Tuesday, 20 April 2010

One Year On - Part II

My last blog post reflected upon my development in my trading throughout the previous twelve months and considered my development to have been unthinkable. Even more unthinkable however, would be the progress in my work life throughout the previous twelve months.

Most people join Betfair with a vision of sitting back, watching sports and having a better, more interesting life away from the daily grind of work. I don’t know if I ever subscribed to the full time dream but it is certainly safe to say that I was highly disillusioned with my work life twelve months ago and frankly despised going into work.

In a nutshell, I left University with a set plan which then flipped on its head due to an enforced job change to something of no interest, challenge or relevance to me and then due to other events involving health and fitness, flipped to an entirely new position. And the next thing I know, I find Betfair and try to use that to edge me closer back to my original plan.

Now, whilst I am still far away from the ideal path I envisioned on leaving University, I feel I am edging closer to it having amazingly been promoted from my current job. (And even though the new job is a fairly significant promotion, the increase in earnings is less than a very good weekend on Betfair due to several reasons!) Still, it not only should produce a confidence boost but also a feel of some contentment given that I am starting to do something to meet the ridiculously high expectations I set for myself.

It’s hard to find the words to illustrate what a dramatic turnaround this is without going into too much detail, which I would rather avoid, but believe me when I say that no-one could have ever seen this coming. In fact, it is such a ridiculous turnaround that any script portraying this would be rejected due to its sheer ridiculousness!

You may wonder why I have chosen to blog about a seemingly irrelevant topic but this actually has a huge effect on my trading.

Put simply, my trading over the past few months has suffered from a lack of preparation (As have the blog posts!). Whereas last year I would watch copious game film and analysis of teams before a RL match, this year I have struggled to even keep up with the highlights and have largely winged it and due to my perfection tendencies, have been too caught up in greening up at the earliest opportunity. This is largely due to the insane number of hours I have been working which, whilst unlikely to decrease going forward, is something I can definitely fit my trading around better, even if I am finding it more difficult this year to fit my trading around my social life.

So, hopefully, regular readers will benefit from greater analysis both pre and post match although I think it might take a couple of weeks to catch up with this.

Before I end the post however, allow me to comment briefly on the weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix. On Saturday qualification, I managed a profit approaching £15. On Sunday, I managed a profit over fourteen times greater although I consider my performance on Saturday to be much better.

By Saturday, I usually have an open book expecting the market to move in certain directions but I woke up on Saturday morning feeling extremely ill and unable to trade. Now, at 4 AM, there isn’t a great amount of liquidity and so I looked to largely trade out of positions not expecting to be in any fit state to trade the qualification market in play. However, I didn’t fully trade out due to what I considered to be poor value on some drivers and therefore entered Qualifying with a red of £70 on Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso.

Whilst I did feel terrible, my inability to sleep meant that I did watch qualification and whilst only trading at half speed, eventually managed to remove any red which I considered to be a phenomenal achievement.

Whereas in the race itself, I felt out of control and feel that I rather got lucky with some trades. However, I am starting to wonder if this is just typical of wet races where there is so much activity. After all, if you have cars entering pits and your live timing screen not working, it is to be expected that you can’t keep up with everyone – well I can’t!

Still, despite being caught out by the ridiculous pre race odds on Lewis Hamilton (I had laid at 10 post Qualy considering this to be huge value; especially when I was able to back his team mate who was AHEAD of him at 30!) and amazed at the odds on Mark Webber (9 whilst second?!), I obviously managed to do some things right!

It’s interesting to note that someone could have easily made my profit just by two or three well placed trades on Sebastien Vettel before the race, but I feel my strategy is much less risky and therefore the profit (whilst more difficult to obtain and involves much more hard work) is much much more rewarding and meaningful!

A three week break from the races is now on the cards before they move onto Europe which I feel shall see an increase in liquidity and may take me a couple of races to react to; especially if such seemingly ridiculous prices continue!

Until then, any comments are gratefully received as usual!

Monday, 5 April 2010

One year on

I’m at an age in my life where years speed by faster than you would like but the progress in my trading over the past twelve months has been so vast that I could easily believe it has been twelve years.

Twelve months ago to the day, I wrote this where I outlined my plans to take my trading endeavours more seriously.

The truth is, a lot of my bad habits remain. I do trade out too soon. I do panic too much at the sight of red. I do focus on “winning” too much. I do kick myself unnecessarily and most importantly of all, I still do not take the risks that I had hoped increased exposure to trading would help me to.

