Thursday, 31 January 2013

FTL Table Update And More

Without further ado, here are the latest standings in the FTL:

With five draws from ten selections, (one of them a fluked 3-3), the XX Extended draws were the big gainers this weekend, moving up from 7th to 2nd, although the Bundesliga draws pulled further clear at the top with two perfect (0-0) draws from three selections. 

Premier Edge had a great weekend with all five selections winning, but lost some of those profits in the midweek games. Nevertheless they are a creditable fourth right now, with Neil not far behind in 6th. 

Peter Nordsted's Drawmaster and Premier Betting were both profitable, and the pro category is now up by 4.71 points, although Football Elite (-5.29 in 21st place) continue to hold this group back. The total loss on the season was significantly reduced from -62.33 last week to -29.76 right now. A couple more weeks like this and we'll have something to shout about. Still a lot of 'in-the-red' entries, but several have quit, so at least they won't get any worse! 

The XX Classic selections went 0 for 2, with the Malaga v Mallorca game one of those matches where the result was undeserved, and offers me a chance to reply to a question on this subject. The result was Malaga 2 Mallorca 3, but Malaga had 23 shots to Mallorca's 5, and both had just three each on target. The corner count was heavily in Malaga's favour too, by 13 to 3. Anyway, the question from Laurie was this:  
Can you tell me how I can add shots:shots on target:goals to my Elo model? I'd be most grateful.
The way I go about it is to convert the shots and shots-on-target numbers into 'goals'. If your research shows you that, on average, Malaga score one goal per ten shots against a team with the rating of Mallorca, then they could be expected, on average, to have scored 2.3 goals on Sunday. If, on average, they score one goal per 5 shots-on-target, then you can convert this number in the same way, e.g. 3 / 5 or 0.6. So you have three numbers for goals actually scored, goals expected from shots, and goals expected from shots-on-target, e.g 2, 2.3 and 0.6 which you can average to give one number. A straight average (mean) would give you 1.63 which is a start, although you might want to weight these. So the score for the home team goes down as 1.63 and if you do the same sums for Mallorca, you might have 1.2 for them, so for Elo purposes the game goes down as a win for Malaga, even though they actually lost. This is not perfect of course, all shots are not equal for example, but for those of us with other things in our lives such as a day job, it's a good starting point.

I don't really want to get dragged into the Webbgate affair, that's between the Sultan and Peter, but Al threw this in:
I do think its a bit harsh on Peter Webb that he didn't word something on his blog exactly how some people might like it, but Webbgate has been an interesting read in an otherwise dry few months!
Peter himself added:
It’s laudable that people are pointing out that you can lose money trading, I think that’s pretty obvious really and have never denied this. But in my experience readers are always more interested in spotting favourable opportunities than finding easy ways to lose. Which is why I post up interesting stuff when it happens. It’s never an attempt to mislead, just educate and make people think.
I trade so much volume through the markets selling another copy of Bet Angel isn’t really going to make any material difference to me, so it’s not fair to imply that I did it for that reason. But I can see how that’s a massive incentive to others. Especially those who sell advice but do little or no actual trading.
It would be nice if somebody would hit the reply button on the actual post itself. I’m happy to enter into dialogue there for benefit of future readers of the post.
Unfortunately, when you try to leave a reply, you get this:
 You must be logged in to post a comment.
which is rather a restriction if you are not a Word Press user! 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013


While no one stopped by to say they made money from my Lakers tip on Sunday night, I did have a couple of comments. First was:

Hi Cassini!
I also find basketball almost the perfect sport for trading and was wondering, do you also trade EuroLeague games or only NBA games? From my experience the level of competition in EuroLeague is no worse than in many NBA games and there is also good liquidity on these games.
Almost the perfect sport? Do tell which sport is the perfect sport for trading. Not much has changed since I wrote in 2011:
I do occasionally watch/trade Euroleague, but the NBA is just better for both activities. Playing in NBA stadiums, with NBA rules and officials, NBA teams are 27-2 v Euroleague teams, and 36-7 overall so there's no debate about the quality. And English is my first language - far gooder than my Turkish, Russian, Greek, Polish, Croatian, Israelish, Serbian, Lithuanian and Slovenian.
The best players still play in the NBA, and once you get used to the NBA, switching to the Euroleague is a little like heading down to Fratton Park after you have been used to watching Crystal Palace for all your life. Well, kind of. 

And then a visit from the great man himself, Peter Webb, who commenting on my provocative 'in this particular match you should have struggled to lose money if you were trading'. Surely no one has missed the Webbgate controversy?

Peter wrote: 
TBH Cassini, I'm surprised that people are getting upset at the suggestion that if you back or lay something in a two selection market, you can profit if the lead changes hand. A fairly simple observation I would have thought and not particularly controversial, or that's what I thought at the time.
I can see the appeal of all two selection markets. But with its potentially unlimited length, Tennis is my favoured market.
I think that the reason for any upset was the statement from Peter which actually ignited this 'controversy' was actually a little different to saying that you 'can' profit if the lead changes hand. (You don't even need lead changes to profit in a two selection market incidentally). Specifically, the comment was this:
"So in this particular match you should have struggled to lose money if you were trading. This was purely on the basis of the very large number of opportunities to profit or exit for no loss, a direct function of a competitive match playing out over a long time period." 
It's very easy in hindsight to say how perfect a game was for trading if it meshed with your trading style, and you called your entry and exit points almost perfectly, but there would have been plenty of losing traders in the game in question (Kvitova v Robson) who didn't read the game well, and who found it all too easy to lose money.

The suggestion that the match playing out over a long period is a huge benefit to traders is true, but also rather after the fact. Yes, if we knew that the game would go to a lengthy deciding set from the start, we would adjust our strategies, but we don't know that. In fact, arguably tennis is a poor sport to trade in this regard, because matches can be short, and in the case of injuries, very short. At least with team sports, you know as a trader how long you have to work with, and sometimes you get a few more minutes thrown in with overtime.

