Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Plunging

Referencing a couple of books and authors mentioned here recently, namely Joseph Buchdahl and his book Squares & Sharps, Suckers & Sharks along with Adam Kucharski's The Perfect Bet, this article by Luke Johnson published by the Centre for Entrepreneurs (via the Sunday Times) is an interesting read.


I'm not sure I agree with all of his thoughts. His ideas on investing in companies appear to be out-dated with the idea that active investing is the way to go - for almost all of us, passive investing in low cost index tracking funds is far more lucrative in the long-term - and while gambling is about chance, with discipline, the odds are certainly not always stacked against the punter.

About beating the odds long-term, the author's conclusion parallels my own view which is that while it is definitely, at least for some people, possible:
I am very doubtful it is worth the effort such an achievement would require.
All that time and brain power could be applied so much more usefully elsewhere in society.
Sports betting can be a rewarding hobby, but the opportunity cost of choosing it over a career is prohibitive for most of us, and "with no underlying meaning or output save recreation", perhaps rather sad at the end of the day. 

The article in full:

I’d rather be marked down as a gambler than never take a risk

What is the difference between investment, speculation and gambling? And does it matter?

There are some who believe that the entire stock market is merely a casino, and that it fulfils no productive purpose either for industry or society.

This view is a little extreme, but there is no doubt that betting and investing are both risky undertakings, involving wagering on uncertain future outcomes.

And many traders who work in the City enjoy betting in their spare time, be it on shares, horses or football. After all, the Cheltenham Festival, racing’s most lucrative week, is dominated by those who work in the Square Mile.

For many, it seems that the activities of investment, speculation and gambling are indeed a continuum.

I am something of a purist, however: I do not enjoy gambling except when I am the house — and then it is a business operation. I have owned bingo clubs, bookmakers, slot machine arcades and greyhound tracks, and I think there is a very significant difference between venturing capital on a commercial undertaking, and simply betting on games and sports.

At heart, I like to believe that risking money by backing a company is a question of effort and skill. I need facts about form and odds — what investors call due diligence. I take longer-term bets, try to reduce the downside and prefer an active involvement in the business.

By contrast, gambling is about chance — and beating the house, which is tough because the odds are stacked against the punter. Moreover, investing in businesses creates jobs and grows the economy, whereas gambling is a zero sum activity with no underlying meaning or output save recreation.

A good primer on the subject of betting is the book Squares & Sharps, Suckers & Sharks, by Joseph Buchdahl. The subtitle is The Science, Psychology & Philosophy of Gambling.

Buchdahl explains that an intelligent gambler understands probability, regression to the mean, the law of large numbers, and that sequential wagers represent a “memory-less” Markov chain, where past outcomes have no relevance. The clever gambler also knows about the fallacy of small samples, or the peril of generalising expected success from a few wagers. He or she does not believe in winning streaks, and knows that the pain of losing is much greater than the pleasure derived from winning.

I’m always surprised when tycoons gamble at casinos — I suppose they do it as a form of escapism, or entertainment. I get enough thrills from my day job.

Mind you, I am probably a compulsive capitalist, even if not a gambler. I can’t resist attractive opportunities, even when I probably should.

America has always had an appetite for high-risk finance, which surely ranks as speculation — and that aspect of its culture is part of the reason it has been so successful economically. For example, Tesla, the electric car maker, has raised $13bn (£10bn) in debt and equity but has yet to make a profit.

Stuart Banner’s book Speculation — A History of the Fine Line between Gambling and Investing describes how the United States was built on booms and busts. From land, to railroads, to agricultural commodities, to oil exploration — to trusts, to conglomerates, to merger and acquisition mania — each age has its favourite speculative bubble. Yet these regular frenzies of speculation have produced remarkable innovations, wealth generation and material advances.

America is unique in its conspicuous enthusiasm for new technology and the capacity to fund its development. By contrast, countries where assets rarely change hands, where industry and bankers are cautious, and where investors prefer bonds over equities, are unlikely to grow much — or to offer moral and financial support to entrepreneurs.

Some believe that science and mathematics can enable lottery, roulette or poker players to beat the system. Adam Kucharski argues as much in his book The Perfect Bet.

But I am very doubtful it is worth the effort such an achievement would require.

All that time and brain power could be applied so much more usefully elsewhere in society.

To a degree, all of us who risk our fortunes trying to predict the future are fantasists — be we gamblers or investors. We like to think we can control our destiny, which is, of course, impossible. The best one can hope for is to influence it somewhat.

Yet it is easier to navigate the randomness of life if you are used to weighing probabilities, and are comfortable with judging unknown outcomes.

I’m afraid that those who need to be sure about everything are doomed to an unhappy and stunted existence. I would rather rank among the plungers, be they investors, speculators or gamblers.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Halloween Spells Trouble

Fizzer generously shared a hot tip with me earlier today, writing:

As I know you are a fan of great stats, here is one for the footy today that you just can't ignore.
In the flashscores preview of Leicester v Everton the most telling stat has got to be: -
In a record stretching back to Oct 2002, Everton have only suffered 2 defeats in 15, in the last match before Halloween.
Get on the Toffees!
For some unexplained reason, my immediate thought was that Peter Nordsted had found a new outlet for his "tipping", my second thought was that Fizzer really missed a trick by not saying "Get stuck in to the Toffees" while my third thought, as much as my brain can handle at one time, was that Fizzer really should have said "get off the Foxes" as the other 13 matches in question might well have all been draws. 

