Tuesday, 23 April 2019

103%, NHL and NBA Playoffs

Another couple of Draws in the last two nights, including one (Chelsea v Burnley) rather unlikely one priced at 6.46, the second highest priced draw of the season. 

It was the 46th time this season that the (Pinnacle Closing Odds) overround has exceeded 103%, which doesn't compare favourably with just 8 matches in the whole of last season, and none whatsoever in the three seasons 2014-17.

After last night's result, it's now actually a profitable strategy to back the Draw when the overround is above 103%, but I wouldn't recommend it. This season overall is tough enough for Draw backers as it is:

but since 2000-01, it's consistently a poor proposition:
The Stanley Cup playoffs are now in full flow, and after a slow start, the COAL system I follow is finally in profit after three wins in the last four games:
As is almost always the case, the 'official' price for tonight can be improved, with 2.32 currently available on Betfair and to add to the excitement, it's a Game 7. 

In the NBA playoffs, after a promising start, recent results haven't gone in our favour:
No selections today. 

   

Monday, 22 April 2019

Pinnacle 3 Football Data 2

For the first time since Groundhog Day, there were two Draws in the English Premier League on the same day this weekend, so the Draws percentage increases slightly to 17.44%, still a clear low for the EPL. 

Four Away wins increases the percentage of Away wins to 33.72%, a clear high for the top tier in England all-time. 

It's not a coincidence that the average goals per game this season is currently 2.826 (more goals means fewer Draws), which is an EPL era high, while the average number of Away goals per game (1.244) is also at an EPL era high.

There's been some discussion on Twitter about the increase in Pinnacle's over-round this season, noticeably in games where there is a short priced favourite.
One suggestion was that it might be due to Football Data only giving prices to two decimal places, even when odds-on. 

I do agree that Football Data should use three decimal places to keep in sync with Pinnacle, but I don't agree this explains the observations this season because Football Data has always used two decimal places (occasionally three) and the big increase has only been seen this season. 

As mentioned, Pinnacle themselves go to three decimal places quite often, as can be seen from the current EPL prices:
The Chelsea v Burnley game tonight currently has an over-round of 102.984%. 

If Football Data round this to 1.26, the over-round drops slightly to 102.921%, but if, heaven forbid, the price is being truncated to 1.25, that makes a big difference with the over-round soaring to 103.556%.

Even with rounding in play, which I presume is the case, that extra digit can make a big difference, with a price of 1.255 being recorded as 1.26, the same as 1.264. Using the Chelsea game above as an imperfect example, but for the sake of argument, a 1.255 price would give an over-round of 103.237% while a 1.264 price gives a value of 102.67%. (In practice, the Draw and Away prices would move, but this example illustrates the difference rounding can make).

Looking at matches where the home team is priced at 1.3 or shorter, the average over-round between 2012-13 and 2017-18 ranged from a low of 102.04% in 2016-17 to 102.21% in 2017-18, before this season's jump to a current 103.08%. 

Friday, 19 April 2019

Shorter Odds, Greater Margin

Last night's Los Angles Clippers v Golden State Warriors official total of 236.5 points was the highest in database history, which goes back to the 2002-03 season, but Overs came in at 237.

The previous high (234 points) was Tuesday night's Game 2 between the same two teams in Oakland, which went Over by just 32 points!  

As you can see from the screenshot, I was on last night at 235.5 points, for a relatively comfortable win at 2.08.

Incidentally, I really don't like the way Betfair do their total and handicap markets these days - they are certainly almost impossible to trade in-play, and even getting on pregame is confusing. 

There was some discussion on Twitter recently regarding Pinnacle's margin increasing in the larger football markets, the top divisions in France, Germany, Italy, Spain plus the top two in England.

@entwolken produced a chart showing the margin increasing from 2% between 2014-17, to 2.2% / 2.4% over the past two seasons. 

Pinnacle emerged in 2012, and based on closing odds the over-round from 2012-17 was 102.08%, in 2017-18 was 102.11% and in 2018-19 is currently 102.33%. 

For the most part, the higher margins are seen on matches with a hot favourite, something I pointed out several months ago

Of the highest 52 margins (left) in the last five seasons, only two had a favourite priced over 1.4.

44 of them are from this season, 8 from 2017-18, and none from 2014-17.

With more 1.2 or shorter favourites in the past two seasons, than in the previous five combined, it's not hugely surprising to see the average margin increase, but if you stay away from matches with short favourites, the over-round is still only 102.1%. 

I say 'only' because we are now spoiled. Back in 2000-01, the figure was 112.54%!   

And for those of you wondering about the outcome of backing all those 1.2 and shorter favourites, you'd be up 3.62 points, an ROI of 3.73%. 

Back in the Spring of '69

1966-67
A rare personal post today, since it is 50 years to the day since Crystal Palace clinched promotion to the top division, then called Division One, for the first time in the club's history.

A very young Cassini had seen his first Palace game almost exactly two years prior on April 22nd, 1967 and a very old Cassini can still recall the excitement of that 1968-69 season. 

Palace lost just one league game after 7th December, and I can still remember the win at runaway leaders Derby County (managed by Brian Clough) in early March as the moment it seemed genuinely possible the dream might come true.

For perspective, prior to the 1961-62 season, Crystal Palace had played all but four seasons (1921-25) of their league history in the lowest division, either Division 3 South or Division Four, since entering the league and winning Division Three at the first time of asking.

