– Scotland on Sunday, March 17.
After last week’s £2m Cheltenham jackpot, Ron McKay meets a punter who has made betting his business
If backing horses is a mug’s game then Bob Rothman is several furlongs short of the healthy gallop.
He exhibits some of the classic signs of romance of the turf – “I’d bet ten grand a week if I could” – he studies form and racing information from the moment he gets up in the morning, and he is often to be seen breaking into a wide grin. This means he’s probably off to see his bank manager.
Bob Rothman is a professional punter and the antithesis of the bookies fool. More then 25 bookmakers have refused to handle his business because he is too successful – he does not bet ten grand a week because they won’t take his money.
So he punts through an elaborate network of friends and acquaintances who place bets for him, and he runs a highly successful tipsters business complete with logarithm-like tables and electronic bleepers.
“Backing horses really isn’t risky at all,” he claims. After a steep and expensive learning curve on which he lost £35,000 in six months, Rothman perfected his cardinal equine business principles – and staking a £50,000 second mortgage on them he made more than £400,000 in 12 months on an “investment” of £2m.
He says the £35,000 was the price of his education. Through it he was appreciating form, and making target=”_blank”>contacts in stables and among other professional punters. He didn’t start to fret when his school fees rose. “My friends did; they thought I was mad. But I was getting better with every bet, so it was just a matter of time and an application of principles.”
Rothman talks in business management terms about betting. The average punter loses, he says “because he’s doing it for entertainment – 20 or 30 guys getting together in a betting shop. If you want to win you have to work at it, to spend 40, 60 or 80 hours a week at it”
Apart from hard work Rothman holds to two basic management principles: betting “value for money” – dispensing with emotion and working out whether the odds you are being offered on a fancied horse actually make sense on the balance sheet after outgoings like tax – and betting in proportion, looking at the total of what you have and deciding what the next stake should be.
“Most gamblers chase each loss. When they lose they bet heavier on the next one. When they win they tend to hold on to the profit for later. They should be exactly the other way around.
“What you do is observe the 10% rule. If you’ve decided to invest £1,000 in ten tranches of £100 and your first horse loses, then stake next time not £100 but £90, then 10% of what you have left and so on.”
So far, so good. But doesn’t the selection of horses figure somewhere?
Rothman smiles again and seems almost to brush that aside. “If you follow my tips you will have a 30 – 40% success rate. If you scrupulously observe the principles, bet at the correct odds, you’ll do better than you would with a building society.”
What sort of profit – “percentage on turnover” is how he puts it – could someone follow the Rothman rules anticipate? “I think 25% would be very good,” he answered. “Bookmakers work on 22% so that would be getting a few points on them.”
The visible signs of Rothman’s success include a gold Cartier watch, a low-slung sports car – he traded in the gold Rolls Royce because his wife told him it was an “old man’s car” – and a large modern house in Wimbledon which is also his office.
So what had been his most successful bets?
“Cheltenham, this week was very good for me. The most I have won in one day is £72,000. Twice. And the most on one horse, Gymnastics, a 33-1 shot was £35,000.”
The problem is that the ultimate accolade of success – blacklisting by William Hill and Co – pulls him up in his tracks. Enter Rothmans revenge, the masterplan to beggar the bookmakers.
He has brought a horse, a proven winner abroad with no former history in this country which, through a network of ownerships, shell companies and the like, he intends running in a novice plate, far below its class. “It’s going to cost about £30,000 – £50,000 for the horse plus stabling – and on the betting I expect to make £50,000 to £100,000 within the next six to eight weeks.”
Then, retirement from the turf? “Hardly. Sell and do the same thing again.
“In the City it would probably be called insider dealing. The Jockey Club might not approve, but in racing there is no such concept. The difference is that in the City, insider information invariably leads to success. On the turf failure is always possible.
“You know, I brought a horse once and it died of a heart attack almost next day.”