The Pupil

Matt was a very good cricketer. You’ve got to be to play first grade in Sydney. As a wicket keeper batsman for Randwick Petersham, Matt played five seasons of first grade, scoring over 1000 runs: shared in a couple of 100 run partnerships with Usman Khawaja and kept to another Test player in Nathan Hauritz.


Meet Matt

There was a stint in England – in Derbyshire – before ‘retiring’ at 29 with his mind set on his future path. Clearly set; for all those long summers playing cricket indirectly put Matt in the position he is today – a professional gambler, no not on cricket but horse racing. How?

“Well when I first started playing all the older guys would have their form guides and be talking about the races and putting bets on.”

I loved the punt and horses so that’s where my interest really took off. There was no background of horse racing or punting in my family, so I can honestly say it all started from playing cricket.

Matt worked in sports sponsorship, and with a partner they had their own business. It was successful but after ten years Matt knew that his heart was elsewhere, “We were both passionate about the punt, so we slowed the business down and decided we wanted to have a go at being professional punters. I thought the best way to learn was to see how other people punted so I got a job at Unibet. Also, I got to see how Corporates operated, it was a great place to learn, I was in my late 20’s and I knew it was what I wanted to do.”


Is being a pro achievable?

For anyone wishing to make the transition to being a pro punter Matt strongly recommends taking the time to learn first,

“Don’t jump in. Don’t wake up one day and say I’m going to give up my job or finish Uni and tomorrow I am going to start being a pro punter and just do the form really hard.”

“Don’t go from amateur punter to pro immediately – serve an apprenticeship first. Set a goal when you will start and get some experience first by working for a corporate or on track, also you will have that income stream – so you are getting paid to do something that teaches you.”

Well that’s what worked for Matt. At that time at Unibet there was probably no better place to learn. Unibet had taken over Betchoice founded by the late great rails bookmaker Colin Tidy in partnership with the up and coming corporate gun Mark Morrisey.

“The Betchoice philosophy was still strong and we were encouraged to bet the pro’s, take them on a bit and use their knowledge. They were one of the last corporates to bet like that. Aside from Mark, there were also some other talented bookmakers there, so it was an environment where you could only learn – I was a sponge.”

Matt learned from both sides of the gambling fence, forming markets watching how markets reacted to certain types of money, learning what the smart punters did right and what the corporates did wrong. He knew he wanted to be a pro, but was it achievable and could he do it?

“It was the attraction of the unknown, I knew I didn’t want to have set hours and be tied down. I wanted to be in control and, in my mind, the only occupation where I could achieve this was the punt. I served my apprenticeship where probably the payment is lost funds through bad bets, but you get the benefits later in life! It’s the most expensive apprenticeship you can do but I’ve NEVER heard a story of someone starting out as a pro punter from scratch and just winning from day one. Everyone does it the hard way, losing money – the turning point is when you start reviewing what you have done.”


Keeping Records

Matt’s story is quite inspirational for the younger people out there who are considering this option; this transition period – as Matt calls it – is key. Most pro punters don’t make anywhere near 20% POT (profit on turnover), so a realistic start up figure may be around that 10% mark.

“Do the maths first. If you need 1k a week to live, then you’ll have to turn over 10k a week. Is your starting bank big enough? Are alarm bells going off already? Start an excel spreadsheet and keep in it a minimum of 9-12 months bets or say, 1000 bets which you can review.”

Do this during your apprenticeship. Matt broke all his bets down into different sections – wet tracks, dry tracks, metro meetings, provincials and so on.

The work you do after you bet, when you review is just as important as all the form you do before. When you review you must have a neutral mindset, you can’t say – that was a bad ride or that should have won or how unlucky was that – if you do you’re gone.

Matt is passionate that every punter should keep records whether you are a pro, a recreational punter or taking it semi serious on Saturdays.

“Start with simple things like did I take the right price. Compare the price you took with Betfair SP, to determine if you are reading the market right. Respect the Australian betting market it’s a great way to measure yourself and Betfair SP is the ultimate measuring stick. It’s very easy to have a false reflection of your ability if you are using the official SP of 4.80 when the Betfair SP is 6.00.”


