My week: Graham Sharpe Bookmaker

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Today was manic, with two major sporting events. The Derby and the first day of Euro 96 meant pounds 40m has been gambled nationwide. That sounds like a lot but I'm expecting a betting blitz of up to pounds 100m on Euro 96. The '94 World Cup was the first event to outstrip the Grand National, with pounds 70m bet. But this is a tournament, in this country, with home nations competing, so I'll be disappointed if Euro 96 doesn't break that record. As a manager, my prime objective is not to take money, but to publicise the odds. Until today's England / Switzerland match, the best outsider was a gentleman who had 5,000-1 on England winning Euro 96 without scoring a single goal. He was on to a loser with the one-all draw. Other punters have placed five-figure sums on individual teams. For the Derby, we had to assess the house-husbands' choice, Alex Greaves. She was the first female jockey ever to compete in the race and our odds were 150-1 that she'd make the top three. Unfortunately, she finished last. Weirdly, the winner was trained by Lester Piggot's son-in-law, so although the old jockey's retired, he still managed to influence the outcome.

With Euro 96 we have to update the odds after every match. There were three today, so it's a bit of a scramble. We have a team compiling odds, so I don't have to work them out myself, but my brain keeps ticking even when I'm away from work. My best bit of inspiration was some years ago, when I was at home one evening chatting to my wife about Dallas. I didn't really watch the soap but she was wondering who shot JR. The next day I went in and turned it into a novelty bet that took a quarter of a million. That was the good news, the bad news was that it was Kristen, who was a popular bet, so we ended up paying out more than we'd taken. Still, in this business the secret is a big turnover; in a way the outcome is irrelevant, you're always going to win some and lose some.

Sat and read all the papers. I do that every morning, not reading everything, but skimming for things that might influence the odds. That can be almost anything, but politics are big business every time a general election comes round. The other day, interest rates suddenly dropped, so I had to think: will that effect Conservative fortunes? That morning we shortened the odds on a Tory win and dropped them against an October election. Every day I get strange letters from the public. Today, I got one from two friends who are pregnant, and want to know if they could bet on having their babies on the same day. There was also a fairly standard one from a dad who wants to bet that his son will make the England squad by the age of 25.

This morning the radio said the temperature was going to be 86F. Weather is big in this country, so I started thinking about the odds for the UK heat record being beaten this year, or if it's going to reach 100F this week, all that kind of stuff. With Ascot and Wimbledon looming, there's always more betting on the weather. I spent a normal afternoon keeping up with sport on satellite TV. As soon as one thing finishes another begins. The French Open finished the other day; in its place we've got the Stella Artois.

Colin Dexter has announced that in his last Inspector Morse he's going to reveal the detective's Christian name. It's out in September, so we closed the bet. He knows the name, his publishers do, so it would be dangerous to keep it open. The most popular choice is Ernest, at 5-1.

I started in the business 20 years ago, chalking up the scores in a betting shop. I learnt how to settle bets, managed a bookies and ended up here, as publicity manager for William Hill. It's a midnight to midnight job. I get American DJs phoning me up at four in the morning to check the latest odds for the presidential election. The Olympics are coming up and if Linford Christie runs at 3am, I'll have to be up at 2.50am. I opened more letters from punters. A grandmother wants to back her granddaughter as the next Naomi Campbell.

In the space of half an hour, I had two punters lay substantial bets at 100-1 on the Queen abdicating before the end of the year. One would be unusual, two is remarkable. Maybe they know something I don't. If I get any more, I'll have to phone the Palace. They won't tell me anything of course, but you have to try to get as much information as you can. Tomorrow should be the biggest betting game in Euro 96, as the Scots top the league of football gamblers. Sadly, their most popular bet is that they'll be knocked out without scoring a goal.

Graham Sharpe was talking to Liese Spencer