Alan C – Trading Football Profitably (In Retirement!)
I am really excited about this edition of Trader Talk, as I catch up with UFT member Alan C who runs his own web design business and trades football profitably, bringing in a comfortable 4 figures per month.
But what is beautiful about this story is that Alan is pretty much in retirement and is choosing to live his life the way he wants to live it with his wife in sunny Gibraltar.
He can work, trade and make money when he wants and how he wants which I expect helps him to have a pretty relaxed life!
That is so great to hear and fits with my own ethos that sports trading isn’t about the ‘getting rich‘ it is about having the financial independence to do what you want in life.
Anyway, If this sounds good to you then I think you will enjoy hearing more about Alan’s story and how he likes to trade football including what works best for him.
Go grab a nice cup of tea, coffee or an ice cold beer and let’s get into it!
Hey Alan. Many thanks for finally sitting down for this interview for the Sports Trading Life readers as a few people have asked about getting to know more about you and your approach.
Hi Ben; and let me say first it’s absolutely great to be part of the community that is UFT!
So, you are 60+ and you have been trading football for 2 years, making a nice 4 figures per month (and rising recently!) and you are now actually full time with it and the best part of all, you swapped the UK for the warmer and sunnier Gibraltar!
I am looking forward to hearing how this came about. What were you doing before football trading? Have you always been a football fan?
Yes, I have been supporting Manchester United since attending my first match at 10 years old, and until I eventually left the country, I very rarely missed a home match. By 15 I had a season ticket, which I only gave up 32 years later.
I spent 9 years in the Army, reaching the dizzy heights of Sergeant. This took me to a variety of locations between 1979 and 1988 as anyone old enough might imagine and experienced my fair share of things that make you grow up fast.
I only left the forces after 9 years as by then I had a wife and 2 young girls, I was 30, and I thought rather than push my luck anymore, I’ll get out now.
After that I went into computer programming and the rise of the internet kept me busy until I was remarried at 48, to my latest wife 😉
Today I describe myself, in normal work, as a graphic designer and web developer, working for myself, as I have done for most of my post armed forces life.
Sounds great. Your story is quite unique in that you are one of many British UFT members but you don’t actually live in the UK. How did all this happen?
Not long after we met, Veronica, my wife, and I were watching a western movie, and she commented “I’d love to have that all space to live in”.
It so happened that I had travelled to Las Vegas playing poker some 18 times over the previous 10 years, and I suggested to her that I knew exactly where you can have that kind of open space. After just 6 months together I took her on holiday to Palm Springs and Las Vegas, staying in Joshua Tree for a short while. I already loved the desert communities, as they call them, and Veronica fell in love with it immediately, and we bought a house, right there and then.
Two months later, we secured a Visa for 2 years and off we went!
We then ran a live music bar in Joshua Tree, California.
Yes, the very same Joshua Tree that U2 wrote an album about.
The owner of the property wanted the business building up for eventual sale, and we worked at that quite successfully. We generated a very loyal client base, including many marines from the nearby 29 Palms Marine Base. If we ever get to sit in a bar with a drink or two, we have some great stories to tell from our time there.
Eventually our US Visa was up, and we were leaving. We had no intention of returning to the UK, so we looked at various locations in Europe for our next stop.
We considered several countries, and we secured the opportunity to repeat the bar/restaurant business in Spain. We did that right up until it was sold a year or so later, and we got paid off and moved on.
We had by now had enough of working behind the scenes all day, in the restaurant all evening, and then the clean up and reset for the next day working into the night. So, my wife sought a “proper job”, and I went back to my poker. More on poker in a little while.
But this is how we ended up in Gibraltar. Veronica secured a job with “Stan James”, and we moved.
Sounds awesome mate. I have actually never been to Gibraltar, what is it like? Would there be any Brexit issues?
As Brits in Gibraltar, Brexit has had no impact. Our British nationality gives us every right to be here living and working. You simply must get a local registration card (ID) and off you go.
There is no VAT, low energy bills, the weather is somewhat different from the UK, and we have made lots of friends both British and native Gibraltarian. The whole place is only a couple of square miles in size, and 30,000 people live here, so it is a tight but friendly community.
Leaving aside the current Covid situation, the evenings are lively with plenty of bars and restaurants to hang out at with friends. Most of the year it is perfectly comfortable to be outdoors right into the night.
We have a comfortable apartment right in the town centre, and have our little yorkie doggie, Bella.
