Sunday, 28 February 2010

Psychological Scars

It’s all in the mind, this betting lark. I ended the day picking out a couple of successful lays from the US horse racing, rather than following the evening’s football. On a day when I’d not even bothered to check the tennis fixtures. I wouldn’t have put money on that happening six months ago. But it’s instinct to follow wins and back away from losses, and I’m currently being pulled towards racing.

Last weekend, I laid an away team in the Italian Second division. They won 5-0. So why did I open today’s betting with another away team lay in the same league ( Crotone )? They won 4-0, and it took me the rest of the day to bring my football P&L back to zero ( -£1.14 actually ). But having also taken a small loss on football on Friday evening, the losing start today left me in no mood to take on my usual Saturday afternoon football session. I’ve written before about placing bets with the expectation of losing, and starting the day with another loss put me in a negative state of mind. So I switched focus to the day’s racing, and a winning day followed.

I’m still struggling to understand how I’m being more successful with a sport I know little about, over two that I’ve been following for thirty years. But money talks, so racing will be given priority whilst it continues to give me profits. I’ve got a few ideas about my current mindset with different sports, but I’ll leave them for my month-end post. Which is coming soon – surely it’s not a month since my last summary?

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


Congratulations to Burnley’s former England Under 21 international Clarke Carlisle on his winning first appearance on Channel 4’s long-running quiz show ‘Countdown’. Clarke scored an impressive 89 points to his opponent’s 55. He previously won ITV’s ‘Britain’s Brainiest Footballer’ back in 2002.

Ashley Cole’s upcoming appearance on Sky 1’s ‘Are You Smarter Than A Ten Year-Old?’ remains unconfirmed.

Monday, 22 February 2010

My Weekend

In my last post, I wished for an easier betting day. So what happened? Two hideous days, too many hours in front of the screen, and a weekend where a final overall loss of £57 was a fairly decent result.

I’ve talked of a three-pronged approach, but it’s not helpful if you have two wonky prongs. I’ve backed away from tennis again over the last week, apart from the odd £20 back. I’m still too liable to be sucked into getting onto the wrong side of a flip-flop trade, and as soon as I upped my liabilities in an attempt to regain my confidence, I was immediately caught out. So back to square one. Then the weekend was a football nightmare. It started badly ( this is a recurring theme ). My first two lays ( Salernitana and Vicenza ) went down – Vicenza won 5-0! I struggled to make much headway on Saturday, but regained a little on Sunday until I was undone by a silly mistake – I forgot I’d placed a bet. The result went away from me, but instead of a probable £15 all-red, I ended up with a £44 hit. Three hours later, I took a three figure bath. I took my eye off the ball ( not literally ), failed to green up an unders trade and two late goals in the Zaragoza / Gijon game were too quick for me – ‘suspended’ market as I tried to trade out. That was the majority of the month’s football profits gone.

Fortunately, Saturday’s racing lays went like a dream. A 100% hit rate on the afternoon’s card. So overall, I can look back on the weekend as an escape from a potential bank meltdown. And, theoretically, there is more to be learnt from a tough day than an easy one.

What timescale should you use to determine your success with any particular type of bet, or any sport? My decision to curtail my tennis betting is based upon around 5 months of failure. Before that point, tennis was my dominant and most successful sport. But if I based my aims upon this February alone, I should pack in tennis and football and concentrate on racing. If I base my decision upon January, racing would be binned and football and tennis were profitable. For the whole of 2009, tennis looks better than football, but for the latter 6 months only, the reverse applies.

And I now have a 100% all-time record on BAFTA betting ( I layed Avatar in ‘Best Film’ ) so maybe I should concentrate on Specials?

Friday, 19 February 2010

Sliding Doors

The following episode is completely fictional, and any resemblance to any real characters or events is coincidental. It does, however, take into account real situations which sometimes arise in the author’s life.

A rare day off, so over breakfast I peruse the day’s sporting day ahead on Betfair. The morning consists of a couple of tennis tournaments from Doobuy and Marsay. The afternoon brings jumps racing from Camberwick Green and Trumpton, and all-weather on the fibresand at Chigley. The evening is dominated by the return of the UEFA Leyland-Daf Trophy games pitting the, er, 'quite good' teams from Europe’s top leagues against each other.

I review the women’s tennis fixture list, but decide that my time is better spent catching up with a few jobs around the house. I return to the Betfair screen around 1.30, and open up my usual websites for horse racing info, before checking out a couple of blogs for any useful tips. I decide that I’ll keep my stake between £4.00 and £8.00 for each lay. I give the first couple of races a miss, and start with a lay of a favourite on the all-weather, based on the comments on the Racing News website. A nice £8.00 win to start. I work my way through the afternoon, finding seven more races to participate in, six wins, one losing lay of a favourite, and I’ve got a decent day’s profit to take into the evening. I have a break for a few hours, and come back half an hour after the start of the evening’s first batch of football matches. I decide to just keep my eye on the scores and look for any small opportunities. I nick a couple of quid here and there, before reviewing the fixtures for the later kick-offs. Decide on a couple of lays of teams from perceived ‘weaker’ leagues, and settle down to watch the televised game where West London’s Brentford are taking on a Brazilian team with a number of Ukranian players in their side. I have a scare when one of my lays, Henin-Ardenne, take the lead but I hold my position and the Athletic Balboa equaliser is not too long in coming. Two winning lays, and a decent day allows me to happily turn off the laptop at 10.00pm, job done.

Sadly, this fictional text is more hope than accurate reflection of a typical day. Whilst I regularly finish days with a successful final outcome ( for me that’s a P&L in the £50 - £100 range ), it rarely seems to go as simply as the above suggests. The first problem is that, given a choice of jobs around the house or following the tennis, I find myself pulled into the WTA mire ( that’s the ‘Sliding Doors’ moment! ). And often I seem to have an ‘out-of-body’ experience when following women’s tennis. Part of my brain is telling me to lay low, but the instinct to back my selection is too powerful. By the time I finally regain control of my body, the odds have swung against me and I take a disgruntled all-red. My selection immediately fights back and goes on to win in crushing fashion. By the time the racing starts, I’m already chasing profits after a losing morning. I now place £10.00 to £20.00 stakes, and to avoid risking too much of my bank I’m looking for shorter priced lays. And rather than finding eight decent opportunities from three race meetings, I’m now involved in fifteen races. And I’m still in a bad mood from the morning! I therefore endure a stressed afternoon, simply because my liabilities are too high. And if I’m unable to regain my position in the afternoon, I often take that high intensity mindset into the evening’s football.

There’s often satisfaction to be gained from fighting your way to a decent profit. But it would be nice to have a few more easy days along the way.

I’m sure most readers will have seen this latest Visa TV commercial. I’m particularly drawn to it because of the music track – ‘Isla de Encanta’ from the 1987 debut EP ‘Come On Pilgrim’ by the mighty Pixies. Cracking advert.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

The Anniversary Post

Yes, one year ago today I wrote my first blog post. I’ve managed nearly a post per two days over that time and hopefully a few of them have been worth reading ( or if not, had a nice picture ). I’ve seen plenty of other blogs come and go, and many people seem to stop from disappointment at a lack of feedback rather than blown banks. Whilst I appreciate any input from fellow punters, I also enjoy writing the posts – if you don’t have an urge to write, you’ll soon get bored of posting into what occasionally seems like an empty void.

A year ago I was struggling to make an adequate living from full-time betting on Betfair. This ‘full-time’ status was not particularly by choice, but having had my plans for the future knocked off course by what is now universally known as the ‘credit crunch’. I had done a 25 year stint in the housebuilding industry, generally working for major national companies, and had come to a point where I needed a change. I finished work at the end of 2007, but the world changed pretty quickly and 2008/9 became a really bad time to start up a business and risk all the capital I had built up over my career. So I gave the Betfair route a go to tide me over, and I have never regretted that full-time stint, even if I achieved more from an educational perspective than a financial one. I didn’t make a conscious decision to go back into employment, but offers came my way and I happily took on work which has generally been less lucrative than my former career, but has often been more rewarding and certainly had more variety. And with the benefit of not having to deal with bleedin’ accountants all day – I’d chuck ‘em in the same deep well as the bankers.

I’ve certainly reached a point where if work dried up completely, I’d be back in front of the Betfair screen rather than at the Jobcentre. As any regular reader will know, my inconsistency and lack of concentration mean that I have spent much time recouping losses during the year. But, when I set myself properly for a session, I am capable of making steady profits. And those spells of good results do seem to be getting longer. If I could guarantee that I could avoid those careless and grumpy days where I tend to throw away chunks of cash, I’d be onto a winner. But I remain a work in progress. And I’m still at a stage where it’s easier for me to earn £100 working than through trading on Betfair.

I do scratch my head at the amount of bloggers for whom full-time trading is the stated goal. Yes, there are traders out there doing very nicely, but as well as trading ability you need many other attributes to succeed. It can be a pretty solitary existence ( this may be why so many choose to blog – communication with the outside world ), and when results are going against you there are few around you to chat things through with. One of my own failures during that period was to get sucked into bets I should have avoided, simply because of the pressure to make a profit. Whilst the experienced will tell you to avoid daily targets, if you need £3k a month to live, it’s obvious that you’ll wish to achieve a £100 profit on most days. Some days it’s just not possible, and that’s the time to turn off the laptop and paint a fence ( or a landscape if that’s your thing ). But the opportunities to bet are still there, although often in areas of sport you know little about. I have lifetime losses on sports as varied as handball, volleyball, ice hockey and snooker. I certainly don’t see full-time trading as an easy option – the stress of watching a WTA 6-1, 5-1 lead disappear to one-set-all is more stressful than most days I’ve worked in my career.

I suppose the major changes in the last twelve months have been my introduction to horse racing ( despite my first attempt here ), and also a bad spell of tennis results in the latter part of the year which knocked my confidence. Tennis has been my main betting sport for much of the last four years, but I’ve never found it as difficult to pick winners as I have in the last six months. So I’m moving into 2010 with a three-pronged approach ( tennis, footy, racing ).

As I write this post, I’m feeling confident. But that may be just a couple of weeks’ decent results making a difference to my mood. In twelve months time things may be very different, but at the moment the blog ( and me ) will keep plodding along steadily.

I tried to find my favourite song from the last twelve months to finish the post, but got down to a shortlist of two I couldn’t split. So I have included them both.

Friday, 12 February 2010

100% Committed?

This, as I'm sure most readers will know, is Miss Ana Ivanovic, from a recent photoshoot for Sports Illustrated magazine. With a world ranking which has gone from 1 to 23 in just over a year, and a dismal start to the 2010 season, have we seen the best of Ms A ( in terms of tennis )?

Presumably S.I ( and plenty of other magazines ) will pay decent money for similar photoshoots. This seems like considerably easier work than spending six hours a day practising two-handed backhands. With Henin and Clijsters back on tour to up the level of competition markedly, it may be that at the age of 22, Ivanovic may head in the same direction as Anna Kournikova, with more calenders than trophies in the cabinet. Right at the top of any professional sport is a place for the determined, committed and seriously talented. Without all three of those factors in place, it becomes a slippery slope downhill.

With a regular batch of injury issues, including that serious shoulder problem, I'm guessing that Maria Sharapova ( currently ranked 16 ) may also never reach those heady heights again. It's a pity, but pro tennis is tough, and these girls have got millions in the bank and the opportunity to make millions more without having to swing a racquet.

So we need some new glamour in the sport. Kleybanova or Suarez Navarro anyone?

Thursday, 11 February 2010


I’ve read on a few blogs recently how guys are expanding their range of sports beyond their areas of expertise, often simply because of the daily betting opportunities available – I’ve done the same with my toe-dipping into horse racing. My own experiences suggest caution, due to the differences in how each sport operates in terms of markets.

