Thursday 31 December 2009

Another Year Over - 2009

The stock market is now closed for 2009, and it has been a very good year. The FTSE250 is up by 46.31%, the FTSE100 is up by 22.07% and the All-Share index is up by 24.96%. Impressive returns, but nevertheless all three are down from the end of 2007 thanks to a terrible 2008.

Meanwhile, Cassini’s Sports Handicapping Investment Trading operation is happy to report a 2009 profit 11.68% up on 2008, with only one calendar month (April) showing a loss. The best months were January, February and June. 67.15% of the year's profits come in the first half of the year. Not sure why this is, with most sports I trade being split fairly evenly between the two halves of the year. The only exception really is American Football, and it is true to say that this season has been a challenge. Also down from 2008 are the profits from Golf, Football, Cricket, Tennis, Ice Hockey and Horse Racing and of course a full year of the Premium Charge has had a big negative impact on profits. Increased profits come from Basketball, Rugby League, Rugby Union, Formula 1, Aussie Rules and 'Other' (Academy Awards, Snooker, Handball, Volleyball etc.) as well as a Baseball season where the play-offs rather pleasingly seemed to see comeback after comeback! So overall a pleasing total, but as my school reports often said, 'could do better'.

A New Year brings new opportunities however, and a steadier approach to football should see 2009-10 end in profit. A loss of £1,758.18 on a stupid gamble on the FA Cup Final still hurts, but the lesson there has been learned. January was my best month of 2008 and 2009 and while it would be nice to start 2010 off with a big month, I am aware of the danger that high expectations can lead to poor decisions. If the value is there, I will be taking it, if not, I will be leaving it. My discipline is pretty solid these days.

So Stock Exchange or Betting Exchange - which investing medium is better – the “respectable” old world of finance, or the less respectable, new world of sports?

Perhaps ‘better’ should be defined here. Investing in financial markets probably doesn’t take up almost every spare hour of your life, although I do have friends who spend hours poring over charts thinking that they can find an edge. It’s probably also less stressful to invest in the stock market, for the simple reason that your investments are usually for the longer term, and that you do not feel any sense of blame for a decision that moves against you.

The time-frame for sports markets is typically much shorter (not many of us are investing on the 2014 World Cup just yet). The result of your involvement is often known within minutes or a few hours, and those minutes can be incredibly stressful. Is it ‘better’ to make money this way and drop dead of a heart-attack in a few years, or is it ‘better’ to make your money a little slower, and live a longer life? This is a rhetorical question – answers on a postcard are not required.

Personally I have learned that staking size is key in regard to the stress level. I honestly cannot give a figure above which I am stressed, but my brain knows when I have over-staked. My fiancĂ©e does too – she can tell from my breathing that I am under stress! (It's more of a concern to me when it stops altogether, but touch wood, I should be good for another year at least).

To complicate matters still further, the amount that triggers this reflex isn’t fixed. I can be comfortable with a certain amount at risk in one situation, but very uncomfortable with the same amount at risk in another. This is all due to my perception of how much value (if any!) I feel I have.

When you invest in the more traditional financial markets, you can have no real expectation of consistently beating the stock index averages. You might get lucky one year, perhaps even for two, three or more years, but as described in the book “Fooled by Randomness“ by Nassin Nicholas Taleb, sooner or later you will revert to the mean, unless of course you have an edge, which in financial markets often means ‘inside information’, which in turn means you are acting illegally. Essentially you put your money onto the stock market and the returns, positive or negative, are out of your control. Anyone who claims to be able to predict market tops or bottoms is talking nonsense, and usually trying to sell something.

It’s different with sports. It is definitely realistic to expect to be able to make a profit from sports investing, if you are willing to put in the time. Too many people think that there is a magic system out there, that they can easily make 1% a day.

Of all my 442 posts since I started this blog, it’s interesting that the most popular in terms of comments is the one offering free betting systems. The post was written in November 2008, and the latest request was added just yesterday. Has anyone made their fortune from any one of these ‘systems’? I seriously doubt it. They don’t work. That's why I give them away. Again, anyone who claims to be able to give anyone a winning off-the-shelf system is talking nonsense, and usually trying to sell something.

What there is, are certain patterns in markets that are predictable, and which repeat time and again. It is important to constantly remind yourself that the sports markets are driven by the same human emotions as the financial markets – fear and greed. The odds are not precise. The in-play markets in particular often offer up good value. And if you are in any doubt, remember that you are under no obligation to get involved. Patience is a virtue. There will always be more opportunities coming along.

Maintain a cool head after a ‘significant event’ (see previous post) and you can find value. Value doesn’t always win, but with it you will be ahead in the long-term, and without it, you will soon be broke.

I shall continue with my slow and steady investing of 10% of all income in the stock market, I shall also continue to invest on the exchanges during 2010. Apart from the reasons already listed above, there can’t be many more pleasing ways of making money than from sports, but I shall try to take a little more time away to enjoy life this year. I'm sure I've said before, but setting goals and targets and recording progress is very motivating for me.

Good luck to all in 2010.

Wednesday 30 December 2009

My Life Is Soapless

I am a little behind with all my Elo ratings after the Xmas break. As much as I love my parents, it is incredibly frustrating to be without Internet access as well as most of the TV channels I need. If I wanted to watch hours of Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Hollyoaks, Crossroads or Eastenders, then I would be good to go, but I really don't. I shall get caught up on everything over the long weekend, and with half the football season in England to go, try to start 2010 off on the right foot with some spot on predictions.

A commenter on my last post asked why I was confident in the services of the Football Elite tipping service, and the answer is that their past results as recorded on JP's Betting Blog are impressive, and that I do believe there is value to be found in such liquid sports as football if you put the effort in to find it. I do also find it interesting to compare someone else's selections with my own, and at £99.99 for six months, (£3.85 a day), it's a small price to pay for a little added interest, and if it proves lucrative, so much the better. If it doesn't prove lucrative, then I shall discontinue the service tout de suite, as we say in Walford.

Significant Events

A poster on the Betfair forum writing about the challenge of making money from football betting, wrote this great line:

I read posts on here from smartarses who bang on about ‘needing an edge’ to make it on Betfair, as if this mystical, intangible ‘edge’ empowers them as some kind of superior being. Bulls***.
Long may such people continue to play on the exchanges. No edge - no long-term profit. It's as simple as that. A neat reply summed it up:
You don't need an edge on here, any more than a shopkeeper needs to sell things for more than he paid for them.

Given that the poster does 8-fold accas and then bemoans his luck when one result doesn't come in, he clearly doesn't have a clue about value.

As well as increasing the over-round against the punter, accas have another hugely undesirable effect which is that they remove control over staking. If your starting bank is £10, would you really want to win the first 7 bets and have perhaps £1,000 riding on Chelsea to beat Fulham? Profitable punting is as much about bank management as it is about selections and prices.

Football is prone to unpredictable results because a feature of the game is that it has a "low incidence of highly significant events". A single event can have a huge affect on the outcome of the game, and such events are normally highly unpredictable. Penalty decisions, missed chances, goals, sending-offs etc. Rather than whining about this, the poster would be better served by using this knowledge to his advantage.

If you see that the Big Four at home when priced at 1.25 are only winning 70% of the time, don't complain about it - make money!

Football Elite have been on the wrong side of some "highly significant events" recently over the holidays, with their 7 recommended bets yielding 3 winners, 3 draws and one match postponed - a small profit of 1.73 to a 10 point stake.

Their short-list selections were less successful with 11 selections yielding just 2 winners, along with 6 draws, 2 losses and one postponement. A loss of 50.74 to a 10 point stake. My month long free trial is over, but I am happy to pay for the next six months, confident that value is being found, even if an abundance of draws is currently handicapping their profits.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Knocking Off

This may be my last post for a few days, unless my parents have moved into the digital age which, given that they are yet to fully master the complexities of the front door bell, is highly unlikely*. I may escape for a couple of days to the peace and tranquility of north Devon, but a B&B with Internet access?

Not to worry - a break from it all isn’t so bad, and I’ll be back before the end of the year, closing out 2009 and raring to get off to a good start in 2010. 2010! My, how the millenniums just fly by as one gets older.

Is it really 10 years since that night of revelry on the Thames when the current one started? Well, no it isn’t actually. Contrary to public opinion, 2001 was the first year of this millennium and not 2000, but never let the facts get in the way of a good party!

Enjoy the holidays and stay warm.

Some more Premier League predictions for today, which are:

Arsenal by 1 @ Burnley
Chelsea by 4 v Portsmouth
Liverpool by 3 v Wigan Athletic
Totteham Hotspur by 1 v Manchester City

* It's a little known fact that the inventor of the door-knocker actually received a No-Bell prize for his efforts.

Tuesday 15.Dec Summary

Some good results today, with three of the nine games finishing exactly as forecast, and the winner correct in three more.

Football Elite had a couple more short-list selections, one was winners Birmingham City (2.35) but the second could only draw (Valenciennes at 2.23). 

Nevertheless, a nice profit on the day.

Birmingham City v Blackburn Rovers; Birmingham by 1Bolton Wanderers v West Ham United; Draw
Manchester United v Wolverhampton Wanderers; Man U by 3Sunderland v Aston Villa; Aston Villa by 1Dundee United v Rangers; Rangers by 1
Raith Rovers v Airdrie United; Raith by 1
Brechin City v Peterhead; Brechin by 1Cowdenbeath v Stenhousemuir; Cowdenbeath by 1
Stirling Albion v Dumbarton; Stirling Albion by 1

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Jamie Carragher Believes In Santa

I'm aware that footballers are not generally considered to be the most intelligent group of people on the planet, but does it not occur to Jamie Carragher that IF, and it's a big IF, let's be honest here, the universe was ruled by an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipotent deity, he (or she) might well have more important matters to attend to than the fortunes of Liverpool FC, even if St John did once play for them.

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher is praying that there are good times around the corner as the off-colour Reds look for an upturn in fortune.

Sunday's luckless 2-1 home defeat by Arsenal means that Liverpool have now won just three times in 15 matches.

"I pray that we win the FA Cup, Europa League and get in the top four," Carragher told BBC Radio Merseyside.
Anyway, given the state that the club is in, I'm not sure even a god can help them right now.

Elo Footy Picks 15.Dec

Today's predictions:

Birmingham City v Blackburn Rovers; Birmingham by 1
Bolton Wanderers v West Ham United; Draw
Manchester United v Wolverhampton Wanderers; Man U by 3
Sunderland v Aston Villa; Aston Villa by 1
Dundee United v Rangers; Rangers by 1
Raith Rovers v Airdrie United; Raith by 1
Brechin City v Peterhead; Brechin by 1
Cowdenbeath v Stenhousemuir; Cowdenbeath by 1
Stirling Albion v Dumbarton; Stirling Albion by 1

Monday 14 December 2009

All In The Mind

If you follow JP's blog listed on the right, you will know that he has pretty much ended the year with a net profit of somewhere around £30,530. Not too shabby.

As JP says, he'd have happily taken that number at the start of the year, but being human, it's how we arrive at the final total that determines how we perceive it.

A 3-3 draw in football is great if you were 0-3 down at one time; not so great if you were 3-0 up.

Two people could each have a net worth of a million pounds, but if one has arrived at that figure after inheriting £10 million a few years ago, and the other by starting with nothing but investing wisely, who is the happier?

In JP's situation, he peaked in late October, but then had a dismal run from then on, so it's natural and understandable that the end of his profitable year is accompanied by a feeling of some disappointment. I'm guessing that Tiger Woods knows the feeling.

It could be the time of year (i.e. no flat racing) or it could be time to clear out a few tipsters. Anyway, following his blog and results has certainly been interesting and I hope he comes back in the new year with continued success.

My 2009 has been a little more steady, with just one losing month back in April, although the cause of that one still hurts, even eight months later! Of course, December is not over yet, so I should probably not tempt fate, but my last losing December was back in 2005 when I was still something of a novice.

My style is obviously significantly different from JP's, for one thing my interest in horse racing is almost zero, whereas for JP it's his main focus, and it is less than a month ago that I signed up for my first tipping service (on the back of the results JP was achieving) whereas JP uses them heavily. With the exchanges, there are clearly many ways to make a profit, and we all concentrate on the methods and style that suits us.

The final two picks from Football Elite today were Sampdoria (2.57) and Gijon (3.45) but the former could only draw at home to Roma, while the latter lost 0-1 at home to Sevilla.

Including 5% commission, their recommended bets are now 3 wins, 6 draws, 2 losses and a loss of 34.97 to a 10 point level stake, but their short-list selections fare better at 7-5-2 with a profit of 79.99 to a 10 point level stake. Overall 10-11-4 (+45.02).

Sunday 13 December 2009

Rough With The Smooth

When I look back on my spreadsheet in years to come, the total for yesterday, a profit of £3.55, will be quite unremarkable. Hidden behind that number however, is much drama. Losses on the Premier League games, wins on the Scottish Premier League, losses on basketball, wins on basketball and finally wins on ice-hockey. The bottom line is all that matters, but it makes for a roller-coaster of a day when the biggest single market loss exceeds £960 yet somehow the day ends in profit. There's always the 'if only' feeling, but of course you never know when the winners will come or when the losers will come. All you can do is keep investing when there is value and take the wins and losses in your stride.

It would be wonderful to invest, make 1% a day, and repeat, but investing doesn't work this way for sports or financials. The stock market has been great overall this year, but last year was a nightmare with some huge daily swings both up and down. In sports, even though you might be confident that you have an edge, within any long sequence of investments, there are going to be some dispiriting sequences, but also there will be runs where it seems nothing can go wrong.

The key is to stay detached from individual outcomes, to be grateful that opportunities arise even if they end up as losing bets, and stay the course. Changing strategies after a losing run can be costly. Inevitably, losing runs end, but if you have moved on to another method, then you miss out on the gains when they do come.

There's probably no better example than the stock market. A bull market picks up steam, the world and his uncle jump in, and everyone in the pub becomes an expert in pricing up shares. Suddenly the market turns, loses several percent in value and the world and his uncle give up and sell, just before the market turn back again, and the whole cycle is repeated. What the world and his uncle should be doing is the opposite. Buying when the market is flat and getting out when the market is flying high for no apparent reason.

There are a number of blogs or forum posts out there that set ridiculous targets such as making 1% a day, and which all inevitably fail. They are quite boring actually, with none of them ever mentioning how the author thinks he is finding an edge. No staking method in the world will make a coin-toss system profitable if the price on each outcome is 1.9. It speaks volumes for the optimistic nature of gamblers I guess, that so many people think that the laws of probability somehow do not apply to them.

The Football Elite service had one recommended bet yesterday, which was Stoke City who came up short against Wigan Athletic. On the one-hand, Stoke gave up a wonder goal, but on the other-hand they were lucky not to lose when Wigan missed a penalty.

In their short-listed selections, they finished with three winners from six, but their pick of Bari at 4.7 v Juventus ensured a nice overall profit. Perhaps Borussia Moenchengladbach's 5-3 win over Hannover 96 (at 2.19) was a little fortunate - Hannover conceded no less than three own-goals in this game!

Birmingham rounded up the winners at 2.18, with Burnley (2.78), Hull City (3.05) and Cagliari (2.41) coming up short - the latter thanks to a 96th minute equaliser. Although not all selections were winners, not one was a loser so a conservative laying system could offer a low-risk steady income.

Today they have three recommended selections. So far Mainz 05 is the only completed game, and they drew 1-1 with Stuttgart at 2.81. Updates on the other selections later.

Saturday 12 December 2009

Winter Draws On

I suppose it had to happen. The one week where my calculations fail to select a single EPL game to finish as a draw, and no less than six of nine end level. Predicting the precise margin of victory rather than just a winner is of course ambitious, which is why a result one goal off isn't cause for concern. However, when four teams are selected to win by at least two goals, and none manage to win at all, that really is disappointing. Five of the nine games had the result within one goal of the expected result, but Chelsea, Manchester United, Sunderland and Spurs all failing to win? Only Birmingham v West Ham was spot on.

The Championship was slightly better, 3 correct, 5 within one from 10 games, but League One again proved best in England with only one game of 12 (Bristol Rovers v Swindon Town) being wrong by more than one goal.

However, the best results were in the Scottish Premier with 4 of 6 games correct.

For what it's worth, Middlesbrough v Cardiff tomorrow is expected to be a draw.

EPL Weekend Picks 12/13 Dec

Expectations for this weekend in the Premier League are:

Stoke City v Wigan Athletic: Stoke by 1
Birmingham City v West Ham United: Birmingham by 1
Bolton Wanderers v Manchester City: Manchester City by 1
Burnley v Fulham: Burnley by 1
Chelsea v Everton: Chelsea by 3
Hull City v Blackburn Rovers: Blackburn by 1
Sunderland v Portsmouth: Sunderland by 2
Tottenham Hotspur v Wolverhampton Wanderers: Spurs by 2
Manchester United v Aston Villa: Man U by 3
Liverpool v Arsenal: Liverpool by 1

Not a single draw predicted, but the games at Liverpool and Burnley are the most likely to finish that way.

Friday 11 December 2009

Vanishing Leads

As I have written before, in basketball a seemingly insurmountable lead can soon vanish. In the just ending Utah Jazz v Orlando Magic game, Orlando were at one time 18 points up, but with over half the game to go. Utah came back, as home teams often do, and won by nine. Before the game had even started, some poor (even poorer now) fool put £3,000 on the Magic matched at 1.01 and 1.02, ouch.

I'd been having another of those runs where nothing seems to go right. If I am on the team trailing by 1 with the final shot, they miss it. If I am on the team that's ahead, they concede. Of course, it just seems this way, and in the long run all is well, but it can be immensely frustrating, especially when the Premium Charge rears its ugly head again on the bag of a painful loss. Anyway, the ship was righted with Utah's comeback and since betting is a little like basketball in that it is often about momentum, perhaps a good weekend lies ahead.

On to football and my non-League team seem to be shooting themselves in the foot. Losing their manager to a bigger club was probably unavoidable and unfortunate, but Kettering firing the assistant manager after the FA Cup replay at Leeds was an awful PR decision. I will not be at Rockingham Road this Saturday for the Barrow game.

What I shall be doing from next week is taking a few days away for Xmas, visiting family, opening generous gifts, and readying myself for my best month of the year. A visit to Layer Road is also on the cards, one of the League grounds that I have yet to visit. Speaking of Colchester, and their game at Brighton tonight is forecast to be a draw, but a 1 goal home win wouldn't be a surprise.

Premier League predictions tomorrow.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Weekend Football Round-Up

A nice weekend on the football again, with no less than 4 of the 10 Premier League games finishing exactly as expected. Manchester United won by 4 instead of 3 which was pretty good too. The only real disappointment was Chelsea at Manchester City. Portsmouth were a no-bet under the 'new manager' rule, and Liverpool's form continue to under-perform their ratings making them a risky bet.

The three intra-group games produced two unders and one draw, and backing both those options in these matches continues to be lucrative.

Football Elite had another good weekend. For those not familiar with the service, they have their recommended bets, and also provide a short-list of bets that didn't quite make the cut. I have been backing all the selections, with the exception of teams at greater than 5.0 where my strategy is to lay the opposition. This paid off for me in the Blackburn v Liverpool game when I layed Liverpool at 1.88 rather than backed Blackburn at 5.2 from the short-list.

The recommended bets this weekend were Nice v Marseille @ 3.7 (L 1-3) and Fulham v Sunderland @ 2.19 (W 1-0), with the other short-list selections being Valenciennes v Monaco @ 2.26 (W 3-1), Deportivo v Barcelona @ 5.9 (I layed Barcelona, but they won 3-1) and Bologna v Udinese @ 2.82 (W 2-1).

Back to my own ratings, and I am now tracking each division's results to see where the expected and actual results are closest. Currently the numbers look best for Leagues One and Two with correct forecasts to date at 31.58% and 29.73% respectively.

Friday 4 December 2009

Weekend Selections 5/6 Dec

Expectations for this weekend in the Premier League are:

Portsmouth v Burnley: Burnley by 1
Arsenal v Stoke City: Arsenal by 3
Aston Villa v Hull City: Aston Villa by 3
Blackburn Rovers v Liverpool: Liverpool by 2 (usual Liverpool warning)
West Ham United v Manchester United: Man U by 3
Birmingham City v Wigan Athletic: Draw
Wolves v Bolton: Wanderers: Wanderers by 1*
Manchester City v Chelsea: Chelsea by 2
Fulham v Sunderland: Fulham by 1
Everton v Tottenham Hotspur: Draw

* I was being silly about Wanderers - Wolves by 1.

Sharpe Minds If England Win

Does anyone really believe Graham Sharpe of William Hill when he says about England and the World Cup:

"We want them to reach the final and lose on penalties. If they win, we would be bankrupt, although we've had 43 years to save up for it."
Bankrupt? If I were a betting man, I would risk a fiver on the bookies somehow surviving such a 'catastrophe'.

Thursday 3 December 2009

November Rain

After a poor start to last month, results did improve towards the end, but November still finished below the average for November, and as a result November drops to third in my list behind January and March. There were probably three occasions when a little luck would have made a big difference, but as I have written before, having value doesn’t mean having winners, but if you are finding the value, the winners, and profits, will come.

One of the more pleasing things emerging from the month was the improvement in my football betting. I am confident that the Elo rating system is performing better each month as it settles down from its major overhaul from a couple of months ago, although I seem to be keeping more and more data as each week goes by.

Some of you may have noticed that included in the blog roll on the right of this page, is JP’s Betting Blog. JP subscribes to a number of tipping / advice services, and to date is nicely in profit from them. Some of the swings in fortune are a little too much for my delicate stomach, but for the most part JP sticks with the tips he is given, and has the balls to never lay off. Back in the summer, he had a decent bet on a long-shot in golf (60-1 or so I think), and when the player was trading at close to evens on the final day, I imagine most of us would have chosen to lock in a healthy profit, but not JP. He let the bet run, and it paid off for him.

Anyway, most of his services are for horse-racing, and are of little interest to me, but also included is one called Football Elite which is, as some of the sharper minds amongst you may already have guessed, a football tipping service. Football-Elite cover games in not only England, but also in Italy, Germany, France and Spain (possibly more) and I’ve been keeping an eye on some of these results for a while now.

While I spend hours trying to find value on the English games, I don’t have time to study overseas leagues, but Matt does, and manages to achieve consistently good results. So last week, I took the plunge and signed up for the service – something that I have never done before.

The first selections were for games this past weekend, and we’re off to a good start. Of the five final selections, two won, (the other three all finished as 1-1 draws) but two of the four from the short list also won, including Cagliari at 4.1 resulting in an overall small profit. Vallodolid should have also won, but managed to throw away a 3-0 lead at home and draw 3-3, but certainly Matt seems to be finding value, and on another weekend, the selections could have been even more profitable. Watch this space for how the service adds to my bottom line.

Some of you may remember me writing about another of JP’s services, one called The Form Analyst which caught my attention in the early days when the very personable Graeme offered a free trial, had terrible results, and then decided to go live with it anyway. It seems that after a miserable run, Graeme has called it a day. I remain convinced that without inside information, betting on horses is not the way to go.

Total Charges 20.01%

A fine day today. No Premium Charge, despite a profitable week. A few arbs, and by the narrowest of margins, I have escaped its clutches, at least for a week.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

It's Not Fair!

From today's Daily Telegraph, and poor old Ed Wray is upset about taxes. A pity that Betfair don't feel the same way about the Premium Charge, a tax on success whatever you care to call it.

Monday 23 November 2009

Over / Under 53

From an article on comes this worrying piece:

It may be depressing to think about, but a soon-to-be published paper on money and aging argues that while our experience and accumulated wisdom make us smarter for a while, this effect is ultimately swamped as our minds begin to decline with age. The tension between these two forces means that the sharpness of our financial decision making rises and then falls over the course of a lifetime, like an upside-down U.

The authors of the paper even put a number on the peak of that upside down U: 53.

That's the age, on average, where people's increasing experience begins to be outweighed by the inexorable deterioration of all parts of the human body -- including, of course, the brain. As the baby boom generation heads toward retirement, there will never have been so many people with so much accumulated wealth heading into such an extended period of cognitive decline.

I need to make the most of the next four months, although as with many other disagreeable statistics, I assume they apply only to other people, not to myself.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Spurs Widen The Spreadsheet

Overall, a very pleasing weekend. I have had to widen my spreadsheet to accommodate the rare occurrence of a double-figure goals tally after Spurs 9-1 win over Wigan. Perhaps not surprisingly, this win exceeded the expected win by 2, but of the ten Premier League games this weekend, four finished with the exact expected margin.

Although the two intra-group games did not result in any draws, both went under which brings the total to 19 unders from 26 games to date. Draws are now 9 from 26. Looking ahead to mid-week and next weekend and there are no less than six such games on the schedule:

Fulham v Blackburn Rovers
Arsenal v Chelsea
Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur
Fulham v Bolton Wanderers
Wigan Athletic v Sunderland
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Birmingham City

Saturday 21 November 2009

Autumn Draws On

An interesting day today, with three spot-on predictions on the Premier League more than making up for three losses. With Chelsea predicted to win by 4, I not only backed them to win, but for the first time ever had a bet on Any Unquoted at 3.85. The gods gave me a draw at Burnley, courtesy of an 86th minute goal, but took away a win for West Ham that looked probable early on. Manchester United also won easily enough.

The other disappointments were Birmingham winning, and even more so, Sunderland beating Arsenal when the latter were expected to win by 2. Liverpool were picked by 2 but with their form the second worst in the Premier League at the start, I left this one alone.

Finding the draw is an area that is showing potential. Although 4 winners from 10 picks doesn't sound great, with an average price of 3.4, this is a good strike rate, although we will need a much bigger sample before getting too excited.

Tomorrow's game at Bolton is not only predicted a draw on the ratings, but is also an intra-group game.

In other news, another value basketball lay (New York Knicks at 1.5) failed to deliver when the New Jersey Nets couldn't close out the game, but I had a couple of winners during the night, so it's all about the big picture.

Benford Revisited

I have written before about Benford's Law, and how it can be applied to identify faked results, and this article by Leighton Vaughan Williams on the Betfair blog from five days ago is worth a read.

In a fascinating article published in the New York Times, a certain Malcolm Browne relates how Dr. Theodore Hill would ask his maths students to go home and either toss a coin 200 times and record the results, or else pretend that they had done so. Either way, he would ask them to produce for him the results of their (real or imaginary) coin-tossing experiment.

Dr. Hill's purpose in this experiment was to show just how difficult it is to fake data convincingly. It just isn't that easy to make up a random sequence. Based on this knowledge, he would astound his students by unerringly picking out the fakers from the tossers!

One of the ways he would do this would be to spot how many times heads or tails would be listed six or more times in a row. In real life, this occurrence is overwhelmingly probable in 200 coin throws. To most of his students this long a sequence is counter-intuitive, an example of what is often termed the Gamblers' Fallacy, i.e. the erroneous perception that independent random sequences will balance out over time, so that for example an extended sequence of heads is more likely to be followed by a tail than a head. The fakers, susceptible to the Fallacy, are thus easily exposed. Ordinary people, even mathematics students, simply can't help introducing patterns into what is random noise.

This is an example of a broader analysis which is usually referred to a Benford's Law, which essentially states that if we randomly select a number from a table of real-life data, the probability that the first digit will be one particular number is significantly different to it being a different number. For example, the probability that the first digit will be a '1' is about 30%, rather than the intuitive 10%, which assumes that all digits are equally likely.

The empirical support for this proportion can be traced to the man after whom the Law is named, physicist Dr. Frank Benford, in a paper he published in 1938, called 'The Law of Anomalous Numbers'. In that paper he examined 20,229 sets of numbers, as diverse as baseball statistics, the areas of rivers, numbers in magazine articles and so forth, confirming the 30% rule for number 1. For information, the chance of throwing up a '2' as first digit is 17.6%, and of a '9' just 4.6%. The same principle applies to trailing (i.e. last) digits. It's a great way, therefore, of checking the veracity of receipts. If, for example, there is an unusual number of trailing digit '7's, there's a decent chance that the figures are cooked. Tax authorities are alert to this.

So randomness is not so random, it seems. Applying the analysis to some recent real-world events, Nate Silver, founder of, polling guru and all-round statistical wizard, examined the results of the recent Iranian election, declaring them "probably forged." More recently still, he's turned his attention to one of the US's high-profile pollsters. The results of his analysis of their findings and his interpretation make fascinating reading.

It's important that survey results are genuine, as they are integral factors in driving the markets, and in particular the election markets. If you are able to differentiate the genuine from the phony, it may thus give you the edge in beating the odds. Let's call it Benford's bonus!

Great Advice

Friday 20 November 2009

Saturday Selections 21 Nov

Liverpool v Manchester City: The ratings say Liverpool by 2, but their form is terrible. Back them at your peril.
Birmingham City v Fulham: Draw
Burnley v Aston Villa: The claret and blues to win this one*
Chelsea v Wolverhampton Wanderers: Chelsea by 4.
Hull City v West Ham United: West Ham by 1.
Sunderland v Arsenal: Arsenal by 2.
Manchester United v Everton: Manchester United by 3.
Bolton Wanderers v Blackburn Rovers: Draw
Tottenham Hotspur v Wigan Athletic: Spurs by 2.
Stoke City v Portsmouth: Stoke by 1.

* I was being silly about Burnley and Villa - this will actually be a draw.

Hold The Cigar

It's probably not too often that you end a session in which you layed a losing team at 1.38 for a sizeable amount, and come away feeling disappointed. That was the case in the early hours when I layed the Phoenix Suns as they made a poor start in New Orleans, but when they recovered and started to trim the deficit, I locked in my profit. It's always seems to be the way with these decisions that if you let the bet run, it goes pear-shaped, and if you lock in your profit, the initial bet proves to be a winning one. Annoying on one level, but in the long-run the decision to even up was the right one.

I then followed this with a lay of the San Antonio Spurs who looked poor from the start at home to the Utah Jazz. Now as I'm sure we are all aware, Utah hadn't won in San Antonio since Bill Clinton was President, nor had the Jazz yet won consecutive games this season, and the Spurs are usually a good home team, so when the Spurs staged something of a comeback, again, I took the profit, influenced by the aforementioned factors no doubt. However, in this case I was so convinced that the Spurs would go on to win, that I gave up the profit and more for a big payout on a Spurs win. Of course, again, the initial lay went on to be a winner, and I ended the session in the red once again.

So what could, and should, have been a stellar night turned out to be something of a disappointment, but at least some of my decisions were proved correct. I think sometimes one can try to hard. On another day, perhaps in the middle of a better run, decisions may have been different. They shouldn't be, but as I mentioned a couple of days ago, taking the emotion out of it in the heat of battle is the hardest part of it.

The ever-wise voice of reason JPG left a positive comment that is appreciated. Essentially, adopt the mindset that every bet has value, and not to worry or care if it loses.

Anyway, it is said that you learn more from losses than you do from wins, and so it's onward and upward, except for the fact that I shall be heading to Las Vegas and California next week for Thanksgiving with my fiancee's family and a little rest and relaxation. Probably a good time for a break and some sunshine.

