Ian Richards has been a professional golf gambler for 15 years. In that time he has developed a strategy that has relieved bookmakers of hundreds of thousands of pounds. He agreed to reveal his secrets, as long as we didn't reveal his face.
If you are planning to bet on golf, make sure you pay close attention to Richards' tips.
How did you get into golf betting?
I used to bet on horses, then one day I noticed a golf preview at the back of the Racing Post. It intrigued me because the odds were higher, the bets ran for a greater length of time and it was purely based on the performance of one human being. In my head, this made it easier to analyse than sports like horse racing, which require an animal and a human to perform well, or football, which require a team of humans to perform well.
What skills do you need to be a successful golf gambler?
Patience and resilience. My strategy revolves around betting on golfers at big prices, which means I often have long gaps between wins. To be successful with this approach, you need to take a long-term view, stick to your instincts and work hard.
What do you mean "work hard"?
You have to be one step ahead. I start my research the week before an event begins. At this point, I'll spend several hours going through a whole list of factors including current form, course form, form on courses designed by the same architect, form on courses of a similar length, and proximity of the player's hometown to the event. Once I've done this, I'll list the players I may want to back and then try to take advantage of the early prices.
What makes a golf bet good value?
The best value is when you believe someone should be shorter odds than what the bookmakers are offering. In reality these are the only times you should bet. Just because you think a certain player will win an event, doesn't always make them a good bet.
Has a golfer ever double the 18th or missed a short putt to cost you a win?
Loads of times. It's the nature of the beast. My biggest heartache came during an LPGA event in Thailand the year before last. I bet on local girl Ariya Jutanugarn at 80/1 and on the final tee she had a two-shot lead. The 18th was a par 5 and she was just short of the green in two. I was counting my cash when all of a sudden her nerves kicked in. Somehow she contrived to take six more shots, sign for an eight and lose by one.
What was your biggest single win?
Two of my biggest winners were Mark O'Meara in the 1998 Open at 50/1 and Paul Azinger in the 2000 Sony Open at 100/1, but weirdly my two most successful weeks didn't involve backing the winner at all.
At the 2008 US Open, I backed runner-up Rocco Mediate at big prices in a whole host of markets. And prior to the 2012 Open, I discovered little-known American Michael Thompson had played well at the Olympic Club as an amateur and viewed it as one of his favourite courses. I backed him at massive prices in a number of markets and he ended up leading after round one and finishing joint-second. I made well into five figures in both of those weeks, and each time it led to several bookmakers closing my accounts.
How much do you make from golf gambling each year?
It depends on how much I put on. At the start of each financial year, my aim is to get a 20% return.
What are the mistakes people make when betting on golf?
Packing that their selections aren't doing well in an event and placing extra, not properly researched bets in an attempt to chase their losses. I also wouldn't touch two-ball or three-ball match bets, as they are a bit of a lottery over 18 holes. And I avoid betting on matchplay events, like the WGC World Matchplay or the Ryder Cup. They are too difficult to predict.