Sunday, 29 November 2020

Denver QBs Zero, Observers Nonzero

Apparently the decline in output from this prestigious blog has resulted in formerly regular readers forming new, and bad, habits including not checking in on a daily basis. As unacceptable as this is, I must take some responsibility because with most of my favourite (from a betting perspective) sports in their close season, and NFL teams playing weekly at the most, there's not been a huge amount to write about. 

Add in a work trip this month, which looks likely to be the last one for at least a couple of months, a couple of side projects which I have found myself pursuing, and the result is fewer posts.

In my defence, the decline is more perceived than actual with the number of posts this year already at 125, including this one, which surpasses the totals of both 2018 and 2019. Nevertheless, I shall try todo better.

Some of you may have seen the line move in the Denver Broncos v New Orleans Saints game. The opening line favoured the Saints by 6 points, but the news that all four Broncos Quarterbacks are out has meant that line has now moved to -14.5 making them the fourth biggest road favourite in the last 15 seasons. The other three all covered the spread in case you were wondering. Some sportsbooks have circled this game, but at the time of writing Pinnacle are still accepting bets. 

How, you may ask, did Denver end up in this predicament? Per Adam Schefter of ESPN:

QB Jeff Driskel tested positive for COVID on Thursday.
Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles did not wear masks, per a source, and were deemed high-risk close contacts today. They now are out Sunday.

Here is where I would normally take the opportunity to point out that John Elway (President of Football Operations) is a well known Republican which may have been a factor in the mask debacle here, but Elway has shown a positive attitude towards understanding the racial injustices in the US so I'll be kind:

"I've spent the last week listening and learning from the players and coaches on our team.

"What I've heard from the players in particular—and watching the way they lead during this time of need—has been moving. I always thought that since I grew up in a locker room, I knew everything there was to know about understanding teammates from different backgrounds and walks of life. What I've realized is that I could not have been more wrong. Listening to the players and reading their social media, the strength they have shown and the experiences they have shared has been powerful. It has impacted me. I realize I have a long way to go, but I will keep listening and learning. That is the only way to grow. I truly believe a lot of good will come from the many difficult conversations that are taking place around our team, league and country.

The Betfair Forum has some long threads on the subject of when the US Election markets, notably the "Next President" market might be settled, and in particular plenty of people who are not happy with Betfair making up new rules as previously, and specifically, excluded "subsequent events" unfold.

One user suggested:

It's like backing the winner of a horserace and then being told by the bookie that you cannot be paid until the vets have examined the horses, and confirmed that as no doping or other fraud took place the result can stand, subject of course to any subsequent legal objections to the winner.

He's not far wrong. It's as if the horse race rules said:

"This bet will be settled with the winner the first horse past the post. Subsequent events such as an objection or positive doping test will have no effect on the settlement of this market" 

Biden's My Boy wins by 20 lengths, but the owner of runner-up Racist Donny doesn't like losing and immediately signals his intention to form a crack legal team to be led by Rudy Giuliani and files an objection. Betfair consult with their own crack team of lawyers and announce that they have decided to wait until the objection is heard. The objection is over-ruled. The horses never came close to each other, at least not within six feet, but another objection is filed. Giuliani, tucking in his shirt, says they have heard about a massive fraud that needs to be fully investigated. No evidence of course, but it possibly involves 5G technology, pyramids and men from Mars. 

No, wait! None of my horse's fans were allowed in to see the race!

Status: Denied. The Trump campaign later admitted that there were a "nonzero number of people in the room" observing the vote count, including some affiliated with the campaign. Judge Paul S. Diamond shot back, "I'm sorry, then what's your problem?"

The problem is that he can't handle losing, and it's not even as if it is close.

From the Washington Post:

The facts were indisputable: President Trump had lost.

But Trump refused to see it that way. Sequestered in the White House and brooding out of public view after his election defeat, rageful and at times delirious in a torrent of private conversations, Trump was, in the telling of one close adviser, like “Mad King George, muttering, ‘I won. I won. I won.’ ”

However cleareyed Trump’s aides may have been about his loss to President-elect Joe Biden, many of them nonetheless indulged their boss and encouraged him to keep fighting with legal appeals. They were “happy to scratch his itch,” this adviser said. “If he thinks he won, it’s like, ‘Shh . . . we won’t tell him.’ ”

Only on Nov. 23 did Trump reluctantly agree to initiate a peaceful transfer of power by permitting the federal government to officially begin Biden’s transition — yet still he protested that he was the true victor.

The 20 days between the election on Nov. 3 and the greenlighting of Biden’s transition exemplified some of the hallmarks of life in Trump’s White House: a government paralyzed by the president’s fragile emotional state; advisers nourishing his fables; expletive-laden feuds between factions of aides and advisers; and a pernicious blurring of truth and fantasy.

Though Trump ultimately failed in his quest to steal the election, his weeks-long jeremiad succeeded in undermining faith in elections and the legitimacy of Biden’s victory.

As I've said before, it's the principle that Betfair are establishing here that is worrisome. Having funds tied up for a few more days is slightly annoying but it isn't a big deal.

What's the worst that could happen? Say there are enough faithless electors to give Trump another term. In this event, Betfair would have three options

1. Settle the market as a win for Trump. Not going to happen since millions were put into the market where the rules clearly stated that "Any subsequent events such as a ‘faithless elector’ will have no effect on the settlement of this market". I imagine some fairly large bets were placed and a lot of unhappy customers would take legal action.

2. Settle the market as a win for Biden. That wouldn't be a viable option having refused to do just that when they should have, and with Trump heading for another term.

3. Void the market. A billion pound market? Maybe, but that would be a PR disaster as well as costing Betfair some money.

The most likely outcome is that Trump's legal efforts continue to be denied, thrown out, withdrawn etc. (you'd think they'd have fired their best shots by now, if they had any), and the Electoral College process sees Biden elected on December 14th with close to 306 EC votes, and Betfair settle the markets breathing a huge sigh of relief in the process.

I think they chose to milk the uninformed Trump supporter for a few more weeks at the expense of the integrity of the market, and having waited too long (unlike other sites who settled much quicker) painted themselves into a corner. Very poor from Betfair, and I'm usually one of their biggest fans.   

Anyway, following my established accounting process, the profits will now be booked in December with November's numbers including the worst case scenario, which is a four figure loss. We still have one trading day to go in the month, and I'd hate to jinx it but as things stand, this month has been the single most profitable one of my life. 

The continued gains in Tesla, (first mentioned in this 2018 post) have of course helped significantly, with the stock soaring another 50.95% just this month, in part at least on the news that the company will be joining the S&P 500 Index. 

Readers will be aware that I first mentioned this possibility back in July when $TSLA was trading at (price adjusted to account for the split) $308.93 and hopefully someone saw what I did and took advantage of the opportunity as it is up 89.6% since that post. 

Aside from Tesla, which closed at $585.76 on Friday, the stock market overall has been good this month. Hopefully some of you took my advice in 2018 and invested in US funds.
A quick calculation shows that an investment of £100 in each Index Fund at the end of 1999 would now be worth just £91.88 for the FTSE100 and £247.63 for the S&P500. These are quite shocking numbers actually, as is the fact that the FTSE100 is on track for its worst year since the market crash of 2008. 

A solid December, and it'll be a record year, which is not something that looked likely on March 23rd when I was 20.4% off my all-time high. 

Finally, a word of caution about small sample sizes. Just because a "big favourite" (in this case we are talking about the EPL where "big" is under 1.5) has a few losses in the opening 14 matches of a season, doesn't mean the markets are suddenly offering you value to lay them. The favourite-longshot bias means you'll lose your money more slowly by backing such selections.

It's true that seven of the first nine teams priced shorter than 1.5 this season failed to win, but since then, there have been six consecutive winners.

In the Pinnacle era (2012-date) your ROI would be -0.3%

When presented with some statistics pointing out the nonsense of this idea, the response was:

On the other hand, I am sure -6% ROI for the last 10 seasons is better than many of of us had.

I did point out that an ROI of -6% in a 103% overround market was actually pretty bad and hopefully the idea that laying favourites in the EPL is profitable is being reconsidered.

Saturday, 28 November 2020


Some news last night regarding the Billion Pound Betfair "Next President" market, with Betfair essentially announcing that they are now no longer settling the market based on their rules.

Naming the market "Next President" may be the root of the issue, because it is actually a misnomer since, per the rules of the market, the bet is actually for "Who will be elected to be the next President of the United States of America as a result of the 2020 presidential election?"

Reading the Betfair Forum, it's clear that at least some people investing in this market thought they were betting on the actual Next President, and not on the '2020 presidential election' winner. 

Betfair's rules also clarify that "This market will be settled according to the candidate that has the most projected Electoral College votes won at the 2020 presidential election. Any subsequent events such as a ‘faithless elector’ will have no effect on the settlement of this market."

The projected Electoral College vote count is 306 (Biden) to 232 (Trump), so why haven't Betfair settled the market? 

Well, only they know for sure, but clearly by their own rules, they should have settled by now.