Invaluable Education

The days when the on-course betting ring was the be all and end all of a horses starting price are gone; the influx of corporate bookies and the advent of Betfair has seen a dynamic change to the Australian wagering landscape.

In the UK the Betfair SP is the real price and that is starting to emerge here in Australia. After Unibet (timing in life can be everything and Matt couldn’t have picked a better time to have been there) Matt joined the Racing Rant (formerly ‘Punters Show’) and mixed with pro punters where he continued to develop the tools needed to take the transition to become one of them.

“I was getting the pro’s set first and Marc Lambourne was there – he was the king of prices and detailed race analysis. Glenn Pollett the expert on fitness and behaviour with a focus on the mounting yard. Darren Potter was selling his set and it was exciting to see him use his finance (background) skills in becoming a success as a punter. Learning how they did the form – everyone has different styles, so I had to find the method that worked for me”

Education from the Pro’s was invaluable, and Matt was constantly asking why they are backing these horses whilst adding to his ability to learn how and why odds moved. There comes a time though – to put it bluntly – when its time. The day to transition into a professional horse player.


Specialise in an area

The significance of having twelve months betting records on hand is that the figures don’t’ lie and the spreadsheet will show you whether you have the ability to beat the variance.

“Black can come up ten times in a row on the roulette wheel, ten even money shots can get beat at the track, if you over stake your wiped out through no fault of your own.”

“I believe its important to specialise – maybe start with country meetings as clearly the weaker the meeting the higher the profit.”

If you are a break-even metro punter, you could be a winning provincial punter and in turn could be a very successful country punter. Learn your skills at the metro meetings and you may do well on the country circuit.

“In cricketing terms then the Sydney metro races could be first class cricket, provincials first grade and country meetings would be “worse than third grade so you could score plenty of runs.”

Matt’s style of doing the form is through video analysis, “My business model – and you are a business owner if you are a pro punter – is video watching to compile a database of comments; it’s about six years now with notes on every race. The common-sense business principals in life apply to be a professional punter as you must analyse every part of the process.”


10,000 hours

A key, Matt feels, in being a pro punter is to find someone out there who is better than you. “Don’t get isolated as it can be a lonely existence. You need a network and interaction. Social media is good, it has benefits and there is good advice out there, but I found a brilliant help was through Betfair. They have many events where you can go and meet like minded people and talk to and learn from them. There are so many ways that different people go about their business and make money; so, put yourself out there and find some one who is better than you and learn from them.”

Betfair run many such events. After talking with Matt, it is clear he has left his ego at the door when joining that mysterious world of the professional gambler,

“I’m so not the finished product, and for people wanting to start their journey its just as important to learn by putting yourself in the right environment and that’s where the Betfair events are great. I call myself an unprofessional professional punter. I know what I should be doing but I still make mistakes. Everyone does but the trick is to make sure the gap between mistakes gets longer each time”

Matt makes it clear that making mistakes is part and parcel of the business and if you’re a better punter the following week because of it then that is acceptable. Matt’s evolution was helped by a passion for learning.

The Betfair Hub is a great place to read stories and get advice. I really soak it up. There are so many educational tools out there and I try and read everything to gain experience. It’s an old cliché in this industry that you never stop learning but it may well be the truest thing you hear.

“The old 10,000 hours theory works – spend a lot of time on something and you’ll get good. Chanderpaul (the great West Indian batsman) when asked why he batted six hours in the nets every day he wasn’t playing, simply replied that’s how long I expect to bat when I am. You will be surprised when you first start out how motivated to work hard you are. How focused you become when the pressure is on because its your only source of income.”


Maximise your price

Many professional gamblers talk about being in the right headspace and for new people coming into this challenging environment the importance of taking a break can’t be underestimated,

“I generally take Sunday’s and Monday’s off. I switch off, spend time with the family, exercise, and don’t bet unless there’s something that I’ve found on one of the days I was working. Likewise when I have a holiday – say two weeks – I make sure I don’t bet, leave it alone completely and get back into it upon my return. The pitfall of this occupation is that there is no super, no sick leave, no holiday pay but I can’t overstate the importance of having some time off.”

Every person embarking on this journey is different and there is no template that suits everyone but many of the important principals that Matt has outlined do apply to everyone.

“A horse can be a good or a bad bet. Its about the price – so if you have taken 12/1 and it is 25/1 it’s a terrible bet, if you take 20/1 and its 18/1 marginal and probably not worth it, but if you take 20/1 and its 12/1 it’s a great bet. Its still the same horse. You can’t get it right every time you will take bad prices along the way.”

 



Matt stresses he tries not to worry about marginal bets confident that if he gets the right price the rest will take care of itself. The years of experience of analysing and watching markets has taught him the most important factor is maximising your price.

“If you are taking fixed odds with the corporates and beating Betfair SP then bang, and here is an option when you are starting out if you want to lay back a little on Betfair and be risk free it’s a good way of building a bank.”

“But my head is always market first – why is it being backed, why is it drifting? Constantly ask the questions and have a willingness to change your thinking based on market intelligence. You must continually evolve; for example – if you see a massive leader advantage (or opposite) after a couple of races use Betfair to adjust to minimise your losses.

That is as important as backing winners. I feel backing less losers is the bigger edge. Even if you cut back 5% of your losers in a year it’s a massive difference. Get your existing bets right more by adjusting don’t go searching for extra winners. Betfair now gives you that opportunity to have a sharper position when circumstances change.”


Being Patient on Race Days

Matt considers himself a small-scale punter and sees the increase of the dominant syndicates betting into Australian horse racing as an advantage.

The new time of day that is a catalyst for punters is 9am when the corporates are forced to bet to the new minimum bet laws. Quite amusingly a whole army of people are out there doing the same thing trying to get what they think is the right price before the market reacts.

“If you love a horse and you are going to back it but you miss your price due to circumstances you have to move on. Getting your bet on at the best price with the corporates is tricky and you are going to miss out.”

“It’s the way it is, and you must realise that there are some 300/400 horses racing on some days so there is a lot of opportunity out there – you just have to be patient.”

Matt never risks more than 2% of his bank – a strict set cap on his maximum outlay per horse. He is more than happy to bet to win a bigger percentage if say he rates a horse $4 and he can get $10 as opposed to rating a horse Evens and its $2.25. “I feel there is a weakness with the corporate bookies in that a horse can drift too far in the market and a small scale punter can make a lot of money by determining whether it’s a false move and playing at the top of the market. Things will go off and you will miss it but that’s just the way it is.”


Get networking

As Matt previously stated he is always evolving and he feels that the current betting market place is lending itself to playing the Betfair lay side of the market.

“I’ve been an occasional layer in the past but it’s something I really want to get into this year. A lot of times you find a horse you want to oppose and the Betfair lay is the better option.”

“It’s something I’ve just started which I’m seeing real benefit from; as opposed to betting two or three in a race to beat it. Its human nature that most punters want to bet to win so there appears to be more value in the lay and I’m looking to take advantage of that. It’s so important for new professionals after their transition period to continue to look for new opportunities which is why I can’t stress enough the importance of asking questions and mixing with your peers. If you haven’t done so make sure you go to a Betfair event soon. It’s a great help.”


Conclusion

Is the hunger still there everyday or does a little part of Matt wish he was hitting a quickfire 100 against Hawkesbury?

“Haha I think if I was at Hawkesbury it would be at the races not Owen Earle Oval! My cricket peaked at 21 I think, but I enjoyed it and made lifelong friends. It gives balance to what I do now in that I can catch up with a group of mates for a beer and switch off. I do wake up each day excited to be doing the video’s in fact I can’t wait!”

It must help if you are a winning punter but as Matt has made quite clear – work hard, find a life balance, prepare and review and the transition to becoming a pro punter will happen. Matt won’t be declaring at this stage he will bat on.


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