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A Q and A with John of PinPoint Ratings

Hi , and many thanks for joining us this month, first off would you start by telling our readers a little about yourself and your background?

My name is John and along with my Brother, Mark, we owned and ran a small glazing company in Stockport, Cheshire in the UK, before semi retiring to Brittany, France in 2012.

We have both not long since turned 60 (only 16 months between us) and have been interested in horse racing betting since our teens (Red Rum in the 1973 Grand National when I was 16 was my first bet and when that won I was hooked – 25p each way!)

From the Red Rum days to the late 80’s and early 90’s my brother and I were Saturday punters who would pick our horses out of the Sporting Life then sit down to watch the ITV 7,  in the old days, and then Channel 4 Racing since 1984.

However, in Autumn 1991 we were forced by economic necessity, (both of us landed up on the dole but Mark got a good redundancy pay off from the then CEGB – Central Electricity Generating Board for younger readers!) to find an alternative to wage labour.

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We decided to concentrate on what we knew about and we thought knew a fair bit about horse racing.

Would you say that you have a “typical” working day, and how would you describe it?

When the UK racing is on, my brother, Mark, and I, split the selection processes for the different ongoing systems between us.

Records have to be kept up to date.

Emails, sales and others, need to be written as, sometimes, do sales pages and guides.

All or just some (always the selections) will be done in any given day. This is NOT ‘the laptop lifestyle!

I tend to look after the marketing side and spend quite a lot of time chasing that automated, laptop lifestyle in my spare time!

What do you think of the world of sports tipping in general and what do you think people are in search of when it comes to their hunt for a successful tipster?

I can only speak of Horse Racing tipping really. The people in the business I have worked with are not the stereotypical shady con men that the word “tipster” conjures up

They DO exist but I don’t generally come across them and stay away from them if I do. Reputation is everything in this business, so one ill – thought out partnership could ruin it all.

The ones I know are doing their best for their members and the vast majority are succeeding.

The vast majority of punters don’t realise we are more embarrassed about losing for them than we are about losing our own money, when we give them a loser.

Many tipsters are maligned because of inevitable losing runs. The truth is the average punter can’t take losing runs, which is why we, at, focus on the shorter priced/higher strike rate selections for shorter losing runs.

Do you regularly bet yourself? What style of approach do you take to your betting? What do you think of staking plans, loss retrieval systems etc.?

Yes, we bet exactly the same Pinpoint Ratings selections in the same (dutched) way as our subscribers.

I also do a mixture of trends, systems and form bets on the Saturday ITV races when they are on.

Level stakes betting is impossible to beat in the long term. But as our old staking guru, Eric, used to tell us, “In the long run, we’re all dead!”

In other words,  for quite lengthy periods, stop at a winner, double up after a loser, Martingale plan etc. etc., can beat level stakes, but the latter will nearly always – if we live long enough! – catch up with us in the end.

My only staking advice would be to bet to the correct proportions of your bank (you can google that or drop me an email) and level stakes doesn’t mean flat stakes!

You could start out with a £200 bank and £2 stakes. If you are still backing the same stakes once you have doubled your bank, you are under backing. You are only backing to one two hundredth of your bank rather than the one hundredth originally.

We advocate progressive level stakes where you make use of compounding. As your bank goes up, your stake goes up by the same amount.

Some change the stake from race to race or from day to day, week to week etc.

I would suggest you adjust from month to month and always round up to the nearest pound (otherwise the bookies think you are arbing (backing and laying) which they think is their monopoly!

Finally, if you have had a good month, take some out rather than give it back to the bookie.

You have to strike a balance between getting too greedy and being too conservative.

What attracted you to the world of horse racing and what do you enjoy most about the sport?

As a young lad of 16 I had my first independent (Mum used to put a bet on for us kids before!) bet on the Grand National. This time I picked it.

For some reason I liked the name Red Rum and I kept hearing the name mentioned. So I put my whopping stake of 25p each way on.

A few of us lads watched in the town centre pub and sure enough, in it came – at 8/1 (first win)!

