The SBC Interviews: Malcolm Boyle

The wit and wisdom of a bookmaking legend with more than 40 years experience ‘on both sides of the counter’.

Malcolm Boyle is a legend in the bookmaking world. A former odds compiler at Coral in the 1980s, he worked with the renowned Joe Fagan before branching out to run his own bookmaking chain in London. As a writer he is best known for the groundbreaking title: Win At Fixed Odds Football Betting, the first book to treat the subject seriously and introduce the concepts of value betting to football. Now firmly ensconced on ‘our side of the counter’ Malcolm’s expertise manifests itself in a welter of racing columns and comment for the likes of Channel 4, Talk Sport and BBC radio. He notably supplies analysis for , and The Tote.

Here, in an exclusive taster for the SBC Blog, Malcolm gives his low-down on pricing, punting and a life spent as both poacher and gamekeeper. The following extract is taken from the first part of an exclusive two-part interview as published in the latest Smart Betting Club members Magazines.

While this Part One focuses on Malcolm’s racing work, look out for Part Two in our upcoming Sports Magazine where Malcolm turns his attention to the ever-changing football scene and the legacy he created with his then groundbreaking book Win At Fixed Odds Football Betting in 1992.

Malcolm Boyle Interview Extract (as taken from SBC Racing Magazine #63)

SBC: You learned to price up with the legendary Coral compiler Joe Fagan. What particularly learn from his example?

Malcolm: Joe’s work ethic was the most impressive thing, the thing that left the greatest impression on me. His philosophy was that there are no shortcuts and doing your homework is the only order of the day. If he was ever questioned as to why he’d chalked up a particular price he would always have an answer, precisely because he’d put the hours in on his research. In terms of football and snooker in particular, there wasn’t anyone worth knowing that he didn’t know. To a certain extent the exchanges and their online and betting shop software protects the compilers now because they allow firms to quickly correct their errors – before they get filled in.

I was working for Corals during Martin Pipe’s golden period and there were a few shrewd people around like Chester Barnes and his associates. Back then though it was very much an ‘us and them’ culture that was fostered between the compilers and the known ‘faces’ in the betting world. Though they were not hit in the pocket personally when they got it wrong (which probably helped them keep going) the compilers, at least at Corals, were certainly expected to justify every decision on prices they made to their bosses. Joe, in particular, was very hands on in this regard. I aspire to being as thorough in my own work. Everyone should.

SBC: Why do you think pricing up is such a key requirement for anyone looking to make their punting pay seriously?

Malcolm: Basically, it is the only way to get an edge and you owe it to yourself to put in the effort – immerse yourself in it and learn all the percentages associated with pricing up and the odds such as the conversion table for turning odds into percentages and decimals. If you are serious, you owe to yourself to create a level playing field so you can fairly compare your opinions with the bookies’ quotes.

SBC: Can you talk us through your methodology? How do you price up a racecard?

Malcolm: It is exactly the same principle as you’d use to price up a football match. For football, I’d chalk up my percentage chance for the draw first and then allocate my home win and away win percentages to add up to 100%, before converting the percentages back to odds or decimals, for comparison’s sake. With a horserace I put the runners in likely finishing order after doing all my homework on the race. I’ll then hone in on a specific horse I fancy in the race and then allocate it a win chance percentage. I’ll then work backwards filling in each runnners’ chance relative to my first selection until every runner has a price that when combined adds up to 100%. Again, I re-convert the percentages into odds (or decimals) so I can compare my tissue prices with the best prices available for each runner. I can then know what has been over or undervalued in the race relative to my prices, giving me a sense of those runners I might want to be with or oppose. The tools you use to allocate your own prices comes down to preference and experience. In my case I am most interested in the effect of race trends, course form and the effect of the going on shaping the result.


To read more from this full two part interview with Malcolm, you need a Smart Betting Club membership. Click here to sign-up and gain instant access.