Today, I present a new feature to the site which will be interviews with those within the industry. This will include sports traders, professional gamblers, bookies, bloggers and anyone else who is interesting!
We start with a big one as we have an interview with Mark Iverson who is a full time professional trader. This is a must read for anyone with an interest in trading sports on Betfair, enjoy!
STL: Hey Mark, I am really happy you have taken the time to talk to us! Let’s delve into your history firstly. Most Sports traders started out as regular gamblers. Was this the same for you?
Mark: Absolutely. My history with gambling started a long time ago. When I was very young I had a condition with my hip that kept me from going to school for the best part of two years. The only person available to look after me was my Grandfather so every afternoon he’d push my wheelchair to the betting shop where we’d end up fighting the smoke to try and pick some winners. My parents didn’t mind this daily routine until I started back at school. Every morning I’d scan the daily paper to study the racecards and give my tips for the day. They stopped the paper soon after, but that was it – I was hooked.
As I grew older my fascination grew and I became convinced that it was possible to make money from betting on sport but at that point I didn’t know how. I created system after system to try and beat the bookies and got to the point where I was making small annual profits, but it took a long time for the penny to drop on how to make more.
STL: So around what time did you discover Betfair and how were you first introduced to it?
Mark: I was a customer of Flutter.com so when they were taken over by Betfair in 2001 my account was transferred. I hadn’t really delved into exchange betting at that time but I understood the concept – instead of a bookie I’d now be pitting my wits against others like myself.
STL: Many people wrongly feel they need to deposit huge amounts of money in order to make huge amounts on Betfair. How much did you start out with?
Mark: In the summer of 2006 I was at a crossroads. I really felt that I’d exhausted all the punting possibilities around and it was only through a bit of luck that my gambling transformation began.
I’d bought the book, ‘Lay, Back & Think Of Winning’ written by Nigel Paul to take on holiday and whilst reading it realised that with a relatively small amount of money I’d be able to grow it through careful money management if I adopted a slightly different betting approach.
I’d been a Betfair customer for 5 years, but although I’d heard and previously attempted ‘trading’ on the exchange I’d never felt fully comfortable with the idea. Until then. The book inspired me and within days I was thinking of scores of different strategies for every sport I could think of. I gathered £250 as a starting bank but swore to myself that if I squandered it I wouldn’t top up the account.
STL: How did you learn? Today there are many courses and ebooks that can teach you how to trade, was it the same back then?
Mark: Mainly, I just kept reading. From gambling forums to recommended books on betting and human psychology, they all came in useful. In addition I also started a blog in December 2006 to plot my progress. I had two main aims – the first was to diarise what I was doing so that I could learn from my mistakes and the second was to inspire anybody who felt they needed money to make money. I guess I wanted to back-up advice I’d been given from an already successful gambler – “that big things are possible from small beginnings”.
STL: So at what point did you decide that you could do all this full time?
Mark: Only very recently. Going full time sounds great but I’d always realised that if I ever did take the plunge then I’d need the finances and the betting bank behind me to cover any poor runs. Over the last 5 years I re-invested as much of my winnings as I could to help me get there as quickly as possible.
STL: Can you reveal your average stake these days?
Mark: My stake sizes differ and depends on a number of things such as the confidence in my position and the volatility of the market, but to give you an idea they’re normally in the £500 to £4000 range. I very rarely hold positions until the end of an event and will almost always even my book at some stage. I’m acutely aware that I’m still a very small fish in a very big pond.
STL: Today, what sports do you trade mainly and why is that?
Mark: The majority of my action focuses on cricket with 75-80% of my profits coming from that sport alone. I’m always trying new things though and have good ‘fallbacks’ in Rugby Union, Darts and NFL.
STL: Obviously, you can’t reveal your secrets but what would you usual trading style be? Are you a scalper? Swing trader etc?
Mark: I consider myself a position taker, but those positions can vary in length from a few seconds to an hour.
Some traders say they wait patiently and might only perform two trades in a match. How many trades do you normally perform per event?
It varies. I look for opportunities so it all depends on how many present themselves. I always try to be careful of overtrading but if you have a trading plan then you can minimise the risk of this occurring.
STL: Are you believer of technical analysis when trading Betfair? Do you use it at all?
Mark: Not really. I monitor basic graph patterns and weight of money indicators but tend to focus more on the fundamentals of an event. Until recently I thought MACD was a fast food outlet and Fibonnacci a pizza!
STL: As we all know, no-one is perfect. What would you say your weaknesses are as a trader? If any?
Mark: Two examples stick out – I’m not very patient and I’m always beating myself up for being too risk averse. The result is that I get involved too often, so when I hit a winning position I’ve often not got enough ‘on’. I monitor my results closely and know from my key statistics that I should be more selective and aggressive.
STL: You might be a professional but even the professionals have losing runs. How do you cope with them?
Mark: I cringe at the term ‘professional’ these days. I know it’s on my blog etc. but when I started out on this journey it was only ever meant to be a mission statement. I wanted to approach things in a ‘professional’ manner but looking at it now it makes me realise how naive I was.
Coping with losing runs? It’s difficult but I always try to think about a positive. The losing will nearly always continue if I’m down on myself or don’t have the right frame of mind. Instead, I often reflect on how far I’ve come or just what I need to do to get back on track. Breaking things down into small steps can be a great help.
STL: I noticed on Twitter that you have been attending some cricket recently. Are you trading these at the same time? Is there any benefit to be had by being at the match itself?
Mark: I’ve been to two cricket matches in the last two weeks, but before that I hadn’t been to a game in seven years. Trading at a match is not something I do – I’m not a sniper!
STL: For those that are aspiring sports traders, what can you say is the best and worst thing about being a full time professional?
Mark: The best things all surround having the freedom to manage my time. It’s great to be able to wake up in the morning and be my own boss. If I want to make more money I know I need to work harder but if I want to spend time with the family I can. The worst things? I guess it’s easy to feel isolated if you don’t make an effort to get out and about, and there’s always a shortage of people who understand what I do. No matter which way you look at it, there’s still a social stigma attached to being a gambler.
STL: It’s been said that most new traders will blow their bank within a few months of starting. Where do you think most new traders go wrong when first starting out?
Mark: I would say risk management is where most fall down. If you’re consistently staking 100% of your bankroll on a 50/50 shot then you’ll go bust sooner rather than later. The secret is in staying at the table.
STL: Do you have any special gem of information you could reveal to those starting out sports trading? Something you feel that others might be missing?
Mark: Knowledge is everything so specialise in a handful of sports and aim to be the one who knows more than the majority.
Thanks for your time again Mark, best of luck with the future!
You can check out and follow Mark Iverson’s sports trading journey on his blog, Click Here to check it out!