Joseph Buchdahl (@12xpert) is not a tipster but he has been closely linked to tipsters around the world for many years. He runs, among others, the site sports-tipsters.co.uk. Sports-Tipsters provides independent verification of sports betting advisory service’s tipping records. Since 2001 he has proofed over 250 sports tipsters. Joe is also the author of two of the most relevant books in the industry, “Fixed Odds Sports Betting: Statistical Forecasting and Risk Management” and “How to find a black cat in a coal cellar”.
When did you first get interested in Sports Betting?
I placed my first bet in 1990 at the age of 19. It was a 24/1 treble on Liverpool winning the English championship, FA Cup and League Cup. Liverpool was my favourite childhood team, probably because they were winning everything in the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1990/91 season they won nothing, my bet lost spectacularly and it was a lesson learnt in chasing big payouts. Fortunately it was only £10. During my years at Cambridge University I came across a professional punter called Patrick Veitch. He was a prodigal mathematician who had been visiting bookmakers since the age of 15. Horse racing was his game and he was supremely talented at making a profit from it, so much so that he had no time left for his degree which he duly failed in the final year. His tutor told him not to waste his life gambling. His tutor was wrong. 20 years on, he’s the author of Enemy Number One: The Secrets of the UK’s Most Feared Professional Punter. This is not overstating it, since Patrick has skimmed tens of millions of pounds off the bookmakers in the past couple of decades. When I knew him at university he was already banned from all the local bookmakers, so had to use agents to place bets and collect winnings. I remember collecting once or twice for him, and became intrigued at how he was so successful, resolving one day to try the same with football. One lunchtime at work several years later (1997) I decided to keep to my promise and went trawling the internet for some data on historical football results and betting odds. I found Mabel’s Tables (which no longer exists), starting analysing the data, developed some forecasting systems and began placing some bets. Whilst I never made a fortune from betting myself, ultimately the provision of such data led me to the business concept which became my first website, Football-Data.co.uk, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Why did you decide to create a website to analyse and verify tipster records?
Almost from the beginning of Football-Data in 2001, I started verifying tips of other punters. I was a frequently a poster on the Punters’ Lounge betting forum, and another regular, Paul Ross, who is now the forum owner, was running his sports advisory service Pro Sports Betting. The Punter’s Lounge was a source of many tips, but there was no way of telling whether those responsible for them really were any good. Paul agreed to let me independently verify his tipping service on Football-Data.co.uk. Over time, more and more tipsters came to me for verification and in 2005 I decided this part of Football-Data needed a separate home, and Sports-Tipsters.co.uk was born.
Are there tipsters capable of beating the bookmakers in the long run?
Yes, for sure. Patrick Veitch is the most obvious example, who for a time sold his tips in addition to betting them himself. However, like most punters, the majority will fail in the long run. Tipsters generally represent a subset of punters who have bet personally for some time and made a profit, so believe they have what it takes to help others do so to, and earn some extra money for the privilege. This profit mistakenly leads them to believe that they have an ability to beat the bookmaker. Unfortunately, most of them have underestimated the influence of luck. Over time, that influence will diminish, and if there is no underlying skill, so too will the profitability. Perhaps only 5% of tipsters are genuinely skilled at what they do.
Do you think it is worth paying for tipsters?
If they are skilled tipsters then of course. It’s just like asking whether it’s worth paying for any good or service. Provided it offers value for money and delivers what we expect it to deliver based on what we have been told, then it’s worth it. Some punters will argue that betting someone else’s advice takes away most of the thrill of betting. That might be true; however, given that 97% of punters lose money in the long run, I don’t see much thrill in that. If you aren’t very good at something, why not pay someone else to do it for you instead. After all, if my car breaks down I’m not skilled enough to know how to fix it, so I take it to the car mechanic to do the job for me. I’m sure if I could do it myself it would be more rewarding, but given that I can’t, I can still gain some pleasure having my car fixed and back on the road again, as opposed to trying to do it myself and wrecking it permanently. What is more rewarding: betting my own tips and losing, or betting someone else’s and winning?
What are the common qualities of good tipsters?
Transparency, honesty, humility, fairness, proper customer service, an understanding of probability and a player of the long game. When a tipster eulogises excessively about his ability, it’s more or less a sure thing that he has little or none of it. Bad tipsters talk the talk; good tipsters just walk the walk.
Do you think there are many sports experts out there that might be brilliant tipsters but they don’t know it?
Yes, that’s really like anything in life. There will be potential chess champions who have never played the game, but have a predisposition to be great at it if only they tried. Some people are naturally more gifted at something than others, and predicting sports is no different.
Do you think tipsters should meet a minimum standard of performance and service before they can be permitted to earn from selling their tips?
Naturally. In an ideal world, sporting tipping would be regulated like many financial services are. Of course, it never will be, but if we’re motivated to care about the customer looking for value for money from this industry, then perhaps we should introduce some form of self-regulation. This would include some form of minimum acceptable standard which at the very least would be an identification of real ability over and above what could be expected to happen by chance alone. Sports tipping is about buying skill, not luck. If luck is all that we’re interested in we can just play the lottery or go to a casino.
How much money can be earned by the best tipsters? Do you think it is a career opportunity for good betting experts?
If a skilled tipster sells 25 monthly subscriptions at 100 Euro per month each, that’s an annual income of 30,000 Euro. Does that represent a decent career opportunity? Probably. It’s certainly enough to give up the day job. Of course, the earnings potential will be largely based on the ability of the tipster, either to beat the bookmaker or make his customers believe he can beat the bookmaker. I’m not interested in the latter since I like to see people earning an honest living through skill and hard work, not a fraudulent one through cheating and misrepresentation. A genuinely skilled tipster will always be able to sell his advice, since his advice will sell itself. And what he doesn’t earn through selling his tips, he can make up (and more) by betting them himself.
Some punters question tipsters. They argue that they don’t need to sell their picks because they already make money backing their selections. What is your position on this?
Such an argument as this is frequently made to imply that there can be no genuinely skilled tipsters, because the few that are skilled don’t need to sell their advice in the first place, therefore those who are selling cannot be skilled at all. All gamblers, however, are motivated by money; otherwise there is little point in gambling. By selling their tips, skilled tipsters will earn more, and potentially introduce some added stability to a month-by-month income stream that by its nature can have its ups and downs. Provided a tipster’s own betting doesn’t dramatically affect the profitability of his tips by changing the odds, why should he not sell them? The simple truth is that skilled tipsters do exist: skilled punters who became tipsters by selling their expertise. I have met one of best: Patrick Veitch. In 1989, Patrick’s premium rate telephone line grossed over £10,000 per month selling his horse racing expertise. If there is such an earning potential from people wanting to buy genuinely high quality betting advice, there isn’t much of an economic argument for not doing it.
What do you do in your free time? What are your hobbies?
Road biking, snowboarding and thinking about the fundamental questions of life and the universe.