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How a bookmaker analyses your betting

This is a continuation of the story of how one of our team found a job behind a bookmakers trading desk.

In Part One, you hear about the journey of how I found myself to be behind a bookmakers trading desk. In Part Two you hear about how my initial nervousness caused me to create a palpable error, which most people would see as a bookie refusing to pay a bet. In this episode, we look at how they spot a consistent winner.

Can you really beat the bookie? Playing god over who is a winner and who is a cheater…

The bookmaker model

For all sports, a model kicks out the updated prices so there is no extra work involved, it’s just a case of keeping an eye on your position.

Everybody trades differently, some like to keep the liabilities very small and will tend to adjust prices regularly to balance the books, some like to take larger risks and are comfortable with large liabilities. They win big and lose big, but ultimately everyone ends up roughly around the same profit figure by the end of the year.

The model, combined with the bad betting traits of most punters, won’t allow you to lose money as a trader. There are individual and team targets set which are surprisingly low percentage-wise, but considering the huge turnover, it still amounts to a very healthy profit.

How bookmakers find consistent winners

Of course, amongst the majority of bad punters and losers that bookmakers are generally looking for, there is a select group of winning customers. People can win money regularly and consistently from a bookmaker, but they will eventually be restricted or have their account closed. If you are interested in why people get banned or restricted, here is why.

You won’t find much value on the main markets, but there is plenty of value to be had on some derived markets. Due to the nature of bookmaker’s wanting to increase turnover they are constantly looking to add more markets for customers to bet on.

From an in play trader point of view, it becomes extremely difficult to keep play betting through keeping track of all the prices across all the different markets. I have come across the same punters betting on the same markets day in day out, churning out long term profits. It could be a case of the model kicking out incorrect prices on a newly introduced market, or a market which is constantly overlooked by the trader.

But this is where the consistent winners at bookmakers lurk.

It is possible to beat a bookmaker?

Part of a traders role at a bookmaker is to seek out any customer who is ‘beating the bookie’.

Every bet which we take shows on our screens. With a click of the mouse, it brings up all the information on the gambler. We are looking for signs that he/she is shrewd. Do they win long term, do they specialise on particular markets/sports, have they taken advantage of arbs etc? Bets placed on the high street will get entered into the system. So don’t feel by using a betting slip in a betting shop, you are treated that much differently from online sports betting. We can still see betting patterns using increasingly sophisticated technology.

We will then recommend a punter to be restricted if we see these signs in their betting activity. If their account is restricted or closed, it won’t be long before a newly registered account appears with the punter betting on the same markets as the previously restricted account, with the same stakes etc. A closer look into the account shows a connection to the other account whether it’s via an address, IP address, surname etc. Another closed account followed by a new account and it goes on until the model is tweaked or the traders become aware of the market/situation.

So it is possible to win with the bookies, but it’s just about for how long! It’s a complex game of cat and mouse. Don’t be surprised if you are restricted when you bet or even end up with a refused bet.

Many shrewd punters will put an extremely large amount of time into making sure his/her accounts are never even looked at by the bookmakers. They use multiple accounts and attempt to spread out any profits made using exchanges. If you are showing profit in an account where that’s not really allowed, then move it to an account where ‘winners are welcome’. 

Is it possible to breakthrough unhidden and beat the bookmaker?!

Good customers (For bookmakers) – the rich and the losers!

Alongside attending meetings to identify problem gamblers and trying to promote awareness, we also have to identify punters who we can make more money from!

Customers who are betting to their maximum limit regularly, complete mugs with no concept of value with staggering amounts of money to blow….fantastic business. They are losing thousands of pounds, they want to bet more so we let them…we increase their limits. They become labelled as ‘valuable’ customers, the more they lose the more valuable they are to the business. They could be on any sport, horse racing, football or any sport. Often the betting was indiscriminate.

With these hefty contribution’s to the bookmaker’s profit comes a bit of special VIP treatment. Tickets to sporting events and other free gifts. The mega-rich punters at the top of these lists…celebrities, Sportsmen/women, ex-sportsmen/women, business tycoons etc. who seem to have unlimited funds, racking up losses in the hundreds of thousands, are obviously extremely important to the business. So much so that they have a team dedicated to looking after this elite group.

