How to beat those book­ies

The Sunday Times - - OPINION - Tom Percy Tom Percy is a Perth QC and can be heard on 6IX on Thurs­days at 7.40am. @per­cyqc

IN my youth the peo­ple who wanted to dis­cour­age you from gam­bling on horses would point you in the di­rec­tion of the carpark at the race­course, in par­tic­u­lar the sec­tion re­served for book­mak­ers. There you would find the most ex­pen­sive ve­hi­cles, all fi­nanced by mugs who loved to have a bet.

That may have been true in those days, but the mod­ern story of “the punt’’ seems to be go­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion — at least as far as the in­di­vid­ual (as dis­tinct from the cor­po­rate) satchel-swinger is con­cerned.

Play­ing the odds has be­come an in­creas­ingly savvy mar­ket­place, where as­tute pun­ters have ac­cess to the sort of com­put­erised in­for­ma­tion they could pre­vi­ously only dream about.

It has turned what was once only a re­mote prospect — win­ning on the punt — into a re­al­ity.

And on the other side of the fence the cor­po­rates are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly vig­i­lant in their at­tempts to iden­tify the new breed of win­ning pun­ters and lock them out.

A few friends of mine have re­ceived the “cut-off” no­tice from a big cor­po­rate op­er­a­tor. If you are per­ceived as win­ning too reg­u­larly, one day you are likely to get the punter’s “Dear John let­ter”. Just a short note po­litely say­ing your ac­count has been closed, and re­mit­ting the balance of your money. No rea­sons are given. The fine print that you ac­cepted when you joined al­lows the uni­lat­eral ter­mi­na­tion of the ac­count.

You don’t have to be win­ning big amounts to get “cut off”. Some col­leagues of mine who bet in $50s and $100s (rather than $1000s or $10,000s) have had the dreaded let­ter. Any re­quest for an ex­pla­na­tion from the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s PR peo­ple is usu­ally greeted with the glib (but frank) ex­pla­na­tion that an anal­y­sis of your pro­file in­di­cates that you are not a long-term propo­si­tion for them.

So what is it that makes a suc­cess­ful punter?

One so good that the book­ies don’t want your busi­ness. There are prob­a­bly a few fun­da­men­tal rules you need to fol­low.

The start­ing point is that you need to have mod­est ex­pec­ta­tions, take short odds and play the mar­gins. If your idea of a de­cent bet is one where you in­vest a small amount to win a for­tune at cricket-score odds, for­get it. Go buy a Lotto ticket.

Long-priced win­ners do come up from time to time, but sta­tis­ti­cally you will go broke wait­ing for them.

But if you are happy to spend an hour or so com­par­ing web­sites looking for the cream of the mar­kets which you can bet into, and for the op­por­tu­nity to take ad­van­tage of a 5 per cent or 10 per cent (or even less) dif­fer­en­tial on which to lay off (bet­ting against the same horse or team), you will be on the right track.

Sec­ond, you need to con­trol greed. If you are looking at a healthy re­sult at half-time of a game (or in a pre-post bet on a horse race) and an op­por­tu­nity comes up to hedge your bet to re­duce your profit but re­move any loss ex­po­sure, you have to take it.

To have a no-loss sit­u­a­tion for a profit of $100 is far bet­ter than a fully ex­posed po­ten­tial profit of $300 even when your side is six goals up at three-quar­ter-time; it’s just not very ex­cit­ing.

Third, you need to re­move any loy­alty or emo­tion from your bet­ting. The as­tute punter never bets on his own horse, or his own footy team. If you are se­ri­ous, sen­ti­ment has to go out the win­dow.

Fourth, it is es­sen­tial to har­ness im­pul­siv­ity. A quick bet is a bad bet. You need to have a good look at the mar­ket, and track it over the hours (or days) be­fore you get in. If you are se­ri­ous about win­ning you can never bet for fun or en­ter­tain­ment.

Fifth, you need to iso­late events where the book­ies are com­pletely hav­ing a lend of you. Tak­ing $1.90 about one team where the op­po­si­tion is quoted at the same price is just crazy. These sorts of mar­kets are framed purely for the Book­mak­ers Benev­o­lent Fund.

Sixth, it’s reck­less to bet with­out do­ing your home­work, mak­ing sure you have the lat­est in­for­ma­tion on track con­di­tions, rid­ing en­gage­ments, team se­lec­tions and in­juries and the like. Bet­ting blind is a recipe for dis­as­ter.

If you can fol­low these ba­sic rules, there is a chance you might make a quid out of it in the long term. It will take time, dis­ci­pline and con­cen­tra­tion, but it won’t be much fun.

And if you are any good at it, be­fore long there will be a let­ter from your bookie say­ing you have been cut off. Who said it was a mug’s game?

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