Thursday, 21 November 2019

Why Betting Systems Work

Anyone who has ever spent more than a few minutes on a betting forum will no doubt have seen threads with titles along the lines of "Does a football betting system that works exist?".

Remove 'football' or substitute any other sport for 'football' and the question still holds good. 

While the question is somewhat naive the answer, technically at least, is obviously yes - betting systems do work, but the caveat is that they shouldn't work in perpetuity. 

In an efficient market with rational participants, systems will have a limited shelf-life, although as in the case of College Football's Road 'Dogs, this 'limited' shelf-life is 19 years and counting. As I've mentioned before, the good news is that market participants are not rational, but are influenced by biases, often long-held.

SmarterSig had an interesting perspective on the subject of "do betting systems work" concluding a very readable article with:
Systems do work, they work in the sense that there are rule based methodical betting methods that produce consistent profits and they work because they give people a valuable apprenticeship in understanding data.
Probably not the answer most readers looking for easy money want to read, but the writer makes a good point.

The same point applies to making a budget of any kind of plan. However well you try to accurately predict the future, invariably you're wrong, but:
A plan is important because it's the foundation to help you helping you project objectives and achieve your ultimate goals. Having a plan helps you define the full scope of a project but it also helps you stay focused, set goals and objectives, meet deadlines, measure success and debrief the entire project.
Or as Dwight D Eisenhower put it:
"I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable"
 SmarterSig's article also makes the point that:
There are benefits to system development beyond the uncovering of a successful system, one of which is the journey itself. Analysing data from a system perspective is a great introductory way to get a feel for the terrain you face as a punter. The amount of loss you need to overcome in order to become profitable and more importantly what factors move you closer even if in isolation or combination they do not quite achieve long term profit. The study will give you a greater feel for the biggest hurdle all punters have to overcome, namely variance. In other words the kind of winning and losing periods once can expect to experience even with a decent looking system.
What makes a 'decent looking system' is subjective, but because sports markets have inefficiencies, opportunities are out there for those willing to do the work. Just don't expect them to last for ever, which is why, if you should uncover an edge, you need to act on it. By the time you have statistical proof that a 'system' works, it will likely have stopped working - if you see what I mean.

In a liquid market, as I've written before, simply "picking your selections at random means you should break even over the long term, excluding commission of course", so even if your edge turns out to be an illusion, you shouldn't lose your shirt. Keep an eye on the sleeves though. If they are gone, it might be time to cut your losses.

This "@SmarterSig" chap (aka Mark Littlewood) might be worth following if you are into horse racing.

A quick look at some of his other posts show some quality content, something that is something of a rarity these days. He appears to be of a similar vintage to myself, although we differ in our opinions of Farage. In one recent post on horse racing, he (Mark, not Nigel) writes:
I had begun my betting career with a strong bias against handicaps which I now realise was a mistake. My belief that there was no point arguing with the handicapper who’s full time job was to make all the horse’s theoretically dead heat was incorrect but it took me a few years to realise this.
I recall coming to the exact same conclusion on handicaps myself back in the 1970s, although the direction I ultimately took was away from horses altogether. Mark writes in one post:
My belief that there was no point arguing with the handicapper who’s full time job was to make all the horse’s theoretically dead heat was incorrect but it took me a few years to realise this.
Ignoring the incorrect apostrophes, I remember avoiding handicaps for this exact reason. Larger fields were another reason, and for a few years in the late seventies, backing the favourite in non-handicap Novice Hurdles and Novice Chases with 6 to 10 runners was a system I followed, and I see variations are still in vogue 40 years later! Somewhere, quite possibly in the attic at my childhood home, are some notebooks with the results neatly documented in my 'just left school' handwriting. If my parents ever move, and 64 years after moving in they are still there so don't hold your collective breath, I shall put on my hazmat suit and attempt an extraction.       