If they ever take advantage of a trader error and place 10k on Man Utd to beat Yeovil Town at 5/1 they are the only ones who will escape the ‘palpable error’ rule. The last thing they want to do is upset one of these guys when they get a big win and for them to take their business elsewhere. The poor trader who has made this error will have to take this hit on his figures, pretty much a case of paying for that mistake out of your wages.

Corruption in sport

I can’t really finish this section without touching on the issue of corruption.

In the time I was with the bookmaker, there was a list of ‘Tennis players not to trade’ which were growing with each day in my time there. As I mentioned before, the bookmakers aim to increase turnover at every opportunity, introducing new markets and also trying to cover every match of every sport possible.

This leads to us trading the very lowest level of Tennis in some cases. The prize money in some tournaments doesn’t even cover player’s expenses in some cases, so it’s no wonder this leads to ‘match-fixing’, players trying to add to their income by throwing the occasional point/game or match. The dodgy bets clearly stand out on these matches, mainly down to the size of the stakes compared to the overall liquidity/interest in the match. Game 3, Point 3, £500 on the receiver to win the point…….double fault. They would get away with it if they weren’t so greedy but after 5 consecutive winning bets and 5 double faults, they manage to build up enough evidence against themselves.

This activity is flagged and sent onwards to the appropriate authorities. Betting on something that is fixed like this, is just plain stupid for the punter and the sportsperson committing the crime.

Thank you for not winning!

I hope this mini-series gives you an insight into behind the scenes of a sports trader in a bookmaker. The playing god element of the bookmaker trader, deciding who are fair winners and who are the losers, certainly brings to light how corruption makes bookmakers nervous and unstable.

Seeing what goes on in a bookmaker made me pretty sure that, other than offers, there isn’t any way you can win long term with a bookmaker. But ultimately, that’s their business. It’s not a charity and they are under no obligation to accept customers or bets and they have to maximise returns for shareholders. It’s an ‘entertainment’ business.

But if you want to win long term then only betting exchanges like Betfair or Betdaq can offer you a way to win, where you use just skill to win and where you are not up against dark forces doing what they can to stop you!

The post How a bookmaker analyses your betting appeared first on Betfair trading blog | Expert advice from Professional Betfair trade.

Behind a bookmakers trading desk – Pt2

For part one click here

The start of my new role as an ‘in-play sports trader’…

The offices behind the scenes of the high street shops

The department was massive, large TV screens covered the walls, there were rows of desks with multiple screen set-ups. It looked fantastic, I knew I had made the right decision to apply for this job, I felt a buzz just from being there.

I pictured it to be like the trading floor of a stock broker’s with everyone rushing about, shouting across the room and a bit chaotic. It was more like quiet mumblings with the occasional ‘ping’ and ‘bleep’ sound coming from trader’s computers. Quite a relaxing atmosphere really. I realised later that these sounds were alerts for football events like goals and red cards provided by 3rd party data services.

Other traders and their styles

I met with all the traders and they were a great set of guys. All with different personalities, different trading styles, but we all had one thing in common……we were all passionate about sports trading and gambling. After getting to know each trader I noticed that their personalities linked to their personal trading style.

The loud and confident individuals tended to be the risk-takers, comfortable taking big positions and expressed many opinions about the match they were trading. Large wins and large losses. On the other end of the scale, there were quiet individuals who didn’t give much away, they tended to regularly adjust prices to keep the books balanced. Avoiding having large liabilities. Slow and steady.

How we traded

There was no right or wrong way to trade, you could develop your own style as you learnt from others. The only thing you have to bear in mind is keeping in line with the market price, in other words not putting out prices which are too far away from our competitors. It’s important not to put out any arbs, this is frowned upon by management and if this becomes apparent to management you will quickly have to explain the reasons for your prices. Unless there is a valid reason such as a competitor making a price error then you will quickly have to adjust. There’s a screen showing the bets we were laying. Move your prices away from the market and the screen will fill up with bets on your event and you can have a large liability within a couple of minutes.

The departments were split up into pre-match and in-play. I didn’t have the opportunity to meet anyone from pre-match, we were two parts of the business which were kept separate and there was little need for us to communicate with each other, just the occasional email.

