BEN KEITHS BLOG Bagging The Elephant Part 2

first_imgWhen you first become a bookmaker, you have your heroes. Other bookies you have watched from afar, admiring their style and gaul. When you enter the betting arena, as a minnow, you arrive a foetus; without any substance in either finance or experience, and most all of all…without reputation. It’s a fair game in its raw exposure though, and you have as much chance as the bookmaker betting next to you to gain attention or credibility. You have to start by just pretending a bit, then slowly doing ‘it’, with a modicum of experience, and then, bit by bit, mould yourself into the player in the market that best suits you and your character. Forget money, that’s got very little to do with it. If you haven’t got a pair of bollocks, that will show through, however much money is in the hod.One thing you can’t pretend to do though, one thing that can’t be covered up or hidden from; is if you actually ‘lay a proper bet’. When a cash punter puts a lump of readdies in your hand, or calls a bet on the phone as the last horse is going in the stalls; there are no excuses or hiding places. You are either going to lay the bet, or not. Every nerve in your body will scream out; ‘caution’, ‘do not take this bet’, ‘it is too big’, ‘you have never been out this far from land before, this is not safe’, ‘he knows more than you’. However, one little nerve, right at the back of your head tells you very quietly and calmly, that if you want to be the next Victor Chandler or Tony Morris, you must take that bet, you must make yourself the man and bookmaker you want to be. And that little voice takes over your being and says ‘yes, sir. That’s a bet’. You then turn to watch the race, like an out-of-body experience, watching yourself, not the action itself, and what happens, happens, in front of you. The seal has been broken, and you have stepped into the next level of play. That size of bet will never have the same level of pressure and effect on your being ever again. If though, IF, you say ‘no’, and knock the punter back, he is forever gone, and you have fallen off the horse and not got back on. You have created, to yourself, a psychological barrier. Something subliminal has formed that will always scare you off. You will make reasons to justify it to yourself; reasons why you shouldn’t have laid the bet to that particular punter. But, essentially, there are no hiding places from the simple fact; that you bottled it.You move on; from the racecourse, dog-track, or independent betting-shop, to wanting more action. Needing bigger ‘play’. The urge to stretch yourself and find out what’s under your bonnet is too much to resist. You open a credit-bookmakers and start to court the big-players. Again, the learning curve is fierce. Many dangerous ‘Greeks bearing gifts’ appear, but this time, they aren’t racecourse scally-wags. They are huge dangerous sharks. Sharks that have quickly smelt your young and fresh blood, and glided over to, and around and around you. They are looking for ways in, and weaknesses in your ‘play’. They nudge and nurdle and try to press every button, in search of some innocence to take advantage of. If you fall, which you will, you can be swept aside by just one of these big players, and it can happen very quickly. They can immediately create very long, successful, and destructive winning runs. They will not press ‘stop’. That is your job. Are they lucky or are they ‘good’? If you’re right; you save yourself from certain death, if you’re wrong; he will lose your long saved-up ammunition in his nearest casino as a matter of course, and your chance to recoup your losses is forever gone.After a few years though, the sharks swim away…on the whole. They’ve taken a few bites, or been knocked-back, and they see you as older and more cynical meat; essentially, they see you as one of them.Each big player, like the first big bets that came at you on the racecourse, is a new test, a new challenge of your ‘level’. Like before, they come in sizes, and in time, the size of player you have reached playing becomes more normal to you. More part of your everyday routine. But, also, like before; you still have the urge to break that seal again and again. To play a bit bigger, to find the next punter, correction; to find ‘that’ punter. You fantasise about him before he appears. What he will do for a living, what he will want to play on, his style of play, how he will react to good and bad runs.‘That’ urge to move on to the next big player. ‘That’ urge to swim out a bit further again, into the shark infested waters, comes about once a year.As myself and Gaul Wood turned the corner, out of The Four Seasons, and made our way to Gordon Gekko’s office, ‘that’ urge was stronger than ever before. The fire had been building and building for a long time. We had swum out again and again, casting our nets and chucking more and more bait into the water, without a new player appearing. This though was ‘it’. It didn’t get any bigger than walking to GG’s office…until next time…of course.The intensity now was over-powering. Two addicts goading each other on. Teasing the other further into the fire. We had been here so many times. And these times, and their war-wounds and victories, now ingrained in our character, were with us now. Memories of previous battles, and highly combative face-to-face meetings with past big punters, where we had to stand firm, were all part of our cv’s. We loved it though. We