Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Pro Gambler: Betting Big Odds On

Odds On Loser Challenged by Clown
Pro gambler stories are always popular. To walk in the shoes of someone who puts their money down - betting they know more than the bookmaker (who thinks they don't). A battle of wits, judgment and courage. 

I say courage because for some professional gamblers they have a lot more to lose than win. How come? 

When they bet huge odds on.   

Betting odds on takes a certain mentality. You find comfort in the fact that your horse is favourite. All the money is on this beast. You are happy to be part of the crowd. There's safety in numbers. 

What could go wrong? 

Odds-on winners are good but odds on losers hit you hard. All that positivity comes back with an equal measure of negativity. You literally feel like a clown is following you around the racecourse. He's pointing at you: smiling, laughing, sneering, mocking. You feel as though your trousers are going to fall down at any moment and you can't remember if you put on boxers.

He shouts: ''Look at this chump, he backed an odds on loser!'' 

He gives you a couple of honks from his horn. Smiles. 


He delves into a bag and pulls out a cream pie. Everyone on the racecourse is watching. Even the commentator [Tommo] is keeping the crowd informed. Bookmakers price up the odds whether you will get a cream pie over your chops.

You'd bet yourself, but fearful of what happened to ''that'' poor loser. 

Out of the corner of your eye, you spot a line of clowns limbering up with their best stuff. One is scooting around the course in a clown car as parts fall off along the way. 

I remember a story detailed in Dave Nevison's book which he spoke of one pro who bet huge odds on and hardly dare watch fearing any moment his horse would be struggling or notice (somehow) it was being ridden by a real clown. He's laughing at the crowd as he fires confetti into the air. He yells: ''You f****** losers!!!!'' 

Too many times that big, strong, colt returns to the paddock with cream pie all over his face. 

Strangely, they never called for a stewards' inquiry. 

The perils of betting big odds on.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Betting Outside Your Comfort Zone

Betting outside your comfort zoneBetting. 

How much would you have to bet before you felt uneasy? In ''uneasy'' I mean how many pounds, shilling and pence before you'd feel pretty peed off if it lost? 

The old maxim: ''Bet what you can afford to lose'' is, I guess, what most people do. 


Very few people bet crazy amounts of money fun. A percentage do who have a problem. But even those of a compulsive nature probably do their dough betting £20, £50 or £100 a time. 

Please, don't bet if you do not have a good reason why you can win. If you are basing your ''skills'' on looking at the form on the wall of your local bookmakers your knowledge base isn't likely to put you ahead of the game.  It's like studying for a test without really reading the book. There are plenty of pages bar the first and last. 

I love to watch business stuff, videos, info and people chatting about investing money. This bloke asked how much money would you invest. Basically, investing money you can afford to lose. He said about 30% of his savings. But this varies from person to person. Makes sense, hey!   

It depends on your comfort zone. It's a similar question with betting. How much is too much for you?

We have all seen people who have lost too much. While others are enjoying their day they sit withdrawn, blank expression, thinking how the hell did I lose all that money. They are struggling because it was more than they wanted to lose. Not a good feeling. Stepping outside that comfort zone.

Very few people would contemplate betting all their money on the spin of a roulette wheel. 

Black or red? 

Not many people would feel comfortable doing that. But how many could bet all their money - lose - and say: ''Let's go get something to eat, and you're paying'' and act as though nothing happened? In actual fact, not caring that it had happened?

I guess there are some people who could. I would love to meet them because they must be very confident they can make that money again. 

I imagine a number of people who have bet and lost all of their money are more likely to climb the stairs of the nearest high building and jump than decide which burger they want to eat.  

When betting, don't push yourself to the extreme if you cannot handle the consequence of the loss. Don't just think of the small loss on the day. If you have lost a fortune over the years, what is the total? It could well be £50,000. Did breaking those bets into smaller sums make it easier to swallow? 

I guess so. But it's still the same as betting a bloody big wedge. 

Be wise when you bet. 

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Should People Gamble?

