Dictionary definition of 'con'

Bookies Conning Punters with Rule 4 Manipulation?

Dictionary definition of 'con'

Dictionary definition of 'con'

Bookmakers, and one firm in particular, appear to be systematically conning punters through a marketing strategy originally designed with polar opposite intentions.

My own exposure to this started out as a perception, after a series of bets struck early succumbed to swingeing Rule 4 deductions. And, off the back of a frustrating triple whammy price cut in a single race, I decided to dig a little deeper.


The apparent con relates to early prices offered by most big name bookmakers. These odds are generally made more attractive to smaller staking punters and those who like to bet the night before (perhaps due to time constraints or work commitments), by the provision of a Best Odds Guarantee, or BOG.

This 'BOG' concession means that punters will receive the better of the price they take and the returned starting price. So far, so good. But if a horse is withdrawn from the race between the time the bet is struck and the time the race goes off, a 'Rule 4 deduction' is applied.

Tattersalls Rule 4 - and all its other rules - can be viewed in this pdf document.

Rule 4 (R4) deductions are calculated based on the odds of the non-runner at the time of withdrawal, and involve a deduction from the bettor's stake. The R4 table is shown below:

1/9 or shorter = 90p in the £
2/11 to 2/17 = 85p in the £
1/4 to 1/5 = 80p in the £
3/10 to 2/7 = 75p in the £
2/5 to 1/3 = 70p in the £
8/15 to 4/9 = 65p in the £
4/5 to 4/6 = 55p in the £
20/21 to 5/6 = 50p in the £
Evens to 6/5 = 45p in the £
5/4 to 6/4 = 40p in the £
13/8 to 7/4 = 35p in the £
15/8 to 9/4 = 30p in the £
5/2 to 3/1 = 25p in the £
10/3 to 4/1 = 20p in the £
9/2 to 11/2 = 15p in the £
6/1 to 9/1 = 10p in the £
10/1 to 14/1 = 5p in the £
Over 14/1 = No Deductions


A good example of how to calculate Rule 4 on your bet can be found here.

The Rule 4 deduction chart is fixed, and seems entirely fair. After all, if for instance the withdrawn horse is only a 4/1 shot, it must have had reasonable claims in the race; so the chance of my selection is materially enhanced by his absence.

But a key clause in the Rule 4 documentation is this:

Where a bet has been placed and a price taken on the day of the race and there is subsequently an official notification that a horse has been withdrawn or has been declared ‘not to have started’, the liability of a layer against any horse remaining in the race, win or place, will be reduced in accordance with the following scale depending on the odds current against the withdrawn horse at the time of such official notification: [scale as per above table]

To labour the key phrase, the bookie liability shall be reduced against the scale based on the odds of the withdrawn horse "at the time of such official notification".

The Problem

If there is no problem with the Rule 4 system, then where exactly does the issue lie? Take a look at the image below [click on the image to open fill size in a new tab], which shows the odds movements of three horses from the same race on odds comparison site, oddschecker:

Systematic shortening of known non-runners is a scam

Systematic shortening of known non-runners is a scam


At the intersection of each vertical and horizontal red box, there are two items - a number in blue, and the letters 'SUSP'. The blue number represents the revised odds of the horse in question, which have shortened (pink equates to lengthening odds revisions). SUSP means betting has been suspended on that horse.

Now note the times to the left of each horizontal red box.

The proximity of the blue numbers - i.e. shortening odds - to the suspension of betting is interesting. Actually, it's downright concerning.

In the first two cases, the difference between the shortening odds and that horse being suspended in the betting was five minutes. In the last case, it was a single minute.

In all three cases, the time the horse was shortened was later than the time the horse was declared a non-runner on the official BHA website.

In other words, it was possible to know beyond doubt that the horses shown above were not running before shortening their odds.

Why is this important? Because if a horse is 14/1 or shorter and becomes a non-runner, bets placed on every other horse in the race prior to this horse's market suspension will incur a R4 deduction.

