Bookies have a rule called ‘palpable error’ which means that if one of their members of staff offer you odds on a an event that are clearly wrong then they have the right to void the bet.
Below is an interesting story from The Times about the caddy of Shane Lowry, the amateur golfer who won this year’s Irish Open. His amateur status meant he wasn’t permitted to pick up the 500,000 euros first prize but it was widely reported that his caddy had a large bet on the amateur at 3000-1.
The Times story tells how, when his brother (who put the bet on for Noel Egan, the caddy) went to pick up his winnings, he was told by bookies Paddy Power that the odds had been wrong and that they would not be paying him out:
Noel Egan grew up with Shane Lowry in Clara. They were best friends from the time kids first make friends. Last week people were asking what Shane is like. He told them all the same thing. “Shane Lowry,” he says, “is the nicest fellow I’ve ever known. Always was, always will be. Has a smile for everyone, just a lovely jolly fellow.” And they ask how he’ll do on the pro tour. “To do well,” says Noel, “he only has to be Shane.”
A few days before the Irish Open, Noel was having a drink in his local, Baggots Back Door in Clara, when a friend of his called and said the Paddy Power bookmakers in Tullamore were going 3000-1 Shane to win at Baltray. Egan genuinely felt Shane could win the Irish Open and though he made only three bets in his life and never staked more than ten euro, he decided to put 50 each way on his best friend.
The difficulty was that when he put his card into the hole in the wall, the response was disappointing. His brother Gerard agreed to loan him the hundred but when Gerard got to the bookies, he rang and said he’d put 25 each way on for him. “Fifty is enough,” said Gerard. “No,” said Noel, “please put on 50 each way.” If the truth is told, Noel Egan had already calculated his winnings, 187,000 euro – enough to set him up for life.
Gerard agreed. And he had 25 each way for a friend, ten each way for another friend and ten each way for himself. On Friday evening after Shane shot 62 and was joint leader going into the weekend, Noel felt the 187 grand was in the bag. He couldn’t help thinking of what he might do with the winnings. He would pay off his ten grand loan at the Credit Union, he would change his nine-year-old car that leaks oil onto the driveway at his parents’ home, he would buy his mum something lovely and he would take Shane shopping.
Then on Monday morning, after the show was over, Noel saw it in a newspaper. A spokesman for the Paddy Power organisation said there had been a mistake, some punters had been given 3000-1 Shane Lowry to win the Irish Open when the price should have been 300-1. They had tried to contact the punters who had been given this “erroneous” price but had not got to all of them. Noel Egan and his brother’s friends hadn’t heard a thing from Paddy Power.
Their dockets said 3000-1. It was the price they had been given. Gerard, a mild-mannered man, spoke with a high-up representative of the bookies. He was told Paddy Power didn’t mind bad publicity and that if the lads took on the might of Paddy Power, they wouldn’t win and might get nothing. Then they were offered 1000-1, and had until the following morning to decide. They then got another call and were told the 1000-1 offer was available for ten minutes and then it would be withdrawn.
Ten minutes to decide, Noel Egan accepted. Even if it was 125 grand short of what he felt entitled to, 62 grand was a lot of money. But that’s not the reason Noel accepted. Rather it was out of loyalty to Shane, the truest friend he’s ever had. “I know what was done to us was wrong. With that ten minutes thing, I feel we were blackmailed. But how could I complain about getting 62 grand when Shane played unbelievable golf to win a tournament worth 500 grand and didn’t get a penny. What kind of ungrateful bastard would I have been to say 62 grand wasn’t enough?”
This is an interesting case. Paddy Power have to have rules in place that protect them from staff deliberately colluding with customers to cheat them out of winnings. If a horse is 5-1 and the staff member writes 50-1, Paddy Power cannot be realistically expected to pay out at ten times the true odds.
But what price should Shane Lowry have been to win the Irish Open? Certainly 300-1 feels a bit short but 3000-1 would have been ridiculous. The complete outsiders in most golf tournaments are priced around 500-1 but they are usually pros, so 750-1 is probably about the right odds. At 1000-1 Paddy Power have probably erred on the side of generosity but it would be interesting to see some screenshots of Paddy Power’s pre-event markets to see whether they really were going 300-1 before the off or whether the 3000-1 was ever available.
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