Tuesday 31 March 2009

Fair Enough

The long-awaited report into in-running betting has been published by the Gambling Commission. Although I wasn’t expecting any dramatic changes, it was something of a relief to read that essentially their investigation shows no reason why this betting option should be changed or even banned completely.

A couple of things caught my eye. One was these lines “One betting operator mentioned that they had conducted their own research into in-running betting. They interviewed a significant number of customers and the data collected indicated that there was no evidence that would support the suggestion that in-running betting poses a greater risk of harm to vulnerable people than any other forms of betting.

The same betting operator also stated that when their survey data was segregated into groups of those customers who were profitable and unprofitable, based over a six month period, the responses were indistinguishable. They suggested that whether winning or losing, their in-running betting customers felt that in-running betting was fairer than most forms of gambling.”

This rather validates my own views, which have been expressed on here ad nauseam. I’ll say it again. In-running betting offers investors the fairest opportunity to win that is available anywhere. The stock market may be more respectable, (although recent events may make that statement less true than a few years ago), but financial institutions as well as horse racing are rife with inside knowledge, a polite word for cheats.

In-running sports betting is transparent. The players, the tactics, the flow of the game are all there for everyone to see. Any cheating would be apparent to everyone. Betting becomes a game of chess, but rather than taking place on a board, it unfolds on a level playing field.

Monday 30 March 2009

Mea Culpa

A rather disappointing weekend, all things considered. No decent football this weekend with internationals going on. FC Dallas were defeated at home (again). The Lakers put in one of their worst performances of the season, and cost me a fair sum. Cambridge lost the Boat Race, but that didn't cost me a penny because I didn't bet on the race.

About the only good news was that Tiger Woods won the PGA golf (Arnold Palmer Invitational) after starting the final round 5 shots back and that made me a little money. Also made some on Jenson Button winning the Australian Grand Prix, but not enough to stop this being my first 'losing on both days' weekend since last June. Not a run that I wanted to see end.

It didn't help that I made two mental errors yesterday. The first was when I went to lay the draw at half-time in the Weymouth v Barrow game, and managed to lay Barrow by mistake. Fortunately I was able to back them back without loss, and then the lay of the draw ultimately paid dividends. (Laying the draw at half-time in certain games can be profitable. Most goals are scored in the second half of games, and in this game it seemed to be just a matter of time before one went in).

The second error was laying the Atlanta Hawks at 1.08 for several thousand when I was doing a 'what if', and instead of clearing the bet, I absent-mindedly submitted it. Alzheimer's, here we come. Fortunately, whoever I was matched with must have thought I knew something that I didn't because all the money was then offered as a back at just two ticks lower, so a costly mistake but one that could have been a lot worse. The worst part of it was that I had no one to blame but myself and a lapse in concentration.
An occasional cock-up is acceptable so long as you can blame the kids or girlfriend or phone ringing or anything but yourself really, but two in one day, and no one to blame? Not good. I'll blame it on the clocks changing!

Still, up overall on the week, and this is looking to be my best March since records began, and at least the weekend's losses will mitigate the Premium Charge on Wednesday.

I'm on Cambridge (1.86) tonight. If they can't win the Boat Race, at least they should be able to beat Woking.

Update: Cambridge won 1-0!

Saturday 28 March 2009

Away We Go

A dozen aways today, all from the lower divisions because that's all there is to choose from today!

My picks are Tranmere Rovers (2.56), Millwall (2.36), Huddersfield Town (2.56), Swindon Town (2.66), Aldershot Town (3.7), Crawley Town (2.36), Torquay United (2.48), Rushden and Diamonds (1.89), Kidderminster Harriers (2.6), Dundee (2.76), Ayr United (1.31) and Annan Athletic (2.1).

I'm not too sure about Huddersfield to be honest, but they qualified (barely) so they are included. I also fancy the draw in the Carlisle United v Northampton Town (3.55) and Leyton Orient v Oldham Athletic (3.45) matches.

Good luck as always, unless you are opposing me on any of the above, in which case I wish you extra good luck, because you'll need it. Well, maybe not.

Results (Winners in Green): Tranmere Rovers (2.56), Millwall (2.36), Huddersfield Town (2.56), Swindon Town (2.66), Aldershot Town (3.7), Crawley Town (2.36), Torquay United (2.48), Rushden and Diamonds (1.89), Kidderminster Harriers (2.6), Dundee (2.76), Ayr United (1.31), Annan Athletic (2.1) Carlisle United v Northampton Town (3.55) and Leyton Orient v Oldham Athletic (3.45). 14 bets, loss on the day - 15.14%.

Friday 27 March 2009

FC Dallas

Many thanks to Curly and Strugar for their suggestions on where I might find stats on corner kicks. I am now more confused than ever because the three sites I have used don’t even agree on their stats!

In fact, the ESPN Soccernet site had Chicago winning 3-1 at Dallas with just 2 shots on goal. One of the goals was a penalty, so perhaps they don’t count that as a shot on goal. I can think of one or two players that might make sense for, come to think of it, but anyway, I guess so long as I stick to one site, any small differences will even themselves out.

So I was looking at this weekends MLS schedule, and one game that sticks out is FC Dallas v Chivas USA. Last weekend, Dallas dominated against Chicago, but lost, while Chivas were outplayed by Colorado, yet won. The prices are not yet firmed up on Betfair, (and I don’t see the games on BETDAQ at all), but the early signs are that Dallas will be available at better than evens, a bet that looks worth taking to me. The game is in-running too, so should they go ahead, the option to green-up is always available.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

MLS (Most Logical Statistics)

Whilst it is undeniably true that the standard of MLS falls far short of that of the major leagues in Europe, it does have a few advantages from an investment perspective.

One is that the MLS season starts now, just as the English season starts to wind down and silly-season starts with teams in mid-table just going through the motions. Players have one foot on the pitch, the other on the beach in Spain.

Another is that tracking results and updating team ratings from the English and Scottish leagues (11 divisions and 202 teams) is an incredibly time consuming task. With just 15 teams in MLS, the number of games is much more manageable.

Also MLS attracts nowhere near the amount of interest that the Premier League, Serie A or La Liga do, and thus if one does ones homework, there could be opportunities.

One final advantage is that since I have absolutely no interest in any of the teams, and there is limited TV exposure, I can make my investment and not feel like I have to watch the game unfold. I can just click my balance in the morning and watch it leap up…

The aforementioned ratings have, it has to be said, been something of a disappointment, in that I haven’t yet found a way to make them pay. There are promising signs from the lower reaches of the Football League, but when out-of-form bottom-rated Team A beats in-form top-rated Team B, one can’t help but think that the whole thing is a big waste of time.

But a new league starting up affords the opportunity to apply some lessons learned. One thing I will have the luxury of being able to track is not just the result, but shots, shots-on-goal, and goals. I am thinking that a 1-0 win is overly rewarded in my rankings, and that perhaps shots, or shots-on-goal, (or both), should be given more weight. 

I read somewhere that one goal is scored for every ten shots, so it will be interesting to see if this is true. I would also like to include corners but the MLS web site doesn’t include them, (strange for a nation that loves its statistics), so if anyone knows of a website that does, please let me know.

Looking at the results from the opening weekend, and there are some interesting stats.

Chivas USA 2 Colorado 1 (Chivas USA had 6 shots, 4 on-goal; Colorado had 17 shots, 4 on-goal).

Dallas 1 Chicago 3 (Dallas had 20 shots, 1 on goal; Chicago had 11 shots, 6 on-goal).

San Jose 0 New England 1 (San Jose had 16 shots, 5 on-goal; New England had 7 shots, 2 on-goal).

Should my ratings reward the above winners for their efficiency, or should the ratings reward the losing teams for having more shots, which in the long run ‘should’ result in more goals?

I am going to experiment with a rating adjustment that ignores the final result, but takes into consideration shots, shots-on-goal, and goals. And if anyone can help with corners, I’ll throw them into the mix too.

My thinking is that, not unreasonably, the odds are based on results, but because goals are so rare, these odds can be all too easily skewed, but when odds are wrong, there is opportunity.

Incidentally, Baseball records results in the format Runs - Hits - Errors so for example:

Boston Red Sox 3-11-1
New York Yankees 2-8-2

Only the 3-2 is important from the result perspective, but the Hits count is a useful indicator for future reference too. Perhaps football could adopt a similar ‘box-score’ idea: Goals – Shots-on-Goal – Shots – Corners.

Chivas USA 2-6-4-x Colorado 1-17-4-x would give a much more complete picture.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Wealth Versus Health

Someone I work closely with had a heart-attack this weekend, only a mild one, so he will be just fine, but since he is seven years younger than me, it was a little disturbing. Although these things are always a shock, I can’t say that it was a surprise. 

The guy drinks every night, and not just a glass of beer, but the hard stuff. He smokes heavily and lives alone. He has a liking for home-made baked goods and potato chips, and his exercise is limited to walking outside for his smoke breaks and raising his glass.

What does this have to do with sports investing? Not a lot really, to be honest, but the incident got me thinking about how our investment activities affect our health and our quality of life in general.

I am fortunate to have good genes and long-living ancestors, (hang in there Mum and Dad), which is why I think it is important to do your research and select your parents carefully before you are conceived. You don’t want parents who are going to give you high cholesterol for example. If you choose the wrong parents, then exercise won’t affect your cholesterol levels, only your diet, and it would suck to have to watch your diet all the time. Choose the right parents, and you have a little more leeway in life.

I’ve also never been addicted to smoking. Years ago, my smoking would be limited to summer holidays on the beaches of Greece and Spain. It was my excuse to sit up and have a look at the topless girls for a couple of minutes before laying back down and working on the tan. Sorry, but the same activity without a cigarette in hand just looks pervy! I am fortunate not to have an addictive personality. Once I was on the flight back to London, that was it for cigarettes.

