Friday, 28 February 2014

When The Smog Clears, UCLA

I mentioned 'laying low' as one of my favourite strategies in my earlier post, and here is an example from last night of how it can pay off.

With 1.3 seconds left, it didn't look good, but the thing with these low risk / high reward plays is that I'm quite comfortable with taking a loss when the bet was value. I'm not exactly happy to take the loss, but I'm ok with it. In the event, UCLA tied the game up with a three-pointer as the clock hit zeroes, and the game went to double-overtime.

Unfortunately Oregon eventually prevailed winning 87-83, but two overtime periods and all the stoppages that go with those ten minutes, provided plenty of time to lock in a consolation win, even if the preferred outcome didn't transpire.
There was some bloodshed in the Totals market too - with Under 155.5 points looking a certainty, 1.01 traded, but with overtime points counting, the game ended up going Over.

Lay low, you never know. Very catchy.

Lay Back And Simplify

I was reading a paper called THE EXTENT OF PRICE MISALIGNMENT IN PREDICTION MARKETS by David Rothschild David Pennock* and while the subject matter is probably not of much interest to anyone until October 2016 (the paper looks at the arbitrage opportunities which existed during the 2012 Presidential Election, and I like to be prepared), there were a few general market observations of interest, including this line:

For example, buying and selling are logically identical yet almost every exchange makes selling more confusing; ideally, traders should see no difference.
Most of us grew up on the punter side of the betting fence, with its limited choices of betting on something to win, or not betting at all. In theory, the lay option was there in the clumsy form of backing every other outcome with varying stakes, but this was rather impractical for any event with more than three possible outcomes.

On the bookmaker side of the betting fence, laying has always been the order of the day.

It’s not that selling (or laying) is more complicated, it is simply that laying is not what most people are used to.

For many of us, the arrival of betting exchanges provided the opportunity to learn and use the previously unavailable bookmaker’s side of the equation.

And that’s all it is – an equation, which by definition is “the process of equating one thing with another".

What is risk on one side is reward on the other. Laying may have added another string to the punter’s bow, but it is not a silver bullet (to mix metaphors) to profitability.

In the early days of the Betfair Forum, or at least fairly early since I didn't join until late March 2004, many people espoused this view, which always seemed a little naïve to me.

A lay is simply a traditional bet (a back) in reverse. There is, and never was, anything magical about it, and the same laws of mathematics apply – if you have value, you will make a profit, and if you don’t, you won’t.

Most of my betting is done in binary markets, so whether I back A or lay B, the bet is essentially the same. (One option may be slightly better than the other because of rounding differences so it does pay to check). 

With one of my strategies being that of ‘laying low’ (much catchier than ‘backing high’) I am obviously extremely comfortable on the lay side of the fence, and with practice anyone can be, but the comment in the paper raises a good point, which is that exchanges do not need to have two prices on a binary outcome.

If Roger Federer is 1.5 to win a match, then the interface could simply list the two outcomes (WIN or LOSE, along with the opposite result for his opponent) and one price rather than the four prices as now. I’m not sure the alleged confusion is really that bad, but I do agree that the exchanges could make the process simpler.

But then the cross-matching profits would vanish, so it’ll probably never happen.

* The views expressed in linked blogs, posts, articles, papers or tweets are of course those of the authors of the blogs, posts, articles, papers and tweets and do not necessarily represent the views, opinions, or positions, of myself.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Suns Fail To Shine

I hope some of you made some money from yesterday's lay recommendation of the Phoenix Suns. At the time of writing, the Suns were in the low 1.8s, but from the chart below (taken at tip-off)...


...you can see two big moves. One was obviously triggered when I highlighted in my post Phoenix's first quarter struggles of late and sharp minds followed me in and moved the market, and the second move was when it was revealed that the Dragon, Goran Dragic, would be missing with a sprained ankle.

I jest about the reason for the first drift, (it was likely because insiders became aware of the injury), but the drifts do highlight the dangers of betting too early on a sport where team news can move a market hugely.

On this occasion the news was in our favour, and with Utah Jazz winning the first quarter as expected (by 3) you could have traded out of that 1.85 lay by backing at 2.88. Or you could have let the lay run (not unreasonable given the Suns short-handedness), and enjoyed an easy win.

The Suns led for a total of three seconds early in the second quarter, but in the end Utah (receiving 1.5 on the handicap) just about covered, winning by 23 points.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Sportgasbord

Messing up on Jamie A's numbers is becoming a weekly occurrence, but fortunately Jamie is a most honest chap, rather like myself, and he took himself out of the prize money by querying my total for him. Here is the revised portion of the table:

A few contenders had selections in last night's games, but one update a week is enough. It occurred to me that this blog hasn't mentioned sports other than football for a while, so here goes.

Despite changing markets, there are still opportunities to skin the NBA cat by following strategies previously revealed on this blog. Last night / this morning saw the Minnesota Timberwolves value (in my opinion) as 3.5 underdogs at over-achievers Phoenix Suns.
Phoenix travels to Utah tonight, and a pre-game lay of the visitors is in order as they tend to start slow. The last three games they have lost the first quarter every time before waking up for the middle two periods:
The revelation that the NBA is looking at the possibility of a 4 point shot was interesting, but somehow I can't see it being a serious discussion. 

Still in the US, and Spring Training opened in baseball yesterday with a game between the New York Yankees and college team Florida State (who included quarterback Jameis Winston in their team). The pros won, and the NHL is back tonight. I make that three major US sports, plus a couple of college sports! 

