Sunday, 22 November 2020

Who is Stanford Wong?

Stanford Wong was one of the seven inaugural inductees to the Blackjack Hall of Fame, founded at the Barona Casino Resort in San Diego in 2002, at the behest of celebrated analyst and commentator Max Rubin, to honour the leading lights in the history of the game. However, revered though it may be, Standford Wong is not the name of a real person, but rather the nom de guerre, or assumed name, of Georgia-born author and professional player John Ferguson. 

Born on April 3, 1943, Ferguson was introduced to playing blackjack after learning the '10 Count' method of card counting from the book 'Beat The Dealer', written by Edward Thorp and first published in 1962. Still only twenty, and an undergraduate student at Oregon State University, he practised card counting in his spare time until he was of legal age to play blackjack in a casino. Shortly after his twenty-first birthday, Ferguson made the first of numerous, successful visits to the casinos of Reno and Lake Tahoe. His first experience of Las Vegas casinos, though, was a short, abortive affair, lasting only three days, because of the blatant dishonesty which appeared to be innate among blackjack dealers in 'Sin City'. 

It would not be until 1970 that Ferguson would return to Las Vegas but, when he did, was delighted by the new-found integrity of the dealing fraternity. By that stage, he had completed Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Oregon State, taught mathematics classes for two years and served in the United States Army for two years, including a twelve-moth tour of duty in Vietnam. Prior to being drafted, Ferguson has continued to play blackjack in Renoe and Lake Tahoe as often as his academic commitments allowed. Following demobilisation, he carried on in similar vein, pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) in Finance at Stanford University, playing blackjack occasionally and working on the material that would become his first book, 'Professional Blackjack'

The relative proximity of the Las Vegas Strip to Stanford University and San Francisco State University, where Ferguson began teaching finance classes, full-time, in 1974, proved an obvious attraction. In fact, by 1976, he was earning more money from playing blackjack than from his 'day job'. In a compromise with university authorities, Ferguson agreed to teach classes in the final term of what he later described as his 'last real job' for a nominal salary of $1, on the understanding that he did not have to attend faculty meetings. In so doing, he created free time to play blackjack in Las Vegas. 

By his own admission, Ferguson did not make a conscious decision to write 'Professional Blackjack', but rather realised that, between them, his paper calculations and instructional paper on blackjack – which, itself, evolved over time in response to questions from would-be card counters – were enough to constitute a book. Having verifed that the calculations presented in 'Beat The Dealer' were, in fact, correct, Ferguson prepared his own tables for scenarios, such as the dealer standing on 'soft' seventeen, which Edward Thorp did not cover. 

Indeed, it was the publication of 'Professional Blackjack', in 1975, which led Ferguson to decide that he needed a pseudonym to protect his real identity. At the age of thirty-two, he was playing blackjack under his real name in Nevada casinos and did not want to draw attention to himself. Seeking a complicated first name and simple last name, Ferguson liked the sound of 'Nevada Smith' – a fictional character from the movies 'The Carpetbaggers' and 'Nevada Smith' – but eventually settled on 'Stanford Wong' on the suggestion of fellow Ph.D student Denny Draper. Ferguson said of his sobriquet, 'I thought it was perfect. It had an academic ring to it and the mystique of the Orient.' 

Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong
Aside from 'Professional Blackjack', Ferguson also published several other celebrated blackjack titles, including 'Tournament Blackjack' in 1987, 'Basic Blackjack' in 1992 and 'Blackjack Secrets', which was originally part of 'Professional Blackjack', in 1993. In 1996, as soon as message board software became widely available, Ferguson founded the website 'BJ21.com', one of the principal aims of which was to allow like-minded blackjack players, intent on beating the game, to contact each other and exchange information. Ferguson sold 'BJ21.com' to LCB, an award-winning gambling information site, in March, 2016 and, interviewed in October that year, revealed that he had no plans for future involvement with the website, books or any other active engagement with the public. 

Ferguson, or rather Stanford Wong, was also responsible, albeit indirectly, for introducing the term 'Wong', used as a verb, to gambling parlance. Although he neither invented the technique, nor referred to it by the now commonly-used name in any of his books, Ferguson was an advocate and early practioner of back-counting. Back-counting essentially involves counting cards, as a spectator, until the count becomes strongly positive or, in other words, the deck is rich in aces and tens, to the advantage of the player. When it is, the card counter enters the game – provided, of course, mid-shoe entry is permitted – and places one or more bets at, or around, the table maximum. The term 'Wonging' was coined by blackjack players in Atlantic City in the late Seventies to describe this playing style.

Friday, 13 November 2020

Why Do Men Go to the Pub: To Talk Shit & Tell Lies

Unfortunately, we can't go to the pub with the lockdown but I'm sure we can all associate with this blog title. 