It remains possible that the triple example above was merely coincidental. Suspicion grows, though, as it becomes clear that two of the three non-runners were shortened into the next R4 deduction bracket.

In other words, it could be inferred that prices were deliberately managed to mean a multiple deduction on any bet left standing on any other horse in that race.


A Closer Look

Now of course a single race - no matter how frustrating in 'bookie tax' terms - hardly constitutes a body of evidence. Nor either does the anecdotal evidence that was its precursor.

And, in fairness, what follows is less than a categorical damnation; but it does further illustrate the issue and focus a beam on one particular operator who could be said to take greater advantage of this perceived con trick than most. (Note, this operator is NOT the only one perpetrating the practice).

The bookmaker in question is PaddyPower, and the following data relate to that firm's prices as represented by oddschecker.com.

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I looked at all of the non-runners from Monday 13th July up until 4pm GMT (or 4.01pm as it turned out), and noted the following:

- Official time of withdrawal of each horse (NR Time)
- The penultimate betting show for each horse (Show -1)
- The time on oddschecker of the penultimate betting show (S-1 Time)
- The R4 associated with the penultimate betting show (Assoc R4-1)
- The final betting show prior to withdrawal (Last show)
- The time on oddschecker of the final betting show (LS Time)
- The R4 associated with the final betting show (Assoc R4)
- The difference in R4 deductions between the last two betting shows (R4 diff)
- The time the horse was suspended by Pad Pow for betting purposes (Susp Time)
- The difference between time of suspension and last show time (Susp-LS Time)
- The difference between time of official withdrawal and last show time (LS-NR Time)

In the below table, I've used the following presentation formats to highlight a couple of things:

Grey Italics - No change in the horse's odds all day
Green bold - Favourable R4 movement between last two shows
Red bold - Unfavourable R4 movement between last two shows

Here are the data in race time order:

Power manipulating R4?

Power manipulating R4?

Although the above is not that easy to read, a few things become apparent. First, there is a lot more red than green, meaning that - on this day at least - punters came off much worse 'nett'  when comparing positive and negative R4 deductions. Specifically, there were eight R4 deduction extensions in the final shows, and three R4 deduction reductions (if you catch my drift).

Second, note the comparison between the official withdrawal times and last show times (right hand column). In all but one case, the last show was after the horse was officially withdrawn. And, therefore, in direct contravention of the stipulations of Tattersalls Rule 4 (C).

Mr Power's published rules with regards to Rule 4 can be seen here, and are in line with Tattersalls Rule 4 (C). Thus there is a disconnect between Power's stated rules, and the company's application of them.


Here's another interesting thing: let's sort the data by the size of the last show Rule 4 (Assoc R4)...

Wholesale manipulation of fancied non-runners? Or a crazy coincidence?

Wholesale manipulation of fancied non-runners? Or a crazy coincidence?


Notice how that raft of red has gravitated towards the top of the table?

This means that, in the admittedly small sample of non-runners, those highest in their respective markets were most susceptible to what I'll cautiously suggest could be interpreted as manipulation.

Fridge Kid, the sole green entry at the top of the list, was the only horse in the table (excluding the grey italicized entries, whose prices did not move all day) that did not change within at most five minutes of the suspension time.

Now, it's important that I caveat this: it is possible that this is a 'feature' of the way Padd.y's data feed talks to oddschecker. Possible, but unlikely, in my opinion.



There are reasons why it is dangerous to be categorical about what the data appear to suggest, starting with the fact that I don't know enough about how oddschecker receives and processes data from the PaddyPower feed.

I do however know something about how this data is consumed by geegeez's own odds comparison engine, and it is reasonable to assume similar processing happens on oddschecker.

Also, there is insufficient data in the sample to conclude anything stronger than a tendency towards 'aggressive book management', as opposed to a less equivocal and more absolute contention.

