How it started, how it’s going….

They say in life two things are certain, death and taxes. I’m almost certain that one other thing will happen though. I can imagine it now, I’m lying there on my death bed, my life is slowly ebbing away and finally, I’m gone. I’m pretty sure at that point a message will be sent somewhere saying……

See, I told you he doesn’t trade anymore!

Starting out

As I write this blog, it’s the same week that Betfair was launched back in June 2000. That means that I’m very close to crossing over into year 22 of my Betfair trading journey. If you would have told me all those years ago that I’d still be trading now, I would have scoffed at the thought.

Let’s face it, I got a bit lucky. was an early internet adopter, had worked in the industry, I was very familiar with financial market trading and I was taking an active interest in the VC circuit during the dot com boom. But of course, finding an opportunity and doing something about are very different things. But find an opportunity I did.

I remember the moment I discovered the concept of betting exchanges, even before they were launched. They seemed such a great prospect! Before long I had signed up discovered how to trade and that made me think this could actually be a life-changing moment. It was.

I quit my job and off I went into the unknown.

Complete failure

One of the most curious things about my journey is how sceptical people have been, I really hadn’t expected that. That said, I expected it at the very start. I mean, how many times has somebody actually, honestly, found a way to make money betting?

But of course, it really was different this time as ‘all’ you had to do was be better on average than others on the exchange. As my journey continued onward to every higher height I felt that surely, surely, people would be able to work out what was possible. But they didn’t, but that experience led me into a completely new area to explore and pushed me higher still.

But it’s an unfortunate fact that, for all their many massive advantages to joe punter, betting exchanges have never really become front and centre of the betting world. You find all these years later that the way betting is promoted, including exchanges, feels more like something that I would still recognise from my first foray into the bookies, back in the early ’90s. The general betting narrative hasn’t really changed, perhaps deliberately, and therefore they still remain a niche of a niche, in a niche, in a geographic niche.

When you look a the technological advancements elsewhere, it feels like a complete failure of the betting industry to provide an experience that is in touch with modern standards. It’s no wonder the industry has such a terrible reputation.

This is one thing I got very wrong. I’d imagined that by now exchanges would completely dominate the betting markets around the world. But this vision has proved some what errant and the attitude and reuptation of the industry means I still find myself dodging the question of ‘what do you do for a living’.

How’s it going

I hate bringing Warren Buffett into something to do with Gambling, as he has often qouted his dislike of the industry, but I once heard him discuss corporate governance.

An audience member once asked him about what advice he would give to somebody running one of his business. His answer was quite simple, “Imagine you wake up tomorrow and all of your secrets and splashed across a newspaper. Think about how you would react and feel if that happened, then base your decisions on that.”

I’ve probably slightly paraphrased that sentence given the time I first heard this, but it’s a brilliant piece of advice that I’ve taken on board in my entire career. This is why I feel it’s really important for me to ‘eat my own dog food’ on the Betfair trading front. I know that’s unusual in the industry and probably not necessary, but it’s important to me.

I’ve also taken a lesson from when I was trying to win a major dividend on the football pools. When I finally did it, it was instantly dismissed as just a bit of luck. The fact I’d actually won hundreds of minor dividends in the run-up to that big win, a mere minor detail.

Why I collect lots of data

So when I started trading, I knew that record-keeping was going to be something I did from day one. Not only would it be able to document my entire journey, but it would also allow me to quantify, test and improve all my strategies.

I still have the spreadsheet from the very first bet on Betfair. All subsequent activity is carefully filed by month and year. It’s actually quite cumbersome to do this each week, but many times I’ve used data, notes or references from prior years to solve a problem at some point in the future. It turned into a treasure trove of information. I use it as the basis on which to construct models for all my strategies.

One of the other reasons I do this is it also allows me to show, unequivocally, what I’ve achieved. Since the premium charge was implemented I haven’t had to archive so much data as, unfortunately, I get a summary each week! But now and again I will contact Betfair anyhow, and get them to confirm certain things. I’ve had to do this sometimes when I’ve done press work, but it also helps me chase down some very long term targets.

I display some of these on my wall in my office so that people who come here know what is actually possible and get some context of what it takes to achieve that. When David came to visit me he saw this and kindly did an unprompted write-up. Have a read of his blog and the rather bizarre comment it got.

It’s a common theme and something that isn’t new to me anymore. I’ve come to terms with it and accept that it’s pointless arguing with people who don’t want to understand, it just seems a waste of energy. I’d much prefer to spend my time helping those that can see the vision.

Optionally, sit down and put in the hard work that I and many others have done. Betfair markets match tens of BILLIONS a year and if you are looking for a great opportunity where you can compete on a level playing field, there it is. Even if you are only slightly better than average, you will do just great. But also accept it will take some time and effort to become good at it, just like any other skill.

Now and the future

So, this blog is a slightly long-winded way of saying that as I enter year 22, I’m still as active as ever and intend to be for the foreseeable future. But it’s inevitable that I will eventually reduce my activity.

Why? Well, I am getting older and as you age you start to focus on how much time you have left to fulfil all your dreams. There are a few things still left on the bucket list that don’t age well. I’ve ticked a lot off, but there are still a few I’d like to achieve outside of my day to day stuff.

So far, I think I’ve done a great job of balancing off the various life demands as I’ve gone along. I never actually planned to be going for this long, but you inevitably start to wonder when you should stop? One mistake I’ve made is that I never actually set a bar for ‘success’, so I ended up finding myself with no reasonable measure for it! I just kept on pushing at the boundaries of what was possible. In hindsight, I think I would set a demonstrable measure to reach.

One of the potential limiters for me is the fact that the market is not growing. I now have large interests outside of my sports trading, which need a lot of attention. So I think it’s reasonable that whichever grows fastest will probably get more attention in the future. But, as I have mentioned above, I still feel it’s important to continue trading. Aside from the ethical stance, it’s still perfectly possible to make it very worthwhile.

One thing that has helped me over the last decade or so is automation. I still love to trade, so I sit down most days and actively manually trade. But when I do this, automation acts as a supplement to my manual trading when I am behind my desk. Whether I decided to trade manually or not, automation now runs pretty much 24×7 for me across a range of events. Some of it actively trading, some gathering data, some waiting to pounce on an opportunity. Automation or semi-automation has really allowed me to reach a new level and remain active in the second half of my Betfair trading career.

And with that, exactly what constitutes ‘remain active’ nowadays?

Around major meetings, I capture all my bet history from Betfair and archive it for analysis. I would do this for all my activity in my early days, but it’s too cumbersome and unnecessary to do that nowadays. But last Saturday, to make a point, I archived my bet history on Betfair and summarised it on a pivotable, you can see the summary in the image below.

The summary shows that on Saturday I traded just short of £345k through the markets. I trust this gives you an appreciation of what is possible if you are prepared to work hard at what you do.

Curiously the middle number is my manual trading, which I think is the opposite of what people expect. The only ‘special’ thing going on with these numbers is 20 years of experience and that Saturdays are the busiest day of the week. These are the days where I really go for it, focusing on doing as much as I can on as many events as possible on the biggest day of the week. We also had the Derby on this day which helped a bit, despite being some way below expectations.

I realise these numbers seem high. But if you are trading properly then you should match a lot on a busy day, even if you are using small stakes. That’s one of the amazing benefits of using a betting exchange and trading on it. If you want to understand how it’s possible to hit large numbers while still using small stakes, I explain more about this, in this blog post with a similar example.

Regardless of where my future is, I’m still going to keep doing everything I can to tell my story, so that many others will still have the opportunity to do some of the things that I have done. I realise trading isn’t for everybody and that I’m unusual in a number of different aspects. I also don’t want to set unrealistic expectations for sure. But on the other hand, can you imagine going through the same journey and not getting enthusiastic about it?

So if you have realistic expectations, approach things sensibly and do things for the right reasons, then go for it! The opportunity is still there. You shouldn’t aim to replicate what I have done, but you should pursue something that you want to do, have some passion for and where you think your skills or knowledge will give you an egde.

If you do that and work hard at it, I’m sure you will reach your goal. But don’t forget to set one!!!!

Betfair launch - The bookie is dead

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