Private Investor: I'm a winner at poker without ever playing the game
Saturday 26 February 2005
Like the Cincinatti Kid, I imagine, if you're very, very lucky, you can make quite a decent living out of playing poker. I believe that the best paid poker player in the world is a chap named Greg "Fossilman" Raymer, who won the 2004 World Series of Poker. Mr Raymer is a patent attorney from Stonington, Connecticut, and he took home $5 million after the final of the series at Binion's Horseshoe Casino, Las Vegas, last April.
I've never played poker. Indeed, I've never been into any card games, being the sort of player who would always lose at patience. It seems to me that you need a good deal of patience to learn to be good at stuff like bridge and poker, and I have never been interested enough to stick these games out. If you don't play for decent stakes, for matchsticks or something instead, then it's all a bit futile; and if you do play for proper money, then it's too nerve-racking and, well, a bit of a gamble. I read somewhere that it's also illegal to do so outside premises licensed for the purpose, such as a casino.
I am, however, perfectly happy to gamble on the stock market, or invest carefully for long- and short-term returns, as I prefer to think of it. Regular readers will no doubt see where all this is leading to: another gloating session about my investment in Sportingbet.com.
A few weeks ago, it was still a fairly obscure firm, but it seems to be on everyone's lips now, a byword for the new boom in internet gambling, as indeed it is. Having bought the successful Paradise Poker concern in the United States, it is now one of the biggest of its kind in the world, and punters of all kinds have suddenly become interested in it. So interested, in fact, that they have chased its shares from the 192p or so, at which I topped up my holding a few weeks ago, to well over 300p this week. The shares stood at 20p in the autumn of 2003, their low point.
So, Sportingbet: bubble or business? A bit of both, I guess, as the speculation in the stock is becoming dizzying, even though its long-term growth prospects may be very sound indeed. In this respect, it feels uncannily like a small-scale re-run of the dotcom mania, as if no one had learned any lessons at all from the last debacle. And yet it still makes good profits out of a real business, although one with a candy-floss flavour.
The company makes money from allowing people to play poker with each other on-line, about as far away from a "real" business such as making cars or steel as you can be. So what? I've got money in lots of what are now old, mature busnesses, such as Shell and Tesco, and Vodafone even, by today's standards. Besides, how can you argue with a figure of 2.2 million customers?
In the half-year to January 31, Sportingbet.com posted underlying pre-tax profits of £18.3m, up 118 per cent. The Paradise Poker site, which was acquired for £196m last November, returned £8m in operating profit for the half-year. The beauty of Sportingbet is that it is just a profits machine. Almost every penny and every cent that it generates in revenue goes straight to the bottom line. With little, if any, variable cost increase per bet, every new punter is a profit generator. It's really as simple as that.
No wonder the shares have been doing so well. And some older investors have been taking the opportunity to sell out. I'm sticking with it for the ride, though, running my profits as happily as any devil-may-care vacationer in Las Vegas. There are risks, mostly regulatory, from government understandably worried about problem betting and with an eye to the profitability of the business as a useful source of taxes.
In the longer run, you have to ask yourself whether the low barriers to entry in this on-line business really afford outfits such as Sportingbet the protection they need from competition. I also find it difficult to believe that poker is really such a popular mass-market game, rather than just a fad the world is going through. So, it could all end in tears and I could walk away from this casino wiped out. After all, I'm not the Cincinatti Kid, am I?
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 UK weather: Britain braced for snow to replace sun as arctic air mass moves in
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
iJobs Money & Business
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is the o...
Day In a Page
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms