Tuesday 30 June 2009

Back To The Drawing Board

Now that my dream of becoming a multi-millionaire within a year by laying horses has been shattered, I am having to revert back to my original plan of achieving financial freedom slowly and steadily. 

How very boring. I can see why the News of the World thinks that a headline of "I made 20 million pounds in one year" is a little more eye-catching than "I made 1 million pounds over 20 years". 

Never mind that there's at least a chance that the latter headline would be close to the truth.

I read an interesting piece on Investopedia.com about the ages at which millionaires first of all find their dream job, and secondly actually make that first million. It quoted the billionaire investment guru Warren Buffett as saying "Money is a by-product of something I like to do very much". 

The article goes on to say that "Enjoying your work allows you to have the discipline to work hard at it every day. People who interact with money for a living, bankers for example, often love creating new deals and persuading others to complete a transaction. But finding your dream job may take time. 

The average millionaire doesn't find it until age 45, and tends to be 54 (on average) before becoming a millionaire. Author Dennis Kimbro (who wrote "Think And Grow Rich") found that millionaires tried an average of 17 ventures before they were successful. 

So, if you want to be rich, stop doing things you don't enjoy and do what you love. If you don't know what you love, try a few things and keep trying until you hit on the right thing".

That age of 45 just happens to be close to my age (47) when I discovered Betfair, something which I really do enjoy doing every day, which means that I should be achieving millionaire-dom within two or three more years. I think I may be slightly behind schedule.

Monday 29 June 2009

Elliott Short Of A Few Brain Cells

I was going to write a post suggesting that the article in yesterday's 'News' of the World was perhaps not quite true (someone by the name of Elliott Short had supposedly won 20 million pounds in a year by laying horses) but Betfair have beaten me to it.

Betfair Customer Services 29 Jun 13:13
We have been contacted by several customers in relation to an article in Sunday’s News of the World. We would like to make it clear that Betfair was not asked to comment on, or validate any aspect of, the article ahead of publication.

Although we cannot comment on the activities of any specific customer, some facts which may be relevant to some of the claims made in the article include:

the biggest winner in the relevant Britain’s Got Talent market (Susan Boyle winner - Yes/No) won less than £3,000.

No Betfair customer won £1.5 million or anything even vaguely approaching that amount betting on the Champion Hurdle.

No Betfair customer won £500,000 or anything even vaguely approaching that amount laying Monsieur Chevalier at Royal Ascot

The figures shown in the account statement screenshot in the News Of the World do not reconcile to any Betfair account.

The monies present in a Betfair account are obviously no indicator of the sums won or lost on the account.

We would encourage customers to be wary of the claims of anyone purporting to have a profitable system or strategy.

We would encourage customers to retain a healthy degree of scepticism toward any claims made in the press which are not validated by Betfair.

Sunday 28 June 2009

Don't Mix Religion And Sport

The result of today's Confederations Cup was as expected, even if the manner of victory wasn't.

The USA actually looked half decent, and their second goal was very well taken. Brazil were the better team though, and the 1000-1 layer of the USA got away with one.

I do have one gripe though. Before the World Cup in South Africa next year, FIFA needs to get a grip on these simpletons being allowed to parade around in, or wave, tee shirts saying "I BELONG TO JESUS" or similar. They might as well wave banners saying "I'm a Mindless Wanker". It's absolutely infuriating and just as I believe that politics and sport shouldn't mix, neither should religion and sport. Religion and intelligence don't mix either!

Anyway, I was so discombobulated that I lumped a few hundred quid on Kenny Perry to win the Travelers Championship at 1.09 which is not a strategy I usually adopt although it looks like it will pay off.

Oh Lay, Oh Lay

Meltdown on the football forum after the last few minutes of the Confederations Cup semi-final between Spain and South Africa. I was getting a little nervous about my 0-0 lay, (which was down to 1.8), but on 73 minutes South Africa went ahead.

I should have then layed the Unders markets instead of sitting around feeling rather pleased with myself. Goals in the 88th, 89th and 90th minutes saw both Under 2.5 and 3.5 smashed. Approximately £14k had been backed on each. Also, the 2-2 score traded at 1000 for £6 - that will pay for a nice holiday for someone this summer. After 72 goalless minutes, I agree the chances of a final score of 2-2 were slim, but 1000 seems like a poor value lay. Backing at that price just doesn't suit my style though. I need a steady flow of winners rather than an occasional longhot.

Anyway, further evidence that there is no such thing as free money in football.

I can't see the final being as good as this one. The USA will be out of their depth, and I hope the 1000 USA backer has layed off. Cue a USA 1-0 win...

Saturday 27 June 2009

Murray In A Hurry

Andy Murray continued his run to the Gentlemen's Singles final with an easy win this evening, but my pre-tournament back at 4.2 hasn't exactly paid off yet, although I can lay at 4.1. I'll wait another round before deciding whether to lay off as planned or not.

I caught the Tommy Haas / Maric Cilic match which saw both players traded at 1.09. Nicked a few quid, and made some money on Gilles Simon who easily beat Victor Hanescu.

Since it's a quiet time of year for investing, I've been putting some time into developing my football ratings for next season. Betfair has some season long match bet markets, e.g. Chelsea v Liverpool, which would be interesting, or at least would be if the bets were available on BETDAQ.

As someone eloquently stated on the Betfair forum the other day

"When your account qualifies for the Premium Charge it becomes useless for everything apart from trading”
Why would you bet at £100 to win £300 on Betfair when you will actually win only £240, whereas with a traditional bookmaker, you could bet at 5-2 and win £250?

Indeed. There is a school of thought that these side bets help to offset the Premium Charge, but I don't go to that school any more. The problem is that whereas I will happily put four figures on an in-play NBA game when I have value, I can't bring myself to put anything like that amount on a pre-game punt where the 'value' is so much harder to find and any edge much smaller. So even if the punts net out at zero, the benefit to the Premium Charge is minimal since the commission is peanuts.

My lay the 'big' home team in baseball system continues to help the bottom line this month. The Mets, White Sox and Angels are all at 50%, with the other selections not playing more than one game each yet.

Thursday 25 June 2009

Gambler Categories

From today’s Racing Post comes a report of a study conducted on behalf of the Gambling Commission. It could hardly be called an exhaustive study as it covered just 43 punters, but they determined four types of gambler.

* Peripheral gamblers who “bet infrequently and do not necessarily view their actions as gambling. Motivation is something other than the gambling itself e.g. social experience or to get a large win from a small outlay”. (This is our friend from the pub, and his fiver on the Derby, or my Mum and her weekly lottery ticket).

* Gambling enthusiasts who “bet frequently but feel no compulsion to do so. They view betting as a fun activity and are motivated by the desire to outsmart bookmakers”. (This was me back in the 1980s).

* Business gamblers who “see betting as a business rather than a hobby or leisure pursuit”. This is me post-Betfair. (Thanks to the advent of trading and in-running betting).

* Compulsive gamblers who “are spurred on by a sense of escapism and have a powerful internal drive to punt. Gambling can become a central and controlling feature of their life”. As with alcohol, sadly there are always those who can’t enjoy one of life’s simple pleasures without letting it get out of hand.

What category do YOU fit in?

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Spain Pain For Gain

Another Wednesday, and another mugging, but no point going on about it I suppose. It really plays havoc with my averages though. I track my 10 day, 30 day, year, all-time averages and on Tuesday they look quite healthy yet by Wednesday they have fallen behind target again.

An impressive win by the USA over Spain today helped, (lay the favourite, back later - should have skipped step two today!), but not as much as it helped the lucky guy(s) who got matched for £13.50 at 1000 on the USA to win the Confederation Cup! Someone is going to have a few sleepless nights.