It was inspired by my actor friend, Simon Fowler, who does a daily live chat on Facebook. He talks about life and all the toils and tribulations. Also, all the love in the world which he says in his own kind of way. 

He talks about mental health and issues especially true to men who have often suffered from the British stiff upper lip. 

Simon quoted the comedians Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones. When they used to sit across the table and chat about nothing (but at the same time everything). 

I used to drink like a fish when I played rugby union for March Bear, based in the Fenland town of March in Cambridgeshire. As I have said about my experiences of playing rugby it is a sport you learn a lot about yourself and others. One thing you can guarantee is that if you play rugby long enough, you will suffer an injury or two. I noticed with the forwards and lot of dislocated shoulders, the odd broken leg, nose, and even jaw. 

No wonder people used to like a good drink after the game - it was a pain killer. 

I must admit I've never been too much of a drinker at the races because the combination of alcohol and betting isn't a good mix. Not even Del Trotter would have a Creme De La Menthe at Kempton Park. To be fair, people have outlandish stories about gambling before they get stuck into the amber nectar. 

We'd go to Yarmouth races and then spend an evening at the Grosvenor casino. You don't need many pints an hour to slip under the table. 

In fact, the last time we went, just before lockdown, my cousin, who I won't name, returned from the casino at 6am. 

I concluded that he must have been winning at 4am because drink and tiredness must-have set in by stupid o'clock. I figured winning was the motivation to keep alert enough to play a few more hands of three-card poker (a game that really plays itself). I don't know what sort of conversation was going on but it was definitely pub talk. I'm sure there were a bit of swearing and pork pies too. 

As the old TV advert used to say: ''It's good to talk.''

It is good that in recent years people have felt more open to express their concerns about mental health because we have all had our moments. Once upon a time, people were stigmatised by saying they were struggling. I'm not saying people are still not tarred with the same brush but I think the UK is more accepting (especially in times of lockdown) that people may be suffering. 

And, you know, I'm pretty sure that's why so many men love to go to the pub and talk shit and tell lies. 

If anyone is struggling with depression or mental health problems then it is good to talk. 

So often in life, all we need is someone to stop for a few minutes to listen. 

If I can help, I'm always here.

Monday, 9 November 2020

The Millionaire Betting System

I'm surprised more people don't ask this question: ''Why do you bet on the horses?''

This can be specific to you, me, or the bustling crowd at the Cheltenham Festival. 

I'm far from a natural gambler. In fact, I don't really like gambling. I don't bet for fun, the buzz, or all those things many gamblers do from day to day. 

Each to their own. 

If it makes you happy, doesn't lead to the wolf knocking on your door, or affects your life, family, or lead you to suicide you are onto a winner. 

That probably sounds a bit flippant - but you know what I mean. You have to be responsible for your actions and if you can't you need to find an answer.

Anyway, you meet all sorts of people under the umbrella of the gambler. To be fair, you see some very sad sights, especially fixed to the betting terminals in the local bookmakers. 

For many gamblers, betting gives a live hope of making a killing. That's winning cash not holding up a bookmaker's shop with a gun. 

The good side of finding a winning betting angle is that you can easily outweigh the cost of living. You simply bet more money and win a grand a day! Well, you can if you know something the majority of the population doesn't. 

Namely, you win money long term. 

The holy grail is finding a system that gives a regular income. If you attach this to a bot that places your bets automatically, you have a passive income. 

You could be sitting on the beach in the Bahamas, living the life most can only dream. 

If you get to that level you are well and truly a winner. Because let's face it, very few people make their gambling pay. They simply don't know enough to separate the wheat from the chaff. 

Is there a system, simple or complex, which guarantees you will make a profit? Better still, is there a system which shows hundreds if not thousands of points profit every season?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. 

I'm saying no names because these things are private but I've heard something incredible.

There could be a Millionaire Betting System out there. What I mean by this, is a system that can take let's say £100 and in a year, two, three or four and turn that small sum of money into one million pounds profit. 

Many of you reading this will be thinking it's pie in the sky. It can't be possible. How can it be possible?

In fact, by the end of this Flat turf season, I will be in a position to detail whether or not this is fact or fiction. 

Unfortunately for me, and you, I don't understand how this system works. But I imagine it won't be sold for any amount of money. (Even two million pounds!)

It's interesting to consider what goes on behind the scene of the betting exchanges. You see a bet and you have no idea who is behind that transaction. It could be a little old lady down the road placing her first bet. It could be a trader looking to make an easy £5 here and there. It could be a professional gambler with his finger on the pulse. It may even be Harry Findlay recouping his losses lumping on the next odds-on shot. The stories behind each and every bet and gambler are unknown. 

But consider for a moment the next bet you place could well be a plus or minus for this new gambler on the block as he puts the Millionaire Betting System through its paces. 

