Saturday, 31 December 2011

Facing Truths

'Facing Truths'

This post from late March (my final 2011 low-light) was done when I was at the lowest point of my entire tennis trading life. It summarizes how awful I felt both physically and emotionally. It pains me even now to think what I put myself through. But it did force me to make some much needed changes and was the start of a massive up-turn in fortune. That up-turn only lasted a couple of months but it kept me in the game until September, which was when I had my biggest Eureka moment.

Happy New Year everyone, thanks for reading and good luck with your trading for 2012! Here's world number 92 the UK's upcoming star Heather Watson, to see you into the new year:

Friday, 30 December 2011

On The Precipice

'On The Precipice'

This post was when it was almost all over for me after just a couple of weeks of blogging. My bank was very nearly demolished but I just managed to luckily stay in the game. Mentally however, I was completely shot by this stage.

Looking back, I cannot believe how easily I lost my head and would start getting upset and chasing at the first sign of a game turning against me. I simply had no control over my emotions and this affected my discipline.

At the time, I wrote that I didn't think there was anything more I could change but I was very, very wrong! Over the next few months, I gradually, slowly realised that my whole approach was wrong and I was missing many of the aspects vital to successful trading. The way I traded in this post seems like it was from another life-time!

Here's world number 15 Sabine Lisicki of Germany:

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Year Zero

'Year Zero'

Oh boy, I remember that post well! Another 2011 low-light, this was where I had reached my wit's end and was seriously considering giving up. Year Zero was supposed to be the start of one last attempt to sort out my horrible gambler's mentality and I pinpointed that impatience was my biggest enemy.

Unfortunately, it was many months before all of the ideas behind 'Year Zero' actually filtered through. Much of that is because I never overcame my terrible impatience, which was mostly due to the pressure I was under to make money. That pressure has now been reduced and I hope to show in 2012 that slow and steady will win the race.

Here's world number 88 (should be much higher with her talent), Alize Cornet of France:

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Horror Show

'Horror Show'

The second of my '2011 Low-lights' and it really was that bad a day! Again, from my very first week, this post shows how far away I was from being a disciplined trader, with a couple of terribly unprofessional mistakes and my biggest loss of the entire year........

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

2011 Low-lights

I occasionally read back through my old posts to see how much I have progressed (or not, as the case may be) with my trading. This was the original reason that I started this blog, to record and to learn and hopefully improve. I thought I would pick out a few of those posts from earlier in the year, to end 2011 and to show some of you who will only be familiar with my recent interviews and articles, just what the blog was all about. I'm calling them my 2011 low-lights - when you read them, you'll see why 'highlights' is not really a relevant term..........

My first choice for my low-lights of the year comes from my very first week of blogging:

'How NOT to Trade'

The title says it all really! It's a classic example of chasing and letting emotions take control. Looking back at this makes me wince. But it also shows how I have progressed because back then, I knew I was taking prices that were poor value but carried on regardless - something I would never do now. I was still blinkered to the fact that my strategy wasn't workable long-term because I wasn't trading with any concept of value. I also was still far too slack regarding professionalism and would now never test out new ideas or stop to do other tasks at the risk of my bank. And of course, my anger issues have now been resolved!

Here's world number 14, Serbia's Jelena Jankovic:

Monday, 26 December 2011

2012 ATP Schedule

I wrote about the debate over the length of the men's tennis season in the post 'Moaning Tennis Players' recently and the schedule for 2012 has just been released. Two weeks have effectively been lopped off the calender, which means 2 less weeks to make money - I don't think any full-time tennis trader can be happy with that.

What the ATP have done is to move the St Petersburg and Vienna tournaments (which were both in the same week in October) back to earlier in the calendar. This now means Vienna will be competing with Moscow and Stockholm, (which I'm sure the organisers will be pretty pissed off about) whilst St Petersburg goes back a whole month to compete with Metz. The second week that's been culled was the spare one between Paris and the ATP finals, currently in London, which was an obvious move. So I suppose it's only one less week of actual tennis to trade.

Finishing the season in early November is gonna leave a long gap till the re-start now - guess I'll just have to up my game! I still think it's daft to have Indian Wells and Miami as the only 2 tournaments in the whole of March. Some of the clay court tournaments have been moved around but otherwise the changes are minimal and I can't complain too much.

I will officially be back trading on the 29th for the start of the 6 man exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi, which is followed immediately by the Hopman Cup, Chennai, Dubai, Auckland and Brisbane - it's gonna be a busy first week of 2012!

Here's world number 64, Canada's Rebecca Marino:

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Strong Is Beautiful Videos

All this talk about value has left me exhausted this week! I'm done with it now, so time to take things down a notch as we go into Christmas and here is my gift to all of you! As you'll have noticed, I've been sharing with you the best photos from the new WTA advertising campaign 'Strong Is Beautiful'. This photoshoot was actually nothing to do with the WTA originally. It was produced by the New York Times in 2010, who shot some of the world's top female players as part of a piece entitled 'The Beauty of the Power Game'. The WTA later adopted the images, presumably for a large wedge of cash! The still pics are fabulous but it's the original videos that are most striking, so here they are for your perusal, in super-slow-motion:

New York Times Photoshoot Videos

And the article that accompanied it:

'How Power Has Transformed Women's Tennis'

And here's another Christmas treat, world number 60, Romania's Sorana Cirstea:

Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


I'd actually written this post originally 3 weeks ago and was not going to bother putting it on the blog. But today, I read a post by Dave on 'Betfair Football Trading - the Highs and Lows'(an excellent blog, by the way), which was discussing one of the answers from my interview with Cassini from 'Green All Over'. Cassini has since responded with his own post on the subject. Please take a look at both blog posts, which discuss whether value is relevant in the unders/overs scalping market. I also posted a comment on the Betfair Football Trading blog, which ended up much longer than I'd intended! It prompted me to return to this original piece which I'd written:

I'm not going to go off on a boring explanation as to what value is. Most of you will already be aware of what it means in regards to trading. But I can guarantee that some people that read this won't. Having spent a lot of time recently on Twitter and watched people posting up their bets, it becomes very obvious that it's not just a small number of people who have no idea about value. I don't want to sound patronising in any way because I am now going to admit something - I have only been trading with value for about 3 months *hangs head in shame*.

Don't get me wrong, I've known about value for years but like many, I was one of those who didn't think it really mattered as long as I could win more than I lost. As far as I was concerned, as long as I wasn't taking bad prices (i.e. if the price was roughly what I felt to be correct) then I wasn't bothered. But this year, I started to understand the concept a little better. The problem was, I didn't know how to apply value to the tennis markets. Then came the Betunfair Premium Charge.

The changes this made to the tennis markets, with less money around from the big-players, forced me to take a look at the way I was trading. I wasn't getting matched as often and found it difficult to get wins. In the back of my mind, I had been wondering for a while whether I was doing the right things. I had been looking at different ways to trade back in March, during my really bad spell, and I went back to those ideas and found a better way to make them work. Things started to click in September as it finally dawned on me; I knew where the value was and had done for ages, I just didn't have the guts to go for it.

Now, I never place a bet unless I feel there is some value in it. It took me a couple of months to get used to trading this way. It's not easy after years of just taking any price. But as someone who was always baffled by all the talk about value in the past, I can now also say that if you are reading this and you are not placing trades which are based on good value, then you are probably gambling.

I'm not being critical or trying to sound like an expert, far from it. I don't think anyone who just takes any price is stupid or ignorant or doesn't know anything about trading. I certainly was not stupid or ignorant and I knew the tennis markets like the back of my hand! But I just didn't know how to apply the concept properly and was also quite fearful of admitting my strategy (which I'd slogged away at for over a year) might be flawed.

I realise now that being able to find value is in fact where my edge lies and I think it is where most successful trader's edges lie. So if you aren't able to find value, don't understand it or feel you don't need it, then you probably need to think again. I don't see how you can win at this game (long term) without it. I just wish I'd made the changes sooner.

I will now post up the comment I made on the Betfair Football Trading blog:

I'm no expert on this subject and cannot reel off the percentages and probability calculations like Cassini but I understand the basics. I'm with Cassini on this one.

