Monday 1 January 2001

Maria's Laying System

Maria's Laying System achieved some notoriety in 2005-2006 when its creator (Maria Santonix) increased a starting bank of £3,000 to six figures (£100,603.78 to be precise) in 303 days.

She promised to post all her lays through the end of August, and with perfect timing made it to six figures on the 31st of that month, 2006. As promised, she stopped posting her selections after that.

According to the Honest Betting Reviews site:
What came to light only later was that Maria’s father was connected with several bookmakers, and through her contacts, she was able to obtain privileged information that helped with her selections. No doubt this contributed considerably to her winnings.

While most of us do not have access to the kind of data Maria had, we can still profit from her laying system. But we must state that her selections were, in fact, remarkable. Of her 4,131 selections over 303 days she achieved 3,547 wins; in other words, a strike rate of almost 86%. While Maria’s system does not in any way help us with our selections, it does provide a mathematical plan that will help us maximise our winnings.
She certainly mentions her father several times, and clearly her selections were the key to the success of her system, but it's an interesting study in following a system and how a staking system can increase profits.

This way of staking is actually truly excellent but it wont change a losing system into a winning one. This is something that many people need to understand before they try and replicate what Maria did. Maria felt she had a winning system for laying horses and so she used this staking plan to compound the profits and grow her bank. Something she certainly achieved by turning £3000 into £100,000 within a year!
Her initial posts on the system from September 2005 are reproduced here, lightly edited for clarity.

I've been reluctant to start off this thread, because I'm frightened of its turning out to be the kiss of death. You have what you imagine to be a good system and start to explain it in public, and suddenly a wheel comes off?

I've come up with a laying system.

I'll record its daily selections and results in this thread, until I get jeered off, anyway.

I'll try to post each day's selections by 1.00pm at the very latest, but I don't think I'll often manage to post them the night before.

Comments, general heckling and questions (but not about the details of my selection-process, please) are very welcome as we go along, but I'd better start off with something like an "FAQ".

STAKING: I want to minimise risks and maximise returns, of course (who doesn't?), which are always pretty difficult, not to say conflicting, objectives to combine. Like all forms of betting, the selections are only a part of the story. Betting on horses is notorious for people being able to have good selections and still lose money through poor money management. With laying in particular, IMHO the commonest reasons for failure are under-funding (not having a bank big enough for what you're trying to do) and disillusionment (getting too easily fed up with an inevitable losing run).

This isn't the time or place to get involved in a big discussion about whether the selections or the money management are more important - it suffices to say that without both aspects being good, sensible, reliable and proven, it's not possible to make steady profits.

The two common staking methods for laying are:-

(i) Laying to a fixed stake: I don't use this for two main reasons: first, the "accidents" are proportionally too expensive; secondly, it seems to me that it fails adequately to make the profits "deserved" after successfully identifying and laying shorter-priced losers.

(ii) Laying to a fixed liability: I don't use this either, because it's inherently mathematically unsound - it ignores the fact that accidents are far more likely to happen at the lower end of the scale: if I lay a 2/1 favourite (i.e. I lay it at an exchange price of 3.0), the overall risk of that bet losing (the horse winning) is of course higher than one which was a lay at 8.0 (7/1).

Instead I try to combine the best of both worlds by using what looks like a complicated mixture of the two systems mentioned above, but it's actually perfectly straightforward.

My staking system: I lay in three distinct exchange-price-bands of fixed backer's stakes.

At one end of the scale, if the exchange price available about the horse is less than 3.5 (less than 5/2), I lay to a stake of 1% of my current laying system bank. At the other end, if the price is between 7.5 and 11 (the latter figure being my cut-off: I don't lay anything higher than 10/1), I lay to a stake of 0.4% of my current bank. If the price is in-between these two bands (i.e. prices of 3.6 to 7.4), then I lay to a stake of 0.6% of my bank. As they say in those TV infomercials, "But wait - there's more!": I also combine this staking plan with a ratchet system (see below).

