That is a direct quote from respected oddsmaker Kenny White and he is referring to Las Vegas legend Billy Walters.
A 37 year winning streak is basically unheard of in the gambling industry. But Walters has been able to achieve this and often bets more than a million dollars a game. He single-handedly moves the market.
Walters’ hundreds of millions of winnings have enabled him to build an empire that includes multiple mansions, golf courses, hotels, property development, car dealerships, a $20 million private jet and various other business interests.
Here are some lessons that punters can learn from a man described as the Michael Jordan or Warren Buffet of the sports betting world.
Don’t expect instant success
Walters didn’t succeed right from day one, in fact he went broke many times. As a younger man he described himself as a gambling addict and compulsive loser. That seems to be a very common experience amongst gamblers who ultimately become very successful.
“I know what every sucker thinks, because I used to be one. I can assure you that every successful gambler I know has been through some monumental failures on his way to getting there.”
Information gives him an edge
Walters has surrounded himself with sharp minds and employs an array of experts in the roles of consultants, statisticians, mathematicians and computer programmers to help him compile, analyse and ultimately profit from huge amounts of information.
Many years ago Walters even employed people to co-ordinate with the Las Vegas airport cleaning crew to gather used newspapers from all the incoming flights. A team of readers would then analyse all of this information that most of the linesmakers and general public were not aware of.
Value is everything in both business and gambling “If you value something at ten, then you’re a buyer at eight and a seller at 12.”
But this concept of value is very different to how most punters operate. They are very keen to back their chosen team or horse and will do so without giving enough thought to a fair price.
The bigger the value the bigger the bet
The Walters team produces their own lines and only bet when they are different to the market. Returns are enhanced by their wagering approach since the bigger the discrepancy (ie. estimated value or positive expectation), the bigger the bet.
He has incredible confidence in his own numbers and looks to exploit his advantage the most when that edge is the biggest. But success isn’t about making one big bet. Walters never lets it all ride on one game. instead he spreads out his bankroll across many opportunities where he has a positive expectation
But we’re not talking huge margins
Simply tossing a coin will get you a 50% betting against the spread. A 52.4% winning percentage is required to be profitable. For all of his work and success, Walters winning strike-rate is ‘just’ 57%.
But the sheer volume of his bets and the ability to optimize his bankroll management has enabled him to amass hundreds of millions in profits.
There will be drawdown Walters may win every year but he has plenty of losing weeks and losing months.
Change is inevitable but some constants remain
The edge that came from reading all the small-town newspapers died when the internet arrived. That is just one small example of how almost everything evolves.
“I probably had to re-invent myself 25 times in the last 20 years. If I hadn’t re-invented myself, I would have been out of business. That goes for anyone in any business. There’s going to be constant change of any industry you’re in and if you don’t change with it and you don’t change ahead of it, you become like a dinosaur; you become extinct." So Walters adapts his approach to stay ahead of the game, but he still believes that the fundamentals of gambling success remain the same. “The game of handicapping sports is really the same game as it was 40 or 50 years ago. It’s much more competitive now, and the numbers are much better than they were in the 80s, but it’s still the same game. It still comes down to evaluating information.”
Computers can only take you so far A feel for the market is also exceptionally important. “The computer whiz kids who are involved in sports today don’t have a clue, I mean a clue, about how to bet their money. They don’t have a feel at all for which way the line is going to move. There is a big difference in knowing how to bet and when to bet your money in sports. It is almost as important as handicapping is.”
Don’t be in denial “A lot of people have a difficult time stepping back and doing a re-valuation and deciding ‘I was wrong’. A lot of people want to continue on in denial until they’re completely broke.”
Long-term winners do exist
Walters success shows that it is actually possible to succeed in the betting world. It’s not easy, but he is living proof that it is definitely possible. Good luck David Duffield For more information on Billy Walters – Gambling Wizards: Conversations with the world’s greatest gamblers. 60 Minutes: Billy Walters.