Why Did I Start A Service?

For my latest blog post, I wanted to write a little about how TennisRatings began, and my continued motivation for providing a betting/trading service.

I get asked ‘Why do you do this?’ a lot, wondering why I don't just keep everything to myself, so hopefully this will help address those individual questions. Also, quite recently, service provision has taken a lot of criticism on social media/blogs. Whilst some of the recipients of this criticism no doubt deserve it, I wanted to blog about my personal take on matters, without engaging in individual discussions on social media.

I’m almost 38 years old, and from the second year of my University degree, aged 19-20, I started supporting myself solely via gambling income. Save for a six month period in my mid 20s, when I - perhaps naively - bought a tenancy on a bar and quickly bailed, realising that the tenant/landlord relationship with Pub Companies is somewhat biased towards the landlord.

This life, supporting yourself from gambling as a 20-something single bloke with few obligations, was amazing from a financial perspective. However, as you get into your 30s, you start growing up a little, and inevitably for most people, have a family/dependents.

Something that my wife/stepdaughter craved was stability. We were renting a house, basically throwing money down the drain paying off someone else’s mortgage, whilst not knowing whether we’d be able to live there in the short/medium/long term. I obviously knew that we couldn’t buy anywhere because gambling income isn’t recognised by mortgage providers - my wife's income wasn't enough to buy a house we'd have liked, and mortgage providers aren't keen on basing a mortgage on one person's income from a couple, when both have income.

At this point, it’s also probably worth mentioning that even with a pretty nice income from gambling, it’s basically impossible to buy a decent house in a desirable area for cash/no mortgage, unless you’re making in excess of £500k per year.  Even then, you’d have to answer quite a lot of questions - one of my friends from the slot machine world recently walked into a BMW dealership with £30k in banknotes that he’d legitimately won and was turned away.  'Legitimate' income is key.  I know of a couple of full-time gamblers who have sunk their bankroll, or large parts of it, into buying a property and have basically cut their income stream off, so this obviously shouldn’t be a viable consideration for anyone gambling full-time.

Furthermore, I was getting towards my mid 30s, and realised that with the standard 25 year mortgage, if I didn’t change something soon, I’d be renting forever or paying off a mortgage past retirement age.

I ran a Twitter poll last night to discover whether many people had been able to buy a house/get a mortgage solely from gambling income, and it appears that most have an issue:-

Bearing this in mind, and since my bar tenancy, I’ve always felt that my relationship with the business world was unfinished. I’ve always wanted to run my own business since I was at school, and I (as most people probably do) watch The Apprentice thinking ‘I can do better’. 

I realised that there wasn't really anyone offering anything that I was already using on a daily basis - quality in-play tennis trading statistics & betting and trading content.  When I was teaching myself from scratch, there was nothing to me to turn to except subjective, anecdotal, articles. I wanted to change that. Also, from my days playing online poker full-time, I had seen the success of various poker training sites such as Cardrunners and Pocket Fives, so there was likely to be a demand for the quality stats and content that I had originally looked for.

Therefore, I set up TennisRatings. 

This was around four-five years ago, which seems a lot longer! Having been around the gambling industry all of my adult life, I already knew that most service providers had a bad reputation and I wanted to do my best to try and change that. I’ve always been quite an altruistic person in the gambling world (for example, when I played online poker full-time, I made quite a lot of videos/posted tons on forums to help others), and I think that mentality stems from working for yourself for several decades, which is mostly a pretty solitary existence.

Some people ask if I notice the impact of my service on the in-play markets. Sometimes I notice a slight impact, but I do feel it’s quite negligible. Given this, I definitely don’t feel like I’ve negated much of an edge by offering in-play data. Of course, I’ve noticed changes in market dynamics, but that’s a completely separate issue.

The pre-match betting markets are also similar in this regard, again, I don’t consider any impact to be huge. I am currently looking at long-term data regarding pre-match movement of value recommendations, so will be able to quantify this pretty soon, in any case. 

At this point in time, my perception is that a significantly greater number of people would need to use my data on a daily basis before there was a great impact on markets.  

The emails/tweets that I receive saying thanks for articles, or how someone’s results have transformed since they used my data, inspire me to continue and improve. After filing tax returns from TennisRatings for a few years, I managed to get a mortgage - without affecting my income stream - and I've also turned down one formal offer to buy the business.

Four-five years down the line, I can definitely say that it’s tough, the hours are long, but I love the daily challenge. Running a business isn’t easy, and neither is trading. In November, the off-season is usually quite welcomed, but at this stage of December, after a few weeks rest, I’m always motivated to go again, and this year is no exception - I already can’t wait for January 2nd!