March 2, 2020

A Q & A with Gavin Priestley of Nag Nag Nag

Would you start by telling us a little about yourself? Where does your interest in horseracing come from and what do you enjoy most about the sport? 

My name's Gavin Priestley, I live just outside Cardiff with my partner Sam and our teenage son Dylan. I write the NagNagNag Blog and bet horses for a living. 

I think I was always destined to have an interest in horseracing. My father was a bookmaker for many years and both myself and my sister worked our way up from boardman (remember them?) to cashier to shop manager at his firm before he sold out to Mecca bookmakers, now William Hill, in the late 1980's. My sister stayed on with them (and is still there 30 years later) but my younger brother and I went on to start up our own bookmaking business. 

Having been on both sides of the fence I can tell you that it's much more fun, less stressful and a lot easier as a punter than as an independent bookmaker! 

The challenge of solving a big race handicap and finding the winner still gives me the same thrill as it did when I was a wet behind the ears 18yo punter. 

What led you to set up What do you look to offer your readers / visitors to the site? 

I actually inherited the NagNagNag site from a friend. I was looking to get out of the betting shop business and my friend had to relinquish his horserace blogging interests as a condition of his new job. It was simply a case of the timing being right for both of us. I definitely got the better end of that deal though! 

I like to offer readers a free opportunity to increase their knowledge of the sport and in their betting in particular. I mainly use statistical analysis to break down a race alongside betting systems but I'm not averse to using good old fashioned form study if the situation arises. Hopefully, visitors are entertained, informed and better off financially for reading the Blog. 

How would you describe a typical working day? What do you enjoy most about your work? 

I love horseracing whether it's national hunt, flat or the all-weather and I feel lucky to have a job I enjoy so much. 

My day always starts with a read of the Racing Post (I have it delivered as I'm a bit old school and prefer a printed copy over reading web pages). The first section I turn to is the results from the previous days racing and a read through the running comments for any race that I had an interest in or any I missed seeing live. As you'll read later the main part of my betting consists of making lists of horses to look out for and I like to spot those that might be capable of better next time out. I'll then watch a re-run of these races to make my own opinion and add any horses that catch my eye to my attheraces notification tracker. I then read through the paper to see what's happening in the world of racing and then go through the day's race cards to see if anything takes my fancy. 

I mostly bet in handicaps and concentrate mainly on the better class races (although I do love a low class nursery at the end of the flat Season). My afternoons are then spent watching the racing, updating my trends research and picking qualifiers for any systems I'm currently using. 

I work from home, I write about a sport I love, I get to bet and watch racing for a living. What's not to love about that? 

The racing industry is often being criticised these days with too many races and poor race cards, insufficient prize money to encourage entries etc. Is there anything that you would like to see changed within the horse racing industry and why? 

I totally agree. 

There is too much racing and with the number of fixtures increasing slightly (up from 1456 in 2012 to 1482 in 2016) and the bookmakers levy contribution declining rapidly (£105m in 2004-05 to £78m in 2015-16) its obvious there's going to be a shortfall in prize money levels. The most sensible option is therefore to cut the fixtures list. I mean, do we really need 5 or six meetings on a weekday? I'd rather have two or three meetings with bigger fields, more prizemoney and better betting opportunities. Unfortunately the powers that be are not willing to implement such a drastic course of action. 

What about the gambling industry as a whole would you like to see anything changed there? The websites are full of many a critic of bookmakers and their treatment of their customers? Is this something you have an opinion on? Do you gamble yourself? 

Having been a bookmaker myself for nearly 15 years I can tell you first hand that there are a lot of very shrewd punters out there who are just not worth taking on from a business point of view. I have no problem with bookmakers closing accounts of serial winning customers, they are running a business after all, but I do object strongly to them doing it after just one or two winners. How can you possibly form an opinion on someone's punting skills after just a couple of bets? 

I've personally had accounts closed with major firms after just two or three bets and some of those bets didn't even win. If bookmakers are prepared to advertise a particular price I don't think it unreasonable for punters to expect to bet at those odds to moderate stakes. A punters charter with bookmakers agreeing to lay their odds to a minimum of £20 and accounts reviewed on a 3 month basis would be a nice start. 

Do you think gambling / betting has a place in modern society and if so what style of betting do you think appeals to the modern day gambler? What are they looking for? 

Gambling definitely has a place in modern society. When done in moderation it's a thrilling social activity that is enjoyed by a large percentage of the population. 

