Monday, 27 July 2015

Old Guard

One big change during my time away, other than confirmation of the Ladbrokes takeover of Coral first made public in June, was that the option to revert to the old Betfair Exchange site appears to have been removed. 

Fortunately the old site is still available if you know where to look, but the new one is, from my perspective at least, a mess. There are many negative comments on the Forum, with one interesting observation being that the new site is targeted at younger customers - EastLower Gooner wrote:
It's geared to the younger folk, the newbies and the clueless...hence the reason they're opening up new markets like E Sports and League of Legends.

Ultimately you want people walking in, seeing your product and spending loads of money because they've been seduced by stuff like the Cash Out facility...the old guard who know how to look after their funds are not wanted.
Coachbuster, a poster who usually has something interesting to say, noted:
I will add (and not to rub the salt in ) but the protests are on the Horsey forum where the average punter is like around 75.

On the football forum some 2 generations down ,there isn't a single thread of protest - that should tell you all something
Onlooker added that:
Betfair should be aware of the old sayings ...
'Look after what you already have'
'Don't bite the hand that feeds you'
In the latter case - Your 'bright young things', "Under 30s," will be mostly Backers -
The experienced OLDER Betfairians are the Major LAYERS on here - and thus SEED the Markets.
NO LAYERS > NO Liquidity > NO Market = NO BETFAIR.
Some sweeping generalisations above, but I suspect there's more than a grain of truth in the general thrust of the comments. 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Blue Jays In Poor Shape After Getting The Runs

With little interest in tennis and cricket, July works well for me as a betting holiday month. In odd numbered years, there is no football of interest and only baseball challenges the mind . As you may have noticed, the blog has been idle while I have been travelling around enjoying some time off from my real work, and as a result, not even baseball has been followed too closely. Reader and baseball expert fizzer555 stopped by while I was away to comment:

Hi Cassini,
Joe Peta has done another of his always excellent write-ups of all the MLB teams and their performance YTD and his expectations for the rest of the season. The write-ups are in the pay for section of ESPN Insider so we can't repeat them here but, fortunately, he has used his LA Dodgers review on his Twitter feed as an example of the article and I thought, given your C_LAY-ton articles, useful to summarise it here.
The Dodgers were the best team in baseball over the first 81 games by a healthy margin even if 4 teams have a better W-L record as their results haven't fully reflected their underlying ability.
They have similar offensive stats (OBP, SLG, ISO) to Tornto for example but actually scored 100 runs less. They have the 4th best ERA and their bullpen has the strikeout potential to be the best in the league, particularly with Grandal now in as catcher.
There is no value in backing the Dodgers on a day to day basis. The betting lines on their individual games up to the All Star break have them rated as a 98 win team. Their stats say they are up to doing that although their actual win rate is on pace for 92 wins. Difficult to see any upside value then for individual games.
Their World Series price, however, is about 7.5 and not even favourite. "For now, there's clearly not much value betting them on a daily basis, but the play-offs may be a different story."
It's hard to argue a strategy of laying Kershaw when the Dodgers get priced up at such short prices when he starts, but the Dodgers look value for the NL championship and the World Series at the moment.
Compare any team's run total this year with the Toronto Blue Jays, and they will look poor. Toronto leads the league by a mile with 523 runs so far (by way of comparison, the next highest are 80 runs behind). Fizzer mentions their OBP and SLG, and the Blue Jays lead the league in the combined (OPS) category. (OBP is On Base Percentage, SLG is Slugging Percentage, and OPS is OBP + SLG).

For all the runs they have scored, the Blue Jays chances of making the post-season remain poor. With a Win-Loss record of 50:49, they are second behind the New York Yankees in their division, they are also three games back in the Wild Card race.

As for the strategy of laying Kershaw, as I mentioned before "I think I got a bit lucky with the timing of noticing Kershaw heading into a mini-slump". Kershaw has won his last three starts, and had one continued with the C-LAY-ton system, we would now 'only' be up be ~5.39 points.  
One other observation is that the Unders have come in on each of the last six Kershaw starts.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

What A Load Of Craps

I am left with a few thoughts after reading the Martingale posts on the winnerswinonsports blog, the primary one being that it is hard to believe that anyone, never mind anyone in a well paying job, could be so stupid.

Having come up with a similar idea myself at the age of 10, as written in the "About Me" section of this blog, at least I had the excuse of inexperience:
The first system I came up with was a simple one - back the favourite and double up after a loss until a winner. Simple enough in theory, and I told my Dad about it. Not being a betting man himself, he ran it by some of his colleagues, and came home to tell me that it wouldn’t work because a long losing run would mean that the bank would be empty.
I may have mentioned this story before, but some years ago a friend told me that he was going to Las Vegas and had a guaranteed winning system. It was the 'double up after a loss on any of the even money shots' on Roulette. When I pointed out the flaw in his cunning plan, he said to me - "Ah! But here's the clever part. I wait until something has lost three times in a row before starting to bet on it". So after three consecutive reds for example, he bets on black. Not for the first time in my life, someone failed to be convinced by my logic, but he is still working (and betting) so it appears his fortune is yet to be made.

