Saturday, 31 January 2015

Erskine Cup Round Of 16

Erskine Cup weekend is here, and the good news is that every match has at least one team playing, so barring something rather unlikely, we should have eight winners come Monday night.

The teams choosing to sit it out and hope for the worst (for their opponents) are Randolph, Abromo and Betcast. The other five ties will all be played in the rather more traditional manner of two teams on the field! Good luck to all, with the exception of @ValueBankFooty and Football Elite. Nothing personal of course, but it would not be the best weekend for @ValueBankFooty to hit one of his trebles,  which this weekend are:

Home treble:  HUDDERSFIELD - CHARLTON - READING
Away treble:  EVERTON - NEWCASTLE - TOTTENHAM

An Everton win would be extremely hard to take! Talkies Tips has taken an early lead over Mortimer with his inspired selection of Wolfsburg to beat Bayern Munich last night, while Fairfranco is 3 points down after the French Ligue Deux results, advantage Jamie A, and Gecko is 1 point down which is good news for the idle Betcast attempting to win the Erskine Cup while playing in just one match. A long way to go yet though.

I haven't done this for a while, but here are the EPL fixtures this weekend, with the combined value calls of everyone:
A lot of love for in-form Crystal Palace at 2.76, as well as for Burnley (3.66), WBA (2.81) and Chelsea (2.17).

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Cheeky Chirpy Chimps

As many readers will know, there is no shortage of people out there who, for whatever reason, are all too happy to make spurious and unsubstantiated claims about an idea which is easily exposed as wrong, flawed, illogical, or whatever. Rather than look at the facts, logic, evidence and admit that the idea has no merit and start to look for another one, they prefer to put their fingers in their ears, ignore any criticism, raise their voice, make idle threats and generally make fools of themselves banging on that the Earth is flat.

An article on biospace.com explains why this might be:
Monkeys Also Believe In Winning Streaks, Study Shows  by Susan Hagen
Humans have a well-documented tendency to see winning and losing streaks in situations that, in fact, are random. But scientists disagree about whether the “hot-hand bias” is a cultural artifact picked up in childhood or a predisposition deeply ingrained in the structure of our cognitive architecture.

Now in the first study in non-human primates of this systematic error in decision making, researchers find that monkeys also share our unfounded belief in winning and losing streaks. The results suggests that the penchant to see patterns that actually don’t exist may be inherited—an evolutionary adaptation that may have provided our ancestors a selective advantage when foraging for food in the wild, according to lead author Tommy Blanchard, a doctoral candidate in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester.

The cognitive bias may be difficult to override even in situations that are truly random. This inborn tendency to feel that we are on a roll or in a slump may help explain why gambling can be so alluring and why the stock market is so prone to wild swings, said co-author Benjamin Hayden, assistant professor brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester.

Hayden, Blanchard, and Andreas Wilke, an assistant professor of psychology at Clarkson University, reported their findings in the July issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition.

To measure whether monkeys actually believe in winning streaks, the researchers had to create a computerized game that was so captivating monkeys would want to play for hours. “Luckily, monkeys love to gamble,” said Blanchard. So the team devised a fast-paced task in which each monkey could choose right or left and receive a reward when they guessed correctly.

The researchers created three types of play, two with clear patterns (the correct answer tended to repeat on one side or to alternate from side to side) and a third in which the lucky pick was completely random. Where clear patterns existed, the three rhesus monkeys in the study quickly guessed the correct sequence. But in the random scenarios, the monkeys continued to make choices as if they expected a “streak”. In other words, even when rewards were random, the monkeys favored one side.

The monkeys showed the hot-hand bias consistently over weeks of play and an average of 1,244 trials per condition. “They had lots and lots of opportunities to get over this bias, to learn and change, and yet they continued to show the same tendency,” said Blanchard.

So why do monkeys and humans share this false belief in a run of luck even when faced over and over with evidence that the results are random? The authors speculate that the distribution of food in the wild, which is not random, may be the culprit. “If you find a nice juicy beetle on the underside of a log, this is pretty good evidence that there might be a beetle in a similar location nearby, because beetles, like most food sources, tend to live near each other,” explained Hayden.

Evolution has also primed our brains to look for patterns, added Hayden. “We have this incredible drive to see patterns in the world, and we also have this incredible drive to learn. I think it’s very related to why we like music, and why we like to do crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and things like that. If there’s a pattern there, we’re on top of it. And if there may or may not be a pattern there, that’s even more interesting.”

Understanding the hot-hand bias could inform treatment for gambling addiction and provide insights for investors, said Hayden. “If a belief in winning streaks is hardwired, then we may want to look for more rigorous retaining for individuals who cannot control their gambling. And investors should keep in mind that humans have an inherited bias to believe that if a stock goes up one day, it will continue to go up.”

The results also could provide nuance to our understanding of free will, said Blanchard, who was drawn to the study of decision making during prior graduate training in philosophy. “Biases in our decision-making mechanisms, like this bias towards belief in winning and losing streaks, say something really deep about what sorts of creatures we are. We often like to think we make decisions based only on the information we’re conscious of. But we’re not always aware of why we make certain decisions or believe certain things.

“We’re a complex mix of biases and heuristics and statistical reasoning. When you put it all together, that’s how you get sophisticated behavior. We don’t know where a lot of these biases come from, but this study—and others like it—suggest many of them are due to cognitive mechanisms we share with our primate relatives,” said Blanchard.
Now it would be positively rude to refer to any frequent readers of this blog as monkeys (although a light-hearted reference to them being a cheeky monkey might be acceptable) but this primitive behaviour might explain the irrational obsession with statistical randomness such as goal minutes.

Presumably any proponent of such nonsense believes that goals are like the juicy beetles mentioned above.

