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UK poker legends Neil Channing and Joe Beevers are betting on another game with their new sports tipping business. Ross Jarvis meets them to find out why they’ve swapped cards for betting slips in the Betting Emporium
The WSOP Main Event is kicking off in Vegas and tons of familiar British faces are in the crowd – the Devilfish, Chris Moorman, Sam Trickett, et al – to take their latest shot at poker’s most prestigious prize. One man conspicuous by his absence is two-time WSOP runner-up Neil Channing. Not only is Neil missing from the Main Event field, he hasn’t been in Vegas all summer. Neil explains, ‘I’ve been every year since 1997, but I didn’t want to miss Royal Ascot racing, Wimbledon was good, the World Cup was massive and I got to watch the Tour de France too. Maybe I cost myself a WSOP bracelet but I’m actually not that bothered at this point.’
It may sound like Channing had a relaxing summer in front of the television but he was actually working harder than ever. Along with Hendon Mob original, and former Poker Million champion, Joe Beevers, the two created the sports betting website Betting Emporium in March 2013. The duo have a formidable history in betting; Neil is widely regarded as one of the best horse racing tipsters in the UK, winning well over a million pounds in his career, while Beevers has regularly been killing the bookmakers with his shrewd football bets.
Betting Emporium is their attempt to make some money from that expertise by charging a subscription fee to access betting tips for all the major sporting events in the world, including footy, racing, cricket, darts, golf and American football. If that’s not enough, Channing even tipped up a 9/2 winner at the 2014 Oscars!
Betting Emporium’s customers have been very satisfied so far, with a 10.84% return on investment (ROI). This means that if you had bet £5 per point on all of their suggestions since launch, you would be in profit to the tune of £6,455.40. It’s certainly better than picking your horses based on names you like…
Beevers says that the inspiration for Betting Emporium came from his late father, ‘who used to do some really clever analysis on football using an old ZX81 [computer]. [After he passed away] I was telling a programmer friend what my dad used to do and he built a system for me. Now I could do what took my dad six hours in thirty seconds. I started betting and was making money at it.’ While this was going on, Neil was still betting heavily on the horses and would occasionally post his thoughts online on Facebook or the now-defunct Black Belt Poker forum. His followers lapped it up and often cashed in big.
With the Black Belt Poker venture at an end and Beevers no longer grinding the European poker circuit as heavily as before, the two firm friends – who have known each for years – decided it was time to let the wider public in on their betting secrets. For Neil, it was a no-brainer getting involved in business with Beevers. ‘When I worked in the spread betting industry I would answer the phone and it would be Joe wanting to have a little bet’, he says. In the office we all knew that if Joe had a bet we probably needed to update our price. He was well respected and I knew him to be a winning punter.’
Before launching Betting Emporium, Channing did his research and found out that, while some similar sites existed in the US, there was nothing like it in the UK. Despite some early success at the Oscars and at 2013’s Cheltenham racing meet, there was still some scepticism from the wider public. Channing says, ‘When we put up information a lot of people turned around and said, “What the f♠♣k do you know? Why should we follow you? I can pick my own horses thanks very much!”’ Beevers continues, saying, ‘Some people thought we were a couple of chancers trying to make some money.’ But, for those who knew of their past success, this new venture was a potential gold mine.
The price is right
To gain the trust of the betting world Betting Emporium offered up an entire year of tips and knowledge for free. ‘It was important to us that we spent a bit of time establishing a record’, says Channing. ‘We were giving out tips and information, you could see the results and you could see that those following us had a good ROI.’
In 2014 the major sports festivals were all available for a sign-up fee. The prices differ for each – generally, horse racing festivals are the most expensive at an average of £99 for full access – with the two weeks of Wimbledon coming in at £49.99 and football a similar price. It may sound a lot of money for people that like to have just £1 or £2 on the result of a football match or a horse – but that’s intentional. As Beevers explains, ‘When we do a five day race meeting [like Ascot], it’s not just a case of writing a short paragraph with a tip at the end, this is a huge amount of work. When Neil does these write-ups he is using years of experience and putting lots of hours into it. If you went to see a doctor, lawyer or accountant you wouldn’t expect them to give all of their hours of expertise for free.’
