Sunday, 30 October 2011

Would you like to go pro?

One of the blogs I read daily is that penned by my friend Lambretta, or lamb as he is affectionately known. As an aside,  anyone who thinks that Lay the Draw is an old hat trading method would do well to look at lamb's blog - it will give you a different slant on the notion, I'm sure.

Lamb answered a query from a reader asking about going 'pro' - and  wrote a very good piece on that - to which I added my thoughts. It got me thinking more deeply about going 'pro' and what the motivation for doing so is, and what, in my opinion, would you need to do to 'make it'.

I'm reasonably lucky - I've got a well paid job that I thoroughly enjoy most of the time, so going pro is not on my horizon, but I'd be lying if I said it hadn't crossed my mind. So I'm writing this from a position of ignorance really - I'd be interested in full timer's thoughts or wannabe pro traders alike.

Let's look at money first - take a person making £30,000 p.a. in a job s/he dislikes or hates as the model. Ignoring things like company cars and pensions 30k netts down to £22,760 per annum after tax and NI or around £88 per day working 5 days a week. As 'gambling' and 'trading' income is currently tax free in the UK that's what that person would need to make to replace that income. Assuming 5% Betfair commission you need to make £93 bar a few coppers. At a modest rate of 3% per day you would need  a £3k trading bank to achieve that. Getting involved with PC or super PC complicates things a bit - but for simplicity's sake let's ignore that for now.

On the face of it that doesn't look too complicated or difficult. I manage to make a decent amount in the evenings and on Sundays, not that much but a useful amount. But it doesn't matter to me one jot if I make it or not. It's a lot different when / if the mortgage is dependent on it! I trade for pleasure and if I make a profit - well and good. Which brings me to the bigger question as far as I'm concerned - mindset.

The key to this trading lark, whatever level you are at, is discipline. And that is the biggest single factor which would cause me to fall flat on my face as a full timer. It's not just in-play discipline to which I refer. To trade full time and successfully you need to work hard at it. Ploughing through coupons, stats, websites, spreadsheets etc to pick a trade or two in which you can have the confidence to commit the stakes needed to achieve the target. Having the discipline to record your activities in the same way that you would do your books in a traditional business. Having the discipline to stop when things are going well. Or when they are going horribly wrong. Having the discipline to study your sport to develop your knowledge - that is where any 'edge' is likely to come from.

Even if I could lick that one I would have another issue to confront - the solitary nature of sports trading. I work in a busy showroom - there are always other people around, staff, customers, visitors etc - and there is plenty of interaction with others. The sports trader, apart probably from chat rooms, usually works from a pc station in a study or spare bedroom etc on his / her own. I traded cars from home for several years - and it was this issue more than any other that caused me to give up the dream and go back 'home' to where I belong - among other people, bantering and joshing with colleagues, solving customers' issues and making sales.

I'm sure most of you, like me, are bombarded by post and emails with the latest (or more usually, recycled) systems, strategies, cons and wheezes all promising untold riches, the life of reilly and a ten hour 'working' week for a £40 investment. Some of you, again like me, will have invested wasted a few £40's to find that the Holy Grail is still wherever Monty Python left it. This is only my opinion but I've a sneaking suspicion that no system yet invented and marketed can achieve what you need to do to 'make it'. If someone had invented or discovered such a gold mine why on earth would they punt it around for £40??? You'd keep schtum and quietly sit there under the radar banking fortunes.

Anyone hoping that sports trading for a living means the same as retiring early in my opinion is heading for a fall. It's a job. Of work. And the harder and smarter that you work the more successful you will be. So I'll carry on with my SG's, 2 goal lead lays and other little tickles invented by me or others to  give me some beer and curry money. And leave full time trading to full time traders. If you can make it I'd sincerely take my hat off to you, but I reckon most don't and won't.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Early goals, profiting from them, and from the expectation of them....

A small group of us were sitting the Green Room discussing how best to go about trading the Shamrock Rovers v Galway match in the Emerald Isle earlier this evening.

