Sunday, 22 May 2011

The 5 Stages

I came across an old document today that I once read on the Betfair forum many moons ago. It's called 'The 5 Stages' and is a must read for anyone new to using Betfair. I haven't read it for while but it never ceases to make me smile - it's just so spot on.  The software references area bit out of date but it is about 6 years old now.

Here it is, enjoy...

Step 1 - Unconscious Incompetence

This is the first step you take when starting to look into trading on Betfair. You know its a good way of making money because you've heard so many things about it and heard of so many people who make money. Unfortunately, just like when you first desire to drive a car you think it will be easy - after all, how hard can it be?

Unfortunately, just as when you first take your place in front of a steering wheel you find very quickly that you haven't got the first clue about what you're trying to do. You take lots of trades and lots of risks. When you enter a trade it turns against you so you reverse and it turns again .. and again, and again.

You may have initial success, and that's even worse - it tells your brain that this really is simple and you start to risk more money.

You try to turn around your losses by doubling up every time you trade. Sometimes you'll get away with it but more often than not you will come away scathed and bruised. You are totally oblivious to your incompetence at trading.

This step can last for a week or two but learning the Betfair market is usually swift and it won’t be long before you move onto the next stage.

Step 2 - Conscious Incompetence

Step two is where you realise that there is more work involved in trading and that you might actually have to work a few things out. You consciously realise that you are an incompetent trader - you don't have the skills or the insight to turn a regular profit.

You now set about buying systems and e-books galore, read websites and begin your search for the holy grail. During this time you will be a system nomad - you will flick from method to method day by day and week by week never sticking with one long enough to actually see if it does work. Every time you come upon a new tipster, software or trading guru you'll be ecstatic that this is the one that will make all the difference.

You'll test out automated systems on Bet Angel, you'll play with Gruss using Excel triggered betting, dabble on Bet IE and maybe more Excel trading with Market Feeder. You might even look at support & resistance to try and figure out a likely range where you'll be able to make a "safe" trade. You'll consider BF Explorer and Adam's BetTrader and may even analyse the market with BetMarket Scanner and a hundred other things all in the vein hope that your 'magic system' starts today. You'll be a top and bottom picker, trying to find the exact point of reversal with your indicators and software and you'll find yourself chasing losing trades and even adding to them because you are so sure you are right.

You'll go into the Betfair General Betting Forum and see other traders saying they make a profit and you want to know why it's not you - you'll ask a million questions, some of which are so dumb that looking back you feel a bit silly. You'll then reach the point where you think all the ones who are calling profits are liars - they can't be making that amount because you've studied, noted form and you don't make that, you know as much as they do and they must be lying. Here's the reality, most real successful traders aren't in forums such as this.

You will be like a teenager - the traders that say they make money will freely give you advice but you're stubborn and think that you know best - you take no notice and over trade your account even though everyone says you are mad to - but you know better. You'll consider following the tips that others make but even then it won't work so you try paying for trading courses from someone else - they don't work for you either.

You might even approach a 'guru' or someone on a forum like this who promises to make you into a trader (usually for a fee of course). Whether the guru is good or not you won't win because there is no replacement for screen time and you still think you know best.

This step can last ages and ages - in fact and in reality talking with other traders as well as personal experience confirms that it can easily last well over a year. If your bank doesn't blow up in the meantime. This is also the step when you are most likely to give up through sheer frustration.

Around 60% of new traders die out in the first 3 months - they give up and this is good - think about it - if trading was easy we would all be millionaires. Another 20% keep going for a year and then in desperation take risks guaranteed to blow their account which of course it does.

What may surprise you is that of the remaining 20% all of them will last around 3 years - and they will think they are safe in the water - but even at 3 years only a further 5-10% will continue and go on to actually make money consistently.

I've had many people argue with me about these timescales - funny enough none of them have been trading for more than 3 years. Sure, I guess there will be exceptions to the rule - but I haven't met any yet.

Eventually you do begin to come out of this phase. You've probably committed more time and money than you ever thought you would, lost 2 or 3 loaded accounts and all but given up maybe 3 or 4 times but now its in your blood

One day - in a split second moment you will enter stage 3. That is the Eureka Moment.

Step 3 - The Eureka Moment

Towards the end of stage two you begin to realise that it's not the system that is making the difference. You realise that it’s actually possible to make money with a simple moving average and nothing else IF you can get your head and money management right. You start to read books on the psychology of trading and identify with the characters portrayed in those books and finally comes the eureka moment.

The eureka moment causes a new connection to be made in your brain. You suddenly realise that neither you, nor anyone else can accurately predict what the market will do in the next ten seconds, never mind the next 20 minutes. You start to work just one system that you mould to your own way of trading, you're starting to get happy and you define your risk threshold.

You start to take every trade that your 'edge' shows has a good probability of winning with. When the trade turns bad you don't get angry or even because you know in your head that as you couldn't possibly predict it it isn't your fault - as soon as you realise that the trade is bad you close it . The next trade will have higher odds of success because you know your system works.