This time next year, he'll be a millionaire.

Saturday, 31 October 2020

Do You Need to Bet Thousands to be a Professional Gambler?

Lots of people like a bet. 

They do as they do. 

Although I am not in favour of punters betting for fun. 

Why? 

Simply because too many gamblers are naive to what they are doing and the potential implications of that first, small, bet. 

Sure it makes the football match more fun. 

But tell that to the compulsive gambler or addict who started the same way. I know you will say: ''Well, that won't happen to me!''

And you know what, I agree with you. On a statistical basis, you are, thankfully, unlikely to become a problem gambler or struggle with psychopathology. 

But here's the thing you need to consider. If you bet for fun, and you lack experience, knowledge, understanding then don't consider yourself the same as the few gamblers who make their betting pay. 

I'm not trying to be funny, but you are a million miles away from them. 

''Well, how are they so good?''

They have worked for years to hone their skills. You see to be a professional gambler isn't about betting thousands of pounds. You may have seen a few wealthy (naive) punters betting thousands like you bet £25. 

Trust me, that doesn't make them a professional gambler. They may be a professional idiot with a bundle of cash to burn but it's like saying the person who shouts an answer to a question is the most intelligent person in the room (just because they have similar DNA to a foghorn). 

You notice a lot of these professional gambler/pundits on TV. Most of them made their name by betting big money. That doesn't mean they know more than the person who bets quietly £100, £200 or £500 a time. However, everyone wants to know about extremes. TV shows are built on stories based on conflict. That's why Emmerdale Farm went from talking about cows in the field to a plane crash where half the cast was killed (partly, I guess, because their acting skills weren't much better than Ermintrude from the Magic Roundabout). In this day of political correctness, we cannot say she was a pink cow just in case there is some confusion about sexual orientation or prejudice.

In ten years' time, Emmerdale will see an alien invasion where the actors are replaced by robots.    

It's the same as all forms of media. 

That's why the Daily Sport wrote a story about the Men of March Public House in our little town saying it had so many windows so the girls in the ''brothel'' could easily see the police coming (no pun intended). 

It was all lies but it sold a few papers. 

A professional gambler, in my opinion, doesn't need to be a big bettor. 

They simply follow their undoubted passion in a very professional way. They didn't wake up one morning and consider they are a professional gambler just because they bet their gran's inheritance. 

Just as a plumber, an electrician or plasterer didn't wake up one day and decide they would be a tradesman (or woman).

You may think betting is betting but it's not. It's no different to someone trying to change an engine on a Porsche 911 but they have no idea the engine is in the back. In fact, you don't even have any tools. 

This is why to be a gambler with any hope of winning money comes down to a game of knowledge and principles. You can be exceptionally good at picking winners but still make little money because you lack the many and varied principles to be efficient in all you do. 

This aspect of gambling is even more important than the exceptional knowledge you may have at hand. 

In truth, the best gamblers are the ones who don't really enjoy gambling at all. They do so because they are convinced they have the odds in their favour. Anything can happen short term. You could have 20 losers in a row. To others, it may look like you have no idea what you are doing. However, long term the truth will show. 

TV adverts detail gambling as fun. The buzz. If you bet for the buzz then start beekeeping, at least you get a jar of honey. 

Betting is a serious business. 

When you calculate how much a gambler can lose over a lifetime betting a tenner here and there it's a scary thought. If you smoke, drink, and gamble (to excess or badly) your health and finances are going to look like you - a shadow of your former self. 

The best gamblers in the world aren't the people with books and notoriety they are the clever people who keep their mouth shut and get on with business in a professional manner and love their sport with a passion. 

They don't need anyone to pat them on the back to say well done. 

They couldn't give a toss.

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Professional Gamblers: Barney Curley Interviewed in December, 2016

Professional Gamblers: Barney Curley Interviewed in December, 2016
Interviewed in December, 2016, Bernard Joseph Curley, popularly known as 'Barney', famously said, 'I couldn't tell you when was the last time I had a bet and I don't think I'll ever have another.' Nevertheless, from the mid-Seventies onwards, Curley garnered legendary status in horse racing circles, largely as the result of executing several well-orchestrated betting coups, often months in the making, down the years. 

Born in Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland in 1939, to a devoutly Catholic family, Curley spent four years as a Jesuit seminarian and briefly stood as a bookmaker at Celtic Park, Belfast before becoming 'poacher turned gamekeeper' in his late twenties. Recalling the 1971 Cheltenham Festival, where he turned £700 into £50,000, or more, he said, 'I was so red hot I was in danger of spontaneous combustion'. 