It's a word that many people need to ask themselves. 

I'm not sure what percentage of the population gambled in the 1950s. I imagine it was the man's domain. Perhaps the lady of the house would enjoy a night at the bingo. This day and age, gamblers are, in my mind, what smoking was twenty years back. You will note that smoking has been removed from advertising. Benson & Hedges used to throw money at sporting events like it was going out of fashion just as it was with Embassy. Gambling is rife on TV but I am sure in the future it will be restricted or banned for the hard it has caused many who bet in a naive manner. 

Gambling is similar to someone taking drugs. It might seem like a good idea at the time but it can lead to problems which see people selling themselves on the street. 

I have never taken illegal drugs (beyond what the doctor has prescribed) and I have no intention of taking them. 

However, gambling is something I have done and witnessed from an early age. I don't consider gambling a problem for myself because I have an understanding of what it is all about. For myself, there is a plus because gambling gives the opportunity to make money. The reason why gambling is so appealing to many is that you can surpass the cost of living. Most jobs there is a limit. The structure of working in a capitalist society is that you are held back (or forward) by the structure of the system. 

However, gambling isn't something people should consider doing without much thought. Most people don't give this potentially disastrous decision much thought which is a problem. 

I would suggest to anyone that gambling isn't a good idea. But appreciate that life is full of gambles that need to be considered. 

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Do Slot Machines use Psychology to Get You Addicted?

Do Slot Machines use Psychology to Get You Addicted?
A quick answer: You bet they do!

There has been lots of media coverage about the addictive nature of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. Basically, an FOBT is a betting machine where you can choose a myriad of games to play and bet. 

Whether you play roulette, slot machines or whatever games they display they have become a problem. 

I can't say I have ever bet on one of these machines in the bookies. I'm not keen on bookmakers as I find them depressing places where most people lose money. The FOBT terminals have been in the news because many punters were becoming addicted to playing them which had devastating effects on their finances and family life. Such was the uproar that the government restricted the amount gamblers could bet. I think it was at a level of £100 a spin. Not that I can see the difference between these betting machines than going to a brick-and-mortar casino. I honestly think it was a public relations episode to take the heat off the gambling problem that seems to cut across the country if not the world. 

I did play on the virtual slot machine via Betfair, one evening when I was a bit bored. I actually won a few quid. But it made me think how these games use psychology to keep you playing (and losing). The main psychological fact which they use is making a real song and dance when you get a small win. Also, it is nearly impossible from looking at the symbols on the reels that it is very difficult to work out whether you have won on any spin. In fact, I was left thinking I had won almost every go. This clearly is made to make gamblers carry on betting. I always, remember reading, in the good old day that slot machines are the most addictive form of gambling and that was decades ago. I would hate to imagine what they are like now. With the advancement of psychology as a tool to manipulate there is little doubt that most people can easily succumb to this gambling problem. 

After winning on the first hour or so of play I was tempted to have another go. Well, betting at small stakes, I soon realised I wasn't going to be winning £100K as the adverts like to proclaim. The small wins kept coming. I loved that jingle and the sound of virtual money dropping at will. However, the small wins didn't outweigh the bigger losses and after a while, I realised I had lost all the money I had won. 

What I found was that it is very difficult to stop pressing that play button. I felt like one of those pigeons in a psychological experiment where I pecked a disc when I saw a different colour and for my action received some corn. The trouble with playing the slots is that even a pigeon would stop sooner than most men or women! Yes, that is a joke. However, the psychology behind the slot machine is now so advanced that they are extremely addictive to a point that logic or common sense goes by the way. 

I would say never bet on these slot machines because they are truly bad news.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

When is the best time to bet?

Time to bet

It's a pretty open ended question. 

How often do you bet?

I've often been criticized for not betting enough. ''What are you waiting for?'' Impatient. I understand the regular Joe at the bookmakers is waiting for the next race. He's an eager devil waiting for the next race before the last has finished. Most bet on favourites. If the horse races don't come fast enough they dabble with the greyhounds. Trap 1. If that isn't enough, they bet on virtual racing. The only good thing about that is animal welfare. 