My laying the 'big' home team is working out well in baseball, but early days yet. The only upset was the Angels beating the Rockies at 2.16 last night. I may have to back the home team when underdog! Not to mention that the Angels are only in my list because they are from a city with two teams whose schedules tend to mean that one is usually at home. I'm not sure they are 'big' in the way that the Yankees or Red Sox or Cubs are. But it's a work in progress.

Monday 22 June 2009

Fever Shock Detroit, Not Me

Could the WNBA be the summer basketball? I don't know much about it, but I'm learning. I'm seeing the same price movements from proper basketball repeating, and as I write this I am green-all-over on the Indiana Fever v Detroit Shock game...

Women's basketball obviously isn't as popular as men's, but for investing it's plenty good enough. With slight adjustments needed due to the lower scoring, the strategies in the NBA seem to carry forward well enough. In the afore-mentioned game, Detroit had a 17 point lead early in the third quarter, but this was the same team that was outplayed two nights ago at home to their oppenents Indiana. Was 1.05 value to back? I didn't think so. If anything, the WNBA is even more a game of momentum than the men's. You know what girls are like. Things start to go wrong, they can't handle it, and timeouts to call their Mums are expressly forbidden. So when 17 points became single digits, I could see only one winner. Detroit fell apart. In the end the Indiana Fever won by double figures - a massive swing, but not unusual for basketball, still the world's number one sport for trading. In my opinion of course.

I mentioned earlier this month how it makes absolutely no sense to focus on the big sporting events if you are in it for the money rather than for entertainment. Personally I don't find it entertaining to bet on an event just because it's a big event. The Grand National may be a great British sporting spectacle, I wouldn't argue with that, but is there value to be had there? One could argue that there is value to be had in laying, with so many casual punters throwing their money away, but my point that for investment purposes, you have far more chance of finding value in a novice chase race at Newton Abbott. There have been similar comments posted on the Betfair forum, and it appears my thoughts are generally agreed with for once. Betting on the Grand National or the Derby may give you something to talk about over a beer, but it doesn't help to pay for the beer. Cheers.

Babe Ruth Knew The Truth

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I intended to get more exercise and drop some weight. Well, a few pounds have come off, but I think my re-hydration strategy needs re-thinking.

I came across this report during my research: It's Better To Drink Beer After Exercise Than Water http://www.clevelandleader.com/node/3467

Researchers at Granada University in Spain have come across a discovery that will undoubtedly please athletes and sports enthusiasts - a pint of beer post-workout or match is better at rehydrating the human body than water.

Professor Manuel Garzon, a member of Granada's medical faculty, made the finding after tests on 25 students over several months. Researchers believe that it is the sugars, salts, and bubbles in a beer that may help people absorb fluids more quickly.

The subjects in the study were asked to run on a treadmill at temperatures of 104F (40C) until they were close to exhaustion. Once they had reached the point of giving up, researchers measured their hydration levels, motor skills, and concentration ability.

Half of the subjects were given two half pints of Spanish lager to drink, and the other half were given just water.

Garzon said that the rehydration effection in those who were given beer was "slightly better" than those who were given only water. He also believes that the carbon dioxide in beer helps quench thirst more quickly, and that beer's carbohydrates replace calories lost during physical exertion.

The average person loses around 1 liter (33oz) of water for every hour of exercise in sweat. Rehydrating after a workout is crucial, as a lack of hydration is more likely to make one feel tired, fuzzyheaded, and suffer from headaches.

Based on the results of the study, researchers recommend moderate consumption of beer as a part of athletes' diets. "Moderate consumption" for men is 500ml per day, and for women is 250ml per day.

So that explains why Babe Ruth was so good. His method of training was nearly 100 years ahead of its time.

Personally, I think the 500ml figure needs a little more research, but this is a good start. Cheers.

Sunday 21 June 2009

Fathers' Day Thoughts - Value Lays

Could Volleyball be the summer basketball? I don't know much about it, but I'm learning. I'm seeing the same price movements from basketball repeating, and as I write this I am green-all-over on the women's Romania v France game. A timely lay of France at 1.36/1.37, and within minutes the price is trading at 1.77. France went on to lose. Good stuff.

I am a big fan of opposing short-priced favourites in certain sports. Basketball being one of them, but I've also noticed that popular teams in other sports get backed too low at home. One example is in baseball where the New York Yankees are invariably too short. In April they lost 3 of 10, in May they lost 7 of 16, in June, they have lost 5 of 13. Total 15 losses from 39 games so an average lay price around 1.6 is profitable. I'm going to start tracking other big teams as well, the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers are my teams to follow, and see how a conservative loss recovery staking system fares for these teams. I'm not expecting this to be make me a millionaire any time soon, but if it only breaks even, the more even mix of winners and losers will certainly help with the darned Premium Charge!

I'm going to have to add the Mets, White Sox and Angels to this list! I just checked the schedule and it just so happens that all four of my initial teams to follow are on the road this week.

Saturday 20 June 2009

No Nudes Is Good News

I nearly choked on my morning coffee when I asked my girlfriend to read me the Championship football headlines just now. My immediate 'blink' reaction was that a Scottish team's autograph signing session was for some reason being staged in a nudist camp, and had gone somewhat awry. It was a great relief to hear the story in full. It reminds me of the story about a stuffy duchess who was asked to present the Boat Race trophy. When told that she would be expected to kiss the cox of the winning crew, she almost fainted.

And with that nonsense being the highlight of the past couple of days for me, you might guess that things are quiet on the investment front. I have been working on my spreadsheets for the coming season, although there is still much to do.

My betting has been limited to baseball this week, another game where laying low pays dividends more often than it should, i.e. value is available. Unlike basketball though, it's painfully slow. The same patterns repeat, but with lower liquidity, the price movements are not smooth like basketball. It's astonishing that one can get matched at 1.2 in the first inning and a one run game. In one Yankees game a couple of days ago, they were trading (presumably by mistake) at 1.1 while a run down. I missed it, but heard about it later. They went on to lose. Sadly I can't watch every game since there are often several going on at the same time.

France play their second test against the All Blacks today, and New Zealand won't lose again. 1.13 to win game one, they are 1.3 today - good value.

Tennis next week for a few interest bets I'm sure. Murray at 4.2 for me is good value. I'll trade out after the quarter-final. I'm not quite old enough to remember Fred Perry, so having an almost Englishman being favourite to make the final is still quite a shocking thought.

Not as shocking as that football headline though.

Wednesday 17 June 2009


I'm beginning to dread Wednesdays. Yet another £500+ extracted from my account today. Someone on the Betfair forum suggested that they should deduct the full 20% on settlement, and then issue a refund on the Wednesday. That would much better. Right now, I update all my numbers on a daily basis, and then every Wednesday, they take a hit through no fault of my own.

Oh well. Perhaps the legality of the Premium Charge will one day be tested in court, and we'll all get every penny refunded. Plus interest and punitive damages. I can dream.

The fixtures for next football season are out today. My intent is to be terribly well organised, with fixtures entered ahead of time, prices on the day, but like many of my projects, this will probably fall by the wayside. I can dream.

It's a quiet time of year for a non-horse racing, non-tennis, not much of a cricket fan. Right now I am watching next year's World Cup hosts South Africa play New Zealand. A year from now the football should be a little more exciting. I can dream.

Monday 15 June 2009

NBA Finale

So the curtain comes down on the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers winning the final series 4-1 over the Orlando Magic today. I will be sorry to see it end. It can be incredibly frustrating at times, but time after time the same patterns repeat and if you can keep cool and see the big picture in the heat of battle, it's the easiest of sports to find an edge in.

2007-08 was a good season for me. Here's what I wrote back in October:


Without a doubt, my favourite trading sport is back today with three games. Trading NBA games in-play is wonderfully exciting with the market quite often "wrong" during games. I have been watching for three seasons now, and learning and improving each year.

Liquidity is generally good, except on nights when most teams are in action when the money can be spread a little thinly, and there is no comparison with ice hockey.

Rather disappointing to see that BETDAQ are not turning these games in-play, but I will be placing my occasional straight punts on there.

Who will win the NBA Championship this year? My fancy is last year's losing finalists the Lakers (4.6 to win the NBA championship) in the strong West, with the Spurs (14) and the Suns (20) safe lays.

In the East, my lay is the Celtics (4.7). It's been a few years since a champion has repeated, and I don't expect Boston to end that sequence. Despite losing their opener, the Cavaliers (18) are good value to again make the play-offs and win the East.

Pretty good, if I do say so myself. Bottom line is a very pleasing increase of 112% on last season (excluding the Premium Charge, unfortunately) helped by that pre-season back of the Lakers.

And for once, the play-off games proved profitable for me. I think the problem here was that subconsciously, the fact that the game is a 'bigger' game than the regular season games was putting pressure on me to 'improve', and win even more. It doesn't work like that. In fact, it works against me since any opportunities that might arise in a game are that much more likely to be snapped up by someone else!

Now to work on improving again for next season!

Sunday 14 June 2009

'Ello Elo

For one full season, I have been diligently updating my Elo ratings of English and Scottish teams. Since the starting values were somewhat arbitrary, I figured it would take a while to settle down, but they did show promise early this year. Unfortunately, towards the end of the season there are too many meaningless games, so just as it starts to look good, I had to ease off the throttle somewhat.

I am carrying the ratings over to next season, but for ten matches or so will not involve myself in any matches involving any of the promoted or relegated teams, since their ratings are somewhat false. Relegated teams are rated too low, and promoted teams too high, owing to their respective struggles or successes last season. For example I have Birmingham City currently rated 11th in the Premier League, whereas poor old West Bromwich Albion are ranked 24th in the Championship, both obviously wrong, and will need a few games to adjust.

Mind you, I would happily put my ratings up against those at http://www.soccer-rating.com/ranking.php where Newcastle United are rated 7th best team in England, Cambridge United 11th and AFC Wimbledon 12th (and 112th best in all of Europe!). Torquay United are 16th, Kidderminster Harriers are 19th, just ahead of West Ham in 20th followed by Stevenage Borough. Some bizarre numbers there, I think most would agree, but if the ratings are used solely for League games, then these anomalies don't actually matter too much.

Saturday 13 June 2009

King Penguins

I had quite forgotten how much I used to enjoy watching ice hockey. This morning saw the 2008-09 season come to a close with a game 7 in Detroit between the Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Home teams were 12-2 in Stanley Cup game 7s but the Penguins held a 2-0 lead going into the third period. Detroit pulled one back but lost 1-2. It really is a great game with some great traditions. Not shaving in the play-offs, the handshake, the players each having a day with the cup. In many ways, it's a very English sport, with its unwritten rules of engagement.

Sadly not that great for trading any longer, the 8 second delay put an end to that, and 'only' £165,000 traded on the biggest game of the year. £14 of it is mine! but for once I was able to enjoy the sport rather than use the game as my medium for trading.

Good night.

Friday 12 June 2009

Babbling Babcock

While the news yesterday that William Hill are considering no longer accepting bets on certain football matches due to fixing concerns will probably not have too much impact on me, there is more disturbing news on BBC Radio 4’s The Report that a senior tennis official is stirring up trouble with regard to in-running betting on tennis matches.

Fortunately it seems to be simply because he is from the old school that thinks a bet is something you do before an event rather than because he has a good reason to ban it.

As Bill Babcock said, "I think the horse has bolted, I don't know how you retreat unless governments help us make the industry end this process where you can corrupt little parts of a match." As the Gambling Commission recently completed a review of in-running betting and approved its continuation, I probably have little to worry about.

I seldom trade tennis myself since the courtsiders take the value (and thus I am left with the bets no one else wants – no thank you), but that is my choice. Far better to allow betting and have everything out in the open where suspicious patterns can be noticed, than drive it underground where no one has a clue what is going on.

Saturday 6 June 2009

The Timelessness Of Derby Day

Thirty years ago, I attended my second, and the 200th ever, Derby. Back then of course, it was always on a Wednesday, requiring a day off work, and one could get a spot on the rails as close as a furlong out for free. Troy was the winner that day, and I remember making some money on him although the main reason for attending was simply to experience a Derby Day. Epsom Downs were only a few miles from my home and Tattenham Corner just six stops from my local station. Half a million people attended in those days, and it was one of the best things in life that actually WAS free. Then sometime in the early to mid 80s I think, someone decided to start charging money to attend, and I stopped going. I couldn't bring myself to start paying for something that was formerly free. Anyway, I was over it by then.

I seldom bet on horse-racing for reasons explained here before many times, but my daughter told me today's winner. A customer in her coffee shop told her, but she didn't have any money on it, much to her annoyance. My son was there though, and when he reappears I'm hoping he will have made enough money to be able to put down a deposit on a small house. Or at least have made enough to buy a beer or two.

These big sporting events are seldom good for the serious investor. With so much interest, value is impossible to find. The Derby might be a big deal for the owners, jockeys, trainers, but for the sports investor a winner is a winner whether it be in a maiden race at Cartmel (I've been there too) or the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. It might not sound so good in the pub that you didn't have a bet on the Derby but that you had the winner (Breeze Out) in the 2:10 at Hexham, but then why bother? No one except you really cares anyway!

Monday 1 June 2009

May - June

Well, it’s that time of the month again. No, not THAT time of the month. It's the time of the month when I bore you all with a summary of the month just ended, and a preview of the month ahead.

May was a lot better than April, and actually could be my best May ever if tonight's results go to plan. I got very lucky with a bet on Nadal to win the French Open, backing him pre-tournament at 1.45, and going green-all-over yesterday at 1.4. Not sure why I wasn’t comfortable with leaving the bet to run given his impressive record there, but perhaps the ‘blink’ instinct somehow told me all was not well with him. More likely it was because I wasn’t happy that the odds initially moved against me, which made me a little nervous and so when the opportunity presented itself to lock in a profit, I did. I certainly wouldn’t claim to be an expert on tennis. A lay of Tim Clark today also helped the bottom line. Lay the leader on the final few holes unless his name is Tiger Woods seems to be a solid strategy. It seems that the price is almost always too short.

In the southern hemisphere, and Rugby Union, the Bulls won the Super 14 as predicted here, and in the other code, the NRL has been profitable aside from the Parramatta Eels loss this weekend. Can't win 'em all. Aussie Rules is also in profit, and as we are now in mid-season the ratings should continue that trend, hopefully through to September. The IPL season finished with a small profit too.

In the USA, and both the NBA and the NHL are into their final series of the season with a maximum of seven games to go in each. Income from baseball has been less than usual this year – 53% down on last year. Liquidity appears to be a lot lower than usual for in-play, and I’m not too hopeful that it will pick up. In-play ice hockey died when the delay was upped to 8 seconds, and baseball has jumped to 6 seconds as of this season.

Not to worry, I can spend the summer looking at my stats and trying to find a way to make football pay. In May football losses reduced my profit by no less than 38%, although as I wrote yesterday, when I stay away from spontaneous 'seems like a good idea at the time' in-play decisions, I am ahead. Since I try to approach my investing as a business, the football in-play division has been closed down. I would sell it if I could, but I don’t think that anyone would be too interested in buying it! Let me know if I'm wrong.