Friday, 27 February 2009

Football Goals

One of my ‘goals’ this year is to make my football betting profitable. Football is my favourite sport. I grew up playing the game, and played it on and off into my forties. I can remember England winning the World Cup. I have spent more hours, and more money, than I care to remember watching my favourite team from the terraces and stands of over 60 grounds in England (and Wales), but what priceless memories they are.

My first live game was in April 1967. My Dad wasn’t into football, but one of our neighbours in Purley was, and he had a son close to my age. He took us both to see Crystal Palace beat Birmingham City 2-1 in a Second Division game. His name was Bernard Ingham, (now Sir Bernard Ingham) who some of you may have heard of as he later became quite famous as Margaret Thatcher’s Press Secretary. Anyway, after that, I was hooked.

So why is it that I find football so hard to make money from on the exchanges, when other sports are much easier? Essentially, the problem is that to make money from investing on sports, you have to be getting value.

Football is such a popular sport that it is almost impossible to find an edge. This is especially true for the Premier League and Championship teams, although as I have said before, I suspect that less coverage of the lower leagues means more opportunity, but against this (as illustrated in dramatic fashion just last week) is that the lower in the leagues you go, the more likely it is that insider information will put you at a disadvantage.

In-play is different from other team sports too. Key is that a goal in football is such a dramatic price changing event, and yet they happen all the time. (Well, not ALL the time, as anyone trying to make money laying the 0-0 will attest to.) After gently trending in a predictable direction from the kick-off, a goal is scored and the price resets after a brief suspension of the market. For sure, other sports have their ‘dramatic events’ e.g. an eagle in golf on the final day of a close tournament, a buzzer-beating three point shot in basketball, a six hit off the last ball etc. but they don’t come along as often as goals do.

How do we find value in football? Pre-game, I am of the opinion that it IS possible to find value, although it is definitely not easy. There are a lot of people trying to do the same thing as you are.

In-play, I am of the opinion that it is very difficult to find value. The market is very efficient, and if the price on a market is 1.5 with 30 minutes to go, then I think this is almost always very close to the true price. One exception is immediately after a goal has been scored, when there are value bets available sometimes before the market has stabilised. Fear and greed in evidence. Another thing to watch out for is that the market often overreacts to a sending off. Approximately one in ten games has a sending off, but not all sendings-off are the same. The timing is key, and also important are the score of the game at the time and whether the player is from the home team or the away team. But as a general rule, for me it is not easy finding value in-play.

Back to pre-game punting then. As I have written before, I rate all the English and Scottish League (and top non-league) teams using a simple Elo based system. It’s fun, but can I make money with them? The selections I posted earlier are those that my ratings consider to be value.

It is a very time consuming exercise to go through every fixture but I shall try it through the end of March, and see where we are with it. After March, we start getting towards silly-season for a number of teams. Mid-table teams start experimenting with new players etc. and form can become unreliable. I shall be posting the results.

No comments: