Cash or Crash?

The trading blog read only by very nice people!

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    RobbieChicago (from Swindon, not Chicago) is a man of many talents. Known for his excellent risottos and tasty Shepherd's Pies, he is also great with children and spectacular in bed (assuming he's being marked on his sleeping ability). Clearly unable to operate in his shadow, his employers of nine years made him redundant from his position in a large and respected company based in the City. Stung by this unexpected rejection, and vowing to "show those bastards", RobbieChicago has turned his attention to trading sports risk on the Betfair markets, and penning the most entertaining and informative blog within the field. At time of writing the blog is going considerably better than the trading, but an almost impossibly arrogant assumption of greatness means that our hero is certain he will succeed.

    RobbieChicago loves Frank Zappa, Columbo and throwing frisbees. He dislikes baked beans.

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Archive for November, 2009

I love the smell of chlorine in the morning!

Posted by robbiechicago on November 27, 2009

I love the smell of chlorine in the morning!

First things first, yes I did go for the swim on Thursday morning, and yes it was most pleasant, leaving aside the fact that I almost got into the pool still wearing my glasses.  Durr.

Actually, I think it’s worked.  I went for a longish walk on Wednesday afternoon, and then the swim on Thursday morning in an attempt to inject a bit of energy into my lacklustre existence.  I then went down to Brixton yesterday evening, supped a few beers and did a pub quiz, returned to Enfield before watching NFL until 1am.  I expected getting out of bed this morning to be tough, but I was awake at 8:15 and that was that.  Excellent!  I shall try to keep it up.

Back to trading proper, and all the talk at the moment is about Betfair’s collapse for at least 20 minutes yesterday.  I was exposed to the tune of £4 when things ground to a halt which was annoying, but clearly I was at the better end of a very long and nasty scale.  I would imagine there were traders out there with hundreds, maybe thousands on one side of the market, unable to trade out.  I wrote to Betfair and got a list of reasons why they don’t care.  Considering traders form the lion’s share of their turnover, and they have the cheek to tax those traders who make consistent money with the premium charge, you’d think they give more of a shit, but hey ho.

All of this got me thinking.  At first it put the frighteners up me.  I have, of course, always known that any number of things could cause a trader to be stranded and exposed in a market, problems with Betfair being one of those things, but it never really struck me until it actually happened.  It really made me think about whether it was wise to pursue a “career” in something that could potentially wipe out all your profits in an instant.  But then I realised that there are ways to protect yourself.  I presume that bets can still be matched over the phone to BF?  At the very least you should call them and tell them you need to trade out immediately.  This should give you a leg to stand on when trying to get your money back should things not go through.  However, it may be the case that a) when the system is down on the web it’s down everywhere, including over the phone, and b) the phone lines could well be thoroughly jammed with panicking punters.  With that in mind, you should always have money in Betdaq, allowing you to arb yourself across two exchanges.

This all then started me thinking about my current situation, where I am, where I want to be and how I get there:

  • Can I make a living trading?
  • Do I want to?
  • If I do want to, why?
  • Am I moving in the right direction?
  • How much money do I need in my banks at BF and Betdaq?
  • What percentage of those banks should I use to trade?
  • How long will it take to be making enough money to pay the bills?
  • Can I survive long enough on the money I have, considering the commitments I have made for 2010?
  • Do I need to find an alternative source of income?
  • Should that source of income be in addition to or instead of trading?

One thing is certain.  I am currently not achieving consistent profits, so I cannot risk upping my stakes much, and I will need to up my stakes in order to make the £50 per day, 20 days a month that is my “enough to survive” target.  The rest of it is all uncertain.  I’ve been trading pretty much full time since mid-August.  I think I’ve made progress, but don’t feel yet like a decent trader.  I have as many bad days as I have good ones.  Sure, the bad days are now much better than they used to be, but bad days need to become a rare event.  I’m not sure how to get there, and how long it will take.

I might look in to getting a morning job.  I always wanted to be a binman.  I wonder if there are any positions available.  What if there aren’t?  What if I can’t get a job?  What if my money runs out?  Holy smoke.


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Healthy body, healthy mind.

Posted by robbiechicago on November 25, 2009

I struggled to wake up this morning, and when my reluctant brain finally accepted a passable semblance of consciousness, my fatigue troubled me. I’ve been relatively inactive recently, and this was the only reason I could think of as to why I was struggling so much to get out of bed. I’ve never been a fitness freak (far from it!), but have always been a fairly keen sportsman. When I was working I used to play five-a-side football, I was a member of a gym which I attended regularly, and I swam several times a week for at least an hour at a time. This kept things ticking over nicely and prevented me turning into a slob, especially as I have a penchant for beer, chocolate, cheeseburgers and pizza.

Then work ended so I could no longer afford the gym with the lovely pool, the football was company-related, so much of my physical activity disappeared overnight.  Not to worry, I now have something I didn’t have before – time.  I figured out a seven-mile walking route which went through a local golf course, a park, some woods, down some quiet lanes, and back through town.  But now the weather’s a little bit dreadful it’s become much more difficult to do this walk, or any outdoor activity.

Hence my concern about my rather inactive lifestyle over the last few weeks.  Physical activity is so much more important than just ensuring fitness.  It energises you, it clears the head, it fills you with positive vibes and a healthy attitude.  I had very little doubt this morning that my desperate desire to stay in bed had a lot to do with my lack of activity.  Of course, annoyingly, the loss of energy and get-up-and-go perpetuates the problem.  As I say, I wanted nothing more than to stay in bed.  The human body sucks!  Surely, if what it needs is activity, it should crave activity, not wallow in inertia.  Stupid bloody rubbish!

Me (not today) during the toughest hike I've ever done: Half Dome, Yosemite.

So, what did I do?  I got up, retired to the sofa, enjoyed a leisurely cup of tea and some toast, wasted almost an hour waiting for Sky Sports Bastard News to show all the League One goals from last night (as if they’d cater for real football fans) and generally chilled out.  I knew, KNEW that this was a mistake, yet my laziness won the battle.

Another thing I knew was that this would have a negative impact on my trading.  I was not in the right place yesterday and my performance was mediocre.  As I sat down to the nags today it was clear that my mind was not keyed into the numbers and lines on my screen, and within a few races the inevitable had occurred and things weren’t going well.

I’m not going to publish my results, mainly because I’ve switched off my PC, but also because there were only a few races and not much to say about them.  I think I finished not too far off parity, but there was very little to be pleased about.  But all the while the sun was shining through the window into my office, and I did what I should have done at 9 that morning – I got up off my fat arse, cued up some podcasts, and went out into the day and got some exercise.  An hour and a half later I felt much better, the cold blustery wind had put some much needed colour in my cheeks.  It’s so simple.

Exercise, physical activity needs to be part of my job just like mental preparation, financial management and all the other things are.  I have had a bag ready with my swimming gear for weeks, sitting by the stairs unused.  I shall go for a swim in the morning.  Ask me tomorrow if I did.  If I didn’t, you have my permission to call me rude names and make ugly faces at me.

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I Hate Shopping

Posted by robbiechicago on November 24, 2009

This wintertime racing schedule is doing my head in.  I’ve still not got used to the racing starting from about 12ish, and have missed the first races on most of the days I’ve traded since the clocks went back.  This morning I wanted to do a bit of Christmas shopping, so I got up at the crack of dawn, and Pele the Peugeot and I toddled off around the M25 to Bluewater.  I arrived at 9am and the place was nice and quiet.  Perfect.  However, after three laps of the place, all I’d managed to purchase was some breakfast, a copy of Private Eye, a case for my mobile phone, and a birthday present.  No Christmas presents bought or even nearly bought.  In the end I got in a huff and left.  Even after this fleeting visit I was only just home in time for the first race of the day.

Like the shopping, my trading was not altogether successful.  I was unable to get my mind on the job at hand, and for each decent trade I did there was a corresponding duff one.  However, it was noticeable that, unlike before, I was able to avoid big losses.  I was much quicker to convert a potential big loss into a relatively small one, and that meant I ended the day fractionally up.  This is a very good sign.  Before, when I was in a losing position I would stubbornly wait and hope that the market came back in my favour.  Not any more.  Even the bigger of my losses was something of a small victory.  I’d got myself into all sorts of trouble but reacted quickly to it (including calling myself all sorts of names and telling myself to get a grip) and dragged it back to a loss which, while relatively large, was not the sort of killer loss I’ve experienced so often in the past.  I know that keeping losses low and asset protection are very important factors in creating a consistent profitable performance.  Hopefully today illustrates another small step along the path to success.

