Thursday, 26 June 2008

In-Play Over/Under Futility

Graeme, who writes the very readable blog, made a comment on my earlier “Pants Down” post that is worthy of a full post in reply.

Why are you playing around on these under-over markets?”, he asked.

Well, that’s a very good question. Why am I? Boredom? Eternal optimism? I have played the over/under markets on and off pretty much from day one (March 2004) on Betfair. The appeal is that when you are on the unders, time is your friend and it’s nice to watch your position move into the money. Very nice and seductive. The problem is that it is not so nice when out of the blue comes a goal and just like that your small potential gain has turned into a potentially large loss.

The problem is finding the optimum market entry and exit points, but sadly, there is no hard and fast rule on this. Some games it pays to be on at the start, other games it pays to wait until a few minutes in, and other games it pays to not get involved with at all!

The exit point of course needs to be just prior to a goal is scored. Sounds easy enough…

After a loss, I quit playing these markets, and then one day there’s not much going on, and out of boredom I look at the football game that is currently in-play. Then I dip my toes in the water, splash around for a few minutes, exit the water making a few quid in a few minutes, and think to myself “That was easy”. And the cycle begins again. A few wins, then the one loss that wipes out the previous few weeks profits, and it’s back to square one.

I have had some success this season with making a reasonably large bet pre-game on matches I consider likely to end as unders, and then laying it off after 15 minutes. Last night’s Copa Libertadores final was the worst possible outcome, with not just one early goal, but two, and the bet was lost after 20 minutes or so. It finished at 4-2 but I had long since given up on it. I am still ahead on the season though, but more by luck than skill I suspect.

My thoughts right now are that the market is too efficient in these games, and that there is seldom an edge. Occasionally the market goes over-round so that you can lay the overs, then lay the unders for a profit, but the delay means that you are exposed for several seconds and the reward is miniscule.

Does anyone out there make these markets pay long-term?

I read a system which said to back the unders if the game was a draw at half-time, and leave it for 10 to 15 minutes. Sounds a bit like my backing pre-game and laying off after 15 minutes, but do any stats back up these ideas? I tend to think that everything is already factored into the price and any wins or losses are down to luck which is just gambling, and I am an investor, so no more in-play over/under betting.


bettingstar said...

Like yourself, i have been playing the under/over 2.5 goals market since day one.

I only back unders, however never back unders sub 1.6ish - no value if the price is that low. As for a exit strategy i just jump ship when i feel that the game is opening up/am satisfied with my book. (easier said then done!)

I am still at university so only play small stakes but today i place £80 on under2.5 @ 1.86 in the spain/russia matched.

At half-time i traded out for a profit of around £35 both over & under - was lucky as sometimes i get greedy and let alot of bets ride.

The key is your inference of the game & how you feel it will pan out. Every match is different so using the same trading strategies in each match will not work in football. Like for example in the germany/turkey game i decided to take no position pre match.

Once germany equalised @ 1-1 i backed unders @ 7s for £20. As the price was so high & the stake relatively small i decided to let it run until the 60th min leaving a nice green allround.

I have found for trading purposes betting unders in play, immediately after goals are scored has proved beneficial to me - but as you mentioned finding a appropriate exit strategy is what makes trading so difficult!

sorry for the rant

p.s. loving the blog - keep up the great work

Cassini said...

Thanks - appreciate the comment. Good point on backing the unders just after a goal - I've noticed myself that there is often an over-reaction to a goal, and often make money from that. Maybe that's the entry point we're looking for? Now if only we knew when the next goal was coming...

Raikon said...

Backing after a goal ? Sometimes it works but not everytime !

Well, i had been playing like this...
But some advice to give you, let said turkey vs germany match, the first goal score at 22 mins, then you back... the price not even shorten or maybe shorten a bit only, 27 mins, germany equalise... if you still not trade out, then you might get a big loss !

Cassini said...

The idea of backing unders after a goal is based on the fact that the market over-reacts to the goal. Obviously another quick goal and you are really in trouble but more often than not the game settles down, there is no quick second goal, and the price adjusts allowing you to get out of the second bet with a profit. But like we've said earlier, nothing is certain in football.

Anthony said...

Only just discovered your blog but it seems interesting.
I know of a person who does successfully trade on the unders/overs but he chooses his games very carefully, based on stats. Essentially, if everything points towards it being good he will get involved. However, I avoid them!
Going back to your comments on the CHC system: it's easy to say "who will buy this crap" and with our knowledge we wouldn't but sadly, those who are very new to it and need some help don't know any better. I only got into trading when I was trawling the net for help with my own gambling system. I bought a trading manual and have never looked back (or gambled since!).

