Index

This website was created to educate aspiring sports traders. The content provides insight into the minds of experienced traders and common mistakes for beginners to avoid.

A trait amongst losing traders is laziness, an unwillingness to self-educate, an inability to distinguish between good and bad advice, and the belief that trading is easy and a guarantor of financial success.

Presented here is an index of past articles on this website that attempt to direct beginners in the right direction. The index is a work in progress. Articles might be updated for clarity or to make them more relevant to current trends. New articles might be added where applicable, if deemed necessary. Certainly, articles on Bitcoin, crypto currency and finance in general will be written.

Mathematics of Trading

Be wary of traders who claim to be able to trade without mathematical ability or downplay the need for mathematical knowledge. I am constantly surprised at "educators" publishing in print and online without any recourse to mathematics. It can only mean that they have no understanding of mathematics, which must make one doubt all of their claims.

I cannot emphasize enough that if you struggle with mathematics or have no interest in the subject then you will lose money when trading. Sports trading and betting is not an activity where willpower alone can make you money. A losing system loses money in the long-run. You cannot hope for success, you have to plan for it, mathematically.

All 44 articles labelled "Mathematics of Trading" - Click "Older Posts" at the bottom of the page for more articles on the Mathematics of Trading.)

Arbitrage

It's all about the 'arb'.

You've gained a mathematical insight into sports betting markets and you've come to the conclusion that one way or another profit is geared to finding arbitrage situations.

Most people active on the exchanges will understand the pure arb, finding a back offered by one bookmaker/exchange that can be immediately profited from with a lay on another website. But it is not all about pure arbitrage. There are other arbs, namely; statistical arbitrage, synthetic bets and bonus arbitrage (also called matched betting).


Algorithmic Trading

Purveyors of manual trading software will deny that trading by hand is ultimately doomed. If you have understood the mathematics of trading and building trading systems then the final step to automate the entire process of building systems and implementing them.

A true trading system is one that can be tested to be repeatedly profitable. If the system can be repeated then it can be built into an algorithmic trading system. An algorithmic trading system frees the trader to get on with their life, their family and look after their health. No more sitting in front of a desk for hours on end, getting weary and making mistakes.

A system that cannot be made into a series of logical steps is not a system at all. Performing logical steps is what computers do best and humans do not. In finance, trading pits have given way to algotrading. Sports trading has headed in the same direction.

Educational Material

 - Books - reviews

 - Academic Research - here

Artificial Intelligence

We are entering the third era of AI with Deep Learning being touted as the technique that will bring profound changes to AI and its uses for humanity. AI has become expert at games such as chess and go when it was thought that such games would not be mastered for decades to come.

In finance, AI and automation is playing a greater role. Undoubtedly, we will see big players in AI and automation cornering sports markets.

All 15 articles labelled "artificial intelligence"

It's been great to meet you!

Recent goings on mean that I publish this article sooner than I imagined. I retired from full-time work in 2002 in my mid thirties. Lucky to have worked in The City though with misgivings. Even luckier to have been offered a redundancy package. Sensible enough not to have wasted my money on any of the pleasures London has to offer.

Therefore my reasons for entering the world of sports trading were not the same as most others. I don't need the money. However, I did want to put to good use all that I had learned in the financial markets. Hence, this website and two books (1) were written.

In The City I saw a lifestyle that appalled me. The worship of money. A system that was meant to aid economies, and take the poor out of poverty, corrupted by greedy people. I had wanted to do good in The City, for the betterment of mankind but it was not to be. The City and financial markets across the globe have become casinos where leeches extract blood money on a daily basis.

And so too do I see the same in sports trading, where exchanges charge more than is due and third-parties extract yet more money through subscriptions, worthless tips and dubious educational material. As if sports trading isn't hard enough, the cost of doing so diminishes the profits of the few who are successful and gives another kick in the teeth to those who are already down. And woe betide anyone who attempts to point out the skulduggery rampant in sports trading.

My intentions were to show people how not to lose money rather than promise them how to get rich quick. The first book I published, Programming for Betfair, is a manual to aid those wanting to write their own trading software and avoid subscription fees.

A second book, Betfair Trading Techniques, points people in the right direction with regards to the search for edge and a survey of current trading methods and which to avoid. Both books are available on Amazon with a money back guarantee and are independently reviewed by readers, unlike ebooks bought via PayPal.

If my books or my website articles have the negative effect of turning people off sports trading then I regard that as much of a success as anyone who makes a profit. It is better to walk away having broken even and realising how hard the game is rather than losing money through third-parties who do not have their interest at heart.

A few months ago I used the term "The Chuckle Brothers" (a pair of UK children's entertainers) to refer to two well-known sports traders. However, a rather pompous programmer called Paul Spry (owner of the dated Geeks Toy) incorrectly thought that I was referring to him. When I last used the term Mr Spry attempted to throw his toys out of his pram and maliciously display a photo of my parents' home.

Mr Spry should stick to programming in his back bedroom as he is none too skilled at using Google Street View, whose address algorithm is always a few doors off. The house shown was owned by a neighbour, who has since moved, taking his caravan with him.

I haven't lived in that street as a resident for over 25 years. Instead, I have been living in Madrid (and elsewhere) and only returning to the UK to vote or for visits. Surely, nobody is that stupid to think that someone who worked in computer security in the past wouldn't cover his tracks online?

As they say, "birds of a feather flock together" so now it makes perfect sense why Messer's Berry and Spry should have teamed up. Two peas in a pod, unskilled in basic public relations and unable to tell the difference between criticism and maliciousness.

Death threats received through this website and intimidation (2) via the breaking of Twitter's terms and conditions (whether related cannot be proven without resort to the courts) have all been noted by the relevant authorities so any physical harm done will mean that those same authorities will have some leads to go on.

The constant online bickering between Berry/Spry, Webb and "The Badger" (another trader linked to trading software) is pathetic. They are all pigs in a trough fighting over the scraps. Others have done their due diligence and used simple logic to come to the conclusion that the aforementioned are no longer what they say they are, if they ever were in the first place.

So what of me? What am I really? Simply I am someone sick of leeches in all walks of life. I had no chance fighting against the money men in finance and so I decided to look at sports trading instead.

The concept of the betting exchange had so much promise but it has been destroyed by greed. Betfair's greed is demonstrated by the premium charge, which punishes the successful.

However, everyone is punished - be they winners or losers - by the licensing of trading software. Because Betfair licences trading software, vendors are forced to pass on this charge to traders in the form of subscriptions, which can be thought of as additional commission eating into any profits. So much money is generated by subscriptions that being a licensed software vendors is very lucrative. This creates a conflict of interest.

Most trading software vendors either purport to be traders themselves or employ traders to educate newcomers to trading. The conflict of interest is that, win or lose, software vendors make a lot of money from subscriptions and don't need to trade at all. The educational side of their business is just their to promote subscriptions, the majority of which will be bought by losing traders or, if successful, punished punitively by Betfair.

On top of this, Betfair is a virtual monopoly. Competitors come and go but Betfair keeps generating profits for its shareholders and associates. It is about time government did something about this state of affairs. There needs to be more competition. Less restrictive practices. Less conflict of interest.

I stopped being a beta tester of Betfair's new API and communicating with Betfair in the middle of 2016 when Betfair decided to force a £200 one-off fee on anyone using the API for live data. Yet another act of greed by Betfair.

Do I trade now? No. I switched my bots off at the beginning of the year, having achieved what I set out to do; to educate and inform. I was never in the business of making outstanding profits, just researching what was possible and in that I have been successful.

Does this mean that sports trading is dead? No. Not if you are courtside, pitchside or course side, part of an insider trading syndicate or colluding with Betfair to extract subscriptions, premium charges or fees for API live data keys.

Is my retirement a victory for manual trading? No. Trading for everyone, be they manual or algo traders, gets harder every year as the businessmen and syndicates grab an ever larger slice of the pie.

Eventually, sports markets will be updating so quickly that manual trading will give way to algo-trading, which will be perfected by quantum computing such that all markets will be efficient to the degree that only insiders and cheats can win. To disagree is to delude yourself.

I am surprised I sold so many books. It rather took me by surprise and shows there is a large group of people looking at alternatives and thinking carefully before jumping into sports trading. Did I make a lot of money from the books? No. They took a year of preparation and writing, and I made less money than if I had a zero hours contract with a fast food chain.

Am I proud of the books and the articles I have written? Yes. I and others have seen through the bull. We can only hope that the 90% and more who are destined to lose money from sports trading/betting either keep control of their habit, give it up or be sufficiently resourced to compete with the large profitable concerns.

But be warned. As my experience shows, when you step on the toes of those who make profits by whatever means from sports trading then there are no depths they will go to silence you.

The "fame" received via this website and the books I have written has been hard to shoulder. I am not one for whom a public persona comes easily. No doubt it will be seen by some as a victory for my detractors. They would be foolish to think so. Sports trading gets harder every year, never easier.

Now it is time to enjoy a full retirement and will no longer be consulting. If you trade on sports markets then ensure that you do so as cheaply as possible. Read the other 195 pages (3) on this website. It will cost you nothing. Always investigate the opposite view of those telling you how easy trading is.

There are no shortcuts so don't pay people anything for offering you non-existent shortcuts. If you think you can trade without a deep mathematical and logical understanding of what you are doing then think again. Good luck!

Addenda

(1) I will continue to support these books.

(2) I am not the first to receive threats and intimidation. See http://moneymakersreviewed.co.uk/caan-berry-betfair-trading-guide-review-pre-race-video-pack/#Police_Matter_8211_Threats_Received_8211_Trolling

(3) When you have written all there is to say about sports trading then it's time to call it a day. Sports trading is a simple subject to understand (if you are given the correct education) but difficult to profit from. Daily posting by software vendors is merely advertising in pursuit of subscriptions.

Note

In the interest of security I will be deleting all of the email addresses gathered during correspondence with my readership.

How Science is Taking the Luck out of Gambling

Author of The Perfect Bet, Adam Kucharski traces the scientific origins of the world's best gambling strategies during a Royal Institution lecture.


Amazon - The Perfect Bet

A Man for All Markets

A rare post from me these days but one that I have been looking forward to writing. A Man for All Markets is written by Edward O Thorp, a name that most smart traders will know. Written by the man himself, the book covers the entire life of this successful academic, "gambler" and financier. Obviously, I put the word gambler in quotes because Ed Thorp is anything but a gambler. 

Using John Kelly's work on optimal wealth growth, Thorp created profitable strategies for both roulette, blackjack and baccarat before moving into the financial markets, where he  discovered the Black-Scholes pricing formula before Black and Scholes themselves had proven Thorp's findings.

The first few chapters of the book cover the early life of Thorp, a childhood that would be the envy of any inquisitive child. In a world that now smothers children in cotton wool, there is much to be said for allowing a child to run riot so long as they learn but do not harm others. And run riot Thorp did, becoming an autodidactic chemistry and physics student at an under-performing school that never expected much from him.

To say that Thorp was a precocious and confident child is an understatement. Thorp's talent in the sciences earned him a scholarship to university by way of scholastic science competitions. Naturally, Thorp taught himself the required knowledge with a little help from his teachers. Without the scholarship we might never have heard of Edward O Thorp. 

During his early academic life Thorp developed card counting and an optimal staking strategy using Kelly Criterion. Foremost in Thorp's mind was wanting to be the first to publish his work in an academic journal rather than to profit. To that end Thorp met up with Claude Shannon (father of information theory) to help get his paper published.

Shannon also had an interest in experimentation and was very interested when Thorp mentioned an interest in predicting outcomes on a roulette wheel. The two academics developed one of the first handheld computing devices to beat the game but the device was used only once to prove the concept. Later, the work would be replicated in the 1970s by Eudaemonic Enterprises, a team of graduates before they too returned to academia and forayed into the financial markets. See Gambling Connections

Thorp then turned his attention towards the finance, the world's biggest casino with unlimited bet sizes. Discovering how to accurately price options before Black and Scholes, Thorp learned how to hedge a stock against its derivate for profit. Thorp set up one of the first quantitative hedge funds and made millions for his clients.

This book is certainly not a "get rich quick" book. Nor is the book an advertising pamphlet posing as a book, only to point at a website with no-money-back get rich quick gambling strategies. Simply, the book is about a boy's desire to understand the world he lived in. Thorp self-taught himself the sciences and progressed to be a professor of mathematics and conqueror of the markets.

Throughout the book you will see that Thorp is always concerned with edge, reducing risk and never betting until he knows the odds are firmly in his favour. How many do we see announcing they are going to have a go at sports trading to teach themselves how to trade in the financial markets and all with no knowledge of edge or risk?

Unlike others Thorp is mindful of never working so much that he neglects his family and friends. Today he lives a more sedate life but one which is still more productive than most. An important anecdote in the book reads...

Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut were at a party given by a billionaire when Vonnegut asked Heller how it felt to know that their host might have made more money in one day than Heller's Catch-22 since it was written. Heller said he had something the rich man could never have. When a puzzled Vonnegut asked what that could be, Heller answered, "The knowledge that I've got enough."

And that's what life in general (including trading) is all about. Those who just can't stop and will risk everything for a little more will never be fulfilled. Those getting into trading because they want more but don't know how will only become more unfilled and maybe worse.

