Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Short And Slightly Smug

The smugness comes from Ms Kuznetsova backing up my last post by blowing up in the second set against Caroline Wozniaki.

I even managed to remember that 'lay at 1.01 to 1.03' tip. Unfortunately, my current small-stakes play has been based around plenty of wins at £2 a time. The comfort at my 'green-up' didn't last long, as the realisation that a little patience could have given me a nice windfall set in.

Practise what you preach.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Bunny Boilers

I note that Kim Clijsters has announced a comeback two years after quitting tennis, and has been discussing on-tour babysitting techniques with Lindsay Davenport. So why come back if family matters have to come first? Simple. Because she's probably had a look at the current form of the top players and realised she could get back at number one in the rankings in a hurry.

Another couple of typical WTA tour days over the weekend in Miami, with defeats for Safina, Jankovic, Ivanovic and Zvonareva, the first three being turned over by some solid middle-ranking ladies, and the latter by the post-injury break fresh Na Li. A quick view of the current top 10 gives me only one name I would currently be happy to back and then leave the room for more than a few minutes - the worthy but hardly legendary Vera Zvonareva. The Williams sisters are top of the tree when focussed and committed, but are never good value to back.

As I have noted in previous posts, the mental fragility of numerous players makes backing winners a hazardous occupation. I'm convinced that the best way to make profits from the WTA game is by :

i. laying overpriced high ranking favourites, and
ii. laying at 1.01 to 1.03 on 'near-certainties' who may well crack before reaching the finish line.

Sadly, this goes against all the instincts I have built up in the last four years, and I therefore find it difficult to make these trades. But I can see that there will be many traders making hay in these situations.

So here is a list, embedded into my heart by personal misfortune, of those ladies I regard as 'mentally fragile'.

i. Elena Dementieva (much improved, but that serve is still suspect).
ii. Nadia Petrova.
iii. Svetlana Kuznetsova.
iv. Amelie Mauresmo.
v. Anna Chakvetadze.
vi. The Bondarenko sisters
vi. Agnes Szavay.
vii. Dominika Cibulkova.
viii. Nicole Vaidisova.

The latter three are at the early stages of their careers, so I wouldn't brand them for life. But in a match-up with Clijsters, I'll take the Belgian every time.

And my list of one on the ATP tour? Marat Safin. ( To anyone who was on Marat in Miami last night, sorry to rub it in ).

Saturday, 28 March 2009

My Saturday Night Blog Super-Post

As you probably haven't noticed, I've been messing about with my blog, having read a couple of articles which discussed how you can 'add value' by including a variety of information which may be of interest to others.

I've added a nice picture of Lichfield Cathedral somewhere near the bottom, and removed the ads, having found that I've earned $1.98 so far on Adsense. These may return if I am unable to make any cash on Betfair. I've also decided to force my musical tastes onto anyone who wanders down to the lower reaches of the blog.

So here goes, a post with added supplements.

i. Some detail of my day's Betfair activity. I placed a lay on Bahrain in the World Cup qualifier against Japan. They lost. I won £2.00. I then placed lots of other footy and tennis bets, and more won than lost. Sadly, each loss tends to be bigger than each gain.

ii. My Betfair P&L for the day.

iii. Something new I have learnt today. The Leeds Utd manager, Simon Grayson, is known to his friends as 'Larry'. This is bleedin' obvious to anyone over the age of thirty.

iv. My tip of the day. Read carefully. I quite fancy Rafa Nadal to beat Teimuraz Gabashvili in Miami. I may put £3.00 on him at 1.02. You might even be able to trade out for a guaranteed profit if he wins the first set.

v. What I would be saying on 'Twitter' ( if I had an account ). "I am playing on my laptop, whilst eating a Sticky Toffee Pudding I purchased from Marks & Spencer in Lichfield as part of their 'Meal for £10' promotion."

vi. What's in my digital holster ( I have seen this in a magazine ). My 17" HP laptop, a nice red 15" Sony laptop, an Ipod nano, and an Iphone. Well, my fourth Iphone in 15 months, actually. It's great when it works. Despite have a 'rubber-tyre' holder, I have managed to break three which have had to be replaced under warranty.

vii. More Social Networking info. I have no 'virtual' friends. My wife has 17 Facebook friends. They seem to post lots of pictures of their cats and dogs on Facebook. I know some people who I meet in the pub, or go to their houses occasionally. I think they are known as 'normal' friends.

