The A-Z of betting

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Y is for . . .

Yellow Sam: The medium of one of Barney Curley's more spectacular coups, which took place is the somewhat unlikely setting of Bellewstown racecourse back in 1975. The very remoteness of Bellewstown, however, was part of its attraction for the canny trainer, who knew that there was just one phone line into the track. Bets on Yellow Sam were placed off-course, but when the bookies tried to "blow" the money back to the course to reduce both the starting price and their liabilities, they found that the number in question was permanently engaged. The story goes that one of Curley's accomplices had insisted on making an "urgent" phone call 20 minutes before the off, and had strict instructions that he was not to replace the handset until the horses were off and running. When, rather inevitably, Yellow Sam cantered home, he did so at a far better price than would otherwise have been the case, and Curley is rumoured to have trousered pounds 300,000 as a result of this clever ruse. This may also explain why it is that you never come across a bookie who does not own a mobile phone.

Ypsilanti: Another coup, but of a greater vintage. When Ypsilanti won the Jubilee Handicap in 1903, it marked the first successful strike by the Druids' Lodge Confederacy, the hard-hitting gamblers who terrorised bookmakers in the first decade of the century and featured in this space 21 weeks ago. In modern money, Ypsilanti won them almost pounds 5m, having been backed from 25-1 to 7-2, which means that his backers must have staked the equivalent of at least pounds 200,000. This alone was quite an achievement, even allowing for the fact that bookies in those days were worthy of the name and not afraid to take a serious bet. The same gamble would be effectively impossible in today's ultra-suspicious betting market, since to have any chance of getting such a sum on at 25-1, you would need to visit every betting shop in the country (there are about 9,000) and stake a little over pounds 20 in each. Even then, a fair number would probably laugh in your face and offer you pounds 5 at 25-1 and the rest at SP.

Yankee: The definitive multiple bet, involving four selections in six doubles, four trebles and a four-timer. Even people who have never set foot in a betting shop know that getting a Yankee up is pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most punters, and that if someone in their office pulls it off, it should be well worth accompanying them to the pub. Bookies, of course, love Yankees, since you need a 50 per cent strike-rate with your selections to receive anything back at all, and even two winners gives you just a single successful bet offset by 10 losers. The other obvious problem for thoughtful punters - since even the shrewdest will sometimes find a Saturday Yankee impossible to resist - is that you are staking the same amount on the relatively short-odds doubles as you are on the outrageously optimistic accumulator. If dabble you must, it makes more sense to take an extra minute and write the bet out with different stakes on the various elements - pounds 2 on the doubles, perhaps, pounds 1 on the trebles and 50p on the fourfold. If you can't be bothered, you deserve to lose.

Yah: Thirty-three per cent of the vocabulary of most drinkers in the paddockside champagne bar at Royal Ascot. (The remainder, of course, being "dahling" and "mwah").

Yarborough: A hand at whist or bridge which does not contain any card higher than a nine. It takes its name from Lord Yarborough, who along with the fellow nobleman who gave us sandwiches was a familiar figure in the gambling clubs which sprang up throughout London in the latter part of the 18th century. Yarborough would offer anyone odds of 1,000- 1 against them being dealt such a hand, a price which was cheerfully snapped up by any punter with more greed than sense. Yarborough himself, though, had obviously done his homework, since the true odds against such an outcome are only a little shy of 2,000-1. Which only goes to show that you should always be suspicious of an apparently generous price, even - or perhaps particularly - if the person who is laying it owns half of Norfolk.