However, it was just over four years later, on June 25, 1975, that Curley first gained notoriety, as the result of an elaborate scheme involving his own horse, Yellow Sam, in the Mount Hanover Amateur Riders' Handicap Hurdle at Bellewstown. Bellewstown is a small, provincial track in Co. Meath and, at the time, staged one, three-day meeting each summer. More importantly, Bellewstown had just one public telephone, which was the only means by which racecourse bookmakers could contact the outside world. Yellow Sam boasted, at best, modest form – so modest, in fact, that even in the hands of leading amateur rider Michael Furlong he was sent off at 20/1 – but had been identified as an improving type by trainer Liam Brennan.

With a game plan worthy of, in his own words, 'a bank robbery', Curley employed associates to back Yellow Sam, at starting price (SP) just before the 'off', at hundreds of betting shops across Ireland. Meanwhile, another associate occupied the public telephone to prevent news of the coup from reaching the course and affecting the odds on offer. Curley won £306,000, or £2.58 million by modern standards. 

Fast forward three-and-a-half decades, to May 10, 2010, and Curley tried again, this time with four of his own horses at three different meetings, which he combined in trebles and accumulators. All four horses were heavily supported and the first three – Agapanthus (2/1 from 25/1), Savaronola (11/10 from 8/1) and Jeu De Roseau (6/4 from 7/2) – all won. 

Sadly, the supposed "coup de grace", Sommersturn, who was sent off at prohibitive odds of 1/3 for an amateur riders' handicap at Wolverhampton, having opened 4/6 course, ran well below expectations and could finish only fifth, beaten 3¾ lengths. Although denied a 'jackpot' payout of approximately £15 million, Curley still reputedly profited to the tune of £4 million. He later said, 'We're very satisfied with the amount we won.' 

Lo and behold, on January 22 2014, a date upon which Curley had decided 'probably at least six months before', four modest horses to which he was connected in some way won, again after being heavily supported, and landed an estimated £2 million in winning bets. The horses involved, Eye Of The Tiger, Seven Summits, Indus Valley and Low Key were either formerly trained by Curley, who did not renew his licence in 2013, or trained by his former employees Des Donovan and John Butler.


Friday, 2 October 2020

Professional Gamblers: The Secret Guide to Phil Bull's Betting Success


Background

Ironically, for a devout, lifelong atheist, Phil Bull once said, ‘I was bred to be a saint, you know’. Born on April 9, 1910, in the small town of Hemsworth, West Yorkshire, Bull was the son of William Osborne Bull, who began his career in the Salvation Army, but later worked as a coal miner and as a sanitation engineer, and Lizzie Jessop Watson, who was a Sunday school teacher. He was educated at Hemsworth Grammar School and at Leeds University, graduating with a modest degree in mathematics in 1931. Bull subsequently taught mathematics in London and did not abandon the teaching profession, at least, not entirely, when he embarked on a career as a professional gambler, which would make him a familiar figure on British racecourses for decades afterward.

Interest in Gambling

Later in life, Phil Bull recounted almost certainly apocryphal stories of how he was taught the rudiments of odds and betting parlance by his mother in early childhood. Nevertheless, Bull started betting, to small stakes, as a schoolboy and, during his studies at Leeds University, his mathematical and research skills, coupled with his abiding interest in horse racing, naturally led to the statistical analysis of race times. Following graduation, Bull continued to develop a unique technique for evaluating horse racing form, based not only on relative finishing positions, as was commonplace, but also on race times. Bull bet on the conclusions of what became ‘Temple Racetime Analysis’ with no little success and, in 1938, starting selling information, by mail order, to the general public. Initially, his teaching job precluded using his own name, so the ‘Temple Time Test’, as the service known, was sold under the pseudonym ‘William K. Temple’. The Temple Time Test proved highly successful, so successful, in fact, that Bull gave up his teaching job to concentrate on gambling for a living.

Golden Rules

In 1970, Phil Bull published his ‘Ten Commandments’, which, paraphrased in less ‘Biblical’ language, read more or less as follows: 

1. The selection source is unimportant, but bet only on selections you consider value-for-money; avoid the temptation to bet in every race. (As a side-note, on the subject of value-for-money, Bull was not afraid to bet odds-on).

2. Luck, the law of averages and staking plans are delusional, so place no faith in any of them.

3. Bet according to your means and adjust your stake according to the chance of your selection, as you see it; a selection with a greater chance deserves a higher stake.

4. Do not bet each-way in large fields, unless you are satisfied that the place portion of the bet represents value-for-money.

5. Shop around with bookmakers and the Tote to find the best prices, according to your judgment.

6. Do not bet ante-post unless you know your selection is a definite runner.

7. Do not buy systems; if you come across a profitable system, keep it to yourself.

8. Bet in doubles and trebles if you want to, but not on objections.

9. Make wise, attentive betting decisions and adopt a patient, cautious approach to betting, but do not be afraid to be bold if circumstances dictate.