So back to tennis, and a trader who sees the favourite start poorly decides that from an SP of 1.05 the 1.2 now available is value, only to see the price drift out to 1.4. They red out at this price, and then see the price come in again. The favourite appears to have recovered, but if they stay out, they are a loser, and so they go in again at 1.2 confident that this time they have got it right, only to see the favourite stumble again and the price then move out to 1.5. Rinse and repeat... It's not as simple as choose your entry point and wait, because the art of trading is to cut your losses short and let the winners run, not the other way around which is just gambling. In fact most traders in my example would probably have cut their losses before 1.4 or 1.5 was reached if possible.

I think the concern was that you [Peter] have a vested interest in promoting the idea that successful trading is easier than it really is, and that your statement was open to misinterpretation. I'm hoping that not too many people quit their jobs after reading your post.

FTSE 100 (5 Years)
The example I gave reminds me of what actually happens time and again in the rather longer term stock market. People get in just as they should be getting out, and get out just when they should be staying in. As is happening right now, shares are on a roll, and money from the unwashed massed is starting to pour into the stock market again. After taking a beating back in 2008, and cutting their losses, many people have stayed on the sidelines for years, missing the upward move that the markets have made in the intervening four years. But fingers burned in 2008 are healed now, and memories are short. People love a bubble, (the Madness of Crowds), they always have, but unfortunately bubbles have a tendency to burst.

From the USA:
The big gains seem to have caught the attention of Main Street investors, many of whom have turned ultra-defensive with their investments since the 2008 financial crisis and sought comfort in more conservative, yet lower-yielding investments, such as cash and U.S. Treasury bonds.
The latest weekly sentiment survey released by the American Association of Individual Investors found 52.3% of investors were bullish, the highest reading since January 2011. A closely watched Wall Street "fear gauge" is trading at its lowest level since April 2007.
The combination of falling fear and rising bullishness has translated into retail investors putting some money to work in U.S. stock funds, after consistently yanking money out of these funds since the 2008 financial crisis. In the past two weeks, domestic stock mutual funds have enjoyed cash inflows of $11.3 billion, the best two weeks since April 2000, says fund-tracker Lipper.
For the record, I am not suggesting anyone quits the stock market any time soon. Far from it. My point is that if you were in prior to 2008, you should have stayed in, and continued to invest, and ridden the escalator up in those four plus years. From 3530 to 6339 is a huge jump that I know many people missed out on because they became disillusioned and gave up with shares. Until now.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Bad Sport

Average Guy writes on his blog that he:

placed bets on Snooker and Basketball (not real sports IMO) for a few mates during a particularly mental drunk night during the week.
While I am with him to some extent on Snooker, (I like my sports to require some kind of physical effort beyond walking around a table and sitting down), he clearly has absolutely no idea about Basketball, the world's second most popular and widely viewed sport. As the BBC reported:
When Dr James Naismith invented basketball in 1891, he couldn't have dreamed that the game would become the world's second most popular sport, played in more than 200 countries, and a multi-billion dollar industry.
It's also one of the finest sports for pure trading, as I have written many times before. In fact, it is probably the finest, with the possible exception of tennis, which for me has several limitations. While football markets move predictably given the current game situation, basketball markets do not. Basketball is very much a game of momentum, and markets ebb and flow accordingly. If you study the game, watch how markets move, and take the time to learn some of the nuances of the sport, it offers far more in terms of trading opportunities than a low scoring sport such as football.

In fact, most nights see at least one game where you can look back and say that:
in this particular match you should have struggled to lose money if you were trading.
But it's good to know that money is coming into these markets from ill-informed and inebriated sources!

I jest with my suggestion that any game all but guarantees a profit, and anyone following the discussion between The Sultan and Peter Webb will know what I am referring to. From my own experience, there are games when you read everything close to perfectly, and there are games where you get every decision wrong. It's all too easy after the former to get carried away with the thought that every trader must have been like you and made money, but for every entry point of yours, someone was exiting, and vice-versa. On an exchange, we can't all be winners, and the trick is to maximise your winners on a good day, and limit your losses on a bad one.

And on that note, it's time to set up for the NBA double-header on Sky Sports in a few minutes, featuring the Boston Celtics v Miami Heat, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers v Oklahoma City Thunder. If the Thunder don't drift higher than their 1.66 price, I shall be quite surprised. The Lakers like the spotlight, played far better in their last game than they have been, and the Thunder have the best record in the NBA, which augurs well for a closer game then the price suggests. Dwight Howard's shoulder may yet be an issue though, and one negative against basketball is perhaps the effect on the market that one player can have.

Update: Hope you took my advice. The Los Angeles Lakers won, in a game that you would have struggled to lose money on if you were trading ;) 

Odd Odds - Quite Peculiar Really

Late on Friday night, I happened to notice that the price on Queens Park Rangers to beat Milton Keynes Dons was ~1.7. On the face of it, rather generous I thought. A Premier League side, albeit a struggling one, at home to a League One side 32 places below them, but the market had, what I call a 'loose' look to it. Most big games would see four figures plus to back at say 1.7 and similar to lay at 1.71, but not this one. As many of you will have seen, the price then drifted out to above evens, and if what I read on the Betfair Forum is to be believed, (a big if), quite a substantial amount was being layed. I stayed away from this game, as I do most Cup games, but this was a very strange market. The argument that QPR weren't bothered about the FA Cup is less credible when you think that QPR made the effort to beat West Bromwich Albion in the Third Round, equalising with virtually the last kick of the first match, and scoring late (75 minutes) in the replay. Yes, Harry Redknapp made nine changes, but there was still a team out there in blue and white hoops that should have been able to win quite comfortably, but as everyone reading this probably knows, QPR went 0-4 down before pulling two back in the final ten minutes.

The Ladbrokes takeover of BETDAQ has been covered elsewhere, but the most interesting aspect for me is whether or not the new LADDAQ will become a serious competitor to Betfair, and serious enough to make the latter change some of their more egregious charges.

The email I received from BETDAQ suggests an expansion of the events they will cover, which one hopes might mean offering more markets in-play rather than adding ridiculous sub-markets to events they already cover:

Whilst ensuring that the integrity of the exchange is fully protected, we believe that combining the strengths of Ladbrokes with the expertise of BETDAQ will have a hugely positive impact on the betting experience for our customers.
On completion, Ladbrokes will work with BETDAQ to further enhance the competitiveness of the exchange, focusing initially on growing liquidity and event coverage, as well as expanding the range and depth of markets covered.

While I have no numbers to back up my feeling, it does seems like liquidity on Betfair is falling. I noticed last night that one of my PC reduction churning bets on the NBA (Portland Trail Blazers -1.5 v Los Angeles Clippers) alone comprised a large percentage of the total market.

The screenshot was taken pre-game, but the liquidity in-play is almost non-existent on the handicap markets, not helped when they offer three on the same game, plus two Totals markets one point apart!

Perhaps Betfair won't miss players such as myself who will walk (for obvious reasons) as soon as a viable alternative exists, but other players might miss us, and that viable option is only going to look all the more tempting to them too.

With no EPL action, the FTL tipsters were a little quieter than usual this weekend. With the Premier League in action next Tuesday and Wendesday, I shall probably delay the update until those results are in.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Pinnacle's View

An interesting article on the Pinnacle site, looking at Betfair's liquidity woes, while at the same time banging their own drum a little of course. 
Internet forums are awash with theories as to why liquidity may be lower for the Australian Open, with suggestions falling into two categories: event specific issues and general changes to exchange betting conditions:

Declining Tennis Liquidity – Event Specific Factors

Betfair is by far the dominant betting exchange in terms of volume with its customer base skewed towards the United Kingdom – generating 53% of all volume in 2012. With many Australian Open games played between 1am and 5am GMT it’s almost certain that available liquidity is impacted by the unfavourable timing for Betfair’s core player base. This is particularly acute for those bettors interested in betting in-play, on peripheral courts and on games without star appeal.

On top of the time zone issue, television coverage in the UK of the Australian Open is the patchiest of all the Grand Slams, with neither of the main broadcasters – BBC or Sky – showing early round games live. With exchanges, there is a direct correlation between live coverage of an event and volume/liquidity.

To make matters worse, Betfair also has a special arrangement with Australian betting regulators, which requires customers betting on events taking place Down Under to transfer funds to a specific Australian Wallet. This impractical step may also be enough to put off some bettors.
Declining Tennis Liquidity – General Exchange Factors 
Alongside the event specific issues, discussions around declining exchange liquidity are a daily feature on forums and are relevant for the Australian Open problem. The following points are structural issues that many bettors feel are impacting liquidity.

In 2008 Betfair introduced a Premium Charge on bettors whose winnings were deemed to be disproportionately high, when compared to the amount of commission they pay. In 2011 this was as high 60%, and these draconian measures are seen by many as the root cause of drops in liquidity. Big players may be mitigating their exposure to the Premium Charge by reducing the amount of backing and laying that they do, which depletes the available action in markets.

One of the main online betting forum threads that often re-occurs, is the suggestion that a lot of so-called ‘market-makers’ have reduced or stopped their activity. This is especially relevant for the peripheral games in the early rounds of the Australian Open where the lack of liquidity has been so noticeable.
Declining Tennis Liquidity – Poor Liquidity & Value

In theory, an exchange should offer a free market for betting on any given event, and free market economics suggest that the odds should quickly move to a ‘true value’ position. Backers and layers both seek optimal returns so the differential between the two should diminish, and this should produce close to a 100% market – one with no margin.

If there is enough volume and the market is efficient, this may be true. But unfortunately for successful exchange bettors, they are then slapped with a 5% commission on winnings. Unfortunately for Australian Open bettors, this commission still applies even when the market is inefficient, such as when there is a lack of volume.

And on top of the reduction in value that poor liquidity brings, this situation also restricts what should be one of the greatest attractions of exchanges: the freedom to hedge positions to lock in profit. Without the money on offer, bettors are either forced to take whatever odds are on offer, or sit on their hands.

Declining Tennis Liquidity – Not at Pinnacle Sports

While liquidity appears to be declining on exchanges like Betfair, it is going in the opposite direction at Pinnacle Sports. We have a long-standing reputation for offering the highest fixed odds limits online, yet these have been raised even higher for the 2013 season.

You’ll find Win Odds (Money Lines) and Totals increased by 25% and Handicaps brought in line with Win Odds, which is an increase of at least 50%. As bettors can re-bet at the maximum limit, Pinnacle Sports offer almost unlimited potential liquidity and the ability to build positions.

Higher limits aren’t the only reason Pinnacle Sports are a much better option for tennis bettors than an exchange; our margins are far lower after commission is factored in, so we offer far better value, providing a better chance to win more. This is especially true for tennis with margins as low as 2%.
Unlike exchanges, there is no sting in the tail at Pinnacle Sports as we do not levy any commission or charges on successful players, nor do we close or limit the accounts of successful players; our high volume/low margin business model needs sharp players.

So if you are looking for better tennis liquidity for the Australian Open, free of commission and Premium Charge, Pinnacle Sports will stand your bets, and win or lose, you can come back and keep betting with guaranteed high limits.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Weekend Summary

The 'weekend' ended with the games tonight at Southampton (v Everton) and Real Betis (v Athletic Bilbao), and the updated FTL table is above.

Still atop the table are the Bundesliga XX Draw selections, for which there was one selection and a perfect 0-0 this weekend, but the lead is less than a point over the XX Extended Draws Under 2.5 bets, which saw the first two selections have five goals, but the following nine all winners with two goals or less. Three of those nine ended as draws. The Classic selection I covered a couple of posts ago.

The next three spots are taken by Neil and Premier Edge whose bets I put up here a few days ago, and then comes backing the Lay The Draw selection which had another profitable weekend finding two draws from four selections. 

Peter Nordsted's Drawmaster continues it's slump, dropping to 11th place, but still in profit, while his Premier Betting service had a small profit and is basically level on the season. he Bundeslayga had two losses, while Little Al had a winner midweek (Chelsea v Southampton) but two losses on the weekend. 

Football Elite had two losing recommended bets, and drops to 22nd, ahead of the Free Over / Under picks, Talkbet, who had a winning weekend, and Football Formbook, who haven't had a profitable weekend since November. 

14 of 30 are in profit, and a profit of 17.28 points for anyone backing everything this weekend, which would be no one!

The entries in italics are those who appear to have given up. As always, let me know if I have messed anything up. I am human.

Harbaugh Lights

Most of you should be familiar with Nate Silver by now. I went on about him enough during the US Presidential Election and have recommended his book The Signal And The Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - but Some Don't, but having made his name with political and baseball predictions, he turned his talents to the NFL a few weeks ago, predicting a Superbowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. Seattle were eliminated last week, and yesterday the New England Patriots followed them in something of a surprise loss to the Baltimore Ravens. 

His reputation is hardly tarnished though. Silver ran the numbers and came up with his selections as the most likely match up, but small sample sizes are essentially meaningless. As the excellent Mark Taylor says in his Power of Goals blog:
Nate Silver was brave enough to put his predictive credentials gained in the field of politics and to a lesser degree baseball on the line on TV this weekend by plumping for a Seattle/New England Superbowl on February 3rd. That prediction is no longer an option following Seattle's demise in Atlanta and predictably Silver's reputation as a soothsayer is seen as tarnished in some quarters because his prediction was wrong. However, all any predictive model can do is produce estimates of how likely an event is to happen. An event may be predicted to happen 60% of the time, but that also means it won't happen 40% of the time. 40% is the minority event, but it is still going to happen fairly regularly.
A couple of statistically based models made Seattle narrow favourites in Atlanta, (I made them 52% favourites), but the numbers were close enough to call the game a coin toss. So if we called heads and saw a tail, we wouldn't be too surprised. Disappointed maybe, but not surprised. That's pretty much what occurred in Atlanta, a single trial on a coin flipped failed to go that extra half revolution in the last 25 seconds. A failed prediction on the day, but only time and numerous repeats of similar predictions can validate the model from which the single prediction originated.
Silver himself tweeted a version of Billy Beane's famous quote from Moneyball, "my sh*t doesn't work in the playoffs" at the end of the regular season. The truth is that no one's sh*t works that well in small sample sizes, which is what the playoffs are. Ten games and a (usually) neutral venue, inter conference showdown is all there is and random luck and a sudden death format is going to have a huge influence on individual games and the final destination of the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Americans Can't Spell Harbour
Last night's results mean that the Superbowl will be between the Jim Harbaugh coached San Francisco 49ers from the NFC and the John Harbaugh coached Baltimore Ravens from the AFC. What a dream for the media. And both are Catholics. What are the odds on that? As Yahoo Sports says:
Jim and John Harbaugh will coach against each other in the Super Bowl after San Francisco beat Atlanta and Baltimore beat New England in the NFL conference championship games. And if you thought the Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh story was given a lot of ink for a regular season game last season, just wait for this two-week lead up to the Super Bowl. 

Sunday, 20 January 2013


While legendary is probably one of the most overused words in the English language, occasionally its use is appropriate. Writing about his Tipstertable which I mentioned yesterday, Webbo of Betfair Banter writes:

I’ve got a few others involved already and the Legendary Cassini from GreenAllOver has also expressed an interest!
My XX draws, or related markets on those selections, are the majority of my football betting, but I do occasionally find a value bet such as Crystal Palace v Ipswich Town at evens (5-0), and last weeks top value bet was Sunderland v West ham United at 2.58 (a 24% edge, won 3-0) and yesterday's was Swansea City v Stoke City, a game I had Swansea priced at 1.68 to win, (Stoke are shipping a lot of goals recently, while Swansea can score at home) yet was matched at 2.28, 35% edge. Swansea won 3-1. I seem to need a 20%+ edge though, because the next three EPL value bets all in the 15% to 18% range were West Ham United (drew with QPR),  Newcastle (lost to Reading), and West Bromwich Albion (drew with Aston Villa).

There was just the one XX Classic selection this week, but Brest went down by a single goal at home to St Etienne, At least it was a winner on the HT00 and Unders markets, so I wasn't too disappointed, although Football Elite probably were, as Brest (DNB) were a recommended bet.

A fuller write up after the weekend is wrapped up as usual, but the Extended draws stopped their losing run at 21. It could have been only 20 but for a 90th minute Marseille goal, but Getafe and Sevilla drew 1-1 to my immense relief. I've written before that with draw betting, these kinds of run are guaranteed, but an example of how quickly fortunes can change can be seen with Ian Erskine's Lay The Draw selections. Backing the draw, he started off with one 'winner' in 24, including a run of 19, at which point we were -19.70 points, -82% ROI. since then we have had 16 selections, with 10 ending as draws, and this entry is now up 9.51 points with an ROI of 24% and currently sits in third place in the FTL table.

A rarity these days, but one post on the Betfair Forum caught my eye the other day. A Nigelpm1 wrote:
For my money there are two types of gamblers.
1) The ones who only bet with the high street bookies in their shops - that market will probably always be there.
2) The ones (like us) who bet at the best price on-line with no affection towards any particularly bookie.
I think there's probably a third group which is those who bet on line, but who have a favourite bookmaker. Tech savvy enough to be able to have the convenience of betting on-line, but too lazy or not bet-savvy enough to look for the best prices all the time.

How true is the statement that the High Street bookies market will always be there? The number is certainly increasing, especially in areas of poverty and high unemployment, and unless there are some regulatory changes, the big bookmaking corporations will continue to open up new casinos, I mean betting shops. It's unfortunate, but there will always be those drawn to FOBTs and who want to bet with no regard or understanding of value.

Type 2 is probably a small percentage, given that bookmakers soon restrict or close winning accounts, but the subset of this group, those who understand value but who have few options other than exchanges or a few bookmaker accounts, is probably larger. Most people reading this probably fall into this category.

The thread was actually about Betfair restricting people on their Fixed Odds product, and their true bookmaking colours show through here. Unless they can immediately lay your bet off, i.e. match it with someone else on the opposite side, Betfair's appetite for risk is minimal.

Two Conference Championship matches from the NFL today, the NFC's Atlanta Falcons v San Francisco 49ers followed by the AFC's New England Patriots v Baltimore Ravens. It will be hard to match the excitement of last weekend's games, but play-off games rarely go without some kind of drama. Favourites (i.e. Patriots and 49ers) have the edge in these Conference Championship games, beating the spread 57% of the time over the last 25 years. 

Friday, 18 January 2013


Some comments to attend to, the first was a follow up on the FTL from Derek, who wrote:

Hi Cassini,
Thanks very much for the reply. really appreciate it. It will be a shame if you don't continue it next season, its a great concept and i am sure someone would be willing to give you a hand with it!!
One thing I didnt catch was where to email the selections.

