In 2007, I was grinding away struggling to earn a decent living at a chemical plant in the next town along
The work was easy enough and if you've ever worked in such an environment you'll know that the social side of manual work has a lot going for it but I think it's natural to want more out of life.
Around September 2007, it became evident that numbers on site would shortly be reduced, mainly due to rising costs but predominantly because of the strengthening of economy in China which had left my firm unable to compete on export.
Unfortunately (or not as it turned out) I was one of the people selected for redundancy on account of years of service.
At the time I was extremely concerned about the normal stuff…. Bills, kids to feed, cars to run, Christmas fast approaching and a longing for something better out of life.
Luckily I had some savings which allowed me a little scope to pursue a different avenue of work, one that suited me better whilst affording me at least the same standard of living as I had become accustomed to.
I did a Health and Safety course at some personal expense but decided against doing it full time as I really want a shift away from dependency on somebody else for a living.
I actually returned to work temporarily on a power station in the South East and whilst I was glad to be able to replenish the savings, it merely reaffirmed that it really wasn't what I wanted to do anymore.
I had always had an interest in betting, throwing a few quid on a 'tip' here and there and enjoying days out at the races but I had always been of the opinion it was a 'mug's game'. Indeed, I had family members and friends that were borderline addicts and would watch in dismay at them punt away their wages on a Friday on dogs and horses about which they knew absolutely nothing.
However, the mathematical side always held some allure and despite being fairly risk-averse and modest, I was one of those people that 'knew' there was a way to beat them. I just had no idea what it was or quite how long it would take me to work it out.
I'd had an interest in arbitrage and explored this in some detail giving me a much better understanding of the maths involved and how the prices related to probabilities. This was an important step already in place and without this foreknowledge, I have no doubt at all I would eventually have given it a miss and gone back to full time work.
Despite this interest in betting in general, until this time, Betfair was quite a mysterious concept to me, mainly because I couldn’t get my head around the “Laying” aspect of bet placement.
I had seen the adverts “Best Price at Betfair”, “100% Books”, “Be a Bookie” etc...........and at the time I was really intrigued about the possibilities.
My only ever bet attempt on Betfair at this point was a lay bet on England to win the World Cup in 2006. As always, and certainly in those days, I knew they were hopelessly over-bet and had little chance of winning anything.
I learned to my dismay that I needed the £800 in the account before I could lay the £100! .... I never really bothered with it after that for quite some time.
Horses – Where Everybody Starts!
When I finally got to toying with Betfair more seriously, I started (as most do) on the Horse Racing markets.
With an interest in arbitrage, I had been curious as to whether or not I could simply back manage my bets over the course of a morning so as to ensure a profit on all runners. This was quite complex and the idea quickly degenerated into just backing the favourite in the morning and trying to lay it at a lower price later on in the day before the race started.
The idea of a guaranteed profit before anything had even happened was very appealing to me and I was firmly of the belief that this idea of mine was a really novel thing that very few people would ever have thought of.
It was a random google search for horse racing stats on prices traded that alerted me to a forum called Geeks Toy. It was a fledgling community at that point but in the ensuing days, I quickly learned that not only was my idea very primitive, there were also many thousands of other people doing much the same things as me and what I had discovered, was not in fact very novel at all.
This was deflating but I figured there was at least plenty of information on the process so, perhaps in arrogance but more likely some Dunning-Kruger type effect, maybe I could figure out a better way of doing it.
During my early research I’d read all sorts about how easy it is to just follow the money and jump in front and take the profits. The reality (learned at a cost!) however , was entirely different and I soon discovered that the old strategies simply didn’t work any longer.
If they did, they wouldn’t be plastered in the public domain would they?
What I needed was just a profit on a consistent basis. I was firmly of the belief that if I could come through a day without losing, then I'd be on the right track and so I began playing with some fairly primitive strategies on Horse markets and later Greyhound races.
At the time, Aus racing and US racing was perfectly tradeable and so I'd start at 5am with the Aus racing, trying to pinch a little bit out of each race... go through the day on the GB racing and then into the evening on the US races.
They were long days and I was averaging around £0.60 a race which rounded to around £250 a week on a good week. I was happy to be winning but I'd just come out of a job where I could pull that comfortably in a 10 hour day.
We weren't exactly living the high life!
You can read about the development of my horse-racing strategies here
I decided, wrongly, that simply operating in more markets was the answer and so I began exploring football markets.
In the background, I had been playing with a primitive bot which, whilst not as effective as my manual trading, was pulling in me in around £60 a week. Not big bucks but it was free money is how I looked at it and allowed me time to focus on other markets.
I wasn't and still am not a major lover of trading on football as the market dynamics are just completely at odds with everything else that I do. However, the sheer volume available meant it was something I really did have to focus on.
It took me a long time to come up with something that suited my own style of trading and in my toying with the football markets, I initially lost a lot of money on stupid strategies.
Thankfully, the season was coming to an end and I was concerned about the 2/3 month spell through the summer months where I wouldn't have anything to trade.I should have been grateful for this really since I wasn't winning at football and needed the break to think more seriously about what I was doing.
I got there eventually though and you can read up on it here
It was a random afternoon I saw somebody throw their thoughts on a tennis match in the chat box on Geeks Toy forum.
I had always enjoyed Tennis and had a good appreciation of it having played at a decent standard and watched since I was a small child.
I chanced upon a men's match on clay (Zeballos vs Isner) and my approach was start sticking £5 on whoever it looked like was going to win the point and then trading out after they won it/ lost it.
With £5 stakes, in about 15 minutes, I'd made £5 profit and was utterly convinced I had it cracked!
Now, looking back, I know this was entirely luck. I was about 5 seconds behind real-time action and it just so happened that the majority of the points in a short interval had gone the way that I had guessed they would.
Excited and carried away, I ramped quickly to £50 stakes and did £20 in a few minutes. I figured I had cracked it, that I would make millions at this... upped to £100 in the next game and lost £70 inside 10 minutes!
It's always the way it goes and whilst it was inevitable at some stage, the psychological aspect of rapidly increasing stakes cannot be under-valued.
Over time, having dropped back to £5 stakes, I managed to develop much more sensible approaches to tennis and it became the main source of my income (account for 70%+ alone). I was also able to apply the same theory to other markets like Cricket and Darts and finally, whilst even to this day I'm not a huge fan, Football.
You can read about the approaches I came up with for tennis here
The main lessons I learned in the early years were when I learn new markets, it’s imperative to start with tiny stakes until you completely understand what’s going on. You might think you've cracked it, but you probably haven't.
Another valuable lesson I learned was to increase stakes in line with bank size.
Staking as a percentage instead of making huge leaps on a back of a few wins because the panic that sets in when you have much bigger losses than you're previously accustomed to is very real. And, naturally, whenever you make sizeable jumps in stake size you hit a losing run! I don't know why that happens, and it may just be me, but it always did seem to happen.
Finally, stick at it! The odds are against you and it's widely held that competence requires 1000's of experiences … only then will you know how to react in certain circumstances.
The only real trick when you start out is ensuring you're still in the game when you finally understand what you're doing. Don't bust out before then and you have half a chance.
Good luck out there!