From then on I was hooked and not just because I won money but because of the excitement as ‘my’ horse jumped the last.

It is that thrill, rather than anything to do with money, that has kept me in the sport since.

What led you into the world of racing tipsters and what do you feel you can offer racing enthusiasts and punters that other tipsters can’t?

We had read all those tipster ads in the Sporting Life, and more importantly had made a most unlikely friend in our local pub – a chap whose Brother was a Vet who worked for a number of horse racing trainers at the time.

He gave us some fantastic winners that I can still remember from all those years ago. Lochsong, (every time it won from the 1992 Ayr Gold Cup at 10/1 onwards), Branston Abby at 10/1, Palacegate Jack 14/1 and the super Irish mare Kooyanga when she won the 1992 Coral Eclipse).

Great days! And not only were we profiting from these and many more winners, so were our subscribers as, by then, we had a number of subscribers paying the odds to a fiver to our Racing advisory Service, The Inner Circle. (Mary Reveley’s 1991 Cambridgeshire winner Mellottie which won at 10/1 just sprang to mind also, but enough! Sniff.)

Needless to say, our friend never bought a drink while we were in the pub, which was often and he seemed to speed up when we entered!

We were making a half decent living from backing the horses and running the service, but, all good things must come to an end and our friend’s brother moved abroad and out of horse racing all together.

We had to wind up the Inner Circle.

However, during our Inner Circle phase, a client called Eric rang and asked would we like to combine our inside info with his placing bets for us using a novel method whereby losers were turned into non runners (in certain circumstances). The guy was a maths professor and a staking genius but he couldn’t pick winners to save his life. We teamed up.

Eric was a shrewd gambler who had all sorts of stake saving strategies. For example, instead of a yankee, back 4 selections as 6 doubles but in a way that if any 2 win you not only get your double payed out at full odds but your 5 losing stakes returned as well!

As a mathematician his focus was on the bottom line and it didn’t matter to him which game. He considered, very much against popular opinion, roulette to be the “straightest” game as there is only a 2.37% inbuilt advantage for the casino. Whereas with horse racing you have to overcome an overround of 1– 2 per cent per horse.

Also a 9% betting tax was in force then which Eric got around by backing in doubles so that there was no tax to pay on the second leg.

Incidentally, I still use his roulette system to this day and have come home with more money than I set off more often than not.

He was also a keen racegoer. Not long after meeting Eric, and backing using his staking method, (with some success it should be said), he came back from Haydock with what seemed an incredible tale. He had met a man there who we always referred to as “the London bloke” – even after we later learned his real name.

This guy was a multi-millionaire property dealer who made a lot of money on the side out of horse racing as a hobby using a system for which he had paid £10,000 cash on the car park of the very same Haydock race track four and a half years earlier.

The upshot was: he wanted Eric to place his bets and in return Eric got the selections.

All of us, Eric included, were, to say the least, sceptical. We had nothing to lose though so we resolved to place the bets and keep a record for a month. We kept backing them for him (not a penny on for ourselves) and they kept winning.

It almost became boring; we were expecting to win each time. Lucky streak, fluke, they can’t carry on like this forever, were some of the printable remarks we made. But by the end of the month he had backed 19 winners out of 21 selections! And one of the 2 losers was beaten just a head at 6/1 (Tutusixtysix, August 1993).

This was amazing, none of us had ever seen anything like it but the London bloke said 80% of the horses he had backed since he bought the system had won, and not at odds on either.

Having cleared it with our new friend, we decided not only to back them but to place a half page ad in the Sporting Life offering, effectively, through post-dated cheque, a month’s free trial.

Our new service was called Winners. We ended up holding around 50 post-dated £100 cheques. All we needed now was a repeat of last month and we would be ‘earning’ £5000 per month at least and our winnings to boot! Some hope! The strike rate fell to ‘only’ 55% and the cheques were returned.

My brother, Mark and I never got to meet the London bloke, everything went through Eric who was a little on the reserved side. I would have asked to have a look at his system to see if we could help identify a reason for the sudden collapse.

