Monday, 31 August 2015

London Blues

It may be slightly premature, but the next round of the EPL in two weeks time sees a potential title decider as the current top two face off at Selhust Park on September 12th.

It's rather an oddity that only one London Premier League club (Crystal Palace themselves as it happens) has won a home game this season with lesser city rivals Arsenal (L,D), Chelsea (D,L), Tottenham Hotspur (D,D) and West Ham United (L,L) all win-less in their home matches.

The decline in EPL home advantage I wrote about at the start of last season continued last season, where blindly backing Away sides to win would have made you 9.29 points on the 379 matches Pinnacle Sports priced following 19.30 points from 2013-14's 380 matches.

Having said that, a more profitable 'blindly backing' strategy in the EPL would have been that of backing the underdog which was +54.69 points over the last three seasons, with each season profitable, and a strategy that would already be in profit by 26.14 points this season

Early days yet, but Away wins in the Premier League are off to a flying start this season with a 42.5% strike rate and +30.48 points. Only seven teams have won a Home game while 13 have won on the road.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Road To Nowhere

Some people take my writing here a little too seriously, so to clarify I am, of course, teasing Steve M about Australia and its sport. For a nation of 23 million, they consistently punch above their weight in several team sports, as well as producing individual stars in other team sports and in individual sports such as golf, which as Steve pointed out on Twitter overnight, saw its final Major of the season won by Jason Day, no longer one of the best players to never win a Major.

Steve recently had a guest post from Matthew Trenhaile who some of you may be familiar with from his several previous thought proving and constructive comments to this blog. A well written and worth reading post from Matthew, and I also see he has his own blog, which I am happy to add to my blogroll. Matthew writes well, and is very knowledgeable about his subject, even if his choice of font and text colour takes me back about 30 years to my days as a computer programmer in the less than salubrious surroundings of West Croydon:
Another blog that might prove to be interesting is Cherry Analysts, whose intro reads:
I enjoy working out the puzzles of betting markets using maths and logic to beat the interest rates the banks offer. I stick to certain events that I enjoy and have shown that I can make a profit in over the last decade. The reason I stick to these markets is simple, I am happy to put hours of work into them as they interest me. You won’t see me giving out advice on Lithuanian under 19s Basketball for example, as I don’t care about it and in the end that would probably cost me money.
A man after my own heart, and it helps that the author also appears to be another Crystal Palace fan. Such good taste. Even closer to home than Crystal Palace, is a team called Whyteleafe. While following their fortunes on Twitter on Saturday, it appears there was a lot going on. The score went from 2:2 to 1:2 to 1:1 to 2:1 in the space of a few seconds. Amazing scenes.
Were the game in-play on Betfair, there would have been some interesting price movements! Whyteleafe eventually won 3:2 in case anyone is interested - first win of the season, although the gods of randomness were in a jovial mood at the end:

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Diamonds In The Sporting Wilderness

I need to make an apology for an ill-considered line I wrote recently. In a casual and poorly researched comment about the quality of sport in Australia, I wrote this:

I think the fact that Steve doesn't really care where he lives is more helpful. Steve's 'fortunate' to live in Australia, where decent sport is hard to come by
The Steve referred to is of course Daily 25's Steve M who, unless I have missed it, has been very quiet about his nation's top sport.

While the Rugby team took another hammering this weekend, unbeknownst to me, Australia has been hosting a World Cup in Netball over the past few days, and my Twitter feed today tells me that Australia actually won it. Yes, really! Congratulations to Steve and I am especially impressed over how modest Steve has been about his nations biggest sporting success in many a year.

Before getting too carried away, it should be noted that the tournament is only taken seriously by two countries, with New Zealand being the other, so calling it a 'World Cup' is a little cheeky.

A quick look at the record of this tournament shows that of the 14 tournaments, Australia has won (or jointly won) 11 and been second the other three occasions. New Zealand have won (or jointly won) it four times, and been runners-up eight times. England, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago are the only other nations to ever finish in the top two.

Anyway, this observation is not intended to take anything away from Steve, who is no doubt celebrating this rare international sporting success late into the night with a glass (or two) of wine. Perhaps they will ease the pain of the Wallabies result. 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Warts And All, Or Not At All

A couple of comments on my previous post, with Martin (Brulati) taking umbrage at my thoughts on his repeatedly justifying why it is acceptable to 'not count' certain losses, and why, given his previous history in the area of discipline, I don't feel he's cut out to be a trader. He snaps:
Nobody force you to read my blog. ;-) In my opinion you should make a small step down of your big horse or how was the performance of your draw section? It's easy to be always negative against everybody and not have the same objectivity about the own results.
Martin is certainly correct that no is forced to read his blog, but he specifically asked me back in June to add his blog to my blog-roll, which rather gave me the impression he was looking for readers and comments. Apparently I was mistaken, or at least comments are only desired where they align with his own already formed opinions, so I shall dismount from my 'big horse' (I think Martin means 'high horse'), offer comment and advice no more, de-blogroll his blog, wish him well for the future and leave him in peace.

As for the ability to be objective about ones own results, I think after twelve consecutive profitable years of betting / trading, it's one thing that I am able to be, and if constructive criticism is to be construed as 'negativity', well so be it. I call it as I see it.

G commented:
Good advice for Martin - doubt he'll listen though. I wonder if I should adjust my P & L figures when I have a loss due to indiscipline? Hmmm probably best not....
Apparently G called that correctly. "Advice is only welcome when it agrees with my own opinion". As I have written before, P and L figures are of no interest to anyone but yourself, but if they are not an honest record of your results, they are meaningless. As with the weekend golfer who intends to hit the ball but misses, and who chooses not to count the stroke, you are only cheating yourself. My betting spreadsheet goes back to January 1, 2006 and records every profit and every loss since that day. It would look a lot better if I excluded losses incurred during half-time when the score was adjusted (NBA) or losses due to being tired, or losses due to any number of other unfortunate events, but it wouldn't be worth anything had I done that. It has to be warts and all. My net-worth spreadsheet would look a lot rosier if I didn't count my liabilities, or overlooked alcohol related spending, but the truth isn't always pretty. Putting lipstick on a pig is another expression that springs to mind.

60, Sequences End And Train Wrecks Predicted

My previous insightful post on the quality of Australian sport (a rather timely post it could be said, following their Ashes performance), drew this response from Steve M (Daily 25) on Twitter:

As Crystal Palace's Steve Parish commented in his The Times interview last week:
“The Premier League receives £753 million from the 212 TV stations overseas per year for the right to show the games. That’s more than Serie A, La Liga, the French League, the Bundesliga, the NBA, the NFL and the baseball [MLB] for their overseas rights put together. That is just staggering. We have one of the greatest products in the world.
By way of contrast, the AFL is watched in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Ireland by an average viewing audience of 60 - although this number climbs to 61 if Seamus's sciatica is playing up and he can't sleep. Coincidentally, the average viewer age is also 60. 60... Now where have I seen that number before? For anyone worried that I'm giving Steve a hard time, we go back a long way - he even sent me a nice gift on one occasion - and he doesn't read this blog anyway :)
Anyone following the C-LAY-ton Kershaw system would have pocketed a modest 1.35 points last night as the eponymous laying system stopped its losing run at four. Unfortunately, the Unders winning run also came to an end after seven wins:
Finally, and it's an 'Oh dear', Martin (Tennis Trader) is at it again. Some of you may recall the Mulligan he took a month ago, writing after a trading loss:
I didn't count this loss to my profit & loss statement (exactly -100 Euro), because I will not do this approach any more. It's looking like an excuse, that's true. Probably I would count the profit if I could turn the trade in a winner. I am honest about this issue. You see, never believe a profit & loss blog ;-).
Indeed, and now he's at it again.
I will keep the KPI on the right side unchanged, because the mistake happened outside the strategies that I am testing at the moment.
Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will know that Martin (Brulati) quit trading back in April after (apparently) recognising that he had no edge in his chosen sport of tennis:
In the end only platforms like Betfair or betting companies make profit. There is no added value in trading sportsmarkets. If two people make a bet, one will win and the other one will lose. Over long term both will lose, because Betfair (and the other companies) takes the margin.
He wasn't quite right in his comment above (a small number of customers on Betfair do manage to make a long term profit - hence the need for the Premium Charges), but anyway, comments such as this one:
Just seconds after I lost the trade, I transferred a big part of my money back to my saving account. This lack of discipline was only possible, because there was too much cash at Betfair.
reveal that Martin self-admittedly doesn't have the discipline requited to be a successful trader:
Trading Psychology
The psychological aspect of trading is extremely important, and the reason for that is fairly simple: A trader is often darting in and out of stocks on short notice, and is forced to make quick decisions. To accomplish this, they need a certain presence of mind. They also, by extension, need discipline, so that they stick with previously established trading plans and know when to book profits and losses. Emotions simply can't get in the way.
His blog is not pleasant reading to be honest, (a train wreck waiting to happen), and in my humble opinion, Martin should focus on his day job, and walk away from betting / trading altogether.   

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Aussie Time

Several of you appear to recognise a bargain when you see one, with both some renewals and new rookies signing on for next season. Rather oddly perhaps, an email from a non-renewer was just as pleasing to read:
I wont be renewing but this is no reflection on you or your service but purely a personal decision to not be involved in the betting world for now. Yours was one of my preferred service due its simplicity and efficiency. I run an ecommerce business which is growing and I need all my cash (and more!) for investment in stock. All being well I will return one day. I wish you good luck in the future.
And I wish the gentleman in question good luck with his new venture. The mention of simplicity and efficiency was shortly followed by a read of Steve (Daily 25's) latest post, which included these words of wisdom:
The biggest challenge for me has always been and I'm sure always will be not wasting time watching the games I have bet on.
Steve  preceded that nugget with:
I think the fact that I don't really care about betting is very helpful for me, while it might seem I spend a heap of time betting, the reality is it takes up less than 10 minutes each day and maybe an hour on Friday and Saturday.
I think the fact that Steve doesn't really care where he lives is more helpful. Steve's 'fortunate' to live in Australia, where decent sport is hard to come by (unless an England / British team is touring), but for those of us with a veritable smorgasbord of top class sport available year round, it's all too easy to spend (waste) a weekend watching sports.

More seriously, while we all want our betting hobby to be profitable, 'not caring' is a very good thing. Not having any pressure to make a profit keeps emotions out of our decision making, and it's another reason why full-time betting is, for most of us, a terrible idea.  

