Poker to Promos to Pro

I’ve now done a handful of these Betfair client profiles and I’m blown away by the recurring theme.

These guys are so young. And smart.

They’ve grasped opportunity where previously there was none. They use the nuances of Betfair and rapid-fire technology to their advantage. They “work’’ relentless hours, glued to keyboards and TV’s sometimes 24/7, but they’re smart enough to plan ahead, re-work their time.

Most, like Luke MacDonald, have partners who, somehow, “get’’ it.

These guys are the antithesis to the standard image of the punter. They’re not old and ragged and desperate. They don’t shoot off rent money on bad hunches. They are strategic.

And they’ve accumulated remarkable life stories.


Meet Luke Mac

MacDonald wanders into a Broadbeach RSL dressed for the beach; pyjama-ish shorts, baseball cap and a youthful smile – and I can’t help thinking of Ferris Bueller.

You listen to the life stories of guys like 31-year-old MacDonald and you feel you’ve played a very conservative life hand.

He was the eldest of five kids born in Melbourne and brought up on a farm near Beaudesert. Most of his five siblings drifted into farm life – the youngest are still at school – but MacDonald drifted into the Gold Coast, into a lucrative but time-hogging mural art business that began in a mate’s garage in his early twenties, then into a not-as-glamorous-as-it-sounds stint playing professional poker in his late teens and early twenties.

Some bloke at a poker table alerted MacDonald to Betfair a few years ago and “the mathematics of it made sense,’’ he said.

MacDonald found an edge in Bagging bonuses, then got a guilty conscience about it “because I didn’t want to take advantage of people who were letting me on.’’

Altruism is not a textbook trait of the punter, but MacDonald is a well-rounded, interesting character. The dedicated punter, who now specialises in “trading’’ on cricket and rugby league, once volunteered in the slums of Kolkata, helping feed the starving. He stopped betting on horse racing, mostly because he was “average at it’’ but deep down there is a date for the way some treat their horses, “you’re betting off focusing on trading something you enjoy.”


Get a real job

He posts both his wins and losses on a personal blog and twitter account, because “I want others to become better punters. I also want them being in the game, of course, betting with me and against me.’’

MacDonald met the saintly Bec out the front of some Gold Coast nightclub seven years ago when one of his mates was doing something “gross’’, and MacDonald – doing his goofy/charming Ferris Bueller thing – declared “hey, you’re a glamour’’ and they’ve somehow remained together ever since.

Only on a handful of occasions has Bec doubted the legitimacy of her future husband’s chosen career, one his farming family still can’t get its head around.

“They’re always baiting me to “get a real job’’ and it took Bec a while to understand that doing what I do is a “real’’ thing.’’

He rides the waves with his punting mate “Angry Ray’’ who was despatched to Luke’s a few days earlier by Ray’s wife because “he was having a losing run on the punt and needed a freshen up.’’

“Angry Ray’’, by the way, is a pseudonym. He’s occasionally angry but his name’s not Ray.

“I don’t think anyone really knows his name. He’s an enigma. I met him online. This can be a lonely lifestyle sometimes and a lot of the people you become friends with are in blogs and social media. But I became proper friends with “Ray’’.


The Vibe

MacDonald was a successful poker player, attending the 2014 WSOP in Vegas, where “I played bloody great, but nothing went my way’’ and was assured by a hard-marking poker guru that he was one of the very few who had the skill and instinct to make a good living out of it.

The “vibe’’ is one of MacDonald’s life and gambling philosophies. “If you’re not feeling it, don’t play. Harry Findlay coined the term “brain damage,” a self-fulfilling prophecy. You’re no good to yourself if it’s just not happening,’’ he said.

Early days, when Bec was still dubious, MacDonald took her to dinner with one of the other few local “cash game grinders” Greg, who was MacDonald’s Poker mentor. “Bec met his wife and kids, got an understanding of what we did, and then she understood that it (gambling for a living) can be a real job.’’

And profitable. If you’re young. And smart.



Never fear Failure

MacDonald has been clearing over $100,000 a year “arbing’’ on domestically-played cricket and Rugby League.

He learned the hard way that staying up all night to “trade’’ on international games was killing his profits because he was too tired to function properly. And it was driving Bec nuts.

On one occasion he was watching two games at once and accidently plonked six-grand on the wrong $1.01 pop.

“I went berserk, swearing, chucking stuff at the TV. It’s one of the few times Bec panicked about what I was doing. I came out of my dungeon. She was visibly worried. “Have we lost the house??’’ “Six thousand, oh that’s nothing” she replied after hearing the finer details. Bec just might be the perfect ‘yin’ to a professional gambler’s ‘yang’.

MacDonald sees his current life as transitional. His young mind is always in overdrive. He’s not afraid to try and fail. “Never fear failure or you’ll never do anything,’’ he says.

He veered off into cryptocurrency some time back and almost imported the first crypto ATM to Sydney’s Mascot airport, but he couldn’t risk stumping up the $20,000. If he had, he’d now be loaded.

MacDonald spent that same amount on creating a crypto hedge fund, an Australian first, only for it to fail “because of political interference.’’

He and Bec have a dog and one day the dog will take a back seat to a kid as MacDonald’s very interesting life inevitably becomes a bit more mainstream. Perhaps.

He enjoys finding an edge – he says women’s cricket has been lucrative for him – but knows that edges don’t last forever as others cotton on and gambling regulations close in.

“If I start losing money, I guess I’ll go out and get a real job,’’ he says.


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