Pre-match were responsible for putting the first prices on-site and would monitor their positions for much longer periods, hours, days, weeks, months etc. Depending on the event. As soon as the event goes in-play the pre-match trader’s job is done for that particular event. In my sport, I would take over as soon as the players walked out. The system would recognise every bet from that point as an In-play bet for which I was then responsible for.

My first blunder

This is where I made my first blunder (of many!) as a trader. I was about to trade my first high-level match. There was a lot of interest from not just the punters but my colleagues as they traded their matches with one eye on the huge screen showing my match at the end of the office. As soon as the players walked out the system showed ‘In-play’, the screen showing the bets I was taking was filling up at a fairly alarming rate.

It was like I was trading the only sporting event available to bet on across the whole site! I’d like to say I quickly realised my mistake and suspended the market but I was in a state of panic and basically froze, the screen of bets was a blur. It was only after a few shouts over from a few of my colleagues to suspend that I’d realised I had put in the prices completely the wrong way round, I was offering large prices that should have been very short. Everyone and his dog got on it!

I had a huge liability but of course, I was protected by the infamous ‘palpable error rule’, but it was still highly embarrassing! I soon realised that every trader has made these mistakes at some point, it’s the nature of the job, you’re thrown in at the deep end with very little training, they expect you to make mistakes, just have to learn from them and get on with it.

Palpable error – where a bookmaker can cancel/void your bet after they have made an accidental error

This early mistake dented my confidence as did my lack of knowledge of the sport I was trading. The more experienced traders in the team liked to move the prices slightly in favour of their opinions. This means there is a bit of lee-way with regards to altering the prices, but again it’s important that you stay close to the market price.

There’s often time between the players or teams coming out and the event being played, so you normally have a bit of a position before the start. Obviously it all depends on the match/tournament you are trading, In tennis for example, if you had a Wimbledon Final you will have laid thousands in bets, an ITF match from India at 4 am in the morning and you may not even have taken a single bet.

Tennis vs. Football – live betting

Peter has touched on this before in the blog about liquidity in Tennis being directly proportional to Football, you become aware of this very quickly in this job. On Tennis, you will large numbers of money on your match when there is no particularly decent football on. If a Tennis match coincides with premier league matches at 3 pm on a Saturday afternoon for example then the liquidity in Tennis drops considerably. Considerably understandable when comparing sports markets against interest within the sport through the general public.

To understand more about the logistics and the model behind preventing consistent winners, read part three!

The post Behind a bookmakers trading desk – Pt2 appeared first on Betfair trading blog | Expert advice from Professional Betfair trade.

Inside a bookmakers traders desk – Pt.1

What is it really like behind the scene of the bookies?

A few years ago somebody joined my team. We draw on many different backgrounds including a wide range of people but in this case, his former job was on the trading desk at a big bookmaker. I thought it may be interesting for you to hear his story, from working at home as a Betfair trader to gaining a bookmaker traders job, he expresses the positives and negatives of a sports trader and offers some valuable insight into what goes on at a bookmaker.

Below follows his story in his own words…

Life before betting exchanges

I left school with absolutely no idea of what I wanted to do for a career. I had fairly decent GCSE grades, so there was an option to continue my education but getting into work straight away and earning some money appealed to me.

I saw myself as a bit of an entrepreneur in the making at school, doing a bit of buying and selling (no eBay, it was Loot back then!), I also took over the running of the snack shop at my youth club. I remember being sat behind my little counter watching my mates playing football in the hall. This wasn’t good for a 14-year-old on a Friday night, so it wasn’t long before I took on my first employee to run the shop for 3 hours. I was now playing Football, but my profits had now pretty much disappeared. My solution to this was to buy an arcade machine. Delivered to the youth club and placed in the little music room, they were queuing up to play it at 30p a go and the money was rolling in!

 My next venture was my biggest success. I decided to run a ‘football fantasy league’ competition. This was a good 20 years ago, the premier league was new and fantasy football was also a fairly new concept back then; but soon the newspapers started to introduce their own fantasy league competitions and that’s where it came to an end.

Football stats grew into a bit of an obsession for me for the next few years, I would scan all reports and keep a record of all the scores and any other info. Not sure why I did this, I wasn’t gambling or using the information for anything, just liked to do it. I wanted a job in statistics or data but there wasn’t anything out there. It would mean doing a degree course at university and I didn’t really want to go down that route.

Discovering Sports betting, Sports trading & Betfair

Eventually, I came across Betfair. I played around for a year or so, losing money, few big wins, few big losses then came across Bet Angel. I didn’t read any instructions, just started to play around with all the functions. I liked all the calculations and bets being placed by just one click of the mouse.

For the next couple of years, I started to understand the markets a bit better. Got my head down and started to make consistent profits. No restrictions, not being limited or banned. I absolutely loved it. This is what I wanted to do….it was a perfect job for me. I love sports, was good at Maths and loved using programs etc. but often I wasn’t making enough money to leave my current job. I was still making mistakes either through being careless or the odd lapse of discipline. I was determined to make it work though and eventually decided to leave my job so I could dedicate more time to it.

Going back to a ‘normal’ job

It wasn’t good timing! I was engaged, a child on the way, a mortgage to pay…..but I wanted to make something of myself. I had spent years in jobs with not many prospects and average pay. This was an opportunity to better me. So I became a Betfair trader for the next 2 years. It was hard work, I only just managed to pay the bills and I was dedicating so much time to it, that my social life took a hit. I have to say I wasn’t particularly happy.

So I decided to get a ‘normal’ job and come back to ‘trading’ at another time. The stress disappeared and I started to enjoy life again, although it wasn’t long before I started to get bored with my work and was fed up with earning a low wage.

Although there was all the stress involved being a full-time sports trader, I felt that it was still the perfect job for me. I just needed to attack it in a different way, look for a different angle. If I could be more organised and think more about money management.

How I got a job as a Sports trader at a bookmaker


I was continuously reading as much as I could about trading through blogs and online books. I was getting to a point where I was looking to giving it another go when I came across ‘sports trader’ jobs being advertised at bookmakers. I didn’t understand how you could be a trader at a bookmaker or what the job would involve. I was familiar with online bookies, but I’d never really thought about how bookmakers made their money other than in shops. So I started to look into the online side of the business and how they operate. This was perfect, I could trade and also have a secure wage coming in!

I decided to apply for a ‘sports trader’ job with one of the large bookmakers. I didn’t think I would have much chance of being offered an interview. I was a sports enthusiast with some trading/gambling experience and that was about it, I didn’t feel I was particularly qualified to do the job. I took some aptitude tests online and managed to scrape through to the interview stage.

The interview

There were around 30 candidates on interview day. After talking to some of them I realised that they all had degrees, so my confidence was slowly diminishing and I was getting increasingly nervous about my interview.

We had to take a series of tests before the actual interview. Some of it was searching data to look for errors….this was right up my street so I started to gain a bit more confidence. We were given a talk by one of the senior managers for 10 minutes on who they were looking to employ. They weren’t too interested in qualifications or experience, mainly to do with our attitude and enthusiasm. I was first to be called for my interview.

Why have I been called first? Is that a good or a bad thing? Why are they not going through us alphabetically? I was escorted to the room and the interview began. I wasn’t going to mention about my time as a Betfair trader. I was worried that I was giving the impression that I was a gambler, but I decided to be completely honest as I also wanted them to know I had a bit of experience and knowledge.

The interview went well, they made me feel at ease and after a bit of a nervous start, I began to relax and speak a little clearer. There were a couple more tests, some basic bookmaking questions and a sports quiz. Didn’t do particularly well on either of them!

The day was quite exhausting and mentally draining. I was pleased that it was over but I didn’t particularly feel confident that I would be offered the job. The one part of the day which I was worried about the most was having to explain my ideas/solutions to increase turnover in the on-course horse racing sector. I went blank, couldn’t really think of anything, the guy next to me was writing away like he was copying off an answer sheet. I saw the words ‘economic growth’ and ‘financial stability’ on his sheet……I looked down in panic at my sheet to see the words ‘offer the bookie burger meal, £5 for the food and a free bet’. I still cringe to this day about that….to make myself feel better I have convinced myself that no-one will ever read them anyway.

They mustn’t have anyway, because a day later I was offered the job. I was ecstatic, I couldn’t wait to start. I didn’t know what to expect, but I did know it was going to be an exciting career with many prospects. It looked like a bit of a turning point in my life….

Keep tuned for the next part in the series….

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