Sunday, 13 October 2019

The Sophisticated Punter

The infamous Spanky has been calling out touts on Twitter again, writing:
To anybody that gives advice on who to bet and why you like this team or that team: anybody with half a brain doesn’t give a shit what you think unless you bet your own money.
I know I just insulted 99.99% of gambling twitter but I gotta keep it real.
Too many know-it-alls.
One reply, from an individual who is clearly confused, replied:
Anyone whose "bet sizes are larger" (relative to what? one might ask) and who only bets a game "every few weeks" is certainly not a recreational bettor. 

Having looked at some of his other views about the world, I suspect that he's not the sharpest of individuals, and what being "sophisticated" has to do with being a professional bettor, I have no idea.

As for betting every day, also false. If you're a pro or serious about betting, you bet when you have an edge, and only when you have an edge. That might be several times on a certain day, and no times on other days. 

At the time of writing, we are 2-1 on the NFL picks today, with the San Francisco 49ers looking good in their current game (up 20-7 in the 4th quarter) in Los Angeles versus the Rams. 

The Detroit Lions are playing in the Monday night game at the Green Bay Packers. 

Not a great day yesterday for the College 'Road Dogs which look like they will officially be recorded at 3-6-1 for the week. 

Ahead 26-21-3 on the season though, as the system looks for a 19th consecutive winning season. 

In the baseball play-offs, the Houston Astros have drifted out to third favourites behind the New York Yankees (to who they trail 0-1 in the ALCS) and Washington Nationals who lead the St Louis Cardinals 2-0 after winning the first two games in St Louis. 

Justin Verlander pitches for the Astros tonight, and they are around -161 (1.62). Verlander is by no means a shoo-in at this price, losing at -185 last season in Game 5 of their series against the Boston Red Sox last season, which saw the Astros eliminated. 

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Better Late Than Never

Twitter has been around since 2006, coincidentally the same year as Skeeve started his tipping service, and after 13 years, Skeeve has finally decide to embrace this new-fangled social media platform. You can, and should, follow him here @SkeevePicks.

A pioneer indeed, and with a long record of profitability, the account might be worth a follow based on the promise of "an occasional free tip, probably even an occasional free weekend pass." Here was today's freebie, which was a nice winner:

It's looking like we will have fewer qualifiers than usual this weekend in Week 6 on the NFL with just four Small Road 'Dogs. Here are the results for the season to date:
It's a Divisional game in London this weekend, but the London Losers streak continues after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost last week. They play the Carolina Panthers who are 2.5 point favourites, with favourites having a 22-11-1 record for regular season games at neutral venues.

We do have a Home 'Dog in the MLB NLCS game today, with the St Louis Cardinals currently at 2.22 for the second game versus the Washington Nationals, and a handful of College Football selections for those following the Small Road 'Dogs in that sport.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Braves and Kershaw Crash

Hopefully no one was deterred by, and by some distance, the longest price in MLB playoff history for a Home 'Dog on Tuesday night.

The Tampa Bay Rays extended the profits of this simple system defeating the Houston Astros 4-1 at 3.20. 

This season's results now look like this: 

Prior to Tuesday, the biggest price on a Home team in the play-offs was 2.6 back in 2009, and the average price is around 2.18.

Last night's loser was the Atlanta Braves who gave up a playoff record 10 runs in the first inning. At odds-on, some of you may have excluded this loser from selection, but six of the eight that have previously been in this category have been winners.

With a small sample size of just 134 matches and a 11.7% ROI, this isn't one of the strongest systems I've shared, but nevertheless Joseph Buchdahl's calculator gives the results a 1 in 11 chance of being by chance.

The final game of the Division Series is tonight, and at -280 the Houston Astros are certainly not a Home Underdog v Tampa Bay Rays. All three previous Home playoff favourites at this price or shorter have won. Not a large sample, and none were in the final game of a series.

As previously mentioned in this blog, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw has a problem in the playoffs, and it repeated again this season. He lost his only start in the Washington Nationals series, making it three playoff losses on the trot, and gave up a 3-1 lead last night after allowing back-to-back solo home runs as a relief pitcher. The Nationals won the game in the tenth inning to advance.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

October: Playoffs and Beginnings

October is always an interesting and busy month, with the baseball play-offs and World Series bringing the MLB season to an end, while at the same time the NHL and NBA seasons both get underway. 

With American Football already in-play, the possibility of a Sports Equinox is alive, and some of you may recall the unique occurrence in Los Angeles last year when the city hosted all four major US sports on the same day, with an MLS game as an added bonus.

In the MLB playoffs, the strategy of backing Home 'Dogs got off to a winning start on Friday when the Atlanta Braves defeated the St Louis Cardinals 3-0 at +115 (2.15) to tie their series at 1-1. The second game of a series, with the home team coming off  loss, is a particularly strong bias for this idea, as it is in the sixth game of a seven game series, which is the format for the Championship Series and World Series.

It was another winning weekend for the College Football Road 'Dogs with six winners from nine selections, and we're in good shape to see this trend be a winner for the 19th consecutive season.

Since 2000, the overall win percentage is 55.5% and after 1697 matches, if you're not convinced there's an edge here, I'm not sure what would convince you. Cue a terrible Week 7.

The NHL season started this week, and this is another sport where the public appear to put too much trust in the Home team when they are the underdog. 

The 2012 season was shortened by a strike, and the league was re-organised in 2013, so I use the data from 2013 on and blindly backing Road Favourites in the Regular season has an ROI of 3.2% from 2091 matches. 

Excluding weak favourites increases the ROI, and unlike baseball, when backing hot favourites is a good strategy, in ice hockey it is not. Road favourites lose their appeal at around the -170 line so it helps to exclude these. 

There's also a noticeable difference between conferences (the Eastern, comprised of the Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions, is far more concentrated geographically than the Western Conference, which is made up of the Central and Pacific Divisions). Time zones are also a factor, as I have written about previously.

There appears to be a bias to be taken advantage of here, and the number of bets is easily managed over a six month season. 

Friday, 4 October 2019

London Losers and Wednesday Winners

Week 5 of the NFL features the first games in London for the season, and Axios points out the interesting curiosity that none of the 25 games in the capital so far have been between two teams with winning records. 

Contrast this with the games played in Mexico City, where one of the two was between winning teams, and the third scheduled game last season was to be between two 9-1 teams except that the field wasn't fit to play on, and the game moved to Los Angeles. Ouch.

After the Carolina Panthers play in London next week, only one NFL team will have never played in London, and unless both the Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers win this weekend, the streak will move to 26 games.

Regular season games played outside of the USA are fairly rare and consequently have a small sample size, but of the 32 matches played to date, the favourite has covered 67.7% of the time and 85.7% of the time when the 'dog is coming off a win. The logic here is that a combination of the recent win and the effect of a neutral site is given too much credit by the betting public, and the line is lower than it should be.

Based on current lines, we should have seven Small Road 'Dogs this weekend, looking to maintain their 73.9% record so far this season.

We should have about the same number of selections in the College version of the game looks likely as we hope to improve on the current 17-12-2 record (left). 

As a reminder, this market inefficiency has persisted with more winners than losers in every season throughout the third millennium.

Regarding the end of regular season baseball summary and some of the systems I mentioned therein, Spot On Parts had this to say:
I've covered this before, but having a logical premise or rationale for why a market might be inefficient and then looking at data to either confirm or disprove the theory is quite different to data mining, an example of which is this one from a few minutes ago:
'Less' should of course be 'fewer' but regardless, one should never be too hasty in saying that such a finding has no predictive value - just because you don't recognise a cause, doesn't mean that there isn't one (Sumo Round 15 anyone?) - but it seems highly unlikely that a combination of fouls, being on the road, and a recent win at such specific values and only for the Detroit Pistons, and it all started after January 15th 2015, has any predictive value at all. It's random nonsense, the product of some great data mining (change the 20 fouls to 19 for example and 11 wins vanish) and it's not helpful nor all that interesting. There must be thousands of such nuggets (not Denver, the golden kind) hidden in the database, but the key is there has to be some rationale behind it. 