Thanks Again
Selections can be emailed to me at but on this same subject, before you do, you may want to read the next comment from Webbo, and send them to him instead. Webbo wrote:
I enjoy the table updates but I’m surprised you’ve kept up the updating this long, it must be a right job and a half!
Funnily enough, I could actually do with some tipsters for my new site Tipster Table (
So if anyone does fancy posting their tips on there when this ends (or even now) you’d be very welcome!

Cheers Webbo
Check out the website - it's far more professional looking than my Excel table, and I might even send the odd non-XX Draw selection over there my self. Of course, there's no reason why you shouldn't send entries to both. 

Seems like a good time to put up this week's selections from Neil and Premier Edge:
Swansea City v Stoke City - Swansea City @ 2.22
West Ham United v Queens Park Rangers - West Ham United @ 2.12
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United - Draw @ 3.59
Premier Edge:
Wigan Athletic v Sunderland – Sunderland +0.5 Asian Handicap (1.84 at Pinnacle)
Liverpool v Norwich City – Under 3.25 goals (1.806 at Pinnacle)
West Bromwich Albion v Aston Villa – Under 2.75 goals (1.813 at Pinnacle)
Granada v Rayo Vallecano – Over 2.25 goals Asian Goal line (1.826 at Pinnacle)
Real Sociedad v Barcelona – Total Real Sociedad goals Over 0.5 (1.8 at Boylesports)
Getafe v Sevilla – Over 2.25 goals Asian Goal line (1.855 at Pinnacle)
Valencia v Real Madrid – Over 3 goals Asian Goal line (2.0 at Pinnacle)
Real Betis v Athletic Bilbao – 2 or 3 goals (2.0 at Bet365/Paddy Power)
Anonymous writes:
Hello there,
I have one question. Hopefully Cassini or someone experienced in math and betting can help?
I have some stupid local betting shops here (limits are ok for my bets).
E.g. handball.. Pinnacle has under 55.5 at 1.8 odds.. I can get 56.5 at 1.9 odds.. it's a big difference isn't it? It's like 1.7 odds or lower at Pinnacle against 1.9 at my shop..
It's same in basketball and other sports. I can really get some good odds..
Do you think I can bet blindly these differences?
Should I bet only singles? Maybe some systems?
Thanks in advance
On the face of it, you should be able to back your Under 56.5 at 1.9 and lay off on the exchanges, but it won't last. Any inefficiencies such as these will soon disappear. Stupid betting shops do not stay in business for long.

And finally, on the subject of the Premium Charge, asdf wrote:
Hi Cassini,
I’m a long time follower of your blog and something you say is bothering me. You keep going on and on about how unlucky you are to lose a big chunk of money the week you would not have paid premium charge anyway or recently you said that premium charge is taken in the good weeks but not refunded the bad ones.

But how does it make a difference if you lose 1000$ more on a losing week or 1000$ more on a winning week? As I understand it, premium charge calculation is based on the lifetime of the account. It is checked every week but the check is made on a lifetime basis. Every week the calculation starts from scratch, checking if the sum of your lifetime commission+Premium Charge is totaling more than 20% your lifetime gross profit (keeping aside some weird calculation about implied commission). So if you were even for the week and lose 1000$ in your last trade to make it -1000$ for the week, you will have 1000$ less in your lifetime gross profit for the next week calculation and you’ll pay about 200$ less premium charge next week. Just like you would pay about 200$ less in premium charge for the present week if you would have lost 1000$ in the last trade of a winning week. The only difference between the two scenarios is the week you will get the ”credit”. Or I’m I missing something? I must be because you seem so sure about all this.

Well I hate to bother anyone, but what I meant was that if you win in one week, then lose the same (gross) amount the next week, you are worse off in the short term than if your win and loss are in the same week.

To use round numbers for clarity, if your lifetime Gross Profit is £300k and you are on a 50% Super PC rate, your Total Charges are £150k. If you win £5k and lose £5k the same week, you pay no PC. You end up down the commission you paid on your win.

If you win £5k one week, and then lose the following week, you are up (net) £2,500. The next week you lose £5k and you are now down by £2,500 overall.

Yes, you earn a credit of ~5% of your win added to the Total Charges which means that you can win double this amount before incurring the PC in the future, but at my age, it's a concern that the future may never come! It is always now. I must admit that it is slightly comforting in losing weeks to think that you are building up a cushion for the next big win, but not as comforting as it would be if the charge just went away.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Hedging Totals

Derek commented on the FTL table: 
Nice set up with the league!
Do you post all of the selections before the games or just a few? I understand there are some pros here so maybe you could not post these but it would be nice to compare everyone's selections.
Also how might one get involved in this, I would like to do this next season :)
Obviously the Pro selections I can't post up ahead of time, but most of the others are available on the entrants blogs, which are linked to from the very fine blog you are currently reading.

Of the profitable (to date) selections, here is the Premier Edge page. Neil emails his selections to me, and I will post them up ahead of time. Peter Nordsted's Drawmaster selections are kind of Pro, but they are sent out as part of his Free Weekly Insider - his email is if you want to be added to his list. The Lay The Draw (FTS) selections are sent out by Ian Erskine, I believe to anyone who has subscribed to any of his services in the past. The Bundeslayga selections are mine, and not part of the XX Draws service, so I sometimes put these up, but the selection method is easy enough. Lay home teams between 1.3 and 1.99.

Looking at the currently loss making selections, both Premier Betting and Football Elite are professional services so their picks are not made public before the result is in the books. CKL Football Tips haven't posted in a month, then there are Free Under Over Soccer Picks, Little Al emails his selections, as did Tony and Griff, who both seem to have given up after poor runs. Jon (Talkbet) posts his bets up. Reviewing these made me realise that I had missed Football Formbook's selections last week, so I'll catch them up, and that's it.

If Derek wants to join in, he can join in now. maintaining the table is a lot of work, and I doubt that I shall continue it beyond this season. Simply send an email with your selections prior to kick-off and I'll add you. You are currently in 14th place!

