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Alan Potts Answers your Questions

Home Forums Archive Topics Celebrity Q&A’s Alan Potts Answers your Questions

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    — Posted by Jay Torbitt on 12:06 pm on Sep. 12, 2001<br> <br>How long o your losing runs last, on average?

    I’m not sure that an average is very useful when measuring a losing run.  For example, what’s worse – a run of 20 losers, or two runs of 15 losers split by a single winner? Because I back at middle range prices, I can and do have long periods where profit is elusive, but I can call on twenty years of records and experience to reassure me that things will change. But my worst losing run lasted through 37 bets and stretched over seven weeks.  If I’d had a cat, I doubt he would have survived that period without<br>numerous kickings!

    And are you ever tempted to lump on hevily in future bets to try and cover<br>your losses?

    No – that would be the quickest way to back to a 9 to 5 job I can think of.

    And what first made you decide to Bet For A Living?

    I’d been planning to try my hand at this since about 1987 when the on course tax was removed and I’d had four consecutive winning years. But that plan was based on starting at about 50. I was made redundant at 44 and decided it was now or never. So I suppose the answer to your question is that I wanted to bet for a living, because I felt that I could and I didn’t want to die not having made the attempt.

    — Posted by Escorial on 5:42 pm on Sep. 12, 2001<br> <br>What type of races will you never bet on and why?<br> <br>Essentially I avoid low grade races. That would include sellers, claimers, 0-70 handicaps and ordinary maiden races. In NH racing, I’d be less choosy, but I’d still leave out sellers and claimers and also NH Flat races, which are a farce. Low grade horses simply aren’t consistent and it’s much more<br>difficult to establish patterns in their form, or to picture how these sort of races will be run.

    Is their any type of race that will always appeal to you as a betting medium?<br> <br>On the flat, my preference is for top class handicaps, but not the ones that attract big fields like the Stewards Cup. I’m a big fan of the Rated Stakes that were introduced about ten years ago. They were loudly criticised at the time by Big Mac for producing small fields. When he started mouthing off, I knew I was right to like these races.

    At MH meetings, I have a long standing preference for handicap chases, especially those over 3M and further. The runners always run to much the same pattern, but the markets are often skewed in favour of the big stables. As many small trainers have shown over the years, from Sirrel Griffiths (Nortons Coin) to Norman Mason (Red Marauder), if the horse is good enough, so are they.

    What is the longest period of time you have gone without a wager because nothing appealed as a betting proposition?<br> <br>I usually take a two to three week break twice each year when I switch from NH to Flat at the end of April and back at the end of October. I often don’t bet at all during those breaks and have in the past gone three to four weeks without a bet if nothing appeals.

    Finally, I`m very reliant on stats, along with form of course, when making my selections, what is the main criteria you employ?

    Different approaches work for different types of race. For example, in sprints, I’m looking at speed figures, current form and the draw. But in a 2m handicap, proven stamina and the pace of the race might be paramount. I do use stats, especially those relating to the past winners of the same race – for example there were only four three-year-olds in a field of twelve for the Mallard Handicap at Doncaster last Friday (Sept 14th). But that age group had won six of the last seven runnings of the race and sure enough, they did so again, with Darasim winning at 6/1. Pity I backed Big Moment, but….

    And I’m always looking for horses at short prices that I want to oppose. A prime example from that same Doncaster card came in the 10F conditions event. This included several serial losers, such as Nooshman (7 seconds from 14 starts), Aldebaran (second four times in a row) and Dalampour (hard puller who beats himself). Take those out of the equation and you have a betting market skewed in favour of the punter. This time I got it right by backing Lagudin, whilst Aldebaran and Nooshman had a good battle for second!

    — Posted by Sal on 7:10 pm on Sep. 12, 2001<br> <br>How did you get involved in<br> <br>They asked me. As you may know I had been writing for Odds On for about four years, but that magazine folded in April as the publisher went into voluntary liquidation. So the offer from came at an opportune moment. I enjoy writing and am pleased to have the site as means of publishing my material.