The 1950s had been disappointing to say the least, with Palace having to apply for re-election three times (a record for a current Premier League club, although one that Norwich City with four might take over next season), and were knocked out of the F A Cup by a non-league side three seasons in a row during that decade:
Promotions in 1961 and 1964 were followed by the 1969 promotion season, one disrupted by postponements including two versus Oxford United. 
1968-69

Palace played only seven league games in three months, December through February, which meant a busy March (8 matches), and three games in four days over Easter, a crucial 11am game at home v Middlesbrough who were level on points with Palace at the time, followed a day later by a home game v Portsmouth, easily despatched (as usual) 3-1, and a game the following Tuesday at Huddersfield Town.

Promotion was finally clinched on 19th April after Palace came from 0-2 down to beat Fulham 3-2 on a sunny afternoon in front of 36,126 fans. Club legend Steve Kember scored the winner, and it wasn't the last occasion that he would feature in end of season drama, and always on the good side of it!  
Fascinating to read in the programme for a Friendly match in May versus Morton, how low key the comments of manager Bert Head were:
"Tonight's game gives all our spectators an opportunity of sitting back and enjoying a match without the tremendous tension associated with our last battle against Fulham. I sincerely hope everyone enjoys the game and - like me - is looking forward to the coming season."
They did things a little differently back then. I'm a Palace fan because my Mum lived in the area when I was born, and thus they were my local team, and first team I ever saw live. They have been a constant in my life for almost 52 years, and although they may not win too much, life is seldom boring. 

On the 23rd April that year, Palace did win the London 5-a-Side Championships at Wembley. 
Oh, when I look back now
That summer seemed to last forever
And if I had the choice
Yeah, I'd always wanna be there

Those were the best days of my life

Back in the summer of '69...

Sunday, 14 April 2019

La Liga, X-Weighted

Yet another English Premier League day with no Draws, and the percentage falls still further to 17.37%, the lowest in 114 years. Manchester City's win at Crystal Palace took Aways to within a whisker of 33.33%, with 111 wins in 334 games. 

@FootyInvestor mentioned the contrasting abundance of Draws in La Liga this season and at 29.97% at the time of writing, the current strike rate is beating the 29.47% of 1999-2000. 

From a betting perspective, the strike rate is, of course, meaningless. The strike rate could be 50%, but that doesn't mean backing all Draws would necessarily be profitable, since it all depends on the price. Finding matches where the Draw is under-priced is the key.

Regarding La Liga, I wrote last Summer that: 

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%.
As I did last year, I am planning to take a look at some of the leagues again, but as a sneak preview, I can say that if you followed the advice above, you'll be aware that the trend continues, at least so far this season, with an overall ROI of 23%. If you weight your bets, increasing stakes to account for the narrowness in difference the difference, ROI increases to 36.85%. While level stakes are the only way to measure the strength of a system, the optimal staking method is to adjust stakes depending on the perceived edge, i.e. Kelly.

Here are the results so far this season on the La Liga matches expected to be the closest:
One season is far too few matches to 'draw' any conclusions from, but going back to 2012-13, this method has an ROI of 23.6% to level stakes from 149 matches. 

Interesting to note the range of prices on these games, from a low of 2.98 to a high of 3.62.

Our sceptical friends, awaiting statistical proof, won't be convinced that there are opportunities here, but for mere mortals of us living in the real world, such consistent returns are, in my opinion, worthy of interest and indicate an area of inefficiency in the market. 

Waiting for statistical proof is great if you are trialing a new drug, but in ever changing betting markets, it's practically useless, by which I mean it is useless in practice.    

Saturday, 13 April 2019

The EPL Draw Picture

It's becoming a familiar story - another weekend, at least so far, with no Draws in the English Premier League, and the dry run since March 16th continues. 

The 2018-19 season has now seen the lowest percentage of drawn matches since 1904-05, with 1931-32's 17.75% record now passed.   

If none of the three remaining games tomorrow and Monday night finish all-square, the 1889-90 percentage will also be surpassed, although 'surpassed' seems an inappropriate choice of word to describe this potentially momentous event.

Away wins this season are still atop the 120 all-time seasons table at 33.13%, courtesy of Newcastle United's win at Leicester City last night and AFC Bournemouth's demolition job against Brighton and Hove Albion earlier today.

It's all very fascinating, but a curiosity rather than a money making opportunity. Fortunately with the playoffs now underway in both the NBA and the NHL, and baseball in full swing, we have plenty of those.

Yesterday's NHL qualifier lost, but we have one selection today and one tomorrow. 
To clarify the years and seasons, I have updated the table which now looks like this:
No qualifiers for the NBA playoffs today, and none for the Basic T-Bone System, which is picking up after a slow start: 
    

The Importance of Assuming Positive Intent

The NBA Playoffs start this evening, and there are some strong trends on the Totals in the first round that I'll again be following this season.

The numbers won't convince TechnoRondo, but I like them, going back eight seasons to the 2010-11 season, and profitable in every season since 2011-12. 