The problem is that they are not – a goal in the 5th minute goal in August at Meadow Lane is quite independent from a 5th minute goal at Old Trafford in March, and should be considered as such. 

Attempting to group independent coincidences (events occurring at the same time that have no direct relationship to each other besides the fact that they are occurring at the same time) and draw conclusions from subsequent events, is as fundamentally flawed as using previous outcomes from a true Roulette wheel to predict the outcome of the next spin.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Free Fall

The handful of entrants who bothered with the meagre offerings thrown up by the league schedule this week will all be wishing they hadn't. All lost points, and the seventeen selections produced fifteen losses, one void, and one winner. In points terms Talkies Tips lost five, Mortimer lost four, BettingTools.co.uk and Mountain Mouse lost two, and Football Elite lost a modest 0.5 points. 13.5 points down on the round. With no changes at the top or bottom, the updated portion of the table is here:

The overall profit for the season across all entries is now down to 4.89 points. With Football Elite dropping a place, the Bounty Boys liabilities climb to £1,275. Mountain Mouse went from green to red, leaving a score of entries still in profit.
This weekend's Erskine Cup matches, with league standings, are updated below:

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

FTL Update: Jan 26th

It was another tough round for the FTL contestants, who overall lost another 20.05 points and whose profits now sit at just 18.39 points from 6,042 valid selections, an ROI of 0.3%. Only four entries were up on the weekend, with fifteen down, and no one went from green to red or red to green.

The big winner of the round was Mortimer on points (+6.35), and he was also the co-winner of four in terms of places, sharing the lead with the idle Football Investor, Gecko and Bounty Boy TFA Draws.

The biggest loser was Drawmaster who lost on all seven selections and dropped five places.

As is traditional, we'll start with a look at the leading entries, those up by 10 points or more, and there's not too much change at the top. Six of the top 10 took a break, including leader Fairfranco who thus had his best round in a while :)

The only profitable entry in this group was BettingTools.co.uk, while the biggest loser was XX Unders who had three matches end as 2:1 results which is the most annoying scoreline possible! The other three losses were all under a point (Football Elite losing 0.01 points) so no serious damage.

The remainder of the entries in profit, and in line for a share of the prize money, are:
As with the top group, only one entry here managed to make a profit, with Bounty Boy TFA Draws making 1.20 points on a tough weekend for draw-hunters. Draw Picks lost 2.65 points, while XX Draws and Drawmaster couldn't find a single winner between them. Mountain Mouse struggled losing 4.48 points, Gecko lost 1.06 points and Over Goalify lost a miniscule 0.03 points. Skeeve was idle, but that was due to a waterlogged pitch rather than a reluctance to get involved.

Finally, the dirty dozen who are in the red for now:
Two profitable entries here, Mortimer mentioned earlier, and Sjosta who made 0.30 points, plus five losers and five idlers. Two losers (Talkies Tips and Cassini Value) lost under a point, while the three larger losers were the bottom three in the table, with results which didn't help their troubles.

With one week to go, the January standings are:
The Draw Portfolio took a hit and is now down by 15.01 points, while the Bounty Boys are up by a combined 21.50 points but still have 'bounty' liabilities totalling £1,250:
Next weekend (Jan 30 - Feb 2) marks not only the end of the January monthly competition, but also the Erskine Cup Round of 16. Once again, the matches ahead are:

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Empty Head To Head

Although my first ever bet was on the FA Cup, betting on cup football hasn't been my cup of tea for many years. It's hard enough to calculate probability for league games, never-mind matches between teams from different leagues, and even for games between teams from the same level, league form, for a number of reasons, doesn't carry over. Even those of us expecting a minor tremor somewhere in the Fourth Round must have been surprised by the number of shocks. 


At the time of writing, the highest placed team definitely through to the Round of 16 (which sounds much better than the Fifth Round) is Crystal Palace who, for the third match in a row, came from behind to win, and if Bolton Wanderers and Cambridge United can do the business in their respective replays, and Brighton and Hove Albion can beat holders Arsenal tomorrow (I can't believe I just wrote those words), in-form Palace will surely become hot favourites to win the FA Cup 25 years after their last final appearance(s).

On a more serious note, some of you may have seen the newly launched FootyResults site which unfortunately seems to have fallen into the trap of thinking that historical match-up data is actually meaningful:
If anyone can explain to me what relevance matches from more than five years ago have when determining the outcome of a match today, I'd love to hear it. It's absolute nonsense, as I have explained before. Clubs are not static. Managers come and go, tactics and formations change, players come and go, players age. The names of the clubs are the same, and while it may be a mildly interesting curiosity that Norwich City beat Brentford in League One five years ago, the events from that day have absolutely no value as a predictive factor now. Lazy newspapers have fed us this rubbish for years, (it's a lazy way of filling up some space with what looks like quality data), but surely no one with half a brain buys into this nonsense any more. 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

FTL Update 22.Jan

Not too much midweek excitement, but a handful of matches and the big winner was BettingTools.co.uk in both points (4.76) and places (+4), followed closely by Football Elite who bounces back from a poor last weekend picking up 3.26 points, and three Bounty Boy places. Talkies Tips lost 2.48 points, Bounty Boy TFA Draws dropped one point and more importantly two places, and Sjosta also dropped one point. Second placed TFA_Raz lost 0.42 points but stays second within touching distance of the leader Fairfranco and well clear in the race for January's monthly prize.

With the EPL taking a break for the FA Cup, it may be a quieter weekend than usual, before the fun and excitement of the Erskine Cup Round of 16 over the following weekend of Jan 30 to Feb 2 which looks like this, with the current league position included:

Let Them Eat Porridge

Marty writes, I hope facetiously:

“If I told you that Doncaster eat porridge for their half-time snack would you retract this criticism? This slow burning food typically sees them underperform their opponents (who typically eat faster burning sugary foods at HT) in the 15 mins after HT. Obviously, after 60 minutes they benefit from higher energy levels as opponents suffer from the sugar crash while the good old porridge keeps burning." 
I would certainly consider retracting my criticism if it were proven that the half-time choice of nutrition had some predictive merit, but this scenario is rather improbable.

