Friday 30 December 2016

Xmas matched betting - StanJames

Amongst matched bettors StanJames has a pretty poor reputation. They're well-known for "gubbing" accounts quickly. What this basically means is that they're quick to identify people who are trying to "game the system" and cash in free bets. And when you get caught, they put crippling limits on your account, to make match-betting simply not worth the hassle.

A lot of matched-bettors spend a lot of time "looking after" their accounts. They place bogus bets, to make it look like they are a regular punter - throwing good money after bad (as most gamblers as wont to do!). And if you put a lot of effort into looking after your account, only for it to be closed/restricted anyway, you can understand why a few people don't like StanJames.

However, I'm not interested in playing the system. I don't care whether the bookies are onto me quickly or not - once I've signed up with a bookie and taken their free bets, I have no interest in using their account again! This is a quick grab-n-go raid on free bets.

So as far as I'm concerned, it Stan James are willing to give me £20 in free bets for placing £10 into an account, I'll take that all day! So I put my £10 on TempleRoss in the 14:40 at Cheltenham at 9/2 (5.5 in digital odds terms). And in Betfair, I stuck £10.09 against Templeross at 5.47

As it turned out, Templeross finished second from last! A disaster at the bookies, but a £10.09 win at the Betfair Exchange (£9.58 after commission). That means it cost me 42p to grab £20 in free bets!

It took two days for the free bets to arrive, but when they did, I went for:

StanJames: £20 (free bet) on a draw PSG vs Nice @ 17/4 (5.25)
Smarkets: £15.51 against the draw @ 5.5

Annoyingly, the game finished 2 - 2.
Which meant I "lost" nearly £70 out of my Smarkets account - but "won" £85 over at StanJames. Luckily, StanJames are pretty quick to pay out when you make a withdrawal request, so I took my winnings and put them back into my betting exchange.

So I lost £70 but won £85 for a £15 gain.
Less the 42p the qualifying bet cost to claim the free bet(s) and the total profit for this promotion was £14.58

Xmas betting - BetWay

Betway offered what looked to be a great sign-up offer: 100% deposit bonus up to £100. Wow. A hundred quid, free cash. That had to be a second look.

By this stage, I was already about £180 up on the whole thing, and the offer of a hundred quid (after deductions, calculating for matched bets, commission etc. probably closer to £70) seemed like too good a deal to pass up.

But there was a little note in the sign-up promo that made me a little bit wary: in those condition on the advert, it says 6) withdrawal limitations.

This is an example of one of those offers with "play through" commitments. They don't want to just give away free bets - if you happen to get lucky and hit a winner, they want the opportunity to win it back from you! Like one of those annoying card players who, after losing five games in a row, insist on "double or quits" as a way of getting everything back with just one lucky break.

Still, it's a free money offer.
Maybe I should have gone for the full hundred, but I felt more comfortable taking just half of the available cash. So I deposited £50 and stuck it on a nag called Royal McNab:

Betway: £50 Royal McNab 13:40 Musselbrugh @ 11/4 (3.75 decimal odds)
Smarkets: £48.96 against Royal McNab @ 3.85

I was immediately given a £50 bonus, so stuck that on a draw for the up-and-coming Liverpool v Middlesbrough game at the weekend.

Betway: £50 Liverpool v Middlesbrough Draw result @ 16/5 (4.2 decimal odds)
Betfair: £41 against the draw @ 4.4

This is an example of underlaying the bet.
With almost all matched betting, you want your bets to lose at the bookies, and the money to appear in the exchange (so it's immediately available to use on another offer - if it wins at the bookies, you have to wait for the money to be withdrawn and given back to you, then take it from your account and put it back into the exchange).

With BetWay, they have a x3 wagering requirement.
Simply put, this means that if the bet wins at the bookies, I can't just withdraw the winnings. They want me to bet three times the combined total of the deposit + bonus.
i.e. if I want to withdraw the cash, I have to have bet a total of £300 after the initial deposit.

If ever there was a time I wanted the bet to lose at the bookies, and win at the exchange, this was it! As a result, I under-laid the Liverpool half of the bet: if the bet won at the bookies, I'd get my £50 back, and lose only £40 to the exchange. So I'd actually be £10 up, instead of breaking even. That's what I'd "pay myself" for having to complete further bets. But if the bet lost at the bookies, and won at the exchange, I'd happily take just £40 instead of £50, to avoid the hassle of having to place any more bets.

Which made it doubly-gutting, when I checked my Smarkets account after the race and saw this:

The bloody nag had won. And, after a couple of other winning bets at other bookies (I was doing multiple sign-up offers at the same time) I'd pretty much wiped out my Smarkets account. It was all but empty!

It was only little consolation that I now had £187.50 in my BetWay account. Unlike Ladbrokes, StanJames et al, I couldn't just ask for the money to be withdrawn. To get this cash out, I had to place a further £300 in bets (unless I could miraculously keep picking losing bets until the balance was down to zero).

The problem with having such a large amount in the bookies is two-fold. Firstly, I need to do a lot of matched betting to get the money out. And secondly, I need a massive amount in Betfair to lay the bets off (bet against the same result). As I had only a modest amount in Betfair (with multiple other bets on the go at the same time, my Betfair account fluctuates wildly throughout the day) I had to place a bet with rather lower odds than I would have liked.

To ensure I had enough in Betfair to cover the lay bet, I went with:

BetWay: £100 on General Hazard @ 5/4 (2.25 decimal odds)
Betfair: £100.90 against General Hazard @ 2.28

Here's where the problem gets compounded - with such low odds, the chance of General Hazard winning is actually pretty high; which means it's actually quite likely that the balance in BetWay will go up again, and the Betfair balance will take a battering too!

