The Wizard of Big Odds

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

I'm 54 and currently live in Spain which I have done for over 3 years now. I first fell in love with horse racing from a very early age when my father and Uncle were bookies. I have been betting since I left school and have never had any other employment apart from a few months at Ladbrokes when I was 16.

I used to make my betting pay from an early age but it wasn't until the betting exchanges first burst on the scene that I made my mark and found I immediately had a knack for all aspects of it.

I was one of the original Betfair 500 who had to pay premium charges when they first came about, meaning I had to give back 40% of my winnings to Betfair which was/is totally unfair and unrealistic. Like many, after having numerous betting accounts closed with the larger betting firms I decided to become a horse racing tipster.

Do you have a typical working day?

Yes, I get up between 7.30 and 8.00 o'clock depending on the number of selections I have and after a morning cuppa it's straight in work mode.

I check morning prices and either discard or add to my overnight selections depending on what's happened to the markets. After forwarding my selections the morning/early afternoon is mine to do what I choose until racing starts.

During the afternoon, in between watching the day’s action I tune into the following days cards and beyond, watching replays and taking notes. Once the initial prices come out, around 5.00 p.m., I start the serious work of making initial mental selections and go through the form book for hours. I keep a close eye on the markets and when I feel prices are right and stable usually around 10.00 p.m., I'll then start my write ups for potential selections. I continue to work until approx. 1.00 a.m. when I can no longer keep my eyes open.

What do you think of the world of sports tipping and what do I think people are in search of in their hunt for a successful tipster?

I'm fascinated by the world of sports tipping with so many tipsters out there to choose from. I'm especially interested in Golf tipsters where the rewards can be huge.

When looking for a tipster I can only really say what I look for and the main things to me are value, reasoning and long term profits. If a tipsters gives no reasoning behind selections then I just wouldn't entertain them and although there is value sometimes in backing odds on shots, I find that a very slippery path to go down as a general rule.

Some people think backing a football team for example at 1/100 even with a 3 goal lead is just “buying money” but once you do it once you'll do it again and again until eventually the Great White comes along and you get a bite you remember for a long time. How you come back from a loss like that must take some doing and it's not for me.

If a tipster has a proven track record over a period of time even though bad runs are inevitable, eventually you come out the other side on top.

Do you regularly bet yourself? What style of approach do you take to you betting and what do you think of staking plans etc.?

I do bet myself but it's very dependent on what betting accounts I have available to me at a certain time.

I am only really interested in bet365 as bookmakers as they tend to let accounts go a bit longer than other firms. They also have prices available for example on forecasts and tricasts and don't have any 5p rule 4's.

I tend to do mainly lucky 15's (where Betfred actually offer the best terms with 3 x the odds for a single winner) or other multiples as you can win big without staking a fortune.

Regarding staking plans I've never had one as the stronger the fancy the stronger stake, it is not really a plan that I follow.

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

As I've stated previously with my dad and uncle being bookmakers I suppose it's in the blood.

My uncle has had horses with Jonjo O'Neill ever since he started training so that's always been another big lure although I remember backing Gaye Brief for the 1983 champion hurdle months before the race, when I was just 17, and after he won that was me hooked.

What do you enjoy most about the sport is a tricky question but I'd have to say seeing “proper bookmakers” like the late Freddie Williams who stood their ground and would take a bet. On the flip side I admire gamblers like Harry Findlay as it takes some nerve to lay it all on the line like he does.

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?

I first started tipping approximately 5 years ago and have always shown profit although obviously I've had low moments, but I first started tipping after being hit by the Betfair premium charge, having numerous accounts closed and then realising I couldn't even put a bet on at many shops in the high street apart from at s.p.

I bought my own horse a couple of years ago for just 13,000 guineas and C'est No Mour is a good horse winning two derbies at Epsom (not the main one unfortunately) and he's still young and has plenty more wins in him.

For the racing enthusiast I can offer them my experience if and when they ever choose to buy a share in a horse. Who I think the up and coming trainers are and the best value for money. From a punters point of view I can assure them of long term profits and one day a big win for multiple players.

What traits do you think a racing tipster should possess and what do you think an average punter wants from a tipping service?

I think a racing tipster should possess an ability to identify true odds.

Instinct is a massive tool to have as is experience as if something generally looks too good to be true it generally is.

I remember one time during my Betfair days I backed a horse in a photo finish that had clearly won by a short head at 1/10 and the horse I thought on the near side DID get the decision. The trouble is the commentator had called the wrong horse and the one I backed was way back in the field. They were in similar colours. It was a £1500 lesson which is another reason as stated previously I don't back many “shorties”. But that's a typical example of things being too good to be true.

I'm not sure what an average punter wants from a tipping service but I’d imagine it's actually a regular return and consistency. 

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

I'd have to say look beyond the obvious and try to work out what a selections true odds are in reality.

