Thank you for taking the time to read my posts about my attempts to win a decent amount of money through gambling on horse racing and other sports. I set myself a target of £5,000 last March, although that amount was always a somewhat arbitrary figure. For the vast majority of the year it looked like that I had next to no chance of achieving that target, but fortunately my final month was by far the best month of the year which meant that somehow I managed achieve a profit in excess of £6,000 after taking account of the cost of subscriptions. I’ve put together a few final thoughts, as well as a final summary of each service.
1. Don’t underestimate the time commitment
Whilst on the surface it may appear that it looks like a relatively easy way to have a second income, you shouldn’t underestimate the time required if you are going to fully commit. In total over the past year I have placed approximately 2,500 bets which is an average of 7 bets per day. All of these bets have to be recorded on spreadsheets if you are going to keep proper records. I always found it easier to update them after a winning day rather than on a day when, to use a technical gambling term, I had done my bollocks in! In particular the tips may arrive at times that aren’t particularly convenient. Some services are very dependent for their profitability on being able to place them very quickly after they are released. This isn’t always possible due to things like driving, being on the golf course or even earning a proper living. This in turn can result in bets being placed hurriedly which is when mistakes can occur. The most notable of these were backing Adam Scott to win the wrong golf tournament and missing a 12/1 winner at Cheltenham. The first error was described in one of my earlier blogs, but the second one was due to me failing to properly open an email at midnight when I was staying in Cheltenham after a full day at the races and one or two pints of Guinness.
2. Don’t underestimate the financial commitment
When I started out I stated that I would stop if I lost £5,000. I am fortunate that losing a sum like that wouldn’t be the end of the world and at no point did I get close to that figure, but I would be lying if I said that there weren’t times when things got a little scary. It wouldn’t be unusual on a particularly busy Saturday to be placing the best part £1,000 on bets. Fortunately I don’t think that I ever had a day where I lost that kind of sum, but it is something that statistically will happen at some point. One thing that I didn’t do when I started which is recommended in all of the advice that I have read is to establish a betting bank for each service. The size of the bank will depend upon on historical losing runs (what is known as drawdowns) and the level of stakes. It should hopefully prevent losing money and should provide a guide of when to drop a particular service if it is underperforming.
In total I have staked in excess of £90,000 which sounds an awful lot of money (it is!). However as indicated if you have a limit and stick to it then I would never lose that kind of sum. There are a couple of measures that are used to evaluate how services are doing. Return on Investment (RoI) measures the percentage winnings against stakes. This was 10.2% before the cost of subscriptions were taken into account and over 7% after taking account of subs. The other measure is Return on Capital (RoC). If you regard £5,000 as my overall betting bank, then a return of nearly 187% before subs and over 127% after subs certainly beats 0.5% interest rates at the bank or building society. Then again your chances of you losing everything in your bank account is nil (hopefully!). The old adage of not gambling more than you can afford to lose remains good advice.
3. Prepare for losing runs
The hardest thing I have found is keeping the faith when things appear to be going wrong. Losing runs are inevitable in all services and there are times when you wonder whether a particular tipster is losing the plot. This was certainly the case with one of the horse racing tipsters, but is important to look at their long term record and remember why you subscribed to the service in the first place. Whilst it does increase the cost and time required I found that increasing the number of services that I followed from the initial 3 to 5 services did help when a particular service was going through a bad patch. I just hope that I never have a month when all 5 are on a losing run. I know it sounds stupid, but it also helped to keep money in my betting accounts after decent wins. Depending upon how frequently I use certain bookmakers I will only withdraw money when it gets above say £300 or £500. That way on particularly busy days I’m not continually transferring money from bank account to place bets.
Anyone who has a subscription to Sky Sports will be thoroughly sick of a stream of adverts from bookmakers, most of which have the strapline of “please bet responsibly.” Frankly for the most part this claim of social responsibility on their part is complete and utter bullshit. The image of bookies making a book and taking on fearless punters in a high stakes battle of wits is something that belongs in a black and white post war movie. Modern bookies are run by accountants with computer programmes and spreadsheets. The last things that they want are punters who know what they are doing (or in my case buying tips off people who know what they are doing). Most just want the punters who will lose on a regular basis – hence all the special offers on accumulators (or “accas” in the dumbed down world of TV advertising). They would rather rake in money from Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in their shops than employ people to study the horse racing form and not make mistakes when setting odds. One of my services specialises in identifying horse where the odds are particularly good value. This service has yielded the biggest profits, but has unfortunately led to accounts being closed (or effectively closed for any practical purpose) with Corals, Stan James, Boylesports, Betfred and Betfair Sportsbook. Fortunately I still have accounts with the ever excellent Bet 365 as well as William Hill, Ladbrokes and Skybet. Paddy Power place restrictions on some horse racing bets, but it is possible to place reasonable bets with them. How long these accounts remain active will determine how long I can keep going with the current arrangements.