Whichever way it goes, if I want to get the money out of BetWay, I need to complete £300 worth of bets. At least this would be a third of the total betting requirement out of the way. Another win, however, and it's quite possible that I'll be lucky to get out of this promotional offer with any of the free bet money left!

Despite being the favourite, General Hazard lost by a length.

So I now had £87.50 left in the BetWay account, I'd bet £100 of my required £300 wagering requirement and was considering trying to "lose" the remaining £87.50 from BetWay into the exchange.  If I did manage to pick another loser, my BetWay account would be empty, and I'd be finished. If I picked a winner, at least I'd be £185 through my wagering requirements, leaving just £125 left to bet (out of any potential winnings) before I could make a withdrawal.

Getting a bit impatient, I looked at the next available horse race, and went for:

Betway: £87.50 on FiveToEight in the 16;05 at Kempton @ 2/1 (decimal odds 3.0)
Betfair: £83.34 against FiveToEight @ 3.15

Once again I'd picked a favourite, but the odds on second-favourite RippOrf were falling all the time. Of course, this didn't mean I was any more or less likely to be onto a winner - but it was encouraging that maybe I'd gone with an early favourite and the "clever money" was coming in on the actual winner (whoever suggested horse racing was fixed and that some people knew the result of the race before the off? Not me).

With my BetWay account down to zero, and my Betfair account not much higher than that, all I had to do was sit and wait for the result.....

I put the race on the computer (most betting websites let you watch the race after you've put a bet on) and was cheered to see the favourite losing ground to Island Cloud and second favourite RippOrf making a late run for the line on the outside. But - disappointingly - my stupid horse held them both off and crossed the line in first place.

Double shit.

Now I had £262.50 in the BetWay account and my Betfair balance was down to just a few hundred quid. I still hadn't completed the wagering requirements to make a withdrawal from BetWay, and I had to plan carefully now - one more "bad choice" and I could end up with several hundreds of pounds in BetWay, and nothing in either betting exchange, making further betting all but impossible.

At this stage, all other betting had to stop, as I concentrated on getting my Betfair balance back up again (as a last resort, I could make another deposit, but it's something I really wanted to avoid doing unless I absolutely had to!)

What utter terrible luck -from just a £50 deposit, I now had a balance of £262.50. For many people, this would be what's known as "a result". But because I'd also bet against these outcomes on Betfair, my exchange balance was almost zero, and I hadn't yet placed enough bets with BetWay to ask for my winnings!

Just half an hour before, I was considering how to maximise profits with lay bets on the exchange, and getting my BetWay account down to zero. Now, I had £262.50 in the account and needed to find a way of completing the wagering requirements, in order to simply extract the remaining cash to my bank account.

As I was about to lump another hundred quid onto a nag, I double-checked the terms and conditions of the promotional offer with the support team via online chat. It turns out, I'd already bet a total of:

£50 (sign up bet) Royal McNab
+ £50 (free bet) Liverpool/Middlesbrough draw
+ £100 (General Hazard)
+ £87.50 (FiveTwoEight)

for a grand total of £287.50!
It's scary just how quickly you can burn through hundreds and hundreds of pounds in betting when you're doing this matched betting lark! Anyway, support chat confirmed that I needed only to wager another £12.50 and that'd be the £300 total wagering requirements completed.

Having already had problems with William Hill being difficult about refunding cash, I thought it best to play up to the image of "lucky mug punter" and stuck £20 on Al Sail at the 16:40 in Kempton  at 4/1.

BetWay: £20 Al Sail 16:40 Kempton @ 5.0
Betfair: £18.52 @ 5.4

As it happened, Al Sail finished a miserable third place.
Which leave £242.50 in my BetWay account, and the Liverpool v Middlesbrough draw result bet still to resolve. All being well, that'll be a loser too and put nearly £140 back into my Betfair account; but even if it wins (and perhaps I should hope it does, as I under-laid the bet) I've already completed the wagering requirements that BetWay insist on before making a withdrawal.

There's still one caveat before I can get my hands on the money - and that's BetWay check for "irregular betting patterns" before they pay out. Which is why I stuck to unfavourable horse races, rather than scouring the betting markets looking for better matches, trying to extract the maximum value from each bet. Hopefully, when I put in the withdrawal request, they'll see a few horse races and a footy match, and conclude I'm just a lucky "mug" punter and pay out with little fuss.

All I need to do now is wait for the Liverpool/Middlesbrough game to complete and see how much I'll be asking to withdraw. Come on you Reds. Only 45 minutes to go....

EDIT: one day later.
Well, Liverpool gave Middlesbrough a bit of a spanking. So my "draw" bet lost (at BetWay).
My final balance in Betway was £242.50. As I'd already completed the wagering requirements (bet a total of more than £300) I put in a request for the full amount to be withdrawn.

Trying to work out the returns on this one wasn't quite so easy:

Royal McBloodyNab "lost" me £139.57 of my Smarkets balance.
At the same time, my BetWay balance went up to £187.50.
Given that £50 of that was mine in the first place, after my qualifying bet, I was 187.50 - 50 - 139.57 = £2.07 down

My free £50 went on a draw and lost - I under-laid this bet, and it won £41 at Betfair (there was no loss at the bookies, as it was my free bet/bonus cash amount).

