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What Is A Bookies Tic Tac Bag & How Did It Work?

What Is A Bookies Tic Tac Bag & How Did It Work?

Ever wondered how bookmakers at racecourses used to communicate before the modern era of mobile phones and the internet? Let's take a fascinating journey back in time to explore the "Tic Tac Bag", a method steeped in tradition. 

This technique was not only about placing bets, but also a crafty way of signalling odds and taking bets amongst the bustling crowds. Sit back and discover the intriguing world of bookies' signals and how they kept track of wagers without today's technology.

What Is a Bookies Tic Tac Bag?

A Bookies Tic Tac Bag was an essential tool for traditional bookmakers, particularly at horse races. Unlike the online betting platforms we see today, back then, bookies had to rely on more tactile methods for managing bets and communicating odds.

The bag itself was quite simple, typically made from canvas or leather, and it was used to securely hold cash, betting slips, and a variety of other necessary items. Though unassuming in appearance, the Tic Tac Bag was crucial for the bookie's day-to-day operations amidst the dynamic environment of the racecourse.

As for the "Tic Tac" part, it refers to the unique hand signals bookmakers used to communicate prices and bets across the course. This method required precision and speed, ensuring transactions could be carried out swiftly without the need for shouting over the noisy crowds.

Together, the Tic Tac Bag and the accompanying hand signals formed a system that was both efficient and discreet, allowing bookies to manage their work effectively in the hustle and bustle of race day.

How Did a Bookies Tic Tac Bag Work?

The Tic Tac Bag was essential for bookmakers, a practical solution back in the day for managing and conducting business at racecourses. Inside this bag, bookies carried everything needed to take bets and distribute any potential winnings, from cash and notes to the betting slips.

But how did they interact with the crowd or other bookmakers amidst the noise and chaos? Here comes the fascinating aspect – through a series of hand signals, known as "Tic Tac". These signals, a form of silent communication, conveyed the odds and accepted bets efficiently, all without shouting over the din of the crowd.

Bookmakers were proficient in this language of gestures, swiftly transmitting information to each other across distances and amidst the racecourse hustle. It was an art form, requiring skill, precision, and practice to master.

And so, with a Tic Tac Bag slung over their shoulder and a quick flick of the wrists, bookmakers were set up to manage their day's takings and lay out odds for punters looking to place a bet. This method ensured transactions were both quick and discreet, foundational in an era before the digital transformation of betting.

What Is a Bookies Runner?

A bookies runner might sound like an athlete, but in the world of traditional betting, it signifies something entirely different. These individuals played a pivotal role in the relay between the bettor and the bookmaker, especially at bustling venues like racecourses or sports grounds.

In essence, a bookies runner was entrusted with collecting bets from punters and ferrying them to the bookmaker. This role was crucial in times of high activity or when bettors couldn't reach the bookie directly due to crowd size or physical barriers. Runners helped keep the betting process smooth, ensuring that even in a sea of people, your bet would make it to the bookmaker in time for the race.

Their presence underscored a time when personal interaction placed the heart in betting, long before the digital age introduced online wagers from the comfort of home.


Stepping back into the past to explore the roles of bookies Tic Tac Bags and runners gives us a unique glimpse into the heritage of betting. While technology has transformed the way we place bets today, the spirit of anticipation and participation continues. 

Remember, though the approach to betting evolves, the importance of gambling responsibly remains constant. Bet wisely and within your means, for enjoyment and not as a guarantee of income.