Graeme Dand said...

Hi Robert.

Thanks for the reply to my earlier comment. We appear to have generated a bit of interest in this particular topic!

Looking back, I was maybe a little bit harsh on reflection regarding the unders/over markets as I know that people can male good money on this sort of market.

As Anthony states, trading games where you have very good stats to back up your opening position is the time to play. I looked at the over 1.5 goals market for the game last night out of curiosity and thought that 1.4 was a decent price to gamble on. That game had goals written all over it.

No idea how you trade these markets as I guess the price drifts as the game goes on and no goals are scored, so difficult to trade from 1.4 and back it as it drifts.

Bettingstar also makes a good comment about the way the market reacts to situations. I’d be more inclined to spend months of analysis on this aspect of games as you can create an ‘edge’ here I think by understanding the way the market reacts in certain situations and trying to exploit over-reactions. That’s where I’d be looking to take this market to make money.

In summary Rob, I think it’s worth spending a little time to look for an edge on Betfair. In these markets with the sort of stake size you use, you only need an edge of 1% or 2% and you will make a consistent amount.

I remember you commented on my blog before about how golf markets over-react. I found this also. At the moment, I don’t get the time to trade golf apart from the odd pre-tournament bet but I really feel this is one place where I could make nice profits. I think the football under/overs market reacts in the same way.

What I’d aim to do is come up with lots of matrices for different types of football games. I’d want time of goal on one dimension and type of game (open, close, tight, etc) on the other dimension. You’d then end up with a massive chart and when a goal is scored, I’d look up my chart, find the correct odds and then back/lay everything above/below these ‘correct’ odds.

Obviously, ‘correct’ odds are driven by other people’s opinions but I would say it must be linked to the type of game it is and should be fairly fixed for similar games. (A big leap of faith here!)

Incidentally, my little ‘ideal world’ chart also applies to odds to win the game when a goal is scored. I think that if you analysed 1,000+ games over time, you could find an ‘edge’ here also. When a goal is scored in a game, the market usually takes a little bit of time to settle down and this would be the time to make your money.

I think the conclusion I’m coming to is that I’d need to spend a fair bit of time analysing these markets to find my ‘edge’ before I got involved in trading these types of markets. At the moment, I don’t have the time or inclination to spend the time on it but maybe you do?

Can you tap into this sort of data anywhere quite easily?


Cassini said...

Thanks for the comments. Very thought provoking. Anthony, you said "I know of a person who does successfully trade on the unders/overs but he chooses his games very carefully, based on stats. Essentially, if everything points towards it being good he will get involved." So what do we mean by this 'being good'? Are we looking for likely low-scoring games, or high-scoring? What stats can consistently give matches that will be low scoring? I'm tempted to think that there's no point scouring statistics trying to look for the key, but why not save time and just go by the pre-game odds. Let everyone else do the work! This could also be the key for you Graeme when you talk about the 'type of match'. No two football matches are the same (or we might not be so interested in watching) but maybe games could be classified based on pre-game odds on the unders and home/away odds? As for 'correct' odds, no one knows the correct odds. One can be close, but the only thing you need to know with trading is how 'other' people will react to a certain price. For example if you can spot an over-reation before the market - bingo! Graeme - you're the Excel wizard - you have a few weeks to go before the new season. With all this spare time you have, start developing a spreadsheet to track starting prices, goal-times and odds movements. Not too much to ask is it?!!

footygeek said...

Rob, I'm glad I'm not the only one to get suckeredd by the Unders market.
However I do feel I should have learnt my lesson now and not play the Under 2.5 goals market when 2 goals have been scored.
If I look back at all my bad losses they are mainly in the Unders market.
I hate to admit something has beaten me, but for the minute this market is a no go area until I can find a decent edge.
Keep up the good work with the blog.
Cheers footygeek.

Cassini said...

You're right there FootyGeek - it's very annoying that I haven't been able to master what seems like such a simple market! It looks so easy when time is running out and that price is dropping every few seconds, but more often than you like to think, along comes that goal and down goes the balance.

Graeme Dand said...

LOL @ spare time!

Do you not read my blog!!!!!


Cassini said...

That comment was a little tongue-in-cheek Graeme, and by the way, congrats on another good month. There was a time when I would worry about you...

Matt said...

Hey, just stumbled upon your blog!

What you describe in this post is probably the approach and results typified by almost everyone that trades this market. You are trading away, but you are not defining an edge in what you are doing... just trading on it's natural movement, which is nothing more than what it should do over time.

You have to look for some difference between what the market is doing and the reality of the football match it's based on.. I'm certainly not a football betting expert, but where goals are concerned, I would be watching for the game opening up, or closing down, how many shots the teams are having, where most of the play is etc. This can change game to game or in the same game.. you won't make money in the long run just trading it's natural movement as the probabilities of you winning (amount of time to trade out Vs a goal going in) are in balance.. you'll make small amounts only to level off when a goal goes in and you cut a loss. Look for a real edge :)

Really like the look of the blog, some great comments here too.. adding a link.

Matt @

Cassini said...

Thanks Matt - good comment and confirming what we're all realising - there is no easy way to win on this market. I've read systems that say to back at HT when a game is a draw, but I strongly suspect that the market already has everything factored in to the prices, same as at just about every stage in the game. The only time that I think there may be value is after a goal. I'm sure people have been studying this market for years and finding an edge is near impossible.

Now, do I take a pre-game position on Spain - Germany today or sit back and watch. Usually I'd back unders pre-game and (hopefully) go Green-All-Over after 15 minutes but after Thursday morning's debacle, confidence is low. Good luck.

Matt said...

I'm sure statistically they are pretty efficient, but they can never relate perfectly to the actual real-life probability of things happening, all the time. Your best bet is a game which is clearly not being played in the same style the market expected before it began.

There's the stats probability and that impossible and invisible real-life probability that we are all guessing at. I trade tennis for my living, I know which stats count, at the end of matches the stats rarely line up with the SP they would suggest...

I suggest these markets are probably better being punted on the side of overs, given the tendency of a lot of traders to try to ride out the time decay. If I was betting I'd be looking for matches that are a lot more open than expected, lots of shots, decent forwards etc... like I said though, I'm no expert on footie and I may be making that obvious to the real experts! :))

Matt @

Cassini said...

Thanks Matt _ I was just thinking earlier how, if I can't make backing the overs pay, surely all I need to do is the reverse and back the overs... Interesting subject for a study. One advantage is that the odds on the overs are typically odds against, but it requires a different mind-set to watch the odds immediately move against you.

Matt said...

Yes, I should have said it's down to how you feel about that sort of punter type risk. Not always fun if you are a trader to switch to that style and have to ride out the good/bad fortune. Certainly some attempt should be made to soften this blow I think by backing overs as the time decaying of the price slows, where the pace of the game is dictating that in the supply/demand.. perhaps a widening of your stop too, give yourself an amount of time in which to see some results. Perhaps even some study of the way the price affects the decay in price, it seems to slow towards the end, but then these ticks are of course larger than those higher up. It's an interesting one, I have to admit I do dip into this one too out of boredom at times the same way you have been..


Cassini said...

I've noticed that at times the price decays quite steadily, but at other times the decay seems to stall. I was noting down the prices on last Sunday's Italy - Spain game, and from 0-4 mins. the price didn't move at all. Then it (the under price) dropped from 1.6/1.61 to 1.46 after 10 mins. where it then stalled for 3 mins. I guess if you could master these stall times, you could give yourself a free bet, or at least one with a minimal downside. Back the overs - if there's a goal, then great, if not lay the bet off at the same price after 3 mins. or so. Now, we just need to identify those stall periods...

Anthony said...

With refernce to my comments earlier about the signals being good: studying the results, goal times and current form of teams should give you an idea of how a match should start or pan out. The person I was referring to does not start his analysis based on the fact that he intends to trade the unders. He will look for the market on that game that suits the stats he has studied. If there is no apparent pattern he will not get involved.

John said...

I’m thinking of getting involved in some football trading next season and the 2.5 goals was one I had been looking at. The problem I thought this market would have is you will mostly be cutting wins short and suffering big losses. There are no real exit strategies (that I can think of anyway) which would avoid this problem. It is annoying because it seems so simple to do on the surface.

I will add a link to your blog – cheers, John.

Cassini said...

The only exit strategy is to get out just before the goal comes, but sadly that is easier said than done! I agree - it is very annoying, because it does seem so simple. But it's not. No easy way to winning is my verdict.