Talking Betting With.......Matt Finnigan
bettingexpert blog editor. Always taking the alternative route to finding the value.
How can you succeed as a professional sports trader? How has trading sports changed over the last decade and what does the future hold? Today on the blog we continue our Talking Betting series as Andrew talks all things punting with Matt Finnigan.
How long have you been involved in betting and trading, how did you get involved?
My first involvement with betting was in the 1970’s when I used to pick the horses on ITV super 7 on World of Sport with my granddad, so you could say he was to blame for me getting involved in this game.
But it wasn’t until I was twenty that I really became active with betting. I worked with a guy who I nicknamed ‘Fearless!’, he knew the formbook and knew about numbers and between us we set up a nice little bookmaker business at the warehouse where I was stacking shoes.
Back then it was 10% tax on bets and I quickly realised we could make a lot of money standing the bets rather than running them down to the actual bookmakers.
In the height of this little venture I was making more from managing bets than I was actually earning working. What I learned in doing this certainly had a big influence on how I approached things once the betting exchanges were invented.
Do you remember your first bet?
I am not sure of my first bet, but I can remember my first £1000 and that was on July 28th 1992, a Wednesday evening at Leicester Racecourse and the horse in question was Shirley Valentine trained by Henry Cecil. To cut a long story short I was due to go on the lads holiday to Ibiza on the Saturday and for some reason I decided during the day to put most of the spending money I had saved on this horse.
So I headed down to Leicester Racecourse and was amazed that 4/5 was chalked up as the opening show and steamed in at that price with £1K. Was sent off at 2/5 and won by about 4 lengths if I can remember right and I was jumping for joy by the winning line. Then I got cold feet and despite it being in the Abdulla colours I wasn’t convinced I had the right horse, so I went in the bar to see the race again.
Thankfully I had, but a group of blokes behind me in the bar had a great laugh at me looking at myself on the screen jumping for joy having backed a 2/5 shot, I heard one of them say, “bet he has only put £5 on it as well!”
What did you do professionally before you became involved in betting?
In the early to mid 90’s I was a footwear buyer for Selfridges, my next career move was to become a product manager for Adidas. You could argue that I have a sound background in marketing, but I am not an educated man as my first full-time job at 17 was working as a labourer on building sites, then on to stacking shoes in warehouse.
As a person; I have always challenged myself to work hard and strive for the next level and this lead me to go from stacking shoes in a warehouse to actually buying them for the same company in less than 5 years.
Have you worked within the betting “industry”?
I worked for Ladbrokes as a PR Manager at the backend of the 1990’s until 2002, for me it was like a pig in **** as I was getting paid to watch/talk about sport and betting. I learned many skills during my time at Ladbrokes that have helped me as a full-time sports trader over the past decade.
Which sports do you focus on with your betting/trading and why?
My Monday to Friday job trading has always been the horse racing markets, but my passion is for sport and football is my main sport for trading at the weekends.
I do well out of cricket and tennis and in over a decade at the coal face of the betting exchange markets I have learned a thing or two that can basically translate into any sport that you want to trade.
When did you realise this was something you were good at?
I don’t actually think that I am anything special, there will be 1000’s of punters that have better knowledge than me. Since setting up my mentoring program in 2007 I have become a far better trader than the previous 5 years of full-time trading, the reason being is that I am able to share ideas and thoughts with other traders.
The questions that I am asked and the way others look at the market has taken my trading to new levels that wouldn’t have been possible trading solo. So you could say that I was good by having the insight that I needed help with my trading from others rather than thinking I was actually good at it myself.
I am a firm believer that your profits from betting/trading are governed by your weakest skill. Over the past decade I have worked hard on eliminating many of my flaws and when you improve on one aspect of your game, you get a new weakest element that you need to work on.
How would you describe yourself as a bettor/trader?
If you asked me 4 years ago, I would have said that I had eliminated the punter inside me, but with things like premium charges you can no longer be just a trader and you have to consider one-way positions in your overall portfolio.
I would class myself as a hybrid between punter and trader these days and with all the excellent information we have at our disposal we have never had it so good to take advantage as a trader and as a punter.
What was your most disappointing loss and greatest win?
I think my biggest disappointment was losing all my trading bank less than 6 months after turning professional. It was the hardest lesson I learned, that this game wasn’t easy and I wasn’t invincible as trader. The biggest problem I had in the early days was having a punters mindset, I hated being wrong and would stay open in positions too long in the hope that the markets would come back in my favour.
One of the best wins was from the first match played under lights at Wimbledon, when I highlighted in the trading room live a no-risk trade on Andy Murray to over £2000 in three further trades. That was pretty special as it highlighted the power of knowing the markets and how you can leverage a strong position.
What key advice would you give anyone wanting to be a fulltime professional bettor or trader?
The best piece of advice I could give somebody wanting to learn how to become a full-time trader is remember that the only thing you can control when trading, is yourself!
That is not my quote but from Mark Douglas who wrote two fantastic trading books. The Disciplined Trader & Trading In the Zone.
The quicker you can learn that you have no control over the market and they’re just there to serve you, the better understanding you have of them.
For you to fully understand the markets you have to go through a certain number of market cycles to start seeing the patterns. Sadly many novices watch a few markets and think they can trade them successfully and a lack of knowledge and experience results in the ‘rabbit in headlights’ when they act in a completely new way.
What is the future of betting?
Obviously the big trend is towards in-play betting and by the time we get to next year’s world cup finals in Brazil the turnover during the action will be greater than the turnover pre-game. This is bad news for punters as the margins during the in-play are really throttled and offer little value.
Also the trading element will be offered, known as ‘cash-out’ currently within the industry. This will enhance and simplify the experience for the average punter by doing all the calculations for them.
From a pure trading prospectus, I think it will become so difficult for solo traders to beat the trading communities long-term. Trading communities just see the change in the markets quicker, plus they're able to do more research and that will give them a greater edge over a single trader.
The betting exchanges are becoming more difficult to make money on each year; margins are being eroded all the time. Having a network of traders enables you to beta test new techniques quickly and test the water in emerging markets.
On the flip, I could see the betting exchanges coming into a period change, certainly if the USA changes their laws. If they do and US sports become liquid it will create another exchange gold rush with lots of new players not understanding the exchange model.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @mattfinnigan
And visit his site ProXTrading.com
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Excellent interview Andrew. Really interesting finding out the mindset of people who bet for a living, and how hard it can be to stay disciplined in an ever changing dynamic world.