In Betfair's apparently never ending campaign to add more and more sub-markets to their games, the NBA this year often sees two or three Under / Over markets. Occasionally the markets differ significantly, last night for example saw the Under 211.5 market priced at 2.16 and the Over 213.5 market at 2.14 / 2.16 on the Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks game. While not risk-free, for anyone looking for some churning opportunities, playing the unders on the lower market, and the overs on the higher market isn't the worst strategy in the world. The result was a 104 to 88 win for the Lakers and the killer 212 or 213 total was comfortably avoided.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Weekend Jiggle

Not really a stellar weekend overall for the FTL entrants. With three of the five selections finishing with one goal or less, the Classic U1.5 selections moved up into profit and second place, but the Extended selections fell from 1st to 7th after finding seven non-draws and 'extending' their losing run to 19.  The other profitable entries jiggled around a little, but no major changes.

For the Pros, Pete Nordsted's Drawmaster slid a little with three more losers, and his Premier Betting dropped into the red, but Football Elite found two winners and moves up to 18th.

Al found the winning draw at Everton v Swansea City, and has another draw selection in midweek - the Chelsea v Southampton game.

The Bundesliga is back this weekend, with the games at Schalke '04 and Bayer Leverkusen again qualifiers for the Bundeslayga.

The football might not have been great, but there was an exciting weekend of NFL play-off games this weekend, with plenty of trading opportunities. The best result for me was the Denver Broncos home loss v the Baltimore Ravens, but the Atlanta Falcons v Seattle Seahawks also added to the bottom line when the visitors came from 20 points down to take a very late one point lead, only to lose to a field goal. Even the New England Patriots, who I have backed to win the whole thing next month, started off slowly and drifted. I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again, but laying low in the NFL is a very sound strategy. Conference championship games coming up next weekend, and then the Superbowl.

Another sport where "laying low, is the way to go" (nice rhyme, I may have to copyright that) is the NBA, which comes to London this Thursday for a proper game, with the New York Knicks 'visiting' the Detroit Pistons at the O2 Arena.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Over Time, Life Happens

Some of you may recall my report of an NFL game earlier this season, where I spent about four hours of my life trading a game that ended in a tie after overtime, waiting for a moment that never came. (See above for how much this 'cost' me).  This outcome is, as I mentioned, very rare, this being the first in four years, but today history repeated itself. Kind of.

Another game, this time the play-off game between the Denver Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens, ended an overtime period all tied last night, but of course, in play-offs, there has to be a winner, and the game continued into a second overtime. The overtime gambling gods taketh, and they giveth back, as opposed to the Betfair Premium Charge which taketh (on a good week), but doesn't refundeth on a bad one.  
Speaking of bad weeks, and with a significant outage at probably their biggest time - 3pm on a Saturday - Betfair didn't help their bottom line or reputation at all.

Speaking (again) of bottom lines, and the XX Draws didn't help mine much yesterday. The Unders (2.5) were slightly profitable with a couple of one goal games, but Chelsea's win by four at Stoke City wasn't predicted by many, and the Reading v West Bromwich Albion game was looking good at 90 minutes, before Reading completed an unlikely comeback. There were a few HT 0-0 winners, three of seven, which was nice, but the actual draw proved elusive.

So far, not a great weekend for the FTL entrants. Premier Edge are down, Neil is down, and Premier Betting had a poor Saturday, but I did have a nice win on Sunderland v West Ham United getting matched at 2.58, a full 24% edge on my price of 2.08. They were value on Friday at 2.36, so why the drift, I am not too sure. Ian Erskine picked another 'winner' picking the Osasuna v Real Madrid game which ended 0-0. With no Cristiano Ronaldo (suspended) Real Madrid are a different team, and today's result is the third La Liga game that Real have failed to win with no Ronaldo.

Soccerdude covered a topic that deserved to be covered - the Betfair Forum and the almost complete waste of time that it is. I say 'almost' because there are a handful of respected, intelligent posters who have some useful things to say, but 99.9% are just pathetic and usually soon ruin any sensible thread. Soccerdude mentions Swearbox and his post on the subject, but getting wound up about such a trivial thing is pointless. Swearbox is actually banned for life from posting on the forum, but his post has attracted (if that's the right word) some 838 comments which must be something of a record. As Soccerdude says though, do these people find time for betting? My guess is no, or at least not successful betting. In the same way that there is a negative correlation between IQ and religiosity, my guess is that there is a negative correlation between the amount won and the number of posts made.

It is always now. In the words of Lester Freamon:
"A life, Jimmy, you know what that is? It's the shit that happens while you're waiting for moments that never come."

Friday, 11 January 2013

Weekend Bets From The FTL

The two in-profit 'amateur' competitors in the FTL have their entries in for this weekend, which some of you might want to follow. I use the word amateur in the sense that neither is professional, but their results so far are anything but amateur. Premier Edge is in third place, up 9.67 points from 101 bets, while Neil is in seventh place, up 5.94 points from 55 selections. 

Premier Edge 

Fri 8:30 Athletic Bilbao v Rayo Vallecano – Under 2.75 goals Asian Goal line (1.943 at Pinnacle)
Sat 3:00 Fulham v Wigan – Fulham win (2.0 at Pinnacle/Bet Victor)
Sat 3:00 Norwich v Newcastle – Norwich -0.25 Asian Handicap (1.93 at 188bet)
Sat 3:00 Stoke v Chelsea – Both Teams to Score: Yes (1.91 at Coral)
Sat 9:00 Valencia v Sevilla – Both Teams to Score: No (2.31 at 32Red)
Sun 8:00 Malaga v Barcelona – Over 3.25 goals Asian Goal line (2.0 at Pinnacle)
Mon 7:00 Getafe v Granada – 2 or 3 goals (2.07 at 32Red)

Neil’s Selections 

Sat 3:00 Norwich v Newcastle - Norwich @ 2.24
Sat 3:00 Stoke v Chelsea - Lay Chelsea @ 1.96
Sat 3:00 Sunderland v West Ham - Sunderland @ 2.36
Sun 1:30 Man Utd v Liverpool - Man Utd @ 1.92

Both go for Norwich City and I have them at 2.17 making the 2.24 very slight value, but I make Sunderland at 2.36 a better bet as I have them at 2.08. 

