Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Everyone's a Tipster

I'm a new member of the Twitterati brigade (follow me please, I need to appear more popular than I actually am!), having rejected Twitter for years as a pointless site for kids and celebrity obsessed fans to cyber-stalk their idols and for the idols to sell more of their crap. I stand by that assessment for the most part, although I'm now coming to see that it does have its plus-points in terms of catching the latest news fresh from the grape-vine, getting the general mood of the nation on various topics, finding out where Julia Goerges is on any given day and of course, hearing the incredibly profound, sharp-minded and not in any way contrived thoughts of Joey Barton.

The biggest annoyance though, is having to scroll your way through a daily gush of bilge, such as Federer and Nadal fanboys poking each other with sticks, constant updates from about 50 people at the same time, telling you who's just taken a corner in whatever football match is on and worst of all, the endless line of 'tipsters' trying to give their 'expert' view.

I'm just astounded by the number of people who claim to be tipsters on Twitter. The vast majority are football and horse racing based. How on earth can there be so many people out there who truly believe that their advice is the best advice? Some of them are obviously just ordinary punters who think they know it all and are just voicing an opinion but how does that entitle you to call yourself a tipster? The rest are all companies or more likely individuals trying to seem like a company in order to dupe you into subscribing. I just don't see how there can be so many all offering advice on the exact same subject!

Are there really that many gullible people out there looking for the holiest of grails, whereby they don't have to do ANY work at all to make a profit, other than do what someone else tells them? I'd love to know how many of these 'tipsters' actually turn a good profit. I would want to see a minimum of 2 years of profitable records before even considering paying a tipster. And if a tipster was that good, word would surely get around and we'd all be following, which would then negate any value that may have been there in the tips anyway. Or the tipster would realise that he was that good and stop giving tips so he can keep all the rewards for himself. No sensible tipster would give away their edge, surely?

They never seem to have a losing day either. The tweets are always along the line of 'Another winning day for all our subscribers' and 'Well done to everyone who followed our tips today'. Just for once I'd like to see 'Sorry to all our subscribers for the poor advice we gave today' or 'If you'd followed our tips today you'd be massively in the red - never mind'. I suppose it's not great for business though. And that's what you have to remember when you get involved with these services - they are businesses mostly, not altruistic gurus who just want to share their knowledge. Or am I being too harsh? I'm sure there are good ones out there but from bitter experience, I reckon most are best avoided.

Anyway, good luck to them, I've no real issue with what they are doing other than the fact they make it harder for me to see what airport Julia Goerges has just arrived at. So yeah, follow me on Twitter and I will let you know what the score is on any current match I'm watching, despite the fact you are probably watching the exact same match anyway. That's #tennis.tipster.sultan.

Here's world number 20, Italy's Flavia Pennetta:

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

December Blues

And so the tennis season crawls to a halt at the end of this week, with just the Davis Cup final between Spain and Argentina to come over the weekend. I've dreaded the arrival of December since I started tennis trading, partly because there are no games to trade but also because I don't trust myself not to get involved with the football. I did pretty well last year and was quite disciplined but I have my worries this time around. All those Premier League games around the Christmas period are going to look mighty tempting, even though I despise football trading. Most of it is just too much like gambling. My plan has always been to take December off and go travelling somewhere but obviously, holidays are out of the question until I'm actually successful.

Fortunately, I had a decent ATP Tour Finals week and have made major steps forward with my ATP trading. Although WTA will always remain my tour of choice for trading, I am very confident now that I can make money from the men's game too. I realised that last week, that all I need to do is apply the same basic approach (looking for value) but adjust the entry and exit points a little. I managed to do this well all week, in a tournament that produced far more opportunities than I would have ever expected before it began. Unfortunately, I managed to mess up my good work by dabbling in the doubles and experimenting with the set betting markets! This will not be happening again!

I'm now keeping fingers crossed that Little Mix win The X-Factor (yeah, I watch it and I'm not ashamed! Never treat it seriously, that's the way to enjoy these things), as this will leave me with a very satisfying profit going into 2012. The key to betting on these shows is not in watching the show alone but in immersing yourself in the analysis afterwards. I get far more info from the spin off Xtra Factor programme, Twitter and the Digital Spy forum and this is where you'll see (in my opinion) who the real favourites are. Little Mix are the ones who are consistently raved about, not Marcus Collins, who is the only other real contender at this stage. I could be wrong of course but the odds on Little Mix have halved since I got involved, making them the new faves. Vote Little Mix everyone!!!

Here's the beautiful Slovakian world number 18, Dominica Cibulkova:

Monday, 28 November 2011

Strong Is Beautiful: Aravane Rezai

The Frenchwoman has slipped to number 113 in the world after a disastrous 2011. She was a top 20 player in 2010, with the year of her life so far. On her best days, she is the biggest hitter in the women's game, rivalling and capable of beating even Serena Williams. On a bad day, she can lose to absolutely anyone and did so time and time again this year.

To be fair, she has suffered from a tumultuous personal life. At the start of the year, her father and coach was banned from attending WTA events after attacking her boyfriend! It's no wonder her form took a nose-dive and she has been truly dire in most matches I've seen her in, barely able to keep the ball in the court for more than a few games. Let's hope 2012 is kinder to her, as she is a great player to watch when in full-flow.

If you've not seen my interviews with TradeShark, Mark Iverson, The Geek and Cassini, have a look around for some great advice. I'm new to Twitter too, so come and follow me please!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Strong Is Beautiful: Sam Stosur

Once again, another very low price for an ATP Tour Finals game today. If only every week was like this for ATP matches, I'm having a great week taking advantage of these over-reactions. I fully expect another tight game for Djokovic. Tipsarevic has nothing to play for but he'll want to end his season with a huge scalp and there's no doubt that he can beat a less than impressive world number one right now. 1.36 SP is worth a lay from the off as I think Tipsarevic will push for at least one set. Don't think just because they are mates that Janko will let his fellow Serb have an easy ride to the semi final.

The evening game sees Berdych needing to win to have any chance of qualifying, whilst Ferrer is already through. Ferrer normally gives his all in every single game but will he still do so today? I'm not so sure but there is definite advantage in topping the group - he won't have to play Federer in the semi. Therefore, this is one to watch in-play and read the game.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Strong Is Beautiful: Vera Zvonareva

World number 7 Vera Zvonareva of Russia is another great character on the WTA tour. Famous for her racquet smashing tantrums and head-under-the-towel moments, she has only over the past year or so started to calm down. She's a great example of how learning to control your emotions can reap rewards, as she is now one of the best players in the world and regular challenger in all major tournaments.

Roger Federer is a laughable 1.11 to beat Mardy Fish today. He'll almost certainly win but I cannot believe people are out there backing anyone in this tournament to win at that price. He was sensational against Nadal but he has qualified now and so will surely be more likely to take his foot off the gas and save energy for the semi final. Fish has nothing to play for but pride unfortunately, though that may be enough to make him play more freely and give this one a real go. You just never know in tennis!

Tsonga v Nadal should be a cracker, with the winner going through and loser going out. I fancy a 3 setter here but it's definitely a game that needs to be assessed in-play. Odds seem about right, I would make Tsonga slight fave.

If you've not yet seen my interviews with The Geek, TradeShark and Mark Iverson, take a look around, well worth a peek.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Strong Is Beautiful: Li Na

Li Na/ Na li is now officially the 2nd highest paid female athlete in the world, following various endorsements after her French Open win which made her the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam. She has signed contracts worth $42 million which are set to take her above Maria Sharapova next year, who earned $25 million in 2011.

Yet again, I'm staggered at the starting price of the matches at the ATP World Tour Final. OK, Tsonga won fairly comfortably yesterday but I stand by my assessment that his SP of 1.5 was way too low. Again, we see a low 1.5, this time on Tomas Berdych. Janko Tipsarevic has beaten him twice this year already and in the 3rd and most recent encounter, was 5-0 or 5-1 up in set 1, playing stunning tennis before he let the Czech back in to take the set. He was also a break up in set 2 and I'm still not sure how Tipsaervic didn't win that match. He'll be fresher than Berdych, as he hasn't played a game yet. I don't think he'll take long to adapt to the court as it's similar in pace to St Petersburg, where he was a finalist. I'll be laying 1.5 all day long, as I think it'll be a close match, though who wins is anyone's guess.

Djokovic is understandably low but he didn't impress against Berdych, having to save match point before scraping through. He should win today but Ferrer will be full of confidence after beating Murray, so again, expect a slow start from Novak, who I feel is still struggling with his shoulder.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Strong Is Beautiful: Victoria Azarenka

World number 3 Victoria Azarenka is a real character on the tour. She's calmed down a lot from a couple of years ago, where she would regularly get into arguments with the crowd, umpires and generally rub people up the wrong way. She tends to channel her feistiness a bit better these days, though you can always rely on a bit of drama still, whether it be obviously tanking matches, fainting on-court or dropping out with yet another 'injury' accompanied by tears. I don't think she's this terrible match-fixer that others on certain forums will have you believe, I just think she is a real drama-queen who loves to be the centre of attention and doesn't always think before she acts. There is a lot of passion and determination about Vika and she's a potential world number one for next year.

Today's London matches seem to have immense value at first look. Both Federer and Tsonga seem rather low at around 1.5. Sure, I expect Federer to beat Nadal but 1.5? I said previously I think Nadal will not get near the final and his performance against Fish hasn't done anything to make me change my mind but I expect him to push close for at least one set.

Tsonga's price is a joke. Fish wasn't far off beating Nadal and outplayed him for large sections of that first match. Unless Fish has aggravated his hamstring again, I don't see how they aren't close to evens. Tsonga drops the first set regularly too, so a lay from the start is very tempting indeed..............

Monday, 21 November 2011

Strong Is Beautiful: Kim Clijsters

Clijsters has slipped to 13 in the world with all her time out through injury. No one is sure what 2012 holds for the Belgian, as many feel she will retire next year, this time for good. Perhaps Olympic gold will keep her motivated enough to play more tournaments up to August because even when fit, she has been nothing more than part-time on the WTA tour since her spectacular return to the game.

Today sees Andy Murray up against David Ferrer in London. Can't see anything other than 2-0 to the miserable Scot but there is always the chance that he will make a signature slow start and even drop the first set - let's hope so, cos otherwise, extracting money from this match is gonna be very difficult.

Djokovic looks well priced at 1.46 in the evening match but don't be fooled - he's not been playing well for a few weeks now. His self-belief is so high that he can scrape through games when not playing well but against the very best, he is not likely to have that luxury. Berdych has been playing well lately and can win this, absolutely no doubt. The courts are probably not fast enough for the Czech and will favour the Serb but I will be watching before getting involved. Don't be surprised if Novak starts poorly, he has done so in a number of matches recently.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Strong Is Beautiful: Gisela Dulko

World number 68 and doubles number 9 Gisela Dulko of Argentina is today's photo from the 'Strong Is Beautiful' photo-shoot. Great to see some tennis on today, as the ATP World Tour Finals begin in London. Roger Federer plays Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to start with and the market is heavily in favour of the Swiss, who I would make (alongside Murray) favourite to win the whole tournament. His form is first-class having won two tournaments back-to-back. Tsonga has beaten him this year but he's one of those players who looks like he's running out of steam after a long season.

Nadal also looks like he's ready for the beach and hasn't played in several weeks. I don't see him reaching the final but he is strong fave to beat Mardy Fish today. Fish has a groin strain from Paris, so have to see whether he's fully recovered. If so, he definitely could catch Nadal cold and has beaten him this year despite having a dreadful record against the Spaniard overall. Nadal looks as though he's lost confidence as a result of his losses to Djokovic and he is looking much more beatable these days. But it's possible the long rest he's had may have done him good and he'll come out rejuvenated.