The two-year-old season isn't like any other age group of horse. 

Each year we start with a blank slate. A fictitious piece of chalk in hand, drawing a picture of long-legged horse. Yes, it's black and white. The picture forms with every day's racing. I feel like George Stubbs, the English painter of horses. Whistlejacket. That was one of the horses he painted, not a jacket you wear to wolf whistle girls.  

It takes time to understand the early two-year-old racing. Without a reference point - a level of ability - we're guessing. That doesn't sound like understanding or objectivity. It isn't a word someone would invest money, hey. I kind of ''guess'' the price of oil will go up. It doesn't instill much hope. 

So the early season is all about watching the races and individual horses; to learn about each.I have watched a race twenty times. It can be a tiring endeavour. I have been known to fall to sleep mid race or watch one umpteen times because I keep dropping off before they cross the line. However, you can just about guarantee I watch every race and horse (repeatedly). Why? Because I want to know more than the average punter. Joes Bloggs doesn't really think about these things. Understanding, knowledge & proven ability takes time. 

The early-season form can be tricky. A horse finished second, so everyone thinks it will win next time out. It might do just that. But if it beats a slow horse (remember, we don't know it is a slow horse, yet) then we may bet and feel like a complete idiot. So many horses are beaten in this manner. We wait until those form lines start to build. In addition, using Group Horse, I look for significantly entered juveniles. In truth, I have a number of ways to make assessment. All parts of the jigsaw puzzle. 

The season started in March and I still haven't had a bet. Most people would be pulling out their hair, teeth chattering, eyes bulging as they look at the race cards in the daily paper. I could wait forever. I'm not betting for fun or humour, the buzz or whatever. I bet for all the right reasons. That it is a bet with value. 

Never feel as though you are in a rush to bet. Don't look for bets. It will addle your brain to a point where you don't know when or why you are betting. Betting isn't fun. It shouldn't be fun. Losing money isn't fun. It is business. Bet for all the right reasons. 

You will know when it is time to bet. 

Friday, 4 October 2019

Gambling: Learned Helplessness

Lots of people gamble. 

If anything, there are more people gambling than ever. Men, women and children (given half a chance). This must have much to do with the increasing number of adverts pushed across the board. 

Football, darts, horse racing... At the commercial break you find you have been transported to a universe populated by Ray Winston and a variety of bets. Or some other geezer, who suggests you can boost your bet. That's trumped by a celebrity who says you can create your own bets. 

Planet Bet. A place where insurance brokers have fixed gadgets to zebra crossings so you can see the changing odds and likelihood that you may be run over or disabled by drunk driver or some old dear who is rushing home to check her Lotto. 

I wonder if adverts for gambling will go the same way as smoking? Every other sport was sponsored by Embassy or Benson & Hedges. You get the feeling that betting will follow suit as more and more people fall prey to what seems an innocent pastime. 

This post is about the more established gambler. The kind of gamblers who should know better. They love to bet. They win. They lose. But here's an interesting question. Do they ever learn?

It may seem a strange question to ask. However, has your approach to the way you bet changed with time? Have to become more successful? Have you stayed exactly where you started? 

If you went to evening school for five years, it would seem a touch different if you never progressed past basic mathematics. If someone asked how your studies were going and you said: ''I'm still taking basic maths'' you may get an odd look. 

''Wasn't you taking that class five years ago?''


If that is the case for your betting, then perhaps you need to stop for a moment and consider a rethink. 


Because what you've been doing doesn't make sense. 

Is the fact that people consider they cannot win at gambling the reason why they don't question an irrational behaviour? Perhaps, it is just an addicts mind? But I don't think so. In psychology there is a theory called learned helplessness. Where an animal receives an electric shock when it wanders to a certain part of its cage. Every time it goes there, it had a painful experience. Not surprisingly, after a while, it simply keeps away from this part. However, this behaviour remains even when the electricity is switched off. The dog, cat, rabbit, human has learned to be helpless.

