Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Place Your Bets (Plural)

A comment from Tage regarding the Push / Void debate, and to further the debate he has this to say:

There are some interesting variations on this theme.
On a tennis match you place a negative arbitrage bet at two different bookies.
The underdog is bet at a bookie who only requires 1 ball played.
The favourite is bet at a bookie who requires the match to finish 'normally'
Your profit will of course come when the favourite retires through the match.
This is not a void bet, but it is not a push bet either. How to record this bet?
The solution to this apparent conundrum is apparent when you see that Tage errs by considering this arbitrage to be one bet.

An arbitrage is created by two (or more, but we'll stick with two to keep it simple) discrete bets which when combined create the arbitrage, but there are two outcomes which both need to be recorded individually.

While one might want to consider a manufactured arbitrage as one bet, it clearly isn’t.

As Tage himself says “The underdog is bet at a bookie who only requires 1 ball played. The favourite is bet at a bookie who requires the match to finish 'normally' ”. "Bet at two different bookies".

Two bookies, two bets, two entries in the betting records. 
Arbitrage bet in sports betting is an activity where you simultaneously place bets on all possible outcomes of an event at odds that guarantee profit, whatever the result of the event will be. These bets are also known as surebets, miraclebets, surewins or just arbs.
In Tage’s example, he places two distinct bets, Bet One on the Underdog and Bet Two on the Favourite.

If the game never starts, then both bets are, of course, Void.

If the game plays out to its natural conclusion, then one bet is settled as a Winner, while the other is settled as a Loser.

If the game is abandoned due to a retirement, Bet One is settled as either a Winner or a Loser (depending on who retires), and Bet Two is settled as a Push because this bookmaker refunds the money if the game doesn’t end.

If the game is abandoned for reasons other than a player retiring, then unless there is some bizarre rule about paying out on the player who leads at the time, then the two bets would each be settled as a Push.

Tage goes on to offer a similar situation from Baseball:
Another bet type I had great success with 10 years ago.
A very well known UK bookie dipped their toes into MLB betting.
But they treated a baseball match exactly like a soccer match, that is, the odds stood even after a change of pitcher.
So place a bet on a big favourite at a bookie who voids the bet in case of a pitcher change and the arbitrage bet on the dog at the UK bookie.
This situation is a possible 'half void' bet. How to record this?
Again, the point here is that it is incorrect to refer to this situation as “the arbitrage bet”. The arbitrage opportunity is the result of two discrete bets, and the outcomes of each should be recorded separately.

Betting Tools Brian had this to say:
Interesting one Cassini. I originally included void bets in the ROI calculation on my TipsterTable but I changed when I read what you said on your site.
My thinking before then was that they should be included because the money was 'invested' without a return. Even if the money was never at risk due to a postponement, another potentially profitable investment may have been missed.
In most cases it will make little difference however and as long as the methods used are clear and consistent then I think either is acceptable.
It’s certainly true technically that once the money has been handed over for a bet, that money is not available to invest elsewhere, but because the bet requires the event to take place before it is ‘live’, I think there’s a valid argument to differentiate between a bet that is never activated, and a bet that is.

What is a little more awkward is how to handle an abandoned match. I lean towards recording this as a Push since the bet was live, and money was thus at risk so it more closely resembles a Draw No Bet, than a pre-game postponement, but I can see the argument for simply pretending the bet never happened and voiding it. A game abandoned in the opening few minutes bears more of a resemblance to a game called off before kick-off than does a game abandoned after 89 minutes. 
However, abandoned games are so rare that it doesn’t make a significant difference - of the 7,674 bets so far this season in the FTL, I can’t recall a single abandonment - but handling Draw No Bets as Voids rather than Pushes can make a difference.
Randolph has had slightly more than 10% of his selections end as "No Bets" and the difference between recording these as Void or Push moves the ROI% from 9.13% to 8.18%. While Randolph isn't a service, or at least not that I know of, Football Elite is, and his ROI% is either 1.16% or 1.07% depending on how the bets are recorded. 

Football betting may not be as mature as the financial markets yet, but it's growing as a serious option, and as it does, it will be important to potential serious investors what their expected ROI% really is.   

FTL Update 2.Mar And Speciousness

Another tough week for the FTL entrants, with an overall loss of 41.33 points. It was particularly bad for the Bounty Boys portfolio which lost a combined 20.47 points, and whose combined bounty liabilities have now increased to £1,525. On the season the overall net total is now down by almost 100 points with 148.19 points lost in January and February.

The potential (still a long way to go yet) additional bounty money is good news for anyone in the top 20 though, and the total league pot up for grabs currently stands at £3,175.

It was also a very bad round for the Draw Portfolio which lost a combined 18.80 points. The top five European leagues had just 11 draws (from 46 matches) while the lower four English leagues (Championship, League One, League two and Conference National) had just 9 (also from 46 matches).

Peter Nordsted's Drawmaster selections lost another 9.27 points, TFA Draws lost 5.62 points, Draw Picks lost 2.87 points, TFA Euro Draws lost 2.27 points and only XX Draws showed a profit, albeit just a whopping 1.23 points but on a tough weekend, I'll happily take it.  

It wasn't all doom and gloom though, with the big winners being Gecko and TFA_Raz and of course four entrants advanced to the semi-finals of the Erskine Cup.

Gecko made an impressive 12.49 points to close within six points of leader BettingTools.co.uk (-2.21), and as a bonus threw in that Chelsea would win the League Cup (although this match wasn't a league game and was thus ineligible). Gecko moved up five places, and with a gain of 9.44 points, TFA_Raz moved up nine places.

The leaders in double figures, with the new and old ROI%, are:
The four Erskine Cup Quarter-Finals were played, and in the first tie there was no treble joy for @ValueBankFooty this time around and his loss of 6.45 points combined with a 2.90 point profit for XX Unders, meant a comfortable win for the latter.

Randolph graced the league with his presence for the first time since November and picked up a small profit from two short-priced selections, but he could have remained idle since Jamie A had a bad weekend losing a round worst 12.26 points.

Abromo was a no-show which meant that all Talkies Tips needed to advance was a profit, and he did that with some ease making 3.97 points.

The fourth tie was between Club Havana and Gecko, and while both made profits, it was Gecko's huge weekend that trumped Club Havana's more modest profit of 1.17 points. Club Havana does have the consolation of being the only entrant so far to win a monthly price and a cup prize.  

The semi-finals to be played over the weekend of 20-23 March will be:
Back to the league, and the number of entries in profit dropped to 15 after both Football Investor, Fulltimebettingblog and Jamie A all dropped into the red. The others in profit are:
In the red zone we have:
The totals and Portfolios now look like this
The February monthly prize goes to BettingTools.co.uk although in the end it was closer than expected. Only six entries were profitable last month:
No rest for the League Commissioner as there are plenty of games this midweek in England, and some elsewhere, and the entries are already coming in.

For those of you into Golf betting, I came across the Golf Betting Form web site which had this to say about this blog:
Green All Over – possibly the best betting related blog around. Mainly taken from the angle of Betting Exchanges and focusing on Football and US Team sports. Well written (and sometimes combative in style!), there is plenty that can be gleaned from the blog if you want to bet successfully.
Possibly? If there is a better one, I'd live to know about it so that I can add it to my blog roll. I'm also not sure what is meant by "sometimes combative in style".

Moving on, and Betslayer left a comment on my recent excellent Ignoring The Result post writing:
You are getting a little obsessed with goal times....I imagine and in fact know that Benham and his operations as applied to football include goal times in their analysis!
I'm hardly obsessed with goal times. I do have a habit of tracking how close to the end any draw-breaker goal comes, (just so I can torture myself with "if only"), but as I have explained before, while goal times in football are interesting, they are not useful for predictive purposes. The suggestion that Matthew Benham would base his betting decisions on basic historical goal times is no more credible than that he would look at the result of a game in 1930 between two teams before making a decision:
Previously the two clubs met in the 1930 Semi-Final with Arsenal advancing after a replay winning 1:0 at Villa Park after a 2:2 draw in the first match at Elland Road. Hull led 2:0 with 20 minutes to go in the first match, and I therefore perceive value in laying Arsenal in the half-time market. These matches are particularly relevant given that both were played on neutral grounds, as of course the FA Cup Final will be. Interestingly 1930 saw the first World Cup finals and with this year also being a World Cup year, I perceive there is value to be had in backing Uruguay to win the World Cup.
Yeah, makes sense! I'll leave readers to make up their own minds about Betslayer's claim that he "imagines and in fact knows" anything at all about Matthew Benham and his strategies, but if you know something for a fact, you don't preface your remark with "I imagine and..." !  