Sunday, 17 November 2019


In the good old pre-Premium Charge days, trading sports in-play was where the easy money was, but it could be quite stressful. The relatively infrequent four figure losses are not pleasant, even if the edge meant that in the long run the bank kept growing. In the five years from 2006 to 2010 I had 59 such bad days, with one loss taking 275 days to recover (financially) from. Emotionally, it only took me 250 days... The point is that when something is stressful like this, taking a break can be beneficial.

With the less stressful 'bet and forget' approach that I have now adopted, taking a break is just annoying as effectively, every day that you are not active is a missed opportunity.

So it's always with mixed feelings when I come back from a holiday, run the numbers and see what I could have won, as "Bullseye" would put it.

I missed three weeks of the College Football season, and of course the Small Road 'Dogs had winning weeks in all three, including a 7-0 sweep in Week 11. Overall a 21-8-1 record, and when I'm back for Week 12, they can only manage a 3-3-2 week. For the season, the system is now at 54-35-7 and looking very good for a 19th consecutive winning season. 

Earlier this year, I wrote about being unconvinced by an 18-0 record. Barring a disaster, the unconvinced will soon need to explain away a 19-0 record, but yes, of course the market here is efficient. It's just a pattern... 

The same three weeks were missed in the NFL also, plus the Thursday night game for Week 11, but here I missed out on a losing 4-7-1 record. This weekend the system has four selections all currently in play - Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans and New York Jets looking to improve on a 31-20-1 overall record for the season. 

I've also missed the start of the NBA season, which in recent seasons has been interesting to follow from the totals perspective. Bucking the trend of recent season, it appears the points total isn't increasing, at least not yet:
The strategy of backing Overs on high totals does continue to be profitable, with the 224 total (58.3%) looking optimal so far.

In other news, this year's Fields Medal could be heading to this guy who has somehow discovered that coin tosses are NOT independent events...
Now you know. Good to know that such people are out there competing against us, and with such confidence. 

One final note is that while I was away, this blog passed the 2,000,000 hits mark.
It only took about 11 and a half years to get there, but as with accumulating wealth or losing weight, it's a slow and steady process (barring a lottery win or amputation of course).    

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

NBA Totals 2019

So I did say that yesterday's post will be my last for a while, but I don't actually leave until Thursday and I find I have a little time on my hands to look some more into totals.

After a slight misunderstanding, Bumby Lansford was able to confirm my numbers for low NFL totals in non-divisional games. 

The results from different data sets will always differ slightly, but over a large sample size, an edge should persist across all of them. 

Turning to NBA totals, which i briefly touched on yesterday, Neanderthal asked:
222.4 was the average total points scored last season during the regular season while the average total for betting was 221.7. 

For anyone else interested, I'll be looking at backing Overs when the line is set as 229 points or higher to start with. I would recommend keeping an open mind on totals as they have a tendency to change as the season progresses.
2018-19 Regular Season Overs
For example last season, before the All-Star break the average total was 220.7, while after the break it jumped to 224.0.  While the NBA All-Star break is approximately mid-season when including the playoffs, it is more like 70% of the way through the regular season.

Another way of looking at the in-season changes is by splitting the 82 game season into two halves which shows the first half average total set at 220.2 with the second half at 223.2, both by far the highest ever and quite a leap from 2011's half season numbers of 190.6 and 194.7. 

In previous seasons, the first half totals have generally been close to the second half totals of the preceding season, but last season was an exception, increasing from 214.1 points to 220.2. 

As you might expect, the sportsbooks adjusted quickly to the money coming in on Overs because of the jump in scoring. 

The average total was at 216.1 in game one, at 219.4 in game two and 222.6 in game three and 224.6 for game four. 

Worth mentioning that not all conferences are created equal, and nor are all teams. Backing the Overs in Los Angeles Lakers home games last season when the total was 225 or higher won just 31% of the time. The Golden State Warriors at home were also costly for Overs, at 39%, and overall these two teams were two of the top five highest totals.

