How to play the gambling game and win

Published by on 19 July 2011.
Last updated on 20 July 2011

Horse racing

The tricky bit about gambling is being subject to wild swings of fortune. Even with my modest level of staking, I can easily lose £1,000 a month five months on the trot, and then, come June, have a wildly successful time betting on Wimbledon and get back not just the £5,000 I've lost so far but another £5,000 on top.

This presents a problem when trying to outperform the FTSE All-Share. In just a month I could outperform the index by several hundred per cent or, more likely, the index could put me to shame and make a mockery of this alternative mode of investment.

I tend to bet in multiples of £50, up to £250, and stick to a staking plan of 0.5 to five points - with one point being equal to £50. I never bet more than five points.

30 April: The 2000 Guineas, Newmarket

Newmarket plays host to the 1000 and 2000 Guineas, the first two Classics of the British turf season. I really fancy a horse called Roderic O'Connor.

There is a bit of value, as he has to beat hot favourite Frankel. I place £100 on Roderic to win at 8/1, but Frankel is victorious; Roderic troops in 11th out of the 13 runners.

Later, I find value in Sole Power. He won at York last August, at a huge price of 100/1. I place £100 on him at 8/1. He finishes third.

Added to my two big losing bets, I have lost another £60 on Placepot bets (a Tote-organised 'pooled' bet where you have to find a placed horse in each of the first six races and the pool is shared between the winning tickets) and £100 on the other races on the card.

Amount invested: £360
Amount returned: Nowt
Running profit/loss: -£360

1 May: 1000 Guineas

I buy the Racing Post to see if I can spot the 1000 Guineas winner, which is run over the same course as the 2000 Guineas but is for three-year-old fillies rather than colts. I like the look of Blue Bunting at 9/1, and also Havant, so put £50 on each one to win.

Havant is nowhere, but Blue Bunting wins by three-quarters of a length, returning £500. I lose £25 on three other races on the card.

Amount invested: £175
Amount returned: £500
Running profit/loss: -£35

7 May: Ascot

Last weekend at Newmarket, one of the horses that caught my eye was sprinter Hawkeyethenoo. I place £50 at 8/1 on him in the 28-runner race. He wins - lovely - and I take down some decent moolah, but the edge comes off as I lose £150 on other runners.

Amount invested: £200
Amount returned: £450
Running profit/loss: +£215

13 May: York, Newmarket and Newbury

A look at my Betfair statement says I bet on six horses on these cards, with just one winner, Hoof It, ridden by Kieren Fallon. I lost £125 on the 'meatballs', but the winner returned £181.25.

Amount invested: £150
Amount returned: £181.25
Running profit/loss: +£246.25

14 May: Lockinge Stakes at Newbury & Eurovision Song Contest

I want to take on Canford Cliffs, the hot favourite in this Group One race, with his stablemate Dick Turpin. I put £100 on Dick at 4/1, but he fails to deliver. I lose £150 on other bets on the card to boot.

I lose another £100 betting on Ireland to win the Eurovision Song Contest. Now I know why everyone hates Jedward.

Amount invested: £350
Amount returned: Zilch
Running profit/loss: -£103.75

15 May: Online poker

Bored, I play in a small tournament on the largest poker site, Pokerstars. It is only $11 to enter but there is a guaranteed prize pool of $200,000.

There are more than 20,000 players in it; I finish in the top 10% and win $75. Afterwards, I play my cash game of choice - six-handed Pot Limit Omaha. I spin the $75 up to $800. I bank $500 and lose the rest.

Amount invested:  $11 (£7)
Amount returned: $500 (£307)
Running profit/loss: +£197.25

19 May: Poker home game

I play in a crazy monthly game with some friends. It's been a big winner for me in the past two years, with 'pick-ups' of up to £4,000.

Tonight, I buy-in for £250 on perhaps the fourth hand of the night when we are playing Texas Hold'em. The action is fast and heavy, but when we finish at 3am I've made a decent £770.

Amount invested: £250
Amount returned: £770
Running profit/loss: +£717.25

21 May: Haydock and the Curragh

Two of my fancies from earlier in the month are running - Roderic O'Connor in the Irish 2000 Guineas, and Sole Power in a sprint at Haydock. I put £100 on Roderic to win, which he does at 7/2. I put £50 to win on Sole Power and he too goes in at 8/1.

I also have a £10 double on the two horses, which pays out at 39.5/1. I lose £175 on other bets but it doesn't matter as I'm well ahead on the day.

Match that, Footsie!

Amount Invested: £335
Amount Returned: £1,305
Running profit/loss: +£1,687.25

29 May: Hippodrome du Parc de Beyrouth

Don't ask, but I'm now in Beirut. At the track, there is a Pari-Mutuel, something akin to our Tote, and there seems to be plenty of action.

I go to the paddock; some of the ponies seem a bit out of condition, so if I stick to betting on the fit-looking ones it should be like shooting fish in a barrel. Having said that, I still lose 300,000 Lebanese pounds over the day.

Amount invested:
300,000 Lebanese pounds (£120)
Amount returned: Rien  


Could investors have beaten Hipwell in May?

In comparison with James Hipwell's near 80% return on investment, the FTSE 100 lost 1.5% in May. Mike McCudden, head of derivatives at Interactive Investor, says: "After the lull in April, volatility returned to May's market, which gave short-term traders, spread betters and contracts for difference investors a chance for some action.

"Picking the right market and the right timing - through quality research and trading discipline - could have made them a terrific return. But the average long-only investor would have had a torrid time."

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