I then "lost" £100 of my BetWay balance (General Hazard) and gained £100.90 in my Betfair account (£95.85 after commission, so a £4.15 loss)

I tried to lose the remaining £87.50 by putting it all on FiveToEight but it won, meaning my lay bet of £179.18 lost at Betfair (although I did win 262.50 - 87.50 = £175 at BetWay). Another 179.18 - 175 = £4.18 loss.

To complete the wagering requirements, I stuck twenty quid on Al Sail and it lost - increasing my Betfair account by £18.52 (£17.59 after commission, another £2.41 loss).

So all in all, total profit for this promotion was 41.00 - 2.07 - 4.15 - 4.18 - 2.41 = £28.19
Given that the initial offer was for up to £100 matched, and I bottled it (although, given the number of times I won and how much I would have ended up having to bet to complete the wagering requirements, maybe no bad thing) the promotion was worth an absolute maximum of £50.

Although some people might be dismayed that I only achieved a 28.19/50*100 = 57% return, it was still nearly thirty quid for a total of about an hour or so actual work. More importantly than that, as far as "betting to pay for Xmas dinner" went, that's the cheese and biscuits paid for......

Xmas paid for with matched betting

While I had another five or six blog posts lined up detailing the outcomes of various matched bets, they all read pretty much the same thing - bet on x, laid against the same result and the total cost was y; this released some free bets, so I bet on x, laid it off and turned the free bet into cash.

Most (actually all) of the betting was done in the run-up to Xmas - but I had to wait until the entire bet had resolved (all the money was gone from the bookies) before posting on the blog here; bookies are quick to annul accounts these days and can even cancel free bets if you're not careful.

Anyway, in the weeks running up to Xmas, I managed to release free bets from

  • Coral
  • PaddyPower
  • Betfred
  • Stan James
  • William Hill
  • Ladbrokes
  • BetVictor
  • Skybet
  • BetStars
  • Betway
  • BoyleSports
  • 888sport
  • William Hill

(I've since been rather pre-occupied with the big day itself, travelling up and down the country to visit family and even a bit of real-world work squeezed in too).

Many of my bets "lost" at the bookies, and I managed to get about 70% of the free bet value to appear in my BetFair account. But on occasion, I would hit a "lucky break" and win at the bookies. They weren't always best pleased about this. To be honest, neither was I as it just meant more hassle, trying to release the funds.

Ladbrokes were quick enough to return the £170 I won over the course of the qualifying and free bets. William Hill were less so (after three failed attempts to withdraw my winnings, I put the whole lot on a nag of a horse and laid it off in Betfair; it cost me a couple of quid to do this, but it got the money out quickly and easily).

Neither I nor Betway were particularly pleased when a couple of my bets won and I ended up with £242 in that account! Although they did (eventually) pay the full amount back to my bank account, it took them just 45 minutes to send me a "you're gubbed" email and politely invited me to never again take part in any of their promotions or free bet offers!

With some online bookies, I appeared to have made a profit (on paper) and for some a "loss". But this is only one half of the story, of course. So while Mssrs Coral, Betfred, SkyBet and PaddyPower etc. have me down as some kind of mug punter, throwing good money after bad, Mr Ladbrokes and Mr Betway aren't quite so keen to see me betting with them, as - to them at least - I look like some kind of gambling genius.

But whether the bookies think I lost or won, each one returned an overall profit; after about a dozen or so bookies offers, I was £250 up overall. It was tempting to continue going and collecting about the same again in free bets (there are loads of online free bet offers still available that I hadn't even looked at). But this whole endeavour was always about pulling in a few hundred quid, quickly and easily.

None of the offers were particularly difficult to do, each taking around 10-15 minutes to put all the bets on. And I managed to achieve my initial aim - to put a half-decent family spread on the table this Christmas.

We had 14 over for dinner this year (thanks to my mum hosting us all) with ham, turkey, pork, beef and all the trimmings. We had fancy canapes and plenty of spirits for afterwards. And thanks to matched betting, it didn't cost us a penny....

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Xmas betting - BetVictor

BetVictor is one of those betting sites that are easy to miss. They don't really make much of a fuss, and their sign-up offers are not really special enough to get them noticed by the betting blogs and tipsters.

But if you hunt around on the 'web, you can easily find "old" promotions that BetVictor are still willing to honour. And I happened to find a "bet £10 get £30 free" promo.

So, as quickly as I could type in my debit card details, I put £10 into BetVictor and dropped it on some obscure football game, in order to get access to the free bets as quickly as possible.

BetVictor: £10 on Botafogo RJ @ 2.375
Betfair: £10.35 against Botafogo RF @ 2.34

BetVictor then made £30 free bets available immediately, so I stuck the whole lot on Spurs (against Man Utd) @ 3.75. In Betfair I laid it off by betting £22 against Spurs @ 3.80

Amazingly, Man Utd managed to turn around their recent run of bad luck and they won 1 - 0. So my free bet turned into £22 at Betfair (£20.90 after commission). However, Botafogo - whoever they are, and whatever sport they happen to play - won their game. So I "lost" £13.87 for my lay bet in Betfair, and won £23.75 in BetVictor.

Overall, this left me with a balance of £23.75 in BetVictor (£13.75 up because I had provided the original £10 stake) and £13.87 down in Betfair - a cost of 12p for the free bets.

My free bet returned £20.90 so the profit for this promotion was 20.90 - 0.12 = £20.78
I withdrew the full £23.75 and as soon as it hit my bank, put it straight back where it belongs - into my Betfair account!