Finally, from the world of Twitter yesterday came this gem, re-tweeted by Ian Erskine:
And this not such a pleasant Tweet from PGA homophobe golfer Steve Elkington: 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Wooden Spoon Stirs It Up

The latest FTL table doesn't make for pleasant viewing, unless you are Skeeve or Cassini, with no entries outside of these two currently in profit on the season.
The Cassini Value Selections added 1.65 points with two winners from three, while Skeeve found four winners from five for a 1.28 point profit. The Bundeslayga selections had three winners from four and made 2.41 points on the weekend. The latter were the big gainers of the weekend in terms of places, moving up five spots and into second prize money place.
Notable is the fact that the top four are also the lowest of the active entrants in terms of selections, quality not quantity perhaps.
The 'still in contention' group was joined by The Football Analyst,who picked up 7.4 points to reduce his bounty by £75 to £150. It wasn't a good weekend for draw-hunters with the XX Draws dropping three places, and Peter Nordsted's Drawmaster dropping one spot.
And in the 'strugglers' section of the table, no real changes, but some big names still languishing. Football Elite made a small loss, but has been mentioned previously, the way I record P&L on Draw No Bet selections penalises Matt when he has a selection win, so his numbers are likely to be more favourable.
Peter Nordsted's habit of putting several eggs in one basket again proved costly, as the Liverpool v Swansea City game was not the tight affair predicted. My joke about Peter renaming his service "Championship Betting" for next season might turn out to be more portentous than I thought.

As for next season, there has been more interest in a second season of the FTL. I may have to start a waiting list. Emp has resolved his PayPal issues and is raring to go, confident that he can perform as strongly again next season as he did this season before time expired on the money being due.

Danny Murphy wants to get the World Cup out of the way first, while Neil, dreaming of holding his wooden spoon, writes:
As the "wooden spoon winner in waiting" for this season, I would confirm that I will certainly be entering again next season.
I have always used this competition to test out new strategies and needless to say that so far this season I have failed to find a winning one!
I now have a few months to come up with a plan for next season, I happy to pay a bit more to cover admin costs etc and it is great to see that there is so much interest in sponsorship.
Keep up the good work mate, don't let the king of the trolls AKA "Jonny Fart Pants" get you down, although you are helping him out a lot with his viewing stats on his website of "essays" or reams of back fitted waffle :-)
Might I suggest that anyone considering entering next season test out their new strategies first? I know the entry fee was only £25 but we're not into throwing money away.

As for "Jonny Fart Pants", I have no idea who Neil means, and it takes a lot to get me down. There was a Jonny Grosmark/Grossmark in my life once, and he was full of hot air, but he has stated publicly that he no longer reads this blog. Yes, I was down about that loss for a while, (readers are like family to me), but I got over it when I saw how many hits this blog was now getting, plus all my new followers on Twitter following his 119 (so far) tweets mentioning me!

Mind you, Jonny also stated publicly that he has had two interviews with the police about my linking to a Hejik blog post, and I found this in my Spam folder from several days ago:
I think he may have meant that I am a 'wit'. There are a few other 'facts' poor Jonny is not certain about. As some of you may have noticed, his email name above has one 's' in Grosmark, yet other times he uses two. No wonder he's a confused young man. I await the news that the police have been contacted as this "blog" (I think he means post) might need "to be removed in terms of stopping me getting work in the future in the proof-reading industry" although either the police aren't too interested or Jonny's pants are on fire.

The big problem Jonny has, is that of credibility. When you have a history of making up stories, saying you will do things and then not doing them, generally being known as a nuisance (to keep it polite) and you have a record of sending over 90,000 tweets, no one with an ounce of common sense is going to take you seriously, and sending another hundred tweets is self-defeating. As an aside, some of you may find this 'true story' from Jonny amusing (and no, it didn't interest me):
For the record, the Ligue 1 game tonight between Bordeaux and Lorient offers little value. My prices are below, and with the exchanges at 2.03, 3.375 and 4.7 (Home, Draw, Away) and 1.675 / 2.49 on the U/O 2.5 goals market, there is no bet triggered tonight. 

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Good Eggs

With almost six months to go until the new season gets under-way, the answer to my question posed a few days ago "Is it too early to ask if there might be any interest out there in an FTL for next season?" is probably yes. 


However, a couple of heavyweights have already thrown their hats into the ring and expressed not only interest, but also interest in some kind of sponsorship - namely this season's 'sponsor' Graeme, aka The Football Analyst, and Ian Erskine of FTS Income fame, and fortune.
TFA

Full of self-confidence, Graeme suggests a performance linked arrangement again, similar to the 'bounty' we have in place this season:
Probably link to it my own performance again and given my performance this season, not sure people need much more incentive to join. Will be like taking sweeties off a kid! :(
"Taking sweeties off a kid" has replaced "Barcelona in the Conference" for next season. Bullying replaces finesse perhaps. Speaking of Barcelona in the Conference, while the prices are not available yet, it does appear that TFA has had a rather good set of results this weekend, and anyone planning on how to spend their bounty liability might need to hold off for a while.

Graeme had a couple of other comments on the subject:
Wouldn’t be against everyone paying you a small admin fee as part of the entry fee either considering the work you do.