The null hypothesis here is that the half-time break has no significant effect on Doncaster’s early second half performance, and rejecting this requires a significance test to show a 95%+ likelihood that the results do not fit the null hypothesis. That's a tall order.

Although Marty uses the unlikely example of the team eating porridge as a possible predictive parameter, the question really is why anyone think that half-time affects one team more than another team?

There are reasons, and one reason, far more likely than the choice of nutrition, might be that the coaching staff are better at their jobs than average, and are able to make positive tactical changes*, (perhaps Milton Keynes Dons) or worse than average, and fail to adapt and hurt their team in the process (perhaps Crewe Alexandra). [Milton Keynes Dons go from a first half goal difference of +5 to +22 in the second, while Crewe go from 0 to -20]. 


However, I still find an arbitrary period of time chosen simply because it divides into 45, somewhat problematic. If you are good at determining value at half-time, at least give it the full 45 minutes rather than expect it to reap rewards straight away. The 59th minute is closer to the 61st minute than the 46th, and it's a poor use of data to ignore this.

Although I took the statistic quoted for Doncaster Rovers as true when I wrote the post yesterday, it doesn’t actually appear to even be correct, or at least not if we are looking at league matches (and surely no one serious about betting would include cup matches, which are quite different in nature). 

It’s also worth mentioning that assuming all data is the same (e.g. that an event away against a team in first place is the same as that event at home against a last placed team) is only going to lead to trouble.

Anyway, the facts are that Doncaster have conceded just four goals all season in the 46’ to 60’ period, a number bettered by just four other League One teams this season. The average in League One is 5.8 goals conceded for this 15 minute period, so if anything, Doncaster Rovers’ half-time ingestion of oatmeal appears to be paying off handsomely.

In fact, Doncaster have actually conceded more goals in the 1’ – 15’, 16’ – 30’, 31’ – 45’ and 61’ – 75’ periods than they do at the start of the second half, and their defence in the second half overall is the best in the division, conceding just 12 goals!

The tip to simply “trade out at half-time if the score is 0:0” never made any sense, and makes even less sense now, if that is even possible!

What about price? Why does the price not come into play here? "Trade out at HT 0:0" – that’s it? Agreed that trading out at 1.01 would be great value, but at 1.80, not so much.

The Tweeter falls into the trap of thinking that having backed at 1.85, laying off at 1.2 or whatever is a good trade. It’s not, and there is no reason why the in-play market will offer value at half-time rather than at any random point in the match. A good trade is one that was a value back (or lay) on taking the initial position, and a value lay (or back) to close out the position. Any other combination, and it was a trade that could have been better, or could hardly have been worse! 

As I have said before, when it comes to football, if you have identified value pre-game, then you will be extremely unlikely to find value on the other side of the bet during the game.

*In my opinion you see this more often in sports such as the NBA or NFL, where there are more breaks than the one half-time interval seen in football, and more frequent changes in team line-ups and player match-ups.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Volcanology Gone Wrong


 The above Tweet appeared on my timeline last night, followed some time later by the below Tweet for the same person:
I'll assume that the Tweeter is talking about this season (Twitter can be a little constraining with its 140 character limit) but regardless, it's a great example of someone misusing data out of context, and losing money as a result.

It seems to me that if Unders was a value bet before the game, then making a decision to trade out based on an irrelevant statistic is a mistake. Do you base your decision on whether or not to wear a raincoat on what the weather was like one year ago? Probably not, and similarly what has happened in Doncaster's previous matches in the 15 minutes after half-time may be a curiosity, but it isn't useful data. There's no edge in trading out at half-time - you're giving value away. The statistic is up there in the same degree of uselessness as the practice of using previous matches between clubs as a predictive indicator. 


If the Tweeter determined the Unders was value pre-game, and if his long-term record shows that he does indeed have an edge on these selections, then laying off the bet in-play is making the number one trading error - trading out of winning trades too soon.

If finding value is that easy, let it run. Trading out for no logical reason means you are reducing profits, not to mention there's the hidden cost of the time spent sitting in front of a screen, although some people seem to have more of that than others.

The match finished 0:0.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Choppy Waters

Although there were more winners (13) than losers (12) this weekend, we saw a record total loss of 33.09 points in the FTL and it's fair to say that this was a rather brutal round for the losing entrants. The average profitable entry was up 2.35 points while the average negative entry lost 5.30 points.

Looking at the positives first, the big winner in terms of points was TFA_Raz who made 5.93 points and leads the January monthly competition, while in terms of places, the big winner was XX Unders who moved up five places.

On the less positive side, the big loser both in terms of points and places was Football Elite losing 14.19 points and dropping nine places, and being a Bounty Boy, those lost places hurt. Gecko wasn't far behind, dropping 11.43 points and falling eight places, while leader Fairfranco continued his poor run with an 0 for 8 weekend which obviously resulted in a loss of another 8.00 points. Fairfranco retains his lead, but it is now by a rather more slender 1.35 points rather than the 29.23 lead enjoyed in early December. Any bookmakers paying out on Fairfranco at that time are now looking rather silly as it is still everything to play for.

Here are the top ten and "up by ten" entries:

Trend to end, Randolph and Club Havana were all idle, perhaps content with their points haul as it stands, while Bundeslayga was idle due to no matches. As it happened, all moved up by two or three places.

The middle order of the table looks like this:
BettingTools.co.uk and TFA Draws both edged into the green, bringing the total entries in plus territory to 21. Skeeve made a small profit, but dropped by a place.

