So what does it take to make it?

I write this article not because I consider that I have made “it”, but in recent times I have been fortunate enough to rub shoulders with those who have made…

Categories: Data, Execution & Getting On, Statistical models, The basics, Uncategorized

I write this article not because I consider that I have made “it”, but in recent times I have been fortunate enough to rub shoulders with those who have made it. One of the fascinating things about betting and trading is that very, very rarely do two people who have worked independently use the same methodology. I’ve now been fortunate enough to come across hundreds if not thousands who are in the “lifetime profit” club, and I’ve not yet seen even at a high level (of course, no-one shares their deepest, darkest, most profitable angles) two doing the same thing. However, I have observed the characteristics that they share, and there’s no coincidence in my opinion that the more successful share several of these criteria, if not all of them.


i)               Discipline. It’s often said that you are nothing in this game without discipline, and it’s difficult to imagine being successful in a sustainable fashion in this game without buckets of discipline. There’s many a flash in the pan that can’t control the inner beast – those people don’t tend to hang around in the profit column.

Perhaps more pertinent is how to manage this, or if that can even be done. Gambling can and does chew people up and spit them out on a daily basis, and there are a section of the populace who can’t control their urges – there’s no solution for them other than to abstain altogether. It is those in the middle, who have occasional tendencies, or can go on “tilt”, that need to work out how to exercise control. The answer is again, different strokes for different folks. Anything from meditation, to education, to something in the middle can work. It’s also quite good for the soul – not just the P and L column – because those with issues controlling their betting are more likely (from my observations) to struggle with other things in life.

ii)              An edge. Sometimes the hardest thing of all to achieve, although I never cease to be amazed about the amount of free literature on the internet which does allude to or contain some profitable angles. This is similar to the stock market – the problem becomes building the skillset to determine which ones are genuine or could be profitable, from the ridiculous claims or those which are the result of heavy data mining/insufficient back-testing.

As an example, those sites that build models from the past data, without taking their data and building the model from (say) 70% of the data and testing it on the other 30%, are likely to be data mining, and should be treated with scepticism. With experience, you can tell very quickly – until you have that experience, you simply have to proceed with extreme caution. Why does something work? Does that make sense? Is there any logical reason for a system that “doesn’t work on Saturdays but works every Tuesday”? (that’s unlikely – I’m not going to say impossible, but extremely unlikely unless there is some sophisticated biorhythm analysis going on, or something of that ilk!). Don’t let the tail wag the dog.

How or why do people give these things away for free? Sometimes to promote a paid-for product that you might win the money to pay for. Sometimes because there is big liquidity in some of these markets and giving away a small edge in such a market is unlikely to impact prices at all. Sometimes, very occasionally, they don’t realise the value of what they are giving away – or are looking to sell the product further down the line.

This logic actually extends somewhat into those who are not marketing experts. There is an inverse relationship between how good a site’s marketing is and how good their product is, in the sports betting world, it seems to me. You almost want to take a completely contrarian viewpoint, and only look for poorly marketed products that are not making huge promises.

iii)            Bankroll management skills. This is distinctly different from discipline, because it requires some working knowledge of underlying mathematics. Not an advanced degree, but an understanding of the risk of ruin (free calculators are available online!). Some of the most talented individuals I have seen cannot manage their bankrolls and it is almost inevitable that variance will wipe them out in the end. An edge is nothing without the power to calculate how much you should stake, and when you should stake it.

iv)             Scale. There are a few relevant sayings – for example, ROI for show, ROC for a pro. Or, turnover for vanity, profit for sanity (and sometimes cash is reality is added to that). The main point being that a method which produces 80 bets a year, let’s say, has a whole host of problems attached to it (one being you could easily be 18 months in before any tangible results have been seen, and you’d be little more than guessing if you were actually on the right track or not, with only c. 120 bets to evaluate). If you have to wait until a 5f claimer at Wolverhampton to work your angle, you could be many years before you can make a real dent in the pockets of the layers.

The advice here is to be selective about where you focus your efforts – if you are going down a path such as the ones laid out above, question why, and how much effort you might want to put in.

v)              Teambuilding. In a way, potentially the most important to make a real difference. There are those who work alone, in a dark room – but very rarely can they achieve what they want to, or their full potential, if they don’t work with others. There are gigantic intellectual property issues that people have (the fear is sometimes a lot larger than the reality, however) – protecting your secret sauce is crucial, but there are often ways and means in which you can joint venture where both parties can get something from the outcome without either compromising anything.

Part of that is about becoming a good deal-maker, and the one nugget of advice here would be to learn to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Is the deal fair from both ends? Has everyone got the protection they would want or need? Do you trust the other party (absolutely critical)? What does your gut feeling tell you, listen to it, it is right with an exceptional strike rate.

This isn’t written as an exhaustive list, but more a means for provoking thought and discussion. Always happy to discuss any of the articles I have written, and I can be reached via email on

Happy empire-building!

About Adam Lawrence

Adam divides his time between betting for profit and the property business. His background is varied including a strong academic pedigree alongside international experience in finance and wealth management, but he has found his niche now and is busy settling into it for the long haul.
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