This was September 1993 and I think it coincided precisely with the 10lbs rise in handicap ratings for jumps horses that was introduced back then. It was the jumps horses that were letting the side down, falling from 80% to 45% compared to the flat which only dropped from 80% to around 70%.

It could have been a bad run. Even something with an 80% strike rate can have a bad month. But Eric wouldn’t hear of me talking to ‘the London Bloke’ so that was the end of that phase.

But…………we had seen it done. It was possible to achieve such results.

It wasn’t just a good run. Eric got to know this man well and he was adamant that those results were not at all unusual and we trusted Eric’s judgement implicitly. We had the bug more than ever now.

The last we heard of the London bloke was that the poor guy had a stroke and was in bad health.

Eric, who was in his late sixties when we met him, then died age 73 in 1999.

Since those days we have been on a quest to discover the rules of this system. The only clues the London Bloke ever left us were that he bought two papers a day, the Racing Post and the Daily Mail, the selection was the best horse in the race and that when we discovered it we would kick ourselves because it was so simple.

In the mid – nineties, Mark and I set up in the glazing business (that is Mark’s trade) so we had to research part time.

Now, I don’t want to disappoint, so I have to inform you that to date we haven’t discovered the system……but we have learnt an awful lot trying!

I was inclined to walk away at first; we had our chance of a lifetime but missed the boat. If only we had got to know the London bloke a few years earlier. However, Mark was spurred on to find out more, and, to his great credit, his perseverance paid off.

He analysed the list of selections in order to see just what the London Bloke had meant when he said it is “the best horse in the race”. You have to remember that in those days research meant thumbing through back issues of the Racing Post.

Anyway, he identified a few fundamental factors that would consistently produce the same selections as on the list but they were among several other horses a day. However, this achieved a strike rate of 48% at just short of break even at SP. We were onto something but more research was needed.

Bear in mind we were working full time in the Glazing business by now, so this process took place over a number of years. In between we would try and get an edge through vetting the selections on form, trainer stats etc and/or taking prices. The latter being revolutionised when Betfair set up in June 2000.

So, we had the basic ingredients but there were obviously more filters we had missed.

We had always wondered why he should mention that he bought the Daily Mail every day. So, one day in 2002 Mark and I spent a full day in Manchester Central Library looking through back issues, on microfiche, of the Daily Mail.

Here we made a major breakthrough. We found a factor that increased the strike rate by 30%!

For obvious reasons I am not prepared to divulge this factor. It took the strike rate up for, 48% to 63% at an average SP of 11/10. Not quite Eureka as we hadn’t achieved the 80% strike rate of its heyday and there were still some discrepancies –but less!

This new system achieved a 131% return on investment.

This opened up a new phase when we set up a new service called Percentage Betting to offer the selections from the system online to the general betting public over the Christmas holidays in 2003.

We were at the top of most search engines through the pay per click medium of Google Adwords at that time. Plus, of course, backing them too. We were making a decent wage but not life changing amounts of money

Then we had a huge setback. In April 2004, the US government banned Google from facilitating the advertising of anything relating to internet gambling  (I note the bookies ads are on there though!) so we had to change to full page ads in the Racing Post, Raceform Update, Racing & Football Outlook.

These are not cheap and seriously dented our profits. We had a loyal clientele behind us however, and they got us through 2004 but we hit a bad run in November 2004 and ended up winding up the site by Christmas, a year after we started.

The system rarely performed up to the level it had previously achieved. There were some 8 winning months and 4 losing, to level stakes at SP. The annual analysis showed a strike rate of 55% at 2.08, an ROI of 114.4%. Not to be sneezed at but disappointing by comparison with the past.

We still use this system.

Having learned some lessons about blind copying of existing systems , the fact that even the best systems have a shelf life and the tendency for fluctuation – which means that both winners and losers can cluster in quite unanticipated ways – we  have spent the ensuing years researching, backing and perfecting what we learned in our search for the 80% system of the London Bloke.

