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Willie Shafter.
15 Jul 20 18:35
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Date Joined: 15 Jul 04
| Topic/replies: 38,852 | Blogger: Willie Shafter.'s blog
Betfair changed the face of the betting industry when launching what would become the world's largest online exchange 20 years ago. In two decades the company has muscled its way to the top of the division, capped by a mega merger with Paddy Power in 2016. 
An early companion for the nascent exchange was the Betfair forum, which brought together a community who not only traded on the exchange but also traded opinion, banter and insults with like-minded individuals.
In an era long before Twitter and influencers on social media, the Betfair forum was racing's soundboard, a place where voices could emerge and be heard.
It was also a place for professionals to share their expertise, while those with less experience had a chance to pick up valuable tricks of the betting trade. Not always without controversy, it was organic, real and more often than not entertaining to observe.
Love Divine wins the 2000 Oaks, the first race traded on Betfair
Love Divine wins the 2000 Oaks, the first race traded on Betfair
Gerry Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
The beginning
Betfair's first market was the 2000 Oaks at Epsom, won by Love Divine on June 9, on which just £1,476 was matched. It did not take long for business to mushroom and, by the time of the 2005 Oaks, more than £2.7 million was matched. It was a similar story for the forum, which started as a small and select community but expanded into its own universe. 
Mark Davies, part of Betfair's founding team
We had a very loyal group of people at the start. The internet was right at its infancy back then and these things didn't exist – it was all new. Therefore the people who found us and used us absolutely loved us and coined the term for themselves as the 'Betfairians' and they became the group that would exchange banter on the forum. It brought those people together in the way a chatroom is absolutely meant to. They'd exchange stories about what they thought, their tips and the bets they'd made.
The birth of Betfair: 'You're illegal and we're going to shut you down' - how the exchange survived and won
Barry Orr, Betfair's current head of public relations and part of the company since 2003
The reason behind the forum initially was that it mirrored the betting exchange. We brought people together to bet against each other and the forum was a natural community where those people could engage with each other. That's what it was all about – to create a community for people who bet on the exchanges to talk to each other. For racing it was a precursor for Twitter.
Coming together
Those who used the forum in its formative years remember a vibrant environment boasting a healthy mix of information and humour that made for an entertaining platform on which to engage.
Joe Saumarez Smith, among the first ten to post on the forum as soapy j
When the Betfair forum came along there was a remarkable number of shrewd people on there who taught other people how betting worked. They put up decent information, talked about the mathematics and explained that laying horses blind was not a good strategy. I think a lot of the early users of Betfair learned about gambling from the forum. I learned loads from it. There were lots of very sharp people and lots of people who were specialists in obscure areas.
Professional punter Matt Williams
The Betfair forum at its best was full of humour, useful information, the occasional bit of needle and a sprinkling of spite. There was a time when I was working on the Trading Post, in the Racing Post, and we had to cherry-pick the best content for use in the paper the following day. The forum had a generous, knowledgeable following, with various members of the racing press known to get involved from time to time, and things could often turn spicy on there. All the ingredients for a worthwhile, vibrant and social experience online.
Barry Orr
You had some of the finest racing minds on there. Obviously it was always under a pseudonym but initially there was great debate and some really interesting threads. It was real-time messaging. A race would just be over and someone would create a thread on it and you'd get 20 or 30 interactions straight away. Before anyone had ever heard the word 'influencers', there were people influencing on the forum, talking about betting in-running, talking about different software you could use or posting tips. Some really well-informed people would post and it was an exciting place.
Graham Wheldon, Racing Post spotlight writer and on the forum as Chompy
I'm not sure the Betfair forum was ever a community really – more a good place to wind people up. I think it was mainly pro punters on there, who in breaks between races would tap into the forum and mess around a bit. It was people dangling bait to see who would bite.
Kevin Blake, ITV racing pundit known as Irish Whisper on the forum
I don't have a racing background and wouldn't have had a lot of friends who were into racing and it's amazing the amount of people I met through the forum that I went on to meet at the racecourse, many of whom I'm still good friends with. At the time Betfair was a new frontier and I found it great. They put in an Irish forum fairly early and everyone got to know each other well. We'd meet up on the big racedays for a few pints.
Barry Orr: "The forum was a community for people who bet on the exchanges"
Barry Orr: "The forum was a community for people who bet on the exchanges"
Alan Crowhurst
Everyone a winner
It was not just the Betfairians who benefited from the forum, with the brains behind the business using it as a sounding board for what was and wasn't working for their infant company. It was also a platform for would-be professional punters and aspiring journalists to cut their teeth.
Mark Davies
We used to use the forum quite a lot as the customer feedback. We'd read it and see what people wanted. They didn't necessarily feel they were telling us when they put it up and, like any third-party conversation, when you eavesdrop you get better feedback than when you ask for the feedback directly.
Barry Orr
From a business point of view, it kept people engaged with the website as well. When they weren't involved in the race, they'd go on to the forum. Our guys were always on the forum because, if there was a problem with the site or a market wasn't up properly, the first place you'd hear about it was on there.
Kevin Blake
I cut my teeth writing on there as a teenager. I started to write race previews and give opinions and you'd get feedback straight down the pipe with no sugar coating, so it wasn't a bad place to learn and it directly helped me. I was in college at the time and not enjoying it. I sent CVs everywhere and the only response I got was from the Irish Field, because Donn McClean was there at the time and he was familiar with my writing on the forum. They gave me a crack because of that.
James Knight, Coral trader who posted on the forum as the mole
It's very similar to Twitter now. Anyone who works for a bookmaker wants to be alive to what's going on. There were always bits and pieces that came into the public domain via the Betfair forum, so it definitely helped. If you didn't look at it you'd probably see a massive move for something and then realise someone posted it half an hour ago. Anyone who follows a sport closely will want to immerse themselves in anything where there's interesting news and views. It used to be quite funny and very informative at the same time.   
Paul Smith, Racing Post spotlight writer known as Quito on the forum
Eddie Fremantle was a big user and, once you realised there were clever people on there, it paid to follow because you never know everything. There were some nuggets on there. It sailed a little too close to the wind sometimes but it was in the early days of online communities and a good way for like-minded people to discuss what was going on.   
James Knight (centre): "The forum used to be quite funny and very informative"
James Knight (centre): "The forum used to be quite funny and very informative"
Happy memories
From big-priced tips to racing folklore, everything was covered in conversation on the forum in its heyday, with no shortage of tall tales from those closest to it.

Joe Saumarez Smith
There was a fantastic rugby league guy who knew the game inside out. He had no clue about staking but when he wrote out his thinking on a game it was fantastic. There was another guy called Don Butler. His forum name was Cubone. His spelling was atrocious but it was just the most fantastic history of racecourse bookmaking. The insight and the stories, you could read them for hours. That's what I miss. In the early years it was almost self-policing. If people posted good stuff others rewarded it, but if you just put up selections you'd get taken apart. It was gambling Twitter before its time.
Paul Smith
It was good fun and the characters were definitely there. Most of the people who were the funniest were the most informed. I remember ppking and janov, who was a tremendous character. He was a 6ft 10in giant with a broad Bristol accent. He was so sarcastic and posted some belters. Then there was a hapless Scottish tipster called Aceform, who was the good guy to ppking's villain. He did a series of tipping challenges, including 'One A Day, The Aceform Way'. I met a lot of them at the races and most were very different to how you imagined them to be and I still see some of them regularly.
Kevin Blake
There were some great old characters on there and a good few high-profile people. One that stands out was Mike Futter, who owned Monty's Pass and used to post on there. You couldn't read what he was saying and not back Monty's Pass for the National. He was open with everyone that he really fancied the horse. That was a memorable one. It was fun to read ppking, janov and Aceform, who tended to write as he would have spoken. He put up his bets every day and was clearly not the best punter. He was having a good bet one day on a horse over fences and the horse ended up refusing. He half jumped the fence and ended up stuck on top of it. The first post that came up on the original thread where he'd posted the selection was from ppking, saying: 'Your horse appears to be perched on top of a fence, Aceform.' It was merciless. There were plenty of professionals on there too, like Emmet Kennedy, Graham Cunningham, Justin O'Hanlon and Richard Hoiles.
Graham Wheldon
I used to use the 'specials' forum for Big Brother stuff. Some of that was quite useful. The main guy on there was DJ Sunset - he was worth following and a well-known punter. The specials forum was probably more useful than the racing one in my opinion and good fun when Betfair was at its peak.
James Knight
There were some good discussions on the ante-post forums where people would argue who was the better horse, Moscow Flyer or Azertyuiop, and those sort of debates that don't happen as much now. There were some clever people on there and, if you knew who the right people were, you could learn quite a lot. There used to be interesting things on the general betting threads – about the state of the industry, commission rates and Betfair's premium charge. There were some very well-informed people on there speaking about where betting was going and that's as much of a miss today as the silly fun stuff.
Matt Williams
At the beginning, and for a lengthy period of time, you had strength in numbers, which inevitably lends itself to healthy, often informative debate. It was a great place for punters to vent their frustrations over a bad ride, poor training performance, outrageous bad luck or an annoying pundit infiltrating your living room on any given day – and I wasn't immune from criticism myself. As long as it doesn't get too personal, I think that's a good thing. There were so many characters like Warwick hunt, DoubleD, muffinman and Alain Charnier, who were bang into their racing and prolific on there.
Turning sour
Despite such a positive, revolutionary beginning, the forum eventually started to take a different direction, with insight all too often being replaced with insults. A combination of Betfair's huge popularity and vast increase in users, as well the invention of various social media outlets, all had consequences.
Mark Davies
It was the best of Betfair but it was also the worst. It went through a period when it was utter misery because people would just say horrible things in the way they do on forums. I have as much sympathy for anybody as I was the target of quite a lot of the toxic posts because I was Betfair's public face. It's a bit like Twitter today, people think they can write what the hell they want.
Barry Orr
It was a bit of a minefield and did cause us some headaches in terms of who was responsible for the content that was aired on there. But it was never meant to be that sort of a place. It was meant to be a community talking about the exchange but a certain element seemed to take hold of certain threads and drove out a lot of well-informed people. Then Twitter came along and a lot of that opinion is on there now.
Matt Williams
Some of the stick dished out was unfair, maybe even out of order, and after a while the forum became quite toxic. Accusations of foul play and crooked rides used to fly around the place, as well as cruel jibes, and personally speaking I naturally moved away from the day-to-day involvement. I couldn't be arsed with the fact the scales, over time, were weighted in favour of the nasty stuff. I'd imagine it was a similar story for plenty of other members as well.
James Knight
That's the nature of social media – you get the early adopters who feel they are part of something different and it's all good fun and then you get an influx of anonymous people. As there was more abuse and anonymous people saying things about others, I think people became bored of it. Unfortunately, people turn down posting interesting stuff because they don't want to engage.
The Betfair forum lives on to this day
The Betfair forum lives on to this day
Edward Whitaker
The present day
The forum lives on to this day but appears to have slipped down the pecking order as the place to be heard when the big talking points arise.
Joe Saumarez Smith
Forums are a little bit past it now. People have moved on to Twitter and younger bettors would consider it to be an old format.
Mark Davies
I've not followed it since I left Betfair but I would think the reason it's changed is as much a function of the growing user base as anything. When we had just a few thousand customers it was like a club but there's several million customers now. It's much harder to gain a cachet on there. 
Barry Orr
There're still interesting people posting interesting stuff but it's not anywhere near as influential as it was.
Kevin Blake
After I've worked on TV I'll have a look because you know you'll get direct feedback on there and, even if it's nasty, I don't mind because there's often some truth in there.   
Matt Williams
I'll still have a look at the forum and it's got some of the old characters lingering, those who have stood the test of time. And, like the old days, you can still pick up the odd nugget of info and get more than a whiff of decency.

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Replies: 169
By:
onlooker
When: 15 Jul 20 18:46
Well - Some of us - from the early days -  are still here ...

It is up to the others to come back.
By:
pablo-fanque
When: 15 Jul 20 18:56
Barry Orr
From a business point of view, it kept people engaged with the website as well. When they weren't involved in the race, they'd go on to the forum. Our guys were always on the forum because, if there was a problem with the site or a market wasn't up properly, the first place you'd hear about it was on there.

why did that change?
By:
pablo-fanque
When: 15 Jul 20 19:05
There were so many characters like Warwick hunt

what ever happened to that DFC ?
By:
onlooker
When: 15 Jul 20 19:15
They had a fairly decent Customer Services team - Some of whom actually understood Betting and Racing - unlike the currently collection.

I suspect some of those guys monitored the Forum from time to time - or were onto the appropriate Thread when prompted by us - and then acted accordingly.

One bloke in particular, that I remember, was called Kevin, a Manchester lad - and he would often phone me for my opinion on certain issues, or ideas that they were thinking about.

You felt really involved, therefore, in those days.

It was like it was OUR company ... Ours AND Their's  ...

Unlike nowadays - Were They seem like Robots - and We are treated as Aliens. Cry
By:
sparrow
When: 15 Jul 20 19:25
I wasn't aware of Eddie Fremantle being on here and does anyone what his username was?
By:
top2rated
When: 15 Jul 20 19:29
I think it's 'cool eddy'.

Still posts on here.
By:
onlooker
When: 15 Jul 20 19:36
Freebooter ...

