SIMON NOTT: ‘The Game’s Greatest Commodity’

I’ve recently had the pleasure of having a rare insight into the incognito world of two modern day professional punters via our #BettingPeople series. They both generally work from home, rather than the previous cut and thrust of the betting ring. The trouble most of them get when trying to avail themselves of the ‘value’ on offer is actually getting the value. To borrow a line from a pre Credit Crunch advert, those offers are often available to ‘Brand New Customers Only’, if that’s a bit strong them maybe confirmed losers, or, if in betting shops, people they don’t have down as ‘sharp’ so they have people sticking on for them.

Fear not, this is not going to be another of those ‘can’t get on’ blogs because there are people that can’t get on with Star Sports either, it’s the nature of the game.

Before I continue I’m going to hark back to ‘The Good Old Days’ and yes I know that there are going to be groans out there, here we go again, but humour me and join me meandering back for a couple of paragraphs.

The grease that kept the betting ring running like clockwork was honesty and trust. The bookie employed change men who he trusted with the money, he employed floormen who in turn called, sometimes huge, hedge bets in over punter’s heads to other bookies, when went in the book ‘with a ring’ to be paid or drawn afterwards.

Punters were also trusted, their favourite bookie would often put their bets in the book ‘cash after’ or ‘with a ring’, ‘with a ring’ being an instruction to the clerk to circle the bet to show it wasn’t paid on. Some punters weren’t given a ticket even if they’d paid on, instead the bookie would call ‘down to Mr C’ or ‘Farmer’ which would give the punter a warm glow of being a valued customer. Of course, the most famous of all the tic-tacs would relay bets between rings without a word being spoken.

The change-men gave out the right change and didn’t steal any of it, the floorman paid the bets or the bookie paid the floorman, the cash after punter settled after the race, win or lose and the credit client and tic-tacs on the agreed date. The whole operation worked like a well-oiled machine.

That is of course unless there was an iffy cog. When I first started working with Jack Lynn he made me roll my sleeves tidying the bag up. That humiliation/precaution due to a story that nobody really knew if it was true or not. It was a tale of a bag man that had elastic bands around his arms up his sleeves to snare notes when he plunged deep into the hod’s readies, remember the game was good then. Some people couldn’t quite grasp the notion of honesty or trust. With all that money flying around many a novice workman, given the chance to work on a racecourse, couldn’t resist supplementing his wages with a snaffled score, the bookie wouldn’t notice, of course he eventually did. A thieving workman was never given a second chance.

Trust in a team was always the utmost importance, there was no place for two-faced backstabbing in bookmaking firms, if there was an issue it got dealt with face to face. Bookmakers had a strange relationship with others, it still continues today, they view rival firms as brethren but with a combatant’s eye while individual firms are rock solid and look out for each other.

When we talk about getting in too deep, bookies’ sons were the worst culprits for betting with money they didn’t have. There are plenty of stories where, after seeing clever punters calling in ‘£500 – £70’ or an ‘Even Bottle’ then copping with no money ever changing hands a bookmaker’s sons would start to follow them in. Cruelly, at first, they’d win, the stakes would rise, the punter’s purple patch was over and the called in bets with a ring figure would rise.

Ultimately the father would get a whisper in his ear, would pay off the son’s debt with a bollocking and hopefully a lesson learned. Floormen of course always knew better than their boss. There was a regular horror story where a workman, pocketed the requested £500 -£15 a back-bet on a rag, ‘because it couldn’t win’ then had to pay it back when it did. That took some doing at a pony a day wages, not a breach of trust so much as Sod’s Law, not so being sent of for a £300-£100, bagging a £350-£100 in the back row then copping the extra £50 when it won. These guys were inevitably caught and mostly sacked. There’s no need to go on about punters that knocked, there are too many for a short blog, but you get the drift, the whole thing worked if everyone played the game. It’s all different now of course, there’s still trust between bookmakers but very little need to rely on it in the modern say betting ring.

So back to those professional punters, one of the questions I have asked modern-day stay at home professionals is why you operate alone? Most don’t totally but do have a small honourable team that they confide in and do business with, a solid nucleus of trustees. I’m the same with a couple of betting pals, sadly there’s no call for me to have big lively bets placed for me but should I go on holiday or be unable to get on for other, not shrewd reasons, I can ask them the place any bets that might arise. I go and enjoy my holiday and when I return ask if it’s a ‘blew’ or ‘cop’ and we square up accordingly. No need to see slips or ask for figures. Honesty, integrity and trust, commodities that abound in our community in ‘The Game’ but rare in others, something we pride ourselves on and cherished most of all, lose those attributes and you are nothing.

Simon Nott


skintmobSimon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring

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