The odds of various markets pre-match were interesting to put it mildly. I don't recall EVER seeing 0-0 in a 'proper' league match at odds of 100 on Betfair. Shamrock were 1.09 to lay in Match Odds, Under 2.5 was at about 6 and even U6.5 was 1.25 to lay! The two that caught my eye, and that I traded, were the 0-0 and Any Unquoted. I put £10 on 0-0 at 100, and laid AU at 1.7 for £50 for a total exposure of £45.

In the event it took Shamrock just under half an hour to break the deadlock, by which  time I was long gone! In the opening few minutes the 0-0 price had loads of gaps and some green room residents happily scalped a nice green there - I exited when I was able to double my money - about 15 minutes in I reckon, but was happy to drip my way out of Any Unquoted as the price rose. Interestingly the markets had the game priced right as it transpired - the final score was 4-0. I and my roommates were able to profit reasonably safely because the market expectation was for early goals - and they didn't come. The 0-0 was a bit of a gamble I suppose, but I was happy in the expectation that the price would fall off a cliff quite quickly and it certainly did.

A game with an early goal, and a missed opportunity for this trader, was the Freiburg v Leverkusen match in the Bundesliga. Herr Ballack fired Lever ahead after  about 2 minutes. What is interesting is that in this situation the price of 0-1 and 1-1 both drifted massively from their start positions. Why? The early goal obviously means there was still 88 minutes + for there to be more! What I should have done but didn't was to put a small back on 0-1 at enhanced odds and enter the 2.5 goals market to take advantage of the massive over reaction in there which I'm positive would have happened.

If you are looking at putting together a correct score trade in favour of a heavy favourite where early goals are expected my advice would be to go easy on the stakes on 1-0 and 2-0 - both will be available at significantly higher odds after an early goal, yet won't tumble too quickly if there is no goal.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

I'd much rather be out of trade wishing I was in it.....

... than being in a trade wishing I was out of it.

I forget who first introduced me to this little truism, but the words have brought considerable comfort over my trading times as I've lashed myself mentally for not trusting my instinct.

I'm sitting here trading some Brazillian matches at just after midnight and to be honest not an awful lot is happening. The game immediately preceding these matches was an U22 affair between Brazil and Cuba.

I looked at the match, knowing diddly squat about either side and Cassini's words came flooding back to me..
There's little downside to opposing teams at prices in the 1.05 range and you could always be in for a Plze┼łt surprise...
Brazil were at 1.08. A sure fire thing, you'd say. I walked away. And then made the fatal mistake of looking over my shoulder. As I type this the match has just passed the  86th minute mark, and it's still 0-0! Brazil can now be backed at 3.65! So let's examine the maths...lay Brazil at 1.08 for £100. A huge £8 liability. Green up at 3.65 (for those who don't know the maths the formula is (lay stake + lay liability)/current odds) with a £29.85 stake for a £70.40 green screen.

I've just glanced over that same shoulder to see 90' on the clock and a Brazil red card - now at 7's.

And the moral is... remember that little phrase, and if you walk away from a good trade without getting involved, don't, whatever else you do, check the result! You'll cry in your beer!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Profiting from reading the markets

One of the many benefits of trading football markets on the exchanges is that there is usually a knowledgeable pool of people forming an opinion as to how a match is playing out, reflected in the prices being traded. An excellent example of this occurred during the UEFA League match a couple of nights ago between AZ Alkmaar and Austria Vienna.

I'm not very knowledgeable about either Dutch or Austrian soccer, although I do trade both leagues occasionally, but I'm prepared to trust the collective opinion of other traders to an extent. Vienna were two goals to the good at half time, yet were trading at 1.46. The price offered is substantially odds on - and the market is proposing that Vienna have a 68% chance of winning the match. Therefore it follows that the draw and a home win between them represented a 32% chance / probability. Put it another way, 2/3 Vienna 1/3 the field.

A quick check of the graphs showed that AZ were easily the pre-match favourites, trading at about evens with Vienna at around 4. So here we are, half way through the match, and the dogs are two up away from home. To my mind, despite the mathematics in the above paragraph, Vienna were a value lay in this situation. I laid them for £50 at 1.46 with a liability of £23. The reason I concluded thus is that 1.46, in my opinion is too high a price to indicate a market totally convinced that the outcome is anywhere near certain. I didn't look, but I'd be reasonably confident that 2-2 would have been trading no higher than about 20. If that was the case then I might have doubled up my lay or have stuck a tenner on 2-2!

I suppose it's easy sitting here writing this secure in the knowledge that AZ did, indeed, pull the match back to 2-2. Theses trades don't always work - and I normally only lay two goal leads if the price is substantially lower than it was in this case.

The key point in this trade, to me anyway, was that the market was far from convinced by the current situation. Admittedly it took Alkmaar longer than I would have liked to score the first goal and it required a bit of a leap of faith to stay in - but I couldn't green up anyway - and I hate taking small reds when I'm convinced a nice green is around the corner. Some people reading this will be thinking 'the silly old s*d's punting again'. And they'd probably be right. But - trust the market and long term I suspect us old trapunters will be ok!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Side trades to accompany the Scatter Gun trade

'ORDINARY' SIDE TRADES

If I'm totally convinced that a match will be a slow burner I'll sometimes use quite large stakes (relative to my £12 max SG stakes that is) to scalp under 2.5 in play. I'll use £100, backing and laying off one or maybe two ticks lower. The main aim is to get my SG stakes covered on the U2.5 - so that if it finishes with less than three goals I at the very worst break even or have a nice result if it finishes 1-1.

A variation on that trade is to scalp 0-0 0-1 and 1-0 during the first half, typically using £5 on each. Again the aim is to get free cover on those scores in the first half if possible.

Both those side trades are inherently slightly risky in the overall scheme of things, but my experience tells me that the U2.5 trade particularly works well and is a reasonably quick moving market. An early goal, whilst inconvenient, doesn't wipe you out of either the side trade or the main trade. The downside to these two techniques is that they are quite labour intensive, and if I'm trading two or maybe three matches simultaneously this is asking for trouble!

'RESPONSE' SIDE TRADES

Backing U2.5 after an early goal at enhanced odds can achieve a similar result to that described above in quite short order. In a typical SG match U2.5 at kick off is usually around 1.75 to 2.05. If there is a goal in the first 15 minutes the odds would normally go out to between 2.7 and 3.3 ish. After a few minutes of wild fluctuations the price settles and holds for a while as the market waits to see if there is a quick second goal. If this is not forthcoming the market then over reacts the other way and plummets for a while. Time it right and as long as no second goal is forthcoming you can ride it all the way back to the start price and cover your CS stakes.

A more extreme trade is to back U2.5 after a second goal, especially if, again, it is relatively early in the match. Requiring either a steady nerve or a gung ho attitude this trade can really pay dividends. A third goal spoils your day though, so only use small stakes if doing this!

The basic idea of both the above is to secure your CS stake money in the event of there being no more goals, I certainly would not recommend any long term commitment to either - the less time you are in the market the less chance there is of getting caught by another goal. Get in, achieve your aim, and get out!

The last little trick in my SG armoury is the good old two goal lead lay. How many times do we see two goal leads evaporate? Even tonight, as I was going out to my weekly attempt to keep some pretence of fitness, I noticed Ebbsfleet Utd were 0-1 down to Luton. I advised the TF crew to lay Luton if thy took a t 0-2 lead as Fleet are good for home goals. Checking Flashscores confirmed that Luton did indeed score a second in the 71st minute. The final score? A 90th minute equaliser made it 2-2! Hope some of the guys got on it because I reckon Luton would have been about 1.08 to lay! In the context of the SG the two goal lead lay can work really well - as long as the 1-2 / 2-1 score isn't too late in coming. If you can lay a leading team at 1.2 or under with a reasonable time left on the clock a goal to the losing side can result in a 'double bubble' trade as us people in the South of England would refer to it. The price of the leaders drifts whilst obviously the 1-2 or 2-1 is  a winning SG score in its own right. The trade is even better if you had 2-2 covered as well.

As with most of the trading I do the primary goal in trying one of these response trades is to gain potential leverage in the trade a whole. I'll happily take a handsome profit out of 2.5 and lose my entire SG stake or vice versa as well as readily accept a nice green on 2.5 and a 1-1 scoreline.

If you try these I suggest small stakes to start whilst you see what the markets do, and again, if you do get involved have a clear idea of your aim and get out of the market at the earliest opportunity once that aim is achieved. Stay focused and stay disciplined.

And finally, do as I say, not as I do!! :-)

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Cambridge v Stockport - such a shame....

.... that it was 1-1 by 20 minutes!

The match finished 2-2 having passed through 1-1 so had the first two goals been about half an hour later we would have had a maximum trade! Personally I took my stake out from 1-1 at about 60 minutes (just as well - 1-2 came at 63 minutes!) and greened up at 1-2.

Such is life, but a big well done to Lay Away, who correctly called the game and presumably made himself some pennies.

How to trade the Scatter Gun

In this post I'll deal with the ideal trade, followed by a couple of common situations to give you some ideas as how this trade might and can unfold as a match progresses. Unlike many other Correct Score trades which work best with early goals and plenty of them, the SG works best with fewer goals, and goals which come late in the trade.

THE IDEAL TRADE

This one really is idiot proof, and you'll be surprised how frequently matches pan out in a similar fashion. The game is 0-0 at 55 minutes, the 2-2 bet has been placed and then there is a goal. It is better for the trade if the underdogs score first, but the basic premise is the same from here on in...you can either green up the 1-1 or let the trade run. Assuming you do the latter, ideally the equaliser comes at around 60 minutes. At this point you can achieve a fair green screen across all scores, but my preference is to simply remove my 1-1 stake from the trade. If you backed at say 7.4 for £5 and lay £5 at even money or thereabouts (decimal 2.0) you will leave about an even profit on 1-1 1-2 and 2-1 with a handsome profit sitting on 2-2. If there is a third goal the smart thing then is to immediately totally green the current score. The 2-2 would also be eminently 'greenable' but I'd normally leave that alone and keep my fingers crossed for a second equaliser - then you really would have hit paydirt!

UNDERDOG SCORES FIRST

The dog scoring first is your absolute ideal event, especially if it is an earlier goal than ideally would be the case. As long as there have been no red cards to the favourites the market expectation is that the favourite will come back and get an equaliser. As a result the 1-1 score will steam right in. The other three scores will come in a bit, but not as much. If you wanted to, you could almost certainly exit with a small profit at this point unless the goal was very early in the match. My preference is usually to let the market settle and then to reflect on what the markets are telling me. If 1-1 is trading a lot lower than 0-2 / 2-0 then I'm usually content to go with the market and wait for an equaliser. A saver bet (i.e. one which just covers your total stakes) on 0-2 /2-0 is an option. The underdog's Match Odds price also gives an indication of which way the market sees the game going. If the indications are not so positive in the favourites direction I might decide at this point to reduce some of my liability by laying a bit of 1-1 and the score in favour of the underdogs off a little.

I must say though - that with only a small stake at risk, I normally just let the trade run if the dog scores first.

FAVOURITE SCORES FIRST

This is where your trading instincts and preferences come into play. We really would prefer a dog first trade, but in the absence of what we want we have to make do with what we've got as so often in life. Basically with the favourite ahead the market will probably favour 0-2 2-0 over 1-1 - but of course the relevant 1-2 / 2-1 price will come in a bit. You can probably scratch or take a small loss at this point.

Trading now becomes more subjective, or more of a punt, depending on your viewpoint! Again, because of my small stakes I usually let the trade run and hold out for an equaliser. As long there is only a one goal lead prices won't shift dramatically and the scratch / small loss situation will hold for several minutes in most games. The danger, obviously, is a second goal to the favourites. You might, therefore, choose to back 2-0 or 0-2. A less obvious reaction, however, is to back 0-3 or 3-0. Firstly, you will get higher odds and secondly if the favourites get a second and it's not too late in the match you could probably scratch the trade by laying off 2-1 / 1-2 and the relevant 3-0 score.

NIL NIL AT HALF TIME

The SG works a lot better with later goals, but for those of you more inclined to protecting your bank an exit at half time for a scratch or small loss is usually possible. You don't normally find 1-1 has moved too much, and in some cases it might have eased in bit.

The more aggressive stance at or after half time is to actually consider getting in deeper! I'll often put a couple of quid on both 2-0 and 0-2. The odds will have drifted since kick off and what you are really doing is buying leverage in the event of a goal.

There are other eventualities but I can't cover them all! The key to the trade is to make sure you act decisively and don't look back!

In another post I'll cover some of the more aggressive actions I sometimes take to attempt to maximise the SG.

An ideal SG for this evening if you want to try this out....

On a VERY poor card today, littered with U21 internationals and other unpredictable potential banana skin matches there lurks a gem of a game for an SG trade. In the Blue Square Premier league Cambridge take on Stockport at 7.45pm UK time. The first screenshot shows the odds on Match Odds, CS and U2.5 - absolutely perfect!


I appreciate that Stockport's match odds lie just outwith the stated odds in the previous post, but a trader needs to be flexible with his rules - they are meant to be guidelines not edicts. The CS odds and U2.5 odds are absolutely spot on.

A quick glance at the recent form reinforces the potential of this match to produce a winning SG - Stockport away from home don't seem capable of any score other than 1-1!


I would hazard a guess that HandyAndy will have flagged this game as a Homer, and wouldn't be surprised to see both trades discussed in the Green Room this evening.

A word of caution - the fact that I have made a song and dance about this game will almost inevitably mean that Stockport will win 0-8! You have been warned!

If you do choose to trade it I wish you all the very best with it.

The Scatter Gun trade - thoughts after a year or so of trading it..

This post was prompted by a number of different things, but the catalyst that turned thought into type was a question asked by James in the form of a comment on an unrelated blog post. He asked about filters, particularly with reference to some missed opportunities in the form of slightly odds on favourites and how much to stake on the 2-2 scoreline.

At the risk of repeating myself I feel I must make a couple of things clear...those of you who have been reading for a while will know that I am no record keeper! My 'success' with this trading strategy has no proper statistical back up so there's a leap of faith on the part of those who try this out. Having said that I think the Trading Football community will attest to the power of this trade and it is frequently used in the chatrooms for suitable matches.

For this post I intend to describe the basic trade and match selection, in a subsequent post I'll go into more detail about the mechanics of the trade, including discussing our options when the players don't bother with the script. If people are interested I'll also detail some of the riskier but potentially lucrative side trades that I indulge in alongside the SG in a third post.

The Basic Premise


The table below shows the distribution of certain scores for 2009-10:

Note that 1-1, 1-2 and 2-1 account for over 25% of those games. Add 2-2 to the mix and getting on for a third of all matches played finished with one of those four scores. Of course, as traders rather than punters, matches which finish 3-1, 1-3 and with other scores all have the potential at some point during the match to hit 1-1 or 2-1 or 1-2 thus giving us options to trade or let the trade run.

With nearly a third of games likely to fall within these scores it made sense to me to try to devise a trade around them. Hence the birth of the Scatter Gun.

MATCH SELECTION


It doesn't take a rocket scientist to appreciate that matches finishing 1-1, 2-1 or 1-2 are most likely to occur when the two teams are relatively evenly matched. I tend to look for games where  the match odds are between 2 and 4. I'm not too concerned about which way round the odds are - in other words I don't believe that home advantage is terribly important and I'll happily SG a match where the away team are the favourites. I also usually look at the Correct Score and U2.5 markets as well. I'm looking for matches where 1-2 and 2-1 are priced between 10 and 14, where 0-0 is no higher than say 12-14 and where the odds on U2.5 are below about 2.1.

