Friday 21 June 2024

NBA 2023

In NHL's Stanley Cup Finals, the Edmonton Oilers have so far survived two elimination games versus the Florida Panthers and trail by just one game with Game 6 upcoming this evening in Edmonton. A comeback from 0:3 down has been done once before in the Stanley Cup, 82 years ago during the Second World War when the Toronto Maple Leafs rallied to beat the Detroit Red Wings.

So the update on the 2023 season for this sport will have to wait, but the 2023 NBA season is over, with the pre-season favourite Boston Celtics defeating Dallas Mavericks 4 -1 in the final series and winning their 18th championship - a record.

For subscribers to the Sacred Manuscript, the six systems recommended a total of 939 bets, and generated 38.38 units of profit, an overall ROI of 4.1%:


After a losing 2022 season, these results were very welcome. I'm pretty sure that no one would have placed 939 bets, and there's probably an opportunity to reduce this number next season. 

System 3.0 is the Overs system, and while the Total varies from year to year (last season was 239.5 points),  about one bet a day through the season is a good number. Too many selections and a system becomes a pain to manage, but have too few (2.1 for example) and you risk missing out on selections because you lose interest in running the query each day. 

Thursday 13 June 2024

The Graduate

Of the 156 NBA teams that have trailed a best-of-7 series 0:3, and not a single one has been able to rally and win four straight. After last night's Game 3 loss at home to the Boston Celtics, the Dallas Mavericks find themselves the 157th team in this unenviable position. They are currently slight favourites to win game 4, but past history suggests the value is on the Celtics with teams in this position (3:0 ahead and small road 'dogs) 9-4-1 ATS.

In the NHL Finals, the Florida Panthers won the first two games of their series at home to the Edmonton Oilers, and game three is tonight. Historically Western teams returning home as favourites after losing the opening two road games of a Final series are undervalued with seven wins out of eight (small sample size of course, as is always the case with playoffs).

I'll post a review of these two sports once their seasons end, which could be very soon in the case of the NBA with Game 4 on Friday.

The adjustment to retirement continues, and apologies in advance if I waffle on about this too much but it is a significant milestone in life.

I'm sure some of you will have seen it already, but Roger Federer's commencement address at Dartmouth a few days ago is worth checking out. 

I know the word is “retire.” “Roger Federer retired from tennis.” Retired... The word is awful.

You wouldn’t say you retired from college, right? Sounds terrible.

Like you, I’ve finished one big thing and I’m moving on to the next.

Like you, I’m figuring out what that is.

Graduates, I feel your pain.

I know what it’s like when people keep asking what your plan is for the rest of your life.

They ask me: “Now that you are not a professional tennis player, what do you do?”

I don’t know… and it’s OK not to know.

So what do I do with my time?
That's a very good question! Training for the Ben Nevis hike next month is ongoing, although I had another fall last Friday on a local hill which wasn't too clever. No broken legs this time though, but I left some skin at the scene and my coccyx doesn't feel great. Sit ups are on hold for now. Fortunately it doesn't seem to affect me when cycling, and I've been out of the road bike a couple of times a week getting in some miles. 

There was another part of Federer's speech which has received some attention, and that was where he contrasts the percentage of matches he won during his career (almost 80% of his 1,526 games) with the percentage of points he won in those games - "only 54%."

"Only"... Such a small word, but it's a similar situation in sports betting. If you can hit winners betting the dime line at just 51.23%, then with compounding you can be very profitable over time. Of course, no one wants to get rich slowly, so very few people actually have the mindset to achieve this, but as I wrote in 2019 here:
Given that my grandmother would be expected to pick winners at a rate of around 50%, and she's been dead for over 30 years, this didn't seem to be a hugely impossible task.
Most systems can be fairly easily improved and just by eliminating a couple of losing propositions from every 100 bets, you're in profit. 
 
I updated my profile a few days ago. Since day one of this blog, my profile ended with my saying that "retirement wasn't too far off and that anything made from sports investing would bring that day forward." 

Well, it didn't play out like that - it almost made my Chipotle stock split prediction look timely. In March of 2008 I turned 51, so while it was good that I was thinking about, and planning for, retirement, in hindsight the "not too far off" prediction wasn't too accurate. Maybe at that time I was still thinking early retirement was a goal, but as my career progressed it became clear that retirement wasn't the goal I once thought it was. 

Besides, profits from sports investing exceeded my net salary for a couple of years, but didn't result in any change to my retirement date, and work became less like work in recent years - working from home with a little travel was very comfortable and what was there to retire from, or more importantly, to retire to? However, the clock was, still is, ticking, and it's certainly possible to work too long and limit the good years of retirement when you are still physically active and able to travel before the body and / or brain start to give you problems. 

With my redundancy payment now in the bank, my spreadsheet has been updated and projections for the next few years are in place. The markets have been kind to me so far, with Tesla on fire the past couple of days pending the outcome of the vote regarding Elon Musk's pay package. Per the latter:
With the vote still in progress, this statement had better be accurate or there will be another sizeable fine coming. 

Friday 7 June 2024

Transitions, Bitcoin, Errors, Euros and Copas

Time flies, and even faster in retirement than before it seems. The early retirement days have been taken up with a few administrative tasks. The most important was having my redundancy agreement reviewed by an expert in these things, and as expected for a large company, all was in order and the advice, given the fact that I'm not looking to take my skills to a rival employer, was to accept and sign, which I duly did, although the final payout hasn't yet been received. 

I also met with my financial advisor and all was good there, with no changes required to the balance of my investments at this time, much to the chagrin of Signora Cassini who is a little more risk averse than myself. I received some welcome support that it would be crazy to pay off the outstanding mortgage - which is at a very low interest rate - and, in the advisor's words, "let the bank off the hook", but I probably shouldn't have told her that I'd (literally) doubled down on Bitcoin, this time via BlackRock's iShares Bitcoin Trust ($IBIT) - but so far so good with Bitcoin on a strong run right now. 

I'm not a crypto expert, but I feel now that Bitcoin is maturing, is becoming accepted as an asset, and has a certain future. Whereas my initial investment in Bitcoin (via $GBTC) was driven by FOMO, this latest one was made based on at least a basic understanding of the Bitcoin Power Law Theory. Anyway, I BIT - hopefully not more off than I can chew.

The redundancy money should see me through to next year at which time we (financial advisor and me, maybe the wife if she behaves) will meet again and see where we're at. 

Hopefully that will be at, or close to, an all-time high which would certainly be psychologically much more positive than starting retirement with a market downturn. Sequence-of-Returns Risk moves from theory to practice very rapidly once that steady income stream is turned off.

Onto sports investing, and there's a new, and much improved, look to Killer Sports these days. The original site with results displayed in the old format is still available for now as the site transitions to its new look, but the updates look great and include some new features. 

Old: 
New:

The new features include ROI, Profit and P-Value calculations, which will make my life a little easier as I update the Sacred Manuscript this summer.
 

The European club football season is over, and the NBA and NHL competitions are both down to their final (best-of-7) series. 

I did notice that I had inadvertently posted some incorrect numbers for the Regular Seasons of these latter two sports. I'll put the errors down as due to jet lag rather than from any post-retirement senility creeping in.

I wrote that:
In the NBA, the regular season finished last month with ROIs of 2.4% (from 476 selections), 10.2% (171), 10.3% (69) for the primary systems, -0.5% (55) for the Rested Team System, and 4.2% (164) for the Totals System, a total profit of 42.38 units for the season.

Unfortunately the NHL Systems lost a combined 14.64 units this season, but ahead overall in the US for these two sports.

After taking a second look, this is what I should have written:

In the NBA, the regular season finished last month with ROIs of 2.1% (from 464 selections), 8.8% (166), 5.1% (65) for the primary systems, 4% (77) for the Rested Team System, and 4.2% (164) for the Totals System, a total profit of 37.48 units for the season.

Unfortunately the NHL Systems lost a combined 17.15 units in the regular season, but ahead overall in the US for these two sports.

The error I made was to include the playoff games in these calculations, so apologies to anyone who is validating these numbers for themselves and noticed the discrepancies. 

I'll update the English Domestic and European Competitions in the next few days, and then it's a bonanza of international tournaments with the Euros in Germany and an expanded Copa_América tournament running simultaneously in the United States. The latter tournament features ten teams from South America's CONMEBOL federation plus six teams from Central and North America's CONCACAF. 

For those of who enjoy backing the Draw in the elimination games for these tournaments, the results historically are:

It's worth mentioning that CONCACAF's Gold Cup tournament tends not to follow this pattern, as I have pointed out before.  How the presence of any of these (CONCACAF) teams making it out of the group stage affects results will be interesting to see, but with only the USA and Mexico expected to advance, I suspect the tournament will play out as it would for a Copa or a World Cup. Argentina and Brazil are joint favourites to win this tournament, while for the Euros it's England in this position - no doubt due to the presence of no fewer than FOUR Crystal Palace players in the squad. 

Monday 13 May 2024

New Chapter, Mindset, Addiction and Target

It's been a while, with the world being denied a post here for a full calendar month for the first time in more than 16 years. I ended my previous post with these words:
All being well, I shall be back on May 8th after my third Total Solar Eclipse, either employed or retired. How boring life would be if we didn't have such uncertainties in front of us. Stay safe and stay lucky.
In the end, I extended my trip by a few days due to the fact that my long awaited retirement finally became official midway through the trip. 

I've mentioned 'severance' a few times here, and while I'd like to say that I expertly negotiated a good 'voluntary' severance package for myself, the truth is that I ultimately had little say in the matter. 

For quite a while now, I've been telling anyone who's interested - in other words, basically talking to myself - that a year's salary would be great, but that I'd be happy with six months', and so the 39 weeks 'involuntary' severance package awarded, which also allowed to keep all my stock options, was more than satisfactory.

While I've been planning for this day for a few years now, it's one of those moments in life when you don't really know for sure how you'd feel until it happens but, so far at least, there have been no moments of panic or doubt. The transition to retirement will be an adjustment of course, - going from being responsible for a team of 60+ people to not even being the CEO of my own house - and will likely take a while to fully process, but at the age of 67 and after almost 49 years of working - my first job was with the NatWest Bank in Oxted in August 1975 - it's time.

It's definitely helped psychologically that the markets have been on a good run in recent weeks - my net worth spreadsheet hit a new high this week and that's not counting the package since I've yet to meet with my financial advisor and confirm that I should sign the agreement - but it will be interesting, and possibly quite challenging, switching my mindset after almost half a century from one of accumulation to decumulation, if that is even a word. 

That's the personal news almost out of the way, other than to say that the Total Eclipse was awesome, with totality lasting for 4 minutes and 11 seconds and clear skies in our viewing location (Russellville in Arkansas) and that I gained almost 11 pounds on the trip, a number which could have been worse given that my wife and I were unfortunately introduced to the previously ignored (I'm not a fan of yellow custard) world of Frozen Custard by friends, and developed an unhealthy addiction to the product with twice daily visits occurring more than once. I can resist anything but temptation.

Moving on to sports and there's a lot to catch up on. The club football season is almost over, with the lower leagues in the midst of their playoff games and the Premier League wrapping up in less than a week. The European club competitions have their finalists all set, with no English clubs involved for the first time since 2019-20.

In the US, the playoffs for both the NBA and NHL are in progress, while MLB is into its second month.

Starting with the National League playoffs, and the strategy for these games detailed in the Sacred Manuscript produced a profit for the sixth time in the seven seasons under the current format. The total profit increased to 15.68 units from 38 matches.

The National League playoff final (played on a neutral ground) finished as a Draw for the fourth consecutive season, and the ROI on backing this result over the last 21 seasons is now 38%.

The Regional Finals for each of the North and South Divisions are hosted by the highest seeded club, but as is often the case with Finals, the Draw is value nevertheless, and the ROI on this results over the 30 matches climbed to 39% with the South's Worthing v Braintree Town Final delivering.

Wrapping up the non-league season was the FA Trophy Final, and again the Draw delivered with the ROI on 20 finals now at 36% and the ROI on all English Domestic Finals (including play-offs) close to 20%:
If we include the Community Shield matches, the ROI does climb to 21.6% and while I see the match as more of a glorified pre-season friendly than a competitive fixture, the data suggests it's more the latter.

In Championship play-off Semi-Final First leg matches, the ROI on laying the Home team is now at 16%, and in Second Leg matches where the first leg was a Draw, the value is in backing the Away team (ROI of 62%) although the sample size of 12 is small. The more conservative approach of laying the Home side has an ROI of 4%.

For the European Competitions, the basic strategy for the Champions League knockout rounds made a profit with an ROI of 8% and 19% for matches between clubs from the Big 5 Leagues.

Results from the Europa League were very poor, with the ROI from 25 selections -9%. Rubbing salt into the wound, the selection process for this tournament is somewhat convoluted, so I'll be revisiting this system in the summer.

The Europa Conference League, which is still in its infancy as a competition, but for which I expect results similar to the Europa League, also had a losing season with an ROI of -5% from the 22 selections.

I'll review the other leagues in Europe as well as the Premier League once the season is over.

In the NBA, the regular season finished last month with ROIs of 2.4% (from 476 selections), 10.2% (171), 10.3% (69) for the primary systems, -0.5% (55) for the Rested Team System, and 4.2% (164) for the Totals System, a total profit of 42.38 units for the season.

Unfortunately the NHL Systems lost a combined 14.64 units this season, but ahead overall in the US for these two sports.

I'll look at the MLB later, but a quick review shows that both the Hot Favourite and T-Bone Systems may be cooking again, at least in the National League, but for now I'm just observing this sport following the significant rule changes. 

I did attend my first College Baseball game in Arkansas last month with the then number one ranked Razorbacks beating Florida in game one of a double-header, and speaking of College Sports, and one subscriber has very generously donated a College Basketball System for my review, with the possibility of it being added to the Sacred Manuscript for next year. 
IF you find it has value and you would like to add it or a version of it to the Manuscript, as surely it is good to add another league to bet on, please go ahead, but do not divulge details on the blog
It would indeed be good to have another sport included and I'll be taking a look in the next few days while, of course, remaining respectful of the request not to give anything away. I think I've mentioned that I'll be working on the 2024-25 manuscript over the summer with a view to having it completed by the end of July following the Euros, and if anyone subscribes today, they will automatically get the updated document for free at that time. 

Finally, Jim Simons "The Man Who Solved the Market" - as his biography by Gregory Zuckerman was titled - has passed away at the age of 86. Many of you reading this probably know his story, but he was a gifted mathematician who turned his talents to the financial markets with huge success.
Medallion, the largest of these funds, earned more than $100 billion in trading profits in the 30 years following its inception in 1988. It generated an unheard-of 66 percent average annual return during that period.

While hedge funds typically charge 2 and 20 (2% fixed fee and 20% of profits), Simons' fund was able to charge 5 and 44! An inspiration to us all and with more time available to me now, I need to up my game, although beating that 66% average could be a challenge.

Thursday 28 March 2024

Daniel Kahneman RIP

I've often mentioned here the importance of psychology in investing, and probably the top expert in "the field of psychology of judgment and decision-making" passed away yesterday.

I've mentioned Daniel Kahneman him several times over the years, and if you haven't read his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, you should.

It’s a book that will take some effort to read because the ideas are dense, and even though they are well-presented, they’re not cloaked in the clothes of story. If you’re willing to do the work, though, Thinking Fast and Slow may be one of the most important books you ever read.
His Prospect Theory explains why investors typically consider the loss of a specific amount twice as painful as the pleasure received from a gain of the same amount.
When they made decisions, people did not seek to maximize utility. They sought to minimize regret.
Michael Lewis wrote a great book about Kahneman's relationship with Amos Tversky, called "The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed the World" which I also recommend. 

Some light reading for you while I am away for six weeks as I mentioned a few days ago. 

Although I have yet to receive a response to my mentioning that I might be open to a voluntary severance agreement should one be on offer, I have been immersing myself in the topic of retirement finances by listening to podcasts on my daily walks and reading while less active and I suspect much of my time away will be spent on this topic. 

One of the more interesting papers I've come across on the topic of how retirement funds should be invested (many experts say that one should move from stocks to bonds as you get older) is a recent one (October 2023) titled "Beyond the Status Quo: A Critical Assessment of Lifecycle Investment Advice" by Aizhan Anarkulova, Scott Cederburg and Michael S. O’Doherty which suggests that a 100% equity allocation may be the safest asset allocation even in retirement.

I've always been of this mindset myself, although my more risk averse wife is not, but fortunately I make the financial decisions. Yes, the 38% expected drawdown would be emotionally challenging, but I've been through a few of these in my time, with the lessons of Black Monday (October 18th) 1987 coming at a very good time in my life. More recently, on March 23rd, 2020, I was down 23.4% but never sold a single share and markets have bounced back as they always have done.

The odds that my next post will be penned as a retiree have moved to slightly odds-on, with an announcement coming on April 18th if rumours are to be believed, but once I've got my head around the sequence of return risk, the 4% rule and switching my mindset from accumulation to decumulation, I should be good to go. With Bitcoin halving around that date, it could be an interesting week.  

Enjoy Spring. All being well, I shall be back on May 8th after my third Total Solar Eclipse, either employed or retired. How boring life would be if we didn't have such uncertainties in front of us. Stay safe and stay lucky. 

Saturday 23 March 2024

Towel Throwing

Back in November, I mentioned a fairly well known tipster who, during a poor run of results, suggested that increasing stakes might be a good idea.

We're currently a few points down for the season with both official and unofficial picks, so if you've been thinking about upping the stakes at some point, this should prove to be a great time to do that.
I pushed back on this idea for what I hope are obvious reasons, but if anyone did actually follow this poor advice, they would be seriously regretting that decision. Hopefully many took a 'good money after bad' approach and scaled down the size of their investments. 

The ill-advised recommendation was made after 10 bets and a manageable loss of 4.02 units, while the subsequent 27 selections have now resulted in further losses of 14.76 units, a total ROI for the season of -50.8%.  

These are the 'official' bets with the towel having been thrown in this week on the 'unofficial' bets after 82 selections and a -24% ROI.  

All this is to point out that chasing losses is not a smart strategy rather than anything else, but with the National League less than four weeks from concluding, a losing season is now guaranteed.  With the acknowledgment that the edge has gone for unofficial picks, I'm sure some subscribers must be licking their rather deep wounds and wondering whether the edge has gone for official picks also. 

It happens. Markets are Darwinian - rather than Newtonian - in nature, and they evolve, and it's quite likely that the increased interest in the National League has sped this process up. We'll see how the remaining weeks go, but end of season games can be tricky with the motivation for teams ranging from nothing to play for to must-win for a play-off spot or to avoid relegation. Chesterfield have now won the League and promotion, but eight teams are realistically in with a chance of making the six club playoffs, while at the bottom Oxford City have gone with a tight battle between several clubs to avoid filling one of the other three relegation places. 

Friday 22 March 2024

16 Down

This blog is now into its 17th year, and not too many sports investing blogs can claim this longevity. 


Matekus' Sports Trader blog has been going since September 24th, 2009 which by some incredible coincidence is the exact same date as Steve Mullington posted his first entry on the Horse Racing oriented Mull it Over blog. The latter is updated almost daily while Sports Trader is a little less frequent with his posts.

Wayward Lad began posting in March 2010, with his Pension Builder blog making its debut in August 2013. There may be other long-standing blogs out there, and if you know of any that should be added to the blog roll here, let me know, and check out those long-runners I've linked to. 

Not so much these days, but in the past I would regularly receive requests along the lines of "Hey there, I've started a new blog. Please add me to your blog roll" but my experience told me that almost all of these would dry up in a very short time, so I would politely decline until a significant amount of time had passed. 

Whatever happened to Steve at daily25? With the benefit of hindsight, his last post is a bit concerning since he seemed to have fallen for the NFT scam. Perhaps 'scam' isn't the right word, but very few people have made money from NFTs. The idea always seemed a bit silly to me and I've never been tempted to go anywhere near these, and I'm still on the fence about crypto although I do have a fairly small FOMO investment in Bitcoin as I've mentioned. Hopefully Steve is doing well as he was one of the good guys and I still remember him sending me a Xmas hamper back in 2012 after my XX Draws had made him a lot of money. Steve wasn't shy about betting big, which is why the NFT thing is a little worrying.

I'm pretty certain the blog won't last for another 16 years given my age, but I still enjoy writing and, as I mentioned the other day, the challenge of finding edges. I'm still working, with nothing yet from my enquiry into a voluntary severance package, but I'm not in a hurry. My suspicion is that cuts are coming and by broaching the subject I've pretty much guaranteed I'll be included in the next round. 

We are off to Arkansas next week for the Total Eclipse on April 8th, the third one I will have experienced following Cornwall 1999 and Idaho 2017. Hopefully the skies in Russellville will be clear. The next one on my list is August 2026 in either Spain or Iceland, and if you have never experienced totality, you really should make sure to add this to your bucket list.