    And how much difference has the rise of internet betting made to your gambling system?<br> <br>A substantial difference. Obviously the key factor is that it is tax free, as the 9% tax on old style telephone accounts was a significant barrier to profit. Last year (2000), I used the Internet sites a lot and increased my turnover, but I found that my profit margin declined as I became less selective. I also found that most of the so called ‘big’ firms were very quick to restrict stakes on their websites. Perhaps the most ridiculous knock back came from the ‘great’ Victor Chandler. Their site declined a bet of £250 on a 4/1 chance in a Group 1 race at Royal Ascot, even though I opted to take SP and the bet was being placed several hours before the race.

    Now I have reverted to being more selective and I concentrate my Internet betting on the sites at Blue Square and Betabet. Up to now, both have been prepared to lay a decent bet and Blue Square have stood total losses in five figures without placing any restriction on my betting. If they can do this and survive, one wonders why more bookmakers can’t follow their example.

    Although telephone betting will be tax free after October 6th, I anticipate continuing to use the Net, as I don’t imagine the big boys will be any more willing to play over the phone than they were online.

    <br>— Posted by Viking on 3:47 am on Sep. 13, 2001<br> <br>1) with regard to the AW, wolves and Lingfield have recently relayed their surfaces. How long will it be before you can get a good idea of the Sectional and Average times so that you can renew your speed<br>figures, also will it affect the draw bias? <br> <br>At Wolverhampton, the material is the same as before and I would continue to use my old standard times, unless I saw significant evidence that things had changed significantly. At present the surface is rather slow, but that should change once the track has had some steady rain on it during the<br>autumn.

    At Lingfield we have an entirely new material, that has never been used on a ractrack anywhere in the world. So I expect to need all of the racing scheduled for this winter to provide sufficient data to calculate new standard times. I’m sure that there will be a draw bias, but no idea what it will be. More importantly, based on evidence from training gallops using this material (called Polytrack), the surface will favour front runners as horses don’t get tired on it.<br> <br>2) With the NH season about to kick into gear, do you or are you ever tempted to back anything Antipost for the big meetings i.e Hennesy, king george, chelt Fest,etc ? and are you holding any antipost vouchers as we speak?

    No and no. For the simple reason that far too many of the horses quoted will fail to make the race due to injury. If you print off a copy of the Gold Cup odds today, I’d guess that the eventual winner won’t be on the list and that over half the horses quoted won’t run in the race on the day. That would certainly have been the case in most years in the 90’s.

    P.S i was gonna ask WHO the 10lb penalty was, but i wont put you on the spot Alan

    Since Luke Harvey already knows the answer, no need to keep it secret. And to give him his due, he thought it should have been nearer 14lbs!

    <br>— Posted by paulbraidley on 12:22 pm on Sep. 13, 2001<br> <br>Why did you decide to charge folk money for your tips when in association with MH?

    Gambling is by it’s nature an uncertain source of income. Mark Holder offered me a guaranteed income and since I was already doing the necessary work studying the races, it would have been stupid to turn it down. Thats not to say that I didn’t have some ethical doubts about the business, but nobody sems to mind other professional people (accountants, solicitors, stockbrokers etc) making a living from providing advice. And nobody ever put a gun to a punter’s head to force them to pay for tips…….

    Why did you cease your association with MH?

    I’ll have to duck that one and limit my answer to saying that it’s a private matter between myself and Mark.

    Have you ever had a losing year (like messrs Bird and Bull)?

    Yes – I lost almost £15,000 during the last NH season. And I lost on the flat season in 1995. Anybody that says they never lose is either a liar or suffering from delusions.

    <br>— Posted by Keith the teeth on 3:21 pm on Sep. 13, 2001<br> <br>How many people do you think actually make a living wage from backing horses ?<br> <br>That depends if you include the bookmakers! I know of about 15 people who are racecourse regulars in the South and Midlands. But I also know other people who bet off course and for whom the advent of Internet betting tax free, spread betting and betting exchanges has meant an opportunity to become full time players. So I suspect that across the country as a whole, there might be 200 – 300 people that would classify themselves as full time punters.

    How many bets would you have in a year ?<br> <br>Around 300, although I’m down on that this year so far because of the meetings lost to foot and mouth and the weather earlier this year.

    What is your strike rate ?

    Around one winner every five bets. And I have found that if I make more bets, that suffers. So I try to strike a balance between selectivity and turning over enough money to make a living.

    What percentage profit on turnover do you make and is this typical for a propunter. ?<br> <br>I aim at a minimum of 10%, but have had several seasons over the last five years when I’ve exceeded that by quite a bit, with profits up to 30% or 40% of turnover. But as you saw from an earlier answer, that has to be balanced against the odd losing season. I’ve no idea what’s typical, as it’s not the<br>sort of thing we ever talk about. When two or more pro punters meet, the subject is always the next race or the next meeting – money is hardly ever mentioned. We are, after all, British!

    <br>— Posted by terry on 10:01 pm on Sep. 13, 2001<br> <br>What is your opinion of people who discuss racing on the internet?<br> <br>I suspect you are referring to a light hearted remark made to a racing Post journalist which he included in a Q+A on their Net Prophet page. I said that the C4 chatroom was worth a look because some of the material was good for a laugh.

    It certainly produced some heated messages on that chatroom, but the general impression was that the contributors simpy reinforced my point. One even seemed to think it amusing to post a message purporting to come from me and using my name.

    My opinion of people who discuss racing is that this is an entirely sensible thing to do and that the Internet and Email have provided a great opportunity for lovers of the sport and of gambling to communicate directly without needing the medium of TV or newspapers.

    The problem is that most chatrooms get infected by two unwanted species. Firstly there are those that take everything personally and descend to abuse. Secondly there are those who see the chatroom as a cheap way to advertise their business. The fact that C4 subsequently closed their chat room is a testimony to the problem they were having with both types.

    I’m a member of the Smartsig Email discussion group and we have, in the main, managed to avoid infection by the above species. I enjoy the opportunity to debate with like-minded individuals and recognise that I can<br>always learn from other punters.

    — Posted by Jamsym on 10:06 pm on Sep. 13, 2001<br> <br>1) What advice would you give someone who wanted to beacome a pro gambler and make a living from racing?<br> <br>Apart from don’t? Firstly spend five years testing whether you can make a profit. Secondly build up a substantial capital base, sufficient to support you and your betting for at least two years. It will almost certainly take you that long to make the adjustment from hobby to job. Thirdly, measure your degree of obsession. If you have ever said, or even thought, I’ll take the family to Alton Towers today instead of going racing, then stick to the day job.

    All the successful punters I know share three characteristics –

    1 – unshakeable self confidence, to the point of arrogance

    2 – a lifelong obsession with racing as a sport, not just as a betting medium (as evidenced by the fact that so many also own horses)

    3 – a background in work of an anaytical or mathematical nature, such as computers, accountancy, finance, etc. Mr Spock rather than Doctor McCoy……

    Whats you most memorable race a) from a betting point of view b) otherwise?

    a) Probably the Southern Counties Handicap Hurdle at Lingfield on Friday March 19th 1993, won by Va Utu, ridden by Lorna Vincent and trained by Mick Channon. It was the sixth race on the Jackpot card and provided me with a £39,000 win that ensured my faltering professional career would continue.

    b) As an owner, I’ve been lucky enough to have winners in all types of racing. But the vote has to go to the win by Charente in a Lingfield AW maiden race on Feb 14th this year. It was the first runner for Pat Murphy after the tragic death of his older daughter in a road accident and thus a very emotional day for all concerned. It also provided both Pat and me with long term satisfaction, as I’d bought the horse privately from Martin Pipe after it failed to reach it’s reserve at the Newmarket Sales. Everybody told us we’d never be able to win a race with a horse after it had been with Pipe and it was very pleasing to prove them wrong. Charente has since been off the course after suffering a knee injury in his next race, but will be back on track soon and will hopefully have further success on the AW this winter.

    I’d also have to add the Chetenham Gold Cup win of Desert Orchid. I’d been an owner with David Elsworth when the horse first arrived in the yard and his now famous lass, Janice Coyle, began her career at 16 by leading up my horse Rising Fast when it ran in the 1981 Cesarewitch.<br> <br>— Posted by Scottf on 9:39 am on Sep. 17, 2001<br> <br>Do you find that some punters disbelieve you make money betting or are jealous of your success?<br> <br>I’ve never encountered any jealousy, at least not from anybody that has talked to me on the racecourse, or via Email groups. As to whether people believe my accounts of betting, I really don’t know. Again there are plenty of people on the racecourse who have seen me at work and know for themselves how I bet. I suppose in the end, people will believe what they want to believe – it makes no difference to my bank balance either way.

    And what jockeys do you feel are the most overrated? Mine are R.Hughes, L.Dettori (unless riding for Godolphin) and R.Hills.<br> <br>I’d agree that Dettori is no longer the rider he was when younger, except on the big occasion. I’m not sure how Richard Hills could be over-rated, as I don’t know anybody that rates him at all! Personally, I’m a fan of Hughes, but his style does make his mistakes look worse. And they all make<br>mistakes. There a few I’d rather not back, especially over jumps, but I’d better be careful – there are libel laws.

    — Posted by robgomm on 9:54 am on Sep. 17, 2001<br> <br>Do you use speed ratings or other forms of ratings like class ratings?

    I use speed ratings, but only as one factor, not as means of selection entirely on their own. On turf, I employ the Timeform figures, because it would take too much time to produce my own. On the AW, I generate my own figures. For NH racing, I don’t think speed figs help much at all. It doesn’t matter how fast they can go if they can’t jump!

    What is your opinion on the dosage theory?

    As employed by Nick Mordin, it clearly does work in certain circumstances. But there is one thing about it that has always mystified me. It depends upon points allocated to each sire for speed and stamina, but I’ve never found out who decides what those scores should be, or how you find out the<br>score for a new sire. In general, it looks like a lot of work for limited benefit.

    — Posted by An Capall on 2:26 pm on Sep. 17, 2001<br> <br>Why do you think a broadcaster as oustanding as Clare Balding continues to work with people who are less skilled, verbally or intellectually ?<br> <br>Presumably because she has very little say. As good as she is, you have to remember she’s only been in the position for a couple of years and probably doesn’t have the power to dictate to the BBC. Personally I can’t abide listening to Willie Carson, Jimmy Lindley or Graham Rock, none of whom ever<br>says much worth hearing. But it’s one of the peculiarities that once somebody appears on a TV racing program, they never disappear, regardless of their incompetence.

    Why is your favourite racing broadcaster and why?

    My admiration is reserved for the commentators and I have the good fortune to be friendly with most of them. In my opinion, Simon Holt is the best and streets ahead of Jim McGrath on the BBC. The latter suffers from the silly BBC rule which prevents him from working as a racecourse commentator and as<br>a result he doesn’t get enough practice at a job which needs the identifiaction of colours to be a habit.

    — Posted by Keith the teeth on 2:06 pm on Sep. 18, 2001<br> <br>With 0% tax coming do you think the Placepot has potential as a profitable bet. ?<br> <br>How can I put this – no chance! The Tote will still be deducting 29% takeout and the dividends are still unpredictable in advance. That means you can never be certain what you might win and therefore you cannot know if your bet is good value until after the event.

    What do you think of Each Way betting. ? Unless its against an odds on fav I think its a bet for those who want to reduce losses rather than maximise profits.<br> <br>If you bet each way, ask yourself who thought up the concept? My guess is that it was a bookmaker, not a punter who invented each way betting. The bookmaker forces the punter to have a win bet on a horse in order to have a place bet. That means he fields win money for outsiders that help him to<br>balance his book.

    Betting each way against odds on favourites is potentially profitable, but if you make it pay, expect to find the bookmaker restricting your account.

    — Posted by Nev on 3:38 pm on Sep. 18, 2001<br> <br>Firstly, on a personal note, I’d just like to thank you for including a couple of paragraphs about Earth Summit’s Welsh National win in your book The Inside Track.<br>You see, I noticed the return to form of the Twiston- Davies yard and as a result backed Earth Summit at 33/1 [ and again at 12/1 for the Grand National, after the rains arrived the previous Thursday ] so after reading your comment " if I’d been sharper, that might have persuaded me to support Earth Summit, at a generous looking 25/1" I started to think that if Alan Potts missed what I saw then maybe I should give this game a go, hense I set about accumulating a betting bank and in Febuary of this year gave up my job to concentrate on making a living from betting. Things are going fine and thanks to those couple of paragraphs of yours I’ve never been happier..Thanks very much Alan.

    Thanks for sharing that story Nev – frightening to think that a couple of paragraphs I probably wrote in ten minutes should result in such a dramatic change of lifestyle. I hope things continue to go well for you.

    Right, a couple of questions.<br>How many "active" accounts do you have ?

    Two – Blue Square and Betabet on the Net. I have a few others that will take a small bet at SP, but I’ve effectively been closed down by Ladbrokes, Hills, Chandlers, Corals, Bernstein, Bet Direct etc, etc

    What % of your bets are struck at early morning prices ?

    Probably about 30 – 40%, but I often split my stake and have part on in the morning and the rest later. In my case, taking an early price is sometimes just about getting part of my required total stake on, knowing that I can top up with the same firm later on. If I wait until the afternoon, I might have problems getting, for example, £600 – £800 on in the limited period prior to the race.

    If I’m going to be on the racecourse in the afternoon, I’d rarely take a morning price – I’d need to be 100% certain it was a standout price.

    — Posted by Abbo on 4:21 pm on Sep. 18, 2001<br> <br>Are there certain jockeys you wont back, or will severely restrict stakes on?<br> <br>Yes – there are a few that are total no bet jockeys for me. I wouldn’t restrict stakes because of the jockey. I work with a high minimum stake and wouldn’t modify that for the jockey. If I have a doubt about any factor, including the rider, then I pass up the bet entirely.

    Oh, and who are they??

    I’m afraid that’s an ask too far. I once made a comment about a certain flat jockey on a telephone service and subsequently had a phone call from him threatening to beat me up (quite funny really, as he weighs about 7st 10lbs and I’m more like 12st 10lbs). Since then, I keep my views to myself!

    — Posted by An Capall on 4:26 pm on Sep. 18, 2001<br> <br>Given the recent controversy on the CSF I presume that you never consider<br>this bet?<br> <br>You presume correctly. I did play the CSF to some profit back in the 80’s when sprint course draw biases weren’t so widely understood as they are now and the formula didn’t take the draw into account. The fact that the Victor Chandler firm are able to offer a 15% bonus on the declared CSF return<br>shows just how much profit margin is built into the formula.  

    The Tote Exacta would offer a useful alternative if the pools were bigger, but at present a £5 bet can have a major effect on the dividends.

    — Posted by Jez on 5:16pm on Sep. 18, 2001

    Would you ever consider setting up a private tipping service, or does this place too much pressure to deliver the goods on your self, as well as ruin the price. High profile tipster Henry rix has done badly lately and Melvyn collier has not started well a month in to his private service. I would have thought working for the racing Post as a tipster would give you an advantage in that you can watch back over previous runners performances to form a judgement about a runner but setting up afresh as a tipster you would not have access to that unless you start recording every race every day, which would take a while to build up a library of all recent form going back a significant amount of time.

    I do operate a small service via Email, which has never ben advertised. The numbers are kept down to avoid the effect on price that you mention. Actually I always admired Mel Collier’s success at the Post, as I don’t believe I could work without being able to actually go racing regularly, whereas he was always in the office. And he had to reach his conclusions a long time before the race to meet the deadline.

    Also how do you get to be so selective in your approach and what is the most important criteria – draw is not always (Prince cyrano) recently was drawn badly and was put in at 9/4 due to this and still won by 5 lengths.

    My selectivity is based on restricting the types of race I’ll consider, the tracks at which I bet etc. And if I have doubts about a horse, I’ll pass a race rather than bet, likewise if I can’t get the price I want. Not having a bet is our biggest weapon against the bookies, who can’t pick and choose as we can.

    Do you think a punter can make it pay backing short price horses over a period of time with a reasonable strike rate, using a bank or rolling doubles.

    I’m sure that any approach can be made to work if it suit the individual punter. The key to your question is strike rate. To make money backing horses at under 2/1, you need a very high strike rate. If that was easy to achieve, there wouldn’t be people queueing up to become racecourse bookmakers.

    — Posted by dubaimillennium on 5:28 pm on Sep. 18, 2001<br> <br>Do you relay on inside information?<br> <br>No – I have shares in five horses myself and I know only too well that what I’d learn from within the stables involved would be worthless. I watched three of my horses work on Tuesday morning this week. The best of the three finished last! If horses always did the same on the racecourse as they do<br>at home, being an owner and a punter would be much easier.

    Do you have always the same stake or do you have a point system?

    My stakes currently range from £400 to £1000, but the majority of my bets would fall into a tight grouping between £500 and £700. I vary the stake according to my assessment of the degree of value contained in the bet.

    If you work with a point system (for example 1,2 and 3 points) how big is your bank to cover losing runs.<br> <br>I don’t use a bank these days. I’m fortunate in that I have sufficient capital to sustain a long losing run without having to panic, so the concept of a betting bank doesn’t really seem relevant.

    I would add that if you do use a points appraoch, I recommend making 5pts equal to your average bet, so that the variations away from the average are less extreme. If you start from 1pt, your next step means doubling your stake…..

    Do you play odds/on Horses?

    No, not because I think it’s impossible to win backing them, but because it just doesn’t suit my temperament. I prefer looking for the occasional big hit on a longshot.

    — Posted by micky9 on 11:28 pm on Sep. 18, 2001<br> <br>Alan, i belive that a lot of racing gambling books are not as they seem as the results are already known, a good one that springs to mind is the stewart simpson book that was made up as the guy did not even exist but in print he went every day and made a fortune. <br>He was supposed to be a professional gambler, do you consider yourself to be one or are you really a professional racing journalist that has racing in the blood.<br> <br>Inevitably any book can only look back at past races. Whether you believe what I’ve written about my bets in my two books is up to you. The only person that really matters (me) knows that it’s all true.

    Yes I do consider myself to be a professional gambler, not a journalist. If I was a professional journalist, I’d be a skint one, as my writing certainly doesn’t bring in enough to live on. <br>

    Keith the teeth
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    Excellent Q & A

    Thanks Alan<br>

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    Thanks Alan.

    Very interesting.

    Regards – Matron<br>:cool:

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    Very good read. Lost £15k in one year…these words come to mind – oh…my…god – you sound like you’ve got things sorted now though Alan.

    Well done and thank you for some very good answers – even if you did duck the question about the jockeys…and i also haven’t met anyone that rates Richard Hills, or in fact Michael either…although that may or may not reflect my opinion… :wink: Rob.

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    Very Interesting. Thanks a lot.

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    <br>  Thanks Alan for all those answers, interesting stuff.

     and cheers for spilling the beans on the 10 lb penalty, ol leg lock Luke :laugh: Not to hot a jockey but quality on the RC (especially when teaming up with THE COUCH)

    <br>       Nice one DL for setting that up :wink:

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    Great stuff especially comment about Hills.

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