This is a continuation of the story of how one of our team found a job behind a bookmakers trading desk.
In Part One, you hear about the journey of how I found myself to be behind a bookmakers trading desk. In Part Two you hear about how my initial nervousness caused me to create a palpable error, which most people would see as a bookie refusing to pay a bet. In this episode, we look at how they spot a consistent winner.
Can you really beat the bookie? Playing god over who is a winner and who is a cheater…
The bookmaker model
For all sports, a model kicks out the updated prices so there is no extra work involved, it’s just a case of keeping an eye on your position.
Everybody trades differently, some like to keep the liabilities very small and will tend to adjust prices regularly to balance the books, some like to take larger risks and are comfortable with large liabilities. They win big and lose big, but ultimately everyone ends up roughly around the same profit figure by the end of the year.
The model, combined with the bad betting traits of most punters, won’t allow you to lose money as a trader. There are individual and team targets set which are surprisingly low percentage-wise, but considering the huge turnover, it still amounts to a very healthy profit.
How bookmakers find consistent winners
Of course, amongst the majority of bad punters and losers that bookmakers are generally looking for, there is a select group of winning customers. People can win money regularly and consistently from a bookmaker, but they will eventually be restricted or have their account closed. If you are interested in why people get banned or restricted, here is why.
You won’t find much value on the main markets, but there is plenty of value to be had on some derived markets. Due to the nature of bookmaker’s wanting to increase turnover they are constantly looking to add more markets for customers to bet on.
From an in play trader point of view, it becomes extremely difficult to keep play betting through keeping track of all the prices across all the different markets. I have come across the same punters betting on the same markets day in day out, churning out long term profits. It could be a case of the model kicking out incorrect prices on a newly introduced market, or a market which is constantly overlooked by the trader.
But this is where the consistent winners at bookmakers lurk.
It is possible to beat a bookmaker?
Part of a traders role at a bookmaker is to seek out any customer who is ‘beating the bookie’.
Every bet which we take shows on our screens. With a click of the mouse, it brings up all the information on the gambler. We are looking for signs that he/she is shrewd. Do they win long term, do they specialise on particular markets/sports, have they taken advantage of arbs etc? Bets placed on the high street will get entered into the system. So don’t feel by using a betting slip in a betting shop, you are treated that much differently from online sports betting. We can still see betting patterns using increasingly sophisticated technology.
We will then recommend a punter to be restricted if we see these signs in their betting activity. If their account is restricted or closed, it won’t be long before a newly registered account appears with the punter betting on the same markets as the previously restricted account, with the same stakes etc. A closer look into the account shows a connection to the other account whether it’s via an address, IP address, surname etc. Another closed account followed by a new account and it goes on until the model is tweaked or the traders become aware of the market/situation.
So it is possible to win with the bookies, but it’s just about for how long! It’s a complex game of cat and mouse. Don’t be surprised if you are restricted when you bet or even end up with a refused bet.
Many shrewd punters will put an extremely large amount of time into making sure his/her accounts are never even looked at by the bookmakers. They use multiple accounts and attempt to spread out any profits made using exchanges. If you are showing profit in an account where that’s not really allowed, then move it to an account where ‘winners are welcome’.
Good customers (For bookmakers) – the rich and the losers!
Alongside attending meetings to identify problem gamblers and trying to promote awareness, we also have to identify punters who we can make more money from!
Customers who are betting to their maximum limit regularly, complete mugs with no concept of value with staggering amounts of money to blow….fantastic business. They are losing thousands of pounds, they want to bet more so we let them…we increase their limits. They become labelled as ‘valuable’ customers, the more they lose the more valuable they are to the business. They could be on any sport, horse racing, football or any sport. Often the betting was indiscriminate.
With these hefty contribution’s to the bookmaker’s profit comes a bit of special VIP treatment. Tickets to sporting events and other free gifts. The mega-rich punters at the top of these lists…celebrities, Sportsmen/women, ex-sportsmen/women, business tycoons etc. who seem to have unlimited funds, racking up losses in the hundreds of thousands, are obviously extremely important to the business. So much so that they have a team dedicated to looking after this elite group.
If they ever take advantage of a trader error and place 10k on Man Utd to beat Yeovil Town at 5/1 they are the only ones who will escape the ‘palpable error’ rule. The last thing they want to do is upset one of these guys when they get a big win and for them to take their business elsewhere. The poor trader who has made this error will have to take this hit on his figures, pretty much a case of paying for that mistake out of your wages.
Corruption in sport
I can’t really finish this section without touching on the issue of corruption.
In the time I was with the bookmaker, there was a list of ‘Tennis players not to trade’ which were growing with each day in my time there. As I mentioned before, the bookmakers aim to increase turnover at every opportunity, introducing new markets and also trying to cover every match of every sport possible.
This leads to us trading the very lowest level of Tennis in some cases. The prize money in some tournaments doesn’t even cover player’s expenses in some cases, so it’s no wonder this leads to ‘match-fixing’, players trying to add to their income by throwing the occasional point/game or match. The dodgy bets clearly stand out on these matches, mainly down to the size of the stakes compared to the overall liquidity/interest in the match. Game 3, Point 3, £500 on the receiver to win the point…….double fault. They would get away with it if they weren’t so greedy but after 5 consecutive winning bets and 5 double faults, they manage to build up enough evidence against themselves.
This activity is flagged and sent onwards to the appropriate authorities. Betting on something that is fixed like this, is just plain stupid for the punter and the sportsperson committing the crime.
Thank you for not winning!
I hope this mini-series gives you an insight into behind the scenes of a sports trader in a bookmaker. The playing god element of the bookmaker trader, deciding who are fair winners and who are the losers, certainly brings to light how corruption makes bookmakers nervous and unstable.
Seeing what goes on in a bookmaker made me pretty sure that, other than offers, there isn’t any way you can win long term with a bookmaker. But ultimately, that’s their business. It’s not a charity and they are under no obligation to accept customers or bets and they have to maximise returns for shareholders. It’s an ‘entertainment’ business.
But if you want to win long term then only betting exchanges like Betfair or Betdaq can offer you a way to win, where you use just skill to win and where you are not up against dark forces doing what they can to stop you!