December 17, 2007 at 16:09 #5986
Was an article in todays Sunday Independent about an Irish Professional Gambler.
Gambling on beating the odds
Johnny Ward meets professional gambler Declan Meagher whose strict — and profitable — betting regime is built on self-control and hard work
Sunday December 16 2007
W E dine over steak and wine. A few weeks previously, I had become acquainted with Declan Meagher on a weekend in Milan, and had made my maiden meeting with his curious profession.
Now, he discusses his two-bed house (it was a three-bed, but one was converted to accommodate a jacuzzi — serenity after a gruelling day’s graft). He tells me that he eats out at least once weekly with his girlfriend, and plans to exchange his present 2005 car for a 2008 Audi TT in the New Year.
There are two common misconceptions about gambling: the first is that gamblers in general bet in order to make money; the second is that it is impossible to make money gambling. Declan proves the falsity of the latter, and is a rare exception to the former untruth.
Consider what I will call the line of equilibrium. A bad gambler — that is to say the average gambler — starts the day at that line. Once he starts losing, he will not be content until he has returned to the line of equilibrium, or back level.
Should he have the fortune of augmenting the bulk of his wallet, the temptation is to play with his profits, either due to brashness or dissatisfaction with the amount of money he has won. Sooner or later, he will be back at the line of equilibrium.
To Declan, either scenario is anathema. He is a professional gambler. "I used to work with racehorses for Dermot Weld," he explains, "and went over to Moyglare Stud most winters to break in the yearlings. I handed in my notice around February 2002 and was planning to stay in Moyglare for a few more months.
"I was, however, already making money on Betfair and although I hadn’t told anyone yet, it was my intention to quit Moyglare and go full-time."
Circumstance would accelerate his departure. "I had a pain in my chest the morning of Istabraq’s last Champion Hurdle run when he was pulled up. I went into work anyway and rode out one lot but it was agony and I had to go home.
"Nobody in Moyglare would believe me, as I was only telling them the day before of the excuses I used to come up with to get off school during Cheltenham. I went to the doctor and he reckoned that my lung had collapsed. It happened before with the other side so he sent me to hospital — but I postponed it until after the last race. It had collapsed, though, and I took that as my opportunity to give up working with horses and go gambling full-time. I’ve been doing it ever since."
On the weekend in Milan, Declan placed a few football bets and laid (backed against) Manchester United moments before they took the lead against Blackburn.
The average gambler would have volleyed an insult towards the TV, or at the very least given a facial expression that betrayed frustration. Declan was without emotion — the stoic demeanour of self-discipline, without which no professional gambler will prosper long-term.
While he does bet on football and other sports, Declan estimates that about 95 per cent of his bets are on horses; more precisely, he has developed a very complex system based on his own pricing-up of English races.
"At the moment I mainly operate in the place markets and I lay or back to get a return of â‚¬5,000. So if I laid a horse at even money, my stake would be â‚¬2,500; if I backed a horse at 4/1, it would be â‚¬1,000.
"I normally price up the market and I’ll then back if I think the price is good and lay if I think it’s bad."
This is considerably more convoluted than what it may seem. He has put into practice a template whereby, based primarily on the odds in a win market, he can — taking into account a margin of error — automatically instruct his computer to lay or back horses on the place market.
In essence (or otherwise), the theories of probability and variance dictate Declan’s betting. Consider that he did pass maths in school, and it reinforces how ultimately redundant this country’s Leaving Cert programme is.
On the off-chance that you are beginning to consider professional gambling an appealing alternative to your present bread-earner, the 31-year-old stresses that it is far from easy.
"Betfair, like bookmakers, have to make a profit and over the course of the year I pay them quite a bit in commission even though I’m on the lowest commission level — two per cent of my winnings. At my current betting levels I would pay about â‚¬125,000 per year in commission, which means I have to make that much just to break even.
"In saying that, I’m obviously making more than that or I wouldn’t be doing it — but it takes a lot of work and self-control. You need an edge for a start and while it’s possible to find one, it’s up to any potential gambler to do his research and come up with possible flaws in a particular market that he can take advantage of."
His philosophy on sports betting — and in particular football — is perhaps of more pertinent intrigue to the standard punter.
Noel Browne’s captivating biography Against The Tide unwittingly promotes the perils of that approach in politics, but it is a perfectly pragmatic policy in gambling.
Topical examples of Declan’s bets include: backing Croatia on the premise that England were grossly over-rated by the odds; opposing plunged-on Russia even though they needed a win and Israel had no apparent motivation; backing Milan against Celtic due to the over-reaction to the draw being sufficient for Milan; and laying Ricky Hatton and some of the flood of sentimental money.
