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.


Pete Nordsted said...


First I would just like to comment on your excellent blog. It is always a pleasurable and thoughtful read.

I agree with your comments on the book ‘The Football Betting Science’ a very poor publication in truth.

I also purchased ‘Profitable Football Betting’ and indeed for a while religiously followed the ratings. However, in truth this became a real chore and although I am not knocking the validity of the systems shown, In truth I personally only have straight punts/Trades on single matches rather than accumulators which are highlighted in the book.

I believe whatever method you choose to find your selections you should stick with it and give it a fair trial. There is so much statistical data out there related to football that it is very easy for your attention to be diverted and for the punter to follow a completely different route.

At present I am looking at laying odds-on selections where I deem the value to be poor and in truth even sticking to this is proving difficult. For example on Tuesday night after doing my analysis I did think that both Arsenal and Liverpool were good value at odds-on to beat WBA and Sunderland. To back these teams would have gone completely against my current strategy.

Whatever we say and however much midnight oil is burned becoming profitable on the outcome of football matches will always be difficult. I am now coming to the conclusion that trading pre match can be profitable 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.

Talkbet said...

Yes, after reading that book, the corners, shots on target is a route I went down a while ago and may go back to at some point. I think I wanted a fresh start with my new style of ratings so abandoned the shots on target etc. The website is a goldmine for this sort of info as its all downloadable for previous seasons and makes it possible to test theorys. Good luck with the ratings and keep us updated on how it's going!

Anonymous said...

Hi, interesting post. Stats do take a lot of time to crunch numbers wise but i love because they take the emotion and self-doubt out of my betting. have alot of stats in one place covering a lot of leagues. free to download. hope you checked out my blog where i bet on english soccer using these stats?

Anonymous said...


Although Im a fully fleged "stats man" with regards to betting (and not just on football) I always like to combine it with "feel" as well. In other words, Ill only make the play if the stats are telling me something and its backed up by my feel on the particular market and selection.

Do you do this as well or do you base all decesions purely from the stats?

By the way, number of offsides is another good indicator of strength that is often overlooked.