Latest Cases - September 2011

1st September 2011

Good afternoon, friends,

In this issue of Punters' Verdict....

  • Nobody fantasises about becoming a bookmaker....
  • Can ANYBODY become a professional punter?
  • Learning the ropes at the bookie's expense....
  • Keeping the fat bookies honest....

Nobody fantasises about becoming a bookmaker....

Its funny isn't it? You meet plenty of people who have a secret - or
in some cases baldly expressed - desire to become a professional
punter. But you seldom come across people who fantasise about
becoming a bookmaker.

It's funny - funny peculiar not funny 'ha ha' - because, as
everybody knows, the bookmakers nearly always win. Whereas even
professional and successful punting inevitably involves an awful lot
of losing. It seems like the whole thing is the wrong way round. But
on another level it's a completely understandable state of affairs.

Successful - or for our purposes 'professional' - punting is all
about beating the odds.
It's about taking a stance and being
validated when events fall the way you predicted. There's something
desirable - maybe even romantic - about figuring something out,
backing your own judgement, defying the odds and reaping the
rewards. It appeals to our sense of adventure.

Bookmaking on the other hand is anything but romantic. Successful
bookmaking is all about playing the percentages and rooting out a
profit - much as a pig roots out a truffle - come what may. It's
about a mathematical sleight of hand. It's about having the odds
stacked in your favour. It depends on the dice being loaded. It's
not cheating. But the art of bookmaking can seem like a form of
chiseling. And there's nothing romantic in earning your daily bread
by such means.

Me? As a youngster I borrowed Stewart Simpson's book, Always Back
, from my local library - a book that outlined a method of
betting for profit in Handicap races. It had a big impact. I can
still remember picking out Imperial Jade and Petong - my first two
fledgling efforts to put the theory into practice - and the
subsequent excitement of watching them run.

The idea of making cold hard cash from betting appealed to something
deep embedded within me - maybe the bone-idleness my father
identified at a young age. Through my teenage years the idea of
becoming a professional gambler sustained me through school - and

I'm not quite sure if it was an idle fantasy or something more. But
I never quite made it. Work and other obligations robbed me of the
focus and the time you need to put in to operate at that exalted
level in the sports-betting markets.

But I never stopped dreaming... still haven't. And who knows? Maybe
one day I will fulfill that youthful ambition and claw my way up the
punting mountain to the giddy heights of something resembling

Can ANYBODY become a professional punter?

A lot of people dream about becoming professional punters - some
misguided souls of my acquaintance are convinced that they already
are. And who am I to shatter the delusion?

But is it possible to become a professional punter in the same way
you can become a professional accountant... or a professional

Are the doors open to all comers regardless of class, colour or
creed? Is there some defined right of passage? Or an established
route? Is it possible that average Johnny who haunts the local
betting shop like a wraith can one day squeeze through the
interminable maze and really make a splash on the punting scene? Can
ANYBODY become a professional gambler?

Well the story of Dan Gilbert at the very least suggests it is not
totally impossible. Dan Gilbert is the 32-year-old owner of Moyenne
- shock winner of this year's Ebor Handicap at York - and
another 18 horses to boot. His involvement in racing is down in no
small way to his success as a gambler.

He's riding high right now. But it wasn't always that way. Dan
Gilbert himself will tell you that his journey towards professional
status on the punting minefield didn't come naturally...

'I tried everything on Betfair at first. I tried systems, momentum
trading, tipping lines. I was just desperate to make it pay. Then I
started off punting in-running, laying horses that I thought would
find nothing, trying to use my knowledge of the jumps horses. I very
nearly went skint one or two times. I just didn't have the
discipline and the patient mindset.'

Finding a consistent method is obviously a key requirement in
becoming a professional punter. Discipline and the right temperament
(one that suits your method) are clearly additional key
requirements. Hard work is another.

Learning the ropes at the bookie's expense....

Dan's opportunity to put in the long hours of study necessary to get
to the top in his chosen field came at the expense of the

'I took a job in a bookmaker's, which, in those days, was my dream
job, as it meant I got to sit and watch racing all day. I became a
relief manager and I worked in all the quietest shops where nobody
else wanted to work so that I could study the form in the morning.
One year, in February, I was getting a bit more successful and so I
quit, and that helped....

You only need to be making a few percent to be winning a fair amount
of money. If I can keep it going like this for the next 10 years,
I'll be happy.'

Dan was a university dropout working in a betting shop. I don't
imagine that too many of us would have swapped places with him then.

But what about now? Which of us would say no to a nice life, a
string of decent horses and plenty of excitement and adventure with
them down the road - and all as a direct result of success in the
betting world?

Clearly it is possible to join the ranks of the professionals. But,
as Dan's story illustrates, it isn't enough to just DREAM about it.
You have to really want it. And then you have to put in the hard
yards to get it. Even then there are no guarantees.

I guess you have to be the right kind of person with the right kind
of mindset and the right kind of attitude. But if you've got those
attributes going for you then yes.... evidence exists that it really
is possible for ANYBODY to hit the top in the punting sphere....

So how about you? Are you making the dream real? Or are you just

Keeping the fat bookies honest....

From time to time I like to do my bit to keep the greedy little
bookmakers honest with a bit of a spot check in the markets. Taking
a snapshot of whose doing what, when and why is an instructive

When a bookmaker does something well, or right or genuinely
beneficial to the punter I like to highlight it. The reason is
twofold. One, it alerts punters to where the best current betting
deals are available. Two, it issues a warning to bookmakers who are
in the bad habit of taking punters for a ride: get your game in
order or suffer the consequences.

This week I spot-checked the racing markets on Saturday...

At 2pm on Saturday afternoon I took a snapshot of the market for the
3.50 at Goodwood (a 15-runner Class 2 handicap over 7f). It was one
of the bigger beating heats of the day and I focused exclusively on
the prices of the top 6 in the market - those horses the early-bird
punters had already backed and those that board-price punters would
be most likely to want to back in the minutes before off time.

The Verdict: Kudos to bet365 - they were biggest price or joint-
biggest price on ALL of the top 6 horses. They clearly want to
compete on racing prices right now and are worth checking with
before you bet elsewhere. Honourable mentions go to Betfred (4),
Totesport (3) and William Hill (3). Coral, Victor Chandler and
Boylesports were best price on NONE of the top 6 horses in the
market. Caution is advised. Check elsewhere before betting with
these mean-spirited outfits. The likelihood is you'll get a better

If you like to punt the horses each-way then make sure you're aware
of which forms are offering enhanced place terms. Getting paid out
on an extra place or getting a bigger fraction on the places (1/4 as
opposed to 1/5 on the first 3, for example) can make a big
difference to your bottom line over the course of a punting year.

On Saturday there were meetings at Goodwood, Newmarket, Redcar,
Beverley, Windsor and Cartmel - so plenty of scope for the bookies
to offer the odd cherry. Skybet were the generous firm offering
enhanced terms on 4 races across the meetings. Honourable mentions
to bet365 (3) and Stan James (2). The rest didn't even get on the
scoreboard - which amounts to a pretty poor effort.

I'll be back with the Verdict next week.

The Judge

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