Fortunately I made the sweet decision to leave this game alone, as Leicester City eased their relegation fears with a comfortable 2:0 win over the Toffees, in the midst of sticky patch, a spell witch shows no sign of ending. Something for the incoming manager to chew on.

I need to check out flashscores if they are providing constant treats like this. One can't help but wonder why Smartodds and Starlizard are wasting their money paying graduates and agents good money for statistical wizardry when they could be carving out profits by using flashscores. What a bunch of pumpkins!

Talking of pumpkins, the usually reliable @GracenoteLive had an erroneous tweet yesterday:
The year 2000 was, of course, the final year of the last (20th) Century, as well as closing out the second millennium, and not this century, but the error has not yet been corrected. Possibly the account is being run by some of the people who celebrated the new millennium a year early on December 31st 1999.  

Update time from the US systems, and the NCAAF Small Road 'Dogs had a second consecutive losing weekend with the ROI for the season dropping to 16.5%:
I'm hoping the inclusion of team names above doesn't cause too much confusion. To clarify, they are for identification purposes only, and play no part in the selection process itself.

A long awaited win for UMPO last night in the World Series, as the Los Angeles Dodgers ended a twelve game losing streak for the odds-against selection. There were a couple of underdogs at evens who won during this spell, but for the official system, it's been a disappointing year. With two or three games left, (the World Series is tied at 2), it'll be a losing post-season.

In the NBA, the Beast is up slightly with a 16-15 record, but still early days. Three point attempts are up as I expected, from 27 a game per team to just under 29, an increase of 7%, while the strike rate is only up by 4% so far.
After five flat seasons from 2007-12, there has been a steady increase in three point attempts as the way the game is being played evolves. Interesting, but perhaps not surprising, that the highest strike rate was in the days when shooting a three pointer was for the most part left to the experts (36.5% from 2007-09) while the percentage since 2013 hasn't exceeded 36%.

No NFL results yet, but this sign seen at a protest rally in the USA yesterday might amuse some NFL followers: 
Brady was certainly a Trump supporter during the election, which places him squarely on the right, both above and in other ways, but he did at least say that the found Trump's comments on NFL players right to protest "divisive". 

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Jeff's Spreadie

I may have mentioned that most week days, I rather obsessively update my 'net worth' spreadsheet. My son mentioned today that Jeff Bezos would have had a good day yesterday, with Amazon up 13.22% yesterday.

I'm not sure that Mr. Bezos has a net worth spreadie, although he is a notorious micro-manager, but if he does, his recorded gain yesterday would have been $6.44 billion, give or take a million or two. 'New high' days are always special, and I hope he didn't miss the moment.

Amazon is up 46.8% year to date, and Jeff Bezos is once again the richest man in the world. 

Needless to say, my spreadsheet reflects a rather more modest financial situation, but the discipline required to track income, growth and expenses, is important whatever your net worth, though perhaps less important and a little more time consuming if you have $90 billion to track!

Perhaps it's not surprising that opinions on Bezos vary - in 2014, he was both ranked the best CEO in the world by Harvard Business Review and named World's Worst Boss by the International Trade Union Confederation


I'm not without honours myself, as I was once the World's Best Dad (I have the mug to prove it - it's listed as an asset on my spreadsheet with a valuation of 50p). 

I think I was also Employee of the Month sometime back in the 1990s, but the valued award has long since vanished. Mrs. Cassini has a habit of throwing out items that are, depending on who you ask, either extremely valuable or worthless crap.

Speaking of worthless crap, the NFL Small Road 'Dogs System continued its poor run on Thursday night with a shut-out 40 point loss. It's looking like a quiet day tomorrow with the outcome meaning we either stay in profit or go into the red for the season.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Sharps Delay

Eggmund, possibly from his "oval" office, comments on my previous post asking:

Could it be that average punters are betting on the home team well before tip-off (do they still have that?) and then the professionals are smoothing out pricing discrepancies in a liquid market from just before the game starts through to the final whistle?
NBA games do still have tip-offs, although I don't see why they don't just let the home team start from the baseline for the first and fourth quarters and let the road team have possession at the start of the second and third, but then, no one has ever asked me.

The problem with Eggmund's theory is that I'm not sure there's any evidence to suggest that the Jonny Guessers (squares) of this world all bet well before an event starts, and then step away while the more enlightened Green All Over readers, (sharps) move in.

Professionals like the softer, opening, lines because the closer to start time you are, the more efficient the prices are.

Also, just to be clear, how the price moves in-play 'through to the final whistle' is irrelevant, as we are not trading.

The mystery is why such edges persist for as long as they do. 

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Road Tao Prosperity

A wise man, or was it James?, once said "An edge shared is an edge halved" so I'm certainly not going to give away every secret. At least not while I'm still

I think it was the founder of Taoism, Lao Tzu, who said "Give a man a system and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to develop a system and you feed him for a lifetime”.

It is with these thoughts in mind that I publish this comment from Unknown who asks:

What is the road favs system?
Haven't seen this mentioned on the blog before
Is it as simple as the name suggests? Backing all favs on the road?
No, it's not quite that simple, but there is a big clue in the system name, and anyone seriously interested in NBA betting can research it and tweak the criteria to suit themselves.