As for the "down by ten" group, we have:
Three entries were idle, and Sjosta was the only climber moving up one place while Mortimer and Cassini Value both dropped down one place. 

With Football Elite's disaster, it's not surprising that the Bounty Boys Portfolio lost money. The Draw Portfolio also suffered a small loss, despite both TFA Draw entries showing a profit. Drawmaster also was up slightly but Draw Picks and XX Draws both dropped a few points. 
As for the January winner, it's looking like TFA_Raz's to lose - here are the entries in profit for this month:

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The USA's Big Secret

Anyone who has spent much time in the USA, at least outside of Las Vegas, will be aware that one of the biggest differences between the UK and the US is in the attitudes to betting. American Main Streets are not home to bookmakers, yet it doesn't take long, once you find a bar where everybody knows your name, to discover that there is no shortage of bets being made and that you are never far from someone who will take your bets, or knows someone who will take your bets (although the odds might not be that generous, and betting on round-ball football might be a little tricky). These days many Americans have off-shore accounts for their betting, and bet on-line, but the bar bookie is still around collecting or handing out envelopes at the end of each month because people love to bet on sports. It may be technically illegal, but like blasphemy, it is a victimless crime, and no one cares. As is the case with their position on a lot of matters, the US is at odds (pun intended) with much of the world and with common sense on gambling. There is a Silver living when it comes to the NBA though. Legislate, regulate and profit from it. Prohibition doesn't work. Huffington Post's Blayne Davis has an article worth reading on the topic, even if it does contain some odd words - broadcasted? viewership?

For millions of Americans, the mere mention of football season triggers sweaty palms and stomach churning. Sports betting is the most taboo yet pervasive activity among sports fans and grows in popularity exponentially. It's directly related to the profitability of every professional league, but to acknowledge its importance and interdependence would grate against history. Sports betting is the secret love that everyone in the room is sharing, and it has never been bigger in the United States than it is today. With such a big secret one would think the message would be broadcasted across the wire, but instead sports betting continues to channel in a gigantic whisper.
Let me explain the correlation of sports and gambling from a superficial economic standpoint. I'm going to use the NFL as my example because of its universal appeal and because football betting drives the largest number of bets here in America. The NFL has never been more successful than it is today. The games are now broadcasted up to three times a week, and the viewership of these games allows the league to command enormous sums of money for the privilege of advertising to its fan base. Simply put, the advertising pays the multi-million dollar player contracts and justifies the billion-dollar stadium. Eyeballs drive this marketing monster -- the larger the viewership, the more money media outlets can demand from their advertising partners.
But let's go back to those initial viewership numbers and exactly why they are so great in the first place. Delving into the hot demand for the NFL product, we must move into some basic psychology behind watching a game versus watching a sitcom. Fans are "active viewers" and are engaged on a second-to-second level. They are riding a roller coaster during a speculative course of events, and it's those crucial actions on the field that manifest themselves on both the physical (a racing heart) and spiritual (praying to the Football Gods) plane. All of us have felt the adrenaline surge for a must-have fourth down conversion or seen the handy camera work pan to a fan, whose eyes are closed, and is in solemn prayer. It's awesome.
Consider that the base, and now let's spike that unquantifiable interest with a financial stake in the game. This magical interaction now intensifies, bringing a deeper quality to the game.
Everything suddenly matters more, every call and every play. Yelling at the big screen at a dropped pass (that we could've caught, right?) or a questionable penalty, (the conspiratorial referee, right?). All of these factors create the level of drama and excitement that we all secretly desire in our lives. We want this action; we need it.
Perhaps the most troubling part is the negative spin often associated with sports betting. The days of back-room alleys and street bookies are largely over, as even they have moved to the Internet, though they are still breaking federal law. I continue to draw comparisons to any financial market that entertains a speculative investment. In today's fantasy crazed-society, the stats and information available are at worst equal to, but in my opinion better than, information one could obtain before purchasing stock of a company. They both require the responsible management of risk capital and making the best possible investment decisions after a thorough analysis of the information. The days of offering game odds driven by rumor and "on the ground" contacts are over. Those responsible for setting the Vegas line are surrounded by banks of computers running calculations and formulas as complex as those used by hedge funds on Wall Street.
I must assume the NFL throws the public red flag on grounds of morality, though it's completely disingenuous. As the NFL continues its international expansion into the United Kingdom, where they now have a regularly scheduled game, I'm confronted with the reality that the marketing gurus of the NFL know how much sports betting is engrained into the local culture and the integral role it plays for selling tickets. It would be foolish to think otherwise. I would also venture to say that more than fifty percent of those UK fans have laid a bet with one of the publicly traded companies licensed to accept wagers. If morality is truly the reason, can you imagine a scenario where the NFL questions fans before allowing entrance to the stadium, and then denies entrance to the gambler and issues a refund? No chance of that.
The undeniable truth remains that regardless of the public message put out by the league, if miraculously all betting stopped there would be a dramatic decline in revenue and the financial repercussions would rock the league. There has always been, and there will continue to be, an intrinsic relationship between sports and betting. The NFL needs the gamblers just as much as the gamblers need the NFL. I applaud the most recent comments of Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA and the legislative efforts of Chris Christie of New Jersey. They openly recognize the existence and the economics behind creating a regulatory framework.
Right now, the offshore bookmakers and the underground world are hoping things continue unchanged while they happily siphon millions of dollars each year catering to the voracious betting appetites of the American public.
Fortuitously, when I started to the write this article, my wife relayed to me a funny story about our son. She told me the first thing Ben wanted to know when he woke up was if the Cowboys beat the Bears. At seven years old, and to his frustration, his bedtime curfew cannot embrace the whole game. She told him they had won, and he erupted with absolute glee. She asked him, "Ben, why are you so happy about that?" and he replied with a smile, "My friend owes me a dollar today." Obviously, I do not condone elementary betting, but I'll chalk this up to kids having fun. However, it does go a long way toward proving my point. Do I think Ben loves sports? Without question. Do I think he will ever place action again in his lifetime? I'm betting that he will.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Snakes And Ladders In The FTL 12.Jan

A couple of big priced winners, notably Bastia’s 4:2 win versus Paris St Germain, and Cordoba's win last night, meant that overall the Friendly Tipsters made an 8.40 point profit. Speaking of Paris St Germain, is it just me who finds them a little short at 1.48 for the title, given that they are currently in fourth place, and that they still have to play away to every other top eight team? 