10. Bet only what you can afford to lose; increasing stakes beyond your means, even in the short-term, can lead to catastrophic losses.

Successes 

Thankfully, from a historical perspective, Phil Bull kept meticulous accounts, just over three decades’ worth, of his ‘serious’ betting activity between 1943 and 1974. However, it is worth noting that, even before the start of that period, Bull had won enough money by backing Pont L’Eveque, winning of the so-called ‘New Derby’ – a wartime substitute for the Derby, run at Newmarket, rather than Epsom – in 1940 to buy a five-bedroom, detached house in Putney, South-West London. In 1944, the year in which he was bombed out of his London home, prompting a return to Yorkshire, Bull had a ‘serious bet’ on Dante, beaten favourite in the 2,000 Guineas and, always one to stand by his judgment invested heavily at 5/1 and again, at 10/1, on the same horse to win the New Derby. At Newmarket, Dante was sent off at 100/30 favourite and won by two lengths; Bull collected £22,000, or in excess of £958,000 in modern terms. In 1952, Bull enjoyed his most profitable season ever, collecting £10,500 for an investment of £1,700, in various bets, on 1,000 Guineas-winner Zabara and £8,000 on Middle Park Stakes-winner Nearula; all told, that season he collected nearly £38,000. Another notable success came in 1963, when, after a series of unfavourable results, Bull staked £1,000 at 20/1 on Ebor-winner Partholon, thereby recouping all his previous losses. According to his own accounts, between 1943 and 1974, Bull made a total profit of just under £296,000 which, even at the most a conservative estimate, is the equivalent of over £3 million in modern terms.

The Mathematics of Betting by Phil Bull pro gambler
Publications

Aside from his early work under the pseudonym William K. Temple, in 1942, Bull published his treatise on betting, entitled ‘The Mathematics of Betting’, under his own name. The following year he published ‘Best Horses of 1942’, the first in a series of annual volumes that would ultimately evolve into the ‘Racehorses’ annual under the ‘Timeform’ banner. Indeed, the first Timeform annual ‘Racehorses of 1947’ followed in 1948, and included an essay and numerical rating for each horse that ran on the Flat in the 1947 season. Remarkably, the four highest-rated horses, according to Timeform, filled the first four places in 2,000 Guineas, in the correct order, and were led home by My Babu, whose entry read ‘should win 2,000 Guineas’. In 1975/76, Bull published the first edition of the Timeform ‘Chasers & Hurdlers’ annual, which extended coverage to the sphere of National Hunt racing.

Summary

In promotional material for ‘Bull: The Biography’, published in 1995, Phil Bull was billed, justifiably, as ‘racing’s most celebrated and successful punter’. Certainly, Bull was one of the most influential figures in the history of horse racing, developing an innovative technique for analysing form by awarding a performance figure to each individual performance by a horse. Nowadays, that practice is part of the official handicappers’ methodology for handicapping horses. However, although he won, and lost, thousands of pounds, Bull was by no means an inveterate gambler. In fact, he once said, ‘I’m not a gambler. Betting as such doesn’t interest me’, although he added, ‘Racing is different; it’s a continuing play with a fresh set of individual characters every year. Not a who-done-it, but a who’ll do it.’


Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Professional Gamblers: J.P. McManus - From Humble Beginnings

Professional Gamblers: JP McManus - From Humble Beginnings
John Patrick McManus
, almost universally known as 'J.P.', was born in Limerick, Republic of Ireland on March 10, 1951. 

From humble beginnings, McManus rose to become a horse racing tycoon – at the last count, he had a net worth of €2.2 billion – with hundreds of horses in training on both sides of the Irish Sea. He became tax-resident in Switzerland in the Nineties but, while he conducts the lion's share of his currency dealing operation from Geneva, he owns Martinstown Stud in Kilmallock, Co. Limerick, which acts as his base on his frequent visits to the Emerald Isle.

McManus' racing colours, adorned in recent years by retained jockeys Sir Anthony McCoy and Barry Geraghty, were originally 'borrowed' from his cherished South Liberties Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) club. Nevertheless, since he bought his first horse, Cill Dara, in 1976, his distinctive green and gold hooped silks have become synonymous with National Hunt racing in Britain and, in particular, with the Cheltenham Festival. Indeed, McManus is the most successful owner in the history of the March showpiece with 66 winners, including seven during the four-day event in 2020. 