Thorp's book resonated slightly with my life; self-taught because I could never sit and listen to a dreary teacher. I got into university through the backdoor as a "mature student". Interested in sports betting markets, my research was picked up by a company creating financial trading software and where I worked for five years. No millions in the bank but I am more than content. Enough was just enough.

Amazon A Man for All Markets

Relieving the Stress of Trading

In answer to my previous article, The Search for Edge, Boris (probably not Johnson) left a comment that I felt would be best answered in a dedicated article rather than as a reply in the comments section of the original article.

Last week's article saw me state facetiously that I was loath to publish details of my trading lifestyle, "Primarily because it is so dreary. No poolside selfies from me, courtesy of a cheap AirBnB holiday."

Boris commented

James you have never been keen on showing the poolside life of trading, I understand why. But wouldn't it be better to say it's a highly important part because of how stressful trading is? - or any high level competition and learning to turn it off and turn it on is one of the most important parts of high level competition (Trading & Business). Which is why business and trading is the two more difficult domains to achieve substantial success in is becuase it run's 365 and your neck is on the line everyday. My point being as long as people understand intermittently busting your ass then having a week of in capetown once a quarter will do you much better in the long run then just solid grind in which you become more likely to make errors and costly mistakes. Rest is key whichever way you get it.

I didn't know there was a poolside life to trading. Did I miss a clause in my agreement with Betfair?


Betfair User Agreement

15.2 - All users of the Betfair exchange are expected to post nauseating photographs of their chest hair from different poolside locations on a regular basis or forfit their exchange rights and privileges.

That'll teach me to scroll immediately to the bottom of those tiresome service agreements and click "I Agree" without reading anything.

Boris says, "But wouldn't it be better to say [poolside life is] a highly important part because of how stressful trading is?"

Why? Is chlorine invigorating for you? Personally, my ears clog up when I'm in a pool and I become very grumpy for the rest of the day so no, being poolside, toasting my chest hair (singular) would not be a good idea. A grumpy bunny does not a trader make.

Reading Boris's comment in its entirety suggests that he is talking about himself, a manual trader, who sits in front of a screen all day long. If I did that then I would not be looking for a pool, I'd be looking for an optician and maybe a psychoanalyst.

If Boris (and others) took the time to read more of this website then he (and they) would realise that I am an algo-trader, one who doesn't sit in front of a screen all day long.

Maybe it is not fully understood what algo-trading is. Yes, there is research and programming to be done in front of a screen but that is varied and enjoyable work and not the chore that the ladder lovers have to endure.

When a manual trader has constructed (or guessed) a strategy they have to implement it by hand in front of a screen from entry to exit. An algo-trader codes the logic of a strategy into a bot (i.e. entry, exit and any money management strategy) and then leaves the bot to get on with it. Therefore, the algo-trader has a lot more free time and suffers a lot less stress (if any) because they are not physically trading.

Boris is rather behind the times if he believes that manual trading is still the mainstay of the financial markets. Most open outcry trading pits have gone. Some of the jobbers have swapped their brightly coloured jackets for a shirt and tie, and sit at electronic terminals but the bulk of financial trading is automatically performed by computers. Yes, the markets are running, somewhere on this planet, 365 but news and data are being processed and acted upon at the speed of light and that's no place for a human.

If you want to relieve the stress of trading then don't trade. Build a trading strategy and leave it to an automated trading system to implement. If you truly have an edge then why are you allowing your human frailties to get in the way of your potential profit? If you have to constantly jump in and take control then your system is not quantifiable and there is no proof of edge.

There are those who claim to have a sixth sense when it comes to manual trading. Some call it a gut feeling and use poor research (since when did high-frequency trading involve manual trading?) in an act of confirmation bias to prove they can do it. However, if you can quantify your trading then your strategy can run as an algorithm in a trading bot. Otherwise, there is no strategy and it is all guess work. There are no excuses for not wanting to automate your trading and benefiting from the scaling up of your income that automation will provide.

Back to Boris's poolside angst. I have no problem with people taking holidays. What I have a problem with is people using exotic holiday imagery as a marketing exercise to sell an unattainable lifestyle to the many. After all, if a trader is that good and earning plenty of money then why doesn't that trader set up an office in his favourite sunny clime and use a VPN for trading or better still, run an algo-bot from a server, rather than living in a shabby rental in dreary England?

The Search for Edge

I thought I would take another look at the search keywords that have brought people to this website. Sometimes, the keywords remind me of an old article that I reread and decide it needs to be reworked so as to get the point over more succinctly. Other keywords alert me to the need to add new articles. Let's have a look at some of the search keywords that brought people to this website.

My previous article titled Gaming Betfair? was ingeniously linked to by the Google search engine with the keywords "hoovering betfair". I guess gaming and hoovering can be regarded as synonymous in this context. However, hoovering suggests a certain ease to picking up pennies in front of a steamroller. Trader247's website demonstrates that hoovering up pennies is possible but not easy.

There are no simple 'rinse and repeat' strategies that you can apply to Betfair and guarantee a steady income stream. Although many of my strategies have been based on a theme, none of the strategies last intact for anywhere close to a year, requiring scrappage or reoptimising and other less subtle changes.

"Betfair secrets the pros use" is a common search phrase I see on my website's statistics page. I am sorry that the website does not provide them in the fashion the person using that phrase was expecting. I assume he spent less than a minute on this website and was soon looking at another, more forthcoming but, perhaps, less realistic website.

Secrets are secrets. An edge shared is still an edge halved. If I give or sell you a secret then it's no longer a secret. As my About page says, publicly I am only in the business of releasing a lifetime's worth of research for beginners and experts alike to do with as they please. Any edge is kept for my own use or for those making use of the consultancy side of my work.

The search phrase "day in the life of a sports trader" is also the title of an article I have sitting on my hard drive in draft form but I have yet to publish it. Primarily because it is so dreary. No poolside selfies from me, courtesy of a cheap AirBnB holiday.

Instead, my life consists of programming tools to manipulate, visualise, and back-test data. If I get out then it is (was after leaving the London area) to meet shabby looking, caffeine addicts running syndicates. Otherwise, I was on Skype, talking to people in the Far East discussing latency issues with their setup between Europe and elsewhere. Once, I got to visit the Football Pools office in Liverpool whilst consulting but enough of the glamorous side of my work, people might get jealous and want to emulate me.

Gaming Betfair?

Recently, I was approached by a journalist looking for information and a few quotes. During the conversation, the term "gaming" cropped up. The journalist wanted to know if it was possible to game Betfair. In other words, is it possible to make money on betting markets using non-traditional methods.

What is the traditional method of winning in a betting market? Until the advent of exchanges, the only way to profit from betting was through form following and the statistical arbitrage of incorrect prices.

Today, Betfair and similar exchanges allow for trading on both sides of the back/lay spread, which gives rise to technical trading of sports. In a way technical trading is a  legitimate form of "gaming" a market because at a basic level no knowledge of form is required.

At its simplest, technical trading can involve pure and bonus arbitrage, which are mechanical ways of profiting from an exchange. However, these arbs are not entirely risk free. More  complex methods of technical trading involve an understanding of market structure and psychology. I go into more detail on this in Betfair Trading Techniques.

In other gambling arenas, for example, we see gaming in online poker. Online, players are able to multi-table online poker games, which they can't do in a casino. Enterprising coders have developed the HUD (head up display) for online poker so that a player can look at a realtime database of the players they are playing against, with notes and statistics so that opponents can be played against with the optimal strategy.

Messaging software allows online poker players to collude, which is not possible in a live game. Artificial intelligence has created poker bots that play heads-up (one on one) poker at a high level to almost guarantee a win against unaided human players.

Other than the basic rules of the game, online poker is now a different game altogether when compared with the live version of the game, requiring a new skill set with which to profit. Some might call it 'gaming the system', the lazy might call it cheating. I prefer to say that the better equipped will always win in the long run.

Are there other methods of gaming Betfair? Being a middleman​, offering a service, is a way to game Betfair. Disreputable tipster services act as an addition to any commission paid by traders. Some tipster services operate by simply covering every eventuality in an event and using survivorship bias to sell fake tips to the unwary.

Any service or information offered to traders has to be evaluated for its effectiveness and the cost of that service or information deducted from trading fees - as commission would be - to determine value.

Another way of gaming a betting market is through the use of "fake news" in order to create a movement in the spread so that a stat arb can be employed before the spread is corrected, once the true facts are known. Recently, Megarain reported false information being given about a cricket match, which might have affected the odds long enough for a stat arb.

Match fixing and insider information also permit people to game the markets with superior knowledge. Curiously, insider information is not always frowned upon as it is in the financial markets. Such activity has always been part and parcel of horse racing. Fixing though is generally reviled because it affects television ratings and thus advertising.

In conclusion, yes gaming the system is more than feasible and all part of thinking outside the box in order to gain an edge in whichever gambling activity you pursue.