could moan, we could struggle against the pain, but we wouldn’t, in that moment, have wanted to be heading anywhere else on earth.I looked about, from our silent bubble of unbridled ambition, and tried to spot a pretty girl. Just one, to nudge Gaul about, to point to, in an effort to lighten the mood. But none appeared.We turn into Gekko’s amphitheatre. HIS arena; Wall Street. Now is the time. As we walk up, on the right is Donald Trump’s office; his great competitor. Since being released from prison for insider-dealing, Gekko has fought his way back up the rankings of US and World wealth lists. He is still a long way from ‘The Don’ though. The seven year ‘sabbatical’ taking a great toll on his otherwise relentless march forward. On leaving prison, Gekko’s wealth was a flat zero, due to his bankruptcy. Of course though, funds ‘appeared’ from nowhere. Silent and anonymous Swiss banks, with numbered accounts, backing his projects. It was estimated that he had managed to squirrel away £50million from the bankruptcy officials and this ‘ammo’ was now coming back into play. In the six years that have passed, his reputation as a successful and hard-hitting investor has returned. He predicted the ‘bounce’ of the American property market correctly, and the rise in stocks, and is now back up to an estimated £700million, managing a hedge-fund powered by over £3billion of loyal investors that still believe in him. The believers have been rewarded handsomely, seeing returns of over 20%, in each of the last three years. And with this huge wealth Gordon Gekko is amassing once again, too, is his immense lust to gamble. To ‘play’. To find another ‘animal’ to stand up to and grapple with.That is why myself and Gaul Wood made our way to New York; to, as Bud Fox said in Wall Street 1; ‘Bag The Elephant’.We turn to our left now, just off Wall Street, and make our way directly into the New York Stock Exchange. Gekko, the king of the castle, on lucky floor ‘7’, has his own personal office, looking over the dealing pits, so he can watch his newly money-obsessed protégés, rushing around, screaming at each other, fighting to obtain him the best prices in the market.We sign in and walk over to the lift, pressing ‘7’, for Gekko Securities. ‘Bring it on bring it on, bring it on’ is ringing in my ears. Myself and Gaul in the full control of the ‘heat’ now. Blind Ambition is having the time of his life, baby. A thin layer of nervous sweat covers our persons, our eyes are bulging, and jaws grinding away furiously.I can now see his office. It’s on the left, with a window looking out on one side into the dealing pits, and this side; over his brokers. We are walking through the middle of the room and can feel every eye on us. There would be a hundred people both sides of us, all fired-up, all working forward in the same direction; in making Gekko Securities, and themselves in their bonuses; more money. Gekko’s fund has made investors a fortune, but it’s also a good cover. A cover for his bad side, once again. In between his shrewd and considered investment selections, there is still the odd ‘wrong’un’ chucked in, that his brokers are paid extra commission to pitch to his clients. For this, Gekko receives a huge level of kick-back from the company, and sees it, due to his huge success elsewhere, as just some extra well-earned sweets. As we walk, we see white-boards, all with Nutstone Housing at the top of them. This, one would guess, is the ‘wrong’un’, the one they all want to palm off onto the unsuspecting. To our right, a hand flies up in the air and below it an excited voice shouts out ‘I just sold 5000 Nutstone!’. Around him there are high-fives but just a few feet further away the other brokers can’t hide their jealousy. These are Gekkos animals; his private family of mongrel gannets. He has trained them backwards from tame humans to being blood-hungry savages. Each day now, they aren’t coming into work, they are coming into their church, to pray, as disciples, to the dollar sign at the alter of their messiah; Gordon Gekko. They have each individually been worked on. Each cajoled in a different way. Each led closer until being thrown into the dark-side of Mr Gekko. His favourite past-time and specialist field of knowledge, his obvious and open passion: Greed.Outside his office sits Natalie, ever loyal Natalie. Much older now, but self-satisfied and content looking. Gekko’s oldest and most loyal servant, through good and bad, she would have been well looked after. Gekko would have made an example of her. Elevating her beyond all sensible proportions; he would have shown to all how he rewards unquestioning loyalty.‘Good afternoon. We are here to meet Mr Gekko.’. I do the first talking.‘Your name?’ She responds a little more than confidently.