Anyway, back to the more exciting FTL, and in terms of both points and positions, the big winner of the round was TFA_Raz (+8.20 points and +5 places) while the biggest losers were current leader Fairfranco who lost 4.99 points, while BettingTools.co.uk and TFA Draws both dropped three places. 19 of the 33 entries remain in profit.

Jamie A slipped from second to fourth place, while Football Elite moved up one place into second spot and sits 13.44 points behind the leader.

Others in the ‘up by 10+ points’ group:
The mid-table group saw OverGoalify move into profit, while TFA Draws and BettingTools.co.uk both dropped into negative territory. The big winners were Mortimer (+6.15) and Football Investor (+5.57).

Abromo made his first appearance in over a month, but lost ground with a 1.78 point loss. 
The only winner in the last seven placed entrants was TFA Euro Draws who recovered 3.55 points but stays in 32nd place. 
The Bounty Boys portfolio increased their totals by 2.81 points to 33.07, while their current total liability is £1,250 - Football Elite £25, Football Investor £325, Skeeve £400 and TFA Draws £500.
Nine entrants were idle this round, and to answer the question posed by Marty in response to my post on the knock-out stages of the Erskine Cup:
How are winners decided in the event of a tie?
The answer is that in the event of a draw, the match will be replayed over the next midweek or weekend rounds. In the event that the next knock-out round is imminent and we still have no winner, it will be the best qualifier from the group stage who will advance (based first on points, then by ‘goal’ difference as necessary). As a reminder, here are the eight match-ups with current league standings:



Saturday, 10 January 2015

Backing The Draw In-Play

Drawmaster Peter Nordsted recently posted an entry on his blog titled Would Backing The Draw be More Profitable as an In-Play Strategy?

The answer to that question is Yes - if it is possible to obtain better value odds in-play than pre-game, and No if it is not.

My opinion is that once a game is in-play, most home-trading individuals are going to struggle to find value. Football is so well studied and analysed these days that it's hard enough to find value pre-game, never mind in-play where you no no longer have the luxury of time and fewer available betting options.

Simplistic systems based on events in previous matches involving other clubs, in other leagues and other lifetimes just won't give you an edge, and there's no logical reason why they should. Of course, sometimes you will win, sometimes you will lose, maybe for an extended period of time, but in the long-run you will lose.

Other important disadvantages of trading in-play are that there is far less liquidity, especially on less important matches, and the money available is smarter. You might find get your £2 matched on the exchange at a close to fair price, but when it comes to £2,000, probably not. There is also the not inconsiderable downside of having to actually watch the games and spend close to two hours in front of the laptop.

It was suggested to Peter that he look at his past selections and see how many had an early goal, a suggestion which of course makes no sense at all. Selecting a draw is about finding matches where the goal expectancy is lower than the market's expectation, and any goals, whether early, late or somewhere in between, are impediments.

While it is true that goals beget goals, a discovery that is neither new nor secret, in general the lower the expectation of goals, the fewer goals will be begotten by that first one. In other words, if your model is good and you have identified value, an early goal is not necessarily fatal. A late goal is more of a problem!

For my own XX Draws, I looked at the time of the first goal this season, and one-third of matches have seen an early goal (1-20 minutes), and for backing the draw, these matches are up 6.83 points so far.

The true test is that after the match has been played, are Peter's Drawmaster selections finding value or not, and right now, they are.

Over the 149 matches selected, Peter has found value betting pre-game on the draw and an ROI of 4.7% isn't too shabby, and in reality is higher given that the recorded prices are those of Pinnacle Sports, and usually beatable.

Peter's conclusion on the question posed is rather vague, starting with a statement that could be applied to anything:
I still am a firm believer that if you have an edge then backing the draw long term is an excellent strategy. 
Yes, we all know that IF you have an edge, then betting it any way is an excellent strategy, but the question was Would Backing The Draw be More Profitable as an In-Play Strategy? Peter gets to this with:
However the idea of an In-play Drawmaster could be even better, especially if you are dealing with matches in the big European Leagues where prices are keener and there is not the problem of getting matched.
In other words, Peter is claiming that for the more liquid games, in-play offers better value than pre-game, and by extension that for all other matches, pre-game is the way to go. Certainly I agree that you're not going to find value too often trading a League Two match on a Saturday afternoon, but I'm not convinced that higher in-play liquidity on bigger matches, still less than in the pre-game markets, means greater value. Not many of us at home have the resources to compete with the big players in this field, and my opinion is that it is delusional to think we can.

Asp Berger



Some of my US focused readers may be familiar with controversial College Basketball referee Karl Hess. A couple of years, he achieved some notoriety, and later a telling off, by ejecting a couple of former North Carolina State players from their seats in the stand for "excessive demonstration on several calls".

This season, he has continued to piss off home fans, leading the category of Largest Home Foul Margin at -4.1 points a game - not the kind of statistic to trigger a bet, but it's a check mark that it doesn't hurt to have on your side.
Last Sunday, Hess allegedly said to a Wake Forest fan - a former board of trustees vice chairman:
"When I'm older, I want to sit in your seat & watch your Egyptian ass ref a game" 
during a home loss to Louisville. Never mind that the gentleman in question is actually Indian.
  
