How I Became a Professional Sports Bettor
by The Crazy Snake of Predictem.com
The life of a sports bettor is often painted as the life of Riley; a life of have in a world of 'have nots'. In images seen on TV shows and in movies they are often Gucci suit sporting, diamond ring wearing sharps who look like the million bucks they have made from their latest strike on the poor unsuspecting bookie. If you ever thought you would like to live that life then perhaps a more factual perspective could be useful. It goes something like this...
I never had a chance. My grandfather on my mother's side was an avid horse follower. He was also a gifted poker player. My father's dad was also a horse player. He always played the lotteries and loved bingo and other games of pure chance. I can remember him from the time I was small, sitting on a Friday for 4 and 5 hours studying the horse form and meticulously writing out his bets for the following day. He was a perfectionist that made most perfectionists look slap happy. It was sometimes almost painful to watch, but inherently fascinating at the same time.
My father also loved the horses but we were poor and he could only invest in very small amounts. I can remember him hitting a 50/1 shot named Cornish Princess one day at an English racetrack and at the tender age of 8 I was discerning enough to realize that this was a significant event. I knew it was significant because my father went dancing around the room like a madman. It was significant because even at the age of 8 I knew that 50 times anything was a big number, so I enquired as to the amount of his bet. "How much did we win, daddy?", I enquired innocently. He told me he had bet 2 English pence and had won himself a WHOLE pound! Wow, I knew my Christmas present was going to be good that year.
By the age of 11 I attended my first racetrack. Sandown races in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia was the venue. It was a real family affair. My uncle and his family lived a stone's throw from the track, and since we were new in town we were invited to attend the local race meeting. My aunt had given me 50 cents and by race 2 it was burning a hole in my pocket. "Dad, I like this horse. Can I bet it, please?" I offered my hand and he opened his to receive my shiny silver coin. He looked at me for a few moments and then uttered the words that sealed my fate forever. "What horse do you like, son?". "Alato, dad. I like Alato to show!" And with that he strolled off to place his bets and mine. That race was a wipe out for most members of my family but late in running a horse stormed down the outside of the track to snatch second place from the clouds. That horse's name: Alato! "2 and a half times 50 cents plus your returned stake is $1.75, son. You're rich!". By the end of race 8 I had built my original 50 cents into $3.75 and I was hooked forever.
On the day of my 18th birthday I did what many male 18 year olds do with the coming of age. I went to a bar near the university I was attending and ordered an alcoholic drink. Across from that bar was an off track betting agency. I staggered my way across the street and scanned the boards for something to bet on. Coincidentally, I don't remember the horse I bet on that day. I must have killed those brain cells with alcohol before I left to go home because I can scarcely remember much more than the scant details of a loss that left me struggling for train fare.
In the early days I used to save the money my mother gave me for train fare and jump the trains so I could bet. It was pretty easy. The stations were largely unattended after the train pulled out from the station and I only had to wait and pretend I was waiting for a train until the guard left and I could exit without being spotted. This went on for several years and I blew through several thousand dollars without ever keeping track or ever counting the cost. I would win occasionally and that was enough for me to boast to my friends about how much I had won and how good I really was. I never faced the truth in those years. It suited me not to.
Somehow, through years of negligence of my school work in favor of horses, I managed to attain a degree as a chemist. Not the drug store kind. The other industrial kind. My first job as a quality assurance chemist netted me $20,000 per annum, not bad for a young guy, but I never had any money. By this stage I was out of home and rent was a consistent problem because I would routinely blow through my money before the first week of the following pay month. A pattern was emerging and I knew what was on the table. I had to do something. I was forced to take a loan to pay off some debts I had accumulated, but it wasn't too bad and thankfully I never had a compulsion very much beyond what I could realistically afford.
"I was a smart guy! Surely, I could find a way to beat this stupid game!", I thought to myself. I went searching for information and found a magazine called Practical Punting Monthly. I immediately subscribed, I bought every advertised system they had, I bought their annual and I subscribed to their phone service. I bought the works!I was going to give myself a crash course and get back all my accumulated losses in short order, which by this time had reached around $30,000. I know this because I got honest with myself and started keeping records. I learned a great deal during that period. Not only did I learn some things that worked but I also discovered a great many things that didn't work. I got introduced to the concept of staking and money management and my losses started to abate, although I was still a long way from making regular profits. I owe much of that learning to PPM and I subscribed to that publication for many years.
I began developing selection systems based on past results, but every time I thought I had found something really good it went bad after a while and I was back to square one. All the while I was still losing, but now my losses were staked and far more controlled. I got my first home computer and discovered the wonderful benefits of Microsoft Excel. Now I could create tables and calculations and all kinds of wonderful things to assist my losses.
Across several years I began to learn how to create interesting and useful tools, and with the advent and explosion of online information it became easier and easier to access information pertaining to horse racing and all kinds of sports. Around that time I began writing game previews for Aussie Rules football and in preparing those previews I would research statistical information prior to my submission. I found ways to directly import those statistics from the web into an Excel spreadsheet and my first database was born. I began applying the same principles to other sports such as NFL, baseball and basketball, and before you know it I had several databases to upkeep and update ever single week. I found several sports handicapping publications and started buying them. The one that made the most difference was The Unemotional Football Bettor by Scott Kellen, and I still use concepts I learned within that book today.
Today, I am a profitable sports bettor and have been for several years. I do not have another job. This is it. If I don't make it, people don't eat. I work 70-90 hours every week, 7 days, updating information and databases, researching different facets of sports on which I may wish to invest and hunting around for the best value I can find among the sportsbooks with which I hold accounts. I sleep 4-6 hours per day and the rest of the time I squeeze in time to be a human being. Let me dispel the romance for you right here and right now. Sports betting is not for everybody and it's not a hidden pot of gold. Like any worthwhile endeavor it takes time, effort and discipline and to this point I have not been fortunate enough to find any such thing as an easy answer. My goal going forward is to become more automated and more efficient. I have long since given up on the idea that I will discover the one idea that nobody has thought of.
In the days of Pittsburgh Phil the bookies used to say of him "We take the money in from the rank and file in small amounts and Phil takes it out in a lump". In that regard, I would like to be like Phil, but like Phil I know that is takes a great deal more than just luck.
May luck not be the reason you win or lose. Let it only be a companion along for the ride.
The Crazy Snake, Predictem.com
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