Thursday, 19 July 2018

William Hill

My recent post Draws On The International Stage caught the attention of at least one reader, specifically this sentence here:

William Hill went just 2.7 for the Draw, in a book that was over-round by 112.8%.
The email I received came as something of a surprise:
Good day,

Hope you are well. It’s xxxxxx from William Hill.

First of all, I’d like to thank you for mentioning my company in your post Draws On The International Stage. It means a lot!

I noticed that you hadn’t included details of our brand and was wondering if you would be kind to include a link pointing to our website William Hill, so your visitors would see more information about your reference.

Thanks again for the mention and have a great day!
I suspect that the writer either hadn't read the post, or perhaps hadn't understood that the sentence, while honest (as are all my posts), wan't perhaps the most flattering to the company. I responded, of course: 
Hi xxxxxx –
Thank you for your email – it’s good to know that someone is out there reading my thoughts and comments about sports investing. It can get lonely at times.

My mention of William Hill in the recent post Draws On The International Stage was in connection to the 2006 World Cup Final (Italy v France) match odds market where your company went 2.5 Italy, 2.7 Draw and 2.8 France which works out at an over-round of 112.8%.
This didn’t compare well to Pinnacle’s over-round that day of 103.4% as they offered 2.54 Italy, 2.88 Draw and 3.41 France. Is this a reference you want to be highlighted?

Fortunately the markets are more competitive these days and I am pleased to see that for the 2018 World Cup Final, your company offered a much improved over-round of 104.8%, but this is still more than double that of Pinnacle’s 102.1% and still not as good a deal for punters as Pinnacle were 12 years ago.
And again, whatever selection was desired in the Final, the price was better value with Pinnacle – France were 2.2 compared to your 2.15, the Draw was 3.02 compared to your 3.0 and Croatia were 4.25 compared to your 4.0.
The William Hill over-round on the English Premier League last season also left a lot to be desired, averaging 104.9%. You did beat Ladbrokes who averaged an horrific 106.2%, but Bet365 came in at 103.1%, BetVictor were at 102.8% and Pinnacle at 102.1%.
So in regard to your request that I include a link to William Hill, and provide visitors with more information about my reference to your company, who would benefit from this?
My target audience is the more sophisticated bettor, who understands over-rounds, and the importance of getting the best prices possible when making an investment. These investors are thus also those who find their accounts quickly restricted or closed with ‘soft’ books such as William Hill and thus use Exchanges or ‘sharp’ books.
I’m sure you are aware that ‘soft’ bookmakers operate with high margins - as evidenced above -, and they do not welcome sports traders preferring to target mostly casual and unsophisticated punters and gamblers and encouraging them to use products such as Casinos, Poker, Bingo etc. which of course they can never win at over the long term.

‘Sharp’ bookmakers on the other hand, do not ban or restrict customers, operating on a lower margin, but benefiting from higher turnover. In my opinion, this is the way forward, and why I make frequent references to Pinnacle, using their prices as an achievable, but also often beatable, benchmark.

I’m confident that almost all visitors to my blog have heard of, and are capable of finding, William Hill on the Internet should they be looking for a ‘soft’ book, but have my doubts that this would be in either their interests or in yours.

I look forward to hearing your comments.
Perhaps it's not surprising that, to paraphrase (Arthur) Neville Chamberlain, I have to tell you now that no such response has been received. Should this situation change, I will of course provide an update. Should any readers be in need of a link to William Hill, please let me know and I will provide one.  

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

After The Break

With the brief, but glamorous, World Cup now over and the more mundane MLB season enjoying its annual All-Star break, it's the perfect time to look at how the baseball strategies I've previously discussed are working out this season so far. It may not be as exciting, but with the MLB season running from early Spring to October, the number of opportunities make it potentially far more lucrative overall.

The profitability of backing shorties in MLB noted back in 2015 continues unabated. For the season to date, Money Line and Run Line combined are up 51.00 points in profit.

The Money Line is up 38.00 points, while the Run Line is up 13.00 points. It's interesting to note that the Money Line is the more profitable strategy before the All-Star Break, while the Run Line becomes the preferred option after the All-Star Break. 

From 2012, the Run Line prior to the break is +30.54 points, while after the break is +70.21. The Money Line shows a much smaller advantage before the break.

The Home Improvement strategy is also in profit again this season, Money Line and Run Line combining for 37.23 points in total: 
Historically, this strategy is only profitable after the All-Star Break, but last season it was profitable every single month.

The third and final strategy readers might be following, although I highly doubt it, is the deliciously named T-Bone strategy, but this method is one that sizzles before the All-Star Break rather than after. 

From 2007 to 2017, 76.5% of profits were in the first part of the season.
As previously explained, all returns are calculated using the US method of risking the line to win one unit when playing favourites and risking one unit to win the line when playing dogs.

Monday, 16 July 2018

England, Erskine And Southgate

My old friend Ian Erskine is on his soap box again, offering his views on the World Cup in general and on England's World Cup.

Despite all the hype surrounding England's performance, my thoughts on Twitter, somewhat tongue in cheek were that:

As is often the case, England started this tournament slowly, needing a stoppage time goal to get past Tunisia in a match England were 1.5 to win. The win at 1.23 over Panama was as comfortable as they come, and then there was the almost meaningless match against Belgium in which a loss guaranteed an easier bracket. 

Ian commented that "the Belgium game (only team England played ranked above them and priced shorter than them) was a non-match". To be clear, while Belgium were a shorter price than England to win the World Cup overall, England were clear favourites to beat Belgium in the final group game. Pinnacle's prices were England 2.43, Draw 2.85, Belgium 3.86, the result highlighting the challenges with betting on games where motivation is a factor.

After narrowly getting past a James-less Colombia in the Round of 16, a game we were 2.15 to win in 90 minutes) and arguably getting the "can't win on penalties" monkey off our back might well be the best positive from this tournament, we played a dull, efficient, dare I say boring, German-like performance against Sweden (1.85 to win in 90) to reach the Semi-Final, where we were outplayed by an individually talented, but very average Croatia side. England were 2.33 to win in 90 minutes here.

Is Southgate the manager for England moving forward? I can't see the FA dumping him after what most people view as a successful World Cup, and personally would like to see him given another tournament, but I'm admittedly biased on this given his Crystal Palace links.

However, Ian's assertion that regarding Southgate - "Problem is, he is tactically naive and not a f****** winner" needs to be corrected.

The man has a solid record of being a winner - who can forget Crystal Palace's Championship winning season of 1993-94 with Southgate as captain?

He also, far less importantly I admit, won the League Cup with both Aston Villa and Middlesbrough, and played in an FA Cup Final and a UEFA Cup Final.

He also played for England in the summer tournaments of 1996, 1998 and 2000 although most people will unfortunately remember him for his decisive penalty miss in the 1996 Semi-Final.

Finally, Ian strangely fails to mention Southgate's co-written book "Woody & Nord: A Football Friendship" which won the Sports Book of the Year award for 2004 from the National Sporting Club (now the British Sports Book Awards).

Not a f****** winner!  

Draws On The International Stage

A low-scoring third-place play-off and a high scoring final match were not what was expected based on history, but for those who understand the value of the Draw in knock-out games, World Cup 2018 was another success.

The 'official' profit from the fifteen matches using Pinnacle prices where available was 1.61 points, an ROI of 10.7%, which is completely meaningless given the small sample size of any one individual tournament, but we have now had five World Cups this millennium, a sample size of 75 matches, and the total profit from this strategy is 22.35 points, an ROI of close to 30%.

Only one World Cup, South Africa 2010, showed a loss (-1.99 points), and only one round (the Semi-Finals) shows an overall, but small, loss. With matches never overlapping, the number of consecutive losses is useful to know, and is just four. 

Fortunately, with next next World Cup four years and four months away, the success of a Draw backing strategy in international tournaments isn't just limited to the World Cup.

Euros from 2000 have an ROI of 19.4%, Copa America tournaments from 2007 (I have no price data for prior tournaments) have an ROI of 12.8%, and the three Confederation Cup tournaments from 2009 (again, no price data before that) have an ROI of 56%

Overall, these four tournaments combined have a basic ROI of 22%, 36.52 points from 167 matches, but as other studies of the Draw in 'big' matches have shown, applying a simple filter improves these numbers still further. 

For example, ignore matches where one team has an implied probability greater than .667 and the ROI climbs to over 35%, with 50.12 points from 143 matches.

There are also some matches where the confidence in the edge is much higher - for example when the Draw is priced at 3.0 or shorter, the ROI is 55%. As the image above shows, the true price on the Draw from 2002-2018 was 2.68, but the lowest Draw price with Pinnacle in that time was 2.88 (and a winner too, I might add). William Hill went just 2.7 for the Draw, in a book that was over-round by 112.8%. 

Risking a conservative 4% of the bank on each bet, a 1,000 point bank would now be a 5,377.4 point bank. With the longest losing streak so far not exceeding five, a less conservative 10% stake of the bank (ratcheted) would now be worth 93,682 points, off a peak of 117,103.15 reached with the England v Croatia semi-final.  

It's worth noting that pre-Euro 2008, the over-round averaged 106% and so these returns should be easily beatable. For subsequent tournaments, the over-round is a more reasonable 102%.

Roll on Copa America 2019, by which time 99% of you will have completely forgotten about this post. 

Saturday, 14 July 2018

England Rare Underdogs

Today's match is England's 69th in a World Cup Finals, the outcomes of the previous 68 being as follows:

For the first time in more than sixteen years, a run of 18 matches, England start a World Cup match as underdogs, a little piece of trivia pointed out by @MarkOHaire this morning. Here are the prices (using Pinnacle where available) from England's loss against Brazil in 2002 for Finals matches:
The England v Italy game of 2014 did see Italy as favourites on Betfair at 2.77, with England and the Draw both 2.95, but the average odds from 22 non-exchange bookmakers that day were England 2.5, Draw 3.0 and Italy 3.22.

The other surprise to readers might be the 2010 match against Germany, and here the Austrian based sports-book Interwetten and well known in Germany, had Germany and England joint favourites at 2.7 with the Draw at 2.9, a sure sign that even as late as 2010, local books adjusted for local biases. All other books had England as favourites that day, and had VAR been in place, we might well have won it!  

Friday, 13 July 2018

Collovati Calamity

Just like that, it's not coming home after all, and England have a second match against Belgium in which neither country really cares who wins. Sure, there's an extra $2 million in prize money, but that's not likely to make a difference to how the match is played.

All but the inaugural World Cup has featured this third-place play off, while six Euros played this game before it was abandoned after 1980 when 18 penalties were needed to separate Czechoslovakia from Italy, and tournament organisers were beginning to get concerned that next day's final might have to be delayed.  At sometime around 3:27am, Fulvio Collovati's kick was saved, and the remaining crowd of 37 mostly friends and families of the players, trudged out into the shortest Neapolitan night of the year.