Unfortunately, the information aggregation process is time consuming and not something I'm able to commit to longer term. However, I will 'spot check' this from time to time over the coming weeks, as I believe it is more than mere coincidence.

However, despite all the caveats and the limited dataset, it is clear that P.P. are consistently revising their prices after the official notification, and using the revised price as a basis for Rule 4 deductions from pre-existing wagers.

I contacted PaddyPower's twitter team, hoping to get a comment from the trading room on the matter but, as yet, have not had a reply.

In lieu of a response, it seems sensible to tread carefully when taking an early price with PaddyPower. Personally, where another bookmaker is offering the same price, and the same BOG concession, they will be my chosen layer.

Ultimately, if this is indeed deliberate - as appears likely - the notion of giving with one hand, via the availability of early prices, and the Best Odds Guaranteed concession; only to take with the other, by manipulating the odds of known non-runners, is a fiercely sharp practice. And bookmakers who deploy it have no place in punters' considerations. You hear me, Padddy?


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40 replies
  1. RonCombo says:

    Good for you Matt. Having seen your tweet to PP, I presumed reply there was none. They don’t let up, do they?

  2. (John) Paul Ambrose says:

    Had noted the forum discussion and was awaiting this piece with interest. I have definitely not favoured Paddys recently when at least one other firm is offering the same price. Ultimately, that’s the only thing that will dissuade them from any sharp practice that they may be employing (though it’s a drop in the ocean, probably, and your flagging it up has hopefully made them conscious of punter awareness and dissatisfaction).
    A minor point, but surely the 20% deduction is taken from the odds, meaning that your example would return £58 with the full stake returning (aceodds agrees with me, anyway)…knowing how Rule 4 works is important in working out if you’ve been “had” – for me, at least.
    Cheers for the great detective work.

  3. FGR says:

    Good work, Matt. I’ve had my suspicions lately too, but now that I see it in black and white (or should that be red and green!), I definitely sniff a rat.
    Don’t you just love bookmakers!!! Lol!

  4. Gaz says:

    You might want to investigate how the entire rule 4 calculation has been manipulated. Its my belief that (originally) R4 deductions were calculated around the price of the NR at the TIME THE BET WAS PLACED.

    Ive no affiliation to the firm but check Skybet’s interpretation of the rules v paddy power



    It is only this (I believe quite recent) re-interpretation of the rules which allows PP et al to (allegedly) manipulate the market, as in the recent Clever Cookie example as well as your own.

  5. Wildcat says:

    It’s been well known that this has been going on for years, but it’s nice to seem some incontrovertible evidence to back it up. I’m sure a similar exercise could be done for the number of occasion a rag gets withdrawn from an 8 runner race saving all bookmakers a fortune in each way bets. Maybe something to consider for a future article?

  6. Brian says:

    I have for sometime, where 8 runner races are concerned, bet the
    win side of the bet with Bookies and place bet with Exchanges.

    Utterly mind blowing how many times, one horse is withdrawn
    during the day.

    No proof of collusion, but very suspicious.

  7. Ian says:

    Paddy Power….interesting…I never bet with them.A friend of mine who bets really high said ages ago that they are one of, if not the worse ‘ on line ‘ betting company that he has in the past dealt with. He said ‘ stay clear of them ‘.

  8. Michael Bendeaux says:

    I took advantage of PPs recent offer for new account holders backing Novak Djokavic £10 at 10/1, thought it would provide me with £100 for Goodwood. However I now see that I have available 10 free bets at £9.58, not a big difference but no explanation!!

  9. sondrio2 says:

    good point brian, and it always seems to be 8 runner races where a horse is withdrawn at the off, hmmm

  10. northern says:

    Good work Matt, I have often thought they were harsher than others on the Rule 4 but had no evidence until now. It will be interesting to see how they respond?!? Cheers Pete

  11. manc1954 says:

    Great piece of work Matt. I guess PP will now change it’s practice and claim it was all a coincidence (or slack administrative work – and someone will get the sack in appeasement). Nevertheless, how long have they been doing it and how much have they sponged in from honest punters? It’s the way of the (financial) world and they will just look for another edge to shave off until that one is found out and so on and so on. Well done to you though.