Not posted for years, though.
By:
sparrow
When: 15 Jul 20 19:41
I vaguely remember Freebooter in the distant past as I do Lydia Hislop (The Tsarevich)
By:
peckerdunne
When: 15 Jul 20 19:43
Cubone was something else............
By:
Latalomne
When: 15 Jul 20 19:44
'Your horse appears to be perched on top of a fence, Aceform.'

LaughLaughLaugh  Those were the days.
By:
Ramruma
When: 15 Jul 20 19:52
Was it all good? I remember getting the impression some forumites deliberately sabotaged informative threads to get them removed before the hoi polloi could read them. Maybe I was paranoid.
By:
sparrow
When: 15 Jul 20 20:04
You certainly weren't paranoid ramruma. The forum was just as bad in those days despite what some romantics say. But agree with onlooker as to Betfair Customers Service being more effective then.
By:
duncan idaho
When: 15 Jul 20 20:07
the demise of the General Betting forum probably most stark on here...almost as if all the enthusiasm and ideas dried up overnight
By:
Willie Shafter.
When: 15 Jul 20 20:36
bf dont give a flying fccuk anymore and the world has evolved into chaos....

apart from thats alls well.
By:
punchestown
When: 15 Jul 20 20:42
And not a mention of Money tree or The Rebel Billionaire.Laugh
By:
elisjohn
When: 15 Jul 20 20:53
yes barry orr,  get 5/1 on  sportsbook  , when no one gets a bet on
By:
flushgordon1
When: 15 Jul 20 21:08
My judgment of chompy was correct then, wac!
By:
robbierobot
When: 15 Jul 20 21:08
Some great memories there..
By:
impossible123
When: 15 Jul 20 21:13
But this forum has not deteriorated as much as the Racing Post, I believe. The latter is spiralling into oblivion and only a matter of time the plug is pulled.
By:
Escapee
When: 15 Jul 20 21:22
"Some great memories there.."

Me to... The General Betting forum was a cut above for a few years.

One stand out memory was the Magician's "There's not been enough Draws In the Premier League" Thread.

Basically he said the average should be X and it was well below that and he was going to bet £5,000 on
every match till he'd won £100k
When I first read it I thought he was a complete fantasist, but as the weeks went by it became clear he wasn't
and he was actually betting £5k on the draw on every match. (big money to me at the time)

Think he stopped posting before he hit the +£100k but he was winning bigtime. Including a Man United v Dog at 9.2 for £5k for 1-1.



great memories. There will never be another time like the heights of the General betting forum.
By:
Poppydog.
When: 15 Jul 20 21:23
The Forum still can be interesting and influential.

Debate and furore over non-triers, stewards enquiries, photo finishes, strange betting patterns or mild skulduggery
and all of it within seconds or minutes can cause waves outside of the Forum.

If or when it goes, those matters will have much less of a voice.
By:
Willie Shafter.
When: 15 Jul 20 21:28
zodie is seething tht he aint been mentioned..

16yrs and not a losing day Laugh
By:
Storm Alert
When: 15 Jul 20 21:30
Who can forget Obeone? "This is for the big players like myself,back under 3.5 goals Man Utd v Roma Im having a 5 grand bet on this tonite,this is the biggest certainty so far this year,unload and enjoy...ps.. if this bet gets beaten i"ll swim the channel with my mother in law on my back and she weighs near 30 stone...."

RESULT – Champions League 2006/7 - Man Utd 7-1 Roma. b]Obeone[/b] never sighted again.

or Ronaldo7 who got into many spats due to daft posts and on one occasion tried to excuse his stupidity by admitting he was only 17. Also never sighted again assumed ban by betfair!
By:
RothmanMike
When: 15 Jul 20 21:40
The US Racing forum has suffered greatly.
Late night contributors , without the daytime wasters, made it seem more like a club.
Some really clued-up posters with great knowledge on the American stuff, posting well into the early hours.
All given up and gone unfortunately.
By:
onlooker
When: 15 Jul 20 21:42
Poppydog. 15 Jul 20 21:23 
The Forum still can be interesting and influential.

Debate and furore over non-triers, stewards enquiries, photo finishes, strange betting patterns or mild skulduggery
and all of it within seconds or minutes can cause waves outside of the Forum.

If or when it goes, those matters will have much less of a voice.
----------

Excellent post - Poppydog

When the Forum crashed for a couple of full day's - a few weeks ago ...

