October 26, 2017

New Light on Bingham Case

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:28 am

As widely reported, news of Stuart Bingham’s punishment for breaking betting rules has met with mixed opinions within the snooker community. Some polar opposites have been expressed on social media from those that would just let him off and also welcome Ste Lee back with open arms to those that would like to see him publicly flogged to within an inch of his life.

All opinions are valid, except for the stupid ones, in particular the ones that are based solely on the evidence presented by those making the judgement. My own was very clear on one particular ruling, I disagree with players using bookmakers to ‘lay off’ highest break insurance bets, for me it is taking advantage of a unique position for their own personal gain just by virtue of the job they do and I don’t think that’s on. However, this morning I have become privy to some information that has changed my mind on my own initial position.

I have to say that I wasn’t alone in wondering how and where Stuart could have laid off these highest break bets, I wondered if it may have been something he managed to get on at the betting exchanges, though with the sums quoted I did question that. If he’d used either his own or his manager’s account to try and get these on at a bookmaker, assuming he could even find the bet, he would have known he was a dead man walking, so how did he do it?

Step forward Philip.

Philip is a friend of Stuart’s who describes himself as a pro-gambler, he is not a bookmaker. It turns out that on two occasions over the period quoted, Stuart contacted him to ask if he’d like to offer him a price on his break being beaten, as a bet between friends. Philip’s memory of the exact details of one of them is a little hazy but the tournaments involved were the UK Championship in 2014, when Stuart’s break was beaten by Ronnie O’Sullivan’s 147 and the 2016 China Championship, when Stuart’s 141 against Shaun Murphy was beaten by Murphy in the same match later in the day.

Philip agreed to give Stuart a price willingly, had he not agreed, Stuart could not have got any bet on anywhere else.

The conversation below took place in between those two breaks in China, notice the ‘somebody other than you’ response, so if Stuart had beaten the break it was not a bet and he would not have gained twice. 

(For the record I am not sure if the segway is sorted yet.)

So, how does this change things if at all?

Well, I think this opens up a whole new argument. Is a personal bet between friends classed as gambling? Or is this a private matter between the two parties involved?

Are the WPBSA correct to highlight this in their judgement in a way that implies, without being written, that Bingham was placing these bets with betting firms? 

Why did those conducting the investigation not speak to Philip about this at any point?

The obvious question that I’m sure you are all asking is, how did they even find out about this? Well, the very simple answer is that Stuart offered the information up voluntarily by handing over his phone. Does this imply that Stuart himself was unaware that making a bet with a friend was also against the rules? Is it against the rules? 

I’d argue that this now becomes a very grey area, a bet between friends, whether it’s a straight 50/50 side bet or a bet of this nature is not the same as throwing your money at the bookies. Stuart has a friend who is in a position to offer this to him and he decided to take advantage of that, both knew the risks and had his breaks not been beaten his friend in the case above would have been £1500 better off. Philip was also under no obligation to offer Stuart the bet.

My information is that Stuart will not be appealing his ban, which of course included other issues which are not in dispute, but I think it’s important that the judgement 6(a) is put into perspective as this is a significant point which makes this case different to some recent others, it made me question my opinion, so I dare say it may also make others do the same.

  • Stevie Baillie

    Defo begs the question, or at least prompts the WPBSA to add extra lineage to their already in place rules to cover such betting/agreements.
    Was the same bet (or similar bet) available with the big boy bookies?
    If it were, then maybe (just maybe!) it was then passed on through to them?
    I personally don’t have any “friends” that would give me odds on a bet against myself like this.
    But I do know several “non-licensed chaps” that would look around for me, to see where it could be laid-off, if at all possible.

    • You can’t get these bets on at the bookies.

      • Yeah, you can.

      • Dom Cullen

        If they’re going to include bets between friends as being against the rules then they need to hand out a lot more bans, half the field have probably had a cheeky tenner with a friend somewhere in their careers.

  • I personally don’t have any problem whatsoever with players making insurance bets on events out of their control. If a player has scored 145, and has £20,000 coming as a result, then taking out insurance and hedging the risk seems to be to be a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Companies and investor hedge risk all the time, every single day, and from a financial perspective it makes perfect sense. Bingham has had to perform to a high level in order to put himself into a position which allows him to take out such insurance; incentivizing high levels of performance should be applauded, not censured.
    The only thing I have an issue with is any type of bet or proposition which incentivizes taking the foot off the gas. As a player, I should absolutely be able to bet myself to make the highest break, or to win a match, or to win a tournament, because if anything I’m giving myself more motivation to perform to my best. In financial markets similar principles apply: you’re expected to act in a way which best serves your own interests at all times, as well as those of your company, employer, stakeholders, etc. It is only when sub-optimal performance is incentivized and subsequently rewarded that problems arise, and it is for this reason that anti-trust legislation exists.
    Ronnie O’Sullivan apparently wanted to hedge against someone beating a break of his a while back and this subject reared its head then too. Then, as now, I argued that he should absolutely be able to insure against something out of his control having a direct impact upon his own finances, in the same way that we take out home insurance or car insurance or even life insurance to guard against circumstances out of our control. The problem here is that people are of a mindset which seems to preclude betting markets from being considered as financial instruments, and in essence that is all they are.
    There are rules in place which prevent you from being able to profit from ostensible deliberate sabotage of one’s own interests in terms of insurance or finance, and maybe a revision of the rules with some common sense in mind might allow for players to openly wager on markets out of their control for the purposes of hedging risk. By this I mean they cannot wager on correct scores (because there might arise a situation where they need to drop a frame to win a bet, even if betting on themselves to win), or ‘sell’ their own performance in any way, but backing themselves to win is fine; isn’t this what they’re doing anyway, when considering fees and expenses against potential tournament winnings?

    • To add something here: Thorsten Hohmann bet himself to win the World 9-Ball Championships at 125/1 the year he won it. Apparently had about 1000 Euro on, if rumours are to be believed. So he’s made enough off of his own balls and talent to set himself up, and that’s the way it should be, in my opinion. If he got to the final and could bet £60k on his opponent at evens, to guarantee himself half the potential earnings and hedge against a £125k swing, then that’s no different to paying for a stop-loss when trading shares, or simply selling half your shares in something in case they drop massively in value.
      It’s a risk/reward proposition, nothing more, nothing less, and removing risk at the same time as removing any prospect of greater reward is no different than what businesses, corporations, banks, investors, insurance companies (and hundreds of other examples) do every single day. You get into a profitable position, and then you “green up”. It’s prudence, not cheating.

  • This will be the last time I try to engage if my comment from yesterday remains marked as spam.
    I’m open to expressing opinions and trying to add value to any debate, but I’m not going to spend time putting together an opinion if it’s going to be cast into the ether.

    • I don’t control the comments, this is an automatic filter. I don’t check them daily either.

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