Who am I?
My name’s Mat and I am a professional gambler. My background is software engineering, in particular software testing, and before that physics culminating in an MPhys degree in Physics with Theoretical Physics from Manchester University. Unfortunately ill health pretty much forced me out of work in the summer of 2009 and I have been working hard on my gambling since.

Getting Started
The earliest bets I can remember are an each-way on Nahthen Lad in the 1998 Grand National (racing prominently but fell at the 11th fence) and a couple of punts on Argentina v England in the World Cup of the same year. I think I had Batistuta to score first and England to win 2-1 and I put them on as separate bets rather than as a scorecast. Good job really as that match ended 2-2 with Batistuta opening the scoring with a sixth minute penalty so at least I got my first trip to the payout counter. Since then I remember having a few bets on the football of a weekend around the start of the millennium but I first started to keep records of my bets in the summer of 2003 so I tend to regard that as my Year Zero.

My betting is almost entirely done online these days. I can’t really remember the last time I placed a bet in a bookmakers. OK, when I go to a racecourse I tend to bet with the bookies or the Tote rather than betting online, although I do sometimes check the Betfair odds on my mobile just to see what’s on offer. A lot of my action goes through Betfair. That’s partly because they often (but not always) have better odds on offer but also partly because many of the horse racing bets I place are lay bets (backing a horse to lose) so I need to use a betting exchange.

I probably bet more than many other professional gamblers too. An average month will see me strike around 1000-1100 bets across a variety of sports but mainly on horse racing and football. I know there are pros out there who may not bet every week let alone every day like I do. They are the pros that wait for a good bet and place a large stake on it. That’s not my style for various reasons. I like the action I get from betting every day, and the idea of a single horse (or whatever) carrying a large amount of my cash damn near terrifies me. I prefer to spread my money around and have more horses/teams working for me. I am after a steady accumulation of profits (which is why I like lay betting as it has a high strike rate so provides me with regular winners) and like to spread my risk across multiple sports, systems and services so if horse racing (for example) is affected by the weather I have other sports I can work with to continue my quest for profit.

Magic Numbers
There are those that can take a racecard or a copy of the Racing Post or whatever and a little while later will have assessed the merits of every horse in a given race and come up with a probable winner. I have a lot of respect for those that can do that but it’s not my style. I can read form and interpret racecards, no worries, but my record at picking winners that way is not great.

I truly believe that the human brain can hinder thought processes as much as it enables them. It can raise so many “what if” questions that one soon gets so confused that the thought process is best abandoned. Take analysing a horse race as an example. You start with the first horse and note it has previously won over today’s distance, a good sign. But it has also been beaten nine times over the same distance. And the distance win came at a flat left-handed track and today’s course is a galloping right-hander. Plus the ground is heavy today and the horse’s win came on good ground. A different jockey is riding the horse today too. And the field is much larger compared to previous races the horse has entered. How many of these factors matter?

If the horse had raced a lot of times I would be happier analysing the form. Suppose it has raced 100 times over various courses and distances. Then you can start to form an impression of how well the horse perform on soft ground compared to good ground, how well different jockeys have ridden the horse, whether it is better on left-handed or right-handed tracks, whether it goes best after a long lay-off or whether it needs a pipe-opener before it’s ready to win again and so on. But horses don’t run that often and one is forced to base analysis on only a few runs. I am really not comfortable doing that.

My solution to this conundrum is numbers. I try to boil everything down to numbers. I can work with numbers, they are like an old friend and I am on very comfortable ground when I can view things as numbers. If something can be reduced to a numerical form then one can use those numbers to estimate odds of an event happening and can thus bet accordingly.

This approach means I often favour systems over tipster services. A system is basically a set of rules or filters that one can apply to some data to select suitable bets. For example, it may be that beaten favourites that lose by more than four lengths do better than the market expects in their next race. Knowing this I can scan the day’s racecards looking for beaten favourites, check the distance they lost by and if it is at least four lengths then I have found a bet. I don’t need to check the form of those horses this approach picks out, I can just back them blindly as analysis of past races has shown this trend to be profitable.

That’s a simple example, and I have no idea if beaten favourites that lost by four lengths or more can be backed profitably but you get the idea. For me it’s not about working through racecards analysing form, it’s about applying filters to the racecards and having the bets just drop out. All the hard work is in the analysis of past performances to identify these profitable filters.

Pro or semi-pro?
One question I have had to deal with from time to time is whether I am a professional or semi-professional gambler. It’s an odd question as surely the answer doesn’t matter that much. Being a professional is seen as being of a higher status than the semi-professional but other than that what’s the difference?

When I tell people I am a professional gambler I am sure they imagine I am risking huge sums of money and making a tidy profit off the back of it. Either that or they imagine I am an out of control wreck destined to lose everything. The second image is perhaps more prevalent in today’s society as when told what I do for a living people often ask “And do you make a profit?” Why would I do it if I wasn’t making money? I’m not an idiot!

The best way to describe my situation is probably something like I have a professional approach to my gambling, put in the hours of a professional but currently make a semi-professional income from my gambling. I will leave you to decide whether that makes me pro or semi-pro? I consider myself a pro as semi-pro implies I have a regular day job alongside my gambling which is not the case.

Why only a semi-professional’s income though? The reasons include risk aversity, portfolio imbalances and some good old-fashioned bad luck but I am working hard to address as many of these reasons as possible to take my betting to the next level.

Why am I writing this blog?
Now that is a good question. It’s almost entirely for my own benefit and most of the time I get what I want out of it whether you read it or not. It seems odd that I can have no readers but still be happy with my blog. That is because the process of writing and maintaining the blog is the release I need.

The life of a professional online gambler can be a fairly lonely existence if truth be told. Without the radio streamed through my PC I would go mental for sure. I know a few other gamblers well enough to be able to email them to share a moan about results and so on but generally speaking I suffer the highs and lows alone. Don’t get me wrong, I have friends and family around me but I don’t think any of them really understand what I do well enough to offer any sort of support when it may be required. So I have this blog instead. It allows me to gripe when things go against me, I can celebrate when things go right and I can generally natter about how things are going. If any of you want to chip in with comments do feel free though.

I have always found that writing things down helps focus my own mind. I think the brain has to arrange the subject matter into such an order than when written down it makes sense and in doing that it helps straighten things out. So as well as being cathartic this blog will help get my head straight and thus help my bottom line. At least that’s the plan…

Why drownintheriver?
It’s a poker thing. In Texas Hold’em the fifth and final community card – known as the river – can make or break your hand. And all too often I have seen hands broken by that damn river card and with that broken hand goes the pot I had been looking forward to dragging down. Thus my hand could be said to have drowned in the river. I adopted that sentiment for this blog as it just seemed to sum things up perfectly.

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