When I started Matched Betting back in 2009, The Gambling Times (TGT) was the go to place for information and was website where I settled in. The members there held my hand and took me from earning the odd £10 here and there to making enough to leave University without needing to get a job.
Andrew Heaford (Andy) is one of the founders of TGT and was the biggest contributor to the forum – it is pretty much thanks to him that I ended up getting the freedom to do my own thing and eventually start this website!
I caught up with Andy to find out more about his story, if you’re not sure what some of the terms mean check out the glossary at the bottom:
How did you manage to get into advantage gambling without a forum like TGT teaching you how to do it?
Before going to University I had never gambled before.. At university there was some ‘club’ fruit machines in the students union bar with £200 jackpots, crazy fruits and cops and robbers. My mates would play and I would watch. Eventually I learnt to play too and it was great fun. I was possibly a bit addicted in a bad way back then. I lost no more than a grand though, all in. Fortunately bookies did not yet have fixed odds betting terminals and so it took a long long time to lose that much. That was my first experience of gambling.
I did a degree in economics and there was a section on cross market arbitrage and I, independently of anyone else, realised you could use the basic theory to make money from betting too. I also started to combine betting exchanges and freebets to make a little bit of free money. Back then the exchanges I used was one called ‘Matched Bets’ (long since deceased) and ‘Flutter’. I ended up with a Betfair account by default when they merged with Flutter. I made a couple of hundred quid from it at the tail end of being at Uni, thought “that was fun”, and forgot about it.
I became an +EV gambler just after quitting a job which was going nowhere. I knew if I did not quit I would sit there and rot but with nothing else lined up it was a little rash. In the days afterwards I was browsing the Betfair forum (which used to be hilarious) and noticed an “official casino bonus abuse thread 52”. Back then threads could only get 50 replies before you needed to start a new one. I had seen it weeks previously at number 6 and when I saw 52 I thought “is that still going?” So I clicked and read it.
In that thread someone had laid out exactly how to make £s from a casino bonus, £100 matched 100% upfront cashable with 4x wagering on Blackjack. Thank you Crockfords Casino! The same day I joined Stanley Casino (identical offer) and Captain Cooks Casino – 300% bonus cashable after 15x on Blackjack. I made a couple of hundred pounds that first day and never really looked back.
Everyone in that little Betfair group pretty much all became “pros”, they were making more from it than they were from their jobs. In the end I had a bit of a falling out with them and it sort of ended badly. But I will always remember the help I got at the start… “Thank you Mr K”.
How did The Gambling Times start? Was it a way to replace that Betfair forum?
Well it was at the same time as leaving that forum, but the company Propunter Ltd was formed and TGT began for a totally different reason. I had been giving friends advice and pointers and realised I had (for example) sent Ladbrokes ten customers and that actually Ladbrokes would have paid me for that. All the bookmakers and casinos do. So TGT was just a basic website that listed them all with affiliate banners so that the people I taught would click through and I’d make some money.
I eventually got fed up of repeating the same advice and added a forum so that I only had to say it all once. It sort of grew from there, the website became a central point for me to put information about which sites were good and which were scams and I would couple the reviews with specific advice on how I would personally hustle the current bonus on offer. Over time it merged with a few other forums and gained a critical mass where it grew organically and I stopped having to post so much.
TGT grew ex potentially and became (your words) the go to place for advantage play, I believe it’s success was due to the moderators on the forum and the incredibly high quality specialisation/unique knowledge they brought. TGT merged with a US forum and for a while was known as TheGamblersUnderground while they were being intergrated. We then had a US professional sports bettor (KidPoker) who used bonuses as a side line but also made money through skill. Back then the US market was huge (and my main source of income in 2009) and I don’t think any other forum had that level of information and discussions.
We also had KasinoKing in the casino forum who along with me and Mac were all incredibly +EV players in our own right and were happy to share information. The forum as a whole was quite “fun” thanks to the superb moderation of Munk, Nintendo2k, MusicBox, Bella… Basically everyone who was a moderator (and also a huge number of the users because a forum is nothing without them too!).
What has been most encouraging and what has been the biggest struggle running TGT?
There have been many encouraging things for me whilst being part of TGT, one of which is hearing how people have been getting on in the relay diary. That would always brings a smile to my face. I have been sent a few bits and bobs as small gifts in the post too over the years from chocolates, to Scottish football team mugs (I now support Kilmarnock), scarves, pens, jellybeans, horse racing tickets, and even a personalised hoodie which (apparently) says God of Gambling in Japanese writing (I especially like that one).
It didn’t come up in the interview but I had a very flash black Porsche with number plate L7 TGT with L7 meant to be lucky 7. I was very proud of that, until it blew up one day, flames and everything!
I would say the greatest struggle of an online business is keeping up with technology, to the point where it is impossible so we did not particularly bother to try. As soon as you have done one upgrade it is pretty much redundant already, fads come and go, Google change their algorithms from penguin to panda to puffin (a few will know what I mean) which can overnight make months of work pointless so what was the point?
Sometimes I wished I was a fisherman. Usually after watching the deadliest catch on discovery channel I would think “that looks OK”. Essentially you have a boat, and a net, some navigational aids but that’s pretty much it. They were doing that in the bible, I could do that, nobody is telling the captain of that boat he needs to revamp his social media strategy are they!