Xmas betting - Skybet

Skybet used to have some really good sign-up offers. At the time of writing, they've scaled back a little bit. Their current offer is simply a no-deposit, £10 free bet. But a free tenner is a free tenner all the same....
However, a quick Google search brought up a "static" web page, with a "bet £10 get £20 free" offer; following the links on this took me to a sign-up page that honoured the promo I'd found (even if it wasn't their current promotion). A single £10 bet to unlock 2 x £10 free bets is not to be sniffed at. At the current rate I've been achieving (around 70%) that'd still be £14 risk-free.

As with previous free bets, this was all about getting some bets in quickly, taking whatever price was on offer, and getting out again - ideally "losing" all the bets at the bookies, pushing the value of the free bets through into the betting exchange(s). The qualifying bet was:

SkyBet: £10 on Rosario Central v Lanus draw result @ 2/1 (decimal odds 3.0)
Betfair: £9.52 against the draw at 3.2

The result went 2-1 to Lanus, so after commission, my Betfair balance increased by £9.04 which means it cost me 96p to access the 2 x £10 free bets.

Looking for a quick turnaround, I bet on the same game

Skybet: £10 on AC Milan (v Roma) @ 9/2 (decimal 5.5)
Betfair: £7.69 against AC Milan @ 5.80

twice. Roma went on to win 1-0 which meant after the game, my Betfair account was £15.38 better off. After commission, this equated to £14.61. Given that it cost 96p to place the qualifying bet, total profit for this promotion was £13.65

Not the best result and nowhere near the target 75% (13.65/20*100 = 68%)
But a result nonetheless. And, better still, every bet at SkyBet lost, meaning there was no messing about with withdrawing funds, and the betting exchange balance stayed nice and healthy!

Xmas betting - Ladbrokes

We're not messing about with this one! Ladbrokes have a great sign-up offer promotion - F50 means they'll match your first bet (as a free bet) up to £50.

That's a great offer - but it also means needing to have some proper money available to lay off the bet(s). It also means that you really need to have confidence in the whole matched-betting thing, and to be absolutely comfortable with throwing fifty quid at a bookies - even a reputable one like Mr Ladbrokes!

But, filled with a bellyful of fire from previous bets, I stuck £50 into Ladbrokes and banged the whole lot on Burnley (against Bournemouth) at 12/5 (decimal 3.4). Then, over at Betfair, I bet against Burnley, putting £51.52 at odds of 3.35.

To the untrained eye, that looks like over a hundred quid in one go. But it's not that bad. It's even worse! You see, when you place a lay bet on the exchange, you need to prove that you can pay out if the exchange bet loses. That means putting up 2.35 x 51.52 = £121.07 - a total of £170 blown in a single matched bet. Sometimes you just need to hold your nerve....

Like all good bookies, Ladbrokes honour the free bet offer as soon as the first bet is placed. And with £50 in free bets burning a hole in my pocket, I couldn't help but try to push it through quickly. So I stuck my free £50 on a horse called Tambour at 4/1 (odds 5.0 decimal). Then headed over to Betfair and bet against Tambour for £40.40 and odds also of 5.0 (decimal).

Having stumped up £50 for the qualifier, £121 laying the qualifying bet off and £161 laying off the second (free bet) it was time to call it a day and let the dust settle - at least until the £332 on this one single promotion had worked itself out and I could work out where all my money had gone!

EDIT: (3 days later)

Burnley beat Bournemouth 3 - 2
That meant my Betfair account took a massive hit, and my Ladbrokes account now has £170 sitting in it! Luckily Tambour turned out to be a nag, finishing second from last, otherwise all my money would have ended up in Ladbrokes, and my Betfair account would be empty by now!

Luckily, Ladbrokes don't mess about (unlike William Hills who really made me work to get my money out at the weekend). I put in a withdrawal request, and after a few days, £170 appeared in my bank account.

All that's left to do is take it out of there and put it back into the Betfair exchange (yes, that's how the whole matched betting thing works - just keep shovelling cash into Betfair and hope that all the bets lose at the bookies. When you're finally done with all the offers, the Betfair balance should be substantially higher than when you started - then withdraw the cash. There's nothing worse than ending up with all you money in a bookies account, nothing in the betting exchange, and you've run out of cash to get it out of the bookies! Not all bookies let you simply withdraw your ill-gotten winnings....)

Anyway, after all that, I lost the £121.07 at Betfair on Burnley not to win (but won £170 at Ladbrokes). Given than £50 of that was mine in the first place, that means I was 170 - 50 - 121.07 = £1.07 down after the first bet. The second bet cost me nothing to place at Ladbrokes (it was a £50 free bet) and returned £40.40 at Betfair (£38.38 after commission).

Total profit on this promotion: £37.31

Xmas matched betting - BetFred

BetFred called themselves - for a long while - The Bonus King. They did used to be pretty generous with offers, free bets, enhanced odds and the like. Unfortunately, too many people (like me) have jumped onto the matched betting bandwagon and they've tightened up quite a bit.

All that said, they're still offering a generous £30 in free bets, for a £10 bet.
Not willing to leave free cash on the table, here's how I got on:

The qualifying bet was on a horse called Desaray at Doncaster in the 12:30. To keep the qualifying loses to a minimum, I went with a bet as close to the minimum (evens) as possible. This bet just about qualified (perversely, it works out better if the bets at bookies lose, so that the lay bets at the exchange win).

Desaray, however, finished a disappointing (for his owners) 4th out of 6 horses. For me, not such a big deal. The £10 qualifying bet at BetFred was lost, but £10.31 appeared in the Betfair Exchange against my lay bet (£9.79 after commission). This means it cost me 21p to snag £30 in free bets!