The winter might get down to 14 degrees if we are unlucky, and the summers reach the mid 30’s. 300 sunny days a year, what’s not to like!
From my trading perspective the TV service includes Sky Sports, BT Sports, BEIN Sports and more… so there’s just about any match available somewhere live on TV.
I got quite sick for a while, and that put a stop to any thoughts of a proper job ever again, so I turned my attention to poker and football trading full time, with graphic design and website development on the side in support.
We had a member on here recently who says he never trades Man Utd matches because he supports them. How do you feel about trading the team you support?
Trading United? Well, what can I say? I do trade United, but I do try and treat it just like any other team when it comes to decisions. The one advantage you have when looking at your own team is that you know them better than any other team. I learned a long time ago to go with my head and not with my heart when it comes to trading your own team. It is a little weird when I profit and United lose, but hey, you must separate the two feelings!
And so currently, what does a typical day look like for you since you took this up full time?
A typical day starts around 7am when the alarm dog wakes me up. We see wifey off to work, and then get to the computer. I enter up the fixtures of interest into my software that I wrote, and it crunches the numbers spitting out a raft of probabilities to assess.
I will pick a match or two for the afternoon to trade, and there are Australian matches some mornings which can be quite lucrative. Australian defences are so bad they cannot help but concede goals.
If there are decent looking matches in the evening I will setup the laptop in the lounge and trade while we have TV on. Higher profile matches will see me back at the PC though. So long as Veronica gets new shoes and bags, she doesn’t mind! She finds watching me trade in and out of matches interesting and often wants to know what I am doing and, importantly, why.
Around midnight are the best of the South American matches which I sometimes trade. In the early hours, during the MLS season, you can easily find 2-3 matches back-to-back all night to trade if you want to.
So lets circle back and talk about how you got into football trading? Did your poker background have an influence?
I have played online poker, semi-pro, like many of my age group, since Chris Moneymaker proved in 2003 that just about anyone can win “the big one”. I have been with PokerStars for over 20 years and have played live poker in Vegas many times in various tournaments. Only once have I ever come back from Vegas with less than I arrived.
Poker these days takes a back seat to trading, as it is just so time consuming. A typical online tournament means committing 6-10 hours if you expect to run deep. Maybe I am just getting too old for that?
Poker principals though, transfer well into trading. I have always been good with maths in my head in quick time, appreciating odds and probabilities is a must in poker the same way it is in trading. At least with the football trading you have more than a few seconds to decide what to do next unlike poker hands.
Interesting. Yes you are not the only one who did poker and then got into trading sports. I expect learning probabilities and value help hugely.
At what point did you join me at Ultimate Football Trading?
I came by football trading quite by accident 3 years or so ago.
Sat in a bar watching United, with the “Gibraltar Reds”, one of my friends was placing bets on the Exchange. I asked him what’s the difference between what he was doing, and the way I was simply betting various aspects of a given match on the Sports Book. He was not, strictly speaking, trading, but was getting better prices, and was occasionally adding to his bets and also mitigating bets that might be going astray.
As soon as I got home that night I turned to the trusty YouTube and over the next few days this one site kept popping up… “Sports Trading Life”. Goodness knows how many hours I watched of your videos. But I was hooked immediately.
This had everything I needed, wall to wall football, maths, trading in and out (action), and an obvious way, if you apply yourself, to make some money. So, I discussed it with Veronica, and we decided to throw £2,000 at it, from our share trading account, and see what happens. I thought it should easily outstrip any typical “investments” people make with their cash, and so why not!
How right I was!
I soon found out though, that I was doing the same thing over and over, and for some reason I just was not appreciating, or realising, some of the nuances of trading, and that it was taking a long time to get to grips with all the options of approach available. Somehow, I needed a kick start. I did not know anyone personally who traded football.
I joined UFT for that very reason, and it was like someone turned the lights on! It all seemed so obvious, yet not. It was the best “gaming” investment ever without a doubt.
Glad to hear it. How long did it take you to become profitable?
I was profitable, albeit modestly straight away. £5’s here, £10’s there, and lessons learned in between. What UFT did do though, is allow me to try out a variety of strategies to see what I felt most suited my character.
That is definitely interesting. Not often people click with it right away, I would imagine the Poker background helped.
What is your football trading ‘style’ and main markets?
My primary market is the goals market, in a goal positive way.