The Trump campaign's continued efforts in the courts are a "subsequent event" as key states such as Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania have already certified their results, yet those markets remain unsettled. 

The Trump campaign has no evidence to support their sweeping claims of voter fraud and with election day almost four weeks ago now, it seems unlikely that any evidence will come to light in the future, but logic and common sense don't seem to be an attribute found among Trump's lawyers or his supporters. It's all a show for his base (64% of uneducated whites) as Trump fights to keep his fast sputtering "populist" movement alive. 

I suspect the reason that the Betfair markets remain open for some states, including the certified states listed above, is that were they to settle these markets, they would have no reason to not settle the "Next President" market which, at the time of writing, has lots of money available to back Trump at 19 and Biden at 1.05, and there is commission to be had. 

Betfair's latest statement reads:
A statement that clearly contradicts their rule about "subsequent events" not having any effect on market settlement, and wouldn't it have been better to consult these "leading U.S. lawyers" while setting up the market rather than 24 days after the polls have closed? And since "subsequent events" have no effect on settlement of the market, couldn't U.K. lawyers have given an answer?  

It's all rather poor from Betfair, and while waiting a couple more weeks isn't a big deal for me personally, I imagine that for many, it is a big deal. There is no way that this market can be settled as a Trump win (given their rules) and the chances they void a billion pound market are nil, so basically they are taking advantage of the uneducated Trump supporter (sadly, there are a lot of them) who, based on their "news" sources think he has a legitimate chance at being the "Next President". He doesn't. The market should be settled now. 

Friday, 27 November 2020

Thanksgiving Thoughts

On the Betfair Forum, Souldancer wrote that:

The average racehorse punter gets 75% of their stake returned.

If you put the work in it's not hard to change the racing loss into a profit.

Even if this number is anywhere close to correct, and I'm pretty sure it's nothing but a wild guess, you would need to put in a hell of a lot of work to overcome a -EV of 25%. 

You would also need to be an incredible optimist to even attempt such a task, given that this is probably about the worst handicap in betting to try to overcome. Even a single zero casino roulette gambler only faces a house edge of 2.7%.

With it's multiple possible winners, and vulnerability to inside information, Horse Racing isn't the easiest of places to find winners, but in sports betting, there are many 50/50 propositions and as I've written before:

I can't be sure, because it was a few years ago that I first read this book, but this may have been when I realised that betting the 'dime line' (i.e. Pinnacle's 1.952) on 50/50 bets, winning just 51.23% of bets would result in a profit.

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. 

It's not as easy as it might seem of course, but as explained above, you're not betting against a sportsbook with otherworldly powers of prediction. You are betting against other members of the public, and in some markets more than others, the public aren't too smart.

If Grandma can get a return of 97.6% blindly betting say Overs in the NBA, doesn't it make more sense to focus your efforts on turning 2.6% of those losers into winners and start making a profit? 

Over 1,000 bets, you would need 513 winners to be profitable, which is a lot easier than overcoming a massive 25% disadvantage.    

Followers of the Small Road 'Dog System will have enjoyed an easy Thanksgiving Day win by the Washington Football Team in Dallas yesterday in their Divisional game against the Cowboys. This takes the season win percentage to 58.1% at 25-18-1. This result was the second most comfortable win of the season, and with four possible qualifiers this weekend, let's hope it augurs well.

Meanwhile in the US, the Betfair market for Next President surpassed the billion pound mark earlier this week, and Biden is still available at 1.07 which is incredible value if you don't mind tying up your money for a few days. The Democrats are also still available to win in some states such as Pennsylvania (again 1.07), a state which certified its results earlier this week as has Michigan (also 1.07).

Finally while doing some research for another project, I came across this comment about "Home" advantage in football from 1920:

That 'two goals' seems a very precise estimate with not even a mention of goal expectancy, but 100 years later and with no crowds and VAR, Away teams are actually winning more games than Home sides in the EPL, a trend many of us hope will continue today.   

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Bet, Forget, Enjoy Life

Another work trip just wrapped up, and hopefully the last one for a few months. While I was away, Jackson wrote to me asking:

Hello Cassini. I have been looking for a piece you wrote on the benefits of bet and forget in comparison to in play betting without success. Kindly assist. I am an avid reader of your articles and also a pro punter. Many thanks.

It's a topic I've covered on many occasions, and I can't say I recall a specific post on the topic, but my immediate response was that:

Basically the benefits are that you don’t waste your life watching hours and hours of sport! If you have a few proven systems, although no system should last for ever, it’s far better for most of us to place our bets and get on with life, although in lockdown maybe that’s not such a great argument!

Another consideration is that pre-event, you have time to do your research, and invest an appropriate amount at the best prices available to you. When you are in the middle of an event, it is harder to think clearly with fewer options for placing your bets, as well as prices and events changing in real-time, which increases the chances of bad decisions and taking poor value. There's no stress placing bets pre-game.

The only way you are ever going to get good value when an event is in-play is either to get your data before anyone else (think courtsiders at tennis or cricket matches who are paid to transmit live data) or to understand the event better than anyone else, which is highly unlikely or you'd be very wealthy indeed. 

If someone is paying for this data, it doesn't take a genius to work out that it has value, and by definition once that value has been taken, there is none left.  

You are not going to make any money from watching say a football game, seeing a goal scored after a certain number of minutes, and based on historical records, having a bet.

If you think you can read a horse race better than anyone else, well good luck with that, because apparently everyone thinks they possess the same talent.  

You're wasting your life for one thing, and completely misunderstanding that the markets know the true price for all these scenarios. In the rare event that the market doesn't know, perhaps some South American third division match is in play late at night, then there usually won't be enough money in the market to make it worth your while. Occasionally there might be, but the risk is you end up spending half your waking life waiting for such rare opportunities.

As I've written before, in the early days of Betfair, it was almost easy money to trade some sports in-play, but after several years the liquid markets are now much more efficient. The introduction of the Premium Charge was the killer for in-play betting, at least for me, and it's so much calmer and less time consuming to take a look at the lines and prices as close to the start time as possible, and bet according to proven strategies.

Writing this on an NFL Sunday, and the Small Road Dogs System is an example in point. No luck last week, with a 2-3-1 outcome, but long-term this is a solid system. It takes a few minutes to run the query and put the bets on. 

One thing I've noticed, and it may well be due to the absence or reduction in home fans, but in matches where the road team is getting a very small number of points, i.e. fewer than 2.5, ATS this strategy is 9-2 this season, increasing the trend which has been present in this category of games since 2009 which is now 107-83-5 in all games, and with a slightly higher ROI in Divisional games. Good luck if playing the Small Dogs today. 


Wednesday, 11 November 2020

The Cassini Tales From Victorian North London

A change of pace today with a personal post, and it appears that the Cassini family have a long and proud history with drinking and gambling. The next time I am accused of taking either of these perfectly harmless (in moderation) activities to excess, which does happen on rare occasions, I shall fall back on the excuse that it runs in the family, a claim for which I now have evidence.

The first story is about my great great grandfather who featured in the Tottenham and Edmonton Weekly Herald of Friday 31st July, 1891: 
Almost seven years later, his elder brother had some notoriety appearing in the Globe newspaper of Friday 20th May, 1898, in a story also covered in the same day's London Evening Standard:


Arthur Golding, 321, Upper-street, Islington, was summoned before Mr. Horace Smith for keeping and using the premises 376, Gray's Inn-road, for the purpose of betting. The defendant was further summoned for permitting the premises to be used by William Wolton and William Henry Golding for the purpose of betting on 4th May. William Henry Golding and William Wolton were summoned for using the premises for the purpose of betting. William Henry Golding and Wolton were further summoned, together with Henry Cassini and Richard Ray, for assisting in the conduct of betting at 376, Grays Inn-road.

From the evidence previously given, it was shown that Arthur Golding rented the premises known as the Great Northern Club, at £130 per annum, the landlord paying rates and taxes. The club was raided on 4th May by Superintendent Hammond and a number of officers of the G Division. No fewer than 855 betting telegrams and 863 betting slips were discovered on the premises, and while the raid was in course of progress, a number of telegrams relating to horse racing were received at the club. Wolton and William Golding were sitting at desks receiving betting slips. Mr. Muskett prosecuted on behalf of the Commissioner of Police. Mr. Travers Humphreys defended Cassini and Ray. The two Goldings and Wolton were represented by Mr. C. Mathews. 

After hearing the evidence, Mr. Horace Smith said he was of opinion that this was betting club used for the purpose of betting. It was obvious that a great deal of betting was carried on there, and also outside the club. He dined A. Golding £50 and 5gs. costs; W. H. Golding, £20 and 3gs. Wolton, £20 and 3gs. costs; and Ray, £5 and £1 1s. costs.

He dismissed the case against Cassini. Several defendants found on the premises were bound over.

Back to my great great grandfather, and it does appear there was something of a history of drinking. He was in Holloway Prison in 1881, though I have yet to find out what for and how long he was there for, but in September of 1875, he was caught in a pub (Nightingale Tavern, Hornsey - sadly now closed) after-hours:

As reported in the Hampstead & Highgate Express: 
With all these fines, I'm beginning to understand why the family fortune never made its way down to me.

There are other pleasures in life besides drinking and gambling and this Cassini story from 1891 completes the set, although it's not a happy tale. A nineteen year old girl killed herself after being pressured by her Mum to choose a Cuthbert over a Cassini - Cuthbert? Seriously? He may have gone on to work for the Trumpton Fire Brigade, but that is to be confirmed:

This is what happens when there is no sport to invest on - things get silly! 

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

The Draw As Third Favourite

One, of many, curiosities about this Premier League season is that since 2000, every Home odds-on favourite in a match where the Draw was priced as either the third favourite or joint second favourite, had won. 

This isn't a scenario that shows up too often, so it wasn't anything to get too excited about, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Then along comes 2020-21 and the first two qualifiers of the season fail to win, the second being Manchester City v Liverpool this past Sunday. 

The Draw can of course be either the second or third favourite or it can be joint second favourite and I've written before about how backing the Draw when the Away team is the favourite is more profitable than when the Home team is favourite, but this was in the context of "Close" matches.

Blindly backing the Draw when the Away team is sole favourite will not be profitable, but if you stick to the "Close" matches, backing the Draw is far more profitable in these games than when the Home team is the sole favourite.

Of the seven types of match-odds, assuming nothing untoward is at work as sometimes seen in Italy, the lucrative match types for Draw backers are clear from the chart below. When there are fewer than 50 matches a neutral yellow is used:  
For the A-H-D category, some of you may be interested to know that for the "Toss Up" category, the ROI climbs to 26.65%.
On a day when my wit won me, and WON ME BY A LOT! in the words of Trump, the Internet, a betting related topic came up on my timeline with @MathewForth questioning how a tipster could guarantee three bets a day.

The answer is that he can't.  

It's a clear signal that the tipster has no clue about how betting profitably works because you can't set an arbitrary number of selections within any timeframe. 

You might have several value selections on any given day, or you might have none for several weeks. The result of forcing selections, or stopping on a day after a random number has been reached, is that you either bet at poor (negative value) or you miss out on positive expectancy bets. The three a day idea is nonsense. You bet when you have value, and you don't bet when you don't. The option of not betting should never be underestimated or looked down upon because it falls under the "discipline" heading. 

Meanwhile the Next President market on Betfair has still to be settled, with Biden out to 1.1 now. Presumably this is because Trump is refusing to concede but so far his lawyers have held a press conference outside the Four Seasons Total Landscaping business with the star witness a convicted sex offender who isn't even from Pennsylvania and otherwise have presented no credible evidence at all.

Claims that vans have been seen pulling up outside with people seen filling in ballots for Biden are all ridiculous but it's amazing what some people will believe. When you ask them why this fix didn't also get the Democrats a couple more Senate seats, and why they lost House seats, well - no explanation. The one person so far committing fraud was a Trump supporter who attempted to get a ballot for his dead mother, but was caught by the system and even if, and it will never happen, he gets the result in that state overturned, he still wouldn't have enough Electoral College votes to change the result. 

I've topped up at 1.11 as this is too good to be true. Pretty sure that with half a billion traded, Betfair will not be voiding this market! 

Monday, 9 November 2020

Dogs Stay On Track

For the sixth time in nine weeks this season, the Small Road 'Dogs were again profitable with the New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins and New York Giants all winners with two losers, the Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos. 

One weekend was a loss, one was a push and week five saw no selections and for the season, the record improves to 20-12. 

The three Divisional games went 2-1 this weekend for an 8-5 record overall this season. 

I'm still waiting, along with a few others, for the Presidential Election bets to be settled. In addition to the main event, I have smaller interests in the Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania state markets. 
The sum traded smashed, and continues to smash, the Betfair record set in this same market in 2016:

The Exchange 'Next President' market obliterated the record for the most money ever to be traded on any political and sporting event, with just under £200m traded
With three more US states (Louisiana, Maryland, South Dakota) voting this past week to legalise sports betting, bringing the total to 21, this 2020 record may well be beaten again in four years time. My prediction is that Biden will step aside and Kamala Harris will be the Democratic Party nominee, and John Kasich will be the Republican candidate.

No "Toss-up" Draw selections in the Premier League this weekend, and the one "Close" selection wasn't close at all with Crystal Palace scoring four goals against Leeds United for the first time ever, and in a match for the first time since the final day of the 2018-19 season.