What traits do you think a good racing tipster should possess and what do you think the average punter is looking for from a tipping service?

I will start with what the average punter is looking for.

I think we in the trade imagine the average punter to be like us. To have their eyes on the long term – the bottom line. Knowing our strike rate, average odds, profit/loss, ROI, etc.

From my experience this isn’t the case. I have been thanked for winners I never gave and scolded for losers I never mentioned!

There is a sort of hierarchy (not in any snobbish sense of the word) right down from those who are as near as damn it pros, down to those who stick a pin in.

This is where the tipsters’ traits come in. It is also, by the way, important to remember that winning money isn’t the only, or even the main, reason punters bet. It is fascinating psychology to spend an evening in a casino just people watching. All the motives, all the methods are there. Or in a high street bookies for that matter.

Anyway, I digress; the traits to cater for a near pro gambler would need to be, above all, the ability to make selections that bring him or her long term profit.

Such a type will be watching carefully your selections, winning and losing runs, staking advice etc. They will definitely know the ROI.

There are further gradations down the line, such as the daily backer who is either looking for that big win and is happy for his hobby to pay for itself while he waits.

There are the weekend/big race festival punters who are probably the biggest racing fans of the lot. They love the game; many could name the horses by sight, let alone the trainers and jockeys!

Then there is our type of customer who is looking to build a small bank up daily, gradually, doesn’t mind (in many cases loves) plenty of action in  order to turn the money over, and is happy with a 103-104% ROI profit, knowing the higher turnover at a small percentage profit will bring bigger rewards than selective betting that brings maybe a higher percentage profit but doesn’t cover enough races to make a better CASH profit.

Yet others just have a yankee on a Saturday.

There are good services for all these levels and it works best for both when the tipster knows which part of the market he is trying to cater for.

This would be the best trait in a tipster service – knowing their audience.

New and old punters alike can struggle to make a success of their betting. If you could give them just one piece of advice to improve their profitability what would it be?

For now, while Bet365 offer it overnight – and others on the racing day – take Best Odds Guaranteed (BOG). We have found this improves profits (or reduces losses!) by 10-20%.

What would you consider to be a highlight of your racing experience to date? Do you have any personal racing / betting experiences which when reflecting back brings a smile, or for that matter any which bring a grimace; you can share with our readers?

How I used selections from Pinpoint Ratings to net nearly £20K on a £1 X 6-fold acca!

Below is the link to an example. Five of those six winners came from the shortlists of two provided by Pinpoint Ratings. The 16/1 winner was a trends pick.

I must add, this was not the only bet that day!

No, it was a busy day and there were 12 Pinpoint races that day. I started with the twelve I picked from the shortlists of two.

MY BIG WIN – We cover the acca most days. But that day, with the chance of a bumper payout, we ran the 12 horse acca down to £1 stakes.

The first 7 lost and I was tempted to call it a day, as the remaining 5 would only pay a grand or so. Then, I remembered our staking guru, Eric’s, cluster theory. I thought, “no, 7 losers have just clustered, if I add my trends pick in, why shouldn’t the remaining 6 form a winning cluster?”

And so they did

What about the gambling industry, is there anything you like to see changed there? Many website forums are full of criticisms of the bookmakers and their treatment of their customers? Is this something you have an opinion on?

I think it is impossible to say at the moment.

In the world of racing, there will be far less racing. I can see a program (flat and jumps) where just the big races and big festivals, plus the trials are run.

I think the small owner, trainer, low grade/young jockey will find it very difficult to find a niche.

Seeing as the whole industry is run for the bookies, any reduction in the number of races is going to affect their profits. Hence less races means lower profits or a much bigger overround to make up for it.

What do you do to relax and unwind? What interests have you outside the world of horse racing?

I live in France and I would love to tell you I go around sniffing flowers, taking in the views of the lovely countryside etc. But I am too busy working.

My Brother, Mark and I are known as “des anglais blanche” (those pale English) in the local bar.

But it is there (or was before the lockdown) that we retire after Saturday’s racing, to relax unwind.

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