Alcohol? Well, like most Englanders, I used to drink more than the recommended daily amount. It’s hard not to. So many social activities, (and work activities come to think of it), involve alcohol, but now I am older, and a lot less social, so my drinking is less. And here is where investing is good for you – I never drink when I am investing, or plan to be investing, and since that it most days of the week, I am now only a very occasional imbiber. Alcohol and smart decisions don’t go together too well I’ve noticed, and anyone who is serious about making money from gambling should not be drinking.

Diet? Could be better, but my health-conscious girlfriend has been, and continues to be, a positive influence in this area.

Exercise? Not so good. I have the goal of running every three days (at my age the body takes a while to recover), but so far this year, I have made it out the door all of 11 times. Mind you, Spring is here now which always makes it easier.

Weight? Too high, but if I get the previous two items sorted, then it’ll take care of itself.

Stress? This is something of an unknown. I’m sure it’s human nature to think that we all handle stress ok, but when I have a few thousand pounds riding on the outcome of a penalty shoot-out for example, and the neighbours can hear my heart pounding, that can’t be good. I should probably reduce the stakes to a level where my heart rate does not increase, but most of my big investments are made in-play and if there is value to be had, I don’t just want £30 on if I can have £3,000 on. The downside is, of course, that the adrenalin rush that accompanies the £3,000 investment can’t be healthy. On the upside though, is that the extra money one generates from investing does relieve the financial pressures of life, and allow you the opportunity to enjoy life a little more fully than otherwise might be the case.

I should also probably take more time off from investing than I do. Unless I drag myself off for a trip to the World Cup, or somewhere with no Internet access, I find myself looking for opportunities every single day. Sure, there is more to life than investing, but again, who’s to say exactly how long the sun will be shining for us to make hay?

I don’t know if I am typical with the above observations or not, but I’d be surprised if none of my comments applied to people reading this.

Monday 23 March 2009

Football Failure

Football betting really just isn’t for me.

Having layed Dagenham and Redbridge at 2.88 yesterday and greened-up for a nice little risk free profit at 3.0 earlier today, what happens?

Match postponed due to floodlight failure. Typical.

What odds that the lights would fail at both Dagenham AND Redbridge?

Sunday 22 March 2009

Life Changing Indiscipline - A Brief History, Handle With Care

In the 'About Me' section on this blog, I mention that I took an 'A' (Advanced) Level in Pure Mathematics With Statistics.

How I came to take this Pure Mathematics With Statistics ‘A’ Level in the first place is a story in itself. When I was 14, I managed to get myself thrown out of a History class one afternoon, along with another boy, who, for reasons still unknown to me, just happened to have a screwdriver in his pocket.

With nothing better to do than stand in the corridor until the class was over, we decided to unscrew the door handle, remove the connecting rod, and then replace the handle. The outcome of all this was that when class was over, and the teacher walked over to open the door with his usual flourish, the door handle did not work. It rattled uselessly up and down.

Through the small glass window in the door, the teacher could see the two of us grinning and holding up the connecting rod. I can’t recall whether we were told to replace the rod, or whether we just felt it prudent to do so, but replace it we did. The class was belatedly dismissed, and that appeared to be the end of the story.

I don’t even recall being told off at the time, but this small incident was to have a significant impact on my life. A year or so later, when I selected History as an 'A' Level subject, my 'not too impressed' parents were told by the teacher at the mandatory Parents' Evening to confirm our selections, that my presence in his class was not welcome, and I was obliged to choose another subject to go along with my Geography and Economics. My ‘A’ grade ‘O’ (Ordinary) Level in Mathematics was the clincher, and I selected Pure Mathematics With Statistics in place of History.

It was ultimately this qualification that got me out of my career of bank clerk and into the then new and exiting world of computer programming, (the sole requirement many years ago being Maths 'A' level). Although I can't honestly say that this knowledge has been invaluable on the betting exchanges, it can't have done any harm.

My partner in crime now runs a restaurant/coffee shop in Dumfries, Scotland, so I'm not sure his life was impacted quite so much as mine.

Funny how such apparently trivial incidents can have such a far-reaching impact on one's life.

Friday 20 March 2009

Weekend Football - Spring Opening Day Collection

The challenge to find football value continues this weekend. Here are some of my thoughts.

Portsmouth v Everton: Everton are rated at 1649, Portsmouth at 770, and the respective current form of the two teams favours Everton also. Back Everton at 2.76.

Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea: This game is between the top two in-form teams, and while Chelsea are rated higher, they are away, and I expect the London derby to be tight. Lay Spurs at 4.7.

West Bromwich Albion v Bolton Wanderers: These two teams have the lowest ratings in the Premier League, but on current form, Bolton should be too strong. Back Bolton at 3.2.