I was thinking of tweeting the details for your consideration, but have had the misfortune to run into two rather dim and rude characters on that platform this morning, who seemed to have got far too confused by this screenshot from last night, and it's rather dissuaded me from wanting to share anything at all.  
As readers will know, the "Season" in my blog always refers to the year the season started, which is not a problem for MLB or WNBA, but can be confusing I guess, for sports that start in one year and conclude the next. So in the context of NHL playoffs, Season 2018 refers to this current season, as I also made clear in my blog:
It's really not rocket surgery, and if someone struggles with this, then they may well not be cut out for sports investing, clearly lacking the analytical skills required, but we go from my polite explanation to this accusation:
Two errors? I can't recall the last time I made ONE error, never mind two!

If / when I get a polite answer to 2 and 3, I might give the two teams and explain his error in logic, but I really don't understand the need to be rude just because you don't understand something. Based on this encounter, I'm thinking he must be rude all the time!

"Assume positive intent" is a good rule to live by. Don't accuse someone of falsifying data just because you can't work out the answer. 

Friday, 12 April 2019

COAL Face-Off


A lot of analysis is garbage, but there are inefficiencies in the market that make 'coming off a loss' a strong trend to follow in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Here are the results of one COAL playoffs strategy by season, since as far back as I have access to the data, including the first two selections this year. 

It won't convince TechnoRondo, but it's good enough for me to risk a few pennies. 
We're on the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight, as we were on Wednesday although an overtime lost cost us the win on that occasion.

Models, Balancing and Unconvinced at 18-0

My last post attracted some interest, with a record number of comments and 'likes' on Twitter. The days of people commenting on blogs seem to have passed, but on Twitter they are alive and well. I don't always tweet my new posts, some are admittedly not hugely interesting and seem unworthy of a tweet, but for the ones that are touching on areas of high interest and controversy, I should probably do this as a matter of routine to keep the conversation going. Some highlights are reproduced below.

l0l0 started the ball rolling with some thoughts on the bookmaker's process:

the process I imagine:
1)calculating "true" probabilities
2)knowing the habits of your clients, distort the offer in order to have an equilibrate state of the book at the end to match the "true" probs

3)make noise(publish 'betshares') when the book isn't close to equilibrium
I think this is about spot on. I would add that they should be managing limits so that the earlier lines are open to smaller bets than the later lines as the consensus on the price builds, We actually see this on major sporting events with Pinnacle when they announce closer to the start time that limits are now at some huge number. Regarding the 'habits of their clients', if they have a client who for example bets only on Maidstone United matches, and has a high success rate, they might well be happy to have all their green on this outcome and risk a zero profit or even a small list on the other outcomes but a well run business can't afford to take big risks.

On this topic, Joseph suggests that:
@aluckyaday is probably right. Some of it will be weight of money, some of it will be bookmakers exploiting squares, and some of it will be bookmakers attracting new customers. The picture is nuanced.
We are in agreement. Doctor C ( @oddsvantage) writes, in language highly unsuitable for a family blog, but I'll let it go this one time:
So does this mean that people have such a hard-on for Pinnacle prices because they don't block/limit sharp punters (which allows for improvement on their odds) rather than because of their analytics and models?
Regarding the idea of 'loss leading' prices, Joseph clarifies that he is referring to recreational bookmakers. I really don't give these organisations much thought, because in my opinion and experience, betting with them is unsustainable if you are even slightly sharp. But sure, if you are clueless or a novice, you can get some generous prices. Just don't give up your day job for them:
My WOCs system cannot possibly work because squares are this dumb to force bookmakers to offer thousands of loss leading prices. Recreational bookmakers do this to attract new customers by selling the "we offer great prices" message. Then they ban for regular exploitation.
Indeed they do.  

Ian ( @maxpowers1981 ) and Joseph get into something of a spat, with the conversation started off by Ian suggesting that:
Balancing books is a load of nonsense. It's a sub optimal strategy. Doesn't exist in practice generally.
I'm not sure what evidence Ian has for this assertion, none was offered, but the idea that that balancing books is a load of nonsense seems to be itself a load of nonsense. No one is suggesting books are almost evenly balanced across all outcomes, but a book that starts gambling isn't going to be in business long, and there are certainly several books that have gone out of business in the past. A well run business like Pinnacle don't need to take risks. 

Anyway, the man from Del Monte, Jez, chimes in with a pithy comment:
You may be the only person in this thread up to now who actually has a bet, Ian.
An unsubtle dig at Joseph perhaps, who admits to not being a gambler, and who rises to the bait, responding:
You may be the only person in this thread up to now who has contributed nothing, Jez. My threads are to facilitate debate about things which are to a significant extent unknown and uncertain. I don't see your name in the Forbes rich list, so presumably you're not sure either.
Ouch. Jez:
Two tribes. Those who gamble - however moderately - and those who just like collecting numbers as a hobby and would otherwise be on a draughty platform at Crewe taking them off trains.
There are certainly some people on the thread who are known not to bet but who have no job and spend several hours a day tweeting profusely and writing absolute nonsense, but we're not here to name names. I've written in the past that for me, sports investing is my video game replacement:
I was thinking in the shower this morning, (yes, once a week, whether I need one or not), Betfair really is the ultimate video game. I've never been one for games, (friends at work spend hours playing Call of Duty - why? What's the point?), but in many ways the exchanges are one big on-line game. It's me versus an unknown opponent. My opinion versus yours, except in this game the points are real money.
The 'real money' part is important since it is absolutely pointless to study markets and look for edges if you're not going to make money. 

