Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Offiial Tennis Fixes

Still betting on obscure tennis matches? From Sean Ingle of the Guardian comes this well written article explaining some of the court-siding and fixing problems in tennis in lay terms:


Two international tennis umpires have been secretly banned, while four others face being thrown out of the sport for life on charges of serious corruption, the Guardian can reveal.

Umpires from Kazakhstan, Turkey and Ukraine are among those alleged to have taken bribes from betting syndicates in exchange for manipulating live scores on the International Tennis Federation’s Futures Tour – which allowed crooked gamblers to place bets already knowing the outcome of the next point.

The Guardian has also learned that Kirill Parfenov, an umpire from Kazakhstan, was decertified for life in February 2015 for contacting another official on Facebook in an attempt to manipulate the scoring of matches. Yet the tennis authorities never publicly released details, alerting only a small number of tournament directors and national tennis federations.

The International Tennis Federation also kept quiet over the case of another umpire, Denis Pitner of Croatia, who was suspended for 12 months at the start of August 2015 for regularly logging on to a betting account from which bets were placed on tennis matches. The ITF has also never publicly acknowledged that four more officials are facing serious corruption charges, and only did so when prompted by this newspaper.

The Guardian’s investigation will raise fresh concerns about the extent of corruption in tennis and the lack of transparency at the ITF, the governing body of the sport. There are also questions over whether the ITF inadvertently created the conditions for corruption to thrive.

In 2012 it signed a lucrative five-year deal worth $70m with the data company Sportradar to distribute live scores from very small tournaments around the globe. That meant the bookmakers could provide odds on those matches, particularly on the lucrative in-play market, where odds shift as the games progress – and unscrupulous gamblers had a prime opportunity which they could ruthlessly exploit.

Under the terms of the Sportradar deal, umpires are asked to immediately update the scoreboard after each point using their official IBM tablets. This score is then transmitted around the world to live-score sites and bookmakers, allowing the latter to update their prices as the match proceeds.

However, the umpires are alleged to have deliberately delayed updating the scores for up to 60 seconds – allowing gamblers to place bets knowing what was going to happen next. In some cases, the Guardian has learned, umpires are alleged to have texted the gamblers directly before updating the score on their tablet computer.

In effect the umpires are accused of “courtsiding” – a practice among gamblers whereby observing events live can provide an edge before betting markets react to changing scores – and it meant that bets could be placed on the outcome of games and sets in the knowledge that the chances of them winning were much higher than the odds implied.

The ruse was carried out in ITF futures tournaments in eastern Europe, the lowest rung of professional tennis, where there was little or no television coverage or security, and the poorly paid or volunteer umpires were more susceptible to taking bribes.

The Guardian approached Richard Ings, a former professional umpire for seven years who was also a senior executive responsible for umpires at the Association of Tennis Professionals, who said the revelations were “deeply troubling”.

“Over a 15-year period I have been involved in professional tennis officiating both as a professional umpire and administrator of officiating for the ATP,” he said. “During that period I have seen tennis umpires breach the code for officials for relatively minor offences. But I have never before seen umpires breach it for tennis-integrity issues related to gambling on tennis and courtsiding.

“It is deeply troubling, but not at all surprising, that the risk to the integrity of tennis driven by gambling has expanded beyond players and their entourages to now include umpires and other tournament officials.”

In 2014 the French umpire Morgan Lamri, who worked on the Challenger and Futures tours, was banned for life after being found guilty of being in breach of four unspecified articles of the Tennis Integrity Unit’s rulebook. However this is the first time that so many umpires – those charged with protecting the integrity of the game – have either been banned or faced bans.

Senior figures inside the sport have told the Guardian they fear the allegations are more damaging than the recent more historical claims around match-fixing, for several reasons.

• It shows that corruption extends beyond players’ fixing matches and into those who are supposed to be the game’s arbiters.

• It also exposes the fault lines in tennis’s claims that is doing all it can to be transparent. In the past the names of players who have been banned for life have always been publicly released. Yet here the ITF stayed quiet until it was pressed by the Guardian.

