Monday 30 June 2008

Nostalgia Ain't What It Used To Be

There was a time, back in my youth, when any one of maybe ten teams had a realistic chance of winning Division One. The League Championship. By the time I reached 18, no fewer than 11 different clubs had won the title, and no team had won it more than 3 times. Indeed only once had the title been won back-to-back. [Quiz time, what year was I born?]

How different from today when the first 16 years of the Premier League have yielded just 4 different winners, with one team winning no fewer than 10 of them. Checking the prices for next season, and there are just four teams rated with a realistic chance of winning and there's no prizes for guessing the teams. Just a reality of the game today I realise, but I do think the old days were better. Sad that the best that 80% of the teams can aspire to next season is to challenge for fourth place.

Incidentally, if you're thinking of dabbling in this market, check around. I was a little surprised to see that odds better than those currently available on Betfair for next season's winner are currently available with BetFred (Chelsea at 3.25), VC Bet (Arsenal at 6.5 and Liverpool at 9). Man Utd are best priced on Betfair at 2.6.

Sunday 29 June 2008

Germany Value

Today sees the final of a very entertaining Euro 2008, with steady Germany playing a very impressive looking Spain. Germany's run reminds me of the way they un-inspiringly progressed to the 2002 World Cup Final only to lose to the better Brazil.

I think the same will happen today and Spain will triumph but having said that I think the value is in backing Germany with a view to laying the bet off at maybe half-time. Germany are available at 2.54 outright and I plan to lay this off at half-time if the game is tied or Germany are ahead. If Spain lead, then I shall await Germany to do what they seem to do quite often and manufacture a result when they are not the better team.

And although the under/over 2.5 goals market is off-limits to me today, I wouldn't discourage a bet on the unders with a view to laying it off after 15 minutes. These finals are usually low-scoring affairs. Usually.

PS: Thanks for all the comments on trading the under/over 2.5 goals market post. Good stuff.

Thursday 26 June 2008

In-Play Over/Under Futility

Graeme, who writes the very readable blog, made a comment on my earlier “Pants Down” post that is worthy of a full post in reply.

Why are you playing around on these under-over markets?”, he asked.

Well, that’s a very good question. Why am I? Boredom? Eternal optimism? I have played the over/under markets on and off pretty much from day one (March 2004) on Betfair. The appeal is that when you are on the unders, time is your friend and it’s nice to watch your position move into the money. Very nice and seductive. The problem is that it is not so nice when out of the blue comes a goal and just like that your small potential gain has turned into a potentially large loss.

The problem is finding the optimum market entry and exit points, but sadly, there is no hard and fast rule on this. Some games it pays to be on at the start, other games it pays to wait until a few minutes in, and other games it pays to not get involved with at all!

The exit point of course needs to be just prior to a goal is scored. Sounds easy enough…

After a loss, I quit playing these markets, and then one day there’s not much going on, and out of boredom I look at the football game that is currently in-play. Then I dip my toes in the water, splash around for a few minutes, exit the water making a few quid in a few minutes, and think to myself “That was easy”. And the cycle begins again. A few wins, then the one loss that wipes out the previous few weeks profits, and it’s back to square one.

I have had some success this season with making a reasonably large bet pre-game on matches I consider likely to end as unders, and then laying it off after 15 minutes. Last night’s Copa Libertadores final was the worst possible outcome, with not just one early goal, but two, and the bet was lost after 20 minutes or so. It finished at 4-2 but I had long since given up on it. I am still ahead on the season though, but more by luck than skill I suspect.

My thoughts right now are that the market is too efficient in these games, and that there is seldom an edge. Occasionally the market goes over-round so that you can lay the overs, then lay the unders for a profit, but the delay means that you are exposed for several seconds and the reward is miniscule.

Does anyone out there make these markets pay long-term?

I read a system which said to back the unders if the game was a draw at half-time, and leave it for 10 to 15 minutes. Sounds a bit like my backing pre-game and laying off after 15 minutes, but do any stats back up these ideas? I tend to think that everything is already factored into the price and any wins or losses are down to luck which is just gambling, and I am an investor, so no more in-play over/under betting.

I Can't Stand 'Loosing'

Why do so many people on the Betfair forum or indeed, in the Football Guerilla Betting System that I am currently reviewing (for free), not know how to LOSE?

E.g. “Take a break for awhile so you can get that loosing feeling out of your mind.” (from the afore mentioned Betting System which people are being asked to PAY for). What is a 'loosing' feeling?

The word is ‘losing’ – not ‘loosing’!

Lose’ means you didn’t win. You didn’t even get your money back. You lost!

‘Loose’ means not rigidly fastened or securely attached. Wobbly.

References: The Police: Can’t Stand Losing You, REM: Losing My Religion, Righteous Brothers: You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'

Losing is bad enough as it is, without making it worse...

Pants Down

For two reasons. I got caught with them down in the final of the Copa Libertadores tonight when two goals in the first 8 minutes saw my pre-game back of the under 2.5 goals go down the pan to the tune of £900, a major dent in June's profits, (and when I tell her, June will not be at all happy), and secondly because I deserve a good arse kicking for putting my money on a bunch of long-haired, jewellery wearing macho men who can't defend and thank an invisible man in the sky every time they score. Yes, I'm a little peed off right now!

When will I learn? I think now is a good time. I lost money in the final last year, and just three weeks ago got (metaphorically) killed by a goal two minutes into stoppage time, so it is time to give up trading football in-play and stick with what I'm good at.

I have more luck with betting on football pre-game and letting it run, and am convinced that with discipline and patience and a solid selection system, the rewards are out there. My problem is that I get impatient, and jump in and out of markets when the game is on and after three years I think the message is that I do not have an edge, and I need to stop. Message received and understood.

Tuesday 24 June 2008

Cold Hard Cash BS

I have just finished reading a (free) copy of the Cold Hard Cash (CHC) Betting System, first published in 2004, and what a pile of garbage it is. It consists of 28 pages of poorly written prose, the first 21 of which not only have nothing to do with the system, but are full of mistakes.

Anyone heard of the ‘Martindale’ staking system? Me neither, and that is by no means the only error contained within.

Anyway, the introduction is so painful to read that I can’t bring myself to spend any time on it at all, well, other than to generously point out that he warns readers to be wary of the scams and BS that are out there on the Internet… Oh the irony.

As for the system itself, it’s for football betting. Teams within a division are rated based on last season’s finishing positions from 100 for the bottom team in increments of 100 so that in say the Premier League the top team is rated 2,000.

Here is the meat of the system:

“As teams play each other they effectively bet 10% of their score/rating on the outcome of the game. E.g if Manchester United (score 2000) play Bolton (score 1200) Manchester would risk 200 on the outcome and Bolton 120. The winner of the match takes the 320 points. So if Bolton won their new score/rating would be 1520 and Manchester United would be reduced to 1800”.

“CHC looks for matches where there is at least a 1200 - point advantage to the home team. No matter how strong the advantage of the away team I do not bet on the away win. Partly because I know how I feel after a long car journey, my energy levels are low, I am tired and the last thing I want to do is run around. However, the main reason I don’t bet is, I believe this is always the best opportunity for the underdog to do a bit of giant killing. The home team is in familiar circumstances, the players have their wives, girlfriends,
mistresses and family watching and they have thousands of fans cheering them on to vistory!”.

“Expect odds of around 1.5. Be suspicious of odds over 2.2. If the odds are below 1.3 consider using a betting exchange or placing the bet in a double..”

And that is basically it. Back short-priced home favourites! No mention of value at all. Back whether the selection is 1.01 or 2.18 I suppose. No mention of what happens to the ratings when a team draws. All in all a very poor effort. At least if you are going to sell a rubbish system, make it well-written and tart it up a little.

This is actually a simplified version of a system featured in an excellent book called “The Punter’s Revenge” written by Tony Drapkin and Richard Forsyth which I purchased when it was first published back in 1986 just as home computers were becoming commonplace.

Based on the Elo rating system then used in Chess, the book suggested rating teams initially around an average of 1,000, and then adjusting them after each game with the home team ‘risking’ 7% of its rating, and the away team ‘risking’ 5%. In the event of a draw, the two teams would receive back 50% of the ‘risked’ points.

I actually used a modified version of this system quite profitably back in the days of betting shops and fixed odds coupons, but it was a lot of work maintaining those ratings after each match. Admittedly I monitored all 92 league teams for an entire season which may have been a little ambitious in those pre-Internet days, but surely someone out there with a little more talent than me could automate this and publish up-to-date ratings. Thinking about it, if it worked well in the days of fixed odds and bookies, it might be worth a shot today with Betfair.

By the way, if anyone would like to buy the CHC system from me, well - you can't.

But I will e-mail it to you for free...

Monday 23 June 2008

And Then We Die

What are we trading for? The bottom line is surely “to improve our lives”. My social life for the past two and a half years has by necessity been seriously curtailed, but this has been a price worth paying because I have been able to make a very decent second income from it.

But what good is extra money if you never get a chance to really enjoy it, and drop dead from a heart-attack at the age of 60? Not much really. Life is short, and it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of money-making and miss out on what is really important.

I have been looking at my spreadsheet which I have diligently maintained since January 1, 2006, and of the 905 days since then, I have traded on all but 69 of them. Family vacations and a trip to Germany for the World Cup account for most of those days, so many months I am trading every single day.

Is it worth it? In the short-term, the answer has to be 'yes', but where does it end? The expression ‘make hay while the sun shines’ comes to mind, because whilst for now I am able to make profits, I am well aware that this may not always be so. Markets can change in an instant.

Fortunately, I have a very understanding girlfriend who understands the rewards of what I do, but for many people I imagine this is not the case and relationships are suffering.

For now I shall carry on, but I do need to make a point of exercising regularly. I have noticed my weight start to increase slowly but steadily this year and I’m pretty sure that spending most of my spare time sitting on my arse trading is not the healthiest of lifestyles.

Anyone fancy a friendly challenge to see who can drop the most weight between now and Xmas? I’m at 16 stone 3.8lbs right now. First goal 16 stone. Time for another spreadsheet.

Sunday 22 June 2008

Forza Azzurri

My Italy replica shirt is donned, and the quarter-final with Spain is eagerly awaited. Admittedly influenced by my Italian heritage, I am laying Spain at 2.6, and at 4.7 in the outright winner market, and taking my usual approach of backing the Under 2.5 goals at 1.63. I shall probably only let this bet run for 10 minutes or so, before going Green-All-Over, but the odds do drop quite precipitously in that opening spell so it can be a relatively safe bet. Even with the disaster of an early goal, it would not be unusual to reach half-time with no further goals and be able to get out then.

All three group winners so far have lost, and I don't see why this run shouldn't continue today. Spain have looked impressive so far, but they rested a lot of players in their game against Greece, and that tactic doesn't always pay dividends with returning players a little rusty and losing their touch.

I had a dream about Betfair last night. Sad I know, but I find that after a long day on here, the brain is buzzing with odds and numbers and ideas and just doesn't know when it is time to turn off. Good luck.

Half-Time Update: I layed off the unders bet at 1.42 after 15 minutes, a nice profit for just a few minutes of increased heart rate. At least that's my workout for the day done with! And the Spain match odds bet has been backed back at 2.88. Come on Italy!

Saturday 21 June 2008

Russia - Netherlands

Although my usual strategy for quarter-finals is to back the under 2.5 goals and let it run, I have a feeling that this could be an open game. I'm on the unders for now, but in another ten minutes I shall lay that off (hopefully still 0-0 at 20:00) and hope for goals soon after.

I am still in shock at the finish to yesterday's game. Fortunately I avoided the carnage but I imagine there are a few people looking at significantly diminished balances today. I'm not averse to backing 1.01 shots because I feel that they are often value, but in football it is a dangerous game. I see that some money was put on Turkey at 1000 to win the whole tournament and now are at 15 / 15.5. Well done to someone. There must be a nervous layer right now.

Half-Time Update: £54.04 on unders, £54.00 on overs. Looking like unders right now, but a long way to go yet.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

More Euro 2008

The football game of the day for me today is the Sweden - Russia game, and I am expecting a tight game and have gone with the unders. With half-time approaching and a goal by Russia, I shall be laying off at half-time as I quite expect Sweden to push for a goal this second half. The other game, Greece - Spain I am leaving alone for reasons outlined yesterday.

Tuesday 17 June 2008

Call Me Roberto (For A Few Days Anyway)

So an Italian win tonight, coupled with Romania failing to win against the impressive looking Dutch, would see Italy advance to the Euro 2008 Quarter-Finals, and as I write this, the second-half is under-way, and Italy and the Netherlands both have one goal leads. From a betting standpoint, I'm always a little wary with these third group games. The first games are usually tight and good for the Unders. The second games tend to be a little more open, and favours the Overs. The third games are tricky - teams don't need to win, (sometimes they don't WANT to win), they rest players - bottom line is that strange things can happen. I backed the Unders in the Italy - France game expecting a tight first half and laid it off at half-time, so I can sit back and enjoy the second half. I left the Netherlands - Romania game alone, though there may have been some 'Dutching' opportunities...

Monday 16 June 2008

Losing Focus

I seem to lose focus when trading. The pattern seems to be that I get myself into a good position early in an event, before I start making bad decisions and lose some, or all, of the ‘profit’ that I have accumulated.

Notable examples are football and basketball. By half-time I’m sitting pretty (it’s just an expression), but something happens to me in the second half (greed?, tiredness?, over-confidence?, boredom?) and I start making bad decisions until by the end of the game I’m far worse off than if I’d just stopped at half-time.

I’m learning though. In the Czech Republic – Turkey game yesterday, I greened up on the over/under 2.5 goals at half-time and left it alone after that. But then I didn’t learn in the Lakers – Celtics game, which I think was probably down to tiredness. I try to sleep before these middle of the night games, but I suspect it catches up with me, and whilst I’m focused and alert in the early stages, the tiredness kicks in.

Anyway, something to watch and learn from and maybe add to my Rules of Trading. (Coming soon!) Anyone else suffer from this? Comments appreciated.

Friday 13 June 2008

Finché c' é vita c' é speranza

I have Italian roots. My grandmother was a Cassini, and supposedly I am descended from the famous family of astronomers by that name (although sadly the fortune that they presumably had at one time failed to descend to me which is why I am trading every night trying to build up my own).

Every two years I become Italian, once England are eliminated from the World Cup or the European Championships, which is quite often after two games, if indeed we have qualified in the first place. But this year, I don’t think I’ll bother.

I dated a girl from the Netherlands once, and spent two weeks in Amsterdam chasing her sister (another story) so maybe I should become Dutch. Don't like the shoes too much though, although Heineken is ok.

Then again, I visited Croatia many years back, before it was even called Croatia, and I like the chequered shirt design… Bit too Nazi-ish for my liking though.

Speaking of which, can’t ever see myself becoming German (my Mum would never speak to me again) although I did have a good time there for the 2006 World Cup. At least until the Portugal game which rather rules me out of cheering for the Portuguese.

France? Well, obviously no self-respecting Englishman could contemplate the idea of becoming a Frenchie.

So I guess I’m just a casual observer this year, but then again the Italians always start slowly and a win against France coupled with a Dutch win over Romania and WE’RE through to the quarters!! Avanti Azzurri!!

And the subject? It's an Italian proverb, meaning - "While there is life, there is hope" Something to dwell on as the odds drift away from you.

Thursday 12 June 2008

Mark Reynolds

“Luck has a peculiar habit of favouring those who don't depend on it”

And Lady Luck is very fickle. I’ve written before about how some days you can’t do a thing wrong, and other times you can’t put a foot wrong. Lady Luck was with me late last night. I was playing on the baseball game between the Ney York Mets and the Arizona Diamondbacks, and had laid the Mets at 1.15 in the 7th inning when they were 3-0 up, hoping that the D’Backs would score a run or two at some point and shift the price a little so that I could go Green All Over. They came up empty in the 7th and 8th, and in the 9th they managed to get two runners in scoring position albeit with two outs. Down to their last strike, and with 1.01 being taken (not laid by me unfortunately), some guy called Mark Reynolds hits a three run homer to tie the game up and make my day. The Mets did go on to win, but I was already green and in bed by that time. (Apologies to non-baseball people – in cricketing terms I guess it was like needing a six off the last ball and getting it!)

Keeping Track

In the year to April 2007, average earnings of full-time male employees were £498 per week, while for women it was £394, according to the Office of National Statistics. [BBC News 19/2/08]

I like numbers. They motivate me. If I am trying to lose weight, I record my weight each day. If I am trying to exercise more, I record the miles run or biked, or the yards swum. If I am trying to cut down on alcohol, I record how many days a month I drink. If I am trying to save money, I record it. It’s the same with investing. I record my daily wins and losses by sport in a giant spreadsheet, and keep track of my average daily profit/loss for the past 10 days, 30 days, year, and my average gain per day since I started. Well, not quite since I started, but once I decided to take this investing seriously. So as a result, I have data for every day since New Year’s Day 2005.

I have daily targets which I try to meet, starting with the first target of recording a profit, and rising to the ultimate target of beating my best ever daily total. In between are targets to beat such as my 10 day daily average, my 30 day daily average, my yearly daily average, and my all-time daily average. And then there’s the ‘average earnings for a full-time person’ target (see above) to beat.

The temptation can be to take risks in an effort to achieve these targets, but I have learned not to force anything, but to await the opportunities which sometimes be like London buses and come along all at once, before vanishing for days. Do many of you out there reading this keep records? Any ideas?

Wednesday 11 June 2008


I have been told (indirectly over on John the Gambler's blog) by ‘poetaster’ that my blog is boring. His comment was “Cassini, your blog is boring- thats why no one ever reads it. You shouldnt offend your one and only reader”, the latter part of the comment being a reference to my teasing John The Gambler about his love for beer. Nothing wrong with liking beer - I’m partial to a pint myself on occasion – I was simply surprised to see ‘Beer’ languishing outside of his top 5.

