Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Sultan's Trading Plugathon

A few things to have a look at on the blogosphere that have caught my eye recently:

Mark Iverson has a new project up and running which might interest any football traders. His 'Soccer In-Play' mobile phone app can be downloaded for free and looks like a great tool for gathering info on football matches (such as graphs and historic data) quickly, in order to place bets or plan trading strategies. You can follow 'Soccer In-Play' on Twitter @soccerinplay and visit Mark's blog for more info and an explanatory video.

It's been a while since I mentioned The Geek's Toy on this blog. It has of course, now changed from a free trading application into a paid one, with the official name AGT Pro - though it'll always be known as The Toy for us long-term aficionados. If you are new to trading, I still recommend it as highly as I did when it was 100% free. Recently, The Geek made the owned licence available for a second time. I bought one back during the summer and at £120 for the lifetime of the product, is a real bargain when you consider what you'd pay for subscriptions to any of the other rival platforms (none of which are as good, in my opinion). You've got till October 31st to claim one before it reverts back to monthly and annual subscriptions.

I'm sure many of you will already have seen this but I'll give it a plug anyway. It's a free guide to tennis trading, which you can find on the Liability Trading blog. There's no catch, it's 100% free and I can tell you that it's one of the best guides I've ever seen. The way it's written and laid out is absolutely spot-on and is very concise in terms of conveying what you need in order to become a successful tennis trader. It does not delve into specific strategies and much of what is there will be obvious to anyone who has been trading for a while but if you want to know the basics of what it takes to trade tennis using low liability, you can't ask for much more for free.

I haven't really had a close look at the Matchbook betting exchange but any new exchange which might offer an alternative to Betunfair should at least be given a chance, in my opinion. Here's the blurb I received in my inbox recently:

Matchbook is a sports betting exchange designed for the professional and savvy sports bettors.
The bigger bets the better!

After many years of the market crying out for a Betfair alternative we believe that has arrived with
Matchbook's commission is 1% - lowest in the market. (Betfair's general commission is 5%).
This makes us very attractive for the high volume clients.

Matchbook is a market leader on Asian Handicap in football and US sports – 'better odds, lowest commission and great liquidity'.

Matchbook also has a VIP service:
One example is access to our VIP pool where the most active players via Skype, MSN or email are able to submit offers (place bets) of over $3-5000 into the pool. Our team of brokers find a counterparty for the bet and get it matched up. This service is quick, 100% confidential and has allowed our biggest clients to extract even more value from other sites. This service has matched millions of dollars for our high rolling Matchbook clients.

I found the site a tad confusing at first glance but maybe a second perusal with more time on my hands may uncover something worthwhile. Just thought I'd share anyway, as trust me, the desire to find an alternative exchange still burns deep within me!

I wrote a post about the Football Cliches blog recently and can only re-iterate how good this blog is. Most posts were made 5 years ago, so don't expect regular updates but it's one to be read from the beginning. I read a few posts a week and it never fails to make me laugh. For more info, check out my post here for my favourite blog post.

And finally, a really fascinating tennis blog I stumbled across recently named Footsoldiers of Tennis. What I like about it (apart from the fact it's provided useful info which has actually helped with my trading) is that it's very different to most tennis blogs. Here's why, from the author himself:

Foot Soldiers of Tennis is about, well… the Foot Soldiers of Tennis. Those who heroically fill the opening rounds of an ATP 250 while the top four seeds go around getting foot rubs while having their first round bye.

If you want a blog that focuses on Roger, Rafa, and friends, well we have our opinions on those – but there are plenty more out there. Most of them are better informed. We’ll also try and maintain a level of detachment – while we have our favourites there is a ban on too twee nicknames here.

We much prefer those days when the journeyman has his finest hour (this is pretty much a men’s tennis blog) – or we claim to have spotted a genuine talent on the Challenger Tour. When Ivan Dodig beats Rafael Nadal, we wake up with an extra step in our stride. As we do when Eric Prodon is top seed in a clay court Challenger.

A great read with interesting articles that I believe can help anyone attempting to become a tennis trader, learn some in-depth knowledge of the sport.

Sabine Lisicki:

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Chasing Broccoli

"I must have forgotten the time I once lost £6,000 trying to win £2 to cover the cost of a piece of broccoli I'd deemed overpriced."

This was taken from the Betfair Trading to Gambler's Anonymous blog (not written by the author but taken from another source). My first instinct was to laugh - after all, it is one of the funniest lines I've ever read on a betting blog! But it  is tinged with a certain empathy and sadness because I have done similar things to this in the past (though not involving a vegetable and 6 grand!). It does beg the question: are we ever truly out of danger? Is there always the chance, no matter how slim, that even the most successful of traders could spiral out of control?

I once read about a trader who lost an entire year's worth of hard-earned profit in under a week. I also read about a trader who gave up everything to move abroad and trade full-time. Within a couple of years, he'd lost all his savings and moved back to the UK. And then there is our old friend O'Dwyer, who was living the dream, tens of thousands in profit, only to end up struggling to scrape together a bank to 'trade' with a year later. Looking back on The 5 Stages to Sports Trading, I remind myself of the following quote:

"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 now around that 3 year phase. So am I "safe in the water"? Am I now becoming part of the 5-10%? Obviously, only time will tell but if I can try to answer honestly, I'd say that I will never end up doing what the traders in my above examples did. These are examples of utter capitulation, where quite clearly, profits have been made without the use of sound money management and certainly without mastering the psychological side of trading - maybe even without a successful long-term strategy. These are things which I feel I have now conquered. It's possible that maybe these traders only experienced positive runs and so when faced with a down-turn, they lost it because they were shocked and didn't know how to react properly. Or perhaps the pressure of trading full-time exposed a weakness in their mental game. Well, I've experienced both of these phenomenons.

I've lost loads and I've been in pressure situations that would frighten the life out of most people. I've experienced all the lows that you can, so I feel that I'm in as strong a position to say whether I am "safe in the water", as is possible without years of records as proof. And I would say that no, I'm not 100% safe yet. If I'm totally honest with myself, whilst I'm confident that I will never self-destruct and lose everything in double-quick time, I cannot say I will never succumb again to the pressures of doing this as a sole source of income (if I ever go back to that). I know what it is like and how the mind does funny things. Even with all my experience, I would never say never - it's good not to be complacent anyway. It wouldn't be a fast deterioration, more likely a slow decline but I'll be better prepared for the first signs of it next time and I'm not fearful of it. Broccoli can be rather expensive these days though and I do enjoy a floret or two with my Sunday roast.............

Dominica Cibulkova:

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Sultan's WTA Charisma List

Following on from my ATP charisma list, now here are my WTA choices. I would argue that the current crop of players has as many, if not more characters than any previous era:

Victoria Azarenka

Darth Vika is as feisty, headstrong and abrasive as they come. This means she's not everyone's cup of tea, including me. She has an arrogant swagger and a way of rubbing opponents up the wrong way, with her wailing, celebrating and occasional gamesmanship (loves an MTO, does Vika). And she's not averse to blatant tanking in front of a huge crowd, as shown at the tour finals last year. A couple of years ago, she'd regularly argue with umpires and the crowd and was rude to ball kids, but seems to be trying to tone it down and ingratiate herself with the fans more now. Only problem is, you can tell she's been told to do this and doesn't always seem sincere. She's very young and still maturing though.

Li Na

Anyone who watched her run to the French Open title and Australian Open final in 2011, cannot have failed to be charmed by her post-match interviews. A genuinely funny and interesting character, with an on-court temper that's always bubbling near the surface.

Ana Ivanovic

Quite simply a delight. If you ever feel down, I urge you to flick on a clip of Ana on YouTube and wait for the smile that could melt any heart. No one shows as much happiness on court as an in-form Ivanovic and unlike many other players, is as polite as possible to everyone; from ball kids to opponents. She has a wide variety of fist-pumps and loves an "ADJE!!", which I feel really helps endear her to the crowd. Also can talk the hind legs off a donkey and off-court, her enthusiasm for the sport just shines through.

