Sunday, 5 July 2015

Time Machine

Time for Tennis again, and Lee Von Dangerous (possibly not his real name) writes:
I can see you have strong opinions on tennis trading, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but the gist of it is that tennis trading from home is not/cannot be profitable?
I don’t trade tennis but would be keen to hear your thoughts on other well known tennis traders such as Punt.com and Peter Webb?
The gist of my thoughts are that the average home-trader is at a huge disadvantage and very unlikely to find an edge that will generate a long-term profit. I suppose my opinions come across as strong,but I have never been a big trader of tennis, mostly because I find the sport rather boring to watch most of the time, and so I don't really care too much.

I just see all these newcomers, or old-comers like Tennis Trading, who seem to thing making a profit in their spare time is a piece of cake. I don't agree, and my reasons for arriving at the conclusion that for most of us, it's a waste of time and money, are all contained in recent posts and don't need to be repeated here.

Matt, of the now retired punt.com, is a pretty sharp guy, not only because he came down on my side on the Cassini v Iverson debate writing:
"the date is meaningless imo. If you need target, try retirement day, otherwise, date is just a random point. The sporting calendar has peaks and troughs..timeline of betting decisions should be linear. Picking a point on a very long line, pointless."
Exactly. However, while his path hasn't crossed mine in well over a year, I don't believe he's a part-time home trader, but actually a full-time professional gambler, and appears to still know what he is doing after his latest huge win:
I jest. I suspect that like myself, one of Matt's strategies is to lay low (1.0x), and even though the upside can be huge, it's still not pleasant to take a loss. Having taken a position, there's nothing wrong with eliminating the possibility of a loss but keeping a large green on the other side, but Serena managed to win, so the big pay day will have to wait. I just hope Matt invests his £1.36 wisely.

Peter Webb is familiar to most of us from his blog which is actually more of a tool written in 'business speak' for promoting his Bet Angel product than the revelations and ups and downs of a part-time home trader like most of the blogs out there. His latest post is a typical example, and starts:
Happy 4th of July to our American users. Hold on we don’t have any (yet)!
But the independence I am talking about takes a slightly different slant anyhow.
When we first designed Bet Angel it was a very simple one click interface. As time evolved we branched the product out to include more and more features, it was a reflection of our journey through the markets.
I must say that although I enjoy a good science book from time to time, this is the first time I have read anywhere that time itself "evolves" - an interesting idea anyway. If Peter is developing a time machine, he'll have a good shot at beating the court-sider based syndicates!

Anyway, I have no idea how much money Peter makes from tennis trading, or even if he considers tennis his primary trading market, but regardless, the two names discussed here are both involved in betting full-time, and not the casual home-trader I have in mind for my words of caution.

It would be interesting to know from either gentlemen however, how the tennis markets have changed from their perspectives over the past three or four years with the presence of court-siding syndicates.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Susceptible Stats

While the C-LAY-ton Kershaw system is currently taking the world of baseball betting by storm, it's worth taking a moment to explain to non-baseball aficionados that a pitcher's Win - Loss record is not actually a very meaningful statistic.

It's actually a very good example of how context is important with your statistics, as the insightful Shapeshifter has previously mentioned.

A pitcher's Win - Loss record is very much a secondary statistic and one of those statistics more susceptible to luck. From Nate Silver's The Signal And The Noise:
If you want to predict a pitcher's win-loss record, looking at the number of strikeouts he recorded and the number of walks he yielded is more informative than looking at his W's and L's from the previous season, because the former statistics are much more consistent from year to year.
Strikeouts are important because they stop a batter from reaching base, and if he fails to get on base, he's not going to score a run. If he doesn't score a run, the chances of his team winning the game are reduced.

He goes on to explain how a pitcher's win-loss record is also affected by how many runs his team's offence score - something he has little control over, and in the American League, no control over at all. Poor Mr. Kershaw actually suffered from this last night, although he didn't take a loss as he was out of the game by the time it became a loss. Kershaw conceded just one run in seven innings, while striking out seven.

In other words, Kershaw is better than his recent Win-Loss record might suggest. A lesser pitcher, which is most pitchers, might well give up several runs, but if his team can score several runs plus one, he gets credited for the win.

Kershaw's average Strikeout per innings is up a little on last season at 1.28 (2014:1.20) but his Bases on Balls total is down a little 27 from 114 innings (2014: 31 from 198).
Eleven years ago today, Greece won Euro 2004. Today, they'd be happy to win 2004 Euros 

Price Boost

Daily25 had a good post this week on the importance of getting the best price possible. It's obvious of course, but perhaps not so obvious is the difference it can make over a season. Steve concludes his analysis with:
I believe I cost myself in between $20,000 and $30,000 profit this year because of my laziness. The fact that I only made a total profit of $38,533.30 means I could have added an extra 78% profit and ended the season on a much better $68,533.30.
That Steve bets are in a different league (often literally) to those of most of us is irrelevant. What is relevant is the percentage difference it can make. Steve mentions that "Pinnacle usually has the top price", and while that may be true overall in the markets Steve bets into, it is certainly nowhere close to being true for football.

In the EPL last season, Pinnacle were the top (or joint top) price on 27 homes, 43 draws and 47 aways - a total of 117 out of 1,137 (10.29%). The big plus for Pinnacle is their willingness to take a bet, and with their average total book of 1.02%, they are usually very competitive. In reality, the "best price" is often not available to us, or maybe but for only a limited stake, but for all the FTL entrants last season, the return of every single one would in practice have been better than the numbers recorded.

Using Steve's idea, and I have seen Joseph Buchdahl run the same experiment on tennis, the best prices on the XX Draws from last season's EPL would have boosted the total profit in that league from 13.87 to 15.64 points (+12.76%), with Pinnacle being the top price on just five of the 95 selections. The EPL was the best of the five leagues the XX Draws cover, the worst last season was not surprisingly in France where the 10 year average for Draws of 30.18% plummeted to a record low of just 23.16%. The XX Draws were obviously not the only system to suffer, with TFA Graeme noting in his Euro Draw System review:
As you can see, France was a major issue. My ratings obviously favoured this league for Draws due to the low goal expectancy historically but last season, the strike rate dipped massively in this league. The underlying ROI for backing draws in France was -18.4% which meant you were always going to take a bath backing draws in this league.
Away wins were the primary cause, a trend that continues across all nine leagues I watch, (last season's 30.39% was a record), but in Ligue 1, Home wins were also at an 11 year high. The odd thing was that the average number of goals was only up a little on its five year average.

Draws are a more volatile statistic than average goals, and thus more susceptible to luck which in the short term tends to dominate. To paraphrase Nate Silver, sometimes luck will obscure reality, even over the course of a whole year.

Thanks to the disaster in Ligue 1 (-21.99 points) and the loss of -12.71 in Serie A, the XX Draws overall lost 7.68 points to Pinnacle prices, or -0.06 points to Best prices. Serie A had plenty of Draws (31.6% was the highest since 2004-05) but ~47% were matches where the stronger team was at home. (Usually some 60% of Draws are where the Away team is 'stronger' ,e.g. in the EPL, it was 59.1% last season). 

Blindly backing every Serie A game to end in a Draw with Pinnacle last season would have made you a 72.29 point profit (83.72 points if you can back at the Best price). Backing draws priced over 4.0 is historically doomed, yet last season would have made 42.87 points (with Pinnacle).
The draws in the Big Five leagues last season were at least up on 2013-14's record low, but only by a little, and the trend towards more Away wins continues to exceed the ten-year average of 26.97% .
  
Europe has always had three distinct cultures - work hard / save hard (North), work hard / drink hard (East) and take it easy / whatever (South) -Vive Charlie

Mulligans And Antiques

A Mulligan, in a game, happens when a player gets a second chance to perform a certain move or action; usually due to lack of skill or bitter luck.
With Wimbledon in full swing, perhaps it's not surprising that tennis is dominating this blog right now. Tennis Trader Martin replied:
Difficult to convince you . Yes, perhaps I like to convince me with your support. :-)
Well, clear words about tennis and it sounds logic, because it's a mature market. Smaller niche markets can be better to find a "technical edge". At tennis you have to do it mostly with the knowledge and patterns of players and markets. That was also the reason, why copy&paste of the Sultan strategies didn't work for me. You have to find your own way. In my opinion is possible if you don't compete with the courtsiders. Perhaps is luck at the moment, but since some weeks I trade quite consistent in the green zone. Let's see, where the way goes...
Unfortunately Tennis Trading's latest post made for uncomfortable reading. After losing some money trading pre-game, Martin wrote:
I didn't count this loss to my profit&loss statement (exactly -100 Euro), because I will not do this approach any more. It's looking like an excuse, that's true. Probably I would count the profit if I could turn the trade in a winner. I am honest about this issue. You see, never believe a profit&loss blog ;-).
Well, to be honest
So it counts if the bet wins, but not if it loses...  I'm not sure that's how it should work at all, but at least Martin was honest with us, if not to his P&L account. He continues:
If you don't count the mentioned trade, I had a successful day.
The problem is that small word that opens the sentence.

I also noticed Martin refers to this as the 'offplay market' - surely the opposite of 'in-play' would make this 'out-play'? I prefer the term pre-game anyway.

Still with tennis, and Bafel saw my comment "When I can tell who won the point before I see it on TV, it's time to move on" and had this to say:
In my opinion, tennis markets have matured to a point where the only real edge is your ability to read the game in play. Pro tennis traders make consistent profits because they anticipate to changes of momentum and take good risk/reward prices . They couldn't care less who gets to see the points faster as long as there is sufficient time between points/games to enter/exit a trade.
Courtsiders feed from scalpers and mugs leaving unmatched bets between points. But these strategies are not workable any more. Even nowadays mugs are getting smarter, and you will rarely see available money at volatile stages.
I'm sick and tired of people on tweeter complaining about guys trading with fast pics etc, as if it was the reason why they ain't making profits. I don’t know for other sports, but for tennis traders a courtsider is the least of your problems.
The idea of 'fast pictures' is nonsense for a start. All pictures are delayed, just some are less delayed than others, but none are as fast as being court side of course.

To address Bafel's points in order, he suggests that the "only real edge is your ability to read the game in play". For this to be true, you would need your ability to read the game to be better at this than anyone else in the market. That's a tall order. Confidence is good, but is this a realistic thought? Exchange betting is no longer a novelty, and one can presume that at least some tennis insiders are active in the markets and certainly people who are a lot more knowledgeable about tennis than the average trader.

If it is true that "they couldn't care less who gets to see the points faster", that statement can only be true if everyone ahead of them is less knowledgeable. If you can get matched at say 1.5 after a point, it's because the court-sider syndicates have the true game-state price at 1.51 or above and aren't interested in 1.5. It's a poor value bet.

If there is a lack of liquidity at volatile stages, I would suggest that is because the court-siders have driven the home amateur out of the market. I'm surely not the only one to realise that "When I can tell who won the point before I see it on TV, it's time to move on". What you end up with basically are court-sider syndicates competing with other court-sider syndicates. Best model wins!

The reason people complain about losing out to "guys trading with fast pics" is because trading skill (ability to read the game) is no longer enough - you simply can't win consistently if you are at a chronological disadvantage. It's a legitimate reason to complain, but it's also a waste of energy - no one is listening.

Perhaps this makes it clearer. Imagine you're an antiques dealer, and you walk into an antique shop where an item has been on sale for a year at the same price. It's probably not a great deal for you. If you think you're getting a deal, you're basically counting on the fact that every other fellow dealer in the past twelve months wasn't aware of the 'true' value, and passed on it. You would have to have a better idea than all those ahead of you of the real value.

However, your chances of finding value are much increased if you are the first customer in the shop after the item is listed for sale. The principle is the same for tennis trading.

A clueless, or shall we say a less sophisticated, customer could buy the item at the asking price, and after a while, the market picks up and they can sell it for a profit. That doesn't mean that they bought at value, only that they got lucky with how the market moved. If your habit is to pay more than the true price for something, you're generally not going to make any money.

So I would say that the tennis court-sider is certainly NOT the least of an at-home tennis trader's problems. He is why trading tennis in-play from home using the the TV for your data is an exercise in futility. I understand that some people have a vested interest in perpetuating the myth that the home-trader can consistently make a profit trading tennis in-play, but I fail to see how this can be true.  I'm Bafel'd quite frankly, given that fair value isn't nearly enough as I explained in this post.

Premium Charges

On a call to the Betfair Help Desk earlier this week, I asked about the Premium Charge portal which hasn't been updated since the week ending June 21st. For a few days, there was the option to review Premium Charges from the My Account / Activity tan, but that too has gone. The young lady told me that "they are working on some things because, to be honest, it was confusing people". Well no kidding! Someone finally noticed? I optimistically asked if the Premium Charge had been scrapped, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Something strange is going on though. The portal worked fine for several years, so why it has suddenly been pulled is odd. To deduct the charges without informing people first seems very poor, but they have us by the balls. Incidentally, when someone says "Well, to be honest", does it mean that usually they are lying?

C-LAY-ton Kershaw

Lost again last night, at a short offplay price of 1.44 I am told. That is four in a row for this simple system. If you don't count the losses, Clayton Kershaw is having a great season.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Lacking Conviction

Martin returns service with these thoughts:

Nice post again, I saw that you changed the topic already to more serious problems. :-) I just want to discuss about your opinion at tennis markets. So you like to tell me, that is not possible to make any money in one of the most liquid and volatile markets for a part time trader? That suprises me. Here I think different, in my opinion you definitely overrate the courtsiding. How he should know it better during a break time? If you are referring to the full timers... not all of them are genius and beside are a lot of average Johnny Punters around especially at big events.
You are the best example that you can make a side income with trading. You think is only possible at side markets like baseball or basketball?
About the scam... yes, he is active since six years. Police and authorities don't care about it, because they don't understand the case. They consider it like a loss at stock exchange. That's the loop hole for the scammer. Well for me this story is marked off. It was a hurtful loss, but there are more serious problems in life than lose a part of the yearly salary.
Topics come and go, and the Greek crisis was merely, for us anyway, a temporary diversion. As for my thoughts on trading tennis, yes I find it highly unlikely that a part-timer trader working from his flat can make a consistent profit. It defies logic. You may be at less of a disadvantage trading during breaks, but that doesn't mean you have an advantage. You need an edge to make a profit. Even if you are getting fair value (2.0) on a coin toss, the commission ensures that you will slowly lose money. Any full-timers who are not geniuses or who don't have fast data will soon not be full-timers, and silly money from Johnny Punter will be snapped up by the fast boys.

I suspect that Martin is really trying to convince himself rather than me, that a steady profit is possible from casually trading tennis. It's about the last place I would look to trade though. When I can tell who won the point before I see it on TV, it's time to move on. I have no desire to bet when the odds are stacked against me. Ironically the only reason I started betting again after a long hiatus was because of the in-play opportunities that exchanges betting provided, but the markets have matured. It used to be possible to lay ice hockey teams at 1.2 in the first period if they were trailing by two goals but Canadian snipers caused the delay to be increased and the liquidity died. It was that observation incidentally that made me realise that laying low in-play could be a profitable strategy. People are greedy. College football was great for a while - especially when people didn't know the overtime rules - but liquidity is dead these days. Markets either wise up, or dry up. I got lucky by discovering the exchanges back in 2004, a time when there were plenty of opportunities. It's not so easy now. I'm just glad I don't have a record of how much time I've spent on it!

The comment that "there are more serious problems in life than money" is very true. Important to maintain perspective, and if you betting sensibly and don't need to win to pay the bills, it's easy enough to do.

Finally on a personal note, Mrs. Cassini is doing some gloating after her nation's win over Germany in the Women's World Cup semi-Final. She did make me take a small interest at half-time, replying to my "where's our edge?" comment with "I'm American, and I'm a woman". Hard to argue with that logic. As for the "I'll give you the money if it loses"...

My turn tonight perhaps, although at ~1.5 to win outright, I think the USA are value.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Vatopaidi And The Greek Crisis

A change of pace for the blog today, and a link to the best article I have seen explaining the debt crisis in Greece. Nothing to do with betting or sports, but there are other things going on in the world, and it may be a topic of interest to some of you.  

Michael Lewis once again takes a fairly complicated issue and breaks it down so that anyone can understand it, and makes it entertaining too. The full article is in Vanity Fair and fairly lengthy, but it is very readable. 

Here's a snippet:
I'd arrived in Athens just a few days earlier, exactly one week before the next planned riot, and a few days after German politicians suggested that the Greek government, to pay off its debts, should sell its islands and perhaps throw some ancient ruins into the bargain. Greece’s new socialist prime minister, George Papandreou, had felt compelled to deny that he was actually thinking of selling any islands. Moody’s, the ratings agency, had just lowered Greece’s credit rating to the level that turned all Greek government bonds into junk—and so no longer eligible to be owned by many of the investors who currently owned them. The resulting dumping of Greek bonds onto the market was, in the short term, no big deal, because the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank had between them agreed to lend Greece—a nation of about 11 million people, or two million fewer than Greater Los Angeles—up to $145 billion. In the short term Greece had been removed from the free financial markets and become a ward of other states.
That was the good news. The long-term picture was far bleaker. In addition to its roughly $400 billion (and growing) of outstanding government debt, the Greek number crunchers had just figured out that their government owed another $800 billion or more in pensions. Add it all up and you got about $1.2 trillion, or more than a quarter-million dollars for every working Greek.
Against $1.2 trillion in debts, a $145 billion bailout was clearly more of a gesture than a solution. And those were just the official numbers; the truth is surely worse. “Our people went in and couldn’t believe what they found,” a senior I.M.F. official told me, not long after he’d returned from the I.M.F.’s first Greek mission. “The way they were keeping track of their finances—they knew how much they had agreed to spend, but no one was keeping track of what he had actually spent. It wasn’t even what you would call an emerging economy. It was a Third World country.”
As it turned out, what the Greeks wanted to do, once the lights went out and they were alone in the dark with a pile of borrowed money, was turn their government into a piƱata stuffed with fantastic sums and give as many citizens as possible a whack at it. In just the past decade the wage bill of the Greek public sector has doubled, in real terms—and that number doesn’t take into account the bribes collected by public officials. The average government job pays almost three times the average private-sector job. The national railroad has annual revenues of 100 million euros against an annual wage bill of 400 million, plus 300 million euros in other expenses. The average state railroad employee earns 65,000 euros a year. Twenty years ago a successful businessman turned minister of finance named Stefanos Manos pointed out that it would be cheaper to put all Greece’s rail passengers into taxicabs: it’s still true. “We have a railroad company which is bankrupt beyond comprehension,” Manos put it to me. “And yet there isn’t a single private company in Greece with that kind of average pay.” The Greek public-school system is the site of breathtaking inefficiency: one of the lowest-ranked systems in Europe, it nonetheless employs four times as many teachers per pupil as the highest-ranked, Finland’s. Greeks who send their children to public schools simply assume that they will need to hire private tutors to make sure they actually learn something. There are three government-owned defense companies: together they have billions of euros in debts, and mounting losses. The retirement age for Greek jobs classified as “arduous” is as early as 55 for men and 50 for women. As this is also the moment when the state begins to shovel out generous pensions, more than 600 Greek professions somehow managed to get themselves classified as arduous: hairdressers, radio announcers, waiters, musicians, and on and on and on. The Greek public health-care system spends far more on supplies than the European average—and it is not uncommon, several Greeks tell me, to see nurses and doctors leaving the job with their arms filled with paper towels and diapers and whatever else they can plunder from the supply closets.
“The Greek people never learned to pay their taxes .... because no one is ever punished. It’s like a gentleman not opening a door for a lady.”

Karma Has Your Address

This blog appears to be going from the FTL frying pan into the Tennis Trading fire, but comments make the next post so much easier to generate. Martin replied to my last post:
Yes, I still agree with my posts you quoted. It's almost impossible to make a living from trading. That's why I return to a normal job. If I make some side income, it's nice, if not it's not the end of the world.

I think you overrate the courtsiders as an opponent. If you trade smart, you don't play in 99% of the cases against them (an exception could be an injury). I don't enter during a point, I protect my money against the hoovering. They are involved in a different way (scalping for the "dumb money").
About Sultan, perhaps you have inside knowledge about him. In my opinion he has great knowledge of tennis markets and players. That's his edge against the average punter. He is something like the Mark Iverson of Tennis (at least I believe this fairy tale). He was just a bit naive about his Academy and some posts at his blog. I didn't feel bad energy when I was in contact with him. That was a different story with the guy, which scammed me.
About the scam... http://www.geekstoy.com/forum/showthread.php?4285-When-something-sounds-too-good
Well I was quite naive, but he played a "smart game" with me with live trading sessions over Facebook messengers and print screens of his profits. He just started again his scam:
https://twitter.com/traderferdi. This time under the nickname Ferdinand Delesse. Again the same way with a facebook page and fake profits: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ferdinand-Betfair-Delesse/847194832026769?fref=ts
I am with you, how in the hell you can enjoy stolen money. One day he will be punished for that. What comes around, goes around. Perhaps is not possible to catch him by authorities (in the internet you are anonymous and I have no clue about his true identity... beside police was not really helpful), but I am sure that his punishment will come one day in his life. I am not really religious, but I believe in justice.
As I have said many times, trading tennis in-play, whether your entry /exit points are after a point or a game or a set or mid-point, you are ALWAYS betting against others who are ahead of you. If you get matched, it's because it was a poor value price for you - or else it would have been taken already. It really seems delusional to think otherwise unless you consider yourself a better judge of value than the full-timers.

I have nothing more to say on The Sultan other than that if you have a few hours to spare, read through the blog from start to latest, and ask yourself if the tale makes sense. Frankly if you have that many hours to spare, you'd be better off reading this blog from start to finish, but I may be biased. Mark Iverson was for the most part a solid guy (although his Soccer In Play app was disappointing) and an excellent cricket trader. I worked with him on some NFL games a few seasons back, and he had a different approach to me, preferring his action gentle and early and then stepping back, whereas I preferred more foreplay with the action coming later with the bigger swings found later in games. He had some strange ideas about calendar months too, which

Martin's 'friend' Ferdi (Gustave Fernandez) does indeed seem to have started again on Twitter. I'm surprised the police were not more helpful. For 60 € or 600 € maybe they're not interested, but 60,000 € is a lot of money. I'd suggest looking for some Investigative Service Firms, and once you have a name and some proof, go to the Police. He's been around since at least 2009 I see, and they will be more interested if you have a name and if the attempted fraud is ongoing.

Karma may be a pleasing idea, but like god, it doesn't exist and thus needs a little help (although Claire Lavogez might be wondering about karma right now). I'd rather rely on myself and the law if I were down 60,000 € to a scam but if you gave over control of your account, unfortunately you may not have the law on your side.
Speaking of the law, and a few months ago I mentioned Billy Walters on this blog. What I didn't mention, but which is now common knowledge, is that his friend Phil Mickelson also likes a small flutter from time to time. Only $2.75 million though - I think he can afford it.

I'll be in Mrs Cassini's homeland for the 4th July weekend later this week, so while there will be no trading for a while, I will be hoping for an England v USA World Cup Final on Sunday. It's probably politically incorrect to mention that the semi-finals are a rematch of the Second World War with the USA playing Germany and England against Japan, so I won't mention it other than to say that the two Axis powers are both favoured to advance. The French did at least put up a little more of a fight this time around, as some of you older readers might "imaginot".

Even my old Dad stayed up for the England v Canada quarter-final (which was actually an exciting game, although I suspect he slept through most of it) and my old Mum was wondering "how they would get on against the men". I think I disappointed her somewhat (not for the first time) when I told her they were at about the level of 16 year old boys. "Oh - a bit like your sense of humour", she replied.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Wedges And Peanuts

I hadn't realised before Martin mentioned it in a comment on my last post that that Tennis Trading is the trader formerly known as Brulati

Here's what Martin had to say on yesterday's post:
Very nice comment, Cassini!

About scaling up, I am with you. I know that there is a limit, because of liquidity issues. If you can make 200 Euros a day, that would be enough ;-). With this amount you would be on the way to a full time trader. To be honest, I liked your last part of the post. A year ago (when I was blogging under the name Brulati) I had this target. Right now I feel a lot more comfortable to see it as a side income and a hobby. My income with a normal job is higher, risk free and you have paid holidays/weekends, pension funds and insurance. I am with you, if you have the possibility for a "real job" is better to go this way. Beside trading is quite a lonely occupation.
About Sultan... I don't know, what is the secret for his success. I don't think that he has a connection to court-siders. How you know, I was a student of his academy. The strategy guide is no rocket science, but is written quite well. Of course he doesn't sell his edge for 500 pounds. Like I mentioned in my blog, the strategy only makes 10% of the success. His document doesn't give you a real edge. In my opinion the only edge he has is his knowledge of tennis. After 3-4 years he knows the patterns of the players and markets. When I was at the academy, the teaching was quite bad. He always mentioned that I didn't pick value. Perhaps he was right, but is not enough to coach like this. It needs a lot of experience and tennis knowledge to pick the right matches and moments. You can discuss if is fair to sell an "almost useless product" for 500 pounds. In the end only practice brings success, but he always told this. So I really don't blame him.

That's why I mentioned that's like a game for me. When you play Tetris every day, you will become better and better. Sultan always told that he doesn't sell a holy grail or a golden lay machine. In summary I can say that hard work is the only real edge on the tennis ladders. Beside courtsiding of course...
Hard work is laudable, but as many an athlete / cyclist has discovered, (I was briefly a clean pro-cyclist myself) if others are doping, they have no chance, and it's the same with trading against court-siders. It reminds me of the famous scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark where the swordsman has all the skills, but loses out to the gun of Indiana Jones. However well you know the players, you are not going to win long-term if someone knows who wins the 'next' point. 

Less than three months ago, my blog had this to say, worth repeating since it echoes my thoughts from yesterday which is good because it shows consistency, but not so good as it suggests I'm running out of things to say:
The other day I mentioned longevity and blogging, and we have another casualty in Brulati (Bruce Lay Trading) who has decided to call it quits after 127 posts and an attempt at trading professionally. I've strongly advised in the past against anyone quitting a job to trade full-time, and Brulati's comments only reinforce that opinion:
I was lucky or let's better say hard working to get again a great job. For me it's clear that not even the best sportstrader can earn that much money in the long term. Beside I will have less stress, pension fund, more holidays and a social life. Now I know why Sultan was irritated when I told him that I quited a great job to be a sportstrader... Honestly it was one of the most stupid decisions I made. At least I could correct this mistake. The life as trader is everything, but not easy (99% are not successful!) and not well paid neither (when you consider the stress, the missed holidays and so on). The lesson I made was hard, but helpful.
Great news that Brulati has got back onto the career ladder. It's not something to be thrown away lightly, although I can understand why people would have been tempted in the pre-Premium Charge days.
The introduction of the PC has clearly made a difference, and I know from my own experience that the markets are a lot more efficient these days than they were ten years ago. Brulati also wrote:
In the end only platforms like Betfair or betting companies make profit. There is no added value in trading sports markets. If two people make a bet, one will win and the other one will lose.
Over long term both will lose, because Betfair (and the other companies) takes the margin. In the beginning "only" 6.5%, later when you are lucky and a bit successful more and more.
Perhaps there are small exceptions (for example Sultan?!) which can be successful for a short time period. Latest with a premium charge of 60% also these people have no realistic chance to make a decent income. I think this is the main reason why Sultan will quit...
The Sultan is not an exception, and is nowhere near the Premium Charge, but more importantly why is Martin / Brulati even getting involved in tennis betting again? In his final 2014 post on his old blog he writes:
Trading was not successful. Mistakes, impatience and bad money money management led to a five digit loss over the year.
Have those issues really been addressed? This five digit (a lot of many for many) trading loss was on the heels of this:
First of all I was scammed. I lost almost 60'000 Euros... It's still very difficult to understand how people (with a normal life) can do this. I learned that you can't trust (almost) nobody in sports trading. It's a lonely business, and everybody is looking for the own advantage.
Crikey; 60,000 € is quite a wedge and makes The Sultan's £500 look like peanuts. I don't know what other readers think, but my advice to Martin is to focus on the career and recognise that you don't have, nor ever will have, an edge betting on tennis.

Honestly, and I'm not sure how to put this nicely, I don't think Martin should be involved with betting at all. I wish him the best of course, but I fear the worst. To be scammed out of thousands, and Martin needs to accept some responsibility for that, is (literally) a crime and I hope the authorities were contacted.

I feel terrible if my Cassini Service fails to make a profit, and that's a season long effort that takes a lot of work and for most subscribers costs less than £100 a season (or less than 10p a selection). I know Graeme (The Football Analyst) feels the same way too (about his selections - not mine!) Losing seasons can and will always happen, (markets are harder to beat than ever these days), but fortunately most people understand this. Scamming is a deliberate action with the intent to defraud.

How someone can steal tens of thousands of Euros and sleep at night, I have no idea. Do we have any details about this scam? It might be nice to share some details so that others are saved from potentially suffering the same fate.

This IS a lonely business with a lot of negativity out there. If someone promises something that looks too good to be true, it is.

Finally, to address the doubts about the Sultan and court-siding:
One of them was an offer from a betting syndicate, which I actually agreed to. This took place back in October. I traded for this syndicate for one month. Four other traders took part in what was a trial period, which was due to last 3 months. Unfortunately, at least 2 of those traders blew their entire allocated bank (c£2000) and the other 2 reportedly made a loss. I was told I was the only one who made a decent profit. As it turned out, October was my 2nd highest ever monthly profit for tennis alone. So I was particularly disappointed to learn that the trial was to be ended 2 months early, a lack of funds for the operation being cited, no doubt due to the losses incurred by the other traders. I don't blame them to be honest!
Or from May 2013:
My trading hasn't kicked on the way I hoped that it would in the first quarter of 2013. It's partly down to what happened at the end of last season, with my involvement with the trading syndicate. It really turned my head and got me dreaming of new horizons and possibilities. Unfortunately, it also has affected my trading; my focus was knocked and frustration with my whole trading situation kicked in. This in turn, has meant that I have not wanted to blog much and even considered retiring.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Keeping Score, Scaling and Fairy Tales

Tennis Trading's very polite Martin had this to say about my previous post:

Thanks for your interest! Yes, the two pounds per day are not really a good salary. I have to say, that i trade in my spare time and you can't consider it work. For me is like a game of chess or poker, to compete with other guys and watch (over long term), which one is the "smartest". The result only includes the last three weeks, so it would be a bit better, but it doesn't make the cow fat :-)
Beside I am still at an early stage. I could scale the stakes without any problems by factor 10. Well, 20 pounds per day still would not be that great (50 would look better and with just taking 30 days and factor 10 we would be there). On the other hand, I made mistakes, which were costly. To improve, I need more experience and growing trust.
I don't know if a fairy tale like the one of Sultan is possible, but I hope so. He struggled over a year and suddenly it worked for him. I will continue the blog as long as it make sense. If I see that I am not born for trading, I will stop. If I am one day really good, it's not fun any more to speak about neither. Readers will not believe, ask for inside tips or are just jealous. In this stage of a blog, it doesn't make that much sense any more. You see, there are different reasons to stop blogging. At the moment it helps me to summarize my thoughts and days.
I wish you all the best.

I can totally identify with Martin's view of trading as more of a challenge than of 'making the cow fat". I wrote almost six and a half years ago (good heavens, where does the time go?) that:
I was thinking in the shower this morning, (yes, once a week, whether I need one or not), Betfair really is the ultimate video game. I've never been one for games, (friends at work spend hours playing Call of Duty - why? What's the point?), but in many ways the exchanges are one big online game. It's me versus an unknown opponent. My opinion versus yours, except in this game the points are real money.
To Martin's comment that he could scale without any problems, I would say that scalability is not that easy on Betfair. From £2 to £20 pounds probably not an issue in liquid sports, and possibly true of £20 to £200 also, but £200 to £2,000 and beyond, I don't think Martin will find it that easy.

A word on Martin's "On the other hand, I made mistakes, which were costly". For a start, not all mistakes are costly or even result in losses - some prove to be quite fortuitous. It's human nature when you have a win to put it down to your skill and talent, (or if you are American, to the one true god) but when it results in a loss, we say it was a mistake, (and if you are me, immediately look to put the blame on someone else).

Eliminating all mistakes, even if such a thing were possible, isn't the same as eliminating all losses and paradoxically many times, the correct decision results in a loss. You can't look back on the short-term and say with any accuracy what was a mistake, and what was the right call; it's only after a large sample size that you know if your decisions are 'correct' or not. If your balance has increased, you possibly have an edge.

As for the Sultan's story (rather aptly described by Martin in his comment as a 'Fairy Tale'), it's been well covered on this blog previously. A search for 'The Sultan' will lead to several posts about him, including this one from January or there is another one from Hejik from January 2014 which is possibly even better than mine. 

G commented:
Cassini- perhaps you could enlighten Martin to the real story behind the Sultan's fairytale and how things suddenly 'worked' for him....
The Sultan's Centre Court Trading blog is still out there, although not updated in close to four months. Anyone can read for themselves his fairy tale rise from being unemployed with his limited funds 'drying up' in February 2011 to being "comfortable for years to come - barring a disaster" in 2014. Barring a lottery win or a large inheritance, life doesn't usually work that way. The Sultan certainly had some big wins in that time, but as he himself revealed, things "suddenly worked" for him while he was working for a syndicate with access to court-sider data. With that kind of an edge, it's easier to win than lose. What was interesting was why The Sultan wasn't retained for long - we never heard the details about that.

From what I have heard about the Trading Academy, save your money and read "Trading In The Zone" by Mark Douglas. Typical comments on the Academy include:
I would like everyone to know that the price of the trading academy for one year is £500 which is very expensive for an ebook and a few emails a month. 
I hope that people don't commit the same error as I did and become a member because I regret wasting £500 which could have be used for other purposes.
Does it make sense for someone to sell their edge for £500 before they are 'comfortable' in life? Once an edge is shared, it is no longer an edge, or at least it's a much diluted one. £500 is a lot of money for many people and if the product doesn't live up to expectations, there should be some kind of a money back guarantee.

For me, it's a red flag when someone who hasn't achieved any success themselves offers to sell you something. The obvious question to ask is why is the seller not using his own advice to achieve success? The claim to be "comfortable for many years to come" is clearly untrue, but the Sultan knows that sales are not going to be helped if the truth about his situation is known. "I have no money to speak of, live in a flat, am unemployed and really need your £500" is probably not a recommended sales strategy. Most people are smart enough to recognise that more successful people (e.g. Ian Erskine) are the ones with knowledge worth paying for. It's also no coincidence that the likes of Ian tend to be the more positive of people.

I see Big Pairs has written his latest blog post, and starts by mentioning time as I did yesterday:
Time, or rather lack of time, is rapidly becoming the biggest barrier to progress in my quest to become a full time sports and forex trader. Last week was busy, so busy that I didn't trade at all on three days. Next week I will only be able to look at the markets on Wednesday evening, Friday and Saturday. The week after that I will be in the US with work and will only manage to trade on the Saturday, if family duty permits. The good news is that I'm nicely ahead of my plan and therefore a couple of slow weeks isn't really a problem. Considering the lack of time last week wasn't too bad, with an overall profit of just over £300 to show for my efforts. However, as you'll see from the chart progress has slowed up significantly of late and that's going to be a challenge at some point. I could spend a few more minutes moaning about the unfulfilling job thieving my time and all that, but you've heard it before so I will move straight onto the results.
I really would encourage Big Pairs to stick with the day job and trade part-time. As other full-time sports traders have found to their cost, the rules of the game can change overnight. That £250,000 lifetime finishing line could easily become £50,000. Premium Charge is a killer. In-play trading will be reviewed again at some point, and could be banned. A full-time job may seem unfulfilling now but careers progress. Look at the hidden benefits (paid holiday, National Insurance contributions, pension contributions) and see the big picture. There are plenty of "full-time traders" who are actually unemployable and don't have a choice. If you do have a choice, make the right one! Even if you have an edge for now, it is extremely unlikely to last for long.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Kershaw And In-Play Opportunity Cost

For those on C-LAY-Ton Kershaw watch - he's starting again this evening, with the Dodgers losing the last two of his starts, and coming from behind in the start prior to those.

The Dodgers were ~1.37 v Texas Rangers on 17th June and lost 3:5, and last time Kershaw started, they were ~1.58 @ Chicago Cubs and lost 2:4. Not that the score matters - in US Sports, it is all about Ws and Ls, as they have a rather odd aversion to Draws or Ties.

The opposing pitcher Tom Koehler is having a decent season with a career best ERA of 3.76 (compare Kershaw's 3.33) and has a 6-4 record (Kershaw 5-5) this season. Kershaw, or more importantly, the Los Angeles Dodgers may well win, but 1.37 / 1.38 is a value Lay for me. One slight concern is that Koehler missed his last start with back spasms, but he's playing, so I'll assume he is ready to go.