If you've not seen my interviews with The Geek, Mark Iverson and TradeShark, have a scout around, well worth reading.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Interview with The Geek

Everyone in the trading world knows about The Geeks Toy - a free piece of software that enables all users to connect to the Bet**** API and trade like a pro, with a fully customisable ladder interface. But not many know about the man behind The Toy, The Geek himself. As a user of The Toy for a while now, I was curious about many things and so dropped by his house for a cup of tea and a Jaffa Cake.........

I've seen you mention on your forum that you are not into sports. How on earth did you end up getting involved in the sports trading field?!

Ahh the secret is out. I’ve never really been into sport per se. I do watch the World Cup & Euro footie, but that is more to do with national pride & beer than an interest in the game. I came across Betfair in early 2007 when I was researching another project, and as part of that research I stumbled across an article on trading software. The rest is history.

Do you actually do any trading and if so, what do you trade (and do you use The Toy *wink*)?

I trade only horses, predominantly in running, with some pre off in between. And yes, of course I use The Toy. My trading wasn’t profitable until I started using it in mid 2009. Between work and The Toy, I get very little time to trade these days, although I’ll always put a few days in testing a new major release for stability.

What is your technological / work / computing background?

I’m a self taught programmer who did it purely for fun until 1995, where I went to college to do a computing course. It was then I realised just how good I was, and in many respects had technical skills way in advance of those being taught. I was accepted to University for a software engineering degree in 1996. I started my techie career in 1998 on a 1 year industrial placement where I began working for a company that developed data warehousing & publishing systems for the automotive industry. By 2002 I was IT manager of one of their subsidiary companies. I set up my own company in 2003 writing bespoke systems for clients in the automotive industry & this is how I feed my kids today. {Ironically though I don’t drive either.}

How long has The Toy been in progress and what sort of time scale did it take to get it completed?

I started writing The Toy in August 2007, but it has never been full time & I just did it around contracts. The first test version was launched in October 2009, although I doubt it will ever be completed, as everyone and their uncle wants something added somewhere.

Just for people like me, who are completely clueless when it comes to computer technology and programming, how does the process work; from getting Betfair on-board, to marketing the product?

Getting Betfair on board is the easy part, as they have a very good developers program that subject to you paying them an access fee for your product to use their API and your product passing their certification requirements, you are ready to go. As for marketing the product, the bare minimum starting points for a product like this are a good user manual, some introductory vids, and good user support via a forum.

To be honest though, I’ve had to do very little active marketing / advertising for The Toy as when you have a product this good at this price, the word of mouth recommendations dwarf into insignificance anything I could do myself. { On that note, why is Betdaq’s banner above mine? :D }

Roughly how much of your time is taken up with work related to The Toy?

Too much.

Why have you always kept The Toy free?

Insanity I suspect would be the answer to that one. If I charged for it I’d have to grow up & run it as a business and where would the fun be in that? In all seriousness though, I am very well paid in my day job and charging for TT would take me away from that and I suspect I would actually earn less as a result as this industry is very small.

All I want for Christmas is a new Toy for Betdaq - will Santa oblige this year?

Hopefully. The first release has been on test with a few of the pros since August, and the latest release is currently going through testing with Betdaq at the moment, but as for an actual launch date, I can’t say at this juncture as I’m waiting on Betdaq to approve it. Sometime between now & forever, but hopefully nearer the now is the planned launch date. :D

I regard your forum as the best source of knowledge on the net for sports trading and an extremely friendly place. Are you surprised at how it's turned out?

Not really. The founding members of the forum were mainly pro traders who were refugees from a forum that spectacularly imploded in 2009. When we set up the forum we learned from the mistakes of the past and put appropriate rules in place to ensure the same thing didn’t happen again. The key ingredient to its success I believe is to keep the forum completely free of spam & advertising, and let the community play an important part in it’s running.

What do you enjoy most about your work on The Toy and what are your biggest frustrations?

I think the best thing about it has to be reading the praise it gets in cyberspace. I liken my programming to art, and it’s good to have critics to make it better. It’s also a real thrill when you read things like the below from people that really appreciate that work.
As for my biggest frustration, that trophy goes to Betfair, although I won’t say why.

What are your future plans for The Toy?

I don’t really have plans for it per se. There is a release due soon with some more goodies in it, but after that short of bug fixes, I’m going to have some well deserved time off for a few months as I have another project that I will be working on.

As someone who is not into sports, what is your take on the whole betting exchange and sports trading industry?

If I’m totally honest, I think the wider industry is over populated by blaggers & chancers whom dishonestly represent the industry with Get Rich Quick & Holy Grail marketing tactics. That said, trading on the exchanges is one of the best strategy games I have ever played, and it does provide the opportunity to consistently win if you are both clever and prepared to put in many hours of hard work.

I liken to a cross between a 21st century bookmakers and a poker room, where everyone is competing for each others money, but doing so as a community of mates helping each other on the journey.

I've used every sports trading software out there and The Toy wins hands down in my opinion. What do you think makes The Toy stand out against its competitors?

In no particular order:

Speed: I developed The Toy on a low spec PC & 512mb broadband connection, so I used every trick in the book to make it fast & smooth on a crap system. This was no mean feat & probably accounted for 30% of the overall development effort. Feedback from the community says I got this spot on, as they notice real differences in performance compared to other products.

Customisation: What I also found when I researched the marketplace in 2007 was that all the trading products at the time were all virtual clones of each other. { Every single one had 3 near identical ladders for example. } My take is that if I have to spend day after day looking at the same thing, then it needs to be pleasing on the eye & the way I want it. With everyone being different, flexibility & customisation is key.

Price: Unless somebody is going to pay you to use their software, you really can’t beat the price. Although I have to say that whilst the price gets people's attention, the product has to be good in this game to keep them. There have been a number of free trading products for Betfair over the years, but The Toy is the first one to make any significant impact.