The 24 matches have an average number of goals of exactly 3.5, and consequently only four matches went to Extra-Time, with only the aforementioned 1980 game going to penalties. 10 of the last 12 third place matches saw goals for both teams. 

Since this game is not considered a knockout game, it's perhaps not surprising that the trends of fewer goals in recent seasons seen in knockout games is completely reversed in this oddity. The first 12 games averaged 3.25 goals per game, while the most recent 12 have seen an average of 3.75 goals per game.

Contrast these numbers with the Final match, which tends to be taken a little more seriously. Of 35 World Cup and Euro Finals, 13 went to Extra-Time, while four went to either a replay or penalties. Over half the matches were level at Half-Time, and the average goals per game was a more modest 2.74. 

From 1994, i.e. the last 12 Final matched, the average per game is 1.42 goals with seven games going to Extra-Time, and nine level at Half-Time. 13 of the last 17 losers failed to score. 

If you backed the Draw in the Semi-Finals you would again be in profit after a Half-Time Draw on Tuesday and a Full-Time Draw on Wednesday. 

No 0:0 scores at 90 minutes in this year's knockout rounds so far, the last time that happened in World Cups without second group stages was 1966, but plenty of 1:1s at an implied price of 2.8. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Adding In The Euros

As you were told in the last post, at least one quarter-final in every World Cup from 1986 has had at least one match go to penalties. I hope some of you cashed in. I suspected it might be the Sweden v England game, but in the end this was a rather dull game and an efficient German-like performance from England.

It had been 16 years since we last had a two goal lead in a knockout game but unfortunately, I am old enough to remember Leon 1970, so it was only at 90+4 that I felt totally relaxed.

Not such a big sample size of course, but from 1986 the 16 World Cup semi-finals have produced 11 Half-Time Draws and 5 Full-Time Draws, of which four went to penalties. 

With an all-UEFA line-up, it's not unreasonable to include Euro Semi-Finals for a larger sample, and of the last 11 combined tournaments which featured Semi-Finals, 19 matches have gone to Extra-Time, an implied price of 2.32 while 27 matches were Half-Time Draws, an implied price of 1.63. 

From 1990, 24 of the 28 matches were decided by one goal or Drawn after 90 minutes, but the four that were comfortable wins includes three of the last four matches played. 

Friday, 6 July 2018

There's Always One (Penalty Shootout)

The Round of 16 ended up just about perfectly, although I would have happily lost my Draw bet on the final tie of the round to spare myself the emotional roller-coaster of Extra-Time and penalties, but as it turned out, lifting the penalty curse might prove to be a very important thing for England. They may need that confidence boost again very soon. 

Both of Tuesday's matches were 0:0 at Half-Time at prices of 2.46 and 2.56, and for the round, no less than seven of the eight matched were Half-Time Draws - three 1:1s and four 0:0s.

Here are the Full-Time Draw statistics for the World Cup. Noticeable that while the 1:1 score was the predominant Draw in earlier days, and has actually increased slightly in frequency, the 0:0 is now just as likely, resulting in the Draw probability now closer to 0.4 than the 0.2 of 1930 to 1982. 


So, eight teams left, two CONMEBOL v UEFA ties, followed by a pair of all-UEFA match-ups in a Quarter-Finals once again blessed by the presence of England. 

All eight have reached, and won at, this stage before, Russia as the Soviet Union in 1966. Four are former champions (Brazil, England, France and Uruguay), one is a previous finalist (Sweden), and the other three are all previous Semi-Finalists. Croatia finished third on their debut in 1998, tying Portugal's 1966 record, the Soviet Union finished fourth behind Portugal that year, while Belgium had a fourth place finish in 1986.

With 9 Quarter-Final appearances, England are third all-time behind Germany (14) and Brazil (13). The records of the other teams still standing are France (7), Russia, Sweden and Uruguay (5), Belgium (3) and Croatia (2).

From 1986, when Quarter-Finals were re-introduced after being dropped in 1974, 1978 and 1982, and the World Cup was devalued by that decision in my opinion, there have been 32 matches. 17 were Draws at Half-Time, 13 were Draws at Full-Time, and 11 went to penalties - at least one Quarter-Final shootout in each World Cup.

Of the 13 South America v Europe matches, 9 were Half-Time draws, 3 Full-Time Draws, and 3 went to penalties.

Of the 11 all-UEFA matches, no game saw more than one first-half goal, with 4 HT 0:0s,  4 finished as Draws, and all 4 went to penalties. 

Not surprising that one-sided matches are rare at this stage. Only three matches from 1986 have been decided by more than one goal, two all-UEFA matches (1998 Croatia 3 Germany 0, 2006 Italy 3 Ukraine 0), and one inter-confederation game in 2010 when Germany thrashed Argentina 4:0. Older readers might recall that those two used to be good teams.

The Half-Time 0:0 price on Brazil v Belgium is currently 3.0. I'm just sayin'.  

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

World Cup Half-Time

21 goals in the six Round of 16 matches played so far, an average of 3.5 goals per game, means that 2018 is on track to beat the modern day record for this round of 24, (90 minutes only), set in 1994.

Some way short of the 40 goals at this stage in 1934, or 1938's 37 goals which included a 5:5 draw between Brazil and Poland, a walkover for Sweden, and two replays with Switzerland and Cuba needing a second game to get past Germany and Romania respectively, but more goals is not good for the Draw, as readers will know. 

Two more HT Draws yesterday mean 5 out of 6 winners so far, with two full-time Draws. While the Half-Time Draw can be odds-on, e.g. 1.91 for the Sweden v Switzerland game today, it can also be a lot higher. Yesterday I was matched at 2.42 on the Brazil v Mexico game and 2.58 on Belgium v Japan.

There have now been over 200 knockout games in the World Cup since its inception, and the Half-Time Draw numbers over the years, complete with the Draws broken out by score, are:

The Half-Time 0:0 in today's Sweden v Switzerland has traded at 2.56 (it's also traded at 1.61 which wasn't a good back), but looking at the implied price of the 0:0 in more recent years, anything close to 2.56 is good value. 

Note that in earlier years, and so far this year, the 1:1 was more frequent a Half-Time score than the 0:0, but since 1986 has been very much a rarer outcome. If the 2:2 is your preferred Half-Time Draw score, good luck. You'll need it.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Slicing The World Cup Draw

Halfway through the Round of 16, and we got the Draws we were hoping for yesterday, From 1986, the Round of 16's 68 matched have now seen 22 Draws, an implied price of 3.09. 

Including all elimination games from that year, the 44 Draws from 124 matches make the implied Draw price 2.82. 

Our old friend Slicer has been touting the Draw on the Betfair Forum, posting the following:

I was walking through London's Hyde Park this morning enjoying the sunshine when I passed a park bench. An unshaven disheveled old man emerged from underneath layers of cardboard. He asked me for some spare change. I hesitated until he told me that his name was Martin Gale, the world renowned developer of the Martin Gale Successive Stakes betting method. He told me that if I gave him £2 for a cup of coffee, he would reveal to me a guaranteed progressive betting system for the rest of the World Cup. Looking at his appearance, I asked him if his methods were so successful why he was living like this. His reply that he had made so much money that it became meaningless and he wanted to go back to basics, living a simple life.

To cut the story short, he said that because there was really no outstanding team in the World Cup, and even the better fancied sides appear mediocre, draws can be expected, and that I had better get some sandwiches and shandies in to keep me going through many extra times and penalties. So I asked what was the bottom line. He said at the top level in most countries approx. 30% of games end in draws. So, he said, with 30 games left one might expect 10 games to result in draws, particularly as there is very little between most of the teams left in the competition.
He said start off with low steaks, back the draw in game 1-France v Argies. If you lose back the draw in game to establish the required prophet AND recover your lost steak on game 1. The system progresses like this to the end of the competition. With odds of approx. between 2/1 and 3/1, one can't lose too much and it will keep the interest.

Now- we have to decide if he was telling the truth about winning loads and going back to basics or whether his famed Martin Gale method has lead him to such losses that he is reduced to living in this manner.
I felt I had to tell the story of this meeting to you, my BetFair friends.
Make up your own mind as ever and good luck.
His friend is a little off with the claim that "at the top level in most countries approx. 30% of games end in draws" - how I wish that were true - but as history shows, Draws are a good bet in World Cup elimination games.

I'm also not sure where his friend got the '30 games left' from. There were 15 competitive games left at the start of the Round of 16, and now just 11.

I would also never encourage anyone to use anything but level stakes.  

Coincidentally, the Slicer post linked to above will take you back to June 2010 when the South Africa World Cup was in full swing, and it's a little sad that eight years later, I am still banging on about the Draw. The 0:0 hasn't come in yet, but there has been at least one such scoreline in every World Cup knock-out phase from 1986. I'll also mention that the implied price on the 0:0 Half-Time score in elimination games is 2.34, and 1.82 for the Half-Time Draw.  

Looking at today's games, can Mexico beat their famous "5th game" curse?
The Mexican national team have been eliminated from every FIFA World Cup at the round of 16 stage from 1994 onward, with the first incident happening in the 1994 FIFA World Cup when the team lost to Bulgaria through a penalty shootout, and since then were eliminated at the same stage from every tournament afterwards (losing to Germany in 1998, the United States in 2002, Argentina in 2006 and 2010, and the Netherlands in 2014).
Being group runner-up doesn't help their cause - Russia became only the second group runner-up to advance in three World Cups yesterday, so it's goodbye to the only two remaining non-UEFA or non-CONMEBOL nations later today.  

Sunday, 1 July 2018

VAR In Perspective

Since the World Cup started, there's been a lot of talk about VAR increasing the number of penalties awarded. Betting Tools Brian proclaimed: 

There have been more penalties given this world cup than in the whole of the last one in 2014 and we haven’t yet finished the group stages.
No doubt the 59 penalties awarded in the first twelve games, or whatever the precise number was, had something to do with this idea, but the longer-term evidence doesn't suggest that this is the case at all. Recency effect anyone?

As for 'we haven't yet finished the group stages', this stage comprises 75% of the tournament in terms of matches. The knockout stage is just the icing on the cake, although it is very tasty icing.

The current total is actually 24, (average 0.48 per game), which is indeed the highest ever in a World Cup Finals surpassing 1990's 16, (average of 0.308 per game), but the sample size of one World Cup is small.

Two top leagues in Europe used VAR for the full 2017-18, while England's FA awarded the honour of being chosen for the first VAR match to Crystal Palace in their FA Cup Third Round match at Brighton and Hove Albion earlier this year.

In the Bundesliga last season, there were 88 penalties awarded, down from 97 in 2016-17 and up slightly from 84 in 2015-16. A three year average of 0.29 penalties per game.

In Serie A, there were 119 penalties awarded, down from both the 136 awarded in 2016-17 and the 121 in 2015-16, a three year average 0.33 per game.

