Thursday, 1 July 2010

Amateur Hour

One of the few Betfair forum posters who is held in high esteem, at least by me, is Lori, who always has something sensible to say.

He recently had this to say:

As long as you're betting in a neutral period in a match (between games in tennis, between deliveries in cricket) so you have the same information as everyone else 99.9% of the time, then in-play is going to be a better option than pre-match.

One "given" in american sports, and likely in other sports these days is that the Closing line (probably called starting price here) is the most efficient time for the markets. A decent way of testing your pre-match betting is to see how you do compared to the closing line.

(There, I shared a winning player's strategy without giving anything away that will harm me)

Those markets will have 24 hours to converge to that line, and often a week in the case of the NFL. If you're betting in-running, they don't have that time to hone in on the "true" price, so you have more chance to find an inefficiency.

That being said, a lot of Betfair users have very strong in-running strategies and it's getting harder to beat over time.
Two things caught my attention there. One was this statement on the SP, that a "given in American sports, and likely in other sports these days is that the Closing line (SP) is the most efficient time for the markets".

Our old friend Rich Allen, the Sports Betting "Professor", had this to say
I also tend to disregard the last hour flurry that happens as well. This is more driven by the public at large, and believe me, it doesn't make sense to put much stock in what they think. We used to love having a game the general public loaded up on because more often than not, they were dead wrong. My system found at The Sports Betting Professor is entirely based on these spreads so I have to pay very close attention. That's why it's so vital to have this knowledge in your back pocket. Remember you don't want to bet a game when it first comes out. The wiseguys and sharp bettors are just licking their chops waiting for that line to open, and when they bet they bet big and this will move the spread by as much as a couple of points. What if you bet a game at -3 when the real spread should've been -1.5? The same goes for the last minute activity, or as we used to call it, Amateur Hour. Everybody and their brother is trying to get down now and if you waited this long you might as well just forget it. The line is like a pogo stick at this point. You want to make sure you get your bets down at the 'true' number if you want to be successful at betting on sports.
Rich likes to talk a lot, but surely the idea is not to get your bets down at the 'true' number if you want to be successful. You want to get your bets down when the market has the 'true' number wrong. IS the number wrong at game time because the public is wrong? I don't think so. If the line is -3, and the true line is -1.5, then you back the +3 (or lay the -3). Is the line more likley to be 'true' at the off or someime earlier? I'm with Lori on this one.

The second comment that caught my eye was Lori's final line that "it's getting harder to win in-running than it used to be".

My profits for the half-year just finished are down on those of both 2008 and my annus mirabilis of 2009.

The NBA season finished disappointingly (again) which accounts for part of it, but my baseball returns at the approximate half-way point of the season are also down. All the US sports are down on last year, American Football, the NHL, and the NCAA Basketball tournament was a bit of a disaster.

At least my soccer returns are better than before, but then that's not saying much! Tennis, Rugby League, Aussie Rules and 'Other' (UK Election and Academy Awards mostly) also fared well this past six months, but none of those are sports that I expect to make too much from because I don't risk too much on them. Hobby bets.

Since I use different strategies in different sports, it's unlikely that they are all less efficient than they were before. Reduced liquidity is to blame for the baseball and NHL being down - it's often to the point where it's just not worth bothering with.

Basketball was still profitable, but not as much as previously. The play-offs are always poor, and I should seriously consider just leaving them alone. April was my second worst month ever, and is just a bad month.

But the money I do make all helps. I'm just pleased that this isn't my only income stream. That would make life very stressful, but as it is, the worst that can happen is that the edges in all sports vanish, I can't find new ones, and I move on to something else.

I think there's life in the old dog yet though, even though the next two months will be quiet.

A quiet July to get the Elo spreadsheet up and running, then a 17-day break ending as the 2010-11 football season gets underway, followed soon by the NFL, the baseball play-offs and the NBA and NHL.

As Yogi Berra said, "It's déjà vu all over again".


Anonymous said...

The last hour flurry and late line moves the betting professor mentions is certainly not the public at large.

The large syndicates (and I mean large) are the guys who move lines late. Any perceived sharp money early will move the line quickly. Limits are lower and for both those reasons they can't get on anything near the amount they want.

It may be more difficult to move a line / price later but the size these syndicates bet in mean they are very capable of doing so. When you're talking six or seven figures it's not difficult to understand why these sharp late line moves occur.

And that's the same in most sports. Late prices are the most efficient simply because the guys who move these markets are the best out there.

I guess the moral of the story is: If you want value, take it early.

And if you think there's value late, or at any time in fact, then ask yourself. Why are people happy to take your money (a fundamental theory of betting and investment as a whole)? If you can work out the answer and a reason why they are wrong and you are right, go for it but you'd better be sure.

Anonymous said...

And further to that last comment. When you ask yourself that question, you're more likely to be able to work out the answer and made a better argument the other way if you're doing so early, before the sharpest money is down. i.e. early on, you're competing, in the main, against people who are not the best so you're more likely to be able to get on the right side.

Agree with you on Lori by the way.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cassini,

Another question regarding ratings and how to use them. For example if i was using the ratings from the Outlook paper (haven't got the time to create my own)how do I use these to gauge goal supremacy i.e If Chelsea was a 970 and Birminhgam was 870, givign a difference of 100, can i use this number to give me expected goal supremacy or is it just not that straight forward?

Apoliogies if i am wasting your time and I'm just being dense.


Anonymous said...

Your guys in Europe must be lucky. In my country there are only one leagal bookies and I cannot use betfair for trading.

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Anonymous said...

^Poker spam? Is this a new "thing"?

Good thought-provoking post Cassini.

Another Anon