Nicknamed the 'Sundance Kid' is his early years, McManus is also one of the greatest professional gamblers of modern times. At the Cheltenham Festival, two early gambles, on Jack Of Trumps and Deep Gale in the National Hunt Chase in 1978 and 1979, respectively, went awry when both horses came to grief, but McManus finally opened his account with Mister Donovan in the Sun Alliance Novices' Hurdle in 1982. Trained, like Jack Of Trumps and Deep Gale, by Edward O'Grady in Co. Tipperary, Mister Donovan was, as O'Grady later fondly remembered, 'a maiden with a heart murmur'. Nevertheless, having been bought by McManus just a month before the Festival, he duly prevailed at odds of 9/2, landing bets worth £250,000 in the process and offsetting what his owner described as a 'distastrous first day'. 

Down the years, McManus has been the architect of several more notable betting coups at the Cheltenham Festival. 

In 2002, his unbeaten Like-A-Butterfly was sent off at prohibitive odds of 7/4 to win the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and had just been headed by Adamant Approach, who looked the likely winner, at the final flight; the latter parted company with his jockey, Ruby Walsh, leaving Like-A-Butterfly to pick up the pieces. 

Thursday, March 16, 2006 was another red-letter day for McManus, when he won £600,000 in one hit from legendary bookmaker 'Fearless' Freddie Williams, courtesy of Reveillez in the Jewson Novices' Handicap Chase, and a further £312,500, courtesy of Kadoun in the Pertemps Final later the same afternoon. 

More recently, in 2013, McManus landed another Cheltenham Festival gamble with Alderwood in the Grand Annual Handicap Chase, which, since 2009, had been the 'getting out stakes' for the week. Already a Cheltenham Festival winner, having won the Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle, all out, in 2012, the nine-year-old was having just his fifth start over fences and, consequently, lined up just 1lb higher in the weights than the previous year. Backed at all odds from 6/1 to 3/1 favourite throughout the day, Alderwood took over from Kid Cassidy, also owned by McManus, at the bypassed final fence and drew away in the final hundred yards to win, comfortably, by 3¼ lengths. Kid Cassidy finished second to give McManus a 1-2 in the race, in the right order, while Alderwood chalked up win number fourteen for Irish-trained horses during the week. 

Nowadays, McManus makes fewer excursions to the betting ring than was once the case and appears to be in no desperate hurry to announce a successor to Barry Geraghty, who retired in July, 2020, as his new retained rider in Britain. Nevertheless, with the likes of Epatante, Champ and Easysland, to name but three, at or towards the head of the antepost markets for their likely engagements, in the Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Cross Country Chase, respectively, at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, he has plenty to look forward to.


Author: David Dunning

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Terry Ramsden - The True Story of a Man Who Broke his Bond

Terry Ramsden - The True Story of a Man Whose Broke his Bond
In his heyday, in the Eighties, Terry Ramsden was the quintessential self-made Essex man of the Thatcherite era. A diminutive 5'4" tall and sporting the mullet hairstyle that was ubiquitous at the time, Ramsden once declared, in distinctive cockney tone: 'I'm a stockbroker from Enfield. I've got long hair and I like a bet.' 

Born in Enfield, North London on January 19, 1952, Terry Ramsden proved financially astute, at least in his early years. By trading bonds on the Japanese stock market and gambling on horse racing, by 1984, he had raised sufficient capital to purchase the Edinburgh-based Glen International Financial Services Company. By 1987, he had increased the turnover of the company to £3.5 billion and his own net worth to £150 million. 

By that stage, his royal blue and white hooped colours had become a familiar sight on British racecourses – at one point, he had 76 horses in training – and he had won, and lost, some eye-watering sums of money. 

In May, 1984, for example, just days before the Irish 1,000 Guineas, Ramsden bought the filly Katies, unseen, for £500,000, but reputedly profited to the tune of £2.5 million when she won the Irish 1000 Guineas at odds of 20/1. 

In 1986, on the Wednesday of the Cheltenham Festival he reputedly won in the region of £1 million when Motivator landed what is now the Pertemps Final and would have won a further £6 million if another of his horses, Brunico – an "immensely strong finisher" according to commentator Sir Peter O'Sullevan – had managed to overhaul Solar Cloud in the Triumph Hurdle the following day. 

Ramsden had apparently been backing Brunico in doubles with Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Dawn Run for some time beforehand. 

Shortly afterwards, Ramsden acquired Mr. Snugfit, who had finished second in the 1985 Grand National, and bet £50,000 each-way at 8/1 on his purchase for the 1986 renewal. Almost single-handedly, he ensured Mr. Snugfit was sent off 13/2 clear favourite for the National; the nine-year-old could manage no better than a distant fourth place, but Ramsden still collected £150,000 on the place portion of his bet. 

Many years later, Ramsden claimed: 'The truth is I had half a million quid each way, quote, unquote. Anything else you hear is bullshit.' 