• The revelations raise the question as to whether the ITF decided not to release that fact that Parfenov and Pitner had been suspended because it feared the embarrassment.

• It calls into question whether the ITF’s $14m-per-annum contract with Sportradar has acted as an inadvertent facilitator of corruption. By providing a live data stream from those events most vulnerable to corruption due to small prize pools, a lesser degree of oversight, and negligible media attention, did it help corruption thrive?
In a statement, the ITF said that it could not comment further on the four officials are who currently suspended pending the completion of ongoing investigations.

“In order to ensure no prejudice of any future hearing we cannot publicly disclose the nature or detail of those investigations,” it added. “Should any official be found guilty of an offence, it will be announced publicly. The ITF code of conduct for officials was amended in December 2015 to include public reporting of officiating sanctions from 2016 onwards.

It also insisted that the Sportradar deal had helped the game expose corruption, not fuel it.

It added: “Our deal with Sportradar, like those in place with ATP and WTA, by creating official, accurate and immediate data, acts as a deterrent to efforts by anyone trying to conduct illegal sports betting and/or unauthorised use of data for non-legal purposes.”

The revelations have also renewed the spotlight on a sport stung by claims at the Australian Open that players on the men’s main ATP tour have fixed matches.

Partly due to the explosion in the number of events that can be gambled on during play, the number of suspicious incidents flagged up by bookmakers has risen sharply in the past three years.

Figures from the European Sports Security Association, a trade body that represents 18 bookmakers including William Hill and Ladbrokes, show that 49 suspicious gambling alerts were raised about tennis in the first nine months of 2015. In contrast, only 16 alerts were raised about other sports over the same period.

The world No2 Andy Murray has already urged the game’s authorities to be more “proactive” – warning them that “as a player, you just want to be made aware of everything that’s going on. I think we deserve to know everything that’s out there”.

Senior sources within the sports integrity community believe that the introduction of the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) in 2008 has helped stem the flow of new cases at the very top of the game. But they fear the TIU, which is supposed to be the sport’s watchdog, does not have the resources or power to tackle widespread abuse at the lower rungs of the tennis ladder.

During the Australian Open a combined statement from the ATP, WTA, ITF and heads of all four grand slam events, announced an independent review into the TIU “aimed at further safeguarding the integrity of the game”.

That review, headed by Adam Lewis QC, will also address issues of transparency and resourcing at the TIU and how to extend the scope of tennis’s anti-corruption education programmes.

As the TIU board chairman, Philip Brook, admitted last month: “It is vital we repair the damage and do so quickly. We are determined to do anything we need to remove corruption from our sport.”

How the scam worked

• Tennis umpires at low-level professional events often input scores manually on to an IBM tablet. The scores are thereby transmitted to the ITF’s data partner, Sportradar. Bookmakers access this scoring data from Sportradar to service their in-play, or live betting markets, where bets are placed and often cashed out while the game is in progress.

• The four umpires who have been suspended are alleged to have deliberately delayed the inputting of these scores, thereby giving gamblers, some of whom may have been present at courtside, 30 seconds to a minute of advance warning before the betting odds moved in response to the updated score. In some cases, the umpires were texting the score directly to gamblers before it had been officially updated.

• Gamblers could therefore manipulate and take advantage of minor shifts in the in-play market through knowing the scores in advance of the odds shifting to reflect them.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Yobs, Double-Pushes and Tangled Webbs

James, author of the much praised Programming for Betfair, corrects me on his recent computer upgrade project which was actually:

Windows 10, old boy, not IE 10.
To back-up your argument that the bookies now use "wisdom of crowds" with which to set their initial odds...
I did some consultancy two years ago for a company who, shall we say, used to send out teams of agents to collect coupons with your columns of x's on them. They have since gone online and wanted to put out a new product, which has an innovative back-end (NDA signed), now available on their website.
Wanting me to do some risk analysis for them, I was tasked with a) predicting the outcome of football games, and b) setting initial odds so that they could seed their markets to make them look popular (as Betfair, initially did) and in such a way that they did not lose too much of that seed money.
I had the solution pretty much worked out on the train home and emailed it to them the next day.
a) Forget it. Use wisdom of the crowds (i.e. Betfair) to determine odds prior to going in-play. Their markets shut when a match goes in-play.
b) Create a Dutch book and spread your seed money accordingly. So long as you Dutch properly then you won't lose any seed money as you are winning back your own money.
I think I made them look a bit stupid with such an obvious solution and they were initially reluctant to pay but I got my fee in the end.
Any way, it was a nice day in Liverpool. Oops!
The story has some credibility, until the "nice day in Liverpool" reference, at which point the whole tale unravels as such an event is surely not plausible. My 1977 visit there was somewhat traumatic, and has left an indelible impression of the city, or at least the red part of it. After being attacked by a large group of 'fans' shortly after exiting the coach, the game was followed by a night in the car park at a Liverpool hospital while a 12 year old had his injuries checked out, before it was determined he had a fractured skull and would be detained. The coach eventually arrived back in London around 6am. Credit to the group of Everton fans (they were hosting Stoke City at the same time - FA Cup weekend) who 'rescued' him and brought him back to the waiting Palace coach.

Back to James' comment, and for a time in my life, I was one of the afore-mentioned 'agents' collecting coupons on a Wednesday night, earning a little extra pocket money.

Having mentioned that "the crowd" usually does a pretty good job at pricing up markets and by extension determining handicap lines, the BLUnders system hit a rare double-push the other day. The San Antonio Spurs v New Orleans Pelicans game lines were -13 on the handicap and 207 on the total points.
As you can see from the above screenshot, both lines were hit.

Somewhat related to the topic of current markets being the result of "an equilibrium price that is formed by matching the supply and demand" rather than the previous process of bookies setting the odds, an evolutionary adaptation necessary for the traditional bookmakers to survive, I keep meaning to link you to this video from Peter Webb about the failure of exchanges to take over the betting world. Peter may have missed the point about the 1% a few weeks ago, but I believe he has it right on the topic of exchanges. They are a far better way of betting, and the fact that they appear to have lost their direction, hopefully a temporary setback, and the possible reasons for this, is an interesting one.  

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Sub-Optimal Staking Exposed

In reference to my earlier post in support of variable staking, James, currently recovering from the stress of installing IE10, had this to say:

I agree entirely. If the other side of the trade has negative expectation then you have the edge, regardless of stake. Edge and stake are not related in that respect.
Poor money management affects the variance in profits and level stakes is just as likely to destroy your bankroll by yielding less profit on a winning bet as too big a loss on a Kelly bet.
The optimal bet is to chase your winnings and not your losses. If you consistently bet less than you should then you are building a smaller cushion for when the inevitable losing streak comes.
Kelly betting conforms to "chase your winnings not your losses" by sizing the bet to your current win/loss streak. If you are in a losing streak then Kelly will make smaller bets relative to the decreasing bankroll. 
Webbo, who of course initiated this debate with his ill-considered Tweet responded with:
Largely agree with you of course and I'll just clarify a couple of the points.

By letting the bookie do the work, I mean let them decide on the exact price. It's much easier to know that a price is too big than to know by exactly how much each time.
I have to interrupt here, because I don’t understand this statement. For a start, let’s be clear that these days the bookie doesn’t ‘do the work’
...it is us as bettors collectively whose are those that set the odds, not the bookmakers.
Individual odds, or prices, are nothing more than an equilibrium price that is formed by matching the supply and demand [for bets] from punters. Betfair Exchange is the clearest example of a true market. On Betfair, by introducing the bets they are willing to place/lay and at corresponding odds (“supply and demand”), a market price is formed. Other bookies or betting houses are not markets as such. They determine their own odds. But deep down they cannot escape the fact that they are part of a global market and that they have to adjust their prices in response to evolving events. Bookmakers have different strategies to set their odds, but at no point can they go against the market.
Thus the market decides on the ‘exact’ price and the traditional bookies pretty much fall into line, except by offering worse odds than the exchanges and the new model Sportsbooks (e.g.Pinnacle Sports), and hoping to get some interest from non-price sensitive long-term losers and a few quid in their FOBTs. (They may not yet be long-term losers, but traditional bookies will soon limit you if it appears they won’t be).

As for the statement that “It's much easier to know that a price is too big than to know by exactly how much each time”, I think if you are serious about investing rather than looking for entertainment, you really need to have a price in mind before you can say an offer is “too big”. When you read a tipster saying that a selection “offers some value”, you can be pretty sure they really have no idea what their 'true' price is. It’s one of my gripes about tipsters that they will tip a selection at say 2.5, but not tell you at what price that selection ceases to be value. Not to mention that different punters have different thresholds for when it is worth their while getting involved. 0.1% value is one thing, 5% another, and 25% another altogether (in the case of the latter, you're probably missing some information).
The only way you can determine that you have value is by calculating your own prices, and once you have done this, it’s easy to know how large any edge is.

Webbo continues:
I'm sure bookies do hate all winners but most of those who use a variable method are less likely to be able to price up markets as accurately as the bookies on a regular basis. Of course you could be varying based on odds ranges only but this is then not much different to level stakes if that’s the case. They will also likely see more volatile swings of which they are less likely to be able to handle. I’m guessing a bit here as I’ve never been a bookie and I’m not saying that I’m correct, but after an early period of success I think they’d be more confident that the variable staker will come a cropper than the level stakes bettor.

Of course there will be some exceptions but very few people will be able to show a set of results that have been improved by variable staking.
Again, the bookies do not price up markets, we punters collectively do, and we generally do a pretty good job. 

I would argue that bookmakers are actually more concerned about variable stakers. If you consider the example of the casinos and card-counting in Blackjack, the success of the strategy hinges completely on varying stakes, and this is the behaviour that leads to one being shown the door. Level stakes bettors are free to play all night, and to come back next day. 

When someone bets to level stakes, it reveals that they don't know the size of their edge, and by extension if they even have an edge. The variable staker should thus be seen as more sophisticated and knowledgeable, i.e. just the type of client bookmakers don't want.  
  
What this sentence means - "They will also likely see more volatile swings of which they are less likely to be able to handle" – I have no idea! I thought Deepak Chopra was commenting for a moment!

Webbo followed up later with a further comment:
We are all singing from the same hymn sheet here by the way. We all know that Kelly is the optimal approach in theory but 90% (maybe more?) of punters won't be able to use it or any variable staking to their advantage. The twitter statement was merely intended as advice for most people.
It was poor or misguided advice at best. I’m not sure we do all know about Kelly, but regardless, the Tweet made no reference to Kelly anyway. It simply stated that "variable staking can leave you exposed with just one bad bet" which is meaningless. As I said previously, it’s idiotic staking that can hurt you, not variable.

Webbo changes the topic, continuing:
Anyway here's a more interesting question for you related to this. How low do you let your bank get using Kelly if you have an edge? How low would you expect it to go?

In your mathematically perfect world you would utilise as much of your edge and bank as possible but what if these sees you lose up to 40% of your funds along the way?
Our simulations over more than 10 year’s worth of data show that if we make the most of our edge in all markets we could see our bank more than 40% lower than the previous bank high and it can take up to a year to see a new high.

This does return by far the most profits in the long term but when the time comes for us to drop such a percentage, how do we know there's not some external forces that have come into play or that the edge has diminished? At the same time we want to maximize our edge as quickly as possible.

Appreciate your thoughts.
Again, I am not advocating anyone use full Kelly for sports investing - there are a number of problems, not least that to use Kelly it must be assumed that the investor is able to maintain his edge indefinitely - no easy task. As I wrote previously:
The curse of Kelly (or more conservatively fractional Kelly) is that accurately calculating your edge on a sporting event is very difficult. For that reason, sticking to a maximum bet size of 4% of your bank will serve most people well.
In the unlikely scenario that you are able to maintain an edge indefinitely, and accurately measure it, choose your bank size, apply full Kelly and go with it knowing that you are betting optimally.

