Side-Hustle exploration: $18.8k bet on greyhounds

If your anything like me, you’re always looking for a side hustle and you always have been! In this particular post I want to explore ‘wagering’ as a side hustle idea with the reader.

‘Gambling’ is something that’s always had a big influence on me and been pretty ingrained in my life. My late Dad’s passion was Harness Racing. He always owned a couple of race-horses at a time which meant I was around the ‘trots’ a decent amount in my childhood and we always lived on large properties in Mundijong and Serpentine (Western Australia) to accommodate them! As a side note I feel very fortunate to have grown up on these big properties where there was always plenty of space to run around and animals to interact with.

In terms of my introduction to gambling I’m not sure exactly how old I was (my guess would be ~8) but some of my fondest childhood memories are spending Friday nights at home with Dad where we would fire up Channel Access 31 and watch the Friday Night Glocuster Park trots in front of the fireplace. Dad would draw us both up a hypothetical $10k on a piece of paper and we would place paper bets on each race taking the odds given on the screen, recording results, and seeing who would end up richer (or broke) by the end of the night.

This was a lot of fun as we were both competitive, there often had to be a ludicrous bet placed on the last race for the person behind to try and win, and of course I remember taking Dad to the cleaners every week (maybe this is just selective memory).

As another side memory whenever we actually physically went to Glocuster Park Dad had taught me how to fill out the bet slips and would hand me cash before certain races, verbalise what bet he wanted placed and send me across the park to the TAB to get the action on while he continued drinking beers by the track with his mates. I think this was a bit of a party trick to show off to his friends as in no world should an 8 year old be able to get a bet on (definitely wouldn’t work nowadays!) but it worked at almost a 100% frequency and I loved it :)

Anyway before I side-track too much the point I wanted to make is my Dad never directly taught me how to be a ‘winning’ punter but I think these lessons in participation growing up were massively influential for me in terms of having a creative, sensible and analytical mind when it came to money. Even just very little and simple lessons like not putting the full 10k paper bankroll on race 1, and that there’s a reason a horse might be paying something lucrative like 60 to 1 etc.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m big on poker and have been for a number of years and while that activity is something I’ve put a decent amount of time and effort into over those years I don’t really bet on sports/greyhounds/horses and it isn’t something I’ve studied, so this might be an interesting look into someone who has had a ‘dabble’ only (a mere mortal!) in this arena. I think it could be interesting as most of this kind of ‘content’ I imagine would come from full blown horse betting professionals so it could be a more relatable perspective.

The story and the stats
I explored Greyhounds/Horse Race betting as serious side hustle from 13/06/2019 until 24/07/2019.

I made a total of 126 wagers during this time for a total $18,818.25 in bets placed and returned $24,079 for a net profit of $5260.75 throughout the period (see stats and graphs below). I should note that there is about ~$1300 of subscription costs not included in the below stats which means true profit is closer to about $4,000 over the 6 weeks.

How’s it done?
In terms of ‘complexity’ it’s somewhat simple when it comes to a side hustle. My strategy was to sign up for tipping services and simply just follow their advice to a tee. The services will tell you how much to put on (usually discussed in units of bankroll), what price you need to obtain the action on, and maybe even suggest which bookmaker to place the bet with.

I probably shouldn’t downplay the ‘complexity’ too much as there are a few important points -

  1. You need to research the services and go through the results before you ultimately choose which ones to sign up to… all service providers are pretty transparent with their results (or at least should be/seem to be) and have all the data neatly available on how their specific tips are doing. For example something that I think to look out for is, I’ve come across services which may be in sustained downswings (consistently losing) over a long period of time but still might be receiving public sign ups as the service is correctly referred to as a ‘lifetime winner’. There’s nothing cloak and dagger about this, the results and data is there to openly and transparently read, you just have to take a deep look and make your own interpretations of it.
  2. You need to be in a position to act swiftly when the tips are sent to you… It’s actually quite fascinating to see but when the tips get sent out you can watch the market move and the prices drop almost straight away (within a minute). Therefore, you need to be able to act on the tips almost immediately when they are sent. Having the ‘right’ tip isn’t enough. The best service I was signed up to would alert customers at what time tips would be coming through which was great as you could get yourself prepared.
  3. You need to keep emotions in check. For this side hustle to work you need to trust and follow the services suggestions to a tee. Most relevant — the amount of units to risk and what price you need to obtain. Your emotions may influence you to ignore these suggestions in a number of ways but might include wanting to risk a bigger amount of units for a bigger return, or still wanting to get action on even if you’ve missed the required price etc. Simply ‘following instructions’ might seem like the simplest thing noted here but maintaining rationality to do so can be more challenging than it sounds.
  4. You need to be signed up at multiple bookmakers and have multiple accounts funded. Getting the right price as has been mentioned is one of the most important aspects for these services to be profitable over the long term. Naturally, prices on any specific market will be different across the bookmakers and you need to be able to get on at the bookmaker which has the best price available. When this is combined with point 2 mentioned above, not only is it important to have the account open where you can get the best price but for it to be funded to allow for the required swift action.
  5. You need to separate punting roll. While your suggested ‘start bank’ will be flexible and person/situation dependent it’s important that this roll is completely separate to any other of your life bankrolls and that you only have the suggested % or units of bankroll on per bet. Tipsters don’t win every bet they win over large sample sizes, therefore your bankroll needs to be both isolated and in good enough health to not only sustain the inevitable downswing or bad run but still be around to be able to participate and experience the inevitable upswing/good run.
  6. I will touch on this more below, but bookmakers will ban or restrict winning accounts (disgusting I know). Therefore, to do this ‘successfully’ and over a longer period of time you need to have some sort of strategy in place to delay detection. For eg if the tipping service is suggesting you ‘load up’ on a certain tip you are best to spread this bet across a few accounts as putting all of the big bet in 1 slip will no doubt increase likelihood of raising some sort of ‘flag’ on your account. Also if you’re only placing bets in some sort of ‘specialist’ or niche domain this will increase likelihood of swifter detection by the bookmaker so might be worthwhile to throw in a couple of small random ‘dummy’ bets on something random here and there. Bookmakers will keep you open if they think they’ll get their money back, they’ll close you down if they think they won’t (or lose more to you).

