Tipping Services in the News
Are all tipping, or advisory, services the same? We hope not...
This page is dedicated to those who have made an impression in the media for any reason whatsoever. It has been known, even long before Dick Francis penned his first novel, that racing has been like a magnet to those who want to take advantage of others. Most of the advertised advisory services which shout loud and proud in the racing publications don't return the profits which they advertise.
There has to be word for the defence of the tipping service, one which any seasoned bettor will understand. That has to be that it should never be forgotten that we are playing a game of probabilities and it all boils down to the fact that we are chasing a prize whose return may pay 10 times the stake on a chance of 12.5%.
However, despite chasing value selections good runs and bad runs statistically have to occur. It has been documented that it's not unheard of for the roulette wheel to come up with the same colour twenty-three times in a row. This is compared to the expected odds of the other colour to come up at almost 50% (there is one green colour in the thirty seven slots on the wheel).
Tricks of the Trade
We have complained on a number of occasions of advisory services putting the wrong information in their adverts. This misinformation is quite commonly put down to the layout artist forgetting to list those losing runs. We all have losing runs; it is part and parcel of the game as statistically they must, and do, happen. Also a common mistake when these adverts are laid out is to put down a price of a winning horse which was never so.
One of the more annoying things which we see in adverts is the claim that a horse won and the price was available at, say, 5/1. Yes, it might have been for five seconds by one bookmaker on course. For most people who are facing a sea of bookmakers offering 9/2 and lacking the ability to see in the future with 30 seconds before the off are going to take the 9/2 not knowing that 5/1 may be available in 20 seconds time. This is one of the reasons why we quote all the prices as SP (starting price) here; anyone can get hold of the SP.
Anyway, here are some recent articles which were in the press. We'll make no judgement upon these services but we do ask you to bear in mind how bad runs can and will occur even with the best will in the world.Top
In The News
Sovereign Investments (Guardian 25th July, 2001)
"This," blasts the flyer, "is how YOU can make money in 2001." Alongside is a photograph of a man in a baseball cap and flippers grinning into his mobile beside a turquoise sea. Beneath is an application form, which begins beguilingly: "Yes, I want to start making money - real money - the easy way, without hard work." The leaflet and accompanying five-page letter which arrived on Richard Benjamin's London doormat was from professional gambler Colin Davey, who claims to have found a miraculous formula for spotting winning racehorses. A "pattern in horses' form", he says, enables him to bet up to four times a week with an 80% success rate. "As you can imagine, it wasn't long before I was driving my first Rolls-Royce." Following this happy discovery, Davey set up Sovereign Investments, a private betting syndicate based in Bury St Edmunds. Clients agree to pay £96 a month for use of a daily tipping line and must hand over £997 if and when they make their first £10,000. If they hold out for a year they get to attend one of Davey's seminars for free, while, he claims, ordinary punters pay £3,500 for the privilege. Benjamin was sceptical and sent the bumf straight to Consumer for an opinion.
Davey evidently expects to be doubted and includes numerous "proofs" of his successes in the mailshot. "The best thing since sliced bread," swoons MJ of Essex; "I'm sure you are genuine as a person and a genius," writes AO, Kent. Also enclosed is a letter from bookies William Hill terminating his account - evidence, according to Davey, that even the biggest betting shops run scared of his prowess. His trump card is an article from Scotland on Sunday, published last year, which concluded that he was "plausible" and his business "kosher".
Delve a little deeper, though, and matters begin to look different. Davey neglects to mention that the same Scotland on Sunday journalist wrote a second article five months later, following calls from dissatisfied clients. He called the tipping line every day for a fortnight and found the results "disappointing". He also declared that Davey's ownership of his own bookmaking firm, Sovereign Bookmakers, "sticks in the craw" because his tips can affect the odds and benefit bookies.
Then there's William Hill, which Davey claims cancelled his account because he was a drain on its resources. "We don't want to divulge the exact reasons for terminating the account, but we can confirm that it was not because of his betting record," says a spokesman. "We don't advocate anyone who runs a tipping service and warn punters not to take their claims too seriously."
