Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Playoff and Cup Finals

It's that time of year where Finals and important matches come thick and fast.


Before my trip last week, I warned you all that in European Competitions:
For Second Leg Semi-Final matches where neither side has more than a one goal advantage, backing the Away side has historically been a terrible idea.

None of the five such Away sides won, so hopefully some of you were paying attention and either made some money, or at least saved yourselves from losing any. Liverpool did hold a two goal advantage, and were able to win.

With no favourites in any of the upcoming three finals currently at odds-on, backing the underdog in such European Finals is similarly not a great idea with only three of 21 managing wins, a strategy that would have resulted in a -54% ROI. Liverpool may well move to odds-on though before their Final versus Real Madrid, as they range from 1.98 to 2.08 currently. 

No winners this weekend for the EPL Draw System, with the ROI on Close bets now at 4.9% and for Toss-Ups at 14.7% for the season with just 28 matches remaining. 

The Football and National League Play-offs are underway, and in the Football League matches it usually pays to oppose the Home team at the Semi-Final stage.

The National League (Premier, North and South) is different, with the Home side usually value with an ROI of 9.9% from 148 matches, although at the Quarter-Final stage introduced in 2018, the small sample size doesn't yet reflect this. These regional matches start tomorrow but the National League Premier fixtures still have a round to go with the play-off final not scheduled until next month. 

There's also the FA Cup Final this weekend, with Chelsea making their fifth appearance in six years against Liverpool who haven't won this trophy since 2006. 

After starting as favourites in each of their last four finals, and losing three, Chelsea will be underdogs this time. For finals with no odds-on favourite, the results are:
Not a lot of goals as is often the case in finals, and with no more than one goal separating the teams in 15 of the last 17 finals the Draw at 3.8 looks like a value bet.

There's no place in the record books for fewest single goal wins in a top-flight English season with Crystal Palace following their first one goal wins away to Southampton with the same victory margin at home to Watford. As I wrote previously:
Crystal Palace missing out on the opportunity to match Darwen's 1891-92 season with no single-goal wins by scoring a stoppage time winner at Southampton. With two games remaining (v Watford and Manchester United) Palace do still have the opportunity to achieve the rare feat of going an entire season without a Home league win by said margin. 

Swansea City in 2013-14 remain the last club not to win a home top-flight game by one goal all season.  

Monday, 2 May 2022

Darwen, Tesla, Twitter and April Losses

No luck for the EPL Draw system this weekend, although two of the three qualifiers were level as late as the 86th minute and Crystal Palace missing out on the opportunity to match Darwen's 1891-92 season with no single-goal wins by scoring a stoppage time winner at Southampton. With two games remaining (v Watford and Manchester United) Palace do still have the opportunity to achieve the rare feat of going an entire season without a Home league win by said margin. The ROI on the Draw falls to 15.01% on the season. 

While there are still two-thirds of the year remaining, and much can change in that time, it does appear likely that the S&P 500 Index (US) might have a rare year in which it outperforms the FTSE 100 Index (UK). Of the 13 years since 2008, only one (2016) saw the FTSE come out on top but with April behind us, the S&P 500 is having its worst year since the market crash of 2008 when both Indexes saw losses in the 30% range. 
For me personally, April was the 135th best month of the 136 since I started tracking so closely, in real terms at least, saved from worst ever by March 2020 when the markets were in turmoil about the pandemic. 

In percentage terms April was the 129th best at -3.25% so not a lot to celebrate really. Tesla stock lost 19.9% during the month, with Elon Musk selling $4b worth of shares to finance his planned purchase of Twitter and my relatively insignificant Bitcoin holding lost 16.5% with Warren Buffett's comments this weekend at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting unlikely to help its prospects:
“Whether it goes up or down in the next year, or five or 10 years, I don’t know. But the one thing I’m pretty sure of is that it doesn’t produce anything,” Buffett said of cryptocurrency, as reported by CNBC. “It’s got a magic to it and people have attached magics to lots of things.”
He also criticized the passive nature of bitcoin, saying that if he invests in apartments, they'll produce rent, and if he investments in farmland, they'll produce crops.

