IDYLLIC GAMBLING DAYS
As summer rapidly approaches
for 2011, and things become a bit more relaxed and laid back, my mind
keeps wandering back to the most idyllic days of youth - you know
- those best days of my life stuff when problems were non existent
and it all seemed so easy.
Every school holidays were
spent at Nanna's place in the poorer Brisbane bayside suburb of Cribb
Island - not as toffy as Wynumn or Manly or Brighton or Redcliffe,
but, hey, who knew in those days? More importantly, who cared? Cribb
Island doesn't exist any more. It was all resumed to make Brisbane
Airport bigger. In fact if you fly in to Brisbane these days and land
coming in over the bay, you fly right over the top of where the "bathing
sheds" used to be. The bathing sheds marked the border between
Cribb Island and the less affluent Jackson's Estate.
The bathing sheds really
stank. They had urinals that just dropped down through a hole at the
end of the all concrete structure and in to the water. No one cared
in those days. You did care however if it was low tide. You learned
never to walk under the bathing sheds at low tide.
Those were days when the
days had no names - they didn't need them because it didn't matter.
You got up when the sun came up and went fishing or swimming or digging
for sand worms and went to bed after dinner after maybe a card game
with cousins who also stayed at Nanna's seaside "palace".
My nanna taught me about
playing poker, gambling on horse races and doing the drawback on Craven
A Cork Tipped cigarettes. They were in a red flattish packet and had
the "lucky black cat" on the outside. Thanks nanna. Took
me 39 years to get rid if that lesson! She spent her days looking
after grand kids, smoking cigarettes and watching the tide come in
and go out in its endless cycle, reading the form guide in the Courier
Mail and having an afternoon ale (Bulimba beer, not XXXX) and having
an occasional bet on the TAB - seemingly always looking for horses
trained by Jim Atkins or ridden by Tony Earhart.
The TAB was almost next
door to her place so it was quite handy. Maybe too handy. In those
days they used to write out the tickets by hand, in triplicate, and
then there was someone else out the back of the "cage" who
used to put all the tickets in separate boxes, according to which
race they were for, total them up very quickly and then phone the
TAB headquarters with a tally for each race. It was why it took up
to 15 minutes for TAB divvies to be announced on the radio. These
days of course we find it painful if they take more than 30 seconds
after they've crossed the line for the in studio coordinator to tell
us how much they've paid or, we get really annoyed, by the micro-second
delays online and the seeming inability to be exactly correct one
second before they jump.
So nanna painstakingly explained
why she liked Jim Atkins as a trainer and Tony Earhart as a jockey,
and what the differences were between betting for a win and betting
for a place and what these exotic things called quinellas were. Interesting
name - quinella - never made any sense to me at all. The quinella
and the daily double were as exotic as things got in those early days.
Then came "extra doubles" and trebles and later trifectas
and first fours - but they were a long way down the road in 1961!
In Brisbane in those days
there was the sand track at Albion Park (where the trots track is
today) and nanna spent time explaining to me why horses that liked
the heavy track at Doomben seemed to go really well at the "Creek"
and why it didn't seem to favour horses that handled the heavy at
Eagle Farm. Why horses that could win at Esk and Kilcoy and Gatton
could win races at Bundamba (now boringly called Ipswich) but probably
not win at a Saturday meeting at Doomben or Eagle Farm. Leaders. Fast
finishers. Sprinters. Stayers. She knowledgeably spoke about all of
I used to get 30 shillings
a week pocket money when I stayed at nanna's place. The minimum bet
on the TAB was 5 shillings. I quickly learned why it wasn't a great
idea to be punting using 16% of your bank as a staking level.
My cousin, who was also
being educated in the way of horse race gambling, and I used to spend
hours and hours on a Friday looking at the form guide for the next
day's races trying to work out just one sure place bet for our very
serious investment. We'd select one race at a time and talk it through
about every horse in order and why we thought it could run well and
or not run well. We were generally looking for a place bet at about
10s or 12s because if you cracked one they'd generally pay over a
pound for a place which, in those days, set you up for a terrific
week with ice creams costing a shilling.
Horses that finished close
up at Doomben over 7 furlongs and were moving up to 8 furlongs at
Eagle Farm always tended to take our fancy because of the longer straight
at Eagle Farm, as I recall. It was here that I also learned the hard
lesson about "playing with their money" and why it was sadly
not true or indicative of further success. Why just because you'd
had two losing 5 shilling bets in a row, it didn't make the next bet
more likely to win.
All this knowledge was never
to be spoken about away from nanna's as my mother's Presbyterian upbringing
would have been left in tatters and I would obviously never have been
allowed to go to nanna's ever again. So it became a little secretive.
Instead of the usual "boy" hiding places for things like
Man Magazine or, more daringly, "Squire" Magazines, I used
to have scrap books full of "at the turn and finish" photos
painstakingly clipped and kept from the Sunday papers or the pink
Sporting Globe, all sorted and pasted and put in date order so I could
refer to them and identify that "smoky" that no else, of
course, would have seen.
This then morphed in to
hundreds and hundreds of filing cards, alphabetically ordered of course,
with my own dated notations and observations about horses and their
performances looking again for that "edge". How computers
have changed it all. That edge is now harder to find and the percentages
for those with the edge are skinnier than ever. Thankfully though,
the seven day a week opportunities have leveled things out.
The principle though is
exactly the same. Those that put in the effort do sometimes end up
with an edge that the lazier amongst us don't.
The question then is this:
if today you are only able to have one bet that accounted for 16%
of your bank, how particular would you want to be in its selection?
Would you put in the hours and hours to make that one selection knowing
you might only get 2's on for your investment? No? Why not?
Days without names. How
I wish they could be again.
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