Mick Bartley: Australian Punter

If there were a Hall of Fame for punters, certainly one of the inaugural inductees would have to be Melbourne Mick Bartley.

Even though he was a qualified electrician, Bartley had little use for wires, bolts and ohms. In fact, he is credited with saying, “Never tackle something electronically designed to beat you.” Somewhat ironic an utterance from an electrician, but perhaps, who better to know.

According to Bartley, he never went to school. Coming from a large family of nine, he used to sell empty beer bottles to scrounge up money to bet with the local SPs as a boy of 10. Apparently the moral and legal implications of this activity were not adequate to discourage him from participating.

By the time he retired in 1977 he had amassed a considerable fortune. He is perhaps, among big-time punters such as Eric Connolly, Felipe Ysmael and Hollywood George Edser, the best for aspiring punters to emulate. He was not as colorful or flamboyant as these others, treated punting in a very businesslike fashion, and was able to accept losses rather than chasing them until totally broke.

Along with knowing when to pack it in, it also helps to have a big bank. Barkley was helped in this regard by his 1960 Opera House lottery win which fetched him almost $200,000. He claimed to have a system for even this type of gambling, always buying 50 tickets at a time.

This concept of spreading his risks contributed to his developing a large and lucrative SP network with big businessmen and politicians for clients.

He was the mastermind behind the 1971 syndicate of a small group of punters who cracked the jackpot in Canberra for $400,000 earning as much as $265,000 for himself.

In the late 60s and early 70s it has been established through audits that Melbourne Mick was annually betting sums in the neighborhood of $5 million through the TAB.

His arrival at the racecourse during his prime was typically accompanied by hordes of fans eager to see which horses Bartley intended to back so that they could ride his coattails. Bookmakers trembled at his approach and other big punters experienced considerable apprehension regarding what impact his moves would have on their odds.

This type of attention was not conducive to Bartley getting his desired odds, so he frequently used agents to put his bets on.

One prime example of this tactic took place on the occasion when Bartley wanted to make a substantial plunge on a race at Randwick Racecourse. He devised a signal system with his agents, employing a red ladies’ umbrella. He had instructed them to wait until he opened the umbrella before placing any bets. Prior to the start of the race, Bartley’s horse blew from 7-1 to 10-1, Bartley’s umbrella went up and his agents backed the horse down to a 5-2 favourite. It surely was a cause for comment to see a highly respected punter of Bartley’s stature carrying a womans’ umbrella, a red one nonetheless, but Bartley’s horse won and brought him a substantial windfall.

Bartley was a proponent of seeking value. He attempted whenever possible to find horses to back at longer odds than form would dictate. He also was adept at picking daily doubles which contributed substantially to his fortune.

The story of Melbourne Mick Barkley is certainly inspirational from the perspective of impoverished boy rising above all obstacles to succeed, but it also could be viewed as educational from the point of view of how to control your emotions at the track, not chase losers, and keep a calm head on your shoulders. He knew how to accept losses without letting them undermine his confidence. All punters, regardless of bank size, would be wise to study his example.