Saturday, 25 April 2009

How it came to this.

“If you had one shot, or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted. One moment. Would you capture it or just let it slip?”

9 pm. Friday 17 April. Rikki Sherrife throws a ball from out of play to Mickey Higham for the most ridiculous try I’ve possibly ever seen. The crowd are open mouthed, too astonished to launch into the vitriolic attack that was to come. Bradford slip to second bottom in Super League. Fans want the board out, the players out, the coach out. Anything out. SKY do their best to talk up Saints v Bradford next week, but everyone knows it’s a foregone conclusion. I make a throwaway comment that it won’t be that easy, producing a laughter to rival that for Higham’s try.

5 pm. Sunday 19 April. Saints go past 50 at Castleford and a smile spreads across my face. I’m a Saints fan and happy that we are winning comfortably. Tony Puletua is running riot. However, I’m equally happy thinking of the possible over-reaction to the Saints v Bradford market. I might be able to lay Saints in the mid 1.1s.

Later that day, I see a thread on the Betfair forum discussing the possible handicap. Now, I’m no expert in handicaps. Truth be told, I ignore them. I prefer match markets. A handicap is a figure that is irrelevant to the game. If you’re up by 8 against a 6 handicap with a second to go, are you really going to commit as much as you would if you’re up by 2 with a second to go? However, I’m astonished to see talk of 20+. This is Rugby League.

And so it begins.

I can’t really explain my thought process too much, except to say that the more I thought about it, the more I began to think that this may not just be value, but may be a victory. How often do you see teams play brilliant one week and rubbish the next and vice versa. I am reminded of Bradford in the first half against Catalans and against Leeds. Sure, they aren’t a great side. Sure, they are lacking creativity, but they aren’t a rubbish side. Their forward pack is impressive. Their backs less so. Can they trouble Saints? Yes. Will they? Probably not in all honesty.

Wednesday evening. I put up a cheeky lay of Saints. Someone joins me in the market, pushing me up to 1.11. Someone else joins in at 1.15. I think the market may end up around there so stay clear.

Thursday morning. The 1.11 goes. My 1.09 goes. My 1.07 goes a bit as well as Leon Pryce is spared jail. My initial thought is that I’m in the shit. I drop down to 1.05. £500 more goes. I look at my screen in a concerned way at the red on Saints, but in a pleased way at the green elsewhere.

Thursday evening. Now, I have to commit. What level of red am I prepared to take in play? My largest ever was £50 in Huddersfield v Castleford when someone backed Castleford heavily just before kick off. My largest RL loss? £52 on Leeds v Wigan this year, after taking £100+ from a Ladbrokes offer earlier in the day.

I lose £30 in the National League One game. I look at the odds. I could place a lay of 1.04 and wait and see. I’ve made around £500 since Easter. These odds are wrong. I am a trader who hates to lose. I need to accept the possibility of losing. I also know there are bookmakers’ offers out there which could soften the blow, and I know the more I put on, the more an early try could give me a massive win.

Pretty much everyone I discuss it with is sceptical, but of course it is my decision.

So I decide to use £100 liability stakes at 1.03, 1.04 and 1.05. I put up £100 at 26. I am already at around £100 liability.

By this time, I’m shitting myself at the possibility of losing £500, but I think this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and what is £500 in the scale of things. 20% of my winnings over the past 12 months, primarily from watching a sport that I have watched constantly since I was 12? If that goes, so what? I can get it back in 2 months.

I look at possible escape routes and look into handicap markets, first try scorer and points market, but I’m not convinced. They could do more harm than good.

Then, I begin to think of how much I dislike my current job and the possibility of laying Saints at 1.04 for £1,000. That would give me a possible win of £25,000. Dare I go for this? Could it allow me the chance to follow my dreams? Is it worth it? I am undecided. Truth be told, I was worried about the effect losing so much money might have on me.

Finally, just before I go to bed, I look up posts I made from 2000 when I was 16. I find my preview of Wales v Australia in the Rugby League World Cup Semi Final. I said that Wales would come out strong, live with the Aussies in the first half, before tiring in the second half to lose 38-22. In the end, they lost 46-22 after a last minute converted try. Aside from that, I had predicted the game to a T.

I think of other outlandish predictions I have made which have gone in a similar fashion. Saints v Brisbane in the 2001 WCC is the main one but I also recall predictions from last year. Namely, Saints v Warrington in August 2008, lay Saints at 1.05 and back them back when down by 6 with less than ten to go. Hull to come back in the Cup Final. Lee Smith to win the man of the match in the Grand Final. Catalans to beat Warrington this year.

I am reminded of less successful predictions as well, like Leeds v Celtic, Leeds v Wigan and Widnes v Toulouse, but by now my confidence is raised. I am going for this.

Then something strange happens. Friday morning, someone takes the price out all the way to 1.1 from 1.06. Seeing this, I try to buy some of Saints at 1.08 and 1.09. I’m pretty sure this was just one guy and that the price is now over-inflated. I don’t imagine it getting any higher so I get rid of nearly my entire red, whilst adding in a lay bet at 1.07 and putting in back bets of Bradford and the draw. As they get matched throughout the day, I throw in another lay bet at 1.06 but as I leave work, the price is still around 1.07. I’ve had pennies of my 1.06 matched, but there is now a huge amount at 1.07.

I get home at 7 pm and get everything set up. I see the draw at the hilarious price of around 90, and get a fair amount matched at that price, whilst willing the price to come in. My 1.06 has been matched in parts, and I’m now willing it down to 1.05 as I know I’m first in the queue.

And this is where I began to think this could be something special. People who know me, know I am one of the most negative people around. I find £10 but lose 1p, get 99% on a test? I got 1% wrong. I’m naturally pessimistic and a moaner. I’m very rarely content.

However, for the first time in a long time, I was positive. This was not just possibly going to happen. This WAS going to happen. Bradford were going to win, and I was going to get the 1.05 matched. I had one phrase whirring in my mind. Fortune favours the bold.

The 1.05 began to get matched, and as the game started, I was £146 red on Saints and £2,500 green on Bradford and the draw.

To be honest, my trading performance throughout the game was very poor. Having taken this risk, I decided to leave backs in at 1.06, 1.07, 1.08 and 1.09 which all go as Bradford score an early try. Bradford score another try. They score a third. Is this really happening? Well no, as the video referee disallows it! Saints look like scoring, so I decide to trade out an even larger amount. Wait, no, the Video referee disallows that one too. Steve Menzies scores for Bradford, and the Saints are out to 1.7 range before the Video Referee disallows that one.

Less than 30 minutes in, and I’m guaranteed £200 despite trading like crap. I could have had £1,000 if I’d have left it, but equally I could have had £0, and Saints come back, scoring five quick fire tries on their way to 1.01. I get £1,100 matched on Bradford between 1.01 and 1.02. At this point, I think these are worthwhile lays. I gave up £17, and I think that a 16 point gap is not worth a 1.01.

In the second half, Bradford score and then Saints reply. Saints have the upper hand. Bradford are without Newton and Solomona. I begin to think that it’s all over. I’m not even going to get my largest ever RL win, but I gave it a bloody good go and fortune did favour the bold to the tune of £250.

What happened next is inexplicable. Bradford scored, and then scored again. 28-26 and once again my poor trading came back. I saw an opportunity to get my biggest win and did so. I gave away very poor value and then Bradford… score? Michael Worrincy touches down from a kick, although I’m sure he bounced it so I begin to back Saints. Wait, it’s a try. Wait, Bradford are ahead.

The next ten minutes are a bit of blur. Except to say that again I traded like rubbish although in my defence, I was there when Wide to West happened and I was equally certain we would see it again. I had joked before the match that Wide to West would be perfect. This is Bradford. Their choking against Saints is legendary. Surely, they can’t hang on.

Well, they did. And that is how we got to a situation where I was incredibly gutted by a £683.31 win. A win, which I called from the start. Maybe I lost faith in the middle, but by that time, my call would have already come far closer to the truth than anyone else could have expected.

Now, it’s Saturday, and as I reflect, I’m happy with my win. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it can also create second guessing, and whilst I did a lot of stupid things, even after the game!, I backed my initial judgement and it came off. Not to the extent I could or should have, but I did well enough. Too often I criticise myself, but I think I will take the day off today!

Forget the monetary win for a moment though. I think last night could turn out to be the most significant event in my life in the past three years. For too long, I have been overly cautious. I have been afraid to take the slightest of risks. I had accepted mediocrity in life because, well, I just had and I had been too afraid of the possible consequences of taking actions to attempt to turn my life around, in case they failed and made things worse. Dreams are a powerful tool, but more than that, the death of a dream can be a dangerous thing.

Now, it might sound crazy to alter this because of 80 minutes of a Rugby League game, but the events of this week have shown me what can happen when you back yourself. Sure, you won’t always get it right, but getting it wrong is never the end of the world, and the possibility of fulfilling a dream is a far more powerful tool than the negative prospect of a dream being delayed, especially when you consider that inaction delays the dream anyway!

And as for how I got this right, I can’t explain it. Maybe I make so many outlandish predictions that I only remember the winners, as they are the only ones to have impact or maybe I just have a high degree of success in spotting unlikely winners. Either way, the feeling that I had before the game was on a level with Lee Smith to win the Man of the Match in the Grand Final, Hull FC to come back in the 2008 Cup Final, and as much as I can remember!, Saints to win the 2001 WCC and Wales to perform so admirably in the 2000 RLWC Semi Final. All I know is that before kick off, I had managed to convince myself somehow, probably through sheer will and hope, that Bradford would win. I guess it is amazing what a positive frame of mind can do.

Just don’t be in a rush to expect another such prediction!


  1. Followed you here from the betfair forum.

    Apparently it is good to put your troubles in writing. So if that is the case Craig, then you are going about things in the right way. I have been betting for 25 years and trading since about 2001 so I have empathy with you. We all need encouragement at times.

    Betting and trading can be psychologically demanding, a real roller coaster ride of emotions. I think you understand this and have experienced the "what if?" and the "if only" scenarios.

    I just wanted to encourage you to keep posting your blog. Although your profile has not had many views hopefully your blog has. I for one have found your recent posts most interesting. Betting and trading can be a lonely job and interaction and self analysis can must be a positive thing.

    My advice if you are interested is to carry on as you have been. You have a good knowledge of rugby league so you should back your own judgement. Trouble is, is that it is a fine line between confidence and over confidence. Patience is the key. There are many pitfalls, more so in betting, than trading so your more cautious trading approach is the way to go.

    Will be keeping an eye out for your betfair posts and blog updates.


  2. Great post mate. Hopefully I can follow your lead as another string to my bow! Keep this up and more people will follow!


  3. Thanks for the comments and advice deviant.

    You are very right about the demanding and sometimes lonely nature, quite often after a RL game I feel totally knackered although that is probably down to my style of in play trading!

    I do agree that the biggest danger is always over confidence / greed. I think because I am aware of this (I feel like I am anyway), I am always overly cautious which probably just causes greater frustration, and lengthier blog posts, as well as the "What if's"!

    Hope things are going well for you.

    Thanks again for the kind words.