Thursday, 27 December 2012

Tennis Is Back!!!

After a well-earned rest, I'm now champing at the bit for the start of what I hope will be the season which cements my progress as a long-term, consistently profitable tennis trader. I won't do another list of New Year's Resolutions, as my goals for 2013 are very simple: build the bank up to 5 figures and remain consistently profitable. There isn't anything I feel desperately needs working on to make that happen and as I have been saying for a while now, if I am thorough, professional and my head is in the right place, I will make money - it's now just a matter of how much.

The tennis season starts officially on the 29th December, when the annual Hopman Cup mixed-gender team event, takes place in Perth, Australia. However, the first Betfair tennis markets will be open on the 27th, for the Mubadala Exhibition in Abu Dhabi, as Andy Murray starts the ball rolling. I'm sure many traders will not want to trade this as it is nothing more than a warm up but I like to play it. Firstly, it is a nice warm up for me too. After such a long break from trading, throwing yourself straight back into serious action can bring up issues such as rustiness. Best to get acclimatised for a couple of matches, get a feel for the markets and the routine again. Secondly, these tournaments can throw up excellent trading opportunities. Last year, the big 3 attended. Federer simply wasn't up for it and it showed starkly in his performance, making him an easy lay. On the other hand, Djokovic looked sharp and took it very seriously, which prompted me to back him immediately to win the Australian Open - which he did. No Fed this year and Nadal has had to pull out with a stomach illness, so we should get a nice Murray-Djokovic final already, to look forward to.

The WTA and ATP tour main draw matches get underway on December 30th and there is no easing slowly into things, with a glut of events during week 1; Brisbane, Chennai and Doha for the men and Brisbane and Auckland for the women. I tend to wait until week 2 before switching my schedule and turning my life upside down for 3 weeks to trade in Oz time. With Chennai, Doha and Hopman Cup all on at more reasonable hours GMT, it means I can postpone the midnight starts and 9am finishes for a little longer! January is not the most enjoyable time to be a tennis trader but it's something I've gotten used to, liquidity is still always good and the climax of the Australian Open, is my favourite Grand Slam. What you do always get in January, is a high standard of tennis. Players are usually in peak condition, are raring to go after the break and so you'll find matches are of a better quality across the board.

I too, am raring to go. I badly needed the break but the last 2 weeks have left me itching to get back on the ladders. I had a good December thanks to James Arthur winning The X Factor (as predicted here!) and QPR were doing me proud until today, when they lost at home to West Brom (though suffered from a truly awful refereeing decision for the 2nd goal). They are now 6 points from safety but I still feel they will put a run together at some point which will save them. Reading will go down and whilst Wigan and Southampton remain just a couple of wins away, there is plenty of time for Harry to work his magic - though he badly needs new players in the transfer window. Can't say it's been much fun pretending to be a Rangers fan though! This is certainly not the way to enjoy your Saturday afternoons and this long-term market trading thing definitely isn't for me. Roll-on the tennis, I cannot wait!!

Sania Mirza:

Thursday, 6 December 2012

New Year's Resolutions: Did I Stick to Them?

So as another year draws to a conclusion, thoughts turn towards resolutions for 2013. But what about 2012? Most people tend to forget or fail at sticking to their New Year's resolutions but I recorded mine in this post. Did I stick to them?

1. Continue to trade only when I feel there is value

I can't lie, I've not always taken good value, quite often taken borderline value and sometimes taken poor prices. However, these instances are few and far between. As the months have gone by, I've become better and better at only entering the market when the value has screamed out at me. I've learnt that whenever I get an instant gut feeling on a price, I should take it, as I'm usually right and on the flip side, I've learnt that if I am deliberating over whether to enter or not, that's a signal that I shouldn't bother. I'd say that 90% of my trades have followed this rule, which means there is still room for improvement next year!

2. Trade without any monetary goals or time-limits

This was not a problem at all until the last few weeks of the tennis season. I stopped setting any monetary goals years ago but sometimes, it's hard to ignore what is in the back of your mind. Sometimes, you have a figure that you'd like to achieve, maybe a personal best or an amount you need to pay for something. No matter how much you tell yourself it doesn't matter, you still become obsessed with hitting that figure. As the season came to a close, I started to trade with a figure in mind that I wanted to hit and it completely messed with my head. That was in October, which despite a few days of dreadful trading where I risked too much, I still managed to attain my highest ever monthly profit - but would've been far higher if I hadn't been so greedy!

3. Continue not to look at my P&L until the end of each week

This is never an issue - it's fully ingrained in me not to look and so I never do. I will normally check on the Sunday but I have left it for over a week on plenty of occasions. One of the best moves I ever made, as previously, my eyes would flick constantly to my balance at the top of the screen and it would affect everything I did with my trades.

4. Move as much as possible over to Betdaq once the Geek's Toy purple is released

Errrmmm.......! To be honest, after the fuss I kicked up in January over Betdaq not attempting to lure tennis traders over during a Betfair outage, I haven't even thought about the purple place. I feel let down by them still. However, with the premium charge looming, I may be tempted to check things out for next year.....

5. Take time off from trading more often, when required

Whilst I haven't had any sort of holiday or long break from trading (deciding instead to take 5 or 6 weeks off during the off-season and not trade any other sport) I have definitely been much better at taking small breaks. That just means not trading when tired or when my head hasn't been right. I could improve on this though, there have still been occasions where I've lacked focus but still forced my way through a session. Overall though, I can't remember any incidents where I've seriously messed up due to over-trading and considering how prevalent that was last year, it's a giant step forward.

6. Continue to work on keeping those frustration levels low

Massive, massive improvements in this area - but still a long way to go. Gone are the days of punching walls, kicking furniture, straining muscles and smacking my own head! The red mist doesn't descend anymore and cause me to do irrational things. But I still get frustrated at little errors. October in particular, was a month where I did start to lose the plot and return to some bad old habits but I quickly realised and nipped it in the bud. Something to always keep an eye on but hasn't been a real issue.

7. Eradicate my impatience

Yikes! Not even close! I think I'll always be impatient. The key is to temper those feelings. I'd be doing even better if I could just stay patient, it undoubtedly costs me money every month. Usually it's due to forcing a trade with not enough value (which ties in with number 1) because I'm desperate for a win or because it's just been quiet. Usually, it goes wrong! I did however, accept that 2012 was not going to be the year when I hit the kind of profits that would enable me to go pro again. I think once I accepted that, it enabled me to trade with less pressure and just enjoy my profits and consistency. Hopefully next year, I can hit those profits and this will no longer be an issue.

Ana Ivanovic:

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

QPR, Andy Roddick, James Arthur & Alan Sugar!

I've got really itchy fingers from not trading or blogging for 2 weeks so thought I'd do a catch-up today, with a few things which may be of interest.

Firstly, I've decided to have a go at trading a long term football market. With QPR sacking Mark Hughes and installing Harry Redknapp, I believe there may be some value in laying them in the relegation market. A quick look at their fixture list last weekend, gave me cause to think that 1.8ish was worth a speculative lay:

Sunderland Away
Aston Villa Home
Wigan Away
Fulham Home
Newcastle Away
West Brom Home
Liverpool Home

That brings us up to 2013. A rather winnable looking set of matches in my opinion. Certainly, there is no one to fear and no fixture that a team like QPR would not fancy taking 3 points from. Newcastle away looks the toughest fixture but with all their injuries, I think they will be lucky to finish top half this season. A rejuvenated side under 'Arry should certainly be capable of getting something. Liverpool don't strike fear into anyone anymore and West Brom are dead certainties to drop off after their brilliant start - the congested Christmas period should be a test for their squad and a great time to play them.

I was pleased to see a reasonable start last night with a 0-0 at Sunderland. Having watched the game I'll tell you this much; QPR are better than Sunderland. I also layed the Mackems, so was doubley pleased. Unfortunately, Villa's win over Reading means the gap to safety is even wider but I'm not worried. Redknapp can't possibly do worse than Hughes, so the only way is up. Taarabt was the best player on the pitch last night and he's a classic 'Arry flair player who he will undoubtedly get the most out of. Sean Wright-Phillips who came on as sub and has been a forgotten man, also fits into that category.

Esteban Granero is a real talent in midfield. I watched him loads when he was at Getafe and Real Madrid and wondered what on earth he was doing at Loftus Road. He's way too good for QPR and again, he'll thrive under Redknapp. Cisse is a proper striker and will get goals, I've no doubt at all. I will probably be mocked for this but I think Rob Green might just turn his career back around! He came on as sub for injured Julio Cesar last night and made a great point blank save. This could well be 'fate' for the forgotten England goalkeeping number 6 and this chance under a new manager, could be just what he needs to resurrect his ailing career.

Overall, QPR knocked the ball about far better than Sunderalnd and should be able to catch them with a good run, which looks do-able with the above fixtures. After that, Redknapp can work his magic and bring in some January transfers. QPR have the money and the manager to get out of trouble and a few gems amongst the playing staff who just need some good man-management. Most importantly, there are enough weak teams above them to make the great escape possible. Reading look dead certs for relegation. Southampton, Villa and Wigan are almost certainties to be scrapping for safety. I also wouldn't rule out West Ham dropping sharply in the second half of the season and Newcastle continuing to struggle. Add in Sunderland and Norwich (who I think will be strong candidates to go) and there's plenty of hope for QPR.

Elsewhere, I came across a few entertaining videos posted on the Running Forehand tennis blog. There are clips on that link of some fun and games during exhibition matches, the best of which show Andy Roddick doing impressions of Djokovic and McEnroe and Djokovic doing an impression of Gustavo Kuerten.  This is particularly funny (in fact, I could genuinely write LOL because that's exactly what I did - but I won't) because his opponent at the time was Gustavo Kuerten! There are also clips involving Gael Monfils and Marcos Baghdatis clowning around. What they show is that, as I wrote about in this post, there are still some characters in the game, it's just that they are limited to show-boating and entertaining the crowd in exhibitions because the tour is so professional and competitive now.

It's X-Factor semi finals week and as usual, I'm looking to make some money on what has become a lucrative market for me (I picked the winner last year well in advance). I've had money on James Arthur for several weeks now and his price continues to crash to the point where he is now favourite for the first time - joint with Jahmene Douglas on Betfair. I took him at 5.2 and he's now 2.5ish. I'm slightly nervous this week, as I had intended to green up here but am going to let it run. After his bottom-two face-off with previous fave Ella Henderson, it was obvious James would get the rebound vote. Also, it is obvious that no one is going to beat him in a judges vote situation. However, that scenario no longer exists and elimination can only be decided by public vote from now on - and let's face it, anyone stupid enough to waste money voting on this shit cannot be trusted!

The rumours for weeks now are that Chris Maloney is taking a huge share of the votes. I doubt this is true as if the voting has been leaked, surely there would be insiders piling in on him for victory, yet he's still third fave at around 6.8. I think it's clear that a number of voters are trying to somehow 'upset' Simon Cowell and the production team by voting for Maloney. Pathetic really, as Cowell makes money off the very calls they are making to supposedly piss him off! Whilst I think there are people who want to see the underdog triumph in the face of the harsh criticism he's faced, I think when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, people will vote for the ones they feel truly deserve to win based on talent alone (especially with Ella eliminated more than likely due to voter complacency). The latest poll on the Digital Spy X-Factor forum has James ahead as reader's favourite by a huge margin. Therefore, I'm biting my nails for another week and hoping the British public vote for the best artist which is clearly James Arthur.

Finally, I'm sure many of you will be watching the 'Trading Academy' show on the City Index website (and you may have even entered and failed to make the cut, like me!). It's a 6 week programme in the style of The Apprentice, only with candidates that are attempting to win £100,000 by coming top after a series of financial spread trading tasks. It's well worth a watch, if only to see how the traders (each with varying degrees of trading experience, though all still novices) cope with the pressures of the tournament, TV cameras and increasing banks of money to play with.
You won't learn anything about how to trade the financial markets but it's interesting seeing how the psychological side affects each trader and also how the two Alan Sugar characters (one of whom is way scarier than the real thing!), choose who is to be 'fired' each week. It's not always who you might expect and this tells you a lot about what it really takes to become a trader. Spread betting is the closest form of financial trading you will get to sports trading (because you can make money on prices going down as well as up), so it's a relevant watch especially if you are new to trading. It's the final next week so plenty of time to catch up till the end!

Serena Williams:

Friday, 16 November 2012

Tradeshark v The Sultan

OK, it's an overly-dramatic title to reel you in but nonetheless, what I have to write about does suggest a certain amount of sparring! I was disappointed to read in Tradeshark's latest post, the following:

"For the rest of the year I will be looking at the football and cricket. I read on another blog almost a criticism of tennis traders that switch to other sports at the end of the season. 6 weeks is a long time to take off and while some may be in a position to go travelling etc those of us with families don’t have that option. My wife works in a care home and the elderly and sick still need nursing just the same as at any other time of year. In fact my wife will be working Christmas day. I will be working considerably fewer hours but I aren’t one to sit around doing nothing."

I attempted to respond with the following comment:

Hi TS, I guess you are referring to me as the blogger who 'almost' criticised tennis traders! I did no such thing, here's what I wrote:

"A lot of tennis traders will switch to another sport during November-December but I have always planned my trading so that I don't have to do this. For me, taking a break for 5 or 6 weeks during the cold, heart of winter is ideal; just the right amount of time to re-charge the batteries, visit family over Christmas and go abroad travelling somewhere warm. I've proved this year that I don't need to trade anything else. I've adapted my life to the tennis calendar and adapted my trading so that it should (eventually) fill my requirements financially."

Where is the criticism here? I've simply stated what my plans are, how I've attempted to fit my life around the calendar and how it might differ from others. One of the reasons I got into trading was to give me more time to travel, as it's a passion of mine. So I've used the trading calendar to give me time to do this. It's in no way a slight on anyone else and I'm sorry you've come to that conclusion but it's not meant that way.

I don't focus on what anyone else is doing, I learnt a while back that you have to do what works for you. 6 weeks is a long time off but when you've worked with no holidays or bank hols and few weekends off for the entire year, it works out as no different to anyone else. I just choose to condense my time off into one longer period. Anyway, hope that settles things!

The comment has not been posted up so instead, I'll have my say here. I don't want any of Tradeshark's or my own readers to think that I've made any criticism which they might take personally. He labelled it as "almost a criticism" - well it either is or it isn't and as he's gone to the trouble of writing about it, it's obvious he thinks it's a criticism. It isn't. If you'd like to read the original post I made, to see the full context, here it is.

Just for the record, I work two jobs (trading and freelance writing) so the six weeks I take off after working 7 days a week, most weeks for 10 months of the year, is well deserved. Why would I criticise anyone for changing sports anyway? In many ways, I would like to be able to trade another sport successfully through the winter, as it would allow me more options on when to take my time off. I could trade football for 6 weeks but in all honesty, I can't be bothered. I still need to take a break, so I'd only be trading football for a 2 or 3 week period at most. I would rather trade my arse off in the tennis season and take all my time off during the winter lull instead. That allows me to really travel a country properly, rather than rush through in a week or two. This does mean I have to work very hard for those 10 months because I need enough to cover the travelling and usual expenses for November and December. So I'm not working any less or taking any more time off than anyone else in any normal job.

This does at least provide me with a topic to write about; long term goals. I think it's something many new traders don't think about but planning ahead is vital if you are considering doing this professionally. I've always said that I got into trading to have more options and free time. My future aim is that I won't have to work so solidly for 10 months and that will happen as my bank grows and my profit with it. In a normal job, you get paid for 4 weeks of statutory holiday (plus bank holidays) but traders don't and neither do freelancers - no work, no pay. This means I have to conjure up 12 months' pay within 10 months work. That's not easy but I have made sure that my trading strategy and style allows me to make a fairly consistent amount which I know will fill my requirements.

Nothing is guaranteed in this game but you must have a plan if you are reliant on the money. The first time around, when I failed miserably, I didn't have one. This time, I looked at everything; from projections of potential profits, to the effect of the premium charge, to pension schemes, to savings accounts, to mortgage and loan options, to living expenses forecasts, to fitting in holidays, to the effect the tennis calendar will have on my social life at different parts of the year to financing during the off-season. I've left no stone unturned. If you have a family then you will probably have a very different plan to someone who is single. Neither is right or wrong. I would never criticise anyone for the way they plan their trading.

The next paragraph of Tradeshark's post has a general dig at trading blogs, of which I'm sure this one is not exempt from. I'm fine with that, it's his opinion and he's entitled to it. Unlike him, I don't rely on my blog to sell anything, so it really isn't an issue what people think. If reader numbers go down I will continue to write cos I enjoy it. Anyway, nothing more for me to say for this year, I'm off travelling! I'm thinking North Africa this year; maybe Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia. Maybe even Libya! Happy Christmas and New Year to all, whatever you decide to do - trading or no trading!

Agnieszka Radwanska:

Monday, 12 November 2012

2012 Trading Season Review

So the tennis season comes to a close, with just the Davis Cup Final remaining. It's been an incredible season for me. January was my only losing month. I have averaged approximately 50% of my bank each month. I've achieved my biggest ever monthly profit from tennis trading. But perhaps most importantly, I have a strategy that is 100% set in stone; no nagging question marks, no underlying worries and no problems executing it.

At the start of the year, I was 4 or 5 months into fine-tuning a whole new strategy and a trading ethos which was the complete opposite of what I'd been doing for years. I was finding it hard to adapt and to trust the new ideas. I was still ill-disciplined, impatient and uncertain about many things but the one thing I was sure of, was that I was on the right path finally and it was just a matter of time before it all clicked. That moment came in February, where I made my first 4 figure profit. From then onwards, I was no longer the boom and bust trader of a year earlier and I was no longer frustratingly breaking-even as I had been over the previous 6 months. It was just a few small tweaks to the strategy, plus this excellent book, that made the difference and enabled me to become consistently profitable.

But that's not to say I haven't had my share of frustrations. The main one being that I have been unable to compound my profits or grow my bank. When I think about where I could be if I'd been able to do that, it makes me a little sick. Hopefully, things will change in 2013. My new set of goals for my 4th season of tennis trading, will mostly be aimed at growing the bank. The scope for scaling up to bigger stakes is still huge - I'm still just a tiny minnow in the ocean when it comes to liabilities. So I think that my overall goal for 2013 will be to grow the bank up to a 5 figure sum. Once I've achieved that, I can seriously start to think about trading professionally again, only this time, I'll actually know what I'm doing!

As for my trading itself, there will of course, always be things that I aim to improve. The key one still remains, even after all these years, my terrible impatience. The second one is keeping any over-confidence in check. And the third key issue I'll be working on, is my focus, which I can see becoming a bigger problem in 2013 because my trading is pretty repetitious now. I'm not trying to figure things out or test areas of strategy or work on my mindset, so there is less variety in what I do. Trading has become easier but with it, a tad monotonous. So keeping focus is going to be a real challenge. I'm hoping that an increase in stakes will bring with it a new set of challenges and perhaps new trading ideas, which will keep me interested. There is also still room for me to develop a more aggressive approach and I may look to do this. I've been playing it relatively safe and have not gone for the really big greens. If I hit a few of them, it will take my trading onto a whole other level.

I was going to trade some football over the next few weeks but to be honest, the win I got from Reading v Arsenal (have I mentioned I layed 1.03 at 4-0 yet?!), is as much as I could have hoped for in the whole off-season. As football managers like to say "I would've taken that before the start". Besides, my fall out of love with football continues. I'm sick to death of all the stuff that goes on around football - the racism, the pathetic behaviour of some fans, the vile chants, the farcical governing bodies, the diving, cheating and gamesmanship, the moaning, whinging, biased-beyond-all-reason supporters, the primadonna players and the endless debates over the same, nonsensical issues such as goal-line technology. When I trade a sport, I need to be enjoying it and I actually find myself getting angry with a lot of what I see and read. That's no way to prepare for a session on the ladders. I won't be back as a regular viewer or trader until some serious changes are made - ones I don't expect to see any time soon.

So it'll be quiet on the posting front from me. I've added a couple of new sections to the side-bars of the blog; a list of my most popular posts (automatically chosen by Blogger based on no. of hits) and 10 of my favourite other posts. Might be something of interest to tide you by till I return. I'm not even going to think about trading at all until the New Year, so that's it for 2012..............happy Christmas, traders!

Ana Ivanovic:

Thursday, 8 November 2012

100th Best in the World

Tennis is a strange sport in that often, people will talk about a player who is ranked between 50 and 100, for example, as if he or she is a nobody. They see Murray struggling against a guy ranked 60 places lower and criticism rains down as if it is inconceivable that he should even give up a set. They see Nadal losing to the number 100 and it's as if the apocalypse is upon us! Many will sneer at the Challenger Tour, even ex-players, who often seem to view it as an almost comical tour. Yet even players inside the top 50 will occasionally step down to that level to play the odd event. I see traders all the time, who are quick to knock a player purely because of ranking, despite the fact they are well inside the top 100. If you look at football or rugby, do you think the best 100 players would be treated in the same manner? No chance! They'd be regarded as part of an elite group of prime athletes.

I think people tend to forget that these are the greatest 100 players on the entire planet. They've fought hard over many years (since they were toddlers for the vast majority), through junior levels, Futures Tour events and then the Challenger Tour, playing in front of one man and his dog, often for just enough to cover their travel expenses - if that. It's very competitive and only the toughest and most talented survive. There are millions of recreational tennis players worldwide. The ITF has 144 member nations and although the number of pro players worldwide is unknown, we are talking about many thousands (when you take into account ATP World Tour, Challenger Tour, Futures Tour and those earning a living in national leagues such as the German Bundesliga and the French and Japanese leagues, which are lucrative enough that many players prefer to just play locally).

To make that leap up to ATP level is a massive achievement and so if you get anywhere near the top 100, you have done it against the odds. To be the 100th best player in the entire world, out of millions of others who dream of doing the same, is a feat which should really be marvelled at and held in high regard. Yet for some reason, it's not. I think it's mostly because the average person doesn't understand what it takes to become  a top sportsman or hasn't been through anything in their own life which means they can relate to the experience. Instead, they just see a number, (a completely arbitrary one, but 100 is nice and round, so it's easy to choose that as a marker) and judge everyone based on that, without thinking of the player's age, experience, past form and most importantly, what it takes to actually make it in the sport. We look at 'one hundred' and it sounds and feels like a lot, when in the context of the entire tennis world, it's just a tiny drop in the ocean.

I've found that since I got into trading, I have a better understanding of what it takes for players to reach the top. That's partly down to having a greater knowledge of tennis but also because of what I've been through as a trader. If someone was to say to me that I was the 100th best tennis trader in the world, I would be ecstatic! Why? Because I now know just how difficult it is to even get into the top 5, 10, 15, 20% of traders. That's my ultimate aim because if I can reach that elite percentage (whatever the figure is for long term winners) it will mean that I'm a successful trader. It's easy to laugh at someone and say "she's only ranked 132" or "he's not even in the top 50" but next time you do so, have a think about what that number really means. Then maybe, have a think about how close you would be to getting into any top 100 list. A ranking of 103(ish) will sneak you into the last available space of a Grand Slam tennis tournament main draw. I'm guessing the vast majority of us would not be anywhere near making the main draw of a Grand Slam Trading event, if one were to exist!

Maria Kirilenko:

Friday, 2 November 2012

October - The Results

It's been a decent October. I'm happy with the overall profit (a new personal record!), though slightly disappointed because a couple of bad days stopped this being my best ever profit from tennis trading alone. By 'bad', I mean avoidably bad. There was no excuse for some of the things I did over those one or two days. For some reason, I started to feel pressure of the likes I've not experienced for a long time. I was extremely irritable and beat myself up over little things which I would normally just brush off. The old anger started to rear its ugly head again, with a force that I'd not seen all year. I think that it is because it's almost the end of the season and I wanted to finish on a high note after 2 relatively disappointing months. Still, when a 'disappointing' month equates to  a profitable month, it shows just how far I've come with my trading over the last year.

I suppose the goalposts have shifted and with the way I trade these days, I expect to be hitting around 50% of my bank at least. That might seem like quite a high expectancy rate but all my research over the past year has shown that if I do the right things, I should be able to hit that amount. I've found that my trading is pretty constant in all areas. The number of games I trade and my win-loss ratio doesn't vary that much from month to month. All in all, I'm quite the steady-Eddie these days!

Despite this, I still have off-days and I still have trouble accepting them. The perfectionist within me is never going away! This month, I let myself down with one trade in particular, as I went for too much, over-staked and then refused to let go of my position - a relatively big loss (though still only a small fraction of my bank). There were a handful of other trades where the issue was not the amount I lost but the amount I won (or failed to win). I could've racked up a few hundred extra just from being less greedy. I'm not one for second-guessing (I used to do it a lot but these days, I tend to accept whatever decision I made in the moment) but this month, I know that I was too impatient. I've little doubt that this is because the season is almost over.

A lot of tennis traders will switch to another sport during November-December but I have always planned my trading so that I don't have to do this. For me, taking a break for 5 or 6 weeks during the cold, heart of winter is ideal; just the right amount of time to re-charge the batteries, visit family over Christmas and go abroad travelling somewhere warm. I've proved this year that I don't need to trade anything else. I've adapted my life to the tennis calendar and adapted my trading so that it should (eventually) fill my requirements financially.

So maybe I shouldn't feel so disappointed. Things are falling into place, I just need to remain patient. That's quite hard to do when you have 6 weeks of thumb-twiddling on the horizon. The timing couldn't be worse because I'm buzzing at the moment and raring to push my trading onto the next level. Ah well, there's always the football to dabble in and if it goes the way it did on Tuesday night, it could be quite lucrative. You'll notice that a large chunk of my P&L profit (2 screen-shots because I've used 2 accounts) is from football and all of it is from the one game.............yes, I layed Reading!

It goes down as probably my greatest ever bet, with only the £1000 I won backing 0-0 between Barcelona and Osasuna a few years ago, running it close. I wasn't even watching the match, just noticed the score on Betfair and was stunned to see Reading 4-0 up! I assumed Wenger had put the kids out to play but a quick check on the line up showed me that Arsenal were still quite strong - so I layed 1.03. Seconds later, it was 4-1. I was only hoping for a couple of Gunner goals after half-time to allow me to green up for a modest sum, so was ecstatic that the comeback had begun before half-time. However, at 4-2 I could only green up for £15, so it wasn't worth it and I stayed in. I'd given up when the clock went into the final minute of normal time and they got the 3rd very late - Reading were doing a grand job of wasting time and I still could only green up for £15. But who in their right mind would have backed Reading sub 1.10 knowing one more goal with 4 mins still to go, would destroy them?! Whoever you are, I thank you - my biggest profit of 2012 by a mile! If only I'd gone in bigger..............but then, I was about 10 seconds away from losing so I have no complaints!

Sorana Cirstea:

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Sultan's Trading Plugathon

A few things to have a look at on the blogosphere that have caught my eye recently:

Mark Iverson has a new project up and running which might interest any football traders. His 'Soccer In-Play' mobile phone app can be downloaded for free and looks like a great tool for gathering info on football matches (such as graphs and historic data) quickly, in order to place bets or plan trading strategies. You can follow 'Soccer In-Play' on Twitter @soccerinplay and visit Mark's blog for more info and an explanatory video.

It's been a while since I mentioned The Geek's Toy on this blog. It has of course, now changed from a free trading application into a paid one, with the official name AGT Pro - though it'll always be known as The Toy for us long-term aficionados. If you are new to trading, I still recommend it as highly as I did when it was 100% free. Recently, The Geek made the owned licence available for a second time. I bought one back during the summer and at £120 for the lifetime of the product, is a real bargain when you consider what you'd pay for subscriptions to any of the other rival platforms (none of which are as good, in my opinion). You've got till October 31st to claim one before it reverts back to monthly and annual subscriptions.

I'm sure many of you will already have seen this but I'll give it a plug anyway. It's a free guide to tennis trading, which you can find on the Liability Trading blog. There's no catch, it's 100% free and I can tell you that it's one of the best guides I've ever seen. The way it's written and laid out is absolutely spot-on and is very concise in terms of conveying what you need in order to become a successful tennis trader. It does not delve into specific strategies and much of what is there will be obvious to anyone who has been trading for a while but if you want to know the basics of what it takes to trade tennis using low liability, you can't ask for much more for free.

I haven't really had a close look at the Matchbook betting exchange but any new exchange which might offer an alternative to Betunfair should at least be given a chance, in my opinion. Here's the blurb I received in my inbox recently:

Matchbook is a sports betting exchange designed for the professional and savvy sports bettors.
The bigger bets the better!

After many years of the market crying out for a Betfair alternative we believe that has arrived with
Matchbook's commission is 1% - lowest in the market. (Betfair's general commission is 5%).
This makes us very attractive for the high volume clients.

Matchbook is a market leader on Asian Handicap in football and US sports – 'better odds, lowest commission and great liquidity'.

Matchbook also has a VIP service:
One example is access to our VIP pool where the most active players via Skype, MSN or email are able to submit offers (place bets) of over $3-5000 into the pool. Our team of brokers find a counterparty for the bet and get it matched up. This service is quick, 100% confidential and has allowed our biggest clients to extract even more value from other sites. This service has matched millions of dollars for our high rolling Matchbook clients.

I found the site a tad confusing at first glance but maybe a second perusal with more time on my hands may uncover something worthwhile. Just thought I'd share anyway, as trust me, the desire to find an alternative exchange still burns deep within me!

I wrote a post about the Football Cliches blog recently and can only re-iterate how good this blog is. Most posts were made 5 years ago, so don't expect regular updates but it's one to be read from the beginning. I read a few posts a week and it never fails to make me laugh. For more info, check out my post here for my favourite blog post.

And finally, a really fascinating tennis blog I stumbled across recently named Footsoldiers of Tennis. What I like about it (apart from the fact it's provided useful info which has actually helped with my trading) is that it's very different to most tennis blogs. Here's why, from the author himself:

Foot Soldiers of Tennis is about, well… the Foot Soldiers of Tennis. Those who heroically fill the opening rounds of an ATP 250 while the top four seeds go around getting foot rubs while having their first round bye.

If you want a blog that focuses on Roger, Rafa, and friends, well we have our opinions on those – but there are plenty more out there. Most of them are better informed. We’ll also try and maintain a level of detachment – while we have our favourites there is a ban on too twee nicknames here.

We much prefer those days when the journeyman has his finest hour (this is pretty much a men’s tennis blog) – or we claim to have spotted a genuine talent on the Challenger Tour. When Ivan Dodig beats Rafael Nadal, we wake up with an extra step in our stride. As we do when Eric Prodon is top seed in a clay court Challenger.

A great read with interesting articles that I believe can help anyone attempting to become a tennis trader, learn some in-depth knowledge of the sport.

Sabine Lisicki:

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Chasing Broccoli

"I must have forgotten the time I once lost £6,000 trying to win £2 to cover the cost of a piece of broccoli I'd deemed overpriced."

This was taken from the Betfair Trading to Gambler's Anonymous blog (not written by the author but taken from another source). My first instinct was to laugh - after all, it is one of the funniest lines I've ever read on a betting blog! But it  is tinged with a certain empathy and sadness because I have done similar things to this in the past (though not involving a vegetable and 6 grand!). It does beg the question: are we ever truly out of danger? Is there always the chance, no matter how slim, that even the most successful of traders could spiral out of control?

I once read about a trader who lost an entire year's worth of hard-earned profit in under a week. I also read about a trader who gave up everything to move abroad and trade full-time. Within a couple of years, he'd lost all his savings and moved back to the UK. And then there is our old friend O'Dwyer, who was living the dream, tens of thousands in profit, only to end up struggling to scrape together a bank to 'trade' with a year later. Looking back on The 5 Stages to Sports Trading, I remind myself of the following quote:

"Around 60% of new traders die out in the first 3 months - they give up and this is good - think about it - if trading was easy we would all be millionaires. Another 20% keep going for a year and then in desperation take risks guaranteed to blow their account which of course it does.

What may surprise you is that of the remaining 20% all of them will last around 3 years - and they will think they are safe in the water - but even at 3 years only a further 5-10% will continue and go on to actually make money consistently"

I am now around that 3 year phase. So am I "safe in the water"? Am I now becoming part of the 5-10%? Obviously, only time will tell but if I can try to answer honestly, I'd say that I will never end up doing what the traders in my above examples did. These are examples of utter capitulation, where quite clearly, profits have been made without the use of sound money management and certainly without mastering the psychological side of trading - maybe even without a successful long-term strategy. These are things which I feel I have now conquered. It's possible that maybe these traders only experienced positive runs and so when faced with a down-turn, they lost it because they were shocked and didn't know how to react properly. Or perhaps the pressure of trading full-time exposed a weakness in their mental game. Well, I've experienced both of these phenomenons.