"If you told me you own all of the bitcoin in the world and you offered it to me for $25, I wouldn’t take it because what would I do with it?" he said, according to CNBC. "I’d have to sell it back to you one way or another. It isn’t going to do anything."

Munger took a less measured approach, saying that "in my life, I try to avoid things that are stupid and evil and make me look bad - and bitcoin does all three."

“In the first place, it’s stupid because it’s still likely to go to zero," he said. "It’s evil because it undermines the Federal Reserve System and third, it makes us look foolish compared to the Communist leader in China. He was smart enough to ban bitcoin in China.”

Friday's losses mean that I am also now in the red year-to-date but by less than 1%. The net calories trend I mentioned last month - 1500 or fewer net calories a day and my weight goes down; 1900 or greater, and it goes up - was unfortunately reinforced after a month of too much eating and drinking and not enough exercise meant that my daily net calories averaged 2181 with a consequent guaranteed weight gain. 

As I mentioned previously, I shall be on the road this week for work which is never good for the scales with the company paying for my calories in and opportunities for exercise (calories out) limited but there is plenty of time left in May to get those pounds off. My employer made the decision to close my office location a couple of weeks ago, and so my working from home arrangement which has been unofficial since March 2020 is now official. This saves me several hours a week of course, and generally I've been putting the time to good use with 650 miles covered on foot so far this year, and the original target of 1,200 miles looking much too soft.  Back soon. 

Friday, 29 April 2022

Don't Go Away

The six UEFA tournament Semi-Final First Leg matches produced a small profit for backers of the Home team, with none of the ties looking to be settled, although the markets are predicting an all-English Champions League Final and all-German Europa League Final.


As I shall be away again next week, some comments on the matches next week based on data since 2003-04.

Liverpool are currently odds-on to win at Villareal in the Second-Leg, at the shortest price any Away UEFA Semi-Finalist has ever been. Away favourites don't have a great record so far, with just one of ten winning and none outside of their own country:
For Second Leg Semi-Final matches where neither side has more than a one goal advantage, backing the Away side has historically been a terrible idea. 

There have been 47 such instances, with the ROI on Away teams -49%, By way of contrast, Home teams have an ROI of 14% with the Draw at 20%. Of course it is worth noting that the rules have changed regarding Away goals, Home advantage is declining, and the sample size is still quite small, but it's nevertheless an interesting trend.

In this weekend's EPL, it looks like we will have three Draw selections in the 3pm Saturday games, with two currently Toss-Up qualifiers. 

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

UEFA Semi-Finals (1)

Another EPL Draw winner last night, with Crystal Palace and Leeds United playing out a perfect Draw, raising the season ROI above 15%

Someone on Twitter recently pointed out that Palace have yet to win a Premier League game by a single goal this season, and with five matches remaining, my research finds that should this remain true, it would be the first time this has happened in 130 years , since the 26 match 1891-92 season to be precise:
While not winning an Away game by one goal isn't that rare, not winning at Home by that margin has only happened on 15 other such occasions, excluding the two above. I'll spare you the details here, but let me know if you'd like the full list! 

The UEFA semi-finals start today, and England are again well represented with four clubs in the six matches. Spain and Germany have two each, while Scotland, Netherlands, France and Italy have one each. 

While this is the first season for the Europa Conference League, the data for Champions League and Europa League Semi-Final First Leg matches going back to 2004 shows a clear edge for backing the Home side with a 29% ROI from those 68 matches, a number which increases to 39% when limiting your investments to matches between clubs from the Big 5 Leagues. 
In all matches between clubs from different Big 5 Leagues (England, Spain, France, Germany, Italy) backing the favourite is historically where the value is with a 7% ROI from 573 matches, but when the two clubs are from the same league, the value bet is the Draw or the 'Dog.

Backing the Draw has an ROI of 11.7% from 83 such matches while backing the 'Dog has a slightly better 12% even, but what at first sight looks very exciting, upon closer inspection turns out not to be such a surprise after all, the reason being that all the profit comes from Finals where, as you all already know, the Draw is the value bet. We could see an all-English or all-Spanish Champions League Final and an all-German Final in the Europa League. The 'L' teams all winning their trophies would be rather poetic - Liverpool, Leicester and Leipzig.

Back to Champions League Semi-Final First Leg matches, and here is the record for Home teams starting at odds-on:
Without party poopers Chelsea as the visitors, a 100% winning record. 

Not that there have been any this season, or will be any, but in two leg matches between clubs from the same league, the value bet is to oppose the Favourite in the First Leg (ROI 17%) and back the Home team in the Second Leg - unless they are ahead - (ROI 38%). 

Monday, 25 April 2022

The Sting, Burn and Messed Up Thinking

April hasn't been the most productive month in terms of posts, with the distraction of a rare FA Cup Semi-Final appearance by my club, as well as travel opening up again for work which is great for air miles and car rental and hotel points, but disruptive to my usual routine. My next trip is in early May, one week from today, but despite the lack of new content, the number of hits is higher this month than last. 

A couple of comments on recent posts, which are always good to receive. On the topic of being able to bet on a result that is already known, Terry commented that:
Derek McGovern actually wrote about this in the early days of internet, you could get the results of matches and the bookies were still pricing them up a few hours later.

With new technology comes new opportunities, at least for a while. The film 'The Sting' from the early 1970s featured a similar strategy for horse racing using delayed wire transmissions, but I suspect opportunities these days are rather few and far between as technologies become ever more sophisticated. 

On the topic of the relationship between calories, exercise and weight, Simon M commented:

The book "Burn" by Herman Pontzer (the Associate Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke) published last year is very good on why exercise probably doesn't burn calories (like a car burning through petrol) yet is still healthy.

I thought the book was overlong (although I would still recommend if you are interested in the topic) but his appearances on free podcasts and magazine profiles do a good job of going through his research on exactly how many calories us (and our fellow mammals) burn.

Example: https://www.menshealth.com/uk/weight-loss/a39350294/dr-herman-pontzer-training-for-weight-loss/
I actually bought this book when it first came out, and can also recommend it. While 319 pages is quite a lot, if you're interested in this topic, and let's face it we all should be, it's well worth the time. Not surprising to read that amid mostly favourable reviews:
There have been two areas of pushback: one is people whose careers depend in one way or another on exercise being a great tool for weight loss; the other is the keto and carnivore bros, who don’t want to hear that we didn’t evolve to eat 100% meat.
Months with work travel are never good, and with the excesses around big football matches and the Tyson Fury fight, it's not looking like a losing month on the scales, with losses unfortunately currently being achieved on the investing front. We still have five trading days to go, but at the time of writing I am down 1.23%

A couple of Draws for Leicester City in the past few days mean that the ROI on the EPL Draw System now stands at 11.2% for the Close selections and 29.7% for the Toss-Ups. With just five rounds left, the two Merseyside clubs are keeping things interesting. Everton have played the most seasons in the top flight, and are the only 'Original 12' club still in the league never to have played outside of the top two divisions. They've been relegated just twice in their history but are now favourites to join Norwich City and Watford in relegation.

In March I mentioned that "In European competition, in Second Leg matches where the Home team has more than a one goal lead from the First Leg the value historically is on the Away team" and that "there is also an edge on the Away team when the First Leg was a Draw". 

Hopefully some of you cashed in with 6 of the 7 Away teams winning this month, and a 16.13 unit profit. The one losing bet was a Draw at 5.07 odds.
Of the other five ties, coincidentally all with the Home side trailing by one goal, only one result was an Away win.

One of the blogs on my blog roll is Bob Dancer's Gambling With An Edge. The world of Video Poker isn't an are of interest for me, but I enjoy reading some of Bob's thoughts and in a recent post he talks about how our reactions to profits and losses varies. 

Read the full post here, but essentially he "won" a $10 voucher from a grocery store on the same day as he lost $750 playing (I assume) video poker, and upon returning home, told his wife that he "felt great about that $10 win while the $750 loss immediately afterwards didn’t bother me at all."

His wife's bemused reply was “Your thinking is so messed up!”

I can certainly identify with Bob's thought process here. Some 'losses' are good, or at least healthy and simply part of the natural order of things. A four figure decline in the value of a stock index fund - not a rare occurrence if you have £100,000 or more invested - doesn't feel anywhere near as bad as a far smaller loss that was unexpected (dropping your iPhone and needing a new screen for example!) 

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Live, Maybe

In the early days of my second coming as a bettor, having accidentally discovered the betting exchange concept, I found a football (soccer) game that had recently finished, yet Betfair still had it as starting in a few minutes at the original kick off time. I forget the reason why the kick off had been brought forward by a couple of hours at short notice, but I do recall that it was an MLS game and it may have been moved due to the threat of inclement weather, which there can mean death and destruction rather than the UK version of inclement weather which means the rain will be slightly heavier than usual. 


As it was in the early days of being a born again bettor, my account balance at that time wasn't much more than my initial deposit of £98.50, it may even have been a little less, and aware of the popular maxim that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is, my investment was sadly rather modest. In fact I fully expected the bets to be voided, but they never were, and my balance received, in percentage terms at least, a welcome boost.

I was reminded of this anecdote by a story that broke yesterday. I'm personally not interested in betting on mixed martial arts (MMA) events, especially involving little known fighters or organisations which for me included the "Professional Fighters League Challenger Series", but apparently last Friday both fuboTV and the PFL were promoting live fights taking place that same evening:
The only problem was that the fights had been pre-recorded a week earlier and perhaps not at all surprisingly, "suspicious betting activity" was reported. The full story and fall out as reported by ESPN is here

As expected, both the Leeds United v Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers v Aston Villa games were "official" qualifiers for the EPL Draw System with the former a winner taking the ROI for the season to 17.6%. Both matches kicked-off at the published time, in case you were wondering.

Tonight's Burnley v Everton "Original 12" relegation six-pointer is also a match that looks likely to be a qualifier.  

The NBA Overs have started April strongly with a 10-4 record excluding last night, for which 10 of the 12 matches were qualifiers. Some of you may have noticed that the number of games meeting the criteria have increase quite dramatically during the season, rising from a mere 30 in December, to 78 in January, 82 in a short February, 139 in March and after five days of April, already 24 games. This is because teams are quickly adjusting to the new rules, and the average Total has moved from 215.2 in November to 226.2 in March. The regular season ends on Sunday.

The College basketball season ended on Monday night with Kansas just failing to cover the 4.5 points they were giving to North Carolina, who led by 15 points at half-time. I had the latter to cover and was feeling rather comfortable at the break, but Kansas came back, led by three with a few seconds left and had possession. With North Carolina having to foul, my bet wasn't looking good, but I caught a lucky break with the Kansas player stepping on the line by about a millimeter and North Carolina gained possession missing their Hail Mary at the end. A little early perhaps, but watch out for my Arkansas Razorbacks next season, just 219 days away apparently! 

Slightly closer is the start of baseball which starts tomorrow (Thursday). There's a new name to get used to with the Cleveland franchise becoming the Guardians (formerly Indians) and a few new rules to check out before investing too much. The Designated Hitter Rule will be in effect in both Leagues, and the extra inning rule of starting a runner on second has been restored after earlier reports that it would be discontinued. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers are favourites to win the World Series. 

Saturday, 2 April 2022

But Weight, There's More

Oh, to be in England, now that April's there
After a couple of negative months to start the year, March turned things around more than enough to make the first quarter a positive one. A negative quarter is a rare event with just five in the 45 since 2010, the most recent being the pandemic driven flash crash of Q1 2020, but while this one will go down in the books in green, the gains were driven by a few stocks rather than the broader market. I have six figure holdings in two companies, one is my employer, the other being Tesla, and both are now positive on the year after early struggles. A stock split is being discussed for Tesla which may in part explain the recent climb in price. 