While it is understandable that the public would push the total high for Warriors games, I'm not sure why this happened for Lakers games as the team were a mess from the start last season. LeBron James was presumably one reason, but he missed 17 games through injury and only played 55 in total, and the Lakers finished 4th of five in their division, and 10th in the Western Conference, again missing the playoffs.

This season should be different after a summer of changes, including Head Coach, and they are currently joint favourites on Betfair (second favourites just about everywhere else), to win the NBA Championship this season along with the other Los Angeles team, who they happen to play on opening night tonight although most of Los Angeles would have been hoping to watch the Dodgers in the World Series. 

The Clippers are nominally the home team, (they share the same stadium), but are 2.5 point underdogs. The "away" team won all four matches last season, but over the last seven seasons, the Clippers have won 23 of the 28 local derbies. 

There's also an edge in betting on more rested teams playing a team from another conference coming off an overtime game, but I gave enough free help in the summer with my post on conferences and time zones which included this comment:
I share this idea because I'm a generous chap, and by the time the 2019-20 season rolls around, you'll all have forgotten about it! 
One system that Neanderthal hasn't forgotten about is the BLUnders System that worked so wonderfully a few years back in a world where NBA scoring hadn't exploded exponentially: 
The System used 12+ favourites, but with the previously discussed increase in points, which shows no sign of slowing down, any Unders system is up against it. 

The BLUnders Away System showed a profit again last season but there are few selections and I don't consider the BLUnders Systems to be worth pursuing for a while:

Monday, 21 October 2019

Totally Without Evidence

After a losing week 7, the College Football Road 'Dogs bounced back with a 4-3-1 weekend taking the system to 30-24-4 for the season. 

We're in good shape for a 19th consecutive winning season, but there's still plenty of time for the wheels to come off the wagon, as happened with the Sooner Schooner yesterday. 

In the NFL, probably just five official selections this week, with the system suffering a 2-3 week. 

Bet Labs Sports posted this comment on NFL Totals:
My profitable baseball totals systems work the opposite way, backing Over when the total is high, and Under when the total is low (high and low being relative terms) so this claim seemed a little dubious. 

The average total for NFL games since 1989 is 42, although the average has been increasing in recent seasons and is now closer to 45.5.

While I don't have data for wind speed handy, I do know that in non-divisional matches, Overs hits at 50.5% of the time compared to 49.4% overall, but Overs don't come in more often when the total is low in non-divisional games.

In fact since 2014, when the total is set at 40 or below, Overs comes in just 46.3% of the time, making Unders in these games the value play.

Punters mindsets and biases tend to persist from one sport to another, so it doesn't seem logical that the MLB and NBA markets would be subject to a totals bias that the NFL markets aren't. 

As readers will know, Divisional matches are a sub-set of the NFL and have their own characteristics, and I've probably mentioned that these games tend to be closer and often lower scoring.

Again since 2014, in Divisional games, the Unders have won 56.2% of the time when the total is 40 or fewer, a number that climbs to 64.3% when the game is played on grass.

That wind may well be the reason for the discrepancy but always validate such claims.   

In the MLB playoffs, the Washington Nationals made short work of the St Louis Cardinals in the NLCS and will play the Houston Astros who won their American League series versus the New York Yankees last night. The Nationals are one of only three clubs never to have won a World Series game, a record they will hope to erase this week.

First game is on Tuesday night and the Astros have home advantage in the series. No Home Dog in Game 1, and overall this playoff system is showing a loss of 0.29 points from the ten selections in 2019.

This will likely be my last post for a few weeks, as I am travelling for personal reasons, and won't be back until mid-November by which time the MLB season will be over, and the NBA season underway. Very poor planning, but originally the trip was scheduled for August, but had to be rescheduled at the last minute, but there are more important things in life than making money. Well, so my wife tells me. 
It also means that I'll miss the moment this blog reaches the 2 million page views mark. 

Sunday, 13 October 2019

The Sophisticated Punter

The infamous Spanky has been calling out touts on Twitter again, writing:
To anybody that gives advice on who to bet and why you like this team or that team: anybody with half a brain doesn’t give a shit what you think unless you bet your own money.
I know I just insulted 99.99% of gambling twitter but I gotta keep it real.
Too many know-it-alls.
One reply, from an individual who is clearly confused, replied:
Anyone whose "bet sizes are larger" (relative to what? one might ask) and who only bets a game "every few weeks" is certainly not a recreational bettor. 

Having looked at some of his other views about the world, I suspect that he's not the sharpest of individuals, and what being "sophisticated" has to do with being a professional bettor, I have no idea.

As for betting every day, also false. If you're a pro or serious about betting, you bet when you have an edge, and only when you have an edge. That might be several times on a certain day, and no times on other days. 

At the time of writing, we are 2-1 on the NFL picks today, with the San Francisco 49ers looking good in their current game (up 20-7 in the 4th quarter) in Los Angeles versus the Rams. 

The Detroit Lions are playing in the Monday night game at the Green Bay Packers. 

Not a great day yesterday for the College 'Road Dogs which look like they will officially be recorded at 3-6-1 for the week. 

Ahead 26-21-3 on the season though, as the system looks for a 19th consecutive winning season. 

In the baseball play-offs, the Houston Astros have drifted out to third favourites behind the New York Yankees (to who they trail 0-1 in the ALCS) and Washington Nationals who lead the St Louis Cardinals 2-0 after winning the first two games in St Louis. 

Justin Verlander pitches for the Astros tonight, and they are around -161 (1.62). Verlander is by no means a shoo-in at this price, losing at -185 last season in Game 5 of their series against the Boston Red Sox last season, which saw the Astros eliminated. 

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Better Late Than Never

Twitter has been around since 2006, coincidentally the same year as Skeeve started his tipping service, and after 13 years, Skeeve has finally decide to embrace this new-fangled social media platform. You can, and should, follow him here @SkeevePicks.

A pioneer indeed, and with a long record of profitability, the account might be worth a follow based on the promise of "an occasional free tip, probably even an occasional free weekend pass." Here was today's freebie, which was a nice winner:

It's looking like we will have fewer qualifiers than usual this weekend in Week 6 on the NFL with just four Small Road 'Dogs. Here are the results for the season to date:
It's a Divisional game in London this weekend, but the London Losers streak continues after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost last week. They play the Carolina Panthers who are 2.5 point favourites, with favourites having a 22-11-1 record for regular season games at neutral venues.

We do have a Home 'Dog in the MLB NLCS game today, with the St Louis Cardinals currently at 2.22 for the second game versus the Washington Nationals, and a handful of College Football selections for those following the Small Road 'Dogs in that sport.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Braves and Kershaw Crash

Hopefully no one was deterred by, and by some distance, the longest price in MLB playoff history for a Home 'Dog on Tuesday night.

The Tampa Bay Rays extended the profits of this simple system defeating the Houston Astros 4-1 at 3.20. 

This season's results now look like this: 

Prior to Tuesday, the biggest price on a Home team in the play-offs was 2.6 back in 2009, and the average price is around 2.18.

Last night's loser was the Atlanta Braves who gave up a playoff record 10 runs in the first inning. At odds-on, some of you may have excluded this loser from selection, but six of the eight that have previously been in this category have been winners.

With a small sample size of just 134 matches and a 11.7% ROI, this isn't one of the strongest systems I've shared, but nevertheless Joseph Buchdahl's calculator gives the results a 1 in 11 chance of being by chance.

The final game of the Division Series is tonight, and at -280 the Houston Astros are certainly not a Home Underdog v Tampa Bay Rays. All three previous Home playoff favourites at this price or shorter have won. Not a large sample, and none were in the final game of a series.

As previously mentioned in this blog, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw has a problem in the playoffs, and it repeated again this season. He lost his only start in the Washington Nationals series, making it three playoff losses on the trot, and gave up a 3-1 lead last night after allowing back-to-back solo home runs as a relief pitcher. The Nationals won the game in the tenth inning to advance.