The question of "how low do you let your bank go" is silly. Why choose a bank size if you are not committed to it? I like the inimitable Ian Erskine's recent take on this:
After the July seminars a guy asked me to sort his bank of 10k out which I did. He then lost £1856 which is less than 20% of his bank. He sent me a load of abuse and stated he was no longer continuing.
I replied and stated that in that case he did not have a 10k bank clearly he had a less than 2k bank and had he informed me of that I would have started him on much smaller stakes relative to a 2k bank. I then got another load of abuse. That is how so many of you operate. You do not commit, you fanny around trying to do everything to £2, £5 stakes and wonder why you're not rich. You give up as soon as a bad run comes, you stake money you don’t want to or can’t afford to lose, so have a meltdown as every bet leaves you teetering on the cliff. If you just stopped took a breath and set yourself up properly then you would see it really is not that difficult and once set you control your emotions and operate the same daily.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Hobby Or Jobby

If we overlook the bold, and frankly unbelievable, claim from James (author of the excellent Programming For Betfair) that:
I once had a friend...
there is much worth reading in his latest post, which starts off with his thoughts about the possibly fixed mixed doubles match at the Australian Open, but which then morphs into some musings about ageing (don't have a loaded gun nearby when reading this part) and the risks of trading for a living, something that I have long cautioned against in this blog. One example from 2012 can be found here. Here's part of James' latest post:
To all those younger sports traders who are starting out on their sports trading careers I issue these words of advice;
  • You are probably not going to make as much money as you imagine you will.
  • You will probably not even make any profit at all (90% is often quoted as a figure for the proportion of losing traders).
  • Until you have proven without doubt that you are in the top 10% of traders, you should consider sports trading as a hobby with which to lose a little money each time for the fun of it and never to chase your losses.
  • You are not going to be as fit and strong when you are older as you are now. Incapacity is common amongst older people. Mental and physical incapacity impairs your ability to earn money.
  • "Gambling" related activities are not looked on by many women as a positive trait for a future husband. Many gamblers and traders live a solitary life and there will be nobody to look after you in old age other than whomever you pay to look after you.
  • You will need a lot of money to retire on in the form of public and private pensions, in addition to savings.
Some sensible advice above, although I'm not sure I'd classify sports trading as a "career". Sports trading is a fun hobby, and while I don't enjoy losing myself, I can see how it can be a cheap form of entertainment for some, but it's not so much fun when you need to win to feed the family:
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.
The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) released last November reveal that for the year ending 5 April 2015 median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees were £528, which nets out at around £420 a week. 

The numbers haven't changed much in five years when I wrote:
How easy an individual finds it to make an average of around £60 a day will, of course, vary, but I doubt that anyone serious about sports investing would find this unachievable.
It's only of academic interest anyway. If you are full-time trading, then it's a benchmark to measure yourself against, and not much else, and if trading is just a hobby and you already have a full-time job, then any profit at all is just icing on the cake.
With the higher Premium Charges now in place, making that net £60 a day is now a lot harder, and that's just to match Mr. Median. If you have what it takes to make a profit on the exchanges, you should probably have higher goals in life than being average. And never mind career growth, paid holidays, other benefits or building up a retirement fund as James also discusses in his post.

James concludes with:
Be careful when sports trading and consider worst case scenarios if life does not go to plan.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Stakes Well Done

My comment was that Kelly was the optimal staking system, adding that:
To suggest that variable staking 'can' leave you exposed with just one bad bet is technically true, but it's also meaningless. It's idiotic staking that can hurt you, not variable. No single stake, whether level or variable, should ever deviate far from around 2% of the bank, perhaps up to 4% as detailed in the link - unless you have inside information of course.
Webbo responded with these thoughts: 
Of course agree that Kelly is the optimal (we use it for the Holy Grail in fact and showing a decent profit yet again for this season :) ) and what we were trying to get at here is that if you are betting at level stakes you benefit each time the bookie is wrong. You can afford to be wrong more often.

But if you are using Kelly or a similar variable method, you need to make sure you don't get your pricing drastically wrong on ANY bet.

Find one even money shot you think is a 95% certainty and you've just wiped out a massive chunk of your bank. An extreme example maybe but even if you are not 'overstaking' one badly priced bet can still undo the good work of several other good ones.

Letting the bookie do all the pricing will work better for 99% of punters. Unless you have a computerised system that prices up events for you like we do.

I should think bookies probably hate large level stake punters more than almost anyone else.
It's probably easiest to reply to this one point at a time.
Of course agree that Kelly is the optimal (we use it for the Holy Grail in fact and showing a decent profit yet again for this season :) ) and what we were trying to get at here is that if you are betting at level stakes you benefit each time the bookie is wrong. You can afford to be wrong more often.
When the bookie is wrong, and by "bookie" Webbo means the market, the punter benefits with ANY stake, however the size of the stake is calculated.

It's also worth mentioning that it is the size of your level stake relative to your bank which is critical. If your bank is £1,000, a level stake size of £500 is not a good idea. It also makes sense to compound your edge by increasing stakes as your bank builds. Level stakes aren't going to do this for you. If you have a more sensible level stake of say £20 for the above bank and are skilful enough to build your bank up to £10,000, your level stake of £20 no longer makes sense.
But if you are using Kelly or a similar variable method, you need to make sure you don't get your pricing drastically wrong on ANY bet.
The key word here is "drastically" which means "acting with force or violence; violent, extremely severe or extensive".
Find one even money shot you think is a 95% certainty and you've just wiped out a massive chunk of your bank. An extreme example maybe but even if you are not 'overstaking' one badly priced bet can still undo the good work of several other good ones.
That is indeed an extreme example, and in line with the "perhaps up to 4%" philosophy, anyone considering risking 90% of their bank on any one bet is probably not well suited to betting. Assuming no inside information, it is frankly delusional to think that you could have anything other than the smallest of edges over the market.

The beauty of Kelly (or more conservatively fractional Kelly) is that if you are able to measure your edge, you can maximise your returns, and your bank builds faster than it does with a flat level stake.  

The curse of Kelly (or more conservatively fractional Kelly) is that accurately calculating your edge on a sporting event is very difficult. For that reason, sticking to a maximum bet size of 4% of your bank will serve most people well.
Letting the bookie do all the pricing will work better for 99% of punters. Unless you have a computerised system that prices up events for you like we do.
I'm not sure I understand this statement. The market determines a price, and it's usually pretty accurate. Unless you calculate your own probabilities on outcomes, how are you ever going to beat the market?
I should think bookies probably hate large level stake punters more than almost anyone else.
The bookies have no idea whether your stake is a 'level' stake, a fixed percentage stake, a Kelly stake or whatever - and they will soon stop you betting any stake if you are a consistent winner! If bookies hate anyone, they close or restrict them.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

New York Times: Fixed And Mixed Doubles

Still betting on early round tennis matches? From the New York Times:

MELBOURNE, Australia — A major sports gambling website suspended betting on Sunday for a mixed doubles match at the Australian Open, raising suspicions of match fixing at one of the world’s most prestigious tennis tournaments.

Ahead of a match pitting Lara Arruabarrena and David Marrero against Andrea Hlavackova and Lukasz Kubot, large amounts of money poured in on what would normally be an obscure contest, said Marco Blume, head of sportsbook at the website, Pinnacle Sports, one of the largest and most influential betting websites in the world.

Nearly all of the money, Blume said, came down for Hlavackova and Kubot, which he said was an indication that the match might be fixed.

Hlavackova and Kubot won, 6-0, 6-3. The first set lasted only 20 minutes.

Arruabarrena, the 33rd-ranked doubles player on the women’s tour, and Marrero, ranked 32nd among men, rejected any possibility of fixing in an interview after the match. Marrero, who like Arruabarrena is from Spain, cited a knee injury in explaining their performance.

