Special Post #12: Tote, “And they’re off!”

This post is the first in a mini-series on my first ever job, at the Tote…

Sometime shortly after returning to university after Easter while me and Josh were revising, Josh heard about a company offering jobs to students for a week over the summer with a possibility of future work. That company was called the Tote.

For those who don’t know, the Tote is a pool betting organisation owned by the government. They take bets at racecourses for every horserace in the county, every day of the year. Instead of a traditional bookmaker offering odds on a horse to win, the Tote put all the stakes into a ‘pool’, which is then divided out amongst the winners. If you don’t understand it yet, then I’m gonna give up…

Anyway, so both me and Josh applied for a job and were invited to a training day at Ascot racecourse. The date was set for the 28th, which was the Thursday of the last week. Since this was after our exams we both accepted.

On the morning of the training day I woke up to a phone call from Josh:

  • Josh: “Have you got your photograph?”
  • Me: “What?”
  • Josh: “It said in the email that we need a passport-sized photograph”
  • “What email?”

As you can tell I hadn’t been told anything about the training day, but Josh had. Basically I needed several things:

  1. Photocopy of passport (luckily Josh had a scanner so that was done very easily)
  2. White shirt, trousers, shoes (Luckily dad hadn’t collected all my things yet so I still had those)
  3. Filled out application form (what application form?)
  4. Packed lunch (ah, with my food resources being overdrawn, this one could be tricky)
  5. Passport-sized photograph (nope, not a single one)

After panicking a little I came up with a plan. We went to the train station and took passport photos in the photo booth, bought a sandwich from the WH Smiths at the station, and got Josh to print off an extra form for me to fill out on the train journey there.

We got there on time and were given an introduction to Tote and how they operate. In the afternoon we we’re taught how to use the Tote Betting Machines to take all types of bets. This would have been fine had my machine not broken about 2 minutes in. But they quickly put me on another machine and I was away.

The second part of training is to attend a live race day and be shadowed by another member of staff. Me and Josh choose Sandown racecourse on the 4th July.

Despite the lack of any proof that we were employed by Tote we managed to get onto the racecourse and were assigned to staff members. I was with Ken in the imperial suite, which is a private function room that had been hired out by a group of 40 or so people who we would place bets for. It was great fun, Ken let me operate the till while he handled the money, and by the end of the meet I was getting pretty quick at taking bets.

It was quite funny when the first customer came up and asked me how long I’d been working for the Tote, to which I had to reply “Well, your my first customer.”

After successfully balancing at the end of the day, I felt quite chuffed. It was very diverse to take all the various bets and give information and advice as well.

I was then offered a job working the Derby on Friday and Saturday, to which I could hardly refuse.

So that brings us up to date. Today was my first day at the Derby, working on my own and taking bets. It was a really interesting day with a whole range of people taking bets. One guy won £483.50 from a £5 bet, not bad by my standards. He now goes down as the highest payout I’ve had to give, and the most number of sales in one day was 264, 65 up on Thursday when I took 199 bets. Tomorrow is supposed to be very, very busy, so wish me luck (get it)!