Bloody good winner

"....a bloody good book that lives up to the hype. Recommended."

In the run up to Christmas there must have been dozens of new books launched but none of them were as heavily promoted as ‘A bloody good winner’ by Dave Nevison with David Ashforth. You couldn’t pick up a Racing Post without seeing a full-page advertisement for the book, with a partly obscured picture of its author and subject Mr Dave Nevison. The blurb on the book boasts ‘heed what Nevison has to say and you will become a better bettor; ignore it, and you will still have been richly entertained, for his is a life out of the ordinary’. Was this an idle boast? I can honestly say that it wasn’t. It is often the case that the marketing for a book is better than its content but in my view ‘A bloody good winner’ was the best book on betting I read in 2007.

I had high expectations of the book from the moment is landed on my doorstep. I’ve always enjoyed the column Dave Nevison writes for Racing and Football Outlook. It is always full of frank opinions, good advice and good humour. The co-author David Ashforth is a top racing journalist and his autobiography ‘Hitting the turf’ was probably the funniest book on racing and betting that I have ever read.

For those of you who are not familiar Dave Nevison is a professional gambler and a very successful one and the book is a combination of his opinions on racing, gambling and life as a professional punter. He also adds to the mix background on his life and the key events that led to his decision to go professional in the early 1990’s.

I liked this book very much and I raced through its 245 pages in just a couple of sittings. It is easy to read and, at the risk of sounding like a copywriter, I simply couldn’t put it down. However, if you are Pat Eddery, Paul Cole, David Loder, or Richard Hannon you will hate it. Certainly Dave hates this bunch and makes this known. He is also not terribly keen on the Channel Four racing team and, with one or two exceptions, if you are involved in that programme or the racing media in general you should open he book with a little trepidation. I suggest you take a good look at the excellent index to find out if you get a mention!

I’m sure the editors at Highdown had a few afterthoughts about publishing some of the author’s views but to their credit they haven’t cleansed the book of its candour. It is refreshing to read someone who doesn’t care about what he says. There are too many racing journalists and authors that are sycophantic about jockeys and trainers because they depend on their quotes for a living. Dave Nevison doesn’t care what he says because he doesn’t have to.

I should make it clear that anyone who buys this book in the hope of discovering Nevison’s system will be disappointed. From what I could make out he doesn’t have a system or a method that could be called systematic. In fact I got the impression that he employs a bewildering number of strategies and makes an extraordinary number of bets. He will bet with bookmakers on win, each way bets, Yankees and accumulators and he will lay bets on the exchanges. He will also bet on spreads, match bets, the Scoop Six, and the Jackpot. He can have all of these bets running at the same time.

However, despite the complexity of his strategies, the basis of his approach would be to strike value bets. He is constantly searching for value. For instance, he will back a horse at 100 to 1 if he rates the horse a 33 to 1 shot. This might mean that he could back a number of horses in the same race if he can strike bets at value odds.

The central plank of the Nevison approach is his betting forecast or ‘tissue’. On how he compiles this he is completely silent other than to say that he uses Timeform ratings, John Whitely, and Raceform Interactive. His ‘tissue’ is vital because it is from this that he determines whether or not a horse represents value. It is in the compilation of this tissue that Nevison gains his winning edge because he is able to estimate a horse’s true chance of winning to its available odds. If a bookmaker's odds are greater than his tissue price then he lumps onto it.

There are a couple of inconsistencies in the book. For example, the author claims that he never records any of his bets and doesn’t know at any one point in time whether he is up or down. As far as he is concerned he is up if he can pay the kids school fees and down if he can’t. I’m not sure I believe this because I don’t know of any serious punter that doesn’t keep a record of their bets and knows exactly their position. As the book continues Nevison would appear to betray himself by making it clear that he knows exactly what his bottom line is to the nearest cent.

There is plenty of good advice within the books eleven chapters for the aspiring professional backer and also plenty of words of warning about the perils of life as a full-time backer. It is certainly a life that suits the loner because it is basically a solitary occupation whereby one is backing ones opinions against that of others. Nevison is clearly very successful at what he does but it has cost him in his personal life.

Nevison could have been more revealing about his methods but why should he? He depends on betting for his living and by giving away all his secrets he wouldn’t be able to gain an edge. You have to respect him for that.

In conclusion, ‘A Bloody Good Winner’ is a bloody good book that lives up to the hype. Recommended.