Such a claim should be easy enough to back up with some evidence, but I have my doubts that any will be
forthcoming. Somehow, I can't see the rather naïve Biggie Betslayer (last blog post May 2013) as an insider on the hugely successful Benham's "operations".

Admittedly, "including goal times in their analysis" is a rather wishy-washy statement (one would hope that every detail available would be included if you are betting big money) but the implication that raw goal times are given much weight when taking serious betting decisions is specious.

I really wish successful football betting were as easy as looking at historical results or historical goal times. We'd all be rich! But of course it isn't, and making money consistently from football is not easy.

I imagine, with a high degree of certainty, that Betslayer is talking nonsense, and not for the first time. I'll let you all know should any evidence be forthcoming, but don't hold your collective breath.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Yields Down When Push Comes To Void

Threads on the Betfair and Blogabet Forums made me realise that some of the the ROI percentages in the FTL are slightly inflated.

I have a faint recollection of this topic coming up early in the season, with the infamous Jonny commenting that:

When ROI is calculated by betting syndicates it is normal practice to exclude void bets
This is correct in my opinion, but bets resulting in a Push are not the same as Void bets.
When a bet is a push, that does not mean that money was not risked – it only means that one gets the stake back after the bet is decided because the match ended in a certain way. It means that this amount of money has 0% yield (or interest) between the time of betting and the time when the stake is returned (it is not available to be invested elsewhere).
The fact that money was at risk is key, and is why Push outcomes should be included in the ROI percentages. When a match is Void, for example due to a postponement, the money was never at risk. Bets on the outcome of an event are conditional upon the event actually taking place!

The next update of the FTL will therefore incorporate this small change. Only seven of the 33 entrants have Push outcomes (Draw No Bet) and the highest percentage is Randolph's, who has just over 10% of his selections ending this way. His ROI% before this weekend was 8.93% under the old method, 7.99% using the new.

I'll actually list both ROI% calculations for a couple of weeks and if anyone has a different opinion about the above change, I'd be interested to hear it, but I think I have it right, albeit a little late.

Advanced Poisson Guide For Sale

Courtesy of Twitter and Mark, it was brought to my attention last week that Hejik is selling an “Advanced Poisson Guide”. I was asked my opinion of this, but contrary to another of Jonny Grossmark’s unfounded beliefs, (he has several), Hejik and I are in not actually in partnership to take over the world, (evil laugh), and the mundane truth is that I don’t know him (Hejik) from Adam, although Hejik does actually exist, which is likely a plus. I therefore have no knowledge of such a guide.

I was a little surprised given Hejik's thoughts on Poisson less than twelve months ago (5th April 2014) where he clearly has major doubts about Possion being a good fit for football, and further admits that the perfect model does not exist:

There seems to have been much debate about Poisson on various forums of late and the danger would appear to be the perfectly natural beginners obsession with building the perfect model.
Such a thing does not exist as you'll well be aware and 'best guess' is a reasonably fair assessment of what professional bettors are doing.
As long as your 'guess' is extremely well educated you have half a chance at the books who are also, apparently surprisingly to some, employing 'best guess' pricing models, not psychic witches with crystal balls.
For what it's worth, I think it's important that we question how efficiently Poisson fits to football and observation would suggest it's far from perfect.
However, even without that information it's easy enough to arrive at the same conclusion when we consider that some of the biggest bookmakers in the world are actively promoting it as a method of beating them. I'm not sure they'd be so inclined to do that were it even near as effective as they suggest.
Note the comment that Poisson is a far from perfect fit for football and the suggestion that bookies promote Posisson because it is ineffective, so we have something of a voltafaccia, as we say in Italy.
As many readers will know, I use a modified form of Poisson myself, (unmodified Poisson is not a good fit for football) so this is an area of interest, and I am only too well aware that the quality of the output (i.e. probabilities and thus prices) generated is only as good as the input, which is the goal expectancies for both teams.

What is not clear at all from Hejik's sales pitch is where these goal expectancies come from. If you want a tool that accepts the two goal expectancies and generates match odds, you can find one for free at BettingTools.co.uk web site. I’m not sure if this calculator adjusts for the infamous zero-inflation problem, but turning input into output is the easy part.

Where any value would lie is in the calculation of the input parameters, i.e. accurate goal expectancy figures, and Hejik is very much aware of this fact, so my concern is around the maintainability of meaningful numbers. 

Hejik’s guide supports the top leagues in England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Scotland and The Netherlands, as well four lower English leagues down to Conference National level, and claims that they “require minimal input from the user to maintain them – 20 minutes per week is generous”.

From my own experience in maintaining numbers for the top five leagues in Europe, it takes a lot more than 20 minutes per league, so either the data Hejik is maintaining is relatively unsophisticated or I am extremely slow.

I like to think it’s the former, in which case the output will be similarly unsophisticated. I’m speculating here, but 20 minutes to enter match data for 11 leagues would barely be enough time to enter in the match results, and as has been much discussed previously here, match results are often misleading and need to be placed into context.

For a start, as is the case with brains, goals are not created equal, which means that even for this basic starting point, a certain amount of effort is required to make them useful data. One would hope that few would argue that the first goal in a match is more relevant than say the fifth goal of a 5:0 thrashing, although having read some of the nonsense that is spouted about goal times or historical head-to-head results having predictive value, it may in fact be more than a few!

The other concern I have regarding this guide is the lack of any evidence that it actually works, and somewhat related is that if indeed it does work, why would Hejik be selling it? Selling eggs from your tried and tested Golden Goose is one thing, but replicating and selling the geese themselves for just 47 each would seem to be an odd business move, aka shooting yourself in the foot. 

If anyone has some first-hand knowledge about the quality of this product, I would be interested to hear from them (anonymity guaranteed of course). £47 is not exactly a fortune, and while the guide may well be worth that amount for entertainment value alone, or for provoking ideas for your own model, I have my doubts that such a ‘one size fits all’ tool is profitable.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Ignoring The Result

I’m quite sure that Rasmus Ankersen didn’t have some of the characters featured in this blog in mind when he says “In the past year I have learned that the brightest guys in football work in the betting industry, because they are much more rational and less biased” but it’s a great quote from an excellent article by Sean Ingle in the Guardian.

Ankersen’s employer at Midtjylland (currently leading the Danish league, and on track for their first ever trophy) is Brentford owner Matthew Benham, who as the article says "has made fortunes betting on football, but he has not done it by following the sheep who place long-odds accumulators and trust in blind luck". We all know he hasn't done by betting based on goal times either! As Mark Langdon of the Racing Post says – There could easily be short-term failure at Brentford but bad bets sometimes win and good bets sometimes lose. Long-term it will work.

Here's the article:
It was enough to make those football pundits who revel in the old days and old ways collectively choke on their beans and sausages. Brentford would, a club statement announced, be parting company with their respected manager Mark Warburton, switching to a continental structure with a head coach and sporting director, and using mathematical modelling to help recruit players. The response of one former professional, Micky Quinn, was not untypical.
“They want a head coach and mathematical modelling … Ha, ha, good luck with that.”
What Quinn may not realise is that the blueprint for Brentford’s future is already being stress-tested 800 miles away at FC Midtjylland, who lead Denmark’s Superliga by six points and are on course for the first trophy in their history. And who is the majority shareholder in Midtjylland? Matthew Benham, the former hedge fund manager and professional gambler who also owns Brentford.
When Benham invested £6.2m in Midtjylland last July he appointed Rasmus Ankersen – a 31-year-old former player, Uefa A-licence coach, entrepreneur and author – as the chairman.
Ankersen promised to challenge the conventional ways of running a football club and to put Midtjylland on the map. He is doing just that. “When I am being provocative I tell people that our coach, Glen Riddersholm, will never be sacked based on our league position,” Ankersen says. Instead Ankersen tells him he will be judged on whether he achieves certain key performance indicators (KPIs) which, over the long term, the club believes are more indicative of success.
Ankersen won’t reveal everything about the club’s use of data, but does say that Midtjylland pay particular attention to what he calls “dangerous situations” in games. Interestingly, they are a client of E4talent, which tracks shots in the “danger zone” – an area that stretches from the start of the six-yard box to the edge of the penalty area – from which 77% of Premier League goals are scored.
Set pieces are another focus. Midtjylland have scored 15 goals from set pieces from 17 games, an average of 0.88 per game, the second highest in Europe. Only Atlético Madrid, with an average of 1.04 a game, are more prolific. The highest in the Premier League are Arsenal with 15 in 26 games, an average of 0.57.
Data also informs what Midtjylland’s coaches say to the players and the press. As Ankersen explains, at half-time the coaches are sent texts before they speak to players outlining how the team are measuring up to certain key metrics. “These effective KPIs give a more accurate message to the players and the press,” he insists.
Too often in football, the result determines the narrative – for managers, reporters and fans. Ankersen dismisses this as facile. “For instance, when we played at home against the bottom team, we won 2-1,” he says. “But our model massively downgraded us because we were super lucky. A lot of people said well done but it was a terrible performance – that is the message we should convey. No one wants to say they were lucky when they win. But in football success turns luck into genius.”
Midtjylland’s success is also partly down to their excellent youth academy, which Ankersen helped get off the ground a decade ago: usually five or six starters in their games are home-grown. The emergence of the Danish under-21 international Pione Sisto, who has been linked with many top sides in Europe, is another factor. But using mathematical modelling as well as traditional scouting has helped the club acquire players they believe are undervalued, including Kris Olsson from Arsenal, Marco Ureña from Kuban Krasnodar and Jim Larsen from Club Brugge.
This is fascinating, radical stuff, and it is driven by Benham. Ankersen remembers that when he met him, he asked him whether Brentford would get promoted from League One. “From a football guy you would expect a yes or no, or an answer with emotion,” he says. “But he just looked at me and said: ‘There is a 42.3% chance that we will go up.’ I knew then he thought very differently about football.”
Of course he does. Benham has made fortunes betting on football, but he has not done it by following the sheep who place long-odds accumulators and trust in blind luck. Instead he has developed a deeper understanding about why teams win matches, constructed statistical models and used them to exploit inefficiencies and errors in bookmaker prices.
Can such a data-driven approach really be applied to running a football club? We are about to find out. But it seems perfectly reasonable to expect that by taking advantage of inefficiencies in the transfer market and elsewhere, adopting the best practice of clubs such as Southampton and employing super-smart data analysts, Brentford and Midtjylland can punch further above their weight. Ankersen certainly has no doubts. “In the past year I have learned that the brightest guys in football work in the betting industry, because they are much more rational and less biased,” he says.
None of us know what will happen next. But we can say this. Brentford and Midtjylland are clearly going the right way and their stories over the next few years will make fascinating viewing. And while Benham has taken some flak in recent days, history teaches us that in the long run it is unwise to bet against him.

Friday, 27 February 2015

FTL Midweek Update And Erskine Cup Quarter-Finals

A few updates from midweek, which included the postponed Sampdoria v Genoa game. The big winners were Mortimer and Gecko who both moved up three places while the big losers were TFA_Raz who dropped five places, and leader BettingTools.co.uk who dropped 6.00 points but stays well ahead. Erstwhile leader Fairfranco left a comment that:

The best bit of luck i've had with this league in the last 3 months happened on Tuesday, when I forgot to email you my 3 tips.
They all lost, of course!
A lucky break in the short term, but worrying that had those three selections been entered, Fairfranco would now be down to 15th! The changes (either points or places) from the weekend are below:
Erskine Cup Quarter-Finals coming up this weekend, and the quality tie is the Club Havana v Gecko pairing.
This is also the last round for the February prize, and while it appears to be all but over, one treble could change it all:

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Hitz And Misses

A couple of games were lost to the weather at the weekend, including the Derby della Lanterna where it would have seemed logical to switch the game to Genoa's ground since Sampdoria's was waterlogged, but I don't run Serie A, so the match was postponed.

Evian Thonon Gaillard's game versus Lorient was also postponed, this one due to snow, and the Parma v Udinese match was called off due to last-placed Parma's continued financial problems, but there were plenty of matches played with the usual ups and downs, although once again, the net total was down, by 30.70 points.

Leader BettingTools.co.uk hit a small bump dropping 4.66 points, but no one took advantage and he retains almost a 20 point advantage over Randolph who, once again, was idle.

The big winner of the day was Gecko who gained 5.49 points and seven places. Other big winners were XX Draws (+4.96 and up six places) and Mortimer (+4.63 and up four places).

On points, the biggest losers were a couple of the Bounty Boys; Football Elite (-7.93 and down four places) and TFA Draws (-6.89 and down five places) with a dishonourable mention for Jamie A (-3.16 and down five places).

Here are the leaders up by 10 points or more:

The Bounty Boys together lost 13.37 points and dropped six places meaning their total liabilities now stand at £1,300.
Others in line for prize money are:
Fairfranco's slump continued with five losing selections, while TFA_Raz lost both of his. Bounty Boys Football Investor and Skeeve both made small profits to trim their liabilities by £50 and £25 respectively.

Eighteen profitable entries now as TFA Draws dropped into the red zone, which looks like this:
TFA's Euro Draws made a small profit, as did the Cassini Value Selections. Drawmaster's poor run continued with five more losers, and the Draw Portfolio now looks like this, with XX Draws reclaiming its rightful place at the top:
The race for February's monthly prize looks like it's all but over, with BettingTools.co.uk well clear:
The first six monthly prizes have each been won by six different entrants. Hard (for me at least) to believe that there are only two more to go (March and a combined April/May) as the season races towards its conclusion.

Next weekend sees the much awaited Erskine Cup Quarter-Finals. A reminder of the schedule, with the current league placings which seem to count for pretty much nothing.
Losers this weekend will receive £25 each, while the overall cup winner will get £150, the runner-up £75 and losing semi-finalists £37.50 each. Thanks again to Ian Erskine for making this Cup possible. I've enjoyed it, even if no one else has! I'm just hoping @ValueBankFooty doesn't find another massive treble this weekend.

Finally, I thought I should clarify that the Hitz in the post title isn't a typo. It refers to Swiss goalkeeper Marwin Hitz who came up for a stoppage time corner for AUGSBURG on Saturday, and scored the equaliser, which was a winner as far as XX Draws followers were concerned. At the time I thought, well this AUGURS well for the weekend...

Thursday, 19 February 2015

FTL Update 18.Feb

Not too much to report on from the domestic midweek games. BettingTools.co.uk had a small loss but stays well clear at the top, while TFA_Raz also had a small loss but stays in 10th place.

Bounty Boy TFA Draws had a small win and remains in 14th place, while Talkies Tips and Mortimer basically swapped places moving up and down four places respectively. Abromo and Online Trader also shuffled down and up one place each although both were idle.

Here are the changes:

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Tooling Up

I implied in my last post that the weekend had been a tough one, and indeed overall the entrants lost 7.45 points, but it wasn't as bad as I had thought it might be, almost solely because leader BettingTools.co.uk extended his lead at the top to 24.26 points after making a record single round profit of 17.87 points, breaking Trend to end's 20th September total of 17.84 points.  A commanding lead, but as Fairfranco can attest, large leads can evaporate quickly. Here are the leaders after the weekend:

The only other profitable entry in this group was Football Elite who had another good round and is now tied on points with Randolph in second place. BettingTools.co.uk also has a commanding lead in the race for February, his 35.87 points are 26.6 points ahead of Football Elite.

Nineteen entries remain in profit, and the others are:
Football Investor had a great weekend going from red to green and gaining 7.44 points, while Draw Picks found one winner from 15 for a loss of 11.80. It was a tough round for the draw portfolio. XX Draws lost 1.20 points, Drawmaster lost 1.54 points and TFA Euro Draws went 0 from 10. Only TFA Draws eked out a profit, 1.50 points, with one win from two selections. Skeeve had his first losing round of 2015 dropping two points and Here are the red men, although Mountain Mouse's 3.32 points have put him within a whisker of profitability and a share of the spoils.
At the other end of this group, Paul Watson finally moves out of last place.

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