How to Read a Sports Trading Website

Any trader with a good research strategy will look at the websites of other traders for ideas. However, beginner traders may not realise that a lot of what they are reading is utter rubbish. I often get requests from traders asking me to check out a website because they want to know if they can believe their eyes.

Everyone has the right to discuss their trading activities online and everyone has the right to do with their money as they please, including losing it. Problems arise when someone who does not want to lose their money does so after copying the actions of a trader who is either incompetent or a charlatan. Personally, I never read (and would never write) a profit and loss blog by choice. There is far more important literature to be read. I only read profit and loss blogs when they are pointed out to me by others. 

When you are reading a profit and loss blog you are most likely reading the exploits of those who got lucky and who will either soon regress to the mean (zero profit) or who will crash and burn through poor money management because they became frustrated at not winning enough. That is a simple statistical fact and if you don't understand why that is the case then think again before becoming a sports trader. (Some clues - read about survivorship bias or better still Joseph Buchdahl's Squares & Sharps, Suckers & Sharks).

Here are some tips for when reading trading websites.

Living the Life

What life? All sports traders that I have met and who are comfortable in life do so because of other income streams in addition to sports trading. Sports traders whose sole income is trading and who trade alone are unlikely to be very wealthy due to the inability to scale up their income, something that is easy for a syndicate. Only the higher-ups in syndicates will be "living the life", usually off the backs of others. William Benter is a very successful and wealthy player on the Hong Kong horse racing scene. You can be sure that the people working the Pari Mutuel machines on his behalf are not wealthy at all.

Be wary of anyone selling tips, trading knowledge or software that is backed up with photographs of swimming pools, beaches, fast cars or piles of cash. They are playing on your desires for a better life. This is a rule that can be applied to anyone selling you anything, be it pensions, life and medical insurance etc. The sunny beach photo is to tug at your wish for a comfortable retirement. Giving your money to charlatans displaying pool side photos will guarantee an unpleasant retirement.
 
Outrageous Claims

The classic "I am the CEO of a multi-billion dollar global organisation" seen on one infamous blog can only be met with "Then why on Earth are you wasting your time with sports trading?" Wikipedia defines a CEO as "the position of the most senior corporate officer, executive, or administrator in charge of managing an organisation". The CEO of such a global organisation would have an eye watering salary such that his wasting time on sports trading makes no sense. More so when the CEO claims they are going to throw in their career for sports trading. The claimant is either mad because their income will drop by more than 99% or a fantasist because they never thought through their fictitious claim.

If the aforementioned person really is a CEO then I can only assume his trophy wife is on the phone to a divorce lawyer or worse, a hitman. The CEO in question makes himself look even more of a buffoon when he refers to his career as a "job" and that he has just "returned home to cut the grass" rather than ordering someone to cut the south lawn of his mansion.

You must always read between the lines whenever you are reading a profit and loss blog. Is what you are reading credible? If one thing stands out as ridiculous then the whole website is probably equally so.

The Master Juggler

You will have heard of the phrase "a jack of all trades and master of none". Most sports traders concentrate on a single sport, the one they know most about or the one they believe they can profit from the most. After all, why bother trading on more than one sport when you know you can profit most on just the one?

Spreading your risk over multiple sports is no excuse when the are so many events for a single sport. More than enough to spread your risk over. The only reason why you might trade multiple sports is when one sport is in close season and another is open such as with soccer and cricket. That is not necessary when trading horse races all year round. Even syndicates with many operatives will concentrate on just the one sport. 

If you read about someone trading multiple sports and financial markets then either they are making it all up or they are in line for a fall because they are not giving enough attention to what they are doing.

Silence is Not Golden

Watch out for trading strategies that are no longer reported on. If no good reason has been given for the omission then the only logical reason is that the strategy has turned south and is now losing money. The author is too embarrassed to mention it as that would be damaging to their ego and self-image of a successful trader.

Look out too for manipulated bankrolls which have been altered to hide a losing strategy or bad money management. Bankroll reporting may also be dropped to cover tracks. You must look through the history of the blog and calculate the rise and fall of the bankroll so that discrepancies can be noted. If figures don't add up then the blog doesn't add up either.

The Missing Page

Pages deleted from a blog often denote that the narrative has now changed, the deleted page will contradict that new narrative. A useful tool in this respect is the Wayback Machine, a website that archives not all pages from around the web but a selection that have been deleted in the past.

Currently, there are over 500 billion pages stored on the Wayback Machine so there is a good chance that deleted pages of a profit and loss blog will exist. Just type in the URL for the website you are interested in and you might find some earlier pages that have been deleted

Target Setting

Those who set themselves targets of earning X amount in so many months or retiring on a certain date are very much novices and not to be copied. Who knows how long a strategy will last. Can it be depended upon to continue yielding profit? A strategy will eventually lose its edge as others discover it. Depending on a strategy far into the future is folly.

Setting a target of so many percent per month at the beginning is also ridiculous, especially when the percentage is very high. When most successful traders claim one or two percent on turnover then anything far higher is not to be trusted. Simply, such a strategy would be arbitraged out very rapidly as there would be something obviously mispriced in such a market.

A lot of beginners report on their paper traded strategies as though they were live. If the strategy works at all then slippage will certainly bring the optimistic yield to a more realistic one.

Cognitive Bias

The first thing a scientist is taught is the scientific method, which is defined as "the systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses." What that mouthful means is that through observation you make an hypothesis (i.e. an educated guess) as to how something works. Then, through experimentation and testing, you attempt to falsify that hypothesis.

Falsification of an hypothesis means that the theory was incorrect and should be discarded. Failure to falsify means that the theory is not incorrect but never true. Yes, no scientific can be proven true, just falsified. All scientific theories are best guesses as to the truth but at least they are a lot better than blind faith.

Trading bloggers who are not scientific in their approach often start with a conclusion rather than an hypothesis and then look for data to satisfy rather than falsify the conclusion they have already made. I could name (but I won't so don't ask) some very well known blogs that utilise cognitive bias and look for data to prove something whilst ignoring data to the contrary.

Readers of trading websites catch themselves with survivorship bias if they believe that all the websites they read represent the whole truth. Nobody would write a website about being a failure and there are successful traders who don't have websites. Excluding those and other websites from your mind means that you do not have the full picture.

The biggest cognitive bias in trading is the belief that trading is easy and everyone wins, and then only looking for websites that confirm that false statement whilst ignoring those that do not.

Tipsters

There is so much scope here for scams that once again I recommend that you read Squares & Sharps, Suckers & Sharks. Amateur tipsters are just that, amateurs. They regress to the mean time and time again with no long-term success. People who charge for their tips are, more often than not, scammers or they have deluded themselves with survivorship bias.

A single year does not a successful tipster make. There needs to be many years of profitable tipping to be statistically significant. Most tipsters don't make it past the first year after the sudden realisation that they have no idea what they are doing.

Do not trust any tipster that has not been independently audited. Reviews on a tipster's website won't do and nor will tipster aggregation websites (most of which are suspect) where tispters compete against each other. Instead, only trust reviews from independent reviewers who have no stake in any tipster, are not selective in who they review, who display reviews for all tipsters (win or lose), who are not tipsters themselves and who make no profit from their reviews.

Personally, I never use any tipsters. After all, the vast majority of tipsters only have access to public information, which is already reflected in the price. A successful tipster needs access to private information or difficult to access public information. Such tipsters are very few and hard to find making the exercise of finding one not worth the bother. The reality is that the vast majority of tipsters are a complete and utter waste of bandwidth.

eBooks Not Available on Amazon

You will have seen advertisements for eBooks and sometimes physical books that will teach you how to "get rich from sports trading". Often these books can only be bought direct from the author and are not independently reviewed. Don't trust any reviews on the author's website. Look for independent reviews on a website that you can trust, such as Amazon, and where the review is flagged as being a "Verified Purchase".


Without the "Verified Purchase" mark there is no proof that the reviewer read the book.

Also, look at the sales rank for the book and compare it with other related books. A book in the top 20 is there for a reason. If a book is well down on sales rank but has a lot of glowing reviews from unverified customers then there is the possibility that the reviews were written either by the author or someone they know.

eBooks sold direct by the author and without review are almost guaranteed to either be scams or to have little to no worthy content. I challenge the authors of these books to send me a copy whereupon I will give them an unbiased review and a free link to their book from this site.

After all, if your book is any good then you will want to have it in the largest bookshop on the planet. Why restrict yourself to your own little viewed website? I once asked the author of such an ebook why he didn't sell his book on Amazon. He said, "Amazon don't sell gambling books". Really? I see plenty of gambling books on Amazon but who wants to gamble, I thought your eBook is teaching people how to trade.

Remember, if you buy a PDF file through PayPal via the author's website then there is no recourse for a refund, which is precisely why these authors only publish electronically. Only buying a book through Amazon or other bookshop can you get a refund, if you are not happy with your purchase, which you probably won't be. Most PDF sellers scrape free content off the web, sell it on and want to avoid giving refunds to irate customers.

Forums

This is a tricky area as some are good and some are bad. I find the ones that are trying to sell you something or who are run by a known figure can sometimes be troublesome. With nothing to sell and no ego to be massaged an open forum is a great place to learn about trading from others so long as you apply the rules of this article to everything you read.

Some forums are run by well-known people who have built a following for themselves and if any attempt is made at questioning them then like a pack of wolves the rest of the forum will descend upon you. Not because you are wrong but because of a curious herding instinct amongst the other forum users. It's like being at school again and crossing the path of a gang member.

I have been the victim of this herd instinct by disagreeing with what a forum owner had said. To then have abuse hurled at me on the forum and on my own website demonstrated a lack of rationality. The other forum users had nothing to gain other than the comfort of being in a small clique where knowledge could not be trusted to be correct. Knowledge comes from open discussion. Preventing open discussion and punishing people who disagree with you leads to falsehoods becoming facts.

Vendor Websites

Obviously, a vendor is out to profit from the products sold on their website. If they also have a forum or blog then they will probably censor commenters who might impact on sales. Therefore it is not possible to get an unbiased view from a vendor website.

A vendor might blog about the good points about their product but never talk about any bad points that will be discussed elsewhere. Seek independent reviews.

Concluding Remarks

Always be wary and question everything you read. This is your money that you are risking and you should be as careful with it as you would be when buying a house, a car, insurance or a financial investment.

  • Verify everything you read by confirming it elsewhere. 
  • Don't be a victim of cognitive biases.
  • If it is too good to be true then it is.
  • Don't buy any PDFs or video packs from the author's website. Only buy from independently reviewed sources.

4 comments:

  1. This posting and a recent one may have saved me some £'s. In my quest to crack pre-racing trading I considered buying a ebook/video pack/training course, this has made me think again. About the forums yes Cliquey, unfriendly to newcomers and anyone who offers an alternative new can be descended on like a pack of wolves Perhaps also forums have members who are so scared of having their "edge" diluted they lay false trails about what might & might not work as an indicator of price movement.

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    Replies
    1. Brings to mind a comment on a well known Betfair trading forum:

      'This forum's like being in a pub, where everyone's hiding their drink, and whispering their orders to the barman, then slinking off into a corner without talking to anyone, whilst shielding their drink from prying eyes, lest anyone else wants the same they'd be less left for them.

      Occasionally throwing a sly grin to the others in there, whilst tapping their nose, and being very superior.'

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  2. Surely its all about having an edge on your fellow traders. If you have more knowledge and experience than the rest act on it.

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    Replies
    1. I don't see what that has to do with this article but yes, of course, it's all about edge.

      http://www.betfairprotrader.co.uk/2015/07/edge-expectation-and-kelly-criterion.html

      This article is to help beginners avoid websites that destroy edge whilst they look around the web for research material.

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