Monday, 3 August 2015

Bookies Catching Pigeons

A well (and anonymously) written article in the Observer / Guardian yesterday on the issue of bookmakers closing accounts. While the practice of closing or limiting accounts is certainly not a new phenomena, (as mentioned at least six and a half years ago, I can personally attest to it being applied in the 1980s), it appears to be far more widespread today, and ever growing. As the article explains, this is increase is in part because tracking individual punters is now easier than ever. Here it is in full - well worth a read:
As G Force burst through to win the prestigious Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock, I began celebrating my biggest priced winner of the flat season, having backed him at odds of 25-1. But my joy at such a profitable day’s gambling was soon tempered by the realisation that yet another account with a bookmaker was effectively being shut down. After nearly four decades as a punter my betting is heavily curtailed. Not out of choice, but because I have had the audacity to win several thousand pounds.
Most of my internet betting accounts have either been closed by my bookmakers or so “restricted” that they might just as well be shut down. Time and again my attempts to place bets of £50 or less are greeted with responses such as “Alert – your bet has not been placed.” Instead, I am offered wagers of just £2 or similar amounts: bookmakers’ less than subtle code for “Get lost: we don’t want your custom.”
I am not a professional gambler; racing is simply my hobby. My love of horse racing began almost half a century ago. My late father, a freelance writer, took me to see Arkle race in 1966. I was just eight years old, but watching the greatest steeplechaser of all time had me hooked.
Today I still love the athleticism of the magnificent racehorses. I admire the courage of the undernourished jockeys.
Most of all I love the thrill of a bet, pitting my wits in a gladiatorial contest between punter and bookmaker. I can’t resist listening to the whispered racecourse tips from those supposedly in the know, that horse X is “catching pigeons” (showing great speed) on the training gallops. And I spend a couple of hours every evening after work poring over the horses’ form on my computer.
I bet on form, not inside information. Over the past four decades I suspect that, like most punters, I have lost more than I have won. However, in 2010 I won £700 and the following year I won £2,079.61. 2012 was a disaster: I lost £6,626.68. In 2013, I fared better and won £451.56. Yet 2014 was – by my modest standards – a remarkable year: my Cheltenham Festival winners included Sire de Grugy, backed at 28-1 for the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase, and my Aintree winners included Pineau de Re, backed at 40-1 for the Crabbie’s Grand National. I finished the year exactly £18,012.92 in profit.
The first email officially closing one of my accounts arrived on a Saturday morning, just as I was choosing my bets for that afternoon’s televised horse-racing on Channel 4. The email from BetVictor read: “We are contacting you today to advise that a business decision has been taken by our Senior Traders and I must inform you that your business account has now been closed and no further business may be executed on your behalf… As explained in our Terms and Conditions, a Traders [sic] decision is final and will not be overturned.
Other account restrictions followed and I was finding it harder and harder to get my bets (typically between £50 and £200) placed with my bookmakers, many of whom I had been a client of for more than 30 years. G Force’s win last autumn came after I opened a new account with Sportingbet solely in order to back the horse at 25-1, when other bookies were offering just 16-1.
When that punt was duly landed, my new account was effectively closed overnight after just two £50 bets – one a winner at 25s, the other an unplaced loser. When I rang up Sportingbet to ask why I had been offered £7 to win online instead of the £50 I was requesting on a horse as my third ever bet with the firm, I was told that I was on the “restricted list” after placing just two bets. I pointed out that if I couldn’t have £50 on a horse, I would never bet with them again. “That’s your choice, sir,” came the polite reply. Our brief association ended with me £1,200 in profit.
My experiences are not unique. Every week, up and down the country, leading bookmakers are closing accounts or severely restricting some gamblers’ bets because that individual is deemed to be – horror of horrors – a “winning punter”.
The news that bookmakers refuse to accept wagers from winning clients was met with incredulity by my non-gambling friends. “That’s outrageous,” said one. “Surely that’s against the law?” said another.
In fact, refusing to strike a bet at their advertised odds may break the spirit of the regulations, but it does not break any law. However, more and more bookmakers only want to accept bets from “mug punters”: those without discipline who bet far too much almost every day of the week and consistently lose more than they win.
Bookmaking can be traced back to the late 18th century in the UK. However, the punter-versus-bookmaker battle has been raging in earnest ever since the Gaming Act was passed in 1845. The bookies are usually the winners because, on average, they aim to shape a “book” in which they will make a profit of around 20% of all bets struck on a single race or other contest.
In the past two decades, however, the industry has changed significantly with new technology resulting in the spread of internet gambling and this, in turn, has made it easier for firms to identify winning punters than in the days when bets were mainly placed anonymously in smoke-filled betting shops.