Uncle Rudolf, coincidentally born in Alexandria, Egypt, would have been proud.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Round Of 16 Preview

A fairly quiet midweek round, with just a handful of entries from the Serie A and the one Ligue 1 game last night, and everyone involved would have been better served by staying idle. The two Cassini Value selections dominated their games but couldn't win. One of these (Genoa) was also selected by Football Elite, while Football Investor found value in Cagliari winning at Palermo (DNB) but they not only ruined FI's Epiphany, but also spoiled Zola's Sardinian managerial debut, losing 0:5. Talkies Tips had Palermo, but lost on AC Milan and Juventus, before Wednesday's selection of Lille (v Evian Thonon Gaillard) reduced the loss to just 0.28 points. The relevant updates are below:

I was looking ahead to the Erskine Cup, and the round of 16 on the weekend of 31st January, and the way things stand, the top two in the league will be facing each other.
Based on the current standings, the top half of the brackets is a lot stronger than the bottom half. Placings 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 are in the former, while 6, 7 and 8 are in the latter. At least two teams in 20th place or below will go through, with at least one in the semi-final.

Four of the sixteen have been idle for some time (Randolph 22.Nov, Abromo 6.Dec, Club Havana 13.Dec and Betcast 15 Nov) and while a 0:0 draw would have been fine in the Group Stages, in the knock-out, we need a winner. Hopefully, they will be back.

A little premature, but the early leaders in the race for January are:

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Little Christmas

Almost back to normal now, with Serie A's Epihany Holiday matches this afternoon marking the end of an irregular period. Although there are a few selections to come from today's matches, the results from Friday through last night have been updated, and the latest FTL table is broken down below.

The big winners this weekend were Football Investor (+8.14) followed by TFA_Raz (+6.11) points. Both climbed six places in the table, and moving up six places and both also had Hamilton Academical's win at St Johnstone, but this was received after the deadline. TFA Draws also missed a winner by being tardy, and Skeeve was also hurt by the holiday schedule.

The table toppers, those up by 10 points or more, and it's impressive that there are 13, are:

Leader Fairfranco put his poor run of form from December and New Year's day behind him with a return to form and picking up up 3.23 points to extend his lead while Football Elite enjoyed a good weekend making 2.60 points. The XX Unders had just one selection, a winner which added 0.58 points to the pot, but the corresponding XX Draw selection lost and thus has the unenviable distinction of being the only entrant in this section of the table to lose this weekend. With only La Liga in action from the top leagues, it wasn't surprising that many took the weekend off.

Other than Football Investor mentioned earlier, the winners here were BettingTools.co.uk, Rubicon (+0.59) and Talkies Tips (+0.37). The middle order of the table looks like this:
Drawmaster lost two points, while OverGoalify and TFA Draws dropped one point each, although the latter was a bit unfortunate with a disqualified winner arriving after the midnight deadline. Skeeve was also idle so far as the FTL was concerned, but his excuse was a good one. Being the consummate professional that he is, he wanted to wait until after the deadline as:
it would be extremely irresponsible to send them before the transfer window opens
Skeeve's famed attention to detail paid dividends for his subscribers, as both Forest Green Rovers (-0.75) v Welling (1.72) and Bristol Rovers (-0.5) @ Nuneaton (1.62) won, and a couple of "outsider mentions" also did well with Aldershot - TELFORD (6.34) winning at Aldershot. Alfreton (6.28) 'only' drew with Torquay United but it was a great start to Skeeve's season, even if his FTL liability increased by £100. As a result of the recent changes to the UK gambling law, and the subsequent loss of some long-standing members, Skeeve now has some availability for his service this season, and as one of the FTL Bounty Boys, mention my name and he'll discount your fees by a whopping 20%. Many more weekend like this one, and you'll have made back the rest of it! 

Now to the bottom of the table, and those down by 10 points or more:
Sjosta was the big winner here, garnering 3.82 points, while Mortimer's 23 selections made him 0.85 points. Three entrants lost points - Cassini Value started with two losers in Spain before the third one (Cordoba) won at 2.62 to limit the damage to 0.38 points. TFA Euro Draws continued to struggle dropping two points while @ValueBankFooty lost all eight selections. 

Overall the FTL made 14.50 points, while the Draw Portfolio is up just 1.89 points now - ROI 0.27%.
A couple of non-FT related matters, and one is that JP of JP's Betting Blog fame is back after 19 months away and added to the blogroll, as is Football Formbook who some of you may remember picked up the wooden spoon in the 2012-13 version of the FTL. A quick look at recent entries shows some high praise for two more of the Bounty Boys:
On to Football Investor and I am running out of superlatives for how he is doing - December was tremendous - January has started in the same way with some excellent results today! I stake £100 on Combo and Top Flight Euro selections. There was 5 selections today which produced 4 winners at odds of (1.9, 3.2, 7!! and 3.4). The Almeria win was especially pleasing and far from the first time he has produced a huge winner in the Spanish league. Overall a cracking day - only just beaten by The Football Analyst! (+£1,035)
With Football Elite up over 20 points in the FTL, and the others a little unfortunate to be in mid-table, I have a feeling a Bounty Boys portfolio might reap dividends in the second half of the season.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Mental Arithmetic

I am indebted to one of the FTL entrants for pointing me to a post written by Mad Jonny in which I get an honourable mention for my ground breaking work in football statistics. The heads-up was probably triggered by this:
If you are mate of Cassini who is wondering why there is a low draw production in league 2 this season then explain that the early goal in league 2 and this will lower draw production and if there are a high percentage of early goal games in league 2 then EUREKA = low draw % .
Cassini doesn't have any mates, and isn't actually wondering why there is a lower number of draws in League Two this season. He rarely bets on League Two matches, although he did make a little money on a quiet weekend for top football with the nap selection of Newport County this morning.

