Monday, 20 February 2012

Life Choices

On a couple of days in the last few weeks my income for the day has been reliant on the Betfair screen rather than any construction-based activity. Without wishing to regurgitate the never ending ‘full-time’ theme prevalent within the betting blog community, I felt it worthy of a post to compare a day on the exchanges against my main income providing days.

Firstly, I felt it important to make the time feel like ‘work’, and this entailed leaving my flat for a public place with Wifi access, to allow the day to be broken into sessions, whether for analysis or trading. It also allows for the laptop to be turned off and the session brought to an end at an appropriate point (after a loss, when sloppiness kicks in, or when I need another beverage). This does rather rely on having a couple of suitable coffee shops within close proximity of each other, but seems to work ok. It’s often helpful to have a couple of minutes of fresh air to reset your head during the day, and a walk between cafes fulfils this requirement.

The biggest negative for me is definitely the large amount of time available. This brings a huge amount of potential opportunities, and it requires plenty of patience to avoid over-betting. Additionally, an increased quantity of bets inevitably leads to losses. I have been ok with losing in recent times if my bets have been thought through. I remain susceptible to frustration if losses are due to mistakes. And over an eight/nine hour period, errors are more likely to occur than over an hour and a half on a weekday evening. In turn, I found that on more than one day, by mid afternoon I was frustrated and annoyed, regardless of my P&L position, after brooding over mistakes. The impact on profit had much less bearing on my mood than the nature of the error – hindsight can be a hopeless companion at times of stress.

A second issue is the ‘need’ to make profit/income. Many have commented that successful betting is about finding value and opportunity. This does not become available evenly over any time period, yet I am put in a position where I am committing a whole day to the exchange. I can’t simply come away from the day bet-free, having found no value. So anyone intending to bet as a sole income generator needs a strategy which finds an edge over a fair number of wagers, or in a sport which offers regular (if not daily) opportunities. Whilst a set target is probably unhelpful, I have found that with my style of betting (regular small wins from trades and lays) I am most comfortable if the daily profit is creeping slowly upwards towards a notional expected income, and that losses can be shrugged aside if the trend is upwards. My most difficult day was one which started with three successive losses, meaning that the remainder of the day was simply a damage limitation / recovery exercise. To spend over eight hours attempting to nudge upwards without chasing, in the knowledge that the day will still end in the red, is tough. At these times, a large bank may offer a potential ‘easy’ way out. So limiting a bank size so it is appropriate to your technique is probably more helpful to a novice. I’m sure those who have been successful in the long term will have overcome the frustration of errors, but I can admit that I never reached that point during my enforced period of Betfair reliance a couple of years ago.

As a comparison, most of my contract work comes with a set fee charged out, and at a fee level (once income tax has been deducted) that I would be happy at as a daily Betfair gain. The major negatives are also based around frustration – dealing with people I have little respect for, clients who believe they know everything, incompetence. But I am more confident that the income will be in the bank in a couple of months’ time. I would suggest that the successful full-time Betfair traders get more enjoyment out of a day on the exchanges than I have from my recent forays. I have found the days, whilst generally profitable, more stressful than a ‘normal’ day. More positively, I would also say that there can be a sense of achievement upon completion of a long session , particularly if you’ve worked your way through a few pitfalls to a profitable end. Every day? No thanks. But, as I have commented in the past, it’s a nice back-up plan in the event that a preferred career dries up.

I would suggest that there are far too many guys out there who have made some decent profits over a short period and think this can translate into a full-time career. I would venture that, unless your P&L shows profits of a magnitude you can live on comfortably over years, not months, the dream is best kept in a box, whilst you let someone else send a monthly salary cheque in your direction.

So who’s the bloke with a boat? Some metaphor for drowning in the gambling mire? The open seas of opportunity? No, but a link to an obituary found via Twitter. There is a tenuous link to the previous subject matter, in that John Fairfax (who died this month) lived out the latter part of his life playing the card tables for income. However, it was his previous exploits which captured the attention of someone on my Twitter timeline, and the following copied sentence which caught my eye –

‘At 20, he attempted suicide-by-jaguar. Afterward he was apprenticed to a pirate.’

Much of the debate about ‘hobby-as-career’ stems from an unhappiness with the mundane elements of life, and a hope that a flexible income stream will improve work/life balance. It’s something most of us over forty think about. Mr Fairfax certainly knew how to live life away from the norm. I’m not sure I’m ready to take such dramatic steps (yet).

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