Berkshire Hathaway also had a huge Q1 up 18% so far this year and while my property equity is also up, with valuations not always particularly accurate and the asset highly illiquid, I only use a percentage in my numbers. It also helps that I get my annual bonus in the first quarter which reduces the chances of a red in this quarter and all-time March was the 4th best in actual money and the 15th best (since 2010) in percentage terms. 

My sports betting was rather quiet this month. I was travelling for business early in the month, and the EPL Draw System is never good in March anyway as I wrote in January. The ROI on "Close" games in March prior to this year was -15.4%, a number that has declined still further after seven straight losses to -19.7%

Fortunately, results typically improve in April and as so often happens with these things, the calendar turns over to a new page and we immediately have a provisional winner with the Leeds United v Southampton game finishing 1:1. I need to wait for Football Data's 'official' Pinnacle closing prices before including this one. I was also on the Draw in the Wolverhampton Wanderers v Aston Villa game, but this game finished 2:1. 

Here is the breakdown by month as of March 31st as we enter the final few weeks of the season:
Backing the Away teams in the UEFA club competitions was again profitable, but the NBA Overs System had a poor month with a 65-72-2 losing record, but still a 53.5% winning record since I mentioned this in late January. There are only 10 days remaining of the regular season so this should be another profitable season.

Regular readers will not be surprised to know that along with keeping a record of my financial standing, updated pretty much every day, I also track my diet and exercise numbers.

A little over 18 months ago I purchased an Ōura ring, which tracks your sleep and measures the calories you burn as you go about your daily business. I'm never too sure how accurate these things are, but it seems to be producing some pretty reliable data. I believe Apple's Fitbit does a similar thing to the ring, but I've not used it. 

When I exercise, I usually track it using a Runkeeper app or similar, but these invariably overestimate the calories burned, which somewhat balances out the lack of calorie counting for the rest of the day but on some days I'm lazy or the weather is inclement and don't exercise at all. 

Anyway, with the Ōura ring estimating my calories burned (Kcal Ex) and my diligently tracking calories ingested - not always perfect, but reasonably close - I've been able to see how closely correlated my net calorie intake is with my weight changes each month.

The table below is sorted by Net Cals (daily) with a clear pattern emerging. 1500 or fewer net calories a day and my weight goes down; 1900 or greater, and it goes up. Ignoring the calorie burn, simply ingesting fewer than 2200 calories will see a drop in weight, but the correlation with weight lost is closer when using the Net Calories.

The bottom line appears to be that while exercise helps, weight loss or weight management is mostly about how many calories you consume. Perhaps no big surprise, although the minimal impact of exercise is maybe slightly unexpected. 

While I wouldn't call myself a vegetarian, I do consume very little red meat these days and I also do almost everything I can to avoid sugar.  
The "AUs" column is Alcohol Units and unfortunately (from a health perspective) I quite enjoy the social side of drinking. While I never drink at home - my wife isn't a drinker - I do tend to cram my drinking sessions into one or two days a week rather than spread it out over the week and yes, March just gone wasn't great due in large part to a significant birthday. No judging me please! 

Going 'dry' for the month and there's always a double digit weight loss (weight is in pounds by the way), but those months are usually ones where I'm fastidious about exercising too, unless I'm laid up in bed with a broken leg as was the case for the whole of February 2021.

Regarding exercise, I have a goal this year to covering 1,200 miles on foot. Last year I managed 1,050 with ten weeks lost because of the broken leg, and the usual target of 1,000 miles seemed too low. With 525 miles completed in the first quarter this year, 2,000 miles looks a little soft for a goal. 

The blue months are those from October to March and appear to be better than the 'summer' months, in part due to my habit of sometimes doing 'Dry January' and 'Sober October', although apparently not in October 2020.

Anyway, a little off topic with this and I promise not to update this too often, but I did find the correlation between weight, calories and exercise to be interesting.