I’d also not be against more stringent rules to make your updates easier. From what you say, it seems to me some people drip feed bets to you and not sure my email box could handle this! I’d make it all bets need to be sent at once for each set of fixtures. Hence, one update from each entrant for midweek games and one update for weekend games. There have been a few times on a Saturday morning when I have been placing bets and some teams have drifted wildly from a Thursday and they’d be qualifying bets on this system in the FTL this season but I haven’t bothered to send them (probably wise given my negative ROI this season!). I do think for a league like this, it’s not asking much for people to provide one update for each fixture set.
I also wouldn’t be against anyone from my own service doing unique things with the TFA bets to enter the league as long as it’s made clear their system is based on my ratings and bets. Not sure anyone would be up for it but I can always ask! Given they have an opportunity to show me up, they might jump at the chance! ;)
Good-hearted (we hope) Ian Erskine had this to say:
Cassini all being well and assuming the ticker does not give out I will partake next season and happy to throw some money in the prize fund if you would like, don't want to step on Graeme's toes though. Fixed odds been a bit of a struggle this season for everyone I think, averages compared to last 5-10 years a bit out this season as you have previously mentioned.
Jamie A also showed interest, as did, and again I'll need to seek JG's approval on this, the infamous Hejik, who I repeat, I know nothing about except for his blog posts, tweets and comments - pretty much how most of us know about others in the on-line world.

Whether or not some of the less successful entrants from this season will sign up again remains to be seen. I imagine an unbiased spotlight shining on some systems and services has been an uncomfortable experience for some, but anyone considering joining has a few weeks left of this season to hone their selection process.

Analysis

Charles, from the excellent and recommended Wallpapering Fog blog, had an excellent post on the strengths of analysis.

I realise that I should seek JG's approval before linking to a post as in his, and apparently ONLY his, opinion linking to a post without his prior approval is a criminal matter, not just a civil one.

However, despite his self-reportedly having had two interviews with the police on the matter of my linking to a Hejik post, I am yet to receive an invitation from the Met to present my side of the story, so I shall risk doubling my sentence and fine by linking to yet another unapproved post. What a rebel.

Crime: Linking to a post

If this blog goes quiet for a few months, please send comments to me c/o Her Majesty.

Of course, it is always possible that Jonny has an over-active imagination and is as clueless about the law as he is about betting "a predictive model cannot react to events such as a red card" (see below Jonny), but Mrs. Cassini has the kettle on ready for tea should the police turn up to arrest me.

Anyway, here is the post on What Analysis Is Good At - although I would have preferred that the subject did not end in a preposition - call me old-fashioned:
It should be an easy question to answer. It should be, but it's not.
What is statistical analysis consistently good at?
I'm talking here about it's real use to the Managing Director of a company, or to the Chairman of a professional sports team, or to a politician. To somebody who has choices to make and is looking for help to make the best choice that they can.
A sceptic can easily reel off a list of things that your analysis can't do. Your analysis probably can't account for human frailty, or random chance, or a whole host of things that it was never designed to measure in the first place.
Your analysis can't forecast the effect of something that's never been tried before.
Your analysis says 'trust my numbers', but offers no guarantees of success.
And your numbers can't spontaneously volunteer new ideas; only tune up the effectiveness of old ones.
When you come right down to it, complex statistical analysis is a waste of time and effort, right?
As an analyst, I hear some of these arguments a lot. It's true that statistical analysis can't come up with the perfect strategy on its own, but it's still a hugely important tool. Here's what I think statistical analysis is really good at.

Analytics will conclusively reject a multitude of bad strategies that you might otherwise employ.
Analytics stops you making avoidable bad decisions.

Does that sound a overly negative? It doesn't have to be.
This is the scientific method applied to business and its tremendously powerful. Scientists know that you can't ultimately prove the truth of anything; that there's always the possibility that you're wrong. What you can do is falsify what definitely isn't true. All of our scientific knowledge about the world is based on theories that we're only working with for now, until we prove that they're wrong.
All of it. But just look at the progress we've made by rejecting ideas that don't work...
It's this scientific method that means we've found ways to cure many diseases, which were previously terminal. And it's the rejection of this evidence-based method that can kill people who believe strongly in homeopathy.
Do you reject analytics because the answers are obvious and it will just tell you what you already know? You're a corporate homeopath.
Rejecting ideas that don't work is real progress and a truly valuable exercise. It's how we learn; we try something, we reject it, we have a think and then we try something else until we find a method that works.
You can often spot a good analyst by the way that they approach problem solving. If you ask a good analyst why sales are declining, they'll come up with a whole host of different possibilities and then work with data to disprove them - one at a time - until they're left with the most plausible explanation. It's a process and it's the true value of analysis. It stops us from accepting hypotheses that aren't true; from blaming bad weather, or bad luck for under-performance, when really our business has systematic problems.
Sam Allardyce (the West Ham manager) talked this week about using statistical analysis in football and it's fantastic to see this type of discussion starting to gain real traction. Something that he said struck me as slightly jarring though.

"You can take out of it what you want. You can find your best performance in each area. You can find your best performance on fitness level, you can find your best performance in possession…"

It might just be throwaway phrasing from the interview, but that could also be heading firmly in the direction of confirmation bias. If you analyse your best performances, you'll find the occasions when what you tried appeared to work. Your worst performances are often a lot more valuable, because you're forced down a route of working out why they were bad and then coming up with ideas to fix them.

Very often, I find that analytics sceptics are those who are looking to confirm the effectiveness of the strategy that they're already employing. It's self-fulfilling then, that your analysis won't be able to teach you anything new. At best, analysis like this is an internal marketing tool; a way to 'prove' you're right and end any debate about other options and in the short term - until everybody works out that's what you're doing - it might be somewhat effective at that job. EMI was determinedly doing using analytics like that for the short time I was employed there. Before reality struck and it was broken up and sold.

Good analytics...

Proves conclusively that bad ideas aren't working

And so forces you to think up new ideas

Which you can then analyse to see if they're an improvement

Good analytics...

Gets you there faster. Of course you'll work out eventually that a bad idea isn't working, but wouldn't you rather know now, before it's too late?

And finally, good analytics will prompt new ideas, by giving you details about what went wrong with the old ones.

