What are the odds this Christmas?

12th December 2014

John Mort Green

“Float like a Butterfly; sting like a Bee". No, Tony Lake's blog isn't about the greatest boxer … but maybe the greatest gambler.

In 1963, already the scourge of Australian bookmakers, the 44-year old Brisbanite decided to try his luck in Europe. Before long he was winning enough to finance a champagne lifestyle of round the world cruises, chauffeur-driven Rolls Royces and private jets. At first, British bookies failed to take the suave Aussie seriously but Sea Bird II's Derby romp changed their minds.

Sea Bird II was undoubtedly the pick of a vintage French crop in 1965 but it was generally thought that he would run in the Prix du Jockey Club rather that at Epsom.  However, a fortnight before the race, “Mort” received word from one of his informants, that the colt would be crossing the Channel.

''It was vitally important not to alert the bookmakers so I went around countless betting shops (dressed like a cleaner) never having more than £8 in any outlet.” As larger bets had to be referred to head office.

The man who Richard Onslow described, in his 1992 “Great Racing Gambles And Frauds” (Vol 2), as "Without doubt the best known professional gambler on horses in the world today", got plenty of 20/1.  The horse many regard as the greatest Derby winner of them all started at 7/4 before his runaway victory under fellow Australian Pat Glennon.  With his £22,000 winnings, The Butterfly then enjoyed a round-the-world cruise aboard the Queen Mary.

Known to be fun loving and articulate John Mort Green shared his gambling secrets in his 1969 book, “Come Fly with the Butterfly or Ten Secrets of Successful Gambling”. First though he explained how his quick, graceful even, movements through the betting ring inspired his nickname.''To beat the tic-tac men I had to move fast and they would say: 'There he goes flitting like a blinking butterfly','' he recalled.  He then shared his secrets:

  1. Never be greedy.
  2. Never look at anything other than the best-class horses, trainers and jockeys.
  3. Forget those dreams of 100/1 winners and be content with horses in strong demand in the market.
  4. Stop as soon as you are showing a profit on the day.
  5. Back unpopular riders on the tote.
  6. Watch for eleventh-hour riding changes.
  7. Follow money from big betting stables.
  8. Learn to think the same way as trainers and jockeys.
  9. Always get value by trying to beat the book.

And finally, 10, “Remember, remember, if you lose £100, all you've lost are ten little pieces of paper with ones and noughts on them, but lose your confidence and you have lost everything”.

Obviously, the book is dated but no doubt there are still words of wisdom to be had. Good luck.