  12. daz123456 says:

    I also noticed to my cost PP no longer pay any bonus for 1 winner on a lucky 15 and no bonus for 4 winners. Despicable bookmaker end of.

  13. malcolm pendrey says:

    nice work matt, however this is not a problem for me, as no longer bet with paddy power. last week I tried to place £100 win on a 4 to 1 shot with paddy power, only to be told that my maximum allowed stake was £2.77 ! hell, £3 was too much !!!

  14. ian says:

    bravo encore,matt! i have written to paddy saying i will forgive him these sins if he says 3000 hail marys and sends me a crate of guinness. wotufink?

  15. andy says:

    Yes, this has long been my feeling and suspicion though how do you prove a feeling? I too have been declined even small “exotic” bets at PP…interesting to learn my hunches were not just that.Thanks for all the thought work put in.

  16. jamesfeeney says:

    Great piece of work, Matt well done. I had noticed this practice for some time but never delved into it. No wonder PP can afford all their free bets, justice refunds, secret customer only enhanced prices, extra places and all the other stuff they continually boast about. They’re saving it on their rule 4 deductions. They’re also saving when Ruby Walsh tells them which of Willie Mullins’ horses will win and which will be “pulled” ! I should start a spreadsheet on that…

  17. Ian says:

    Well done!! You should ask Channel 4 if they’d like to do a documentary on it!
    Be nice to see the sharks squirming for once.

  18. derec says:

    well done matt,i have noticed an unusual amount of rule4 deductions from my bets lately,it seems every time i get a winner theres a r4.also paddys prices would seem to be the lowest of all the bookies in most cases.

  19. peter davis says:

    Yes i think a word of causion ,i use BOG bookmakers and sometimes checking their prices on oddschecker is frustrating.You think you have found VALUE ,only to find the price offerd on oddschecker is not available with the actual bookie when you try to place your bet. Mat this is a fantastic peice oe investigation and you deserv a big thankyou . I will watch PP in future.The whole laying industry need watching.i have had ristrictions, closed accounts and only bet with a tener most days .once again keep up the good work Peter

  20. Wendy Hampson says:

    Nice work Matt, they need to be exposed for all the sharp practices they employ. I too have stopped using PP for the simple reason, they never have the early prices they advertise. As soon as you try to get the price on offer, it is reduced. I think it is a bit like what the travel agents do, they put a cheap holiday up in their windows but when you go in to book, they have sold out. I don’t trust PP at all. I have had other issues with them as well, and they aren’t worth bothering with.

  21. sondrio2 says:

    cant touch PP, coral or ladbrokes with the proverbial barge pole, damned quick to restict me and dont get me started on skybet, dont even want me as a customer and my largest ever stake was a tenner, i dont get it at all, you,d think they wanted as many customers as possible.

  22. Barry dennis says:

    3 runners. Early prices evens, 6/5, 14, 6/5 w/d Evens R4 45p. Better than 1/2. Sp 1/10 and 8/1. Can’t b bothered to do research but R4 99% in punters favour

  23. Ifonly says:

    Very good evidence to back up what many of your readers have been saying about PP and price manipulation.Why don’t bookies also have ‘ante post’ prices for the day’s racing? Punters could then decide to back their fancy and get BOG whether it runs or not. Obviously if it is withdrawn they lose but it would stop the rule 4 nonsense.

    On a slightly related matter about the bookies in general,has anyone else had problems with debit card withdrawals. Some bookies can easily take deposits from debit cards but not return them in the same way. This seems to me a way of making withdrawals difficelt and I have experienced it from a few bookies, especially BetBright.

  24. Manyanga says:

    Excellent piece and a credit to GeeGeez.

