Friday, 25 July 2014

Fixtures, Schedules and Erskine Delivers

I’m putting together my spreadsheet with all the fixtures from the top leagues for 2014-15, and although the draw for the Serie A schedule isn’t until Monday, the differences between the leagues are always interesting to see.

The French are the first to start their season, kicking things off on Friday 8th August. Two midweek rounds are on the schedule, with a three week break at the half-way point over Xmas and the New Year sees the season finish on the weekend of May 23rd 2015.

The English Premier League starts a week later on the weekend of August 16th, and has three rounds of (non-holiday) midweek matches scheduled. No winter break for the EPL of course, in fact quite the contrary with two matches in three days over Boxing Day and the adjoining weekend. New Year’s Day (a Thursday) marks the start of the second half of the season, and there are a couple of blank league weekends for the FA Cup. Unlike other leagues, the history behind our primary cup competition means it still has a prominent place in the calendar.

The Germans have fewer matches to schedule, so they return to action full of World Cup pride a week later, on Friday August 22nd, take a six week long winter / half-term break, yet still conclude their activity on the weekend of May 23rd 2015. How very organized.

La Liga starts the same weekend as Germany, but they are happy with scheduling just 16 matches by the end of the year, and fitting 22 in after the New Year. The BBC site from where I pulled the fixtures may not be completely accurate on these games – they have Almeria ending the season with four consecutive home games which seemed a bit odd, and it looks like they have the matches versus Sevilla reversed.

Finally, Italy’s Serie A gets underway on August 31st, "a later start then usual because of the World Cup". It was a decision made last December, presumably by an optimist at the Legacalcio - or do a lot of Germans play in Serie A? The league will consequently wrap up a week after the other top leagues on May 31st 2015.

Once the Serie A fixtures are scheduled and incorporated into my spreadsheet, if any Cassini Service subscribers or FTL entrants would like a free copy, drop me a line. It took quite a bit of time, and will need to be updated as matches are rescheduled for various reasons, but the baseline rounds will all be there and it might save some of you several hours of work.

Finally, as mentioned earlier this week, I'll finalise the rules, terms, conditions etc. for the 2014-15 FTL, but I did hear from Ian Erskine (of FTS Income fame and fortune) and have some great news regarding his offer to sponsor this season's competition. Let's just say Ian's fortune is slightly less than it was!
Incidentally Ian, I did reply to you, but received an Undelivered Mail Returned To Sender message back.
<>: host[] said: 554 5.7.1 Service unavailable; Client host [] blocked using; Currently Sending Spam See:
If anyone else would like to sponsor the competition, please let me know. We also still have several places available at a cost of just £52.50 and after the news of Ian's donation, there might be a small stampede.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Ratings For Anoraks

I received a couple of comments on my recent post which compared my ratings with Statto's ratings. As I mentioned, I used Stattos' ratings as the starting point for my rather ambitious plan to track the lower English leagues down to the Conference in addition to the top five European leagues.

Fairfranco asked:
Out of interest do you know if Statto's ratings have been of any use over time?
Would be good to see historical results with ratings at the time alongside them to get a grasp on some accuracy.
Matthew T added:
I would also be interested Padrino if you had any experience regarding the validity of the Statto ratings. Once upon a time I used to paper trade a range of ratings system while betting my own but it became too time consuming. If I remember correctly I found the Statto ratings were very weighted to long term quality over short term form and I never could devise a method for incorporating their trend rating in to a betting system. They seem very similar in style to the Racing Football Outlook newspaper football ratings and both seem to have their origin in Elo. They seemed lackluster in the divisions where more complex models were rife e.g. EPL and better in the lower class European leagues. For top leagues a good free option remains Dectech for Poisson style goals for and against ratings.
The short answer is that I do not know if Statto's ratings have been of any use over time. They claim a pretty good record for them, writing:
The Science Behind Statto Index 
The Index has been developed and tested over many years, starting in the 1980s before the World Wide Web era. Our testing uses around 25 years worth of results and approximately 10 years of bookmakers odds to test the accuracy and profitability of the system. Naturally, no system is perfect and we continuously monitor its performance. For the mathematically minded, the correlation between our forecasts and actual results is just over 0.9, which means that approximately 90% of the final outcomes are explained by the prior forecasts.

Naturally, no system is perfect, but 90% isn't too shabby, although I think we need a more detailed explanation of what exactly "final outcomes explained by the prior forecasts means"!  
The forecast odds on this site are produced by our Forecasting Engine using our unique Statto Index ratings. The Index currently covers 29 leagues together with all International teams - a total of over 750 teams. Our forecasted odds are based on a true 100% book and therefore do not take account of any commission or projected profit margin - this is left to you based on personal preference. Odds are forecasted for both match and outright markets. I agree with Matthew that their ratings do appear to move rather slowly, and their focus appears to be more targeted at the anorak / weatherman types rather than someone looking to make money from them.
Having said that, I have to admit that I have a little 'anorak' in me myself. (A recent DNA analysis threw up some surprises in my ancestry - along with the alarmingly high Neanderthal percentage shown above, and the less surprising majority British and Irish percentage shown below, there was a small percentage of 'train-spotter' DNA detected. Where that came from is something of a mystery, although a great-great-grandad - in other words a "really fantastic" grandad - did work with the trains on Ryde Pier, Isle of Wight circa 1850).

Anyway, it's my excuse for finding the Historical Ratings from 1888 quite interesting.

The best (highest rated) English team of all-time is Chelsea (2006) who reached 995 points, just 35 points ahead of Aston Villa's historic best, which unfortunately for them was not last season, but came in 1897. Just two League clubs reached a new high in 2014 - Manchester City (960) and Burton Albion (706). At 958, City are in with a good chance of setting a new high this season - they don't face Crystal Palace until December - but whether it is possible to make money from such ratings seems unlikely.

Matthew mentioned Dectech as a good free option, but I remember questioning their sanity when I saw they had Norwich City predicted to finish fifth in the EPL last season with 68 points. They got 33, and were relegated of course.
Admittedly I had Norwich City avoiding relegation at the start of last season too, but didn't go so far as a top half finish, never mind chasing a Champions League spot. Perhaps Dectech reacted too much to Norwich's meaningless last day 3-2 win at Manchester City the previous season?

I mentioned earlier that I agreed with Matthew's observation that Statto's ratings move too slowly, at least from a betting perspective, but the other side of the coin is to be careful not to overreact to a result such as the one just mentioned. Norwich were never contenders for a European spot of any type based on league performance.

Thanks to all of you who have renewed or subscribed for the first time to the Cassini Service. The early-bird special offer of £129 (or £99 for renewals) is good through the end of this month. PayPal to calciocassini @

I'll re-focus on the Friendly Tipster League this weekend, and see if we get get some prizes / bonuses from the likes of Ian Erskine. Watch this space.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Emotional Discipline

Thanks to those of you who offered suggestions and ideas on obtaining closing prices on football matches, specifically Jamie A, Sheva Wigwam (quite possibly not his real name) and Marco Mattes. 

Steve, of Daily25 fame and fortune, wrote in a comment on following certain tipsters, specifically when to drop them:
But also it is a psychological issue too, once we decide to invest real money (and in my case, big money), into something, our brains then tell us that we must have made the right decision. To then go back on this and admit you were wrong and therefore stupid is a hard thing to do. There is a saying in the start-up world which goes "Hire slowly, fire quickly". It may be a mantra I need to follow in regards to tipsters too.
This is very similar to the error that many traders make, of emotionally attaching themselves to a selection, and being unwilling to admit that they were wrong and cut their losses quickly enough. As I have written before, cutting winners short and letting losers run too long, is probably the biggest trading mistake. 
The reason a trade is entered, or a tipster service is subscribed to, is because you are looking to make a profit, so it is human nature that this is the part you are most focused on. However, neither trading nor following tipsters is ever going to be all smooth sailing, and you need to have a plan in place in the not unlikely event that things don't go perfectly. 
Most traders don’t want to acknowledge that a trade could turn against them. They enter the market assuming they’ll be successful, refusing to look in the rearview mirror. It’s also common for emerging traders to use a calculator to predict how much they’ll make and how they’ll spend the unrealized profits!
Losses are part of the game but especially beginners have difficulties in accepting this. A loss creates frustration and you become “upset” on the market. You have the feeling that “the market” took something which you feel belongs to you: your money. You are determined to get your money back and you put on a position three times your normal position size in order to make the loss back. You do not stick to your trading plan, you are upset and want to take revenge for the previous loss. These kinds of trades are called “revenge trades” and can lead to huge draw-down’s as you can easily imagine.
Another mention for the fact that finding value doesn't mean that all decisions are profitable. Trading is about making money overall, not every time, and the lesson that profitable betting is about finding value, not winners, continues to elude some people.

