illegal methods, until such times as they realise they themselves have been easily deceived. At which point they demand that someone else should get their money back for them. 7 June: Derby Day – winning trainer Jim Bolger was given a real grilling by racing writers after New Approach won, despite being indicated to be an intended non runner – leaving ante post punters disgruntled 17 June: Risqué business ?........as Royal Ascot got underway, the Tote launched their new Swinger bet – punters need two horses to finish in the first three.

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22 June: ‘Draw advantage, what draw advantage?’ asked Tom Segal in the Post as horses drawn 1,2,3,4,5 were the first five home in Ascot’s Golden Jubilee. In the next race, same distance, 28 of 28 won the Wokingham. 26 June: Racing Post calls for mares in foal to be identified pre-race. July: Teed up winner: Punters who were not deterred by reports of Padraig Harrington’s possibly damaged wrist on the eve of The Open were rewarded when his odds drifted yet he romped to a sensational victory. August: Golden gamble: Those who were smart enough to suspect that pre-Olympic medal total estimates for Team GB were deliberately downplayed to allow the powers that be to bask in glory later on, cashed in big time as they comfortably exceeded those totals at odds of up to 10/1. September: Patriotism pays - eventually: England went off at around 2/1 - their longest odds for some while, bidding to avenge straight defeats by Croatia under Steve McClaren in only Capello’s second competitive game. Patriotic punters who deserted England in droves didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as they cruised to a 1-4 win only lightly backed. October: Collect winnings asap: Hills paid £42,000 to relatives of deceased punter who had sat on cheque for ten years without cashing it. - 230 -


OFF THE WALL Some final food for thought… LOOK TO THE HEAVENS

Unconventional tips for finding winners abound in a 1972 offering from India, Horary Numerology of the Turf, by one Rasajo, who claims: ‘The author’s system of predicting winners is unusual. He places before students of Numerology and racing enthusiasts his 25 years of research and close study of planetary influence on numbers as applicable to horse and dog racing. The system is universal and can be used in any part of the world.’ Should you wish to investigate the system in all its glory at your leisure I will gladly sell the book to the highest bidder! And from the cosmic to the ghostly, the Daily Sport and Sunday Sport newspapers used to offer readers racing tips - 231 -


relayed to them from long-dead former champion jockey, Fred Archer, via psychic Doris Bulwark. WHEN IN ROME

This just may be an apocryphal story but it did appear in the august publication British Bloodstock Breeders’ Reviews back in the 1920s! – ‘I wonder if many people know that there is a tipster’s advertisement on the walls of one of the buried suburbs of Herculaneum? The translation runs roughly thus: “For the smallest reward Elvius the charioteer will tell all factions the name of the winning chariots in the races of Rome, and this before the day of the contest. At Crocus the wine-seller’s near the Gate of Augustus sits Elvius with his secrets.”’ YE OLDE LEAKS

Owners and trainers fearful that closely guarded information, or ‘training reports’, about their horses was being encouraged to leak out by and to ‘certain cheap sporting newspapers’ were persuaded in 1876 by leading owner Prince Batthyany to sign a petition which was then presented to The Jockey Club. The petition read as follows: This information is largely obtained from Servants, Boys and even Apprentices, who attempted to violate their master’s secrets by an organised staff - 232 -


of paid Horse-watchers and Touts who are, as we believe, maintained at the Chief Training establishments in the country at the expense of those Papers. The results of their efforts is to corrupt and demoralise, and in many cases to cause the discharge and ruin of servants and boys in training stables and a further result the entire destruction of confidence between the employer and the employed. It is against this system, so dishonourable in practice, so injurious to owners and trainers, and so entirely subversive of the morality and best interests of the Turf that we earnestly protest and we trust that The Jockey Club will take such immediate steps as may be desirable to arrest its future progress.

And I’m sure that we could name a few such who would happily sign such a missive today. ……..and finally. Even after you have absorbed the lessons contained in this book and become a Master Punter, remember even the best can occasionally get it wrong: John Francome told The Morning Line viewers before Rough Quest won the - 233 -


1996 Grand National: ‘You can scrub him out. He would need to travel in a horse box to get the trip.’ Then in 1997 Mark ‘Couch’Winstanley declared of 25 length winner Lord Gyllene: ‘Has as much chance of success as Ginger Spice joining a convent.’ You bet it is tough to back winners!