The suspicious gambling activity comes with the sport already under intense international scrutiny over possible match fixing. Last week, at the start of the Australian Open, tennis officials were left scrambling when the BBC and BuzzFeed reported that 16 players were repeatedly flagged over suspicions that they had thrown matches but that officials did not discipline them.

The accusations in the report, which centered primarily on matches from several years ago, dominated the first several days of the tournament.

Tennis officials have emphasized that unusual betting patterns alone are not sufficient evidence of match fixing. It is possible, they have said, that someone close to the players could pass inside information — like knowledge of an injury — to professional gamblers, who would then wager accordingly.

A spokeswoman for the International Tennis Federation, the governing body for tennis’s four Grand Slam events, said the organization had not been notified of any suspicious activity. She added that such information would first go to the Tennis Integrity Unit, the sport’s internal watchdog.

Nigel Willerton, a representative for that group, said in an email that it would not comment about the mixed doubles match.

About 13 hours before the match was set to begin, Pinnacle’s traders suspended betting on it, Blume said. He then notified the police in Victoria, the Australian province where the tournament takes place, of possible irregularities.

“We saw a small number of people placing a large amount of money,” Blume said.

He added: “In context, these matches are rather small. That means that any aggressive betting behavior is very easy to detect on our side.”

Blume said Pinnacle had seen no such betting behavior for any other match at this Australian Open.

First-round mixed doubles matches typically generate little gambling action, but more than $25,000 had been wagered on another website, the betting exchange Betfair, a few hours before the match was scheduled to start. By comparison, three other mixed doubles matches scheduled for similar times on Sunday had generated less than $2,000 combined.

Stefano Berlincioni, a sports gambling expert from Italy who writes for the website Last Word on Sports, highlighted a Marrero match last year that he believed was suspicious. He said Sunday that his analysis of the wagering activity around the mixed doubles match indicated it might have been fixed.

Blume, of Pinnacle Sports, said the site opened betting on the match early in the morning, United States time, on Thursday. He said that by Saturday morning, so much money was pouring in on the Hlavackova/Kubot side that Pinnacle drastically altered its odds to attract betting on the other side. Pinnacle also reduced the maximum amount for a single bet, from $500 to $100.

But, he said, heavy bets kept coming in on the Hlavackova/Kubot side. Just nine minutes after reducing the betting maximum, he said, traders on the Pinnacle floor suspended betting on the match.

“My traders have a very high sensitivity to all incoming betting,” Blume said, particularly for a doubles match that would normally attract little action. “Even the slightest disturbance in the betting sets off any alarms on my trading floor.”

Because Pinnacle carries such a large betting volume, the website is a good vehicle for noticing such irregularities, Blume said. (The site has been identified by United States law enforcement authorities as accepting bets illegally in the United States, a charge Pinnacle strongly denies. The site also operates in many legal markets and is legally registered in the southern Caribbean nation of Curacao.)

Blume said that odds in other betting markets throughout the world also moved in ways suggesting irregularities.

“We run much like a stock exchange in terms of our day to day work,” Blume said. “We see almost everything because almost automatically you come to us one way or another.”

That function allows Pinnacle to act as a monitor of sports integrity, Blume said.

Still, the enormous amount of money bet legally and illegally on thousands of online sites is ultimately the motivation for match fixing, experts in the field say. If a bettor knows that a match is fixed and succeeds in putting money on the winning side, enormous payouts result.

The match Sunday was played on Court 6 at Melbourne Park. As the players rose from their chairs for the start of the match, a fan with a Spanish flag draped over his legs shouted “Vamos, David!”

Kubot held quickly to begin the match. Marrero started his service game well, taking a 30-Love lead. He then hit a double fault, with both serves curling into the net. Arruabarrena gave the team a 40-15 lead with a smash winner, but faulty play from Marrero quickly undid them: a gentle lob was smashed away by Kubot; a forehand veered wide; a routine cross-court backhand landed far wide of the doubles alley.

Though the male player in mixed doubles is often able to attack his female opponent’s serve, Marrero missed all three returns of Hlavackova’s serve in the following game.

After several more unforced errors, Marrero served again, down 0-5. He opened the game with a double fault. On the third set point, he sent up a soft lob which Hlavackova smashed to finish the set, 6-0.

The second set was more competitive. Marrero hit a backhand return winner on break point, and clenched his fist in celebration. But he immediately went down Love-40 on his following service game, and faced four break points. After saving the first three, he double faulted on the fourth break point, again sending both serves into the net, to level the set at 1-1.

On game point in the next game, an off-balance Marrero scooped his forehand wide to go down 1-2. Down 1-4, Marrero held his serve for the first time in four tries, and then he and Arruabarrena broke Hlavackova’s serve in the following game to pull within 3-4. The next two games were won by the Czech-Polish pair, with Kubot’s strong serve on match point deflecting off Marrero’s frame and into a trash can behind the umpire’s chair.

The two pairs met at the net and clasped hands, and partners of opposite sex exchanged kisses on the cheek.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Coaches And Confusion

As the NBA season approaches its annual All-Star game, (an exhibition game on Valentine's Day between East and West), there's an interesting twist to who will be coaching the two teams this year.

The best team in the Eastern Conference right now, the Cleveland Cavaliers, just fired their head coach, presumably after losing recent games to the West's top guns the Golden State Warriors (at home, by 34 points!) and the San Antonio Spurs. This means that the newly promoted associate coach Tyronn Lue will probably get the honour with just a handful of games in the bag as head coach.

In the West, the current Conference leaders are the Warriors whose head coach (Steve Kerr) has been out all season recovering from back surgery. His first game 'back' was last night, although 'officially' he has been head coach all season. However the rules do prevent the same team from providing the All-Star coach two seasons in a row, so the 'honour' will likely go to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who would rather have a week off than be involved!

Peter Webb seems a little confused about the 1% in the news this week. He writes

Saw some headlines this morning from Oxfam about wealth distribution. The glaring headline was that the top 1% of the world ‘own’ the rest of it.
I've not seen anywhere suggest that 1% 'own' the rest of it - that would have indeed been a glaring headline. The statement was actually that:
The combined wealth of the richest 1 per cent will overtake that of the other 99 per cent of people next year unless the current trend of rising inequality is checked
He also completely misses the point of the study when saying that:
Putting aside the detail, the problem with these ‘top 1%’ stats is that there will always be a top 1%. If you eliminate the top 1%, another grouping will become the new top 1%. If you plot a bell curve, you will always get a top 1% of something.
No one is suggesting that having a top 1% is a problem - of course there will always be a top 1%! There will always be a bottom 1% too. All totally irrelevant.

The issue / problem is that the top 1% have the same wealth as the other 99%.

As for "putting aside the detail", well OK, but for me, the details are rather important in a debate like this. Putting aside the detail, I thought Hitler was a rather good leader.

Some more numbers - in 2010, 388 people had the same wealth as the poorest 50 per cent (~3.5 billion people). Last year this number was down to 85, and this year is at 80.

Betting Tools Tweeted this yesterday:
This has been covered before, but the optimal staking method is to use variable stakes - Kelly, or fractional Kelly. To suggest that variable staking 'can' leave you exposed with just one bad bet is technically true, but it's also meaningless. It's idiotic staking that can hurt you, not variable. No single stake, whether level or variable, should ever deviate far from around 2% of the bank, perhaps up to 4% as detailed in the link - unless you have inside information of course.
Most gamblers are probably best served by using a flat 2% of their bank per bet, since figuring edges in sports is, as mentioned earlier, very difficult. For a season-long win rate of 55% (on a bet paying at evens), a good target for most bettors, this represents a little more than 1/3 Kelly, which is a conservative compromise between risk and return. Increasing this to 3%, or occasionally 4% on an especially good play, is reasonable.
On a lighter note, I saw this on the Betfair Forum:
When manager of Plymouth Argyle, Peter Shilton was giving a motivational speech.
He finished it with 'like a Pheasant rising from the ashes'.
Somebody pointed out that it was a Phoenix.
To which he replied, "I knew it started with an F"