The first comment says 'As long as you don't leave it too long'. How can you possibly know how long to leave it? A goal being scored in football is a completely random event, so what are you basing staying in the market on? Surely the only thing you can base it on as a trader, is whether the price is value or not. If it is, you stay in, if it isn't, you come out. Otherwise, you are just guessing and hoping, which is pure gambling.

'It doesn't matter if what you do is value because you will have locked in profit anyways' - not if a goal is scored you won't! In the long run, your losses will almost certainly exceed your wins because you will have been taking prices regardless of probability.

I used to think the same way as Dave and 'anon' but realise now that this is not trading, it's gambling. You can still make profit from it but you'll need a hell of a lot of wins compared to losses and be able to accurately predict which games will have few goals AND predict when those goals are likely to be scored AND hope you are quick enough to get matched before the suspend sign arrives.

By dipping in and out the market when it seems like a goal might be scored, you may as well be betting on a video game where you try to press the button as quickly as you can to get the goalkeeper to dive and save a shot. The only difference is, you get much less than 5 seconds delay in waiting for the keeper to dive in a video game!

Sorry, comment has gotten much longer than expected! Not criticising anyone here, just wanted to add my opinion and to see what others make of it. I'll admit if I'm wrong, maybe I'm missing something but as someone who did used to trade the unders/overs in this way, I stopped because it was really just too risky.

20 December 2011 13:18

I'm completely lost by Dave's reasons and method for scalping the unders market but to me, those reasons make it even more of an unworkable strategy in the long run. Cassini explains this well on his blog. Looking forward to hearing people's thoughts on this. Just to re-iterate, I do not profess to be an expert on the subject and am just throwing ideas out there for discussion.

Here's the world number 8 (and my favourite WTA player) Agniezska Radwanska of Poland:

Monday, 19 December 2011

The 5 Stages to Sports Trading

The 5 Stages to Sports Trading

The above link will take you to a brilliant post which I found on the Geek's Toy forum. It is essential reading for any newbie trader but will also fascinate anyone who has been trading for any length of time. It is pretty much spot on as far as I'm concerned, in its evaluation of the stages the typical person goes through in their trading life.

I'm currently on Step 4 - Conscious Competence. I hit that stage within the last couple of months, after 20 months of trading tennis. I did trade football for a couple of years before this and quit, but to be honest, it was more gambling with an exit point (and I didn't bother using it much of the time!).

When I began this blog back in February, I had recently hit stage 3 - The Eureka Moment. In fact, I'd say I had a second Eureka phase in September, which was just as vital and fundamentally shaped the way I trade today. According to this analysis, I am about 6 months away from reaching the final stage, which is very exciting indeed.

The thing that really interests me about these stages is that even if I'd read them when I first started trading, I don't think they would have helped me to skip through any of them. I may have gone through each one a bit quicker but even then, I'm not sure it would have made much difference. I think that's just the way it is with most newbie traders - they don't want to be told that this is hard work, will take a long time to master and that they are unlikely to be the exception to the rule. I know that's what I thought and I don't even consider myself a stubborn person! It's just the way we are as humans I suppose.

Around 60% of new traders die out in the first 3 months - they give up and this is good - think about it - if trading was easy we would all be millionaires. Another 20% keep going for a year and then in desperation take risks guaranteed to blow their account which of course it does.

What may surprise you is that of the remaining 20% all of them will last around 3 years - and they will think they are safe in the water - but even at 3 years only a further 5-10% will continue and go on to actually make money consistently

I am part of that remaining 20% and I suppose I'm around that 3 year stage, depending on how much of the football 'trading' you take into account. Will I become part of the 5-10%? I hope you'll join me to find out in a couple of weeks time. In the mean time, here's world number 16, Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova:

Friday, 16 December 2011

Betdaq Q&A Session

OK, we've heard from traders, bloggers, software writers and an ex-Betfair employee. Now it's time to hear from one of the betting exchanges themselves - Betdaq. We all know that they are the second largest exchange but this year has seen Betdaq become a much more serious option for sports traders. With the introduction of Betfair's 40-60% premium charge, many of the 'big players' have moved over to the purple place and liquidity has risen significantly over the past 6 months. Anyone involved in horse racing or tennis trading in particular, will have been impressed with the changes and Betdaq is definitely a viable alternative in those sports. I wanted to know a bit more about Betdaq and perhaps get some answers to a few questions that I know are often debated amongst traders. The answers come from Shane McLaughlin who is the BETDAQ Marketing Director.

What is Betdaq's company ethos?

BETDAQ is the customer facing arm of Global Betting Exchange. Our wider aim is to become the central platform for a worldwide network of betting companies with BETDAQ being the first of those. On a day to day basis our aim is to attract as many customers to BETDAQ as possible and keep growing our liquidity.

Betdaq has been running for 10 years now. What have been the major changes you've seen within the exchange industry since it began?

Everything has changed from the early days, several times over, and it’s very hard to sum up 10 years of change and evolution in a few sentences. A major change for me has been the increased sophistication of customers in terms of the betting strategies and research they rely on to select their bets. Customers do their research and seek out value and that serves BETDAQ very well with our lower commission rates.

It is generally acknowledged amongst the online trading and betting community that most people would have Betdaq as their exchange of choice if liquidity was stronger. What are you currently doing to rectify this?

Lots of people say they will come to BETDAQ when liquidity is stronger but they don’t want to be the ones putting up the offers now. We are tackling the liquidity gap in two ways. API customers, who tend to play in more markets and in greater volumes, are rewarded for making offers and generating liquidity on the exchange and penalised for doing the opposite. Retail players are offered a discounted commission rate to Betfair meaning they are arriving in greater quantities. By attacking the liquidity gap from both sides we are closing it steadily and liquidity in our core markets has grown massively in the last year especially in markets such as horse racing and tennis.

What is the company's attitude towards those who might win consistently?

We prefer to look at whether a member’s activity is positive or negative for the exchange ecosystem as a whole. Positive behaviour such as liquidity generation can be rewarded with lower commission rates and negative behaviour discouraged through higher charges. That’s how we approach our API charging and it has nothing to do with winning or losing.

What are the company's general thoughts about the Betfair Premium Charge and is it something that you would say will never happen on Betdaq?

We love the Betfair Premium Charge as it has given our business a big boost! Seriously though, we believe charging should be about contribution to the exchange as a whole and not about winning or losing.

How has the introduction of the 40-60% Premium Charge affected Betdaq? What has changed since its introduction?

The increased Premium Charge has been very positive for us. Liquidity is up, player numbers are up, and we’ve been inundated with enquiries from people looking to switch their business over. We’re doing everything we can to keep those who bring good business to BETDAQ happy through great customer service, lower commission rates, commission back specials and the recently launched BETDAQ Rewards programme. We’ve also undertaken a major upgrade to our website capacity to accommodate the new business and give us plenty of headroom for growth.

Realistically, how far do you think you are away from being a serious rival to Betfair?

It depends on what you mean by a serious rival. To our members who enjoy lower commission rates and better value, we already are a serious rival. Nearly all the major players and pros use BETDAQ for at least some of their business, and they’re not here out of charity. There are very few punters who will not benefit by being active on both exchanges today. As usual it’s the sharpest people who recognise where the value is first and the rest will follow as our business grows.

I've noticed that Betdaq's advertising campaigns never seem to mention the fact that your commission is far better than Betfair's and you have no extra charges on winners either. Why is this and why is Betdaq not more aggressive in the battle against your biggest rival?

In fairness we ran an advert about our lower commission and no premium charge almost every day in the Racing Post for 7 months. We’ve reached the point where we feel we’ve established ourselves as the lower commission alternative to Betfair with the core exchange user base and we don’t want to be talking about our main competitor in every advert. We have commission back offers, enhanced price multiples, our mobile app and lots of other good stuff to promote too.

Reading comments on websites and forums, there is a feeling amongst many traders that Betdaq haven't done enough to push Betfair down the years and take advantage of the bad customer relationship they've developed. How would you respond to that?

We don’t spend as much on marketing as people might want but that’s a conscious decision to keep commission rates as low as possible. You can’t have the lowest commission rates, the biggest marketing budget and all the added services. Betfair spend tens of millions on marketing and as a result have to charge customers up to 60% of their winnings. We don’t, so we can continue to charge everyone the lowest rate possible.

What are Betdaq's plans and goals for 2012?

