Thursday, 26 March 2020

Vaal 2020 .. last meeting in S.Africa before Lockdown

30 yrs ago .. wow how time flies :

True Story - circa 1990 (when I was potless)

Being a racecourse bookmaker is a difficult profession. There is a learning curve to any industry, but being on the front end, entertaining the public, whilst trying to manufacture balanced books from punters who typically just want to back one horse, gets testing.

In S.A., there are normally 9 races per card, with the Pick 6 (your jackpot) starting from race 4. It is not unknown for jockeys to ride the whole Pick 6 – ‘Striker’ Strydom has done it a few times – he once rode 8 winners to a card – not sure if he has done the lot.

Naturally, once a jockey gets on a roll, punters tear up the form book – if it exists, and just back the jockey. This makes sense – as the top jockeys agents only pick the top horses in each race for them to ride (they are normally freelance) – so, unless a big stable is represented elsewhere, there is a fair probability they will ride a few winners.

Being a novice in the game, I initially had a limited bankroll, and was a prime target for insiders, who knew certain jockeys were going to have very successful days. Quite how they knew – I won't say, obviously, they had good connections.

In S.A., a fair proportion of the trade is in fixed odds doubles/trebles/quads. It is not unusual for people to select 6 horse accumulators – staking 10 rand, to win 50,000 etc.

These bets can be at fixed odds or SP. There is a framed copy of a bet, in one of the tattersalls, where a punter had 100 rand to win 1.2 million. (about 100k pounds in those days). The guy was just a mug, who got lucky, and come the last leg, he was still going. The last leg was ante-post 8/1, but as it was an SP acc, the bookie, was trying to buy back, to cover his position. Being a bit sharp, he had taken doubles/trebles/quads from the 4th leg – the bet was 7 selections, and by now, the industry was in serious trouble. It opened on course at 3/1, and touched odds-on by race-time. The punter didn’t even know he was still going – not even having a radio on for commentaries, but if he had, would have been on tenterhooks, as they went passed the post in a desperate finish. After an eternity, it got up, and he collected a block of flats in part payment.

I had no block of flats, (not even a parking space) - so in my early days, was always a bit wary of large fixed –odds accumulators (my staff would typically price up the betting boards at big margins, to give an even bigger edge). The problem was, although this was great business to take, there was no where to hide, if a certain jockey found multiple winners.

One Jockey .. Rhys Van Wyk  (Reece Van Vake).. was known as Hand-brake, Van Vake ,, just why, might be libelous, so maybe will avoid. He was the jockey in the following story.

One day, at a low level track just out of Johannesburg, called the Vaal, I laid a multiple bet consisting of 5 horses. In the normal course of business, the bookmaker would not even be aware of the bet, until after the first leg has won. After each race, the clerk taking the doubles/trebles will go thru his tickets, bin the losing ones, and pass the winners to my personal field clerk, for incorporating in my field book. As the first leg has been missed out, it comes into my book as a bad bet to lay, (but obviously, all the losers are not fielded either, so its swings and roundabouts). To try and recover some value, the

Bookmaker will tend to inflate the next 2 legs, and hope to make a fairly balanced book on the race. If the next leg wins, this money is carried forward to the next race, and so on. As each leg is fixed price, you know what liability to carry forward, and how it will come into your book in the last leg, if it is still running.

Unfortunately, the first 3 legs had won, and now I had a serious look at the bet. The whole bet was a stake of 50 rand (5 pounds) to win 80,000 (8k pounds). The first leg had been 20/1, so I was in trouble. By fielding the 2nd and 3rd leg, I had managed to accumulate some field money of 3k, but now, in the 4th leg, I had laid 4/1, and it was expected to go off 5/2, and the last leg was fixed at 3/1, and I was already fielding calls from bookmakers, asking what price I was going to open the horse, so I knew it would be shorter.

I didn’t know what to do. If the bet arrived, my guarantees (lodged with the authorities would be wiped out), and being a new bookmaker, it wouldn’t look too good. I decided to take a loss on the 4th leg, and fielded the bet as 24k to 3k, 8/1, about a 5/2 chance, so I was going to lose 7k on the race, whatever won. The idea behind this was, that I would then carry forward 27k to the last leg, and would have laid 53k to 27k (2/1 – not too bad, and maybe I could recover).

The 4th leg duly won, and then the fun begins.

To say I was on-tilt was being kind, and my phones just never stopped ringing. The whole county was in the deepest shit, having laid similar doubles/trebles, all starting with the 20/1 chance, which was definitely hooky. I was forced to open the horse on-course at 4/5 – which didn’t help me in the slightest and was in danger of laying it – which certainly wasn’t going to help. In the end, I managed to buy back some evens, (about 20k) – so effectively laid 33k to 7k the last leg – 5/1, about a evens chance.

The race went off, and I genuinely felt sick. The race was over a straight mile, and the horse (and jockey) were obviously in the know, as it was lobbing along in front, with no definite triers behind. With about 2 furlongs 2 go, it bounces 4 lengths clear, and is starting to pull away. I cannot watch anymore, and start to walk away from the tv monitor, when I suddenly hear a roar. In hope, I turn back, and see the jockey lying on the floor.

From the veld, (grass), which runs alongside the track, a meercat had run out, which had startled the horse, swerved, and unshipped the pilot. To this day, I believe it was an act of God.

In a way, I can now feel sorry for the punter, who I suppose has a good story – I escaped with nervous exhaustion, which probably prepared me for later days in the sun.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Its not me, its YOU ...

My son recently dumped a girl-friend, (or maybe he was the dumpee .. dunno), and arguments ensued.

They almost reconciliated, but, she said he was grumpy and depressing (I know he doesn't get that from ME). She is a fairly talented singer, on the local circuit, and wrote the song, referenced above.

This is fine .. kids will have tiffs, but its happening a LOT more to me. Almost daily, I am asked for something, and people havent got the memo .. I am not a free resource you can just ask for stuff - please don't .. make it worth my while, or send it elsewhere.

In other news .. Matthew Trenhaile has become just my cup of tea. He shares his insights with the industry, and its v well worth listening to.

I dont know if u saw, but, an in-play wager was placed recently, on Denver to win its NFL game against Oakland. They trailed 19-17 late in the 4th qtr, and Fanduel (owned by Paddy Power/Betfair), mispriced the line of Denver +75000 .. thats like 750/1. er no .

A bettor placed $110 on them (in cash), and it got thru any checks they have .. wtf ..

Denver kicked a field goal (3 points), with .04secs left.

Fanduel claimed they had mis-priced, and it should have been a liability of $18.35, not $82,500.

They screamed foul, but, given the new appeal of sports betting, they paid !!! wtf !!!

Its an interesting debate etc .. but shows new rules and regs are still being determined. maybe we are in the wrong country.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Life Values

There is a point to this Blog post . thou, it may take you a while to find it.

If u decide to go back to sleep, I couldn't really blame you ..

On that promising note, lets begin.

So, last week, I was in a random Holiday Inn, which I couldn't really fault, apart from the cumberland sausages, which tasted like paper. Passing the time over breakfast, I was scanning the Tv, and its subtitles had this enlightening message :

A boy was walking along a beach, picking up starfish, and throwing them back in the sea.

A man asked him what he was doing.

The boy replied, that the tide had stranded the starfish, and unless he threw them back they would die.

The man said, but surely you realise there are miles and miles of beach, with thousands of starfish. You cannot possibly make a difference.

The boy listened politely, then threw another starfish into the sea. It made a difference for that one.

Ok, so that's deep shit - what the point.

Well as Harry Bosch would say, everyone counts, or no-one counts. (Hes a fictional murder detective, and his point is, to investigate all cases, whatever the profile of the case, in equal fashion).

Today I was in a sports shop, looking to buy some table tennis balls.

The only pack they had in white, had one damaged ball. They had others, for the same price, but they were orange. And I wanted white.

I asked if I could get a discount, for the damaged ball. Now, I dont care about the discount, and wasn't going to hold up the queue of people, waiting to pay for other stuff - but, its all about value.

So, got the cashier to phone the supervisor. The supervisor calculated a 30p discount was fair. If I was really being grumpy, I might have debated the right discount .. but, didn't have the heart.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

I finally got one right

Readers of this Blog will know how regularly poor my stock forecasts are .. but, I finally managed to nail a forecast in another discipline.

Re-reading the blog, I came across this comment :

Now, anyone knows if u make enough guesses. by sheer force of nature, u have to nail one eventually .. but, I think this was a pretty decent call. The excellent Gambling with an Edge, has Advantage Players write on sports. This is the sports betting map, they produced :

I am focusing more and more of my time on USA opportunities, and expect to spend a great deal of time there in the next few years.

I have joined an advantage players chat group, and being new to exchanges etc, they want to know more.

Will try write some more, about exchanges, in the next few months.

Saturday, 17 March 2018


People have been v kind re the Betdaq win, so, am taking a day off to make some Chilli.

There is a point to this post. Its never give up. Do your homework, work hard and , don't let the punctuation or portion police near you.

While it simmers, I promised to do a post, re a cricket game, which took place, over 3 mths ago.

The game took place at a off-the-track ground, which I have history with (good and bad)

The Bad.

I went there to watch S.Africa play Sri Lanka (over 7 yrs ago). It cost me 400 quid to get there .. (multiple car legs, followed by flight, followed by car), and arrived 1 hr late. Sri lanka were 40-9 when I got there, finally scoring not many, and S.Africa won by a distance. Lost the expenses. Not happy. A day to put in the memory banks.

The Good

I repeated above, but, arrived on time. S.Africa mustered 208 in a one day 50 over game .. fair, definitely not a certain winning score, but N.Zealand faltered in their reply, and were 20-2, pretty quickly. At this stage, S.Africa were 1.21 or so .. short enuf, but you could understand it.

At this juncture, the main scoreboard went blank. Ok, so was manually keeping score, and NZ ticked on a few runs. They got to 30-2, and the price on the exchange was 1.17 .. lower than they were 5 mins ago. The runs were coming at a reasonable pace .. time was never going to be a factor, (either S.Africa were going to bowl NZ out, or NZ would win), and the lower price made little sense, so, I laid some. Another over went by, and NZ got to 40-2 .. now, you would have expected their price to be .. maybe 1.35 or so .. but, it was 1.12 !! I could scarcely believe my eyes, and thought maybe my software was faulty, so checked. It wasn't, so entered some really lumpy lays, at 1.09 and 1.08. These were both taken .. at which point, NZ were 45-2.

I went on twitter to ask, WTF was going on .. and saw a long thread, about how the power outage had stopped all transmissions of scores. The sheep effect had stepped in, and people expected NZ to be 30-4 or something. I quickly put them straight .. gave a ball-by-ball commentary, and even posted a picture of the scoreboard. That settled it .. and was able to book v good profits, when the price resumed to normality.

So, that's the history.

Its still a ground I battle to find .. The GPS is off whack, but went to watch a domestic 50 over game.

There was no international Tv coverage, and I was the main market maker, happy to tick over, and maybe win expenses.

I had watched all the local domestic cricket .. and had a bias, always thinking the chasing side would get up .. chasing 289 (you can see how cricket has moved on). Anyway, it was a decent chase, but, it looked like they were gonna fall short, needing 14 off the last over, scoring just 3 off the first 3 balls, and then getting a run-out. The new batter, was someone I always liked, so had a playful interest at 100/1 +, that he would get 11 off the last 2 balls.

5th ball of the over .. Bosh !! 6

Last ball .. another beautiful 6.

Its now on my Xmas card list ..

Betdaq Cheltenham Trading Competion

Been busy etc and will do other posts, but this one crossed my desk.

Last year, Peter Webb (Bet Angel) used his trading tools to trade on all 28 of the festival races and won on every one. He did a video :

This is a pretty decent effort. Its not a billion to one chance . I would take 10/1 to do it (winning 5p or something), but his numbers were v strong, so he is obviously a great trader.

Betdaq generously announced a competition :

The basic rules were you had to trade on all 28 races and your net result would be multiplied by your net win percentage.

So, if u won $3k over the week and won on 14/28 races, it would have been $3k * 50% = $1500.

First prize 1k, 700 for 2nd, 300 for third.

I very rarely trade Cheltenham but this year was able to fit it in.

Competition strategy is important. I initially expected anyone making around $7k would be close to winning but as the week progressed, my idea of what would be needed fell.

My trading strategy was to try to limit losses, but if certain horses won, put myself into the frame.

During days 1-3, I was able to limit losers to just 1 a day and had some big swings in my favour.

By day 4, I felt I was v close to winning and though I had committed to not really trading Day 4, couldn't help myself when Apples Shakira was trading as low as 2.2. Beating this probably put me well over the top.

Here are my results for the 4 days ;

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

All of this made my winnings for the competition

So, about 4820 multiplied by net win percentage of 89% (25/28) = 4289.

That got the job done.

Was pleased that Betdaq trading volumes were up .. we estimate by around 20% on the week, and Betfair fell by about 15%, year on year.

Matchbook also had very decent liquidity. It's encouraging, competition is gaining traction, especially at high profile events.

Edit : Have discovered 2nd and 3rd were low 1k profits .. which probably indicates bad Game Theory, by risking it all in the first race of Day 4.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Its all about solving puzzles

Life is a puzzle, and for many years, its easy to get trapped trying to solve it - rather than go with the flow, and enjoy it.

We have many demands placed upon us - which can be hard to ignore - but, I don't think u can under-emphasise, u need to do what makes u happy.

As one gets older, the rigour of travel, is less of an enjoyment - and certainly now, I prefer to be less mobile.

Poker has a lot of what I am looking for : Its a gamble, with a cast full of characters, looking to solve a puzzle, for money.

This weekend, I was able to play :

Normally I play at a certain casino - but, after a 30 minute drive, got there to discover, the poker room was being used for a private poker event - so, was turned away. I went to the blackjack pit, got the normal shit service (no one says hello, says fuck-all actually), so, I played in the same fashion, and when cashed out, and they asked for my name, picked up my chips, and left.

Drove to another place, and was lucky to find a seat at a $2/5 table. Just the one game going .. its was early Saturday afternoon, and would maybe only get 4 tables, later that evening.

The table was reg heavy .. many of which I knew, would be happy to see me .. but, was not in the mood to blast off my chips.

I bought in for $500, which was about average.

Maybe an hour in, the regs were starting to ask themselves, what was going on. I was resolutely folding out of position, just playing position, with hands of decent quality. In poker, its definitely an advantage to get premium hands, but, just as big an advantage, is position, and knowing what range of hands, both your opponents have, and what they perceive u to have.

A female lady reg, whose range is decent pocket pairs, and maybe suited connectors, got her AA cracked by a set of 7's, and left. She would be important later.

I was playing solid, good poker .. but, generally in the 1st 3 hrs or so, seeing few playable hands.

As the afternoon past into evening, the game attracted some new characters. On my immediate left, was a tight elderly dunnit merchant, who had zero chance of winning. After playing poorly to lose 2 buy-ins, he borrowed a 3rd, from someone at the table .. which surprised me a little, as thought the person loaning the money, would know better. He later blew this off, shoving A♦K♠, into a board of Q♥ 7♥ 6♠ .. which shows u etc. I later saw him in the salon prive, sitting next to a guy, with maybe $20k, watching that guy play blackjack. Maybe another loan beckoned.

There were 2 supposed 'whales' who might play/donate at my game, but so far, they had escaped the net - preferring to play baccarat.

The female lady reg returned, with a v solid reg, who I really respected, to her immediate left. They knew each other, and generally slow-played against each other, which was fine.

A short while later, I picked up Q♦8♦ in late position, which I decided to make a small raise with, and the lady reg, in BB called. Just the 2 of us. The flop came Q♥8♠9♣ and u would think, this would be good. But, as I say, she just plays a v narrow range .. so, when she raised my continuation bet, I folded and showed the table (which u shouldn't do, but, I was there to have fun). The table was frankly stunned, but, it was a good fold, as she had me coolered, with Q♣9♦. Now, this isn't a suited connector, so, am not totally sure why she was still in the hand -- but, still.

Maybe 15 mins later, I get my first premium hand, in 4 hrs. K♦K♠, and decided to flat in early position, hoping for a check-raise situation, as the table was seeing a lot of raises. Sure enough, a reg in seat 5 raised, the lady reg called, and I re-raised. All other fold, but, the lady reg, who again called.

Flop came Q♦5♥4♠ .. pretty good for my Kings .. but she can definitely have QQ, or maybe AA. I put out a decent bet, and she comes over the top, with a big raise. I felt totally in the zone, and put her 100% on AA, so again folded my KK - face up. The table was again, stunned - but, was proved right when she showed her hand. If she had flat-called, she would have got all my chips, but, the raise, told me enough, to get away.

This stellar play, was all good, but, u want to get paid for playing well. I was now seeing cards, and picked up KK again, UTG+2. My raise, was re-raised, by a v solid pro, in mid-position, and either I could shove, or, see a flop, and if no A hit, then shove, as our stacks meant, we would have little choice. The flop came K 4 10, and was lucky to have out-drawn his AA. This gave me a v playable stack, when a whale came back from the baccarat, and sat down with $1k.

The very first hand, I picked up 9♦9♠ in the BB, and with a straddle on, it was pricey to call a raise from the whale, but, decided I had enough to get well-paid if a 9 hits the flop.

Sure enough, the flop comes J♦9♥5♠, and the whale shoves all-in, for about $750 effective (my stack). I called, and his A♦A♣ never improved.

Winning, maybe $1000 .. I decided to quit, and take a walk in the salon prive. As I was walking round, there was a commotion at the  3 card poker table .. a Chinese high-roller, had hit the straight flush jackpot, for $80k .. must be nice .. He handed out high-fives .. I would have preferred $100 notes, but, maybe that's being unrealistic.

It was a fun visit.