I've lost loads and I've been in pressure situations that would frighten the life out of most people. I've experienced all the lows that you can, so I feel that I'm in as strong a position to say whether I am "safe in the water", as is possible without years of records as proof. And I would say that no, I'm not 100% safe yet. If I'm totally honest with myself, whilst I'm confident that I will never self-destruct and lose everything in double-quick time, I cannot say I will never succumb again to the pressures of doing this as a sole source of income (if I ever go back to that). I know what it is like and how the mind does funny things. Even with all my experience, I would never say never - it's good not to be complacent anyway. It wouldn't be a fast deterioration, more likely a slow decline but I'll be better prepared for the first signs of it next time and I'm not fearful of it. Broccoli can be rather expensive these days though and I do enjoy a floret or two with my Sunday roast.............

Dominica Cibulkova:

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Sultan's WTA Charisma List

Following on from my ATP charisma list, now here are my WTA choices. I would argue that the current crop of players has as many, if not more characters than any previous era:

Victoria Azarenka

Darth Vika is as feisty, headstrong and abrasive as they come. This means she's not everyone's cup of tea, including me. She has an arrogant swagger and a way of rubbing opponents up the wrong way, with her wailing, celebrating and occasional gamesmanship (loves an MTO, does Vika). And she's not averse to blatant tanking in front of a huge crowd, as shown at the tour finals last year. A couple of years ago, she'd regularly argue with umpires and the crowd and was rude to ball kids, but seems to be trying to tone it down and ingratiate herself with the fans more now. Only problem is, you can tell she's been told to do this and doesn't always seem sincere. She's very young and still maturing though.

Li Na

Anyone who watched her run to the French Open title and Australian Open final in 2011, cannot have failed to be charmed by her post-match interviews. A genuinely funny and interesting character, with an on-court temper that's always bubbling near the surface.

Ana Ivanovic

Quite simply a delight. If you ever feel down, I urge you to flick on a clip of Ana on YouTube and wait for the smile that could melt any heart. No one shows as much happiness on court as an in-form Ivanovic and unlike many other players, is as polite as possible to everyone; from ball kids to opponents. She has a wide variety of fist-pumps and loves an "ADJE!!", which I feel really helps endear her to the crowd. Also can talk the hind legs off a donkey and off-court, her enthusiasm for the sport just shines through.

Jelena Jankovic

She can be moody, miserable, bad tempered, rude and brash but that's because she never hides her emotions and I love her for it. On the flip-side, she can laugh at her own mistakes and when things are going well, she loves to play to the crowd and offer up big gestures and smiles. You can tell she loves the game.

Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova

This Czech girl is completely mental. Guaranteed histrionics in every single match, win or lose. This mostly involves berating herself but no one is safe from an outburst, including her coach, who I've seen given the most vicious looking evils I've ever seen! Loves a good racquet smash/throw and despite the fact she plays with a permanent frown, you just have to laugh at the way she just never stops chuntering. She's extremely talented and has more natural flair than most players ranked far higher but her inability to conquer her own mental weakness has held her back from a much better career. Makes me laugh every single time!

Marion Bartoli

The phrase 'mad as a box of frogs' was made for Bartoli (not just cos she's French!). Her bizarre routines she goes through, both with the mechanical-looking serve and the constant, wild jumping, shadow-swinging, fist-clenching and jerking on return of serve, mark her out as a must watch. Never stops moving at any time! Hilarious to observe and when you add in all the strange interaction with her father, the mad Doctor Walter, with his crazy training contraptions, you have a genuine fruit-loop.

Francesca Schiavone

The little Italian lives for the crowd. She never really bothers much in the smaller tournaments and I'm sure it's partly because she needs a big stage to perform her best. Franny understands that tennis is entertainment and her game is suited to bringing out the best in a crowd - proper old-school slices, volleys, mixed spins and drop-shots. Add in a comically outlandish grunt, cheeky smile and a stare that could kill your average umpire and she epitomises the phrase 'heart on sleeve'. And no one milks applause better than her!

Andrea Petkovic

One of the few all-round entertainers in tennis. Gives great interviews, can be funny, hugely intelligent, amusing celebrations, feisty on court and also a bubbly, lively girl off it. The life and soul of the German Fed Cup team. Greatly missed with her time out with injury this year.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands

Nicknamed 'The Lady Ga-Ga of Tennis' for her often outrageous on-court outfits, Mattek-Sands is a true character off-court too. Famed for her knee-high socks and American football style, facial war-paint, she is clearly an eccentric which is rare on the tour. From jackets made of tennis balls, to diagonally sliced skirts to cowboy hats, the feisty American adds plenty of colour to the WTA.

There are certain players who do their bit and are great with the fans and say all the right things. Federer, Nadal, Clijsters, Sharapova and Serena Williams all come into that category but they are all a bit too polished and almost robotic. You never get a real sense that they are a great character. Great champions, yes, great speakers, yes, great in front of a camera, yes but great personalities? I don't feel that. I'm not hanging on their every word, waiting to see what they will come up with next. You could guess Sharapova's post match interview answers before she's even finished and she exudes a certain cold aloofness. Federer tries his best to throw in a bit of humour but it all feels pre-written, and probably by someone else. Nadal isn't known as 'Nadull' by some people, for no reason. Clijsters is charming but gives absolutely nothing on-court - completely stoic. And Serena, I just always feel as though she's putting on a fake, sugary-sweet voice for her fans - the tennis equivalent of the office receptionist.

These guys understand the importance of giving to the fans but I don't feel they would give half as much if a) they weren't obligated to give so many post match interviews and b) they didn't have product lines like 'Sugarpova' to sell. I can guarantee you Nadal would be off on his fishing boat faster than you could shout 'Rafa, a quick word please!'. But I guess he does enough of his entertaining through his tennis, as do all those I've mentioned. After all, they aren't paid to be comedians or actors.

Does any other sport really have these characters? Certainly not in football, where half the players can't string a sentence together and the likes of Drogba and Cole cannot even spare 2 minutes for an interview, even after winning the Champions League for the first time. Both ran away before they could even finish emitting their tired cliches to ITV and that's something you see all the time with footballers. At least with tennis, they all try to engage the fans off-court - even Andy Murray (reluctantly) does these days. Compared to other sports, I think tennis doesn't do too badly at all in the charisma stakes.

Jarmila Gajdosova:

Friday, 5 October 2012

The Sultan's ATP Charisma List

An interesting post on A Football Trader's Path  recently, one that got me really thinking about today's players. Are there any characters left in tennis? I had to have a long hard think about who would get on a charisma list. Here's who I came up with, starting with the men:

Novak Djokovic

This guy exudes charisma like no one else. They don't call him 'Djoker' for no reason. He just has that x-factor which none of the other big 4 has. Absolutely thrives on being in front of the camera and will always add in a touch of humour, often completely off the cuff and without prompting. He's a prime example though, of why you just cannot afford to Djoke around on-court too much in today's game. He used to do so but stopped when he realised that a) Other players don't like it and an angry opponent is a dangerous opponent and b) It ruins your focus. When you are involved in 5 hour battles with some of the greatest players of all time, keeping focus is paramount. Since he's toned it down, he's become far more successful.

Gael Monfils

The consumate entertainer. Monfils would have fit into any era because he lives for the crowd. If he wasn't playing tennis, he'd be performing somewhere. You just never know what he'll come up with next and if we had more Gaels in tennis, it would be a laugh a minute - unless you have a bet on him! Because Monfils is a great example of why you can't be Le Clown in today's game. He loses focus too easily because he can't stick to the basics which win matches. Instead, he'll cock things up by going for outrageous shots when there is no need and he'll relax and look to please the crowd instead of staying solid. It's shame but the professionalisation of tennis is at the detriment of players like Monfils and it's something we just have to accept.

Jo Wilfried Tsonga

I once heard him described as similar to Monfils but with one crucial difference: Monfils plays to entertain the crowd, Tsonga entertains the crowd through playing well. He has a great personality and a fun side which he brings out but only when it's the right time. He knows how to embellish a shot and to celebrate lavishly and to show his athletic prowess to wow the fans. As his English improves, he's also becoming an interesting listen, post-match.

Janko Tipsarevic

Yes, he's a match fixer (allegedly), yes he thinks he's deep and intellectual with all his Tolstoy tattoos, yes, he's a sexist knob but undeniably, he's an interesting character. He speaks very lucidly and always has something interesting to say, even if it does make you roll your eyes. The fact he has possibly the most beautiful woman I've ever seen as his girlfriend, is another reason I'm drawn to his matches. Watch out for him on Twitter!

