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STEVE PALMER

Weblog: Seven days in the life of a man born to punt

Popularity on the wane but wealth gets a boost

Saturday, June 12

I left it up to the Lord to decide. If he had made the weather in Weymouth too cold for me to wear nothing but a short-sleeved shirt outside, then I would have left my USA colours in the wardrobe and gone quietly about my business.

If he made the temperature sufficiently high, though, I would ease into my USA shirt and begin my quest to convince the people of England that we are all God’s children and must learn to get along with each other regardless of where we were born.

I opened my curtains and got the green light from Him Upstairs – he was beaming his torch in my face and clearly wanted me to spread the message of world unity – so I made myself look like Landon Donovan and prepared to head out on to the streets of England.

I got a few wagers in place beforehand. Havinglost £250 on Mexico the previous night, I aimed to get it straight back with £125 on South Korea to beat Greece at 2-1 with Betfred, I laid £500 of England to beat the USA at 1.54 on Betfair and I had another £150 on Rory McIlroy to win the St Jude Classic at 8.6 on Betfair.

Taking in the Korea game in the local, I was pleased to find only a handful of people in there, but one burly chap who was watching rugby on another TV swiftly gave me my first “you’re going to die” glare of the day as he clocked my shirt.

Fortunately, I was with my mate Sam, who is unquestionably the hardest bloke in Weymouth, a borderline psychopath who relishes physical confrontations.

With him by my side I knew I could safely antagonise approximately 25 people in the same pub and I was still as safe as houses.

Buoyed by Korea’s success, I moved into the town centre, where levels of hostility towards me started to increase.

At times I had to take evasive action.

The USA home shirt is all white so when I threw my jacket over my left shoulder it covered up the badge and to casual observers I looked like just one of the many in England colours.

I still found a disappointing amount of abuse coming my way, though, and I was struggling to get across my message of peace to all men.

My colleague Peter Thomas did a very good job of explaining the lunacy of blind patriotism in his column in Tuesday’s Racing Post and anyone not prepared to offer unwavering affiliation to England’s World Cup campaign is fiercely vilified on these shores.

Some people looked at me as if I was wearing a ruddy Ku Klux Klan gown.

I’ve only been to the States once but I loved the characters I met over there – Americans are a tremendous bunch if you ask me – so why can’t I support their football team if they are going to win me some money?

I retreated to a barbecue where I knew everyone in attendance and thought it would be a tension-free zone, but once the actual game started, the atmosphere became strained.

From minutes four to 39, I was being mocked.

From minutes 40 to 90 I was being hated.

I didn’t care, though.

I playedkeepy-uppy in the garden with a beach ball for 15 minutes after the game, content with my £750 profit from the day, while everyone else calmed down in the lounge.

We went into town later for a few beers.

I’m usually Mr Generous anyway and like to buy the drinks, but friends typically step in and insist on getting a round or two themselves.

On this occasion, though, the fact I had profited from opposing England seemed to make me some kind of evil thief and it was clear I had to buy every single drink all night.

I was made to feel like a criminal who had stolen £500 off the nation.

I felt further vindicated by my unpatriotic position as the night wore on and the inevitable carnage ensued.

As is always the case when England fail to get the desired result in a big game, grown men were fighting each other and smashing up anything that stood in their path.

Again, there is a supreme logic to this, isn’t there?

I love England so much and England haven’t won a football match, so before I go to sleep I’m going to beat up as many Englishmen as possible and demolish as much of England as I can.

Yep, that makes perfect sense lads.

Sunday, June 13

A £200 wager on Slovenia to beat Algeria at 6-5 with Paddy Power got my day off to a solid start, but the Portugal Open golf was not bringing home any bacon.

Ignacio Garrido (£82 at 30), Tano Goya (£23 at 110), Chris Wood (£203 at 12.5) and Bradley Dredge (£67 at 36) were all just on the fringes of contention (I should have done some finishing-position selling), but not threatening Thomas Bjorn.

I successfully laid £200 of Serbia to beat Ghana at 2.06 on Betfair and was getting a real taste for laying.

You can’t beat a good lay, can you?

Laying £200 of Germany to beat Australia at 1.6, though, was a lay too far and left me feeling rather sore.

Brian Gay was the only one of my St Jude Classic bets still in with a chance (£85 at 34).

I gave Robert Garrigus no chance of holding on to his lead, so Gay was starting the final round only four shots behind in my eyes. I had another £80 at 40 on Betfair.

Gay nailed an early birdie but then dropped away, and feeling the effects of Friday and Saturday night excess, I was struggling to stay awake.

To keep me interested, I had £300 on Lee Westwood at 1.7 on Betfair, feeling the opposition was so weak that even with his recent problems in closing out tournaments the world No. 3 should find this one a piece of cake.

Well, it was cake that needed a lot of chewing. Garrigus finally capitulated with a triple-bogey on the 18th hole and Westwood got into a play-off (before which I had another £100 at 2.5 on Betfair), winning despite two other players trading at 1.01 for the title.

Monday, June 14

Had £150 on Cameroon to beat Japan at 2.34 on Betfair, then £20 on the draw at 8.6 with Japan 1-0 up and five minutes to go.

The Africans had a gilt-edged (whatever that means) chance to equalise late on, but the game yielded a £170 loss.

I immediately laid £170 of Italy to beat Paraguay at 2.3 on Betfair in response, then focused on the US Open golf, marching down to a Ladbrokes shop to sneak £700 on Phil Mickelson at
8-1.

I went for dinner at McDonald’s and was almost knocked down by a young girl when I walked through the door.

Her fuming father shouted at her: “Stop running around like a headless chicken.”

Her reply, which she screamed at the top of her voice, was a classic.

“I’m not a chicken,” she angrily barked back at her even angrier dad.

Paraguay heroically got my £170 back, then I had my other US Open investments on Betfair, £188 on Ernie Elsat 34, £150 on Dustin Johnson at 42, £97 on KJ Choi at 65, £85 on Bo Van Pelt at 75 and £25 on David Duval at 250.

Tuesday, June 15

This was a day that would have been wonderful if football matches lasted only 88 minutes, but unfortunately they last for a little while longer than that.

I had £400 on Slovakia to beat New Zealand at 1-2 with Paddy Power.

It shows those ruddy Power adverts work.

The 1-2 was available with loads of firms but I went with Power just in case one of their cashback concessions suddenly came to my rescue.

I didn’t even botherto check if they had one for this game, but ploughed on regardless.

A sickening 93rd-minute equaliser for New Zealand ripped £600 from my clutches.

I logged on to my Power account hoping to see £200 there (cash back on any injury-time goals maybe?), but sadly there was nothing.

I had a friend at Ascot who was asking for betting advice, so I consulted some of the shrewdest judges of equine flesh I know (James ‘The Number Cruncher’ Pyman, Paul ‘The Crunchie Cruncher’ Kealy and Matt ‘The Manc Cruncher’ Williams) and got the lowdown on the horsey action ahead.

I passed on their pearls of wisdom, but could not then resist getting involved myself, having £150 on Goldikova at 2.7 on Betfair, £100 on Canford Cliffs at 3.3, £100 on Strong Suit at 3.45 and £20 on Klammer at 27.

I won about £700 on the horses, so decided to go all guns blazing on the Brazil-North Korea correct-score market on Betfair, having £300 on any unquoted score at 3.2, £150 on 3-0 Brazil at 6 and a £100 saver on 2-0 Brazil at 5.5.

The 89th-minute Korea goal, which made it 2-1, was greeted with much glee by the commentators, who clearly don’t give a monkey’s about the punting community.

I turned my mind to the Saint-Omer Open golf to take my mind off the late anguish – there was £1,150 swing on the New Zealand and Korea goals – and I had £145 on Raphael Jacquelin at 14-1 with Hills. I also had a £110 double on Mickelson (8-1) andJacquelin (14-1) with the same firm.

Wednesday, June 16

Inspired by McIlroy, who told me when I played with him in Dublin a few weeks ago that I had the potential to be a very good golfer if I practised more, I paid for my first-ever lesson.

The timing was disastrous, though, with Spain losing 1-0 to Switzerland and 15 minutes to go.

With my £1,100 outright wager on Spain getting off to a horror start, I had no interest in improving my golf swing, being virtually frog-marched from the TV in the club shop to the driving range by resident professional Jon Bevan.

With four Open appearances under his belt, Bevan knows what swinging a golf club is all about, and this no-nonsense character told me I had the ball about a mile too far back in my stance, the biggest problem in an action bursting with technical faults.

I nonchalently dropped into conversation that my mate Rory – the world No. 10 – said I was actually quite good. But Jon just smiled, clearly believing I was a deluded fool with an imaginary friend.

Stressed by Spain’s defeat and the issues withmy swing, I needed a fillip, and it came in the shape of having £200 on Uruguay to beat South Africa at 2.44 on Betfair.

“Stick your vuvuzelas up your arse,” I chanted enthusiastically to myself in my flat during the Diego Forlan masterclass.

Thursday, June 17

I could not believe Els had drifted to 44 on Betfair, so felt compelled to have a further £25. My only football wager of the day was £200 on Mexico to beat France at 3.75 on Betfair. Bosh.

Friday, June 18

Had £250 on Germany to beat Serbia at 1.72 on Betfair.

Hmmm, let me try to think of the best word to describe the referee in that match.

Oh, I think I’ve got it. Dick.

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