Why did I stop after July 24?
There are a few reasons why I stopped with this ‘dabble’ after 24/07/19.
Firstly, I was in a downswing. My betting tracker has my peak profit during the period at $7333.75 so with a final profit of $5260.75 this indicates a ~$2.1k downswing. If you factor in the flow of subscription costs too the true downswing might actually be somewhere in the region of ~$2.6k. Having played poker for almost a decade I’m accustomed to the ‘swings’ but regardless of how stoic you might become a losing period still never feels good no matter how significant or insignificant the amounts. I guess you don’t usually step away during an upswing…

Secondly, I didn’t like the feelings it was giving me. When it comes to playing poker I very rarely if ever feel like I’m behaving in a ‘compulsive’ way. During this 6 week period there are definitely times when I felt this way as I’d be ‘sweating’ the results of races, or feeling some sort of adrenaline dump when I no longer had the action on etc. I’m not 100% sure why this is the case, my best guess would maybe be because the study and decision-making aspect is ‘outsourced’ which can’t be done in a poker game… And maybe lacking this understanding of the tipster’s process increases the feeling of ‘chance’ taking away the grasp you might have of things such as odds/percentages/frequencies etc when playing poker. Nonetheless they weren’t the most pleasant feeling to recognise.

To further add to these odd feelings as mentioned above bookmakers will ban or restrict you once you’re identified as a winning or strategic punter. This is an interesting experience in itself. Part of it makes me feel pretty chuffed that a bookmaker no longer wants my action, part of it makes me feel a little daft as you realise you didn’t have successful strategy implementation of point 6 above, but a small aspect of it also makes you feel a bit like public number 1 and that you’ve done something wrong. I guess the bookmakers maybe have a clever psychological way of wording the emails making you feel like you’ve been scolded by your year 4 primary school teacher and that you now have to serve the recess and lunch detention.

Lastly there’s no value add — Participating in this activity has no societal value add therefore difficult to feel some sort of ‘fulfilment’ or ‘meaning’ through participation.

Conclusion — Would I suggest this as a side hustle?
I would score this 4/10 as a side hustle. It doesn’t score higher than this as it’s not a positive sum endeavour. Sure, the argument can be made that profits from the activity can then be distributed in some sort of valuable way but for me it doesn’t change the fact that the activity in itself isn’t positive sum.

You’re now probably shouting at me saying ‘but poker isn’t positive sum’, and I agree it most certainly isn’t but I think poker has massive benefits to the individual as a competitive domain and I go through some of those positives in my 3rd post. I’m hesitant to make the comparison as it gets a pretty polarised response from the poker community, but I think poker can almost be thought of as similar to playing a sport. (a mental one at that)

Poker for me would score higher than 4 for these reasons but not as high as a profitable positive sum endeavour would.

I still score wagering at 4 as if you can get your head around the intricacies mentioned above there is profit to be made, and although it’s zero sum I’ll never feel any sort of ill feelings whatsoever taking money from a bookmaker!

In closing I don’t promote ‘gambling’ and think the entrepreneur can find a better side hustle. Please don’t read this, lose money gambling and then blame me — I’m suggesting you find something else. ‘Wagering’ isn’t currently integrated into my time but it’s not something I’ve closed the door on either moving forward. It would be a tricky point to find but maybe I can find the right ‘balance’ in the activity where it takes a negligible amount of time (still keeping time free for more ‘fulfilling’ or ‘meaningful’ activities), being small enough to not elicit some of the feelings I’ve described above, and yet large enough for financial returns to be sufficiently lucrative to still participate. Maybe there can also be more thought placed into where and how profits are used/distributed to garner some sort of ‘meaning’ from participating. We’ll see.

Originally published at https://www.patrickconnolly.me.

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