Robbo the trader commented on my last post on Betfair's implicit approval of court-siding with:
The problem for Betfair is that every increase in the delay puts off the average punter who believe they're not at any real disadvantage. For Betfair to survive it's all about keeping the mug money on board not trying to level the playing field, so I doubt we'll have any extensions to the bet delays if Betfair can help it.
The simple fact is if the markets were managed correctly with people at source they'd be no need for long delays as markets would be suspended when goals etc. occurred. Other options could simply be remove all delays and roll back markets to the local time-stamp minus say 5 seconds, then cancel bets after that time when a material event occurs, that would also put paid to the random suspends that continually occur just because the suspend operator has woken up. But given the costs and Betfair's aversion to maintaining the exchange that won't happen. For now Betfair's contribution to fairness is the fact they take 40-60% off the 'advantaged' players.
The steady flow of mug money in the popular sports of horse-racing, football and tennis does surprise me, but also says a lot about the unrealistic optimism of human nature. New in-trading focused blogs spring up, but not many last the distance. I'm actually not aware of any long-running legitimate in-play blogs now that Mark Iverson has departed the scene. The latest that have come to my attention are Tennis Trading and Big Pairs, and how long they last will be interesting to see. The big downside to in-play trading is the amount of time it takes.

Not to pick on Tennis Trading, but the blog started on 29th April, and a net profit of 152.76 € works out to about 2.54 € (£1.80) a day - and trading tennis matches takes a lot of time. The graphic on the left should include the number of hours invested (for most of us, our time is worth something - opportunity cost), and the average per hour included. For some, trading is a hobby and more about entertainment than the money, and that's fine, but unless you are unemployable, there are probably more lucrative ways to invest your time. While finding pre-game edges is also time consuming, you can choose when to do it and you're not tied to watching a game at a fixed time waiting for a value opportunity that most likely isn't actually value at all - which is why the 'insiders' have left it for you.  
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Kershaw Update: The Dodgers lost 2:3. Happy days and hope a few of you were on too. 

By The Balls

While it has long been known that despite having inside information on winning techniques and reducing charges, former senior Betfair employees have been allowed to operate heavy hitting accounts after leaving the company, I hadn't previously seen this from the pie and bovril forum:

I was also told that "90% of the people who are affected by the new charge are in-running horse racing people", which basically means those using raw SIS feeds so that they are about five seconds ahead of your average punter trying to bet in-running via TV. He also mentioned:
  • courtsiders at tennis, which are basically people in the press box with a fast internet connection able to beat the five second time delay on Betfair when betting in running
  • a guy who had been travelling from match to match in Spain, and winning "millions of Euros" by beating the time delay on Betfair. The delay is now eight seconds, but it used to be five. Sky Sports' TV pictures on Spanish football are typically 12-15 seconds behind live. It doesn't take a genius to work out what is possible if you're actually in the ground, on the phone to someone who is sitting by a computer logged into Betfair.
Apparently only a handful of people who don't use one of the above methods to basically beat the time delay to gain an unfair advantage are affected. I never do this and it's still affected me, and I have my fair share of very large losses, so I find it hard to believe that only a handful are affected. Having spoken to my account manager again tonight, he told me that Betfair's business hasn't suffered at all since these charges were introduced this week. They would've expected the liquidity to suffer on in-running horse racing in particular but he said it was exactly the same. The phrase he used was "we've got them by the balls as they know they can't go anywhere else to do what they do so they've decided to stay and pay the charge".
I think we know a lot more about how court-siding works now than we did then (2011) but 'a (one) guy' in Spain? One wonders why a publicly traded company would allow one account to essentially steal "millions of Euros" from other members of the exchange before increasing the delay.

As James Bond or Ian Fleming said, "Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, thrice is enemy action".

Actually, I'm not sure he used the word thrice, but it's a good word, so I'll use it.

More seriously, shouldn't Betfair have acted sooner to prevent this? Corporate decision making can be slow, but clearly the market suspension mechanism to protect customers wasn't working, and the fix appears to have taken far too long time to implement. This account would have been red-flagged early on as a clock-beater, so why the practice was allowed to continue is concerning.

I mentioned in this post from 18 months ago that the Gambling Commission were less than wholly enthusiastic in endorsing in-play betting, and one can see why. If the above "by the balls" quote is accurate, then Betfair are admitting that they would rather see a few big winners, (many former employees), and take 40% to 60% off them, than address the issue in other ways. Why not simply increase the delay to at least reduce the advantage, or while not banning winners may sound great, I'm not sure too many Betfair members would complain at an exception being made on accounts that are consistently winning (at the expense of at least some of them) by beating an inadequate delay, about which Betfair themselves say:
The purpose of a bet delay is to allow a level of protection for customers when betting In-Play from a variety of data and TV feeds. Firstly, it gives customer’s time to cancel their bets In-Play as events unfold should they wish to, rather than the bet being taken immediately. Secondly, (more importantly for Football) it allows our Market Operations team to suspend markets when goals, red cards, and penalties are awarded to protect customers from having their bets taken by customers with quicker feeds prior to a market suspension. We do issue a warning regarding TV delays in our market rules so customers are aware that the TV feed they are viewing could be delayed and in many cases are by 5-10 seconds.
It used to be that in-play betting offered an edge to the sharper-minded but, in most markets at least, those days are gone. The markets have evolved, while the market operators have not.

Interestingly I noticed that the delay on bet placement for the Women's World Cup is (I think) as high as 12 seconds - not sure if that is on all games or just some, but tweaking the delay on other markets shouldn't be too difficult. The next look by the Gambling Commission at in-play betting will be interesting. There's a lot of evidence that at best, Betfair are turning a blind eye to some dubious practices.

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