Saturday, 12 May 2012

Ground Cucumber

Solving The Silkworm Puzzle
Readers may have noticed I've been somewhat quiet about the NBA play-offs currently in full swing. For me, the 'big' games (play-offs, finals etc.) in most sports are rarely more profitable than regular season games. With the occasional exception, it more often means the opposite - either smaller wins, or worse, losses, and learning from the past, I tend to exercise a lot more care before getting involved. Liquidity may be higher, (not always, as Peter Webb noted just this week), but that can simply mean that more 'experts' are involved in the market, and thus more competition. In sports such as basketball, where there are often several regular season games each day, the attention of more knowledgeable traders is divided between those games, while at play-off time, when games tend to be staggered rather than simultaneous, all the big fish are in one pool. While sports such as the NBA and NFL still have a lot less experts than football, the additional competition that accompanies the higher liquidity isn't always a good thing. There's a reason why April is by far the worst month of the year for me!

A couple of Sundays ago, I got involved in a Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets game which proved costly - a loss of  £3,000+ in fact. Not as costly as the JP Morgan London trader who cost that esteemed firm at least $2 billion as revealed today. I felt much better after I read that. My opinion that the Nuggets would make a run at some point was wrong, and I paid the price. It happens. The Nuggets were the highest scoring team in the league, but that game was not one of their better ones. Unfortunately, as often seems to be the way with these things, one big loss was followed by a number of smaller ones, one of those spells where nothing seems to go right. How much this is due to a subconscious 'on tilt' mentality, and how much is just bad 'random fluctuation of probability' I'm not sure, but it happens so often that I think there's something in the 'on tilt' suggestion, however much I don't want to believe that.

Readers will be aware that my preferred strategy is to lay the leader when they appear to be too short, but there just seemed to be a long run of leaders going on to win. Last night I pulled back most of the  £3,000 when the Chicago Bulls, up by one but trading too short, missed two late free-throws and then gave up two free-throws at the other end to lose by one point to the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers. It was a much needed win, both for me and the Sixers, with the confidence boost almost palpable. And as often seems to be the way after a win, a new spell begins where nothing seems to go wrong. The 'on-level' mentality is back. The power of positive thinking?

It's unfortunate that the two contrasting events fell in separate Premium Charge weeks, but there's not much we can do about that.

I wrote about the Sixers intentionally dropping to eighth seed to avoid the Miami Heat a few weeks ago, and their plan worked out well - aided by the Bulls' injury woes of course. The New York Knicks, who finished seventh in the East, were eliminated by Miami 4-1. Two series in the West remain undecided, those involving the teams from Los Angeles. The Clippers face the Memphis Grizzlies in a few minutes, up 3-2 and playing at home, and then tomorrow, in the same home, the Lakers play a game seven versus the Denver Nuggets.

That same home is busy these days - in the NHL, the Los Angeles Kings have reached the Western Conference Finals playing a seven game series with the Phoenix Coyotes, formerly the original Winnipeg Jets. Both teams are from the Pacific Division, the weakest Western Conference division, so this is a somewhat unlikely conference final pairing. Phoenix were sixth best, (although officially third seeds), while the Kings were the eighth, and final, qualifiers. The two teams played six close regular season matches, each team winning three, and three of which went to overtime. Only one game was decided by more than one goal, and that was the first back in October. The series opens in Phoenix on Sunday. Liquidity has been poor for the games I have looked in on this season though, but maybe, now that we are (almost) down to four teams, it will improve.

A couple of dodgy looking games in Serie A this weekend. One, Catania v Udinese showed up as an XX Draw (Extended) Selection, but with the price as low as 2.16, it really seems fairest to exclude this from the selections. I certainly won't be backing the draw at that price. Genoa v Palermo is also trading at sub 3.0 The last weekend of the season can throw up some surprises, although I fancy one shortie to win fairly comfortably and secure a first title in 44 years.

Finally, Louis Pasteur and betting may not appear to have a lot in common, but I found his approach to solving the problem of why silkworms were dying across France interesting and relevant. He solved the puzzle by 'careful experimental reasoning'. He 'never stopped thinking about a problem' and the three words he lived by, a lesson from his father, were 'Will', 'Work' and 'Success'. Have the will (desire) to solve the puzzle, work at solving the puzzle, and success is attainable. It doesn't matter if the puzzle is that of dying silkworms, anthrax or finding an edge in sports betting. You need to be serious about solving the puzzle, and you need to work at finding a solution. Paying someone £20 for a crappy system isn't going to work by the way. Pasteur was always thinking about new ideas and wasn't afraid to go back to the drawing board, and that's a good lesson for us all.

Thanks to @petenordsted and @borisranting for their mentions on Twitter. Appreciated. 

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