Jelena Jankovic

She can be moody, miserable, bad tempered, rude and brash but that's because she never hides her emotions and I love her for it. On the flip-side, she can laugh at her own mistakes and when things are going well, she loves to play to the crowd and offer up big gestures and smiles. You can tell she loves the game.

Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova

This Czech girl is completely mental. Guaranteed histrionics in every single match, win or lose. This mostly involves berating herself but no one is safe from an outburst, including her coach, who I've seen given the most vicious looking evils I've ever seen! Loves a good racquet smash/throw and despite the fact she plays with a permanent frown, you just have to laugh at the way she just never stops chuntering. She's extremely talented and has more natural flair than most players ranked far higher but her inability to conquer her own mental weakness has held her back from a much better career. Makes me laugh every single time!

Marion Bartoli

The phrase 'mad as a box of frogs' was made for Bartoli (not just cos she's French!). Her bizarre routines she goes through, both with the mechanical-looking serve and the constant, wild jumping, shadow-swinging, fist-clenching and jerking on return of serve, mark her out as a must watch. Never stops moving at any time! Hilarious to observe and when you add in all the strange interaction with her father, the mad Doctor Walter, with his crazy training contraptions, you have a genuine fruit-loop.

Francesca Schiavone

The little Italian lives for the crowd. She never really bothers much in the smaller tournaments and I'm sure it's partly because she needs a big stage to perform her best. Franny understands that tennis is entertainment and her game is suited to bringing out the best in a crowd - proper old-school slices, volleys, mixed spins and drop-shots. Add in a comically outlandish grunt, cheeky smile and a stare that could kill your average umpire and she epitomises the phrase 'heart on sleeve'. And no one milks applause better than her!

Andrea Petkovic

One of the few all-round entertainers in tennis. Gives great interviews, can be funny, hugely intelligent, amusing celebrations, feisty on court and also a bubbly, lively girl off it. The life and soul of the German Fed Cup team. Greatly missed with her time out with injury this year.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands

Nicknamed 'The Lady Ga-Ga of Tennis' for her often outrageous on-court outfits, Mattek-Sands is a true character off-court too. Famed for her knee-high socks and American football style, facial war-paint, she is clearly an eccentric which is rare on the tour. From jackets made of tennis balls, to diagonally sliced skirts to cowboy hats, the feisty American adds plenty of colour to the WTA.

There are certain players who do their bit and are great with the fans and say all the right things. Federer, Nadal, Clijsters, Sharapova and Serena Williams all come into that category but they are all a bit too polished and almost robotic. You never get a real sense that they are a great character. Great champions, yes, great speakers, yes, great in front of a camera, yes but great personalities? I don't feel that. I'm not hanging on their every word, waiting to see what they will come up with next. You could guess Sharapova's post match interview answers before she's even finished and she exudes a certain cold aloofness. Federer tries his best to throw in a bit of humour but it all feels pre-written, and probably by someone else. Nadal isn't known as 'Nadull' by some people, for no reason. Clijsters is charming but gives absolutely nothing on-court - completely stoic. And Serena, I just always feel as though she's putting on a fake, sugary-sweet voice for her fans - the tennis equivalent of the office receptionist.

These guys understand the importance of giving to the fans but I don't feel they would give half as much if a) they weren't obligated to give so many post match interviews and b) they didn't have product lines like 'Sugarpova' to sell. I can guarantee you Nadal would be off on his fishing boat faster than you could shout 'Rafa, a quick word please!'. But I guess he does enough of his entertaining through his tennis, as do all those I've mentioned. After all, they aren't paid to be comedians or actors.

Does any other sport really have these characters? Certainly not in football, where half the players can't string a sentence together and the likes of Drogba and Cole cannot even spare 2 minutes for an interview, even after winning the Champions League for the first time. Both ran away before they could even finish emitting their tired cliches to ITV and that's something you see all the time with footballers. At least with tennis, they all try to engage the fans off-court - even Andy Murray (reluctantly) does these days. Compared to other sports, I think tennis doesn't do too badly at all in the charisma stakes.

Jarmila Gajdosova:

Friday, 5 October 2012

The Sultan's ATP Charisma List

An interesting post on A Football Trader's Path  recently, one that got me really thinking about today's players. Are there any characters left in tennis? I had to have a long hard think about who would get on a charisma list. Here's who I came up with, starting with the men:

Novak Djokovic

This guy exudes charisma like no one else. They don't call him 'Djoker' for no reason. He just has that x-factor which none of the other big 4 has. Absolutely thrives on being in front of the camera and will always add in a touch of humour, often completely off the cuff and without prompting. He's a prime example though, of why you just cannot afford to Djoke around on-court too much in today's game. He used to do so but stopped when he realised that a) Other players don't like it and an angry opponent is a dangerous opponent and b) It ruins your focus. When you are involved in 5 hour battles with some of the greatest players of all time, keeping focus is paramount. Since he's toned it down, he's become far more successful.

Gael Monfils

The consumate entertainer. Monfils would have fit into any era because he lives for the crowd. If he wasn't playing tennis, he'd be performing somewhere. You just never know what he'll come up with next and if we had more Gaels in tennis, it would be a laugh a minute - unless you have a bet on him! Because Monfils is a great example of why you can't be Le Clown in today's game. He loses focus too easily because he can't stick to the basics which win matches. Instead, he'll cock things up by going for outrageous shots when there is no need and he'll relax and look to please the crowd instead of staying solid. It's shame but the professionalisation of tennis is at the detriment of players like Monfils and it's something we just have to accept.

Jo Wilfried Tsonga

I once heard him described as similar to Monfils but with one crucial difference: Monfils plays to entertain the crowd, Tsonga entertains the crowd through playing well. He has a great personality and a fun side which he brings out but only when it's the right time. He knows how to embellish a shot and to celebrate lavishly and to show his athletic prowess to wow the fans. As his English improves, he's also becoming an interesting listen, post-match.

Janko Tipsarevic

Yes, he's a match fixer (allegedly), yes he thinks he's deep and intellectual with all his Tolstoy tattoos, yes, he's a sexist knob but undeniably, he's an interesting character. He speaks very lucidly and always has something interesting to say, even if it does make you roll your eyes. The fact he has possibly the most beautiful woman I've ever seen as his girlfriend, is another reason I'm drawn to his matches. Watch out for him on Twitter!

Andy Roddick

Another guy I don't personally warm to but at least he has something to say. At least he gives you a smart-ass comment or a wry joke. I don't really like all this 'I tell it like it is' crap, as those sort of people always think they speak on behalf of everyone but are the only one brave enough to actually say what they think. Which is often bollocks. But it's good to have different personalities who won't just trot out cliches. He's retired now though, so one less character on tour!

Marcos Baghdatis

It's not so much what he says, as what he does. He's just a thoroughly likeable bloke is Marcos and his enjoyment for tennis and for life just oozes through every pore. One of the few players who will guarantee you a smile during a match and like Tsonga, knows the right times to be a showman. I remember him smashing 4 racquets in a row during a changeover at the Australian Open this year - 3 of them were still in their plastic wrapping! But although angry, he still managed a smile at the end of it - now who else would do that?

Grigor Dimitrov

The young Bulgarian has plenty to say, both on and off the court. I hope he continues to fulfill his promise because we are in for a treat if he gets to the very top. From chatting to ball girls, to spats with opponents, to entertaining post match interviews, this guy has charisma in spades and an on-court game which emulates Federer - which is always a good thing.

Ernests Gulbis

Very much like Dimitrov only even more wacky! The Latvian son of a millionaire lacks the drive to go with his amazing talent. You can see from the way he sits with his legs crossed at the changeover, to the way his interviews are laced with sarcastic jokes (often aimed at himself!) that he perhaps will never reach the top 10 where he really should be. But if he did, the whole world be lapping him up. He had an amazing clay season run a couple of years ago and during that time, TV channels were falling over themselves for quotes from Ernests' off the wall interviews. Unfortunately, he's just TOO laid back for his own good!

Radek Stepanek

A true old-school performer, Stepanek is one of the few players left who loves a spiky contest. Never afraid to get in an opponent's face, the Czech also likes to play to the crowd with little celebrations, spectacular jumps, theatrical dives and a pleasing-on-the-eye all-court game which would have slotted in perfectly in any previous era. Also has a great sense of humour and a rather amusing line in loud shirts!

Obviously, players from yester-year (particularly the pre 90s era) tended to provide a little more in the way of on-court entertainment for the fans. But things have become far more serious now. With the amount of money knocking around, the increased depth of competition and physical demands, it's not really as viable for players to suddenly start messing around during games.

I think people often look back at past eras with rose-tinted specs; were there really that many more great characters? People remember McEnroe, Nastasie, Conors and Leconte but I bet most would struggle to come up with a list as big as the one above, from a single era. I think it's just a handful that were truly entertaining and they stick in the mind because they were one-offs. If you haven't got it, you haven't got it and you shouldn't be rail-roaded into giving what you don't have (Andy Murray). It just would be nice if there were a few more light-hearted moments or bits of banter to spice up a match.

In my next post, it's the ladies turn.

Flavia Pennetta:

Monday, 1 October 2012

September: The Results

I've been in two minds as to whether to post up my monthly P&L anymore. Following my post which discussed the subject of viewing other trader's P&Ls, it feels slightly hypocritical. I don't like the idea that other traders might feel that they should be making consistent profits or amounts that I'm making, when they may be at a totally different stage with their journey. Not that I'm making large amounts - I'm hardly going to make too many people jealous! So what I'm probably going to do in future is change to simply writing down the percentage of my bank that I make. I feel that makes for a fairer comparison for everyone of all trading levels and experience. Not that you should be comparing yourself with what anyone else is doing but humans being what we are, it is only natural that we will do this. It's not as trustworthy as a Betunfair P&L screenshot but then, if you don't trust me by now, with all the ups and downs I've documented, you never will!

Just for the record, I have gone back to using an average of 2.5% of my bank as my liability for each trade. I did increase it for a few weeks to 5% but feel that I'd rather have the peace of mind that the lower percentage brings. It allows me to have 20 maximum liability losses on the spin and 40 average losses. Neither scenario is likely to happen (I haven't had 2 max losses in a row for a long time) but I do quite often have a run of average sized losses (0-2%), so it's best to prepare for the worst. As I'm currently still unable to increase stakes because I have to withdraw all profit, my maximum liability remains at around £50 for most trades.

As you can see from my screenshot, it's been a disappointing month - my lowest profit since January. I put this mostly down to some erratic trading caused by my failure to adapt well to changes in trading hours. With the tennis tour shifting from the USA to Asia, it meant a sharp turn from finishing at 2 or 3am, to waking up to start trading at 6 or 7am. I really didn't cope well with this at first and found myself way too tired to fully concentrate to the level required. It cost me on several occasions but the fact that I still came out of another decidedly ropey month with profit, can only be a good thing. My average profit per month in 2012 is still approximately 50% of my bank, so I'm more than satisfied with that if it remains that way in November, when the season ends.

October is the last month with a full programme of WTA and ATP tennis, so I suppose I may as well continue showing my P&L for now. There isn't  a lot else to report. Trading for me is now an ingrained habit. I enjoy it for the most part. The pressure I have to make money is low enough to mean I never experience fear or anxiety, whilst the small amount that does exist is enough to drive me forward and remain professional. My biggest fight is still with myself. I lose focus every now and then and I still find it tough to shut out distractions when I'm in need of new stimulus. If I can find a way of taming my wandering mind and itchy keyboard fingers, there is very little standing in my way of continued success. I think the fact I can't compound my profits doesn't help because once I get stuck doing the same repetitive things with the same stakes and same bank, I feel stagnant. I'm just not naturally good at repetition - 'variety is the spice of life' would make a great tattoo for me.

Maria Sharapova: