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Strange currencies

Gambling’s Chris Lines had a chat with Andrew Omara, a professional poker player who recently entered a forex trading competition on a whim despite having no trading experience. He came second – here’s how he did it

Tell us a bit about yourself Andrew. You’re a professional poker player – where do you normally play, and at what stakes?

I play poker online a lot in addition to matches and tournaments up and down the country. Depending on the months, I split my time between 50 percent online and 50 percent live games. It’s difficult to say from one week to the next. I often have to turn down tournaments as there are so many. I mainly go for the larger ones. My family supports me and often come to watch.

The majority of my matches and tournaments are in Luton, Birmingham and Blackpool. I play variations of Texas Hold‘em, mainly no-limit matches but sometimes pot-limit. The money at stake per match ranges from $250,000 to over $1 million, and match entrance fees range from $100 to $1,500.

On occasion I play for $100,000 and $20,000. It would be a rare event for me to play for less than $20,000.

This past Sunday I played a game for about $250,000 first prize – there was over $1 million total prize money. I didn’t do particularly well this weekend, but made up for it the last two nights where I came first.

I have been fortunate to have been on television quite a bit on late night poker channels including Sky, Five, Five USA and the like. I have also played with Michael Greco, formerly of Eastenders.

Are you more of a cash game or tournament player?

I play both cash games and tournaments – it’s about a 50/50 split. It would be a struggle to earn a living if you just played tournaments as you have to be very, very lucky.

What was your biggest ever win in poker?

My biggest ever win was fifth place in a $250,000 game and I have won a number of $20,000 games in addition to many smaller ones at $12,500. I can get by for a couple of months on that. But there are also expenses involved: entry fees, registration fees, travel costs and hotels. That is why many people go down the route of being sponsored or trying to obtain sponsorship. A lot of bigger companies such as online poker sites are sponsoring, including Full Tilt, 888, Ladbrokes, etc.

I’d welcome the opportunity to be sponsored. It’s a win-win situation: companies are able to get good advertising quite inexpensively, and by wearing branded caps and t-shirts, the sponsors get good visibility on television and in casinos on a national level.

You’re a self-confessed ‘gambler at heart’. What was it about forex trading that appealed to you?

I thought it would be a good way of making some quick money so long as you make the right decisions. I found it exciting to be able to watch and make decisions on the markets as they were changing in real time – and getting it right – or wrong. It was quite an exciting challenge.

I found forex much more difficult than poker. You learn the odds with poker, which is not really possible with forex. It’s not like you put $20 in and get five-to-one.

Having given it a try, what’s your opinion of it? Was succeeding at forex as satisfying as winning a poker event?

Trading currencies was actually really, really exciting. It was brilliant, especially towards the end when the competition was nearly at a close. I loved it. The suspense was amazing, watching how the other traders performed in comparison to me – was someone going to beat me – or overtake me. The last few hours were really something.

Admittedly, it wasn’t real money you were trading in the Challenge, but apparently you were up by several hundred thousands of pounds at one point – how did that feel?

It made me think that if I could do this with virtual money, I could do it with real money. Had I been trading with real money I don’t think I would have been as aggressive. With virtual money I was perhaps a little bit reckless, but that was part of the thrill. I definitely recommend people open a demo trading account to experience forex trading.

And then what happened to bring your figures down?

I was in the lead and was then overtaken by another trader. When I saw I had been overtaken in first place I started trading in a more aggressive manner and ploughed everything into a certain currency. It backfired. If I hadn’t done that I would have won. I learned a good lesson – stay calm and just stay cool, don’t chase the money. It’s the same in poker – you should never chase money – you must always stay cool, calm and collected.

Have you learned from the experience?

Yes immensely. The next time I am ahead in trading I wouldn’t panic – I would sit tight. I wouldn’t try and push it any more. I’d sit tight and just watch the trends.

Having done well in eToro’s British Trading Challenge, have you now progressed to trading forex for real money?

Yes, I’ve traded successfully for real with eToro since the British Trading Challenge and intend to do so again in the near future. Christmas and New Year have been a busy time and I have had a lot of poker tournaments, in addition to recently buying a property, so haven’t had as much time as I would like to trade the currency markets.

What advice would you give to other newbie players giving forex trading a go for the first time?

Stick with eToro. I have tried a number of other sites but eToro makes trading very simple. The charts and information are very straightforward and so easy to understand that a child could do it. And the customer service was second-to-none, very friendly and helpful – and all-around nice.

When trading currency pairs or commodities, just take your time, don’t rush into making decisions. I suggest watching the 1 interval, 5 interval and 15 interval charts and then make your moves. Start small and then move up.
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