Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Barton Bank

A rare visit to the Betfair Forum this evening, and I find a well-written and interesting post (also a rare event) on the General Betting page from Barton Bank, who is calling it a day after 20 years. 

His interest seems to be fully on Horse Racing, which is not my thing as readers will know, but for those of you who do like this sport, here are some of Barton Bank's thoughts and comments on Horse Racing and Betfair which you may find interesting. I trust Barton Bank won't object to my correcting a few typos, and exposing a few more eyes to his message.

"Well, it's been fun, it's been profitable, challenging at times, sometimes frustrating and often amusing. Been doing this (serious punting) nearly 20 years on here and about 23 in total. 

The betting game has changed a lot in that time and will no doubt change a lot in the future. 

Racing is a sport battling against economic issues and is no doubt going to be facing some serious problems with funding in the next few decades which will inevitable further weaken racing both as a sport and has a betting medium. The silly season is about to kick off with afternoon and evening fixtures overlapping and the punter has several months of race clashes and plummeting liquidity to battle. I think it is going to be harder than ever and I wish you all luck with it.

Here are some of the reasons I am going to sign off my account and retire from serious punting (If you're bored already feel free to stop reading).

LIQUIDITY - (PRE-RACE as most people assume all liquidity threads are about I/R) - Anyone who has read my posts on here in the last few years will know I often comment negatively on liquidity on the Exchange but I genuinely believe it is falling markedly now (away from the big meetings) and can confidently predict that it is about to drop through the floor. We are now seeing gaps in prices and tiny amounts available even quite close to the off on UK races when they are not even clashing with other races. This used to be an extremely rare occurrence. A couple of grand (even very close to the off) can knock a horse from 5s to 7-2 or similar (this is just an example). Liquidity cannot improve and can only continue falling towards rock bottom because of the following factors (and others I have not thought of).

1) Betfair pushing all new customers on to the sportsbook - A few of the more successful ones may find their way on to the exchange but the vast majority won't and as punters die off, retire, give up etc the numbers of punters on here will continue to fall.

2) Declining public interest in Horse Racing - self explanatory.

3) Potential economic issues for the UK outside of Horse Racing which may or may not happen - it is not my wish to get into a political debate here.

Whatever the reasons, if you can't bet anywhere else and you can only bet on here within 2 minutes before the off and your bets move the prices against you nearly every time, it becomes increasingly difficult to convince yourself it is worth persisting. Particularly when you think the bottom of the barrel has been nowhere near reached.

DIFFICULTY LEVEL - Liquidity aside there are other issues that make it much harder than it used to be to strike value bets. For example:

1) Lack of "mug" punters - Not a great term and apologies if it offends anyone. I use it because it is the terminology most people would utilise. Anyone who isn't a winning punter or at least has some concept of value can happily bet with bookmakers who are delighted to accommodate them and to court them with numerous special offers and then take their bets on unfavourable terms. Nowadays Betfair itself is tapping into this market via the Sportsbook. Hence most people on here know what they are doing. It is very hard to lay the ones you think can't win or to get on the ones you think are overpriced (NOTE - this does not apply if your stakes are small enough when the very volatile markets may actually be an advantage to you).

2) Media saturation - The pace of races etc is now done to death so much in the media that it is now very difficult to predict the tactics of races because there is more awareness and therefore more likelihood of a switch in tactics to avoid a speed duel or being caught off a steady pace.

3) Increased overlap of form between countries - won't dwell on this, simply to say nowadays you need to keep on top of Irish form (doable but time consuming) and further afield (very difficult to assess without huge effort).

4) BOTS - A massive issue. Cross-matching between the win and the place markets is an absolute killer when you are wanting a decent win/place wager. There are clearly bots set to follow large stakes that appear and use their presence to cream off money by (I assume) two-way trading as the price inevitably contracts or drifts (if laying). Can I prove this? No, but I have been doing this long enough to be confident I am correct.

Again the above is just scratching the surface

MOTIVATION - Full time punting can't be done halfheartedly. You need to be dedicated. I'm not going to dwell to long on this as what is relevant to me isn't relevant to everyone.

Suffice to say - I don't need to make any more money, I don't want to follow racing 7 days and 6 nights a week any more and I think I have devoted long enough to it and probably owe it to myself to find a new challenge and do something else. I also don't want to keep having to consider needing to keep on top of the form as a major consideration in my life. As anyone who does this for a living or has done it for a living knows it can take over your life. 

You find yourself constantly clock watching, turning down invitations etc and even organising your holidays around the racing. I can't justify doing it any more. I've taken time out travelling in the last couple of years and intend to do more of it, which is very difficult to combine with serious punting.

I generally feel most of the time that I would rather be doing something else.

CORRUPTION - Another topic that's been done to death. So I will simply say this. The BHA does not police the sport properly and horses are been hooked on a daily basis. I've spent far too much time typing this to get it deleted by naming names and most people on here will have some idea who some of the regular offenders are. Some people say corruption doesn't matter from a punting perspective. But of course it does. If the markets are often cornered by a handful of triers it is much harder to get an edge. And it is quite easy to take "value prices" about some of the non jiggers even if you broadly speaking know what you're doing. I've benefited from the innovation of Betfair but I believe it has increased skulduggery by providing certain "shrewd" operators with an opportunity.

So in summary that's me pretty much done. I'm lucky that I have been able to achieve what I have as people starting out now are going to need to be a hell of a lot better at this than the likes of me. If there are people on here in ten years time still making serious money betting on horses, I salute them.

I've put this on here because the General Betting forum is a bit of a ghost town these days and it won't simply disappear like it would on Horse Racing. I thought it might be an interesting read for some. Or it might not. Doesn't really matter. It is more a stream of consciousness written for my own benefit in case I question a few months down the line whether I have done the right thing by moving on. I'll keep my horses in training and go and see them a bit more, I just won't be on here battling with the robots scrabbling around for prices in an ever declining market.

Bit like War and Peace that, but nothing like as well written (I assume having never read any Tolstoy). Hope it's not too dull."

Far from dull in my opinion, and others agree if you read the thread and comments. 

One from GoBallistic matched my thoughts:
I don't envy anyone who does horses full time on here. In the two decades I've been on here I've gone from 90% horses and 10% other stuff to 10% horses and 90% other stuff. I would be skint otherwise. It's only because I still love the challenge of working out a big race that I do anything at all on the horses
If you stick to 'big races' the risk of non-triers is much reduced, and the likelihood the race will run to form is greater, but the challenge here is that you are in competition with a lot of other experts, either actual or proclaimed, when 'working out a big race'. 

The migration to 90% 'other stuff' is a smart move in my opinion, one that could be made smarter still by going to 100%. 

There are a lot of other sports and markets out there. If you have the ability to read form and find winners in horse racing, finding opportunities in less efficient markets in other sports should come relatively easily. And with the benefit of being far less time consuming, an important consideration for most of us. 

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