Those seasons were for a combined 686 matches, so to jump to conclusions about penalties based on a few World Cup games is a little silly. I don't have the monthly numbers, so it is possible that both those leagues saw an early increase in penalties before teams adjusted and the averages were maintained, but were that the case, i think we would have noticed. 

The average number of penalties in the English Premier League over the past three seasons is a relatively low 0.24, very much in line with Betfair's average 4.05 price on this possibility: 

Last season's top penalty team was Crystal Palace, with most awarded (10) and most scored (8), a statistic that reflects the amount of time spent in opponent's penalty areas. 

Saturday, 30 June 2018

La Liga Draw

Another top league, and as you might have guessed, another league where backing the Draw blindly isn't a good idea. A loss of 144.84 over the past six seasons when trying this, an ROI of -6.4%. We lost one match due to no prices, leaving a sample size of 2,279. 

Excluding matches where the 'true' Draw probability is 0.25 or lower will save you 110.39 points, while excluding matches where one team has a win probability of 0.4 or greater will save 88.9 points.

Using the relative difference in win probability between the two teams works well in this league, with the Draw in matches up to the 25% level generating an ROI of 8.81%.
When the Big 3 (Atlético Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid) play each other, backing the Draw is profitable +9.97 points. When the Big 3 play the Small 17, backing the Draw would have lost you 74.78 points. 

Looking at other derbies, the Galician Derby has an ROI of 16.1%, although there won't be one next season following Deportivo La Coruña's relegation.

The Sevilla Derby has an ROI of 9.6%, while the Basque Derby with five Draws in the 12 contests has a rather impressive ROI of 50%. When the other Basque clubs (Alavés and Eibar) are included, the ROI drops to 10.6%.

If anyone has any other leagues that they are interested in, let me know. If Joseph Buchdahl's Football Data website has the numbers, I can plug them into my spreadsheets easy enough. 

League Two Draw

Readers will know where the value lies for a blind strategy in League Two, and it isn't in backing the Draw. 

Not quite as bad as blindly backing the Home win, which has a -5% ROI, but pretty awful.

Two matches lost from the early weeks of the 2012-13 season with no prices, but still a decent sample of 3,310 matches. As with League One, there are not many games where the Draw price is 5.0 or higher, but unlike League One, the usual loss on these matches is present. 
When the win difference is up to 25%, backing the Draw is pretty much a wash.

The best Draw backing strategy in this league is to back it when the 'true' implied probability is greater than 0.29. 'True' in this case means that the over-round is removed and the Win, Draw, Loss probabilities equal 1. Because the over-round in this league varies a little more than in the top leagues, from 101.9% to 107.3%, the 'true' Draw price of ~3.44 doesn't correlate exactly to a Pinnacle Draw price. I should point out that the 107% over-rounds were all back in 2013, and the worst (from our point of view) over-round recently is 104.6% in 2018.

So if you do your sums, and back the Draw when it's 'truly' a .29 or greater chance, there were 49.18 points to be made from 501 bets, an ROI of 9.8%. There's also appears to be an edge backing the Draw when the Away team has a 'true' probability between 0.5 and .67, 23.26 points from a small 98 bets, a 23.7% ROI. 

Next up: Spain

Friday, 29 June 2018

An Average Start


The average number of goals per group in a 32 team World Cup before this year was 122. This year's total was 122.

England's Group G set a record for most goals in a group, its 24 goals beating the previous high of 22.

The brackets are now set, and only one possibility of a repeat World Cup Final, which is that of Brazil v Sweden. 

Updated from an article I had published four years ago, here is a look at the Round of 16.

Once the knockout stages are reached, it is probably not surprising that, with avoiding defeat the priority, the average goals declines to 2.1 per game in the Round of 16.

As with the opening round of matches, the most frequent score is 1-0, (20%), followed by 1-1 (17.5%) and 0-0 (15%).

65% of matches are Under 2.5 goals, an implied price of 1.54.

In the last five Rounds of 16, just six matches have been lop-sided, with half of those won by Brazil: 1998 Brazil 4 Chile 1, Denmark 4 Nigeria 1; 2002 England 3 Denmark 0; 2006 Brazil 3 Ghana 0; 2010 Brazil 3 Chile 0, Germany 4 England 1

The Round of 16 for the most part sees closely fought matches. Fourteen matches in total, and at least two in each tournament, have gone to extra-time, and six of those to penalties. In 2014, five of the eight games needed extra-time. The implied draw price is 2.85, and at the time of writing, this outcome in the Uruguay v Portugal game is around 2.97.
 

Hard to get much more of a three-sided coin toss than these prices!
Three matches are a UEFA v CONMEBOL fixture, with honours even at 3-3 in previous Round of 16 match-ups, while a CONMEBOL team has never lost at this stage against a CONCACAF team. The second most lop-sided tie this year is Brazil v Mexico, who have been eliminated at this stage in all five 32-team World Cups.

The most lop-sided tie is Belgium v Japan, not too surprising given that no AFC team has survived this round, other than hosts South Korea who needed a Golden Goal and some dubious refereeing to get past Italy in 2002.

After no all-UEFA ties in 2014, there are three this year, all in the same 'European' half of the bracket. 8 of the previous 12 match-ups have been decided by one goal or fewer, but only two have gone to extra-time.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Generally Speaking

Of the 47 completed groups to date from the 32-team World Cups, only two saw the winners decided on the 'goals scored' tie-breaker, with England the runners-up on both occasions (to Sweden in 2002, and to the USA in 2010). Both of those 'weak winners' were eliminated in the Round of 16.