‘Ben Keith, and my colleague; Mr Woodgate’. ‘Please wait here on the left, gentlemen.’We sit on the deep purple, velvet seats, angled towards each other, but we are still able to enjoy the intriguing view over Gordon Gekko’s empire. Walls around us are covered in framed photos from Wall Street 1 and 2, and document too, other key moments from his infamous career. The coffee tables are black leather with silver studs up the sides, the little area thick with comfort and everything fitted around us in a luxury feel. All part of the pre-match experience of meeting GG.Stealing glances over my shoulder, into Gekko’s private office, we see him sitting with two people. Clearly clients in waiting. One; an elderly Arab man, faintly listening to and understanding what he was being told. The other; a younger man, who looked like an assistant to the elderly gentleman, but far more aware of the proceedings taking place ahead of him. Gekko is making a soft and gentle face, out of his normal character. He is securing business here, he is settling any nerves the client may have. He is allowing that extra bit of personal attention.For the first time, our nerves settle just slightly. The meeting was now a reality. There would be no last-minute excuses or cancellations; we would be given our chance.The door next to us opens. As a knee-jerk reaction we both look to our left. The younger assistant steps out first and stands behind the frail figure he is supporting. He is razor-eyed and watches on as Gekko’s eyes do not leave those of the older man. ‘Yes, yes, Mr Al-Jarani, your money is most safe in the hands of Gekko Securities…’. As the old man turns, the young assistant stares right at Gekko and nods. Gekko clearly nods back. It is clear that the assistant has just secured the bung of a lifetime. And it is now our turn to step into the shark’s water…Gekko flicks his tongue in the top of his mouth, and turns to look at us; far more casually now. He has aged a little since we last saw him in ‘Money Never Sleeps’, but he’s aged well. That sheen of success and continued satisfaction, glows from his face. This latter chapter of his career has clearly gone according to plan.‘So you’re the bookie that writes to me a thousand times and gets every punter in New York to slip your name into conversation?’, he laughs as he says it. It takes one to know one, and Gekko identifies entirely with chasing after a target. Just once in a while, he doesn’t mind playing the role of prey, and seeing the hunter’s moves.‘Ha, ha, that’s me, Mr Gekko.’. I have to confess, I was slightly star-struck for a minute. Like a boy, not quite knowing where to put his hands, I meekly step forward to shake his hand and be greeted. As he accepts my hand, and then Gary’s, he turns back and looks over our shoulders at his huge screens showing Bloomberg financial news. Unless he really needs you, Gordon Gekko isn’t going to be entertaining you in extended non-business pleasantries.He slouched back behind his imposing grey desk. The fine-art collection that he bought back when he made his comeback decorates every corner of the office not taken up by the windows over-looking his empire. The art represents him, it adds further to his grandeur and presence. Another goal to him in that subliminal game he plays so well.‘So what brings you to New York, gentleman? Is it just business or is there some play too?’Gaul Wood nods and tells a white-lie as to not make us look like desperados only after his blood. ‘We are looking at several projects here and thought we’d take the chance to catch-up with you too, Mr Gekko.’Gekko read the bull-shit immediately but smiled to himself and allowed the show to continue with a little quip ‘That’s good, kid. All work and no play makes Jack a rich boy.’My pitch begins…‘Mr Gekko, we have come to see you today, to tell you about our exclusive high-roller bookmaking service. We believe..’. I am cut off mid-sentence, Gekko wants to talk turkey and he certainly wants to strike first in the deal making process. He isn’t interested in flowery details and false promises, he wants to talk about the two and only things big players are interested in, and that’s; size of bets, and credit.‘Yeah, well listen, guys. I’m delighted to meet you but I got a couple of great arrangements going on with guys local to me.’His punter-blagging is about to go into full flow now. He will stretch the truth and burst through into a new world of punter-fantasy, in order to test how desperate we are for his business. It is now mine and Gary’s job to dissect his bullshit from the truth, communicate clairvoyantly, and come back to him with an immediate half-way house to try and start business in.‘…I got three mill credit with Jack Schwartz and I can bet any handicap to win seven hundred thou..’There is a silence, you can cut the air with a knife, and our eyes meet. I will now let Gekko play the dominant role. He is an alpha character, this is certainly no time to clash with his ego. I always allow the bigger players to take this lead. Let them think I am a weakling that can be pushed around and made to do what they want. Allow them this false glory. In ‘time’, that one thing that the bookmaker’s percentage needs, I will tame him. He doesn’t realise that in submissing to him, my dominance has already begun. The calmer I stay, the more I will control him. In, time, that wonderful healer of arrogance, Gordon Gekko won’t be a lion with me. I will beat him, again and again, and yes, in time, he will lead me around New York to every big player there is worth knowing. He just doesn’t have the faintest clue of that yet…To be continued….B xThis blog is, unfortunately, a fictional account, created in my deluded mind, of myself and Gary, going to New York to meet Gordon Gekko. It is dedicated to my dad, Lindsay. He hasn’t been a well boy of late and I send him all of my love and care. Your soft and kind shoulder has always been there for me to cry upon, and it’s also always been so strong to bounce back off again, back into the big-wide-world. This story is written for you and I hope it may ease some pain. Ben xxlast_img

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