However, in terms of market knowledge and its application and in terms of profit, I do not think I could have ever anticipated being at the level I am currently at. Of course, markets do not stand still but constantly evolve, and are doing, and my success could be turned into failure at any time. However, as someone who drives themselves to beyond perfection and is never satisfied, I feel I should step back, achieve focus and congratulate myself for my achievements – even if they have come to the detriment of several other areas.

Reviewing my posts from April 2009 in particular, I see my astonishment at earning £700 from one rugby league match and my aim towards my income in general. Well, I’m now at the stage where even when I have earned £600 - £700 per week, I kick myself and feel I have underachieved. A case of redefined boundaries for sure but in a broader context, that is a jaw dropping amount for a hobby which is in addition to my day job.

Of course, the aim now is to take my trading exploits to another level, but I have to admit, I am not sure how. Of course, I should look to increase my exposure to risk and be more willing to let trades run, perhaps stick to a pre defined plan in relation to investing in Rugby League markets, but there is no simple on / off switch I can press to produce a difference in my attitude this time.

It would be very nice to have a list of goals to set for the next twelve months, but that will have to wait for now. Maybe, however, my goal for the next twelve months should relate to development in my personal life – where I have quite clearly fallen short recently.

That is an area of my life which I have largely left off my blog for valid reasons apart from references to my decision re: Law school last year and references to “personal issues” earlier this year. The fact is, I would imagine that anyone who reads the blog can already make certain assumptions based upon the general tone of my comments! (Why do I always feel more willing to list these things late at night!)

Clearly, the number one thing to address would have to be commitment to perfectionism and fear of failure. Whilst these are very decent goals to have in life, they can actually have a very negative, stalling effect as can be evidenced throughout my trading. That is also just the tip of the iceberg of the things I wish to change about myself following a highly tumultuous past three years but I would dare suggest that is probably all I should say for now on a public forum!

However, if regular readers (Are there any – who actually reads this *****!) can spot any other areas for development please, please, please leave a comment!

That is definitely something to ponder – but for the next thirty minutes I shall bask in a glow of contentment before reverting to type and criticising myself for every area in which I fall short of perfection!

And I shall also briefly comment on today’s Formula One race in which I enjoyed pleasing success.

As to be expected, I almost fully equalised prior to the start – deciding that a green of around £100 was far better than a green of £110 and £0 on Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. I was also able to increase that by around 50% during the race itself which was particularly pleasing.

As for the race itself, I continue to observe a market which behaves differently to how I would expect. Despite a tremendous start, I never saw Lewis Hamilton trade in single figures, whilst Felipe Massa, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso all drifted but not to huge extents. The price on Alonso was particularly baffling given the noted problem with his car and the fact that he was behind Felipe baby, which would have meant that even if rain would have resulted in an alternative strategy – he would have been second in line for any pit stop.

There seems to be a definite advantage for in play position takers but as a trader, it is my job to spot these trends and to try to profit accordingly. Especially when I am all green, it would be relatively foolish to take large positions for the sake of a relatively long shot.

One thing that has interested me the most as well has been a pivot table that I have put together to indicate my success and failure on all drivers actually during the race and qualifying. The markets pre event and during event are two different beasts and as a trader, it is always nice to review statistics to see if they match with the belief I held during the race. Plus, I am a statistics junkie! So that is something to work on prior to China.

Finally, I have posted a quick preview of Round 10 in the Super League and this can be found here - if anyone is sufficiently interested.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Malaysian Grand Prix – Yet again I want to oppose the market

Tomorrow is the third Formula One Grand Prix of the season and the third time that I have had a disagreement with how the market has been formed. Being someone who primarily opts to trade the market as opposed to taking positions this creates a dilemma for me in so far as how far I trust my instincts.

In the first two races, I have equalised my book prior to the race due to the fact that I would not be watching the first rain and in Australia, due to the rain which can render the race a lottery. However, if tomorrow’s race starts in the dry, and that is a big if, I will likely be more inclined to scatter my green in line with the view of the market.

To recap, in the first race, I disagreed with the market making Fernando Alonso favourite over the pole sitter Sebastien Vettel as I thought the new regulations could make the race more of a procession. Whilst Alonso did win the race and prima facie, support my decision to equalise, it should be noted that was only due to a reliability issue. The race did render a procession which supported my initial view.

In Australia, my main disagreement was with the price of Lewis Hamilton, although once the rain started to appear, a factor that was probably built into the price, I equalised but the race continued to throw up some prices that I disagreed with; the most memorable being Fernando Alonso a much shorter price than Felipe Massa despite being stuck behind his team-mate on a dry track.

So, what is wrong with this race?