Never has the next tie-breaking criteria been needed to determine the group winner, which prior to this tournament was a drawing of lots. This year of course, as every Japan, Senegal, Belgium and England fan now knows, there's a new criteria inserted before the drawing of lots, which is that of 'fair play points'. 

While Group H ultimately didn't need this new tie-breaker to determine the winner, Group G may well do. History was made in that the new tie-breaker saw Japan progress as runners-up at Senegal's expense of course. 

As Vasu Shan pointed out in response to my previous post:

Indeed, and this group is not a 'generally-speaking' scenario.

A semi-final appearance with Colombia followed by either Sweden or Switzerland in the way sounds a lot more attractive than one blocked by (probably) Brazil. 

Same for Belgium of course so it's no surprise that the favourite Correct Score is 0:0 at 7.9, and the draw is a rare sub 3.0 price. With the farcical possibility of both teams looking to pick up disciplinary points and conceding penalties (intentionally missed) perhaps, theses markets should be a consideration. Trent Alexander-Arnold coming on with the sole purpose of picking up a Red Card?

Winners Take It All

Of the the last 16 World Cup group winners from the 2010 and 2014 tournaments, only one (the USA in 2010) has failed to win their Round of 16 match. 

Since the tournament expanded to 32 teams in 1998, the record of group winners and runners up is:


I think what Pinnacle meant to say was that of the last 40 group winners, 31 reached the Quarter-Finals. 

The above table breaks down the elimination round for group winners and runners-up, so for example of the 14 group winners advancing with 9 points, seven made it to the semi-finals, while just one was eliminated in the Round of 16 (Spain in 2006). 

Of the nine group runners-up that survived the Round of 16, six were eliminated in the Quarter-Finals, while two finished third and one (France 2006) lost in the final. Three semi-finalists out of a possible twenty is surprisingly poor although it's a small sample size. 

It's also no help to be an unbeaten runner-up, with 12 of the 15 eliminated in the Round of 16. 

Five of the 31 Round of 16 losses by runners-up were on penalties, with only one group winner (Switzerland in 2006) eliminated by the same method.

Do England really want to finish runners-up today?

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

World Cup Group Winners

A very confusing tweet from Pinnacle this morning:

I checked my records, and in fact all 40 group winners since 1998 progressed, or will progress, to the Round of 16.

Not only that, but all 40 group runners-up also progressed, or will progress, to the Round of 16.

It's how the competition works. 

Not mentioned, but also a fact, is that the last World Cup winners who failed to win their group, and in fact didn't win a group match, was Italy back in 1982.

Somewhat related is the question of whether knowing which teams are already through to the Round of 16, and which side of the bracket those teams are, will influence England and Belgium's approach to the game. Going last and knowing where the sides sit is an advantage. What should be a good game may well become a farce with squad members playing to get cards! 

Perhaps the Winner A v Runner-up B format should be changed so that best group record plays worst group record. So in 2014, Netherlands would have played Greece, while in the bottom half of the bracket, Colombia would have played Nigeria. And Argentina and Germany would not have met in the final. It would encourage teams to take all three games seriously.

Monday, 25 June 2018

League One Draw

League One is probably the league I look at least. The top leagues are all interesting because they are top leagues. The Championship gets my attention because it's one step from the top and has some fairly big teams in it. My interest in league Two is mostly to see which established league club is about to lose its league place, while the National League is interesting or the opposite reason. Which small town team is headed into the league and will they have a unique surname. Wood or Moors perhaps for next season. And lost in all this is League One with its disrupting churn rate of 29%, and a mix of former Premier League clubs (seven next season), small town teams and not too many derbies - one London derby next season, and of course the world famous Dockyard Derby.

League One is another league where backing every draw is the worst 'blind' strategy on all outcomes. 
Uniquely, at least so far, this is the only league where backing the Draw when it has a 'true' win probability of 0.2 or less is positive, although 63 selections from six seasons isn't a big sample. Backing the Draw when it has a higher win probability is also positive, so the area to avoid is in the middle. Avoiding Draws when the win probability is between .26 and .295, and you save 201.6 points.

The difference is also interesting, although the results are the exact opposite of what one might expect. Matches where one team has a win probability of 60%  or more greater than the other is profitable is up 74.14 points from 807 bets, ROI +9.2%

The six London derbies, two Dockland Derbies and the four Fylde Coast Derbies were all profitable by a total of 8.40 points for what it's worth, which is nothing, but this league might be worth looking at further. It seems to be one where the previously mentioned churn results in the market not being accurate. Backing the Draw when one of the teams is odds-on is usually a loser, but here would make you 58.79 points, ROI 5.6%.

One final observation is that backing the Draw in the longest serving league member's matches is up 48.47 points over the six years. 

Next up : League Two

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Serie A Draw

For the second consecutive review, we lose a couple of matches due to the absence of any Pinnacle Closing Odds, which may seem strange for a top league, but is explained by Liam Brady's quote:

"When a draw suits both teams in Italy, the game will end in a draw. It's all to do with the mentality of the Italian people. They see nothing wrong in such an arrangement."
So we have just 2,278 matches in our six year sample and, no big surprise here, not a good idea to blindly back the Draw: 
Once again, ignoring matches where the Draw has a 'true' probability of 0.2 or less, saves you a lot of points, in this case 78.7 points. Ignore matches where the Home or Away team is odds on and save yourself 77.37 and 34.73 points respectively.
Backing the Draw in 'close' matches up to the 25% difference are profitable with an ROI of 2.56%. If you back the Draw only when it is greater than an implied .33 probability, the ROI is over 3%

As with the Bundesliga, one team has dominated Serie A for the past six seasons, with Juventus winning the title every year, with Napoli and AS Roma taking 2nd and 3rd places in all but two seasons. Lazio grabbed 3rd in 2015 and AC Milan in 2013. 