Do you have any really key friendships or relationships that have come directly from TGT or your advantage play?
I have made many friendships but not as many as I could have. I deliberately never held any official TGT meet ups (although members of course were quite free to arrange their own and I’m sure did). I also made a point of not having secrets or joining any other private forums. I have enough real world friends and it was nice to be invited, but if I really wanted to know secrets I will join the Freemasons.
One friendship that stands out though is a Russian called Yura Kostalev (intelbet) who I was introduced to online via a mutual friend. I taught him how to matched bet and play casinos and I set him up with a Russian version of thegamblingtimes in 2007. In Russia you are either a have or a have not and there is little social mobility. This was his chance though and he really, really, hit it hard and worked his socks off and made an awful lot of $s.
Of the three things I am most proud of in my life he is one of them, he now owns outright a big house, has a flash car, beautiful wife and son and now owns several businesses employing many people. Essentially, I made that happen, sort of. We first met in Moscow at an England vs Russia football match he invited me to, we have met several times since and I went to his wedding in Orenberg in 2010. People have many different definitions of what a “friend” is but I know if I ever wind up frozen in carbonite in Jabbas throne room he will be the one coming to bust me out!
You said you don’t like to have secrets, but do you never think about what would have happened if you hadn’t started TGT, kept advatage play to yourself and focused on making as much money as possible?
I think everyone would like more money but there is no guarantee I would have made more taking any other routes. Not in a legitimate way anyway. I know one way I could very easily have made a lot from but it is at best a grey area of legality. I’m pretty sure heroin dealers make good money but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
Running TGT gave me payslips, a legitimate occupation, an office and a day job which you can really miss when you find yourself needing to, for example, rent a house whilst explaining you make you money from gambling! It made some money, enough for me to be happy and have a very comfortable life and a standard of living a damn sight higher than the World average. So for that, no I do not regret TGT at all.
I’m not sure how much money I have made as I never kept those sort of records. Gambling was just a job to me so I never saw the point and think it’s a bit of an odd thing to do. If I meet someone who happens to be a plumber I would never dream to ask how much he has earnt from plumbing nor would ever expect him to actually know!
I made a lot, but after dividing it over nearly ten years it becomes much less impressive. Even if I did know an exact figure I’m not sure I would share it, anybody who has made more won’t be impressed and anybody making less will only resent me for it.
What is next for you? Are you still doing a lot of gambling?
I spend very little time gambling now, I have not done huge amounts since 2012 but dabbled a bit, since Nov 2014 it has fallen off a cliff and I think I have placed only a handful of bets. Over the years I never had much consistency or logic, sometimes grinding out Blackjack £2 a hand, sometimes sweepering from £25 a hand. So the “habits” never really existed in the first place I would just do whatever felt right at the time. But whatever that was I would always stick to it. Always have a plan before you even deposit, write that plan down, stick it on your laptop and then stick to it!
I’m currently writing this in Thailand but may be back in England when it’s published. I’m moving to Thailand to be an English teacher starting in May 2015. I expect to be a teacher here for a year or so to wind down and relax a bit before attempting my next venture.
I’m not entirely sure what that will be but there is a few possibilities. This time I am hoping to get rich from it, one of my ambitions in life is to be a director at a football club and I will need serious money to do that. If I ever become a director of a football club I will consider that I finally “made it”.
—- End of Interview —-
Well Andy might not be a director at a football club, but sponsoring one is a good start! Thank you Andy for agreeing to be interviewed, I have found incredibly interesting.
If you want to find out more about some of the concepts Andy talked about, or would just like to connect with him please head over to The Gambling Times forum. The members there I am sure will be as welcoming now and when I joined all those years ago.
- +EV – Positive expect value. Expected value simply is the amount of money the bet or wager is expected to make or lose. A typical bet against at the bookmakers has a negative expected value and regardless of the short term result, betting long enough will lose you money. A +EV gambler is one who only bets when the player has an edge and expects to make money in the long term. They might have swings down or up but in the long term they have an edge against the bookie or casino.
- Fixed odds betting terminals – A controversial machine that are often found in UK betting shops. Unlike fruit machines where you are limited by how quickly the wheel spins, these machines have much higher betsizes with the potential to wager thousands of pounds per hour.
- The Relay Diary – For a few years there was a constant, up-to-date diary on the TGT forum. Every other week a different person would write for the diary and would explain what offers they had done, how much money they made and what they were going to focus on in the coming weeks.
- Advantage Play – Advantage play or advantage gambling is a term used to describe gambling when the player has an edge over the house. See +EV.
- Matched Betting – A way to make money out of the bonuses that bookies offer. The most popular form of advantage play as it is risk free.
- Grinding – A low risk technique for extracting the value out of a casino bonus by place a large amounts of very low bets to cover the wagering requirement.
- Sweepering – A high risk technique for extracting the value out of a casino by placing a varying sized large bets. A much quicker technique with a higher expected value than grinding.
- Cashable bonus – A bonus that you can withdraw once you have complete some set requirement. Normally a wagering requirement.