Why the world’s slowest tote operator owes me the Caulfield Cup winner.

October 19, 2013

It was like I was speaking Mandarin.

The woman at the tote machine looked down, then up, then down again.

She was confused, as if I’d just asked her to tell me the ignition sequence for the Space Shuttle.

In fact, I was after something far less complicated. Or so I thought. A simple bet.

The racecourse was Randwick. I had hoped that through her position in the racing industry, she had heard of it. Apparently not.

She shook her head. Where is it again? Sydney racing, I replied. Randwick. They’ve run a few decent races there over the years.

Precious seconds were ticking away. I could see the field moving in. Punters smarter than me were jumping into other queues.

Again, the shake of the head. I was sweating. They were about to jump, and I wasn’t on.

The horse I was trying to back was Hawkspur. I walked away, betless, mindful of the sign on her counter, warning customers that abuse would not be tolerated. I was obviously not the first sucker to get stuck at that window.

I watched on the screen, with no sound, and spotted the colours early in the straight. It made it that much more painful, to see the Waller horse fly home to collect the prize. Not that I needed a winner at that stage of the day. Much.

I so wanted my abuse to be tolerated. But I thought better of it. And because of that, the world’s slowest tote operator owes me big time.

This afternoon, I want her to take time out from botching other tickets, and cheer the Pumper home. It’s the least she can do.

This isn’t the finest Caulfield Cup field I’ve seen. As usual, I’m struggling to line up the genuine imports. A few others don’t seem to have lived up to their early promise.

If there’s one horse I’m worried about, it’s the Kiwi, Silent Achiever. Roger James has her cherry-ripe for this. One target all along. Perfect barrier. And a bloke by the name of G. Boss doing the steering.

I’d back both of them, but there’s no chance she’d get so many bets on. Tell me, where’s Caulfield again?

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?