As with ignoring Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, so ignoring Juventus in Serie A helps, saving 92.61 points. Exclude AS Roma and Napoli and the loss is reduced even more. 

Italy has rather a lot of top level 'derbies'. Probably the best known derby is the Derby della Madonnina where backing the Draw is +7.99 from the twelve games since 2012-13.  

The dozen Derby d'Italia matches show a profit of 2.5 points, while the Derby della Mole shows a loss of 7.29 points. As I said earlier, ignore Juventus.  

The Derby della Lanterna is also a loser, down 2.34 points from 12 matches. while the the Derby della Capitale is up 1.42 points from 12.

With the return to Serie A next season of Parma, after three successive promotions - a first in Italian football - the Derby dell'Emilia will be back, a derby that shows an ROI of 80.75%, but sadly from just 4 matches!

The Derby del Sole is -8.08 points (I did say to ignore these two teams), while the Derby dell'Appennino is -6.6 points from 10 matches. 

Up 6.6 points from 8 matches is the Derby delle Due Sicilie while the Derby delle Isole is also up, by 0.85 points from 6 matches. The Derby di Sicilia was only played in one season, but was profitable +1.16 points. 

I think that's enough on derbies.

Next up: League One

Saturday, 23 June 2018

National Draw

The title suggests this might one of England's more famous horse races, but it's actually the next installment of on the rather more interesting topic of the Draw.

England's 5th level National League is another lower league with 24 clubs, and a 25% churn rate each season.


Here's a look at the numbers from the six seasons 2012-18. Note that there should have been 3,312 matches, but Pinnacle's Closing Prices were not available for 15 matches, so we have a sample size of a mere 3,297. I think we'll survive, but the National League isn't a happy hunting ground for Draw seekers.

But there is hope. Ignore the Draw when it has a 'true' win probability of less than 0.25 and 154.64 points are saved. 

The closest matches in terms of win probability difference (25% or closer) are also profitable, and 3.36% is to my mind a decent return for a basic strategy:

Obviously in a lower league, there is no Big X factor, and there's not much of a derby factor either. Not too many London clubs at this level previously, and the 18 derby matches over the past six years would have lost 10.88 points. There will be five teams from London next season, but there have been more clubs from Lancashire during this period and these combine for 47 matches (one or more must be among the no-data games) and a profit of 0.9 points. Add in the close regional teams Barrow, Chester and Wrexham and the 171 matches generates 2.3 points. There will be just two Lancashire teams next season. Nothing to see here. 

Next up: Italy


Bundesliga Draw

With 18 clubs, the Bundesliga has fewer clubs than any other league I've looked at so far, and the league with the most dominant club. 

Bayern Munich have won the league all six seasons by a combined 100 points with the narrowest win being by 10 points and if they are excluded from any Draw bets, a strategy of backing the Draw in every game becomes a profitable venture.

The loss on all games is 33.92 points, an ROI of -1.8%. Once again, the simple rule of ignoring the draw when it's priced at 5.0 or more saves 37.43 points. 

When we look at the difference in percentage terms, there's a decent ROI when the difference is 10% or less which is 13.25% and ignoring draws in the bottom third of the differences (67%-99%) range would save 47.91 points. 

When it domes to 'derby games', I looked at the North Rhine-Westphalia state which six recent or current Bundesliga teams come from. With five teams next season, this state has the most in the Bundesliga. 

Games between those six clubs, and for those of you who flunked Geography in school they are Schalke '04, Borussia Dortmund (these two contest the Revierderby), Fortuna Düsseldorf, Bayer '04 Leverkusen, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Köln, (the last two play in the Rheinland Derby).

The 118 matches between these clubs have returned 31.16 points, ROI 26.4%

Only four clubs (Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke '04 and Borussia Mönchengladbach) have finished in the top half of the Bundesliga for the past six seasons, and matches between them have an ROI of 22.4%. Of course three of those clubs feature in the regional derby games, but including Bayern Munich with this trio adds 15.08 points to the pot. 

Next up: National League

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Le Championnat Draw

At the risk of being accused of quantophrenia, here are some more Draw related numbers, this time from France's Ligue 1. Again, the period under review is the six seasons 2012-18, and the prices used are Pinnacle's Closing Odds courtesy of Joseph Buchdahl's Football-Data.co.uk site.

Backing the draw blindly in this league is a terrible idea, costing 109.12 points and a negative ROI while blindly laying the draw is actually profitable as shown above. Eliminating Draws with an implied probability less than 0.25 would save you 94.78 of those points, and it doesn't pay to blindly back the draw when the true price is below 3.6. Another 61.91 points can be saved by skipping these.

Using the 'difference' between the win probabilities, backing the draw in matches in the 25% or less category, i.e. the closest matches, results in a small profit of 2.09 points from 492 matches, ROI 0.42%.

When it comes to Big 6 matches (Bordeaux, Paris Saint-Germain, AS Monaco, Olympique Lyonnais, Olympique de Marseille and St Etienne), as with the EPL, backing the Draw in these matches is profitable, up 44.89 points from 170 games, ROI of 26.4%

As a top league with no promotion, the Big 6 concept comes into play again.