Final thoughts on the betting services with the names of the services if anyone is interested.
Horse Racing Service 1 – The Bet Alchemist
I couldn’t have picked a worse time to join this service. 13 successive winning months prior to me joining should perhaps have given me a clue that he was due a losing run. Several times I came close to quitting the service and when he was £4,000 down at the end of December, I had just about decided that when my subscription was due for renewal in January that I would pull the plug. However £40 each way on Minella Foru at 20/1 in a big chase at Leopardstown over Christmas encouraged me to stay on. He has been in profit every month this year and currently the loss on the service is just over £1,000 (it would be less if I hadn’t missed one bet and under staked (deliberately this time) on a hugely speculative multiple bet.
Horse Racing Service 2 – Learn Bet Win
The star of the show in terms of profit. However this is the service that I suspect has cost me a few bookmakers accounts. Declan is the tipster who identifies horses that are particularly good value, often at the lower graded meetings. In the winter he tends to specialise in all weather racing so the odds on his tips tend to come down very quickly which is what the bookies don’t like. Many horses are at longish odds, so there will be losing runs, but there has been a steady stream of winners. It is the most expensive service, but the results speak for themselves
Horse Racing Service 3 – The Value Bettor
I really can’t recommend this service highly enough. For anyone who is a fan of National Hunt racing they should seriously think about joining. The service supposedly runs from November to March, but Andy who runs the service posts his thoughts on a users forum during October and April. It is very reassuring, when joining a service, that I had more than covered the cost of the service (£175) by 1 November when the service was officially due to start! The service is divided into tips and other thoughts on races. A very detailed analysis of the day’s racing is provided and the rationale behind the tips is clearly explained, in contrast to Learn Bet Win where you just receive the tip. Once you learn to read between the lines of the analysis there are a steady stream of winners to had from the other thoughts section – in fact this produced about 2/3rds of the profit. My only regret is that Andy proved to be very cautious with his staking plans, so I aim to increase my stakes next season – roll on October!
Golf Betting Service – The Golf Insider via Matthew Walton
This service never quite got going during the year. I had been following the tips for about 8 months before I started my one year experiment and it did prove to be quite profitable. There has been a marked decline in the number of first round 3 ball bets given and these had been very successful. By its very nature golf betting is going to have long runs without winners (it isn’t very easy to pick a winner in a 156 runner field!), but when you do win it tends to be a big one. I am not ready to give up on it just yet as my previous experience with the Bet Alchemist has indicated that you shouldn’t necessarily a dump a service when it hits a bit of a slump.
Football Betting Service – The Fink Tank via The Secret Betting Club
I really don’t know what to make of this service. It uses a statistics based approach to determine what odds represent a value bet and as a result tends to focus on outsiders playing away from home. It started off like a house on fire making over £2,000 in the first half of the season. Gradually the results have tailed off and it ended only about £1,000 up at the end of March. However since then it has an absolutely disastrous April. At this time of the year some teams have nothing to play for whilst others are in a promotion/relegation scrap. The bookies adjust their odds accordingly and on a stats based approach this means that there are a large number of potential “value” bets mostly on teams that have nothing to play for. This would be fine if the bookies have overreacted, but the results indicate that they haven’t. Such is the loss of my confidence in the service that I have reduced my stakes and it can be pretty soul destroying backing Aston Villa every week – at least I don’t have to watch them! The service has now lost money and it is doubtful whether I will rejoin next season.
One final thing – if anyone is interested in following tipsters I would really recommend joining the Secret Betting Club. It costs about £100 a year and basically what they do is monitor the performance of a variety of tipsters and produce reports on the way that they operate so that you can determine which ones may be suitable for you. It means that all of the charlatans and con artists in the tipping game can safely be ignored.
So that’s it from me. I hope you have enjoyed reading my various ramblings. I will keep on trying to relieve the bookies of their not so hard earned cash, but I don’t intend to keep the blog going. I think that this year has had quite a few ups and downs and there is a danger that everything could get quite repetitive, so I will quit on a high (or I would have done if I hadn’t just lost £700 in April!). In summary it is possible to make reasonable money at betting on horse racing and other sports, but it isn’t easy.