Tuesday 21 November 2023

World Cup Cricket and Two-Thirds Century Wraps

Despite finishing with a loss in the final, my first real participation in cricket betting during this World Cup has been a positive one. 

As I've been mentioning these past few weeks, backing most favourites in World Cup games had a decent ROI of 4.9% from the previous three tournaments and while overall the ROI has since declined to 4.3%, by passing on the ultra-hot favourites which historically are a losing proposition, the 2023 numbers were +1.63 units from 40 matches. 
With Thanksgiving Day coming up, an American wife and a two-thirds of a century "birthday" coming up tomorrow, I'll be on Overs this week. Overseas with the in-laws, over-eating and possibly over-drinking for the next few days. I like to mark these special occasions, although my wife thinks I'm a little crazy. For my one-third of a century I went to the Bahamas, and for my 25,000 days celebration in September of 2025 - which also happens to fall on a US Holiday (Labor Day) - well who knows. Hopefully I'll still be above ground, but life can come at you fast. 

Saturday 18 November 2023


This season, the NBA has introduced an "In-Season Tournament" which isn't exactly the most exciting of names for a new competition, but is basically a competition within the current regular season whereby some games effectively count double. Wins or losses count towards the standings in the traditional 82 game regular season and also to the standings in the new tournament.

The 30 teams are split into six groups of five, three East and three West, with each team playing four games against their mini-league opponents, two home and two away. The six group winners plus one wildcard team from each region will then play a traditional single elimination tournament with quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final, with the last two rounds in Las Vegas in early December. 

As with any rule or competition format change, it's often worth paying attention to see if there's an edge to be found, but with just 73 games played so far, it's not possible to draw any firm conclusions. It's not even clear whether teams or players will be taking these doubly important games any differently. There's a nice cash bonus ($500,000) to players on the winning team which sounds like a lot of money but to the elite players on say $30million a year, it might seem insignificant. The average NBA salary is around $9.7million which is the highest for any team sport in the world, but averages are distorted by the superstars (Bill Gates walks into a diner...) and the the median salary is a paltry $4.6million this season. Four teams have already been eliminated. 

Early signs are that these games are going under more than non-in-tournament games, (the average line for in-tournament games is 227.8 versus 225.6 in regular games) and underdogs are performing above market expectations. Something to watch for.

For Sacred Manuscript followers, the Totals System is firing on all cylinders so far, and while the other main system is profitable on non-tournament games, it's negative on the in-tournament games. 

It really would be much simpler to call this new competition the NBA Cup! 

Thursday 16 November 2023

Gambler's Fallacy

I'm not going to mention any names, but one tipster with an excellent track record who I've been following for several years now, recently sent an update with an interesting, and surprising, suggestion:

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 couldn't agree less. Increasing stakes in an effort to recoup prior losses is loss-chasing and something which is often viewed as a defining feature in the transition from recreational to problem gambling.

If your system is profitable at level stakes, there is never any need to chase your losses. The positive expected value (+EV) will, in the long run, result in profits.

Unfortunately the long run can be very long and natural variance means that there will be sequences, often painfully long, when a +EV system will lose, but the problem with increasing stakes and chasing these losses is that we have no idea when the system will turn profitable again. 

Tossing ten heads in a row doesn't mean we should increase our stakes on tails. If anything, it would be the opposite because, if the same coin is being used each time, it may be biased, but in sports betting where the events are all independent, the system has no memory and thus no idea of when it should start reverting to the mean. 

Gambler's fallacy. Past events do not affect future probabilities.

A system may NEVER revert to the mean, because in sports betting an edge can vanish overnight, and increasing stakes would be a serious threat to ones bank. 

Moving on to the Cricket World Cup, and if you followed my 'back most favourites' strategy you'll have banked a couple more winners in the Semi-Finals with India (1.37) and Australia (1.74) prevailing. 

India are around 1.5 to win the Final this weekend and Favourites have won all three previous Finals and have a good record in Knockout games:

Tuesday 14 November 2023

Cricket and FRAN

With the opening stage of the Cricket World Cup now complete, thanks to Odds Portal I have now have the approximate prices for 167 such matches since 2011 which show that backing the Favourite in these games is a profitable strategy with an overall ROI of around 2.7%.
With the number of sportsbooks offering prices somewhat limited in earlier years, though up from five to eleven these days, the data isn't perfect but the trend is apparent and while the number of knockout games is small, just 17 so far, if we include these games, the trend becomes even stronger.

Hopefully the screenshot above is self-explanatory. It shows the outcome of backing the Favourite for both the opening group and latter elimination stages and the ROIs, so for example, Favourites in the knockout stages have an ROI of almost 21%, and in all matches of 4.3%.

All Favourites are not equal however, and the next image shows the results by band:
Backing at very short odds isn't usually the best idea, and if the shortest priced 46 favourites are excluded, the ROI climbs to 6.2%.

India are about 1.37 to beat New Zealand in the first semi-final, which is very close to the price they were to win the same match up four years ago, and lost.

Not relevant for betting purposes, but it's a curiosity that New Zealand are the only country to win a knockout game as the underdog, having done this in 2011, 2015 (both v South Africa) and in 2019 versus India and they have good pedigree in World Cups reaching the last two finals.  

When New Zealand and India met in the opening stage of this World Cup, India won by 4 wickets, but New Zealand were always in the game and at one stage were 178-2 before ending at just 273. The numbers tell me to back India though, and it's about numbers, not teams.

Another rare comment on the blog, this time from my old friend schnakenpopanz who wrote:
Hi again, As I have often mentioned, I follow your blog with great admiration. What is your opinion on rating systems? On the one hand, ELO is often used to rate teams better. I use Ken Massey's site a lot. https://masseyratings.com/ Especially for college sports, it allows for very good ratings. Thank you very much and good luck.

While I love looking at ratings, the challenge I have is using them to beat the market. A little history, but back in 1987 (36 years ago!) I bought a book called The Punter's Revenge - Computers in the world of gambling - by Tony Drapkin and Richard Forsyth (I still have it in fact) and one chapter which had a big influence on me was 8.4 "Rating the strength of football teams".  

The method was named FRAN (Football Rating Assessment Number) and was based on Elo (not ELO!) with Home teams "risking" 7% of their rating and Away teams 5%. I was quite fascinated by the idea, and spent many hours in the late 1980s / early 1990s maintaining ratings, looking for value, and with some success. 

I remember one midweek round of matches when I had a number of multiple bets on Away wins in Divisions Three and Four, (in those days you couldn't bet on single matches), and all five landed for what, at the time, was a rather nice payout. I remember it because waiting for the final results to be confirmed made me late to meet a friend at the pub, and she was less than impressed with my excuse. 

I think I've mentioned before that I'd look at the prices in the Racing Post on my commute into London, stop at a phone on my walk to the office and call in my bets which was great until my bookmaker accounts all got closed down in fairly quick succession, which was probably more than a coincidence, and made me realise that my time could probably be spent more profitably elsewhere. Similar to my reaction when told I'd have to pay Premium Charges, part of me was satisfied that the ban meant my success was being confirmed. 

But I never forgot the idea, and many years later I resumed maintaining ratings on teams which is how I stumbled across the typical profile for matches with a higher than expected probability of ending up as a Draw, which became known as the XX Draws system back in 2012 or 2013. 

Like everything else, the betting landscape has evolved a lot since the late 1980s. Betfair made it possible for me to make money consistently again from betting, but other, far more sophisticated organisations, were developing their own models to identify value, and a relatively basic model based on an Excel spreadsheet was never going to find an edge.

I think ratings compiled by others are a good starting point, but because they are widely available, you need to identify a weakness (one example might be the rating for home field advantage) and tweak the overall rating to improve it, but of course everyone else is trying to do the same thing. 

Fortunately the sports markets aren't efficient, and in some cases remain inefficient for much longer than should be expected, and if you identify new trends early, and adapt your model accordingly, there is some hay to be made, at least for a while.

"The trend has vanished, killed by its own discovery." -Benoit B. Mandlebrot

Saturday 4 November 2023

October: Texas, UMPO, Cricket, Indexes and Health

The 2023 baseball season came to an end earlier this week with yet another underdog win for the Texas Rangers who clinched their first ever World Series on the road in Arizona.

On Opening Day Texas was 50-1 to be champions, and their win is the biggest upset since 2003 when the Florida Marlins won after starting the season at 75-1. 

If you've been following along with the UMPO System, you would be quite happy with the results this season.  

36 bets, 24 wins, and a 17.96u profit while the sub-category HUMPO System had four wins from five bets, and a profit of 3.69u

ROI percentages from a single year where the number of selections is fewer than 40 are meaningless, but they are available for each season here if anyone wants to see them.

The final numbers for this season and the 19 seasons for which we have data are:
With the number of selections also low for any given week or weekend, I've decided that my system updates would be more meaningful, if not necessarily more interesting, if they were published on a monthly basis. For infrequent tournaments like World Cups, and playoffs, I'll make exceptions, but for most competitions that take several months to complete, I think once a month is more than enough. 

For October the results for some of the systems I mention were as follows:
European Football clearly isn't doing very well so far this season, and with the baseball and Rugby World Cup now over, how November plays out will be largely dependent on how the daily NHL and NBA systems perform although American Football will be contributing. 

I've also been dabbling with the Cricket World Cup where favourites appear to offer value, but not the very hot favourites. 
The above table shows favourites in six bands, from strongest to the weakest left to right, and the trend is clear. Cricket isn't a sport that I've spent much time on before, but I'm always looking for markets that might be inefficient and was inspired by this article by Paul Krisnamurty who speaks a lot of sense on political events also and is worth a follow on Twitter. I mean X.  

Overall, October was a poor month. The FTSE100 was down, as were the major US indexes, and Tesla lost almost 20% which didn't help. Of the 153 months since I started tracking, October ranked 141st in real terms, although a slightly better 131st in percentage terms. The saddest part of it is that my net worth is lower now than it was two years ago, and I'm still working, never mind that I've not yet started drawing on my retirement savings!

The three main problems people face when they retire are apparently "financial insecurity, health issues and social isolation" and October was at least a good month for the second of those categories. 

As I mentioned previously, I usually try to do Sober October, and this one was 100% successful, with the consequent weight loss of 17.8lbs, the second best ever behind the Sober October of 2021. I'm now back to the 50th percentile for my height and need to stop drinking. 

The number of days when I have alcohol is more closely correlated to weight loss than the amount of alcohol, not surprisingly a pattern strengthened by counting calories in and exercising, and on that front I set records for both steps (17,652 per day) and miles walked / run (8.63 per day). 

The winter months in blue are clearly much better for my health than the yellow summer months. Good luck in November. 

Sunday 29 October 2023

World Cups - Rugby to Cricket

It appears that Adam Johnson has sadly passed away at the age of just 29 after his horrific accident last night while playing for the Nottingham Panthers which makes the rest of this post seem very trivial. 

Ice hockey has always been a dangerous game. The frozen puck can do some serious damage when hit at speed, and most players lose teeth or suffer facial injuries during their careers.

Life threatening injuries like the one that occurred last night are fortunately extremely rare, and in its long history, only one NHL player has died from injuries suffered on the ice (Bill Masterton in 1968 when he hit his - helmetless - head hard on the ice, went into a come and passed away two days later) but there was a fairly recent accident similar to last night's back in 2008 when Florida Panthers' Richard Zednik (also 29 at the time) almost died when the skate of a teammate accidentally sliced his neck in a game against the Buffalo Sabres. 

The Sabres were also involved in a game in 1989 when their goalkeeper Clint Malarchuk suffered a similar injury but survived.

Skates to the face are not unheard of but a death will doubtless bring the question of neck guards to the fore again. 

Hockey is a tough sport, and in many other ways it reminds me of Rugby Union, with its traditions and mutual respect. All very sad. RIP Adam. 

Well, speaking of Rugby, and the World Cup has finished with more success for the strategy of backing hot favourites and opposing weak favourites. 

England were 1.39 to beat Argentina, and did so, while New Zealand were the weakest of any of the 32 World Cup matches for which I have odds, and unsurprisingly lost to South Africa who have now won half of the World Cup tournaments they have taken part in.

If you'd followed my suggestion going into the knockout phase this year, you would have had a 100% winning record, with the four hot favourites all winning for a 1.00 unit profit, and the four underdogs all winning for a 5.73 unit profit. Luck was certainly on our side, which is always a plus.

From the 32 matches all-time, 20 of the 21 strongest favourites were winners, and 9 of the 11 weakest were losers (see left). If only every sport was as clear cut, and it's a shame this tournament is only quadrennial, and not only for the investment opportunity. It's a tournament that is slow to get going with so many one-sided games, but when those more competitive games come along, it's hard to beat as a sport. 

Although there are no elimination matches in the Six Nations, a similar pattern is seen here, although backing very short priced favourites is not profitable long term.

We have to wait a while for the Rugby Championship next summer, and there's the new Pacific Nations Cup featuring Canada, Fiji, Japan, Samoa, Tonga and USA which will take place next August / September which will have some knockout games.

We're also getting closer to the knockout games in the Cricket World Cup and in these games the strategy - based on the huge 17 game sample since 2011 for which we have data - is to simply back the favourite. 

The weakest of them all did lose, as did two others, all curiously to New Zealand who are thus the only underdog to win in these games and currently well placed to make the knockout stage again. Unlike England.  

Backing the favourite has an ROI of 21%, but as mentioned, it's a very small sample size. 

For those following the Underdog System in the World Series, we had another winner last night, officially probably at 2.3 but the site isn't updated yet. I layed the Texas Rangers at 1.73. The series is now tied after two games and moves to Arizona for the next three. 

In American Football, it looks like we'll be 3-3 on the College games, and not many qualifiers from the NFL today, although we did start the round with a winner on Thursday night. 

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Uncanny Ability - A Story of a Person

Comments on the blog these days are few and far between but Gnome Mange, possibly not his real name, had one on a post that was published more than six and a half years ago regarding the infamous Peter "Pee Wee" Webb. Gnome Mange wrote:

After nearly 6 years I now think you are correct. All these horse trading pre-off is just marketing gimmick to sell his software, probably with the blessing of Betfair themselves to bring in more liquidity.

I tried pre-off horse trading myself and it makes no sense. There is no rule where the odds have to be, it could go anywhere. I fail to see how staring at odds moving around somehow give you insight to the future...
Read the original blog post for more details, but the only surprising thing about this comment is that it took six plus years for GM to reach this conclusion! 

Many personal web sites, including this one, have an "About Me" section, but not Peter. 

Peter has an "About Peter" section, written in the third person, a trait described in the book "Identifying and Understanding the Narcissistic Personality" by Elsa Ronningstam, an associate clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School in this way:
"Referring to yourself in the third person creates distance between "I" and "he." So if you have an exaggerated view of how great you are, you could be using this distance to make yourself even bigger."
Without further comment, here's a paragraph from Peter on Peter:
It’s not only this pioneering approach that has caught people’s imagination but also Peter’s uncanny ability to predict and exploit whatever market he embraces. However, it is always characterised by a deep understanding of risk and a lifelong pursuit of its limits. This is a story of a person, who from his childhood, has sought through a very personal journey, to profitably apply a passion for numbers and statistics to real-world markets.

The ability to predict and exploit any market would indeed be uncanny. It would also mean that Peter would be one of the wealthiest, if not the wealthiest, people on the planet. I suspect he isn't, and as Gnome Mange says - "It makes no sense". When someone is talking about themselves in such a flowery and ridiculous way, it should ring some alarm bells to anyone thinking of parting with their money. 

Thanks for the comment though and the trip down memory lane. Moving on to more current events, and it wasn't a bad weekend overall, although the Bundeslayga System had a bad round and dented the profits.

The Rugby World Cup (RWC) semi-finals went as expected, but it can hardly be claimed that the South Africa bet was value even if it did ultimately land. Up 0.29 units and we now have odds for 27 RWC elimination matches, and 18 of the 19 shortest priced favourites have won, with just one of the other nine prevailing. New Zealand are a weak favourite in the Final, and while Third Place matches (or Bronze Finals) as Rugby refers to them are best avoided in football, in Rugby they do seem to go to form.  

In the MLB playoffs, the underdogs continue to do well. Very well in fact with 12 winners from the last 15, and twice as may wins as losses in total (22-11) when even a 50/50 record would guarantee a profit. With just the World Series to come between two Wild Card teams from the West, we're up about 16.76 units so far. The favourites, with home field advantage, are the Texas Rangers, who play the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rangers have never won a World Series. With a negative ROI of 1.9%, underdogs tend not to do so well in the World Series, although now that the Designated Hitter rule has gone, that might change. 

In College Football, the manuscript systems went 4-2 ATS and 5-1 on the Totals for a nice profit, while in the NFL we went 3-4 ATS and 2-1 on the Totals. Combined for the season, these systems are now 104-60-5, up 40.9 units.

It's still early in the NHL season and like last year, it's off to a slow start down 3.75 units after 31 matches. Last season we were down 12.25 units at the end of November, but we still ended the season in profit. 

The 2023 NBA season started last night with two games, but no qualifying bets, which may be a good thing after 2022 was a disappointment for both systems, with rare losses. A blip, or has the edge gone? Time will tell. 

And finally to football, and the good news was that I updated the document early on Saturday morning with a new system and it produced two winners for subscribers from two qualifiers. The Bundeslayga Systems were terrible as mentioned earlier, losing a combined 7.24 units, the Segunda División Draws had one winner from three for a tiny loss, and there were no selections in the EPL.