As with life, there are highs and lows in gambling. The crux is to identify every winner and loser as merely a dot on a vast map. One can determine probability, but predicting the future is a step beyond.
"I try not to let big wins or losses affect me," the Leixlip native stresses, "but if I had a really bad run it might affect me a bit. Sometimes it seems everything goes wrong. I remember one time I was having a bad month and a bad day. I then backed four horses for a place in a 15-runner handicap.
"I also place-laid three horses whose win odds were 8/1, 16/1 and 25/1. I can’t remember the place odds but the horses I laid came in first, second and third. I just looked at the screen and laughed. Stuff like that happens and you have to just get on with it: if it affects your decisions, you’re in trouble.
"I’ve obviously also had times when everything goes right and Denman winning the Hennessy was a real good result for me. I had Denman backed and laid a few for a place. I won â‚¬16,000, which is the most I ever won on a single race."
Without resorting to gratuitous praise for the betting exchanges — they, like bookmakers, are about making money — it would be virtually impossible for professional gamblers to operate without them. Traditional bookmakers have no problem accommodating your bets — as long as you are losing. Otherwise, they generally have no interest in your custom.
Declan does all his gambling on Betfair, and does not envisage a career change for the foreseeable future.
"I hope to make enough money in the next few years to invest in some businesses — maybe open my own restaurant or something like that. I’m also getting more into poker and when I get better at that I might spend more time on it as I find it a fascinating game."
He recalls meeting his girlfriend for the first time at a popular Dublin nightclub, where — typical of its ilk — the racket imposed by the DJ made conversation a chore.
"She texted me the next day and asked me what it was like being a professional gardener."
Four years later and he nonchalantly proclaims that "she has become quite good at poker".
Article prompting a lot of debate on Betfair forum as to validity of his claims. My one question would be if he needs to turn over 6.25 million a year in winning bets on Betfair to pay the amount of 125k in commission, how can a win of â‚¬16,000 on Denman be his biggest winning bet??December 17, 2007 at 16:26 #130918MikkyMo73Member
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Thanks for this Berminn.
I have to say I’ve read this type of article about a thousand times. All we have been told is he prices up his own events. If he thinks the real price is to high he will back it, if he thinks it’s to low he will lay it – show me a serious gambler who doesn’t do this or something very similar .
MikeDecember 17, 2007 at 17:04 #130922WallaceParticipant
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Agreed, this is poor journalism. Very weak story with nothing new or insightful.December 17, 2007 at 17:11 #130923carvillshillParticipant
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Stretches credulity a bit too- in my experience the place markets on BF are fairly weak and the margins are higher except for the big days- I wouldn’t like to be trying to make a living from them.December 17, 2007 at 17:37 #130926
My first throught after reading the article was ‘how much did Betfair pay for the advertisement?’ they already cover the cost of the betting column done in the same paper by the same author of the above article and it surely makes great publicity to any reader with a passing interest in betting. Its prompted a great response since posted on the betfair forum under the ‘irish’ section and the journalist involved has been posting replies to different questions and statements.December 17, 2007 at 20:38 #130966davidbradyMember
- Total Posts 3901
There are two common misconceptions about gambling:
the first is that gamblers in general bet in order to make money;
the second is that it is impossible to make money gambling. Declan proves the falsity of the latter, and is a rare exception to the former untruth.
Why is it a misconception that gamblers bet to make money?December 17, 2007 at 21:52 #130972trackside528Member
- Total Posts 137
Why is it so hard to conceive him paying E125,000 in commission?
With regards to the content, one must consider the target audience that the article was intended for, as well as the newspaper that it was printed in.Certainly wasn’t intended to reveal any complex, new insights. More of a features article than anything else really.
Johnny Ward isn’t a bad journalist by any means either.December 17, 2007 at 22:41 #130977
Commission of â‚¬125,000 per annum equates to winning bets (at base commission rate of 2%) of â‚¬6,250,000 alone. He stated in article that Denman was his biggest winning bet in a single horse race market. Therefore he doesnt bet to a level such as Harry Findlay would to generate such winnings to account for such a commission level. He speaks in the article of betting place markets to win a return of 5k but that includes his stake so that could be 2500 at 1/1 or 1250 at 3/1. If he bet 6.25 million required to produce such a level of commission, that would mean he is producing weekly winning bets of 125k (about 17k a day) Having briefly spoken to him at a Betfair SP preview event, I was given the strong impression that Irish place markets are his speciality. I doubt these markets even turnover the above amount for all races in a given day.
I have no doubt that he is a winning punter but I think the figures have been distorted to a large extent. I feel that Mr. Meagher has taken advantage of an impressionable young greenhorn journalist and beefed up his figures to give creedence to his existence as professional punter. If the place markets were such an oasis of easy money, why draw attention to that fact particularly?
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