Why anyone would try this progressive system by betting on Draws or the numbers 1 to 12 on a Roulette wheel is even more puzzling. Fewer than one draw in three (unless you are following the XX Draw selections perhaps) ends up as a winning bet, so you are soon going to hit a long enough losing run to scupper the whole idea, either by hitting the house limit in the casino, or the limit in your bank account.

At odds of 2-1 or greater, there is no 'need' to double up. You only 'need' to double up after a loss if you are betting at evens - 'need' here meaning to recover previous losses, but I would question why you 'need' to recover the loss in one bet anyway. When you have a negative expectancy on each individual bet, you are doomed long-term anyway - but even if you do have an edge in say sports betting, the size of your stake should be determined by the size of your edge on that specific bet, not on the size of previous losses.  

Flash concludes the post saying that:
I remember him saying that with roulette you had the best odds of all the games in the casino, ie the odds were the closest to the true odds of all their games. The way you should look at it is that the casino always has the edge, so don’t even bother especially with a system like this.
This is not true however. The house edge on a single zero Roulette wheel is 2.7% (on the American double zero it is 5.26%) .

My own favourite casino game is Craps, and here the house edge on the Don't Pass / Don't Come bet is 1.36%, although I prefer to play the more usual Pass / Come bets at a 1.41% edge to the casino.

The numbers vary for Blackjack as casinos have different rules, but in Las Vegas, in a casino offering 'liberal' rules - i.e. a Dealer stands on soft 17, player may double on any two cards, player may double after splitting, resplit aces, late surrender - the edge is just 0.28%.

Baccarat also offers relatively good value, the edge being as low as 1.24% (as a player) or 1.06% (as a banker).

The way you should look at casino games is this - they are entertainment. Expect to lose, but an occasional visit is a lot of fun, and can be profitable. The likelihood of winning in the short-term is increased by playing the low house edge games.

For me Craps is perfect - a low house edge and great entertainment for a few hours. A couple of hundred dollars usually last a few hours in Las Vegas if you find a low minimum bet table (on the Strip, table minimums are generally higher, especially at weekends), and the drinks are all free. Watch the time though - in my younger years (a ridiculous expression, since I have never been as old as I am now), I once stood at a table for over eight hours before they closed it down at 5am. It was a good job they did - I almost missed my flight home. With no windows, plenty of free oxygen, and a constant stream of gamblers coming to the table, it's easy to lose track.

Bet for long enough, and casinos will often comp you a meal or even a room for the night. It doesn't matter if you are winning or losing - you earn credits by putting in the time. It's almost guaranteed that you will meet some interesting people while you are playing, from drunk girls who can't keep the dice on the table, to serious looking gamblers who carefully select their dice and align them in a special way, which strangely seems to result in the exact same outcomes as when you cast them without care.

And you might even walk away with some winnings. The best night of craps for me was walking away from the table with around $4,000 after starting with $200. The last three visits have all been losers though - so I am due a win!

Friday, 10 July 2015

Studies Have Shown

Well Clayton Kershaw managed to get back to winning ways the other night as the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Philadelphia Phillies 5-0 at the shortest starting price (-380 / 1.26) in MLB in almost 7 years (24.Aug.2008 Cubs v Nationals -400 / 1.25).

Only eight teams have started at a shorter price this century - and two of those lost, including the shortest of -360 / 1.22. Not many of us have the patience to wait 7 years though, and I think I got a bit lucky with the timing of noticing Kershaw heading into a mini-slump. 

Had I run the numbers for Kershaw starting at up to and including 1.50 for 2014, I would have seen that the Dodgers won 13 of those 14 games, the only loss being the final game. 

There's nothing magical about 1.5 of course, other than at this price or shorter, the team is reckoned to have at least twice the probability of winning than the underdog. 

In the nine games meeting this criteria in 2015, the Dodgers won the first five, before losing the next three. 

In 2013, he had six wins from eleven games and in 2012, five wins from eight.

Only ten teams (from 42 bets) have lost at  under 1.51 and Kershaw was the starting pitcher in three of those!

"Studies have shown" baseball to have reverse favourite-longshot bias has been written about here before, but backing at these prices since 2012 reveals this:
The 'studies' may be out of date. In the five years from 2007 to 2011, backing the favourite would have cost you 100.55 points (1267, 847, 420, 66.9%) and 48.15 points would have been lost from 2000 to 2006.

Something to keep an eye on as the 2015 season hits the half-way point and the all-star break. 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Streaking

The price with US books on Clayton Kershaw tonight is -375 (~1.27), an incredibly short price for a pitcher who is at best, a little off-form.

It's the shortest I have seen the Dodgers (or anyone else for that matter) and the previous shortest line I can find was when the Dodgers played the San Diego Padres on September 8th last season (and won 9-4) with Kershaw starting and the line was -350 (1.29). 

I'll do some more research when time permits, but while Kershaw has to start winning at some point, I'm not seeing any value at ~1.27 pre game.  

After five wining tips in a row, including the US Women to win the World Cup tipped last week (an easier win than even I thought it would be), I'm on a hot streak. Be warned.

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.

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