Do you want to generate ~105 bets a season with a return of 4.7% or have criteria that generates ~378 bets a season with an ROI of 3.6%? 

One system that has been profitable for the past three plus seasons is the National League Away system, and last night saw its fourth best round of the season to date. 

     
As team names can cause confusion for one reader, I've removed them from the results (left). 

I'm not totally convinced this bare-bones summary helps readability or understanding, but if I can eschew obfuscation, I will.  

Aways in this league were off to a slow start this season, around 20% through August, but since then they are hitting at 32% and are 29.2% overall - still a little down on the past three seasons.
Once again, if you're following this system, it now behoves you to bet early. It's as if, for some reason, people are piling onto the Aways closer to kick-off. What was that about an edge shared? 

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Dogs Go Astray

I mentioned yesterday my enthusiasm for sports betting, but many more weekends like the one just gone and that enthusiasm may well be extinguished. 

As we head into the World Series tonight, UMPO is on a losing streak of nine, and is all but guaranteed a losing season currently down 14.58 points. The Play-Off Totals recovered 6.13 points.  

The College Football Small Road 'Dogs went 3 and 5 and the ROI dropped to 22% on the season, while the NFL version had two pushes and four losses and an ROI plummeting to 4%.

Here are the results from the weekend in James' preferred format. 

Not a team name in sight - very technical.

Still early days in the NBA but for the record, the Beast is up slightly with a 7-6 record, while the long-time profitable Road Favourites System, looking to reverse the declining trend since 2013, is also up early.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Divisional Edge

Tony continues to enhance his job prospects by trying flattery, commenting:

I bought the perfect bet on kindle (It was one of Mr James' recommendations) so with a few references from yourself also, I should probably get past the 16% completion mark I'm currently on. With regards to my comments to this blog I do so knowing I will get an honest, well thought out response, that can't be matched in any skype group or chat forum. To be honest, some of the detail in the blog and your passion of the subject is actually mind blowing and you cant argue with that. Or can you !?!
The Perfect Bet is a good read, so yes, if you have purchased it, I'd make the effort to finish the remaining 84%. If you haven't, I join James in recommending it.  

As for the complimentary part of the comment, I have no argument with anything Tony says. The detail in this blog constantly amazes me too, and it's good to know that my enthusiasm for the subject still shows through after almost ten years.

Now it's rare enough to get one compliment, but this morning I wake up to this comment from KiwiRoadrunner:
Hello Cassini, I really appreciate the time and effort you continue to spend on your great blog. Sometime back you mentioned there was value in backing NFL unders totals based on small handicap lines. Is it possible for a technical update of recent seasons results? Cheers Clinton Jarman
A "technical" update... Very witty, given the recent debate, and thanks for the appreciation. 

After 2,416 posts, I can't say I can immediately recall mentioning Unders and small lines, but sometimes I'm too generous for my own good. 

The NFL Under / Over situation is complicated by the changes in point scoring, extra points, and overtime rules, but in general certain NFL lines and matches do favour the Under.

Looking at the regular season in the NFL since 2011, i.e 2012 onwards, the Under in matches where the line is less than 2.5 has an ROI of 6.5% from 276 bets.

As I'm feeling in a good mood today, I'll share another edge for NFL Totals. 

If you simply back the Under in every Divisional game regardless of the line, over the same time period, you'd have an ROI of 8% from 527 bets.
Last season was a rare miss for this strategy, but normal service appears to have been restored so far this season. 

To be clear, a Divisional game is one between two teams from the same NFL division - there are four (North, South, East and West) in each of the two Conferences (AFC / NFC). The logic behind this is that playing each other twice a season, rivalries build and the teams get to know the other teams' strengths and weaknesses and are more easily able to defend against them. The public appears to have other ideas.

Update : Curious as to why some seasons only had 95 Divisional matches, I found that I had omitted games played at neutral venues. This omission has now been corrected below.
  

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Gambling Spectrum

Just as the dust was settling, and we could all move on with our lives, Marty chimes in a thought on one aspect that he posits might be considered a fundamental approach.

I think one could make a case that whether the team is 'on the road' is fundamental information (ie is neither integral to the description of the contract / bet and is non-price). I don't know your systems completely, but this is the only area I would say might not be technical. You could also argue that past results are technical information because they are, generally, contained in the settlement price the correct score market.
Although the system mentioned is called the Small Road 'Dogs System, and that's the way I choose to play it, I could just as easily be playing a Lay Small Home Favourites System. 

It would make no difference, because the system is based on the determination that the market is inefficient when the line is (relatively) close to a pick, and that makes it a purely technical system.

Because every match has to have a venue, it's a given that there will (usually) be a home team and an away (road) team. Thus, home or away is irrelevant.

Past results are a major factor in where the line or price settles for a market, but whether or not a system is considered technical, fundamental or a combination of both, is based on how selections are determined, and these selections in my published systems are determined solely by the price. 

Were I to add conditions based on "injury reports, previous results, days of rest, time zones, individual match ups and so on" that would be adding fundamental analysis to the mix, but who has time for that?

Tony Stephens returns with a couple more comments, the first asking:
Does it really matter if criteria is technical or fundamental? Would one place additional confidence in a system that was classified either way?
What matters in regards to the approach, is what works for each individual. Confidence in a system comes from its results, not from the method.

The only reason this became a hot topic, and why the different approaches needed to be explained, was that my answer to @Statsbet's question was called out as being incorrect. The question was:  
Would you advise technical analysis or fundamental/statistical or both?
My answer - Technical analysis. 

I followed up with some explanatory details, which were that:
Unless you have access to private (insider) information, fundamental analysis is a waste of time. Others will always know more than you. Let all (private and publicly available) information hit the market, and then focus on a statistical analysis of the market’s estimate of probabilities. Try to understand the market sentiment behind the prices, and identify areas where the market may be vulnerable.
This drew the following response which normally wouldn't be a big deal, but coming from someone who is usually a rare voice of rationality and common sense in a murky pool of guessers, salesmen, tricksters and nincompoops, it was important to point out the error.
No systems on my website (blog) are based on fundamental analysis, and whether data is public or private is totally irrelevant. To claim otherwise is simply wrong.

Tony, clearly looking to become a full-time contributor at Green All Over HQ, (the pay isn't that great to be honest, but the Xmas parties are legendary) had a second comment:
So are we agreed that the gambling authorities should continue to give licenses to books where their business model can only work by only accepting bets from losers, even over very short periods of 1-2 bets?
The question is confusingly phrased, but I'm not against the idea of only licensing bookmakers who agree to operate as bookmakers! Certain protections would need to be in place regarding bet limits, but books who don't take relatively small bets on major events shouldn't be in business. That so many are in business is testament to the stupidity of people, or more politely, to the number of people who bet for fun with no idea about value. 

On this topic of having access, and the range of punting types, there's a passage in Adam Kucharski's "The Perfect Bet" that I was reminded of:
In an environment where there is apparently no shortage of players happy to lose steadily, the issue is whether regulators should allow books to restrict their customer base to this group, and maximise profits, or to enforce access to the sharper end of the spectrum, and reduce profits. The sharper end currently have no right to be granted access, but they do have options.

One way of looking at the issue is by comparing a bookmaker with a casino, where slot machines are like customers. While a casino is happy to have machines paying out at close to, but less than, 100%, they wouldn't be too happy at being told they have to have a machine installed paying out over 100%. 

As much as I would like to see bookmakers act as bookmakers, I don't see anything changing. What should happen is that customers take their business elsewhere and force the industry to change voluntarily, but as I mentioned earlier, there's a seemingly endless supply of money from people who simply don't care about losing. Unless human nature changes, traditional bookmakers will keep making their profits from these customers and sharps will just have to work around restrictions, or apply their skills in another way.

Thanks for all the comments. As stated before, it's always much easier to post new articles when the conversation is flowing.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Team Transparency

Another head-scratching comment from James, who wrote:

A lot of your data screenshots display win/loss etc. figures for teams.
If you don't use such fundamental data in your systems then fair enough.
While it is possible that in almost ten years of blogging I have on occasion shown results for a particular team, I can't actually recall any such screenshots.

My screenshots are typically either summary in nature, for example this one from last week and League Two Away and not a team name in sight:

Or they are contemporary, showing recent qualifiers and their outcomes, such as this one from the American Football Small Road 'Dogs Systems last weekend:
While it is true that these screenshots include a team name, this is for transparency so that anyone interested in following along can easily verify past results, which means I need to record whether an event was a win or a loss (or a push). 

I could simply say that we had 14 selections, with 9 winners, but if I were reading this blog and half-interested in this system, I'd want a little more detail to see what was going on. 

If someone isn't keeping detailed records that allow for results to be verified, I'd be a little concerned that they don't have what it takes to be successful.  

To say that the win / loss figures are for "teams" is very misleading. The team name merely acts as a reference rather than the criteria by which the selection was made, which remains purely technical.

Sports Equinox

They call it a Sports Equinox in the USA, one of those rare days when there are games in all four major sports.

Yesterday was such a day, just the seventeenth ever, and the first on a day other than a Sunday or a Monday. Courtesy of fivethirtyeight.com, here is the full list:
From a betting perspective, the day failed to live up to the hype. The MLB UMPO selection was the Chicago Cubs, and they were blown out by the Los Angeles Dodgers and their reign as "world" champions, as the US likes to describe their domestic champions, is over.

No selection in the NFL for the Small Road 'Dogs as the road team were favourites, and in the NBA just three games meant one bet, but a losing one for the Beast as the Clippers beat the Lakers in the battle of Los Angeles.

Albufeira Steve returned with a further comment on the Minimum Bet Rules post a few days ago. He writes:
I think the main difference with racing in the UK is the size of the margin. The UK soft books have been forced to run a very different business model to an Australian bookmaker. Due to competition and prevalence of odds comparison sites, margins have been squeezed to an extent that at best prices in the popular Saturday races, you can bet at less than 100%! They also offer best odds guaranteed, so if a horse drifts you get the better starting price. It is virtually impossible for a bookmaker to make a balanced book, within their margin, in a majority of UK races. In reality, for anyone with half a brain, it is harder to lose on UK racing with a soft book, than it is to win. The UK soft books have taken a business decision to use this loss leader model and only accept recreational gamblers who will lose their money on other channels.

This is not as bad as it initially sounds. The majority of punters are long term losers and will never suffer from restrictions. The fact that the margins on UK soft books at best prices, have been reduced to such a small amount, that recreational punters will lose money much slower than they used to. More than likely there will be more winning punters than before. OK, its due to luck rather than skill, but in reality most punters in the UK have not been effected by restrictions and are actually better off then they were pre-restrictions.

The punters that have been effected by restrictions, if they can really beat the market, still have the option to play on the base books and exchanges who do not restrict.
Markets and conditions change. Winning punters have to learn to change with them, instead of complaining that the edge they used to have has been taken away.
Thanks for the added detail Steve. I've long written that traditional bookmakers will ban punters who look like they have a clue (or more than half a brain perhaps) even if they have yet to take money from them. Again, as I said last week:
And if your accounts are not closed or restricted after a few weeks? Ask yourself what that is saying about you.
And as Steve says, you always have options for betting, since the exchanges do not ban winners (some just charge you a small fortune if you're really good, but at least you can play) and the new model sportsbooks welcome winners too, using their money to help them set sharper lines. 

An edge, with no place to bet, is no edge, and if an edge is lost, you need to adapt.  

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Technically Speaking

The debate over what is fundamental analysis, and what is technical analysis, when it comes to analysis for sports betting continues. 

On September 28th, James noted (erroneously) that it is...
This tweet contained two errors, the first is that none of my systems discussed on the blog rely in any way on fundamental data, the second is the implication that fundamental analysis is based on public data.

James commented today that:
Once again, I didn't say fundamental data is, and only is, public data.
That is certainly what a reasonable person might infer from the tweet. James blames Twitter's 140 character limit for the confusion, writing: 
Tweet size limit prevented me from typing "using public data", which your systems do use (i.e. public price and fundamental data). 
Incorrect. My systems use price date, which is public and technical. They do not use fundamental data which comprises such elements as "injury reports, previous results, days of rest, time zones, individual match ups and so on".

"Using public data" does not make any of my systems fundamental analysis based.

Fundamental data can be public or private.

Technical data can be public or private. 

By James' own definition:
a technical trader pays no attention to the past performances of entrants, only considering price movements, market behaviour and structure.
How much more technical could the simple systems discussed in this blog be?

The clarification needed is for James to explain how my systems are fundamental. So far, I've not seen an explanation that supports this claim.

Black Monday

Hard to believe that Black Monday was thirty years ago today. Many readers probably weren't even born, others too young to remember it, but I remember it well. 

The previous Friday I had been unable to get to work in London as the Great Storm of 1987 knocked down an estimated 15 million trees, including some that blocked the Caterham line. 

Cassini managed to sleep through it all, although I was aware that the power had gone out. It was still out when I woke up, so my bath was a cold one, and with no radio or news, I set off to work as usual. I couldn't understand why the road to the station was so deserted.

The Stock Exchange in London was closed and that day the Dow Jones in the US fell by another 4.6% to end the week down 9.5%. It had already been a troubled month with the previous week down another 6%.


So it was after an unplanned long weekend that I headed to the City on the Monday, to hear that the markets were down. 

Not a huge surprise, as the UK had some catching up to do, but the scale of the losses was memorable with the FTSE ending the day down 11%. 

Fortunately I was single at the time, and relatively poor, but several thousand pounds were lost on paper. No spreadsheets in those days, so the exact amount has long since been forgotten. 

What I do remember doing was calling my broker late in the day and buying more at what I thought was the market bottom. Wrong. The FTSE 100 dropped another 12.2% on the Tuesday, but a valuable lesson learned.

Time heals and 30 years on, the DJIA is above 23,000. 

The FTSE 100 which touched 1,598 in October 1987 is lagging behind, but is now above 7,500.


Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Bookshops and Indeterminacy

While I was finishing off this morning’s post and confirming the date and venue of Haralabos Voulgaris' observations regarding the changes in the way NBA teams are now playing basketball, I came across this example of fundamental versus technical analysis, a topic discussed here recently following a mistaken tweet that confused fundamental analysis with data that is public.
The excellent book "The Perfect Bet" by Adam Kucharski gives an example of someone interested in buying a book shop. He gives two ways in which a prospective buyer might go about making his decision on which one to buy. One is to go into each store you short list, and check the inventory, interview management and examine the accounts. The second is to sit outside, and count how many customers enter, and how many books they leave with. The former is a “fundamental” approach, the latter is “technical”.

Twitter user Overs Specialist tweeted today that:

I can’t think of anything more ‘determinate’ than a system that says “If the price is this, bet”.

The entry point couldn’t be clearer, and there is no exit point other than that the event concludes, and the bet wins or loses. 

These systems are not trading systems, and the biggest benefit of a simplistic technical approach is the time saving.

What “when a market penetrates your line, you’re out” means, I have no idea.

I think the suggestion is to invest additional time predicting how the markets will move from the open, and good luck with that, but not only are you now looking at spending a lot more time, but as I keep saying, you’re competing with others far more knowledgeable than yourself, especially when we’re talking about football which is Overs Specialist speciality.
How exactly an edge is to be obtained betting on matches in South America, Poland, Montenegro etc. remains an unsolved mystery. A cynic might be of the opinion that football experts in South America, Poland, Montenegro might be better placed, but maybe Overs Specialist has contacts around the globe as do the likes of SmartOdds and StarLizard. 

Rockets Ride Randomness

Seven Away wins in League Two last night will have been appreciated by some readers, taking the profits for the season so far up to at least 10.26 points and an ROI commensurate with previous seasons.

Quite a contrast to League One where eight of the twelve matches were Draws, and the other four all Home wins.

Meanwhile in India, one of Crystal Palace's many stars of the future - Nya Kirby - saw England through to the U-17 World Cup quarter-finals (v USA), scoring the decisive penalty in the shoot-out after what appears to have been a thrilling game based on the AP updates:
Edge of the seat stuff, but the attendance of 53,000 was impressive.

In the NBA, the Over 215.5 System, henceforth to be known as the Beast (I'm sure some of you can work out why) got off to a winning start as the Golden State Warriors, after leading by 17 points and trading at 1.03, lost to the Houston Rockets 121-122 in a game where the Total was set at 228.5. 

These two teams were the top scoring last season, and I doubt that they will all be this easy. 

The Houston Rockets took the most three point shots last season, an average of 40.3 and last night shot 41. The Warriors 30 shots was very close to their average last season of 31.2.

Last night's game saw 71 three-point shots, with 83 points scored.

Line ups change of course, but fortunately player statistics are readily available. For example, Kyrie Irving played for the Boston Celtics against his former team (Cleveland Cavaliers) last night. His loss was one good reason why the Cavaliers took fewer three point shots. No surprise that his game was comfortably under.

For the record, last season, the average number of three point shots per game was 54, with 58 points resulting from them. 

As legendary NBA bettor Haralabos Voulgaris explained at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in 2013, the nature of scoring in basketball is evolving, and because randomness plays a bigger role in three point shots, it's becoming harder to predict which team will score more points.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Total Moves

We ended with up with a bumper crop of 14 selections in total this weekend for the Small Football Road 'Dogs and with a 9-5 record no one should be complaining. 

Ten of these matches were either Conference or Division games, and these ended with a 6-4 record. 

The baseball play-offs are not doing so well, with UMPO down 10.58 points with a 5-17 record. The PO Overs ended up 11-5-1 (+5.47) to offset some of the damage.

With the two Championship Series now in progress, the value on Totals moves (slightly) to the Unders:
The NBA is back tonight with last season's finalists both opening the new season at home.  Both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors are odds-on to win their respective Conferences and repeat in the final for the fourth consecutive year.

With the increase in scoring I mentioned here last month the Blunders system made it's first loss since 2010, although 2015-16 showed warning signs of a decline.
A good example of how a fundamental change in the way teams play the game changes / eliminates the profitability of a system.

As I mentioned in that September post, I'll be looking at backing Overs in the 216+ range, which should average over two bets a day. 

In 2014-15 there would have been 36 selections, in 2015-16 117, and last season 362!  That's quite an increase.
  

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Madoff With Our Money

Nick followed up with some more details on how the minimum bet rule works in Australia:

Dear Sir,
A follow up to my previous comments.

Australian internet bookmakers are not allowed to close an account simply due to someone backing winners. They can if you have breached terms and conditions. They also have to re open accounts that had been previously closed by them.
There is no provision for minimum bets on sport. Given the world wide liquidity on sport and the small price fluctuations (especially compared to racing), then barring or severely restricting punters on sport makes no sense at all.
To be able to win betting (trading) on racing and sport involves knowledge, bankroll and discipline and the amount of people who have all these traits (and you need all of them) is very small. There are lots of people who have knowledge and bankroll but no discipline and they just add the pool of losing punters.
If a "problem gambler" and by that i mean a person who has excluded themselves from betting is seen to be betting then it is an offence under legislation.

Without wishing to appear cynical.........but why not, it's not in a bookmakers interest to stop people from losing money.
I know of an employee of Centrebet who advised the powers that be of a client who appeared to a possible addict. They assured him that they were aware of this client and that everything was above board and ok.....
Finance chief 'swindled $7m' to fund gambling addiction: police
Enough for now.....again
Cheers Nick
I have to admit Australia seems to be heading in the right direction on this issue. While I've argued previously that you can't force a business to transact with someone they don't want to, since bookmakers require a licence, it wouldn't be too difficult to make this a condition of the licence. 

I'm warming to the idea. This might actually push the dinosaur bookies into the 21st century, and make them concentrate on producing sharper lines.

As someone who has had accounts closed years ago for betting on sports, which was frankly ridiculous, I have my doubts that in practice this would work quite as well as advertised, and it's hard to see the UK's Gambling Commission taking such a step any time soon, but gambling laws change. It was only in 1960 that off-course bookmakers were legalised, and only 12 years ago that the new Gambling Act was passed in 2005. 

As for Nick's closing story, it's no surprise that bookmakers wouldn't try too hard to stop a problem gambler from handing over his money. 
From Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, to Bernard L. Madoff to the standard member of Congress fighting tirelessly to further the interests of campaign donors, human history is full of examples of money’s ability to weaken even the firmest ethical backbone.
Perhaps the best piece of Nick's response were his comments on the skills required to be successful long-term, which can't be emphasised enough:
To be able to win betting (trading) on racing and sport involves knowledge, bankroll and discipline and the amount of people who have all these traits (and you need all of them) is very small. There are lots of people who have knowledge and bankroll but no discipline and they just add [to] the pool of losing punters.
Under the category of 'bankroll', and related to the original topic, I would include "access to the betting markets". You may well have funds available, but if you can't find a market maker willing to work with you, it's a problem.

One other comment on these skills is that if you possess them, you are wasting an opportunity to capitalise on them if you use them for betting full-time.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Minimum Bet Rules

One of the best comments in terms of new information, discussion points and all clearly explained, comes from Australia's Nick responding to my post on the ability for punters to all "get on". Nick writes:

Dear Sir,

In Australia we have an on course bookmaker minimum bet rule that applies at all tracks. The bookmaker must bet the odds to win $1000 ( some tracks will be higher) at the price displayed on his/her board.
There are no ifs, buts or maybes. At the price displayed anyone can come and have a bet to win at least the minimum amount.

A bookmaker by definition tries to make "an over round book" laying horses so as to make a profit regardless of which horse wins.
This is not always possible but taking a long term approach and making "book" as often as possible is the business principle.
The minimum bet rule has now been made a rule with the off course (internet) bookmakers as well (as it should ).
You may ask why a bookmaker should "have" to accept a bet.

A punter bets to win. a bookmaker accepts bets with an inbuilt margin so as to balance a ledger and have a profit.

The minimum bet rules allow the bookmaker plenty of scope to balance his/her book. In fact the amount of money that is eroded by long term winning punters is very small when compared to the final bottom line.
Winning punters can be equated to "loss leaders" that many other businesses have.

Pinnacle have displayed the capacity for a bookmaker to welcome winners. Given that they are very much predominately a sports (low margin) rather than race (high margin) bookmaker is a sad indictment to those bookmakers who have large racing offerings.
It can also be seen that bookmakers banning/restricting punters whilst targeting (they'll deny deny deny) problem gamblers is nothing short of predatory.
Comparisons have been made to casinos banning advantage players (predominantly blackjack). In days gone by i was an advantage (card counter) blackjack player. I was banned.

Casinos have addressed the problem of card counters by now utilising continuous shuffle machines which negate the advantage that a card counter can have.
Casinos had the problem of not being able to "balance their book" against teams of card counters which could conceivably bankrupt them if not addressed, unlike bookmakers who can change their price as money is bet on a horse.
Enough for now
Cheers Nick
Excellent comments! I do have a few follow up questions, not necessarily for Nick, but for anyone.

Does anyone in the UK have a problem getting a bet on at the racecourse, or is it only shops and Internet where restrictions are applied?

Does the "minimum bet" rule in Australia apply only to horse racing or is there a minimum for sports betting? If so, what is the minimum, or does it vary from sport to sport, league to league? I'd imagine that any minimum would be higher for an English Premier League game than say a National Premier Leagues South Australia match.


Is there anything to stop an Australian on-line book from closing an account or declining to re-open a previously closed account? It seems a rather Pyrrhic victory to force a book to take a minimum bet only to find your account subsequently closed.

What happens if a known problem gambler wants the "minimum bet"? Are there exceptions in the small print of the rule? Nick says there are no "ifs, buts or maybes" - really? Pubs don't have to serve anyone, and are negligent if they serve someone who is clearly drunk.   

How is this rule working out in practice? 

I totally agree with Nick that it would make more sense for traditional bookies to follow Pinnacle's example and allow winners, but where perhaps we differ is that in my opinion it is, or should be, ultimately their decision. 

From a UK perspective, I'd say that it would appear that for many bookmakers, their interest in bookmaking, whether traditional or modern, is somewhat less than their interest in installing FOBTs in low income high streets.

As for targeting problem gamblers, I'm totally with Nick here. Unfortunately the Gambling Commission in the UK are very weak on this, and other things, giving out pointless slaps on the hand rather then hitting them where it hurts.

As for adjusting prices to balance their books, certainly a bookmaker should be able to easily do this in a liquid market to manage their risk, and like I said in the original post, it's really rather silly of them not to take a bet on an EPL match or any high volume event.

Without knowing what sports the minimum bet rule applies to in Australia, it's difficult to add much more, but so long as the minimum bet is set at a level proportionate to the expected volume for the event, the idea has some merit.

But as I said above, it's of little use if your account can be closed. 

Friday, 13 October 2017

Silly Chile

Sometimes it's best to just keep quiet.

While most of the interest in the South American World Cup Qualifying campaign focused on Argentina, there's an interesting back-story surrounding Peru, Chile and Bolivia. 

Back in September of 2016, Bolivia hosted Peru and won 2:0, and five days later, travelled to Chile and drew 0:0. 

Chile then filed a complaint about Bolivia's Nelson Cabrera, which was subsequently upheld. Since Cabrera had also played in the earlier game against Peru, the two results were scratched and Peru and Chile were both awarded 3:0 wins. 

At the time, Peru were struggling with four points from the first six games, while Chile were soaring with 10 points. 

A little over a year later, and that additional three points for Peru proved crucial. 

Both Chile and Peru finished on 26 points, with Peru having the better goal difference, and in the play-off (v New Zealand) spot. 

Chile finished sixth and the reigning Copa America champions and Confederations Cup runners-up were out, despite beating Peru twice. 

To add salt into Chile's wounds, Peru's late equaliser against Colombia was a direct free kick touched by goalkeeper David Ospina on the way in for an own goal, (he should have let it go in), and after that the Peruvian and Colombian players could be seen talking with each other. Probably not a long-shot to suggest the Chile score (losing 0:2 at Brazil) was the topic of conversation, and that the 1:1 score suited both Colombia (through automatically) as well as Peru. 

The game finished 1:1.    

Why Can't We All Get On?

Another comment from Tony Stephens, this one suggesting that regulators could take a leaf from Australia’s books:
In Australia I don't believe they just accepted a licensed bookmaker picking and choosing who they take bets from. As I understand it there is a minimum liability that must be accepted. Without researching it too much I would say someone had a look at their original model and then changed it for some reason. Why should we just accept the current model in the UK? 

I’m not Australian, but I don’t believe anything good has come out of that country since the stump-jump plough in 1876. 

Maybe Tony Popovich and Mile Jedinak are exceptions.

Taking a lead on gambling from a country where there are an estimated 400 gambling related suicides a year might not be the best idea though. 

I’m not familiar with if or how such an arrangement has been implemented there, but the idea of a private entity being told how to run their business is troubling.

Who is this ‘someone’ who had a look at the bookmaker’s original model and then changed it? The business model is proprietary – it belongs to the business. If they want to change their model, great, but businesses are in business for the benefit of their owners and shareholders, not for the customer. They are not charities, and they certainly don't exist for a customer to exploit. 

It is for management to decide who they enter into transactions with. There should be laws preventing businesses from discriminating against customers based on race, colour, gender, language, disability, religion, sexual orientation etc. but not laws or rules forcing an enterprise into entering loss-making deals.

Tony asks - why should we accept the right of a business to choose how they do business? 


Well, because it is THEIR business. We can accept it or ignore it.

This may come as a surprise, but the right to bet is NOT a fundamental human right. I checked with the UN.

In some jurisdictions, betting is illegal. Maybe we should simply be grateful we have other options?


If you don't like a company's business model, don't do business with them.


Casinos have long been able to bar players who appear to have a positive expected value and incidentally, tell other casinos about him. A positive expected value to the customer means a negative expected value to the casino. That’s not a viable business model.

Why should the approach of bookmakers / sportsbooks be any different?

Should a bookmaker be mandated to accept a bet on the next Crystal Palace manager? What if the shop is in South Norwood, and the punter is Steve Parish and he wants to bet
£5 million?

This example highlights that many markets are vulnerable to insider information. A bookmaker has to be able to deal with this risk, and part of their risk management strategy is closing or limiting accounts.

I agree that the idea of not being able to bet a small sum on a highly liquid event is ridiculous and makes a sportsbook look silly, but ultimately it is, and should be, the bookmaker’s decision how much risk they want to take on.

Other leisure businesses such as pubs and restaurants have always had the right to refuse service. I don’t see why a bookmaker should be any different.

Punters might take a different view if bookmakers had the right to knock on your door and tell you that you had to take a position on the 2:30 at Fontwell.

If your accounts are closed or restricted, deal with it. 


If an insurance company doesn’t want to insure you because you’re a terrible driver, and quotes you an exorbitant premium, you shop around. 

If the all-you-can-eat buffet denies you service because you’re Joey Chestnut or Anita, bad luck. There are other eating options, and you’re not going to starve to death.

Think of having your account closed as a compliment. It means they think you might know what you are doing. And if your accounts are not closed or restricted after a few weeks? Ask yourself what that is saying about you.


For more on this topic, and on Ben Affleck before he was caught up in the Harvey Weinstein scandal, check out my thoughts on this from three and a half years ago.  

And in 2012 I wrote:
Las Vegas casinos don't add Blackjack tables to provide more opportunities to gamblers. They are there to generate another income stream, and as with successful sports bettors, successful Blackjack players will find it hard to play. I'm not saying that short-term, the bookies can't be beaten, just that bookies are bad losers, and winning money from them long-term is not realistic.
An edge with no place to use it is pretty much worthless. The ability to ‘get on’ is an essential piece of the puzzle. You might be the world's number one expert on synchronised swimming, but try making much money from it.
And in 2013:
I don’t have a problem with this. Bookmakers have every right to do business with whoever they want, and successful punters have to accept this. They are not utility companies denying us water. They are businesses there to make money, and if they identify accounts that are likely to be (for the bookie) losing accounts, then they will.
It would be nice for bookmakers to be a little more transparent on this topic, but they won’t be for obvious business reasons. When having an unrestricted account at a bookies is seen as the mark of a loser, why would they advertise along the lines of "Losers Welcome".
Having accounts closed is why I had nothing to do with betting for many years. There was no point knowing the combination to the safe if I couldn’t get through the front door.
It was only the arrival of Betfair that let me in again to play, and while Betfair do not (at least for the time being) close accounts, I have certainly run into their equivalent of having my account limited being hit first by the 20% Premium Charge, and currently the 50% Super Premium Charge. As a result, my activities are now much reduced. It’s hard to stay under the radar when you win consistently, and it would not be a surprise to see Betfair and other exchanges close accounts or raise their charges even higher. And if the front door closes again, I’ll move on with my life.
It would seem that this topic isn't a new one.