Q & A #1 – Questions from Tim & Benjamin

Tim and Benjamin asked the following questions on twitter.

@t_i_m_1_3 What’s your academic background? Have you worked in the betting industry before turning pro gambler? Are you only living from your gambling winnings or any side jobs etc?

@PinnacleBen I understand you played poker for a living before moving into sports betting. How different is the lifestyle of a professional poker player vs. professional sports bettor?

I chose these questions to tackle first as they serve as a good entry point and a little bit of an introduction to myself. Also I enjoy talking about poker back in the days which was an absolutely weird and almost self-destructive experience…

So, yes I have an academic background. Studied maths, physics & statistics, however didn’t graduate in any of those subjects. 4 years into university I was introduced to poker and I sensed I could be successful using my statistics/maths background. I didn’t see the benefit of a degree anyway so I abandoned university to pursue playing poker full-time. It was a bit of a gamble as I didn’t know what to expect. But I was young and free and had nothing to lose. And I was never afraid of gambling anyway if the odds were in my favour… 🙂

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The 80-20 Rule

When it comes to poker, sports betting or any other game of chance your profits are almost never determined by your skills alone, but also by your opponents’ skills.

I was merely in the upper middle class of poker players and needed to be in a game with some bad ones to be a favourite to make money. Fortunately, there were plenty of these bad players – what poker players call fish – during the poker boom years.

There is a learning curve that applies to poker and to most other tasks that involve some type of prediction. The key thing about a learning curve is that it really is a curve: the progress we make at performing the task is not linear. Instead, it usually looks something like the figure below – what I call the Pareto Principle of Prediction.

using-the-pareto-principle-in-betting-graph

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My Life As A Gambler

I have been involved in gambling for basically my whole life in one way or the other. At the age of 15 me and a few of my best friends launched a betting ‘syndicate’ and decided to crush our local books big time. A few months later reality had caught up on us and we had lost all our money. It was a significant sum for a 15-year old and I was hard pressed to explain that to my parents! Looking back from a distance now we were naïve at that time, to say the least. We have comitted the same mistakes over and over again to make sure not to end up with a profit. However I don’t blame us now. We just didn’t know better.

By the time I was 20 I was excessively gambling in casinos. I was especially addicted to Black Jack – a card game – and was convinced I had an edge over the house, which of course was ridiculous thinking. I was a compulsive gambler and had lost four figure sums in a matter of a few weeks. In one of my last attempts to enter a casino I was asked for a proof of income by the staff members (this was required by law). I was a student without a regular income, so of course couldn’t provide such a piece of paper. As a consequence I was banned from casinos for the time being. Desperately I was seeking an opportunity to satisfy my gambling needs and gladly came across a casino platform on the internet. I managed to lose another four figure sum in a very short period of time and couldn’t believe my bad luck. In terms of money my grandma helped me out so I could somewhat hide the big losses in front of my parents, although I knew they must have smelled that something wasn’t right with me. In fact I was in deep trouble!

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