As with all ventures involving sports betting there is another side to it – the more popular a particular tip becomes, the worse a price it will be. If too much money comes in, the bookmaker may stop taking bets on it altogether. Channing uses a horse racing example to explain this unique Catch-22 situation, ‘At Royal Ascot, if I tip two horses in a race and they are both 16/1 then there could be as many as 800 people [from Betting Emporium] trying to get on at that price. If we suggest it’s eight points to win on each and they are a £5 per point punter then not all of those guys will be able to get [a bet] on. The bookmakers will cut the price in seconds.’ In a unique paradox Neil and Joe have had many of their big-betting clients, among them current UK poker superstars, come to them to request that the sign-up fees are increased dramatically to price the average gambler out of the market. It’s a road that Betting Emporium has not gone down yet.
Luckily, for those who only bet occasionally on sports and at low stakes, there is still plenty of free content on the site as well. A weekly ‘Road to Riches’ article is released every Saturday morning with a top tip for the weekend (Channing hit a 25/1 winner in the inaugural week) and sports such as golf remain free for all.
Betting on poker
This summer many of the leading bookmakers accepted bets on both the WSOP Main Event and Big One for One Drop. As Channing and Beevers combine years of success in both worlds I wondered if the betting markets on poker tournaments held any value.
Channing thinks there is. ‘[In the Big One for One Drop] they didn’t sell out and only got 42 players instead of 56. I tipped up two people, Brian Rast and Isaac Haxton, but I had smaller bets on Erik Seidel and Phil Ivey at 33/1. That price can’t be right. There were lots of people in that field who you could instantly say had no chance of winning.’ While none of Channing’s official picks scored a return, his reasoning for choosing them was quite clear; ‘Rast had come third in 2012. And to me it didn’t matter too much who you backed out of about twelve people. There isn’t too much between Haxton, Seidel, Rast, Jason Mercier, Vanessa Selbst and a couple of the Germans.’ The $1m buy-in tournament has a special dynamic to it also, says Neil, in that, ‘being a personable young fella is better for you than if you sit there silently and don’t get involved. Look at Antonio Esfandiari two years ago, some of those businessmen will just give you their chips if they like you, saying, “go on, you can have it.”’
Who will be world champ?
Of course, the market for the November Nine is still open and tons of bookies are taking bets right now. Channing knows chip leader Jorryt van Hoof well – ‘he’s one of the two best players on the table’ – but, at a price of 11/4, sees only marginal value in him. When you are thinking of having a bet on a poker tournament Beevers points out that the mentality of the player is crucial and, ‘if someone is only looking to ladder up [the pay jumps] they are much less likely to win the tournament than someone who is exploiting fold equity. If someone is fearless about going out and only cares about making the correct decisions, they will be putting pressure on the other players.’
As Betting Emporium goes from strength to strength, and an extended calendar of events and more tipsters are planned for 2015, the question remains whether we have seen the last of Messrs Channing and Beevers at the poker table? A cosy contract with Grosvenor Poker, along with Barny and Ross Boatman, in the newly-named Poker Mob will definitely see Beevers battling it out on the GUKPT circuit, but the future is more uncertain for Channing. As he says, ‘The problem with poker tournaments is that they are always around the weekend. I would love to play a £500 turbo that lasted from 7-11pm because that is my free time. But when I have to come back for a day two at 2pm I would rather be in front of the computer doing other things.’ Still, there is one poker tournament that even sports betting genius Channing would likely leave his computer for, saying, ‘during the WSOP Main Event I really wished I was there.’
Whether it’s at the poker tables or in the sportsbook, Joe Beevers and Neil Channing are two men that you don’t want to bet against. You can’t beat them but the good news now is that you have the chance to join them at Betting Emporium. Be warned though, sports betting isn’t a precise science and you should only gamble with money you can afford to lose. Hopefully, with Betting Emporium, it won’t come to that.