Tuesday, 12 May 2009

However You Spin It

I spent many hours in my teens and twenties experimenting with dice and a roulette wheel trying to find the perfect staking plan to guarantee profits despite my imaginary bets not being value. My thinking was that surely with such a miniscule house edge in a game such as roulette, it should be quite possible to find a winning system. Of course, I never did. The plain and simple truth is that if your bets are not value, no staking system in the world can guarantee you a profit. Your success is dependent upon the vagaries of Lady Luck and while you may turn a profit for a while, sooner of later the inevitable and unavoidable losing run comes along that wipes out all your profits.

I was reminded of those halcyon days when a colleague at work told me about his latest roulette system. It was that old chestnut of betting on the even money choices and doubling up after a loss. Great in theory. In practice, not so great. You don’t need to spend too much time around a roulette table before you see a sequence of eight, nine or more come up. However, my colleague had thought about this, and here was his little secret. Wait until a colour hits three times, and THEN start betting on it! Apparently he has yet to lose using this ‘system’. I tried to point out to him that the whole idea was fundamentally flawed, and why, but he was having none of it.

There’s a long-running thread on the Betfair forum, Laying Alan Keyte’s Tips. It has worked well, not because of any fancy staking system, but simply because laying Alan Keyte’s selections has proven to be a value bet, at least so far. The ultimate in staking systems is of course Kelly, and it would be interesting to apply that to Alan Keyte’s results and see what a difference to the bank it would have made.


Ostlerstrading said...

I was given the same tip. Wait for 3 blacks, 3 reds. 3 odds, 3 evens, 3 high or 3 lows to come in and then back the opposite doubling up.

I can take a lie detector test to prove that 17 blacks came up in succession in a casino and I was always on red - well until my money ran out on around the 11th spin.

If any system worked, then Las Vegas wouldn't exist :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how Alan Keyte's tips would work using Kelly but I often get the feeling "successful" backing tipsters live off a big priced winner - using Kelly against those would probably give a far more reliable measure of their merits as staking for the bigger prices would be much lower.

I like using Kelly, but I've never got my head around laying using it, the stakes never feel right for me when you effectively backing very short prices. I'm not sure if it's a theoretical problem that doesn't transfer from it's orignal application (data transfer I think) to betting or that it's less forgiving to rogue odds. I'd guess it's the latter, you can be wrong on bigger prices and not do your bank much harm, at short prices you only have to have a few "wrong" prices (as oppossed to bad runs)and your effectively skint.

Interesting read as ever,


PhilipH said...

What or who is Kelly?

Kelly's Eye (Number one) - but that is bingo chat.

Is it another name for a Martingale, where it's staking by doubling up after a loser? That's a really risky way of staking, as we all know.

Sorry to show my higgerance about Kelly, but you can't know everything, can you? ;-)

Cassini said...

Philip - here is a very well written explanation of Kelly :)


Nick - there is nothing magic about laying. Laying is backing, just in a different way. Laying 100 at 1.2 is exactly the same as backing with 20 at 6.0.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cassini,

The point I was trying to make about Kelly (although obviously not particularly well) was that it's highly flawed staking at low odds using it (or for arguments sake laying). Stakes are way to high when true odds are unknowable and events aren't independent - which is fine when applied to longers odds with smaller perc. stakes but at shorter odds it makes going skint inevitable (or as close as you can get).


Anonymous said...


Theoretically, there is no flaw within Kelly, no matter how short or long the odds are. To use it precisely to gain the optimum growth, you need to know the "true" odds. If you miscalculate these true odds, or stake higher then the suggested amount, then you will eventually lose your bank. Its just that when this occurs with shorter odds, you simply NOTICE it more then with longer odds. The point is, there is no fundamental flaw within Kelly at any odds size.

Kelly staking method does have problems when applied to real situations like sports betting but those problems can be absorbed/defeated if used in the "correct" way.

Also, the method can be applied to laying just as easily as backing, you simply have to look it from the reverse side of the book/risk.