Sunday, 26 October 2014

Complete Lack of Focus

One of the things I've written about lots of times on the blog is that my biggest trading issue is a struggle to remain 100% focused. I don't think most people actually believe me when I say this. If I'm doing so well, how can my focus be that bad? It appears contradictory but I can tell you with absolute certainty that I would be doing even better if I could control my often appalling lack of focus! If I told you about some of the things I've done purely because of my complete inability to focus on the match I'm trading, I'm sure you would be shocked. I've done some unforgivably slack things when I've had thousands of pounds on the line, purely because I've been so desperate for mental stimulation that doesn't involve flashing numbers and yellow balls. These include preparing dinner, chatting on Twitter, reading online articles, buying stuff on Ebay, replying to emails, getting dressed for a night out, watching TV and many other things when I should be watching the ladders.

This isn't something I've always struggled with. Back in the early years of this blog, I had no problem whatsoever keeping focused. Just look at the number of posts I made in the first 2 years. I was totally immersed in trading. When I wasn't trading I was blogging about trading, when I wasn't blogging, I was reading other blogs, when I wasn't reading blogs, I was reading trading books, when I wasn't reading books, I was reading my own trading notes and when I wasn't reading notes, I was on Betfair trying to come up with new strategies. There was always something for me to do and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge because I was always learning something new. When I went to bed at night, I often dreamed about trading and when I woke in the morning, I was always raring to get into the action and was excited about when the first match was starting.

But the more successful I became, the more this changed. It was almost a direct correlation: the more profit I made, the more unfocused I became. Successful traders will always tell you that they are constantly learning but you will never learn as much as you did in those formative years when you struggled to make money.  Also, the motivation naturally drops. Trading becomes monotonous and more boring, as you essentially just repeat the same things over and over once you have found what works. This makes it much harder to enjoy what you are doing, especially when your personality is one that thrives on variety, new challenges and less routine.

Vitalia Diatchenko

Watching Serena Williams over recent years and this year in particular, I've come to the conclusion that she struggles to find focus in a very similar way. Those who don't watch her regularly might be surprised by that. Looking purely at the stats, she has a phenomenal record which suggests the last thing she has a problem with is focus or concentration but having watched her week in, week out, first round to final for a number of years now, I can tell you that Williams is extremely vulnerable in the early rounds of tournaments and regularly struggles to find her game in the early stages of matches. Just look at the WTA Finals this week. She should have been knocked out in the round robin phase after being bageled by Simona Halep and ironically, only reached the semi final because Halep took a set off Ana Ivanovic in what was a dead rubber for the Romanian (a naive move on her part because it came back to bite her in the final when Serena got revenge). Once in the final, there was never any doubt that the experienced and vengeful Williams was going to be at her best and I backed the world number one to win the tournament as soon as Halep won that set against Ivanovic, sealing her qualification (and I haven't placed a straight bet in years, that's how confident I was!).

I believe this is mostly a question of a lack of focus. I think she finds it harder to get fully motivated and revved up for some matches these days and you can see the frustration this gives her, manifest itself in some frankly frightening outbursts! Her body language often suggests a complete bemusement with why she can't seem to find her game and this is always followed by primeval roars once she eventually does, letting out all that frustration. I can tell you that I do exactly the same when I trade! There are days when no matter how hard I try, I just cannot find the discipline required to focus on the tennis. I will do any minor chore that requires doing (polishing, hoovering, washing-up) with much gusto, yet cannot muster the same enthusiasm for trading. I will literally start daydreaming or even nodding off during matches, yet as soon as I have something vaguely interesting to do (such as check my email, read through my Twitter timeline or help one of my Academy members) I'm wide awake!

This was in fact the principle reason that I began the Academy in the first place. I was struggling so much to find regular focus, that I needed something to give my days more variety and purpose. It has definitely worked, although it did bring up a new problem, which was that the Academy became TOO distracting! In the same way that being on Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and the Internet were such a distraction that I needed to ban them whilst trading, I would spend so much time helping out members that I was doing it mid-trade, as a consequence ruining many a session on the ladders. These days, I have managed to strike a better balance on when to trade and when to add some variety but it's still a daily battle. This is one of the reasons why I've decided to do the Sultan Skype Sessions. They will add at least one day a week of extra challenge and variety and I'm looking forward to getting started. The first paid session is scheduled for next week and you can read full details by clicking above.

