Tuesday 9 April 2024

All Is Fair in Love, War & Gambling

I wonder if you remember Ron Pollard?

Sadly, he passed away in 2015, aged 89. If his name sounds familiar then you may remember reading his quotes in newspapers, often related to gambling, because his role as an odds-maker and PR Director made him a star turn at Ladbroke’s.

Pollard’s biography Odds & Sods: My Life in the Betting Business, published by Hodder & Staughton in 1991 is a superb read. In fact, for insight and revelations about the bookmaking industry it is one of the best books I have ever read. There are many humorous stories including one about the 1982 Miss World Competition.

This is where Pollard uttered those insightful words: ‘You’ve got to make a living, son, and so you have. All is fair in love, war and gambling.’

He’d bet £300 on Miss Dominican Republic at odds of 16/1 to win £5000.

In 1982, Ron was invited onto a show hosted by Michael Aspell and Danny Baker called the Six O'Clock Shows. It was a behind-the-scenes look at Miss World. The advantage Pollard had over other bookmakers was that he made the odds and the other bookmakers followed suit. So he told a little white lie when pricing Miss Dominican Republic at bigger odds because he was convinced she was the favourite to win. He asked Ladbroke’s staff to keep him informed of the betting just in case someone tried to scupper his plans.

Ron needed to get close to have a good sighting of the girls to make his book. This was made all the more difficult as Eric and Julia Morley, who run the competition, didn’t want him anywhere near them. In fact they had declared war on him after 1979s competition made headline news in the Daily Star. The Morley’s were worried betting would turn their ‘pride and joy’ into a cattle market. In fact, she was determined to stop him.

Unfortunately, she was too late.

Rather humorously, he had been jogging with the girls in Hyde Park, and had the tapes to prove it. Also, when the girls were invited to the Variety Club lunch he disguised himself as a waiter to see the contestants in their national costumes. However, he failed to see the swimsuit parade. He was assisted by the Daily Mail’s photographer who said nothing to dissuade him from Miss Dominican Republic.

However, there had been a tremendous amount of money for Miss Trinidad and Tobago whose odds were cut from 12/1 to 5/4 favourite. In fact, Ladbrokes stood to lose £500,000 is she won the competition.

When the big day arrived and judging was over, it was revealed that Miss Dominican Republic had won!

Ron Pollard punched the air with excitement, he had won £5,000. The money was good but in truth it was as much about ego, simply being right.