Wednesday 23 September 2020

Professional Gambler: Alan Potts - The Key to Successful Gambling

Not to be confused with his late namesake, a Yorkshire-born engineer who was, for a dozen seasons, one of the leading owners in Ireland and Britain, Alan Potts is, by his own admission, a 'semi-retired' professional punter. A mathematics prodigy, Potts enjoyed betting, informally, from an early age. The introduction of the Betting and Gaming Act and legalisation of betting shops on May 1, 1961 proved just right for the 14-year-old Potts, who attended his first race meeting at the now-defunct Alexandra Park Racecourse, near Muswell Hill, North London later that year. 

However, despite an early introduction to horse racing, it was not until 1987, following the abolition of on-course betting duty in March that year, that Potts starting planning to make a living from betting on the sport. Even then, despite generating a profit from betting four years running, he had no intention of 'taking the plunge' until he was 50 years old. However, in late 1991, Potts lost his job in computer operations with Swindon-based firm Hambro Life; armed with his redundancy payment, his profits for the year and an additional £20,000 made by cashing in shares, he established a betting bank and embarked on a new career as a professional punter. Potts has admitted that, in recent years, motivation is an issue, but he still considered himself to be a full-time professional punter until 2015. 

Potts' methodology when analysing form is to highlight the negative characteristics of the horses that are unlikely to win for one reason or another and, in so doing, eliminate them from the list of possible winners. His shortlist typically consists of between one and four, but not more than four, contenders, whose form he reviews, on film and on paper, before finalising a selection. Any probable bet ultimately relies on the availability of a 'value' price. For Potts, odds of 2/1 are an absolute minimum, but he exercises caution about any selection offered at odds of less than 4/1. He agrees with conventional wisdom insofar that 'value is in the eye of the beholder' and is unafraid to back an outsider, provided he can make a persuasive case for doing so. Obviously, he recognises that the case for an outsider may not be as 'cut and dried' as that for a horse within the usual favourites' range, but that fact is more than amply offset by the odds of reward. 

All told, Potts has written three books, 'Against The Crowd' and 'The Inside Track', published by Aesculus Press Limited in 1995 and 1998, respectively, and 'A Wasted Life', an ebook made available free-of-charge, exclusively online, in 2019. In his first book which, he admits, was a distraction from his day-to-day betting activity, Potts reveals the beliefs, methods and strategies, many of which are at odds with conventional wisdom, that allowed him to establish, and maintain, an edge over the bookmakers. His second book continues in similar vein, focusing on the nuts-and-bolts of betting 'professionally' and Potts argues, convincingly, that less successful punters make any number of entirely avoidable mistakes. His third book, though, is more 'autobiographical' and traces Potts' life and times from his childhood in North London, through twenty five years, or more, as a professional punter, to the point where he could live more than adequately from his pensions and savings, if he so desired. 

Indeed, in 'Against The Crowd', Potts espoused the virtues of the so-called Four 'C's – namely: 
  • Confidence
  • Capital
  • Calculation
  • Cynicism
Which he considers the cornerstones of successful punting. 

Capital and calculation speak for themselves, more or less, but self-belief, bordering on arrogance, and scepticism, with regard to the views of other 'respected' racing professionals, including jockeys, trainers and journalists, are prerequisites of the professional punter, according to Potts. 

In fact, Potts' own self-belief is reflected by the fact that, in his heyday in the Nineties, he placed between 300 and 400 bets a year, mainly in the form of high-stakes single win bets, mostly on-course at smaller, midweek meetings. 

Later in his career, he focussed on betting online at major weekend and meetings, where there were fewer 'non-triers', a smaller pool of horses and high turnover, making it more likely that bookmakers would accept sizeable bets.

Related post: Star Sports: Interview Alan Potts

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