Like Serena Williams, once I do have full focus, I always do well. When she's 100% dialed in, there's no player in the world who is going to beat her. Once I am fully concentrated I don't make errors and so I inevitably tend to have better results. But like the world number one, it is simply not possible to be 100% focused, 100% of the time. I understand this and so have action plans in place for when I am not quite there mentally. These range from not trading at all for the day, to taking time-outs to do something mentally stimulating, to 20 minute power-naps - a relatively new revelation in my trading routine! I also warm up for 20-30 mins before each session - a combination of stretching, music and clearing the mind so I'm mentally on it. So as you can see, there are still things I struggle with and still things I have to work very hard on to maintain my consistency and profitability. Lack of focus remains the biggest issue for me - though it's a much nicer issue to have than throwing down my entire bank on one angry chase bet!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Live Skype Test Sessions Results & Analysis

Last night saw my first foray into live Skype trading and I swiftly followed it up this morning and afternoon with a second and third test session. Unfortunately, I was unable to trade the first few WTA Championship matches  as planned originally, due to personal commitments, so I apologise once again to those traders I had to cancel who couldn't make the ATP sessions which I scheduled instead.

I would like to thank all those who took part and for the feedback you gave me, which has really helped me decide on what my next move will be. As you can see from the screenshots below, the ATP sessions turned out to be profitable and I'm sure everyone will be very happy with the results if they did as I did. Being test sessions, I did not want to use my usual stake sizes in case there were any technical (or mental!) issues. I did feel that there were too many people in the first session and I found it difficult to answer all questions and stay focused enough. I think this will work better with less people in the session and so invited only a very small number (less than 5) to the second and third free sessions. I also feel that this will allow a more personal service and will put less strain on my computer and avoid any future issues with slow-down.

 Kukushkin v Wawrinka (all-green on both players)

What you see in the screenshots is exactly what you'll see in one of my Sultan Skype Sessions, although I have hidden the full conversation in the Skype screen to protect trader's identities and also hidden where it shows the trades I did on Geeks Toy for obvious reasons!

After the first two sessions, I was still undecided on whether to go ahead with this new venture. Trading with lower stake sizes will potentially lose me money (as it did in both the first two sessions), so I must be able to do this with my usual stakes. The problem could be that trading with my usual liabilities might affect me mentally. I've never traded in front of other people before, so this is a new experience for me. I have to admit, I found each session very nerve-wracking, to an extent that I haven't felt for years. Having to think about other traders, multi-task and talk throughout the session, was not easy and potentially could have a detrimental effect on my trading. The first session was also very draining (lasted far longer than the others) and I was losing my voice towards the end!

 Andujar v Berdych (Andujar won, netting me the £475 you see on-screen)

The third session session felt far more comfortable than the other two, despite the fact I was using my usual stakes. A combination of less traders and a better idea of how everything was going to pan out, meant that I actually enjoyed this session far more. I did trade with my usual stakes here and the big worry was that this would affect me mentally but I think the fact it was a small group and I had less to concentrate on other than my own trading, made it no issue. Even though it ended up a loss, it was a very small one (I would class it as a scratch trade for the kind of liabilities I use) and it was a good experience for me to show traders how to manage things when trades don't work out. 

Bouchard v Ivanovic (a relatively small loss)

 I've decided to go ahead with the paid service very soon. From a personal standpoint, I think this will add a bit more focus to my trading for one day a week and also give me some much desired interaction with other traders. So it should be really beneficial to me, as well as giving some added variety to my week. Once more, I would like to thank everyone who took part in these sessions, your feedback was much appreciated.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

First Live Skype Session Next Week

Interest in the live Skype sessions has been overwhelming! So much so that I've decided to bring forward the date for the free test sessions. They will now take place during the WTA Championships which begin on Friday 17th October. This does mean that there will be a lot of disappointed people as I cannot fit everyone who has shown an interest into a session.

I should stress that only the first session is guaranteed to be free. If all goes well, there are no teething problems and I am comfortable and have fun in the session, I will not be offering any further free sessions. If there were any problems or I feel that I need to run through another session to get the service as good quality as I would want it, then I will offer more free sessions in order to fine tune things.

When the paid service begins, priority will be given to Academy members and people who have bought the guide. Further details will be on the blog as soon as they are finalised. Please note that the Academy is now closed to new members. I am full for the whole of 2015 and will not be offering any new spaces.

