I’ve met and known some fantastic gamblers down the years and, very much like poker players, it transpires the ones that I respect the most are the ones that make a healthy living by flying under the radar.
Their Modus Operandi is not about getting their faces on TV screens by playing any tournament that has a camera in the building, or writing irksome self-consuming blogs about how fantastic they are at poker.
I’m deadly serious, my friends that live a nomadic existences bounding around the most unlikely European venues seeking soft high-stakes cash games against cigar-chomping chain-smokers called Fat Tony or Mick the Greek may be people you have never heard of. But they are true poker professionals who have paid off a mortgage from their spoils and not concurrently drilled their business into the ground or lived off of Daddy’s trust fund for the past five years.
In gambling the characters and stories which I love the most are:
‘The Hole In One Gang’, a pair of punters who realised the odds of a hole-in-one at a major golf tournament was around 7/4, at some courses it was considerably less, yet that celebrated achievement could often be backed at 100/1.
Long before the internet was on Tim Berners-Lee agenda, the duo researched the location of every independent betting shop in the United Kingdom via a mountain of Yellow Pages at the national library. They then hired a car and set about visiting every single one with a view to placing their bets.
By the time they were finished, – visiting 35 betting shops a day and purchasing over 50 A-Z Roadmaps – so were a number of the bookmakers. Their coup netted over half a million pounds ($765,000); the year was 1991.
Then I’ve two personal friends that have landed their own mini-coup in similar circumstances.
One realised that the format for the World Snooker Championships had changed while the traders at two well-known spread betting firms were blissfully unaware of the development.
In the modern era opening round matches are the ‘best of 19’ affairs, round two and the quarter-finals are best of 25 frames, the semis best of 33 and the final is the best of 35 (or first to 18).
It was not always this way; there used to be considerably less snooker played en-route to the final. Poor over-worked traders, blissfully unaware that there had been a change in the criteria, simply looked at the historical results and set their lines for the total number of century breaks according to what the form book told him.
As my associate proudly told me afterwards: “Even before the quarter final stages I was collecting four grand every time a player scored a century and, at that point, there was no down side. It was a great tournament!”
Quite simply the goal-posts had been made a lot bigger meaning there had to be more goals. It is learning about this kind of changes before the odds compilers do which sets the good and the great apart.
My Guru later explained: “These mistakes are commonplace, they are inevitable, but they are only really found in obscure sports and markets. Companies don’t employ individual odds compilers for every sport; they clump them together they have to.
“Somewhere in a small office right now there’s a guy pricing up the table-tennis, and when he finishes that he has to do something like the speedway, a TV talent show, pool and athletics. He’s only got to miss one thing, and he’s done.
“I love this ‘us versus them’ scenario as I can spend all day checking the t’s are crossed and the i’s dotted but this one guy, a rival, is stuck beneath a desk surrounded by four walls staring at a pile of paperwork and computer screen.”
I’ve discovered he is right, alarmingly correct in his assessment.
Now skiing is about as obscure as sport comes and a great case in point.
Personally I can no longer bet more than a bag of chips on the sport as a betting genre, so I’ll willingly declare World Cup Skiing is the best betting medium I’ve come across in a long, long time.
It is not difficult to identify winners in this sport where ‘horses for courses’ is a more pertinent form indicator than recent form. Season after season home advantage is massive. In the past month, we have seen American’s Mikaela Shiffrin and Ted Ligety both win on home snow in the World Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek, Colorado.
Shortly afterwards, Austrian Mathias Mayer won both the Downhill and Super G at home resort, Saalbach. He was 14/1 to win either race!
The results lists are littered with similar big priced winners who achieve way more than their apparent ability as a consequence of them performing before a home crowd, or a hill/slope which they are familiar with.
There are some exceptions; Ted Ligety won Soelden’s World Cup Giant Slalom in consecutive years: 2012/2013/2014. Initial beliefs that this was a slope which simply suited the American’s style was soon dispelled when it transpired the Soelden resort is actually the official training resort of the U.S. Ski Team!
Just last weekend Austrian skiers claimed a clean-sweep 1-2-3 in the Downhill race at the German resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Coincidence? No, Garmisch is actually a stones throw from the Austrian border and thirty minutes away from Innsbruck, the Austrian winter-sports mecca.
I’d be very surprised if the odds compilers at the bookmaking firms that do take the bold step of pricing-up these sports themselves would be aware of this kind of facts.
Instead, they would be employing that wonderful tool which bookmakers have put back into the English dictionary, the algorithm, packed full of stats and results data to compile their early prices.