There are so many other benefits of taking an analytical approach to a problem, but this is the big one. This is what statistical analysis is really good at and this is my answer when faced with scepticism. Of course analytics can't solve every problem, but used correctly, it can solve a very, very big one.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Bountiful Markets

One other benefit of requiring selections to be made ahead of time is that one of the original ideas might become feasible and add some interest. Initially I had thought that I would publish the selections ahead of time, or at least those of the profitable and non-private entrants. Currently there are only two in this category, Jamie A and Webbo, and while I was lambasted months ago for having the temerity to publish The Football Analysts bets, Graeme had previously agreed that they could be published, so I think by doing it on match day I should be safe from the wrath of Anonymous.

Webbo has gone for all away wins in the EPL, with the exceptions of draws in the Chelsea v Everton and Liverpool v Swansea City games. Jamie A has a lay of the away win for Manchester United (@ Crystal Palace), a lay of Cardiff City (v Hull City) and a home win for West Bromwich Albion (v Fulham) and Overs in the Chelsea v Everton and Manchester City v Stoke City matches. He has other selections too, but those are the EPL ones.

For those following the TFA Bounty, Graeme's fifteen selections are Plymouth Argyle, Swindon Town, Shrewsbury Town, Oldham Athletic, Crewe Alexandra, Sheffield United, Braintree Town, AFC Chester, Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough, Blackburn Rovers, Hull City, Blackpool, Bolton Wanderers and Torquay United.

With so many selections in action, this could be a decisive week for Graeme and the bounty hunters. As Graeme wrote:
Looks like this weekend is probably going to be a pivotal weekend in the context of the season for the service and for my position in your league.
I think it's the busiest weekend for this FTL system this season. Gulp!

Here's hoping for a better weekend.
A few people have a lot of entries this week - desperation, or value aplenty? Forza Fizzer, Rubicon, Premier Betting and Football Elite all have a record, or close to a record, number of selections.

Update: Post corrected to reflect that Jamie's selections of Manchester United and Cardiff City were both lays.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

FTL: Update and 2014-15

Yet one more correction to last weekend's results, (we all have our bad days), but it was a significant one resulting in Jamie A moving up into second place for the prize money at the expense of Webbo. Poor Jamie must be thinking I am singling him out, but it did make me feel better that he claimed a winner on a draw selection which finished 1:0. It's nice to be right occasionally.

The midweek games in England meant there were a few selections in play, and while I wasn't planning on a separate update, since I was in there making corrections anyway, I might as well publish an update for those entries:
The midweek warriors were Hofs Hackers who lost a point, Faifranco who dropped two, The Football Analyst* who lost 1.72 points, and ForzaFizzer, who lost 1.03 points. Crawley Town were a popular selection, but the match was postponed.

Is it too early to ask if there might be any interest out there in an FTL for next season? It's a lot of work, although significantly less now that Neil has changed his strategy!, but since the updating isn't time sensitive, it's not been an issue fitting it in around my other interests. 

The rules will be basically the same as this season with a few tweaks perhaps. I'm thinking about doubling the entry fee, with half returned so long as losses and ROI% don't exceed double figures. It might encourage more seasoned campaigners rather than novices more full of hope than anything else, although at least one big name would fall through the trapdoor were this rule already in place for this season. 

Wooden spoon's money goes to charity is another thought - perhaps the National Association of Retired Police Officers, (NARPO*), which is a particular favourite of mine right now.

Any comments / thoughts / suggestions for improvements? 

Perhaps Graeme would like to provide sponsorship again? I keep getting emails from stupid Online Casinos offering me money for an ad, so a mention every week through the football season must be worth something to someone out there.

* The views expressed in linked blogs, posts, articles or tweets are of course those of the authors of the blogs, posts, articles and tweets and do not necessarily represent the views, opinions, or positions, of myself and should not be shown to the police*.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Pricing Loopholes

A couple of corrections to the FTL table from yesterday. Peter Nordsted* pointed out that I had recorded his Drawmaster* selection of Genoa* v Udinese* as a loss, and indeed I had, despite the game finishing 3:3, and despite it being one of my own XX Draws, which was a little embarrassing. Pete clearly fluked a winner, whereas my selection of the match as a draw was the result of deep data analysis.

The second correction was that a late winning selection from Jamie A was missed altogether. Jamie sends his selections in at different times, which not only complicates record keeping, but has also exposed a loophole that I will address later in this post. Here's the mid-section of the table after the corrections:

Steve M, of Daily25*, asked on Twitter*:
“Do we need a standard in place on how Tipsters record their odds? I think so, what do you think?
It's an important question, and one I spent a lot of time pondering over the summer. It's always a problem for a number of reasons, and unfortunately the inherent opaqueness provides a screen for the more dubious of characters to hind behind.

To me, there are two main issues. The first is with the recorded price and the second is with the availability of that price.

The price on a tip is not fixed, whether it is a share tip, an ante-post tip on the 2018 World Cup*, the next Presidential Election* or an upcoming sports event, so timing is key. After the tip is released, but before an event goes in-play, the price fluctuates as new information and money comes in, so at what point should the price be recorded?

At, or close to, the time the tip is made would be fair to the tipster, but what makes a claimed price valid? To my mind it needs to be commonly available, and for a period of time.

By commonly available, I mean a price that someone serious about betting can actually obtain. One trick some tipsters use is to send out tips with the top price they can find. When this price is ‘offered’ by a book known for restricting and closing accounts, e.g. BetVictor / Stan James, anyone serious about their investing is unlikely to have access to it. The exchanges arguably offer the truest price on liquid markets, but here the issue is often that the amount available is seriously limited.

The other logical time for recording the price is at kick-off or tip-off or SP, but this penalises any tipsters whose edge is time-sensitive, i.e. they have access to inside information which later becomes public knowledge. Not so much of an issue with football as with other sports perhaps, but certainly some tipsters would be impacted.

One might also expect any tipster worth his salt to state what they feel is the correct price on an outcome. Most don’t appear to do this. If any reasoning is offered at all, it tends to be subjective but if, over a period of time, backing the selections is profitable, they clearly have an edge. (Whether or not that edge will last for too long is another thing).

With prices likely to change after a tip is sent out, especially from some of the heavier hitting and successful services, it really is important to know at what price there is no value. It appears that some people plan their social lives around their chosen service’s emails, but if you are unable to act on the tip until several hours later, is the reduced price now available still value? Saying “I believe United will win” is one thing, saying “I believe United offers value at 2.5” is another, but saying “I have United at 2.2” is quite another.

For my Friendly Tipster League (FTL), everyone is measured against the price as recorded for Pinnacle in the Football Data web site*. It’s a standard, a benchmark, and for comparison purposes it does the job, but anyone tipping a team on a Wednesday* who might be at 2.0 at the time, is penalised if the price drops to 1.5 on the Friday* when the Pinnacle price is recorded. Even the 'boring' old draw price can often fluctuate within a broad range (e.g. AC Milan* v Atletico Madrid* 3.0 to 4.30 on Betfair* or Arsenal* v Bayern Munich* (3.30 to 4.40) .

Ultimately it is up to the individual which services they choose to follow and tables such as the FTL, imperfect as they are, do at least offer some clue as to who may or may not be finding value. The Pinnacle benchmark can often be beaten, so the returns should always be beatable. How much they are beatable by depends on the individual, their patience and their ability to get on.

Football Data’s collection of a weekend’s match prices on a Friday is also problematic, because it is at an arbitrary time, and the price at kick-off on a Saturday (one day later), a Sunday (two days later) or Monday night (three days later) may well be significantly different. Knowing the Friday price is the one being used for a Monday night game, there is a loophole that people could wait until the last minute and make their selections based on how the markets have moved in the intervening hours.

And in case anyone hadn’t thought of that before, which I believe is the case, I’ll close the loophole this week by requiring weekend selections (Friday to Monday) to be submitted by the first match of the Friday, and for midweek selections (Tuesday to Thursday) to be sent by the first match on Tuesday. Most people are already sending their selections in well ahead of time, and I don't believe anyone is currently exploiting this opportunity, but having exposed it, and to keep the contest as fair as possible, I feel this small adjustment should to be made.   

Incidentally, Pinnacle were chosen because they are generally perceived as being one of the better books out there – both in terms of price and of accessibility – although further research indicates that they are not as generous as generally believed*. They are generally willing to take your money though, with limits high enough to be all but irrelevant for the majority of us, except for big-hitter Steve of course, who triggered these thoughts.

* The views expressed in linked blogs, posts, articles or tweets are of course those of the authors of the blogs, posts, articles and tweets and do not necessarily represent the views, opinions, or positions, of myself and should not be shown to the police*.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

FTL Update 18.2.14

A quieter weekend than usual, with the EPL taking a break, but we had several entries trying their luck with mixed fortunes. Six entries, out of 22, are still in profit, with the four money places occupied by, in descending order, Skeeve, Webbo, Jamie A, and the XX Draws.

The bottom three all climbed up one place at the expense of Hofs Hackers, who started the weekend with three winners, and then hit a losing run which currently sits at 11. Here are the 'showing a small loss' group:
Despite being inactive, Fedslam moved up a couple of places, while the XX Draws (Unders) dropped two places. 

The remaining ten, those down by double-digits, saw little change in positions with many inactive this weekend. The Football Analyst dropped another two points and his bounty liability remains at £225 with nine qualifying entries still ahead of him. Rubicon tried his luck on draws but came up blank from four selections.
Plenty of games this midweek, but in the interests of that precious commodity time, I shall probably lump those results in with next weekend's. 

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Empty Garden (Hey Hey Jonny)

A couple of comments on my response to JG's attack yesterday.

Ian Erskine was supportive and his comment was appreciated:

I was up at the time and having not been on Twitter for ages went on to check it out and could not actually believe what I was seeing. My thoughts echo yours exactly.
And Jay was also sympathetic:
You are not the only person to have a run in with Jonny recently -
http://www.statsbomb.com/2014/01/on-accusations-of-plagiarism-from-jonnygrossmark/
Incidentally, I deleted him from my twitter because his posts were very much akin to spam, way too many!

I removed him from my twitter feed as the number of tweets from him were incessant, most of them a vendetta against opta stats which got boring quickly!
Incessant and way too many indeed. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, Jonny's statement that he would remove himself from Twitter has failed to last more than a few minutes. What a sad life.
But there's always one who misses the point, and strange how they are always Anonymous:
I thought your blog was about betting ? This is more like hunter and the hunted. Not really appropriate in my eyes to discuss people on a public forum who I assume you have little knowledge of .

In truth it reflects badly on the writer of the blog more then the accused . Most people accused of a crime have the benefit of a judge and jury .

You seem to enjoy mixing it up . Do you enjoy it ?
Apparently Anonymous is also a little challenged upstairs, and failed to grasp what was going on yesterday.

Who exactly was the hunter, and who was the hunted? And what the heck is Twitter if it isn't a public forum? It's almost as if the comment is intended for Jonny. Or written by him! Absolutely clueless.

If the writer thinks I am supposed to sit back and allow some trolling idiot who has little to no knowledge of me, make baseless accusations on a public forum, and stretch one link into a conspiracy worthy of a Dan Brown novel, all go unchallenged, then I'm afraid he has much to learn about me. How defending myself from abuse, that I did not initiate, reflects badly on me is baffling. The 'crime' I was accused of was that of posting a link to one post, the author of which is someone with whom Jonny has a problem. Apparently Jonny has a lot of problems, and with a lot of people. See the common denominator here? I don't think Anonymous knows what the term "In truth" means.

