I think it’s time for a FAQ type post. I’m often telling people what I do, I can tell that for the most part, its hard to grasp verbally. Maybe written with some pretty pictures will help people to get their heads around it. Hopefully I can dispel some some of the common beliefs that just aren’t right along the way too.
Q. What is sports trading?
A. Sports trading is trading the fluctuations in prices before and during the event. Trading the movements of the odds allows you to build whats called “a book” or ledger. Much like a bookmaker builds a book in any of the events they take bets on, sports traders can build their book by backing or laying a particular runner in an event.
Q. What is lay betting?
A. When I “lay a bet”, I’m essentially playing bookmaker. This means someone has a bet with me on a particular runner in an event and if that runner wins, I need to pay out the person the worth of the bet. If the runner loses I keep the amount bet by the person, just like a bookmaker would.
Q. Whats the difference between what you do and a bookmaker?
A. There are subtle differences, but ultimately there are a lot of similarities to what we do. The biggest difference is obviously the volume, solo sports traders like myself have much smaller bankrolls than your big corporate bookies. As such, the size of the bets taken and placed are much smaller. I’m able to dictate from the get go, how much risk I have on any given trade. Like bookmakers though I can adjust that risk before and during the match.
Q. So you’re just gambling for a living?
A. Well, in short, yes. What makes the proposition different from a few mates having a bet on the footy each weekend though is the ability for me to hedge my position during the event. I often have a number of chances to limit my risk while the match is on, or, guarantee profits no matter the outcome of the event. Check out the screen grab from Betfair on a trade done in the 2011 French Open.
Q. Trading the stock market would be less risky, right?
A. This is a massive myth. I’d say they carry equal risk, if you buy shares you are making a bet that the value of those shares will rise in value. No one knows, unless you’re insider trading, that would be like fixing in the sports trading world, but that topic is for another day. I’d go as far to say that any investment is a gamble, some bigger than others, but you think the people who had a total of $140 billion invested in their saving accounts during the great depression saw that investment as a “gamble”? Of course not, it was “as safe as houses”. Speaking of houses, do you think the people that bought “sub-prime” homes in the US before the property bubble bust in the mid 2000’s thought they were gambling? No, it was a sure thing, its property. There are no “sure things” when investing at any level.
Q. How do you know what will happen in an event?
A. I don’t, no one knows, but based on my knowledge of how prices move in the market and what might be “more likely” to happen I can take positions before or during a match. Let me give you an example, lets say you look at the form of a race and see that out of the 8 runners, one of the runners has lead in every one of its previous races, meanwhile, non of the other runners have ever lead. You could make a fair estimation that this runner will lead again and place a back bet on the runner, expecting it to shorten in price the further it goes along in front. At a certain time in the race you can place a lay bet on that horse either removing liability or creating a hedge across all of the runners (like the Nadal example earlier).
Q. Do you use any specific tools to trade with?
A. I use a program called Geeks Toy which is designed for sports trading. There is a number of these about, some good, some not. A bunch of guys I know just use the Betfair interface though and they are very successful traders. So you don’t need expensive kit to start off trading, just a smartphone/ computer, internet and maybe a calculator.
Q. Don’t you wish you had security of knowing what you make every week?
A. I’d be lying if I said there isn’t a part of me that would love that. But at the same time, I don’t see employment or your own business as anything that is 100% fail proof either. In fact, starting a business is a huge gamble in itself. I had coffee with a friend of mine recently that has gone balls out to start his own business, hes liquidated everything and I mean everything, houses, cars, the lot. On top of that hes in debt, this guy will likely make it happen because thats the kind of guy he is, but still, there are risks attached to what hes done, risks that will have serious financial ramifications if for what ever reason it doesn’t go his way. As for employee status, I hate working for someone else, first and foremost, secondly, just because you have a job that doesn’t mean you will have employment with that business forever. You wouldn’t have to travel far to find someone with a horrible story of being made redundant and depending on their age when made redundant, it can be very tough to get back into the work force.
Q. How much can you make sports trading realistically?
A. Realistically, its like any other industry, there are top earners and there are bottom earners. Starting out I wouldn’t have expectations too much higher than trying to make a few bucks on the side as you learn the ropes. I know guys quite well that are making between $250,000 – $500,000 P.A, in all likelihood there are likely solo operators making more, I just don’t know them. If you were able to start your own company in bookmaking down the track, the skies the limit.
If you have any other questions you would like to ask, please don’t hesitate to comment below or shoot me an email at lukeamacatyahoodotcomdotau.