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The best laid plans…

September 28, 2011 1 comment

September hasn’t exactly been the triumphant return to action that I was hoping for. In fact it has been somewhat of a disaster and at times I have seriously questioned the wisdom of carrying on. But it’s in my blood, it’s certainly under my skin, and I can’t just stop doing something that deep down I love doing even if it does sometimes kick me in the knackers so I will carry on regardless. However, I am cutting this month slightly short to go on holiday for a week. I feel like I need a break despite the fact I recently had five or six weeks off, but that was different. That was for health reasons, this time it’s to re-evaluate and take stock. At least that’s the plan. But when does anything I do ever really go to plan? And this is no exception as I will explain shortly.

I spent part of yesterday doing a bit of blog housekeeping, namely writing the monthly reviews for July and August. July’s review hints at some of the frustration I have been feeling of late. During the last six months or so I have failed to make much of a profit and I haven’t been able to really work out why. I feel like I have a balanced portfolio but there is no way of measuring this, at least not quantitatively. It’s easy to measure profits, rate of return and so on but how could one measure portfolio balance? Obviously you want to maximise profits and rates of return and being able to track changes in these quantities can help you do that but if you can’t measure how balanced your portfolio is in the first place you can’t monitor how that balance changes over time.

What makes the ideal portfolio? This varies significantly from person to person based on circumstances, attitude to risk, what they want to achieve from gambling so on. Personally I like a fairly busy portfolio (although if I fail to make any real profits for much longer I may have to go back to work in which case I will rue building up a large portfolio as I won’t have the time to run it) with a mix of sports and betting types. I have all that: horse racing, football and sports betting are all covered; I have backs & lays, win only & each-way. On the face of it it seems as though I am starting from a solid foundation yet I am still struggling to make any real money at the minute. Why?

Perhaps the problem is actually my staking rather than the composition of my portfolio. It’s all well and good having plenty of services covering a variety of markets but if you’re not staking the best performers at higher levels than the underperforming services then you won’t make money. Maybe it’s time I thoroughly reviewed each and every betting bank, looking for places where I can safely raise stakes and where I should reduce stakes. Bear in mind though that as my ROI has been relatively stable for a good while now I would like to increase my overall turnover and thus increase my profits so it’s a delicate balance getting my staking right.

And it’s about now that things deviate from the plans I had laid out. I took a wee break in the middle of writing this post as I had an appointment with the local practice nurse so she could give my massive scar the once-over to make sure it has all healed properly now (it has, thankfully). During the walk to the surgery it hit me. Everything suddenly fell into place and I realised what was wrong, which was both pleasing (because I had finally cracked it) and disappointing (because it had taken till now to spot what is actually quite an obvious problem).

Whenever I take on a new system/service I start it off with small stakes while I learn what to expect in terms of win frequencies, odds attainability and so on. My portfolio has undergone a fair amount of change in the last year or so which means much of my portfolio is still operating to relatively small stakes. However, there are a few systems/services that have been around for a while now and are staked at a higher level than these newcomers. This is a big problem because it effectively means that a fairly small fraction of my portfolio determines whether or not I have a profitable day/week/month/whatever. This staking disparity means that the performance of systems such as the Lay’em lays and services such as ProBandit’s A List heavily dictate the overall performance of my portfolio. Any losses on the larger staked elements of my portfolio cannot be undone by success on other systems/services unless they record truly staggering figures. I clearly need to improve the staking balance and the easiest way to do this is to raise the stakes on some of the relatively new services that I now feel comfortable with and review the stakes for the heavyweights such as the A List.

Now that I have finally worked out what needs to be done I may as well strike while the iron’s hot…

  • NHPM Lays – these have been on a good run this year with solid profits in each of the last four months and are up over 50pts this year despite a setback in March so look an excellent candidate for higher stakes. I cut the stakes on this system last year when it hit a tricky patch but the long-term record is a good one and I am happy to raise the stakes once more.
  • Winning Racing Tips – I have six months worth of data for this service now and it has been going great guns, delivering consistent profits and is one I was seriously thinking about increasing stakes for even before I identified the need for a greater balance across my portfolio.
  • Sportsman Racing – I like what Scott is doing here with is racing bets but the bulk of his profits have come from one good month (April). That said, there have been no significant monthly losses (-1.14pts in June is the largest I have on record) so I can raise the stakes here without greatly increasing my risk.
  • The Sportsman – a similar logic applies to Scott’s sports betting service too really. I knew his sports bets came with an advised stake that was usually a small fraction of a single point and so started with a point value higher than I would for other services but looking back I feel I can safely increase that figure without exposing myself to an undue level of risk. Indeed this would bring the average stakes into line with similarly performing services thus giving me a better balance.
  • Football Elite – Matt has a good record with this service and I half contemplated a stakes increase during the summer but postponed the final decision till nearer the start of the season. Unfortunately I was out of action at that point so this month I just carried on at last season’s stakes to make life easier. However, looking at things now I think I could reasonably increase my stakes for these bets.
  • Northern Monkey – this service isn’t far away from a stakes increase but I need to see a little more consistency first. At the current stakes it would be in exactly the right ballpark though so no worries on that front.
  • Racing Angles – this can be a bit hit and miss so I am keeping stakes low there. This is probably the lowest staked of all the horse racing aspects of my portfolio but I don’t mind that as it’s not a tipster service per se and I’m sometimes not sure how to get the best out of the advice given so using small stakes while I work that out seems advisable.
  • Blinkered & Blinkered AW – two lay systems that were added to the portfolio during July that both operate on small stakes and should stay that way until such time as I have built up more data and confidence in them.
  • Simplex systems – it is very hard to change staking levels during the season due to the way the staking works but these were thoroughly reviewed before the season started so I am happy to leave these be.
  • The Football Analyst – I won’t be changing the stakes here either. These are the newest additions to my portfolio and I need plenty more data under my belt before I raise the stakes. It’s been a rather unremarkable start to the season but watch fortunes change this weekend while I am away and can’t get the bets on.
  • The Insider, Bet Bank Alerts & Sports Bet USA – none of these are delivering consistent enough profits to warrant higher stakes. Of the three The Insider is performing the best but raising the stakes here means tying up more funds in the ante-post bets that make up the bulk of this service and I’m not prepared to do that at this stage.
  • LTO3 – a system that has struggled this year but it has a good long-term record so I am hopeful of it turning things around. Stakes were upped a notch in April but every month since has been a loser so it’s time to knock it back down a peg.
  • A List – a service I identified in the recent monthly reviews as underperforming this year yet it is the highest staked of all the racing backing systems in my portfolio so trimming the stakes somewhat seems like a natural move.
  • Lay’em – my most heavily staked laying system and one that is failing to deliver on the promise it showed at the start of the year. It has a great long-term record but one has to wonder if the edge is starting to get eroded away. I actually reduced the stakes on this one earlier in the month in a bid to stem the losses so no further action is required at this time.

All the staking changes will come into force immediately after the holiday. Looking back over my portfolio in my spreadsheet now I feel happier with the overall balance and hopefully October’s results will go some way to reflecting these improvements.

One tipster I haven’t mentioned in the above list is Piecost. That’s simply because I don’t know what’s happening there. I was following his free handicap selections on the SBC forum and they were one of my best performers in recent months. However, I see from the SBC newsletters he is running a private service but I don’t know any more details. Is he still running his handicap selections for free on the forum? If not, how much is his service and does he have any spaces? Do I have room for another paid service in my portfolio at this time? I’m sure the answers to many of these questions can be found on the SBC forum but I haven’t yet been back on any of the forums I used to frequent so I have no idea what has gone on there since the end of July. There’s no point looking before I go away either so getting back up to speed with forum life can be a job for when I get back. Then I can reassess where I stand with Piecost and go from there.

The original ending to this post was rather bleak because I had sketched it out before I had my moment of clarity on the way to see the nurse this morning. I was basically throwing my hands up and exclaiming that I had no real idea how to take this gambling venture forward. I planned to use my upcoming break to mull things over and come back with some fresh new ideas that would hopefully see me turn things around but instead I managed to crack it all this morning. Now I just need to give these staking changes time to bed in and see what happens but, and I am aware I have said this many times, I feel my portfolio now has a much better balance and truly believe this could be a big step forward. They say a change is a good as a rest and even though I have made changes to my portfolio I am still going to take a week off and go on holiday. I deserve it after how this month has gone so far.

Categories: General

Health before wealth

September 12, 2011 4 comments

It’s taken a while – longer than I expected – but I’m back. Yay!

Let’s start with the good news: the operation was successful. It provided the surgeon with more of a challenge than expected due to a number of complications that I won’t go into here but ultimately it was successful. Initially my recovery went well too. I was in hospital for a little over a week, which is right in line with expectations. And for the next couple of weeks after that things were going nicely and I was recovering well. OK, my wound wasn’t healing in places but it’s around 18 inches long so perhaps one shouldn’t expect it all to heal at the same rate. But as the wound continued to refuse to heal my recovery stalled somewhat and it was another couple of weeks before I could even contemplate sitting at a PC and doing what I do. I was in some pain and I just didn’t feel like (OK, couldn’t) sit at my PC for any length of time. I needed more time to recover and sensibly decided to put my health before the need to check my email and try to earn a bit of cash gambling on the horses. As it is, I have been online for just over a week now, on and off, but only now have I really felt up to bringing this blog up to date.

So here I am again and let’s hope it’s back to business as usual. Although I hope the results I have had this past week aren’t going to typical of the future as I have had a rather tough time of it since I started gambling again. The horses have been kicking me in the wallet and the football results haven’t been much kinder. In fact virtually my whole portfolio has struggled. I know a week isn’t really a long enough period to accurately assess anything but already I could do with a change in fortune. I immediately started to question my stakes as the losses began to mount and though I have tried to hold my nerve I have knocked a couple of them down a tick while I try to restore some confidence in the systems I follow. I have figures going back a long way for some of these systems and they are profitable in the long run but the losses incurred in this past week have made me doubt things, especially coming off the back of such a long break. There are a lot of red figures in my spreadsheet at the minute and my Betfair balance has taken a hell of a knock. I could really do with a lot of those red figures turning black and my Betfair balance ticking up to reassure me that I have made the right decisions and that I can make this game pay. At the minute I’m not sure that is the case…

Categories: General