Do I enjoy mixing it up? If he'd read the post, or followed the barrage on Twitter, Anonymous would know it wasn't me who was mixing it up, but I certainly have no problem defending myself from trolls, and it's always nice for the next post to almost write itself.

The blog is about betting, and as stated in the heading, related items of interest". 

I think a clown making baseless accusations about me on a public forum counts as an item of interest. 

I've had this blog for nearly six years now, so I've seen a lot, and as any regular reader can tell you, I can stand up for myself when attacked unfairly. I've linked to probably hundreds of posts and articles, and this is the first time someone has leaped to the illogical conclusion that I am thus in some conspiracy with the link author.

I guess there's some pleasure in standing up for yourself, but it's sad that some people lack the intelligence to moderate themselves and launch unfounded public attacks in the first place. Sad that people comment on a post without understanding the subject matter too, come to think of it. "Not really appropriate" indeed. 

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Inference-Observation Confusion

Some of you may have seen the conversation on Twitter in which I accidentally found myself embroiled. By 'conversation' I mean 'barrage of boring Tweets' which at one time were coming in more frequently than articles in the Daily Mail of immigrants headed to the UK.

A casual mention on this blog that I had enjoyed one post by Hejik regarding the Sultan, was somehow misinterpreted by, (I shall call him JG here as the best way to treat trolls is by denying them the attention they crave), JG as a whole-hearted endorsement of every word that Hejik has ever written, is currently writing, or will ever write in the future. We are forever bonded together in JG’s eyes and somehow an endorsement of one post is interpreted as my encouraging Hejik to “rip up people” (whatever that means in the world of tweenies), and of having a “relationship” with said Hejik.


To any rational mind, that's quite a leap, but clearly logical thinking is not JG's strong suit.

Yes, technically I have a “Twitter-following” relationship with Hejik certainly, but we’re really not that close. Not yet anyway. It is very much in the early days and it may or may not last, and I have to say his failure to recognise Valentine’s Day has certainly not gone unnoticed. Seriously, the extent of a 'relationship' is that I linked to one of his posts in my blog and recommended it. I do it all the time with other posts and articles. It by no means is a carte blanche endorsement of everything the person linked to writes or believes!

For the record, I had a Twitter relationship with JG at one time too, but very brief (more of a one-night stand really) because I had to let that one go. It’s tough to talk about (I'm choking up as I write these words) but I should have checked before pressing “Follow”. 
Red flag warning: When someone has a Tweet count of 90,600 or more, it’s highly likely that 99.99% of that content is a complete waste of time, and so it transpired. It wasn’t a healthy relationship for me. After counselling, I realised I had to cut the ties and move on. It’s a hackneyed expression, but some people really do need to get a life.

Paraphrasing Humphrey Bogart, JG naively whines about Hejik, Tweeting “Why did he have to come on my timeline ?

Perhaps JG is unaware that Twitter is a public forum, and regular Tweets can be seen and responded to by anyone? It’s kind of the idea really, so if you shout out to the world 90 thousand plus times, and then say “I wasn’t talking to you” when someone replies, you come across as looking a little bit silly.

90 thousand! Think about that number for a moment. That’s about 60 Tweets per day if he’s been on for four years. Even if he’s been on from day one, that’s still 30 a day, and I’m sorry, but not many people have that much interesting stuff to say, and certainly not JG. If he’d spent the time trading and locking in just 10p per Tweet, he’d now be £9,000 better off. 

Or if you look at it in terms of time spent, if each Tweet takes two minutes to send, that’s over 3,000 hours of his life wasted. 188 days – six months basically - if we assume he spends 8 hours a day either sleeping or eating. I think we can assume he doesn’t have a love interest. Trading takes time, but at least there's a financial reward at the end of the day.

Even if Hejik were doing commercials for Dos Equis beer, at least 39 Tweets in three hours on one person is a little obsessive. I’m just amazed that there are close to 2,500 people who are interested in reading his, I was going to say ‘thoughts’, but that would not be an appropriate word to use in this instance. Unfortunately JG will never set eyes on these words, as he says “I shall not be reading your Site any more. Good day”.

Following the “Good day”, which I mistakenly thought for a moment meant that I could get on with my life, came another 11 tweets, with the final one a rather lame “I am implicating you by association”. Implicating me in what? I’m not sure JG knows the meaning of some of the words he writes.

What an odd character to judge a person they have never met, by one of many accounts they happen to be following on Twitter, and one followed for less than one week at that. I must choose the people I follow on Twitter more carefully in future. Presumably my following of @almightygod is acceptable?

Just noticed there was one more Tweet on the subject to the Sultan - and personally I am implicating him for all this nonsense! Logic dictates this is all his fault. See how silly that sounds JG?
JG likes his eggs, although he wasn't familiar with the curate's. (I'll assume he is young rather than uneducated, but he may well be both). 

There is no plot. Just one post I thought was well constructed and raised some good points. Like any good conspiracy theorist, JG appears to have far too much time on his hands, and a rather impressionable and delicate personality.
Promises, promises. I will believe that when I see it. 

I have to say it was all quite entertaining in a strange way, but sad in another. In one of my few replies, (it was hard to get a word in as you can imagine) I advised him that:
When you make baseless assumptions, anything that follows is a distortion.
but the diatribe continued, unabated. Guess my words were too big:
Differences of opinion are healthy. Let people make up their own minds. Your tweet overload suggests an unhealthy obsession
It takes all sorts I guess, but hopefully some of you had a laugh as the tirade went on.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Wahoos

The midweek games in (mostly) England resulted in some changes in the FTL standings, so a quick update is in order before the weekend changes everything again.