Betfair Forum member Zazu who, after three years should have learned, responded recently to the wisdom that "When betting you try to find value, not pick winners" with:
Losing bets don't pay any bills
Needing to win bets to pay bills, or staking too high, leads to emotionally driven, less than optimal decisions. Bet (staking 'sensibly'), with money you don't need, and your trading / betting will be all the better for the removal of the emotional element. 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Books And Ratings Compared EPL 2014-15

I have spent most of this weekend building a new spreadsheet (although model sounds better) for the lower leagues in England. It may well prove to be too much work to maintain this, but others have success in the lower leagues, and I thought I would give it a try. The initial ratings are based on those on the website, but mine will soon diverge and take their own shape as the results start coming in.

The close season is always disruptive to ratings but after a handful of games they correct themselves. Unless your club rating is based on individual player ratings, there is no objective way of incorporating dramatic changes at clubs. In the EPL, the activity at some of the top clubs this summer has impacted last season's closing ratings.

Liverpool finished 2013-14 in second place, not only in the EPL, but also in the Cassini Ratings, and were joint second in Statto's ratings too. Currently, based on Pinnacle Sports and Betfair's prices, they are rated fifth, behind favourites Chelsea and followed by Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal, and my current rating of second is likely to soon be adjusted down.

Southampton are another club where significant changes have taken place. Currently rated 7th by Cassin and 8th by Statto, they are ranked 11th on Betfair.

Assessing new (promoted) teams is also problematic. For their initial Cassini ratings, I use the performance of promoted teams over the last ten seasons as a guide. The last 30 teams promoted to the EPL have averaged a finishing place the following season of 15.2, and in 9 of the last 10 seasons, at least one promoted side has been relegated.

One odd fact is that the promoted Champions actually fare worse on average than the runners-up and play-off winners. Five Champions have been immediately relegated, including the last two of Reading and Cardiff City, while only two runners-up have suffered the same fate, and none since 2007. Five play-off winners have also dropped immediately, but the last three all finished highest of the promoted teams in the following season.

So it's a little surprising that the sportsbooks have the three promoted teams to fill all three relegation places. Here are the predicted finishing positions based on the bookies, along with the Statto and Cassini ratings.

Statto's rating of Leicester City in 10th place seems a little high to me, and both our ratings for Newcastle United are probably a little low. They certainly ended the season in poor form, but then they had nothing to realistically play for over the last few games. I seem to be a little high on West Bromwich Albion where the expectation seems to be of just about avoiding relegation.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Sharp Move

For a bookmaker, Pinnacle Sports publish some pretty darn good betting articles, and if you have a spare week or two, and have already read everything in this blog, you could do worse with your time than take a look at some of them.

One article from November 2012 titled Why Odds Movement is Vital contained a couple of statements that are somewhat related to yesterday's post:

The most accurate way to distinguish winning and losing players is to look at the odds a player received when they made their bet, and compare it with the Pinnacle Sports closing line on the game. If a player consistently beats the closing odds at Pinnacle Sports, they are likely to be a long-term winner.
Interestingly, Pinnacle Sports have found that this test is more reflective of a player’s future winning potential than their historical win/loss record with the company.
For example, if Pinnacle Sports’ closing odds on the Steelers was 1.960, and a customer played 2.050 earlier in the week – that was a sharp bet. When a player can anticipate the line movement, and does this consistently over a series of 100 bets or more, that player is conclusively sharp, and will be up over time.
This is another area where I need to focus some attention this season, but if anyone knows where I can find closing lines on last season's football, I'd be interested. As I have mentioned before, the odds published by the Football Data web site are not closing lines, but prices collected on Friday afternoons for weekend games, and on Tuesday afternoons for midweek games.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Kelly In Action

Prompted by a Cassini subscriber who wants to look at the 2013-14 Cassini Value Selections in more detail, I went through all my old emails and recorded the edges in a spreadsheet which is something I should have done all along. I expunged four matches from the records (three winners and one loser) because they were from the early days and were lays or draw no bet selections which left me with 117 pure selections and profit of 23.69 points. A small sample, but it was interesting that when sorted by edge percentage, the top five, and six of the top seven, were losers. There seems to be some truth in the saying that if something appears too good to be true, then it probably is. Selections with a supposed edge in excess of 30% all lost:

My calculated price is in column E with Pinnacle's official price in F and the edge in G.

At the other end of the range, there were 19 selections which, at the time the email was sent, had an edge of over 10%, but were less than that in the recorded Pinnacle prices. Those 19 selections were still profitable, generating 5.05 points.
One embarrassing and, in hindsight, avoidable loss was the selection of Bayern Munich to win at Augsburg in April. A price of 1.4 at the time the list was compiled looked good enough, with a 20.4% edge, to justify inclusion, although I did caution in my email that:

One comment is that Bayern Munich have clinched the league and their motivation may not be what it was.

In the event, Bayern fielded "an experimental side" and models don't work too well with "experimental sides". The motivation factor also cost me a few points at the end of last season. Once April was over, the results were poor:
One of the benefits of having a precise number for your edge is that if you are confident in that number, you can maximise your returns by using the mathematically proven and optical  Kelly Criterion.

I think the subscriber who prompted this review may be thinking in terms of this, and using a £1,000 bank, full Kelly would have ended the season with the bank at £2,837.58 (using the prices at email time) or £2,782.37 using the recorded Pinnacle prices.

The more conservative half-Kelly results would have been £2,524.34 and £2,490.85 respectively, and the quarter-Kelly  numbers are £1,750.52 and £1,736.14. Interestingly the maximum bet here would have been around £248 on the aforementioned Bayern Munich loss.

One other statistic I looked at was the price at email time versus the Pinnacle recorded price. (Worth mentioning that the Pinnacle recorded price is not necessarily the closing (kick-off) price but is the price recorded by Football Data on a Friday afternoon).

Anyway, of the small sample of 117 matches, 60 shortened in price, 20 remained unchanged, and 37 drifted.

The 60 that shortened by a total of 2.27 points made an official profit of 13.13 points. The unchanged made a 2.85 points profit, while the drifters added 7.71 points despite drifting by a total of 1.07 points. What was interesting was that the bigger drifters (those of 0.03 points or more) were net losers, while those selections shortening by 0.03 points or more were net winners. Follow the market.

Some lessons to be learned as the new season fast approaches - less than a month away in fact.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Cassini Selections 2014-15

Cassini is back after spending the last few weeks in the hot California and Nevadan sunshine watching World Cup matches with his wife, daughter and daughter's beau, and losing money on the Craps tables of Las Vegas. Fun bets only though, so it was all good, but back to normal now and with the EPL fixtures out for next season, it's time to look forward to 2014-15, with the small matter of wrapping up the World Cup this weekend.

Despite a disappointing 2013-14 season for the Draws, several of you have asked for my plans for them and the Cassini Value Selections next season. I'm assuming that this interest isn't merely curiosity, but reflects an understanding that although the draws were in the red for the first time, there was an underlying reason, and other redeeming factors were:

  • that the draws backed  unders were (very slightly) in the green
  • the Bundeslayga selections were profitable
  • and last but not least, the FTL champion Cassini Value Selections were very profitable
All this means that after much pondering, deliberation, cogitation, mulling, rumination, thought, consideration and prodding, I have decided that I will continue the service next season.

While the Draws part of the service was obviously disappointing, the reason is clear, and I have no reason to suppose that the decline in draws is part of a long-term trend, although the World Cup group stage results didn't do draw backers any favours. At least they returned in the knock-out phase with a vengeance with 50% of matches ending as draws. Now a season like that in Europe would be very nice.

I have updated the Prospectus for next season, as some of you have already noticed and acted upon, but the highlights are that for new subscribers, the cost will be the same as last year, a very reasonable £149 considering the total selections will likely be around 700.

For former subscribers, the cost will be £99, and for anyone who is an entrant in the 2014-15 Friendly Tipster League, the price will be reduced to £124.

For anyone signing up before the World Cup Final, there will be an early-bird special price of just £129. As I picked July 13th as the deadline a while back, and then never posted it, I'll actually switch the digits around and extend the early-bird price through the end of July.

Back to the World Cup and it's been 36 years since a UEFA member failed to finish third, with only one CONMEBOL country even featuring in the last 8 matches (Uruguay in 2010). There have been 17 third place matches, with just one needing extra-time. As has been commented on all over the place, Overs are traditional with just three finishing Under 2.5, and none since 1974. A care-free approach makes this a tricky game to predict. Host nations have featured in four matches, winning three, and Brazil have won two of their three appearances, while the Netherlands lost their one appearance in 1998 - to Croatia. On form, Brazil look rather short at their current 2.14 but the team line-ups may well be changed significantly from those seen in the meaningful games preceding this one. 

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