We have a lot in the pipeline in 2012. We have a new website interface in development, the launch of our casino and games product, lots of B2B deals going on behind the scenes but most importantly we have a project to greatly expand the number of events and markets that we cover. We’ve never been in better shape and will continue to grow our customer base, market share and liquidity by offering great customer service, lower commission rates, better value, and not penalising winners.

Are there any plans in the pipeline to work with A Geek's Toy Pro to produce a Betdaq version?

Yes we’ve been working with the Geek over the last few months and there will be one available very soon. There are also upgraded versions of BetAngel and Gruss for BETDAQ.

Will you be introducing live video to the website at some stage?

We already have live streaming from At the Races and we constantly look at introducing new video. The issue always come back to cost. Quality content is expensive and if you want to keep commission rates low then you can’t have everything that every customer might want. It’s about finding the right balance.

The tennis markets have improved significantly over the past 5 months. Can you tell us how much roughly the average matched figures have increased by?

It’s about 40% up on last year.

What do you think the future holds for betting exchanges in general?

The next 5 years are going to be interesting as new markets open up. Betfair prefer the approach of entering new markets as Betfair whereas we prefer to look for local partners that have established businesses and locally recognised brands. In markets where there is an embedded monopoly there will be resistance to exchanges as they look to protect local interest. This is where we hope the partnership model will serve us well.

I personally have always preferred the Betdaq website to Betfair and would love to move my entire trading operation over one-day. What would you say to the many people like me who are ready to make that move but are not quite convinced 100% yet?

What are you waiting for? There are instances today where you are costing yourself money by not being on BETDAQ. Take the first step; use us when it makes sense to do so. When our proposition is compelling enough you will move your entire trading over because it makes financial sense. There’s no marketing campaign that can trump putting more money in customer’s pockets. We’re ready when you are.

Thanks very much to Shane for taking the time to answer my questions and also to Ruairi Fitzpatrick, BETDAQ'S Affiliate Manager, for facilitating the Q&A session.
As ever, I'm available on TWITTER and welcome any comments in response to this blog post.

Sorana Cirstea:

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


Nope, this has nothing to do with tennis scoring. I'm talking about the all-consuming emotion of being in love. Don't go away! This does have some relevance to trading, I promise! Recently, I met a girl and we instantly hit it off. The fact she bears a passing resemblance to German world number 21 Julia Goerges (who regular readers will know I have a slight infatuation with!) certainly helped:

Putting that aside, she also has a great personality and I believe that I am now in love with her. She recently went on holiday for a couple of weeks. Before she went away, I noticed quite alarmingly that my focus dipped significantly whilst I was trading. The reason; I couldn't stop thinking about Julia, eeerrr, I mean Sophie. She was always on my mind (as the Elvis song goes), which is not a good thing when you are trying to concentrate on your entry and exit points. It begs the question; Is being in love bad for your trading?

Whilst she was away, I traded on the ATP finals in London and the Davis Cup Final, and was on-fire! It ended as the best few days of ATP trading I'd done all year. Sophie was 2000 miles away on an African resort. I thought about her much less because I knew I wouldn't be seeing her for a while. She has just returned and I'm looking forward to seeing her again. With no tennis for a few weeks, I won't be able to test my theory but I must admit, I am a tad worried that my mind will start wandering in January. I wrote extensively about a period this summer, where I struggled for weeks and weeks to get any sort of focus when trading. There were a variety of factors behind this (lack of passion for trading, complacency after a good spell, boredom, the need for a proper break) but it was a genuine problem that I just couldn't seem to shake off for longer than a day or two.

Things are different now and I'm much more passionate and motivated since I've changed my trading style but even so, I definitely struggled for a few days when I met Sophie. I now have 3 weeks till the new season starts, which is time for me to spend with Sophie. Hopefully, I'll either find out she has numerous personality flaws which will irritate me to the point where I fall out of love or I'll spend so much time with her that I no longer yearn for her company, therefore she won't clog up my mind during the day so much!

On a more serious note, an important part of trading does involve controlling your emotions and that includes even the good ones. We can become very confident, content and relaxed with our trading at times and those are things that I think you have to be wary of. They can lead to over-confidence, slackness and resting on your laurels rather than constantly striving to move forward and stay professional. I also read a post on the Geek's Toy Forum recently, where a young guy talked about how the feeling of a green screen reminded him "of the "pump" you get when you go the gym, or the sensation of ejaculating into a woman"! Sounds like a terrible thread but in fact raises some very interesting discussion about our emotions when we have an all red or green screen. How we feel when we are collecting those greens can indeed be pleasurable but those emotions can become almost too good.

So maybe it is a serious issue? Maybe being in love could seriously harm your trading? It's a distraction after all and concentration is everything when trading. I know that if I had the choice of being in love or being a successful trader, right now (as a single guy in no rush to meet anyone) I would choose the ladders. Money comes first at the moment. And who knows, if I become hugely successful, maybe I'll be able to take Julia Goerges out on a date! Imagine the trading possibilities if that were to happen.................

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Mix Reactions

Well I've had a very satisfying weekend! First of all, very pleased to see the reaction to my interview with Scott Ferguson. I wasn't quite expecting the interest it seems to have drummed up, with threads on the Betfair forum (worth reading because there are some excellent comments, which you don't often find on there these days) and a hit rate on Centre Court Trading which has gone through the roof! I have more interviews in the pipeline, so if you are a new reader, stick around cos there should be a lot more interesting stuff to come.

The best thing that happened to me this weekend though, was girl-group Little Mix winning the final of The X-Factor. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I fancied them to win (they were trading at over 3.0 at the time and were not the faves), although I should have taken them higher as had a feeling about them for a couple of weeks before that. Many were saying that a group had never won and girl groups traditionally do very badly and so Little Mix wouldn't win. But with the boy bands exiting early, my theory was that this was the exact reason why they would win. There was a feeling to me, that people wanted a girl group to do well this year and 'end the curse'.

Little Mix were 1.4 going into Saturday's final but I was more than happy to let the trade run. Marcus Collins had been the favourite on the exchanges up until the penultimate week but I knew from spending time on fan forums and watching the (admittedly rubbish but excellent information source) spin-off aftermath show 'The Xtra Factor', that it was clearly Little Mix that were getting the attention.

Stars such as David Walliams were coming out in their droves on the ITV 2 show to champion the 4 young girls many weeks before they became faves on the exchanges, whilst host Dermot O'Leary appeared and said it was Little Mix who people stopped to talk to him about most, in the street. Also, the 'Who is your current fave?' poll on the Digital Spy forum, showed Little Mix as forum faves right from the early weeks and had double the amount of votes to Marcus Collins going into the final weekend. Looking at the X-Factor voting percentages for 2011 though, they only came top in 3 of the 9 public voting weeks, so they were clearly under the radar with the actual regular voters but had a strong surge of support in the last 4 weeks.

The win was my second biggest of the year, with just one tennis trade being larger - maybe I'm concentrating on the wrong market?! It has given me a much healthier looking bank to start 2012 with and certainly means I can relax for 2-3 weeks and not bother getting involved with the football (heaven forbid!) in a desperate attempt to alleviate my itchy trading fingers. But trading TV shows is the same as trading any sport; the more time and effort you put into your research, the greater chance you have of knowing more than the rest of the market. Never forget, you are competing against other people.

Here's world number 48, China's Zheng Zie:

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Interview with Scott Ferguson

Aaaah, Betfair. They are the betting equivalent of Marmite - you either love them or hate them. Actually, I don't know anyone who currently loves them, so that analogy probably doesn't work. But at some point, every person who discovers the world's first ever betting exchange, does fall in love with the concept. We've all loved Betfair and most of us want to fall back in love with Betfair again. So why are they now reviled by so many? I thought who better to ask than someone who has actually worked for them - journalist, author of the blog 'Sport is Made for Betting' and ex-Betfair employee Scott Ferguson.

You were the Head of Education at Betfair. What exactly did that job entail and what was your background before that?

