This is a post from Eddy Murray:
This was my original post on the Betfair forum about my first year as a professional gambler. This article led Inside Edge magazine to get in touch with me, and my work for both Inside Edge magazine and The Sportsman newspaper stemmed from it.
The first week of March last year I left work to go full time, and one year on, I'd like to put this thread up as perhaps some people may find it helpful.
Being a gambler is not something I ever expected to become. The advent of the internet, and the exchanges, have changed my life (for now) dramatically. I still can't quite believe its been just twelve months, but I for one have a lot to thank Andrew Black and Ed Wray for.
The twelve months started fairly badly after nearly being killed in a car crash in Puerto Del Carmen, Lanzarote. That was a bit of a disappointment. However, on return to the UK, I had two or three very successful months, until suddenly I was hit by a double whammy. I had originally been winning on three different types of market, and suddenly overnight became a big loser on two of them. At the same time I had been guilty of expanding my own lifestyle and expectations (in a very human, but perhaps unwise way), and had also spent a third of my bank buying (music) recording studio equipment – the one thing which I'd always dreamed of having.
Losing half of my remaining bank in the space of a fortnight last June left me in deep trouble, and it looked like I was in danger of having made a massive mistake. There was one point where I had one final bet (not a huge one though) where I promised myself if it lost to stop and never bet ever again. It did end up winning. I asked Gamcare for advice, who were very helpful. When gambling messes up your sleeping, as well as your waking hours, it is a crushing realisation that you are in a mess.
There are no evening classes, A-levels, or MBAs in gambling. There are a small band of hardcore professional gamblers, nearly all of them at least partially on Betfair, who are literally some of the sharpest minds there are. Any amounts on any market above £100 are likely to be bets placed up there by one of them. They are equally as talented at gambling as a top barrister or doctor would be at their trade. Nobody walks into a courtroom and decides to be a top lawyer for the day, nor operate in theatre at the local hospital. The difference with betting is that everyone can (and most do) have a bet. What can be much simpler than having £10 on Manchester United to win a football match?
Last June (only three months after leaving work), I was in fairly heavy trouble. I had a certain level of my bank which I had set as a level I would try to never go below. When it reached that level, it looked like taking the gamble on becoming a gambler was one I was on the brink of losing.
At that point, the advice I received from another gambler changed everything. I was in contact with a number of people, mainly originally through Betfair's forum, but one of them I hold my hat off to, and have an enormous gratitude to, and respect for (you know who you are guv'nor). I managed to cross over and adapt my skills across a wide range of markets/sports, so that I had degrees of success in new areas. A key part of remaining a pro is the ability to adapt to a constantly changing market. You literally have to run to stand still to be successful in as fiercely competitive an environment as Betfair.
Winning money through betting is paradoxically something I feel very uncomfortable with morally. Are there people on the other side of these bets who are risking more than they can afford to lose? All the money originally deposited into Betfair has at some stage been earned in an office, a factory, a checkout, forecourt or salon. Much of it has real blood sweat and tears behind it. It makes me incredibly sad to read the figures from the big 3 that they have around 200,000 customers a year losing an average of £3,000 a year into FOBT's, as reported on a number of threads on the General Betting forum. One of my ex-girlfriends had only come to England with her mother many years ago, after her father's gambling addiction took their family to financial and emotional ruin, and her parents separated. There are real human beings out there who become just further statistics to fall by the wayside in the current pro-gambling British culture.
There's always the hope that if you do win, it's off a rich city trader, who is punting silly money for fun. Betfair has a very small number of seriously big winners (of which I am not one), but very few if any big losers. It has a vast legion of small losers. A football match can be more fun with a bet having been placed on it. The people who gamble for entertainment (whether they win or lose), as an enjoyable hobby to complement an already balanced life are perhaps the real winners. Given to this group of its customers, it is the better value and accessibility to a product they enjoy, that is perhaps Betfair's greatest success.
For every 100 winners in a calendar year, many of them will fall by the wayside the following year. One of the most famous posts on this forum has been 'The Story of Ster', who went from being a big winner to someone whose methods became horribly outmoded, and he found himself deceiving his family about his gambling problems. According to his last post he found happiness and support from his loved ones. For every passage of time, past present and future, there will be a number who are crushed through indiscipline/addiction/chasing/recklessness and/or greed.
A year full time feels like a lifetime. Gambling is neither a hobby nor a job, it is a lifestyle. One thread on here has had a user called TETO setting a target of £50 a day, whilst another has a user called 'Doubled' seeking to make £25,000 a year. Everyone starts gambling with £1's and £2's, and if they are good, that progresses to fivers, tenners, fifties, and then hundreds. There are people who bet tens of thousands of pounds per football match, horse or rugby team on Betfair, without blinking an eyelid. If you have two gamblers, one of them 5% better than the other, one could realistically make £20,000 a year from it, the second one could make £70,000. The difference between earning £26,000 a year in the workplace, and £32,000 a year could be four or five years' hard graft and promotion. A small difference in gambling skill can make an astronomical difference to the bottom line here though. The real shrewdies who use Betfair make about 10% profit on turnover, with a fairly astonishing turnover level by any layman's standards.
There is no security in the future of any gambler, bar their own ability to stash away whatever they can for a rainy day. I am 26, and I know that when I do go back into the workplace (something I hope to do) it will be at the bottom rung again. Each year spent as a full timer doesn't knock off a year of your real career at the bottom end of the ladder, it knocks off one of the best years at the end of it. It is quite a heavy burden for me, when most of my peers are doing well and forging ahead as consultants/analysts/bankers/lawyers/accountants/actuaries. Only hindsight will let me know if I did actually make the right decision at this stage in my life.
I'd like to put forward my own opinions of the kind of people who I think would make successful pro gamblers. Every school boy wants to be captain of the football team, or seeing the prettiest girl in the school. I was neither, just a quiet studious swot who probably annoyed people by continually beating everyone in the exams, as well as probably other various nerdy and equally nefarious activities. Pets don't win prizes, geeks do. If you can remember the class genius/nerd, I don't think you're cut out to be a winner on Betfair. If you were the nerd, you have a chance. As I said before, nobody expects to turn up and be a brilliant doctor or lawyer, but everybody likes to have a punt, and most are happy to bet until they've done their cobblers.
I've personally written two specific programs/models which have proved invaluable on certain markets. One has half a million variables. The other I'm incredibly proud of, and wouldn't sell for 30k. Winning at gambling is extraordinarily hard to do consistently, and it takes an armoury of graft, skill and discipline to succeed. The technical skill and wizardry behind some of the API programming is itself several steps up from a relatively small fish like me.
Nobody is ever a real winner from gambling until the day they cash in their chips, and leave the casino. There are gamblers throughout history who have won millions, and lost it all back. If somebody asked me if it can be done, could I truthfully say 'yes'? I'm not sure that I could. I could easily be one of the hundred pros who whilst being successful for the last year, may fall by the wayside over the next. There is no tragedy in that – all that a man can ask for in life is the freedom to live by the sword, and you can only do that if it's possible to die by the sword if you fail.
Starting out as a full timer is not something I would recommend to almost any other person (out of a sense of moral responsibility, not attempted protection of an imaginary part of some imaginary pot of gold). It has been the most astonishing learning curve, and in my first few months I experienced both sustained exhilaration and sustained depression. Gambling success is a fickle mistress, with incredible runs of both victories and defeats entwined illogically by fate. Value is all-important – not winners. That's the first lesson to any gambler, and one which the majority don't ever start to comprehend. The secret is not getting more heads than tails, its winning more when a coin comes up heads than you lose when it's tails.
To be a real pro, gambling ends up becoming almost like a form of accountancy, with a good staking plan, and calculation of value as and when it arises. I no longer have any thrill whatsoever from winning or losing a bet.
It has been an amazing twelve months, and I am very fortunate to have been successful for now. I'm sorry if some of this thread comes across as arrogant – it's all genuine from this side. Some people reading this will be thinking about going pro, and I'm sure other people will be reading too. If you do go pro, then try to remember how much of a rollercoaster emotionally it can be especially at first. Have a level of your bank which you will not go below, and promise yourself you won't go below it. Then make sure you keep that promise. If I've learnt anything its how unimportant money is, and how precious the people around you are.
I hope some of this helps other people. There'll be another geek out there like me who is at the stage I was at a year ago. I hope everyone finds fulfilment and happiness, which is much more than gambling in itself will ever have to offer.
Eddy Murray , Spring 2005