When I opened my Betfair account in June 2000, I was hopeful that I would make a little bit of spare cash. I initially was doing some arbitrage betting, which brought it some ‘pocket money’.
But while messing around with that, I figured out you could trade and rest, as they say, is history!
My initial objective
Not long after discovering all the possibilities that Betfair trading offered, I decided to quit my job and go for it. My first consideration was what I would need to achieve to consider it a success?
My initial thought was that if I could make £100k, not only could I prove that I had invented a betting system that actually worked, but that I had carefully and meticulously gone about it in such a way that, without doubt, it couldn’t be called a fluke.
I coupled this with the thought that my last full-year salary in my last ‘normal’ job was just short of £80k. So realistically, I would need to beat that to consider my career as a full-time gambler a success. Otherwise, why not just stay in my job and continue to work my way up that slippery pole?
So my initial objective was set, £100k would be a success.
Unleashing the true potential
Back when I started, I was trading without Bet Angel.
I was writing a weekly column for a Traders magazine at the start, and there seemed to be a lot of opportunity on the table that I was missing compared to financial markets. So that’s why I headed down the route of creating Bet Angel, even before Betfair had an API.
The more I explored the markets, the more opportunities I found. The more money I invested in Bet Angel, the cleverer I could get in the markets, and the opportunity ballooned.
I quickly realised that not only was this the opportunity of a lifetime for me, but it would also be much bigger than I expected.
I’ll never forget the joy of my first £100 day, then my first £100 market. Then I wondered if £1000 a week was possible, then £1000 a market. Slowly but surely, the targets and objectives started growing as I pushed hard to figure out just what was possible.
This was a clean shot at doing something special, far beyond what I imagined.
How my objective changed
When I started trading, I knew everything I wanted to do and finding a profitable strategy was a reasonably easy objective to reach.
But I quickly realised there was another issue, market size. If I wanted to achieve something really special, then I needed the market to grow.
You learn quickly that if you put some money into a market, the market can ‘see’ you and push against whatever you did. So you had to be clever if you wanted to put decent sums through a market. The only way to do that is for your orders to get ‘lost’ in the market. You need big markets. This is why I like the higher turnover markets.
As time wore on, my universe of markets I could trade to the full extent started to shrink. This is why you see me get excited about major sports events and less enthusiastic about smaller ones. They are all tradeable, but the potential is much more significant in a bigger market.
But I realised quickly that part of my remit to the industry was to positively promote the benefits of exchanges. Even if it wasn’t worth me trading some markets, that wasn’t a problem for most, and with a bit of luck, the markets would grow in aggregate.
This was easily the best chance people would ever get to profit from betting, and as somebody that was doing that, it seemed sensible to talk about it.
The shady master plan
I’ve always been amused by people who have queried the legitimacy of what I do. Is there a shady master plan at hand? Is this even possible?
For over two decades now, I’ve just ignored all the negative things and have just been doing the best I can in the markets. I do this knowing that this is a generational opportunity like no other. So it’s incredible to watch people still ponder if it’s worth looking into.
I sort of don’t blame people for a bit of scepticism. It didn’t take long for the industry to be populated with people who want to make money from people trying to make it work for them; you expect that. But the sheer number has made it difficult to beginners to really figure out precisely what they should be doing. So it’s no surprise people get confused.
But as soon as I started to work at a higher level, I began to wonder what was possible. Rather than just trying to find something that would work, which I worked out quickly, I wanted to see just how far I could take it.
Why I’ve remained motivated all these years
There was one thing I knew I needed to do if I wanted to continue for years. That meant genuinely understanding the market and what to do in it. No fast pictures or exploiting a loophole for me. If I wanted to do this for a long time, I needed to get under the market’s skin.
I was soon betting thousands a day, then per event, then ten of thousands, and during big markets, it could rise to hundreds of thousands per day and millions a week given the right markets.
That is way off the radar of what most people would expect, but I still thought I would gun for the ‘impossible’. Something on a scale that would be difficult to believe and may never be replicated. I’m at the stage where I think I’ve probably achieved that.
For the last twenty years, I’ve gone for it. To the point where I’ve shaped a lot of my life around trading.
I been working nearly every Saturday, holidaying in the winter, and have added automated strategies to my manual betting/trading mix. Expanding strategies, new sports, markets, and different ways of trading. I’ve explored a lot. The latter part of my career focused on refining what I do by studying behavioural science. All this is to find where the limit is.
I’ve now operated at such a high level that I think it will be difficult to replicate that on its own. But you would also now have to do it for twenty years, at scale, almost every day. Add to that, the markets have not grown, and some are in decline, meaning it would take longer to reach the same numbers. Also that commissions are much higher. But finally, we can’t ignore that the betting industry hasn’t exactly embraced betting exchanges.
Suddenly you can see it’s going to take more than twenty years to match my last twenty. I think I’ve now achieved that objective of doing something that would be difficult to replicate, not only in terms of scale, but also in terms of what it takes to achieve it.
It’s funny, but when I started, I was driven by money. Could I make £100k or so? But as time wore on, that ended up not being my objective at all; the achievement drove me forward and kept me pushing boundaries. Basically, what else could I discover?
I hope that a more significant opportunity comes along, and I’m always actively working in the background looking for that opportunity. My career has taught me that I wouldn’t rule anything out.
As I’ve gradually automated elements of what I do, that’s freed me up a bit and will allow me to spread my wings. With the US market getting active again, it may be time to look there again. But I am at that point where my initial objective has been left in the dust, and I’ve ‘lived the dream’ for want of a better word.
So if you doubt the opportunity, don’t. It’s been there for a long time, and how the market works and people participate in it creates that opportunity.
One of the reasons I’ve been coy about exactly what I’ve achieved is that I do not expect nor want people to try and replicate or operate at the same level; that’s highly unusual. Ultimately you should participate on your own basis and for your own reasons and have reasonable expectations. Most people lose money when starting out, which puts many people off going any further.
You can learn from what I do and say, but do it on your terms.
As we approach the end of the year, I’m starting to reflect again and wonder what I want to achieve next year.
One thing I do have now is choice. I can decide what I want to do, even if that is doing nothing for the rest of my life. If I look back at the start of my working career, I guess that was the dream. I just didn’t imagine that it would be betting that would allow me to do that!
But the reality is, I actually really enjoy doing this. Whether it’s betting, trading or investing, the first thing I think about when I wake each morning is what I will learn today. The fact that money is the way you a measured is a bonus.
So if you want to know why I’m still motivated, it’s because I love what I do; it doesn’t feel like a job. I’m not sure it ever will.