Further high-profile successes followed, including Not So Silly in the Ayr Gold Cup in 1987, but his 'biggest single losing bet' – £1 million on another of his horses, Below Zero – and the sudden expected stock market crash, a.k.a. 'Black Monday', in October that year, effectively sounded the death knell for the Ramsden fortunes. Glen International collapsed and, in 1988, indebted to Ladbrokes to the tune of £2 million, Ramsden was 'warned off' by the Jockey Club for non-payment of the debt, thereby ending his interest in racehorse ownership. 

Three years later, in 1991, Ramsden was arrested in Los Angeles at the behest of the Serious Fraud Office and imprisoned for six months, pending extradition back to Britain. On his return to home soil in 1992, he was declared bankrupt with debts of £100 million. The following year he escaped with a two-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to recklessly inducing fresh investment in Glen International but, in 1997, was prosecuted again, at the Old Bailey, for failing to disclose assets worth £300,000; he was sentenced to 21 months' imprisonment, of which he served ten. 

Following his release from prison in 1999, Ramsden went back to working in the financial industry, but could not return to racehorse ownership until 2003, when cleared to do so by the Jockey Club. His first winner as an owner since the halcyon days of the Eighties was the two-year-old Jake The Snake, bought for a modest 17,000 guineas, who landed a gamble when winning a maiden stakes race at Lingfield in November, 2003.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Professional Gamblers: Patrick Veitch – Enemy Number One

Professional Gamblers: Patrick Veitch – Enemy Number One
Who is Patrick Veitch? 

A professional gambler once dubbed 'The Baby-Faced Assassin of the Betting Ring' by the tabloid press, Patrick Veitch is one of the most successful punters of modern times. As detailed in his autobiography, 'Enemy Number One: The Secrets of the UK's Most Feared Professional Punter', first published in 2009, in an eight-year period from 1999 he recorded profits in excess of £10 million. 

Notoriously reticent to reveal any details of his personal life, Veitch was a mathematics prodigy and not only applied to, but was accepted by, Cambridge University at the age of just 15. Unsurprisingly, he read mathematics at Trinity College, but soon launched a premium-rate telephone tipping service, operating under the moniker of 'The Professional', and recruited from the student body to man the telephones. Heading into his third year, his service was realising over £10,000 and, eventually, he abandoned his studies altogether. 

Veitch attracted the attention of leading owner Michael Tabor, one of the richest men in the country and a shrewd, unflinching punter, who paid him a seasonal retainer for his tips. Once, and only once, in a three-year period did Veitch tip what he considered a 'certainty' and, unafraid of 'putting his money with mouth was', invested £20,000 of his own cash. His selection, Blue Goblin, in the Coral Sprint Handicap at Newmarket on May 31, 1997, was sent off a heavily-backed 11/10 favourite and duly quickened clear to win, easily, by two-and-a-half lengths. 

Everything appeared to be set fair for Veitch, but the following June his association with Tabor, his career and his life, as he knew it, was brought to a shuddering halt. Faced by a disgruntled local businessman demanding money with menaces, Veitch refused to pay the stipulated £70,000, but contacted the police and, on their advice, immediately went into hiding for a period of nine months.

Veitch eventually testified against his would-be extortionist, Calvin Hall, an infamous and, as time would tell, highly dangerous criminal in open court, wearing a bulletproof vest. Hall was sentenced to five years' imprisonment in November, 1998 and subsequently received a much longer jail term after being convicted of the attempted murder of a police officer. The extortion episode took its toll, emotionally and financially, and by late 1998 Veitch was, by his own admission, 'at rock bottom'. However, in typically industrious, single-minded and self-confident fashion, he set about redressing the balance. 

In 'Enemy Number One', Veitch writes that his success essentially boils down to 'finding a bet where the odds are greater than the true chance of that event happening.' However, he does concede that any successful punter must possess the characteristics of a 'brain surgeon', when studying form and assessing odds, and of a 'mad axeman', when actually placing a bet. Nevertheless, such is his belief in his own ability, he once said, 'The chance of me having a losing year is basically zero.' Indeed, the main inconvenience that Veitch faces is placing bets with bookmakers; such is his notoriety that he cannot do so himself, so he employs a network of associates to wager money on his behalf. 

Veitch apparently makes most of his profits from his own hard work, rather than being 'privy' to inside information. However, Veitch and his partners, collectively known as 'The Exponential Partnership', did pull off a major betting coup with their own horse, Exponential, in the Wright Brothers Maiden Auction Stakes at Nottingham on August 16, 2004. 

The two-year-old son of Namid, a good source of useful juveniles, had made an unispiring debut for trainer Stuart Williams when last of 13, beaten 17 lengths, in a slightly better maiden race at Beverley the previous month, having weakened just after halfway. At Nottingham, Exponential opened at 100/1 but, having shown improved form at home, was backed into 8/1 joint-fourth favourite. Once underway, Exponential raced prominently and, once ridden into the lead a furlong-and-a-half from home, kept on to win by a length; Veitch landed winning bets worth in excess of £235,000. The racecourse stewards understandably questioned Williams regarding the improved form shown by Exponential, but accepted his explanation that the gelding had strengthened physically since his debut and benefited from the experience of his previous outing.