Premier League predictions in a few minutes.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Eric Morecambe

This story about World Cup Final 1974 referee Jack Taylor might amuse some of you:

Jack was hit by a flying penny from the crowd as he left the pitch after one match at Kenilworth Road. It cut his face and he had to have six stitches. Eric Morecambe went to see him to ask if he was OK and to make sure he wasn't going to report Luton. When Jack confirmed he wasn't, Eric said "Good, now can I have my penny back?".

World Cup Ramblings

So France got past Ireland, albeit in somewhat controversial fashion, and if Uruguay get past Costa Rica, all former World Cup winners will be in South Africa next year.

Once we see the draw on December 4th, it'll be time to start getting excited. No Russia, Croatia, Czech Republic or Ukraine to name a few 'big' countries missing out, but some rare attendees, e.g. Greece, New Zealand and North Korea (I'm old enough to remember their last appearance in a World Cup at Goodison Park).

My trip to Germany for the last one really was great. If you haven't been to a World Cup finals yet, you need to go, although admittedly Germany is a lot easier to get to than South Africa. With my son now at university, I'm not sure a visit to South Africa will be practical but I live in hope.

My only bets today were under 2.5 in the France v Ireland game, figuring it would be a closely contested affair, and Brighton who won as the numbers predicted. Bolton v Blackburn and Stoke v Portsmouth could be worth a bet on the draw and unders.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Robot Trading

November is traditionally one of my strongest months of the year, but so far this month hasn't been as good as expected. I didn't even have to pay a Premium Charge this week, proof that every silver lining has a cloud perhaps.

It's just been one of those runs where value bets haven't paid off, in particular several basketball teams have been holding on to 2 or 3 point leads. The tide was stemmed yesterday with the Rockets trading at 1.7 at half-time with a three point lead at home to the Phoenix Suns. As much as I know from past years that 1.7 is too short a price, it's hard to shake the loss of confidence that a losing run brings.

A day earlier and Orlando Magic are trading at 1.25 at home to Charlotte Bobcats with a two point lead in the third quarter. Of course Charlotte then go on a run of offensive fouls or poor shots and I had soon had to cut my losses short.

Putting the emotions to one side is undoubtedly the hardest part of trading. Basketball remains my favourite sport for trading though, and leaders will continue to trade at prices that offer value to the layer. Early in the season it seemed as if every game played into my hands, so these runs come and go. The key is to stay detached and trade like a robot. Easier said than done though. It's a lot easier to lay £1,000 at say 1.4 when your last trade was profitable, than it is when your last profitable trade was a week ago!

While the expression "you're only as good as your last trade" (which I just made up) is not true, it does start to gnaw away at you when the inevitable losing runs come along.

Finally, once again, Brighton are at the center of the domestic football world today, and should beat Wycombe Wanderers by 1.4 - they're a goal up as I write this as are Ireland. A World Cup without France? That'll serve Platini right for rigging the play-offs by deciding that teams should be seeded.

Sunday 15 November 2009

Sunday Selections 15 Nov

Not much in the way of football today, but Southampton (1.6) are predicted to beat Brighton by 2 this afternoon.

Saturday 14 November 2009

Saturday Selections 14 Nov

With Internationals this weekend, it's a rare opportunity to focus on the lower leagues for a change.

In League One, best bets to win at home are Colchester United (1.62), Huddersfield Town (1.43) and Norwich City (1.42) with draws possible at Gillingham and Yeovil. Away win for Millwall (2.49).

In League Two, draws at Bradford City, Darlington, Lincoln City and Port Vale with Northampton Town (1.71) to win.

In the Conference, I'm looking for a draw at Cambridge United (although personally I'd rather see Kettering win...)

Wednesday 11 November 2009


Gus Poyet has been appointed manager of Brighton and Hove Albion, a club with (not so) high ambitions it would seem.

He told BBC Sussex:

"This is another challenge for me to take the club where everybody in Brighton wants to be and that's in the Championship."
The Championship? Goodness. There was a time when Brighton's ambitions were somewhat loftier, but a dose of reality seems to have settled in at the club these days. Frankly, there's more chance of them playing in the Conference South than the Championship any time soon, based on this season's form.

I wish them well.

Never Say Always

"No one can win long term backing odds on it's just common sense. Gambling is always for mugs and trading is the only way you can ever make money."
So went the first comment to yesterday's post. I thought I had explained as clearly as possible that the laws of mathematics do not suddenly stop working at evens (2.0) but apparently my explanation was still too complex for some.

Some facts. You can certainly win long term backing odds-on. It is not common sense to think otherwise. If it was common sense, wouldn't we all be laying odds-on for guaranteed profits? Why does it make sense to think that you can win long term backing at 2/1 but that you can't at 1/2? If your strike rate at 2/1 is 30% and your strike rate at 1/2 is 70%, betting at which odds would provide the best return?

Another comment mentioned the importance of a good staking plan, linking to a post which extols the virtue of the Kelly criterion. Here are my thoughts on the subject:

Staking plans can help turn a profitable system into an even more profitable system. What they cannot do is turn a losing system into a profitable system.

The only way to verify whether or not your system is a winning or a losing one is by looking at the results against level stakes.

If your system is a losing one, then no staking plan in the world is going to make it profitable. You might think that a loss-recovery system will overcome the negative expectancy, and it may well do for a while, but ultimately, the laws of probability will catch up with you and the inevitable losing run will finish you off.

A winning system can often be made more profitable by implementing a staking plan. Undoubtedly the best plan is to apply the Kelly criterion which, with mathematics far more complex than I claim to understand, has been proven to maximize profits on investments where you know your edge. Unfortunately in the world of sports betting, your precise edge can be very difficult to calculate. If your system is profitable, then you have an edge, and over time you will have a fairly accurate idea of your average edge, but this is still problematic. In sports markets, and with no access to inside information, it is unlikely that you will regularly have more of an edge than justifies your stake being more than 2% of your bank, and this is a good number to work with until you have enough data to justify changing it.

Monday 9 November 2009

Never Say Never

I don't know how often I have written about this, and I suspect it is more than once before, but one of the most ridiculous things I keep seeing in blogs or on betting forums is the notion that one should never back at odds-on.

This is absolute bollox. It makes no more sense than saying "never back at greater than 4/1" or for that matter "never back the home team".

As I've said before, and will no doubt say again, value can be found at any price, and there is nothing in mathematics that says this rule stops at evens. It's complete and utter nonsense.

