What’s it Like Trading Tennis for a Living?

A naked man in a comfortable chair, playing on his laptop.

My first day as a pro tennis trader was Monday, 26th July 2010. I was up at 6.45 am and raring to get started!

Sitting in the kitchen with a coffee, it still didn’t seem real. This isn’t a holiday... this is it... the ultimate in performance related pay. I didn’t feel nervous. Didn’t feel anything really.

I got stuck in right away and made a total of £3 profit from my first two trades. More importantly, they took up the whole morning!

It wasn't a great start. I had lost discipline as I'd had opportunities to take acceptable profits, but got greedy. Newbie errors! Having given myself a talking to, things started to fall into place. I was taking moderate greens and they were adding up.

I finished my first day with around £170 profit, which was not a disaster by any means. I'd decided that anything over £100 profit per day was ok, but I'd prefer to be over the £200 mark.

If anything, I'd proven to myself that I could handle the pressure. So much about trading is in the mind and I (usually) have very strong discipline. However, I'm also human and continue to learn more about myself to this very day.

Why Tennis Trading?

Paul Shires

As you may have read on my tennis trading article, as a teenager I was a keen tennis and table tennis player. I was pretty good at it too, representing England and Wales Boys Clubs at table tennis.

When I got into Betfair trading, I found that the tennis markets had plenty of liquidity and there were matches almost every day. It was the ideal fit for me and the obvious choice over football or horse racing.

If you're reading this, then I assume you're also interested in trading tennis. Probably not as a hobby either, since the title of the article gives you a rather obvious clue that it's all about trading tennis for a living!

Can you do it? Yes, but first let's be realistic.

You're not going to Google "best betfair tennis trading strategies" buy a few eBooks and start making a living from Betfair.

Think about how Betfair works. When you back or lay a player, you will be matched against another trader who believes that his or her opposite view is correct. One of you will be right and make a profit, the other will be wrong and will suffer a loss.

Yes I know, that's a fairly simplistic view of the exchange because there are lots of people trading in and out over and over, but the principle stands. In order to make a profit, you need to be on the right side of the book more often than not.

So... a few strategies in an eBook ain't gonna cut it! You need to be smarter, more disciplined and more patient than the ruthless traders you're going up against. That takes time to learn and develop, so forget any thoughts of shortcuts to immediate success.

Remember... if Betfair trading was easy, then nobody would go to work on a Monday morning. They'd all be pulling money out of Betfair like a magic ATM! Nobody on the planet does that.

Patience, Grasshopper

I see exactly the same mistakes being made over and over, so I want to make sure that you start trading with your eyes wide open.

I read a lot of emails these days that are obviously motivated by the tough economic climate. People all over the world are looking for ways to either earn a little extra cash or even replace a job that is less stable than it used to be.

They have looked on the internet for ways to make money and come across one of the many sites that promise unrealistic returns. These sites make it sound like anyone can make good money on Betfair with a little practice.

That's part of the problem, the other is that more and more people want results NOW.

We live in a world where everything has to be quick. Microwaves reduce the time to prepare food, high speed trains cut a few minutes off journeys and drive through restaurants help us become even lazier! Most people are not prepared to put time and effort into anything.

They think of traders as being people who are able to sit at a computer and earn money while watching a sporting event. They don't want to know about the time spent learning and developing that skill, regardless of how often you tell them about it.

They see that it is possible and they want it, right away.

In other words, they want the end result without the hard work in the middle.

I worked a ten hour day for someone else, then came home and traded for six hours. Every day for two years. They don't want to hear about that though. My email responses to these people get ever more blunt until the message gets through!

Cartoon shark explaining tennis trading stakes

Then, there are the people who say they understand that work is involved. They accept that it will take time to learn, but they want to make money while they learn! How do you make money from the skill you haven't learned yet?!

Another common questions is, "If I have a trading bank of £2,000 how much can I make in a month?" No mention of trading experience.

So yes... it's going to take time to learn how to trade effectively and consistently. Sorry, that's just how the real world works.

What's the Good News?!

Now we've got the harsh reality out into the open, here's the good news... I'm a pro tennis trader.

If I can do it, so can you!

Yes, it's going to take more than reading a few eBooks but surely you expected that, right? After all, can you think of any other skill you can make a living from that you learn just by reading a £29 eBook? I can't!

To be honest, it's not strategies that are going to make (or break) you as a trader. After all, there are only so many ways to back or lay the two players involved in a tennis match.

No... what's going to determine your success is experience, mindset and information.

Experience comes over time, though you can give yourself a shortcut by becoming a member of a service such as Tennis Profits. I share my many years of experience daily with members, so there's no need for you to start from scratch like I had to.

When it comes to mindset though, you're somewhat on your own. You can read all about discipline and patience, but once there's a Betfair market open in front of you... all that temptation... it's so easy to be swayed by a "fear of missing out" and get into a poor trade.

A good trading mindset also develops over time, but it takes real effort and a determination to make good decisions over and over. It's the reason why so many people quit trading rather than stick at it and find success.

Typewriter ribbon with the words "change your mindset"

Finally, information is everything. How does Player A match up against Player B? Or against similar players to Player B? Or on the same surface? In order to determine suitable entry/exit points for a successful trade, you need to know all of this - and more.

I've used a number of information sources over the years, but none of them provided all the information I needed as a trader. None were even geared specifically towards tennis traders!

Here at Tennis Profits, I've been able to start with a blank sheet of paper to design the perfect tennis trading stats. I've included everything that a tennis trader needs and left out all the fluff. It's made a huge difference to the amount of time I spend doing research each day.

As you can imagine, my wife wholeheartedly approves!

How Many Hours Does a Trader Trade?

If your dreams of full-time trading involve sitting around for a few hours, then watching some sport to make some money before getting an early night... think again. Full-time trading is very definitely a full-time job!

For most of my working life, I didn't have a typical 9 to 5 working day. I worked late shifts, night shifts and weekends on a regular basis. I also worked long hours; at one company I worked 14 hour days for 11 months straight without a single day off!

There were also many 24+ hour shifts so I never developed the habit of clock watching. That's certainly helped my trading career as I'm prepared to put in whatever effort is needed in order to get the job done.

Don't expect "normal" working hours either. When trading tennis especially, your working hours are constantly changing. They're pretty much determined by the time zone in which that week's matches are being played.

It's great when the tournaments are in Europe as the trading sessions start at around 10am. Of course, you do also have some research time to get through before that. At the start of the year we have Auckland, Brisbane and the Australian Open so it's full blown night shifts!

Towards the end of summer, the tour reaches America so the shifts are a bit odd. Matches start at around 4pm and go on to 3am(ish). I quite like this time of year, but juggling family life and work is at its trickiest.

Am I happy that I took the plunge to trade full-time? Absolutely! Never been happier.

Male tennis player stretching to reach a return.

Trading (Working) at Home

Working from home sounds like a dream job. No travelling. No traffic jams. No boss. The thing that a lot of people don't consider is how it affects the rest of the people in your life. That was one of my mistakes.

We all know how addictive trading can be. It's far too easy to look up from the laptop and realise you have been concentrating on the screen for the last four hours! The laptop is like a barrier between you and the others around you.

When I started trading, that caused a few problems and I needed to realise the importance of making time for the family.

I found that simple things go a long way, for example a trip to the cinema so me and the wife can have some time alone. The odd couple of days in the Lake District tops up the brownie points nicely too!

Make sure you schedule regular family time or your home life - which is also your working life - will be tougher.

Remember, in order to trade tennis for a living successfully, you need very few distractions. Stress, arguments and lack of sleep do not a trading god make!

By the way, a lot of people have told me that their partner hates the time they spend on the laptop.

"How does your wife cope with the hours you must spend on yours?"

Ok... it's time for my top tip to trading and marriage harmony...

  1. If she doesn't have a laptop, buy her one.
  2. Introduce her to Facebook.
  3. Suggest she has a look at Farmville, Cityville and any other games ending in "ville".

Et voila! She will now spend as much time on her laptop as you spend on yours!

Young woman in a red dress pointing at her laptop

Day in the Life of a Pro Tennis Trader

There's no such thing as an average day for a pro trader. My working day revolves around the tennis schedule and, in particular, the matches I'm most interested in trading.

To give you an idea of what I get up to, here's a complete day from start to finish.

I take my wife to work at 7.10am and get back home 25 minutes later after a detour to Tesco for supplies. The cats want feeding but they'll have to wait. I want to get a good start on my research so I can have a few hours off before the tennis starts at 5pm.

I eat my bowl of Weetabix as I go through the day's matches.

By 8.30am I'm just about done. I post my picks on the site for members and check the news.

I see that there's a cricket match at 10.45am, England v Aus Womens ODI. Maybe not. I have a really bad habit, especially when Sue is at work, of sitting at the PC from morning until night and a lot of the time I'm just there for the sake of it.

I often try to find something to distract me that doesn't involve staring at a screen. We are thinking of adopting a rescue dog and that could be ideal for dragging me away from my desk for walks.

The sun's shining, so a coffee in the garden with the newspaper sounds like a great idea.

The next few hours are filled with trying to relax. I could do with a couple of hours sleep, but as it's the school holidays there are about a dozen kids of various ages in the street.

Lunch time and I opt for some prawn pasta from the fridge. Daytime TV isn't very inspiring, Judge Judy or Jeremy Kyle...

It's approaching 3pm and the first matches start at 5pm. I head back upstairs to the office to complete my research for the matches coming up during the evening.

I find that my match research is taking ages. My concentration isn't too good today, probably due to lack of sleep.

I'd been up trading until 1.30am the previous night, before managing four hours or so sleep. I will have to bear this in mind when the trading session starts. I fire up the coffee machine that's in the corner of the office. I'm going to need it!

By about 4.20pm I'm up to date with everything. Research is done and I have notes ready next to my keyboard.

Trading a tennis match in a full stadium

I set my screens up. The two bigger screens will have one match per screen with scoreboard, stream and ladder. The third screen is for the Betfair tennis page, Trading Stats and the members chat room.

I have tipped Kerber to beat Vesnina but with a higher entry than SP. That gets hit pretty quickly as Vesnina holds and breaks and I back Kerber. I'm not trading the Berankis match but have placed a small bet at the entry price as he is another of my tips.

I am just monitoring the other matches on a scoreboard. I have the Monaco match on the other screen and have placed a small lay. Nothing too big as I want to concentrate on the Kerber match. What the hell is she doing?!

Vesnina takes a 3-0 lead. Kerber is struggling on serve again. I don't want to add to the back until I see something worth backing from her.

Meanwhile, Berankis has broken. At least that tip is going the right way. Monaco and Mahut and heading for a tie break. I'll leave the lay as Mahut seems to be serving ok.

Kerber lost the set and I have laid Vesnina. Kerber has three break points in the very first game. About time! Sigh, she wasted all three and then Vesnina holds. I guess that means Kerber will get broken in the next game. No! Hold to 0! Maybe some hope.

Mahut takes the tie break. Good man! I'll hedge that as Monaco will probably come back in the second. Berankis has taken the first set.

Kerber breaks! About time! Come on now. A hold gives us 3-1 and puts pressure on Vesnina. 0-15, 0-30, 0-40 ffs. Broken to 0. Kerber breaks in the next game. Hopes of a hold aren't high. Broken back. She's got no chance next week if she can't find her serve.

Berankis takes the second set. Vesnina moves to 5-3 and serves for the match but is broken. Late comeback from Kerber? Of course not. She gets broken to lose the match.

I replace Monaco with the Fish v Nieminen match on the other screen and Tursunov v Goffin takes Kerber's screen space.

I don't plan on getting involved in the Fish match until I have had a chance to see how he is playing. Even if he is on top form he can often start slowly and has to come back from going a break down.

Tursunov is another of my tips. I felt Goffin was a little lucky to get through yesterday when his opponent retired. In the early games Tursunov seems to be on top but as the match goes on Goffin is holding far too easily. Tursunov may be ready for a rest.

Tursunov isn't serving well and it's just a matter of time until he is broken. Goffin eventually takes the set. It's amazing how often being tipped by me turns a player's game to crud! Either that or their opponent comes out in God mode. This one seems to be a bit of both.

Goffin is facing very little pressure on serve. I don’t see how Tursunov is going to get a break here.

I have been concentrating too much on this match that I have done nothing on the Fish game.

I open up the Zakopalova v Puig match. I had tipped Puig as a player that often starts well so I will lay Zak a bit below SP. Zak puts pressure on in Puig's first service game and I get a lower lay. She holds. I'm in a decent position there.

Tursunov still can't get a break and isn't holding his own serve easily at all.

Puig gets the break in the third game and I remove some of my liability to lower my break even price. A couple of holds each and then Puig is broken. I lay Zak again and Puig obliges with another break straight away. I hedge it and am glad about that as Puig gets broken in the next game.

Female tennis player about to serve.

The time is now 7.50pm and it's time to collect Sue from work. She has had a long day too. This is where the juggling starts.

She works in a care home and is due to finish at 8pm. I get there just before and check the score of the Tursunov match on my phone.

They are still on serve and Tursunov is 6-5 ahead. He gets a break point. I am bouncing up and down in my seat chanting "double fault, double fault". ACE. Doh. Another break point. Bounce, bounce, chant, chant. Saved. AAAAGHHH! Another break point. TAKES IT! Fist pumps!

Sue finally gets out at 8.10pm and we head off home. She hasn't had chance to get anything to eat so we grab some fish and chips on the way. Once we're home I bring the laptop downstairs so that I can continue working but also spend time with Sue.

If I took the purely professional approach of staying in the office, I would hardly see her. From a trading point of view I can't recommend this, but from a marriage and family standpoint this is a compromise that I have to work into my days.

Another downside is that I am now down to just the one screen so can only trade one match at a time. Tursunov is flying in the third set so another tip wins. Maybe I'm not jinxed.

I have missed the Verdasco lay which I am annoyed about. Smyczek has taken the first set.

Gimeno Traver is on my shortlist so I lay Dolgopolov. Traver breaks and I green up.

I am waiting for the Seppi v Johnson match and wasn't really intending to trade Dolgo. Maybe I should have stuck with that one though as Dolgopolov broke back and then broke again. Traver broke back and went on to take the set. You have to love trading!

Another trade is a lay on Seppi. There is no guarantee which set they will win (or indeed that they will win a set at all) but so often they start the match well. Johnson is putting pressure on most service games and gets the break for a 4-2 lead. That's a massive move!

I put all my green on him. Seppi breaks straight back and the match goes on to a tie break. Seppi is a double mini break up and can be laid at 1.17. Might as well. Johnson fights back and takes the tie break. HUGE green!

The next match is Monfils. My research suggests Pella taking a set which I have to say I can't see happening unless Monfils is injured. I'm sure I read somewhere that he had been advised not to play this week so it may be worth a small lay.

Sue is ready for bed so as she goes up I move back to the office. Tiredness is really biting now and probably more so as there isn't much happening. Monfils is on after the Seppi/Johnson match which is going into a third set.

Man I'm tired. I should go to bed. I've had a good day. I'll give it a bit longer. I put my head on my arms on the desk and drop off to sleep. I dream that my leg fell off, panic and wake up suddenly and almost fall off my chair.

Finally, Monfils is on court. Pella to serve. Double fault. Fault. Sheesh that second serve barely made it half way up the net. 0-30. I lay. He comes back to hold and things look a little promising. After two more games, Pella is broken and looks like a fish out of water. Time for bed.

1.15am. That's been a long day.

Tennis ball resting on a racquet.

How to Become a Pro Tennis Trader

The first step, obviously, is to start learning how to trade tennis.

If you don't have any sort of trading bank, you don't need to trade at first. Spend the next twelve months watching tennis matches, watching how the markets move, spot repeating patterns and build up experience from scratch, just as I did many years ago.

You will need dogged determination to come back to it each day for hours on end, but I'm living proof that it can be done.

However, if you're like 99.9% of the population who would prefer to save all that time and effort, you're in the right place. I have taught many hundreds of complete beginners how to trade tennis and I'm still doing it today.

Tennis Profits membership costs less than a couple of cups of Starbucks coffee each week and you'll be learning a skill that you can profit from for the rest of your life. It sounds great because it is!

Many Tennis Profits members started as complete beginners, but now know exactly how to trade tennis properly (and profitably).

I understand that some people prefer reading, while others learn best by watching videos. Therefore, I run live chat room trades as well as video streams. These end up in an ever growing video archive that members have full access to.

You're short of time? We all are! That's why I have designed unique Trading Stats so research is quicker and easier than ever.

Tennis Profits: Trading Stats
Tennis Profits: Key Statistics (Boulter v Diatchenko)

When you join Tennis Profits today, you'll get access to everything you need to become a successful tennis trader including the trading stats and all future updates. Plus, of course, my help and support.

  • My comprehensive "Getting Started" tennis trading course
  • Player Stats covering the top 900 men and women players
  • Detailed trading statistics for all ATP, WTA, ITF and Challenger matches
  • A portfolio of proven tennis trading strategies
  • Live chat room sessions and streamed video trades with me, a professional trader
  • A growing video archive so that you can learn at your own pace
  • All the help and support you need to achieve success

If I'd had access to all of this when I started, my road to full-time trading would have been so much easier.

I'm going to enjoy helping you get there too!