The all-time Welsh number one live tournament money earner, Roberto Romanello, talks to Lee Davy about his new odds comparison sports betting app: betclever.
It’s difficult to get a word in edgeways talking to Roberto Romanello in the hustle and bustle of his family fish & chip restaurant. When I close my eyes and think of an Italian family business, I see two-cheek kissing, lots of hugging and a horse’s head lying on a bed.
So far we have had everything but the head.
“I’m the black sheep of the family.” Says Romanello.
“No horse, then?”
He doesn’t hear me, ears muffled by another hug.
I’ve been invited to his shop to listen to a story.
Unlike most kids growing up in Wales Roberto, driven by his Italian roots, preferred football over the egg-shaped madness that consumes this part of the world.
After school and weekends, he worked in the family fish & chip shop. He didn’t spend his wages on video games or Calvin Klein underpants; he would hand them to his older brother Paul to bet on the football.
“I grew tired of the small amounts I was winning on the fruit machines. I knew a bit about football and the thought of winning larger amounts excited me.”
He continued to bet on football matches until he found poker and blossomed into the Welsh Wizard we all know and love. As his success on the felt and his family businesses grew so did his ability to invest more money into his football bets.
“Whereas my friends were mostly betting £10-£20 on a football bet, I was investing a couple of hundred.”
And it wasn’t only money that Roberto was spending on football betting; he was also investing a lot of time.
“I used to go into my local bookie and ask the lady behind the counter for a copy of the Racing Post. I would spend ages searching for the value before getting in my car to find a bookie with better odds. I did this for years, irrespective of the size of my bet.”
Roberto Romanello is most people’s favourite to become poker’s next Triple Crown winner. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Romanello’s deal with partypoker covered two appearances at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) where a bracelet would add him into that illustrious mix.
He has earned over $3.3m and two of the most coveted titles in poker. And yet you can still find him playing cash games in his local with his mates, and as I did earlier today, standing behind the fryer making fish and chips.
He is working class through and through.
And as his visits to the bookmakers increased, this is why he began to get more and more frustrated by what he saw.
“Here I was, drinking my coffee and checking every detail of the Racing Post, and punter after punter would walk into the bookies to fill in their football coupon. They were completely unaware that they could be losing hundreds or even thousands of pounds in value because there were better prices elsewhere.”
And Roberto isn’t the type of man to let these things slide.
He sees opportunity.
He takes action.
The Two-Year Odyssey
Although poker will always be Roberto’s one true love, as timed moved on, he began to realise he needed more security in life. Tired of his vagabond lifestyle and fuelled by the desire to spend more time with his fiancee and family, Roberto had an idea.
What if he could create a business from home?
He had already operated a successful online poker room, owned property and had a vested interest in his family business. He had even owned two brick and mortar bookmakers.
“It was two years ago that I had the idea of betclever. I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the punters losing value because they were blind to the choices out there.
“I got together with my family and a few close friends and spoke to them about the idea of putting things right. Over the next two years, we developed betclever – an odds comparison mobile app that provides punters with the guaranteed best odds in the country within seconds.”
The app – which is available for download for IOS and Android users – is magnificent in both its beauty and its usability. Presently, the app only features football odds, but horse racing is galloping into view.
You turn on the app, select your bet, enter your stake and in less than five seconds the app provides you with the best price in the UK.
“Once the idea was born, and we had all agreed there was a demand, we went searching for the best name in the market.”
Finding the ‘best name’ was a lot harder than they thought. Weeks went by, plugging search enquiries into Google before they eventually fell in love with the name betclever. There was only one problem. Someone else owned the US and UK domain names.
“We had to be cute when negotiating for the ownership rights. We knew we were sitting on a unique idea and didn’t want to convey this to the owners. Eventually, we got the pair for a great price, and the name is hot – the phone hasn’t stopped ringing with offers to buy the domain names ever since.”
With the domain names locked up, the next step was to find a developer who could turn their ideas into a product.
“It had to be someone from Swansea. Although that made the search more difficult, we knew we wanted to be hands-on throughout the entire process. Eventually, we walked into this one office, and this guy greeted me wearing trousers that cut off somewhere up his shin. He had a real geeky look about him. I knew he was the one.”
The ‘geeky one’ gave the team an estimation of 4-6 months for the app to be up and running in beta.
“I told the lads immediately; there was no way he would hit that timescale.”
It took two years.
“One of the reasons it took so long was despite the lad being a technological genius with great trousers he had never watched a football match in his life. He didn’t know a Scottish Premiership from an English Premiership.”
Roberto had to get his hands dirty.
“I loved it, though. In the past two years, there hasn’t been a single week that we have not been in the developer’s office working on the app. It has been a profound experience. When you have to travel all over the world playing in poker tournaments, you quickly lose sight of what is important in this world. Being able to create betclever from my hometown has been the best.”
He didn’t get away scot-free, though.
The passport needed an airing.
From the outset, Roberto and the team were adamant that the app would be free of charge. But to make this happen, they would need to get the buy-in of the bookmakers, and this meant hanging out with them.
“I have spent a lot of time travelling all over Europe attending sports betting conventions. It’s where the bookmakers were. It was where we had to be. In the beginning, I knew these monoliths of the betting world were looking down on us. Then over time, when we were able to give them a demo version of the app everything changed.”
Once the bookmaker saw the speed and sleekness of the app they were vying for a position in the betclever hierarchy. Roberto and the team had decided to allow ten slots for the biggest bookmakers in the UK. They felt this was sufficient enough to provide the best price, but more importantly, provide the punter with that feeling of security you don’t often get with smaller firms.
“We received come big money offers from some of the smaller bookmakers, but we felt that trust was an essential value in our organisation. We want our customers to trust betclever, and so it became necessary to work with the biggest bookmakers, and I’m glad to say we have done that.”
Two years on and Roberto and the team are ready to hand betclever to the UK audience.
“I have never been as excited as I am at this moment. Now, the punters who used to walk past me as I studied the Racing Post, don’t even have to get out of bed. If betclever is anything it’s a victory for the little man in the constant battle against the big bookmakers. Now it’s the bookmakers who are forced to do the work, not the punter, and I feel very proud of that fact.”
And he did all of that without having to leave a horse’s head on a single bookmaker’s bed.