You have realised in an instant that the trading game is about one thing - consistency of your 'edge' and your discipline to take all the trades no matter what as you know the probabilities stack in your favour.

You learn about proper money management and leverage - risk of account etc - and this time it actually soaks in and you think back to those who advised the same thing a year ago with a smile. You weren't ready then, but you are now. The eureka moment came the moment that you truly accepted that you cannot predict the market.

Step 4 - Conscious Competence

You are making trades whenever your system tells you to. You take losses just as easily as you take wins.  You now let your winners run to their conclusion fully accepting the risk and knowing that your system makes more money than it loses and when you're on a loser you close it swiftly with little pain to your account.

You are now at a point where you break even most of the time - day in day out, you will have weeks where you make 100 ticks and weeks where you lose 100 ticks - generally you are breaking even and not losing money. You are now conscious of the fact that you are making calls that are generally good and you are getting respect from other traders. You still have to work at it and think about your trades but as this continues you begin to make more money than you lose consistently.

This lasts about 6 months.

Step 5 - Unconscious Competence

Now we’re cooking - just like driving a car, every day you get in your seat and trade - you do everything now on an unconscious level. You are running on autopilot. You start to pick the really big trades and getting 100 ticks in a day is becoming quite normal to you. This is trading utopia - you have mastered your emotions and you are now a trader with a rapidly growing account.

You're a star on the Betfair forum and people listen to what you say. You recognise yourself in their questions from about two years ago. You pass on your advice but you know most of it is futile because they're teenagers - some of them will get to where you are - some will do it fast and others will be slower - literally dozens and dozens will never get past stage two, but a few will.

Trading is no longer exciting - in fact it's probably boring you to bits - like everything in life when you get good at it or do it for your job - it gets boring - you're doing your job and that's that.

However, you can now say with your head held high "I'm a Betfair Trader".

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Time To Grow

As many of you will know the majority of my betting profits come from cricket, and it's with some reluctance that I admit that over the last few years the amount each match has been worth to me has remained the same.  It's been easy for me to track this figure as all I've needed to do is divide my total profit by the total number of markets and what I've been left with is my average profit/loss per market.
So why is this and why has it taken me this long to promise myself that I'll do something about it?
The first issue is that until now I've not really needed more per market.  That sounds daft but what I mean is that I've just played 'more markets'.  In 2008 I traded 85 matches, 173 in 2009 and 182 in 2010, so my increase in profits has been solely down to an increase in match volume.  As I'm now full time I expect the number of matches I bet on this year to rise to around 230 and whilst I could continue to follow the 'volume' path I'm aware that I need to work on maximising my return from each event if I'm going to continue growing.
Okay, so now I've explained the situation, how do I go about improving things?  Well, I'm a big believer in tracking the key statistics; Win %, Average Win & Average Loss.  These three indicators have really helped me to manage my performance and have given me a glimpse of the big picture when individual events haven't gone my way.  Of course, each one can't be measured without consideration for the others as profitability is a direct outcome of how these three figures interact with each other.
A quick example in case I've lost you.  Which following scenario would you prefer over the course of 100 markets?
Scenario A
Win % - 75%
Average Win - £100
Average Loss - £150
Scenario B
Win % - 50%
Average Win - £150
Average Loss - £100
Yep, you should have chosen Scenario A as in this case you'd have made £3750 profit compared to just £2500 in Scenario B.  Despite your average loss being much higher than your average win your win % of 75% makes it the better option.
There are many possible scenarios but having these numbers in your head when betting on an event definitely helps, but for what it's worth my scenario involving cricket has remained relatively constant.  As I don't want to disclose my exact profit/loss figures the following average win/loss figures are not exact, but they do show how my patterns have panned out over the last few years:
Markets - 85
Win % - 80.52%
Average Win - £56
Average Loss - £44
Markets - 173 
Win % - 76.88%
Average Win - £49
Average Loss - £51
Markets - 182
Win % - 76.92%
Average Win - £47
Average Loss - £53
The good news first.  My win % has remained high! The bad news?  I've struggled to keep my average win higher than my average loss.  This all means that the value of each event has remained the same as these amounts haven't got much bigger either.
This year I'm doing slightly better and with more markets I should make more money, but I still haven't grown at the rate I'd have liked.  After much analysis I've come to the conclusion that my staking is to blame.  In the beginning, things were pretty straightforward - as my bank grew I would adjust my stakes in line with the odds of a selection.  At the end of each month I would readjust my bank and these figures.  Simple eh?  My bets would get bigger and my wins would get larger?  Wrong.  I reached a ceiling that I was comfortable with and despite raising my stake values I found myself using the one below the one I'd supposed to.  This has led to me over-staking and under-staking and not really having a good idea of where I am, but I think I have a solution.
From today I'll be trialling the use of the tick size staking option on the 'Geeks Toy' ( I believe this is available in other software too). The idea is that it will work out my stake size for me based on an assigned value per tick that I'm willing to risk.  Hopefully this will allow me to concentrate 100% on making the right decisions and the rest will take care of itself.  I'll let you know how it goes.