I tried the “unders”, but it was far too stressful praying for no goals, when you know full well a goal is coming in most matches; it is just a matter of when. So Over 1.5 and Over 2.5 are my primary focus, looking at options to mitigate a potential lack of goals; however, I soon started trading the correct scores (sniping) also, and I have had some extraordinary pay-outs on occasion from those.
I have used the sniping “top up” method of adding to a stake on free kicks and corners. In reality though, free kicks and corners do not result in a goal that often. The most prolific corner / goal ratio in the premier league, is only around 3% for example.
Tell us more about your set up, it looks pretty cool.
My setup is a four-screen x 32” high end PC with multiple hard drives, all SSD’s, and a top-notch graphics card to run all those monitors. This was put together with my graphic design in mind but serves very well for viewing multiple matches and laying out the windows to see the trading screens at the same time. Over the top is the main TV for watching whatever my primary match is at any given time. My system has built up over time, so a price is a tough one, but I would guess to replicate it from scratch in one go would be about £3k-£4k.
Its handy to be able to work on someone’s website and have Betfair windows and a couple of live matches all in view at the same time.
You said you like to trade MLS and like the LAFC team. I have seen their fans too and it is amazing. How do you go about trading MLS? It is a tricky league!
Yes, the MLS; not for the faint hearted! Absolutely anything can happen. A team set to win can get hammered, and a team set to lose can and does win 4-0. It is strictly goal market for me with the MLS.
If I had to have an MLS team to support, it would be LAFC. Their fans are plain nuts, and you never know how many goals they will score, or concede for that matter, so it is always interesting.
Similarly, how do you approach the late night South American leagues? I know most struggle there.
These South American matches are hard work for sure. I call them bread and butter over 1.5 goal trades. They will never make you a millionaire, but there is always a small profit to be made. I only really get involved because I am a bit of an insomniac, and so may as well have football on TV.
How often do you have losing days? And how do you handle them?
I have losing days just like anyone else. I rarely go three trading days in a row without a profitable day though. I don’t recall ever having a losing streak beyond 3 trading days. The trick for me is to work out if there was a reason I lost and was it something I did wrong. Until just recently, I was guilty of over betting too often. Throwing more money at a match than it deserved given its pre-match assessment. It is a bad habit that is hard to shake, but I am getting there, but to this day I still can get a bit carried away with a given match.
Losing days hurt of course, but a lesson learned from poker, is that you might not reach the cash in 10 tournaments, but the 11th will make up for it. In trading, I am only concerned with profit monthly, rather than by the day. Assessing profit daily is far too variable to be of any use whatsoever.
I have quite a high risk threshold, so I don’t get upset after a losing trade at all. I just appreciate where it went wrong, which may not be anything I did, just the match didn’t play out as expected, put it behind me, and carry on regardless with the next match.
So tell us a bit more about the database you developed. Alpha Football Trading?
I was using your spreadsheets in the beginning which are great for keeping your history and tracking where your money is coming from, or not, as the case may be. Being a programmer by trade, I knew I could develop something that suited the depth I intended to get into. The easiest software to quickly develop without too much distraction would be in Ms Access.
My application records data by fixture, and by individual trades in those fixtures. Pre-match I input a few stats from a website, and it crunches the Poisson Distribution Model, spitting out goal probabilities. I base decisions of potential fixtures and markets based on this output comparing the software prices with those on the Exchange looking for value.
I am a firm believer in trading matches I am watching. I rarely place passive trades. So, despite having all that pre-match data available, the first 10-15 minutes of a live match gives you the best indication of what is happening in that match. Once a match is 30 minutes in, your pre-match stats are of little use. Watching actual pictures in real time is priceless when trading.
What are the future plans for AlphaFootballTrading?
I have no plans as such for this website really. It is not part of any business plan. I will blog, and my software is already available for download as a freebie, and I will continue to add features and post it. Alpha Football Trading is not a business and I guess it never will be. I plan to publish a daily “tip”, but that tip will be a “probability-based tip” as opposed to a “predictive tip” that you would normally come across. Just for fun really!
Do you think the average new trader struggles with understanding the concept of probability?
Now you have hit the nail squarely on the head for new traders. Unless new traders understand that 90% probability does not mean virtually guaranteed, they will struggle.
If one throws the kitchen sink at this trade, and the 5% probability comes off, which it will 5 times out of 100, you will go broke very quickly. Imagine a day where a string of results fell outside of attractive probabilities. Your bankroll will go down faster than the Titanic.