If Mad Jonny thinks he has uncovered a betting nugget with his revelation that more goals equals fewer draws, he's madder than we thought. More than a few posts here have discussed this subject over the years, and the truth of it should be obvious to anyone with even a basic understanding of mathematics and probability.

Unfortunately for Mad Jonny, by his own admission, this area is not one of his strengths:
...as in basics terms I am pants at Maths.
It gives 'mental arithmetic' a whole new meaning. With the use of the childish expressions 'pants', combined with writing that is mostly unintelligible, you could be forgiven for thinking Mad Jonny is about 13 years old, but this is the work of an adult, and while he appears to have rather too much time on his hands, it isn't spent proof-reading and editing his rambling posts. Is it too much to expect a blogger to read his post back to himself after writing it, to correct at least some of the spelling and grammatical errors as well as make it readable? Even the Great Cassini has the occasional error slip through, but I always take at least a cursory read back through the post before posting. Some out-takes that were left in:
An area that really interests me is SURVIVAL Analysis in the context of a football game and I think it is possible to tell when a team are going to concede and if this is possible then can the warning signals be considered and reversed in terms of a team stopping the other team from scoring such as by slowing the game down at that moment. 
I was only put off as the day was not going well and when I feel in a negative mood I like to reduce any bets to minimum as people have never won when in a bad mood.
It was not a great start to the year when @Ed_Jacks appeared and tweeted ” Hi, Jonny, are you actually betting on this stuff yourself ?” ( just 5 tweets and all to me ) and my concentration levels dropped followed by @jakemorrxs who is at Manchester University I believe asking me if I am ” mental” ( deleted but screen shots taken ) followed by his friend JACK McCabe who is studying law at Manchester University advising me that it was only “banter”
On the topic, raised above, of Mad Jonny actually betting, the suggestion that the 'advice' he offers isn't actually followed by himself, and probably not anyone else come to think of it, has merit! The evidence does appear to back up this suggestion. Someone as 'successful' as Mad Jonny would obviously not have an account at the sports-books for long, and his talk of 'a' (single) market maker suggests he's not quite grasped the concept of exchanges, and that there is no single market maker - opinions and money backing those opinions, make the market. Those who can, do; those who can't, give advice. I shall now pack my bags, and await the police, to whose attention this post will surely be drawn.

Mrs Cassini just acted as my sounding board for this post, and asked "what is wrong with him?" That's a good question, one that is being asked by more and more people each day.

In Sultan Our Intelligence

As predicted here, the Sultan is back. I wrote then that the strategy would include:
Re-appear on the blog, and tell everyone that there is / will be a life-changing event (first ever girlfriend / first sexual encounter (at least one with someone else present in the room) / marriage / pregnancy / medical crisis / divorce / upset stomach / broken fingernail etc.) and that you are considering a return. If this can be timed for some time towards the end of the year and a new tennis season, then so much the better.
And sure enough, courtesy of my Tennis correspondent "On-Off", I receive news that he is back with another, final, last chance. In typical Sultan style, we read - at the start of a new year / tennis season:
This time last year, I knew what my immediate future held. I was a single guy with no responsibilities. I had enough disposable income to do pretty much what I wanted to within reason, no one to answer to, no debt and a plan to just keep doing what I was doing. Now, I have a mortgage, other people to think about, fiscal responsibilities, a joint bank account, DIY to perform (though I'll probably pay someone else to do it!), in-laws to placate and a whole raft of future plans that need to be set in motion.
I love the qualifier 'within reason'. The fact is that the Sultan's claims to be wealthy beyond the wildest dreams of most of us, are complete bollocks.

A cursory look at his timeline proves it. Assuming his posted monthly results are genuine, and I have no reason to believe they are not, in 2012 he had wins of £1,304, £1,375, £1,562, £570, £630, £703 - and he wrote in August of 2013 that his usual monthly win size "a year ago" was ~ £500. An average monthly profit of  £1,024 in 2012 would make an annual income of less than £13,000, and that average may be high, given that it is human nature to post the better results over the losses.

For 2013, there are six monthly profits posted of £2,357, £3,909, £5,259, £5,832, £2,008 and £2,373. This was the year of the court-siding advantage though, so it's not surprising that the average increased to £3,623, although surprising that was all it increased by. There was one outlier month where a £10k profit was made, so the annual profit would have been around £50,000.

Now these are decent profits if you are a part-time player, but in lieu of a full-time job, with salary, paid holidays and all the benefits that go with it, it's nothing to shout about. It certainly does not come anywhere close to being comfortable for years to come. It's only a few months ago (August 2014), the Sultan was saying:
I also am more profitable and financially stable for the first time.
When he writes things like:
..even though my debt worries are long gone and I will be comfortable for years to come - barring a disaster. But what happens if there is a disaster? I've lived on the edge for a few years now and have come through it but things can change. I think more and more about what I'm going to do with the money I've accumulated and how I'm going to invest it in future.
I think we can easily see that he is one step removed from reality. By his own admission in his latest post, he has yet to hit the Super Premium Charge. Interesting that for someone so willing to share personal details from his life with us, he now claims to have a mortgage, and hints at being married! The meeting where he produced evidence of his income would have been an interesting one and tales of the wedding presumably held at some Scottish Castle with thousands of guests and a honeymoon around the world cruise would have been provided.

But no, not a word. We've moved from a rented flat, to a mortgage, from a single man, to a girl-friend - fiancee - pregnant fiancee - wife - fatherhood - in the blink of an eye.

The claim to have 'fiscal responsibilities', only adds manure on the already growing pile. 'Fiscal' is a word defined as:
Relating to government revenue, especially taxes:
I really hope the Sultan is not a consultant for David Cameron and his ilk. There are too many holes and inconsistencies on the Sultan's claims, and if you read his blog from the beginning, you can see them easily enough. Hejik actually did a nice expose about a year ago - an update would be good!
My point was, as soon as it's mentioned that investment is sought, you can no longer believe anything that you read on the blog in terms of profits. It's impossible to maintain the credibility once your blog becomes solely an advert for potential investment - you simply won't talk about the bad days any more and that's exactly what happened in this case.
As I say, it's not a personal thing, just my once-held opinion and I'm adult enough to reconsider that opinion from time to time. At the moment, I don't think my post is all that unreasonable.
The concern with such a Walter Mitty character is that he is using his tales of fantasy to part the less diligent with their money and sell them his Sultan's High Intensity Trading (SHIT) manual. I think that's the name. The latest post is called Last Chance Saloon, although I somehow doubt that it really is. Ironically, one definition of Last Chance Saloon is:
The last chance one has to improve or otherwise help oneself before decision over ones future is made.
I suspect this says more about the Sultan than he intended!
In this case, the metaphorical use refers to the Sultan Tennis Trading Guide, which will only be available at the current low price up to the end of the Australian Open on February 1st. After this date, the price will increase by 25%, so if you are looking to start your tennis trading journey or have a New Year's Resolution to get stuck into tennis trading in 2015, getting the guide this month will save you a substantial amount.
Sounds great, except for one problem is - it's not very good:
I am a member of the Sultan tennis academy and I don't think he deserves to be on the hall of shame. However, I would not purchase the product again and other members' have told me the same. I have nothing negative to say about the Sultan but I don't want members of the public to part with their hard earned money for a product that won't provide the value you want. The strategies are well written but can be found on ebay or youtube as they are common knowledge and the email coaching service can be replaced by a book such as Trading in the Zone by Mark Douglas or asking other sports traders via twitter or blogs about how they trade.
And:
I would like everyone to know that the price of the trading academy for one year is £500 which is very expensive for an ebook and a few emails a month.
It is also no coincidence that the sultan needs new members, so starts blogging again and posting wins attempting to entice people to part with their hard earned money? If he's winning so much then why does he need your £500?
Lastly, if you were learning to drive, be a doctor or another profession and you emailed me your problems, do you think that I would be able to teach you how to be a doctor or how to drive without seeing you live in action? I doubt that the sultan's emails, which you will only receive if you email him and if you don't email him then you could go through your 1 year in the academy without receiving a single email from him, can eradicate your trading issues then think again.
I hope that people don't commit the same error as I did and become a member because I regret wasting £500 which could have be used for other purposes.
And from Hejik, back in August:
I don't think it's any coincidence that the whoring has begun again although he's at least trying to be a little more subtle about it this time - presumably thinks people aren't going to read between the lines.
Cassini made some observations to this effect over on his blog and I'd have to concur with a lot of what he said.
I may come back to Sultan at some point as I'd like to put some of the first-hand experiences described here into sharper focus.
If anyone else has parted with their money and has input, good or bad, I would be very interested. Again, it is human nature to not want to admit to mistakes, but I have yet to read one favourable review of the manual / mentoring service / trading academy.

Finally, a note that Hejik is not my best friend ever, and we are not in partnership together to take over the world of betting. Just because you mention a name on a blog post, doesn't mean you agree with everything they have ever done or said, or will ever do or say. I'm not sure why I feel the need to mention this, but one final comment from Hejik's post:
I know you posted twice but I only published once and unfortunately I had to resort to moderation to deter Mad Jonny.
Who might that be I wonder?

Newport County Nap

As there are no EPL games this weekend, and thus several entrants are resting, I thought I'd take a look at what selections there are in the lower leagues. Paid services (or service derived entries TFA_Raz and I believe Sjosta) ) are excluded, as it would be unfair on subscribers to spill the beans and drive prices down before the games.

Leader Fairfranco (but be warned, he is on a poor run) goes for Newport County, and a draw in the York City v Plymouth Argyle (3.3) match.

OverGoalify goes for Over 2.5 in the Barcelona B – Las Palmas match (1.892), while BettingTools.co.uk looks for wins for Coventry City (3.45), Burton Albion (3.29) and Hartlepool United (6.68)

Talkies Tips are Exeter City, Newport County, Wycombe Wanderers, Atletico Madrid (1.207), Sevilla (1.675) and Villareal.


Mortimer has almost as many selections on his own as all the other combined and they are:

Bury, Newport County, Braintree Town (2.91), Asteras Tripolis (2.36), Dundee United (2.3), Forfar (2.1), Villareal, Almeria (7.38), Rayo Vallecano (3.29), Albacete (4.3) and Osasuna (2.08 DNB). He also has  number of Under / Over selections.

@ValueBankFooty  goes for Swindon  Town (2.28), Plymouth Argyle (3.22), Stevenage (2.69), Southend United (2.31), Exeter City and Shrewsbury Town (2.36) as well as trying his luck with a pair of trebles:

BURY - NEWPORT COUNTY - WYCOMBE WANDERERS

OXFORD UNITED (2.05) - WALSALL (2.24) - PORT VALE (1.925)

Jamie A, Trend to end, Randolph, Club Havana, Gecko, Fulltimebettingblog, Draw Picks, Bundeslayga, Mountain Mouse, Betcast, Abromo, Online Trader, Rubicon, Daily 25, Ian Erskine, Paul Watson and Skeeve are all idle, although I believe Skeeve will have some selections for subscribers, but they have unfortunately missed the FTL deadline.

In summary, Newport County (1.862 Pinnacle / 1.93 Betfair) get four mentions, Bury (1.892 / 1.96), Exeter City (2.27 / 2.34) and Wycombe Wanderers (1.546 / 1.57) get a couple of votes, as do Villareal (1.781 / 1.81) in La Liga, and opinion is divided on the Burton Albion v Shrewsbury Town game.