In a world where computer based betting systems and teams are growing more common by the day, punters like Harry Findlay are now all the more unique.
Famous the world over and known as one of the true larger than life figures, Harry 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 in Berkshire Findlay left school when he was just 16. Around this time, he got his first taste of punting after he took a trip to the greyhounds and had a win. From this point on he knew that all he ever wanted to do was gamble.
His first job was at the local greyhound kennels and he also worked for a bookmaker, however he really just wanted to bet. Over the years Harry has never held down a job and for the most part lived off his wagering.
He relied on his knowledge of racing and sports to identify what he considered to be value bets. Bets that have a higher chance of winning than the current odds would suggest. He got his edge through watching sports, being around other successful gamblers and in the early years, building relationship with sportsmen and racing insiders. However as the years went on it became more difficult to surround yourself with professional sports people as the cloud over gambling and sports grew after former South African Captain Hansie Cronje was found guilty of match fixing.
Much of his focus has been on the greyhounds, racing and rugby. However he’s won and lost big sums of money across almost every sport you can bet on.
Harry was known not only for his colourful lifestyle, but for also placing massive bets on sports. Most famous of all was the 2007 Rugby World Cup, where he had been backing the All-Blacks to win to the tune of 2 million pounds. Harry had booked a box and surrounded himself with friends and colleagues, many of whom were on for the win, after Harry suggested New Zealand were a sure thing.
As half-time neared, it appeared that the French were looking a lot stronger than anticipated and tension was growing in the box. Harry snuck off to place a saver bet on France that would protect him a little if his bet didn’t get up.
The French took out the match 20-18 amid some controversy and Harry ended up losing half of his net worth in one foul swoop.
Banned from Racing
Over the years Harry owned many race horses and greyhounds. However he felt that he never truly fitted in with the establishment as he was ultimately a punter and an outsider to the racing community.
In 2008 he bet 80,000 pounds on one of his own runners at Exeter. However before the race he felt that he wasn’t happy with the jockey and decided to stake a further 18,000 pounds against his own horse in a bid to reduce the size of his overall bet. His horse ultimately lost as predicted, however the racing authorities weren’t impressed.
When the same thing happened again a few years later, the authorities ended up placing a 6 month ban on Harry. As it turns out on both occasions he would have won far more if his horse actually won and the decision was reduced to a fine on appeal. However his reputation took a battering.
Over the years Harry had on many occasions almost wiped out his entire betting stake. He has sold off cars and taken out second mortgages on his house, but ultimately never lost everything. Although he came close.
When he was declared bankrupt it was due once again to his love of greyhounds – but this time it wasn’t from betting on them.
Harry wanted to establish Coventry Stadium as the centre of greyhound racing in the UK. He spent £1.7m of his own money, 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. Ultimately he cut his losses but was declared bankrupt in July of 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.
If you want to find out more about his life and betting adventures his new book, Gambling For Life has recently been released.