Sunday, 17 April 2011

Soul searching; and changes to the blog.

There seems to be something in the air and I think it is the odious stench of a nasty losing run. Reading Kodagira's blog last night, it seems that he has been asking himself similar questions I've been posing myself over the last couple of days. Funnily enough, fundamentally I think we have both decided, completely independently of each other, on very similar courses of action.

Before I start properly tonight, I want to say now that I am worried that this post might at times make me sound as if I am totally self-absorbed. I hope you realise that it isn't supposed to, and I'm not. I'm trying to write how I think and feel so that others in the same boat may relate to it. That way, if readers have their own ideas to add, we may all learn something about how to handle the tough times that this game we're playing (or considering playing) is so adept at throwing at us.

I want to base this post around a comment that Alan made after Thursday's post...

Our obvious advantage that we have over the bookies is that we have the option not to bet when things are proving difficult.
I was interested to read earlier in the month when you stated that you didnt mind losses early in the month as there was time to recover.
I disagree strongly with that opinion as my experience tells me that a start such as we had this month usually continues for the rest of the month and i also feel this is the month that the whole of this year has been building up to.
Huge losses are being built this month completely across the Portfolio spectrum and as i said in the SBC forum (which you disagreed with to a degree) i tend to find when it starts to go wrong, it all goes wrong!!
On a personal front, i stopped betting a couple of weeks ago and am very much on a "watching" basis at the moment. I have a total loss of 1100 quid which would have been considerably more if id continued, Ive dropped FE and Pro Bandit.
im staying faithfull to R Vaughan who is in the middle of an 80 point drawdown ( all be it a watching brief for now) as he had the same bad run last year yet still turned a 400 point profit!
But i definately see this as a new start come May and my only target for this year is to break even
I dont say that your portfolio is doomed but you have to look very closely at the situation and make some decisions.
Your family life should come first and i would suggest that you should give it your full attention and put them first.
There will always be sport to gamble on and new In form Tipsters to make you a profit so when you say that your mind set is that all your bad luck is somehow combined, i feel you should have a break and take stock of your situation and figure out the way forward without the hassle of betting to get in the way.
Its your call mate and whatever yoiu do im sure you will return to profit before the year end.
We enjoy your Blog but is the extra pressure of having your betting ups and downs for public viewing just adding to the pressure.
Put yourself first Rowan

It does feel that the last couple of months have seen various factors combine and mix to create a quite nasty brew. A bit like various fronts and areas of low pressure combining out at sea to create the perfect storm that April has seen reach the shoreline. From the calm, sunny days of the second half of last year, this month in particular has been dominated by days and days of incessant rain. Yep, it's been pissing down with no relent!

So what do we do about it? Alan is absolutely spot on when he says that there are times when we can exercise our choice to stop betting and watch. I don't think it is the wrong move to do so. As Alan has pointed out, by doing just that, he has saved himself from taking on even more losses, and considerable ones at that. Sounds a pretty decent idea from where I'm standing. But sitting and doing nothing is not for me, and I think the reason for it exposes a real weakness in my psyche; I am falling into the gambler's trap of thinking that I don't want to miss out on the recovery, which subconsciously, I'm sure I believe would start the very minute I stopped betting. I rationalise my decision by looking at the yearly results of the services I'm following. At many different points in time, those services will have reversed a downward trend, claw losses back, go into the realms of profit-making, before falling back again to repeat the process. There are peaks and troughs to the performance of any investment, and I wish to miss out on neither; I need to go through the cycle.

Where I think Alan is dead right, is a point that he doesn't explicitly make, but can be seen by reading between the lines. He was making losses, has stopped gambling, and is looking at May at being a "new start". Mentally, he is in a much better place with his betting. And if we agree that so much of this game is achieving the right mentality, then having a positive mindset is everything. Put another way, Alan's approach is absolutely the right move for him, and that is the crux of the issue when handling the bad times. I also get the impression that Alan has seen all this before, and has come out the other side. I for one, ain't going to knock that experience.

I've had a couple of long drives to and from Shropshire over the weekend which gave me the opportunity to come away from the mad routine of getting bets on, recording results, and all that is involved for a while, and do some serious soul searching. I needed to ask myself what fundamentally I was trying to do, and how I was trying to achieve it. I do think that when you get on that betting treadmill, it is very easy to lose perspective. Alan and a couple of other commenters have advised that family should come first, and of course, it should and does. But that prioritisation has happened in times of emergency and acute concern. What about on the day to day basis? Have I been spending too much time in front of the PC that I could have been spending with the kids? Has the difficult first quarter to this year caused me to be short sometimes with Helen and the children when really I should not have been? Does the fretting whilst wondering what the results are affected my mood in an evening, even if I am telling myself that it isn't? Am I checking my Iphone a little too often for race by race results so that I've not given the children quite the 100% attention they deserve when we're in the park, or the woods, or on the bikes? I think that the very need to mention that I have been asking myself these questions tells you the answers. Sadly.

So what to do? Well, the first thing is to deconstruct the portfolio (on paper), try and be objective, and see which services I truly believe in. I also needed to identify those that are putting too much of a burden on my time. By eliminating the services that I have even the slightest doubt over (of which there were honestly none), or which I do believe in but acknowledge that following is too time intensive, then the net result would be a thinning of the portfolio; a reduction in the number of services to follow and a consequent freeing up of "chill out" time. I wrote a post not so long ago on time management and I think in black and white terms, I have done a bloody good job in this regard. By taking a step back though, I can see that it came at a cost. I became so insular, so absorbed in what I was doing, that I lost sight of the end game. My wife, being the person she is, took up a lot of the slack to allow me more time that I felt I needed. She didn't ask me if I wanted her to, she just did it and if I'm honest, I should never have let her.

Which brings me to the blog. Alan asks if the public recording of results was putting too much pressure on me. It's a good question, and again I thought about this long and hard (between Sandbach and Whitchurch, if I remember!). I realised that the result recording wasn't an issue. After all, the services I follow are the ones many will be following, so if I'm doing crap, then so are many others. Anyway, I'm not precious. But, what was putting me under pressure was the obligation I felt to post every night. I put Cassini's "Green All Over" blog on a pedestal and realised that if the longest running blog on trading/gambling didn't post every day, then I shouldn't feel any reservations about following suit. Imitation being the best form of flattery and all that. So that's what I'm going to do from now. I will post when I feel like it (how hard am I? heh!) from now on. I can't ever see it getting beyond three or four days between posts. Often I will do consecutive nights or three on the bounce. But no longer will I be blogging when I'm knackered and all I want to do is drag myself off to bed with my book and a mug of Ovaltine (perhaps not that hard, eh!?!). This will materially affect results recording in the sense that I will no longer outline each winner or the daily performance of each service, but this blog was never about that anyway. After tonight, I will still give the figures on the month so far and make favourable mentions of particularly good tipping (or the opposite, of course). I hope that's ok.

In short, I feel as if I have taken two steps forward since halfway through last year, and now one step back. One lesson I have learnt is that I perhaps got a little carried away on the back of success in 2010. I have taken on too many services too quickly; haven't allowed myself mentally to adjust to following a bigger portfolio. By scaling down a little, I feel that I am building stronger foundations for the future, so that when the time comes to expand again (albeit at a more measured pace), then I will be building a house of brick and not straw.

Alan, the last four words of your comment were words that made me take real stock, and I believe they should every individual who is trying to gamble 'properly'. "Put yourself first". The start of doing just that, is to realise just what and who are the most important things in life. Get that bit right, then everything else is a bonus.


  1. Hi Mark

    Very interesting post, I have very little time tonight but will catch up with you in the week on this post, just got back from taking the kids to Wales for the weekend.....

    Funny thing is I still have to update the blog, first thoughts are if you follow tipsters you have to take the bad runs as well as the good.
    You have to be able to walkaway and forget about the daily bets...
    Most of all you have to learn how to lose to win....

    As we all know this game is full of disappointment and can eat you up inside if you let it.......

    Sorry to babble on I will try and reply tomorrow as I totally can reflect on your post above and that was the main reason I started my blog over a year ago...

    Hope your well


  2. Hi Rowan

    Good to see that you are taking control of the situation by analysing what you really want for your self your family and for the readers of your blog.

    I think that by cutting back on the number of tipsters in your portfolio it will give you more time to focus on those remaining.

    One suggestion I would make is that as well as cutting back on your tipsters it may be an idea to cut the stakes that you are using for them until you are happy with the 'balance' of your revised portfolio.

    I must say I admire you talking from the heart and I feel that it will do your blog no harm at all, I think people want to see a warts and all account of what it takes to succeed in this pursuit and I must say that you are definitely giving that, so well done and from a personal point of view, please carry on.