The number of entries 'in profit' rose by two to seven, with Jamie and the XX Draws climbing back into the green.

Hofs Hackers title hops took a knock as they has six losers and one winner, and the race for the prize money tightens up again. Less than seven points separates first and fourth prizes. Skeeve managed to move up without making a selection, while the XX Draws moved up three places.

The small loss group is now topped by the XX Draws (Under) selections which along with their big brother, moved up three places, and the big loser was Fairfranco who had eight selections, all of which lost, and drops five places. After three empty weeks, Pete Nordsted's Drawmaster found two winners from four selections, and moves up one spot.
The Football Analyst lost another 3.12 points but Graeme's bounty liability remains at £225, which brings us to the big losers in the table.
The only changes are Rubicon's climb of three places following a 4.47 profit in midweek, and Premier Betting's Official Account Bets having another losing round and dropping to 21st of 22 with just Punter's Friend Neil keeping Peter from the wooden spoon. I suspect we won't be seeing Premier Betting's name in the Secret Betting Club's 2014 Tipster & Betting Awards Report.
Pete also includes John Walsh's NFL Selections in his service, and I don't think I have updated the final end of season total on these since the most tedious Superbowl in history.
Two more losses on that game just about summed up John's season, which is obviously one he will want to forget. As I mentioned previously, on the Moneyline, John was slightly ahead on the season, but big losses on Totals (-16.65) and Handicaps (-18.21) did the damage. The NHL selections are still going well though, but are on their Winter Olympics mid-season break right now.

Pete also follows the US Baseball, and it's hard to believe that the new season is only a few days away. Pre-season starts on Tuesday February 25th, with the Regular season starting at the end of March (Sunday 30th) in San Diego where the Padres will host the Los Angeles Dodgers. Incidentally, for any Hull Tigers fans unhappy about the proposed name change, it could be worse. The MLB pre-season includes games against teams with names like Pensacola Blue Wahoos and Montgomery Biscuits.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Weighting Game

Anonymous - there may be a lot of them about - asked me:

What do you think would be possible starting with a £200 bank pre trading horse racing? Is it too little a bank to start with?  Am I better off building a bigger bank. Seems like long hours for a little profit cheers.
He must be a new reader, because horse racing is not an area of interest, nor expertise, but my answer would be that £200 is quite sufficient a starting bank IF you have an edge. My one deposit into Betfair netted out at £98.50 so I know from personal experience what is possible. My problem here is what on earth makes Anonymous think that he has an edge in horse racing markets? It seems to be this would be about the least likely place you might find an edge, so unless you have contacts at your local stable, I would strongly recommend saving your money. While I can appreciate the spectacle of horse racing, and have been to several Derby and Oaks days at Epsom, Derby Trials at Lingfield, and had other good days out at places like Goodwood, Windsor, even little Cartmel, from a betting / investment perspective, I can't understand the interest, especially given the multitude of alternative betting options on offer these days.

My Twitter time-line yesterday was full of details about weights for the Grand National. At least I think that was what was going on, but I couldn't care less. As an investment opportunity, the Grand National must be about on a par with the offer I had from Nigeria in my spam folder this morning.

Anyway, IF you have an edge, then £200 is plenty, as even the smallest edge will soon generate a huge bank given the number of races each day. It's one reason why the Sultan's sudden change in fortune raised a big red flag. Tennis matches are in-play pretty much every day, and the Sultan had an edge, yet wrote:
Firstly, I want to clear up the whole situation with me not being able to compound. The reason why I can't is irrelevant, that's nobodies business but mine, the only important detail anyone needs to know is that I can't.
As Hejik wrote in his excellent dissection of the Sultan and his Academy* (and do check it out if you haven't seen it):
Well, it is kind of relevant if you're asking them to give you their money to play with. His solution to this problem is quite hilarious:
"Therefore, trading with someone else's money is a good alternative as far as I'm concerned"
You'll see the concern here, and I'm glad I'm not the only one who found something a little strange about the whole saga. An edge does not come from trading with someone else's money, or from having a large bank, but an edge does come from having access to data ahead of everyone else. Emp had this to say:
"personally profitable and socially pointless"
Isn't this why there's so much stigma around gambling in general? That there's no social point to either court-siding or what you feel are more ethical ways of gaining an edge?
Small traders and fish still flock to markets, and they'll still keep gambling. Courtsiders are just eating up profits that would have gone to winners using other strategies.
For many, gambling is entertainment, and lots of people are clueless about probabilities and don't even understand over-rounds. Not your 'sharp minded' Betfair customer of course, but just take a look in the local high street bookmakers, or read about the problems caused by FOBTs. 

And yes, for what it's worth, while court-siding is not illegal, and not even against the rules, Betfair only allow the practice to continue because it is not their money being 'eaten up'. Not directly anyway, but in the long run I think it's a mistake, because the markets will dry up. No company would allow it if it was their money being taken by the same accounts time and again. My opinion is that Betfair have a responsibility to ensure that the delay is sufficient to protect their customers. As they themselves say, without this protection, liquidity, and thus shareholders profits, will fall:
This delay protects both backers and layers and leads to greater liquidity.
Yes it should, but no, it often doesn't.

* The views expressed in linked blogs, posts, articles or tweets are of course those of the authors of the blogs, posts, articles and tweets and do not necessarily represent the views, opinions, or positions, of myself and should not be shown to the police*.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

FTL Fab Four

Another weekend behind us, and that means another update to the FTL sponsored by TFA. It's rather disappointing that the number of selections showing a profit is down to five, but another eight are not too far behind.

