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Matt Barker says he no longer “enjoys” cricket.

He used to. As a private-school educated kid in Manchester, he played team and town cricket ‘to a pretty high level, but ultimately not high enough’’. He enjoyed the game and discovered he had an instinct for “reading the play’’, a skill that would eventually parlay into a successful life as a Betfair cricket trader and whose Pro Sports Syndicate is attracting like-minded members.

“I had a good feeling for where a game was going, could tell a long way out who was going to win and lose, where the strengths and weaknesses were. Nowadays, it’s sort of taken the fun out of cricket. It’s a way to make money. I’m not thinking of anything other than who’s winning and at what price, and how do I find an edge.”

“You have no allegiance. In-fact one of the keys is to take advantage of the parochialism of others through distorted odds.’’ This detached approach to cricket, watching and punting through “analytical eyes,’’ where each game is subdivided into mini chapters and marginal opportunities, affords occasional funny episodes. For uncluttered fun, by the way, Barker takes in a day at the tennis or soccer. He used to “play” them but stopped “because I was rubbish at it.”

Due to VISA “issues’’, the 32-year-old had to exit Australia for a few weeks back in the summer of 2015, so he headed to New Zealand where the locals were playing South Africa in a Test series.
Barker and his mates passed the time before the Dunedin Test by betting on the next “thing” that traveled down the road outside their B&B; choices were truck, car towing a boat or animal of some sort.

Barker copped a hiding “because you wouldn’t believe how many cars tow boats. I kept betting on livestock. I was terrible at it.’’


As the Test got underway Barker and a particularly unusual mate, “a pretty big guy who spent most of his time wandering around the B&B in his underpants, even in front of the hosts at breakfast,” had it all sorted. The probabilities were far higher than a goat or cow wandering down the road.

In simple terms, the two mates knew the weather would be the biggest factor on the outcome. By day three, as dark clouds began forming, they kept backing the draw, which had tumbled from $3.50 on day three to 1.36 at the beginning of day five, when the rain was so heavy it woke them both up. “You’ve never heard rain like it,’’ he said.

“The truth was that the draw was a $1.01 chance. I was on the phones to England, trying to get money transferred. We couldn’t lose. It was flooding. The game was called off and we ended up in a Brewery down the road. My mate, the one in the undies, revealed to me that he had a huge amount on it. And it was always going to happen. It was a pretty decent session at the brewery.’’

Barker now lives at Southbank, in Melbourne, after arriving with his girlfriend three years ago, mainly for the cricket World Cup. He’d been trading on cricket for about a decade. All the while his parents – a teacher and a librarian – thought he was working for Barclays Bank “until I told them last summer.”

“Do you know many Barclays Banks there are in Australia ? Zero,” he said, chucking over some pork ribs at a Southbank restaurant.

Barker said he hadn’t gone out of his way to concoct a mainstream career for the benefit of others but said “it sort of just never came up” (that he was trading). He said he wasn’t reluctant to reveal what he was doing but knew it would be “a bit awkward to explain” given neither of his parents had shown interest in gambling on sport. “It’s still a difficult one if you’re at a party or something. It’s a little tricky to explain to people who don’t “get it,” so you can get all sorts of reactions,” he said.


Before Barker started looking at cricket more as a game of fast-motion chess than of bat and ball, his story is a fairly familiar one, of the unsettled teenager. He balked university, then passed on a physiotherapy course, then worked in a bar in Manchester, then as a mortgage adviser, followed by a stint in debt management at Barclays (yes, he did work there), all the while laying horses on Betfair, which he first discovered during a lad’s soccer trip to Barcelona in 2005. He took himself to Tenerriffe, in Spain, in his early twenties where he spent much of his time burning his fingers betting on soccer, tennis and horse racing.

He also started trading on cricket. “Knowing inside and out how the game works, and that so many things can happen within a game, so many variables that affect the odds, that doesn’t happen, say in soccer, I found I was quite good at it,” he said. He says there are myriads of strategies that can be used successfully trading on cricket. They are explained in detail in the attachments below, which are summaries from seminars Barker has conducted on the art of cricket trading in recent weeks around Australia


For the novice, there are a number of intriguing insights. Some traders hold their position for too long, he says. Best cut your losses, or sink. Read the weather, as he and his near-naked mate did in Dunedin. He explains the various quirks of it in the attachments. Know the pitch as best you can – check its recent history – but don’t be a prisoner to it. “At the end of the day, when the first ball is bowled, that’s your best guide. And you don’t have to bet for the first hour or so. Get a feel for the game and the conditions,” he said.

Know the rules. Some have changed, like the one relating to the bat sliding through the crease during a potential run-out. “That rule changed two months ago,” he said. Back your eye during wicket referrals. “Some get too influenced by what the commentators are saying. I tend to back my first judgment and referrals have been good to me,” he said. “A lot of what I do is to take advantage of people making bad decisions.

“For instance, people almost always over react to the night watchman when he comes in late in the day. If he goes out and suddenly its 4/80, they panic. In reality its less than half a wicket. He’s not a batsman. You can exploit those over reactions from others. You back against the panic.”

He backed Bangladesh in August when it beat Australia in a Test for the first time, banking on the “home country usually wins” against Australia’s perceived dominance.

Night games, including Tests, have provided an extra element and while Barker agrees that the ball is more lively at night, and batting teams disadvantaged, but says punters tend to over react to it. Just as even the most analytical punters tend to be a little partial to their national team. It’s a sheep mentality Barker welcomes. “My rule of thumb is to do the opposite (of the mob). They’re often wrong and their parochialism makes for better odds,” he said.

This summer, Barker will play the one dayers and T20s and probably ignore the Tests, which are prone to more wildcards and eat up too much time, relative to potential return.
And for a day of sporting leisure, as opposed to a day at the cricket, he’ll wander down to the tennis and leave the numbers and margins at the gate.

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