Data Visualisation, Betfair Style

From comes this contribution from Betfair - the link has other examples from Ford and Absolut. Note that this article should not be interpreted as a subliminal endorsement to drink and bet, or drive and drink, or drive and bet. The first can be dangerous to your wealth, while the others can be just dangerous.
Data visualisations are a great way of driving marketing efforts, which enable customers to get the best out of their relationship with Betfair. In the bookmaker’s environment we are able to use complex event processing (CEP) technology to monitor and react to customer behaviour about major events on our website and on social media sites.
As our odds change, we use graphs to show the peaks and troughs of the day and explain all the significant happenings that are changing the value of a bet. We are able to visualise this by using the CEP to analyse events (fixtures information and user events such as bet placement and funds withdrawal) to detect patterns and extract data from them. We can then translate this into an illustration which is clear and simple. It works for us because it highlights our differences from our competitors, particularly in the value proposition. These visualisations directly play into our USP - namely that Betfair is one of the few companies to allow gamblers to bet at odds set by other users rather than by the bookmaker.
This is about bringing in the right customer who will be valuable for the long term. We’re not looking for one-off punters, but if we get people in at the start of the tournament they are more likely to stay with us longer. They enjoy these real-time visualisations, because they are empowering them to be in control and understand when is the right time to have a flutter.
It also enables us to spot any detail that would otherwise go missing such as the hottest parts of the website including banners and offers with high degrees of traction.
The ability to create, identify and curate content that is going to be interesting and carry across multiple channels is quite useful. As the internet and web-based content continue to grow at such a rapid pace, numeracy and the ability for a marketer to deal with huge amounts of data are vital. The ability to sort through all that and find the one thing that is going to make the difference, the one small change you make that could have a massive effect on the bottom line, is crucial.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013


Not a good end to the weekend's XX Draws as Rayo Vallecano beat Getfae 3-1 on Monday night, and here is the FTL table caught up as best I can after the end of year festivities.

After more idiotic spam comments, I have been forced to implement the 'comments moderation' which I have not had to do in almost five years of this blog. Rest assured that only spam will fail the moderation test, and that all non-spam comments, both favourable and not-so-favourable will be published.

The last comment was from Baz who asked:
Are Betfair using the premium charge to also close accounts?
Technically no, but they are using the Premium Charge as a way of limiting the payouts to winning customers. The high rates of commission are clearly intended to deter the sharper-minded big winners from using Betfair if they have a viable alternative, but since they know that most of their big winners do not have this viable option, and that closing winning accounts would be a PR disaster (as Smarkets can tell you), their strategy so far has been to hit people where it hurts. 20% didn't do the trick, so for many of us, the percentage is now 40%, 50% or 60%. Betfair could be in for a challenging year, and there may even be a viable alternative with Ladbrokes currently in acquisition talks with BETDAQ? Don't get too excited though - it's hard to imagine Ladbrokes (coming from a different perspective than an 'exchange') tolerating long-term winners. 

I wrote back in February 2009:
They [Betfair] are certainly not in competition with the likes of Ladbrokes, Hills etc. These are traditional bookies who do not want winners. They want customers who, let’s be blunt here, are clueless about value and just want to have a bet. Social gamblers you might call them. As soon as someone starts winning, their business is declined. This happened to me in the early 80s when I had a credit account with Ladbrokes closed after I had won the enormous amount of something like £200.
And if (they already own the name) do emerge as an alternative and have no compunctions about closing winning accounts, Betfair may not be far behind. A publicly traded Betfair is a quite different beast from an innovative start-up Betfair.

Finally, I've been a little tardy in thanking my friend Steve at Daily25 for his generous hamper contribution over the holiday period. A little disappointing that the silence was deafening in response to his suggestion that if you "have loved reading his blog and wish to show your support, then donate to this gift" but not unexpected to be honest.

Sunday, 6 January 2013


An oft cited study offered subjects two options. Option 1 was that a coin toss of Head would result in a win of $100 while a Tail meant nothing, while Option 2 gave the subject $100 up front, with a Head meaning the subject keep it, and a Tail meaning he give it back. Identical outcomes of course, but more people favoured option 1, evidence that "the pain of losing a dollar is far more powerful than the pleasure of winning a dollar". (More people switch insurance companies if their company raises rates, than if a rival company reduces rates). Incidentally, when trying the experiment on Mrs Cassini, she replied that she would choose option 2. To her credit, she recognised that the options were the same, but claimed that if she lost, she would refuse to give the money back! I sometimes feel my research isn't given the respect it deserves.

The bottom line is that loss aversion causes people to make suboptimal choices. Scorecasting - The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played And Games Are Won - is some Christmas reading that gives a number of examples of how this influences coaching decisions in sports such as American Football, basketball, baseball and ice hockey. Coaches would be better served statistically by (respectively) "going for it" on fourth down, not benching players after five personal fouls, using the closer earlier and pulling the goalkeeper earlier, but even when made aware of the benefits of these strategies, most choose to follow conventional wisdom. Why? Most would rather lose games by following convention, than risk losing a game by trying something non-conventional, figuring that their jobs were less likely to be lost with the traditional approach. The coaches most likely to adopt the optimal strategies are those 'tenured' coaches, such as Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. The book contains the story that one NBA coach was presented with the evidence, yet insisted he would follow the sub-optimal convention of benching his player. Asked why, he replied "Because my kids go to school here!"

This rather backs up my assertion that optimal decisions can only be made when you are free of pressure. For traders, it's all too easy to take the sub-optimal guaranteed small profit option of greening up too early, without realising that in the long run, this is costing you profits. If you need that £100 to put food on the table, you will be less likely to let it run, even if this is the optimal play, telling yourself that no one ever went broke by taking a profit. Perhaps not, but not many will get rich by making sub-optimal plays all the time.

Win And Done

My ratings and FTL table are finally up to date, although the latter will have to wait a day as there is some Monday night action. The action packed EPL schedule contrasts quite dramatically with the lack of action elsewhere in late December / early January. One surprise is that Liverpool are still rated third in England, ahead of Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea. Much has been written about the money to be made from laying Liverpool this season, but my numbers show that this might not continue in the second half of the season. When it comes to football, results can be deceiving. Football is a low scoring game of just 90 minutes, often decided by just one goal, and luck plays a big part. For me, any rating method that looks only at results is fundamentally flawed. 