Great job, working with all levels of punters and teaching them more about Betfair. From complete novices (who needed to start from the very basics) to some of the biggest accounts (who would be most interested in things like keyboard shortcuts), from non-punting staff (teaching techies and the HR girls was always a fun challenge) to business partners etc. My team ran seminars up and down the country, even abroad. Punters loved them because no bookie would ever want them to win, or even just lose less. I also ran the Betfair trailer at sporting venues all over the UK & Ireland (even the day the first one burned down at Uttoxeter!). Great job, totally unique in the trade. But times changed, Betfair are now hell-bent on screwing customers for every penny they can get and I'm glad I'm not there anymore.

My background was unique - I had been a bookmaker, a teacher, a professional punter and a journalist before joining Betfair. The perfect mix! I knew both sides of the betting counter and love explaining difficult concepts to laymen, breaking it down to what they can relate to. The movie 'Road Trip' has a great quote "I can teach Japanese to a monkey in 46 hours. The key is just finding a way to relate to the material." Best example of that was teaching a bunch of our promo girls how Betfair worked by relating it to buying shoes cheap on holiday in Thailand and then selling them on eBay when they got home.

Can you give us an insight into what working at Betfair was like? How was the general day to day atmosphere and did you enjoy your time there?

I joined quite early, back in 2004. Those were fun times, the punters loved Betfair because they were sick of being screwed by bookies and in-play betting with bookies had barely started. I was initially hired to get Australia on-board and spent two years at home spreading the word, before it was left to the lawyers and lobbyists to secure the licence. Then I moved to the UK and eventually created the Education department from scratch. Being on the road a lot was draining, but also rewarding - seeing a frustrated punter who just didn't 'get' Betfair open his mind and start picking up the concepts always brought a smile to the dial.

But as Betfair got bigger and bigger, the fun environment had to change. It got more serious, full of non-punting bean-counters (classic example of one senior manager who wanted to back the tie in every cricket match to ensure no loss of commission - clueless!). Once crap like the casino came in, the company ethos had changed and it went downhill internally from there. Not many of the 'good guys' left...

What have you been up to since leaving Betfair? Are you now trading professionally?

The problem with the role at Betfair was that I'd painted myself into a corner. As it was a unique position, there was really nowhere to go from there, unless I changed tack completely. So I started an MBA before I left to keep my mind active and challenged. I consulted for a few smaller betting firms but they are finding it very tough - the big firms have the deep budgets to chase customers, develop software etc. The small books just can't compete - they don't have the cash or reputation, so they're stuck dealing with a never-ending cycle of bonus whores and arbers. Got bored of giving advice to owners of small books which they would ignore because 'they knew best', despite them never having placed a bet in their lives! Now out of the industry, doing something better for the world.....

Not trading as much, very difficult with two young kids in the house. Now picking my moments to get involved, rather than trying to make an earn out of everything.

Can you tell us about 'Sport is Made for Betting' and why you started it?

I love writing and wanted an outlet to vent my opinions. I wrote most of the Betfair Education site, I write betting previews regularly for various sites but on the blog, I can unleash on Sepp Blatter, Paul Roy, the ICC and any other muppets I disagree with :) And it also gives me a chance to share a few trading theories - namely lay the field, next manager and on low-volume markets such as Nascar and women's golf. And my posts about match-fixing have led to several interviews with international press.

Why do you think the flotation of Betfair has gone so disastrously?

Variety of reasons. Floated at a bad time, but let's face it, with the economy so cactus at the moment, the next 'good' time could be 2025. It's a tech/gaming stock which are traditionally over-valued. They have pissed off many of their most valuable customers (see next question). Poor leadership from a bunch of non-punters who put the shareholders over the customer and then screw up on both fronts. Limited growth prospects - market saturation in the UK, regulatory problems abroad and poker is a dying fad which they never got right anyway.

Why do you think Betfair has become so disliked by its own customers?

Unadulterated greed. They were the punters' best friend when they first came out and revolutionised the betting industry, making bookies tighten their margins, and introduce a stack of new markets & products to attract more customers. But they, or more correctly those who harboured ambitions of a huge flotation, weren't happy with the small profit margins from the exchange and wanted to screw punters for more and more. So along came exchange games, poker, casino, mini-games, virtual racing... all with marketing campaigns which screamed 'We used to think you were smart betting on the exchange, now we think you're a mug who should piss all your money away on these stupid other products'. But the poker site was always crap and they wasted squillions on it. Casino sites are a dime a dozen and the other stuff is the domain of the cash punter who hangs around betting shops.

Customer service changed from admitting their mistakes and "The customer always comes first", to "Screw you, we're a billion-dollar firm and we don't give a shit that the site went down in the middle of a game", or "We think you've been betting on a suspicious match and will lock your account for a month without giving any details at all".

And then there's the premium charge - absolute PR disaster. Sure it only affects a small percentage but everyone likes to dream, and now that they are stuck for revenue streams, they've dived in again to attack their biggest advocates.

Many Betfair users feel that they are being taken advantage of because Betfair virtually have a monopoly on the betting exchange market. They feel as though Betfair employees really don't care about them and are just out to squeeze them for as much as possible, regardless of fairness. In your opinion, how close to the truth is this?

Hits the nail on the head really. In the early days, everyone they hired had a betting background, or at least an interest, so they understood the markets, issues, customer concerns etc. Now they just hire standard call-centre workers, as cheap as they can, who could be stuffing you around for Vodafone or a bank or an insurance company. Makes little difference to them, they just look up the answers to standard questions in the manual and copy & paste it onto your reply. And then there are the bean-counters/analysts who need to find a way to make more money, so the best way to do that is screw winning customers for more money via the premium charge and/or API fees.

Have you noticed a change in the ethos of Betfair and the way it has been run down the years?

Chalk and cheese. It was great fun in the early days, truly blazing a trail, changing the betting industry for the good of the punter. Then they started hiring 'experts' from other fields, because they 'obviously' knew how to run a highly successful betting company. Some real bone-headed decisions were made, very damaging to internal morale and when stuff like that happens and said experts aren't held accountable for them, the fun starts to disappear. Once they forced Andrew 'Bert' Black out of a day-to-day role (because he understood the industry and felt for the punter), it went downhill fairly quickly.

I joined the company to work for Ed Wray & Bert (and to a lesser extent, Mark Davies), following their dreams of an exciting concept taking over the world of betting. It was a great journey. But once it was obvious they were being forced out/their roles diminished to bring in the new breed of dull, passion-less business 'experts' who essentially saw customers as the enemy who must be exploited, it was time to move on and I don't regret leaving when I did.

Many people in high management positions have left Betfair in recent times. Why do you think this is?

99% of people in business will struggle when a company goes from 10-20 guys in a small office to over 1000. The business simply has to change, become hard-nosed over costs, stop treating PR as a laugh and really focus on a consistent core message etc. Senior execs in business these days change jobs all the time - clash of personalities, they screw up, they've done what they set out to accomplish etc. Many of the original staff left after the float - and several of those guys, even the ones way down the food chain don't have to work again for a long, long time. Others saw that as the right time to move on, having to answer to shareholders who don't understand the impact of bad weather on football & racing or the negative impact of raising commission rates etc. Pressure on the top guys is severe and now they are public, blood must be shed regularly if results aren't up to scratch...

Betfair have recently installed a new Chief Executive, Paddy Power's Breon Corcoran. What do you think he has to do to restore Betfair's reputation?

Stop focusing on the City and get back to looking after customers. Stop deluding themselves in thinking it's a technology company - if it was, it would be listed next to Dell and Microsoft in the Yellow Pages. It ain't. Hire people who actually go to the races or sporting events for reasons other than to get plastered in the hospitality suites.

The Premium Charge and Super-Premium Charge; in your opinion, why were they really brought in?

Greed and desperation at limited other options to increase revenue. It is true that the 'sharks' at one end do scare away the little fish, and those little fish are expensive to acquire. But without the big players providing liquidity, you don't have a business, so it's a dangerous game. The best way to hang onto those little fish was to educate them and make them aspire to climb higher on the food chain, but they effectively killed off the Education dept.

Where do you think Betfair is headed in 2012 and beyond?

Bound to tread water for a long time. I really hope this new bloke proves me wrong, but I doubt it.

How far behind Betfair are Betdaq and do you think it's possible for them to become a realistic competitor?

Ever heard of Alpha Centauri, the nearest star outside our solar system? That's how far behind they are. Betfair have kicked so many own goals in recent years and they still are a million miles away. They'd need the Chelsea/Man City style investment to have any chance of competing properly.