From my own experience it's certainly changed a lot over the last 20 years. When we had our betting shops in the 1990's the vast majority of our business was horse and greyhound racing with football betting a distant second. Now if you go into any betting shop on a Saturday morning you're more likely to find someone betting on the football or playing the betting machines than picking out their horses. It seems everyone is looking for an easy way to bet or a quick return on their investment. There's nothing wrong with that and it's easy to see why football is so appealing as a betting medium to the new, younger punter. In a match there are only three possible outcomes, the teams are well known, the matches are widely available to watch live and the form is as easy or as complicated as you wish it to be. 

Horseracing on the other hand looks quite complicated to a beginner with so many variables to comprehend. Helping newcomers to overcome this barrier is something I'll be looking to focus more on at NagNagNag over the next 12 months. 

What style of approach do you take to your betting on a personal level? 

As I mentioned earlier I like to make lists of horses to follow. Whether that's unlucky horses, horses that ‘might be seen in a better light' next time out, horses running over the wrong trip/going or those that weren't given a great ride. I note them down along with the type of race I think they'll be better suited to and back them when they get those conditions. It's something that's proved very profitable for me and my early Season Horses To Follow lists that I give out for free on the blog have never failed to make a profit. I'm also a keen user of stats to make my selections, especially the trends. 

A new area that I'm currently exploring, and have had a lot of success with so far, is looking at specific races as pointers to the big Festivals. It seems that horses that run in certain race trials are winning the big races at the big meetings. An example of this was My Dream Boat who won the Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown earlier in the Season. That race has proved a fantastic pointer to the Group 1 Prince of Wales stakes at Royal Ascot and so all my subscribers were advised to back it ante-post for that race at 25/1. He beat Found by a neck and I landed my biggest ever ante-post win. 

We know you are a bit of a poker player. Is this a purely recreational activity? Where would you suggest a beginner looks if they think they may have what it takes to become a good poker player? 

Yes, most definitely. I class myself a recreational amateur although I did spend an unsuccessful Summer as a sponsored player for Genting Casinos back in 2012 (it didn't take them long to realise that I was no pro!). Much like horseracing, for anyone serious about making it as a poker player you need to combine discipline and strategy. 

There are loads of really good online tutorial websites, like deucescracked or cardrunners, to help you out (a quick search in Google will bring them up). They have libraries of videos aimed at improving your game whether you're a beginner or a pro. You never stop learning in poker. I think renowned poker player Mike Sexton summed it up best when he said about Texas Holdem, ‘It takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master!' 

What other activities do you do to relax and unwind? What interests have you outside the world of sports? 

I really enjoy watching my 13yo son Dylan play football for his local team on a Saturday morning. He's been top goal scorer at the club for every year he's played for them; his bedroom is full of trophies. 

I always say that I'd rather watch him play for his team over any Premier League, Champions League or International game you could mention (although I might have to change that if England ever met Wales in a World Cup Final). 

Outside of sports I really like to read, mainly autobiographies and mainly gambling related. I'm currently reading Titanic Thompson: The man who bet on everything by Kevin Cook. It's a book about the life and times of an old time gambler and poker player from the 1920's-1960's. It's chock full of betting stories, interesting characters, it's really well written and is one of the best gambling related books I've ever read. I highly recommend it. 

What would you consider to be a highlight of your racing/poker experiences to date? 

The undoubted highlight in racing was having a small share in a horse called Love's Design from 2001-2002. He wasn't the classiest horse to have ever raced but as a first foray into horse ownership it couldn't have gone any better. Our little group of owners had some great days out at the track and the horse won an incredible 6 times during 2001 including an all-weather treble in March/April. Looking back, I certainly didn't appreciate the scale of that achievement enough because every other horse I have been involved with since has failed to win a single race! Beginners luck for sure. 

As for poker, that would have to be winning a qualifier for an all expenses trip to Las Vegas to play the World Series of Poker main event in 2008. An amazing experience for any poker player but just incredible for an amateur like me as I'd only been playing the game 2 years. I can't think of another sport in the world where anyone can simply turn up and enter their biggest, most prestigious event and play as an equal alongside movie stars, billionaires and top poker pro's. A magical 5 days. 

What are your future plans for NagNagNag? Anything in the pipeline you can tell us about? 

I'm actually looking to take a leaf out of the poker training sites book and set up a library of video tutorials covering everything from money management to form study to betting. The tutorials will be aimed at readers at all levels of expertise from novice to pro punter. It's something I've been planning for a while now and hope to have it in place for the start of next Flat Season.

Got an opinion? Share it in the comments below...

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