When I first became interested in racing and betting, the early 1980s, a lot of it was just ‘another thing’ you could do as an adult. That was in the first instance, as well as the William Hill on Gold Street, Tiverton, which is still there, well situated with pubs. It didn’t take many Saturdays watching young lads ‘getting a Yankee up’ or copping because they just backed ‘Dickinson’s’ or ‘O’Gorman and Ives’ blindly and suddenly being in the money for me to feel I was missing out.
I was soon hooked but of course knew nothing, ‘Aye Aye’ as far as the local William Hill were concerned with my betting. There was a guy that appeared to sock it to them on a regular basis though, we gave everyone hope. We’ll call him Larry, he wore a Crombie (the type preferred by skinheads not pro-punters) and daps, for those that don’t know, daps are cheap trainers, it maybe a Devon colloquialism. Anyway…
Larry used to appear with around five minutes to go, scribble his betting slip, the contents of which were shielded by a menagerie of craning necks, have his bet, then speed walk, his daps a blur, back to his house to watch the race, then it seemed, invariably cop. I was intrigued by Larry, who was about seven years older than me and eventually got friendly with him. Before long I was invited to speed walk with him back to his house and watch the races. It was there that I saw a big pile of thick books with ‘Haig Superform’ on the spine. What were they I asked, ‘Form Books’ he replied, looking at me slightly incredulously.
I had no idea that such a thing even existed. I found out that they were quite expensive but did manage to get one for Christmas. Yes, I looked at it but soon found out that such old form, though valuable, wasn’t really what you needed, the single leaf weekly versions were way out of my price range so I lost interest and just kept following Man On The Spot and doing my cobblers. Though I did actually subscribe some years later. I found out later too that people could anticipate a person’s wealth by their shoes, say no more.
It’s all different these days, as far as I know, Superform doesn’t exist anymore, I doubt lose leaf weekly form books are available either but correct me if I’m wrong. What does exist is a whole plethora of form at your fingertips, free if you have the Internet. You can click through and delve as deep as you like adding speed-figures and ratings from other free sources too. Add to that video reruns and two dedicated TV channels it’s hardly any wonder that punters, if they weren’t as lazy (though poor isn’t so much an issue) as me, have a great chance of giving the bookies a run for their money.
In those heady days of smoke-filled 1980’s tax paid betting shop communities a lot of people said they were ‘straight across’ on the day. Most were lying of course and people like ‘Larry’ probably really just enjoyed good runs and only sang when they were winning.
How different from these days of social media, people scream the place down if they are winning. ‘I’ve been restricted, I can’t get on’. I was met with howls of derision when I mentioned on twitter that a lot of it was ‘how clever am I’ trumpet parping. The truth is though that if a punter has been so clever that they’ve been restricted by (at last count) all 28 of the bookmakers that advertise on oddschecker – then similarly been cut back by often much hardier independents and then become a person not welcome in the local betting shops and can’t get enough on the exchanges they really must have the game by the bollocks.
Add to that, if they are really THAT clever then finding a way around those hurdles, also known as the price of being so successful and shrewd, they really ought to be able to still find ways around it. That given, maybe their time would be better spent doing that rather than screaming how clever they are and stepping from under the radar on social media.
Of course, in reality they could just be ‘straight across’.
Just a thought.
Merry Christmas one and all!
Simon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring