SIMON NOTT BLOG: Pasteurised Prices

Graham Sharpe was the most innovate and influential PR man in bookmaking when he worked for William Hill. With him at the publicity helm the firm were often in the headlines. Bookmaking transcended their traditional influence in the sports pages into the news proper. Graham priced anything from ‘Who shot JR’ to the number of votes the Monster Raving Loony Party would get at a bi-election.

Those type of markets seem the norm now, and they are, but only because of Graham. Astonishingly Graham was ultimately a victim of ‘progress’ in the betting industry, his services deemed no longer required by a firm who have sold their racecourse pitches and are rarely in the news these days. A questionable days work by some bright spark, but his legacy in the industry is forever set in stone. He now writes a very popular ‘Sharpe Mind’ blog for Star Sports and adds to his burgeoning record collection in his semi-retirement. You can meet Graham here in an early #BettingPeople

It was Graham that pointed out on twitter that one of the big bookmakers on-line have started pricing horses at 3/2 instead of 6/4. Whoever came up with that decision no doubt laughed out loud that nobody had spotted how that 3/2 fraction could be used instead of the archaic previous version. Of course, if you go down to 11/8 and up to 13/8 the fraction becomes a bit less wieldy. These days there’s the option in between of 7/5 and 8/5 respectively – though their use would depend on if you were trying to trim 6/4 or 13/8.

One of the most used of the ‘new’ fractions now that the industry returns their own prices is 16/5. I say ‘new’ in inverted commas because my old boss Dave Phillips used to use that price on course in the late 1990’s. The clued up punters wouldn’t stand for it at mid-week local meetings but at weekends the punters would often queue to have their fiver on at 16/5 when there was 10/3 hawking ‘because they could work it out’ was Dave’s reasoning. They could have ‘worked out’ 17/5 too but that’s bigger than 10/3. Something not lost on today’s price returners?

While there is a whiff that the bookmakers aren’t using these non-traditional prices for the benefit of the punters there’s a bigger bi-product. The pasteurisation of prices and racing’s heritage. I hasten to add that in the not too distant past, but before my time there was already a change in how bookies bet. It will come as no surprise to many readers that the prices cost the punters not the layers. When the old money prices were substituted.

100–18 became 11/2
100 -16 became 6/1
100-15 became 13/2
100-14 became 7/1
100-13 became 15/2
100-12 became 8/1
100-11 became 9/1
100-9 became 11/1
100-8 became 12/1
100-7 became 14/1
100-6 became 16/1
100-3 became 33/1

You can still get the value fractions on course, I’ve written a piece about that which can be found here:

The heritage part of the prices come from the shorter odds. The slang of which often but not always, comes from the tic-tac for the prices shown. I tried to post something similar to this on twitter after a few hearty glasses of red the other night and made a terrible error. Mick Eckley, another ex-William Hill luminary pointed out my mistake before I got really and rightly slaughtered, thanks Mick. Here they are with the slang and hopefully no mistakes.

11/10 – Tips
5/4 – Wrist
11/8 – Up The Arm
6/4 – Half Arm or Ear Hole depending on region
7/4 – Neves to Rouf
15/8 – Double tap
2/1 – Bottle
9/4 – Top of the head
5/2 – Eyes
3/1 Carpet
10/3 Birlington
7/2 Carp half
4/1 Rouf
9/2 Rouf and half or shoulders
5/1 Handful
11/2 Handful and half
6/1 Xis
7/1 Neves
8/1 TH
10/1 Cock n Hen ‘cockle’
20/1 Score
25/1 Pony
33/1 Double Carpet

These were the Westcountry betting ring slang terms, please feel free to send in other additions. If the price was odds-on then you’d just add ‘On’ so 2/5 became ‘Eyes On’ and so on.

As a floorman you’d always use the slang if you couldn’t just silently tic-tac your boss. The reason being, if punters were happily taking 11/8 and you could see 6/4 you wouldn’t want to shout it out as odds for obvious reasons. Needless to say, the sort of punters who knew the difference between 16/5 and 10/3 would know the slang anyway, but the average Saturday punter wouldn’t.

These days tic-tac really is becoming a forgotten art, the slang can still be heard on course which keeps it hanging on but those that could tictac a show are dwindling. Wouldn’t it be a terribly sad thing if another part of UK racing’s heritage was sanitised for no other reason than perceived progress? I came into the ‘game’ when there were three tic-tacs on the rail at Newbury. I suppose it was inevitable that cheap walkie-talkies which we embraced, and ultimately mobile phones and computers would do away with them. The exchanges did away with floormen and clerks too. let’s not do away with the old prices too. Maybe the rule should be you can’t return a price that Rocky couldn’t tictac.

Or am I just being an old fart living in the past who can’t bear the march of progress, I suppose that’s a shade of odds-on….

We have preserved the work of one of the legends of the betting ring Rocky Roberto. Here he is recreating the betting via tictac from one of his old twist cards. Not sure what a twist card is? You need to watch the whole interview.

Simon Nott

Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.

Simon Nott is author of: Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring
available on Kindle