The Matchbook betting exchange is growing fast and there’s absolutely no argument amongst punters that strong competition for Betfair has to be a good thing. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the inaugural Matchbook Traders Conference in London this week and it was well and truly worth the long trek from Melbourne. The conference was conceived by expat Aussie Scott Ferguson, brought to life by the Irish management of fast growing global exchange Matchbook and hosted at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. 350 sports traders and industry types sold out the event and all will take away something different from an information packed gathering such as this. But here is how the day panned out from my perspective once Master of Ceremonies @markxdavies (a dead ringer for cricket commentator @mcjnicholas) got things underway: @LeightonVW Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams demonstrated exactly why the Efficient Market Hypothesis can’t be true, covered the psychology of sports and betting and gave the details of a number of interesting academic papers. Andreas Koukorinis is a financial trader turned sports trader and identified both the similarities and also the differences of each. He is developing what he calls the ‘Bloomberg for sports’ at Stratabet and sees a massive opportunity for those people prepared to look at sports trading from a different perspective. @UTVilla Tom Heslop is a self-taught programmer who has used the open source R language to develop models for both horse racing and sports. He was incredibly open and honest and it was an eye opener for many in the audience who had previously thought that this type of work was well beyond their technical capability. Tom is proof that if you are prepared to put the time in and become involved in what appears to be a large and supportive community then you can be well on your way to developing models that can outperform the market. @WildeWilll Will Wilde, @vasman60 Vasu Shan and @puntdotcom Matt Piper were the guests on the pro punters panel discussing a topic that is a regular question on my Betting 360 podcast and that is how does someone make the large leap from keen punter to professional? Will, Vasu and Matt were very honest in detailing how they handle negatives such as drawdown, isolation, work/life balance and occasionally the social stigma of their chosen profession. All enjoy the intellectual challenge of what they do but agreed that it gets harder each and every year. @matthew_benham made millions from Smartodds, owns two football teams and has an equity stake in Matchbook. He hates what he feels is a lazy and simplistic comparison to Billy Beane, but there are definitely similarities in what he is doing with soccer stats. Matthew stressed a number of times though that he doesn’t solely rely on them, rather they are used to complement the eye. He wanted everyone to consider contrary information rather than disregard it and suggested this was the only way to avoid confirmation bias. A book he recommends to anyone who will listen is Thinking Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Two other important points he made were that gut feel is often a very poor predictive tool, yet very difficult to turn off. And that the brain is a machine for jumping to conclusions, but is very difficult to ignore or over-ride. @domcortis displayed the favourite/longshot bias in chart form and touched on Brier scores, Poisson distribution and P values. As a Maths PhD Candidate he did well to keep the concepts accessible to all. @RasmusAnkersen was confident, innovative and most certainly thought-provoking. He spoke about (and gave real life examples of) outcome bias and why good results aren’t always the result of good decisions. The gold mine effect, talent that whispers vs talent that shouts, constraints driving innovation, NFL tactics in soccer, what you see is not what you get and if it ain’t broke then consider breaking it were all fascinating topics in their own right. @alex_kozlenkov was literally a rocket scientist prior to turning his skills to real-time and historical odds delivery with Txodds. Without meaning any disrepect to Alex it wasn’t a talk that was particularly relevant for me. @tennisratings Dan Weston discussed in-play tennis trading strategies and went into the specifics of a number of players who are very weak in holding leads. Those results and also a chart of how much players improve by age gave the many tennis traders in attendance a number of ideas to investigate further. Dan also announced that he’d partnered up with Stratabet to supply tennis data for their platform. @OptaJoe Duncan Alexander showcased the amazing range and depth of data produced by Perform Content in various sports for media, teams, bookies and traders. @CBW_tax Thomas Adcock talked about the do’s and dont’s of tax. It wasn’t relevant to my own situation as I’m based in Australia, but the number of audience questions following Thomas’ talk showed what a grey area this is for most traders. The conference finished with a real highlight. What a character Dr Ivan Mindlin is and what a life he’s lived. A spritely 86 years-old he regaled the audience with off the cuff stories from his time with the legendary Computer Group including Billy Walters. He said Billy was easily the most persuasive person he ever met and was so talented he’d be capable of entering a revolving door behind you and coming out in front. The Doc still works 10-12 hours a day and although it’s harder now than it has ever been, he said he still loves the challenge. Asked for his best advice Dr Mindlin said the hardest thing is simply discipline. He believes the only thing that can hurt him is emotion. After a great day of presentations Matchbook put on buses to a Camden restaurant and then surprised all with an open bar to round off a very impressive debut for a great concept. No doubt the conference will go from strength to strength in coming years.