In this edition of Trader Talk, I talk to Rob S of Apex Football Trading who has been an Ultimate Football Trading member almost since the beginning. He now brings in a tidy second income from football trading every month but his journey towards that has been an interesting one.
Read on to discover some of the early mistakes Rob made in his journey, the changes he made that helped him finally become profitable and why he actually QUIT doing football trading full time to go back to doing it part time!
Grab a cup of tea, coffee or a nice cold beer and enjoy reading!
Hey Rob. Many thanks for sitting down for this interview for the Sports Trading Life readers.
So these days you average around £500 per week or (roughly) £2k a month trading football in just a small limited amount of spare time that you get. That is very nice, I am sure many reading this wouldn’t mind that sort of extra income from trading football in their spare time, but as you already told me it wasn’t an easy journey.
So let’s start at the beginning, how did you get involved with football trading?
Hi Ben, no problem at all and thank you for the opportunity to share a bit of my journey and hopefully somebody early in their football trading career, or anyone at all, can take some value from my experiences.
My name is Rob, I am 36 years old and based in the Midlands. I have had a passion for football ever since I can remember first having interests in anything. It has always played a big part in my life and framed my childhood, whether that was playing Sunday league or sneakily staying up late enough to watch Match of the Day.
My journey towards football trading started when I was in the Army. Myself and my friends would spend fairly large amounts of time in the bookies on a Saturday lunch time and then watch on from the pub as our nailed on 10-folds would “only” lose by 3 or 4 matches. After I had left the Army and moved back closer to home, with a real job and rent to pay, I decided that I needed to be better at betting if I was to continue having it as a hobby.
This sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole which eventually led to the Betfair Exchange and the idea of trading. I had heard of it before however, from afar, it did seem a bit complicated. In June of 2014 I played around with £20 on a friendly between England and Ecuador. The sides exchanged leads, and each had a man sent off in a 2-2 draw. Whilst all this was going on I had managed to take a few positions and ended up with a £13 profit across each of the match odds selections.
Not much that isn’t the point since I realised that night that this was the direction for me.
From here I just started to soak up everything I could on the subject and took the time to play around with prices and positions. It really did feel like a light had been switched on and the possibilities were endless.
I must admit I was quite naïve as to the learning curve I was about to embark on.
So you said it actually took you 4 years to become profitable at this. Was there anything holding you back during those 4 years?
Yes it really did take me around 4 years to become what I would say is consistently profitable. In the early days it was very up and down. I’d make some decent profit on a Saturday, go to bed feeling very proud of myself, then get blown out of the water on a Sunday!
My biggest issue back then, and the thing I would have loved to have worked out so much earlier, is the idea that there is always plenty of football on tomorrow. I was always in such a rush to chase more money, even if there wasn’t any more on the table. I could finish on a Saturday night at 8PM happy with my days efforts, but by 8:30PM I’d have the laptop back on looking at the 10PM MLS games.
If I could go back to the first couple of years and give myself some advice, it would be that it’s OK to sit on my hands. I would say to anybody who may read this and relate to it that, if it doesn’t come easy to you, you should practice it until it’s second nature. There’s always plenty of football on tomorrow, wait for the opportunities to come to you.
Yes I definitely agree.
In the beginning for me the matches available for trading were quite limited but it was quite the game changer once more and more matches allowed in-play trading. These days you could easily be there 24 hours a day which is good as it means you can be flexible with when you want to trade but for some it can lead to over-trading and getting involved in matches they shouldn’t be.
So you told me that you actually went full time as a football trader for a bit but you soon went back to part time?
Yes that is right, you can certainly say it did not go well!
I am able to smile about it now, mainly because I can now see I was nowhere near prepared for everything that would go along with living that kind of life as a full-time football trader.
It was around April 2016, I had decided I wasn’t completely happy with the direction of my career. I was an engineer but had aspirations to progress and didn’t see that in the company that I was in so I decided to hand in my notice. I had an offer of a new position which would commence around 3 months later so I decided to trial trading full-time. I had enough saved up to allow me to do this without, I thought, the pressure of bills attached to it.
It started quite well, the first 2 weeks had earned me more than a month in my job. I felt comfortable in what I was doing, and my confidence was building. I remember quite vividly making £80 on the first day in about an hour watching HJK Helsinki and feeling rather happy with myself.
After those first 2 weeks things started to go wrong. I couldn’t see it at the time but analysing it back I was beginning to stake far too much, and that soon snowballed. If I can make X amount with £100 then it makes sense that I could make so much more staking £1000 right?
I was on tilt and by the time 2 months had passed I had blown through my bank and my savings.
Yes. I learnt a very harsh lesson that the market will do what the market will do no matter how much you try to force it. Up until that point I had no doubt I was going to be a full-time football trader at some point in the future, afterwards I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do it at all.
I think looking back now, the pressure just got to me and I was too involved to be able to see it happening. I didn’t have the safety net of a safe wage coming in and I got impatient and didn’t control myself. The market will punish people like that, as it did to me.
I now trade alongside my day job, as a project manager, and my family life, and I feel as though I have struck a nice balance.
Yes I do this see this happen a lot. I get many members who tell me they want to quit their job and go full time and I always have to warn them about how different it can be mentally once you take the plunge. Like you said, a safety net is good for you to be able to trade without mental restrictions.
So after this experience, what did you do differently?
Yes I decided, after a bit of time away from it, that if I was to continue to invest my time and energy into this I had to get serious about how I viewed each and every little aspect of football trading. What started out as just an idea to try to improve focus and accountability became Apex Football Trading.
I have found treating my trading as a business, separate to my personal life, has had a huge effect on my consistency, focus and profitability. My Twitter is Apex Football Trading and I don’t post anything personal to me. I also have a separate bank account, away from my personal accounts, specifically for my football trading where I hold the rest of my bank outside of the cash I tend to keep in my Betfair account at any one time.
And so treating it like a business helped you?
Yes, I do believe making these changes towards a more business focused, professional enterprise is the reason why I have been able to transition to being consistently profitable over the past 2 years or so.
Another key factor in that change was what you touched on in your earlier question, becoming a father for the first time. My partner and I have been together since December 2015 and welcomed our daughter into the world in May 2018. I would love to say that the reason my trading improved was due to some spiritual sense of comfort in becoming a parent, but the reality is that whilst my partner was pregnant I realised that my days of getting up at 05:30 for the A League and watching football till midnight were numbered!
I began to become more analysis based and monitoring the match stats rather than watching the games. The many variables that make up a game of football have since become a bit of an obsession of mine and I feel much more comfortable trading in this way now.
Yes we have all been there at some point. Asian matches in the morning all the way through to the South American matches around midnight. Fun times!
So around which point in this journey did you join Ultimate Football Trading. It sounds like you were already doing quite well so in what ways did it help you?
I joined Ultimate Football Trading in November 2018, having previously soaked up a lot of your content on YouTube before-hand. I think the UFT course is a fantastic resource for traders at different stages of their development. When I signed up, I would have said I was at an intermediate level and it certainly helped me progress further. Each strategy is well laid out and, crucially, backed up with real world examples. You also have the added reassurance that you are learning the same techniques used by someone who makes a living in this industry.
Thanks for the kind words Rob.
So which football markets do you focus on?
I almost exclusively now trade in the goals markets. I am plagiarizing this now, and I apologise to whoever wrote it originally, but I once read that if you trade the goals markets you have two sides working towards your position. Obviously in the match odds markets you tend to have 1 side working against you
A good example of this recently was the Sheffield United v Chelsea game, which ended 3-0. I was trading over 2.5 goals however I certainly didn’t forecast Sheffield United to get 3 and Chelsea not to score. The end result was a successful trade and the right result but my forecast was wrong for how it was split. Fortunately that didn’t matter ultimately.
The main strategies I tend to use are slightly modified versions of your “Fireball” and “Fireball Reloaded”. I use my own match selection criteria and operate in the over 2.5 goals market but with Fireball staking.
I have had some success in the “both teams to score” markets too.
The BTTS market? Are you trading on that market?
I think it kind of depends where you choose to draw the line on what is betting and what is trading. For me, when I take a position, in any market, it is with the idea of using the price changes, hopefully in my favour, to at least remove my liability. It’s this manipulating of prices at various points through a game that i would define as “trading”.
So from that stand point I would say it is. However, with that being said, I don’t have a strategy that I follow for the BTTS market. I look to move on the BTTS alongside the overs market if the pre-game research suggests, just as a way of sweating the match a little more. I have seen strategies centred around correct score insurance for the BTTS market but that isn’t something i have tried myself.
With the way I research matches for the overs markets, that the kind of matches i focus on are not between sides with a huge disparity in quality and/or league position. I think this brings motivation into the mix a little more than I’d like!
I tend to target games where they sides will be relatively closely matched. From trading the overs markets in these kinds of games I would often see the goals shared between the sides so it seemed like a natural decision to try to sweat the positions a little more.
So it is clear you now have an edge, where would you say your “edge” comes from?
Although not necessarily an edge exactly I would say my consistency of action now is a strength of mine. Every day now I am “available” if opportunities present themselves in the market. Going back to those early days, I can’t tell you how often I would blow my bank on a position I was trying to shoehorn in then watch helplessly with no capital as perfect opportunities would come along through the rest of the day. Due to my consistency and stable staking I never come close to not having that cash flow available for the next opportunity anymore.
I’m also always trying to learn. I’ve put a lot of time into the mental side of trading and I try to read or listen to as much content about football as I can. My commute is 30 mins each way in the car and that’s a great audiobook or podcast time each day.
And so today are you spotting opportunities in-play or do you have a more rigid approach?
Back in the days when i would happily spend 12-16 hours a day trading at the weekends i would do minimal research before the games. It may even be as simple as booting up FlashScores and looking at the last few games for each side. I trusted my match reading back then to find the opportunities as they unfolded. There was a much more even spread between match odds and the goals markets back then.
Now I rely almost completely on research conducted in the day or 2 before the games. Since my daughter came along I would say i maybe watch 4-5 games a week to completion and, to be honest, i just don’t have the focus during this time to fully tune into the games as they play out.
I use Goal Profits for my research and have my own filters saved in the “Custom Shortlist Pro” section. If the games haven’t hit the criteria i have set for the filters then I simply don’t consider trading them. The only exception to this is if i am able to watch a game live. I would then us their “Team Stats” section to see if what i think I’m seeing has a grounding in stats.
I certainly feel a little more in control of my trading using the pre-game research method. If the market doesn’t go the way I expect then at least i know i was interested/in it for the correct reasons and I followed my process.
So now you have much more experience would you ever consider giving the full time football trading another go?
I’d never say never but right now I really can’t see it. I’ve said previously that my goal is to put myself in a position to be a full-time football trader and it would be nice to have that option. I could also see myself working a regular job part-time in the future and using trading to fill the short fall. But right now I feel I have the balance just right between my work, family and trading life.
Yes I agree. Doing football trading for lifestyle reasons is great, how do friends and family react to what you do in your spare time?
For the most part my friends just think I like a bet and watch too much football! A couple of my close friends have seen what I do and I have explained it in detail to them but to be honest I don’t really try to expand on it to my extended family or friends. I’m not sure I could explain it in a way that they would truly understand anyway!
My partner has been fantastic since the first day I explained it to her. I think that was helped by me demoing a couple of trades to her and explaining my thought process at the time. I think she pretended to be interested! She makes time for me to watch football and fully appreciates the way I treat it as a second job and supports that 100%. She’s also a psychologist which helps!
Very interesting and glad to hear it. Do you feel that knowing you can make money outside of your regular job gives you a bit of extra freedom mentally?
Trading has played such a large part of my life over the last 6 or so years it’s hard to quantify the impact it has had. One of the big takeaways I get from trading is this feeling that it is my own little island away from everything else I have going on in my life. It is something I came across organically and grew through my own interest and passion to get better.
Those close to me will say that I tend to bounce between interests quite a lot. I will go all in on something for a period before cooling off and moving onto the next thing. I have never done that with trading. It has been a constant in my life since I first came across it, even in the not so great times.
Financially it does give you a degree of extra freedom to an extent. I am at a point now where I tend to push the vast majority I withdraw into savings. In the early days I would spend it all like it was going to be taken off me! I remember having one particularly good weekend a few years ago and heading straight to Curry’s and spending £1300 on a new TV! I also paid for a 4-day stag weekend I was going on with 2 hours of trading a couple of weeks before. Those moments have stuck with me as it just showed the potential to me if I could just learn to manage myself.
Nice! When those profits become something tangible it always feels extra good. What has been your most memorable football match to trade?
The most memorable game for me was memorable for all the wrong reasons. It was during this period when I was trialing full-time and the wheels were coming off. The match was Sporting Kansas City v FC Dallas in June 2016.
I had backed over 2.5 goals with a liability of £2000 (remember what I said earlier about being on tilt!) around the 10 minutes mark. It ended 2-0 but if you happen to see the highlights on YouTube you will maybe see where my emotions must have been in the early hours of that morning.
I felt so hard done by after that game. The problem wasn’t the disallowed goals and missed chances though, it was me exposing myself to that situation. I will always remember that game and it serves as a reminder as to what can happen if you don’t stay ahead of yourself at all times whilst in the markets.
A happier one that comes to mind is laying Brisbane Roar when they were 3-1 up in the 92nd minute a few years back. I left the room to come back in at the 97th minute to see it was 3-3. I made around £600 on that one. I have found the A League to be really quite profitable for me over the years.
Yes the A-League is a great one for trading. But what on earth made you want to lay Brisbane at that time of the match?
Ha ha I layed Brisbane Roar due to an unconscious bias i have about the A League.
I layed them at 1.01 for a liability of £6 and a few of pence, which would’ve been just to bring the money in my Betfair account to a round figure.
When i fist began trading it was a bit of a gold mine for me. The quality gap through a starting eleven could be huge and it made for, to me at least, a really interesting brand of football. It felt a bit like the football you’d play at dinner time at school. Player positions seemed to be quite fluid and there would be overloads all over the pitch.
The games would dramatically swing one way then the other and a side that looked unbeatable for 20 minutes would then drop the lines 10 yards and look like they were playing for the first time. Throw in the wildcard players who would go there to end their careers, think Del Piero at Sydney, and you’d have a recipe for a beautiful chaos.
In recent years it has changed somewhat. There does seem to be a much firmer grasp on tactical discipline among the sides and an improvement in general quality, which for me at least, is a massive.
OK and you made a decent profit in the Man City-Watford match recently, slightly different market from the norm…
Honestly, this was a little bit out there for me in hindsight but I backed City -1 at odds of 1.92 with a liability of £775 and layed it at 1.16 when the second goal went in. That isn’t at all typical of my staking but I have given myself the right to do that from time to time if I feel it’s value. And I hugely did here. Watford’s knee jerk change of management coupled with the maulings City had previously given them meant I could stand by this fairly comfortably even with the high exposure. I actually had this forecast going to 6-0 or more.
Finally, if you were just starting out today what advice would you give yourself?
I would convince myself the value of sitting on my hands and waiting for opportunities to come to me rather than forcing anything. There is so much football still to come tomorrow, next week and next month. You really don’t need to try to force anything. There’s a good quote from Warren Buffett in regards to the baseball player Ted Williams which is worth looking further into. I try to keep this front and center in my thoughts when trading now.
“Ted Williams described in his book The Science of Hitting, that the most important thing—for a hitter—is to wait for the right pitch. And that’s exactly the philosophy I have about investing—wait for the right pitch, and wait for the right deal. And it will come….it’s the key to investing”
I would just like to add that, when starting out, please be wary of Twitter tipsters. There are some very good ones out there, some research will guide you to them. But Twitter is full of false prophets in the betting/trading field with green screens and BOOOOMS aplenty. I personally only follow the advice of one, and that is because they have specific knowledge of a league I don’t get into. But even then I research those selections.
I have found if I’m going to be wrong, and you will need to learn to accept that as part of the job, I prefer to be wrong with selections and decisions I have made myself rather than those that have been blindly followed.
Trust yourself, trust the process, stay consistent and stay disciplined. Then you have a base to try to build from.
Many thanks for taking the time Rob!
Thank you for the opportunity to share my Journey Ben it’s been a pleasure. And if anybody would like me to elaborate on anything or just have any questions at all you can reach me on twitter @Rob_ApexFT. I am absolutely not an expert in this field but I have tripped over a fair few of the obstacles on my journey and I may be able to give you a nudge !
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