Saturday, 28 March 2015

Tempestuous Seasons

Approximately 50% (which, for any non-statisticians reading this, is about half) of the hits on this blog come from outside the UK, so I do try to write as clearly as possible. Despite my efforts, one individual (and only one) seems to have great difficulty understanding what I am saying, or rather what I am trying to say, about the Bundeslayga system.

Perhaps some of the more subtle nuances of the English language are lost despite my best efforts, or perhaps he is the ‘tortured genius’ or tortured artist of betting, brilliant in his own field, yet lost outside of it, or perhaps he just likes attention. There’s an old saying that says:

Arguing with a statistician is a lot like wrestling with a pig. After a few hours you begin to realise the pig likes it
I'll try again. My review of the Bundslayga system yesterday was just that - a review. It was a verification of how the system has performed, in the past, and the results given represented the very minimum return possible. In the real world, a little effort would boost those profits.

There is no hidden agenda, and the review made no claims about the efficacy of the Bundeslayga in the future. In fact, readers of this blog will know that I have often written that it should not work, that I am surprised it does still work, and that at some point it should cease to work, and I have also clearly stated that this is not a ‘get rich quick’ system. However, it does have value to someone in regard to mitigating Premium Charges, either now or in the future.

Why the individual doesn’t focus his attention and undoubted statistical skills on finding a better way to avoid the Premium Charge I can only guess, but the fact is that for many years this method has had an edge. Pinnacle Sport’s over-round on the Bundeslayga markets averages 2.02%, so any ROI above -2% should be celebrated, not derided.

The edge will likely not continue, and I am certainly not saying it will continue. 258 bets isn’t a huge sample, but the real-life experience of profitability when laying on the exchanges goes back prior to the 2012-13 season. I started paying the Premium Charge in September 2008 and the Super Premium Charge in October 2012, and I identified this possible mitigation strategy in 2010.

It has worked for me. If it works for you, try it. If it doesn’t, ignore it. The system is free – adopt, adapt, improve or ignore. If you don’t use Exchanges for your betting, then its value is diminished, and if you don’t use Betfair (and need to generate more turnover), it is even more diminished, but why there is such negativity over an idea that has at least some proven merit baffles me. Another English expression - "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything."

Steve hits the nail on the head - maths is important, but not the most important aspect of betting. Sjosta (Shosta in English) would be running away with the FTL if that were true, but last time I checked, that wasn't the case.
For anyone interested, the link is active here.

While an understanding of basic statistical principles (obviously including probability) is important to have when betting, any more than that is at best unnecessary, and quite possibly an impediment. There’s an expression in England – you can be too smart for your own good. It means “believing that you know everything to the point to where it can harm you or work against you”. The genius often proclaims “I am a statistician and I can tell you…” which is wonderful, but for practical purposes, so what?

Dmitri's thoughts were very similar to those Tage shared...Imagine!
For most of us, success in betting is about how much money we make rather than in proving our academic brilliance. I certainly don’t claim to be a statistician, (a real statistician tells me quite often I am not, in case I should have any delusions of grandeur) and I don’t believe Steve M (Daily 25) claims to be one either, yet we have both had success over the years. Yes, success is relative, but when an estimated 95% of bettors lose money (citation needed), making any profit is arguably a success. Worth mentioning that Steve’s style is a lot more ballsy than mine, which just shows that there is more than one way to skin a cat (another English expression – this post is turning into quite the English class).

A couple of others out there who have blogged away over the years and have also had much (relative) success are Mark Iverson and Ian Erskine who, and if I am insulting either of them about their lack of statistical qualifications, I don’t mean to.

What the four of us do have in common however, is a positive attitude, which may or may not be a success factor, and I’m guessing that the door to sports betting for all of us was probably sports rather than statistics. Maybe a life spent supporting teams like Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace prepares one well for the ups and downs of betting?

I suspect that for most bettors, statistical skills up to a certain point are helpful, but beyond that, the law of diminishing returns rapidly kicks in. It may even turn negative if it leads to an ultra-cautious approach. Back to the Bundeslayga since 2012; an ROI of (at least) +1.68% versus an expected return of -2% may well not be statistical proof of an edge, but for how long do you wait in the real world?

I think at some point you have to say the edge is good enough to warrant getting involved. We’re not talking about getting married or a life and death situation. If things change as they ultimately will, then stop. Hopefully your profits while the edge lasted exceed the losses after it vanished. John Maynard Keynes said:

“In the long run we are all dead. Economists [Statisticians?] set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again."
People were very eloquent in ye olden days. More recently, Matthew Iglesias wrote in Slate: 
Compared to most contemporary economists, Keynes was an extremely deep thinker about the question of probability. A point he makes elsewhere about the long term is that, if you try to plan decades in advance, you'll find that unquantifiable uncertainty dominates quantifiable risk.
To me, this means that at some point, you need to take the plunge. If you wait too long, any edge that may exist will be gone.


The stereotype of a statistician is that they're male, they wear pocket protectors, they're very formal, they’re logical thinkers and they are socially awkward, (some might say rude), but admittedly that of the IT worker (e.g. me) is almost as negative (although one or two people who have met me think I’m kind of OK. Well, one if you don’t count my Mum). As for my Dad, well, wherever he is right now, I know he's looking down on me. 

He's not dead - he's just very condescending.
Mark, Ian, Steve and myself have all been around for a long while, and I’m pretty sure Ian has made seven figures from betting, Steve has made (give or take) AU$417,902.36 and both Mark and myself have hit the Super Premium Charge. It’s possible of course that were we all qualified statisticians, Ian and Steve would have made far more money, and neither Mark nor myself would be paying the pesky Super Premium Charge at all having found a way around it, but it does show that it is quite possible to make a (relatively) decent profit without a knowledge of advanced statistics.
I agree with Ian who has said that the key ingredient to being successful in betting is not so much in IQ but more in the approach and attitude one takes. 

He’s also observed that you can teach a group of people the same strategy, and then observe that some profit from it, while others don’t. Success at betting is about more than just facts and data, and of course it has to be. Any edge from data is (usually) quickly self-correcting, so there has to be an ‘intuitive’ factor required which perhaps is more readily available to some personality types than others. Successful betting is more art than science.

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