Saturday, 14 January 2012

Close Shave

Brian asked:

What actually makes you soooo negative towards the horses? You say too many people have inside information. Therefore you say there's no edge to be had. Well surely there's a lot of people in one football team that potentially has inside information that average joe doesn't have.
There is definitely an edge to be had in horse-racing - it's just one that I am never going to have. One example that I know from personal experience is how easy it is to run a horse intentionally poorly. Compare this with the number of people who would need to be involved with a fix in football, and you see why the the transparency of top-level football makes it, if not impossible, at least less likely to happen.

On a related topic, there are often complaints on the forums about NBA games being fixed, invariably from people who have just lost and are looking for someone to blame other than themselves of 'luck'. Caprisun this season was complaining about the Miami heat point-shaving:
Wow - they got the job done in the end - won with the last throw of the game! Still disgusted with them though - most blatant shave of the season. And there'll be plenty this season trust me!
Not quite sure why we should trust him, he's clearly clueless. The idea that multi-millionaire players would risk their careers by engaging this is laughable. Agreed that short-time players and referees could be a target for fixing, but the NBA analyses the statistics and investigates any significant variances following the Tim Donaghy scandal. The College game is far more likely to see point-shaving, with one professor claiming in 2006 that 5% of games saw this. It makes sense in that college players are (officially) unpaid, and with most of them not going pro, the betting interest in college games makes them vulnerable to 'offers' to under-perform.

Sipernando2010, a new member of the Betfair Forum so perhaps he should be excused, wrote:
Lakers for example could have won by 30 tonight, and whether it was because they just didnt feel like it or because of some other corrupted reason is arguable
Not really. You can argue with yourself about it, but as I have written before, the handicap markets are to be treated with caution. The problem is that teams do not care about the handicap. They care about winning. There is no benefit to them in winning by 10 or 20 or 30 points. Last night, the Lakers were -10.5 on the handicap, and led by 19 in the third quarter. It's a very comfortable lead, and Fisher and Gasol were withdrawn, and the lead slipped to 12, still relatively comfortable, by the end of the quarter. In the fourth quarter, does anyone really think the Lakers care about that 10.5 point mark? You might care, if you have had a bet on it, but the players don't share your interest. All they want to do is secure the win with as little drama as possible and go home. If you look at the stats for the fourth quarter, you will see the lead was usually around 7 or 8. This situation perfectly illustrates statistically why the spread of 10.5 is now less likely to be covered. The Lakers start holding the ball, and by reducing the number of possessions in the game, this reduces the variability of the Lakers' final winning margin, and thus of covering the spread.

Cries of 'point shaving!', or 'it's a fix!' might make you feel better, (it's always nice to blame someone else for your losses), but there's no truth in either claim.

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