Regarding my clarification of the ROI and P-values calculated by Joseph:
I'm not sure Joseph has got his ROI calculation quite right, because an ROI** of 104.8% from 3,511 bets would certainly be impressive. I think from looking at his chart, theoretical profits are actually 168.53 points, which is a far more modest, but still decent, ROI of 4.8% and a P-value of 2.341 assuming average odds of 3.0, a far cry from the 0.0006 tweeted. Or am I missing something here?
Joseph replied:
Yes, you were missing something. I used my yield distribution calculator rather than my p-value calculator. The later is programmed to compare ROI to break even (ROI - 100%). In the former, I set it to the blind betting returns which from memory was around 97.5%
I'm still not clear on what the P-value should be or what I am missing. Is the ROI 104.8% or 4.8%? Is the P-value 0.0006 or 2.341? 

Anyway, @TechnoRondo commented:
Good article with some fair points. However, stuff like "this pattern was there in 17 of 18 of the seasons that pattern in 12 of 13 last seasons" etc is imo not really convincing.
The word 'pattern' was not used by me in those examples. I see a big difference between identifying an area of the market that is perennially inefficient, versus something that is a 'pattern'. 

A 'pattern' to me would be something like that in every third year, favourites priced between 1.63 and 1.87 are profitable in the AFC when the game is played during the day in a domed stadium, i.e. completely random and useless.

When 18 of 18 years sees a 50/50 chance tilt one way, (one year there was a small loss due to commission, even though there were more winners than losers) I'm happy to accept that the market isn't efficient. This is more than a 'pattern' because it's not random; the a priori is that bettors have a tendency to favour home favourites. We have a hypothesis, and the data appears to support that. Maybe not statistically proving it, but as I wrote in my last post, you can't wait that long and markets correct themselves. Usually. 

Do I think this market will continue to be inefficient? No, but I said that ten years ago when it was 8-0! 

At what point would TechnoRondo be convinced? 35 out of 35? 

I'd suggest that if you're unconvinced with a record of 18-0, then you'll never be convinced, and you really might as well be standing on a draughty platform at Crewe spotting trains.

I mean seriously, what record would be convincing? 

TechnoRondo continued with:
First you should get a limited set of patterns (draws between equal teams could be one). After this it should hold in several competitions / seasons (large samples are necessary). Otherwise it is still gambling but no longer on football games but on bookmaker patterns.
Again, these are not 'bookmaker patterns'. Prices are "in general" determined by the money coming into the market. As for looking at several seasons and different leagues, I looked at several leagues and divisions in June 2018. for example from the Championship review:
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.
I may do the same again this summer if time permits, but I wouldn't expect the same results from lower leagues as from the EPL as the markets are different, both in terms of volume and the participants. 

A Priori, Patterns and Sceptics

Not for the first time, and probably not the last time either, Joseph Buchdahl generated some responses and interest with this Tweet yesterday:

I'm not sure Joseph has got his ROI calculation quite right, because an ROI** of 104.8% from 3,511 bets would certainly be impressive. I think from looking at his chart, theoretical profits are actually 168.53 points, which is a far more modest, but still decent, ROI of 4.8% and a P-value of 2.341 assuming average odds of 3.0, a far cry from the 0.0006 tweeted. Or am I missing something here? 

Joseph shares another profitable "system" although again hugely inflates the actual ROI% and P-value, and then a losing "system" although most readers would be very happy with an ROI of 92.8%! 

His conclusion was: 
don't be a schmuck and believe everything you see has a reason for being so.

Learn what regression to the mean is and don't be fooled by randomness.
Joseph later retweeted his initial Tweet and directed it to someone called Massimiliano “Maxi” Imparato with the message:
It appears that this Massimiliano, who started looking at Draws late last year, is now selling something called the "Golden6 system: new betting strategies to take advantage of draws" using slogans such as:
The best time to bet on draws was 7 years ago. The second best time is now.
While I agree with some of his spiel, his overviews of his six systems are heard to understand, and some appear to be complete nonsense, with the word 'pattern' appearing several times.
Golden6.4 Missing Draws: The home team comes from a small streak without drawing, and a game of uncertain outcome is played. This run without draws can cause value in their odds.
Aren't ALL games of "uncertain outcome"? And what does a 'small streak without drawing' mean? Basically nothing, except that a pattern has been found that has no predictive value at all. I guess a small fortune was lost this year on Tottenham Hotspur, chasing that overdue Draw!

However, I do know that backing the Draw in certain types of matches, has been, and continues to be, profitable. For the English Premier League, the hugely successful XX Draws service had these results in its three short years of existence: 

Presumably Maxi is offering a money-back guarantee for any seasonal losses, a step first taken by this ground-breaking service, even if it was never needed?

As I have written before, the idea of the Draw sometimes being value was first suggested, at least to me, by Derek McGovern in his 1999 book "On Sports Betting...And How To Make It Pay". Page 87. 

His ideas were reinforced ten years later by an article by Kevin Pullein, a name many readers are probably familiar with. Pullein stated that one of the major factors influencing the result of a football match is "the difference in ability between the two teams". Not rocket science, but the article went on to explain why the draw can be value in certain matches.

The work of David Sumpter more recently has confirmed the idea that in some matches, the Draw offers value. Sumpter has written about this using the Big 6 for his system, although Joseph dismisses the results writing:
I don't believe his [Sumpter's] "inefficiency" is real. The sample size is too small. I've given you samples in the thousands with big profits to closing Pinny prices, never mind junk bookies, that are totally worthless.
I don't like using all the Big 6 matches myself, as teams have off seasons when they are not so Big, and it's more important to select matches where the win probabilities are close, whether they be Big teams or not.

And agreed, it is a small sample, since we only have Pinnacle's closing data going back to the 2012-13 season, but we have prices from other books going back to the 2000-01 season - all thanks to Joseph I might add.  

These pre-Pinnacle seasons had over-rounds in excess of 112%, but if we adjust the odds to reflect an over-round of today's 102% for the nearly 19 seasons in the EPL, looking at Big 6 (or earlier Big 4) matches where the two teams had win probabilities within 10% of each other, the ROI is 29.14%

Yes, it's a small sample, but it's all we have. There is only one Big 6 and one EPL so we have to make the best of it.

Despite the roots of the 'Draw can be value' idea going back twenty years, and presumably satisfying Joseph's requirement for some logic behind the idea:
...but you would be a fool to look for anything and believing there was any point to it unless you had previously developed a methodology that could explain why this pattern occurred.. That is the point of this thread.
To my way of thinking, it's not a pattern, and it's not random, if you call it out ahead of time. 

Joseph remains unconvinced, because he is looking for statistical proof:
No one has convinced me that draws systems don't simply mean regress because they are based on nothing. 
They're not based on 'nothing' if they are based on ideas first aired in public twenty years ago, and as I have previously written, "betting markets are not ideally suited to the traditional standards of proof, mainly because they are constantly evolving and adapting and if any edge is present, it should soon be discovered and the market will adapt accordingly."

If we forget the Big 6, and use all the data we have from those (almost) 19 seasons, and just look at matches where the two teams had win probabilities within 10% of each other, the results are still good, with an ROI of 7.79% from over 500 matches. At 20%, the ROI is 9.65%, from 1,107 bets. 

It's interesting to look at the Draw price in those 1,107 'close' games. You might expect it to be generally around 3.4, which is indeed the average, but the price ranges from 2.88 to 4.08. If you back only in matches where the Draw is priced at the higher end of scale, profits are greater. E.g. at 3.6 and above, the ROI is 30.9%.

I guess the choice is that of the individual - wait until we have statistical proof of a system, (with 30 Big 6 matches a season, I'll be 137 by the time we have a big enough sample), by which time paradoxically, the secret is out and the edge has long gone, or we make hay while the sun shines, and if the system stops being profitable, look elsewhere. You're certainly not going to make any money waiting for solid proof from the sidelines.

Edges should not last for long, but they do tend to persist far longer than it would seem reasonable to expect and that is because betting markets are not made up of rational people. 

Does it make sense that backing small underdogs on the road (College Football) would be profitable 17 of the last 18 seasons? That small road 'dogs in the NFL are profitable 11 of the last 13 seasons? That NBA road favourites after a loss are profitable 11 of the last 13 seasons? 

I could go on, but there's a difference between identifying inefficient markets (because the public likes favourites, or doesn't like favourites if they lost their previous game) and finding random patterns in past data as Maxi seems to have done, at least in some systems. Apparently he has something like 150 which is a sure sign that he's a little confused and selling trash based on patterns and data mining. When Golden6.147 starts to show a loss, it'll quietly be dropped while the virtues of Platinum12.833 are extolled. 

Doctor C tweeted:
I think the example [from Joseph] is to highlight the pitfalls of blindly believing some of the false patterns that can be found when data mining and the importance of splitting data into training and validation sets. I think....
Joseph wrote:
IMO the only way to profit from draws is to back draw prices that are deliberately offered as loss leaders.
That would only make sense if a bookmaker were saying "you can have 3.8 on the Draw if you also bet on a horse in the 3:30 at Chepstow". I don't think it works that way. Why would a sportsbook offer a "loss leader"?

A Draw, like any other outcome, is offered at a price because the book wants to attract money on that outcome, and balance their ledger. If money continues to pour in on the Home and Away, the draw should lengthen. 

Messrs. McGovern, Pullein and Sumpter have all explained why the Draw price is sometimes higher than it should be, and my experience with the Draw tells me they are on to something. Anecdotally, how many times has someone, a neutral, watching a game on TV, told you they put a fiver on the Draw? 

A Lucky A Day tweeted:
I wouldn't read into this that they risk a loss in just about every market. I would interpret this as meaning that their books are seldom evenly balanced, so that one outcome will always be more favourable than another to them. I'm sure on occasion they may even take a loss, and perhaps are happy with a push on one result but a bigger win on others, but if they are intentionally taking risks on markets, then they are not the well run business that they appear to be, and we probably should withdraw our money now. There's also likely a PR element to that statement from their traders. A "we're all in this together" kind of thing.

If Pinnacle's lines and prices never moved, then I could accept the statement above, but the fact is that they do move, often significantly, and the reason is simple. They want to attract bettors to one outcome and deter them from another, and they are not shy about tweeting out meaningless 'betshare' numbers to help accomplish this.

For the record:    

** The return on investment formula is:
ROI = (Net Profit / Cost of Investment) x 100 

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Barton Bank

A rare visit to the Betfair Forum this evening, and I find a well-written and interesting post (also a rare event) on the General Betting page from Barton Bank, who is calling it a day after 20 years. 

