Saturday, 9 May 2015

Enigmatic Selections

Not surprisingly, there's been a big drop in the number of FTL entries this week. No doubt everyone is in a state of depression following the unfortunate outcome of the General Election, or it is possible that the end of the league season in the lower English leagues is the reason.

It's interesting how the formats of the entries differ - some send spreadsheets from which I extract the entries, while others send in single team names. Mountain Mouse's are in code, for example this week's entry read simply:
Ned Utrecht Excelsior Home EPL Everton Sunderland Home Fra Evian Thonon Gaillard Reims Away
I put my Mother's Vera Lynn 78 record on the old gramophone player, watch a few minutes of The Imitation Game, take myself back in time to Bletchley Park in the 1940s and within just a few minutes (usually) I have the puzzle solved. The selections for this week are Utrecht, Everton and Stade de Reims. I have yet to find a weather forecast hidden in there though.

A couple of the Bounty Boys are in action this weekend - Football Elite has a couple of selections, and TFA has just the one. 

Back to the Election, and not only was the result extremely disappointing, but it was also quite an upset based on the Betfair odds leading up to Election day. Scott send me a link to an article a few days ago from the Daily Torygraph
A “well groomed” pensioner has placed a £30,000 bet on the Conservatives winning a majority in the general election after walking into a betting shop with the money in his jacket pocket.

The anonymous gambler, who is believed to be a former accountant, asked what the odds were in a Ladbrokes branch in Hope Street, Glasgow, and after being told they were 7/1 he produced the money in crisp £50 notes.

According to one cashier, he "looked like he knew what he was doing", was confident and calm and “just thought it was a great bet”. A customer who witnessed the bet said the man looked “well-groomed, wealthy and well-informed”.

Following the punt, which is the biggest bet to date on a party emerging with a majority next Thursday, the bookies cut the odds of the Tories to 6/1, while the odds of no party forming a majority were reduced from 10/1 to 8/1.

Alex Donohue of Ladbrokes said a bookies in Glasgow was “the last place you'd expect to find a punter prepared to have a record-breaking bet on the Tories".

He added: "It's fair to say Cameron & co have been handed a vote of confidence from one of the unlikeliest locations and should they defy the odds, our customer will land a significant windfall."

The bookmaker also has odds of 25/1 on Labour winning more than half the seats, compared with 1/8 for the election resulting in no party having an overall majority at Westminster.
Scott included a screenshot of the Betfair markets at the time, and unless the "well groomed" pensioner is paying the Super Premium Charge, 7-1 was not the best of deals.
Credit where it's due though, and the 'former accountant' picked a decent priced winner. These accountant people seem to be pretty smart, although walking around Glasgow with £30k in cash might arguably be described as less than smart.

Yours truly learned his lesson in the April 1992 election, when he put too much faith in the polls and lumped almost a season's worth of football betting profits on Labour in an attempt to buy money, and lost - incidentally the last time the Conservatives won an election with a majority, and an election with much in common with this week's. It was not one of my smartest betting moves.

My thoughts then on why the polls were so wrong is that people were simply too embarrassed to admit they might vote Conservative, and just lied if asked. One can't blame them of course, although I feel the poll tax played a part that year.

Actually, it's probably inaccurate to say that the polls were 'wrong' this year. Polls are snapshots of opinion and the exit polls, taken when the 'opinion' is in the ballot box, were at the same time both shocking and quite accurate. Certainly the betting markets were wrong though. The Telegraph relates an example of a July 1985 by-election:
We can trace the question to July 4 1985, the day that the political betting markets finally came of age in this country. A by-election was taking place in a semi-rural corner of Wales, with Labour and Liberals the key contenders. Ladbrokes made the Liberals odds-on favourite. But on the very morning of the election a poll by Mori gave Labour a commanding 18 percentage point lead. Ladbrokes kept the Liberal candidate as the solid odds-on favourite. And who won? The Liberal — and anyone who ignored the pollster and followed the money.
The Telegraph doesn't mention that the Liberal won by just 559 votes, and as a "solid odds-on favourite" might not have been value, but then that paper has a habit of not telling you everything.

For those wondering, the Monster Raving Loony party candidate came fifth, and Mountain Mouse - I am just kidding with you. Your entries are jut fine.

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