Finding the perfect PubTAB. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

July 27, 2013

On the surface, having a punt in a pub should not pose too many difficulties.

There’s not much to it. Make your selection, fill out a ticket, place you bet, assume the position and get ready to buy the beers.

I should declare here, that I do have some experience in this field. Over many years. If there was a University of Pub Punting, I would at least be a Professor.

There’s nothing better than relaxing with friends in a place that gets it right. And there’s nothing worse than getting stuck in an establishment where the TAB operator doubles as the footpath sweeper.

You’ve all been there. And it’s a proven fact that it’s all but impossible to win in such joints.

One of my pet hates is when there’s no volume on the monitors. The joyful sound of the racecaller is muted. We must rely on the memory of the colours our good thing is wearing. And hope that our ageing eyes will stay in focus.

Some pubs only have one tote machine. Inevitably, it will be manned by a lovely lady, who was around when Phar Lap was a two year old. She will take her time. Especially when you have four blokes standing in front of you with seconds to spare.

I have been in establishments where the genius in charge decides it’s a good idea to have poker machines on the edge of the TAB area. It’s all gambling, after all. Nothing like those reels spinning while you’re trying to hear Greg Miles. If the sound is turned up.

I place bets on my you-beaut phone these days, but there are still times when I want to fill out a ticket. Maybe a sneaky trifecta or a little saver.

So often, I cannot find a sharp pencil. There will be exactly 1000 identical writing sticks, with not a hint of lead. Ink in the pens ran out the day Kingston Town went back to back.

Why is this? Is it a private joke, that publicans talk about at their annual conference?

One final annoyance. And it’s not usually the fault of the pub. Those places where the resident loudmouth takes centre stage.

He has two modes of operation. The first is to talk extremely loudly, while you’re watching a race. The second is to scream as if stabbed, in support of something he’s had one dollar each way on.

If someone would let me run a pub, he would be the first bloke I’d ban. Jack The Ripper could be at work behind the pool table, and he’d be allowed to stay ahead of this goose.

For all my complaining, there are plenty of places that get it right. The little pub down the road from me has a great feel every Saturday arvo. Plenty of room. Plenty of volume. Plenty of pencils.

My favourite surf club on the Gold Coast has the biggest screen you’ll ever see. You can be parking the car and you’ll still see who missed the start. Somehow, a losing afternoon is made a little more bearable with a view of the ocean. Only just, mind you.

Feel free to let your own publican know what you want, and what you don’t like. We suffer enough as punters. Fom my experience, they take such advice in the best possible way. Just don’t expect to hear a race for the next twelve months. And start bringing your own pencil.

Tips on how to survive a day trackside with a bunch of thirsty non-punters.

September 17, 2011

There’s nothing like a day at the track with mates who wouldn’t know a favourite from a frog.

Non-punters. I actually know a few. It’s my life mission to corrupt them.

For starters, they never have their own form guide. Which means they want to borrow mine. And as we all know, that’s awful luck.

They aren’t interested in Perth. They want to get a cab after the last, instead of seeking out the final get-out stakes somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere.

They get bored easily. Unless you find them a winner. So the key is to secure decent tips, and keep their fluids up.

I’ll be doing just that today. With three great old mates. Our annual get together. We’re all very excited.

One is a reformed punter. Much more responsible these days. Or so he tells us.

The other two bet on Melbourne Cup Day, and whenever they get stuck with me.

Where I grew up, we all played footy and punted. And enjoyed cool drinks on hot days.

Sadly, not everyone had such a privileged upbringing.

There are folk out there who haven’t embraced our love of the punt. Such a shame.

The things they must be forced to do instead on a Saturday arvo. Golf. Triathlons. Gardening. Computer games. What a waste.

I first met this lot in Cairns many years ago, on the coaching staff of a footy club.

After fun and successful times, we moved on, and elsewhere.

After a few years apart, a pact was made to get together every year, for a few giggles. And so we have.

Our weekend always includes a trip to the track. That was my idea. They agreed, only because I told them how easy it was to make money while drinking cold beer. Yep, they believed me.

Over the years I’ve dragged them to Randwick, the Gold Coast, the Cairns Cup, and a few places in between.

For some reason, we never win. Ever. I keep them interested with group trifectas, and doubles, and tips from the most reliable of sources. For absolutely no return.

Of course, they blame me. And declare how lucky they are to only go through these torture sessions once a year. Unlike their host.

It takes a steady flow of refreshments to ease the pain. Until the next morning.

This year will be different. Mark us down as good things at Doomben today.

We’ll pool some money, because that’s what happens when blokes with no idea want to back things.

Stewards have been advised of a change of tactics. A monster quaddie is on the cards. And yes, I’ll have to explain what that means.

Keep an eye out for us. Four old blokes looking uncomfortable in ties. One putting the bets on. Three others shaking heads.

Feel free to offer us tips. Just be prepared to spend some time explaining what they have to do if I’m not with them.

Like me, you should be doing your bit to educate a non-punter. Get them out to the track. Text them some tips. Make them think you win plenty of cash every weekend.

Just one rule. Don’t let them touch the form guide. It’s hard enough to find a winner, without that sort of cruel luck.

Personal betting scandals, and how to stay calm while being fleeced by a sweet old lady.

August 13, 2011

The TattsBet boys are laughing at me. I just know it.

Gathered in a room, counting their cash, slapping thighs every time I have a wager.

They get me every time, the betting agency lads. And it’s all to do with Fixed Odds.

Confused? You’re obviously not punting enough. Let me explain.

Those humble race fans who bet on the laptop in their favourite comfy chair, are now blessed with choice.

We can flick between tote odds and fixed price odds, at the click of a mouse.

Those in the know will back a good thing on Friday at a fixed price, before the rest of us are aware said neddy is a certainty.

The smart operator makes money out of this, because prices can vary greatly.

I’m not that smart operator.

I step the wrong way. Constantly. The sound you hear is those money men chortling.

If I back something on the tote, the fixed prize blows like an Ekka westerly. Wrong choice.

Lock something in on the fixed odds five minutes out, and the tote price will balloon.

I can back a winner and still be yelling at the screen, accusing faceless people of a foul conspiracy.

Family members find this amusing. Winning should be fun, they chorus. Which helps my mood no end.

I have history when it comes to betting disputes. The results are rarely good.

One of my first encounters with a bookie almost ended in fisticuffs. Nearly thirty years ago.

I was young and fit, with a spring in my step. He was old and grizzled, with a heavy leather bag slung over a shoulder. The smart money was still on him.

I had backed a horse called Gaelic. Or so I thought.

It saluted, at lucrative odds. I cheered, and pictured what it would be like to afford steak that week.

With correct weight declared, I strode to his stand with the hand-scrawled ticket. No computers back then.

He looked at it, and handed it back. Wrong horse son, he drawled. You backed Gaelic Yacht.

Indeed, both horses ran in that race. Gaelic Yacht needed a winged keel to get close to them. The despised outsider. And I didn’t back him.

I made this point, forcefully. The bookie, who was enjoying a battle he was always going to win, pointed at the ticket.

In his Tutankhamun-like scrawl, I saw something that resembled Gaelic. And at the end of it, to my horror, was a Y.

It was a deliberate sting. He’d fooled the young bloke. I was shattered. No steak for me.

Ever since, I’ve double-checked my tickets. Read them back aloud, to the amusement of those around me. Just to be sure.

One person I could never argue with was my SP bookie. Or his mother.

He was a legend at our footy club. A star of days gone by.

He didn’t take our calls on race day. Very clever. That job was left to his mum. A sweet, elderly lady, who we’ll call Mrs Smith.

She knew how to bake, and knit, and lay off the shortener at Randwick. And she had a lovely telephone manner.

We’d call from the pay phone at the pub. No matter how close it was to race time, she’d ask how you were. Family good? Fine. Now, what would you like to lose your last few dollars on?

Settling would be done at training every Tuesday. Usually great incentive to do extra laps and stay out of sight.

Back then, there was no confusion. Or choice. You won, or you lost. With the help of a little old lady.

One thing they never did, the SP man and his mum, was laugh at me. Possibly because my poor choices helped build them a new home.

So I have this message for the TattsBet chaps. Give a bloke a fair go. Stop changing my prices for your amusement. Let me lose in peace. And do you know where I can buy a cheap steak?