Evens, or 2.0, simply means the implied probability is 50%. If the true probability is higher than this, back it, if it is less, lay it.

4/1 (5.0) means an implied probability of 20%. If the true probability is higher than this, back it, if it is less, lay it.

1/4 (1.25) simply means an implied probability of 80%. If the true probability is higher than this, back it, if it is less, lay it.

It's not rocket science.

I seriously question whether someone who affords this stupid rule any credibility at all should be betting. Probably not, since the concept of value clearly eludes them, and no one will be a long-term winner unless they are finding value.

It's hard enough finding value as it is without ruling out a large number of possibilities simply because they fall below an arbitrarily chosen number.

York City to beat Chester City - by 2. (Odds-on, but value...)

Sunday 8 November 2009

Blue Moon

Predicting football results can be a frustrating, and at times seemingly impossible, task, but every so often you nail it.

"Tomorrow's expected results are draws at Hull and Wigan, Chelsea by 1 and Everton to win at West Ham by 0.5!"
With the draw at Wigan paying 3.35, Chelsea to win at 2.07 and lay of West Ham at 2.6 all coming in, today was an all too rare good day, and it was only a 91st minute goal that robbed me of an excellent day.

That's probably my good fortune used up for a while, but tomorrow, Liverpool are predicted to win by 3 against Birmingham City. A dabble on the draw at Barnsley too.

Some tasty ties in the next round of the Cup. A local derby between Northampton and Southampton. Kettering v Leeds. Staines Town v AFC Wimbledon. Or Millwall. (Anorak note - the original Wimbledon's last ever game as a non-league club was against Staines. Not a lot of people know that.)

While I'm on a roll here with my fascinating facts, how many know that Staines Town played in front of 70,000 at the Olympic Stadium in Rome in 1975? The return leg of the Barassi Cup (the English Amateur Cup winners versus the Italian Amateur Cup winners) was watched by a more modest crowd of 2,500.

For some reason, I can't find who Charlton have drawn in the second round...

Saturday 7 November 2009

Haye Makes Hay With A Haymaker

Well, he didn't actually, but it would have been a good headline. Better than the Sun's wrong one anyway!

Congratulations to David Haye, even if he is a Millwall fan. An impressive win tonight on points that was always on the cards once I'd seen the Sun's prediction.

Speaking of predictions, some close ones in the Premier League today, but only one (Tottenham) was spot on. I think it'll take a few more weeks for the new adjustments to bed in before they become viable, so in the meantime it's small 'fun' bets only.

Today's summary - Team (Expected, Actual)
Aston Villa (2,4)
Blackburn Rovers (1,2)
Manchester City (1,0)
Tottenham Hotspur (2,2)
Arsenal (2,4)

So 4 winners but 3 at odds on, and once again Manchester City fail to win at odds-on. Laying odds-on continues to reward. Even with a sequence of 22 odds-on winners in 23, (with just one losing in September), it is still profitable to lay these. Even more profitable - lay away teams blindly!

In the Championship, only team teams stood out as winners and both (Blackpool and Newcastle United) obliged, but again both were odds-on. I went hunting for the draw in the games at Plymouth, Swansea, Sheffield Wednesday and Watford, but to no avail.

Tomorrow's expected results are draws at Hull and Wigan, Chelsea by 1 and Everton to win at West Ham by 0.5!

Thursday 5 November 2009

USA - Internet Gambling

As many traders on the exchanges are doubtless aware, for a little over three years Betfair has not accepted bets from the USA. For those who would like a little more liquidity in their US sports markets, that ban may soon be coming to an end.

The following is a recent article from the Los Angeles Times by Michael Hiltzik which exposes just how ridiculous this ban really is.,0,1924643.column

The U.S. approach to Internet gambling, which is legal in much of the rest of the world, is absurd. The activity is unstoppable, so let's regulate it.
By Michael Hiltzik

October 19, 2009

No issue brings out America's talent for self-deception like gambling.

To persuade ourselves that we can keep this particular sin under control, we sequestered casinos in isolated places like Las Vegas and Atlantic City reachable only by superhighways, and isolated them on riverboats where not a single card could be dealt or slot lever pulled until the vessel left the dock.

In Mississippi, the law used to say you couldn't have a casino unless it floated on water. After Hurricane Katrina forcibly relocated a few of these sin barges onto land, the Legislature, reading the disaster as a sign from God, revised the law to let them stay put. (The riverboat states, similarly, eventually allowed their floating casinos to remain dockside.)

Then there are the Indian tribes that have fewer members on their rolls than slot machines in their multimillion-dollar casinos.

Which brings us to Internet gambling.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) have both introduced bills in Congress to lift a federal ban on much online play and clarify the law, which is even murkier than it is for physical casinos, if that's possible. Their goals include taking a piece of the action for the U.S. Treasury, on the political principle that sins always seem less deadly when there's money to be squeezed from them. The consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated in 2007 that legalization could yield as much as $43 billion in tax revenue over 10 years if it includes sports betting, $34 billion even if it doesn't.

Another impetus is that new Federal Reserve and Treasury Department rules requiring banks and other financial institutions to block gambling transfers will go into effect Dec. 1, and the banks are screaming bloody murder about the added regulatory burden.

Internet gambling is one of those issues that shines a light on the distribution of juice in Washington.

The repeal bills delight casino companies such as Harrah’s Entertainment, which is hankering to expand its thriving poker business online and has spent about $1 million this year alone to lobby Congress for legalization. But they also leave intact a ban on Internet sports betting, which pleases outfits like the National Football League, no slouch in the Washington lobbying game.

It's fair to say that the American approach to Internet gambling, which is legal in much of the rest of the world, is absurd. (Indeed, the federal ban placed the U.S. in Dutch with international trading partners that host online gambling companies, which have complained to the World Trade Organization that it violates trade treaties the U.S. signed.) State laws are wildly inconsistent and sometimes hypocritically excessive.

"Martians might have a difficult time understanding that if you play poker online for money in the state of Washington, you're committing a class C felony," Joseph M. Kelly, a gambling-law expert at Buffalo State University in New York, told me. "That's the same as rape."

The Government Accountability Office, surveying the legal landscape in 2002, found that five states specifically outlawed Internet gambling: Illinois, Oregon, South Dakota, Nevada and Louisiana. (Washington enacted its ban in 2006.) Gambling in physical casinos was legal in every one.