Listening to People: I welcome criticism as it helps make a better product. I am also acquainted with a number of pro traders who have had significant input into the product during all development phases.

Design: Design is key, as a product needs to be simple & intuitive to use, whilst at the same time powerful & flexible. It’s a tough thing to do, and most programmers get this part wrong.

Tell us all something about The Geek that we might now know. Who is the man behind the specs?

Between the ages of 16 & 18 I travelled around with a funfair. Best 2 years of my life and not a computer in sight! To be honest though, I’m not your stereotypical geek and if you were to meet me it would be like meeting a cross between Uncle Fester from the Adams Family & Phil Mitchell from Eastenders.

Thanks very much to The Geek for giving such a great insight into his world. Plus, Christmas has all of a sudden gotten exciting again for the first time in about 20 years! I have received news from The Geek himself that the Betdaq version is going to be with us very, very soon.........

So if you aren't using The Toy yet, why not? The release of Version 1.2 Beta with Stop Loss, Dutching, Bookmaking, Multibet tool & the new In-Play interface, is due to be released on Monday.

And if you are, I hope you appreciate even more just how lucky you are and that you consider donating towards today's 'Children In Need' charity fundraiser, run by The Geek on his forum. There are prize giveaways and auctions to take part in to try and raise £1000 for BBC Children In Need, which takes place over this weekend. Take a look:

“The Geeks Toy - Probably the best Betfair Trading Software in the world!”

Heidi El Tabakh:

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Sepp Blatter & Maria Kirilenko

Blatter - I just don't know whether to laugh or cry! The photo on the FIFA website with his arms around a black official, is a hilariously pathetic and crass attempt to placate those who question El Presidente. But as someone who has experienced racism, I also am deeply saddened and repulsed that the man at the head of the 'Say No To Racism' campaign, could possibly say that we should just accept whatever names we are called on the pitch and shake hands with our tormentor at the end of the game. I'm not suggesting that Blatter is a racist, only he himself with truly know that, but to have someone representing the world game to think and to say something so flippant and so out of touch with reality, proves just how little he actually knows about the subject. Therefore, he should not be anywhere near a position of power that deals with such an important issue.

I can tell you that whenever I have experienced racism, it has never once been forgotten about or shrugged off. Those insults stay with you for life and I remember each and every time. To compare those vile jibes to a bit of banter on the football field is simply a joke. So it was great to see so many people of all races on Twitter last night, joining in with Stan Collymore (ex-Nottingham Forest player -you reeeeeeeeeeds!- and sports journalist) as he lead the fight to get Blatter out of FIFA. It won't happen of course. But we have to make a stand. We need the English FA to make a stand too. We need all the other confederations to make a stand to have any impact but I wouldn't hold my breath.

From what I can gather, this is barely a newsworthy story in the rest of Europe. Hardly surprising when most of these nations are light-years away from kicking racism out of football, compared to the UK. FIFA lets most of these nations get away with a pitiful monetary fine when their fans abuse black players, so what do they have to gain from ousting Blatter? Nonetheless, I urge you to join the #BlatterOUT campaign, even if all you are really bothered about is toppling this clown from his ivory tower.

And now, here's a picture of the beautiful Maria Kirilenko

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Strong Is Beautiful: Serena Williams

Has slipped to number 12 in the world following her time out of the sport with illness that almost ended her life earlier in the year. Hopefully we'll see her back for the Australian Open in January, though preferably without the brattish petulance she showed in the last match she played. That was the US Open final, where she lost to Sam Stosur after abusing the lovely Eva Asderaki. The Greek umpire is one of the best on the tour and yes, it does help that she's rather easy on the eye!

If you haven't read my interviews with TradeShark and Mark Iverson, well, they are on here somewhere so don't be lazy and have a look around!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Strong Is Beautiful: Caroline Wozniacki

Well, still no markets up for the Challenger Tour Finals which start tomorrow - cheers Betunfair! I can't understand what sort of idiot would not put up a market for a tournament that includes some top 100 players, that will be televised (and so have streams available) when there is no other tennis on at all! How is that good business sense? Even if there were only a handful of traders getting involved, Betunfair would only make money, what do they have to lose? In fact, they haven't even bothered to email me back to answer whether they will be adding the markets. Well, save for a customer service questionnaire! You can imagine what I wrote when I submitted that...........

If you've yet to read my interviews with Mark Iverson and TradeShark, scroll down the page and you'll find them.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Mark Iverson Interview

Well it's gonna be a quiet week for tennis traders (unless we get those ATP Challenger Tour Finals markets up - get emailing everybody!) so here is something to keep you entertained and maybe glean a few nuggets of inspiration from. It's my interview with one of the most well-known sports traders in the online world, Mark Iverson; a man who has reached a level with his trading that the vast majority of us are looking to attain. I'm sure most of you are familiar with his website and blog already, so no need for a major introduction - just have a read and take on-board some sound advice.....

What was it that lured you into the trading world?

My history with gambling started a long time ago. When I was very young I had a condition with my hip that kept me from going to school for the best part of two years. The only person available to look after me was my Grandfather so every afternoon he’d push my wheelchair to the betting shop where we’d end up fighting the smoke to try and pick some winners. My parents didn’t mind this daily routine until I started back at school. Every morning I’d scan the daily paper to study the racecards and give my tips for the day. They stopped the paper soon after, but that was it – I was hooked.

As I grew older my fascination grew and I became convinced that it was possible to make money from betting on sport but at that point I didn’t know how. I created system after system to try and beat the bookies and got to the point where I was making small annual profits, but it took a long time for the penny to drop on how to make more.

Which sports do you trade, which one provides most of your income and what do you enjoy about trading them?

The majority of my action focuses on cricket with 75-80% of my profits coming from that sport alone. I’m always trying new things though and have good ‘fallbacks’ in Rugby Union, Darts and NFL.

How would you describe your trading style?

I consider myself a position taker, but those positions can vary in length from a few seconds to an hour.

If it's not too personal, what size stakes / liabilities do you work with?

My stake sizes differ and depend on a number of things such as the confidence in my position and the volatility of the market, but to give you an idea they’re normally in the £500 to £4000 range. I very rarely hold positions until the end of an event and will almost always even my book at some stage. I’m acutely aware that I’m still a very small fish in a very big pond.

How long have you been trading for and roughly how long did it take you before you were able to consistently make profit?

In the summer of 2006 I was at a crossroads. I really felt that I’d exhausted all the punting possibilities around and it was only through a bit of luck that my gambling transformation began. I’d bought the book, ‘Lay, Back & Think Of Winning’ written by Nigel Paul to take on holiday and whilst reading it realised that with a relatively small amount of money I’d be able to grow it through careful money management if I adopted a slightly different betting approach.

I’d been a Betfair customer for 5 years, but although I’d heard and previously attempted ‘trading’ on the exchange I’d never felt fully comfortable with the idea. Until then. The book inspired me and within days I was thinking of scores of different strategies for every sport I could think of. I gathered £250 as a starting bank but swore to myself that if I squandered it I wouldn’t top up the account.

Fortunately, I haven’t had a losing month since and although my monthly profits were small to begin with they’ve grown significantly and my annual profit has increased year on year. I hope the trend continues!

What was it that you feel finally enabled you to make that transition from breaking even or losing, to winning consistently?

Careful money management and understanding that I didn’t have to be right all the time. If I ensured that I kept losses small then I became confident that when the big wins came along the rest would take care of itself.

Did you find trading relatively easy to pick up or have you had to struggle to get past the psychological barriers?

I found the first 6 months the most difficult. Until then the ‘punting’ mentality would have a habit of kicking in but over time this faded.

When learning, what did you find the hardest aspect of trading to crack?

Knowing when to be patient! I had an urge to be involved all the time and it took a while to realise that my overall p&l figures would actually be much better if I was more selective.

What was the biggest mistake you made during your apprentice years?

I probably wasted too much time and money on sports that weren’t going to yield results. Looking back I’d have probably been better off narrowing the line-up to 3 or 4 sports much earlier on.

What do you think are the biggest mistakes that new traders make when attempting to become successful?

I would say risk management is where most fall down. If you’re consistently staking 100% of your bankroll on a 50/50 shot then you’ll go bust sooner rather than later. The secret is in staying at the table.

Where did you gain the most valuable knowledge and insight as an up-coming novice?

Mainly, I just kept reading. From gambling forums to recommended books on betting and human psychology, they all came in useful. In addition I also started a blog in December 2006 to plot my progress. I had two main aims – the first was to diarise what I was doing so that I could learn from my mistakes and the second was to inspire anybody who felt they needed money to make money. I guess I wanted to back-up advice I’d been given from an already successful gambler – “that big things are possible from small beginnings”.

If you could give advice to any aspiring trader, what would it be?

Knowledge is everything so specialise in a handful of sports and aim to be the one who knows more than the majority.

What qualities do you believe every trader must have in order to be successful?

I strongly believe you need a plan and need to be organised. Having a clear mind is crucial and helps stave off any temptations to squander profits. A good head for numbers also helps.

What do you still struggle with mostly as a trader and what aspects are you still working at to improve?

I am probably still too risk averse. I prefer a string of steady wins and an accumulation of profits rather than volatile fluctuations. The downside of this is that I rarely get what I would call big wins.

Do you ever have days where you lose focus or discipline, how regularly does it happen and how do you deal with it?

Yes, occasionally, but this is my job now so I realise that if I’m not 100% I’m going to lose money. The downward spiral will nearly always continue if I’m down on myself or don’t have the right frame of mind. Instead, I often reflect on how far I’ve come or just what I need to do to get back on track. Breaking things down into small steps can be a great help.

What are the major differences between trading as a hobby / part-time and trading full-time?

I now have much more time now to go the extra yards. By that I mean the extra research and detail that I just didn’t have time to do when working full time. This does make a difference as I find myself coming up with many more angles than the ones I used to rely on.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about making the step from part-time to full-time?

Have a back-up plan in place. It’s a very big step to take and now that Betfair have changed their Premium Charge rules it’s very unlikely you can rely on them for all of your future income. Prior to going full time I reduced my risk by reducing my outgoings wherever possible and cleared all of my outstanding debt, (bar my mortgage) to free me of any emotional baggage that could bring me down at the earliest opportunity.

How has the Betunfair premium charge affected your trading?

Fortunately, I’ve yet to reach the 250k Premium Charge threshold that would kiss good bye to 50% of my weekly profits, but I have consistently paid 20% over the last 3 years. The truth is it’s a pain but at least 20% still gives you a chance. If/when I get to 50% it will be a complete game changer for me.

What is the biggest win and worst loss you've ever had (either trading or gambling)?

I lost just short of 2.5k in one day last year when trading the Indian Premier League cricket. This might not seem like a lot to those who are used to bigger fluctuations but for someone who is a plodder like myself this was a big blow at the time.

What do you most love and most hate about trading?

The best things all surround having the freedom to manage my time. It’s great to be able to wake up in the morning and be my own boss. If I want to make more money I know I need to work harder but if I want to spend time with the family I can. The worst things? I guess it’s easy to feel isolated if you don’t make an effort to get out and about, and there’s always a shortage of people who understand what I do. No matter which way you look at it, there’s still a social stigma attached to being a gambler.

What do you feel the future holds for betting exchanges, the markets and yourself as a trader?

The idea of betting exchanges is such a good one that I’m sure they’ll continue to prosper but maybe not in the same format as we’re familiar with now as if the American market opens up anything could happen. As for myself it’s just a case of business as usual until I either start losing or am forced to stop. Watch this space.

Big thanks to Mark for taking the time to answer my questions. Certainly does make me feel like the tiniest minnow in the Pacific Ocean but also realise that it's possible to grow into a Blue Whale. OK, maybe not a whale (they are mammals anyway so doesn't work for the fish analogy), but perhaps a Blue Marlin. Or a Salmon might be more realistic. Actually, a gold-fish would be fine for me!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Strong Is Beautiful: Maria Sharapova

World number 4, most recognisable name in women's sport and highest earner of all time, Maria Sharapova. Still hate her screaming after every hit though - there's a time and a place for that kind of noise......

If you've yet to read my interview with TradeShark, scroll down the page and you'll find it. Keep an eye on the blog next week as I've got some very interesting new stuff primed and ready for your reading pleasure.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Strong Is Beautiful: Ana Ivanovic

Above is a picture of the stunning Ana Ivanovic, one of the many shots taken as part of the New York Times incredible 'Strong Is Beautiful' photo-shoot for an article published earlier this year. The photos have since been adopted by the WTA for their latest advertising campaign and as you can see, the images captured are wonderful. I felt it would be rude not to share them with you all, so I'll be posting a new one every few days - they make great screen-savers too!

By the way, if you've not yet seen my interview with TradeShark, why not check it out:


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Tradeshark Interview

Well, here we go! I told you I was veering away from the blogging of my trading struggles as the tennis season comes to a close and today I begin with an interview with Tradeshark, author of the Tradeshark Tennis blog. I'm sure you are all familiar with his work, as he has become over the last couple of years, a prominent figure in the online trading community, with his own strategies (which I bought myself in order to get a foothold into tennis trading), trading chatroom and forum. Undoubtedly, he's the most well known and respected of any specialist tennis trader out there and so it was only natural I start this new phase of 'Centre Court Trading' with a chat with the man himself.

What was it that lured you into the trading world?

I was looking for ways to make a little extra cash and found Adam Todd's story. I played around with trading horses ( on the grid as I was too tight to
pay for a ladder!). I was doing ok but was very limited as to when I could trade.
I started looking into other sports and saw that tennis was a popular one. I used to play tennis to a decent standard when I was younger so started looking into ways to trade it.

How would you describe your trading style?

I don't like to take huge risks. However in certain circumstances I will be more aggressive if it is a tried and tested entry. Generally though I like to keep it as stress free as possible

If it's not too personal, what size stakes / liabilities do you work with?

These vary in different circumstances and also with different sports. For tennis I very rarely put more than £500 into the market in one go but will top up if the situation merits it. Usually my stake is split into £200 to £300 chunks. I actually often use bigger stakes in cricket but will keep liability under £500 to £600.

How long have you been trading for and roughly how long did it take you before you were able to consistently make profit?

Probably about 3 years now and I'd say I was able to make profits pretty quickly, say within the first 3 or 4 months but only very small profits. I had little idea of what I was doing or should be doing!

What was it that you feel finally enabled you to make that transition from breaking even or losing, to winning consistently?

As I said I was able to make profits pretty quickly. I think like most things in life the more you do it and learn about it the better you become. Just experiencing more scenarios and learning how best to deal with them.

Did you find trading relatively easy to pick up or have you had to struggle to get past the psychological barriers?

I found ways to trade and make profit that worked for me and I just stuck with those so in that respect it was easy. I kept things very simple. There was no one telling you what you should be doing so it was all trial and error. If anything the psychological barriers come into play when your head gets filled with other people's ideas that may not suit your own style.

When learning, what did you find the hardest aspect of trading to crack?

I would often see a match that had already started and think I had seen a great entry point ( I'm talking about within 10 seconds) and I would jump in so I didn't miss out. More often than not rather than getting an easy profit I would be trying to dig myself out of a hole for the next hour.

What was the biggest mistake you made during your apprentice years?

One that sticks in my mind was on a Man United game. I forget the details other than it was probably a lay the draw and I stood to lose £100. It was in the final minutes of the match and still 0-0. The red mist came down and I backed the draw for 1k. Of course Man U scored within seconds of me being matched. That loss was around 75% of my bank. Incredible to think I could have been so stupid!

What do you think are the biggest mistakes that new tennis traders make when attempting to become successful?

The most common seem to be winning too soon! They back 2 or 3 favourites and they win in straight sets. They think they have cracked it and increase the stakes.
The biggest thing I stress to new traders is to use very small stakes while learning. You don't learn more by having more money in the market but you lose less. Especially in the chatroom it can be obvious that someone is new and using stakes way above the amounts that they should be. They will be advised to lower their stakes and half an hour later they're complaining that they lost £100. Some people you just can't help.

Where did you gain the most valuable knowledge and insight as an up-coming novice?

There really weren't people willing to help back then. You could pick up the occasional snippet of information that might spark an idea in your head but you were pretty much on your own.

If you could give advice to any aspiring tennis trader, what would it be?

As I said above don't be in a rush to increase stakes. Even when you feel you are ready to increase them you MUST do it gradually. A general rule of thumb is that when you enter your trade if you shit yourself at the size of the red on the other player then the stakes are too high! You also need to learn as much as you can about the top players. Take an interest in the results from the previous day. After a while you will start to see patterns. Always look for patterns.

What qualities do you believe every tennis trader must have in order to be successful?

The ability to read a game inplay is an obvious bonus but above everything else you need to stay calm whether things are going well or badly. If trading is exciting then you're doing it wrong( and probably gambling )!

What do you still struggle with mostly as a trader and what aspects are you still working at to improve?

Too often I am too cautious when it comes to deciding whether or not to let a trade run a bit longer. There are worse problems to have but it can be annoying when you leave money on the table and if I had just stayed another few points then
I was in a very comfortable position. So that's what I am working on.

Do you ever have days where you lose focus or discipline, how regularly does it happen and how do you deal with it?

I think everyone does from time to time. If I spot it early then I stop trading for a couple of hours. If I didn't have the chatroom then I would go out for an hour or watch TV but I feel I really ought to be available in the chatroom.

What are the major differences between trading as a hobby / part-time and trading full-time?

Pressure! You have got to make money and that adds another dimension to your trading decisions. This was a major problem in the first 6 months of going full time.
It was made worse by the family/marriage problems I was having at the time and my confidence took a real kicking.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about making the step from part-time to full-time?

Think again! Make sure you have at least 6 months living expenses saved up. It really isn't easy to make the transition. I thought it wouldn't affect me but it did.

How has the Betunfair super-premium charge affected your trading?

Well I don't pay the super premium, thankfully, but I have seen a difference in the markets as some of the big players are either trading differently or not at all. Bigger gaps between prices and no one is too keen to leave money unmatched for very long.

What is the biggest win and worst loss you've ever had (either trading or gambling)?

The biggest win was in an IPL Twenty20 match. I layed a batting team for £1500 just before a total collapse. I came out with just under £1400. Oddly my biggest loss was exactly the same amount, £1400. That was on a tennis match but apart from that I don't remember a single detail of the match. Must have been too traumatic!

What do you most love and most hate about trading?

I love the freedom of being my own boss but sometimes it can be long hours. I think I put more hours in as I have over 2000 members of TradeShark Tennis and a good number of them send daily emails asking for advice and help. I would rather be busy than wondering why no one is emailing me though! I don't think there is anything that I hate about it. No one is going to pay me the amount of money I can make and I don't have to answer to anyone.

What do you do in the tennis off-season and do you find the lack of tennis a problem?

Last December was my first as a full timer. I traded some football and cricket and even had a go at the FTSE 20min markets. This year it will be football and cricket again but I now have a method of trading the horse markets that seems to suit me quite well (thanks to Lee in the chatroom for pointing me in the right direction). It's actually nice to have a break from the tennis!

Who are your favourite tennis players and which ones do you generally enjoy trading?

Melzer used to be one of my favourites. At one time you knew he was going to fight for every point. You can't say that these days. Ferrer is a player who you know will give everything. Plus he often goes behind and comes back! Del Potro when he is at his best is awesome, even though he usually has a look on his face like a lobotomy patient! It's been great to see him this week playing nearer what we expect from him.
It's easier to say which players I don't like trading. Verdasco is a nightmare for me and usually ends in a loss. Also Cilic and Baggy (Marcos Baghdatis) are hard work sometimes although Verdasco is definitely the worst. I was relieved when Patty Schnyder retired. I think I only ever profited on one of her matches and actually ran round the garden cheering afterwards!

How do you think the tennis markets and the game of tennis have changed since you've been trading?

I don't know if it is just my perception of it but player's games seem a lot more fragile these days. There used to be players who you could rely on to hold having broken serve but they all seem to have turned into mental midgets! Whether this is due to string technology or different balls or better training techniques with regard to returning serve I don't know! The markets seem thinner as I said before with traders being less willing to leave money unmatched in the market. The reactions to points can often briefly be way out of proportion and whilst they quickly correct, I think poeple are wary of being hit by market "snipers".

What do you feel the future holds for betting exchanges, the tennis markets and yourself as a trader?

Wow, save the toughest question to the end! The markets have always and will always evolve and we as traders have to do the same. I think Betfair seem to be doing their best to screw their own business and unless they see sense then Betdaq will need to put themselves in a position to take over a great deal of that traffic. But all this will happen gradually ( I hope ) and we will be able to make the required changes
in stages. My own style of trading is designed to be low on risk and therefore low on stress so I am confident I will be able to continue for a good while yet. I
always have one eye open for new ideas and opportunities as I know it's never wise to rest on your laurels.

Thanks to Tradeshark for sparing his time. Good to know I'm not the only one with a dislike, verging on manic hatred, of Fernando Verdasco! In fact, the two games he played at Paris this week pretty much summed up why we'd both like to cosh his coiffured, wax-ridden head, back to Madrid. Watch this space for more new spots to come............

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

ATP Challenger Tour Finals

No, I'm not talking about the World Tour Finals due to take place in London in 2 weeks! I'm talking about the inaugural CHALLENGER finals, which will begin next week. They take place in São Paulo from 16-20 November, which is ideal because there is no other tennis available that week. Or at least, it WOULD be ideal if our friendly betting exchange emporiums (and Betfair too) had markets set up for it. I've already emailed to make them aware of this unique opportunity to take our hard earned cash and I advise all you tennis traders to do the same.

Ok, it's only Rui Machado, Martin Klizan, Andreas Beck, Matthias Bachinger, Dudi Sela, Bobby Reynolds and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe but hey, it's something to trade and liquidity will be strong with no other tennis on. If that doesn't tempt you, there is also wild card entrant Thomaz Bellucci, who I'm sure you'll have heard of! Bit unfair to have a top 30 player thrown in to make up the numbers but I suppose it will add to the atmosphere at the event to have a local player involved. I've traded on matches involving all those players this year (bar Bobby Reynolds), so if you know your stuff, ranking should never be an issue. Here's the full details:

ATP Challenger Tour Finals

Now get emailing so we can get those markets up!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Bizarre Bali Blessing

I heard a very interesting story today, especially for those of you with a spiritual persuasion. The WTA Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions took place last week in Bali. The final was contested between reigning champion Ana Ivanovic and the rank outsider Anabel Medina-Garrigues. Apparently, before the tournament began, all 8 competitors were invited to attend some sort of spiritual blessing ceremony at a local temple on the Indonesian island.

Medina-Garrigues was the only player to turn-up (remarkable in itself, as you would think these girls would show a bit more common courtesy) and was asked as part of the good-luck ritual, what she would like to acheive for the week. Apparently, the Spaniard said she would like to reach the final. Lo and behold, the tournament under-dog (oldest player in the draw at 29 and lowest ranked at 28) made it past her two opponents to face the Serbian former world number one. But it was the way she did it that is most fascinating; both Marion Bartoli AND Sabine Lisicki retired against her!

Bartoli wasted a match point which would have given her a straight sets win before she was struck down with a calf injury one game into the final set. The poor girl was in tears, hobbling around in pain after a medical time-out and finished her season slumped on the court, losing a match she had dominated. Lisicki was expected to hammer Medina-Garrigues in the semi-final but lost the first set before gaining her form and powering back for what would surely be a comfortable final set. But no, the German who reached the Wimbledon semi-final this year, picked up a back injury early in set 3, severely restricting her movement and forcing her to retire at 4-0 down! Makes you think, does it not? Especially as Anabel was thrashed in the final by Ivanovic - if only she'd said at the temple that she wanted to WIN the tournament...............

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Mental Exhaustion

I've made a few decisions today. I cannot go on writing about all the mental torment I go through. To be honest, I don't think there is anything more that I can do to improve now. I've tried everything; from changing what I eat, to how I sit, to the room layout, to exercises, to breathing techniques, to hypnosis, to all sorts of different plans and little practical solutions. They have all worked to some extent but sustaining it all over a long period has been the main issue. At the end of the day, they are only ever going to work long-term if I can somehow take away the pressure of doing this full-time and needing the money. That is the real crux of the problem and it is what causes me to make daft mistakes constantly. But I don't see that pressure disappearing any time soon, bar a lottery win or a superb run of form. Fingers crossed for the latter.

I guess what I'm saying is, I'm done analysing the negatives and recording it all on here. I'm exhausted of all the mental exhaustion, to be frank! I honestly don't think there is any more that I can do apart from continually working, day in day out, on controlling my emotions, retaining my focus and remaining professional. Psychologically, I've improved massively of late and I'm confident that I won't lose my bank ever again or do anything to place it in jeopardy.

I'm happy with my strategy now and will be concentrating on my strengths (WTA) next year, rather than struggling too much with the ATP (although I'm pretty sure it would not be such an issue without the pressure I'm under). So there really isn't much left for me to write about, regarding my battle to get my trading right. Everything is in place to do well, bar two important things: a decent size bank and a lack of financial pressure. Which unfortunately, are two of the biggest obstacles to success in this game, especially when twinned together. All I can do now is continue to follow the plan I currently have in place (the last one I will ever draw up!), which is as follows:

1. Mentally re-set myself before every match
2. Thoroughly plan a course of action before getting involved
3. Talk during the game to continually assess, retain focus and plan ahead
4. Remain patient, reminding myself to stay in the present & forget previous results
5. Control frustrations and enjoy the trading challenge
6. Release any anger after the match and take time out to rationalise and rest

These 6 steps are the culmination of the past year of trading, incorporating all of the work and experience since I began this blog. I just have to keep grinding away until it becomes second nature, which much of it already is now. But it won't be something I'll be writing about on the blog. It wouldn't be interesting now anyway, as I'm no longer prone to days of chasing, daft straight bets, large reds and throwing down huge wedges in one go! It really is now just silly, small errors that arise out of pure impatience; such as slightly over-staking or jumping in a bit too soon or taking a price when it's a tad too low or staying in a point too long. Nothing interesting to write about! But when you are doing this every other game, it mounts up and wipes out all the good work.

So I will now only be writing about the positives hopefully, though I can't see many of them till the WTA returns in January. So in the mean time, I have a few things up my sleeve which I hope will entertain you over the next couple of months...............though rest assured, if I do bung my entire bank on Rayo Vallecano v Sporting Gijon Over 2.5 goals or lose the plot for 7 straight days following 3 Fernando Verdasco unforced errors at 0-40 (highly likely!), you will be the first to hear about it!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Easy Like Wednesday Morning

I've noticed that over the past week or so, I've become even more tense and stressed than usual. I went to bed on Tuesday night and thought to myself 'This is no way to live!'. If I am to make trading a career, there is no way I want to put myself through the strain that I'm experiencing right now, every day. On a good day, I love trading; the challenge it brings, the freedom, the enjoyment of the sport and the excitement when it all comes together. But on a bad day, the frustration and the constant struggle and worry is starting to wear me down. I always start the day in a positive mood but I tend to get trapped inside the trading bubble and lose all perspective.

Being lost inside this 'bubble' is something I've written about in the past. It's so easy to get caught up in your own little world of flashing numbers when you are trading and on a bad day, this can often lead to a loss of rationality. I used to chase losses frequently and sometimes that chasing would go on for WEEKS, never mind days. These days, I will nearly always start each day afresh and so the only chasing I do tends to happen within the space of a few hours in one day. I think this is because I am so stuck inside the bubble that I don't allow time away from the PC. Rather than flitting quickly from one game to the next, not having a breather in between matches and remaining at the PC even when I'm not actively trading, I need to be taking more time away to re-set my mind.

It really helps to clear your head and maybe look at things in a better light. I had a comment a few weeks back from Mark of the 'Patient Speculation' blog, who said that maybe I was 'trying too hard'. At the time, I failed to make a distinction between 'trying too hard' and 'working too hard'. I don't think you can ever work too hard on your trading and I believe only those who do so will become successful. But I now realise that I was and still am trying too hard. By this I mean getting involved in too many matches, not taking enough time out, spending too much time at the PC, trying to force trades rather than waiting patiently for solid opportunities. The best trades are nearly always the simplest, I find, and they usually come about through a natural gut-instinct, not through frantically searching for anything remotely tradeable or throwing down your money speculatively. Basically, Mark was spot-on and last night, I had finally had enough.

I decided I could no longer keep trading this way and I need to make trading less stressful, more enjoyable and get out of the trading bubble at every possible moment. You have to have a certain level of intensity and focus when inside the bubble but it pays to step-away from that mindset every so often, as it is very draining. You can start the day with a losing trade and before you know it, 6 hours have passed and you've gradually gnawed away at your bank with a series of small red trades, without looking up from the screen. And most could have been avoided by simply taking a break. I need to relax more during the day, not get so tense and wound-up over every single point that goes against me and be a bit more patient. And that's my goal for the rest of the week - to take it easy!