    I place a lot of small bets and don’t monitor results as carefully as I should. But on the dozen or so horse-racing books still left to me, my funds increase gradually on all except Betfair and – Paddypower. This Rule 4 manipulation may explain it, since I am working to a pretty low ROI. Thanks. I shall make adjustments!

  25. ron says:

    Hi Matt
    yet again, another great article! Have often wondered lately how given all the advances in modern technology that the exchanges are always way ahead of bookmakers when it comes to non runners.Also as someone pointed out above there seem to have been an extraordinary number of 8 runner races reduced to two places of late, but then maybe thats just my imagination:-)
    I do have one question that has often puzzled me regarding odds comparison sites
    though and its this : how is that at the exact same moment in time every bookmaker in the land is suddenly offering the same price about an individual horse in a race? Surely more than one person in each firm is aware this is going to happen and when? Are we to believe then,at shall we say 9.00am, the opening show for the 4.55 bath today for example is already in the pipeline?
    Finally I recall a comment that John Mac often used on ch4 racing-the eachway thieves are hovering! Isnt it more likely that the only thieving being done is by bookmakers, given some of the outrageous SP books being returned of late?

    keep up the good work


  26. finky1 says:

    I rembered backing a horse at 20/1early morning price in less than 10 minutes price was into 5/1 .half hour later it was non runner i do think the bookies are geting information obout non runners and ussing it to their advantage

  27. harry1477 says:

    Non runners in 16 to 17 runner races is the norm ..in fact to still have 16 to 17 runners is the rarity ..happens a lot with 8 runner races also ..its far to easy to declare non runners it plays to the bookies it makes bookies more money ..its no coincidence how easy it is to declare non runners believe me ..trainers are clueless in fact they don’t give a dam about punters ..

  28. ken3bak says:

    Hi…proof of the pudding Matt – I backed Hulcolt (5.10 Beverly) today @ 9/2…which won @ 5/2 – one non runner variously at 16/1 – 20/1 EXCEPT @ Paddy Power & Corals where is was listed @ 14/1 – R4 of 5p !! It’s not the money but the principle of this theft.

  29. Alzzz says:

    Of course the previous price changes for the n/r were:

    PP: 10/1 -> 14/1
    Coral: 12/1 -> 14/1

    But don’t let that ruin a good tin hat conspiracy!

  30. peter says:

    Hi – When I read your email where you said that a major bookie was conning the public I immediately thought that it would be Paddy Power (PP). But my reasoning was not for the reason you gave, but something more devious which could be considered in breach of the law, or, at the very least, an outright scam. In Feb 2015 at 0100 hrs I placed a bet on Ready at 16/1 with PP, and immediately laid it with Betfair (BF), thus ‘arbing’ the bet. Ready won but, whereas PP deducted a rule 4 10% from the winnings due to HiHo being a non-runner, BF did not apply their reduction factor (RF). As I was losing £30 due to this I emailed BF and asked why they had not applied the RF due to HiHo being a non-runner. BF replied that yes, it was a non-runner, but that it had been withdrawn at 1805 hrs the previous day and had not been included in their book mark-up. So PP had made up a book which included a non-runner at grossly inflated prices, knowing that they could deduct 10% from all winning bets. Not only were the punters out of pocket through this, but also their fellow bookmakers who had priced up a true book at lowere prices which included the non-runner. (The more astute punters would of compared the prices for the race on Oddschecker, and naturally would of taken PP’s higher odds, not knowing that winnings would be subject to a 10% rule 4 deduction).

    PP then performed the same scam as follows:

    1635 Chepstow race ran on 11 Feb 215 – Nordic Nymph – £10 win @ £2.25 to win £12.50, but only £8.75 was paid out due to a rule 4 deduction of 30% being applied. However, when the bet was placed there were 9 runners listed in the race, with horse #1 being a non-runner before the book was made. Whereas Paddy Power made a rule 4 deduction on horse #1 despite it being already declared a non-runner, Betfair, with whom I laid the same horse at the same time, did not evoke its reduction factor rule on the bet.