In the meantime, if anyone would like to do my Christmas shopping for me, that would be great!

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Off to play snooker

Posted by robbiechicago on November 23, 2009

UPDATE:  On the downside, I lost 3 frames to 2.  On the upside I got what is probably my highest ever break:  Red, Blue, Red, Blue, Red, Black, Red, Black.  28, and a smattering of applause from this knowledgeable Crucible crowd.

Hello.  I’m struggling to think of much to write today, but I know that if I don’t then my army of adoring fans will become disillusioned and find it hard to pluck up the energy to do whatever it is they do and this general feeling of malaise will spread out to their family and friends and before long the whole county, nay the whole world will be dragged deeper and deeper into this terrible depression we’re all fighting against, fighting together, shoulder to shoulder, brothers in arms, united in the face of a challenge that could take the human race back to a bleak time when a single disenfranchised but charismatic man could prey on the fears of a nation and rise up to become an evil dictator the like of which we’ve not seen since Hitler or Bush.  Keep fighting, my friends.  Stand alongside me and rise up for all that is good and beautiful and inspiring.  Follow my example.  Today I traded 15 races and made £1.40.  If that doesn’t drag Great Britain out of recession I don’t know what will.

I’m off to play some snooker.  It’s for the best.

Hope you all had a groovy  weekend, a good day trading today, and are a bit less mental than I am at times.  Rock on.

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Fantastic Friday!

Posted by robbiechicago on November 20, 2009

Dear Jim,

Please could you fix it for me to only ever have trading days like today from now on?  Everything went so smoothly, the vast majority of trades I made were profitable, and those that were not were able to be written off without too much trouble.  I’d really appreciate it if you could make all days like today, if that’s not too much trouble.

Yours sincerely, Robbie P Chicago.

Now then now then...

Yep, today was a very good day.  I was very disciplined and was quick to cut my losses if things were not going in my direction.  The markets behaved nicely with, for me at least, no nasty surprises.  My strike rate, something I’ve mentioned that I’m concentrating on, was a perfect 100% today.  If only every day could be like this!

I’m busy this weekend so definitely won’t be trading at all, and I am pleased to say that today’s performance has made it two profitable weeks out of two since I changed my trading approach.  I mentioned at the beginning of this week that I might consider upping my stakes if this week went well, but I think I am going to give it another week of flat £2 stakes before starting to adopt a per tick staking system.  Let’s not get carried away!

Hope you all had a similarly good day today.  Here are some very nice numbers:

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Posted by robbiechicago on November 18, 2009

(UPDATE:  I posted this, including the headline, before a certain garlic-muncher cheated his side to the World Cup!)

Not a good day today.  My trading was all over the place despite the focus outlined in my previous post and my continued reading of Trading in the Zone.  Very disappointing.  I’m trying to take the emotion out of trading, and can do this fairly well most of the time, but today I was getting very frustrated with myself.  This of course affects everything and makes it worse.  In the last race I traded I did so many stupid things, it was like I’d regressed two months.  In the end I had accrued a significant loss (yes, I see the irony given my previous post) and decided to cheat to get rid of it.  I upped my stakes from £2 to £10 which gave me enough oomph to wipe out the loss and shut up shop for the day.

So, very frustrating indeed, but there are a couple of bright spots.  Despite my awful Strike Rate of 37.50%, and with a maximum win of 85p, I finished in profit today.  Yes, I know I cheated, but had I not, the strike rate would have been 25% yet the day’s loss still would have been fairly small.  I did get horribly out of shape in the last race, but before that I’d been keeping the losses down, as planned.  The other thing is that I have an enforced break tomorrow which I think will be a very good thing.  I’ve traded four days in a row, so a day off will give me time to reflect and come back on Friday feeling fresh.

Here are the numbers:

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The End of Big Losses?

Posted by robbiechicago on November 18, 2009

No post for a couple of days, mainly because it’s been relatively quiet for me, trading-wise.  Monday and Tuesday this week have both been losing days, but not disastrously so.  I’ve had some decent trades in the last couple of days, and got on some nice swings, but have had too many small losses wiping out these gains.  My strike rate has been poor, just over 40% for both days.

Since my new approach to trading, my strike rate has definitely suffered.  My average, which was 67% in October, has dropped to 65%.  I’m not overly concerned as, effectively, I’ve started again to a certain extent.  I shall be concentrating on improving the SR which in turn will increase profits.  However, the positive thing in all of this is that I’ve reduced the big losses which were crippling me.  Take a look at my totals since mid October:

Try not to focus too much on the bit in the middle where I lost a small fortune!  The point I want to make is that while my SRs have been up and down since the change from 9th November, the losses have been relatively small, i.e. a losing total is no greater than a decent winning day.  If you look above that, the winning days peak at £15 but the losing days are, well, massive.  Yet my SR in the days before 9th November is pretty good on the whole, but that’s been no guarantee of success:

— 21st Oct.  SR = 70%.  P/L = -£23.38
— 22nd Ocr.  SR = 78.85%.  P/L = -£2.85
— 3rd Nov.  SR = 82.35%.  P/L = -£13.61

Read that last one again.  My Strike Rate was 82%.  That’s superb!  Yet I lost £13!  Herein lies a serious problem!  Evidently I was getting myself into the situation where I was at risk of making one relatively huge loss which was wiping out all the other good work.

Now look at the last seven trading days.  The biggest SR on a losing day was 50%.  The other losing days have all had low SRs.  It’s clear that this is a trend I need to maintain in order to move on up.  If I concentrate on a) keeping my SR as high as possible day to day, and b) keeping those individual losses as low as possible then I should be in business.

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Number Crunching

Posted by robbiechicago on November 15, 2009

I had some spare time today so decided to sit down and trade for an hour or so.  I’ve done very little weekend trading, and none at all on a Sunday (my previous work on a Sunday being some pre-match football trading which yielded very little).  So today was a bit of a new horizon for me, and I went into it with a view to checking it out just as much as to make some profit.  I ended up trading just five races, but in that time came across probably the easiest swing trading I’ve ever seen.  The swings were predictable, long and sustained, allowing, I would imagine, pretty much everyone trading to make a profit.  All very nice, but probably not the best environment to develop as a trader.  The markets were very forgiving and as such one could fall into some bad habits and get away relatively unscathed.

Also on the plus side I had one small loss which has finally removed the #DIV/O error from the Sunday line which has been annoying me for weeks!

Anyhoo, here are the details.  I’ve also added a new column to the spreadsheet – Return on Average Stake.



The addition of Return on Average Stake is a nice addition to the daily stats (the blue section of the spreadsheet) but I’m not sure it’s going to prove to be very useful on my Day Of The Week, Weekly or Monthly summaries.  As the profits grow over time (I hope!) the average stake will, presumably, top out.  This will mean the summarised Return on Average Stake number will grow and grow and not actually show anything useful.  Perhaps I’ll have to add an Average Return on Average Stake column!  Yikes!  I already need a bigger monitor!

It’s been a good week.  I feel like I’ve recovered from my horror show of the week before, and am much happier and more confident with my trading.  I think all the steps I’ve taken this week to approach things from a different direction have worked.  Of course, had I been working with £1 tick stakes as I had before I would have made a killing (relatively speaking) this week, but that doesn’t take into account the fact that going back to £2 stakes has allowed me to relax and focus on looking for new ideas and indicators this week, and to regain my confidence, something that was sorely needed.  I shall stick with the £2 stakes for the coming week, and possibly start to gradually up them a bit after that if things continue as they are.  I must, however, make sure I don’t fall into a boom and bust pattern of trading, as Trading in the Zone puts it.  Having seen the peaks and the troughs, hopefully I’m now in a much better position to avoid them and gain some consistency.

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Friday 13th!

Posted by robbiechicago on November 13, 2009

It’s OK, I’m not a superstitious person so I don’t believe for a second that today is an unlucky day. What nonsense!

Wait. I’m contradicting myself. I have a theory about Tuesdays that is similar to the whole Friday 13th thing. Only this is real! I wrote about it here.

Of course, all talk of omens, luck, superstition and the like all goes very much against what is needed to adopt a winner’s mind-set.  I’m ploughing through Trading in the Zone and am learning a lot about how my mind works.  Not a great deal yet on how to become this mythical winning trader, but the book promises a lot, so hopefully it will deliver.  Many of you and other traders recommend it, so my hopes are high.

Not a bad day today.  Interestingly, I seem to be starting the day with a few losses at the moment, and then clawing them back.  If I could stop these then things would definitely look a whole lot better.  But as it is I am pleased with my progress.

When I read the thoughts of other traders, they often lament low quality race meetings.  I can see their point, as the relatively low amount of money in the markets makes it harder for large bets to be matched.  But for me it’s almost the complete opposite:  I struggle with the high quality meetings.  Today there were some grade 1 and 2 races at Cheltenham, and I find that the market does very little when the quality is high.  Sure, this lends itself to scalping, but often the large amounts of money unmatched seem to slow things down so much that it takes ages for a simple reverse trade to happen.  If the price moves by a tick or two while you’re waiting you can almost write off making any profit in the market at all.  I think trading these kind of races involves techniques I’ve not yet discovered.  If anyone has any thoughts on this, even if they think I’m taking nonsense, I’d be interested to hear from you!

Right, that’s it for the week.  Here are today’s bets, and the week’s totals:



Have a fantastic, profitable weekend!

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Sultan of Swing

Posted by robbiechicago on November 12, 2009

So the new approach continues.  Is it proving to be successful?  I’m not sure.  As per my previous post, I’m now concentrating on swing trading, and looking at several nags rather than just the favourite as I had been doing before.  Monday was a good day with a decent profit from £2 stakes, a huge 0.82% return on turnover and very nice strike rate of 88.89.  I missed Tuesday, and got back into it yesterday and today.  Interestingly, both days had a SR of exactly 50 which is considerably lower than my new target average of 70.  I guess this reflects the fact that I am looking at the whole process in a different way and as such I’ve not got my eye in yet.  Yesterday ended with a £1.24 loss, today with a 27p profit.  Considering the strike rate is the same, these results are astonishingly different, but can be put down to a more focused strategy today.  There are things I need to learn to do.  Firstly, I need to reduce my losses.  I did that fairly well today.  I also need to stop entering the market in the hope or expectation that something is going to happen, and do it when I know it is going to happen.  When you stare at the markets all day you begin to make predictions on where they’re going.  I’m not sure this is a good idea.  There are some markets where I am certain I know what is going to happen, and to be fair, it usually does.  But I need to wait for a clear sign that the move is beginning before I trade instead of getting in right away and waiting.  If the move is going to happen, I’ll achieve the profits, and if it doesn’t, I’ll avoid the losses.

I’m still getting used to The Toy as a trading platform.  I like it a lot, and am sure that it will only improve.  I need to read through their forum a bit to see if the things I’d like to see improved or added are part of the work in progress, otherwise I guess I’ll ask if they can be done.  Not surprisingly, I got an email from Betfair on Tuesday telling me I’d incurred data charges.  I thought this might happen with my using Bet Angel and The Toy.  To be fair to Betfair (ho ho!) they’ve been very easy to work with, and were happy to confirm that the reductions I’d made to the software refresh rates has pulled me back down below their limits.  It’s not made much of a difference to the effectiveness of the setup, which is just as well.

I got Trading in the Zone through the post today and have read a couple of chapters already.  It’s an interesting book and I’m hopeful it will help me to develop as a trader.  We shall see.  I feel like I’ve gone back to the start a bit, which is kind of frustrating, but that frustration is counteracted by the positive feeling I’m getting through no longer being utterly useless at trading, which I felt I was last week.  I’m hoping that the book will go some way to preventing me getting into the mental mess I was in ever again.  I accept that I will go through more bad patches, I just hope I can deal with them better next time.

Still no sign of my friend’s baby, who is now a week late!  Women, eh!

The stats from yesterday and today:



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