First the fab five, although it's really only four since Skeeve and Skeeve Official are essentially the same selections, with the difference being in how the selections are backed:

The Cassini Value Selections extended their lead with three winners from three:
Hofs Hackers made 0.31 points from 17 selections, while Skeeve lost 0.15 points but the Skeeve Official double lost losing one point. Webbo dropped 3.54 points and below Skeeve in the rankings.

In the group "showing a loss, but not by too much", four entries lost money to drop into the red. Jamie A lost 3.68 points, but is still in line for fourth place prize money. Fairfranco lost 4.54, and Fedslam lost 4.94 and the three Bundelayga selections all came up empty without a goal between them.
The XX Draws had a decent weekend, making 5.1 points with the Unders adding 0.33 points, but Pete Norsted's Drawmaster continued its dry run with another four losers. The Football Analyst made 0.47 points but remains in 13th place with the bounty liability still at £225.

As for the rest, here are the standings:
Football Elite (Modified) lost 2.56 points, Forza Fizzer lost 1.17 points, and Premier Betting lost 0.15 points. Premier Betting's Official Account Bets lost another three points, but Rubicon had a great weekend making nearly 8 points. Bookie's Friend Neil, sorry - that should be "Punter's Friend" Neil, lost 0.17 points and is in red by exactly twice the amount of the next worst entry, who took another week off, or may have pulled up. Scatter Gun and Graham C have also gone quiet. (Just teasing Neil). 

With most entrants focused on the English Leagues, there may well be some changes after the upcoming midweek round of matches.

I had one comment, Anonymous, but from a recent subscriber to the XX Draws and More service, who wrote about my posts last week about the increase in goals and corresponding decline in draws:
Based on the figures you have come up with and the previous post on numbers of goals etc is it likely the XX draws is going to return negative long-term results. Joined up recently as I was looking for an edge in my betting but the posts I mentioned don't fill me with confidence.
The observations I pointed out weren't intended to drain anyone's confidence in the long-term strategy of selectively backing the draw, but I thought it was worthy of note. Whether or not this season is a blip or turns out to be part of a trend remains to be seen. Long term, the XX Draws across all five leagues hit at an implied price of 3.25, and while Pinnacle offer very tight odds on the draw, especially in France and Italy (3.02 anyone?) these prices can often be beaten, and on the exchanges, by some margin. Also, the observation applied to draws in general, and not to the sub-set of XX Draws,

Here's a look at how the Professionals are doing this season:
As with Skeeve, Peter Nordsted's Premier Betting Account Bets are also essentially the same, so the combined loss looks worse than it is, but pre-season, not many of us would have had three of the four 'professionals' mired in the red at this stage of the season.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Personally Profitable, Socially Useless

Reading an article on high-frequency trading, I came across the following passage:
That brings us to high-frequency trading (HFT) hedge funds. These funds use computer algorithms—a.k.a.: algobots—to buy and sell stocks at incredible speeds. We're talking milliseconds. The idea is to react to any market news or inefficiencies before actual humans can process them. And it's any idea that has taken over stock trading: algobots make up about half of all stock transactions in 2012 (which is actually down from its peak of 61 percent).
It's Wall Street at its most socially useless. HFT funds aren't allocating capital to where they think it'll be most productive. HFT funds are allocating capital to where they think other people will put it 50 milliseconds from now. It's a tax on everybody else. And it's a tax that has basically no benefit. Sure, HFT funds defend themselves by saying they're increasing liquidity, but increasing liquidity is the last refuge of bullshitters. Just look at the chart to the left from Felix Salmon. It shows that the cost of trading has fallen as our computerized markets have become more liquid, but almost all of the drop happened before HFT. 
Economist Paul Samuelson had it right all the way back in 1957: knowing (or trading) something one second before everyone else is personally profitable and socially pointless.
And it's becoming more pointless now that markets are an algobot battleground. HFT funds aren't trading as much anymore, because there aren't enough humans to trade with.
Hard not to draw a parallel with the recently exposed activities of the likes of Sporting Data, and as I have suggested previously, sooner rather than later, there won't be too many traders left, once it sinks in that the playing field isn't close to even. That Betfair could prevent this, but choose not to, and are thus failing in their stated objective that:
This delay protects both backers and layers and leads to greater liquidity.
continues to be a concern. On this subject, Chicho asked:
Hi Cassini - How does the delay protect me if I cannot cancel my bet while I wait these 9 seconds? Or is there a way to do it?
The answer is that the delay does not apply when cancelling bets that are already placed. As Betfair put it:
Bet placement on in-play markets carries a time delay to allow customers to cancel unmatched orders on the system when there is a change in market conditions.
Unfortunately, if the 9 or 5 or whatever seconds of delay is frequently being beaten by a small number of traders with access to court-side information, (CST - Court-Side Traders) the delay isn't doing what it is intended to do.

The article continued, on the topic of high-frequency traders:
Now, what they do is strictly legal, but that doesn't make the game any less rigged. The Wall Street Journal reports that HFT funds buy early access to data from third-party distributors—everything from corporate earnings to the Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing survey. They're getting the numbers just fractions of a second early, but that's more than enough in the world of high-frequency trading.
There's a big difference between buying early access to public data and early access to private data. The University of Michigan, for example, sells the rights to its Survey of Consumers to Reuters for $1 million a year. Reuters then sells early access to it either five minutes before the public gets it or five minutes and two second before—for the HFT crowd that wants to front-run the frontrunners. It's a horribly un-level playing field (and we should tax some of it away), but, as Matt Levine points out, the University of Michigan might stop doing the survey if they couldn't make money off it.