A guest article by Peter the Punter
Mediums are utterly useless. They have yet to give me a single winning tip I couldnâ€™t have worked out for myself. Messages from the other side of the betting counter can however be helpful. Although they are unlikely to reveal the winner of the next race at Kempton, they may nevertheless contain something every bit as useful to punters.
I recently had dinner with an odds compiler from a major firm and although he gave away no startling secrets, PBers may be interested in one or two of his comments. After all, if you want to outwit the Old Enemy, itâ€™s a good idea to understand how he operates.
There is a widespread belief amongst PBers, which I have done nothing to discourage, that the major betting firms know nothing about political betting, which is why we occasionally see some extraordinary blunders in these markets. The truth of the matter is that there is likely to be one person in the bookmakerâ€™s office who knows enough about politics to be a decent market-maker and as long as that person is around, the market will be properly managed. The difficulty arises when the specialist goes home, on leave, or is sick, and the task is passed to whoever may be available. The likelihood of that person having the requisite skills is slim.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that political developments affecting the odds may well occur out of normal office hours. Firms that do not take their prices down overnight are particularly vulnerable, as we on this site have noted happily from time to time.
There may be other explanations though. William Hill, I believe, have a reputation for â€˜stubbornnessâ€™ which reaches way beyond their pricing of political events. It seems they will stand a price long after other firms have run for cover. All power to them, I say, and to those brave enough to take them on.
Bookmakers with whom you have an account will naturally keep records on you. When you ring in, their screen will probably tell them how much you are up or down, what your standard stake is and other useful details, such as what tipping line, if any, you use.
If you are successful, a percentage restriction is likely to be applied to your stake. So, if the maximum available on an event is Â£1,000 per bet and you are on a 50% restriction, the most you can bet without being referred to a trader is Â£500. This mechanism makes unnecessary the rather more draconian measure of closing down accounts. A consistently successful punter will find the restriction is steadily increased until the hint is taken.
You may also be â€˜referredâ€™ if your proposed bet is outside your normal range. If your normal punt is Â£20, you are likely to be knocked back if you suddenly try to stake Â£200. This is something you might like to think about if you are in the habit of placing Â£2 each way on behalf of your Auntie from time to time. It dilutes your average.
Bookmakers are pretty good at recognizing where information is coming from. A surge of bets at a particular time will tell them whether a major tipping line, such as Henry Rix or Isiris, has â€˜put one upâ€™. PB.com does not however appear to be on their radar â€“ yet.
Political betting is of course small potatoes to the big firms, which is no doubt why they are not prepared to apply resources to it. This could change though. As Mike Smithsonâ€™s book The Political Punter illustrates, the market is growing exponentially. Moreover the traditional bookmakers are increasingly keen to find ways of combating the Betting Exchanges. Political betting has some potential for them. They have a natural advantage over the Exchanges in that they have more latitude to define and interpret bets without becoming embroiled in disputes between backers and layers. Hills and Paddy Power have led the way in creating political markets, sometimes with great ingenuity. Others are likely to follow as competition with the Exchanges hots up.
My dinner companion was somewhat pessimistic about the future of traditional bookmakers but could see that in political betting at least, there was market potential which they might exploit. Whether they will be able to adapt and compete effectively with the Exchanges, or go the way of the dinosaur, who knows?
Maybe they should speak to Doris Stokes.
Peter Smith (Peter the Punter)