Hope I have added value to your day.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

You're Fired

A quiet evening yesterday, most live sport having finished by the time I arrived home.

I still had time to have a red day, backing Arevane Rezai at one set up in Miami. She subsequently went all the way to 3 match points at 6-4, 5-4, 40-0 before capitulating woefully against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. My only solace was the knowledge that my loss was due simply to my sometimes lackadaisical approach to low stakes betting. I left the bet open way past a point where I could have greened up, and even went to make a cup of tea at 3 match points, only coming back as Rezai was struggling to hold her next service game. This wouldn't have happened if I was betting seriously, but I have to cut out these beginner's errors if I wish to make any profit, whatever my bank balance.

So at day 20 of my challenge, I have made £238, £14 behind target. I don't fancy my chances of regaining any ground in the next two evenings, but I'll have a good shot at it over the weekend.

I watched the series opener of 'The Apprentice'. I've never followed it closely before, but there had been plenty of promotion in the previous few days. I didn't see much positive in any of the candidates, I suppose this will come across as the series progresses. But why do the participants all need to talk over other people's conversation? Is it that difficult to let someone finish a sentence before having your say? It was bad enough that they constantly interrupted each other, but they wouldn't even let Sir Alan talk.

I've generally found it more useful to listen as well as speak.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

My Unsung Heroine

Take a bow, Jill Craybas. The veteran American's wins over the last couple of nights in the WTA Miami qualifying have won me a paltry £3.00. But it's not for this reason I salute Miss Craybas. We have to go back in time to June 2004........

I have never been in a betting shop in my life. I lost the occasional pound during the nineties via alcohol-fuelled evening meetings at Pontefract races, but could never see the fun in potentially losing money, whether at the bookies or in a slot machine. But as a big sports fan, with particular interest in footy and tennis, I was always willing to give an opinion on likely outcomes.

I think the catalyst for my entry into the world of sports betting was the delivery of a new computer, with a huge improvement in my internet performance. I came across the Blue Square website just as Wimbledon began, and decided to throw a few pounds into an account just to have a play. My first bet was typically a loss, the odds-on Michael Llodra going down against Cyril Saulnier ( where he now? ). So Miss Craybas takes the stage as my first ever win, my bet being on her higher ranked opponent, Magdelena Maleeva, who won in straight sets.

I quickly switched to a William Hill account ( better odds ), and in the following weeks and months I found betting on Craybas' opponents to be my own 'free money' system. Without having kept a detailed log of those bets, I'm certain that I made hundreds of pounds backing her misfortune for the rest of the year.

Four and a half years later, we're both still alive and fighting on. I've earned more in knowledge than cash - hopefully the next four years may be payback time. Jill Craybas' continued survival is probably more surprising than mine. Her disastrous second half of 2004 and early part of 2005 saw a slide in the rankings from 64 to 108 at the age of 30. This is generally terminal in the harsh week-on-week rankings chase of the ATP and WTA tours. But now, at 34, Miss Craybas remains in the WTA top 100 and led the United States team in February's Federation Cup tie versus Argentina. With no great weapons on the court, she has relied on experience and determination to maintain her career against the odds.

We need a few journeymen/women to keep the plethoro of talented teens in check. So, I give you, Jill Craybas.

Monday, 23 March 2009

National Pride. Not.

A good end to the Six Nations for England, including a reasonably emphatic win over France a fortnight ago.

You would also like to think that Fabio Capello's boys could currently give the French a severe test, home or away.

But tennis? We're not likely to find out in the near future with GB's recent demise in the Davis Cup qualifiers. And the position of English tennis has lately been hidden behind the young Scottish gentleman's heroics. But, prompted by coach Mark Petchey's calls for the LTA to disband and for a complete reorganisation of tennis in the country, I list for your perusal a section of the ATP rankings for comparison purposes.

8. Gilles Simon
10. Gael Monfils
11. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
25. Richard Gasquet
33. Paul-Henri Mathieu
44. Julien Benneteau
45. Jeremy Chardy
49. Florent Serra
50. Fabrice Santoro
53. Marc Gicquel
58. Arnaud Clement
60. Nicholas Devilder
82. Michael Llodra
130. Olivier Patience
132. Nicholas Mahut
135. Adrian Mannarino
136. Mathieu Montcourt
153. Josselin Ouanna
154. Laurent Recouderc
156. Alexandre Sidorenko
167. Edouard Roger-Vasselin
186. Eric Prodon
187. Josh Goodall


Saturday, 21 March 2009

Guide rather than target

I am away for the weekend, with a Golden Wedding anniversary celebration dinner tonight in Yorkshire, so I'll leave Betfair alone until Monday evening.

I updated my '£2k challenge spreadsheet' to take out any target for the weekend. I'm currently £24 ahead of my projection, and have a new £2k date of 4th May.

These facts assume I've been looking at the right column, unlike John Dyson, the West Indies coach during yesterday's West Indies / England game (check out Cricinfo.com if you've missed the story).

Anyway, there have been numerous blog postings recently regarding the positives and negatives of setting targets, particularly since Alex's recent challenge demise at 'bettingblog.org'. I used a weekly target when betting full-time, and I often felt a pressure to over-bet, particularly following losses. There can develop a mindset that it is essential to recover losses quickly to maintain the target position. This obviously leads to increased risk.

I believe the answer is to treat any calculation only as a guide to monitor your successes and failures, and learn to accept that one bad day will take a number of days to recover, particularly if you tend to bet odds-on as I do. With my current challenge, I have so far managed to do this, despite a couple of bad days. If I can confirm to myself that a 23% per week 'guide' is feasible with part time betting, then a £2k bank should give me around a £1,000 per month income top-up, even allowing for a few cock-ups.

Whilst this may not be as exciting as an annual £100k challenge, and is a long way from Peter Webb/Adam Heathcote territory, I'm perfectly happy to enjoy my betting and also make a decent profit. And I'm sure a more relaxed mindset will help if I'm ever forced down the 'full-time' route again.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

The Wrong Game

One of the most frustrating elements of betting is that, despite trying to learn from mistakes, and despite analysing your shortcomings and errors, there always seems to be a new way to cock-up just around the corner.

Alistair at 'Betyourlife.blogspot.com' often chastises himself for his mental failings, and his latest post revolves around the ease with which he can lose focus.

My own evening began with a classic cock-up, and a first-time error to boot, caused by the fact that I was never 'in focus' to begin with.

Whilst driving home from work, I was aware of UEFA Cup 2nd leg games that were underway in Eastern Europe. Upon arrival at home, I immediately turned on my laptop to look for betting opportunities. This is a recipe for cock-up opportunities.

The matches underway were the all-Ukrainian clash at Kharkiv, the third Ukrainian participant, Shakhtar to home to CSKA Moscow, and the Zenit/Udinese game. I opened up Soccerway.com, my usual footy stats link, to check the 1st leg scores. Kharkiv were 3-2 up with 10 minutes to go, and I was interested in the overall score situation. I noted that CSKA Moscow won their first leg 1-0, and in my head saw a situation where CSKA would just hold the position for the last 10 minutes for an 'away-goals' win. Er, you may have spotted that CSKA weren't playing Kharkiv. I didn't.

So I placed a lay on CSKA. Then followed a comic-book 6 or 7 minutes where I counted down the minutes in the Kharkiv game on one screen, whilst also looking at the Betfair screen for the CSKA game. Only at that point did the slow rate of change in odds trigger the realisation that I had bet on the wrong game!

Fortunately, no goals had been scored in either match, and I escaped rapidly for a £3.00 gain.

Learning outcome - only place bets when you have prepared yourself for the session, and have an adequate level of concentration.

Monday, 16 March 2009

The Curious Case of The 'Gem of Tanzania'

Sad news from the construction industry this week, with the collapse of the Shropshire based contractor Wrekin Construction resulting in 412 redundancies.

The administrators, Ernst and Young, have uncovered a bizarre twist while reviewing the ashes of the company's finances. Two years before the collapse, the struggling contractor issued £11 million of shares to a company owned by Derbyshire businessman David Unwin, in exchange for a ruby gemstone known as the 'Gem of Tanzania'. The result of this unique deal was to add £11 million to Wrekin's balance sheet, whilst no actual money was put into the business.

The highest price ever fetched at auction for a ruby is under £3 million, but the £11 million 'fair value' was accepted by Wrekin ( and presumably it's auditors ) based on a valuation supposedly from the Instituto Gemmologico Italiano, based in Valenza, Italy, on 31st August 2007.

A spokesperson for the Instituto is quoted thus - "That is impossible, because we were on holiday on August 31 2007.” She said IGI never assesses the price of gemstones, only the quality – and "the Valenza office does not even do that".

The obvious question? What on earth do auditors do? This looks like a classic business scam. Aren't auditors supposed to ensure these things don't happen? Yet this 'asset' sits on the company's accounts unquestioned.

Presumably the auditors in question will move onto the next client, whilst 412 people look for new employment.

Nothing shiny about this story.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Curse Of The Red Card

A shocking day, from transaction number 1 onwards. The intention was to place a couple of bets early in the day, make my 4% target, and then close down.

Then our heroic referees took over. In a single day, SIX red cards directly affected my results, and I ended up with a ten hour stint trying to minimise the damage to my bank.

The day started with a lay of Murcia in their Spanish 2nd division clash at Hercules. Everything was going to plan until Murcia had a man sent off when 2-1 down. I decided that the game was up, so backed the Hercules home win. 10 minutes into the second half, Hercules made it 10 men per side, Murcia equalised, and I traded out for a loss.

I followed with a simple lay on the Portuguese clash between Olhanense and Portimonense ( sorry if you have a lisp ). Both teams concede little, so lay 'Any Unquoted'. An early red card for the away team, so again I traded out for a loss when a second goal was scored within the first half hour.

I then had a good couple of hours, and just as I was getting ahead on the day our Spanish referees took over. Again, I had layed the 'Any Unquoted' on the Espanyol/Mallorca game, but when a red card was given to the home team when already 1-2 down, and half an hour to play, settling for a loss again seemed the sensible option.

Simultaneously, an ill-advised bet on Malaga to beat Sevilla (£50 at 1.19) was partially offset before yet another red card did for me. Sevilla equalised within three minutes of the sending off, and another £24 washed away.

To complete the carnage, the PSG/Marseille looked ripe for an 'Any Unquoted' lay. At fifty three minutes and a 1-1 scoreline, no problems. One red card and two Marseille goals in ten minutes, and my by now frazzled head could only bail out once again.

The end result ( subject to me spotting anything interesting at Indian Wells ) is a (£63) day. These leaves my bank at £543, £34 ahead of the calculated £509 as at day 9 of my challenge. So I'm quite happy that I've survived today's calamities with my challenge intact.

Particularly having followed Alex at Bettingblog.org.uk, who was sunk yesterday by Liverpool at Old Trafford.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

A Funny Old Game

In 'full-time' betting guise, my Saturday regime was generally to have a look around the day's odds from about 12.00, and then settle down for a long session at 2.00ish, only rising from my laptop around 7.00. I found this a difficult and tiring session, but an essential part of my week's profit generation.

In 'part-time' mode, I'm trying to increase the fun element of my betting, whilst maintaining a focus and discipline that will continue to improve my skills and strategy. My start to the day suggests I may have a little work to do on the focus element...
  • Place a 'safe' lay - Man Utd v Liverpool score 'Any Unquoted'.
  • Take a trip to Derby for a couple of hours shopping, in the knowledge I can always bail out if the score becomes uncomfortable.
  • Realise I've left my I-Phone on charge at home, therefore losing my ability to offset my lay.
  • Get back to my car at 2.40 just in time to hear the Five Live commentary describing Andrea Dossena's goal.
  • Contemplate my £34 loss.

I suppose this would have been a £315 bet a couple of weeks ago, so maybe I'd have ended up with a similar loss anyway. But it makes me look a little 'Mickey Mouse' for someone who was supposed to be making a living via Betfair until a couple of weeks ago. I still think the original bet was valid - I doubt there are too many gamblers, full or part-time, who foresaw today's events at Old Trafford, but I would advise against the 'place bet, go shopping' technique.

Anyway, my new challenge is going ok, with 8 successive winning days, and today has been the first day I've been under my daily percentage target. I'm sure the challenge will become harder once my bank/target increases.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Post Update!

Bloody hell, 10 minutes after I published my post and I've spotted another Bollettieri youngster about to make her WTA bow as a wild card at Indian Wells.

So good luck to Ajla Tomljanovic, 15 years and 8 months old.

Her opponent, Angela Haynes, ain't up to much, so I'll keep an eye on this match.

Latest Off The Production Line

Indian Wells tennis at the mo, and spent a little time yesterday following a tight game between the 18 year Ursula Radwanska and the 16 year old Michelle Larcher De Brito. Young, uncomplicated, naive talent, a la Wayne Rooney at 16? Don't you believe it.

A quick look at Miss De Brito's WTA profile gives a few clues - the model pose photoshot, and a residence in Bradenton, Florida. This is the home of the IMG Nick Bolletieri Tennis Academy (NBTA), and the young lady is the latest high-profile graduate introduced to the WTA tour.

The Academy has an excellent reputation for producing successful players, with current star graduates Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic, and a history including Agassi, Sampras, Hingis, Mary Pierce and more. There is a regular conveyor belt of wealthy Europeans happy to send their children to Florida with a dream of superstardom. I have no details of the fees involved, or the success rate, but I'm sure there are plenty of dads who've spent a large six figure sum and never seen their child make even a challenger tour event.

But enrollment certainly improves the odds of success. A quick look through the top 100's shows a stream of young talent - Nishikori, Mathieu, Hantuchova, Lisicki, Vaidisova, Azarenka, Golovin.

The latter has had an injury hit couple of years, and the history of both Sharapova and Jankovic show plenty of injury issues. And here may be the down side of the NBTA system. The player's talent ( and P.R. profile ) is groomed early, and players are introduced to the tour when their skills are ready, rather then when they are physically mature. But the history of talented teens is that many are injury-hit in later years. So keep an eye on Larcher De Brito's upcoming progress, but don't pin your hopes on her being around in ten years time.

If you want an example of how a young talent can be nurtured and controlled to avoid an early burn-out, and allowed the grow without too much media pressure, look closer to home. The teacher - Sir Alex, the pupil - Ryan Giggs.

Monday, 9 March 2009

And Away From Cheltenham.....

The third biggest sporting event this week ( after the Champions League and that other event ) is the WTA/ATP tournament at Indian Wells, California. My research uncovers the fact that in the year 2000, the City of Indian Wells had a population in 3,816. City? There are more people on the industrial estate down the road from me.

Of this huge population, 96.33% were white, and only 0.39% were black (er, that's 15). This may possibly have some bearing on the treatment the Williams sisters received a number of years ago from the crowd at the tournament.

Good on 'em, they subsequently told the organisers to shove it, and haven't been back since. I suppose it's easier to do this with $50 million or so in your back pocket.

It occurs to me that we'd be in trouble if Robbie Savage or Christiano Ronaldo took the same view.

Saturday, 7 March 2009


Ok, so my personal finances are in better shape than those controlled by these guys. But I hadn't really considered that an income gap would occur between the point where I cut back my betting activities and when I would be paid. Doh.

Something had to give, and my Betfair account has been raided. This means that I started today with a £383 bank. It's tough to get motivated to play with limited money and no target. It felt like I'd turned up for a five-a-side game to find that I was playing against a team of 9 year old girls.

I had a float around the betting blogs looking for inspiration and found a number of guys attempting challenges to build a target sum from a small starting bank, generally by daily or weekly percentage increases. I'm a little doubtful that most challenges won't end in disappointment.

Its pretty easy to make percentages on a small bank. In the last four hours I've made over 6%, despite also reading a batch of blog updates. But whilst I was happy to put £20 on the draw between Roma and Udinese at 1.21 with a few minutes left, and then leave it open beyond the point where I could have traded out, would I be happy to put £300 on a similar bet to achieve the same result? I doubt it.

But as a short term solution to keep me interested, and more importantly disciplined, I think a challenge may help. This seems contrary to my last post, where I noted that my daily targets were a problem to me. But with a three figure bank and a conservative percentage target, those pressures shouldn't be too great. And I can also experiment a little. It's tough to concentrate on the mechanics of trading techniques when you've still got another £90 to make in the day.

So I'm aiming to get to £2,000 by 2nd May, with a daily percentage target - 3% Monday to Wednesday, 2% Thursday/Friday, 4% Saturday/Sunday. Hopefully, at that point I can take things a little more seriously. I've knocked up a little spreadsheet similar to that used by BingBang (http://bingbangblogg.blogspot.com/ ), though not quite as colourful.

Oh, and the principles set out in my last post still apply.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Strategic Thinking

As I noted yesterday, I felt it was important to have a strategy for my part-time betting. The last 12 months or so have hopefully learnt me plenty of useful lessons to use going forward.

Whilst thinking through my strategy, I backed the 'Under 4.5 Goal' market in the Leverkusen/Bayern Munich game at half time (0-0). Just as I was noting the essential requirement to have an exit strategy, goals started flying in rapidly. I noted the need to stay calm at all times, only to find that sheer panic would have been a more useful exit strategy. 3 goals in 4 minutes, and my week was in the red.

Using my ability to find the positive from moments of despair, I noted that my bank now stands close to £1,500. So I have incorporated this fact into my action points:

i. Carry a bank of circa £1,500.
ii. No daily or weekly target. Whilst a target has been necessary previously, it has also been a major cause of bad decision-making.
iii. Every bet should have an exit strategy.
iv. Don't increase either risk level or stake following a loss ( my worst habit ).
v. Soccer and Tennis only!

My aims? To simply make a profit. I'm cautiously confident that using my skills over a few short sessions each week, at times when there is plenty of sport available, should allow me to create a steady profit to top up my new-found 'proper' income.

Many gamblers and traders hope to make a full time living on Betfair. I was forced down the full-time route by circumstances, and have always believed that I am more likely to make money from my 25 years experience in housebuilding than from gambling.

But I've learnt a useful skill. If I'm ever in the same position again, I'd be happy to revert to full-time betting rather than signing-on or taking a low-paid job in a different industry.

So it's time to clear my head, reset my P&L to zero, and start part 3 of my gambling adventure. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Show me the way to Amar...., er, Telford

I am officially 'Billy-2-Jobs', having fallen into another part-time position - that's two in three weeks. It's bizarre how these things happen, particularly as I wasn't looking, having given up on the construction jobs market. Hopefully this may be a sign of those 'green shoots of recovery' we're all hoping for. A 30 mile trip to Telford for two days a week, but a simpler way of making a full-time living than on Betfair (for me anyway).

So I am now a part-time gambler. For my next post I'll have to come up with a new strategy.

Oh, and Tony Christie? I went out for lunch yesterday and was followed most of the way home by Lichfield's No 1 celebrity.

By the way, Lichfield's No 2 celebrity is currently the top goalscorer in English League football. That'll be Matt Fryatt then...

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Early End To My Week

First major gig of the year tonight - Razorlight at Wolverhampton Civic Hall - so my week's betting ends now, at the end of the Man Utd / Villa games.

Glad I couldn't get a 1.01 on Villa at 80 minutes, I'd probably have taken it!

An unusually straightforward week, only two cock-ups ( excluding my foray into horse racing ) - I left open a bet on the Man City/Copenhagen score, confident that with seconds to go I'd be safe. Umm. I also got burnt by a quick changearound in the Baghdatis/Chardy first set tie-break.

The result - an on-target £700 week. This leaves me a little concerned. As I noted in last Sunday's post, I am working three days a week but have left in place a £700 target (adjusted on certain weeks depending on bank). Therefore, this week is deemed average and yet it seemed to go better than most weeks. I'm not convinced I can achieve this much money week in, week out.

Next week looks quiet, with only one WTA tournament and no men's tennis. So my target looks tough. I think I'll just try to collect whatever profit I can, and then work hard next week during Indian Wells.

At least I can have a lie-in tomorrow morning. It's my birthday!