Over to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) which last September upheld a complaint against Sovereign Investments because it supplied no evidence to back up its boasts. The company was ordered to withdraw the mailing, but carried on regardless. ASA, that toothless tiger, is now investigating another complaint and says it may work with the Royal Mail to prevent further mailings if its adjudication is ignored. Meanwhile Suffolk Trading Standards says that it is aware of the company and has received calls from the public.
Time to tackle Davey himself and I too find him curiously reluctant to provide evidence of his claims. "We've had quite a few wins over £10,000," he assures me. How many? "I can't tell you." How many clients do you have? "I don't like to say." As for his failure to prove himself to ASA, he claims that his clients' details are confidential. "They (ASA) shouldn't discuss me like that," he complains.
The second Scotland on Sunday article, he says, was "misleading" and the disappointing run of bets highlighted in it just one of those things - "you can't keep everyone happy all the time". William Hill, he insists, did get rid of him because of his costly successes and he'll send me his betting dockets and testimonials to prove it. Alas, nothing is forthcoming and later an "intermediary" calls to say that the paperwork is with a man who's on holiday for the summer. "You'd better not be slanderous about me, else I'll sue," Davey says in conclusion. "This is a genuine product. I don't hold a gun to people's heads and if they don't like it they can leave."
Whether or not his betting formula is the triumph that he claims, his expensive marketing system will certainly assure him a fortune. The British Betting Office Association has a word of caution for those still wavering: "Ever since time began, people have been looking for a winning formula for horses, but none is successful because bookies adjust the odds," says a spokesman.
Derek 'Tommo' Thompson (Observer 17th June, 2001)
Tommo the terrible tipster
You win some, you lose some, and then you lose some more. Alan English on telephone tipping lines: 'Only an act of God can stop Dubai Seven Stars winning' said telephone tipster The Sweeney. It lost.
Thompson: 89 tips 72 losers
In Flann O'Brien's 1939 novel At Swim Two Birds, this approach is memorably captured in a letter written by a certain Vernie Wright, a tipster with a Newmarket address.
'Bounty Queen was indeed a great disappointment,' Vernie writes, 'but anybody leaving me now because of bad luck would indeed be a "puzzler".
You had the losers, why not row in and make a packet over the winners that are now our due.
SENSATIONAL NEWS has reached me that certain interests have planned a gigantic coup involving a certain animal who has been saved for the past month. To all my friends forwarding 6d and two SAE's I will present this THREE-STAR CAST-IRON PLUNGER and we will have the win of our lives and all the bad luck forgotten.'
Six decades on, sixpence and a stamped addressed envelope have given way to the premium-rate phonecall, but the flow of money from punter to bookmaker has never been interrupted.
'All horseplayers die broke,' wrote Damon Runyon in 1938. A select few professional tipsters are in a position to disagree. One is Melvyn Collier, the Racing Post's Pricewise correspondent, who will soon join the ranks of those with private subscription services.
By limiting his advice to a handful of races every week, those for which the bookmakers offer morning prices, Collier has turned a profit for eight successive years. The only secret, he says, is assiduous study of the form book - and that would also apply to the country's top (and very expensive) tipping lines, Isiris and Marten Julian.
Another tipster with a Newmarket address is Derek Thompson, better known as a Channel 4 racing presenter. Asked for an opinion on the merits of his fellow tipster, Collier hesitated. And then he laughed. Read on, and you'll discover why.
Clean-cut, forever smiling and keen to please - if Derek Thompson was a novel he'd be something by Barbara Cartland. His Channel 4 Racing bosses admire him because they know that if a 90-second gap appears, Thompson will ad lib 90 seconds precisely. 'Tommo' sells himself expertly as the punter's pal. On our evidence he's anything but.
Tommo brings this same effortless quality to his other job, that of professional tipster. Flick through the Racing Post and you will find him, along with many others, casting his net for more customers. Need some tips for Royal Ascot? Tommo can oblige. Just call 0901 5638238 and, for 60p a minute, you're sorted.
If you have an aversion to premium-rate telephone numbers, you can pay up front, £199.99 per year, to join the Derek Thompson Racing Club and get access to a non-premium line. There's even a visit to a Newmarket yard thrown in, an opportunity to see Tommo in the flesh. As Tommo says: 'Shame on you if you haven't joined!'
But if you're the cautious type, the kind who prefers to try before you buy, there's no shame in not joining. Far from it. In the spirit of punter solidarity, Observer Sport called Thompson's tipping line every day for four consecutive weeks, as well as those of two of his rivals. We staked a notional £50 to win on each selection and put a stopwatch on every call.
Of the 89 horses tipped by Thompson - many of them obvious and short-priced - 72 were beaten. Even though he was 40p a minute cheaper than his two rivals, one call to his line can still cost four times as much the Racing Post .
Thompson seems to believe that his callers live in a land where newspapers have been suppressed and he is the source of all information.
'I've got very good news,' he said during the second week, when he was tipping at Pontefract, as though it would never have occurred to anyone that In Space, the 5-4 favourite in the 2.45, might be in with a chance. The horse finished fifth, the same as Puffin, Thompson's tip in the 4.20. After asserting that Benedectine would 'take the beating', he moved on to a lengthy plug for his racing club.
Benedictine was second. Three tips, three losers, but for Thompson, there was no need for an explanation. Had he backed any of the three himself? Did he feel his callers' pain? We can, perhaps, deduce something from the words with which he greeted his regulars the next morning.
'Hi, it's Tommo - and I've got some good news.' It was as if Pontefract had never happened.
One of Thompson's rival services, The Sweeney, is more into bombast than intrigue. Every tip is 'a pearler' that will put his clients 'in clover', every defeat attributable to factors beyond his control: the jockey, the misleading going, the 25-1 shot that should never have been there.
His faith in his own powers would be touching, were it not so misguided. 'I have no doubt whatsoever about the victory of Dubai Seven Stars,' he said on 17 May. Only 'an act of God' could stop this filly. Step forward that act of God in the shape of Arrive, the winner at 6-1.
After tipping four losers, The Sweeney will admit to being 'not totally inspired by the profits'. In week two, he made 24 selections, but the real story was not that 19 of them were beaten, it was that learning their identity cost £64.75, or £2.69 for every tip. At 71p per tip, Thompson was practically benevolent by comparison.
The Sweeney was a master of the delaying tactic. He didn't quite reveal what he had had for breakfast, but it was close. 'Without further ado, let's skate over to Ripon,' he said one day. 'Well, not in a literal sense, of course, but with your newspapers, or whatever...'
The third tipster we followed, Henry Ponsonby, stressed almost daily that he rides out for Mick Channon, but otherwise played a straight bat. He still ran up losses of £748.10.
Over the four weeks, Thompson's tips resulted in a loss of £1,846.05, which rose to £1,921.37, with the cost of calls. Fighting off stiff competition from The Sweeney, he was confirmed as our survey's worst telephone tipster of the four weeks we covered only on the last day of 25, thanks to a clean sweep of five losers at Newbury and Thirsk, including 11-8 and 7-4 favourites. Of course, it may have been a bad four weeks for our selected tipsters, and they may not be alone in that.
Fourteen of Thompson's 17 winners were returned at 3-1 or worse; five were odds-on. In short, they were never going to put callers ahead of the game. In the Channel 4 Racing Guide to Form and Betting , Thompson's advice to readers is brief: 'Never bet odds-on - it's as simple as that.'
If only. On 11 May, Thompson plumbed the depths by tipping two 4-6 shots, both of which were beaten.
On Friday, Thompson defended his tipping line: 'If people don't like the service, then don't ring.'
Asked how much he thought callers should have on his tips, he said, 'At the most, a fiver.' Did he back his own selections? That, said Tommo, was 'a very personal question'. When pressed, he replied that he invested his own money 'as often as I see fit'.Top