By Lester Jesberg
Back in the fifties the seeds of my punting life were sown by my grandfather Jake, and my uncles Eric and Merv. We’d gather at the nearest pub at the corner of Layard Street and Brisbane Terrace, Goodna, Queensland. Google maps tell me that site is now part of the Evan Margison Sportsground. I was eight years old before I was thought worthy of a place in the corner of the bar, within earshot of the radio, where I drank lemonade (with the occasional dash of XXXX).

My fate was sealed when, by the time I was ten years old, I could out-tip my elders. Crusty old buggers like Mally, Dolly and “the Fox” used to sidle up and ask for tips, which I grudgingly gave, peering over the top edge of  the “Sportsman” or the “Sporting Globe”.

Of course, the pub had its own “SP” – that’s an illegal bookmaker to all you “wet behind the ears” punters. It was in that environment where I quickly learned that the punter and the bookmaker were (almost) deadly enemies. Mind you, “Mally” was an ex-welterweight tent boxer who could do a lot of damage to an “SP” who had run out of funds and not out of the hotel.

Given the outrage surrounding Tom Waterhouse and the TAB regarding sports betting, those balmy Saturday afternoons in the pub, over fifty years ago, came to mind. The world in which we live has changed, but the battle between bookie and punter hasn’t – or has it? My grandfather told me repeatedly that only a mug would take a tip from a bookie. He was right then, and he’s still right today, but now the enemy is much more subtle.

I bet only on thoroughbred horse racing, and almost always fixed-price, win-only. Why? Because it all depends on odds. Back to grandpa Jake, and never trusting a bookie. On both Sky Racing (owned by the TAB), and TVN (heavily sponsored by Sportingbet) we are encouraged to back horses recommended by bookmakers. The recommendations can come from panel discussions or the spruiking of the dreaded “market mover”.  Glenn Munsie, a well paid employee of the TAB, is a master at sending the bookie’s message.

Many “market movers” win, but they are often under the odds at post-time. Why does that matter? It’s the fundamental rule of gambling – never take under the odds. Gamblers who understand that make good punters, sports bettors and card players. Those who don’t always lose in the long run. If you can’t frame a market, either don’t bet seriously or employ the services of someone who can reliably advise you.

In the current era, where bookmakers freely offer advice, beware. They want you to take “unders”. That means a long term profit for them and a long term loss for you. The “friendly” media hosts on radio, Sky TV and TVN are merely conduits through which the bookies get at punters. Don’t forget, the media people  are well looked-after by sponsors. I’m part of the wine media, and I know exactly how that works. There are plenty of free travel opportunities, lunches and dinners to be had if the line is toed.

When I went to university, I specialised in statistics. Sounds dry, doesn’t it? However, as a young punter who could wring a form guide dry of information, I emerged from my degree with the ability to accurately frame a market.  I’m still a very serious punter, and I can’t recall the last year when I didn’t make a decent profit. However, believable estimates suggest that I’m part of only 3.0% of the gambling population. That means 97.0% lose in the long term.

If you can’t frame a market, and you don’t understand probability theory, don’t despair. Stick with honest advisors like Champion Picks. I gave CP a trial some time ago out of curiosity, and, while our views didn’t always align, their advice on betting was sound and responsible, unlike many “bottom feeders” who prey on the naïve masses hoping for quick and easy profits. The road to success in punting is long and challenging, and there are many wrecks in ditches along the way – and just as many tragic tales.

I think old Jake would be proud of me now because he didn’t finish on the right side of the ledger, and I’m looking a good thing to do so. However, it’s always a battle – an intellectual one – and that’s why I love it. I get a great buzz out of betting the “overs”, watching a race pan out as planned, and seeing my account updated with more dollars. I’m in for the long haul, and that’s the way every successful punter sees the task.I refer you to a couple of very useful articles, the first from Champion Picks called ”What are the odds?”.The second is from a high school maths site. Wowsers in our society would be shocked that our kids are being taught about gambling!Lester Jesberg

As well as being a serious and successful punter, Lester Jesberg is the editor of Winewise, a wine magazine that has honestly advised consumers for 28 years. His first article for Champion Picks is below and next month he will report directly from Chantilly and Royal Ascot.