The are two other advantages with this staking system: first, the practicality of the situation when using the exchanges is that the backer's stake (rather than one's own liability) is the value which has to be typed into the little box on the screen, and this makes it quick and simple to do; secondly, nearly a year's figures have proven to me that this method minimises the variability of the results, and that's very, very important.

To summarise, with examples based on a starting bank of £3,000 (if you're reckless enough to try them, you can scale up or down proportionally to your own bank).

Prices below 3.5: lay to 1% of bank - backer's stake £30 (my liability under £75)

Prices from 3.6 to 7.4: lay to 0.6% of bank - backer's stake £18 (my liability £46.80 - £115.20)

Prices from 7.5 to 11: lay to 0.4% of bank - backer's stake £12 (my liability £78 - £132)

Ratchet System

If making profits, I increase all stakes in proportion to the bank on a daily basis. (I'd love to do it on a bet-by-bet basis, but that would assume that anyone following the system can be glued to their screen all afternoon, which isn't realistic. If you're working for a living - shock horror: please excuse my language! - you need to be able to put the bets on during your lunch-hour.)

This means that at the end of each day, the next day's "current bank" figure is known. For example, if there's a good start and the £3,000 bank grows, then the stakes are worked out as proportion of the new higher figure, and increase slightly the next day. This may sound insignificant but it makes a huge difference to the results.

In contrast, after a losing day, I don't reduce stakes unless and until 35% of the highest level of the bank is lost, when I essentially re-start using the same percentages, but now of the new "65%-sized bank".

Example: from a £3,000 start, if there's a net loss on the first day, the next day I still stake as if from a bank of £3,000 (i.e. to backer's stakes of £30, £18 and £12 depending on the price about each selection) until reaching £1,950 when those backer's stakes would become £19.50, £11.70 and £7.80 until the bank gets back up to £3,000 again (or - dare I mention it? - down to £1,267.50 - a further 35% loss).

The 35% drop is always worked out from the highest point of the bank. If it happens (and so far it hasn't - famous last words!) I'll explain it again.

It may sound a bit complicated but it's actually very simple. Not easy, but very simple.

Please don't imagine that I'm claiming this to be a perfect laying system. There are one or two anomalies in it, but after lots of analysis and calculation in the early days, over the last year I've found this system practicable, straightforward and robust. And that's what matters.


(i) It's essential to keep (at the very least on paper) a separate bank for this system: the money can, if unavoidable, be mixed up in an account with other betting funds, but at the very least the "books" must be kept separately, otherwise you don't know where you are - it's not possible to win in the long run without keeping good records -oooh, contentious!

(ii) Terminology: there's always understandable confusion about discussing laying. For the record, if there's any apparent ambiguity, I'm always referring to the bet rather than the horse. So if I say that out of the day's selections, three won and one lost, and that the day's strike-rate was 75%, I mean that three of the horses lost and one was a winner on which I paid out. (But if that's the actual strike-rate every day, we won't get far: mixed-price-bracket laying systems generally need a very high strike-rate).

(iii) This is a slow and steady system, not a get-rich-quick scheme, and any attempt to turn it into that, or to escalate the stakes when losing, is destined for disaster. With laying, in particular, the swings and arrows of outrageous fortune can be particularly vicious, and it's all too easy for gradually accumulated profits to be wiped out quickly by an uncharacteristically unlucky run. I hope that my staking system allows for this, to a large degree.

(iv) Some of the selections tend to shorten in price and others tend to drift. The reality is that it's not possible, overall, to lay at SP and I would therefore be misleading people about my profits if I quoted the results to SP. So I'm going to keep two separate sets of results.

1. SP + 10%: These results will quote all prices to SP + 10% (i.e. as if the price, from the layer's point of view, was 10% worse than SP).

2. My own actual results, recording the prices I've found and used.

No method of doing this is going to be perfect, but before deciding on this method of keeping the results, I've talked it over with the Administrator and we've decided, hopefully, that this "double results" system is the least open to criticism.

(v) If a selection is priced at more than 11 on the exchanges when I first look at it (and this really isn't going to happen often, because they make me nervous), then with one exception I leave my bet unmatched at 11 and just wait and see what happens. The exception is that if it's priced at more than 14 to lay, I cross it off the list completely and don't even go back to look at it again (this is a half-hearted attempt to avoid becoming the victim of any "major coups"). In the "starting-price + 10% results", I won't be recording as a bet anything that set off at more than 10/1.

(vi) The exchanges charge a variable commission on profits. I'm going to allow for the highest commission at the most expensive of the exchanges, and deduct 5% from all wins. (Note that this is calculated on a "per event" basis, so if you lay two or more horses in a race, the commission is charged only on your net profit on that race.)

(vii) This is (comparatively, at least) a "high turnover" system. The idea is that every bet made represents "value" and has a positive expectation, and therefore the more of them there are, the better the returns. It's not for the faint-hearted! Back these with real money at your own risk and never with money that you can't afford to lose.

(viii) I've found that it's nearly always a mistake to "pick and choose" with this system. Lay all the selections (that can be done within the cut-off of 11) or none of them.

(ix) When I put the bets on, I don't always just take the best current price, depending partly on how much of a hurry I'm in and whether I have shoe-shopping plans for the afternoon. Unless I think the price is particularly likely to lengthen (see "Lay, Back and Think of Winning" by Nigel Paul for the best simple explanation of how you can judge this), I'm likely to leave my lay unmatched at a price in-between what's available to back and what's available to back. Usually my lay will get matched. But I only do this if I can keep an eye on it, and change my mind quickly about what price to lay at if the market moves against me.

(x) Within my cut-off of 11, the market moving against me when I have an unmatched bet is not a reason for me to abandon a lay: if it's part of the system and it's not above 11, I lay it.

(xi) The overwhelming majority of the lays in this thread will be win lays, but there will be the occasional place lay included too. These are much rarer, but I have a very high strike-rate with them.

(xii) Patience and discipline lead to profits.

Maria, who I believe was from Riga in Latvia and in her twenties, posted her selections (lays of horses in the UK and Ireland) and recorded her results in a dedicated thread on the “Expert Betting Advice” forum for almost a year, 884 pages! 

While she kept her selection process to herself, 
What criteria do you use to select the lays?

Ooooh, I could tell you, Atc ... but then I would have to kill you ...
she did sometimes expand a little on her method:
The thing is that a lot more of my selections drift than shorten in the market. This is, really, how I get away with listing the selections here in the first place, to be honest, without it having much effect on the prices I lay to myself. I take loads of early laying prices if I think they'll drift, which I try to judge, with varying degrees of success by "trading-style chart-reading" on the exchange. 

The times that this causes me a problem are (like yesterday's accident) when it's too early to tell, for a late evening runner, because even Betfair doesn't have enough liquidity on those earlier in the day. So I just leave positions unmatched at 11.0 (just like I leave a lot of earlier ones unmatched at 7.4).

I'm gradually been learning from nearly 2 years of doing this, now, that overall I make more profit and a better POI on my higher selections, and less on my lower ones. I happen to know a few full-time professional layers (mostly because my father's one of them!) and they all tell me the same thing: the way to make secure and steady income is by laying in the sort of 5.0 or 6.0 up to 15.0 bracket; nothing much shorter - with the exception of some "value shorties" which I'm stuck with for the moment anyway, because my system produces them and I'm usually pretty strict about including system selections and not just leaving them out because I "don't like the look of them" because my judgement isn't good enough to start doing that, and I'm putting it mildly! 