What do you believe are the chances of the American betting market opening up? What do you think would happen if it did?

News this week suggests California and New Jersey are closer than ever. But the American scene is so political, and it's all divided by state. Australia was very hard to crack a licence, but there was never an outright ban to overcome. America is a farce of a place regarding betting. I think it's in Arizona, you can't even bet on horse-racing online. Sports-betting is the big one, but outside of Nevada, it's all done illegally. Racing is where they'll start as that industry is dying a slow, painful death. Every local deal will have to provide a share of the profits to local racing, namely the 'horsemen's groups' who are the original 'Flat Earth' society in many states. Understanding the concept of lower margins = higher turnover is beyond them, yet you'd think with stores like WalMart everywhere it wouldn't be rocket science.

I'll go on record as saying the USA will never be completely open to Betfair, there will always be states who still think it's 1953 and that mythical being called God said gambling is evil (they should try asking their Irish ancestors!). And until there is a Federal Government with a proper majority and mandate for change, they won't be able to force the issue either. Australia has been a slow graft for Betfair, but it will be like an Olympic 100m final compared to the never-ending saga in the States.

If they were prepared to open the chequebook and effectively bribe the first few states into jumping on-board with huge sign-on fees, that would give them a kick-start. But a simple, seemingly no-brainer, issue such as being able to combine customer bets across state borders will hold them back. I would bet against them being able to link up with bets from the UK & the rest of the customer base in the short term - I hope I'm wrong. Without liquidity from a big audience of legal players, they will find it very tough to gain any traction. And until you have an attractive product with plenty of choice and liquidity, it's a lame duck....

Many thanks to Scott for taking the time to answer my questions - fascinating stuff. As ever, I'm available on TWITTER or via email (there's a link on my profile). Would be good to get those follower numbers up. Maybe a few more will be enough to motivate me to do some more interviews....... ;)

*As always, feedback and comments are welcome and I'd love to see more but if you are going to be a rude and needlessly critical twat, then don't bother. I do this for fun in my spare time, it's not a job, I don't get paid, I'm not trying to sell anything, and I don't care if you read or not, so if you have a problem I suggest you piss off and do your own interviews!


Maria Kirilenko:

Friday, 9 December 2011

Andre Agassi

I've been reading the tennis legend's autobiography this week. It's a fascinating read and I recommend it to anyone, whether they are into tennis or not. In fact, even if you don't like sports at all, it's an entertaining read, especially with the revelation that Agassi actually hates tennis. From a trader's perspective, you could even learn a little about what goes on inside a player's mind when they take to the court. It's something I think about all the time when I trade but often I'll read comments from people who are betting on a match that show clearly that they don't understand the mentality of a player at any given time. I see many traders who expect players to be robots who should always perform 100% to their best ability, regardless of time away from the game, mental pressures, motivation, the stage of the match and outside influences. Read 'Open' and it should help dispel that myth!

But the key thing I wanted to write about today was a section from the book taken from the lips of Brad Gilbert. You might know him as an ex-player, ex-coach of Agassi, Roddick and Andy Murray but he is probably best known as author of 'Winning Ugly', which has been heralded for many years as probably the best sports psychology book around. When Gilbert met Agassi to chat about becoming his new coach in 1994 (when Gilbert was strangely enough, still playing on the tour) he said the following to Agassi:

'You always try to be perfect.........and you always fall short and it fucks with your head.......You try to hit a winner on every ball, when just being steady, consistent, meat and potatoes, would be enough to win ninety percent of the time'

'It's all about odds and percentages..............Right now, by trying for a perfect shot with every ball, you're stacking the odds against yourself. You're assuming too much risk.........Fuck that. Just keep the ball moving. Back and forth. Nice and easy. Solid.'

'When you chase perfection, you know what you are doing? You're chasing something that doesn't exist. ............There's about 5 times a year you wake up perfect, when you can't lose to anybody, but it's not those 5 times a year that make you a tennis player. Or a human being for that matter. It's the other times. It's all about your head, man'

All this applies to trading too. I'm certainly guilty of being a perfectionist and it has cost me dearly as a trader, not being able to accept losses. Also not being able to accept that I will make mistakes, read games incorrectly or lose focus every now and then. Obviously, trading is all about odds and percentages too. And of course, there is the message about being consistent, not risking too much and patiently building from scratch, rather than throwing your eggs in one basket to quickly make big sums. Finally, it ends with what I've been saying for ages now - it's all in your head. As long time readers will know, my head has been messed up for a long time! I truly believe that will change in 2012. In fact, it's already begun to change over the past couple of months.

Here's world number 55, America's Bethanie Mattek-Sands:

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

2011 Blog Review

Well the tennis season is now officially over and so is my first year of blogging. I know that I've picked up a lot of new readers in recent weeks, many of whom will not be familiar with my journey, so I thought I'd end 2011 by reviewing my year.

It's been a very disappointing year overall but with a huge, bright light at the end of the tunnel. When I began the blog, I thought (like I suppose 99.9% of all new trading bloggers) that it would only be a matter of weeks before I was consistently profitable from trading. I honestly believed that I would be comfortably living off my tennis profits after 6 months maximum. But I started badly (partly due to the extra pressure that writing a P&L blog actually puts you under), stopped writing within the first week and was almost finished within 2 months! Things then improved dramatically after I hit rock-bottom and was forced to make changes.

Unfortunately, this then lead to a second phase of over-confidence, where I did genuinely think I'd cracked it. This proved to be a huge false dawn and was cemented by the fact that the tennis markets changed following the introduction of the super-premium charge, rendering my strategy almost unworkable. This actually proved to be the best thing that could have happened to me. Yes, I'm actually thanking Betunfair for their grossly unjust and greedy manipulation! It forced me to make drastic changes and I totally revised my approach and discovered new ways of trading which were much more suited to my personality. Trading suddenly began to click and over the past 2 months, I've tweaked things and improved in all areas, to the point where I now feel I'm ready for a decent 2012.

This time last year, I was actually in a similar position. After a frustrating first year of tennis trading, I was given new hope after reading 'Trading in the Zone'. I began to make changes to my professional outlook, mindset and strategy, which I fully believed would see me crack trading in a matter of a few short months. I was wrong. Horribly wrong! So this time around, I am definitely not thinking that I will be where I want to be in 2012. I will not be putting a time-scale on anything and have no particular monetary expectations. Maybe I will be raking it in by March, maybe I will come good in summer or maybe it will take another year. I have no idea. But what I am certain of is that I will not LOSE money.

This means that the tremendous ups and (mostly!) downs of 2011 will no longer be around for your reading pleasure! I can't say it's always been fun writing the blog this year but it's definitely been therapeutic. It's a great outlet for my emotions aswel as for my creativity, which gets stifled somewhat by the every day battle on the ladders. The problem with this type of blog is that when you are doing well, there is generally much less to say and there is always much less comments from readers. I guess it's easier to empathise with a loser in this game! But the comments have always been very supportive and I want to thank again everyone who contributed.

I have experienced some of the biggest lows of my life and shared them with you all this year and it hasn't been easy to do that at times. Knowing that others out there are following and appreciating my posts has really helped. I've even received some fantastic emails from people praising 'Centre Court Trading' and nothing gives me greater satisfaction, not even an all green screen! The blog will (hopefully!) look very different next year but I'll still have plenty to say because writing is a passion of mine and so is tennis now. I just hope that trading will also be as big a passion in 2012.

Over the next few days, I will be writing about what I've learnt in 2011, focusing on a different subject each day.

Here's world number 25, the Czech Republic's Lucie Safarova:

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

John O'Dwyer Interview: Review

Many thanks once again to John for agreeing to take part in my interview. I did feel as though many of the answers given only raised more questions, so felt it would be interesting to delve into them. I'm not looking to have a dig at John in any way but his blog has a lot of followers and I do think the situation he is in is one which many traders will find themselves in. Therefore, some important topics such as 'value', 'bank size', 'edges' and 'pressure' should be discussed. However, Cassini from 'Green All Over' does a much more effective job than I can of dissecting the interview and so I shall point you in his direction.

I can't help thinking that it doesn't really make sense for someone who believes that they have an edge, to ignore that edge until they gamble their way to a fixed amount of money. Surely if you know you have an edge and have already proved it, it shouldn't matter how small your bank is; just keep doing what you were doing when you were making money!