Occasionally, when I am away from home at the weekend, I will have a look through the Saturday three o’clock fixtures, and have a small punt on a few matches, usually around six or seven. It’s probably not that surprising that the outcome is often a profit hovering around zero. However, I generally only bet on football matches when I’m in a situation to trade out as events unfold. I’m regularly cautious, preferring an early all-green, but I’ve also learnt to give myself cover positions which limit the size of any all-red positions I take. I’m sure many football punters do likewise. I pick a starting point based on what I think is likely to be the outcome of the game, and then with each goal scored ( or red card shown ), I re-evaluate my trade and sometimes switch my liabilities based on the current situation. It seems to be a profitable approach.

I have found that using a similar approach in tennis can put you in a heap of trouble. Without having completed a detailed trawl of my betting records, I can confidently say that if I had always held my initial back in place to the completion of matches, I would be considerably better off than I have been when trading my positions. As I noted recently, no sport is more likely to turn an initial £20 bet into a £50 loss. The problem – decent players tend to be able to get themselves out of a hole. But in three set matches, it takes nerve to hold your position when the first set goes against your selection. I have commented regularly on tennis trading ( and why I’m not very good at it! ), and I believe that for someone with a pre-race trading background, tennis could be a very profitable area. The profit should be made in anticipating what may happen to odds throughout the match, rather than the eventual outcome. Often the initial back may be on a player you expect to lose. That’s a tough mental swing from picking winners, but reasonably straightforward if you are a trader by instinct. But like anything, a new area takes time to learn. Take care.

I had an early finish to work yesterday, and was home in time to have a look at the 4.10 at Southwell. The favourite, Rebel Rebellion, was priced up at 1.15. On the Racing Post website, trainer Charlie Mann was quoted thus ‘There are no dangers to this horse. He’s the best bumper horse we’ve ever had and all being well he’ll be going to Cheltenham’. Unsurprisingly, he romped home. But I couldn’t bring myself to put money on at that price, even with that ringing endorsement from the trainer, and he knows considerably more than I do. I suppose you have to keep in mind that one in seven of these mega-jollies will fall over. And it’s bound to be the one I’ve lumped on. Many will stay completely away from this sort of price, but I’ll happily take one on in football matches if I think there’s value. But I’m still a novice (early promise, may need blinkers) at racing, so I’ll keep away for the moment.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Being A Football Fan

It’s bloody stressful. I follow the fortunes of my local club, Burton Albion, and they’re in a tidy mid-table position, 20 points ahead of the relegation zone, just where a newly promoted club would wish to be. However, my main allegiance is with my hometown club, Leeds. Great, you may think, with a win over Manchester United under our belts in recent weeks. But the season is all about getting out of League One, and we’re reaching that point of the season where you keep an eye on not just your own team’s results, but of those teams around you in the league table.

I think the recent exposure in the FA Cup has made things worse for a naturally pessimistic fan. Everyone I talk to assumes we’re all but promoted, based on televised performances that won’t matter a toss at the end of May. But Leeds left Victoria Park, Hartlepool today with a single point, and would be pretty relieved to see both Norwich and Charlton fail to win. This is Leeds’ third season in League One, and they have begun the last two seasons as favourites for promotion. The main concern would be that the energy used in those titanic cup ties may take it’s toll on the squad, and a bad run could suddenly bring Norwich and Charlton level. Then it becomes a nail biting last couple of months of the season (again).

I held a view that the team’s key players – Snodgrass, Kilkenny, Kisnorbo, Beckford – should have been left out for the cup games. Simon Grayson has had plenty of plaudits for the cup performances in the last month. If Leeds aren’t promoted, he’ll be on the scrapheap. Let’s hope that the early season form can be reinstated now that the diversion is out of the way, and that his decision to play full-strength teams against United and Spurs doesn’t backfire.

As a gambler I’m naturally optimistic. I generally start each Betfair session expecting to win. As a footy fan, I spend all my time waiting for the wheels to fall off. Maybe it’s just from many years of yo-yo results and trauma. It isn’t that long ago I watched a Champions League semi-final at Elland Road!

The play-off system has improved football in this country. But it’s certainly put more fans in a position to have shredded nerves and fingernails from April onwards. So, if your team is in a tight spot, positive or negative, good luck. And it might be worth getting in a few packets of Kalms.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Laugh Or Cry?

A decent day. If you wish to know why I come away from it with a feeling of frustration, refer to the first paragraph of my last post.