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Bellin, Andy, Poker Nation: A High-stakes, Low-life Adventure into the Heart of a Gambling Country, Yellow Jersey Press, 2002 Bennett, David, Guide to Greyhound Racing and Betting, Sporting Life, 1988. Bennett, David, How to Pick Winners, Sporting Life, 1989. Bernard, Jeffrey and Dodd, Hugh, Tales from the Turf, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1991. Binstead, Arthur, Pitcher in Paradise, Sands & Company, 1903 - 235 -


Boyle, Malcolm, The Art of Bookmaking, High Stakes, 2006. Consul, How to Bet and Win, Abbey Press, 1933. Cook, Chris (ed), Counter Attack: An Insider’s Guide to Betting on Horseracing, Raceform, 2002. Coton, Mark, Value Betting, Aesculus Press, 1990. Coton, Mark, One Hundred Hints for Better Betting, Aesculus Press, 1994. Crawford, John R, How to Be a Consistent Winner in the Most Popular Card Games, Doubleday & Company, 1953 Edwards Clarke, H, Win at Greyhound Racing, Oldcastle, 1989. Fletcher, Iain, Game, Set and Matched, High Stakes, 2004. Flint, Jeremy and North, Freddie, Why You Lose at Racing, Cassell, 1978 Holding, Andy, Winning Ways, 2003 Holt, Clive, Be a Successful Punter, Fineform, 1988. - 236 -


Kealy, Paul, The Definitive Guide to Betting Exchanges, Raceform, 2005. Leach, Jack, Sods I Have Cut on the Turf, J.A. Allen, 1973. Magee, Sean, The Channel Four Racing Guide to Form and Betting, Channel 4 Books, 1998. McGovern, Derek, On Sports Betting, Rowton Press, 1999. Mordin, Nick, Winning Without Thinking, Aesculus Press, 2002. Morton, Brett, Roulette: Playing to Win, High Stakes, 2004. Newton, Ross, The Tail End System, Raceform, 2007. Nevison, Dave, A Bloody Good Winner, Highdown, 2007. Passe, Alex, Roulette Systems, Optima, 1970. Potts, Alan, Against the Crowd, Aesculus Press, 1995. Potts, Alan, The Inside Track, Matthew Thole, 2003. Statistician, Betting Systems That Work, Foulsham, 1992. - 237 -


Thole, Matthew, Winning Ways, Matthew Thole, 2003. Waterman, Jack, The Punter’s Friend, Lennard Queen Anne Press, 1987. Wertheim, L Jon, Running the Table: The Legend of Kid Delicious, Yellow Jersey Press, 2008. White, John, Racing Systems with the Pocket Calculator, Foulsham, 2001. Williams, Professor Leighton Vaughan, Betting to Win, High Stakes, 2002. Wong, Stanford, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gambling Like a Pro, Alpha Books, 1996. Wood, RW, 100 World Famous Racing Systems, Post Lib, 1950. SHARPE’S ESSENTIAL PUNTER PLEASING WEBSITES

www.betangel.com www.betbrain.com www.betrescue.com www.bettingbanter.com www.betwise.co.uk www.easyodds.com - 238 -


www.highstakes.co.uk www.oddschecker.com www.practicalpunting.net www.racingpost.co.uk www.sportinglife.com www.turftoolkit.co.uk

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Chance Amir D.Aczel



The Artist and the Mathematician Amir D.Aczel



The Calculus Wars Jason Bardi


The Money Spinners Jacques Black


The Art of Bookmaking Malcolm Boyle



The Tote Placepot Annual 2007 Malcolm Boyle



Fast Company Jon Bradshaw



Phantoms of the Card Table David Britland


Fixed Odds Sports Betting Joe Buchdahl


Win At Greyhound Racing H. Edwards Clarke


The Science of Winning Burton P. Fabricand


Game, Set & Matched Iain Fletcher


Football Fortunes Bill Hunter


The Smart Money Michael Konik


Thirteen Against the Bank Norman Leigh


The Science of Poker Dr M. Mahmood

10.99 7.99

9.99 12.99 9.99 14.99 9.99 9.99 12.99 7.99 12.99


The Making of a Poker Player Matt Matros


Forecasting Methods Horseracing Peter May




Racing Trends Revealed Flat 2008 David Myers



Horse Profiles for the Flat 2008 David Peat



Gent’s Guide to Calculating Winning Bets G Sharpe



Easy Money David Spanier



The Hand I Played David Spanier



Total Poker David Spanier



Profitable Football Betting Paul N Steele



How to be a Sports Agent Mel Stein (NE Aug 2008)



The Dogs Laura Thompson



The Education of a Poker Player Herbert O Yardley



Roulette: Playing to Win Brett Morton



Betting to Win Prof. Leighton Vaughan Williams


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