As one of the UK’s best-known professional sports bettors, Neil Channing has decades of experience in the gambling world from bookmaker to poker pro to head of his own subscription tipping service. His approach involves taking in information from a huge range of sources and distilling it down to find the best value bets on any sport in any market. He’s got a particular fondness for NFL betting and will be speaking as part of our NFL panel at the Matchbook Traders Conference, and here he gives a little insight into his unique style.
What is your area of betting expertise and what will you be talking about at the conference?
Neil Channing: I’ve no idea, I’m hoping to get one soon. In all seriousness, I honestly don’t think I have one. Someone once told me you don’t have to be the best judge you just have to be the best judge of judges and that’s where I excel. My area of expertise is being a magpie and discerning who holds the precious information and who is just full of it.
I’m talking about the NFL at the conference and I don’t think I’m an expert in NFL in many ways, but I understand how to make money from it.
I listen to someone like Michael Carlson talk and I wish I knew more about team formations and the more intricate tactical details, but I don’t think it makes much difference to my betting on it. I can look at a game and I can read what the market will do, and I just know the syndicates are going to play a certain team and I can take the early price.
I can look at a game and I can read what the market will do, and I just know the syndicates are going to play a certain team and I can take the early price.
What has been the most successful area for you in betting/trading over the past 12 months?
Neil Channing: My approach has changed so much over the years. My first big breakthrough was spread betting where I had some innovative approaches, and it’s all about finding those edges and profiting from them while they last. More recently I’m grinding a lot more with high turnover and low ROI. In football I am betting on games with teams I haven’t heard of and trusting the analysis I’m getting. I’m winning on football and the NFL so I might be ahead of the curve there.
What would you recommend people do to get the most out of the conference?
Neil Channing: I enjoyed the last one even though I had the flu at the time and that was because I took the time to speak to people and learn from the hall and not just the stage. I enjoyed the real-life stories from some of the successful gamblers and traders and particularly enjoyed the discussion around the integration of analytics into betting.
But the networking aspect was very useful and managed to speak to several people I hadn’t seen for years and some good situations came out of that and it probably made me a lot of money.
How much have you gained over the years from listening to other gamblers and other points of view?
Neil Channing: Everything. I think I’ve learned a lot from people along the way and it all fits into that huge jigsaw puzzle you’re constantly trying to solve. You can learn so much from other people. There was a time when I would never have a bet without making 25 phone calls. My horse racing gambling was purely information based. I would have my own opinions, but then I would rip them up based on a conversation with a guy I trusted. The internet has stopped me having to do that now. The information is there on the exchanges and I can see the early prices and I can see how the market moves.
What is the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?
Neil Channing: If I had to sit down and write a how-to book about gambling I’d find it hard as over the years as it’s all seeped in through conversations with other people. So the best advice I can give is to listen to everyone, absorb as much as you can and work on your bullshit filter because there is a lot of that about.
What is your favorite sport to bet on and why?
Neil Channing: Some American sport is designed to last until the last second, but I don’t find that as satisfying.
NFL is more of a chess game that evolves over time but can change really quickly. You may watch it thinking it’s playing out you expect with a low scoring ground game and then it can go out of the window with two turnovers so your bet is never really dead or won until the end.
Football I almost never watch, I don’t think I’ve watched Match of the Day for eight years. I always watch the goals ticking in, and in some ways, I prefer the visualisations, but I never watch the actual game. I love to watch the Open golf and I don’t miss a minute of that, but on an average week, I don’t watch a ball being struck on the PGA.
In your opinion what has been the biggest sporting moment in 2017 so far?
Neil Channing: The Conor McGregor fight was incredible. Boxing is fizzling out as a sport and a point of interest and literally, everybody was talking about that. There was a lot of action on the exchanges and it was pretty amazing how exciting it was.
If you had said to me at the start of the year would that make your top ten I would have thought I wouldn’t open the curtains if it was happening in my garden. But it was really an incredible spectacle.
Everyone was telling me three weeks before 1/10 was a great bet and you could bet it at 2/7 on the night. Amazing. Although actually there was a US Open match I saw where I just happened across Del Potro against Thiem and it turned into one of the best tennis matches I’ve seen in years. Sport can just be full of these incredible moments that totally catch you off guard.
What is your favorite event on the sporting calendar and why?
Neil Channing: Maybe the Cheltenham Festival but in different times it’s been Royal Ascot or the Super Bowl. The build-up for Cheltenham Festival is ridiculous. There was a horse running yesterday and they are talking about its chances for the JLT and it’s September!
And betting wise you can get a lot of money on Cheltenham races and I can turn over 20-30% of my racing turnover in that week. I can spend more time looking at the races and less time putting the bets on, and usually, it’s the other way around.