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Letting off steam

June 25, 2011 2 comments

For the first time in months I have started to think again about rejoining the nine-to-five world. It’s been a tough month so far and time is running out to turn it around. June started well and for the first 10 days or so I was riding high but things have tailed off somewhat since then. For example, it’s been another poor month on the Lay’ems, which as my biggest lay bank has quite an influence on my overall results. Not that anything has gone wrong with that system as such. The strike rate of 81 winners from 94 bets before today is pretty much spot on. The average odds of this month’s winning horses (losing bets) are 7.37 compared to an overall average of 6.80 but as we’re dealing with a small sample I won’t read too much into those figures. It seems like it’s just one of those months and it’s unfortunate that it comes immediately after a poor May for the Lay’ems too.

But these things happen. I know they happen and what’s more I know I can’t do a great deal about them but every now and then they can grind you down a bit. I will conduct a full monthly review at the start of July but I needed to let off a little steam before then. I know it is somewhat artificial to look at things month by month rather than taking a truly long-term view but I have to have some idea of how I am progressing so I have to take stock at certain points and month-ends are as good a time as any.

At the minute it feels like things aren’t quite going to plan and my portfolio isn’t generating the required profits at this stage. At times like this I think about adding new low-cost services and systems to help smooth the returns out somewhat and add a bit more balance. I have eliminated a number of systems and services from my portfolio in the last few months, for various reasons, and I haven’t replaced them all. I am currently trialling three new potential candidates: a horse racing backing service, a horse racing lay service and a dog racing lay system, although trials for the latter take up quite a bit of effort so that’s one on the back burner mostly. It remains to be seen whether any of them make the cut but by trialling a few new services I at least feel like I am making a conscious effort to find ways in which I can improve my bottom line. I am also looking at developing football systems as well as teaching myself certain web development skills to open up new potential revenue streams. I don’t want anyone to say that I am not trying.

Alternatively I could look to press certain edges within my portfolio further by raising stakes for some services but I’m not sure I am currently mentally prepared for the big losing days that will result. I am already leveraged pretty heavily (which reminds me, I still owe you my thoughts on leveraging, I must get round to that) and I don’t really want to crank that up any further and increase pressure on myself to succeed. It’s tricky striking a balance between looking to increase the stakes on some services to take advantage of their edge and also spreading the risk by having a suitable portfolio. On one hand I want to consolidate around my current portfolio and make the most of the edges those systems/services have but when the going gets tough my instinct is to dilute that portfolio with some new blood. At times I really don’t know what the right course of action is.

Ultimately though I am not fit to go back to work. I don’t have much energy at all these days. I feel flat, rundown and generally lousy. Consequently I struggle to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time. Were I gainfully employed I would be phoning in sick most days, I feel that crappy. And it’s a bit of a downward spiral too. When I feel rough and barely have any energy to do anything it gets a bit depressing and even mild depression can accentuate the symptoms. I saw my consultant the other day and told him I feel 84 rather than 34. He assured me that in a few months I will feel like I am 24. I bloody hope so but until such time as a surgeon finally removes this tumour and I get off these drugs and get my life back rejoining the real world of work isn’t an option. Still, if I have to go back to work I currently have a portfolio that would fit into most lunch times, assuming I drop back into the flexible working environments I am used to. At least then I could gamble on a part-time basis and months such as this one would bother me less as at least I’d have a guaranteed wage coming in.

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Categories: Daily Chatter

When two worlds collide

June 20, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s a bit hard to know what to write at the minute. I wanted this blog to be more than just a daily P&L update so I try to avoid talking too much about how things are going, except in the monthly reviews, obviously. Recently I have been casting an eye over my portfolio and conducting a few reviews which has given me some content but now my portfolio is settled with little need for any more reviews at this stage and no need to consider expanding my portfolio as I am happy with the balance of services. Therefore I am turning to gambling philosophy for this post.

Introduction
I have a fairly busy portfolio with more than a dozen horse racing systems and services including a mixture of backs and lays. As a result of following so many services there is bound to be some overlap in their selections. It may be that multiple tipsters want me to back the same horse or perhaps those same tipsters have all gone for different selections in the same race. Either way I will back each tip as suggested. In the former case that means a large stake going on one horse and in the latter case it means several bets in the same race which obviously can’t all win. But I treat every system individually and separately, each with a different betting bank and each on their own merit so situations like that do happen. However, what should one do when one tipster says to back a horse while another says to lay it?

Analysis
On the face of it we have two tipsters in opposition which is not too dissimilar to two tipsters backing different horses in the same race. In that case they can’t both win so at least one of the bets must be a loser. However, when one tipster puts a horse up to be backed and another puts up a lay on the same selection then obviously one bet will win and one will lose. If the horse wins the race then the back wins and the lay loses. If the horse fails to win then the lay bet is a winner while the back bet is obviously a loser. Having a guaranteed winner and a guaranteed loser puts a slightly different spin on things, as does the fact we are mixing bet types.

There are several schools of thought on the right way to handle this situation. Some will claim that the back bet should take precedence over the lay as the backing system/service has the greater return on investment and thus the lay should be voided and the selection backed. It’s true that a decent backing service will run at something around 10% ROI while a good lay system will operate at something closer to 1-2% but the figures don’t really lend themselves to a direct comparison due to the way lay system turnovers are calculated. 

This method also has a few potential drawbacks. Suppose the same horse is picked out by your worst-performing backing service and the best lay system you run – then what? How you define “worst-performing” and “best” is obviously open to some interpretation. If the backing service is making a long-term loss then you’d surely drop it from your portfolio and this situation wouldn’t arise but suppose for now the backing service in question is in some form of a slump while the lay system can do no wrong and is making significant profits. Do you still void the lay in favour of the back bet?

You could just place both bets in complete isolation, following each system/service without worrying about what any of the others in your portfolio advise. That’s how I handle multiple back bets in the same race so why not a mix of backs and lays? Depending on the prices taken and the relative stakes of the systems involved this approach can guarantee a small profit or a small loss on the race. Ultimately though this approach means you won’t win big but nor will you suffer a big loss. Only you can know how much this matters to you.

Suppose Tipster A advises a back of Pegasus at 5/1 for £50 while Tipster B wants to take Pegasus on and suggests a £50 lay at 6.0 or better. If the horse wins then you make £250 on the back and lose the same on the lay; if Pegasus loses then you lose your £50 stake but win £50 (exc. commission) on the lay. Of course, if you have backed the horse with a BOG bookie and it drifts to say 11/2 SP then you get a nice little bonus out of it. In the case of a Pegasus win you’re likely to get an email from Tipster A crowing about a good win for their service but because of the lay you have more or less broken even. In the case of the horse losing you may breathe a sign of relief as you (more or less) covered your lost stake. But will effectively missing out on a big win hurt more than the relief of not losing your stakes? Of course, if your stakes on the two tipsters are not even then you can win/lose bigger than in the previous example. If your lay stake is only £20 then you still get a decent return if the horse wins carrying your £50 but you don’t cover the full stake if the horse doesn’t win.

An extension of the above is to deliberately turn some of the bet into a trade. Assume our stakes are £50 for Tipster A (back) and £20 for Tipster B (lay). You could split your backing stake into two uneven portions, using £20 of it on a trade with the lay stake and placing the remaining £30 as a straight win bet. Get your trade right and you’re guaranteed a small profit on that, which then adds a little to the win bet if the horses comes home in front else it slightly softens the blow of losing if your horse is beaten.

There are no doubt other ways of dealing with this back-lay situation but which approach is the best? I don’t know. But I do have some data I can look at to help me decide. In the eight or so years I have been punting on horses I have 903 cases where I have backed and laid the same selection. Of those 903 selections 176 won their race (19.49% SR) for a total loss of -49.79pts across both the backs and the lays. This figure breaks down into a profit of 25.26pts on the lays and a loss of 75.05pts on the backs but matters are complicated by different staking plans for different tipsters and systems. Because of this I have renormalised the data using 1pt stakes on each bet which reduces the total loss of 18.70pts with a profit of 41.93pts from the lays and a loss of 60.63pts from the back bets.

