IN a brand new series at WLB, we're getting inside the minds of some of the betting industry's smartest minds by asking the experts to reveal their favourite resources, valuable insight and biggest wins in the game, starting with Foxpunter founder Mike Holden (@Ratings_Mike).
When did you first start betting? Can you remember your first bet?
Late 1980s. I think I was about 12 or 13 when I placed my first acca (eight teams, if memory serves) in the Ladbrokes
opposite the old Parkside pub near Maine Road. Manchester City were at home, so it would have been packed, but they were never too bothered about me showing them ID in any case.
What sports or leagues do you focus and bet on?
I stick to EFL mainly and play in the Premier League
to a lesser extent but there was also a spell a few years back when I really enjoyed betting on MLS and the Brasileirao in the summer months. I'm still not sure why I stopped.
What sites or sources do you use to follow them?
I listen to managers' post-match interviews religiously, mostly via YouTube or local BBC radio stations. I used to rely a lot on local newspapers but the click-bait culture has ruined most of them now.
Thankfully, the NTT20
boys stay on top of most things and consistently give a superb overview.
What are your favourite websites for research?
For Expected Goals (xG) data, I take a read from my own Foxpunter
xG ratio tables. For chronological results and scorers by competition, I mostly use SoccerAssociation.com
, which is also paid subscription.
For results by position, I use Soccerstats
. And for head-to-head records and player filter, I use SoccerBase
What stats do you consider the most important?
I don’t really have a sense of hierarchy when it comes to stats. The hunch comes first and then I check out the stat I consider most relevant in that context to see if it aligns with my initial suspicion or not.
Are there any stats or trends you feel are irrelevant?
I think every type of stat can have some relevance when used in the right context, but stats on their own have no real predictive ability.
People say historical head-to-head records are nonsense and mostly that's correct. But when a League Two side hasn't won at a familiar ground in 20-odd visits and it's being talked about, that's not irrelevant. It's on their minds and part of the profile of that game.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt betting?
This sounds proper cheesy but I've always used my betting as a vehicle to teach me about life. All the psychology and personal development work I've done down the years has been geared towards trying to win a few quid on the footy.
Now I'm doing psychological profiling and coaching people based on how their minds are wired, which was something I just fell into but really enjoy.
Why is value important in betting?
I think the concept of backing the price rather than the team can be overplayed sometimes, especially in professional football with so many eyes scouring the markets from day to day.
But let's get one thing absolutely clear: nobody will ever make a long-term profit by never beating the closing price. So yes, price matters.
Have you any advice for punters looking to try and find an edge?
Do your own thing and become the best at it.
Find your niche, preferably something obscure, and keep refining what you know until you eventually reap the benefits of compound effects. To use the old metaphor about digging for oil: it's better to drill down 500m in one place than 100m in five places.
What’s your biggest betting win and how do you spend it?
I copped for about £8,000 when Bradford won the League Two play-offs in 2013. I rated them as the best team in the division and backed them at double figures for promotion most weeks after the League Cup final in late February. That capped my best-ever season, finishing about £35,000 in front overall.
My wife was six months pregnant with our first at the time, so I kitted out the nursery, took three months off and went to the beach every day!
Do you review your bets and track your winners/losers?
Yes. It means I'm never kidding myself about the bottom-line but everything moves so fast now, it's a challenge finding the time to audit and review them in any great detail.
How do you cope with losing bets?
It depends how many you're talking about. Everybody has their threshold and I think your tolerance gets better with experience.
These days, I can deal with a losing month, no problem, and will usually grit my teeth through a second one – but that third consecutive losing month is a killer. That's when I start becoming a diva.
What’s the best thing about betting?
For me, it's always been that a-ha moment when you're looking at a match, confident there are no blind spots in your knowledge, and everything aligns towards a tidy price and a confident winner. That sense of conviction.
Sadly, data science is killing that buzz. It’s so hard to get that fix nowadays.
About Mike Holden
Mike Holden started punting as a teenager in the late 1980s, spent much of the 1990s working as a casino croupier, then graduated as a journalist in the mid 2000s.
Then, having followed his beloved Manchester City home and away for nearly 20 years, he upped sticks in 2008 to start a new life (and family) in Valencia – two months before the Sheikh Mansour takeover.
He started as a tipster for Bettingzone in 2004 and has written regularly for the Racing Post, The Sack Race and FourFourTwo. He is also the founder of the exceptional Foxpunter ratings service.