Anyway, if John is my only reader, then how does 'poo-taster' know that my blog is boring? And why would it have over 4,000 hits since March unless John has nothing better to do all day than read my blog over and over… ok, so maybe thinking about it, that IS a distinct possibility (just kidding John).

So my blog is boring? Well, maybe so. Betting is one of those things in life that is tremendously exciting (not always in a positive way) for the person doing it, but is not quite so exciting to sit and read about. For example, try reading books on trading. They tend to be a little dry to say the least, entry-points, exit strategies, position size etc, yawn, yawn, yawn, so I’m not sure what ‘poo-taster’ is expecting from a blog about gambling.

My intention when I started this was to post every few days about things going on in my gambling world, and try to stimulate some debate about ideas and observations that I have. I guess it’s fair to say that this hasn’t exactly happened. I have had very view comments posted, so the blog falls victim to the vicious circle of no comments, meaning no interest, meaning not much incentive to come up with something new the next day.

So do I give up, continue with the blog as it, make changes to it but continue on a gambling theme, or make changes and discuss wider issues such as “Why there is no God”?

Comments please.

Monday 9 June 2008

Euro 2008

The second most important tournament in international football got under way this weekend and all four games went to the favourites, and all four finished under 2.5 goals.

I like to back the unders in these tournaments, especially the first round of the group games. I usually take a relatively large position pre-game, and then lay it off as time ticks away. The early goal in the Croatia-Austria game was slightly concerning, but I changed my trousers, kept my nerve, and everything worked out OK.

It always seems that the price on the unders drops too steeply for the first 3 minutes or so, before it stalls for another 5 or 6 minutes. For example in the Germany - Poland game, the unders at the start was 1.89 / 1.90 - after three minutes the price was 1.81/1.82. That's a nice move in three minutes. Strangely, the prices then stalled for five minutes, and then dropped precipitously from 1.8 / 1.81 to 1.67 / 1.68 in two minutes. I need more data, but does anyone have a system that is based on backing the unders and laying it off early in the game? Comments, as always, very welcome.

Wednesday 4 June 2008


The Betfair forum frequently features posts asking "should I go full-time?" and seeking advice. Quite often, these posts are from people who signed up to Betfair in the last few months. Possibly they have got lucky and think their luck will last for ever, or they have a system that has performed well, but more likely they are looking to impress with the implication that by asking the question, they are Mr. Big Shot. Anyway, here are some of my thoughts on the subject.

First off, why trade full-time? Why not trade evenings and weekends? There are plenty of trading opportunities, and a full-time job is not something to give up in a hurry. A job is not just about the paycheck - there are benefits and retirement income to think of, plus most jobs are at least somewhat social in part, and of course most people will be earning a lot more in the future once they have put in the hours (or years).

Why does it matter what other people do? If you have an edge, then you will be able to make trading pay. If you don't, then you are gambling, and the odds will catch up with you sooner or later. Anyone seriously considering full-time trading should be aware that systems don't always work for ever. The market is always changing and edges can disappear overnight. It would be a downer to quit your job on a Friday, start trading full-time on Monday only to find that your system no longer worked. A good trader would need to be able to adapt quickly and have some kind of a backup plan.

For sure, some people do make trading pay, at least for a while, but it is not an easy way to earn a living. I trade part-time, and over the last two years have matched my regular income, but it is stressful enough doing it as a hobby. I can't imagine how stressful it would be if it were my only income source.

I know one guy (see The Experiment listed under other blogs) requested his hours be reduced so that he could spend more time trading, and that might be a reasonable option, but in general, until you have a solid few years of profitable trading behind you, I would be very hesitant to say that full-time was the way to go. There's plenty to be made part-time.

Monday 2 June 2008

Good Riddance To May

May should have been a good month. My old Mum turned 80, and a couple of Bank Holidays in there should have meant fun and laughter all round. But it was not a good month on the investing front. In fact my first losing month since April 2007, and a £5,599.15 loss to be exact.

Where did it all go wrong? In a word - 'basketball'. In too big on a couple of markets that I should probably have stayed away from, or at least reduced my risk, but as always with losses, learn from mistakes and move forward. I also lost too much on a 'fun' bet on Aussie Rules footy, which came down to the last kick which was missed. NOT my idea of fun.

Some months everything goes for you, and some months nothing seems to. Maybe the gods of gambling took May off for holiday, but I hope they are back for June. Two down months in a row, and the doubts start creeping in, and we're not at home to Mr. Self-Doubter this year. Good luck for June to everyone (anyone?) reading this.

At least my month wasn't as bad as the poor sap who offered Italy at 1000 in their Volleyball game against Japan yesterday. Italy won six points in a row, tied the game up and went on to win.