Blog: How I got the bitten by the gambling bug

Filling out my first betting slip

Well, here goes. I am about to try and start writing a betting blog on here. I’ve no idea how it will pan out if indeed it pans at all, this may prove to be a one off. Time will tell.

However, recently I’ve not really been betting much due to other commitments, life sometimes gets in the way I guess. So I have a little more time to devote to attempting to write down a few thoughts instead.

So I may as well start at the very beginning and tell you how I got indoctrinated with the betting bug.  I have been interested in sports betting since I was about 10 or 11 years old when my dad asked me to pick out a Placepot for him at Haydock Park. I can’t have been much older as I can remember picking out Spartan Missile and Royal Mail in the 1981 Grand National won by Aldaniti and Bob Champion.

He just said “‘Ere lad, pick us an horse in the first six races here” and handed me the Daily Mirror.

I quickly scanned the runners and picked out 6 horses I liked the look of. He explained what the form figures were and all the other numbers. I still remember the name of one or two of them as they are forever etched in my brain. One was called Yallah and another was called New Generation. He put the single line on for a whole pound.

I watched the horse racing on Channel4 (back in the days when it was fun) with interest as my first few horses were placed. I think I had the first four up after which Channel 4’s TV coverage stopped so I ran down to the bookies next to the local pub.

It was basically a standalone brick shed strategically built right next to a boozer as they all were in those days. You would see the men running back and forth to place bets and then watch it on the tele in the pub. I stood by the doorway trying to hear what was going on via the Tannoy thingy.  TV’s were not even allowed in bookies until the mid 80’s, so it was just audio commentary and chalk boards. Pretty archaic.

The soundtrack of my childhood, (and the best Channel4 Racing theme tune)

Of course beginners luck came into play and I got the Placepot up! I was cockahoop. I waited for around half an hour for them to announce the dividend and it came out as just over £57 to the pound. Not bad. My dad gave me a tenner for picking them but I was greedy and wanted more.  That was it, I was hooked.

Despite my unreasonable protestations, I had to settle for a tenner and was still very pleased with that. Next time I thought, I will put the stake on and collect all the winnings for myself. Little did I know I was about enter a life long love/hate affair with punting and how hard it was to make it pay. Nevertheless these were my halcyon days.

And so began the long and bumpy ride on the gambling rollercoaster with all its’ ups and downs and twists and turns. It has been the source of much fun and excitement but also crushing lows and hard luck stories. Like the time in July 1990 I put £250 (my biggest stake to date) on the prolific sprinter Timeless Times at 11/10 who at that point had won 14 races from 15 starts as a 2 year old. I went to Windsor after work (you didn’t have to pay tax on course) and watched it run 2nd to Line Engaged. Gutted.

old school betting slip

I kept a good supply of these

I stuck mainly to Placepots initially as this bet gave me an interest in up to 6 races for a small stake, they only had to place and there was the chance of a big payout. I got a few small ones up but nothing huge. As things progressed I began to place 5p Round Robins (well my Dad did) and sometimes my old man’s favourite, 3 doubles and a treble, more commonly known nowadays as a Trixie.

I used to fund my new gambling habit through various paper rounds.  I had one before and one after school. I remember getting paid only £1.80 a week for my first round.  I am now getting visions of Hovis adverts and Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch..

You were lucky. We lived for three months in a paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six in the morning, clean the paper bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down t’ mill, fourteen hours a day, week-in week-out, for sixpence a week, and when we got home our Dad would thrash us to sleep wi’ his belt.”

It was an enthralling hobby and even more so when I got to go to a few race meetings with my parents. I think Southwell or Market Rasen was my first taste of the racecourse and I remember it was thrilling to see the horses and jockeys up close. We also went to other nearby tracks such as Uttoxeter, Catterick, Thirsk and Wetherby.

Once, when I was about 15 years old, I tried to take my first ‘proper girlfriend’ to Donny races . The old guy on the turnstile refused to let us in because we were too young and needed to be accompanied by an adult but after a bit of moping around near the entrance looking all dejected he called us over and said if we give him a fiver and jump over the turnstile we could go in. I quickly bunged the sly old dog a fiver and over we popped.

It felt great being up in the main grandstand as I was used to being in the cheap seats (often called the Silver Ring). It was an evening meeting and even though it’s almost 30 years ago I can still clearly remember shouting home a horse called Felipe Toro in the lucky last, it was exhilarating. Thankfully it was far easier to get a bet on than it was to get in!

They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and perhaps being a gambler is genetic but I am glad I inherited it. On the whole, it has done me proud and dictated my career really, having worked for Ladbrokes, the Racing Post and then my own betting sites. So I consider myself extremely lucky to make a living (of sorts) from doing something that I love. I’ve also kept precise records of all my betting activity for the last ten years and I can at least boast an overall profit in that time, albeit a modest one.

Of course, some people develop gambling problems and I have had my share of bad times and terrible losing runs too but on the whole I wouldn’t change it, it’s character building. It has certainly added much interest and excitement to my days but I’m still a long way from being a professional gambler… maybe in another ten years I will have finally cracked it and can take out those plans for a beach hut in Brighton.

Well that’s how it all started for me.  How about you?  It would be great if people left comments below with your stories and memories.

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  1. Profile photo of JohnJohn

    Just read your Blog: How I got the bitten by the gambling bug ,
    Great I like it, brought back a lot of memories I missed out on the paper rounds I started out earning a few bob in a bakery in my child hood days, very early mornings my dad used to get me up or else I would never have got therein time, it was all in growing up.

  2. Profile photo of JamesJames

    My early betting started with Football. Had the knowledge as used to do a private fantasy football team with mates. We had a local bookie and we went in and all backed a few bankers well i thought mine were. 0/4 or so bets in singles. After that i made a few systems. Best one coming round every 4 yrs in either euro or world cups. Back 1st goal scorer on a teams leading striker to qualify. The days of getting 6/1 on Klose to score 1st are long gone. Top scorers usually around the 4/1 mark now if you are lucky. Safe to say i creamed that market. Had plenty of rough times as well and systems that failed.
    A few years on i had a back injury and that’s when i got into racing. I learnt my trade from forums similar to this where a good group of racing fans would write up sound reasoning for picking a horse. Each having there own methods and picking up on things to look out for. Over the years i have continued to evolve and try to use different angles in so that i make the game pay.
    I started a blog with a fellow tipster which had excellent results and we bounced things off each other which again helped me to continue to improve my betting. The blog finished with a winner and Jm is now a pro tipster sharing his picks and we still talk horses. I have def got the bug as i no i can make it pay. Has been a long road and dread to think how many hrs on the computer but if i was to give a fellow punter a bit of advice its 2 things. Form is only part of the puzzle and 2 Find the value and let the winners take care of themselves. Look forward to reading a few more of peoples stories.

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