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Choc Ices and Stakes – The Language of the Betting Ring

Growing up around betting rings is a life I’ve loved. It’s a way of living that is out of the ordinary. There’s a mystique to its inner workings, one that even technology hasn’t been able to fully sanitise.

Part of that mystique and a sight that’s so sorely missed is the Tic Tac men that used to relay the odds from bookmaker to bookmaker.

These guys, who often donned white gloves and wore suits that made them look like gangsters from the days of “Guys and Dolls”, were highly skilled human arithmetic machines. They were essential to the flow of money and the ecosystem of the betting rings they served.

Although now extinct, some of the terminology around at the time can still be heard.

I’ll do my best to let you into what that it is and my knowledge of its origins here…

  • A Monkey = 500. Said to derive from the 500 Indian Rupee banknote which featured an image of a Monkey
  • A Pony = 25 also born from the Rupee banknote. The denomination featured a picture of a Pony. Cockney Rhyming Slang has always intertwined with gambling life and the term ‘maca’ short for macaroni can often be heard
  • A Score = 20 “Score” was a term for counting herds of sheep or cattle. Counting by scores allowed the livestock hands to keep up with large quantities of cattle without losing count. ‘Apple Core’ is a derivative of rhyming slang and is often shortened to just ‘Apple’
  • Cockle – Short for Cockle and Hen or Big Ben = 10
  • Jacks = 5. Once again has it’s roots in rhyming slang… Jack’s Alive
  • Bullseye = 50. Presumably from the dartboard score
  • Bottle = either 2 or 200. Another term influenced by rhyming slang.. a bottle of glue. A ‘deuce’ is also used
  • A Ton = 100… No idea of where it came from personally, feel free to comment if you do.
  • A Grand = 1000 or Bag of Sand in Rhyming Slang, apparently originated from America.. with the saying “A Grand Sum Of Money”
  • A Carpet = 3 or 300. This comes from prison slang where a 3-month term was the required length of time for an inmate to weave a carpet or matt for his cell in the workshop. In odds terms, double carpet applies to 33/1
  • Clickety Clicks = 66
  • Rouf = 4, Neves =7, Xis = 6, are all back slang….. mirror image the word and you’ll see what I mean. Terms like Neves to Rouf (7/4) also still exist
  • Horns/top of the head = 9/4, eyes= 5/2, double tap = 15/8 and wrist =5/4, all originate from the hand placement in their respective Tic Tac signals.

The list goes on but I hope I’ve given you a little peak behind the curtain and next time you’re on course and eyeing up the Choc Ices (prices) you may have some more insight into its traditions and culture.

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