Andy Roddick

Another guy I don't personally warm to but at least he has something to say. At least he gives you a smart-ass comment or a wry joke. I don't really like all this 'I tell it like it is' crap, as those sort of people always think they speak on behalf of everyone but are the only one brave enough to actually say what they think. Which is often bollocks. But it's good to have different personalities who won't just trot out cliches. He's retired now though, so one less character on tour!

Marcos Baghdatis

It's not so much what he says, as what he does. He's just a thoroughly likeable bloke is Marcos and his enjoyment for tennis and for life just oozes through every pore. One of the few players who will guarantee you a smile during a match and like Tsonga, knows the right times to be a showman. I remember him smashing 4 racquets in a row during a changeover at the Australian Open this year - 3 of them were still in their plastic wrapping! But although angry, he still managed a smile at the end of it - now who else would do that?

Grigor Dimitrov

The young Bulgarian has plenty to say, both on and off the court. I hope he continues to fulfill his promise because we are in for a treat if he gets to the very top. From chatting to ball girls, to spats with opponents, to entertaining post match interviews, this guy has charisma in spades and an on-court game which emulates Federer - which is always a good thing.

Ernests Gulbis

Very much like Dimitrov only even more wacky! The Latvian son of a millionaire lacks the drive to go with his amazing talent. You can see from the way he sits with his legs crossed at the changeover, to the way his interviews are laced with sarcastic jokes (often aimed at himself!) that he perhaps will never reach the top 10 where he really should be. But if he did, the whole world be lapping him up. He had an amazing clay season run a couple of years ago and during that time, TV channels were falling over themselves for quotes from Ernests' off the wall interviews. Unfortunately, he's just TOO laid back for his own good!

Radek Stepanek

A true old-school performer, Stepanek is one of the few players left who loves a spiky contest. Never afraid to get in an opponent's face, the Czech also likes to play to the crowd with little celebrations, spectacular jumps, theatrical dives and a pleasing-on-the-eye all-court game which would have slotted in perfectly in any previous era. Also has a great sense of humour and a rather amusing line in loud shirts!

Obviously, players from yester-year (particularly the pre 90s era) tended to provide a little more in the way of on-court entertainment for the fans. But things have become far more serious now. With the amount of money knocking around, the increased depth of competition and physical demands, it's not really as viable for players to suddenly start messing around during games.

I think people often look back at past eras with rose-tinted specs; were there really that many more great characters? People remember McEnroe, Nastasie, Conors and Leconte but I bet most would struggle to come up with a list as big as the one above, from a single era. I think it's just a handful that were truly entertaining and they stick in the mind because they were one-offs. If you haven't got it, you haven't got it and you shouldn't be rail-roaded into giving what you don't have (Andy Murray). It just would be nice if there were a few more light-hearted moments or bits of banter to spice up a match.

In my next post, it's the ladies turn.

Flavia Pennetta:

Monday, 1 October 2012

September: The Results

I've been in two minds as to whether to post up my monthly P&L anymore. Following my post which discussed the subject of viewing other trader's P&Ls, it feels slightly hypocritical. I don't like the idea that other traders might feel that they should be making consistent profits or amounts that I'm making, when they may be at a totally different stage with their journey. Not that I'm making large amounts - I'm hardly going to make too many people jealous! So what I'm probably going to do in future is change to simply writing down the percentage of my bank that I make. I feel that makes for a fairer comparison for everyone of all trading levels and experience. Not that you should be comparing yourself with what anyone else is doing but humans being what we are, it is only natural that we will do this. It's not as trustworthy as a Betunfair P&L screenshot but then, if you don't trust me by now, with all the ups and downs I've documented, you never will!

Just for the record, I have gone back to using an average of 2.5% of my bank as my liability for each trade. I did increase it for a few weeks to 5% but feel that I'd rather have the peace of mind that the lower percentage brings. It allows me to have 20 maximum liability losses on the spin and 40 average losses. Neither scenario is likely to happen (I haven't had 2 max losses in a row for a long time) but I do quite often have a run of average sized losses (0-2%), so it's best to prepare for the worst. As I'm currently still unable to increase stakes because I have to withdraw all profit, my maximum liability remains at around £50 for most trades.

As you can see from my screenshot, it's been a disappointing month - my lowest profit since January. I put this mostly down to some erratic trading caused by my failure to adapt well to changes in trading hours. With the tennis tour shifting from the USA to Asia, it meant a sharp turn from finishing at 2 or 3am, to waking up to start trading at 6 or 7am. I really didn't cope well with this at first and found myself way too tired to fully concentrate to the level required. It cost me on several occasions but the fact that I still came out of another decidedly ropey month with profit, can only be a good thing. My average profit per month in 2012 is still approximately 50% of my bank, so I'm more than satisfied with that if it remains that way in November, when the season ends.

October is the last month with a full programme of WTA and ATP tennis, so I suppose I may as well continue showing my P&L for now. There isn't  a lot else to report. Trading for me is now an ingrained habit. I enjoy it for the most part. The pressure I have to make money is low enough to mean I never experience fear or anxiety, whilst the small amount that does exist is enough to drive me forward and remain professional. My biggest fight is still with myself. I lose focus every now and then and I still find it tough to shut out distractions when I'm in need of new stimulus. If I can find a way of taming my wandering mind and itchy keyboard fingers, there is very little standing in my way of continued success. I think the fact I can't compound my profits doesn't help because once I get stuck doing the same repetitive things with the same stakes and same bank, I feel stagnant. I'm just not naturally good at repetition - 'variety is the spice of life' would make a great tattoo for me.

Maria Sharapova:

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Football Cliches

Just a short post today. One of the things I hate most about football is that it's riddled with tiresome cliches. In my previous post, I wrote about how many of these cliches, beliefs and generalisations, were not based on statistical fact and many were actually downright wrong. Today, I stumbled across a brilliant website which is dedicated towards writing about football cliches. The first post I read (posted on the Betting Expert website but written by the same author), made me laugh more than just about any blog post I've ever read:

What the average TV pundit knows about the Euro 2012 teams

This website is superbly written and so spot-on with its insight, I couldn't resist adding it to my blogroll, despite the fact it is unrelated to trading. If you love football, I urge you to take a look. I will no longer curse at the glut of cliches I hear every single day relating to football and thanks to this site, will instead learn to laugh at them.

It is still quite depressing that the likes of Shearer and Hansen can get paid so much for doing so little. Hansen once admitted that he was a Premier League elitist (his words) i.e. he only likes and bothers watching the big clubs. Shearer once famously admitted he didn't know anything about his own club Newcastle United's newest big name signing (Hatem Ben Arfa, I think it was), despite the fact he was analysing the player on Match of the Day! The above post was made with pundits like these two in mind - experts who make no effort to do any research and just turn up and blurt out tired old cliches in an attempt to mask their lack of knowledge. Enjoy!

Anastasia Pivovarova:

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Torres Torture: A Year On

Long term readers might remember that this time last year, I made a disastrous current score lay during the Manchester Utd v Chelsea tie. A missed Rooney penalty (he kicked the ball onto his own foot!) and THAT Torres open-goal howler, compounded the misery. The aftermath was the real bank-buster though, as I completely lost the plot:

Torres Torture

So have the wounds healed a year on? Well, it wasn't my last atrocious football bet but I certainly haven't been involved in a match with the same devastating consequences. I can't really be trusted with soccerball, I have just never had the discipline. Until now. With the tennis season coming to a close soon, I have decided that I'm ready to go back and face my fears head on. I can laugh at what happened now but at the time, it almost resulted in me bombing out of trading. So I'm going to attempt to use my new skills honed through tennis trading, on the football markets. I'll be re-visiting some old techniques which I always felt could work in the hands of a sane person. Well, now I have officially re-gained my sanity which was lost during those football trading years, it's time to see if I can make some money.

I've always had a reasonable knowledge of football, though I suppose the vast majority of fans would say the same thing! The truth is that until you really start to watch it day in, day out, looking for patterns and statistical analysis, you probably don't truly know football as well you think you do. There are a lot of myths and completely untrue generalisations which are spoken widely amongst fans, which you will soon find dispelled.  I always remember being surprised at how ingrained some of my beliefs were, which were totally disproved within a few weeks of  watching football from all over the world. Much of it stems from listening to commentators, pundits and journalists who we just take for granted, know more than us. Yet a lot of what they feed us is based on their own prejudices. Some of them don't watch anywhere near as much football as traders do. In short, they've grown up with the same set of ingrained beliefs that we have.

For example, the idea that Italian football is full of nil-nils and low scoring games. Yet Serie A over the last decade, has never had a season where the average goals per game has totalled under 2.5. You can't say the same about the Premier League.

Another thing that you see written regularly across the Internet, is when a team goes 3-0 up or you get a 2-2 or 3-2 in the first half, people seem to think that the game will continue in this vein. This actually rarely happens, as the team in front tend to take their foot off the gas and the teams leaking goals tighten up defensively.

A very common theme is that when a match starts with a very fast pace, with end to end attacking, people will always say 'there will be loads of goals in this'. Anyone who watches games regularly will know that the first few minutes do not always dictate the way the rest of the match will go. Generally, things will calm down as the adrenaline wears off and players take a breather and the match will settle.

Another common misconseption is that a team that has a 0-0 draw will almost certainly not produce the same result in their next game (often prompting a lay of 0-0). Yet my own research showed that actually, the chances of this happening are quite big. It's amazing how many teams produce two or three nil-nils in quick succession.

In the UK, it is particularly bad regarding foreign football. The  rubbish spoken about other leagues and international teams is often laughable, yet these are stereotypes that the average football fan believes and will take into account when placing bets. My favourite has to be the one that crops up whenever a team at the top of the Premier League gets beaten by one near the bottom. You will always get an ex-footballer who says "That's what makes the Premier League the best in the world - you don't get this in other leagues". Which is of course, complete bollocks! Upsets don't happen any more frequently in England than they do elsewhere but this notion can prompt people to back top European teams like Milan and Bayern at silly prices against any team they've 'never heard of'. In fact, there are some leagues which are consistently more competitive across the board - the Bundesliga immediately springs to mind.

And internationally, there are STILL people who have the archaic view that teams from Africa can't defend and lack the strategic nouse of European teams. Whilst it may have been the case decades ago, it certainly isn't today with the stronger nations, especially as most of them are or have been managed by Europeans with players at top European clubs. The way that a whole continent is continually lumped together as being the same, borders on ridiculous.

My point is that there are a large proportion of people involved in the markets who believe they know more about football than they actually do. If you can use this to your advantage, you have a chance of making money. Next time you have a belief about something happening in a  match, try and think about where that belief stems from and if it's actually based on hard evidence - you might surprise yourself!

Maria Kirilenko:

Friday, 21 September 2012

The Luck Factor

An excellent post on High Class Equine recently and one that's close to my heart. I've mentioned many times on Centre Court Trading that I don't believe in luck, at least, not in the sense that people or things can be labelled as lucky or unlucky. One of the reasons I believe this is because of a book called 'The Luck Factor', written by Richard Wiseman. This book is the subject of the aforementioned blog post and it's not an exaggeration to say it changed my life. I was given it by a friend close to a decade ago and was shocked to see my own life so closely replicated in the real-life anecdotes.

The HCE post explains things in greater detail but basically, 'The Luck Factor' shows how people who thought they were either lucky or unlucky in life, were in fact, neither. The 'lucky' people were just more positive, open, friendly and pro-active, which in turn, presented them with greater opportunities to succeed in life - which they grabbed gratefully. The 'unlucky' people, believed they didn't have a great life because nothing seemed to go right for them and as such, had given up - a self fulfilling prophecy. 'Unlucky' people are just negative towards life, which in turn, means they shut themselves off from other people and opportunities - sometimes deliberately, sometimes subconsciously.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I was one of those 'unlucky' people for much of my life. After reading 'The Luck Factor', I changed my entire outlook on life and as such, began to do better in all areas; from work, to love, to finance. Now all this may sound obvious to many of you (the  basic ethos is pretty simple) but it wasn't to me, so I can assure you, there will be plenty of people out there who will gain a lot from this book. Sometimes, the answers are staring you in the face but you can't see the wood for the trees. Even those subjects in the book who were classed as lucky, often just assumed they had great lives because they were born lucky. It never occurs to them that they got what they want from life because of their own personality.

This relates to trading in two ways; your strategy and your overall view of trading. Strategy-wise, luck does come into things to a certain extent. For example, if a player you have backed suddenly picks up an injury and retires, leaving you no chance to hedge your position, that is bad luck. It was completely out of your hands.  However, if you have a solid strategy which you always adhere to, these things should in theory, even themselves out over time - retirements will also give you some profit for doing nothing!

Bad runs are often labelled as 'bad luck' by a trader. When I hit  a long run of reds, I have learnt not to view it as bad luck, just a spell of undesirable variance. Looking at it negatively can get you frustrated and lead to poor discipline. I just view it as a natural occurrence and that probability will eventually even things out by giving me a good run of greens. If that doesn't happen, then I know I need to perhaps analyse my strategy or execution again.

The problem is that it can be tough to know whether you are experiencing bad variance or you have a bad strategy or you are just not a good enough trader yet. To become a top trader, you must be able to tell the difference between these things. Some people ditch the strategy before giving enough time for variance to even out. Some have a great strategy but can't make it profitable due to poor discipline or inexperience. Some think that bad variance is the cause of their poor recent run but it may be their own inadequacies that they can't see or won't admit to. Only being honest with yourself will determine which is which.

Luck in trading is only a short term thing. Anyone can start their trading career well, just by placing a random set of bets which all come off. But long term, I believe there is no luck in trading. Variation is all that exists and if you are still losing after a reasonable period of time, then  you aren't unlucky - your strategy is no good or you are not good enough at executing it yet.

As for your overall view of trading, that is the same as your overall view of life. If you are positive and believe you can be successful and then go about being pro-active and working hard, even when the odds are against you (as they are in trading), then the probability of succeeding increases. Just as the best teams seem to get all the penalty decisions and 'lucky' late goals, it's more likely because they are the ones doing all the attacking, never giving up on the win. Blaming 'bad luck' will get you nowhere, there is no luck involved - it's just good maths.

Tamira Paszek:

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Sacrificing Social Life

I remember last year, receiving a link to a new trading blog. It was written by a guy who did exactly the same as me - decided to go full-time, whilst he had redundancy pay to live off for a while. The very first post, I remember reading in complete shock. The author said that (on his very first day of full-time trading) he was going to a party that evening and was going to attempt to trade on his mobile whilst there! As soon as I read that, I knew that here was someone who was never going to succeed with that attitude.  If you are serious, professional and enthusiastic about trading, the last thing you do is put your social life ahead of your livelihood. And if you do choose to socialise, you certainly don't jeopardise your money by trading on a phone whilst presumably full of alcohol surrounded by nubile young ladies and other distractions (I'm guessing it was that kind of party!).

I don't think having a social life and learning to trade are mutually exclusive. But let's face it, if you work full-time, you have to trade in your spare time and that means evenings and weekends for most - so your social life is going to take a hammering. If you aren't prepared to do that, then things are going to move at a very slow pace. Just look how long it's taken me to get where I am - 2 and a half years of trading tennis FULL-TIME. And that's with plenty of over-time thrown in! I certainly don't consider myself out of the ordinary in that. I would be surprised if I wasn't a typical example of an average person who goes into trading.

I'm certainly not mathematically gifted, nor was I involved in the betting industry to any extent beforehand. I went in completely cold, other than knowledge of the game of tennis (though little about the players or the tour). On the other hand, I'm not stupid (despite the atrocious bank decimating bets I've placed at times!) and have been successful at everything I've turned my hand to down the years (though there is a theory that this can actually be detrimental to becoming a successful trader). Add in a couple of years of football betting and you have a long period of 'training' which some people wouldn't require to reach the same stage but I'm sure just as many would. And I'm still learning - and keen to learn more. If that's at the expense of social life, then so be it. I don't expect to reap the rewards till further down the line.

I still occasionally read comments on blogs and forums that make me shake my head in disbelief. Such as people coming home drunk and trading. Or getting frustrated because they have been trading for a couple of months but aren't making any money. Or coming back from a long break and thinking they can just carry on doing what they did unsuccessfully before, only this time, it'll be successful. Only those who work the hardest will succeed in this game. By that, I don't mean those who spend the most hours trading, I mean those who work the hardest away from the ladders too - reading, analysing notes, researching stats, watching matches etc. A lot of people trade everything going but expect to improve just through that. For most, it'll take a lot more because you need to analyse and change your flaws and I don't think many traders are prepared to do that. They'd rather be getting drunk at a party. That's fine but don't expect to become loaded with anything less than a strong work ethic.

I bring this up now as a follow up to the questions asked of me by 'Speedwave'. Some of his questions were based around the fact that trading shouldn't be at the detriment of what really matters in life. My point is that if you are looking to become a professional trader or have any aspirations of making a lot of money, then it HAS to be at the detriment of some things. It's how much of a detriment it becomes that is the key here; does it take over your life to the extent that you are trading from dusk till dawn, 7 days a week or does it mean sacrificing a few weekends, evenings or social occasions? I'll admit, it was the former for me for a long time. I feel I've got the balance right now. I trade when I feel up to it and no longer. But at the same time, I treat it as a business and schedule social life around my trading - unless it's something I REALLY fancy attending. I still like to get drunk every now and then, just like most others. I just make sure I'm not anywhere near a betting exchange from the moment I leave the house till the moment I stop feeling like I'm about the spew forth the contents of my intestines the next day!

Julia Goerges:

Friday, 14 September 2012

Green Envy

I have to hold my hands up and admit that I still get envious at people's greens. That's why I banned myself a long time ago from looking at other's P&L screenshots. Occasionally though, one catches me off-guard and slips through the net and this happened recently on Twitter. You may know of a guy called Matt who used to write the brilliant blog. He's a tennis specialist and been trading for far longer than me, with the blog retired long before I started Centre Court Trading. He slipped in a sneaky jpeg on a tweet and I was unexpectedly greeted with an all green scenario; £500 on player A, £26,000 on player B.

There are two ways you can look at this. Either it's something to aspire to, a sign of what is possible if you make it as a top trader, a motivational, inspirational screenshot. Or you can view it as I did; demoralising, bringing out the worst inadequacies and causing the questioning of everything involved with trading strategy. Which is weird because Matt's blog (along with Cassini and Mark Iverson's) has been one of my biggest influences and a huge factor in inspiring me to keep going. He never posted his P&L on there though and if I remember rightly, that was a policy of his blog. But I guess when you are going through a tough spell (as I am right now), these things tend to get to you more.

I'm not jealous but I am definitely envious. I also understand that he has far more experience than me and is at a level where he can make those enormous greens because he's worked hard to get there. But most importantly, I understand that it's all relative and anyone who makes those kind of greens, will also be making some rather hefty reds too. So I was very pleased when the following day, Matt offered up an all-red screenshot (-£12,000 on both players) to balance things out; a gesture which most traders wouldn't dream of doing. It puts a bit more realism into trading. There's enough bravado as it is in this game, so it was nice to see. It's very easy to worry about what others are doing and compare yourself to the next trader. It can make you question what you are doing wrong, even when you are doing the right things - especially when you are scratching around for £25 greens and you see someone making 1000 times that amount!

One thing you read a lot on the net, particularly I've noticed with tennis trading, is that matches are labelled a 'trader's dream' because they have a lot of swings and ups and downs. But as Matt himself said along with the all-red tweet, "one man's dream is another man's nightmare". These traders who brag about the profit they made from these matches, seem to assume that tennis trading is easy in a topsy-turvy match. If it was as simple as just laying every time the price goes one way and then repeating, we'd all be rich.

The fact is, you can't just blindly 'lay and leave' every time the price goes one way. Every strategy needs an exit point, a stop-loss. Unless you get very lucky, it's unlikely you'll get to ride every momentum swing to the exact point it stops and turns again. You may be on a roll but then have to exit at 0-40, then your player wins 5 points in a row, takes the game and continues the momentum - you didn't catch the whole swing. You might enter, see your trade go red, hang on for ages but hit your stop-loss just one point before the start of  a huge swing you were hoping for. Frustrating, but what would have happened if you'd stayed in and lost the next point? It's the little details between the huge momentum shifts that matter and how you react to the smaller spikes and dips.

There are so many different ways of executing strategy that no one can ever say a match was a 'trader's dream' and it riles me whenever I see comments like this - though admittedly, they are often by people with something to sell. They want it to seem like every match has low-risk lays which come off every time and run smoothly from one extreme on the graph to the other. That rarely happens. Don't be fooled into thinking that every trader is catching every swing. Just blindly 'laying and leaving' will mean you will inevitably get the odd match where do you catch every swing and when you do, it'll look so good and seem so easy that you can be fooled into thinking you've found the holy grail.

The truth is that variance will eventually catch up with you and you'll get a slew of reds where the match trained to 1.01. Even if it was low risk, they can mount up quite quickly. And even if they don't train all the way, you should often be looking to exit and protect your bank, rather than letting it ride. I guess that's the trade-off; do you let a trade run to conclusion and risk losing the whole liability but also leaving you a chance of making a profit, or do you red up and reduce your maximum loss but lose out on any potential swing into profit? It really depends on the individual. Do what works for you but never get drawn into thinking one way is right and yours is wrong. Be careful what you read - don't let that green envy get to you!

P.S. If Matt is reading this, did you get the full £26,000? And how much do you charge for lessons?!

Caroline Wozniacki:

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Muzzard and Me

It goes without saying that I'm very happy for Andy Murray today. It also goes without saying that there will STILL be a lot of very bitter haters. Just as I felt satisfied that my progress this year has shoved a few words back down people's throats, I'm sure the new US Open Champion will allow himself a wry smile in memory of all those fools who claimed he'd never win a slam. What I don't understand about those who said this, is how you can possibly be so certain that someone will never achieve something? He was amongst the best 4 players in the world, had beaten the other 3 on many occasions, was still in his early 20's and had already reached Grand Slam finals before. It was hardly a huge leap to go from that, to winning a final. I've always maintained he at least COULD win one, because I understood that he only needed to make a few improvements to get over the finish line. To say he would NEVER win one, so comprehensively, is like saying no one can ever improve at anything.

I like to think that the Muzzard and me have many similarities. Brush aside the fact that he is a multi-millionaire, Grand Slam winning, gold medal owning, national hero with a rather hot girlfriend and we have a fair bit in common. You see, when I was around Murray's age, in my early 20's, I was very much a negative individual. I was one of those people who would find cynicism in most things. I would be the one with the sarcastic jibe and the glass half-empty mentality. I'm not saying that Murray is necessarily the same (he must have some positivity to get where he has as a tennis player) but I do believe that he has a natural tendency to err on the negative and the cautious side of life. You can see it not only in his style of play (which is to counter-punch and draw mistakes from opponents, rather than dictate play and go for winners) but also in his emotional reactions. He berates himself, focuses on the bad things he does, holds various body parts when things aren't going well. A naturally positive person doesn't do those things to that extent. But that doesn't mean a person cannot change.

It took someone new who came into my life to tell me to my face (in a friendly way) that I was often quite negative; talking too much about the bad stuff that had happened to me and over-doing the sarcasm. I had no idea I was that bad, so it wasn't until she said this that I sat up and started analysing myself, wondering if I could be a better person and have a better life. She was my Ivan Lendl (though she looked rather prettier than an Easter Island head)! I'm pretty sure that his input has been the decisive factor in Murray's turn-around with his on-court demeanour. This year, he's been far more positive with body language and mentally, he is now on a par with Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. It hasn't happened over-night because it's not an easy thing to do, to change the way your mind works. It's a gradual process that you have to work hard on every day but it's finally sunk in for him. And that positivity has seeped into his game too - now much more able to attack on the front-foot when required.

I not only became more positive in my outlook on life (which completely turned my life around in a few short years) but also did the same thing with my trading. It is a year to the very day, when I started to overhaul my tennis trading strategy (which had failed for so long). It was this post that signified my first day of trying out the techniques that I use today:

Growing Balls

Reading back on all my September 2011 posts feels great because it was a time of real excitement for me. I was working so hard back then but I could see light at the end of a very long tunnel - trading was starting to make sense. Like Murray, I was changing from a cautious style to a more aggressive one, taking on more risks. I also had to work on my mind because I used to berate myself even more than he did! But I knew, probably like he did, that I had to change. I think a lot of traders bomb out of the game because they are not willing to change what is failing; either through fear, stubbornness or a lack of work-ethic. They would do well to take a look at Andy Murray as a prime example of what can be achieved just through a shift in attitude and good old fashioned blood, sweat and tears. Congratulations, you miserable ol' Muzzard!

Gisela Dulko: