There has always been much debate and speculation on social media and other forums, of what goes on behind the scenes in the trading rooms of major bookmakers. Here at SBFP today, we chat with David Johnson, who’s job for several years was to run the sports department at one of the industries biggest firms, Boylesports. He gives us some insight into the general workings of a trading room as well as advice on what punters can do to be better equipped to take on the bookies.
(David Johnson worked in the betting industry for 14 years, beginning his career at 2002 in Tara Bookmakers subsequently acquired by Boylesports). He took charge of the sports trading department in 2011 A job which he held until leaving the industry to pursue a family business venture in 2016 as Commercial Director of https://www.cloud10beauty.com)
Q. Welcome David. First up, you’ve been out of the industry for just under a year now. Do you miss it?
In short, No. I really enjoyed my time in the betting industry but it is very cyclical & after a decade plus, it was time for a greater challenge.
Q. During your time managing the sports department at Boylesports, what would you say were the biggest changes to the way trading rooms were run?
In my time at the sports department, the focus moved away from odds compilation & pre-match markets to automation & in-play being the key drivers. Dedicated profilers were established to factor client accounts rather than the compliers themselves. This was the case throughout the industry.
Q. Most punters think that PR representatives for bookmakers are just full of shit, making up big bets that have been struck and big payouts that have cost the firm. How much of this is true?
LOL, Look the PR people have a job to do. I think a lot of what is put out there is to generate debate & interest. No such thing as bad publicity & all that….Certain media feed off these sound bites & the PR people want their companies name up In lights.
Q. What was the single biggest bet you have seen struck?
I like the timing of this Question (straight after the PR Full of shit question) ….The biggest bets I have seen stuck are relative, the chaps that are literally all in….Last few bob to their name & no sign of the next pay cheque, not the elite’s who have a seemingly endless supply of money.
Q. If you could give punters one piece of advice to make them a better punter, what would it be?
There are 2 types of punters out there, recreational & winners. Decide which you are & be realistic (90%+ will be the former, that is fine, treat it like a hobby, bet small, accept you will lose over time) If you have designs on being the latter, compile, compile, compile. That is ultimately where the edge will be found. If a punter is willing to spend the best part of a day pricing up fixtures, in the knowledge that in most matches there won’t be a bet then they are the chaps that will make it pay.
Q. Do you bet much these days yourself? Do you find it difficult to get a bet on?
No, I bet very little in the traditional sense (v bookmaker/exchange). Not putting the time into doing the compiling, opening accounts etc, liquidity on the sports I like is nominal on the exchanges. However as commercial director for a self funded & fast growing online business, I am consumed by the opportunities there are in my new field.
Q. Do you feel bookmakers manipulate the ‘palpable error’ rule too much to their advantage?
Yes, although automation is continuing to iron out the ‘palp’ as we once knew it. For me personally, in play bets (where there is no underround and where a bookmaker is 1st or one of the 1st up pre-event, should be honoured).
Q. A lot of punters bemoan that their accounts have been factored even though they are losing money, or after as few 3 or 4 bets. What criteria do firms look at when factoring accounts?
The main criteria looked at is 1) is the customer beating the (starting) price 2) what markets the customer is betting into (strong/weak etc) 3) bet frequency (or lack of it).
Q. Following on from that, why would firms factor account to a ridiculous level, for example 0.001 (where a punter can bet a 1/1000th of what a factor 1 punter can), rather than just close the account?
This usually detects if a customer is a BOT or Human, From a bookmakers view, they view the info as a cheap mark however that is not always the case as most human punters would not give the edge to the bookmaker by showing them an informed bet for a nominal amount (unless they were trying to ramp down the price to trade out of it or else they have fresh accounts that want to play the other side & are showing the “bet” to drift the price they genuinely want).
Q. So talk us through how odds on a market are created. How much of it is pure statistics? If so, why isn’t the whole industry automated by now?
The bizarre thing here is no set framework for this, but what can be said with certainty is that less time, resource & effort is being put into compiling, with these now being channeled into automation & tracking a price. Find the draw, Current form, head to heads, venue, incentive, length of match should all be factors in pricing an outcome. Bash up your prices, wait for others to follow, move off large arbs (no point laying something at 1/5 when you can lay it @ 1/7 etc).
Q. Once the market is formed, what things can force a bookmaker to change his price?
Number 1 – Arb. if it is an arb (either v exchange or another bookmaker) the price tends to get changed, even if the compiler wanted to stand it. Data tells bookies that laying arb’s = losing small % overtime, while the individuals call may be correct, over thousands of arb’s over a year, bookmakers will lose if laying them all.
Informed money/marks on for a selection will often cause the price to moved (see above)
Weight of money, when there is a disproportionate amount of stake on a selection, the price will usually be moved.
Q. Are arb’s a bad thing for bookmakers? Do traders and profiling departments view all arbsters as bad accounts?
Depends on the bookmaker, If the mandate of the bookmaker is to win 10% to absorb overheads, pay for retail units etc, then arb’s are x-rated. If the bookmaker is more volume/online orientated & working off a 2% expected margin, then laying arb business can be their calling cards.
Q. In your years within the industry, you must have seen, or been aware of ‘bent’ matches. Do you believe the fixing of matches is more prevalent now than it was years ago, and if you so, why would that be the case?
Yes, it is & will continue to be prevalent throughout many sports. Player v player is easy to manipulate, often players playing for small sums of money & can have their heads turned in getting involved in corruption. The amount of different markets offered means players can “chuck” certain markets & still win the fixture. However, where as in the past dodgy matches may have gone undetected until months afterwards, these days with social media, forums, communication of information, it is more difficult for the protagonists to pull it off (and/or pull it off repeatedly) undetected.
Q. Which sports do you think provide punters with the best chance of making money? Where should they be focusing their attentions?
Anything complied manually, anything that is considered a minor sport/event. These are where you get the biggest price ricks & often the least skilled compilers.
Q. So long term, with so much in their favour, can the bookies be beaten?
Yes, by betting with discipline, there can still be an edge to be found. Staking on bets is a crucial element too. And of course by following and subscribing to your new tipping service 🙂
Thanks David, and best of luck for your new adventure with cloud10beauty.
(David Johnson can be followed on twitter @schalackers)