His interest seems to be fully on Horse Racing, which is not my thing as readers will know, but for those of you who do like this sport, here are some of Barton Bank's thoughts and comments on Horse Racing and Betfair which you may find interesting. I trust Barton Bank won't object to my correcting a few typos, and exposing a few more eyes to his message.

"Well, it's been fun, it's been profitable, challenging at times, sometimes frustrating and often amusing. Been doing this (serious punting) nearly 20 years on here and about 23 in total. 

The betting game has changed a lot in that time and will no doubt change a lot in the future. 

Racing is a sport battling against economic issues and is no doubt going to be facing some serious problems with funding in the next few decades which will inevitable further weaken racing both as a sport and has a betting medium. The silly season is about to kick off with afternoon and evening fixtures overlapping and the punter has several months of race clashes and plummeting liquidity to battle. I think it is going to be harder than ever and I wish you all luck with it.

Here are some of the reasons I am going to sign off my account and retire from serious punting (If you're bored already feel free to stop reading).

LIQUIDITY - (PRE-RACE as most people assume all liquidity threads are about I/R) - Anyone who has read my posts on here in the last few years will know I often comment negatively on liquidity on the Exchange but I genuinely believe it is falling markedly now (away from the big meetings) and can confidently predict that it is about to drop through the floor. We are now seeing gaps in prices and tiny amounts available even quite close to the off on UK races when they are not even clashing with other races. This used to be an extremely rare occurrence. A couple of grand (even very close to the off) can knock a horse from 5s to 7-2 or similar (this is just an example). Liquidity cannot improve and can only continue falling towards rock bottom because of the following factors (and others I have not thought of).


1) Betfair pushing all new customers on to the sportsbook - A few of the more successful ones may find their way on to the exchange but the vast majority won't and as punters die off, retire, give up etc the numbers of punters on here will continue to fall.

2) Declining public interest in Horse Racing - self explanatory.


3) Potential economic issues for the UK outside of Horse Racing which may or may not happen - it is not my wish to get into a political debate here.

Whatever the reasons, if you can't bet anywhere else and you can only bet on here within 2 minutes before the off and your bets move the prices against you nearly every time, it becomes increasingly difficult to convince yourself it is worth persisting. Particularly when you think the bottom of the barrel has been nowhere near reached.

DIFFICULTY LEVEL - Liquidity aside there are other issues that make it much harder than it used to be to strike value bets. For example:

1) Lack of "mug" punters - Not a great term and apologies if it offends anyone. I use it because it is the terminology most people would utilise. Anyone who isn't a winning punter or at least has some concept of value can happily bet with bookmakers who are delighted to accommodate them and to court them with numerous special offers and then take their bets on unfavourable terms. Nowadays Betfair itself is tapping into this market via the Sportsbook. Hence most people on here know what they are doing. It is very hard to lay the ones you think can't win or to get on the ones you think are overpriced (NOTE - this does not apply if your stakes are small enough when the very volatile markets may actually be an advantage to you).


2) Media saturation - The pace of races etc is now done to death so much in the media that it is now very difficult to predict the tactics of races because there is more awareness and therefore more likelihood of a switch in tactics to avoid a speed duel or being caught off a steady pace.

3) Increased overlap of form between countries - won't dwell on this, simply to say nowadays you need to keep on top of Irish form (doable but time consuming) and further afield (very difficult to assess without huge effort).

4) BOTS - A massive issue. Cross-matching between the win and the place markets is an absolute killer when you are wanting a decent win/place wager. There are clearly bots set to follow large stakes that appear and use their presence to cream off money by (I assume) two-way trading as the price inevitably contracts or drifts (if laying). Can I prove this? No, but I have been doing this long enough to be confident I am correct.

Again the above is just scratching the surface

MOTIVATION - Full time punting can't be done halfheartedly. You need to be dedicated. I'm not going to dwell to long on this as what is relevant to me isn't relevant to everyone.


Suffice to say - I don't need to make any more money, I don't want to follow racing 7 days and 6 nights a week any more and I think I have devoted long enough to it and probably owe it to myself to find a new challenge and do something else. I also don't want to keep having to consider needing to keep on top of the form as a major consideration in my life. As anyone who does this for a living or has done it for a living knows it can take over your life. 

You find yourself constantly clock watching, turning down invitations etc and even organising your holidays around the racing. I can't justify doing it any more. I've taken time out travelling in the last couple of years and intend to do more of it, which is very difficult to combine with serious punting.

I generally feel most of the time that I would rather be doing something else.

CORRUPTION - Another topic that's been done to death. So I will simply say this. The BHA does not police the sport properly and horses are been hooked on a daily basis. I've spent far too much time typing this to get it deleted by naming names and most people on here will have some idea who some of the regular offenders are. Some people say corruption doesn't matter from a punting perspective. But of course it does. If the markets are often cornered by a handful of triers it is much harder to get an edge. And it is quite easy to take "value prices" about some of the non jiggers even if you broadly speaking know what you're doing. I've benefited from the innovation of Betfair but I believe it has increased skulduggery by providing certain "shrewd" operators with an opportunity.

So in summary that's me pretty much done. I'm lucky that I have been able to achieve what I have as people starting out now are going to need to be a hell of a lot better at this than the likes of me. If there are people on here in ten years time still making serious money betting on horses, I salute them.

