Gambling – Taking the Bookies to the Cleaners

Foreword by Dick Pynegar. Former Director of Ladbrokes, the British and Dutch Totes and an Asian On-line Gaming Company.

To most that read Len Thompson’s excellent book, they will empathise with the phrase of – ‘Taking the Bookies to the Cleaners’.
Len’s perspective comes from an era where gambling was; illegal, cash only, with limited security, but most important of all – widely loved by the working classes, as both social entertainment and a potential means of getting a big win from a small outlay.
It was that love for gambling that eventually saw it legalised; not because the government of the day wanted to please the masses, but as a means to raise tax revenues.
Having worked at Director level for Ladbrokes, the British and Dutch Totes and an Asian On-line Gaming Company, my perspective of the skulduggery Len describes, is one of ‘a bookmaker on the inside looking out’ – trying to do all one can to stop it happening. Whilst Len’s perspective outlines the exploits of sharp men with sharp minds, doing all they could ‘to part the bookmaker from his money’.
The 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s were days of great hardship where gambling was one of the few social outlets, which provided the masses with; a daily dose hope and entertainment. The backdrop of an industrial Chesterfield, with its ‘Twisted Spire’ overlooking a grey town, clouded in the smoke from coal fires, is a fitting scene to the gritty realism of the day.
Len’s book brings that era to life as he takes us through; his Mam’s ‘pin sticking’ highlights, his Dad’s development of a manual database of handicapping and timings and his neighbours ‘creativity’ in parting bookmakers and unsuspecting moneymen from their wealth.
The length’s that those on ‘the outside looking in’ go to and those ‘on the inside looking out’ trying to thwart them, was and still is an ongoing battle of wits. Where olden day bookmakers had to resort to the likes of ‘clock bags’ and being wary of strangers, whilst modern gaming operations have departments called ‘Fraud’, which exist solely to track; on- line money deposits, free bet abuse, collusion on poker tables and the like.
What is remarkable about Len’s look back at an era, which was more than a half-century ago, is that whilst the technology has changed beyond recognition to make everything ‘slicker and faster’, the same sharp people with the same sharp minds continue to ‘pit their wits’ against the bookies of today.
And long may it reign.


One of the main reasons I decided to write my fifth book was to support the Labour Party who have vowed to reverse a ban on prisoners being sent books. Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan called the restriction “plainly ridiculous”. I agree and want to support all prisoners by supplying them with a copy of my book in e-book format free of charge. The e-book format is important since the prison authorities are less likely to ban them since they will not contain drugs etc, hidden inside them.

My choice of title ‘GAMBLING – Taking the Bookies to the Cleaners’ and subject ‘Sport’ and ‘Gambling’ should be enjoyed by the majority of inmates since they are natural gamblers who took risks to get where they are today.

It primarily contains underhand methods of gambling used by working class punters, adopting scams and skulduggery during the 1940s and 50s, to relieve the bookmakers of their cash. It will no doubt cause more than a hint of nostalgia to rise in the eyes of many people who enjoyed a flutter in the good old days when betting rules and regulations were not as strict as they are today.

How to take the Bookies to the Cleaners? That has been  the aim of thousands of punters over many years. This memoir will tell you how it was done down Pottery Lane, Chesterfield, Derbyshire during the 1940s and 50s, giving examples in quite a few differing circumstances; all true. Gambling was very much a way of life there, and it includes a number of unusual incidents which are both extraordinary and humorous at times. The main scam is how two compulsive gambling brothers developed a foolproof system where every bet they placed was a winner. This enabled them to win a small fortune over a three-year period. Whether it is horse or dog racing or playing cards with a crooked deck, this is the book for you.

Review 1

Back in the days of these stories, the controlling bodies of both horse and greyhound racing were less than thorough with little of the strict rules and regulations of today, and more especially, the enforcement. Not only were the betting public regularly scammed, hoodwinked and misled but so were the ruling bodies.

With every race scrutinised and televised in today’s much more accountable racing industry, the old ‘tricks of the trade’ highlighted are all but gone for the good.

Review by Neil Potter – Former turf accountant and horse and greyhound owner

Review 2

Len Thompson was born in a working class area of Whittington Moor, Chesterfield, Derbyshire in  1938, and in this book relates how his neighbours stung the bookmakers for more than £3000 betting on the horses over a three year period. This was the 1950’s at which time the average wage was just  £3 per week. Here he reveals how it was done and the planning that went into that ingenious sting.

He also reminisces about scams and stories at the local dog track, Wheeldon Mill, Brimington, Chesterfield where as a teenager, he worked as a dog handler, and where his Dad became the official handicapper at the track.

He was able to gain  firsthand experience of how the dog owners had the power to manipulate the odds on their greyhounds by various devious tricks of the trade and make considerable financial gains.

Len had inherited a good practical and mathematical mind from his Dad and eventually ‘escaped’ his life of gambling and became a successful Engineer on the Gold and Diamond Mines of South Africa.

Review by John Thompson, Cranleigh Bowls Club colleague


Tales from the horseracing and dog tracks : reflections from a life learning the rudiments of gambling. Join Len as he shares evocative personal stories of being there at the key moments in developing a sting with betting on horse races which never failed, every bet with the system, won over a three year period. Also reminisces about unusual achievements involving scams at the local dog track, including his Dad, who became the official handicapper at the Wheeldon Mill dog track in Chesterfield, Derbyshire.

Review by Keith and Jayne Sellars, old friends from school, Chesterfield and Sheffield.

Link to buying the kindle version of this book @ £1.90 www.amazon.co.uk

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