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Dave Nevison Professional Gambler Books – 'A Bloody Good Winner' & 'No Easy Money'

Dave Nevison Professional Gambler Books – 'A Bloody Good Winner' & 'No Easy Money'
Although, in recent years, he has backed away from putting his 'head on the block' in favour of less erratic employment, including as a horse racing presenter and pundit on Racing TV, Dave Nevison if a former full-time professional punter. Originally from Halifax, West Yorkshire, Nevison inherited his lifelong obsession with horse racing from his grandfather, but forsook a lowly-paid job in racing to become, as they used to say, 'something in the City'. However, in 1993, after a decade as foreign exchange trader, which he apparently loathed, Nevison was made redundant when his employer, Credit Lyonnais, closed its London operation.

Encouraged by his then wife, Lotte, Nevison left the City behind and, with his redundancy settlement, established a betting bank of £50,000. Initially, he adopted the 'traditional' approach of taking a view on which horse would win a race and attempted to identify one or two selections on the card. However, Nevison soon became disillusioned with travelling back and forth to racecourses as far afield as Sedgefield, County Durham from his home in Sevenoaks, Kent, for the sake of just a couple of bets, with no guarantee of success, and sought a more worthwhile modus operandi. 

Taking a leaf out of the book of his fellow professional punter, and mentor, Eddie 'The Shoe' Fremantle – erstwhile racing correspondent for 'The Observer' – Nevison started compiling his own odds representing the chance of each horse in each race or, in other words, his own 'betting tissue'. Thus, by comparing the available odds with his own calculation, he could identify horses that were overpriced by the bookmakers and back them accordingly. Of course, he did not know which horses he would back until he saw the odds available, but he could bet in most, if not all, races on the card, often with multiple selections in a single race.

Backing multiple selections – possibly up to four or five in a race, according to the market – inevitably led to a modest strike rate, but by focusing on value, rather than finding a winner per se, Nevison guaranteed decent long-term profits. He made mistakes, but within four years of embarking on his new career was earning £50,000 a year, tax free. His methodology was fundamentally sound, but resilience was, nevertheless, the key to his success. Typically betting around £2,000 race, he reportedly won £60,000 in six months during 2008 but, in the same period, lost £140,000 on Tote Jackpot and Scoop6 bets. 

In the early Noughties, Nevison owned a string of horses trained by local trainer John Best, to whom he was also form advisor, and was privy to 'inside' information. However, on the whole, he remains indifferent to racecourse 'whispers' or anything else that distracts him from the business at hand. 

In 2007, Nevison published his highly successful autobiography, entitled, 'A Bloody Good Winner: Life as a Professional Gambler'. Of his attitude to winning, Nevison once said, 'I’m not a bad loser but I’m a bloody good winner and if a big ship comes in I like people to know about it.' The book offers a frank, honest, often brutally honest, account of how Nevison has fared over the years. As might be expected, his story is often exhilarating, sometimes depressing, but makes for essential reading, not just by dyed-in-the-wool punters, but by anyone with a passing interest in horse racing. Nevison is particularly scathing in his appraisal of certain jockeys and trainers, some of whom are household names but, on the whole, 'A Bloody Good Winner' is a amusing, enlightening and entertaining read. 

In 2008, Nevison followed on with his second title, 'No Easy Money: A Gambler's Diary', which chronicles his quest to win £1 million between the Cheltenham Festival in March, 2008 and the St. Leger Festival at Doncaster the following September. Nevison provides a blow-by-blow commentary on his methodology, his bets and his results, good or bad. Inevitably, winning and losing creates emotional turmoil but, typical of an author who enjoys betting, especially winning, 'No Easy Money' is a good-natured, upbeat account of life on the road.

On Thursday, January 15, 2009, Nevison and his business partner, Mark Smith, came within a whisker, or twenty yards to be precise, of winning £360,000 at Taunton Racecourse. Having invested in 42 lines, at £2 per line, on the Tote Super7 bet, the pair selected the first six winners, including four 'bankers' and pinned their hopes on 9/2 chance Topless in the crucial seventh and final leg, the Carlsberg UK Handicap Chase. According to the 'Racing Post', Topless was 'well in command' on the run-in, but jinked right towards the finish and unseated jockey Jamies Davies with the race at her mercy, leaving Pangbourne, who had been matched at 999/1 in running on Betfair, to saunter home by thirty lengths. Reflecting on that fateful day, Nevison said: 'it put me off betting for quite a long time and made me question what I was doing.'


Interview on Racing TV - My Life Racing