Unlike Coral and PaddyPower - who credit free bets immediately after you place your first bet with them - BetFred make you wait until your bet has completed (i.e. the event has occurred and the bet has fulled settled). It took 48 hours for BetFred to process the free bet refund, but - true to their word - after two days, my account was credited £30 free credit. BetFred say you can spend this on any number of bets; while I could have spread the balance over a number of smaller bets, looking for good matches between BetFred and Betfair/Smarkets, I lumped the whole lot on:

Middlesbrough v Southampton, £30 at 5/1 (decimal odds 6.0)
Middlesbrough to lose at Smarkets, £23.03 at 6.4

Of course, Southampton won, 1-0 which meant a gain of £22.56 (after Smarkets 2% commission). In total, given that it cost 21p to place the qualifying bet, a profit of £22.35

Xmas betting - WilliamHill

Some sites, such as William Hill, offer a range of different sign-up offers. If you just visit it's quite possible you'll be offered one of the myriad of different sign-up promotion codes. When I visited the site this evening, it was a £20 matched deposit.

£20 in free bets isn't bad. But a quick Google search for "william hill promo" turned up their C30 promotion code, which returns 3 x £10 free bets for a £10 deposit (the url was ) so if there's an extra tenner going for nothing, it'd be silly not to take it, right?

 So my "qualifying bet" was £10 on Lazio (against Sampdoria on the 10th Dec 2016) at 2.5. Instead of Betfair, I used my second betting exchange account Smarkets and placed a lay bet for £10.25 against Lazio, with odds of 2.46

This was one of those rare occasions where the qualifying bet didn't actually cost anything to place (I'd normally accept up to £1.50 to place a qualifying bet to get £20-£30 in free bets - in this particular instance, irrespective of the outcome, there's a 4p - 5p profit on the qualifier!)

The three free bets were credited immediately.
Well, Saturdays are usually pretty busy times with lots of football and horse-racing. But it's just gone midnight at the time of writing and the number of "close matches" between the bookies and the exchanges is pretty low. So instead of trying to squeeze every last penny out of the three free bets, I'll just take what's on offer, and go to bed!

The first free bet was placed on a 1-1 scoreline in the Everton v Watford game at odds of 7.0. Over in Smarkets, I got to lay the bet for £7.92 at odds of 7.6.

The second free bet went on a another 1-1 scoreline, this time Rochdale v Scunthorpe at odds of 7.0 as well. There wasn't much money in Smarkets for this game, so we had to lay it on the Betfair exchange, putting £8.39 at odds of 7.2

Another 1-1 result made up the third and final free bet - again at odds of 7.0, this time on Notts County vs Wycombe Wanderers. Again, Smarkets was pretty bare, so I stuck £7.95 against the 1-1 result on Betfair.

With the three free bets placed (a total of four, including the qualifying bet) all resolving the next day there wasn't much else to do, other than go to bed, forget all about the results - and check Betfair some time after 5pm on Saturday, to see where all the money ended up!

EDIT (three days later):

This is where things can (sometimes) get a bit sticky. Lazio won!
At the end of it all, my three free bets lost - so the "winnings" from those bets appeared in my betting exchange accounts (Betfair/Smarkets). But the initial bet won. With £10 at (decimal) odds of 2.5, that meant I now had £25 in my William Hill account.

Not a problem - just withdraw the cash and move on.
Except William Hill were reluctant to release the funds. They didn't say I hadn't won, nor that I couldn't have the winnings. But when I tried to withdraw the money back onto my debit card, they said there was a fault and that I'd have to request a bank transfer.

I requested a bank transfer and after waiting 24 hours, was told it had failed. The name on my bank account (Mr C Holden) did not match the name on my William Hill account (Chris Holden). I got onto support and they simply said to re-submit my withdrawal. I did this. Twice.

So after three days of still not having the cash, I decided to "lose" the William Hill balance into the exchange account. I put £25 on an obscure fooball game - Atletico Tucuman vs Quilmes - for a result of more than 3.5 goals. As long as there were fewer than four goals in the game, everything would be ok.

Luckily, the final score was 3-0 so my bet lost at William Hill, and won at Betfair.
As most matched betting results in a small loss, I didn't quite get my full £25 back, but enough of it to get out of the promotion and move on to the next promotion.

Total income from the William Hill promotion was:

Everton v Watford: £7.76 (£7.60 after 2% Smarkets commission)
Rochdale v Scunthorpe: £8.39 (£7,97 after 5% commission)
Notts County v Wycombe: £7.95 (£7.55 after 5% commission)

My Lazio bet cost me a tenner and after first winning, then "losing" the second bet, total income was £24.34 (£23.85 after commission) which means my qualifying bet cost £1.35 (usually the initial qualifying bet costs a few pence or a quid or so, but in this case I managed to find a match that made a 4p profit)

Total profit on this promotion = 7.60 + 7.97 + 7.55 - 1.35 + 0.04 = £21.81

For all the matched bettors following this, that's a 72% return.
Not quite the 75%-80% most people aim for. But it was quick to get through and I had to deal with the extra issue of placing a fourth "losing" bet in order to get the cash out of the promotion. In short, it was nearly £22 for about 15-20 minutes total effort. Good enough for me!

Friday 9 December 2016

Xmas betting second bet - PaddyPower

Despite what the title says, it's not really betting. There's no gamble - I've got every eventuality covered; there's no risk because whatever the outcome, either my back bet or my lay bet covers the cost of the other (all except a few pence, referred to as the qualifying loss). In fact, matched betting is actually pretty boring. To be successful, you need to know where all your money is - which means keeping meticulous records; it's like really, really boring accounting.

Anyway, having raised £14 from the first promotional offer, having chosen bets that completed within just a few hours, it wasn't long before I was ready to move onto the next offer.

This time, I chose Paddy Power. Paddy offers 3 x £10 free bets to (new) customers who place a £10 qualifying bet. At five-to-eight on a Thursday evening, there's not really much sporting action to choose from, and Paddy's odds aren't particularly great, but my first (qualifying) bet was:

PaddyPower: Inter Milan vs Sparta Prague, £10 for the draw result at 3.4
Betfair: Bet against the draw result £9.32 at 3.65

This immediately unlocked 3 x free £10 bets on the Paddy Power website.
While I should have been choosy about which sports to place these bets on, in order to maximise the profits, I'm not playing this game for the "long term". I've no interest in "protecting" these accounts; if the bookies don't like what I'm doing and ban me after taking the free bets, I'm not much bothered (some people spend a lot of time trying to make their betting accounts look like they're a "regular joe" to get repeat offers and thus the opportunity to make more money over the long term).

So with my three free bets, I went for:

PaddyPower: Southampton v Hapoel Beer Sheva, £10 on an away win at 6.50.
Betfair: Bet against Hapoel Beer Sheva, £8.15 at 6.8

PaddyPower: Partick v Celtic, £10 on the draw at 6.5
Betfair: Bet against the draw, £8.15 at 6.8

PaddyPower: £10 to win on OutSam at Cheltenham (next day) at 7.50
Betfair: Bet against OutSam, £10.20 at 7.4

As it turns out, Inter won 2-1 so I lost the initial £10 bet at Paddy Power, But over in Betfair, I won £9.32 (£8.85 after paying commission). So the free bets cost me £1.15 to unlock.

The Southampton game ended in a (surprising) draw. So that free bet at Paddy lost. But over in Betfair, the lay bet returned £8.15 (£7.74 after commission)

Celtic thumped Partick by 4 goals to 1, meaning another free bet was lost. Which in turn meant another win over at Betfair, to the tune of £8.15 (£7.74 after commisson).

OutSam fell in the 1.30 at Cheltenham, so PaddyPower were unlikely to pay out on that one - free bet or not. Which means that over in Betfair, I ended up with another £10.20 (£9.69 after commission).

So adding that little lot up, it comes out at 9.69 + 7.74 + 7.74 = £25.17
Let's not forget that it cost £1.15 to qualify for the free bets, so total made on this sign-up offer was 25.17 - 1.15 = £24.02

Out of a maximum possible £30 (the Paddy offer was for £30 in free bets) that's a 24.02/30 * 100 = 80% return. Really good matched bettors aim for a 75% - 80% return. To be honest, I'd be happy with 70% or less - after all, it's not like I'm spending any time looking for decent matches/returns; just to churn through them as quickly as possible.

So to date, I've had £14.51 from Coral and £24.02 from PaddyPower; that's £38.53 after just two sign-up offers. Not a bad start....

Thursday 8 December 2016

Getting the bookies to pay for Xmas

A while back, a few of us did some matched betting. Mostly we've been dabbling with "reload" offers and free bets every now and again, but now it's time to get some proper money in (matched betters can pull in £1k a month or more, but it's a serious, almost full-time occupation). We just want a few hundred quid, quickly and easily, in time for Xmas.

The first time I had a go at this - spurred on by Matt - I managed to create about £700 over the course of six or seven weeks. Instead of taking the money out and going off on a holiday or buying something nice (and much to the chagrin of my partner) I re-cycled the cash, repeating the process for other people, friends and family. Matched betting paid for three or four Christmases in 2015. This year, there's only one I want it to pay for - mine!

So while everyone else benefited, I just ended up with a couple of betting exchange accounts. Today they're worth £643.50 (I had a go at "trading" the betting markets and after a promising start, I quickly lost the few hundred quid I made and realised that I was never going to make a gambler!) So between now and Xmas, I'll be doing some matched betting to turn free bets into cash. Here's how it started....

Firstly, my Betfair account had a starting balance of £436.80 (the remaining £206.70 sits in a Smarkets account, ready for use later on). You don't need this kind of balance to do simple matched betting - but a larger balance you can go for higher odds (and thus turn more of the free bet value into cash) or - as I intend to do - have multiple bets on the go at the same time.

I signed up for Coral and deposited a fiver, backing the horse Quaffal in the 17:55 at Chelmsford at 4.33

I then went to Betfair and stuck £4.87 against Quaffal at odds of 4.5

As it turns out, Quaffal lost the race. I lost my initial fiver, but won £4.87 on Betfair. So overall, I was 13p down (actually, it turned out I'm 24+13 = 37p down, because Betfair take 5% of all winnings as commission). Still, 37p down wasn't bad. From a £5 stake, that's 37/500*100 = 7.4% (ok, on reflection, maybe that's not brilliant - a qualifying bet should be around 5% maximum; more on this later).

Anyway, I lost 37p. But, as part of the Coral sign-up promotion, they give me 4 x free bets worth £20. So that's £20 worth of free bets for 37p. Not a bad result!

At this point, there are two ways I could go - stick the free bets on a horse and hope for the best. After all, there's plenty of cash to be won with just one lucky selection, and even if all further bets lose, I'd only be 37p down. Or - my preferred method - turn the free bets into guaranteed, risk-free cash. Obviously the rewards are much less - but there's no risk, it's guaranteed cash. And that sounds like a no-brainer to me! With the four free (£5 each) bets, I placed the following bets at both Coral and Betfair (each pair of bets placed pretty well at the same time):

Coral - £5 on Vimy Ridge at the 17:25 Chelmsford at 8.0
Betfair - £4.19 against Vimy Ridge at 8.4

Coral - £5 on Versant at the 17:55 Chelmsford at 7.0 (free bet)
Betfair - £4.03 against Versant at 7.8

Coral - £5 on Burning Heat at the 17:55 Chelmsford at 5.3 (free bet)
Betfair - £3.87 against Burning Heat at 5.6

Coral - £5 on Burning Heat at the 17:55 Chelmsford at 5.4 (free bet)
Betfair - £3.58 against Burning Heat at 6.05

It's just as well I went for the guaranteed free cash option, rather than hoping for a big win: not a single horse I chose won! On the plus side, I'd only spent a fiver at Coral, and my Betfair statement now reads:

That's 4.87 + 4.19 + 4.03 + 3.58 + 3.87 = £20.54 in winnings.
Which - after Betfair take their 5% commission - means £19.51 more cash in the Betfair account than when I started. Not forgetting I spent a fiver to place a (losing) bet at Coral in the first place, that's £14.51 more in total. And all for about ten minutes work!

If you're thinking of doing something similar, the trick is to have plenty of cash to hand. Trying to do this with limited funds is possible, but much more difficult. Having a decent starting balance in Betfair - and having the cash available to deposit into the bookies to claim the free bets - makes things much easier (and quicker, as you can do multiple sign-up offers at once).

Now, matched betters amongst you reading this might complain that I'm not getting the best value for my selections - but this is all about getting through the offers quickly; and by sticking to races that complete within an hour or two of placing the bets, means everything is settled and all the money is where it needs to end up, much more quickly. It also helps that the bets losing at the bookies means the money appears back in the Betfair account within minutes of the horse race finishing.

So that's where we're up to:
One bookies free bet offer down, £5 "staked" and we're £14.51 up after ten minutes.

On to the next offer.....

Thursday 1 December 2016

Attaching armour to an armature rig in Blender

We're not entirely sure that this is the correct way to go about it. But here's how we managed to create our characters in Blender, and still maintain an object hierarchy after importing into Unity, allowing us to switch armour elements on and off at runtime.

Firstly, everything we wanted to be able to turn on and off is created in Blender as a separate model/mesh. We did this by creating the objects in one instance of Blender, and copy and paste them into the model containing our character.

This kept the UV mapping and so on, but allowed us to position armour over our soon-to-be-exported-to-Unity character.

After scaling and rotating the objects into position, we then parented each piece of armour to the rig, using automatic weights (we're using the Rigify meta-rig in this example rather than the generated rig, but the principle applies to any rig really). Sometimes, after parenting, the piece needs tweaking to get the rotation/location exactly right.

Then we select our single armour piece and enter weight-paint mode. The automatic weights mean that each piece of armour inherits all of the vertex groups from the model. We simply find the one that best matches the location of our armour, and delete all the others for the selected piece of armour.

Then, with just a single vertex group displaying influence over the armour piece, we paint it to the highest degree of red possible. In effect, a single bone (or vertex group controlled by one or more bones) moves the armour - this way it can't bend or deform as multiple bones fight for control over the armour.

To check everything's working, we saved the file and copied it into our Unity Assets folder, and dragged an instance of the character onto the stage.

Not only does the armour conform to the model/animation, but we still retain the entire object hierarchy, so that we can switch armour elements on and off for different character types/player positions in our game.

Coupled with being able to change textures at runtime, this should give our players plenty of scope for customising their own characters in the game!

Now the only thing really left to do is to create some custom animations for our orc characters. For some reason, applying humanoid animations to these particular characters ends up making them look a little bit... well, gormless.

Wednesday 30 November 2016

Changing textures at runtime in Unity

One of the things we're keen to get working for our Unity game is the ability to customise Fantasy Football characters. As different characters have different amounts of armour, we're modelling the characters with every possible armour piece attached, and then disable them at runtime in Unity.

To be able to do that would be pretty cool.
What would be super-cool would be to have the player design their own team strip (perhaps using some kind of web editor) and then have their players clad in their own custom colours.

To do that would require generating and changing textures on-the-fly. Now we're pretty sure - with some PHP and GDI+ - we can generate the appropriate png at runtime. What we need is a routine to allow us to change the texture of an object at runtime in Unity.

Luckily, it's not that difficult:

using System.Collections;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using UnityEngine;

public class loadTexture : MonoBehaviour {

   public GameObject target;
   public string web;

   // Use this for initialization
   void Start () {
      if (web.Length > 0) {
         StartCoroutine (loadImage (target, web));

   private IEnumerator loadImage( GameObject page, string url ) {
      WWW www = new WWW( url );
      yield return www;
      page.GetComponent<Renderer>().material.mainTexture = www.texture;


We set the script up by dragging the orc skin into the "target" field, and setting the URL to our (local) web server.

When the game engine runs, our orc appears with the default green skin:

But when the next texture has finished downloading, the skin colour changes immediately.

It's only a little thing, but it's pretty exciting for our game idea; we've potentially got the ability to allow players to create (and download) their own team colours - and in Unity it simply means loading a new (single) texture/png from the web server.

When playing against an opponent, the Unity app could download their team colours, thus allowing both players to completely customise their own teams - and have their team colours appear in other people's games.

The original (or, more accurately, the second edition) Blood Bowl boardgame came with a number of "endzone" markers, for different teams. The game was very much about customising the teams - creating your own team name, mascot, insignia, team colours etc. In the game, the endzones at the end of the playing surface were simple double-sided strips of card which could be swapped out depending on which team(s) were playing.

Not only could we provide players with the ability to create their own team colours, we could even have custom in-game end-zones by simply swapping out a texture or two.

Now that would be pretty cool.....

Tuesday 29 November 2016

Blender and weight painting

So far we've managed to import an existing Unity Asset into Blender, create our own mesh, unwrap UVs, use existing UVs and add a custom rig.

In truth, the rigs that come with Unity Assets are almost impossible to use for animating in Blender - quite often the bones are disconnected and each faces upwards/outwards.

After doing some research into motion capture software (particularly using the Microsoft Kinect, but more on that later) we worked out why this might be - but it doesn't help us, when we want to create our own, custom animations from within Blender. We need to throw this set of bones away and use our own rig to animate the mesh.

And to do so isn't exactly trivial. It's not especially difficult either - at least, not to get a mesh moving to a skeleton. But it is tricky to get it working as well as the original Unity Asset. This is mostly because - it turns out - of weight-painting.

So far, whenever we've parented a mesh to a rig, we've used the with automatic weights option. Which makes it work. But not without problems. The most obvious example of this is around the hips; check out this walk animation.

Watch the bit at around 17 seconds in, where the character walks towards the camera. Notice the "trouser line" where the waist meets the hips. That moves around quite a bit. Which is fine for an organic shape (a humanoid shape covered in fur, for example) but if this character was indeed wearing a belt, things would look a little bit funky.

And that's because the hips - in this model - are weighted above the belt-line. Compare that to one of our imported models.

In order to display the weights on each bone, there are a couple of things to do first - obviously we need to be in weight-paint mode. But in this mode, there's no easy way to select a bone on the model - luckily we can use "vertex groups" to select the points on the model that are effected by each bone.

If we move the hip bone on the model above, there's a very definite "line" where the deformation stops acting - just below the "belt-line".

When we inspected the weights on our imported models, we noticed that where the effects of different bones start and end, the weight painting is the same for both bones.

Note how the lower leg bone affects the shin area mostly, and the knee area is green (affected quite a bit, but not any further up the leg). The upper leg bone affects the thigh area and the knee area is also green. The affect of the upper bone goes no further down the leg than the knee. This ensures that there is no "overlap" between the  two bones, so they do not "compete" for influence over the mesh.

Which means our next Blender project will be to rig a model, apply some custom UVs, and weight our custom rig to create a similar behaviour. Right now it's getting a bit late, so that will have to wait for a few days....

Sunday 27 November 2016

Blender FBX import - where are the UVs?

In the last couple of years, we've racked up quite a bill on the Unity Asset Store. A good few hundred quid a last. Some of this has been for plug-ins or shaders, but the bulk of it has been for models.

Quite often the characters come with animations, which is great. But if they need altering slightly, or a new animation is required, or the model needs a bit adding/removing, things get a bit trickier.

Most often, Asset store characters are supplied with the models, in FBX format. And Blender likes FBX. But when you import the model into Blender, quite often, you don't quite get what you'd expect...

Here we imported one of the soldiers from the Toon Soliders pack (an amazing character set, btw, with some really nice animations thrown in, as well as a mecanim-ready rigged character). But even after setting the view to textured the model appears as a solid, blank canvas.

If we go into our UV editor....

... there's nothing there!

Even if we select the model, and the material that came with the FBX....

... nothing doing.  We tried to load the texture into the explorer panel on the right, but the model stubbornly refused to render with the material/texture we've set.

The way to do it, is to select the model, enter edit mode, select all faces (not edges or vertices)...

Then select UV view from the bottom-left option in the menubar.

Bingo! We've now got the UV shapes - but there's still no sign of the texture. To fix this, in UV view, load the appropriate texture/png from disk.

If you've selected the right texture, everything should line up just right. Go back to 3D view and, hey presto!

Now our imported character looks just like he should, when used in Unity. To prove this, save the entire .blend file into your Assets folder and flip over to Unity. Drag-n-drop the character into the scene (Unity automagically imports .blend files using the built-in FBX importer, so no need to export again) and apply an animation.

Choose the most appropriate shader for the model, by selecting the character in the explorer, expanding the list and selecting the mesh:

Hit play, and watch your (Blender modified) character come to life!

Friday 25 November 2016

New press-n-peel printer

After a mis-hap with our Dell laser and some acetate (seriously, Steve, what did you think would happen, putting thin plastic through a thermo-nuclear-hot fuser?) it was time to get a replacement.

Just over a year ago we tested a few different printers for use with both genuine press-n-peel blue (which currently costs a staggering £5/sheet) and the cheap yellow chinese alternative we bought (10p per sheet)

Surprisingly, we were able to go into a shop - a real, physical shop made out of bricks and everything - and pick up a desktop Xerox Phaser for around £120.

(Another) Steve at Kings Printers in Brighton was incredibly knowledgeable about printers, feeder ports, toner components and so on. He also did a lot of research on our behalf, contacting toner manufacturers (and a fair few "compatible" providers) before returning the same conclusion we'd already come to: for press-n-peel, Xerox is best.

And after a quick test with our cheap alternative paper:

Good, strong, solid black. No scaling or broken traces. Although we forgot to photograph the final board (it was etched, lacquered and put into a final product before we thought to photograph it) you can see the quality of the Xerox print for press-n-peel use.

In short, if you're struggling with press-n-peel (a lot of people do, and we regularly get questions about how to get the best results from non-optimum papers) you could do a lot worse than upgrade your laser printer.

A genuine desktop Xerox is much less expensive than we were expecting - and the results speak for themselves!