The Perfect Punter, by Dave Farrar

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

In common with many mug punters, I find gamblers' memoirs strangely compelling. Read Patrick Veitch's Enemy Number One and we can fantasise that we too could make millions, if only we had nerves of steel and put in many thousands of hours of research; read Jonathan Rendall's magnificently anarchic Twelve Grand and we can console ourselves that we're not the only person who, in Rendall's case literally, often loses the plot.

Dave Farrar also hit a rocky patch after his girlfriend walked out, when he blew what he coyly describes only as "a five-figure sum" over six months on a series of ill-thought-out bets.

Finally coming to his senses, he decided to seek redemption and what the Americans call "closure" by betting on exactly the same events the following year, but this time doing his homework properly, attending each event and sticking rigidly to a staking plan.

In other hands this construct could be formulaic, but Farrar is an honest, amusing companion with a keen sense of his own failings. Starting at the Super Bowl, he pinballs around the world, seeking advice from all the experts he can find before coming to a judgement and plonking his money down.

His method comes up with some crackingly successful wagers – such as Li Na at 28-1 for the women's singles title at the 2011 French Open – along with some agonising near-misses and some downright flops. However, the charm of the book lies in the encounters he has along the way, from snooker's Steve "Interesting" Davis to the legendary American jockey Ron Turcotte at the Belmont Stakes in New York.

How successful was his mission, financially and emotionally? It would be unfair to reveal the dénouement; suffice to say that it is well worth tagging along with Farrar right to the end.

Published in paperback by Bloomsbury, £9.99