There are plenty of matches which fit the trade in Match Odds but where the other markets suggest a game with plentiful goals. Norway, Sweden and Iceland spring to mind as countries where this might happen but where high scoring games are more common than say in the Premiership between two well matched sides.

James's question mentioned matches where the favourites are quite a bit below evens - and I've got to say that I often take matches on with favourites trading as low as 1.8, but these choices are generally what I would call 'gut feeling' trades and usually would involve teams and leagues that (I'd like to think) I know well.

As an added comfort you could also consult some form figures - either on Betfair or one of the many stats sites out there. Forums like the Betfair forum (if you can put up with all the egos and nonsense on there!) and OLBG, Punters Lounge etc can also offer good clues - there are some very knowledgeable specialists out there dishing out their knowledge / opinions for free.

STAKING

In the early days of the trade I'd more or less Dutch the three key scores, and look to add 2-2 to the trade when the price hits the mid twenties. Over time I have revised this thinking ,and now stake at £5 on 1-1 (odds typically between 6.8 and 7.8) and £2 on 1-2 and 2-1 if evenly matched, or maybe a bit more on the lower of the two odds if there is  a bit of a discrepancy. I still look to add a £2 back of 2-2 at about 25-30. The reason I made this change is that the whole trade revolves around 1-1. If that score is hit at some point during the game we can't lose (unless we get gung-ho and let the trade run with no laying off of liability). It therefore makes sense to weight the trade in favour of 1-1 - effectively we are buying leverage and flexibility.

So in a match where 2-1 and 1-2 are about the same price, and that stays 0-0 long enough for me to get 2-2 matched in the mid twenties my total stake if a whole £11. If there is a larger gap in the 2-1 1-2 then I might stake £3 on the lower to give a total maximum stake of £12. I rarely go any higher, but if you want to I'd suggest you keep to the ratios mentioned here.

The reason I use relatively small stakes is that it doesn't bother me if I suffer a wipe out. I KNOW the SG is profitable over time (despite not keeping records!) but with a maximum of £12 loss I'm not going to be forced into exiting too early, or to keep a losing trade going longer than I should in the vain hope of a turn round.

Which brings us neatly to the question of how, exactly, to play the trade. That's the subject of another post, and until then good luck with your trading.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Latin American trading opportunities... an insomniac's insight

Rarely being home before about 7 pm, getting fed and watered, having the obligatory daily debrief with Mrs Gun and whichever offspring can muster more than a couple of grunts means that I usually don't get down to trading much before the 7.45 / 8 pm kick offs. Whilst on most evenings this affords a wide choice of matches to get involved with if I chose, these blasted international breaks means the card is, to put it mildly, of a poor quality. I enjoy my trading, and, if Mrs Gun is be believed, am addicted to it! But Arsenal Youth v Swansea Youth a) holds little appeal and b) is a complete bloody lottery!

All this brings me fair and square to the Americas. By the Americas I refer mainly to Latin America and in particular Chile, Argentina and Brazil. There are some massive clubs there, not, perhaps, the size of some of the mighty European outfits but still worthy of respect and attracting decent liquidity on Betfair.

What I like about these leagues is that they could almost have been created specifically to host the scatter gun trade. My colleague Handy Andy is usually Homering these games as well - as the two strategies have very similar profiles in terms of what are qualifying trades.

If you like to watch the matches you trade a lot of these games are on either Betfair or something like Bet365 - I can only assume that Murdoch's stranglehold on European soccer doesn't reach across the Atlantic.

There are two key things I would suggest you look out for - firstly the games are either very low or very high scoring! There is a rarely a medium scoring game. Secondly, a quick glance down a list of  in-play Latin American league games on Flashscores or similar will show more than a smattering of red cards. These people are passionate both on and off the pitch!

If your working patterns allow, or, like me, you can survive and thrive on little sleep do have a look at some of these matches. They are easy to trade, can sometimes be watched, and usually attract decent liquidity.

I'm off to trade one of my favourite Latin teams, Godoy Cruz, at home to San Lorenzo in Argentina. My prediction is 2-1 Godoy. Wish me luck!