Mark Iverson is not your typical gambling success story. A normal working class guy from the Welsh valleys he read a couple of books on the new exchange betting phenomenon in the early 2000s and decided to give it a go with a £250 bankroll. Over 15 years later he’s making a living trading sports on a daily basis, predominantly cricket, with thousands of bets every week.
He posts his results and thoughts regularly on Twitter at @markyiverson but we wanted to dig a little deeper into what makes him tick and how he approaches gambling for a living. We found a very down-to-earth family man with some great advice for how to change your mindset to make the most out of every penny you bet. Read on to find out more.
What was your route into professional gambling?
It’s been a long one. After opening my first betting exchange account in 2001 it took me until 2005 to really see the opportunity they provided over traditional bookmakers.
Until then I was very much a break-even punter who concentrated on horse racing, but after reading a few books and magazine articles I made a decision to switch my focus to buying and selling bets whilst events were in-play.
How did you get started as a pro gambler?
After a few years of solid trading results I was able to cut down my hours as a project manager and go part-time in 2008, but it wasn’t until the end of 2010 that I felt I’d accumulated sufficient experience and a big-enough trading bank to go full-time.
What’s a typical week in your life like?
At the beginning of each month I create a list of each event I plan to trade, so at the end of each week I normally look ahead to see what the next seven days has in store. Despite there being far more televised cricket than there used to be, each month can vary on how busy it’s likely to be.
For example, the Indian Premier League runs from April to May and consists of 60 matches, but come October it’s much quieter, especially since the Champions League T20 tournament ceased a couple of years ago. This is where NFL and rugby union become more of a focus and I turn to them to see me through.
But on busy weeks it’s all hands-on deck.
I trade daily and update databases continually but over the course of the year I make sure my average working hours hit between 35-40 hours per week.
I’m happy with that balance, as with a young family I still have to find time for school runs and all the other household chores. Working from home is certainly not as easy as it sounds!
What sports do you focus on and why?
These days it 85% cricket with rugby union and NFL making up the rest, but it didn’t start out that way – in the beginning I delved into as many sports as I could.
Everything was new and I was enjoying the learning experience, but for what I was trying to achieve certain sports ticked more boxes.
Cricket is one of those and is what I consider the ideal trading sport. There’s plenty on TV and this leads to highly liquid markets. With one day games taking between 3 to 8 hours this allows plenty of time to build positions.
How do you approach finding a value bet in a market – what’s your basic approach?
Over the years, I’ve continually refined a pre-game process to help build a picture as to what I think may happen when a match starts. Preparing like this allows me to identify when the market has over-reacted and/or when it’s moved slightly out of sync with the game state. Formats like T20 move so quickly that it’s easy to lose your way, so having a structure that I can follow from game to game helps keep my discipline.
It’s then all down to identifying signals that the market agrees with me and executing without hesitation. I’m almost robotic now and don’t experience many feelings whilst trading – no jumping for joy when things go well or bashing the desk when it doesn’t. Sounds boring? It can be and that is a challenge in itself. I find my worst results often come when I get lazy and switch-off.
What was the best/worst bet you made that did or didn’t win?
That thought process is not really in my thinking as I can make thousands of individual trades and bets per month.
Some win, some lose, but as long I’ve stuck to my process I normally move swiftly onto the next.
Unless an outcome is significantly out of scope I don’t spend too much time analysing my moves.
What personal qualities do you have that make you a good (and bad) gambler?
Not sure if they make me a good gambler, but I’d like to think some attributes have been helpful. Off the top of my head, I’m very organised when it comes to work.
I like to plan & forecast as much as I can. I’m a flexible thinker (posh words for ‘dreamer’). I don’t have self-limiting beliefs and I like to think out of the box. I’m also not afraid of being different.
I’m also self-driven and very competitive.
I hate losing, although I accept it’s inevitable, and alongside making mistakes is all part of the learning curve.
On the flip-side, these are weaknesses I’m aware of. I’m too risk averse. My need to be in control and my fondness for keeping structure means I’ll often take smaller gains than hold onto strong positive positions for longer. And I’m impatient. I’m keen on seeing instant results and I find it difficult to wait for anything, whether that be a bus or a trading move to develop.
I have found my results significantly improve when I stop and think more. Maybe it’s my Celtic roots but the emotional part of my brain rules the majority of the time. Fortunately, the controls I’ve put in place seem to counter-act this well enough.
How good are you with money?
It’s become a bit of an obsession over the last decade – in a good way. As someone who still has a mortgage to pay and three young boys to support the need to be on top of my finances is greater than it’s ever has been.
When I went full-time I made a conscious effort to clear any outstanding debts to help ease outside pressures and ever since I’ve monitored my monthly income and expenses closely.
As I like having plans in most things I do, this was a logical step and it ensures I’m not kidding myself about my progress. The result is I’m now more likely to save or invest spare cash than go on a spending splurge.
What one thing would you change about the betting world?
For more people to understand the opportunity betting exchanges provide.
Even if you’re a leisure punter you shouldn’t ignore that over the long term they offer a better deal.
No bookmaker overround means better odds, and over thousands of bets this will result in much larger profits if you have an edge.
How much influence has luck had on your life?
To a certain degree I believe we make our own luck. If you think and work hard enough it’s amazing what we can achieve.
On the other hand, there’ve been a few events in my life which I’ve been fortunate to get through which have re-affirmed my religious beliefs. I’m not a church-goer but I do have a spiritual side and for quite a few years I’ve tried to be a better person ‘today’ than I was ‘yesterday’.
It sounds laughable, but it seems to work. The better I become as a person the more life seems to give me back.
Lastly, what one thing can I do today that will make me a better gambler?
Don’t rush in and wait for opportunities to present themselves.
If you want to find out what Mark’s highlighted as trading opportunities this week you should begin following him on Twitter at @markyiverson where he posts regularly and has more than the occasional nugget of wisdom to share with his followers.
For even more betting wisdom you can find more interviews from betting professionals here and don’t forget to explore the Matchbook Insights archive here for a ton of betting strategy articles and tips to improve your betting today.