March 2, 2020

A Q & A with Tony Hargraves – The Sports Trader

Hi Tony and many thanks for joining us this month. First up would you tell us a little about yourself and your background? What attracted you to the world of sports trading in particular and do you have one sport you favour above others? If so why?

You are welcome and thanks for having me along. I started trading in 2004 when I discovered Betfair and how it worked and loved the fact I could be a punter or bookmaker or both. That was really attractive as it meant anyone could try their hand as a bookie, without having to pay $50,000 for a licence. The added benefit was we could just take bets on what we wanted, and not have to take on all comers or all selections in an event as a traditional Australian bookmaker does. I can’t say that about UK bookies as they are now just casino’s with bookmaking licences.

A move to Scotland for family reasons meant going full time in 2008 and after encouragement from a few great people in the trading community, I started doing sports trading courses and have written six eBooks for those that can’t make it to a course.

Before that I was a Fleet Manager for one of the biggest courier companies in Sydney and had spent my whole life there before the move to Scotland. It was like moving to another planet.

As for favouring one sport over another, I love cricket first, then football, then racing and they are the only three sports I trade. The reason is I have an interest in them and I know a lot about them. I don't do well on darts and snooker and other obscure sports as I don't know enough about them and get caught out when matches change in an instant and I am sat looking blankly at the screen.

In cricket and football, I see things happening before most other people and that is a massive advantage. If I did take up another sport, it would be tennis as the liquidity is massive and the opportunities offer massive reward for small risk using the strategy I use on it, when I trade it.

What made you take the move in to professional trading? If you could give budding traders just one piece of advice, what would it be? Are there any key mantras you suggest that they follow?

I had a choice, chase cows for 12 hours a day for £150 a week (we lived in a VERY remote Scottish village) or make trading full time work. Sometimes leaving a good, well paying job can be a real dilemma. That wasn't the case for me, it was usually two degrees outside, I made the decision quickly.

I can offer two pieces of advice.

The best advice I can give is walk before you run. If you want to do this for a career, treat it as such. You don't get educated in four weeks to be a plumber, electrician, builder, nurse, teacher, pilot, or lawyer, so just because you want to a professional sports trader, does not mean you can read a few books, watch some videos, come to a course and you are ready to go full time. It took me four years to be ready and I still learn more every month. Most professions take four years to learn or even longer. It never ends.

So the advice is, be patient. Start small and have the lessons and losses not cost you much while you learn the trade.

The second bit of advice is never bet with a high street bookie unless you are skinning them for bonuses. Every bet they offer you is bad value, you will nearly always (99% of the time) get a better price on an exchange. I back greyhounds on Betfair that are 20/1 and the bookie pays 6/1. So you collect £100 for your £5 bet or £30 with the bookmaker. Add that up over a year and you will be £5000 worse off.

Just understand every bet you place with a bookie, you are being robbed.

If you know something is worth £2, would you pay £4 for it? No, and that is what a bookie does to you every day. As soon as you work this out, they ban, or drastically limit your account.

What style of approach do you take to your trading on a personal level? Do you ever feel the temptation to place an outright “bet”?

Yes a few of my positions start out as a bet. If I back over 2.5 goals, I hope there are three in the first half so I don't need to trade out. I am what you call a manual trader, no bots, no algorithms; I just use my knowledge of sport, and back my own judgement against the market at any given second in a match.

There is a myth that trading is not gambling. Of course it is. But it is just two (or more) bets. One bet says something will happen, and the other bet says it won’t. There is just less risk involved, and with that goes less reward. But if trading is gambling, so is any investment. You buy a house, the price may go down as millions in the UK have found. You buy stocks, same thing; they can go up or down.

People that bought Bitcoin are rolling in it now as it just went above gold for the first time ever. Was that gambling or “investing”? Even car insurance is gambling you are betting that you will have a car accident in the next twelve months. If you do have one, you get paid; if you don't you lose your money.

So sports trading is gambling, investing, speculating, give it whatever name you like, but is the same as many other things. The big difference is, I really know a lot about sports and the chances of something happening in any given match, but ask me what the price of oil, sugar, coffee, currency pairs or Bitcoin will do tomorrow, I haven’t got a clue.

So my “approach” is sticking to what I know and focussing on excelling at it.

Would you describe for us your typical working day?

I get up every day at 8.00am and shower and eat and I am at my desk at 9.00am. I already know what is on that day as I have analysed it, written about it, decided my trades and sent them out to the clients the night before. I look for any late team changes or condition changes, otherwise things stay as they are. I spend an hour answering emails and questions on Twitter, and then catch up with the team at RacingTraders to see what videos they need that day or answer support emails for users of the BetTrader trading software. It never stops.

Then from 2.00pm I am immersed in the racing markets solely until 5.30, and then I stop for dinner and a break. From 7.00pm I am trading football and then at 9.30 watch two hours of TV and go to bed. Then repeat. I do that five days a week with the exceptions being Tuesday and Wednesday for reasons you will discover later in the interview.

We assume that trading has up and downs as you would encounter in any financial trading. How do you decide when it is time to cut your losses and what signals should people look out for when watching their markets?

You decide before the trade is opened. You know what entry price you are going in at, how much you want from the trade which determines your exit price, and then how much you are prepared to lose to attain it, which determines your stop loss point. If a trade does not go the way I like from the start, I will often exit early and wait for another opportunity. They come along like London buses. That’s why sports trading is so exhilarating. And rewarding.

The key is to understand bad days will happen. You will have losing days, weeks and even months. Just look at it like a business, you will have expenses. Just like a flat tyre will cost you £90 or a new computer for your business will cost £600, a £600 loss in trading needs to be treated the same way. You get annoyed when you blow a tyre and it costs you £90, but you don't go on tilt and blow all the money in your bank. So don’t do it when you have a losing trade. Relax, it happens.

There are no real signals to watch for, as every match or every market is totally different so you just trade each market on its merits. If it does what you expect, you will make money.

We see from your website that you run a number of Sports Trading workshops. Would you explain for our readers what exactly these entail and what is on offer?

I explain in detail everything you need to do from the moment you decide you want to be a trader, right through to when you are ready to go full time. It goes from 9.00am to 5.00pm and we cover psychology, risk management, discipline, strategy, analysis, and cover a multitude of sports, with a major focus on horse racing.

There are a number of trading platforms on the market these days, do you have any preferences and if so why?

BetTrader from RacingTraders is (and always has been) my number one as it is the clearest, simplest to use and understand, and is just perfect for beginners to intermediate traders to get to grips with trading software.

There are others but they try to outdo each other adding bells and whistles nobody needs or will ever use and it just makes them far too complicated. Most of my clients want things easy and simple and are learning, so we use BetTrader as it by far the easiest to use and understand. No contest. RacingTraders have just released a superb product called BetTornado for football, tennis and darts with built in live stats and match video. BetTrader is best for racing though.

Do some sports offer greater trading opportunities than others and if so which? Which sports would you suggest an individual looks to cut their teeth on?

Start with what you know; it’s easier as you understand what you are seeing. So usually football, cricket and tennis and they are by far the best sports to trade with the most liquidity and a very large number of opportunities. Obscure sports like snooker and the Olympics and chess offer minimal opportunities and very small liquidity.

It also helps to watch the sport live, both from a trading and liquidity perspective.

Do you feel that betting exchanges other than Betfair can also offer trading opportunities and if so what alternatives if any do you feel they can bring?

Matchbook is the next best to Betfair and they are making massive inroads into their market. They are far superior to Betfair on American sports and once they incorporate in running trading on the racing, all of my business will be going there.

Betdaq have had multiple opportunities to make inroads and have shunned them all and they are a company with no drive and no desire to do any better than they currently are which is crazy as I have had literally hundreds of my clients wanting to move there to escape Betfair and their terrible treatment of their customers.

Hopefully in 2017 we will all be moving to Matchbook.

The racing industry is often criticised for having too many races and poor quality meetings with insufficient prize monies to encourage entries etc. Is there anything that you would like to see changed within the horse racing industry and why?

I have no interest in the racing industry. I know virtually nothing about tracks, trainers, jockeys, horses; barriers, owners and I don't need to know any of that to do what I do on racing. I know a lot of people are distraught at the state of it and personally I think the quality of horses is pretty poor and the number of meetings and runners are out of sync with reality.There should be fewer meetings, meaning more runners and better prize money and better trading opportunities.

What do you do to relax and unwind? What interests have you outside of the sports trading world?

I have two afternoons a week (Tuesday and Wednesday) where I stop work at 3.00pm and collect my daughters from school and spend time solely with them, doing whatever they like, from bike riding, swimming or play Wii bowling, so on those days from 3.00pm to 7.00pm is their time and then I can still trade football later when they are in bed so I don't lose out. They get time with their dad and I need that down time. Once a month I take the weekend off to spend with them as well, but I can often sneak a few trades in I had planned on the Friday.

I have no other interests, just my family and my job, and maybe that is the key to the success, that tunnel vision. Not everyone has that or wants it.

Do you have any personal trading experiences which when reflecting back bring a smile, or for that matter any which bring a grimace; you can share with our readers?

The one regret I have, if you can call it that, is in this job, the love of sport dies fast; you have to dump the emotion. So now when I am at a game or out at a pub for a meal and a game is on, or especially when we are having a drink after a trading course watching a game we have just analysed, they all jump and shout when we get the goal we needed, and I am emotionless, after all, it was exactly what we had expected, that is why we bet on it.

It becomes like expecting a bus to come around a corner, and when it does, there is no surprise, you knew it was coming. If you ask my partner, on any day of the year, did I win or lose money that day, she would never have a clue, I could have won £1000 or lost £1000, the expression is identical; it’s all part of the job.

So there is no more jumping up and down on the sofa when your team scores!

You have the nickname of “The Badger”, we have to ask why?

Very uninteresting, some mates in Sydney I played cricket with started it due to me being follicly challenged, and I guess the saying “bald as a badger” is how it came about due to the white stripe badgers have on their melon. And as most traders I met on the London oil market when I came here in 1994 had nicknames, my trading identity became, The Badger.

Find out more about Tony's trading activities by clicking here.

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