|Harry's game is playing big on and
off the track
The pro gambler speaks about his
high-profile horses and making money on Betfair
|Harry Findlay at home
by Chris Cook Wednesday December 6, 2006
Harry Findlay, a
flamboyant and highly successful gambler, gives the impression that he can
hardly believe his luck in owning a horse as good as Denman, arguably the most
exciting novice chaser around. "He's got that sort of thing about him, people
either want to take him on or they like him, and that's the sort of person I
am. There's no middle, grey area with Denman, there's no grey area with me.
It's a horse that suits my type of character."
The Paul Nicholls-trained
six-year-old, unbeaten in three runs over fences, is a best-priced 4-1
favourite for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase next March and Findlay is in
the happy position of having backed him at all rates down from 10-1. The last
of the 5-1 disappeared a fortnight ago after a £50,000 cash bet was
staked at a Ladbrokes shop in Doncaster.
"I thought he was the wrong price at 5-1," says Findlay, adding
that "a lot of the ones at the front of the market might not run."
Denman goes to Cheltenham on Saturday for what is expected to be his
last run for two months, before a final Festival prep at Newbury in February.
His proud owner is in very upbeat mood. "Until he gets beat, he's a
tank," he says. "I personally think that Paul Barber believes that he might
have a horse he's always dreamt of."
Barber, who is Nicholls' landlord
and has the other half-share in Denman, seems an unlikely partner for Findlay.
The Somerset dairy farmer is the older man by 20 years, generally wears a lot
of green tweed at the races and is very reserved in his dealings with the media
- in short, he is exactly the kind of old-school type that might be expected to
bridle at the presence in his yard of a plain-speaking, high-rolling punter.
"I can honestly say that but for a chance meeting through a mutual
friend with Paul Barber at Doncaster Sales about five years ago, I doubt if I
ever would have owned a horse," says Findlay. "We've since become good friends
and his advice and knowledge have been great.
"Some of the first horses
I bought with Paul for a minimal outlay have turned out to be such good value.
It was only after the success of those type of horses I decided to take a
chance with Desert Quest."
Even that £100,000 purchase now
appears a bargain - Desert Quest has already won it back in prize money alone
and there is little doubt that Findlay has made a substantial profit from his
bets on the hurdler.
Almost all of his gambling is done through the
leading betting exchange Betfair, for whom Findlay has given plenty of plugs in
a string of interviews over the years, whilst referring to traditional
bookmakers as "vermin".
"Most people believe I'm a walking advert for
Betfair," says the 44-year-old and his expensive home near Bath would indeed
seem to be evidence for the proposition that there is serious money to be made
from his favourite website.
But he is tired of all this unpaid PR work.
In fact, he has a major reservation about the way the exchange works and now,
for the first time, he is happy to say so in public.
"I believe that
Betfair have a moral obligation to get everyone down to 2% commission," he
says, referring to the rake which the website takes from successful bets.
As a valued customer responsible for a consistently high turnover,
Findlay himself pays just 2%, but the vast majority of users pay more, with
most paying the standard rate of 5%. Betfair's principal selling point is that
they offer better odds than can be found with the High Street bookmakers, but
Findlay feels strongly that this is undermined by the high rate of commission
that they charge.
"I talk about bookmakers not taking bets - well let
me tell you now, on Betfair, no one can make a long-term profit paying 5%
commission. I believe that it's nearly impossible to do it paying 4%.
"One of the main reasons why I'm pro exchanges is because of the moral
argument. You can check how much you're losing, it stops the lies, there's no
credit. But Betfair lets itself down by charging people between 5% and 2%,
depending on how much they bet - which encourages them to bet more than they
"I have paid so far this year, to the start of this
month, £714,000 commission, and I'm on 2%. I would rather pay 2.5% and
have everyone pay 2.5% and give ordinary punters a chance.
been stagnant for years and they've lost the heart of what they were trying to
do. They are starting to lose liquidity in many markets and they need to
increase the percentage of people who win on the exchange. "Bringing everyone
down to 2% is the only option and eventually it will be to Betfair's financial
Findlay's guide to winning and losing
"If you look up gambling in the dictionary, it doesn't say 'this means a
sure way to make a steady profit over a period of time', it says 'gambling: a
form of interest that can either ruin you or make you a fortune', and that's
the way it is."
On backing odds-on
"There's no difference between
getting 1-2 about a 1-4 chance and getting 4-1 about a 2-1 chance. People who
say 'I won't bet odds-on', they're just idiots. When you want to bet an odds-on
shot, you can get on - when you want to bet a big-priced one, you can't."
On why you shouldn't hedge
"When you pick a 20-1 shot to win the
Grand National, don't have £200 at 20's and then go and lay £600 at
5-2 and, when it wins, get £2,500. If you believe that 20-1 shot, have
£200 at 20's and then go and have another £300 at 14's and then
£400 at 10's and then, when it goes off 5-2 or 11-4, don't hedge if you
still fancy it."