Other selections: Wolves at 2.28, Leeds United at 2.16, Millwall at 2.64, Leyton Orient at 2.22, Stockport at 3.2, Tranmere at 3.75, Milton Keynes Dons at 1.92, Exeter City at 2.6, Bournemouth at 1.8, Gillingham at 2.28, Forest Green Rovers at 3.45, Torquay United at 1.57, St Mirren at 3.2 and Motherwell at 2.64.

I shall also be laying the opposition in the above games.

Thursday 19 March 2009

Kettering Town v Oxford United

Kettering Town tonight play their sixth consecutive home game this month, versus Oxford United.

I have the two teams rated very close, Kettering at 248 and Oxford at 252. Recent form favours Oxford at +25 with Kettering at -10.

Oxford are favourites at 2.5, Kettering are at 3.25 with the draw at 3.3. Where is the value here? I am going with a lay of Kettering.

Reasons: Their home form has been poor this month. They beat Lewes on Tuesday night, but then just about everyone beats Lewes at the moment.

Oxford have not played since Saturday.

Both teams have played both Grays and Eastbourne this month, providing an opportunity to directly compare the results. At Home versus Grays, Kettering drew 0-0, Oxford won 4-1.

Against Eastbourne Borough, Kettering lost at home 0-1. Oxford won away 3-0.

However, football being football, watch for Kettering Town to win 2-0!

Wednesday 18 March 2009

The Trouble With A Challenge

James, aka The Iron Horse, asked me via a comment on a recent post “So you think the £100 to £100,000 is possible? I might have a go at similar".

“What sort of % do you suggest and are the type of bets Alex was doing the right area/approach?”

My answer to this question was initially a resounding yes. Of course it is possible to turn £100 into £100,000.

However, having read some of the other comments, I suspect that the question being asked is really this. “Do you think the £100 to £100,000 is possible using a set percentage daily goal combined with all-in betting?”

To this, I would have to say no.

The subject of specific goals has been covered in this blog before, and I am not a fan of them. The only ‘goal’ is to make money consistently, but setting specific goals, whether it be £10 a day or 1% a week are unhelpful.

Alex rode his luck a little and turned £100 into £1,000 in just a couple of months. The problem for Alex was that he didn’t appreciate that he had been lucky. When you’re backing 1.05 shots, then yes, you will usually win, but approximately 1 time in 21 you will lose, and statistically probably before 15 bets. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that an individual 1.05 shot can’t possibly lose, but they do.

This is not the way to go. The only way to consistently make money is to find value bets, use a sensible staking plan, (something based on Kelly would be my suggestion), and take advantage of the opportunity the exchanges provide to trade.

To make money from gambling requires patience and discipline, and when someone sets themselves a challenge similar to Alex’s (£100 to £100,000 in 367 days,) both these requirements go out of the window.

I’m not sure I understand this need for a ‘challenge’. It’s challenging enough trying to make money regularly from betting, without deliberately handicapping yourself even more. A fixed percentage a day is just plain stupid. You bet when there is value to be found, you bet a percentage of your bankroll, (no all-ins), and slowly but surely you will increase your bank.

It may certainly be more ‘exciting’ to go all-in all the time, or to have to find a bet every day, but that’s not the kind of excitement that is going to help you reach a goal. The kind of person who seeks a rush from his betting, is not the kind of person who will make money from his betting.

If the purpose is to entertain others with your tales of derring-do and bravado, well, that’s your choice. Alex is looking to attract readers to his blog, and on to his other web sites which is fair enough. His challenge is a kind of loss-leader and if he covers his losses elsewhere, then I can’t question his tactics, but if you seriously want to win money from gambling, you need to take a more disciplined, practical, and yes, boring, approach.

You need to be a nerd in fact!

And James – why stop at £100,000?

Sunday 15 March 2009

Benford's Law

During an idle moment earlier this week, I decided to put Benford’s Law to the test using as the data my daily P&L totals which have been recorded since January 1st, 2006. Over 1,000 individual data items.

For those not into mathematics and statistics, Benford’s Law pertains to the leading significant digit of any collection of real data.

At first thought, it might seem that on any day, the chances of the leading digit being any one specific digit are the same as it being any other number, i.e. 1 in 9, and that if you were offered odds over 8-1, this would be a value bet.

Well, it would indeed be a value bet for some digits, but not for most. Benford’s Law states that the leading digit will be a ‘1’ 30.1% of the time with ‘9’ leading just 4.6% of the time.

The results using my data do bear this out very closely. Remarkably two of my numbers are exactly the percentage predicted, and all are very close. A few less ‘8’s and a few more ‘2’s and they would be an almost perfect fit.

The expected percentages along with my results (bottom line) are shown in the screenshot above.

A completely pointless exercise I know, but I found it interesting!

Bloggers Old And New

So the hens of recklessness finally came home to roost for young Alex. After a series of all-ins, and a close shave on the England – West Indies test match this week, he failed to heed the words of warning of a few people and again went all-in yesterday– this time betting that Liverpool would not win both halves of the game at Manchester United at odds of 1.05/1.06. A 44th minute Steven Gerrard penalty gave Liverpool the 2-1 first half win, and they added two more without reply in the second half to complete the upset.

Alex had the goal of turning a £100 starting bank into £100,000. An achievable goal, but not in the time-frame he was shooting for, which was just 367 days. A pity, his was one of the more interesting blogs out there, speaking of which, sadly Mark Iverson has decided to call it quits with his blog. I wish both of these gentlemen well for the future.

It would be good to have an occasional update from Mark, and if Alex can get away from thinking of 2% a day as being “… painfully slow progress and I simply don’t have the mindset to increase my bank so slowly from the outset” perhaps another similar, but more realistic, challenge and blog can be started.

Saturday 14 March 2009

Week 3 Summary

A mixed bag of results today, with a net profit of a whopping £10.70 which from 36 bets is perhaps hardly worth the effort, but a profit is a profit.

The result of the day for me was Rotherham winning away to Rochdale at 4.4, by some way the longest priced bet I had today.

Some observations are that once again the Home results were best in Leagues One and Two with 6 winners out of 8, and in Scotland with 4 from 5. The search goes on.

Here are the results in full:

Homes: Manchester United (L 1.98), Middlesbrough (D 2.38), Watford (D 2.18), Milton Keynes Dons (W 1.96), Morecambe (W 2.1), Kettering Town (L 1.85), Torquay United (W 1.49), Dundee (W 1.94), Morton (W 1.86) and East Stirling (L 1.67), Peterhead (W 2.44), Raith Rovers (L 2.44) and Stirling Albion (L 2.46), Everton (W 1.55), Hull City (D 2.8), Leeds United (W 1.55), Peterborough (W 1.60), Tranmere Rovers (W 2.2), Brentford (D 2.22), Chesterfield (D 2.24), Exeter City (W 2.42), Oxford United (W 1.64), Inverness Caledonian Thistle (W 2.3) and Forfar (W 2.16). 24 bets - Profit to a level stake of 100 = 321 (13.38%).

Aways: Hartlepool (L 2.36), Luton Town (L 3.05), Bournemouth (W 2.62), Rotherham (W 4.4), Kidderminster Harriers (W 1.5), Wrexham (D 2.48), Hearts (L 2.92), Queen of the South (L 2.66), Partick Thistle (W 2.9), St Johnstone (L 2.42), Queens Park (D 2.08) and Dumbarton (L 2.24). 12 bets – Loss to a level stake of 100 = 58 (-4.83%).
League One / Two Homes: 8 bets – Profit 383 (47.88%)

League One / Two Aways: 4 bets – Profit 302 (75.5%)

Friday 13 March 2009

Footy Selections - Week 3 (Home AND Away)

A heady harvest of Home selections this week, which I have filtered down to 10 for investment purposes.

Manchester United (1.98), Middlesbrough (2.38), Watford (2.18), Milton Keynes Dons (1.96), Morecambe (2.1), Kettering Town (1.85), Torquay United (1.49), Dundee (1.94), Morton (1.86) and East Stirling (1.67).

There are also three Scottish League Two selections that are worthy of mention, all at good prices – Peterhead (2.44), Raith Rovers (2.44) and Stirling Albion (2.46), plus Everton (1.55), Hull City (2.8), Leeds United (1.55), Peterborough (1.60), Tranmere Rovers (2.2), Brentford (2.22), Chesterfield (2.24), Exeter City (2.42), Oxford United (1.64), Inverness Caledonian Thistle (2.3) and Forfar (2.16).

I also have a dozen away selections: Hartlepool (2.36), Luton Town (3.05), Bournemouth (2.62), Rotherham (4.4), Kidderminster Harriers (1.5), Wrexham (2.48), Hearts (2.92), Queen of the South (2.66), Partick Thistle (2.9), St Johnstone (2.42), Queens Park (2.08) and Dumbarton (2.24).

Small stakes to give me a bit of an interest. If they all win, I won’t be rich, and if they all lose, well, that would probably be something of a record.

Good luck.

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Battle Of The Nerds

John Tuohy, aka The Gambler, recently posted an old article from Cigar Aficionado magazine, which was written by Michael Kaplan back in 2004, shortly after I joined Betfair. I hadn’t seen this article before, and it was a good read. Towards the end of the article, the author talks about the “new class of professional gambler” that Betfair created.

The “old class” was typified by John, who “had always been a run-of-the-mill punter, game to bet on just about anything”, while the “new class” was represented by a young Glen Alcoe, described as a “supersharp advantage player”, and perhaps less flatteringly as a “nerdy-looking guy with a PhD in mathematics”. Glen Alcoe, we are told, makes his money “by finding opportunities that other people overlook.”

In other words, by finding value. An edge. Call it what you will.

