April 2024

The Mystery of Professional Gambler Alex Bird

By its very nature professional gambling is a mysterious business.

Unsurprisingly, few gamblers are interested in revealing their secret to success. How are they different to the everyday punter and show a profit? Think back to the likes of modern-day pro gambler Patrick Veitch who was reputed to have won £10M in less than ten years. In fact, he had years where he won £2M+.

Something tells me he never bet on the outcome of a photo finish.

Year’s ago, I read Alex Bird’s book Life and Secrets of a Professional Punter published by Queen Anne Press in 1985.

This publication covered his years of gambling from 1946 – 1985.

Bird was a significant figure in the betting ring and very professional. His book details many stories of Grand National ante-post punts and even recounted being visited by the taxman to verify his income was truly from gambling. Bird showed his a ledger of every bet. It was accepted as fact.

However, there has always been one aspect of Alex Bird’s gambling success which just didn’t make any sense to me and made me question his ability to outwit the bookmakers. You may have questioned this ‘fact’ too.

It relates to his profitable strategy of betting on photo-finishes. As a gambler in this modern era, I’ve seem hundreds of photo-finishes on live streaming. The action stops with the horses on the line. It’s a photo-finish but who has won? Even when there is a still of the photo they are often impossible to judge. You only have to watch the betting on the exchanges to see a horse which is odds on to win is often beaten.

So how was it possible for Alex Bird to amazingly bet and win on the outcome of 500 photo finishes in a row?

Something just doesn’t ring true.

Bird must have had a bionic eye akin to the Six Million Dollar Man. Perhaps he was in fact the British version of Steve Austin, Six Million Pound Man. Bird was said to have stood at a certain angle to the finishing line, closed one eye, (said a prayer) and simply found the winner. By all accounts it was a never ending run of winners.

How or why bookmakers would be interesting in taking the bets from someone who simply never lost, I don’t know. I guess that bionic eye put them in some kind of hypnotic trance. Or he dazzled them with a highly polished spoon from Uri Geller’s draw.

Yes, it was a bent spoon.

Perhaps he spread the bets around so no one twigged that his bionic eye could spot the difference between a pixel or two even before pixels had been invented.

I like to think the best of people but how could someone pick the winner of 500 photo-finishes at a crowded racecourse? I doubt anyone would have an 80% strike rate looking at stills today given an hour or so to make a decision let alone at a racecourse with all its distractions.

Well, it doesn’t come as a surprise to learn that some people have questioned his success by saying he was actually given the nod before the stewards’ announcement.

I have no idea whether this is true or not.

However, if something sounds too good to be true it probably is.

I imagine instead of Bird looking at the finishing line, he was more likely looking in a different direction altogether.

Alex Bird died in December 1991.