Last week I suggested the idea of simplifying Glorious Goodwood and how, by focusing on certain races we could hone in on making more profits. Well we’re half way through today and I hope it’s going well for everyone?
Onto today then and I wanted to talk about a story that my Grandads’ father had told him about his own gambling practices. He spent many years in America before the war as a sort of traveling salesman although it was never entirely clear as to what his true vocation was. Anyway apparently he was into his horse racing and although illegal to gamble in the states at that time he’d told my Grandad that it was as easy to place a bet as it was to buy cigarettes!
Anyway one story that always sticks in my mind was when the results were telegraphed to bookmakers via the racecourse. An employee of a company responsible for the results would flash, in code using a mirror across to a building opposite the track. This result would then be transmitted via morse code to the relevant bookmakers that paid for the service. It meant that results could be with the bookmaker within seconds of the horse crossing the finish line. Before this practice was invented it could take up to 10 minutes before the layers received the results.
The practice of course was kept very quiet amongst the bookies and for months they would have the results before the punter. Unsuspecting punters would place a bet and if it was a loser of course the bookie laid the bet. If the bet was to be placed on the winner the bookmaker would of course refuse to take the bet. The punter had no idea that the bookmaker knew the results as they always took so long!
The practice was soon realised by everyone and of course the punters (or a select few) decided to find a loophole in this new advanced way of finding the results. According to my Grandad his father was one of those punters and along with a few other men they decided to “sting” a bookie who’d been more than willing to lay a lot of bets on horses he already knew had lost. One of the crew was a dab hand at communications and suggested that they intercept the telegraph line that fed the information to the bookie. By tapping into the line they were able to decipher the code that was being used and then decided on a date to deploy their sting.
On the day of the races they fed the wire into the earpiece of one of their crew who had instant access to the results. They fed a new wire into the building where the bookmaker was illegally laying bets and messaged him to say racing had been delayed by 10 mins. The man who had the results then gave them to several crew members who between them placed various bets so as not to make it too obvious to the bookmaker. There were a few losers of course but over the course of the afternoon they took the bookie for a lot of money. After the racing they replaced the wire and the bookmaker would never have known that he’d been “done!”
Now I don’t know if there’s any truth to this story but I have seen similar stories in gambling history books but I like to think if my great grandad did do it he did it a few times! Of course this story highlights that since bookmaking was born the punter has bent over backwards to try and get one over them. It’s a constant game of cat and mouse and I for one love being a part of it!
I’ll be back next week with more stories and insights into the betting world. Until then have a great week and good luck!