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:


  1. Deluded???
    I'm not deluded I'M MISGUIDED!

  2. Hi Tradeshark! It was your strategies that got me started trading tennis. Still at it 2 years on, all be it with my own strategies now but without your package I wouldn't have known where to start, so thank you.

    Another great interview, thanks Sultan. Where would we be without AGT!


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