Was going to say Monica Lewinski… better not eh.
What has been a really memorable match you have traded? Tell us more about the Man Utd-Southampton match.
Oh yes, the Southampton match. This was an occasion where trading your own team, who you know well, seemed like a great idea as the match scenario played out. United were away at Southampton and were losing 2-0 at the break. However, knowing United had been a second half team all season so far, and played so badly in that first half that they could not possibly play that badly in the second half; a comeback of some description was definitely on the cards. Even if United drew level a trade out would be a certainty, however, my gut just said that United would pull this one off.
I laid S’ton and backed Over 4.5 goals as a Fireball Reloaded. A bit risky I admit.
I threw also threw a bit more at this one that would seem reasonable, but I was convinced that if United got the next goal, they would go on to win. Well, what do you know, that is exactly what happened, and I profited in the high three figures in 45 minutes.
Now this bit might hurt, but tell us about your worst mistake you made when trading?
Worst mistake… I still repeat this mistake to this day, just not very often. “Seeing 3 goals in the first half guarantees goals in the second half”. Not!
I can’t remember the match but I also remember putting a decent stake on a trade where I thought the price was fantastic. No wonder the price looked good, it turned out I had the wrong match in view on Betfair.
So you are 60+, living a great life in the sunshine, I assume you intend to keep doing this for a while and have no rush to change anything but do you see yourself doing anything different or additional in the future? Maybe even trade a new sport?
Yes, Veronica and I have a nice life here in Gibraltar, and we don’t have plans for any more adventures to the other side of the world. I can watch all the football I want, and my bankroll is secure.
I will be sticking to football. I have little interest or time for other sports. I like to think I can read a match in play very well.
So much so, I get texts from one friend in particular asking me “what is going to happen next”?
Match reading skills have served me well. A significant chunk of my profit has come from matches with late goals that were clearly likely to happen; and the prices can be very favourable. Maybe everyone else on the day was watching a different match and pushing the price my way? Learning to read a match is vital. This aspect of trading cannot be taught though, you can only do this yourself through experience.
Finally, from what you have seen in the online world, why do so many go wrong when trying to be profitable at trading?
So many go wrong for the same reason that only 8% or so of poker players are profitable. One can wrap it up in one word, and I am sorry if this upsets a few of our friends on UFT. That word is “deluded”. Unless you develop your live match reading, pre-match selection, math skills, and control your bankroll, you are likely to struggle. Sorry guys, just being honest.
What really helped me, leaving aside UFT, was to build up my basic stake; literally from £2 while trying out all the various strategies in the early days. As confidence grows, and you start to see profits, so your comfort level of stake will rise also.
The next thing I would say is not to give up too easily in the early days. It is going to take a while. Ensure you have sufficient bankroll to last the pace. A bad run is just that; a bad run. Work out what you are doing wrong, which may be simply match selection for instance, and fix it. Then try again having learned a lesson or two, keeping you stakes low until you see profit returning.
Repeat this process as often as necessary.
Many thanks for taking the time Alan!
You’re welcome! If any readers are headed to Gibraltar for a long weekend sometime, give me a shout and I’ll give you the tour!
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It’s interesting, from reading a few of these articles, super successful traders all seem to have things in common: a stable personal life, be that a wife. a prior demanding job or experience out there in the real world, possibly even earning good money, this gives them an abundance mindset. they’re not on the couch struggling to rub two pennies together and think they can make it big in online sports trading. What else? they all seem of an age where they’ve learnt by mistakes. They all have a real interest and knowledge of football. They are realistic about what is achievable, they all started small and then as they got more confident they were willing to risk more.
Reading these articles as a wannabe professional trader, they are really valuable, even by learning through osmosis. We all require role models to be good at something and these guys can be that for any wannabe professional sports trader. Much of success really comes down to mindset. If you think it’s possible then it is possible, if you think it’s not possible then you’ll also prove yourself to be correct.
I think a problem a lot of people starting out trading on football make is they want to try and trade EVERY match. Rather than wait for the opportunities to present themselves they are out there constantly looking for it. Obviously you have to look to some degree to find, but you could mistakenly think that you have to be trading in multiple matches all at once to make a profit, when in reality a more “Quality over quantity” approach may serve you better.
Psychology is probably 80% of trading.
Good points about the stability Mike. Not many consider that. You have to be in the “right place” mentally to succeed!