So for me, making the cut-off any shorter is an absolute no: I want to make it longer, really, not shorter. I imagine that the reality of available prices is such that if you make it 10.5 or less, you'll actually be missing out a much higher proportion of the selections than you might expect just from looking at the SP's, and really you'll end up following "selected selections" rather than "selections". It might be a good and viable and profitable system, and it might work well for you, and I'm not trying to talk you out of it at all; but it's not my system, and it's not what works for me.
Towards the end, she posted some more details about her background and her thoughts on following systems were perceptive:
It's incredibly hard work. I have, in my case, been particularly lucky to have had very good teaching (and from quite a young age!) from a very long-term successful punter who happened to be my father, an opportunity obviously not available to the overwhelming majority of punters. But it has also been very hard work, and very many years of it. 
I think that a lot of people imagine that it's as easy as dreaming up a suitable system or method that works, and then just sticking to it. The reality is that that's terribly, terribly difficult to do, and things tend to have a limited shelf-life of viability and profitability anyway. 
I think it's also very true that different styles and approaches suit different people.

What many people are looking for, in my opinion, is (one way or another) a "short-cut" and there really aren't any. Or at least, the ones that do very occasionally arise are pretty difficult to identify and also not so easy for many people to follow (like this thread, perhaps!). But the reality is that many people find that when they follow a successful system, it isn't successful for them, because actually following a successful system is something that some people are (for various different reasons) not so well equipped to do.
The point I'm trying to build my way up to making here is that developing, analysing, researching and using "systems" (for the benefit of those of us who are not exactly steeped in racing, barely know one end of a horse from the other and have no real, on-the-ground experience at all), isn't in any way a "quick or lazy substitute" for all
that knowledge and experience; it's every bit as time-consuming, difficult, specialised and labour-intensive as any other approach. It just entails a different sort of work.

When asked:

"is there a reasoning behind your price limits, i.e. up to 3.5, 3.6 to 7.4, 7.5 to 11?

she generously expanded on her thinking with a detailed reply:

Well, yes there was when I produced it a couple of years ago, after fiddling about with many different possibilities (and having some much more sophisticated software available then than I have now). 

I wanted to be able to break it up into four chunks (there's 11.5 to about 15.5 as well, but those don't appear in this thread) for all the reasons given in the thread's first couple of posts, to be able to avoid the worst features of laying either purely to fixed stakes or purely to fixed liabilities, and these turned out to be the most natural dividing lines, the first cut-off of 3.5 mostly for "money management reasons" and the second of 7.5 on "frequency" grounds (the point being that in practice, many selections that I want to lay tend to cross that line at some point during their market travels and it therefore seemed a potentially good discipline to create one's arbitrary chart/table landmark there, "waiting for 7.4" being an activity with a reasonable expectation of avoiding disappointment often enough to make it worthwhile). 

I haven't looked at it much since then, I'm suitably embarrassed to say, and of course there's absolutely no reason whatsoever to imagine that it would be suitable for anyone else's selections. This is why I'm always (even now) a bit taken aback when people thank me for the "brilliant staking system" which they are adopting for use with their own selections. I would actually think it far more promising if they were adapting it for use with their own selections (after studying a few thousand results in detail with appropriate spreadsheets etc. - not by "guessing"!!), rather than just adopting it! But this, I think, is really what you're asking about, and my answer is "yes; do that".

I think the overall concept of having these different price-brackets as a way of breaking the thing up, rather than using the "sliding-scale approach" of fixed liability is a valid and sound one, and constitutes a staking system which is safe and profitable if the selections are profitable at fixed liability to start with, obviously.

There will always be people who will try to come up with a staking system which will make profitable a system that wasn't profitable to start with at level stakes/liability; and even more alarmingly there will always be some who apparently manage to do it (the key word, of course, being "apparently"!), but there have to be large numbers of "new layers" coming into the markets all the time and eventually wiping themselves out: that's how markets work, I'm afraid.

The key sentence there is that the system is profitable because the selections are profitable at fixed liability, not because there is anything magical about the laying bands. 

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