In a nutshell, everything. Whilst rain does make the race a lottery, it also appears to provide some of the same opportunities as in qualifying whereby a driver’s reputation is more of an influence on the odds than his overall position.

How else can you explain Sebastien Vettel, starting behind his team-mate Mark Webber, being a shorter price? Webber lines up on the front row of the grid alongside Nico Rosberg who appears a far too appealing price at 8. He isn’t exactly in a Hispania car, and by way of comparison, is 8 to Schumacher’s 22, despite Rosberg comfortably outpacing Schumacher all season and qualifying 6 spots higher!

Nico Hulkenberg’s impressive qualifying showing also appears to have counted for little; the German being two spots ahead of team-mate Rubens Barrichello who, whilst no slouch in the wet, is shorter!

All of the above I could understand and probably equalise before the start. However, then we have the McLarens and the Ferraris who could not even out qualify a Lotus and a Virgin car.

After qualifying, I looked to lay these cars at 50 believing that this was more than fair odds.

However, I got it wrong. Majorly. (Although, thanks to other trades I have effectively managed to restore my pre-qualifying position.)

Jenson Button in 17th is available in the 30s, the same price as 4th and 6th placed drivers Adrian Sutil and Robert Kubica who are both good drivers and in competitive cars. Lewis Hamilton is 20th and behind Button but is as short as 20.

Now, Hamilton can be quick in the wet, but shorter than his team-mate whilst being 3 places down the grid is just something that is beyond me. Especially when you consider that if a pit stop is required at any point, priority is given to the higher placed driver which would only delay Lewis further.

The fact is that the market appears to have love for Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, who is the same price as Hamilton. However, the market appears to have no respect for Felipe Massa who is three times as big as Alonso despite being only one place behind him. We saw how Alonso could not pass Massa in the last race and it stands to reason that a good start like last time could see Massa leapfrog Alonso.

There is no question that in the wet, driver skill and the car comes more into play. However, it appears to me that these factors are being grossly overestimated. We saw last week how a quicker car and a better driver can be easily held up by a slower car, be it Alonso, Massa and Kubica or Schumacher and Alguersuari. The current market does not appear to be factoring this into play, although in fairness I should note that McLaren have a straight-line speed advantage that should help them to overtake the midfield in Malaysia.

Also, at the end of the day, I have to bear in my mind that I am effectively advocating backing 1.03 – 1.05 shots and so it definitely isn’t worth carrying red on these cars. However, I’m currently loathed to allocate any green to prices which appear ridiculous although given the price of these cars, I may look to equalise before the race to satisfy my risk averse nature.

As for qualifying itself, the liquidity that had been missing in Australia reappeared which was advantageous. On the downside, I yet again gave too much value away; the best example being levelling up my book before Q3, giving green away on Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber.

My general qualifying strategy is one of franticness, making several trades per minute with one eye on the live timing screens and one eye on the market with my ears trying to follow the TV.

I look to take value and then get rid of it as soon as possible. The downside to that is that I always end up kicking myself for giving away green. The upside is that I tend to have a level book which can produce a consistent profit.

Of course, this does work well at times. I didn’t get saddled with pointless green on the McLarens and Ferraris for instance, but maybe come Q3, I should embrace the value that I find, trade in a more calm and composed manner and only give it back at market value. However, given how I read the race markets, perhaps I should continue as I am!

However, to put this into context, 12 months ago I would never have thought it possible to make the profits I do now on Formula 1. I have identified and worked upon a successful strategy in a market where I do not have any form of natural edge although as with everything, there is always room for development.

Friday, 2 April 2010

The psychology of losing and the schizophrenia of the Draw

Life is about expectations. If you expect the best, the smell of second is akin to standing next to someone who is yet to embrace deodorant. If you expect the worst, the smell of second is like a garden of roses. You can always try to condition yourself to expect little to try to appreciate the natural smell, but the fact is that once you are accustomed to roses, it can be very difficult to remove them from your memory.

I guess that’s a particularly long winded way of saying I did well this weekend, but I should have done better!

I make no apologies for mentioning figures in this blog. I know there is heavy debate as to whether bloggers should post their profits (and losses). I believe that they help to set the background and provide context. I also believe that they help to show what can be achieved with hard work and determination. I know that the amounts I make are comparatively modest, but I continue to be amazed at being paid for watching events I have watched gratuitously for the first 24 years of my life, and I hope that this blog can show you what can be achieved

With that, I have currently made £325 from Rugby League trading in the space of 26 hours and have open green positions on both qualifying and the race for the Malaysian Grand Prix. Not bad, especially when I consider that I write this whilst being wrapped up warm with glands the size of golf balls and a growing inability to eat solid food!

I also know that most prefer not to read an unedited “I did this and then I did that” account of trading, but if you’ve read this far, then I am sure you can continue to indulge me as I attempt to analyse the trades of someone whose thinking is at best contradictory and confused by feeling ill and at worst, woeful. (Imagine how I will profit if I ever put it together!)

I love the Easter weekend. Two days off work is good. Two rounds of Super League is great. Four games on SKY TV in 24 hours is… well, there are just no words!

And it began with Whitehaven v Barrow in the mud at a sodden Recreation Ground at 6 PM last night. (A kick off I almost missed due to National Rail who conspired to leave me sat on a stationary train with no phone signal for 30 plus minutes yesterday.)

Having seen the conditions and with knowledge that Whitehaven would field two Super League standard players in Gregg McNally and Kyle Amor, I opted to start with a small back of Whitehaven although my pre match trading had been hampered by the fact that, at 6 PM, liquidity in such a game is in short supply and my reticence to embrace red.

As it was, the game was a low scoring affair which saw Whitehaven lead early on before falling to a Barrow side whose overall superior quality shone through as the match progressed. The game also served notice of the change to the draw, but I will deal with this later.

As per standard, I traded out of my small Whitehaven position too early to embrace green and then just made small trades as opportunities arose on my way to a profit of around £35. But this was just the starter and the main course was still to come, Leeds v Bradford. And with a 8 PM kick off, there was just time to get a drink and get back to work.

Now, this is where I start to infuriate myself. At the start, I acknowledged that Bradford were too high, but did not really get involved; opting to keep a fairly level book, but did try to back them shortly before they opened the scoring, but failed to get matched.

Leeds then came straight back and looked to score before turning the ball over. However, possibly due to how I was feeling, I had forgotten to cancel my Bradford back which had been matched, and now could be traded for a nice profit, which I rushed to make – accepting below market value on account of the red on Leeds. (I prefer to make short trades; staying in rarely longer than a set of six.) Only for Bradford to score, and if I had not traded out at poor value, I already would have had a treble figure green screen!

At the same time, a peculiar thing was happening. Last year, two tries to a team would have sent the draw price out to 40. Instead, it had contracted to 20. Now yes, I know that Bradford were the underdogs and therefore the draw contracting may make sense but that’s not how the draw works in RL and I continued to lay the hell out of the draw for the first half, only to reach, at Half Time, a four figure liability on the draw which was trading at the ridiculous odds of 15!

My aversion to red meant that I opted to equalise my book (which by now was just in three figures thanks to some momentum trades). And that was a decision that still irritates me as much as it did then. The fact is, 14 was ridiculous value; almost as ridiculous as the Bulls being up by ten and trading at 2!

Now, I do have a good understanding of Rugby League and am able to spot value, and this was so obvious that everyone could have seen it. However, my aversion to position taking meant that I watched as it went down to 1.08 (The draw shot out to 30+ at this time) when it became value to oppose Bradford who were tiring.

However, I declined (probably due to my computer game mentality when trading although how many times have 1.0s been overturned in RL!) but did eventually lay Leeds at 1.2 only…. To equalise at 1.3!

Anyway, the game went on to finish 20-20, the first draw of the season, and despite making a catalogue of errors, I somehow managed to earn £200 from the game. However, this was more from luck than any skill.

I say that, but it was important to note the increased liquidity flying around in this game which helps me. Last year, I was able to be so successful thanks to spotting value from events and being able to sell them on once the market realised. This produced a very heavy trading style, but one that minimised risk. However, the awful in play liquidity this year and the seeming rise in fast fingers (Or Virgin TV getting slower) has made this impossible. I did however, manage to improvise a variation and that was what helped me to make the profit I did.

And if there is one part of this piece that you should read as a RL trader, it is this.

Previously, I have advocated backing the draw. I now wish to retract this position. Las year, the draw was so easy to trade. You could get ridiculous prices which you could then trade out of as the side behind made their comeback. I remember Saints v Wakefield from last year as an example where I backed the draw at 40 on 78 minutes in a 2 point game. Leeds v Warrington is another where I backed the draw at 70 after 2 minutes. This year, the draw is starting around 25 and reaching ridiculous lows at Half Time.

Now, I do not want to advocate backing 1.04s, but this was the first draw in Super League after 56 games, and it is not so much the starting price I have a problem with, but rather the Half Time price. 15? That is absurd. It is so ridiculous it can only be fairly described by words that have yet to be discovered. Yes, the draw did come in this time, but where is the value?

The other salient point to raise here is that imagine what would happen if Leeds had started to come back. It would be very rare for the draw to be below 10 with 20 minutes to go, and there is a strong chance that you could profit from backing the draw later, and even if you needed to buy it back later, the odds are you probably could do at odds not too much lower than the Half Time price.

I have no idea why the draw has shifted so spectacularly from being something that is so backable to something that should be laid. Are too many people spotting the opportunity and the theory but not appreciating the odds? Or is this a reaction to the RU season where low scores are more popular and therefore the fact that RL sees so many shifts thanks to the number of tries not being factored in? I don’t know, but what I do know is the draw has gone from being my biggest green to my smallest green.

Anyway, armed with this knowledge but with my throat feeling worse than ever, I moved onto Friday’s doubleheader.

Only for the draw to return to its 2009 form in Hull v Hull KR and shoot out to the high 40s as Hull KR built an early 12-0 lead. Yet, they too were underdogs like Bradford although be it more marginal underdogs.

Heavily in profit, I was more than willing to accommodate these odds and felt that they would come back in. Only, to trade out at 28 despite the draw then resembling a one way train to 8 and then back out to 1000. Again, I can only blame my computer game mentality of looking to secure a “win” and despite such awful trading; I did manage to earn £60.

The final game was Saints v Wigan and by this time I was starting to feel worse than ever. Now, I had managed to catch some draw at 30+ in the morning and yet again, knew the direction of the draw… Only to trade out at 28 pre match despite it going to 25 and then being a one way train in the first half!

At times like that, I really do bother why I wonder trading. If I am so risk averse to make trades like that just to “win” well, it’s ridiculous.

Not as ridiculous as the draw however, which was 20 at Half Time! Before sense prevailed and it drifted to 28 which whilst still too short, was approaching reasonableness and by this time, I was satisfied with a profit of around £80.

At this time, Wigan were in the 1.1s and were a definite lay, only my risk averse nature and not wanting to lose any of my earnings from the first half, prevented me from jumping on.

Saints’ comeback brought the draw into single figures for the fourth time in four games and some more trades did allow me to reach my three figure goal. Only, and I’m not too sure what happened next, but I crawled on Saints and then just made a series of abysmal decisions to eventually pull my profit down to £80 but I did climb back to £90.

Either way, I had “lost £30” and it wasn’t even as if I could console myself by saying that I had wanted to lay a big favourite. If anything, the value was with Wigan at above evens!

Although, after 4 games, I was willing to cut myself some slack for the first time ever and blamed it on tiredness / illness and decided to have a quick sleep before waking up to see if anything interested me in play in the evening games.

Which were a complete disaster!

Firstly, I overslept, did not check the team news and placed a lay of Huddersfield pre match and then compounded that by clicking the wrong price in play! I only ended up losing £20 but it was a ridiculous loss whilst the Castleford v Wakefield game is still confusing me.

At 6 – 6, someone placed a lay of £900 at odds of around 5 on Castleford. I regularly follow the non SKY games to see if any value appears and whilst some does on occasions, never have I seen anyone willing to risk £3,600 before!

After that, Castleford sounded like they capitulated as Wakefield went onto an easy victory. I had placed £25 which whilst understandable is in total contradiction to my willingness to take risks when I either have green on the market or the game is on SKY. (my trading style will usually produce some profits for comebacks)

I’ve blogged about it before but if I continue to make such stupid and irrational decisions then the trading ability I have developed and my natural ability to read games will all go to waste.

And it was this that had me so annoyed at the end of the day as well as having ended the day on three successive losses as I went from having £400 profit at one stage to ending up £325 which is still a great amount but the overall losses are really irksome. £75 is a lot of money and it has been wasted wholly unnecessarily. However, if I had started off £75 down but come back to earn a total of £325, then I feel my view on the past 24 hours may be completely different.

So that’s my review of the past 29 hours. Sorry if things seemed to get rather short at the end but I started writing this at 9.30 PM. It’s now 11 PM and I’m desperate for some sleep before waking up for Qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix tomorrow.

I don’t make predictions in Formula 1, but what I will say is Jenson Button and Felipe Massa look great value being available in the 20s whilst their teammates are only 7s! Both have a 1-1 qualifying record with their teammates this year and I can’t explain the difference at all.

I may look to edit / tidy this up tomorrow but it is always useful to write immediately after events to capture raw emotions and the one thing that shines through is my risk averse nature needs to be overhauled. For example, if Castleford had scored the next try, I still would have probably looked to lay off at poor value to avoid red.

As always, any comments / feedback will be hugely appreciated and I will respond to the comments on the previous post tomorrow, so long as I am not feeling so rubbish!