Mark King’s remarkably honest interview with Hector Nunns in today’s Independent on Sunday lifts the lid on his addiction to gambling, which came close to losing him his marriage, his career and his life.

King admitted to being suicidal after squandering £500,000 gambling and was even in the early stages of planning a robbery to fund his addiction.

Thankfully, he realised that he had to change and made positive steps to do so. He attends Gambling Anonymous once a week, which he credits with rescuing him from the abyss.

King is a player who has always had a hard edge of bravado about him but is, in fact, a decent bloke dedicated to his family. It was ultimately for their sake that he sought help.

Snooker was once indebted to the tobacco industry. Now it’s the gambling sector pumping most of the sponsorship money into the sport.

I have no problem with this. Their financial assistance is welcome. Betting, like any other activity, is not damaging in moderation.

But the age of internet betting brings its own dangers. Most sports are now tainted, whether fairly or not, by claims of match fixing and every major sport is the target of those who wish to influence results, due in part to the multitude of bets available online.

The mystery to me about last year’s cricket fixing scandal involving members of the Pakistan team was why anyone would want to bet on when a no-ball would occur during a match.

It seems to me some bookmakers invite cheating by offering bets on ridiculous things like what time the first throw-in will happen in a football match.

Some gamblers take out their frustrations at losing on the players themselves, accusing them of cheating just because they have not delivered the result the punter bet on.

I had one email from a reader/gambler recently – who had spread bet on 50 breaks and lost – which ended in the words ‘snooker’s bent and you know it!’

Actually, I know that it isn’t. I also know that some gamblers cannot see that players are human and sometimes play badly just because, for whatever reason, they can’t get going that day.

Despite the dangers and pitfalls, I'm not anti-gambling. Like any other activity, some people can gamble for fun without any hugely negative effect. Others become addicted. This is not the fault of the activity itself but a fact of individual personality.

I’m glad Mark has sorted himself out. He is right to mention the gambling culture in snooker. As he says, this is mainly low key, the odd football coupon or horse race, but he ended up being sucked into a spiral of compulsion that almost cost him everything.

Other players, particularly those coming into the professional ranks, would do well to read his cautionary tale.

Read the story here.


Anonymous said...

marks a top guy!

(when news of a horse tip gets mentioned in the players lounge theres occasionally a scene befitting the discovery channel)

Anonymous said...

Actually, I know that it isn’t. I also know that some gamblers cannot see that players are human and sometimes play badly just because, for whatever reason, they can’t get going that day.

Really, Dave? After John Higgins and Pat Mooney gave a very articulate information about the ways professional player can lose any given frame, how can you - or anyone else - be sure that what we are seeing on the table is genuine?
It's easy to miss, or play and be faced with a difficult black - wasn't it how the explanation went.

What makes you sure that players give their 100% in every match? I'm finding it hard to believe lately.

Claire V.

Anonymous said...

Good for Mark, he's brave to be so honest. I shall have much respect for him from now on. Hope he gets to the Crucible this year.

Anonymous said...

Good on Mark, it takes a brave man to confront things like he has. Much respect.

He will need to get his facts right in his book though - you cannot spend £1,000 in three spins on a roulette machine in the bookies. It's a £100 a spin max by law ;)

Betty Logan said...

Betting patterns are like fingerprints—a statistical anomaly usually shows up in a way that a normal betting pattern cannot possibly do i.e. they don't conform to a natural distribition around the most probably result. In truth, anomalous betting patterns are probably enough evidence to convict upon, but the reason it doesn't happen is because juries don't understand the mathematical arguments.

There are exceptions to that, such as in the case of the Higgins affair: the match didn't go ahead so there was no actual evidence of match-fixing. Similarly with Ebdon a couple of years ago, there was an anomalous betting pattern but he did have a reasonable explanation: he was going through a separation, and the knowledge could have got out and influenced the patterns to conform to an irregular distribution. There is the case of the Maguire and Burnett match which had anomalous betting patterns, and sadly peculiar shot selection too; it pains me to say it but the evidence almost irrefutably supports the allegations in that particular case and it is travesty that it was never investigated by the WSA!

Generally, if the numbers say the match is legit then it is, and although some players may not always try i.e. Ronnie, lack of effort isn't the same thing as fixing a result, because all other results still have a probabalistic outcome.

Anonymous said...

betsy, not trying and changing the outcome is just as bad as throwing a match so others can benefit.

if you dont try and lose because of it (where 8/10 times youd win if you tried) then to me that is cheating the fans and also the punters who bet and lose, the same way as those who bet on unfixed matches expecting a fav to win but he loses on purpoise and so fans and punters lose.

all the same to me. id class it as cheating

Betty Logan said...

I think fans and gamblers have a right to be annoyed if they've handed over good money and a player doesn't make an effort, but by the same token it doesn't have a criminal element to it; the player isn't defrauding anyone for personal gain so it's a stretch to call it cheating. Perhaps they could bring in a "lack of effort" rule with a one-match ban as a punishment.

Such a rule could be a good middle ground in match-fixing cases too. Often players get off because there isn't enough evidence to warrant a 5 or 8 year ban or whatever, so in a roundabout way a harsh punishment becomes a lesser punishment because there is hardly any chance of it being invoked, but maybe such a harsh punishment isn't required to stamp out match-fixing. A player is only going to make about 10k from throwing a match, so all you need is a punishment that makes it un-economical to throw matches, so a single-match ban rule which is liberally applied might might tackle the problem better than a potential 5–8 year ban which has only been issued a couple of times throughout the whole of professional snooker.

Anonymous said...

yes betsy, though i wasnt saying both were criminal.

glad you agree with me

Anonymous said...

Nowadays I think Ronnie is a bigger price to win tournaments because his erratic play is factored into the price.
While I don't think Ronnie's behavious should be accepted, I do not believe its the same as a player playing a bent match.
The latter is cheating, in fact its fraud and a police matter.

Anonymous said...

not trying to win is cheating fans and punters imho.

fans go there to watch people try their best.

punters back players thinking the players will be trying their best to win.

imho if that isnt happening then they are cheating.

cheating both fans and punters.

Anonymous said...

funny he didn't come out and say any of this when he was being supported by Betfred

Mike, from Polgrave said...

Snooker isn't bent, but some of the players have been. In that respect it's like every other sport. How you deal with it is critical. Since Barry Hearn took over there has been only one incidence of alleged match-fixing (in the Snooker shoot out), whereas in previous years it was a regular occurrence. I think with more prize money opportunities, people will be less inclined to contemplate augmenting their income through illegal ways. Talking of which, does anyone know when/if Burnett and Maguire will know their fate? It seems to have been dragging on longer than the McLibel case.