Professional Gambling is a challenge evenly split between the task of finding ‘value’, and the challenge of ‘getting on’.
To make a consistent profit an investor needs to find opportunities where the odds are in his favour. But to convert this theoretical advantage into actual cash he can take to the bank, an investor needs to get his money down.
The majority of recreational gamblers have no idea how tricky this can be, because they will never experience having their bets restricted. In truth though it is half of the battle.
Most recreational punters will bet in small stakes and pick selections/prices that the bookmakers are always happy to lay. It is easy to think that the process of placing a bet is automatic, a given thing. But bookmakers are under no obligation to accept any bet. They decline plenty of bets, and restrict the stakes on many more.
They can close or restrict the account of any of their customers at any time without explanation. They are good at sensing danger, at putting up defences against punters who will beat them. They have to be to stay in business.
So the process of placing bets is a totally different proposition for a professional gambler than it is for the vast majority of ‘normal’ punters. Bookmakers erect defenses to stop them. It’s the pro punter’s job to find ways round them.
Here then is an introduction into the Dark Arts of ‘getting on’….
- Asian Markets
- Betting Exchanges
- UK Online Bookmakers
- Betting Shops
- Bet Brokerages
Asian Markets – There are a few bookmakers, and a few select markets, where the normal rules of smart punters being restricted by bookies do no apply. These bookmakers are (principally) Pinnacle Sports, SBO and IBC. The markets are the Asian Handicap and the Asian Over/Under lines on football matches. On these markets, with these bookmakers, it is possible to bet enormous amounts of money. And even if you are successful, they will not close or restrict your account.
The reason is that on these markets a finely balanced, mutually beneficial relationship has evolved. These Asian lines are the markets that huge numbers of recreational punters in Asia want to bet on. The bookmakers offer tight margin prices, at which they are happy to lay big bets, with higher maximum stakes as kick-off gets nearer. These big bets are placed by smart professionals and syndicates who can identify value and make a profit. But the bookmakers are happy to use the intelligence of these big bets to adjust their prices so that they get to a very efficient reflection of the ‘true chances’ of any selection winning. So they win money long-term from (virtually) all their recreational punters who bet late.
The resulting profit (even at a small %) they make on the enormous turnover they get from the masses of recreational punters, makes up for the loss they make to the pros. They are left with a profit margin% that is tiny compared to the traditional UK bookmaking way of operating, but they take a colossal turnover by comparison. So they are very profitable businesses. Profitable enough to sponsor some English Premier league teams. You will have seen SBO’s logo on the shirts of West Ham and Cardiff City in recent seasons for example.
What this means for clients of the Soccerbrain Service is that they can bet on these Asian lines without the usual issues of restrictions and account closures that prevail in the UK.
There are a couple of catches, however.
First, by the nature of being such liquid markets, with so many big smart punters and syndicates betting in to them, the margins are pretty tight. Even the most successful large scale syndicates do well to make 3% margin on turnover. Clients can hope to match or even better that slightly though by betting into the markets earlier than the syndicates do. Because of their size, syndicates need to wait until bet limits have risen, which is nearer kick off. By then there is less value than earlier in the week. There is an inevitable trade-off between liquidity and efficiency of the market. Soccerbrain clients can expect to make around 4% margin on Asian market bets.
The second issue is an administrative one. These firms no longer accept accounts directly from UK residents. It is possible, however, to get access using bet brokerage services or using a non UK address.
In theory there should be no problem in getting bets on with a betting exchange. They make their money by taking a commission on customer profits, so their income isn’t dependent on results, and don’t need to fear professionals; they just match punters up with one another and take a cut.
But the two inherent limiting factors are liquidity and commissions. It only takes a £2 lay bet to get in one of the exchange price boxes. Lots of juicy looking prices can only be available for smallish stakes.
Whatever the stake sizes, punters need to take into account the exchange’s commission when they are placing bets. This alters the ‘actual’ price you are getting, as opposed to the price you see on the screen.
Betfair is by far the dominant player in the exchange market and it is an advantage they are unlikely to give up any time soon. In any market-place based exchange, liquidity matters. People will keep going back to ebay even if there are cheaper alternatives because they know there will always be loads of buyers and sellers there. Betfair has the same edge.
Their standard 5% commission (based on winnings from an individual market) is a big chunk out of the profitability of any profit seeking operation. The difference between paying the 5% maximum, and being on the 2% minimum can be the difference between winning and losing for many operations. Getting down to 2% is mostly based on commission points earned on turnover, but Betfair will generally give you a chunk of these points in return for a five figure deposit.
The other big potential issue with Betfair is their Premium Charge. This applies to customers who have won a lot (over £500k currently) and at a healthy margin. Given the tough criteria, and it will only kick in if you have been really successful, it is tempting to ignore it as a ‘nice problem to have’. But it is a significant factor to consider in any long term sports betting business plan, where the goal is to make serious money on Betfair.
Other exchanges like Betdaq and Matchbook will offer cheaper commissions but struggle to compete with Betfair on liquidity. In principle though, having accounts with all three of these exchanges, and being able to cherry-pick prices (having done your sums to take into account commission) is the ideal scenario for a pro punter, but one which requires having a decent bankroll of cash to spread around accounts.
UK Online Bookmakers
UK firms are traditionally risk averse, and adopt strict defensive tactics to prevent clever punters from making a profit from them. If you want to be unimpeded by account restrictions and closures then you need to stick to betting on Asian markets, and on exchanges.
But online firms make plenty of mistakes with their prices (inevitable given how many events and markets they price up) so there is a healthy big margin to be made from them if you concentrate on picking off value, and if you can get past their defences.
Any smart punter betting at value prices for decent money will have their account come under scrutiny eventually. Sooner or later it will be restricted or closed by the bookmakers’ traders and risk managers. That’s just the way they work, so there’s not much point in moaning about it. This scrutiny will come a lot faster though if the account is always looking to back the same selections as other smart punters. This is one of the reasons why having exclusive access to a service’s tips is essential.
Eventually the firms will figure out that you’re a pro, even if you manage to fly under their radar for a while with exclusivity. But here are some ways you can stay a step ahead;
Duplicate accounts. If you can find a way to open multiple accounts then you can spread money around, as well as taking advantage of sign-up bonuses. But bookmakers are pretty wise to this ploy these days. They will prevent multiple accounts being opened from the same postal address, or with the same bank details. And they can monitor IP addresses to catch punters operating multiple accounts from the same location. If different accounts are placing exactly the same bets then bookmakers are likely to spot it. But if you are good at IT, and find a way to open accounts with different addresses and bank accounts, and then have a bit of cunning in how you place bets, it is certainly possible to operate duplicate accounts and get decent money on.
Get friends to put on for you. An alternative to opening duplicate accounts yourself is to piggy-back on accounts opened by your friends. You should warn them though that placing large, value price bets will eventually lead to their account’s coming under scrutiny and eventually being restricted or closed.
Take over losing accounts. This is a really good way of getting round bookie defenses if you can pull it off. In the same way that traders will identify accounts of ‘pros’ or ‘dangerous’ customers to keep an eye on and/or restrict, so the accounts of ‘mug’ punters who are deep in deficit get pretty much carte blanche to back anything they want. If you can find these accounts (maybe you know some friends who are hopeless punters) and hijack them, then you can get an extended run of getting on before the firms get wise to the fact. A neat tactic is to deliberately run accounts for a while placing deliberately poor value bets (e.g. SP on big horse races) in the hope that the traders label it is a ‘mug’ account, providing a nice big gap in their defenses you can exploit.
Getting on in betting shops has some built in advantages. Betting in cash gives greater anonymity. Shop staff are less attuned to the risks of pro punters, as virtually every shop punter is a long-term loser. This includes the odd high staking punter they see. Pros tend not to use shops in these technology dominated days.
The main downside of using shops is the logistical hassle involved in physically visiting the shops, compared to the great convenience of online betting through a computer, phone or tablet. Plus there is the hassle and risks involved in carrying lumps of cash.
Risk management in shops mostly works on the basis of staff calling through to the traders in head office for ‘permission to lay’ on any large bets. Shop managers generally have little discretion. So it’s not straightforward to simply walk into a shop and have a big cash bet accepted. The staff will have a chart showing them maximum stakes they can lay without permission, varying by sport and market. You can get restricted or even barred from a shop just like with an online or phone account, so personal limits for known ‘faces’ can also apply.
Although cash betting in shops is theoretically anonymous, if you get tagged as a pro whose bets should not be layed, firms will send alerts around their nearby shops with your description. Almost all shops have CCTV these days, so a low-pulled baseball cap (or a fake beard if you want to go full incognito!) is a decent idea when you are hitting the shops.
Probably the most efficient way to get on in shops is to have a gang of ‘putters on’ at the end of a telephone, based in an inner city like London where there are loads of shops within easy travelling distance.
It’s natural that shop managers will ask themselves (and be asked by head office traders when they phone through for permission to lay a bet) ‘where is this guy getting the money to bet big?’. What you don’t want them to think is ‘he must be a professional gambler’.
If you can suggest to him through your appearance, or by dropping in a made up back story that; a) you have a high paid job, b) you won the lottery, or c) you’re a drug dealer, then you’re more likely to get a clear run on getting money down for a while.
Also if you can find out what the ‘permission to lay’ limits are, and keep your stake sizes just under them, the shop staff will normally put them straight on so head office traders don’t get alerted to their rick and cut the price. In these days of EPOS till system though it doesn’t take long for dangerous bets to get picked up. So if you’re sending a few guys to put bets on in different shops, use Barney Curley/Patrick Veitch tactics by co-ordinating watches and get them to place the bets at exactly the same moment.
These services give you access to the prices of various online bookmakers through a single account. They are really useful for getting round the restriction on UK clients with Pinnacle and SBO. Also they are good for real-time odds comparison, helping you get on at the top prices.
These services tend to focus exclusively on Asian markets with the big Asian firms, but if they offer ways to get on other markets they can be used to get round the restrictions on an account in your own name. Brokerages will generally charge a low commission on your bets. They make money from turnover volume commissions they get as agents of the big Asian firms.
Much like using a betting exchange, punters need to factor in the commission brokerage services charge to calculate the actual prices they are going to get.
In order to get the most from the Soccerbrain Service, clients need to think about ‘getting on’ as a business challenge. It’s a game you need to play against the bookmakers, and it’s a game that you need to win.
Placing bets on the tips you receive is not as simple as just opening a few online betting accounts. Not if you are betting in any decent bet size. The exclusivity you get on tips from the Soccerbrain Service gives you a good chance to keep accounts in your own name open and unrestricted for a decent period of time, but in order to future-proof your business, and to maximize your turnover, you need to look at different ways to get money on.
These notes on some of the ‘Dark Arts’ of getting on will hopefully be of some use as you plan your attack. Of course it is totally in my interests that clients find ways to make the most of the tips that come from my service, so I will always be happy to discuss the topic and share any other smart tactics that come up.
“The ideal character for a professional gambler is a split personality; a combination of a brain surgeon and a mad axeman.
The selection process is carried out by the brain surgeon. Then the door is kicked open by the mad axeman. He is willing to trade aggressively, and push through all bookmaker resistance.
When the day is over the brain surgeon takes over again, coolly assessing the results and planning the next day’s betting.”
Patrick Veitch, Enemy Number One (Racing Post).