“The large bookmakers increasingly employ mathematicians and risk managers, rather than those knowledgeable about sport, to ensure that they maximise profits – and have no chance of losing money,” said one senior industry source.
Like all businesses, bookmakers need to make a profit and no one denies them this right. But today, they make the rules, set the odds hugely in their favour and, with all these advantages and having already made healthy profits, they then increasingly refuse to take a bet. Is it any wonder that so many punters feel they are getting a raw deal?
Some “banned” punters try various tricks to strike their bets: some open accounts in the name of friends – but bookmakers then track internet addresses to try to thwart this tactic. One successful punter recently told the Racing Post that he had operated some 500 betting accounts under 30 different names over six years, but “the restrictions got so ridiculous I knocked it on the head”.
Barney Curley, now 75, is a legendary punter and former trainer, who has masterminded several seven-figure betting coups over the past 40 years. In recent years he has had to go to extraordinary lengths, getting scores of “foot soldiers” to place tiny bets the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland, in order to land wins totalling millions of pounds. By placing a succession of small bets at advertised odds, Curley can, for a time at least, avoid suspicion that someone is planning a raid on the bookies. By the time firms wake up to the fact that they are facing huge payouts on one or more horses, they have to honour the bets already struck.
Curley says: “Today the bookmakers, along with the racecourses, run racing. No one has the knowledge or the power to take them on, and there is no one to represent the punters’ interests. There is no one who will upset the applecart and say: ‘This [not taking bets from winning punters] is an absolute disgrace.’”
Curley no longer has any bookmakers willing to lay him bets with accounts in his own name. “I have to try to get my bets on with losing punters which is a pain in the arse because then you have to get them to pay you your winnings. I retired from training because it was so hard getting any money on my horses.”
In fact, bookmakers have rarely been under such scrutiny as they are now, after a series of complaints that they are ripping off punters in other ways, too. In April it was revealed that there had been an “over-round” of 165% on the 2015 Grand National – meaning there was a theoretical profit margin of 65% for the bookmakers built into the available odds at the time the race started. Allegations were made publicly that off-course bookmakers were manipulating the system to the detriment of punters, though these were denied.
It was announced in June that there would be a public consultation on whether the present system of producing a starting price – the odds at which most bets are settled by bookmakers – should be changed.
Alex Salmond, the former First Minister of Scotland and a keen punter and race-goer, told me that he intends to raise the issue of bookmakers refusing to take bets from winning punters in his new role as vice-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Racing & Bloodstock.
It is not acceptable for bookmakers to refuse to take a reasonable-sized bet because the client has a record of winning,’” he said. “If it is not a breach of advertising standards, then it should be. Bookmakers today simply don’t want to take any risks.
“In my new role, I intend to bring this to the attention of the Gambling Commission [which regulates gambling in the UK] and Ibas [the Independent Betting Adjudication Service, which rules on disputes between punters and bookies]. There is a difference between bookmaking, an entirely respectable profession, and fleecing people, which isn’t.
Maybe it is time that the distinction was made harder in terms of the law. There is a difference between being risk-averse and being responsible for misleading advertising. An unreasonable refusal to accept bets should, in my estimation, be a reason for disqualification from a bookmaker’s licence.”
BetVictor refused to respond to specific questions about its trading or accounts’ management, but a spokeswoman said: “BetVictor reserves the right to refuse the whole or any part of any bet request for any reason… We also reserve the right to close or restrict any account without obligation to state a reason.”
Sportingbet declined to respond to any questions. However, most bookmakers will acknowledge, either privately or publicly, that the activities of winning punters are curtailed, although they stress that the desired bets of most punters are accommodated.
Craig Reid, head of trading for Betfred bookmakers, said: “The guys who are factored really well down [heavily restricted] are 2% of our whole database. They are shrewd. We will try to offer them some sort of bet, but they will get restricted.”
A spokeswoman for the Advertising Standards Authority, the advertising watchdog, said it had received more than 250 complaints so far this year about gambling advertisements, but she did not think any related to punters’ grievance about being restricted from placing bets.
Ibas said its primary role was to adjudicate on bets that have been struck. A spokesman said it would require a change the industry’s regulations, such as forcing bookmakers to accept bets of a specific size on advertised bets, before it could address complaints relating to restrictions on the size of bets.

I should point out that not all my bookmakers have turned away my bets. Ladbrokes and bet365 have invariably been willing to lay me a fair-size wager, but they are in the minority.
I can always bet as much as I want, within reason, on modern-day betting exchanges such as Betfair – in which one punter bets against another – but that is not my preferred way of gambling. In order to have a chance of a winning edge in the long run, I need to be able to back a horse at the best possible advertised odds. I often bet “ante post”, days, or even weeks, in advance of a race.