Whenever there was a Stewards Enquiry - or blatantly 'bad' ride - or some other debatable topic ... They all, of course, sailed blithely by - as most so do with the BHA -  without Comment

We did resurrect one such incident when the Forum returned to up and running, though.

Tenacious being a byword for some of us. Happy
By:
GEORGE.B
When: 15 Jul 20 22:26
Joe Saumarez Smith
Forums are a little bit past it now. People have moved on to Twitter and younger bettors would consider it to be an old format.


I don't see why this forum in particular should ever be "past it". People who are interested in discussing racing matters are probably on here betting anyway, and the forum can be opened in a nanosecond and it's easily accessible to create or read threads.

Plus it has the advantage over twitter that you're not restricted in the number of characters you can use when making each post.
By:
Willie Shafter.
When: 15 Jul 20 22:30
twitters full of twits.
By:
rue-the- day
When: 15 Jul 20 22:55
Who has all stood the test of time Grin
By:
hulk23
When: 15 Jul 20 23:04
Accusations of foul play and crooked rides used to fly around the place

indeed ... 'betfair eddie' was on here long before he was found guilty of corruption by the British Horseracing Authority
By:
screaming from beneaththewaves
When: 16 Jul 20 00:14
the forum can be opened in a nanosecond

You do realize a nanosecond is a billionth of a second, and not a billion seconds?
By:
driver2
When: 16 Jul 20 03:14
I'm glad Cubone got a mention, he would have loved that. I used to enjoy reading his stories and his spelling was a part of the fun.
By:
Larabrown
When: 16 Jul 20 09:12
The fact tat certain individuals see this - and every - thread as an opportunity to insult other people perfectly demonstrates why the forum went into such a decline and many valued contributors left it.
By:
dustybin
When: 16 Jul 20 09:37
The forum certainly has an ineradicable link to the exchange...as the users dry up so the exchange becomes thread-bare.

I noticed nothing was mentioned about the likeliest of all causes; the floatation of a technology company and it’s subsequent transition into a bookmaker along with it’s contrived creation of the Premium Charge, that drove people away.
By:
truehoncho
When: 16 Jul 20 09:56
The fact tat certain individuals see this - and every - thread as an opportunity to insult other people perfectly demonstrates why the forum went into such a decline and many valued contributors left it.-- I think you will find most of that is just baiting ....you idiot!
By:
jumper3
When: 16 Jul 20 10:13
I think I joined around 2005 but had to come back again under a new moniker a few years back because I moved house and changed bank accounts (I wasn't banned, god forbid). I too was fascinated with Cubone's tales from the racecourse back in the day. I have to ask as I do not know. Is he still with us or has he now gone to a pitch in that betting ring on a course, in the sky?

I find most of the interesting stuff is on the AP Racing section for me. Interesting discussions and I am more of a lurker than contributor. The General Betting use to be very worthwhile, it still can be, but it seems hardly used.

If it was up to me, I'd make it only sports we can discuss, or betting on events. While I have sometimes offered a view in Politics and Chit Chat (RIP) I was turned off pretty quickly in a lot of the discourse.

For someone like me, now retired, having followed the game for 40 + years (Red Rum got me hooked), it has been very rewarding and enlightening to read comments and sometimes offer my own thoughts and a feeling there are many here with very similar backgrounds and experiences, of all ages. None of my own social circle have much interest in racing apart from the National, so coming on here you do feel still there is a community of kindred spirits. Long may it last.

Great also to see younger views, not just here but across the wider media. The likes of Kevin Blake are a breath of fresh air but then again so too are the Rubys of this world - seen it, done it, got the t shirt, and not afraid to provide honest reflections.
By:
workrider
When: 16 Jul 20 11:00
Some incredible people posted on the forum, and other half /wits myself included posted stuff that might have made no sense to some but did to others, you see what i mean. I hope it never dies the death, even though it can get a little out of hand its still can make you tingle the odd day..
By:
GLASGOWCALLING
When: 16 Jul 20 11:06
BigMart a Shocking Ommishun. !! Happy
By:
Mully
When: 16 Jul 20 11:07
I expected a little more from the article to be honest but I suspect the author was only a schoolboy when this forum was in it's heyday, thus he's been quite reliant upon stories from a tiny pool of people - mainly RP staff and contributors.

I recall a thread went out on Twitter not so many weeks ago, something along the lines "Who were you on the Betfair forums?" It got a really good response and I was quite surprised to discover some of the "real" people behind the usernames. Sadly, most of them have not made the piece.
By:
Gin
When: 16 Jul 20 11:53
What's the story with Chit-Chat? Has it been confirmed that it is gone for good?
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