On the federal level, conservatives in Congress slipped an Internet gambling ban onto the books in 2006 by quietly attaching it to an antiterrorism bill no sane lawmaker could oppose.

That federal law, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, has numerous flaws. It saddles financial institutions with the duty of enforcement by barring them from "knowingly accepting payments" derived from "unlawful Internet gambling." But it doesn't define what is unlawful.

It exempts fantasy sports and "skill" games, for example. But where does that leave the most popular online game, poker? The new regulations seem to outlaw the game, although its aficionados contend that it's a game of skill pitting player against player. They contend it's been swept into the gambling ban by lax regulation-drafting.

"This law and these regulations are simply a fraud," says Howard Lederer, a world-class poker player on the board of the Poker Players Alliance, a Washington group that claims 1.2 million members. "People who had a moral agenda wrote laws and regulations that were vague. And banks, which have the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads and no clarity, are probably going to block poker transactions."

As for other games, the Justice Department bases its position that all Internet gambling is illegal on the 1961 Wire Act, which outlaws the use of telecommunication services to place bets. But federal courts have upheld Wire Act prosecutions for sports betting alone, leaving unclear whether other online gambling is actually illegal under federal law.

Banks and credit card issuers aren't happy about having to screen billions of financial transactions for signs they're gambling-related starting a few weeks from now. An officer of the American Bankers Assn. told Congress last year that the proposed rules have "no prospect of practical success" in fulfilling the explicit rationale for the 2006 law, which was to combat money laundering.

Kelly thinks it might have the opposite effect. "You diminish reputable payment processors and replace them with those who don't leave a paper trail," he says.

It's not as though the federal ban can wipe out online play any more than Prohibition wiped out drinking. It just deprives players of the protection of a U.S.-regulated environment. Gambling sites are generally regulated by their home countries -- Britain, Ireland and Caribbean states such as Antigua among them -- but that's far to go for redress.

"If a player feels cheated, he'll stop playing on the site," says John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, "but without U.S. oversight, he can't file a claim in an American court." The Frank and Menendez bills would require sites serving U.S. players to accept U.S. legal jurisdiction in return for licensing.

Certainly Internet gambling has its hazards, including the prospect of addictive playing and the enticement of minors. But banning the pastime forces these problems into the shadows where they're harder to address and makes it impossible to enlist the industry in helping to fight them.

It's doubtful that Congress will act in time to put off the new regulations, especially given the more pressing issues on its plate. But next year isn't too soon for it to relearn the lesson of every attempt to enforce a morality that most people don't share. If you can't eradicate, regulate -- and take a big chunk out of the wages of sin while you're at it.

Sunday 1 November 2009

October Turns Green

After a Red October last year, this one proved to be my second best October, and without the Premium Charge would have been the best ever. October moves up to 4th in the table of monthly averages, but on a daily average basis is in 5th place behind February on account of the extra days...

The zenith was a value lay in baseball which made up for a disastrous start to the NFL season, a sport that I am still currently down on for this season despite last weekend's 100% record.

With good liquidity for the post-season, baseball has been excellent with plenty of money wanting to back teams at low odds with small leads. I think this year has seen more come-from-behind wins than usual which suits my trading style. Game 3 was a perfect example. Phillies up by 3, and layable at 1.3 or thereabouts, but the Yankees came back to win. It did rather scupper my unders bet though!

Football and Rugby were both lucrative, and the NBA season has started well. After five days, we've had three winning days, and two losing days and as with baseball, plenty of money wanting to back teams at too short prices.

For only the second time ever, all four major sports in the USA have events today. The first time was in 2001 when the 9/11 attack delayed the World Series. The MLS also has a big game between Los Angeles rivals Galaxy and Chivas plus New England Revolution and Chicago Fire.

Saturday 31 October 2009

Weekly Round-Up

It's been a busy week, lowlighted by a record Premium Charge deduction on Wednesday, but what can you do? It seems churlish to gripe about it, but that doesn't seem to stop me.

Anyway, the NBA season is underway and once again greedy people are backing teams at low prices with still far too much time left in the game. On opening night, Cleveland were 1.53 favourites to beat Boston, raced out to an early 10 point lead, hit 1.2 and then went on to lose. The next day Golden State (1.41) had a 10 point half-time lead against Houston and were also trading at 1.2. The second half started with two Houston 3-pointers and the lead was down to 4. Golden State went on to lose. Charlotte (1.91) traded at 1.01 yesterday against New York, before they finally won in double-overtime. I think it's fair to say that 1.01 was not a value back.

The World Series continues to offer value with people happy to back the Yankees at short prices. 1.54 on game one, which they proceeded to lose 1-6. They did win game 2, and for game 3 late tonight, they are a more reasonable 1.9, but on the road against a decent pitcher this is not a value back. Both games were unders and tonight's game should continue that trend.

Rugby Union last night gave me a nice winner. My ratings had Wellington as value at 1.41 against Southland and obliged. Wellington easily beat Southland 32-13 five weeks ago, and repeated with a 34-21 win early this morning. They might find the final against Canterbury a little tougher though!

And finally to football. I mentioned a month ago that at the start of the season, I divided the Premier League into four groups:

A. Big 4 (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United)
B. Europa (Aston Villa, Everton, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur)
C. Middlers (Blackburn, Bolton Wanderers, Fulham, Sunderland, West Ham, Wigan)
D. Strugglers (Birmingham City, Burnley, Hull City, Portsmouth, Stoke City, Wolves)

My theory was that intra-group games would provide more draws and lower-scoring games than inter-group games. After today we have 21 such games played, and the results are promising. To a £1 level stake, backing the draw would have you exactly £10 ahead, and backing the Unders would have you up £5.82. Not a single team has scored more than 2 goals in any of these fixtures, and only three matches have been Overs AND not a draw. Next week's games to watch for are Chelsea v Manchester United, Hull City v Stoke City and Wigan Athetic v Fulham.

In the Championship today, the 100% record of away win predictions continued with Swansea 1/2 goal favourites to win at Scunthorpe. They won 2-0.

One other observation is how there can be value in the immediate aftermath of a goal. Today I was looking at the Bolton Wanderers v Chelsea 3.5 goals market as Chelsea went 3-0 up after 81 mins. There was suddenly £4,332 to back at 1.66. As it happened, this was a winning lay for someone, but if you have the intestinal fortitude to ride out a couple of minutes, you could have laid off at 1.41 just two and a half minutes later. That seems a value bet to me.