  3. Hi Rowan.
    Firstly and most importantly how is your Father?
    A brief answer is fine which can include I'm dealing with it and mind your own business if you wish!
    I looked over at Kodigara's blog and was amazed at the vast number of services he was following. The financial outlay subscribing to that number must be massive. I believe he must have prepared properly and been aware of all the pitfalls. It was me that remarked to SBC that his two part article on pseudo accounts etc was probably the best ever written in SBC, but that it would pass most by! Anyone who has had success in this game will know the problems faced and he addressed one of the biggest in a knowledgable way.
    Losing runs are an inevitability in this game and the ways of dealing with them will often define the long term success or failure of a punter. Out of the three of us who run Chasemaster, G, is far and away the biggest bettor. Last year at the start of October he was £82,000 ahead. By the middle of the month he was £36,000 ahead. He simply stopped betting at that stage and took a two week complete break. The third week he spent catching up with watching all the races he had missed and updating his notes etc before starting again. He ended the year about £60,000 up.
    The problem you have compared to G is that you are relying on other people's decisions and paying out the hard earned even if you take a rest.
    Sod's Law also applies, and as you have said the moment you drop a service or downstake it, will be when the winning run comes! The old joke about sex and bj's before and after marriage also applies to racing tipsters - Q how do you stop a profitable racing service in its tracks? A Join it!
    Emotions are what kill off most potentially profitable gamblers and is probably the biggest battle you have to fight. For the three of us where betting profits are our living it is keeping faith in the selection criteria. As a portfolio player you are one removed from that decision which makes life easier and also more awkward at the same time.
    I also believe that SBC could do more on the value for money aspect of services, and that is something for a portfolio player to investigate. Our service is a basic £22.50 per month, or about £150 per year if taking seasonal offers. Individual staking is obviously down to members, but we have found that the average bets £25 per point and is hoping we average 5 points profit per month, giving them a net extra £100 per month. As we go down to 1/8 point as a basic unit our worst losing run would not have put too much pressure on the bank.
    There are many services costing £1500+ per year also with a large number of bets. To make financial sense of following these services a large bank and bet size is needed, which is a great leap of faith in the service.
    I'm probably spraying out more questions than answers and starting to sound preachy, so I'll stop there and hope you can rationalise where you are and plan a profitable way forward.
    It was a bit worrying early in 2011 when reading of so many tipster services having a bad time when we were also treading water. Normally our slightly contrarian views mean we run counter to general trends which can make us useful to a balnced portfolio. April seems to have returned to that trend with Chasemaster now buzzing along and many of your other services struggling.
    Good Luck.


  4. Hi Dean,

    Don't worry, I knew who you meant. :).

    You're dead right of course. I think you have to accept that you will lose on many days and learn to accept that fact. If I was a life coach or guru, I think I'd make up a phrase along the lines of "Short term pain, long term gain", or something catchy and cliched like that. The thing about cliches though, they're usually cliches because they're true!

    Would be interesting to get your perspective. :).



  5. Hi Mark,

    I don't think the staking needs altering, to be honest. I gave a huge amount of thought originally as to how to stake each service and I really need to do a proper blog post on this subject. I certainly don't want to be cutting stakes; if anything a couple of the services are being slightly understaked at present but for various reasons I don't want to alter these upwards just yet.

    One thing that perhaps I didn't quite make clear last night was that my minor surgery on the portfolio has very little to do with the recent losses; it is all to do with the amount of my life that such a large portfolio was taking up, and the subsequent consequences of that. Long term, I want the portfolio to grow again - the principles of portfolio investment, and my belief in them, hasn't changed at all.

    I'm pleased you like the 'talking from the heart' style; I was worried that it might come across as being self-centred, which certainly isn't the aim.



  6. Hi Peter,

    I've just typed out a long response to your post, and for some reason I wasn't able to 'publish' it and now I've lost it. So I'll have another go at lunchtime.

    My Dad though is in good form, thankyou. He did definitely suffer a stroke, but it was a relatively mild one and he got to hospital very quickly which helped immensely. He's still articulate, communicative, and hasn't lost much movement. As I told him, the stroke seems to have done him some good! (lol!). He's of the old school, brought up to not complain and I think he's more concerned about the worry he knows he's causing his family than for himself. He's still in hospital and won't be discharged until results from various scans have come through, but he's doing ok.



  7. TO Peter

    Fantastic Post and demonstrates exactly what ive been banging on about. A break just focuses the mind and lets the stress out which makes you do stupid things.

    Give "G" my respect, he must have balls of steel HA HA
    Fab news bout your POP Rowan

  8. Rowan,

    As always, good luck for the future.