If a horse is 2/1 but the real odds of it winning are in your opinion 6/4 but there's also a 20/1 shot in the race and it's true odds of winning in your opinion are 10/1 then that's the main bet you should have.

I'd also like to say regarding odds. Take a coin flip for example. If someone gave me 6/4 on heads I'd have 20 quid on it. If someone offered me 2/1 on heads I’d have 50 quid on it, if someone offered me 10/1 on heads I’d have a grand on it.

The bigger value you're getting the bigger your stake should be, NEVER EVER think because something is 5/4 you have to launch on as otherwise it's not worth winning. That's a big error most punters make and it's a definite no no.

I'd also like to add just one thing about CHASING. Everyone knows it's not a good idea but we all do it as it is human nature, so don't beat yourself up too much afterwards but just try to be aware as to what extent you do it and learn from it.

As long as you are learning you are going the right direction.

What would you consider to be a highlight of your racing experience? Do you have any racing experiences that would bring about a smile or a grimace you can share with your readers?

This one quite easy for me on both counts.

Firstly the best racing experience of my life. It was the day before Cheltenham in 2004. I was working on Betfair with my mate and we decided to have the day off and get our hair cut. Strolling back in the office around 3.30 we turned the computer and racing on and up came the 4.00 at Plumpton.

Tony McCoy was on the odds on favourite Pilca and was 20 lengths clear after jumping the third last, back in fourth about 4 lengths behind the second horse was Edes who looked to me as if he had running left in him. I thought to myself, if something happens to Pilca here this thing could win so I went up on the computer for £100 stake at odds of 100 and hovered over the place bet button.

As Pilca (still 20 clear) jumped the second last he appeared to just knuckle on landing. With perfect timing and a whole lot of luck I pressed submit bet and got matched at 1000. When I looked up Pilca had indeed fallen but McCoy was trying desperately to re mount. Within seconds Edes was challenging the leaders and jumped to the front at the last. In the meantime Pilca and McCoy were back in the race but were now 4 lengths behind. They rattled home and the run in seemed like Fergie time. At the line though Edes had indeed won by about a length and we'd just won after commission £95,000.

We ran around the garden about 10 times in a total state of shock before going to buy 12 bottles of champagne. Upon our return Betfair had informed both the Sun and the Mirror (I think) who were on the phone who wanted the story as at the time it was the biggest in running win ever on horse racing. We wanted no publicity but the following day in the sun a full page. “Punter loses 147,000 trying to win just £147. It showed a guy who had won 12k and the article went on to say a mystery punter won £100,000 and I was so happy it was us.

We went all over the world in the next 9 months, landing for instance on a Wednesday before taking off again on the Saturday. It was an amazing day and it shows that gambling can be great as well as sometimes heart breaking.

Now to the down sides.

I stated earlier about backing the wrong horse in the photo to the tune of £1500 but the silliest thing I ever did was again on Betfair. We used to do a lot of trading in those days and we decided the favourite in the last at Goodwood (trading at 2.20) was far from a good thing and would drift alarmingly in the betting.

After much discussion (I still don't know why now) we decided not to lay it. Then an hour later it was 2.50 on the machine (we still didn't lay it), two hours later 2.80. Anyway it was 10 mins from race time and the horse had now drifted to 3.65, so NOW we decided to lay it to the tune of £2000. No sooner had we laid it that it began to become all the rage, coming all the way back in to its original price of around 2.2. We could get out and lose over 2 grand which made zero appeal. With no panic at all, “We'll get out in running, no worries” I said, “leave it to me”.

The stalls opened and it went straight to the front, then it went further clear and then further clear and eventually won in a common canter. We'd lost over 5 grand.

Is there anything you'd like to see changed in the gambling industry? Many forums are filled with criticism of bookmakers and how they treat their customers. Is this something you have an opinion on?

Yes Bookmakers who offer prices should offer them to anyone on a first come first served basis until that price is no longer available and then cut it.

I think it's a total liberty to say who has that price and who can't. In fact I’d go as far as to say I think it should be illegal. Many of us have been there. Maximum stake 54 pence. Yeah right.

I've also mentioned previously about Betfair and the premium charge. That's another total disgrace. We welcome winners they say. No they don't.

What do you do to relax and unwind? What interests do you have outside of Horse Racing?

I must admit I find it very hard to relax. It's something I have to learn how to do.

I like golf and play off 14 but don't get on the course much nowadays. I have a pool table at home and am a decent player (well I’d like to think so). The odd game of poker with friends goes down well too but I don't find I have the time to play beyond that.

I watch plenty of sports including football though I don't support anyone but will always cheer on the North West teams especially my home town of Blackpool who could be a team on the up.

I love live bands and films especially the old classics/Tarantino and westerns with my favourite film being The Outlaw Josey Wales (just has about 5 of the best lines in film history i.m.o.). I cook every day and love spicy food.

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