AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

SIMON NOTT: They’re Betting Well…

Last Friday night I was at the reopening night of Oxford Dogs. I think that I can say without fear of contradiction that it was a resounding success.

I was there to write my customary betting ring report but ended up having a happy transportation back to the 1990s.

Point-to-point bookmakers aside, the evening was quite unique for 2022. There were four bookmakers and a stadium full of punters, and they made the market, just like the good old days before the betting exchanges. That’s because there were no betting exchanges, the bookies had to sort the odds out for themselves and see if the punters filled them in or not and go from there.

Just as at point to points when the first prices got up, they are very tentative with a fair-sized margin. That’s in the hope that if there has been a massive mistake with the pricing of one, then there’s somewhere to go with the rest. The bookies don’t need to worry about that on modern racecourses as the market has been developing for 24 hours and any ricks have probably been made to minimal stakes already.

There were grands and monkeys flying about at Oxford so a massive mistake could prove costly. I posted a few pictures of the betting on social media, just with the point to points there were immediately howls of derision about the margins being bet to, interestingly, some by other bookmakers, it was hard to tell if they were annoyed at their brethren’s apparent contempt for the punters or a bit jealous that there was a profit to be had.

Going back to the 1990s, it wasn’t long after he hopped on the stool before Ben decided that he needed a floorman, so I was it. He did say it as if I’d be cheesed off having to multitask but it was great fun. Being stood in a bustling crowd of punters clutching readies calling prices in slang. ‘Eyes in a place’ ‘The jolly is on the thumb’ ‘On your own Trap 6… just you Trap 6.. knock over Trap 6……’


‘I’m right here and that’s what I’ve been telling you for the last two minutes, you were on your own Trap 6 and have been laying 5/2 when everyone else was 2/1, it’s now 7/4’

At one point, Lofty, Star’s rep at Oxford and also a product of the pre exchange betting rings started getting the feel for the bollockings too, double-barrelled Lofty and Ben dear ready, then you know you’re alive!

Some things never change, back in the day everyone in the ring soon knew my name because Jack and Roy Lynn shouted it so loud and so often. Usually as if the world depended on getting that £100 – £7 back after I’d ‘Let them roast’. Of course, the floorman was often wrong, one distraction or daydream was always at the moment there was a move for one and your boss was actually left to roast, needless to say you always had an answer ready. Great fun which I didn’t realise just how much I’d missed, especially using all those old favourite slang phrases again.

Another thing that doesn’t see to change is the bookmaker’s attitudes to each other. Yes, they are a brethren, but they can also be the most jealous bunch. It always used to amuse me that the bookies in the best pitches would do the ‘Skinner Walk’ after a great result. They’d amble down to their neighbours and enquire as to how the 33/1 winner had been for them, it was really just a neck-craning exercise to have a crafty look in the book to make sure they’d not copped more than them, even if they’d got untold bundles. If someone else got more there’d be a frown on.

With this in mind, some bookmakers would ensure the clerk hid a ledger showing a good cop, then embellish it up if anyone who couldn’t see, asked. It seemed very few were happy if anyone had copped more than them. A phrase I’d hear after a good winning day for most would be ‘I didn’t get my whack’, that despite that particular bookie struggling to close his hod such were the readies after the last.

Maybe it’s just the nature of the game, the bookmakers may all bet in the same workplace but ultimately, they are trying to outdo each other. Back in the day, before computers made it easy, some bookies would sit out a race where they were ‘betting bad’ and then really get to work when they were ‘betting well’.

The strange thing was, a good percentage of bookmakers didn’t seem to have a clue either way, and of 99% of the punters certainly didn’t, they all piled in regardless.

Those were the days, when a margin was a good thing, depending which side of the hod you were on of course.


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