I agree when John says that a big bank does give a person extra confidence and stability but maybe that is the problem; it shouldn't make you any more confident because a consistent, profitable strategy is ultimately what should give you confidence. If a person is using good money management and using stakes that are adjusted to the size of their bank, surely confidence is always at the same level because it will still take the same number of losses to wipe you out, regardless of how much you have?

I don't wish to be too critical because I actually think I know what John is trying to do because I've done it myself in the past. My belief is that he is simply being too impatient. He's trying to build his bank up quickly and to do this in his usual way would have taken a long time, so instead, he's tried to short-cut his way to a big bank by straight-betting. When he gets to that £1000, he'll then do what he did before (trade out instead of risking it all) but the greens he'll be getting will be much bigger and the bank will grow quickly with less effort. I've done very similar things in the past as I've chased back losses with straight bets instead of proper trading. So I do empathise with John but I wonder if he'd just started from the beginning, slowly and patiently building up using small stakes and trading properly, where would he be by now? If he does indeed have an edge, no doubt he would have gone well past that £1000 mark.

But this impatience is always born out of underlying factors (and he does mention 'outside influences', which I know from reading his blog is financial troubles), and pressure to make money is usually the biggest one. I should know because it's been my downfall as a trader. So although I have my doubts about O'Dwyer's trading techniques, I wish him all the best because I have a feeling I know what he has gone through over the past year and it isn't pleasant. And I'm damn sure that there are many people out there who have gone into full-time betting / trading and made similar mistakes. But sometimes you have to just admit that you have got it wrong and start over again from scratch. That is a very hard thing to do though, to throw away months or years of working in a particular way and search for a new strategy. I had to do that myself this year but it may well turn out to be the best thing I've ever done.

Here's world number 19, Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova:

Sunday, 4 December 2011

John O'Dwyer Interview

As promised in yesterday's post (please read for a full introduction), here is my interview with Betfair forum legend John O'Dwyer:

I think it's fair to say you are one of the most well known names ever to appear on the Betfair forum back in its heyday. Did you enjoy your time on there and what did you get out of it?

I used to use the forum for information purposes back in the day, there is some good information on there, mixed in with some not so good information. It was also quite good entertainment, and I was never too serious when I used it.

Do you still post on there or are you just a regular reader now?

I don't post on there and rarely go back and visit it. I use twitter for information purposes these days.

There's no doubt that the forum is not quite the place it was 2 or 3 years ago. In your opinion, how has the forum changed since you were a regular poster?

I used to use it for the in-play match day threads and to keep up to date with scores as they happened. That was what it was best for. Not sure how it has changed, although like most Internet forums, because most people are anonymous, it's easy to get carried away and say things they wouldn't in person.

I think you'll agree that most of the time, you took a lot of stick from other forumites and you seemed to be involved in arguments every day. How did you feel about it at the time?

I was never too serious when I used it and I think most use it as a form of entertainment. It's only an Internet forum, most people get too involved.

Would you say that 'odwyer1980' was a true reflection of your own personality and did you really tell the truth about all your betting activity?

I'm not sure if it's a true reflection of my personality. Like I say, it used to be a good laugh although sometimes people crossed the line. It could have been monitored better I suppose. Betfair could have done better with that, not sure if that's changed or not.

The bet I always remember most from the forum was your suggestion to lay Real Betis at 80, when they were 2-0 down to Barcelona. Betis came back to win 3-2. Did you really place that bet?

That was real. I only layed it for £2 although it was a big loss for me at the time and stung badly. I think I also layed a German team (Duisburg away to Werder) at 14 on the same day that won, so it wasn't the best of weekends. I did it all wrong back in the day and never used to trade out of bets. I've learnt a lot about how to profit since then.

How would you describe your style? Would it be fair to say you are a gambler rather than a trader?

I go with what I see. I don't categorise myself personally. I rarely bet pre match. I like to get a look at what's going on before I make any decisions. Also, the event has to be on TV or Betfair live video. I won't bet/trade on it unless I have live pictures. I am very much cautious once I have stability, although this year I've been trying to build my bank through gambling and that involves taking more risks. Not the way I prefer, although I've had no option but to go this route. Something I'm hoping will change ASAP.

I had quite a bit of success in 2010 which started from £500 in February that year. Trading is the only real way forward although I sometimes like the odd gamble when I'm confident of how things will go. Where I've gone wrong this year is I've not had the bank size that was available to me last year, so I've been trying to gamble my way forward and it's not really worked.

You have been writing a blog for the past couple of years and achieved some real success at the start. Can you tell us about this and how it felt to be doing so well?

I did well in 2010 which started from around £500 in February of that year. I was lucky enough to build it gradually throughout the year through trading and the odd gamble when I felt things were in my favour, and it worked as I thought it would. I think my profit and loss from Feb to around September time was around £27k, and the most I had in my Betfair account at any one time was £13k. Times have changed since then. Not sure on my blog, as I don't treat it like other people's blogs who make a lot of effort. It's just there to keep up with my profit and loss really.

You seem to bet on a lot of different sports. Most experienced gamblers / traders, will say that you should specialise in 1 or 2 sports. What would you say to that?

I will cut down on one or two once I get the bank size and stability I need. Although this was how I was successful initially so there will not be any major changes. I'm comfortable trading on most sports.

Which sports do you bet on and which ones provide you with most profit?

My best sports are Football, Rugby Union and Rugby League. They're the ones I feel I can make the most profit. I want to avoid the likes of horse racing as I feel I have no edge or knowledge and will never compete with those who have access to the result before I do. You can see the time delay on Betfair and ATR.

Things have taken a down-turn for you over the past 12 months or so. What was it do you think that happened to change your fortune?

I probably got too greedy and took bigger risks, and I've never really had the chance to put things right. During the Australian Open in January for example, I lost too much trying to win too much and it was downhill from there. It's definitely been a bad year as far as Betfair is concerned.

Many people have commented that they think you don't have an edge and that you hit a good spell but now things have evened out with a bad spell. What is your response to that?

I've not had 1k+ in my account since March, and that's how I was successful initially. Big bank brings stability and confidence and because I'm using a small bank, it's making things difficult. The last 7 months have been unacceptable, but outside matters have not helped my situation as well.

I notice that you always seem to mention that you need to get your bank up to £1000 before you can start to make progress and get back to a profitable era. Why do you need to reach that figure?

That's just a figure as an example. £1k isn't going to magically mean that I will start to make thousands again. I just need a big enough bank to get going again, as once I do, I'm quite confident I can do as well as I did in 2010.

Having read your blog right from the beginning, it would seem as an outsider having a guess, that you place large sums of money with high risk, on short priced faves or very low odds. Is this correct?

I deleted a lot of blog entries I made last year from January 2010 where I was struggling before things eventually went right. That was a mistake, as I'm in a similar position now and saying the exact same things. I only bet when I'm confident and try to trade-out of most bets. I've learnt quite a lot and feel I know what markets to touch and what not to touch. I rarely touch short priced favourites anymore.

How did you get started on Betfair and how long was it before you were making big profit?

I only discovered it in 2007 and it took me around a month to get used to the trading out aspect of it. I made a lot of school-boy errors early on and lost quite a bit, but finally caught on. Betfair is the only betting platform I use. I don't use Betdaq because of the lack of money in the markets, although I've not had a look for a year, so I'm not sure if it's improved or not. I've not even been in a betting shop for a few years now. 2010 was the year I finally discovered how to make it pay.

You are a full-time sports bettor. What mistakes have you made and what advice would you give to anyone thinking about going full-time?

I've made a lot of mistakes and learnt a lot from them. Always trade out of bets (unless you are doing it for fun) even when you think it's 100% certain, trade out anyway, it's amazing how many times I've thought a bet can't lose only for it to get beat at really short odds 20 minutes later. Trade out of everything, and don't get greedy. You will win that way.

What do you love and hate most about being a full-time sports bettor?

It's fun when you win, but can be stressful otherwise. The social aspect isn't the best as you are on your own for the most part. It can get quite lonely. It was good in 2010 as I was winning and had a good life at the same time. Going to Wimbledon knowing you have quite a bit of money was great. Travelling to New York for the US Open and being able to spend without worry was really fun. Waking up in the morning and doing something you enjoy is great, and although I have respect for people who do 9-5 jobs, I'd always prefer to be doing something that I enjoy. I think we all would! I'm not lazy by the way, I try and run 20+ miles per week to stay active and it helps with my mindset as well.

