As i write this, I’m nursing a bit of a sore head and an empty wallet. Within the last month I’ve lost almost £30, 000 spread playing for an hour a day five days a week. So i were able to blow around £1, 500 an hour. That’s really quite a bit of cash. Actually, it’s not quite as bad as it looks. Fortunately, I was playing using a few spread-betting companies Allbet ‘ tryout sites. These are simulations of their live playing sites that allow you to practice before you start playing with real money. I realise that i am no financial genius otherwise I would have been rich long ago. However, the fact that I were able to squander so much money so quickly does pose the question — if spread playing seems so easy, why do so many people get completely wiped out extremely quickly?
We’re increasingly seeing advertising for spread playing in investing and money management publications. In the one I join, a half dozen different spread playing companies take full-page colour ads once a week, outnumbering any other type of advertising. Spread playing ads are already common in the business parts of many weekend newspapers and will probably soon start to appear in an individual can finance sections. Spread playing could appear deceptively easy for many savers. After all, money in a bank, shares or unit trusts will at best give us about a miserable five percent a year before tax. Yet a reasonable run on spread playing can easily let you pocket ten percent a week — 700 percent a year — completely and gloriously tax-free. So spread playing can let you earn in just 1 year what it would take a one hundred year or more to achieve with the majority of investments.
Spread betters gamble on price movements of anything from individual shares, currencies and items to whole markets like the FTSE, Dax or S&P. It is called spread playing because the company providing the service makes most of their money by putting an additional spread around the price at which something is being bought or sold.
Spread playing appears to have several positive aspects compared to traditional investing:
You don’t have to buy anything — It allows you to bet on price movements without having to buy the underlying assets — shares, items or foreign exchange.
It’s tax-free — When you buy or sell shares, get paid dividends or receive interest from a bank you will have to pay taxes like stamp duty, capital gains and income tax. Unless spread playing is your full-time job and only source of income, there are no taxes to be paid as it’s considered to be casino.
You can go long or short — When you spread bet you can gain the maximum amount of whether prices rise or fall, delivering guess the direction correctly. With the majority of investments, you need the price to go up before you gain profits.
You can bet on a rise or fall at the same time — If the FTSE, for example, is trading at 5551-5552, you can place two gambling bets, one that it will rise and one that it will fall. These only get triggered when the FTSE actually moves. So if it starts growing, your bet that it will rise gets triggered. Similarly if it sheds, only your bet that it will fall is triggered. So it can seem that, come rain or shine, you’ll probably win.
Huge leverage — If you bet say £50 a pip (a pip is usually the minimum price movement you can bet on), you can easily win a half dozen times your original bet if the price moves in the right direction. On a really good bet, you can win much much more.
You can wait for the breakout — Prices on many shares, currencies, items and other things people bet on tend to experience periods of stability followed by bursts of movement up or down, what spread-betters call ‘the breakout’. You can place a bet that is only activated when the breakout comes.
Loss limits — You can put conditions in your bet that prevent your losses exceeding your chosen level should your bet happen to be wrong.
You can adjust mid-flight — With most gambling bets, such as with horse racing or on roulette, once the race has started or the croupier has called ‘no more bets’ you have to wait helplessly for the result to see if you’ve won or not. With spread playing you can choose to close your bet at any time. So if you’re ahead, you can take your income; if you’re behind you can either cut your losses or wait in the hope that things will vary and you’ll be up again.
Given all these properties of spread playing, it ought to be pretty easy to manufacture a fair bit of money without too much effort. Doubts.
Industry estimates claim that around 80 percent of spread-betters lose most or all of their money and close their accounts within 11 weeks of starting. There seem to be another eight percent or so who make reasonable amounts of money on a regular basis and there are around two percent of spread-betters who make fortunes. I’ve been to a few presentations run by spread playing companies and at one of these the salesman let slip that over eighty percent of his customers lost money. Even many professionals lose on about six gambling bets out of every ten. But by controlling their losses and maximising their returns when they win, they can increase their wealth.
Why it can go horribly wrong
There seem to be several reasons why spread playing is so effective at dramatically demolishing most practitioners’ wealth:
The companies want you to lose — When you initially open a tryout or real account, you will get several phone calls from extremely friendly and helpful young men and women at the spread-betting company asking if there’s anything they can do to assist you to get going. This is customer service at its very best. Most of the people contacting you will parrot the line that they just want to help and that they’re happy if you’re successful as their company only makes money from the spread. Some will reassure you that they want you to win as the more you win, the more you’re likely to bet and the more the spread-betting company will earn. This may make you feel good, convince you that the company is open, honest, trustworthy and supportive and encourage you to use them for your playing. But it’s also a lie. It’s true that the company might make a lot of its money from the spread. However, with many of your gambling bets, you’re playing against the company and so they hope you lose, big time. In fact, during the last month I’ve seen several companies change the conditions on their sites to make it more likely that people using them will lose. So, lesson one — spread playing companies are not your friends. The more you lose the more they win. It’s that simple.
It’s difficult to break even — If you bet say £50 a pip and the price does go the way you want, the spread playing company takes the first £50 you win. So the price has to move two pips in the right direction for you to win your £50 back and three pips for you to emerge with £100, doubling your money. Although if the price moves three pips in the wrong direction, you lose your original bet plus £50 a pip, giving a total loss of £200, a loss of four times your original bet.
Losses can be massive — With most casino, you can only lose what you put down on a horse, blackjack or roulette. With spread playing you can quickly leave behind much more than you choice. I didn’t remember to put a stop loss on one bet and were able to lose over £800 with just one £50 bet. Because your bet is leveraged, you can make both fabulous gains and excruciatingly painful losses. Too often it’s the latter. The size of many gambling bets, often £5 or £10 a pip can lull betters into a false sense of security. It’s only when the losses go five to ten times the original bet that they realise the risk they have taken.
“The spread playing leverage means that you can get rich which is a wonderfully appealing idea, but it also means you can get poor which most people ignore. inch
You can waste thousands on courses and systems — At one free spread-betting workshop I attended we were more than strongly encouraged to sign up for a two-day weekend course teaching us how to spread bet successfully. This would normally cost (we were told) £6, 995, but there was a special offer for the first five people to sign up of only £1, 997. There are many such courses and also teachers offering to sell you their special spread-betting systems, guides, webinars and all sorts of other advice. With so many supposed experts apparently making a living teaching others how to spread bet, you need to have a lot of takers. But I’ve found that all you need to understand and more is available free on the internet. United specialist said, ‘Don’t bother wasting your money on ‘Guru’ books written by so-called experts. Those books are crap and not worth the paper they are printed on. Nobody sells a secret trading methodology if they are really successful. The only reason these guys are writing books happens because they didn’t make it as traders’.
It’s the bobbing about that beats you — We often hear on the news that the price of gold has grown by a few dollars an ounce or the FTSE has gotten by a hundred and forty points or that the pound has grown by two cents against the dollar. These reports make price changes on financial instruments sound like smooth movements either up or down. However, the costs of shares, stock markets, items and currencies seldom move in straight lines. They jump about every few seconds. So, if the FTSE is at 5540 and you correctly bet £50 a pip that it will go up to 5545 you might not necessarily win £200. In between going from 5540 to 5545, it might drop down a couple of times to say 5535 or lower. If you have a stop loss on at 5536 or 5535 to avoid losing too much money, your stop loss will do its stuff and you’ll lose £250 or £300 even if the listing did subsequently move way up as you believed. I’ve placed over a hundred gambling bets to test whether I won when my gambling bets were right. On about eighty percent I lost in spite of being right because the movement triggered the stop losses even though the listing did actually move from where it was to where I believed it would go. This creates an extremely odd situation where stop losses can unfortunately make you lose even when you should be winning. Yet if you don’t put stop losses on and things go in the wrong direction, your losses can eliminate you.
It attracts losers — At the spread playing seminars I’ve attended, I’ve been shocked by the number of low-paid workers — waiters, porters, kitchen staff, healthcare assistants and impoverished, would-be writers like myself — who decide to have a go at spread playing as they believe that, apart from winning the Lottery, it may be the only realistic way they have of making any money. These people will be playing with their meagre life savings against extremely sophisticated financial services insiders with vast knowledge, many years experience and quite deep pockets. It’s not difficult to guess who is going to win.
Sucker or smartie?
Spread playing is a ‘zero sum game’. Unlike lodging our money in a bank so it can be credited to businesses or house-buyers, spread playing doesn’t create wealth. It just redistributes money from the suckers to the smart. When contemplating whether to try your hand at spread playing, you need to work out whether you are likely to be in the 80 percent who end up as suckers or the ten percent who make money because they are smart. I found it interesting that not just a single one of the amiable young men and women from spread-betting companies that i gave a talk to essentially did any spread playing themselves. By the way, when i did eventually open a live spread playing account and were able to win about £100 a day for ten days, the spread playing company started preventing me having to leave losing gambling bets because they claimed I was “betting unfairly”. However, if you do manage to spread bet successfully, please drop me a contact, I’d adore to learn how to do it.