Definition: Learned Helplessness

A condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness, arising from a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed. It is thought to be one of the underlying causes of depression.

Is the fact that so many gamblers have resigned themselves to losing that they never progress to win?

Monday, 23 September 2019

19 Things About the Life of Legendary Pro Gambler Phil Bull

1) Born, West Yorkshire, 1910

2) Son of a coal miner and school teacher

3) Started betting as a schoolboy

4) 1931 Graduated from Leeds University reading Mathematics

5) Love of horse racing and maths helped create his own Timeform handicapping system

6) He gave up being a school teacher to become a professional gambler

7) In the 1940s, he sold his tips under the pseudonym of the Temple Time Test

8) He was friends with bookmaker William Hill 

9) His betting records show that from 1943 - 1974 he won £295,987 (about £5M in today's money)

10) After the second world war, Bull and Dick Whitford created Timeform in 1948 

11) Bull headed the company until his death in 1989.

12) Timeform is now owned by Betfair Exchange 

13) In 2012 Frankel received the highest ever rating

14) Phil Bull was a racehorse owner and breeder setting up Hollins Stud in Halifax in 1947. 

15) He bred top class horses including Romulus & Eudaemon.  In his own colours, he won with Sostenuto & Charicle.  

16) By 1980 his stud fell by the way and he owned individual horses.

17) 1980 he was made Chairman of the Horseracing Advisory Council. (He lasted just 4 months)

18) One of his legacies is the Racing Post Trophy, formerly known as the Timeform Gold Cup established in 1961. He wasn't happy with the limited number of one-mile two-year-old races.   

19) Three horses have won the Racing Post Trophy before winning the Epsom Derby: High Chaparral, Authorized and Camelot.  

Monday, 12 August 2019

Should You Get Angry When Your Bet Loses?

Should You Get Angry When Your Bet Loses?
I'm sure YOU have had one of those days when a losing bet makes your blood pressure hit the roof.

If you bet on a regular basis it is par for the course (especially if you bet on golf). 

It has happened to me umpteen times and I could tell you stories about winning and losing bets which make you smile like a Cheshire Cat and others turn your hair grey overnight.

The losers can be hard to swallow. Like a jagged little pill. Those horses that get caught on the line. Those that run on like a steam train but lose on the nod. The worst are those bets which you realise (sometime before, definitely after the event) were a complete, bloody, irritating mistake (keep calm). Like the day I didn't lay off a horse in running at 1.03 (1/33) for a couple of grand. That was a mistake. A frustrating, stupid, irritating mistake. The days I have been thinking about betting on an outsider (a couple at 200/1 on Betfair) and seeing it, them, many of them, win. Heartbreaking. But whose fault was it? 


In some respect, if I have to learn a lesson, I would rather learn it quick and make sure it doesn't happen again. We all know they do happen again until the day comes when we are so sick of the stupidity of a missed or absurd bet that we start to carve an answer in stone. I think every gambler needs their very own 10 Commandments. Guidelines which keep them on the right track. As a gambler, If you feel you don't need guidelines I would question your thinking. You don't have to write them down or carve them in stone but they are there firing on all cylinders as synaptic nerves in that grey matter. Those delicious neurotransmitters which make sense, logic, reason and a myriad of emotions. 

''No wonder some people take Prozac'' 

I've had this conversation with my good friend Eric Winner. He is a sprint race analyst and has been betting even longer than myself. Eric says: ''He doesn't bet with emotional attachment'', because his method is objective and data-driven. There is a lot to be said for taking the emotion out of gambling. Emotion is called the why of behaviour. 

What motivates you? 

Anyway, my way of betting is data-driven, emotionally driven and based on a multitude of information both qualitative, quantitative, nomothetic and idiographic. So I can register with the temperament of gambling - winning and losing. Feelings of blood-boiling annoyance whether directed at a jockey (who looked like he was slurping a cool beer in an armchair) and predominantly at myself for not seeing the obvious. That horse is too keen every race so why should this day be any different? 

