In a world where computer-based betting systems and large syndicates are starting to dominate betting markets, punters like Harry Findlay are all the more unique.
Famous the world over and known as a true larger-than life-figure, Harry Findlay has lived a life that has seen him start with nothing, hang out with the rich and famous, win millions of pounds and also be declared bankrupt along the way.
Born in 1962 in High Wycombe, Berkshire, Findlay left school at sixteen. Around this time, he got his first taste of punting after he took a trip to the greyhounds and had a win.
His took his first job at the local greyhound kennels and also worked for a bookmaker, but he really just wanted to bet. This is a trend that continued throughout his life. For the most part, Findlay has never really held down a job. He’s lived off his wagering.
Throughout his punting life, much of Findlay’s focus has been on greyhounds, thoroughbreds and rugby. However he’s won and lost big sums of money across almost every sport you can bet on.
Findlay has always been what you would call a “gut punter”. He relied on his knowledge of racing and sports to identify what he considered to be value bets. He got his edge through watching sports, being around other successful gamblers and in the early years, building relationships with sportsmen and racing insiders.
However as the years went on, it became more difficult for a noted gambling figure to to surround himself with professional sports people. The cloud over gambling and sport grew particularly after former South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje was found guilty of match fixing.
Findlay came into the public consciousness due to his penchant for enormous single wagers on sports. It’s fair to say none of these involved smart, considered staking to protect his overall bankroll. Findlay was happy to trust his gut and stake depending on confidence. For a long time, this worked for him.
Probably his most famous bet, however, was also his downfall. Findlay backed New Zealand to win the 2007 Rugby World Cup, staking an incredible £2.5 million. According to Findlay, this was around half his total net worth at the time. The All Blacks won their group and drew France in the quarter-finals. Findlay booked a superbox for himself and a large group of friends, many of whom were also on New Zealand… though not for the same amount!
New Zealand led 13-3 at half time, and the box was rocking. But Harry couldn’t shake the feeling that things weren’t going well, with the French actually performing better than he’d expected. He snuck off to have himself a small saver bet on France.
Harry’s matchday instincts proved correct. The French took out the match 20-18 and despite rescuing some of the wager with his saver, Findlay lost an enormous amount – a figure well-and-truly in seven-figure territory.
Findlay loved racing and in addition to his gambling, owned many horses and greyhounds. But the punt always came first, which would land him in hot water with authorities.
In 2008 Findlay staked £80,000 on one of his own runners at Exeter. However another of those nagging feelings crept up before the race, after a chat with jockey left him less than confident. He decided to stake £18,000 against his own horse to reduce the size of his overall bet. His horse ultimately lost as predicted.
Authorities were not impressed. When the same thing happened again a few years later, they slapped a six-month ban on him. Their wrath was misplaced, however. He was able to prove that on both occasions he would have won far more if his horse actually won. The decision was reduced to a fine on appeal, but the damage to his reputation was done.
Findlay’s huge betting had on many occasions almost wiped out his entire betting bank. At times he sold cars and even took out additional mortgages on his house to stay afloat. But ultimately, he never lost the lot on the punt.
In 2013, however, he was declared bankrupt. It was due to his love of greyhounds, but betting on them wasn’t the issue.
Harry wanted to establish Coventry Stadium as the centre of greyhound racing in the UK. He spent £1.7m of his own money on the venture, however he was unable to gain an official BAGS [Bookmakers Afternoon Greyhound Service] contract which meant he wasn’t able to make it into a profitable venture. He was forced to cut his losses but was declared bankrupt in July 2013.
Whilst teams of analysts and data scientists build databases and statistical models, Harry has spent his life relying on his nous and betting smarts to win (and lose) many millions of pounds.