So I have made a loss playing selections that various elements of my portfolio have thrown up as both a back and a lay. That surprises me but should it? Based on the fact that these horses have all been selected by lay systems (I have yet to find a decent laying service so all my lays are system-based) that operate with strike rates around the 85% sort of mark one should expect the vast majority of the selections to lose. Also the backing systems/services that pick these horses typically run at SRs in the region of 30-35% so again the horses are more likely to lose rather than win. If the horse loses then the lay bet wins and the back bet is a loser. Based on 1pt level stakes throughout that means the vast majority of the time we’d lose the 1pt back stake and win 1pt on the lay. But that lay bet is subject to commission so our profit on that bet is less than the stake lost backing the horse so a small overall loss results.

When the nag loses the relative prices of the back and lay bet don’t matter (assuming fixed stake lays) but when the horse wins the two sets of odds do come into play. If the lay odds are greater than the back odds the lay will lose more than the back bet wins – something that happened in 60 out of the 176 races where the selection won. So more than one-third of the time I was assured a loss due to the price difference in the two bets. Therefore in 727 races I lost a small amount due to commission and in a further 60 races I suffered a loss due to laying at greater odds than I backed at making it a total of 787 out of 903 races (87.15%). On that basis it’s little wonder my figures show an overall loss.

Knowing that these back-lay selections make a loss would I not be better leaving them alone completely? OK, I’d actually be much better off just laying them rather than backing and laying them but the principle is the same: is my current approach of backing and laying the same horse correct? There is a slightly tricky element to doing anything other than what I do presently and it’s to do with the time some tipsters release their daily advice. I try to get on the advised backs early to take advantage of BOG prices. However, this means I may back certain horses before I later find other systems say to lay the same animal. I could hold off backing anything until I have all my daily selections available but this would mean missing out on several BOG prices and I am not prepared to do that.

I prefer to back early and lay relatively close to the off in order to be able to assess late price movements. I haven’t always followed this method but it is something I have been working on for the last couple of years maybe. Is it working? Of the 903 horses fitting the back and lay criteria I have been able to obtain better back odds than lay odds on 556 of them, equivalent to  61.57%. Since the start of 2010 that figure is 298/406 or 73.40%. It seems that recently I have been much more able to put myself into a better position with these horses. Yes, most of the time the horse will lose and I will end up making a small loss due to commission on the lay bet but when the horse does win nearly three-quarters of the time I am in a position to make a bigger profit on the back bet than my liability on the lay.

Conclusions
I used to buy in to the argument when the same horse is tipped by both a backer and layer that one should favour the back bet due to the greater ROI inherent in such bets. I fell out of that mould some years ago but this is the first time I have seen figures that clearly contradict that point of view. The horse is far more likely to lose than win given the strike rates of all systems/services involved in which case one is far more likely to end up with a losing bet if backing the horse so laying it would add some cover and protect most of the stake.

My figures show the most profitable option is to forget about backing any horse that is picked by the lay systems and to just bet against the horse in question. However, that’s not my preferred option for several reasons. Checking the racing results at the end of the day, or whenever, and spotting a nice winner for one of the tipsters you follow is a lovely feeling. Almost polar opposite to that is knowing that not only have you not backed the horse despite the tipster’s advice but you have laid it. Ouch! While most of the tipster’s followers are celebrating the win you are nursing a severely dented wallet. I really hate that feeling, which is why I favour the semi-trade approach.

I try to get the back part of the action on with a BOG bookmaker as soon as the bet is available but wait till much nearer the off to place the lay side. If the horse drifts I am open to a bigger liability but my back odds are increasing too. On the other hand if the horse shortens I can lay for lower odds than I have guaranteed on the back bet. This approach lets the exchange markets settle down from their opening positions too. It allows liquidity to build and the market to take proper shape, something I really value. And with this semi-trade method it doesn’t matter if the back and lay stakes are not equal as I will look to effectively set up a trade for the stakes that do match, a technique outlined earlier. By adopting this tactic I don’t open myself up to potentially big wins on these overlapping selections but nor do I expose myself to a significant loss either.

My methods may not work for you; they may not suit your style. You may favour backing over laying or the other way round. In some respects it doesn’t really matter how you treat these back-lay horses but you should be consistent in you approach. Whatever method you pick, stick with it unless you have solid evidence that an alternative approach would be better.

Categories: General, Philosophy

Review – Football Elite Shortlist

June 11, 2011 2 comments

Overview
The Football Elite service is one I have been with for a couple of years or so now and I am very happy with it. Their tips are split into two different types: the main recommended bets (often called account bets) and shortlist bets. The main bets get a full write-up illustrating why Matt thinks the bet offers value whereas the shortlist bets are just given as Team A to beat Team B along with the prices for the main markets (win, draw no bet, double chance, Asian handicap). Matt also stated throughout this season that there is not enough data yet to prove whether the shortlist bets are profitable in the long run. There are now two seasons worth of data for the shortlist bets so Matt has taken a view on the value of these bets now, something I will come to after first looking over my own figures from this season.

Detailed Analysis
As I mentioned earlier, the Football Elite Shortlist bets come with advised prices across several different markets. Prior to the start of the 2010/11 season I decided to follow the Football Elite Shortlist bets on the draw no bet (DNB) market. This seemed to be the best option for me based on the previous season’s data. In 2009/10 the shortlist bets made a profit of 15.80pts betting draw no bet at a ROI of 12.20%. This was not the most profitable option as the double chance bets finished the season with 18.61pts profit (14.40% ROI) but on the basis that more firms offered DNB markets, including Betfair, I went down that route. I could have constructed my own double chance bets but I took the easy option in exchange for a small amount of profit.

I didn’t get on all the Shortlist bets this season due to my unavailability for betting at a couple of points during the season so my figures may differ a little from the official figures. And of course there is no SP for football bets so my figures are based on the odds at which I struck my bets and include my commission rate at the time of settlement where the bets were placed on Betfair. I placed 134 bets of which 48 were winners and a further 38 were draws which returned stakes. Overall a loss of 5.92pts was recorded at a return on investment of -4.43%. The longest losing run spanned nine bets while the longest winning run was five consecutive winners.

Matt’s official figures for this season’s Football Elite Shortlist bets are 152 bets of which 57 were winners and a further 39 were drawn matches which resulted in a loss 4.98pts (-3.2% ROI) on the DNB markets. As you can see from that I missed a few bets and as a result cost myself a few points profit but my figures were more or less in line with the official standings. That’s good to know.

Why are these bets shortlist bets and not main account bets? There could be several reasons but they probably include factors such as having less confidence in the bet, any stats/trends used to identify likely bets may be less reliable than for the main bets or the league as a whole may be less reliable as a betting medium. Whatever the reasons Matt has rightly identified the shortlist bets are not as strong as his main recommendations. That doesn’t mean the bets don’t serve a purpose though. I’m sure considerable amounts of effort are put into selecting each and every tip that forms part of the Football Elite service whether it’s an account bet or a shortlist bet. None of these bets would be sent out to members unless it was felt they had merit. So what is Matt’s take on the Football Elite Shortlist bets?

In his end of season review Matt identified the fact that the shortlist bets are best followed as win only bets. That’s the only market that has made a profit in both of the seasons for which there is data. It’s not a very big profit though and Matt is quick to accept that. In fact he goes on to say that the shortlist bets are probably best used to smooth out the ride somewhat. For example, during a horror spell in January for the main bets the Shortlist made a nice profit that would have softened the blow. To my mind it seems the Football Elite Shortlist bets are more or less akin to the ProBandit NQ bets – included in the service as something of an optional extra to protect against some of the more severe losing runs the service may experience but not necessarily significantly profitable in their own right.

It seems that next season the Football Elite service will continue with the Shortlist bets separate from the recommended bets and that they will be advised as win only. I think this is a sensible move allowing members to follow or ignore the Shortlist bets as they see fit. Personally I shall be following the recommended bets only. My focus at this time is on systems and services that can generate a solid return. I get that from the main Football Elite bets but not from the Shortlist selections. Matt rightly identifies a number of situations where one may want to use the Shortlist service to increase turnover with a small risk of making a loss but none of those currently apply to me. I am looking to increase my overall ROI rather than increasing turnover so the Football Elite Shortlist bets don’t fit into my plan and will be dropped. I must emphasise though that this decision doesn’t reflect badly on the quality of the Football Elite service as I will still be following the main recommendations, it is only the weaker Shortlist bets that are being dropped.

Categories: Football, Reviews

An unreal price for a reality TV contestant

June 5, 2011 Leave a comment

I don’t often place many of my own bets. I have a portfolio of tipsters and systems that I rely on instead. I don’t often get the chance to examine all the necessary data and thus have a truly informed opinion about the event in which I may have a bet. If there is a market for which a lot of data exists, as is the case for most sports bets, I like to study it and look for a profitable angle I feel I could exploit. If there isn’t a lot of data available I tend to shy away from getting involved. I don’t really go in for backing my gut feelings with money.

I recently read about a cricket bet that grabbed my attention. I usually read the Betting Zone market moves column despite the fact it often acts as a promotional arm for the UK bookies. The updates are often based around something the press officers or some other official spokesman have said in order to build interest in a certain market but in that respect it’s no different to much of the tabloid press. The market moves column does highlight a few interesting markets though and the other day they noted that 6/1 was available with one firm (I forget which) about England to win the second test against Sri Lanka by an innings although other firms were offering just 5/2. Their comment on this was that the 5/2 was more realistic with the last three tests all ending in an England win by an innings so snap up the 6/1 while it’s available. I rarely, if ever, act on such advice without first checking all the facts for myself but when I read stories like that things do tend to bounce around in my head.

The next day was the start of the test match and I was straight on to Betfair to check out something that occurred to me overnight. How could England win by an innings? If they bat first they would need to pile on the runs, bowl Sri Lanka out for a low enough score that they could enforce the follow on then bowl them all out again for a lower aggregate score than England managed in their first innings. If Sri Lanka bat first then England need to skittle them for a low total, score heavily themselves taking their score a long way past Sri Lanka’s and then take 10 Sri Lankan wickets for fewer runs than the difference between the first innings scores. That sounds more complicated than it is but in essence it means England need to bat very well and take 20 quick wickets. England may have started as firm favourites for the match but to my mind it would take some fairly specific circumstances to win by more than an innings and that 5/2 seemed way too short. My plan then was to lay that winning margin but unfortunately I couldn’t find a suitable market. I was sure the price was wrong but couldn’t find a way to take advantage. Shame really as there was no way England looked like they could win by an innings when they were 22-3. Admittedly they recovered to 486 all out giving them a chance if they could take 20 Sri Lankan wickets for less than that total but that is looking increasingly unlikely with Sri Lanka making 231-1 at the end of the second day.

Fortunately another pricing error (in my opinion at least) occurred yesterday and this time I was able to make hay. With the cricket bet there would be an array of stats available online if I bothered to look them up but initially I just wanted to know the option to lay the innings win existed and would worry about the exact price later. This time there wouldn’t be the wealth of data available and I would have to rely on instinct, which as I said is something I try not to do when money is at stake.

I was watching the final of Britain’s Got Talent having watched the auditions and semi-finals; I do like a bit of reality TV now and then. Going into it last night’s final I knew Ronan Parke was odds-on but that Jai McDowall had been coming in for some support. The Betting Zone column had brought that to my attention earlier that afternoon. I had no real plans to get involved but it is important to be flexible and to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. When it came down to it I thought several of the acts were better in their semi-finals than in the final but what do I know? The judges were heaping praise on some acts for stepping it up when I felt their performances had dipped. Still, what did I know about these things?

When the phone lines opened I took out my mobile and logged into Betfair to take a quick look at how the market stood. Did the odds reflect my opinion on some of the acts had performed? That was all I was really looking for although I did have half an idea that I should take on Ronan Parke. Earlier in the day he stood at around 4/5 to 10/11 depending on the bookie. If he had been clipped in a bit I would have a small interest as I didn’t feel he deserved to be heavy odds on. I honestly couldn’t believe what I saw when the market loaded. It was real ‘fill your boots’ pricing but I am slightly ashamed to admit that I held back and played only to moderate stakes. This struck me as a real opportunity but my natural cautiousness combined with the unwillingness to back my own opinion without data to back me up meant I didn’t take full advantage. Ronan Parke was trading at an unbelievable 1.18/1.19 on Betfair just a few minutes after phone lines had opened. He was effectively umpteen lengths clear with the line rapidly approaching and the rest of the field looking very tired according to those prices. During the couple of refreshes I saw while checking the market the money at 1.18 was being snapped up and I thought I’m having some of that. Bang! I’ve put in a lay at 1.17 and a quick check a few minutes later shows it was matched, although I would have happily drifted my price out a few points in order to get matched if necessary. I had thought about opposing Ronan Parke and once I saw that price I didn’t even think twice, I was laying him in the winner market. I felt I had a really excellent position in an unpredictable competition.

Reality TV isn’t my forte at all. I don’t watch that much of it but I do tend to watch The X Factor and BGT. However, I don’t think my opinions mesh well with those of the general public so I find betting on these shows hard as I am not in tune with popular opinion. I’ve never voted on any of these things as I don’t believe in paying more to watch television than I already have and often find myself amazed at who the voting public have backed. It’s a tricky medium for betting when there are so many WTF results.

This time I thought back over previous years of Britain’s Got Talent. I seemed to recall (but didn’t verify) that kids tend to get to the final but generally don’t win. OK, George Sampson won a few years back but he’s the exception to the rule. The public may have their reasons for child acts not winning and they may be subconscious. Perhaps it is the £100,000 prize with the public feeling this should be awarded to an adult who can use it to further their own career rather than going to a kid’s parents who may not always act in their child’s best interest. Maybe they feel that children will have more opportunities in the future so an adult act should be given a chance now. Or perhaps in the case of singers they don’t know what will happen to the kid’s voice as they mature so they glittering career this child star is supposed to have may disappear in a year or so. An adult singer’s voice won’t change so you know they can continue in that mould for years to come. They are a more reliable prospect if you like. Whatever the reasons, kids do well but tend not to win this competition.

There is also the ‘fact’ that favourites don’t really do very well. I say ‘fact’ as that is how I remember these things and I haven’t looked back to see if that really is the case. Susan Boyle was heavy odds-on and got beaten by Diversity. I can’t remember for sure but I think Spelbound were favourites for a lot of the competition but weren’t ridiculously short. Maybe favourites have a reasonable record, I dunno. Either way 1.17 was way too short in this competition so for minimal risk I backed my own judgement and went against Ronan Parke. I was rather smug at 10pm last night but also wished I had backed my judgment with more conviction i.e larger stakes. Still, the feeling of being right is rather satisfying and not something I have felt for a while. As I said at the start my own bets are few and far between but I generally have a pretty decent record when I do get involved and last night was one of those that just felt right and I was delighted with the result.

Categories: Daily Chatter, General

It feels so right, it can’t be wrong

June 4, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve got the theme from Happy Days in my head now thanks to that post title. Oh well. But in actual fact it refers to a decision I made recently – I’m giving up poker. I can’t make a decent profit from it, and in fact a lot of the time I struggle to make even a slight profit, so what’s the point? There are many better ways I could spend my time rather than banging my head against the poker wall. It took a three-and-a-half hour session at the tables followed by five minutes in the shower (where I do all my best thinking) for me to decide that poker isn’t for me at this time. And once I had made that decision a calm came over everything, the sort of feeling you get when you are absolutely confident that the decision you have just made is absolutely the right one.

I have been trying on and off for a couple of years now to add to my bottom line on a consistent basis by playing poker and I have failed every time. I have tried Rush Poker, no-limit cash games, SnGs, limit cash and so on but nothing has really hit the spot. I may have a good spell and start to think I have cracked it but then the wheels come flying off and I am back to square one. I have been forced to admit that poker is not the juicy source of profit I thought it would be. Perhaps there was a certain degree of arrogance in my thinking but for the last couple of years I have regarded online poker as a money well, a profit source I could tap on a regular basis with relatively little effort. If the horse racing and sports betting isn’t really going too well this month then a spell on the poker tables should help things along. That was my thinking. I wasn’t playing to anything other than small stakes but even so I felt booking some wins at that level would see the bank consistent grow and as I felt my skills increase I would step up the stakes and make greater returns. Theoretically sound but it didn’t work in practice as the consistent profits failed to arrive.

It’s easy to think that my health is part of the problem and prevents me from really getting into a game of poker and giving it my all but it’s nigh on impossible to prove that so it becomes an easy excuse. It’s also an excuse I don’t think I should be using any longer. The fact of the matter is this: I am not playing to the best of my ability when I sit down at the tables. I can’t maintain my concentration and would need some form of blinker in order to stay focused on the game in hand. That regardless of the number of tables I am playing, although I always limit myself to a number I can handle sensibly. More than six and I tend to get flustered anyway so usually only play four at once. I have tried different game speeds and types but the same problems always arise. I’m off checking my email, reading forums etc rather than focusing on how other players at the tables are playing. There just isn’t enough going on at an online poker table to engage my brain. I have thought about upping the stakes so that the money actually means something but I am concerned about the corresponding increase in opponents’ skill levels and the fact that if I can’t play winning poker at small stakes I will just lose money quicker at larger stakes. So I have decided to step away from the game altogether.

That’s not to say I will never play again. I have kept my poker bankrolls in tact at Poker Stars and Full Tilt but right now the game is filed under ‘entertainment’ in my head. I may play now and then to pass the time, just for fun albeit with real money as the play money games are a joke. But any poker I play then isn’t with a view to making a consistent profit. Not that I plan to play losing poker, it’s more that I accept that the stakes I play to are the price of entertainment for however long I stay at the tables. Maybe one day I will work out what is preventing me from playing poker as well as I know I can and address the problem such that I can profit from poker in the manner I hoped I could over the last couple of years but I won’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

The shower session that led to this decision also threw up a few other interesting thoughts. I soon realised that rather than playing cards I am better off with some form of structured learning, teaching myself new skills. I need to keep my brain engaged and active but I also need to see progress in whatever I am working on else I lose interest. Poker is a prime example of that actually. I expected to make consistent profits or at least see my skills slowly improve to the point where I could be confident of beating a certain level of opponent (based on stakes). That didn’t happen so my interest in the game waned although I was still sitting down at the tables, playing worse and worse which just fuelled the downward spiral and frustrated me. I have a number of gambling related projects that have cropped up over the past five years or so and I am keen to develop some of these ideas but as I lack some of the required skills I have never got very far with them. Now is the time to change that by learning some of those skills. The idea is to buy a few books, learn what I need to know and start bashing away at some of these projects to see where they take me. With that in mind I have picked up a book on HTML and CSS as several of the ideas are web-based and I could do with better web development skills. A solid grounding in the basics seems like a good idea with a view to expanding my skills later on to include things like PHP.

So that’s the new plan – poker come and gone in an afternoon. As the title says though, this decision feels so right that it can’t possibly be the wrong thing to do. I should have done it much sooner if truth be told. I came halfway down this route several times over the years but never quite reached that tipping point that would have seen me give up poker in favour of other projects. I have to make sure I see the decision out this time though. It does feel like the right move this time so hopefully I won’t have any problems on that front.

That said, it’s going to be a little while before I am able to really settle down with the books as there are still a number of reviews awaiting my attention. I managed to complete my monthly review for May yesterday and published that but there are still a few Soccer Systems reviews to complete as well as a couple of services in my portfolio to cast a quick eye over. I hope to get all that out the way as soon as possible, no point dragging it out any more than necessary, but based on past experience there is a good few days work in that lot so the HTML will just have to wait a little longer, which is a bit of a shame as I am burning to get on with it. Perhaps I need to work part-time on those reviews to free up some time to learn new skills that I am sure will serve me well in the future.

Categories: Philosophy, Poker