Betfair’s problem, it seems to me, is that they are attractive to this new class of gambler, and the word ‘gambler’ here is really a misnomer. “Value investor” would be more accurate. By definition, these people will be overall winners, and if they should ever find that their edge no longer exists, and can’t find a way to adapt and make a profit, they will simply walk away. They are not gamblers in it for the thrill of the action. They are ‘nerds’ in it to make money.

People joining Betfair are either gamblers or nerds. (I’m including among their number arbers and insiders).

Gamblers will lose, perhaps a little more slowly than in the high street, but lose they surely will. Will they keep pouring money in to fund their thrill for action? Possibly, although as I have written before, being able to see their indisputable P&L might be enough to put some of these people off.

So Betfair becomes populated by nerds and a few gamblers, and as Andrew Black is quoted as saying “If somebody's smart and he works hard, he will win money on Betfair. However, there are a lot of very clever people out here, and it's not easy. But why should it be? This is survival of the fittest."

How very true.

Sunday 8 March 2009

Are You 1 in 10? 3 in 20? Me Neither

I'm a little depressed. I thought paying the Premium Charge on a regular basis (although not last week, thanks to some clever, and some not so clever, shenanigans) meant I was in the top 0.3% on Betfair. It seems I am nowhere close.

This excerpt is from the Guardian's coverage of the 2007 Kieren Fallon trial. David O'Reilly is Betfair's barrister:

"[Miles] Rodgers had nonetheless made a net profit of over £180,000 from all his activity on Betfair over the indictment period December 2002 to September 2004, the court heard, and Kelson wanted to know how many Betfair account-holders would be able to say the same."

"Probably 10-15%," said O'Reilly. "It's not a number we need to have control of. We take our commission, whoever wins and loses."

£180,000 in 21 months? From reading the Betfair Forum, I assumed EVERYONE made at least that and more. But ONLY 10-15% REALLY make that? Of course, back in the pre-Premium Charge days, it was a lot easier!

Home System Week 2 Summary

Of the 14 selections, 6 were winners, 3 were losers, and 5 were draws. As last, that’s a lot of draws, with most of them coming at the less well visited portion of the fixture list – the Scottish League and Conference Regional Leagues.

The full results were: Crewe (W 2.24), Oldham (L 2.06), Barnet (W 1.93), Bournemouth (D 1.94), Bradford (W 1.84), Darlington (L 1.9), Mansfield (W 1.34), Partick Thistle (L 1.73), St Johnstone (D 1.81) and Peterhead (D 1.75).

Nothing spectacular. The research continues. Meanwhile, in the Under / Over 2.5 goals market...

I fancied the Everton v Middlesbrough game to be a low scoring affair, and backed the Under 2.5 goals pre-game. I laid off 2/3rds of the bet after ten minutes and let the rest ride. I was going to trade-out at half-time, but Middlesborough messed that plan up by scoring in the 44th minute.

I pondered trading out at half-time for a small profit, but after my mind had started counting on a bigger win, I thought I'd be brave and again let it run, hoping the 'Boro would keep it tight. They didn't. Two goals by 50 minutes and I was in a hole. Mercifully, Everton put me out of my misery 6 minutes later (if I'm going to lose, I'd rather the loss be quick. Games where the agony drags on forever are just excruciating!).

Looking back, the mistake I made was in not trading out at the half. Certainly the profit was way down on what it could have been with a 0-0 scoreline at half-time, but the fact was that the score was now 1-0 and that a profit is a profit, however small. A case of a bad decision driven by greed.

Friday 6 March 2009

Turning The Corner Comments And Thoughts

Thanks for the comments on my recent post Turning The Corner, about football betting. Since comments can sometimes get lost and because I know you all check back every few hours to see the latest blindingly insightful post, I thought I’d address them all in a new post.

Pete – “First I would just like to comment on your excellent blog. It is always a pleasurable and thoughtful read.” Totally agree! Just kidding. It’s a Friday, I’m in a silly mood. But the comment is appreciated.

Seriously, you mention that you avoid accumulators. Yes, and so do I. It’s hard enough finding one winner, never mind multiple winners, and when I used to play with multiples, I often found myself settling for a selection just to make up the numbers, and that can never be good.

You then say you are “laying odds-on selections where I deem the value to be poor and in truth even sticking to this is proving difficult”. How do you ‘deem the value to be poor’? Do you have a rating system, or is it just a gut feeling?

As for the Unders / Overs comment which was: “…and possibly playing the Unders/Overs markets could prove fruitful but when playing the Unders market in-play it is imperative that you stake yourself accordingly. IE: Do your analysis, if you perceive value have a straight punt and trade out if necessary.” How do I know if trading out is necessary? I’ve messed about with these stupid markets for long enough to know that when I trade out of the unders the game will finish with no more goals, but when I don’t, there will be at least three, with two of them coming in stoppage time. Perhaps an exaggeration, but that’s how it feels!

Talkbet / Paul – thanks for the web site. I’ll check it out. There would certainly appear to be some logic to the idea of including statistics that reflect superiority, and as JPG says, the number of offsides should probably be included somewhere. It would be interesting to know what correlation there is between corners and goals, or offsides and goals, or shots and goals. I’ll probably just have to start tracking these myself (or hire someone to do it for me). Maybe I’ll bribe my son! Paul – I haven’t checked out your website before today, but it looks like you have some interesting stuff there. Thanks.

JPG – I try to remove the emotion from my betting, and for outright punts, I can do this. I just look at the numbers. However, in-play, I find it very hard to turn off the emotion. I have my favourite teams, and I have teams that I always seem to do better on than others, and I teams that I can never seem to win on. When I am trading a game in-play, I do form an impression which I have no doubt is influenced by past experiences with that team and that does affect how I invest, however much I try to avoid it. For example, games involving Chelsea regularly seem to lose me money whereas West Ham are a lucky team for me. It’s a funny old game.

Other ideas I am pondering right now. How many matches should current form include? Should my Elo ratings be separated into Home and Away? The answers seems to be ‘6’ and ‘No’ (at least that’s what “Profitable Football Betting” tells me).

Finally, I see Sunderland are at 3.0 tomorrow for their home game with Spurs. 

That seems a value price to me. Sunderland are in form as, admittedly, are Spurs, but Spurs might feel a trip to one of the far outposts of the English Empire is a bit of a comedown after last weekend’s trip to Wembley. Sunderland don’t merit selection based on the numbers alone, but I’ll put them out there and see if I can get some feedback.

Good luck this weekend.

Home System (2)

10 solid gold Home value selections for this weekend: Crewe Alexandra (2.24), Oldham Athletic (2.06), Barnet (1.93), AF Bournemouth (1.94), Bradford City (1.84), Darlington (1.9), Mansfield Town (1.34), Partick Thistle (1.73), St Johnstone (1.81) and Peterhead (1.75).

After 14 unbeaten selections out of 15 last week, I am very tempted to lay the opposition, but I’ll give it one more week with simply backing the selection. Backing the draw proved profitable last week too, but 11 selections is a rather lean sample (to say the least) to start leaping to any conclusions.

I’ve also practically given up with the Blue Square North and South Leagues, mainly because the markets are extremely illiquid. The winners are Telford, Harrogate, Hampton and Richmond, and Hayes and Yeading. (A lot of ‘ands’ there, but still only four teams!) If the prices are a little closer nearer kick-off, then I may have a dabble, but right now there’s too big a gap which almost certainly means ‘no value’.

Thursday 5 March 2009

Turning The Corner

I have been researching betting on football. I've commented on a couple of blogs recently that it is becoming increasingly annoying that I cannot consistently make money from the game that I should know better than any other.

I have just finished reading a book called “Profitable Football Betting” by Paul Steele. The book was published in August 2003, and while it is packed with data and statistics which are now obsolete, there are nonetheless a few tidbits in there, even if there are no golden nuggets. I also recently read “The Football Betting Science” by Gary Christie which is one of those betting books that you think after reading “I could have written better than that”.

I guess the world of football betting is one that is well traveled. The world’s most popular sport by a mile, and probably the most gambled on team sport as well, it is hardly surprising that it is the most studied.

However, compared with other team sports, it is quite remarkably free of statistics. Not as free as it used to be mind you. In my day, the statistics were pretty much limited to counting the goals and who scored them, and that was about it. These days though, we have shots, shots on target, corners, bookings, sendings-off, the dreaded ‘assists’ and a plethora of other numbers if you care to look hard enough. In many ways football is similar to ice-hockey, but like all American sports, ice-hockey is full of statistics. Baseball, cricket, American football, basketball, even rugby I’ve noticed, all these sports are laden with statistics, but football, due mainly to its fluid nature I suspect, is relatively free of them.

Why am I waffling on about statistics? Because statistics are all that most of us have to work with when evaluating upcoming matches. Even the most dedicated of fans can only get to see a handful of games a week, and so statistics become that much more important.

Goals are obviously important, but in a way, they are overrated. There are 1-0 wins, and there are 1-0 wins. A team can totally dominate and come away with ‘just’ a 1-0 win, or conversely, a team can be totally outplayed and win by that same score, but most systems will look at the two results and treat them the same.

One of the interesting items in “Profitable Football Betting” is about the importance of looking past just the results, but looking more deeply into the statistics, in particular shots and corners.

I like this idea, although it is going to take more time to research every game. The author compares a number of systems, and this “Penetration” based system fared extremely well, placing second overall of the fifteen he analysed, and first in a number of categories. He breaks his results down by predicted home wins, draws etc.

Anyway, something to look at over the next few weeks. For the remainder of this season though, I am going with the Elo based Cassini Ratings And Performance system, and if anyone has any books or articles to recommend, please don’t be shy.

Wednesday 4 March 2009

The Jury Deliberates

A few days ago, I wrote a post expressing serious doubts that a bet had been won at 100-1 as had been claimed by http://thebettingadvantage.com/100-to-1-shot/

There were a number of reasons why I came to this conclusion.

1) Why would someone post about a big win without detailing what made them consider this bet to be value?

2) Why delay posting for almost two days?

3) The money mached at 100 was less than it should have been.

4) The screenshot showing the bet looked very much a fake. Even the two zeroes on 100 clearly didn't match (looked more like 10O).

Having said that, it isn't very nice to accuse someone of something without being 100% certain of the facts, and when the respected Scott Ferguson commented that reason 3) above could be explained as a product of cross-matching, a seed of doubt was planted. I've not noticed the cross-matching in the basketball markets, (at least not in-play) but I agree this is a possibility. Betfair should probably update the Rules on markets where cross-matching is in effect, but that's for another time.

As for 1) I guess we're all different. Personally I find it slightly distasteful to post screenshots showing wins or losses. What's the point? No one is interested, and as we all know, these screesnshots can be easily faked anyway. I'll ask my psychiatrist if she has any ideas during my next session... Off topic for a moment, but for me, blogs are for opinions and ideas, reasons and suggestions, not purely for posting after the event results. We KNOW who won. We don't care if someone won 20p. Do we?

2) Why the delay in posting? Well, it could be down to a busy schedule.

4) The decidedly dodgy screenshot? Well, readers can make up their own minds about that.

I'm not totally convinced, but would the jury convict on the evidence above? Probably not. Reasonable doubt and all that.

Anyway, there's no such thing as bad publicity and with a whopping 18 comments to date, I am a little envious of the attention over there!

Monday 2 March 2009

Marching On, Toot Toot

March is off to a good start with the best 1st day of a month since April 2007 (no fooling). A back of the under 2.5 in the Aston Villa v Stoke City game was laid off at half-time, and for once I made a good move in football trading. One swallow doesn’t make a summer and all that but it was a pleasing turn of events.

In the Accenture Matchplay tournament, I backed Geoff Ogilvy at 1.86 and laid him off too early to go Green-All-Over. I really am a nervous Nellie sometimes with these bets. I back because I KNOW the price is value (Ogilvy is a better player, and has previously played in two of these 36-hole finals), so he wins the first hole and after 4 holes I lay the bet off. Voices in my head are telling me 101 reasons why I should. Loss aversion won. Typically, by the turn, he was up by 4.

Then later, the Los Angeles Lakers were down by 10 at half-time, and of course I had backed them pre-game and was thus looking at a four figure loss. 

I don’t like four figure losses, so I made the decision to cut my losses, go Red-All-Over and then layed the Suns for a large sum at 1.58 and 1.59 at the start of the second half. 

My reasoning was that Phoenix were under-strength, and had played about as well as they could do, and could be a little flat in the third quarter. The Lakers coach (Phil Jackson) is also good at making adjustments, and my lay paid off when the Lakers cut the lead to 6 and I went Green-All-Over. 

Arguably too early again, (the Lakers later took the lead, but I had a lot of money to offload which is not always easy to do, and I have found it prudent to lay off when the opportunity is there. Bird in the hand stuff. NBA markets can turn in a hurry. The Suns then rallied and by the end of the third quarter, were up by 10 again but by that point I was out of the game.

My summary of the Jazz / Warriors game in response to a question was this:
Lay Utah at Golden State - Jazz are on a good run, and may win, but they will trade higher than 1.57. They played yesterday and may be a little weary (it was also the funeral for the Jazz owner yesterday which may not help). All the players were there. That, and the fact that the Warriors can explode in a hurry, followed by an equally rapid implosion! makes this a good looking game to trade. Good luck. I make no guarantee...”
Not to blow my own trumpet or anything, well, maybe a small toot, but the Jazz did indeed win, and traded as high as 2.4 during the game, (although 2.2 was the high for more than a few quid).

A pleasing day. May the month continue in this vein.

Sunday 1 March 2009


February is usually one of my least profitable months, but yesterday saw me say goodbye to my third best month ever, behind only Januarys of 2008 and 2009, which of course makes for a promising start to this year.

As a month, February was only my 9th best (4th worst!) month before this year, but now it is up to 4th best. This is especially pleasing given that the Premium Charge was applied every week.

Speaking of which, I have been attempting to reduce this by using a modified ‘straddle’ strategy on certain Match Odds / Handicap markets. I used to use this strategy in my options trading days, and options markets and the Betfair markets do have a lot in common. One side of the transaction will expire worthless.

By picking games with a low handicap, and backing the underdogs on both markets, a profit on the overall outcome is ‘almost’ guaranteed. I say ‘almost’, because in a game where the handicap is +1.5, a one point win by the team giving the points will see a loss in both markets. Not good. I have had a couple of close shaves, but so far so good.

At least when I do take a hit (and it will happen) the irony is that this will help my Premium Charge reduction even more! There are other ways of achieving this (for example the 0-0 in football is often a different price in the Correct Score, Next Goal, Total Goals and First Goal markets, and arbitration opportunities sometimes exist).