But does being angry about a racing result mean it is a bad thing? 

Some people would say yes. 

It probably varies from one person to the next and dependent on who they are as an individual. 

But for me being angry about a losing bet is fuel to find an answer to a question. To make sure, if possible, it doesn't happen again. And, yes, be, perhaps, even madder the next time if it happens again because I didn't learn from the last lesson. 

If I make a bad decision and the horse loses then I need to learn. Sure, there are plenty of horses that lose and run to their best. Those are not the issue. I have lost many times and even though it isn't ideal I am happy in the assessment of my choice and decision. But not when making a ridiculous mistake of a bet. That is a different story and needs to be knocked on the head. A sledgehammer to drive a six-inch nail deep into a piece of wood. Where it remains fast. 

So emotions when betting can be the curse of many a gambler. They can, to some extent, distort the mind. But they can also help build new understanding and discipline which can make those days of high emotion a thing of the past. 

Never Act Like These Idiots

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

10 Things A Professional Gambler Never Tells You

You gamble.

This day and age it seems like every man, woman and child are betting via one form or the other. 

But what makes the difference between an amateur and professional? In many ways, it's like a someone who does a little bit of DIY on the weekends to a master carpenter. What's the difference between to two: experience.  

The word experience covers many and varied traits. It is a wisdom which means they understand the majority of their work without thinking. Intuitive. 

So what are the 10 things a professional gambler never tells you:
  • Emotions play havoc with how they think (the enemy of the gambler)
  • They are either crazy gamblers, living on their wits or exceptionally calculated
  • The best and most successful gamblers will rarely tell you how much they bet or boast about winnings
  • In fact, most are more likely to tell you when they lose
  • They never stop working - trying to improve but frightened of ruining what they have achieved
  • They know a lot about their subject but little about much else
  • A pro gambler hates losing but appreciates at time you lose big
  • Betting isn't for fun and they don't like mixing business with pleasure
  • They will rarely tell people what they do for a living 
  • They don't talk to people unless they respect their opinion

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Horse Racing Analysis: Finding A Winning Angle

Let's face it, there must be a million and one ways to try to pick a winning horse at the races. 

They go from the sublime to the ridiculous.

There are some very strange ways of picking a horse and you will read about them in the next section. 

Here are a few ideas:

  • Paying for tips
  • Lucky pin
  • Favourite colours
  • Name
  • It's the favourite 
  • The outsider of three
  • That trainer's in form
  • Ryan Moore is the best jockey
  • My mate knows his stuff
  • Derek Tompson's Tips

I think the strangest thing I ever saw was a psychic tipster. I thought that was pretty unusual. I have no idea if they had any success or not. 

Anyway, each to their own. You know the best assessment of picking which horse to bet? If the result makes a profit or not. Even if it seems like the ludicrous idea as long as it's in the black it's all good news until it goes into the red. 

My brother is very good at horse racing. But one of the best approaches he uses is simply liking the look of a horse. It's physical stature, how it is put together, not sure if I would call it conformation but a liking for how a horse catches his eye.

It's possible he would like a horse while another person would not. So it is very idiosyncratic. 

But he has backed a lot of huge priced winners simply because he likes the look of it. Colt, filly or gelding. 

I remember one horse called Puggy. This was a number of years ago but it's a day I won't forget and he most definitely will not. A day to remember because it filled his pockets with a huge wad of cash. 

Puggy was making her debut at Salisbury and trained by Roy Kvisla, a trainer, if I remember correctly, who originally trained horses in Sweden or Norway or some Scandinavian country. 

The bookies didn't have any idea if he could train a winner or not. By the betting odds of 66/1, it was given no chance. And on Betfair is was amazingly 200/1. My brother had £20 to win £4000. 

Astonishing as it may seem, it won quite easily. 

So what am I saying? There are plenty of ways to pick a winner, probably even more to pick a loser. 

But use your own ideas as well as those of informed opinion as they may reveal a profit.