Spot On Parts then tweeted the below before rushing to the hospital to have his sides stitched back together:
He's referring to the fact that in Wednesday games, the New York Yankees have a Money Line ROI of 8.4% over the 408 games in the database. 

Now this is an example of something that could be chance, but in baseball, because of the way games are scheduled, Wednesdays (and Sundays for that matter) see more games of a certain category than other days, so Wednesday results would be expected to differ from say those on a Monday. 

The Yankees ROI is actually 90.9% on the road in day games against teams they have more wins than, and following an extra inning game. 

On the flip side, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a -12.8% ROI on Wednesday games and they are scheduled to play the Washington Nationals next Wednesday if a deciding game is required.  

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Basic Baseball and Mattress Mack

Pinnacle tweeted out a link to a year old article on baseball betting, and as is often the case, statements are casually thrown out that really aren't helpful or true.

The articled is titled "Why basic data isn't enough when betting on MLB" which is neither snappy nor accurate. 

In fact, as readers will know, basic publicly available data is quite enough to make a decent profit from this sport as my 2019 season summary showed.

The article contains the suggestion to "always consider the importance of the individual game" which would seem to be superfluous to anyone who takes betting seriously, and this paragraph is problematic:

Baseball is a rotation heavy sport. An MLB team has a 40-man roster from which to select their players (this comes from the active 25-man roster). Those new to betting may note that the starting pitcher is often listed alongside the odds for the game and (while some argue it is no longer as important as it once was) this shows the value that can be placed on specific individuals playing in a given game.
To be clear, it is the 25-man active roster that comes from the 40-man roster, not the other way round, but less pedantically, the suggestion that starting pitcher "is no longer as important as it once was" is palpable nonsense. 

A look at the number of sub -400 lines this season and the names of the starting pitchers will show that the starting pitcher is as important to the win probability, and thus starting prices, as ever.

The very next paragraph is this:
If the game you are looking to bet on doesn’t mean that much to one of the teams, it is likely that this will be reflected in the starting line-up - betting without having an in-depth look at each teams' line-up will cost you dearly.
I'd caution anyone serious about betting not to go looking for a game to bet on, rather the process should be to develop strategies and bet on games, and in markets, that are qualifiers.

The article contains some over-complicated and time consuming filler such as this:
Another factor that bettors need to think about when trying to analyse the two teams competing in a single game is day vs. night. Using the Blue Jays as a point of reference again, they have a sOPS+ (day/night split OPS relative to the league, with 100 being average) of 97/109 for night/day. Again, this is far from an in-depth analysis but just goes to show how spending the time to delve a bit deeper into data can benefit bettors.
Perhaps it's not surprising that no evidence is presented that anything in the article actually led to profits. 

To be fair, when I replied to the Tweet and suggested that over-complication wasn't helpful, and linked my Season Summary post, the author Benjamin Cronin replied positively:
Completely agree. The intention of the article is not to suggest more complex data is required, but that the analysis of the data you use is just as important (which you've done a great job of showing in your article).
Hopefully the constructive criticism above will be taken in good faith also.

There were a couple of other comments regarding the Season Summary, with my old friend A Lucky A Day asking:
The numbers for all my baseball systems come from Killer Sports, and although they do update the lines suggesting they are near to closing prices, I don't believe they are claimed as closing prices. I'm not aware of any sites offering closing prices so Killer Sports may not be perfect, but as perfect is the enemy of good, they are more than acceptable. If anyone has closing prices, feel free to send them my way.  

Barrakuda had this to say:

Other than the All-Star Break adjustment to the Overs Total System which is detailed in the post, the systems were all unchanged. 

Regarding whether all the systems I have ever conceived are shown, the answer is no. When I first first started betting on baseball in 2005, the focus was on in-play trading, and looking at edges from such things as starting prices sticking even after the starting pitcher was out of the game.

After hitting the Premium Charge Threshold in September 2012, it was hard to justify spending the time needed for in-play, and I started looking at a more systematic approach that would only take a few minutes each day. The Premium Charge also had a negative impact on liquidity, so the transition was a no-brainer.

Obviously some ideas were discarded almost straight away after some initial research, and others are proprietary and haven't been discussed on the blog, but the simple Totals Systems, T-Bone, Home Improvement and Rhenium etc. have all been around for a while. And of course I'm always open to new ideas.

Some of the more calendar specific systems for opening week, first week after the All-Star Break etc. were not included in the season summary.

Two systems that I no longer bet are the Mountain High System which after six winning seasons had a losing season in 2016 and was abandoned in 2017 after the poor results continued, i.e. the markets corrected themselves, and the UMPO system for the playoffs which proved to be too volatile and not worth pursuing with such a small sample size (around 30 games) each season. Apparently I didn't even update the numbers for 2018 yet. 

It's important to understand that market inefficiencies shouldn't persist for long, and any system should become worthless sooner or later. One needs to stay on top of systems and trends, one good example being the trend towards more runs meaning that the Overs System needed to be adjusted. Games change and markets change, but with change comes opportunity. 

There may be other examples of ideas in this blog, but honestly after 11 years it's hard to recall every system I may have put out there for consideration. No posts are ever deleted so there's a record of the systems out there.    

The playoffs continued last night with the American League Wild Card game in which the Oakland Athletics were, as they were last season, eliminated - this time by the Tampa Bay Rays.

For the first time in MLB history, four 100-win teams are in the playoffs, including the 107 wins Houston Astros who the Rays now have the pleasure of facing in the ALDS. 

Some of you may have seen articles about the Houston businessman 'Mattress Mack' who is looking to hedge his company's exposure to an Astros win by backing them to win the World Series. 

He 'only' wants $10 million on them, but sports books do not take sides, at least to any significant extent, even if the odds are hugely in their favour:
Sportsbooks maintain a much bigger house edge on futures markets, like the odds to win the World Series, than on single-game wagers. Even so, Curtis said multiple bookmakers have declined to take their action on the Astros. And the other shops willing to take their action so far took much less than they wanted to bet.
The Las Vegas Advisor has an article on this topic from someone with inside knowledge on the efforts to place these bets:
Mack had a standing offer from FanDuel to bet up to $10 million at +220, meaning that every $1 million wagered would return $2,200,000 if the Astros win. At the time, that offer was slightly below the market, and Frank and I set out to do better, at least for a portion of whatever was ultimately bet. What sounded like an easy enough task turned out to be anything but, as the books were a lot more timid to take the action than we expected. Why would the books be reticent? This is a futures bet with a 20%+ house edge cooked into the line. But this is also corporate Las Vegas and department heads are loath to take a chance on putting red ink on the balance sheets. Taking this bet, this good bet, still put them at risk and many weren’t having it.
After a whole lot of haggling, several bets have now been made in Las Vegas at +250, led by South Point, which booked it for $200K. That’s good old-fashioned bookmaking from the likes of Jimmy Vaccaro and Michael Gaughan. Four other Vegas sports books took bets at varying amounts: Caesars, MGM, TI, and Circa. Also, one monster $3.5 million wager at +220 was accepted by DraftKings and placed in Mississippi at the Scarlet Pearl. That’s where things stand right now, with close to $4 million in action. But using a hold ’em poker analogy, this is only pre-flop action; there’s much more to come.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

NFL: The Road, Low Totals and Big Spreads

After the Small Road 'Dogs went a perfect 7 for 7 in the NFL's Week 3, Week 4 was almost certainly going to be a relative disappointment but I'll take the 5 winners out of 8 selections that it produced any time.

Going into Week 4, road teams overall had a winning record, which has only happened once (in 2006) since at least 1989, when records began. No season has seen road teams end the season with a winning record since the 1970s, so this early trend was something worth keeping an eye on. The ATS percentage was 69.6%.   

After road teams this weekend went 11-4, expect to see more conversation about this in the next few days. Overall, road teams now have a 56.5% record straight up and are 67.2% ATS. 

Readers of this blog will know from my thoughts on the Away win in football (soccer) and its slow and steady increase in the English Premier League, something I expect to only continue with VAR, but the NFL, along with MLB, has long had challenges and reviews meaning that the (subconscious) referee bias favouring home teams is reduced:

In recent years, in basketball and elsewhere, the home advantage has been evaporating. The decline has been slow and steady in English soccer over the past century. In baseball, where home-field advantage has been at some of its weakest levels in recent years, it’s thought that closer supervision of umpires may be to thank.
Readers will also be aware that the long-term success of the Small Road 'Dogs Systems in both the NFL and College Football, works because the public overestimate home advantage. Long may they continue to do so, but pre-season articles pointing out that this advantage isn't actually as big as thought, don't help. 
...but for the most part, if you have two even teams, you'll see the home team favored by three points. It probably won't shock you to know that smart bettors don't take this three-point rule at face value, and those that dig into the numbers know that home-field advantage has actually been worth far less than three points on average around the league.
Fortunately some biases appear to be so well established that facts don't change opinions. It helps when people post misleading statements on social media platforms such as this:
Home Dog Division game always a good play.
Well, not always since the Home Dog in Division games since 1989 has a 499-511-35 record. Since the league re-organisation in 2002, the record is 259-285-18, and for the last three full seasons the win percentage is just 47.6%. When I pointed out this small, but significant, detail, the response was this:
I actually do go back to the 50s although I lie about my age and no one is any the wiser, but I don't think that's what he meant. No doubt most readers can come up with a good answer to this question, but that there are people out there with these mindsets is good news for the rest of us! 

Some of you may have also noticed that the average total this season through four weeks is at an all-time high 46 points. 

Unders had a 26-20-2 record, so this was another trend I thought I'd follow with a small interest in Week 4 and that went well with a 9-6 outcome for a nice bonus. 

Backing the Under when the total is 46.5 or fewer is 21-8-2 so far, 72.4%. As with baseball and basketball, it's another example of the public being afraid of the Under when it is a relatively low total. Backing Under 46.5 since 2014 has been profitable every season, with an overall 54.9% record. 

As with the NBA and MLB, the average number of points is also increasing in the NFL due to rules changes, and perhaps the public haven't shifted their long established biases here yet either. 

Between 1989 and 1994, the average total was 38.7, and in every five year period since, the average has increased.

The average total for this week is 46.07 points. 

Next weekend, for the first time in almost 10 years, there will be a game between a 4-0 team (New England Patriots) and an 0-4 team (Washington Redskins). Examples are rare, but all six have been won by the favourite, and four have been won ATS. The line is currently 15.5. 

Similar to how the sub -400 price used to be a rarity in baseball, a line greater than two converted touchdowns used to be relatively rare in the NFL, but parity seems to be declining here also with five already this season, and a sixth likely in Week 8.

Since 2002, there have been 69 such occurrences, with 21 being the the New England Patriots, seven of which were in 2007 when they almost went unbeaten for the season. Only twice has the hot favourite lost and ATS the record is 38-31 although in the AFC it is 50/50. Road teams are 6-1. 

Another interesting tidbit is that in games following a big handicap that went Over, the public expects an immediate reversion to the mean and backs Under.

Unfortunately for the public, Over is 63.6% in these games.