    I therefore lodged a complaint with the IBAS against PP, and, after two further letters from IBAS to PP, PP eventually refunded the £30 over Ready, but did not refund the difference over Nordic Nymph, due to the fact that there was an additional non-runner in that race.

    On a lighter note, I wanted to place a 50p lucky 15 with PP, but they wet their knickers and restricted the bet to 2p (yes, that’s right, 2p) Not only deceitful, but cowardly as well.

    And they have the audacity to call themselves the leading bookmaker. In deceit yes, but in honesty, no way. For the 2p bets they should set up their pitches in primary schools, (and right next to the toilets in case any of the young ‘uns wanted to place 3p bets).

    The most obnoxious bookmaking firm to say the least.

    Best regards.

    Ex PP client.

    • peter says:

      Oops – but also their fellow bookmakers who had priced up a true book at lowere prices which included the non-runner.should of been ‘but also their fellow bookmakers who had priced up a true book at lower prices which EXCLUDED the non-runner. Sorry

  31. ken3bak says:

    Hi alzzz – surely it doesn’t matter what the “earlier/previous price changes” prices were – it’s the SP’s that count for R4’s.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      No, that’s not right, Ken. Check the link to the Rule 4 explanation at the top of the post.

  32. Steve Wood says:

    I noticed this some time ago and I am pleased you have exposed this. I note that Oddschecker no longer show SUSP under PP but it is still going on. Today at Curragh, Digeanta race, at 16.30/31 all go SUSP. PP dont suspend but go from 5/2 to 9/4 (25p to 30p) at 16.32. Surely the Gambling Commission need to be made aware of this, it is a licensing issue for me, they shouldn’t have one!

  33. Paul Ruffy says:

    Well done Matt, good work.
    Friggin scallywags. Unethical at the least. Not that I’m surprised.
    I have noted that some firms have notably worse R4 deductions, all I ask is that they make them actually visable when they are applied on the settled bet statement. Many times recently I am given no information on how they have calculated an R4 deduction, all I know is that there must have been one as the returns were low. I’ve given up contacting them nowadays to explain their returns which is a bad thing on my part really.

  34. James Martin says:

    I placed an online horse bet with paddy power today. I took their early price of 13/2 at 11.01am, This was a new book after 2 earlier withdrawn horses, the last being taken out at 9.59am at 9/2. I had no rule 4 deductions based on the earlier non runners, but just before the off a 12-1 shot (11-1 at time I placed bet) was withdrawn, my horse duly won at SP of 4/1. I was expecting a 5% rule 4 deduction but they deducted 10%. Only a difference of £2.60 but that’s not the point, it must come to thousands if it’s on every early price bet they’ve layed on that horse.
    I spoke to the online support via their chat App, but after a short discussion, where I was told without reason the deduction was correct because there was a 9/2 shot withdrawn 1 hour before I placed my bet. (This doesn’t add up even if i’d placed the bet before the new book, which I didn’t, 9/2 = 15p rule 4), I was cut off after not accepting his reasons.
    I then phoned the customer support and what I was told was laughable. Basically they agreed that the deduction was 5% for the withdrawn horse but as I’d taken an early price and it was much better than the SP they’d deducted another 5% and ‘this was in their rules somewhere’…..Imagine …. If you get the best price we reserve the right to double the rule 4 deduction!!
    After asking to speak to the manager and left on hold for 3 mins, he came back to me and said I was right, it should have been 5% rule 4 and my account would be adjusted.
    This did happen a few minutes after hanging up but the money was credited to my account as a ‘goodwill gesture’!! It was obviously done just to shut me up & get rid of me.
    This payment suggests to me that they haven’t resettled mine and every other bet where they applied the incorrect rule 4. But purely adjusted accounts where people have made complaints.
    This is down right fraudulent behaviour as far as I’m concerned, and will no longer bet with them.

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