For 15 years, Dave Nevison has made his living as a professional punter, travelling from racecourse to racecourse throughout the UK and Europe.

He’s now one of the best-known characters in British racing, a larger than life figure who has taken on the bookies and won.

His first book was the bestseller A Bloody Good Winner. His second book, recently released, is called No Easy Money (A Gambler’s Diary). In this article, we conduct an interview with Dave, using his book as a reference.

One of the early chapters in Nevison’s book is titled How I Do It and I think that sums up the question most likely to be asked by anyone who has bought the book and is intrigued by how Dave Nevison is able to make such big and consistent profits from betting on racehorses.

At the start, he says he set out to make 80,000 pounds ($160,000+) during the UK summer, a target he reckoned as  being not unreasonable. Is that all he wanted to make? Or did he think he could win more?

NEVISON: Actually, I don’t want to make 80,000 pounds, I want to make half a million pounds. And that isn’t an unrealistic ambition, either . . . I want to win enough to make a life-changing difference and my best chance of doing that isn’t by grinding away every day but by scooping a big pot. I think I can do it.

That’s as good a piece of advice anyone can give for rank and file punters . . . Those words ‘life changing difference’ should be taken in and absorbed. Because what are we doing as punters? Just chipping away at the concrete or do we really want to change our lives? Of course, it’s the latter.

So why don’t we change our betting approach to reflect what we want? How, then, does Dave Nevison do it? One of the things he does is to make what he calls a ‘tissue’ for each race. That’s his own set of prices.

NEVISON: What most punters do is look at a race and try to find the winner. I think that is a quick and certain way of losing money because it doesn’t take sufficient account of whether or not the horse you select represents good value at the available odds. Having chosen a horse the temptation, difficult to resist, is to back it almost regardless of its price, because we all know how frustrating it is to have picked the winner but not backed it. The trouble is, if you keep backing horses at 5/4 when their actual chance of winning is 7/4, although you will back plenty of winners, you will end up broke.

Of course, the whole issue of betting to value has been talked about year after year in PPM. It’s nothing new to our readers. We’ve pushed the same line of thinking since the mag was launched back in April, 1985. So while Dave’s comments are interesting, and accurate, they aren’t new. He goes searching for the value chances, as we all do, or should do.

Just as PPM has over the years stressed, doing your own pricing is important and can be a valuable betting tool.

NEVISON: Doing your own tissue is an excellent discipline although, of course, it is only as good as the compiler. You need to have a sound knowledge of the form, and of the various factors to be taken into account when assessing a horse’s chance, in order to produce a list of prices sound enough to be useful. Even if you have a good grasp of the form, your initial attempts at constructing a tissue are likely to produce some laughable results...Remember, you are not trying to predict what the odds on offer will be but to give your opinion of each horse’s actual chance of winning.

Choosing which races to bet on is always a dilemma for punters. Firstly, the exact races on which to bet, and once you’ve found them, what approach do you use to find the best chances? It’s an area that Nevison discusses in some detail in his book, before he progresses to the diary section which throws a fascinating spotlight on his daily betting activity on the UK flat races. As far as the Nevison approach is concerned, it’s basically about finding holes in the favourites.

NEVISON:  Normally, I am looking for a weakness in a favourite, although you have to be careful not to be looking with too much determination, or you end up opposing favourites simply because they are favourites. The price you allot the favourite in your tissue helps to determine the prices of the rest of the field, because it dictates what percentage all the other runners must total to arrive at 100%. The races that excite me most are ones where I believe the first two in the betting have holes in them.

Nevison goes on to explain that if he thinks the next two or three horses in the betting have at least as much chance as the front two, then he feels confident of making a profit. The approach, then, is all about getting the percentages in your favour by identifying horses you reckon cannot win.

NEVISON: Gradually, you will get to know when you are right and have confidence in your opinion. I do a tissue every day but I don’t stick to it religiously because circumstances change in the run-up to the race. The going may change, or you may see something you like or dislike about a horse in the parade ring...I work on the basis of a 15% margin of error in my assessment of a horse’s chance of winning. If I can back a horse at a price more than 15% better than the price I think it should be, then I will back it. Sometimes I will back two or three horses in the same race. I suggest you try doing the same.

Nevison is honest enough in admitting at the end of his highly readable book that his bid to win 80,000 pounds didn’t come off. In fact, he ended up 80,000 pounds DOWN. He rationalises the loss very well.

NEVISON: It’s not what a professional gambler expects, it’s not what I am used to, and it’s not much fun. 80,000 pounds down, and that doesn’t include the cost of living an expensive lifestyle for six months. I’ve had other compensating sources of income, from writing, broadcasting, my bloodstock work and my telephone tipping service, which has been doing a lot better than I have, but my core income since 1993 has been gambling, and that has let me down. It has left me at a low ebb as far as my enthusiasm for betting goes. Losing does affect the way you feel.

Well, not so smart, after all, is I guess one response that some readers of the book will have. After all, although we quietly admire guys like Dave Nevison and their ability to win, it is sort of pleasing to know they are, after all, human and that they, too, can do their dough, just like the rest of us.

Not that I think Nevison is going to be sitting back crying tears over that summer’s betting knockback. By now, he’s probably right back to winning again. What he shows in the book is that he’s a pretty fearless gambler and never afraid to pile on the money when he reckons he’s got a better than fair chance. Gamblers will always win and lose. The trick is to win more than you lose.

Nevison’s book is a good primer for those of you who want to read about the daily betting activities of a truly professional punter. It’s a tough and unrelenting business. Find out whether you could do it.

NO EASY MONEY  by Dave Nevison (with David Ashforth), published by Racing Post, Compton, Newbury, Berkshire, UK. Available at Internet bookstores.

By Jon Hudson