Have you been hit by the premium charge and how do you feel about it?

I've never been hit with that. Not sure why. I think I am around £14k up since I started using Betfair in 2007, despite having a very bad year.

What is your biggest ever win and worst loss?

My biggest loss was laying Louis Oosthuizen to win the Open championship at St Andrews on the final day in 2010. He was leading by a few shots, but I thought he'd trade lower, so got greedy (I was up around 8k for the year at that stage and had 10k in my Betfair account) and lost around £2k. I was at the event that year thanks to winning on Betfair, so couldn't trade out - they don't have Internet access at the course. The loss can be seen on my blog. The most I've ever won was £1,100 in one bet. That was on Rafa Nadal in his opening match at the French Open in 2010, on the handicap market. I think the handicap was +12.5 games for his French opponent, who I backed.

What do you think the future holds for the betting exchanges and yourself as a sports bettor?

I'd like to see access to Betfair in the US at some stage. I'd also like to see a real competitor to Betfair, but that's not going to come over-night! I heard Donald Trump is creating a betting platform - one he says that's unique in style, not sure if it's a betting exchange though. For me personally, I am hoping for a better 2012. That's what I'm working towards at the moment - start again fresh for the new year, and hope things go in the right direction from there.

Many thanks to John for taking the time to answer my questions so honestly. As I've mentioned before, I'm new to Twitter so come and follow me - starting to get slightly addicted to it now............

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Betfair Forum

Aaaah, the Betfair forum. There was a time when it was pretty much the epicentre of the online betting world; a thriving community of lively debate, controversial characters, heated arguments, amusing threads and insightful comments. A couple of years ago, all this changed when Betfair shot themselves in the foot (highly unlike Betfair to make a mess of something that worked perfectly fine, I know) and decided to 'upgrade' the forum, at the expense of the thing that made it so good in the first place - simplicity. Over-night it changed from a quick, clear, simple forum into one that is now much slower, too difficult to quote other posters, convoluted with needless extras like the blog facility, harsher on the eyes because of the bright white background, no thread search facility and moderated to the point of banality. It became a ghost-town for months and is still today, a shadow of its former self.

I was fortunate enough to enjoy the last 2 years of the old forum, when it was still in its prime and a fun place to visit each day. The football forum in particular, was a hive of activity but tennis, horses, chit-chat and general betting were all popular reads. Sure, you had your trolls, P&L liars and even the odd racist pop up every now and then but there were also some very knowledgeable people, some highly entertaining discussion and lots of little nuggets of great information amongst the childish bickering. These days, the nuggets are few and far between and you'll be waiting a long time for any threads of real substance or that don't crowbar the word 'mug' into every sentence.

It seems to be populated much more by youngsters new to betting exchanges and there are less of the more experienced, older traders who will have joined in Betfair's early years. As such, things tend to degenerate into playground slanging matches ('Federer's the GOAT!' 'No, Federer's Nadal's bitch, he's the GOAT!' 'Nadull is Djokovic's bitch, Nole is the GOAT!') or childish insulting of players, whilst screams of 'FIX!' seem more common than ever as newbie punters look for scapegoats for their own incompetence. Of course, this was always the case and there is a tendency for old users to look back with rose-tinted specs but there is no doubt that there was a greater variety of people and as such, a better balance of threads and information than there is today.

My most enjoyable time there was spent on the late night Copa Libertadores matches, which at the time were relatively new on Betfair Video and used to draw a small but friendly crowd of late night punters. They were usually free from the insults and machismo of the day matches and were almost always hilarious because Latin American football is just as erratic and unpredictable as the continent itself. I'll never forget a thread entitled 'Haiti v Suriname............AND IT'S LIIIIIIIIIIIVE on Betfair Video!!'. It turned into a hilarious, all-time classic, stretching over many pages with hundreds of posts - not bad for a nothing game that started after midnight. Here's the highlights (Haiti absolutely battered Suriname for 90 mins but missed more chances than I've ever seen in any game before or since. They were 2-0 down somehow but scored twice in injury time), complete with dodgy camera-work and manic commentary! Go to 5.30 to see the penalty that levelled it (they almost missed that effort too!) - AMAZING SCENES!!

A forum character who will go down as one of the most talked about of all time, is 'odwyer1980'. A particularly prolific poster on the football forum but known right across all the genres, he always courted controversy, derision and debate for his attempts at tipping threads. You can still mention his name to this day and a few hardy stalwarts will pop-up to regale you with tales of his 'Comprehensive Money Making Machine' and other glorious disasters. Love him or hate him, odwyer1980 threads were always the largest and liveliest on the forum and I certainly found them fun to get involved in. I thought it would be nice to catch up with the man behind the moniker, John O'Dwyer, to see what he'd been up to since those halcyon days. Tomorrow, I'll be posting up my interview with him. In the mean time, here's a picture of world number 26, Belgium's Yanina Mug-mayer ;)

Friday, 2 December 2011

Davis Cup Final

Spain v Argentina begins today with the first two rubbers in Seville. On paper it looks like Spain should win pretty easily. With Rafa Nadal at home on clay, it looks a done deal and there is certainly no value in backing Spain or Nadal in any of his matches. Juan Monaco is his first opponent, which looks a 3-0 match all the way. It has to be said that Monaco has been playing superbly of late and as clay is his favourite surface, there is an outside chance he might take a set. Certainly worth a watch as Nadal has not been playing anywhere near his best for a while now, although of course, he's not been on the red-dirt.

The other rubber today pairs Del Potro and Ferrer. Again, you can't really look past Ferrer. This guy lives and breathes on the grit and has been in great form lately. Del Potro's serve will always make him a tough opponent on any surface but Ferrer is simply too good a mover and returner, and this should negate the main advantage that the Argentine has. Hopefully, the Spaniard will be a bit nervous and Del Potro can nick the first set because that will open up the match for trading opportunities.

The doubles takes place on Saturday, which really could go either way. I'm quite surprised Granollers isn't playing for Spain, especially as Verdasco lost both the previous doubles games in the semi and quarter finals, losing to the Bryan brothers of the USA and obliterated 6-1 6-2 6-0 by the French in an embarrassing display. Granollers did play against the Bryans but it's hardly a disgrace to lose to the best doubles pairing in the world. Lopez partnered Verdasco against France and it's the same pairing against Shwank and Nalbandian, who didn't play together in any of the previous rounds. Looks to me like Nalbandian has been shoe-horned into the doubles because Monaco was chosen ahead of him for the singles. It's a tough one to call either way and much will depend on what happened in the first two rubbers. Shwank is a good doubles player and maybe Nalbandian will bring out his brilliant best on the day. Could be a good game to trade.

Nadal against Del Potro on Sunday will be interesting but again, I don't see Nadal losing, especially after such a disappointing ATP Tour Final in London. He'll be out to show he's still a dominant force. I wouldn't be surprised if Nalbandian wasn't brought in for the final singles match against Ferrer, instead of Monaco. Monaco is basically an inferior version of Ferrer and I can't see him winning that but Nalbandian? He's got the skills to upset Ferrer's rhythm and when he's up for it, as he surely will be, he can beat anyone.

Let's just hope it goes to a 5th rubber so we can trade all weekend, cos that's it after this clash. Well, unless you count the AEGON Masters event in London. This is a tournament for retired players and is going to be in-play on the exchanges - remarkable when you consider they didn't put any of the Challenger Tour Finals matches on the site at all! If betting on the likes of John McEnroe and Goran Ivanisevic is your thing, then trade away! I'll no doubt have a look and see what liquidity is like. There is likely to be huge value in these games as no one will really know what to expect until the game actually gets going. Should be fun if nothing else and I'm looking forward to the battle of the Brits - Rusedski v Henman! COME ON TIIIIIIIIM!!!