Jarmila Gajdosova

If you have emailed me to ask to go into the draw for the free sessions, please check your email inbox next week, as I will be making the draw as soon as I know the order of play for next Friday's matches. If you don't hear from me, it means you did not win a free spot but please keep checking right up to the start time of each match because if someone drops out, I will draw a new name to take their place (and yes, I am actually doing a draw, World Cup stylee, with balls and velvet and glass bowls and everything!)

I'm really excited about this now. It will be the first time I've ever traded in front of anyone else, so it will be a daunting experience. But if all goes well, I will be looking to start the Sultan Skype Sessions properly during the ATP World Tour Finals and also to cover the Davis Cup Final and possibly some of the inaugural International Premier Tennis League (for any days I'm not away on holiday) which I wrote about in my last post. There's even a chance I may start as early as the Paris Masters 1000 and WTA Tournament of Champions. So keep a close eye on the blog for details.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

International Premier Tennis League

I'd totally forgotten about the brand new event that is soon to take place in the tennis world - the International Premier Tennis League. Loosely based on cricket's Indian Premier League with its Indian-based franchises, the IPTL begins its first ever season during the tennis off-season in December. A couple of weeks ago, Roger Federer changed his mind about competing in the IPTL and as you would expect, this has made everyone sit up and take notice. All of a sudden, the IPTL is looking a lot sexier. Although for this inaugural tournament, it might have more of an exhibition feel than any serious event such as cricket's IPL. Hard to say at this stage but I think it will be more competitive than many fans think. If you were part of an 8 player team, playing in front of real home support, with the eyes of the sporting world on you for 4 weeks, being paid the huge sums that you are, wouldn't you want to win? Certainly, you would not want to embarrass yourself or let your team members or the sport down and this is a great chance to showcase tennis to an emerging market.

The fact that it is being played during the traditional tennis down-time (a period which has recently been extended due to the demands of players) means it will be unlikely to ever reach the same prestige as a normal tour event. In fact, you would be well within your rights to ask why on earth players who were complaining about the season being too long and tiring, are doing extending that season by an extra 4 weeks! As always, money is the answer - there's some serious dollars on offer for those who are competing. As some of these top players end up playing exhibition matches in December anyway, asking them to play a few extra sets probably won't make much difference. The format is set up so that no player will play more than one set of tennis a day (although the men's singles players might have to play a deciding set), so it shouldn't be too taxing, although they will be playing most days for a 4 week period.

The 4 franchises are all based in Asia and this is primarily because the ATP and WTA see this continent as the burgeoning one for tennis. With China just beginning to really jump onto the tennis bandwagon (3 new WTA tournaments started this year alone in China and Hong Kong), the WTA Tour Championships being hosted in Singapore for the first of 4 years and a huge untapped market in India in-particular, Asia is going to be the next big market to explode into life.  Because of this, I can definitely see the IPTL growing into something far more serious, though I doubt this short-form version of tennis will change to the full version - not during the off-season anyway. If it does take off though, who knows what will happen and where it might be shifted to in the schedules. Tennis is a business at the end of the day and just like cricket's IPL, if the demand is there, that's where the players, TV companies and sponsors will gravitate to.

 Eugenie Bouchard - first draft for IPTL (obviously)

It's certainly a hugely exciting prospect and the biggest innovation in the sport for a long, long time. Purists will no doubt hate it (just as they do with 20/20 cricket) but I think it promises to be a lot of fun. When you watch as much tennis as I do, anything fresh is welcomed with open arms. I'm pretty sure Betfair will produce markets for this, with a total of 24 "matches" over 4 weeks, there's plenty of action to trade. We could well be at a stage where there is almost a full year of tennis to trade - making tennis surely THE sport for any trader to get into. It will be fascinating to see how the markets react to this new form of tennis. As it's a one set shoot-out, including innovations such as  "power-play" points (where the next point counts double), a shot clock between points (pity Nadal has withdrawn because that would have been very interesting!) and tie-break deciders at 5-5, there will be some big swings in price in most matches.

Also, the "outright" markets will be intriguing. It is a team event with 5 sets played in total for each "match" (one each for men's singles, women's singles, doubles, mixed doubles and retired/legends singles), so the outright match market as well as league markets should throw up a lot of betting potential. So from a trader's perspective, this is excellent news. Well, it would be for some traders but not for me - I'll be taking a well earned holiday during December! But definitely keeping a close eye on proceedings, as the whole tennis world will be. This could be the start of something very special indeed...........