Saturday, 13 February 2010

Off The Shelf Bots

There are an extraordinary number of off-the shelf pieces of software that promise extraordinary trading gains. All you have to do is hand over a small amount of money... load up your Betfair account... and... profit!

I am naturally suspicious of all get rich quick schemes. This blog will not make you rich. It will, I hope, give you the tools that will enable you to write sensible Betfair bots. It will, I hope, improve the quality of your betting, and perhaps your enjoyment of it.

But there are no 'guaranteed winner' Betfair bots out there. As soon as more than one person knows about a strategy, they will ruthlessly exploit it until the gains no longer exist. A year ago there were plenty of opportunities to make money though the arbitrage explained in this post. Now, the opportunities are extremely limited, if they exist at all - because when the smallest gap between bet and lay prices opens up, it is immediately exploited. Two years ago, uberbot sought out thousands of opportunities to make £2 bets at 100/1, which were really 70/1 shots. For an individual, exploiting this was all but impossible. For a bot it was a winning strategy. But that opportunity has been and gone: the uberbot team has had to find other ways to make a turn.

Natural suspicions aside, what's in these 'bots? What does my £25 or $50 or $1,000 buy me? What kind of strategy does it run? Colour me intrigued, if cautious. A little bit of Googling is in order, I think:

Well, first up is the (aptly named) Betfair Bot. This is a "is a brand new Automated Betfair Laying Software which will supercharge your betting activities even while you're away at work or simply want to spend time with your family." There is the obligatory quote about a chap called Adam who "made over £100,000 profit on Betfair from a starting bank of £200 with no knowledge of gambling by trading on Betfair!". Well, I don't know about you, but I'm considering giving up my day job to cash in on this £100,000 bonanza. OK, so this is a system that automatically lays things on Betfair. In other words, it's a super-simplified market making application of some description - I can see that would work. I'll download and review at some point.

Then there is the wonderfully titled Make Money on Betfair, which proudly advertises "the proof is in the video", and claims that the system - in one two hour period - made £200. If all I need (to sell a 'bot) is a video of a making money on Betfair, then I think this should be pretty simple. Even the world's worst system - given vaguely efficient Betfair markets - should occasionally make money, even if only briefly. The site continually harps on about "100% Proof". Sign me up!

And then there is Bet Angel, which has by far the most professional web page. A cursory glance makes it look a pretty useful tool: it seems to introduce a lot of financial world concepts to gambling and Betfair, dressed up into wonderful terms such as a 'riskometer' (which I suspect is a combination of a NAV calculator, with some simple variance calculations). The charts it seems to produce look very Bloomberg - and I wouldn't be surprised if the people involved in this project worked in Financial Services at one point or another. The pricing mechanism also seems very reasonable: I like the way it charges by the month, etc. Most of all, I like the way Bet Angel doesn't promise instant riches: for that reason, I give the first G&T Thumbs Up.

Well: this has been a diversion (caused by lack of access to Betfair from the hotel I'm staying in!) I'll continue with the Betfair 'bot on Monday or Tuesday.

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