The bottom three (18th to 20th) in the EPL are Wigan Athletic, Reading and Aston Villa, with Queens Park Rangers in 17th place.

The XX Draws started the year with a Classic winner (Southampton v Arsenal), but ended 2012 with a poor run for the Extended selections, currently on a losing run of eleven. This weekend's three completed selections to date did at least have the consolation of all being 0-0 at Half-Time, but ended 1-0, 3-0 and 2-0 respectively.

During the holidays, the big winner appears to be Premier Edge who ended 2012 with 8 winners from 10 selections, and now sit in third place +9.67 points from 101 selections. One other notable climb up the table is backing Ian Erskine's 'Lay The Draw' selection, After one winner in 24 selections, and a loss of 19.70 points, the selections have won 7 of the next 11 to climb into profit. Another example of how quickly fortunes can change with draw backing.

One controversy that started to surface before my break concerned Smarkets, an exchange I have previously mentioned a few times, and writing in July 2011 that:
Smarkets may be little known for now, but they are fast gaining attention and a reputation for responding to the customer. As the poster above said, "Do you really think in 20 years time people will be paying up to 60%?" No, they won't, not when Betfair ceases to be a monopoly, a day that is one day nearer than it was yesterday, and nowhere near 20 years away.
While there are two sides to every story, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle, the gist of it is that one customer somehow had an edge sufficient enough to cause Smarkets, and their three major market makers, problems. After winning £20k in six months, the customer's account was closed. Smarkets deny that it was because it was a winning account, but their claim that it was because the client 'threatened their licence' (by reporting them to the LGA) is something of a stretch, seeing as their own terms and conditions advise dissatisfied customers:
Customer Disputes
Customers should contact if he or she feels that the Smarkets Betting Rules were not properly enforced. Any disputes will be dealt with in a prompt and professional manner. If Smarkets does not resolve the dispute to the customer's satisfaction, he or she should contact the LGA at
Emails from Smarkets (under pressure from their market makers) reveal that the customer was requested to change his betting style, or face his account being frozen, but the 'offer' was declined:
It appears I'm not being clear. I'm asking you to stop trading until you provide liquidity or until I can get more liquidity providers. I understand the principles of free markets but we are a small startup who has not yet reached critical mass.
I will put a freeze on your account if I have to but I'm asking nicely. I think I've been pretty honest with you. I would appreciate some courtesy.
All things considered, this is not good news for anyone. For Smarkets it has proved to be a continuing PR disaster, (betting forums are full of references to this, and the Bookmakers Review has downgraded Smarkets' rating - see below) while for those of us who would love to see a viable alternative to Betfair emerge, (this 50% is killing me and no doubt many others), the message appears to be that this alternative is still some way off.
Smarkets says they cannot support consistently winning punters
According to a report from a player on exchange trading forums Geekstoy and BetAngel, London-based exchange Smarkets is now closing player accounts for winning too much.
The player that reported the complaint stated that his Smarkets account was closed after winning an estimated £20,000 over a six month period.
In the back and forth that followed between the betting exchange management and the player, with Smarkets claiming to have suspended the account only after the player threatened the company's Maltese license and the player saying that by complaining to the LGA he only exercised his rights, some very interesting information emerged.
Even though Smarkets claims to have no policy of suspending winning accounts, the company asked a successful player to change his betting patterns as apparently the market makers providing liquidity to the exchange were not happy with his "greening up".
In other words, Smarkets asked the player to adjust his successful betting strategy to a slightly less profitable one.
In an email to the player, Smarkets management stated: "Please don't close out your positions on Smarkets and green up against the market maker. I know this is a pain to ask you but we're small and I need to build the trading ecosystem in the right way for our markets to be able to mature."
And again: "I have just spoken with the market maker. They are complaining again. We're too small right now to risk losing a market maker. It's probably best if you stick with Betdaq and Betfair for the time being. I need to get more market makers and more recreational punters on board before we can support consistently winning punters. Most of our customers are arbers."
Because of the inconsistencies with the exchange business model and for admitting to depend on a limited number of market makers, Smarkets has been downgraded to 2.5 (3-).
UPDATE 02-01-2013: The article above is not about the player that reported the complaint on Geekstoy and BetAngel asking to have his account re-instated being right or wrong. As a matter of fact, Bookmakers Review doesn't even know the identity of the player and we believe that Smarkets, like every other betting operator, have the right to choose with whom they want to do business with.
What is of interest to BMR are the statements of the betting exchange management admitting Smarkets is a small operation, heavily dependant on few market makers. This is enough to suggest Smarkets as a betting operation is vulnerable to problems and a rating of 2.5 better reflects such situation.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Tempting Fate

Back to the old routine again, and the holiday season ended in a loss for the XX Draws which had the Newcastle United v Everton match as a Classic selection. When Pete Nordsted pointed out on Twitter that...:

When Everton have been 1-1 away at HT since 2009/10 all 10 matches have ended level. Newcastle same period only three 1-1s at HT, two ended a draw and one a Home win.
I was quite excited. Well, maybe not. For me, such statistics are a curiosity, but nothing more than that.

Pete went on to say that "Strong trends can be broken especially one highlighted but I am laying 1-2 or backing Over 3.5 goals when and if it hits 2.0" and indeed, the game finished 1-2 with Everton scoring in the 60'. 

Incidentally, I'm not sure what was meant by "especially one highlighted". Sounds a bit like my Mum who thinks that talking about something, especially something bad, is 'temping fate' and should be avoided at all costs. Life's not like that, and it's hard to imagine the teams and coaching staff checking their Twitter accounts at half-time and deciding to put an end to the trend because 'it has been highlighted'. 

Some trends are certainly useful, but I do have trouble in accepting that there is any logic in believing that the result of a game from 2009 is somehow relevant to a game nearly four years later.

The other XX Draw selection so far this year was a winner, as Southampton held Arsenal to a 1-1 draw. I've not had time to update the FTL table yet, but I have kept all the emails and will try to catch up this week.

It does look as though I will need to beef up the security on comments. A few more spammy ones appeared while I was away, and while there are more annoying things in the world, it is still annoying.  We'll see how many this post draws, but now I have highlighted the issue, no doubt they will stop completely.