The Big 6 in France is debatable, (Nice / Bordeaux?), and certainly not as strong as the EPL's, and a Big 6 game doesn't preclude a short price on one of the teams. While the shortest (adjusted) price for an EPL Big 6 game is 1.4 - Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur 30th March 2014 - the dominance of Paris Saint-Germain means that 22 such games saw this price matched or beaten with the shortest price 1.09. Ignore matches with red hot home teams and the profits and ROI increase.

Next up: Germany 

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Championship Draw

I wasn't sure which league to look at next regarding the Draw, but decided on the Championship before seeing this request from John:

Obviously there is no Big 6 factor in a league with promotion positions, but it seems to me that these matches have in many ways replaced the traditional 'big' games for clubs which were (usually) local derbies. 

The Championship is also a league where 25% of the teams are replaced each season, which results in less predictability.

So how do the EPL strategies for backing the Draw hold up in the English Championship? 

Going into this exercise, my thoughts were that mainly because of the turnover of clubs, the 'differences' would generally be lower. 

In the Premier League only 30% of the matches are between teams with win probabilities within 40% of each other, i.e could be considered close contests.

Contrast this with the Championship where the number of such matches is 49%. 

While closer matches means more draws, it doesn't necessarily mean greater profits, or lesser losses.

To the numbers, and backing the Draw blindly in the Championship over the past six seasons (3312 matches) would have cost you 45.12 points, an ROI of -1.36% which is a better return, though still negative, than that in the Premier League.

For games where the difference is 25% or less, the profit is 23.14 points, ROI 2.3%, which is a lot lower than the same parameter produces in the Premier League. The raw difference is a little more interesting, especially where the home team is favoured, but not by much. Where the win probabilities are the same or the home team is favoured by up to 0.25, the profit is 99.68 points, a 6.9% ROI. (For the EPL, the ROI here is 9.0%). 

Backing the Draw when the Home team has an implied probability greater then 0.5 (2.0) would have lost you 25.50 points, while backing the Draw when the implied probability is greater than 0.27 would have lost you 106.81 points. As with the EPL, lots of easy ways to shed the losers. 

So in place of the inapplicable Big 6 / Little 14 matches, I'm sure some of you are wondering how derbies play out. 
Next up: France

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Probability, Difference And The EPL Draw (2)

"You can scream from the roof top what the secret sauce is and it doesn't matter because people won't do it"
Although it isn't actually my "All-Time" most popular post, blogger's algorithm for such things tells me that my January piece on the draw has certainly attracted some interest.
In that post, I promised to update the English Premier League numbers in the summer, and with the NHL and NBA seasons now over, and serious sporting investment opportunities down to just the MLB for now, I was able to spend some time updating the EPL Draw numbers over the weekend.

We now have six full seasons with Pinnacle's closing price data, a total of 2280 matches.

If you're one of the few people who have not yet read the January post, it's worth reading, detailing my interest in the Draw as a bet going back to 1999, before playing with Elo ratings and accidentally stumbling across an edge which became the hugely successful XX Draws. 
Admittedly 201 isn't a huge sample, but the ROIs were decent enough.
Ultimately the key to their success was finding matches where, after accounting for home advantage and recent form, the teams were fairly evenly matched, an effort that problematically took several hours to calculate each week, hours that I no longer had given that my new position required regular travel. 

One adapts however, and I mentioned in the January post the idea of calculating the difference between the teams by simply using the odds (Pinnacle's Closing Prices), and using that as your selection criteria.

For example, in matches where the teams win probabilities are close, i.e. the difference is less than 25%, backing the Draw is +78.91 points from 393 matches which is an ROI of 20.1%. Not far short of the XX Draws except that it's a return made with a fraction of the effort. Note that I remove Pinncle's over-round to come up with the 'true' probabilities for each outcome.

If we use the raw difference as our guide, i.e. subtract one probability from the other, we can pivot around the zero for a 126.74 profit from 907 selections, an ROI of 14%

Let's take a look at when NOT to back the Draw. Backing the Draw in every EPL game over the last six seasons would have lost you 61.17 points. It's the second worst 'blind' strategy behind backing the Away team, and probably no surprise that after six seasons, the only 'blind' strategy in profit is Laying the Away team, for a profit of 0.6 points and an ROI of 0.026%.  

Backing the Draw when the Home team has an implied probability greater then 0.5 (2.0) would have lost you 81.57 points, while backing the Draw when the implied probability is greater than 0.27 would have lost you 121.80 points.

Eliminating just one of these categories and you have a profitable strategy which takes just a few minutes a week to apply. Set up a spreadsheet with some filters and see the ROIs in the high teens / low twenties: 
These numbers are for illustrative purposes only

The bottom line here is that you really need to make some poor choices to come up with a losing strategy for backing the draw in the EPL. The problem for most people is that it's not the most exciting way to make money, and as soon as an inevitable losing run comes along, they quit.  

I've also previously mentioned Big 6 and Little 14 matches. Overall backing the Draw in Big 6 matches for the past six seasons would have made 14.74 points (ROI 8.2%) while in Little 14 matches the profit is 17.01 points (ROI 1.6%). Exclude Manchester teams from the Big 6 and the profit is 25.41 points, ROI 35%

Worth noting here that the Big 6 matches are currently on a record 10 game losing streak dating back to 4 February, beating the previous record of 8 matches from 31 January to 26 April 2015, while Little 14 selections have lost eight straight. 

In Big 6 matches where the percentage difference is less than 25%, the ROI is 60%, while in Little 14 matches it is 14.7%.  
“Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.” - Howard Aiken