So I now have no fewer than 17 accounts with bookmakers and one with a betting exchange in order to have some remote hope of striking the bet I want. Of those 17 bookmakers, I would struggle to get on a bet of £50 at, say, 10-1 on the evening before a race, with most of them. I regularly get my intended £50 or £100 wagers reduced to £7, £6, £5 or even less (the record low offer for a bet is £1.67).
At one point, I lived in west London and could walk, anonymously, into a high -street bookmaker to strike a bet. If I needed a larger than usual bet placed, I employed the (free) services of my mother, who is now 87, to double my stakes. After she collected on two successive big wins at one shop off the King’s Road, the regular punters started revering her like a Mafia boss. However, I now live deep in the countryside miles from any betting shops and so using the internet is my only regular way of gambling.
Today I spend as much time plotting how I might be able to strike the occasional big bet as I do studying the form of racehorses. However, old habits die hard and, whisper it, I think I might have discovered a cunning method of getting one up on the old enemy…
The author’s name is known to the Observer, but it has been withheld at his request

Sunday, 2 August 2015

2015-16 Plans

While I haven’t exactly been inundated with inquiries into my plans for the 2015-16 football season, a couple of subscribers have asked, the most recent enquiry being:

I was wondering if you were running your service again for this upcoming season?
If so how much is a subscription and how do I go about renewing.
I must admit that I was pleased to see the end of last season, in large part because running the FTL took so much time each week. 

While on this subject, FTL entrant TFA_Raz, also known as David, made a much appreciated gesture when advised that there would be no FTL this season, writing:
That's a shame mate it was a lot of fun. Please keep the £25 as a thank you for all the effort you put into it last season. My performance didn't deserve a cash anyway!
There won't be an FTL this season, so with kick-off just a few days away, it’s decision time on the Cassini Service. After much deliberation, and perhaps a little soul-searching, I have decided that, while results last season were overall on a par with other services, they are not enough to justify continuing as before. Pretty much everyone was saying what a tough season the last one was, (i.e. big losses), and in the leagues I follow there were certainly some unusual (compared to previous seasons) results, but with most subscribers paying £99 for the season, did it offer value for money?

Relative to other services I would say yes, but I am biased, and frankly even though the XX Draws and Bundeslayga selections are targeted at those looking to mitigate Premium Charges, I'm not comfortable that the Value Selections proved to be anything but, and pulled the overall achievable returns into the red.

So looking forward, since I will still be generating prices on each of the big 49 matches each week (EPL, Ligue 1, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga) for my own use, it's not a big deal to plug these numbers into a newsletter each week if the interest is there. I will also be adding some bets from a new league. Nothing too original, but the strategy has been profitable for the last three seasons where Pinnacle's Prices are available.

The cost will be £59 for the season, (£49 for renewing subscribers), and because I need an 'official' profit / loss number, I will include some 'official' selections each week (or round). The reason is that if this 'official' number, (actually the ROI%), measured against Pinnacle Sports prices as recorded by Football Data.co.uk, finishes the season below -2.0%, (i.e. no edge), I will refund half of this amount. As mentioned before, Pinnacle's Prices are usually beatable, so this 'official' number will be easily achievable with the smallest of efforts. Why only refund half the cost? The fee is so low because the money is secondary to the challenge of beating the very competitive football markets. I'm an old man by some measures (though not as old as some) and this is very much a part-time hobby for me, not a job, but it does take some time each week, and the small charge is for this effort. As with any betting venture, there can be no guarantees. A loss doesn't mean that there is a fraud being executed - and if anyone thinks it's worthwhile doing this for £29.50, they need help - it simply means that the markets continue to be hard to beat despite our best efforts.

For anyone interested, payments can be made via PayPal or Skrill to calciocassini@aol.com  

For anyone not interested, good luck to you this season. Having watched the Community Shield game earlier today, and with 'my' Crystal Palace making some positive moves in the off-season, the excitement is back. 

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