Friday 30 May 2008

To Post Or Not To Post?

John The Gambler posted something earlier today which irritated me just a little, probably because I took his comments personally.

He wrote “Why these part-time bloggers even bother is beyond me. If you don't blog everyday give it up, and do us all a favour.”

Could it be because most people have lives John? They go to work, they come home, they relax in a manner (manor if very rich) of their choice (dinner, movies, Betfair, a good book, a few beers, a lover etc.) and then they go to bed (with lover if lucky). Blogging is a part-time hobby for most people, to be done as and when time allows.

And how does not posting anything at all “do us all a favour”? Some of my posts are incredibly thought-provoking and challenging, and surely it is better to post something of substance once a week, than to post daily but say nothing related to the supposed theme of the blog, in John’s case – ‘A Year In The Life Of An Online Gambler’. He closed his online account two months ago!

Incidentally, the definition of a blog is “a website, usually maintained by an individual, with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video.”

Note that the definition states regular entries, not frequent, and certainly no mention of daily.

Thursday 22 May 2008


Courtesy of John the Gambler, this blog kinda puts everything into perspective. Next time you think you've had a bad day, remind yourself that you really haven't.

Wednesday 21 May 2008

Bankroll / Money Management

I have been asked to describe my money / bankroll management techniques. In my reply to the request, I suggested that the answer might be disappointing, because the simple answer is that for the type of investing that I do, it is not possible to manage a bankroll in the same way as it is for ‘system’ type gambling.

To try to explain this further, my style is to look for value. In an earlier post I mentioned a Celtics NBA game against the Sixers where the score was tied with 5:01 left in the game. I saw a chunk of money wanting to back the Celtics at 1.3 and this seemed to me to be a good value lay, so I layed every penny that was available. Had there been £2 trying to back Boston at that price, I would have taken it, and had there been £16,000 there I would have taken it. The key point is that I felt that the price was very good value and with an instantaneous decision to be made (the in-play market waits for no man) I do not have the luxury of time to work out the appropriate stake using the Kelly criterion even if this were possible, which I very much doubt given that whilst similar situations can repeat in basketball, identical situations do not. I do limit myself to losing no more than £5,000 on any single investment by not requesting Betfair to raise my limit, so this does guarantee that no single loss can exceed (currently) 21% of my bankroll. Also, it is rare indeed for me to find a value bet with anywhere close to this amount of money available.

When I offer odds, I tend to stay within the £1,000 to £2,000 risk range, (4.34% - 8.68%) but if the market is liquid and I feel there is a good chance of being matched for more at a value price, then I will offer, or attempt to back with, more than this amount.

So the bottom line is that there is no hard and fast rule for managing my money. If I see or can get value, then I am in for anything up to 21% or so. It all depends on the situation.

My mistake a couple of days ago was to risk £4,000 on a bet that was borderline value. That is too close to gambling for my liking and I will take the loss on the chin, learn the lesson, and put it behind me.

One thing I do seem to be able to do is learn from my mistakes. I started this venture with £100 in March 2004, and by September 10th 2005, had turned this into £21.40, with the balance at over £1,000 in-between. At that point I decided to get serious about it, treat it as a business rather than a hobby, and make it work. Despite the setbacks this week, I feel I am well on the way. I may post a lessons learned / rules to invest by some time.

As always, comments welcome, but please don’t post any links to casino gambling sites. They are not for me.

John The Gambler

I have written previously about the famous 'John The Gambler' but once again he is calling it quits so far as gambling is concerned. He had a well documented bad loss a while ago, although I never did read what the amount was, but in a way that is quite irrelevant. The fact is that however much it was, it was more than John was comfortable losing. 

Since I'm coming off two bad losses myself, I thought I might comment on this. For me, I am usually fairly disciplined, and just made a stupid decision on Sunday to involve myself in a game that I knew I wouldn't be able to see to its conclusion. My daughter is much more important to me, and as my very understanding girlfriend said to me later, in a few months/years I won't recall losing the money, but I will remember seeing my daughter in her show. She's very wise, as well as beautiful.

Yesterday's loss was just one of those losses that I still consider was value, but just didn't work out. What I'm not so happy about is the size of the loss, but I have learned another valuable lesson.

There are other reasons why I am comfortable with my losses, if comfortable is the right word. I funded my Betfair account with £100 back in March 2004 and haven't put in another penny since, so any losses are not directly out of my pocket. The other reason is that I have put together a long run of winning months, and although I am disappointed to see that come to an end, in a way it's a reality check for me not to take winning for granted so all-in-all I shall just take the past two days on the chin and get back on the horse with a solid profit on the Celtics tonight.

And this Betfair lark is also great entertainment for me. This may sound crazy, but the amount of money I win or lose is not so important to me as the mental challenge of finding value, or to put it another way, outwitting someone else who is sitting at home weighing up the odds in his underpants. Poor use of English grammar I know, but quite intentional.

The money is just numbers in an account, so it's easy to lose touch with reality. I would never dream of putting down £400, never mind £4,000 in cash, but numbers on a screen are a little like betting in a casino with chips. It's not really money. Except that it is.

How about a few comments? Like John said in his blog, it gets lonely out here.

So THAT's Why They Call It Gambling

Two bad days on the NBA to report. Sunday, I made the mistake of getting involved in a game knowing that I would only be able to watch the first half and of course got caught on the wrong side of a run by the Celtics who were up by nine at the half. The question was cut my losses and 'red-up' at a loss of £1,846.89 or leave a bet out there in the hopes that it would get hit. I decided to take the loss and of course the Cavaliers came back to within 1 in the fourth quarter which, had I been home, would have meant not only getting out with no loss, but also with a healthy profit. But my mistake for getting involved in the first place.

Now to Monday's loss. Hornets at home in Game 7, down by 10 against the Spurs at half-time, and the Spurs trading at 1.5x. I was quite convinced that the Hornets would make a run at some point, and I guess they did by getting within 3 with 1 minute left in the game, but unfortunately that was too late to allow me to get out of another big loss. £3,885.62 to be precise. All rather depressing really, but that's life. I've had a stellar run of 12 winning months, so if May ends up being a loser, and it will take a minor miracle for it not to, then it's not the end of the world. I hate to think that I was chasing on the second bet, but if I am honest with myself, I was. I do take big positions where I think there is value, but I held on longer than I should have done, so lessons learned, back to basics and onward and upward.

Sunday 18 May 2008

There's Something In My Eye

Congratulations Pompey

It's been a long day today with very little betting. A friend of many years, (I don't have many) over 20 of them, hails from Portsmouth and I have given him much abuse over the years about the fortunes of his local team. So when he invited me to a party to watch the FA Cup Final today, I could hardly say no. Of course his wireless Internet wasn't working, but some things in life are more important than betting. Yes, really.

Not the greatest of games, but finals are usually disappointing since teams are there to win, not to look pretty, but it was great for him to see his team win the cup. Probably a once-in-a-lifetime moment, but one never knows, and I'm sure that like myself, he never seriously thought he would see his team win the Cup. How much more it meant to him than it would have meant to any supporter of the 'Big Four'. Winning gets (almost) as old as losing, (although betting is an exception I guess) but surely even the most fanatical United fan would admit that winning any trophy for the nth time isn't as precious as winning the first or the first in a lifetime.

One sad fact - of the guys at the party, I was the only one who has never seen his team win the Cup. One day. Please God...who just happens to have his own blog - check it out:

Monday 12 May 2008

All Or Nothing

How fickle the gods of gambling are. After a positive start to my Sunday with a lay of the Over 2.5 goals in the Chelsea - Bolton game (I love those pre-game odds-on Overs bets) my day got steadily worse.

I then lost all the winnings from the above bet when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim couldn't hold on to a lead, and market illiquidity meant that I was unable to lay my 'value' investment off.

I did admittedly make a small sum on the Utah Jazz - Los Angeles Lakers game, but lost that and much more on the San Antonio Spurs - New Orleans Hornets game when the Spurs just ran away with the game after half-time.

New strategy for the NBA play-offs - back the home team pre-game and go to bed. 14 of 15 conference semis have been won by the home team. Cue a win for the Boston Celtics tonight...

And finally a value bet in the late baseball game between the Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox went pear shaped although the Red Sox did come within a hit of giving me a nice win. They do say it's a game of inches.

And so after twelve consecutive months of profitablity, I am now in the red for May but with 21 days to recover and maintain my streak.

But it does seem to me that there are times when everything you touch turns to gold, or at least green, and other times when nothing you do is right.

Thursday 1 May 2008

NBA Trading - Thoughts

BB’s NBA trading blog I mentioned earlier got me thinking. It’s no secret that successful trading means buy low/sell high, or in Betfair terms, back high/lay low. Of course, this is easier said than done. If you read books on trading, usually written with the financial markets in mind, you will read about entry and exit points. It’s not difficult to devise these for non-financial markets. For example with basketball, you could set a rule that if a game is tied or the pre-game underdog is within ‘x’ number of points at the end of the first quarter, and the price on the pre-game favourite has moved less than ‘y’ percent, then this is a signal to enter the market.

One big difference between highly liquid financial markets and relatively illiquid basketball markets is the inability to set a stop-loss. BB mentioned in one post that he layed the Lakers at 1.17 and had a stop loss at 1.10 should they continue to play well. Personally with a lay at the 1.17 mark, I wouldn’t be too concerned about a stop-loss. The downside is already very limited, but when entering a market at a higher price, the inability to set a stop loss can be expensive. Just look at tight games in the last couple of minutes. The price doesn’t smoothly drop in .01 increments, but plummets from say 20 to 5 to 2.3 to 1.2 with little activity between those points.

A recent example was last night’s game between the Cavaliers and the Wizards. Note that all times and prices are approximate because in the heat of battle I do not have time to record everything. Essentially the situation was that with a minute left, the Cavaliers were up by 5 points and were trading at 1.05 or so. For me this is a great lay opportunity. The last minute in an NBA game can last for an eternity, and if I am ever told by a doctor that I have a minute to live, I am going to request that it is the last minute of a close NBA game.

I digress. Laying at 1.05 meant that the downside was minimal, but the upside was huge. One score by the Wizards, and the price moved nicely out to 1.25 or so. Then the Wizards got a stop, and scored again – now the price was out to 1.7 or so. When the Wizards took the lead with about 3.6 seconds to go, the price on the Cavaliers had shot out to 6.0 or so, and as it turned out, the Wizards ended up winning by that 1 point so for a risk of 50, one could have let the bet run and made 1,000 or backed it back to go Green-All-Over and nicely in profit after the lead was trimmed to 3 or to 1. I should mention that I didn’t manage to lay any of the 1.05 myself, but I have used this strategy in the past to good effect.

Rather than wait until late in the game, my strategy revolves around laying teams after they are on a 6 to 10 point run. Basketball is very much a game of momentum and with the market being driven by fear and greed, it lends itself perfectly to trading. I can’t really reveal my precise method because there’s a substantial subjective element to it. I try to get a feel for the game, and weigh factors like whether it’s the home or the road team that is under-performing, what stage the game is at, the foul situation, which team needs the win more etc.

Basically I look for value. I look to lay a team that in my opinion has been backed too low or vice-versa. It is very seldom that a chart of the prices will show a steady decline down to 1.01. There are always runs within a game and greed means that the price is driven too low, and then when the run is over and the other team starts a come-back, the fear element kicks in and the market moves back.

Comments welcome, please.

Back With A Vengeance

Well, the holiday is over, and it's back to normal. Not too much trading over the last few days, and yesterday saw me drop £614.49 on the Suns who managed to miss at least a dozen free throws and made no less than seven turnovers in the fourth quarter. So a bet that was value ended up a loser which happens, but it is immensely annoying when it does. Why is it that whenever you have a chunk of change on basketball, the team you are on goes to pieces? It seems that way anyway!

But tonight I called the Cavs / Wizards game a little better, though I did get a little lucky. I laid the Cavs big at 1.5 when it seemed to me the price was too low for a two point game. The Wizards took a six point lead so I went Green-All-Over though more green on the Wizards. With a late run in the last minute the Wizards won the game by one, and I made £500. (A Cavs win would 'only' have made me £350...)

There's a new blog which you might check out if you trade basketball. It's a little late in the season to be starting the exercise, but interesting anyway. 

It's at