I've put this on here because the General Betting forum is a bit of a ghost town these days and it won't simply disappear like it would on Horse Racing. I thought it might be an interesting read for some. Or it might not. Doesn't really matter. It is more a stream of consciousness written for my own benefit in case I question a few months down the line whether I have done the right thing by moving on. I'll keep my horses in training and go and see them a bit more, I just won't be on here battling with the robots scrabbling around for prices in an ever declining market.

Bit like War and Peace that, but nothing like as well written (I assume having never read any Tolstoy). Hope it's not too dull."


Far from dull in my opinion, and others agree if you read the thread and comments. 

One from GoBallistic matched my thoughts:
I don't envy anyone who does horses full time on here. In the two decades I've been on here I've gone from 90% horses and 10% other stuff to 10% horses and 90% other stuff. I would be skint otherwise. It's only because I still love the challenge of working out a big race that I do anything at all on the horses
If you stick to 'big races' the risk of non-triers is much reduced, and the likelihood the race will run to form is greater, but the challenge here is that you are in competition with a lot of other experts, either actual or proclaimed, when 'working out a big race'. 

The migration to 90% 'other stuff' is a smart move in my opinion, one that could be made smarter still by going to 100%. 

There are a lot of other sports and markets out there. If you have the ability to read form and find winners in horse racing, finding opportunities in less efficient markets in other sports should come relatively easily. And with the benefit of being far less time consuming, an important consideration for most of us. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Over Easy

Hopefully a few of you were able to make a little money on the NCAAB (College Basketball) National Championship game last night.
The Overs came in comfortably to say the least, at a very generous 2.34, which was always too low in my admittedly subjective opinion, but an opinion informed by objective statistics. 

It was the second largest margin (40.5 points) for Overs in the entire tournament, helped by overtime, but the win was already in the bag in regulation.  

In NCAA tournament games where the line is two points or fewer, the average line is 137.3 points. In Conference tournament matches, the total averages 136.8 and in NIT matches, 141.5. 

One reason why it often pays to fade the public is that many 'experts' were influenced by the two teams combining for eight Unders in their ten matches to date, by a combined 97 points. 

It's called the Recency Effect, and from personal experience, I can say that understanding how this affects betting decisions is possibly one of the most important lessons you can learn if you are serious about making your sports betting profitable.

Virginia ran away with the game in overtime, comfortably covering the 1.5 points, and ensuring both our bets won. 

Incidentally, this season is quite a contrast to this tournament last year, when Virginia were the tournament top seed, and managed to lose in the opening round when favoured by 20.5 points.  

Nerds and NCAAB

With no Draws in the Premier League since March 16th, the current 17.85% reflects the fewest in the top division since 1931-32 (17.75%), and second fewest since 1904-05 (16.99%). 

Away wins currently at 33.23%, the highest in 120 seasons of top tier football.
Some may be excited about the outcome of the title race, while others are more interested in the battle for Champions League places or survival, but it takes a special kind of nerd to get excited watching the Draw and Away percentages reach new lows and highs respectively.

Despite the Draw drought, backing this outcome in qualifying Big Six matches is again profitable this season, at least for now, with an ROI of 17.5% from a meagre 15 selections, but in the Pinnacle era has a more realistic ROI of 16.9% from 142 selections.

In College Basketball, it's the National Championship game in a few hours, and the Virginia Cavaliers are favoured by just 1.5 points over the Texas Tech Red Raiders. 

Since 2010, as far back as I can go, -1.5 favourites in NCAA tournament games have a 14-9 record ATS with a slight edge to Unders. 

However, the total is currently around 120.5 which is very low for an expected close game, where the total is usually around 137 points so I'm on Overs.   

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Sliding Into The Playoffs

Hopefully a few of you were able to make a little money on the Winnipeg Jets last night, as they ended the regular NHL season with another win for the Basic system.

Using the US method of calculating returns based on risking the line to win one unit when playing favorites, the returns for recent seasons are:

Betting with level stakes gives a profit of 8.84 points and an ROI of 11.8%.

Although fewer matches means that there is more volatility in the playoffs, and some meaningless ROIs, this system has also performed well in these games.
Fully seven of those 22 wins, and no losses, were provided by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are again in the playoffs this year, which begin on Wednesday, coincidentally the last day of the NBA's regular season. 

Backing Overs on high totals has been the play all season in this league, and although at one time March looked to be heading for a big loss, a final week of 12 wins and 6 losses meant the loss was small. At 13 - 7 in April so far at the 225.5 entry point, the season will again end nicely in profit following this strategy. 


Saturday, 6 April 2019

Away Days

Tonight sees the final games in the NHL's Regular season, with one Basic selection (Winnipeg Jets) before we can update the numbers but what ever the outcome, we're in profit for the season. This has been a profitable strategy every year since the lockout shortened 2012 season. 

Here are the results since March to level stakes:

With no Draws this week in the English Premier League, the strike rate falls below 18%. Four more matches without a Draw and the percentage will be the lowest since 1905, coincidentally a year when some very fine clubs were formed. 
In not unrelated news, the treble by Away teams earlier today has moved the Away strike rate to an all-time high, for the first time exceeding one in three.


Several years ago I wrote about the decline of home advantage in the Premier League, and it's noticeable that five of the top ten all-time seasons for Aways have been in the last eight seasons.

With VAR coming next season, I expend this trend to continue.

Flipping Nonsense and Accumulating Perception

Pinnacle have some excellent articles on their website, check out anything from Joseph Buchdahl as an example, but as I have written before, they also have some frankly awful ones.

Links to a couple of recent ones appeared on my Twitter timeline, and while I hate to be negative, I have to say they are probably two of the worst I have seen Pinnacle publish.

The first one is called "Flip a house, make a bet: Real estate vs. betting" and attempts to make a comparison between flipping a house and making a bet. 

I guess if you try hard enough, you can draw parallels between pretty much any two trading activities, be it physical things such as property or fine art, or more ephemeral trading on things such as stocks, bonds, options, futures, currencies or betting, but the goal when trading anything is always to buy low and sell high, and the market is irrelevant. This is not news. 

The article begins by misstating the definition of house flipping.  

What is house flipping?
Flipping a house refers to purchasing a piece of real estate at a low value, doing renovations or repairs and then earning a profit by selling it back on the market for a higher value. Professionals that flip houses look for real estate that fits a certain profile in a specific market condition before purchasing.

This is incorrect. The term for this is "fix and flip" and the "fix" part makes a huge difference. You can't just ignore it! Flipping involves no improvements!

The equivalent of "fix and flip" in betting terms would be to back a team, then go out and buy Wilfried Zaha, and lay off when the news gets out that he's playing. 

The article goes on to state the obvious - that traders look for something that is "underpriced". Brilliant. To make it sound a little more impressive, we get this quote:
Pricing models that account for matchups within the game generate estimated probabilities and return on investment is determines the edge.
Which of course makes no sense at all. There follows a lot of nonsense about "neighbourhood location or foundation repairs" but it's just meaningless filler to pad out the 'article'. Here's more garbage:
The equivalent in sports betting is betting on teams playing multiple games below their average at a discounted price against teams playing multiple games above their average. Millions of people make a living purchasing buy low homes in real estate, but in sports betting, the idea of buying low is often disregarded. Many bettors mistakenly believe value is only determined by the result. 
Oh dear. The writer seems to have no idea how accurate the football markets are these days.

The conclusion isn't even enlightening:
The goal is always to make an investment at a price that is better than what the rest of the market is willing to pay. If bettors can focus on getting a price better than market value – especially at Pinnacle Sports – they will always be a winner long term.
No kidding Sherlock! It's called 'finding value' and that's what trading is all about.  

However, if the rest of the market isn't willing to pay the price that you are willing to pay, if it's a liquid market you should think very closely about why this might be. 

Hint: It's probably not because you are the most knowledgeable person in the market. 

With house flipping, it's the same, especially if you are a novice. As the writer notes, lots of people flip houses full-time. If they are happy to let you buy one at a certain price, it's because they don't want it for that price. It is not value. 

So no, house-flipping (or fix and flipping) and betting have nothing in common other than being markets in which one can trade. One requires a rather large investment, a lot of paperwork on both sides of the transaction, and a lot of time (during which the entire housing market could collapse), the other requires very little money, and typically the profit (or more likely loss), is determined in a much shorter time-frame.  

The second article is titled "Using push and pull spots in betting" and is similarly awful with lots of impressive sounding phrases, but nothing that makes much sense. It reminds me of the stuff Mel used to write

The title is an anagram of "In a blighted pulping, snot punts us" and that would make far more sense. The article should be pulped for sure. Here's a sample:
A push and pull spot is one my preferred angles when handicapping sports. The main difference between a "buy low, sell high" and a push and pull is that a push and pull is a buy low and sell high going directly against each other. The market situation sets up when the market is heavily buying one team and selling the other.
The “pushing” of the value up and “pulling” of the value down stretches the market above and below the true price. Bettors who can spot the difference are able to squeeze out considerable value in their wagers.
Push and pull spots are most frequently created by accumulating perception. It is not a stretch to say that teams performing above average and winning will draw more money and attention than teams performing below average and losing, but the important thing to evaluate in push and pull spots is the odds movements in prior games.
If that makes sense to you, then you are a better person than me. Then the writer falls into the "Nordsted Nonsense" trap by looking for a signal where there is just noise: 

A good place to start looking for market precedence is in recent matchups between the two teams during the same season. Each price in a betting market is initially set based off of a bookmakers’ rating.

Unless there are critical injuries or major adjustments within the team, the odds between two matchups of the same team should be the same price with the difference of venue change and home field advantage.
Teams change all the time, and even if identical line-ups faced each other a week apart at the same location, I doubt that the prices would be the same for the simple reason that we have more data to use prior to the second game. 

The ratings / goal scoring expectancies for the teams will have changed. The days of looking at form and thinking WWWWWW is automatically better than LLLLLL are gone, or should be. If those Ws are from games against the likes of Huddersfield Town and the Ls against the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, the team with the Ls might well be favoured. The writer completely misses this rather important fact, suggesting that:
Bettors should start by seeking out static prices in the betting market. An evaluation of the past five to seven matches should be done to see if one team is producing winning results while the other is producing losing results – remember to look for extreme streaks only.
Good luck with that strategy. You'll need it, and teams don't "produce winning / losing results" - teams are simply winning or losing.  

Following the 'advice' in either of these 'articles' will however, result in the production of non-positively oriented outcomes in the sub-zero range. Whoever is approving these 'articles' for release needs to start reading them first.