The Punter

Mark is a 40 year-old Betfair trader from Victoria who stands out, among the many investors we have profiled in this series, for one simple reason. He actually goes to the track as a punter. Regularly.

He’ll be on course four to five days a week with laptop in hand, looking to back a winner at minimum risk and placing the odd commission for colleagues. Perhaps he simply feels at home or comfortable at the races given that he’s been an attendee most his life, working for various bookmakers including, at one time, his father.

Not that he stood out for any extraordinary success as a punter, at least not until the advent of Betfair. “I was the worst judge in the world and was never much of a punter. There was a more reliable quid working for the bookies,” he said.

Finding an Edge

Mark has become a successful bettor largely via Betfair and interestingly – perhaps in a lesson to all would be Betfair clients – happily concedes that he undertook a few trading courses in order to fully understand the processes.

His ability, too, to see a potential edge when Betfair first began operations in Australia lured him back to the track more consistently after he had run a successful second-hand furniture business and had him making use of the bookmakers rather than working for them. “Some of them don’t like me too much now,” he quipped.

Monitoring the Market Moves

Mark’s edge was pretty simple. “At the beginning, the bookies didn’t have Betfair on course. I did. I’d put the bookies on course markets up against the Betfair odds and the trades were there to see plus having the ability to create a shortener.

“It was all based on discrepancies in the markets. I had no opinion, no set of my own prices. I just had the advantage of being on track and having Betfair at my disposal. It took years for others to catch on and I had a monopoly for quite a while,” Mark said.

It was a distinct edge, which he now admits has waned, but one – especially when the action on Betfair preceded the moves on track – which gave him a particularly successful day at Grafton back in 2008 and that is a day which he fondly and mischievously recalls.

“Betfair wasn’t allowed on course and as I headed up to the Grafton carnival, I thought I might have to work from the car. But I headed into the track and found a spot basically hidden under a tarp or a sheet and an umbrella behind a friendly bookie’s stand.

“Art Success won the Grafton Cup that year and he was well backed but he was $21 on track when prices went up and I noticed immediately that they were taking $19, $18, $17 on Betfair. The confidence, the signs were obvious and I could still get $21 on track. That was a Godsend, the horse was never going to lose and they (officials) didn’t spring me,” he recalled.

Reading the Play

While everyone may have now caught on, the opportunities are still there if you are accurately reading the play according to Mark. “You’ll still find the winner you can back at $4 and lay it back nearer to $3. I want to back the winner but I want to minimise the risk. I don’t want to be all in and that’s the trick, you’ve got to be disciplined. I’ve seen others try and fail but they just fall down on the discipline,” he said.

Mark argues that if there was no Betfair, there would be no bookies on course at country meetings. “There’s just not enough money on track,” he said.

Love not Labour

There’s an element of lifestyle factor that also appeals to Mark. “I’m not stuck at a desk. I’m not battling peak hour traffic. I can leave home at 10 or 10.30 in the morning, enjoy the country drive. You chalk up a lot of kilometres…the car I just sold had done 500,000 ‘kms’ in eight years but I don’t mind the driving,” he said.

And he doesn’t mind whether he’s heading to Ararat or Flemington. “The opportunities are the same. Just another set of races and prices. I tend to concentrate on horses in the $5 to $10 range as a general rule of thumb as that range tends to produce the largest number of winners in a suitable trading range.

“I’m heading out four or five times a week. Obviously there’s more likely to be some commission work on Wednesday’s and Saturday but all the days are pretty much the same to me for my own trading. Although I don’t mind the Cranbourne Friday night meetings as there’s eight bookies there and not that many punters so they tend to be pushing them (prices) out,” he said.

He doesn’t bet to specific targets or sweat on the bad days. “Obviously the objective is to make it work for me over the 12 months of the year and you can do that if you master the discipline,” he said.

Mark is part of a new breed of on course punter – armed with laptop displaying Betfair and “Obviously I need to be monitoring all the market movements across the board but there’s nothing quite like Betfair to give you the guide of what’s most likely to happen, especially in those last few minutes of trading,” he said.

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