Today's photoshoot pic is of Estonia's world number 34 Kaia Kanepi:

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Moaning Tennis Players

Found an interesting article in The Economist about scheduling in tennis

My own opinion of the tour schedule is probably a little biased because as a tennis trader, I want MORE tournaments and matches, not less! Nonetheless, I think I would still be of the opinion that these players need to stop whinging about the number of matches they play. I find it amazingly hypocritical that Rafa Nadal can complain (he played more than any other player in 2010, around 80 matches) yet chose to also play in some exhibition tournaments as well as The Thailand Open, which is a 250 event that wasn't mandatory but where he was famously paid a 7 figure sum just for entering. This year, he has again played more matches to date than any other player on the main tour - 83. Here are the requirements expected of top players, taken from the ATP website:

In 2011, any player who finished in the 2010 year-end Top 30 will be required to compete in four Grand Slam tournaments and eight ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments.

Top 30 players (based on '10 year-end ranking) must play a minimum of four 500 level tournaments during the calendar year, including at least one event following the US Open (Monte Carlo Masters 1000 event will count towards the minimum

In 2011, Nadal hit all those pre-requisites and played OVER the minimum by one 250 event (Queen's Club). If you compare him to Janko Tipsarevic, (who is next highest for number of matches played this year at 81) he has played 26 tournaments plus 3 Davis Cup ties; far more travelling and surely far more exhausting than Nadal's 17 tournaments and 2 Davis Cup ties. I doubt Tipsarevic is moaning, though maybe that'll change now he's top 10!

Lesser players won't play as many games but that is because they won't win as many. Take for example, Marcos Baghdatis. 55 played, 28 won, 27 lost. Hasn't had any major injuries this year and has entered 27 tournaments. Of course, his ranking dropped severely last year and he had to qualify for bigger events and needed to earn points in 250s to get up the rankings but that's his job. I suppose 55 matches compared to 83 is a big gap but is that not the one price you pay for success? I'm sure Baghdatis would kill to be playing 80 matches a year from 10 fewer tournaments.

Another player moaning is Mardy Fish (as anyone who saw his recent disgusting photo of his swollen leg on Twitter will know!) but he has played 22 tournaments this year including 6 250 events, which is way over the minimum requirement for a top 30 player. He wouldn't be saying anything if he hadn't gotten injured, putting his ATP finals place at risk, but a few less tournaments might have helped (he's played 68 games).

Is the quality of tournaments compromised by the 'long' schedule? I don't see it. The Paris Masters, the final tournament of the year, takes place in November and the 2010 event was heralded as one of the best quality ATP tournaments of the year. So people are moaning about drop-outs this year but that can happen at any stage of the year. Tipsarevic isn't injured and still played at the ATP Finals. Roger Federer has played 77 matches in 2011 and this is a fascinating stat; he's NEVER retired from an ATP match! EVER! He played his best tennis of 2011 at the Tour Finals and he's 30 now. Why is that? I believe it's because Federer organises his schedule well. He takes enough time off to enable his body to recover, picking and choosing tournaments much better. The tour schedule isn't the problem, it's the individual players schedules that need looking at.

Take Andy Murray, another serial moaner. He played Bangkok, Tokyo and Shanghai back to back, winning all three. He'd also won Cincinnati and reached the US Open quarter final not long before Bangkok. It's no wonder he was knackered come Paris and pulled out of London. He admits he has to look at his schedule for next year.

I just think it's the pampered few at the very top trying to use their influence to get what they want, forgetting that less tournaments means less money and ranking point opportunities for the lower ranked players. If you downgrade events or make them non-compulsory, it puts the tour in jeopardy anyway. Don't forget, these tournaments give a chance for people from all over the world to enjoy tennis live and to help put more money into the ATP coffers. Not to mention the tournament organisers and employees who rely on the business. I'm sure there could be a compromise somewhere (why are Indian Wells and Miami two weeks long, for starters?) but to even consider striking, (as Nadal, Murray and several others did at the US Open) smacks of selfishness.

Here's world number 24, Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova:

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Everyone's a Tipster

I'm a new member of the Twitterati brigade (follow me please, I need to appear more popular than I actually am!), having rejected Twitter for years as a pointless site for kids and celebrity obsessed fans to cyber-stalk their idols and for the idols to sell more of their crap. I stand by that assessment for the most part, although I'm now coming to see that it does have its plus-points in terms of catching the latest news fresh from the grape-vine, getting the general mood of the nation on various topics, finding out where Julia Goerges is on any given day and of course, hearing the incredibly profound, sharp-minded and not in any way contrived thoughts of Joey Barton.

The biggest annoyance though, is having to scroll your way through a daily gush of bilge, such as Federer and Nadal fanboys poking each other with sticks, constant updates from about 50 people at the same time, telling you who's just taken a corner in whatever football match is on and worst of all, the endless line of 'tipsters' trying to give their 'expert' view.

I'm just astounded by the number of people who claim to be tipsters on Twitter. The vast majority are football and horse racing based. How on earth can there be so many people out there who truly believe that their advice is the best advice? Some of them are obviously just ordinary punters who think they know it all and are just voicing an opinion but how does that entitle you to call yourself a tipster? The rest are all companies or more likely individuals trying to seem like a company in order to dupe you into subscribing. I just don't see how there can be so many all offering advice on the exact same subject!

Are there really that many gullible people out there looking for the holiest of grails, whereby they don't have to do ANY work at all to make a profit, other than do what someone else tells them? I'd love to know how many of these 'tipsters' actually turn a good profit. I would want to see a minimum of 2 years of profitable records before even considering paying a tipster. And if a tipster was that good, word would surely get around and we'd all be following, which would then negate any value that may have been there in the tips anyway. Or the tipster would realise that he was that good and stop giving tips so he can keep all the rewards for himself. No sensible tipster would give away their edge, surely?

They never seem to have a losing day either. The tweets are always along the line of 'Another winning day for all our subscribers' and 'Well done to everyone who followed our tips today'. Just for once I'd like to see 'Sorry to all our subscribers for the poor advice we gave today' or 'If you'd followed our tips today you'd be massively in the red - never mind'. I suppose it's not great for business though. And that's what you have to remember when you get involved with these services - they are businesses mostly, not altruistic gurus who just want to share their knowledge. Or am I being too harsh? I'm sure there are good ones out there but from bitter experience, I reckon most are best avoided.

Anyway, good luck to them, I've no real issue with what they are doing other than the fact they make it harder for me to see what airport Julia Goerges has just arrived at. So yeah, follow me on Twitter and I will let you know what the score is on any current match I'm watching, despite the fact you are probably watching the exact same match anyway. That's #tennis.tipster.sultan.

Here's world number 20, Italy's Flavia Pennetta:

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

December Blues

And so the tennis season crawls to a halt at the end of this week, with just the Davis Cup final between Spain and Argentina to come over the weekend. I've dreaded the arrival of December since I started tennis trading, partly because there are no games to trade but also because I don't trust myself not to get involved with the football. I did pretty well last year and was quite disciplined but I have my worries this time around. All those Premier League games around the Christmas period are going to look mighty tempting, even though I despise football trading. Most of it is just too much like gambling. My plan has always been to take December off and go travelling somewhere but obviously, holidays are out of the question until I'm actually successful.

Fortunately, I had a decent ATP Tour Finals week and have made major steps forward with my ATP trading. Although WTA will always remain my tour of choice for trading, I am very confident now that I can make money from the men's game too. I realised that last week, that all I need to do is apply the same basic approach (looking for value) but adjust the entry and exit points a little. I managed to do this well all week, in a tournament that produced far more opportunities than I would have ever expected before it began. Unfortunately, I managed to mess up my good work by dabbling in the doubles and experimenting with the set betting markets! This will not be happening again!

I'm now keeping fingers crossed that Little Mix win The X-Factor (yeah, I watch it and I'm not ashamed! Never treat it seriously, that's the way to enjoy these things), as this will leave me with a very satisfying profit going into 2012. The key to betting on these shows is not in watching the show alone but in immersing yourself in the analysis afterwards. I get far more info from the spin off Xtra Factor programme, Twitter and the Digital Spy forum and this is where you'll see (in my opinion) who the real favourites are. Little Mix are the ones who are consistently raved about, not Marcus Collins, who is the only other real contender at this stage. I could be wrong of course but the odds on Little Mix have halved since I got involved, making them the new faves. Vote Little Mix everyone!!!

Here's the beautiful Slovakian world number 18, Dominica Cibulkova: