Sunday 30 August 2009

Nerdy Anorak Elo Stuff

The football Elo ratings are starting to settle down. I have three numbers that I am using. The Elo rating, the current form rating, and the power rating.

The Elo ratings are adjusted after each match, and in many ways are like the 200-day moving average used in stocks and options trading. On the plus side is that they give a good idea of the base strength of the team, but this is offset by the slowness with which they react to recent form, which is why I started using a couple more parameters.

The second is to account for a team's current form (over the last six games) while the third, a power rating, gives an overall reflection of each team's performance over the past six games, and places less emphasis on goals and more on domination. Because goals are such a relative rarity in football, a team can lose 0-1 but dominate the game, and this power rating is to help smooth out such anomalies. A good example is yesterday’s Manchester United v Arsenal game where there was little between the two teams, and a subjective decision to award a penalty arguably turned the game.

I have been converting these numbers into probabilities and comparing them with the odds available on the exchanges.

It’s hard to draw any conclusions from the results to date, but as we are at a mini-break, I’ll try.

Laying the draw would have been the most lucrative strategy to date. (Hardly surprising given the remarkable lack of draws so far – 3/36).

Here is how the other numbers stack up. (Results are to a level stake of 1 point and exclude commission. Prices used were the best available on the exchanges as close to kick-off as was practical).

Using the base Elo ranking, backing the top rated team would result in a profit of +7.58 (+21.06%).

Backing the team with best Form: +20.22 (+56.17%)

Backing the top rated Power team: +3.91 (+10.86%)

Although the form rating reaches back to last season, and thus is of limited value until we have a couple more games in the bag, this is the number that shows most promise. However, the power rating is only just getting started so the jury is out on this.

Anorak Section

As for the season so far, my ratings now have Bolton(19th in table), Portsmouth(20) and Hull(14) as the bottom three teams (in bottom up order). I’m not sure why no one seems to be talking about relegation for Bolton, but they are clearly not very good. At the top are Manchester United(3), Chelsea(1) and Liverpool(7).

In the Championship, the top three are Cardiff(2), Preston(6) and Sheffield United(7), with the relegation spots filled by Plymouth(21), Scunthorpe(20) and Crystal Palace(19).

League One: Leeds(2), MK Dons(3) and Charlton(1). Relegation – Wycombe(20), Stockport(14), Yeovil(12), Hartlepool(21).

League Two: Rotherham(2), Bournemouth(3), Shrewsbury(11), Dagenham(1). Relegation – Grimsby(22), Hereford(20), Macclesfield(19), Notts County(5).

Conference National: Oxford(1), Stevenage(11), Luton(3). Relegation – Forest Green(23), Ebbsfleet(22), Gateshead(21), Chester(24).

Conference North: Droylesden(1), Southport(3), Alfreton(9)

Conference South: Hampton & Richmond(11), Eastleigh(15), Newport County(4) / Woking(3).

Scottish Prem: Rangers(1), Celtic(2).

One: Queen of the South(2), Dundee(4).

Two: Stirling Albion(2), Alloa(1).

Three: Livingston(7), Forfar(1).

Saturday 29 August 2009


Well, what a headache I have! I came back from Italy on Saturday evening from Monza where, as you can see from the picture of me on my warm-up lap, things didn't go totally to plan. Hence the headache, which probably wasn't helped by the car rental guy there shouting at me. Luckily for me, despite my Italian heritage, my knowledge of the language doesn't extend too much beyond knowing how to ask for a beer, a line I had been using during the six hours I had to wait for my drive, and now I think about it, that may have been something he was shouting about. 

Anyone know what 'bastardo avvinazzato' means? Anyway, I left in rather a hurry if you know what I mean, accused of making misleading statements about my race-driving experience. Who knew that arcade games didn't count?

The first thing I did on arriving home was to check my PayPal account, and to be honest, this was very disappointing. I expected at least 122 subscribers to my new Swop Confidentialities advice service by now, all clamouring for my advice and service, but let's just say the actual number left something to be desired. Trips to Monza are not free you know, and it seems unreasonable to expect me to pay for it out of my own money. Speaking of which, I have to go. Apparently there's some guy who looks like he's stepped out of the Godfather movies at the door asking for money. Probably a Jehovah's Witness, but sign up just in case I need the money.

"La vita è come un albero di natale, c'è sempre qualcuno che rompe le palle"
("Life is like a christmas tree, there's always someone who breaks the balls").

Not mine I hope.

Friday 28 August 2009

Benitez Fired! You Bet

From that trustworthy source of news, the Sun, there was this story:

Rafa Benitez and Franck Ribery have been dragged innocently into a betting scam worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Neither Benitez nor Ribery had anything whatsoever to do with the bets but their names were all that a sophisticated syndicate needed to pull off the coup.

Last week, the odds on Benitez to become the first Premier League manager to lose his job were unexpectedly slashed from 18-1 to just 6-4 in three hours.

One betting firm closed its book on the bet.

Ribery, meanwhile, was backed from 66-1 to 3-1 to join Liverpool from Bayern Munich.

Again, the majority of the bets were placed in a single day and there was absolutely no substance to the story.

Instead, there is grave concern both 'bets' were manufactured by an organised group, who deliberately placed thousands of pounds on Rafa leaving and Ribery moving in order to force the odds to tumble.

Then, with the entire market braced for both events to happen, the syndicate bet even more money on the exact opposite - Rafa to STAY at Liverpool and Ribery to STAY at Bayern!

Analysts are convinced the syndicate bet five times more on Rafa remaining than they originally placed on him going, safe in the knowledge they had made it all up about his departure in the first place.

So, for example, if £10,000 was staked on Benitez going, they then placed another £50,000 that he would not be the first manager sacked.

When another boss is eventually fired, the syndicate will collect £50,000 at even money from bets made mainly on the betting exchange markets.

I can reveal these two instances of manipulation of a market in the last month have raised alarm bells within the gambling industry.

In the case of Benitez, the flurry of money started in Liverpool but subsequently spread across the north west and London.

The initial money is believed to have been staked in a handful of large bets with two firms - placed on the accounts of 'high-roller' clients.

And the people at the centre of it are very much aware of how best to whip up a storm. I am told an anonymous tip-off was made to a Mersey-side radio station, claiming Benitez had stormed out of Liverpool's training complex on Tuesday morning.

With a game against Stoke at Anfield that night, the manager was not even at Melwood.

Yet that fib got the rumour mill in full flow and football websites were soon trumpeting the news of a potential bust-up between club and manager.

Betting firms looked at the money being staked and the gathering speed of the story and adjusted the odds.

Some even had their PR teams putting out press releases, while others appeared on TV to debate the issue.

All of which suggests this is a well-organised, well-funded racket exploiting the expanding interest in gambling.

Sources within the betting industry estimate that between £200-£300k has been placed.

In the case of the Ribery bet, the total amount that was staked was around £12,000. But that was enough to create a market interest, which allowed more than treble that amount to be laid off against him signing for Liverpool.

It is believed Ribery was a trial run ahead of the much bigger plan for the Benitez bet.

Unfortunately, the biggest losers in this sting are the ordinary punters placing bets on Rafa to leave, trusting the sudden drop in odds means something is up at Anfield.

They have no idea the entire market is being manipulated to present a fake picture.

Bookies call it 'the chase', when one big bet on an unexpected outcome rolls into a flurry of smaller ones trying to get on the back of what they think is good information.

All of the major firms and exchanges are aware of the potential for manufactured or manipulated markets and this kind of betting is not illegal.

But at a time when Football League players have been banned and fined for match fixing and sports from cricket to tennis are under scrutiny, how can they ignore the problem?

This is a serious issue and one the industry needs to act upon.

I've made my views on these markets known before, and so I don't have too much sympathy for someone who bets on unverified rumours. As the article says, it's not illegal, and it should be a case of caveat emptor as far as I am concerned.

Off to Monza for the weekend.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Swop Confidentialities

A week ago, I posted an article from the Wall Street Journal on baseball betting. Baseball is a game where the top teams rarely win more than 60% of their games, and the worst teams seldom lose more than 40%, which means that on any day, any team can beat any other.

In late June, early July, I started a system laying the home team where they were a 'big' team; teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs and I also added in the Dodgers, Angels, White Sox and Mets. After modest losses, I took some time off later that month, and never bothered resuming the system upon my return. Looking at the table in the Wall Street Journal, it was hardly surprising that it wasn't profitable, as 3 of my seven chosen teams performed above expectation, including the two Los Angeles teams in first and third place.

The article piqued my interest again, and I have found some interesting facts which are available to subscribers of my new Swop Confidentialities advice service, Yes, for just £65 a month, I am proud to announce the launch of this new venture. I did like the rather catchy Somewhat Helpful Information Tipping name, but my Mum just called to point out that the acronym is a bit rude - I had no idea! So, if you are reading beyond this point, please send me £65 via PayPal immediately.

Private Members Only Beyond This Point - I mean it.

Ok, first of all, thank you all for your £65. I am off to Monza next weekend to drive around the track at your expense.

Back to the advice you have paid for. This was written for baseball, but I believe some of the thoughts apply just as well to other sports.

In sports such as baseball, historical data shows that picking underdogs is the best way to "keep the wind" at your sports investing back. This may result in winning only 40%-45% of your selections, but the long odds means you'll have a positive return.

Why does this work? Psychologically, contrarian sports investing makes a lot of sense. Most casual bettors like to watch a game and say that they "picked the winner". This is why many fan favorites or championship-calibre teams are over-valued and do poorly "against the spread". Most sports fans like to bet on heavily-favored teams like the Yankees or Red Sox and happily watch their team win 55% or 60% of the time. However, they forget that they might (often) be betting at odds-on. Many of these fans shrug their shoulders if they see themselves losing money because they know that their team seems to be winning around 60% of the time (even as their bankrolls dwindle).

So there may have been some method in my madness after all. They don't come any bigger than the Yankees so for fun (i.e. small stakes) I am going to lay them from now until the end of the regular season - another 36 games.

Bet 1 is a lay at 1.45.

Swop Confidentialities Membership Count: 0

Update: Yankees lost! This is easy. For all of you paid up members (I've not checked my PayPal account yet, but I'm sure there are 122 or so by now) you have paid for your membership already! The price was 1.46 too. Couldn't get matched at 1.45

Chocolate Teapot

Rather mysteriously, the unanimously negative-in-tone threads relating to Adam Heathcote’s aforementioned New Exchange Secrets venture were all pulled by someone at Betfair early last week. I’m not sure what happened to free speech and all that, but gone they were. Our friend has friends in high places, or more likely, friends who have friends there. I’m not sure Adam will have any friends soon!

A new thread appeared yesterday, with posts from confessed subscribers, and not surprisingly there was not one comment in support of Adam except perhaps this qualified one:

“To be fair to Adam, I like the blog, if he is real or not - he makes some good points, especially regarding mindset, etc. But if he is real, he shouldn't have got involved in this service - any fool can see that it cannot possibly work”.
It appears that the venture has to date recruited some 122 members, which at £55 a month means a not too shabby total of £6,710, but with the advice being given apparently less than stellar, and being shared by 122 people all trading the same way, this could well be the high point in the venture. Another poster pointed out that:
“You mean 122 people have fell for the bs - poor souls, get your money back! That means 122 people all trying to do the same thing - oh dear! It’s easy to predict the movements, the hard thing is getting matched - especially when you need to get out nearer the off time. How do they help with this? Lmfao Are these guys worse than tipsters? Damn right they are. Post this on their forum - criminals!”
Another reported a recent New Exchange Secrets forum post from a new member titled “Full Refund How Do I Receive one”
I am VERY disappointed with the lack of info in this membership site. I have joined other membership paying sites before on many other different subjects but I have to say this one has to be the worst value ever. The amount of info given should be offered in a free membership site and the owners should try to make some £££ from affiliate links. I have followed Adam’s Blog with interest so I am sorry I have to make this post, but I feel I have to.
I probably shouldn’t be, but I am surprised at how many gullible people there are out there who think that the way to riches can be bought for just £55 a month, so I am going to offer my new Somewhat Helpful Information Tipping service for £65 a month. Watch this space.

Update Wednesday: Apparently we have it all wrong. From the horse's mouth as it were - Exchange Secrets is coming on well, Dave and I are giving out sound advice through analysing fewer races that we feel more confident on. Our members are very happy, a few members writing their joy with the service over the last week's worth of advice. Today I predicted a potential drift from 2.82 to between 3.7-3.9. This did happen and that one race alone would have covered more than the cost of membership. Anyway that's just one example - the service has been shaping up nicely from the advice we were initially giving out, which was too many races and less detail. I'll get a link up soon with all the historical advice we've given out soon and a few of the great comments we've been left from our current members.

I wonder if the comments will be randomly chosen or will a rather more selective process be used.

Sunday 23 August 2009

Betfair Flotation Talks

Betfair ponders £1.5bn flotation after shareholders call in bankers for talks

Betfair could be in line for a £1.5bn flotation after shareholders in the world's biggest gaming exchange decided to call in bankers to discuss the group's options

By Jonathan Sibun

Bertie Black and Ed Wray, Betfair's founders, have agreed for meetings to be held with banking advisers over the coming weeks to discuss a potential flotation in what would be the UK's first major listing since the financial crisis hit.

Betfair is keen to raise new capital in a bid to lead the consolidation of the global gaming industry and a flotation would give it the necessary means.

A listing would also land Mr Black and Mr Wray with a potential payout worth hundreds of millions of pounds, cementing their position as some of Britain's most successful entrepreneurs.

As well as the two founders, who own a combined 25pc stake, Betfair's shareholders include SoftBank, the Japanese bank, which owns a further 23pc and is thought keen to realise a return on its investment.

Softbank bought its stake in a £355m deal in April 2006, valuing the betting company at close to £1.5bn.

While Betfair has seen strong growth since then, equity market valuations have fallen sharply since the financial crisis hit and Softbank's stake would likely be valued at a similar level to three years ago.

Mr Wray and Mr Black are thought each to be worth about £190m but could scoop a further £350m or more between them were they to offload their stakes in the company.

Private equity investors and management own the remaining 25pc of the company.

Betfair suggested it was not pushing towards a flotation when announcing results earlier this month but the founders are understood to have reconsidered their position in the wake of the continued strength in global equity markets.

While a flotation appears to be the most likely option, Betfair could choose to raise capital by other means, including tapping existing shareholders for further funds. A downturn in the equity markets could also persuade the founders to put any flotation plans on hold.

Betfair is keen to raise capital so that it can lead the consolidation of the gaming sector.

Industry experts believe a ban on online gaming in the US could be lifted as early as next year, a move that would be expected to lead to a pick-up in mergers and takeovers in the sector. 888 and Partygaming, the online gaming companies, are thought likely to be involved in any consolidation moves.

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Rothschild have acted for Betfair in the past and might expect to be involved in any flotation or capital raising. Any discussions are thought likely to lead to a beauty parade of potential advisers in the coming weeks.

Betfair, which revolutionised UK betting with its peer-to-peer wagers, revealed record full-year results earlier this month.

Revenues rose 27pc to £303m in the year to April 30, with active users - those who placed a bet over the period - up 25pc to 652,000. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rose 29pc to £72m, despite ongoing investment.

David Yu, Betfair's chief executive, said some two billion bets were placed on the exchange last year, an average of 6.4m trades a day, more than on all European stock exchanges.

Betfair is one of a host of private companies, many backed by private equity firms, expected to float in the last quarter of this year and the first three months of 2010.

Acromas, the group behind AA, the roadside emergency service, and Saga, the travel and insurance specialist, Pets at Home, the retailer, Merlin Entertainments, the London Eye operator, and United Biscuits and Birds Eye, the food companies, are just some of those thought to be on the shortlist of possible candidates.

Betfair declined to comment.

Kansas City Chiefs, Royals And Wizards

In the whole scheme of things, it's a very small thing, but when bloggers or posters on the forum call Kansas City teams simply 'Kansas', it's annoying!

I guess it comes from the fact that the 'City' suffix can be dropped when discussing several English football teams. Nothing is lost when Birmingham, Stoke, Hull, Cardiff, Coventry, Leicester, Swansea, Norwich, Exeter, Bradford, Lincoln, Chester, Salisbury or York are referred to without the City suffix, although the Bristol and Manchester teams need the suffix to differentiate them from other 'same city' teams.

In Scotland, there's a good argument that the 'City' SHOULD be dropped from Brechin and Elgin since neither town is in fact a city, but that's a different topic.

In the United States, Kansas is a state, and Kansas City is a city. That is it's name. Most of Kansas City isn't even in Kansas, but Missouri, so it's not just wrong to call it Kansas, it's also misleading.

West Bromwich Albion are not West or West Albion. Sutton Codlfield Town are not Sutton or Sutton Town. Milton Keynes Dons are not Milton or Milton Dons.

Hence the baseball team is the Kansas City Royals (never Kansas Royals or Kansas) and in the NFL, they are the Kansas City Chiefs (never Kansas Chiefs or Kansas). The soccer team there are called the Kansas City Wizards (admittedly embarrassing, but perhaps slightly better than the original Kansas City Wiz).

There are other places called Kansas in Alabama, Illinois, Ohio and Oklahoma.

Kansas is a college team from the state, but is not located in Kansas City. Kansas is also the name of a 1970s rock band.

While on the subject of incorrect names, I was speaking to the Betfair help desk the other day because they had wrongly settled a St Louis Cardinals result. The very helpful girl pulled up the details, looked at recent settlements, and asked if this was "the St Louis Cardigans game".

So now you know - It's Kansas City (all one name) and to those who persist in making the error of dropping the City, I say carry on wayward son.

Saturday 22 August 2009

Creatures Of Habit

Nothing to do with investing, but I found this story which amused me:

If you've always wondered where your cat goes when he disappears for hours on end, the mystery may finally have been solved: He's joyriding around England on public transportation.

Casper, a British kitty from Devon, has caught the same bus nearly every day for four years. He hops on, goes straight to the back and rides the bus for its entire route before getting off again in front of his house. He's so old now that the drivers make sure he gets off the bus at the right stop.

Elsewhere in the U.K., a mystery cat nicknamed Macavity takes the same bus a quarter of a mile several times a week, possibly to a fish and chips shop.

Both cats ride the bus like model commuters -- they sit quietly, don't speak, and respect others' privacy. There's no word on whether or not they get up for old people and pregnant ladies, but for the record we hope this phenomenon makes it stateside.

And Smith Must Score!

I occasionally have a pre-game punt on football, and let it go in-running until I can lay it off at a fair price. What a difference this makes to my viewing 'pleasure'.

If I'm on unders, every attacking move looks certain to result in a goal, every throw in dangerous, corners occur with astonishing frequency and every defensive play looks like it'll result in a penalty and so on. A goal-fest in the making.

If I'm on overs, it's the complete opposite. Every attacking move looks inept, throw-ins are all harmless looking, there are never any corners and every defensive play looks well-timed and sharp. The game has nil-nil written all over it.

The more money at risk, the more the above observations are true. If it's just a few quid, the viewing is quite relaxed, but if the numbers are higher, the viewing is anything BUT relaxed.

It's the same in other sports too. Well, no, it's really not like this of course. It's just how the mind under stress works, and one of the emotions that has to be dealt with when investing.

Friday 21 August 2009


Continuing with the theme from yesterday of the overlap between Stock Exchange investing and Betting Exchange investing, the importance of compound interest is one of those lessons in life that I wish I had learned earlier. Or perhaps 'appreciated' is a better word. If I had diligently put away 10% of my income from day one, I would now be living on my own private Caribbean island. Decisions would be limited to such topics as where to sail my private yacht today, or which celebrity I should invite over for lunch. Sadly the 'if' didn't happen, and my life is rather more mundane as a result. Rather than being 40 when I achieve the goals described earlier, I will be more like 127. It's not looking good. (Make that 126 - the stock market had a good day today - FTSE 100 +1.98%).

The forums regularly have posters starting new challenges - 2% a day for a year and the like. 2% a day? 2% a day is massive. Actually, it's more than massive. 2% a day on a starting bank of £100 would make the bank over £137,740 by the end of the year. Is this realistic? I'll tell you - it's about as realistic as the idea of my living on a Caribbean island. In finance, 10% a year is considered an above average, very decent, return, (Bernie Madoff lured investors with returns of 11%-12%) and what is the daily increase needed to achieve this? I can tell you - 26/1000 of a percent (0.026115% to be precise).

The appearance is that while financial investors are quite happy putting their money to work in an investment vehicle that will return 8% a year, sports investors are not. Are sports investors particularly impatient, or is part of the psychology of gambling that immediate results must be achieved? Do betting exchange traders also have funds invested in the stock market? For any serious sports investor, the percentage of the bank at risk on any one bet should typically not be much more than 2%, so why the desperation at a losing day?

Financial investors do not expect stock prices to rise every day. A down day in the market is to be expected, but so long as the trend is upward no one really cares. Betting banks will likewise have down days, but if you are staking appropriately and have an edge, then in the long-run you will come out ahead. But not many people will achieve annual gains of 137,640%.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Wall Street Baseball

Sports investing isn't the only kind of investing I am interested in. I follow the stock market as well, although the level of my interest is totally dependent on how well it is doing! My day-trading / commoditities / options days are long behind me, but I do regularly check the financial pages and occasionally find something of interest. Here, from the Wall Street Journal was something from a couple of days ago.

Is Your Ballclub a Better Bet Than the Market?

Betting exclusively on your favorite ballclub is about as logical as investing your life savings in the company headquartered nearest your home address. Then again, some people live down the street from Google.

According to the sports book, placing the same $100 wager on your favorite baseball team before every game this season would lose you an average of $336. Even teams with winning records, like the Boston Red Sox or Tampa Bay Rays, would have lost money on the year. Since these teams are good, they're generally favored—which means they pay lower returns when they win.

Not every fan who bets this way would be disappointed. The Los Angeles Angels, for instance, would have paid out a MLB-high $2,128—a return on investment slightly better than what the Dow Jones Industrial Average delivered over that period. The Texas Rangers would win gamblers $1,657, and the Los Angeles Dodgers $934. Those three teams have something in common: They're winning teams that gamblers underestimated.

When too many gamblers bet against a team, bookmakers change the odds to encourage more people to bet the other way. (Bookies like the same amount of money on each side of a bet because they break even on the bet itself, and make a guaranteed profit on the commission.) As a result, the same $100 wagered each day on the underestimated Angels this season paid significantly more than one on the overestimated Red Sox. It's the same reason the Chicago Cubs have won a majority of their games, yet are among the league's worst teams to bet on. The fact that both the Red Sox and the Cubs are popular ballclubs with legions of biased fans doesn't help the odds, either.

Eventually, the underestimated teams start gaining respect, and the gambling world finds an equilibrium. Don't expect bets on the Angels to win quite as much money in the second half of the season, says Richard Gardner, sportsbook manager for "Bettors have taken notice and the lines have continued to climb," he says.
Probably nothing new there for experienced traders like us, but it's always interesting to see sports betting make the pages of more, shall we say, reputable publications.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Taxi Driver Syndrome

The relationship between psychology and investing (gambling) is a fascinating subject and an interesting post on the Betfair forum today (from aye robot), got me thinking. He posted this little nuggett on 'gain theory':

The theory suggests (and it's shown in experiments too) that when people make losses they tend to be much more aggressive and reckless in trying to recover those losses than they would be if they were winning. By contrast when people are winning they tend to become more conservative to retain their winnings. This doesn't only apply to gamblers- taxi drivers for example tend to work longer on days when they're not getting many fares and clock of early if they've done well when doing the opposite would be more logical.
Whilst I am by no means immune to the negative psychological effects of a big loss, I am at least now able to recognise this state, and act accordingly - which is to say, I turn the computer off and forget about investing until I have dealt with the loss. Incidentally, how long this process takes depends more on the reason for the loss than the amount. If I lose a bet that was value, I'm OK with it, even if the amount is four figures. On the other hand if I lose a bet that was ill-considered, then I am not so relaxed about it, even if the amount is less.

How about days when I'm winning? Do I become more conservative to retain my winnings? On this, I'm not so sure. I am sure that I never walk away when things are going well, and I don't believe in daily targets. Some days there may be no value opportunities, on others there may be several, and to shut down solely because you have achieved an arbitrary profit makes no sense. "Make hay while the sun shines" makes a lot more sense.

Here are a few psychological observations relating to investing or gambling from the site, some of which are very interesting and you can see how they relate to exchange betting trading:

"People typically give too much weight to recent experience and extrapolate recent trends that are at odds with long-run averages and statistical odds. They tend to become more optimistic when the market goes up and more pessimistic when the market goes down. Many believe that when high percentages of participants become overly optimistic or pessimistic about the future, it is a signal that the opposite scenario will occur."

"People often see order where it does not exist and interpret accidental success to be the result of skill. One of the most cited examples is Amos Tversky and Thomas Gilovich's proof that a basketball player with a "hot hand" was no more likely to make his next shot than at any other time. Many people have a hard time accepting some facts despite mathematical proof."

"People are overconfident in their own abilities, and investors and analysts are particularly overconfident in areas where they have some knowledge. However, increasing levels of confidence frequently show no correlation with greater success. For instance, studies show that men consistently overestimate their own abilities in many areas including athletic skills, abilities as a leader, and ability to get along with others. Money managers, advisors, and investors are consistently overconfident in their ability to outperform the market, however, most fail to do so. Gur Huberman of Columbia University recently found that investors strongly favor investing in local companies that they are familiar with. Specifically investors are far more likely to own their local regional Bell company than the other regional Bells. The study provides evidence that investors prefer local or familiar stocks even though there may be no rational reason to prefer the local stock over other comparable stocks with which the investor is unfamiliar."

"People often see other people's decisions as the result of disposition but they see their own choices as rational. Investors frequently trade on information they believe to be superior and relevant, when in fact it is not and is fully discounted by the market. This results in frequent trading and consistently high volumes in financial markets that many researchers find puzzling. On one side of each speculative trade is a participant who believes he or she has superior information and on the other side is another participant who believes his/her information is superior. Yet they can't both be right."

"Many researchers theorize that the tendency to gamble and assume unnecessary risks is a basic human trait. Entertainment and ego appear to be some of the motivations for people's tendency to speculate. People also tend to remember successes, but not their failures, thereby unjustifiably increasing their confidence. As John Allen Paulos states in his book Innumeracy, 'There is a strong general tendency to filter out the bad and the failed and to focus on the good and the successful.'"

"People's decisions are often affected by how problems are 'framed' and by irrelevant but comparable options. In one frequently cited example, an individual is offered a set amount of cash or a Cross pen, in which case most choose the cash. However, if offered the pen, the cash, or an inferior pen, more will choose the Cross pen. Sales professionals typically attempt to capitalize on this behavior by offering an inferior option simply to make the primary option appear more attractive."

And finally, a couple of quotes that if you are serious about trading, you should pay heed to. Well, the first one anyway:
"Markets invariably move to undervalued and overvalued extremes because human nature falls victim to greed and/or fear" - William Gross
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former" - Albert Einstein

Monday 17 August 2009

Sticks And Stones

Well, my piece on Saturday night certainly attracted some attention. The gist of the post was that I had some concerns about a new 'advice' service that has been opened up, the sales pitch for which appeared to be an unverified blog running for less than 9 months along with unverified P&L screenshots. After a couple of comments in support of my concerns, there were then a few that suggested I might be in the minority, but then the tide swung back to my way of thinking later.

The personal nature of some of these attacks (coincidentally all written anonymously in the same twenty-something year old style) was something of a surprise, and while I have certainly been called an "idiot" and "arrogant" many times, describing me as "the type of bloke that would marry a Thai bride, sport a little beard and wear crocs" was at least original, and very amusing. One might ask why a casual blog reader would get so upset about a post on a boring blog like mine anyway? One can only wonder.

People are entitled to their opinions of course, and a big part of the reason for having a blog is to write about something that people want to comment on. It's somewhat ironic that I get comments such as "Write about something interesting ffs" and "Who needs a service from Adam Heathcote when we can read your boring drivel about what exactly?" on a post that draws close to a blog record number of comments, suggesting that the content is exactly the type of post they are looking for.

For the record, I am not jealous of Adam. I don't trade horse-racing, most likely never will, so his success or failure in these markets makes no difference to me. If he's making £1,500 a day, then great for him. Over £1/2 million a year is not quite up to Elliot Short's standard, but it's impressive.

There were a couple of (presumably complimentary) comments about the fact that I don't review comments before allowing them to appear, and why should I? The only reason for doing this would be to avoid spam, but this doesn't seem to be a big problem at the moment, so anyone can post anything. At my age, I'm not going to cry just because someone calls me an idiot, or boring, or sad, or suggests that I should be sued for mentioning the possibility that screenshots can be easily falsified. (Obviously not someone with any knowledge of libel laws commenting there.) I have no hidden agenda with this blog. People can say and think what they like (but keep it clean ffs.) There will be no fee-paying services offered, ever. I do ok, (some days), but as Phil Bull used to say "Geese that lay golden eggs are never for sale", which is why Adam's latest move is so puzzling to so many people.

This blog is entertainment for me, a good way to relax, and if sometimes it is "boring drivel", it's because it's not easy to come up with blockbuster, edge of your seat, riveting stuff all the time.

Incidentally, the Betfair forum is almost unanimous in questioning Adam's motives here. The most damning evidence is that at least one person who was supportive of Adam yesterday has changed his mind very quickly, presumably after subscribing.

16 Aug 23:34: "Adam Heathcote is totally legitimate and a bloody nice guy. Reasons for setting up the service is, why not? It's nice to run your own business and it increases self worth, and it's a great price for what he is offering in fairness."

Same guy, (20 hours later) 17 Aug 19:27:

"Can I post a full and frank apology. Got this all very wrong. The service being provided is truly truly, utterly horrific."

Then later: "You need to read some of the advice given to clients, truly embarrassing stuff."

Every credit to him for admitting a mistake. (If you read the Betfair forum, you will know that everyone always wins, and mistakes are never made.)

Another poster wrote at 17 Aug 14:58: "Today's analysis is nothing short of abysmal. If I had traded using this advice I would be wiped out."

I looked for a posting in support of the service, but they were conspicuous by their absence. If I see any, I will post them so that no one can accuse me of being biased. I'm just sceptical.

Finally, some of you may notice a new look to the blog today, with "Green" All Over the place. I thought I'd get a life...

Sunday 16 August 2009

The Ghost (Goals) Of Seasons Past

Less than a year ago, officials in a Championship made one of the worst decisions in the history of football. I wrote this piece following the Watford / Reading Championship match in which a goal was awarded that never was.

Yesterday saw a similar situation, with Crystal Palace being denied a perfectly legitimate goal at Bristol City. The ball hit the stanchion at the back of the net, bounced out, and the three people in the ground who didn't see it were all wearing black. Unbelievable. Being robbed of a possible three points is bad enough, but how does that shot get recorded in the box-score? A shot off-target? It wasn't. I sometimes think these officials completely disregard the interests of investors.

This is not the first time Palace have been on the wrong end of a decision like this either. On 6 September 1980, Clive Allen took a free-kick from just outside the penalty area in a game at Coventry City. The ball flew into the goal, hit the the right-hand stanchion before bouncing back out with some force. The goal was not given, and Palace ended the season being relegated. Had the goal been given, we could have gone on to win the league. Well, maybe not, but decisions like these tend not to help.

Looooong Sales Pitch

Ever since finding Adam Heathcote's blog, I have harboured serious doubts about the veracity of his postings. The saying "if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is" comes to mind. How someone with very little experience can find an edge in the very competitive sport of horse-racing and regularly make daily (self-reported) "consistent daily profits avaraging (sic) over £1,500" seems a little suspicious. Cynics suggested he was simply a shill for the Bet Angel software which regularly receives praise in his blog.

Of course, Elliot Short made millions, but then he had a well thought out strategy that no one else had thought of which was to make up a story and find a reporter who was too lazy to take any time to verify the story and the millions turned out to be as real as Santa Claus.

So it comes as no surprise that Adam Heathcote's blog posting today proudly announces a new site where for just £55 a month ("we were tempted to start off at £75 given the value of the information if it's used properly, so jump on board before we change the price!") you too can make thousands. I was very tempted, but after discussing it with family and friends, have decided that I am going to have to pass on this once in a lifetime offer. If it was £50 a month, then maybe...

Why would someone making the supposed profits not just focus on his trading? Just wondering - anyway, the polls look to be of great relevance to serious traders -

Do you think confidence in what you're doing is important while trading? (Duh!)

Who's the best looking out of Dave or Adam? (I'm going to be nice and say nothing here).

Some suggestions for future polls:

Who has the biggest ego out of Jesus Christ or Adam?

Who has the best photoshop tool for fudging Betfair P&Ls out of Elliot Short or Adam?

Who is stupid enough to sign up for this site?

Saturday 15 August 2009

Premier League Opening Day

As probably everyone reading this knows, the Premier League season returns today. When I was a kid, the off-season lasted for ever. Now it seems like the season pretty much runs year round. What's in store?

At the top, it looks very much like business as usual, with Chelsea and Manchester United fighting it out for the top two places and Liverpool and Arsenal for third and fourth. The BBC predicted a title for Liverpool, but I can't see it myself. Chelsea's turn to win. Can Manchester City break into the top 4 this year and can Everton maintain their relative success are the interesting areas to watch for me.

At the bottom, possibly the most intriguing question is whether or not Burnley can survive. I believe they can, on the basis that there are two teams that will struggle this season, and that Burnley only have to place above one other team to keep their place.

The teams to struggle: Hull City, who should have gone down last season, and would have done, but for an exceptional start to the season which I cannot see happening again. Phil Brown may well be the first Premier League managerial casualty of the season as well.

Going down with them are Portsmouth who are a club in turmoil. Up for sale, and players and coaches can't wait to leave, Kidd, Crouch, Diarra, Defoe... On the crest of a wave after winning the cup last year, the club is now sailing into choppy waters, no Harry Redknapp to right the ship these days, no new ground on the horizon, a general sinking feeling around the club (note the nautical theme here - quite appropriate I thought), and the immediate future looks grim unless the takover can be completed soon.

Other strugglers will be newly promoted Wolves, along with Sunderland and possibly Birmingham and Stoke. Maybe Wigan too.

We will know in 380 games how it all turns out. There will no doubt be surprises along the way, there always are.

As for investing, I'll wait until 6 games in to the season before betting any real money but I have layed Aston Villa, Manchester City, Sunderland, Portsmouth, Arsenal and Liverpool this weekend.

The FA Cup starts today as well.

Post-Season Update: How did we do? Correct predictions were that Chelsea did win the title from Manchester United, while Hull City and Portsmouth did get relegated. Not quite right on Burnley staying up though, as they went down too. Wigan Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sunderland and Stoke City did all finish in the bottom half of the table, but Birmingham City thrived with a top half finish.  

Thursday 13 August 2009

Games, Sports, Wastes Of Time

So golf is being reinstated as an Olympic game. The top 15 players in the world will automatically qualify with a starting field of 60. So that'll be 15 Americans, and one each from 45 other countries...

Softball, squash, baseball, karate and roller sports have not been accepted. With the exception of squash, good. No one plays softball or baseball, and karate can be given the chop as far as I am concerned. Get rid of Taekwondo and Judo too while you're at it. Greco Roman wrestling? The Greeks and the Romans had their day in the sun hundreds of years ago. Why have an event for just two countries? Why not Sumo wrestling? Very popular in Japan I believe. They need to get out more. Just forget all wrestling. It's all a bit weird if you ask me. "Son, what sport would you like to be an Olympian at?" - "Well Dad, I like wrestling the boys during PE". Disturbing.

Roller sports? What the heck are they? Roller discos were the rage when I was a young man. Don't tell me it is now a sport. Points awarded for not spilling your beer as you circle the floor. Bonus points awarded for pulling hot birds while you're rolling.

Beach Volleyball? I can't possibly imagine how that one ever got included. Just cut the men's event out, and have some minimum attractiveness requirement. Artistic / rhythmic gymnastics? Synchronised swimming? At least solo synchronised swimming has been axed. It never made much of a splash. Diving can go - too subjective. I get board with it.

I can see the point of archery though. Including it was worth a shot. Some said no, but there was no bowing to pressure, and in the end the objectors were shafted and left a quivering wreck...

Other sports no longer competed for: Polo (current champions Argentina), Tug-of-War (Great Britain), Lacrosse (Canada), Real Tennis (USA), Roque (USA - the only nation to ever compete!), Pelota (unknown - only one match was played, and no one knows who won it!), Croquet (France - 9 French players and a Belgian) and our own cricket!

Actually, the cricket story is mildly interesting. From Wikipedia:

At the 1900 Summer Olympics, a cricket tournament was contested. Although four teams were originally expected to compete, Belgium and Holland (the Netherlands) pulled out of the competition, leaving a Great Britain side to play a France side. Neither team was nationally selected. The British side was a touring club team, Devon & Somerset Wanderers. The French team consisted of Britons living in Paris, reportedly mostly members of the British Embassy. By Captain's agreement the game was played as a 12-a-side game, unlike the usual 11 in most cricket matches.

The two-day game was played commencing on August 19, 1900. Great Britain batted first and scored 117. France were then bowled out for 78. Great Britain then scored 145 for 5 in their second innings, setting the hosts a target of 185, who were promptly bowled out for 26. This meant that Great Britain was convincingly the winner of the contest.

The Great Britain team was awarded silver medals and the French team bronze medals, together with miniature statues of the Eiffel Tower. The medals were later retroactively reassigned as gold and silver.

With the match billed as part of the 1900 Universal Exposition, neither side appears to have realised they were competing in the Olympics. The match was only retrospectively formally recognised as being an Olympic contest in 1912, when the International Olympic Committee met to compile the definitive list of all events in the five modern Olympiads up to that point.

Since then cricket has not appeared in an Olympic Games although there have been recent attempts to introduce Twenty20 Cricket into the games.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Thinking Inside The Box(-Score)

Not surprisingly, there is no Holy Grail to finding value in football. Just a lot of hard work. Last season, I relied mostly on my CRAP system, with, it has to be said, pretty much lived up to its name. As the season progressed I tried factoring in recent form, and this season, I will be additionally keeping track of more data than just the final score (box-score: primarily shots, both on and off target, and corners). This will help with those matches where a team wins 1-0, but is totally outplayed.

Keeping all this data is very time consuming, and so, at least initially, I will only be tracking the new data on the Premier League. Of course, if it suddenly makes a huge difference to my bottom line, I will be tracking all leagues down to and including the Thornton Heath and District league. Well, maybe not, but I will certainly be only too keen to expand coverage. (I've noticed how my enthusiasm, and time available, for maintaining spreadsheets is directly related to how good the numbers being entered are!)

I need a reliable data source for shots on/off target, corners, offsides etc. Being subjective in nature, there is often a discrepancy on these numbers I have noticed.

My problem for now is what weighting do I put onto the three categories of overall rating, recent form, and box-score numbers. I will at least be in a position to back-test these matches somewhere down the road, but initially at least, it's a bit of a shot in the dark. But then, with football, isn't it always?

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Lays 11.8.09

I won’t be investing on any cup games tonight, but the Conference National has a few fixtures worth a look. Leaving alone the games involving promoted, relegated, troubled and teams playing their first game of the season, there are two matches where the value appears to be a lay of the home teams. I am laying Crawley (1.84) at home to Forest Green and York (2.11) at home to Rushden and Diamonds.

I'm also laying top-rated Oxford who are 2.84 away to Kettering Town. I have the Poppies (very) slight value to win this one.

Update: 2 out of 3 winners, and a profitable evening. Laying seems to be the way to go.

Monday 10 August 2009

Betfair Q & A

Betfair hosted a Q and A earlier today, and there were some interesting exchanges concerning the Premium Charge. The 60 weeks in profit qualifier is going away, only to be replaced by a lifetime period instead was perhaps the most interesting news. I included a couple of rather amusing questions/replies at the end. The Elliot Short question was a classic!

Have you any plans to make changes to the Premium charge?

Yes. It’s been nearly a year since we announced the charge, and we’ve recently completed a review to confirm that the outcomes matched our predictions, and to see if there are changes that we believe would be an improvement. Overall we’re happy with the way the charge has worked. It’s affected slightly fewer customers than we originally projected, considerably fewer than 2,000 of our 650,000 active accounts, but principally it’s affected the customers we expected to incur it.

Based on feedback we are planning to make some changes:

1. The current charge considers only customers who’ve demonstrated consistent profitability over the long-term, currently defined as 60 weeks. In conversations our customers have told us that they’re concerned this isn’t long enough, and that they’re worried about the possibility of incurring the charge during an extended successful streak. We’ve therefore decided to reduce the number of customers affected by the charge, and the amount we collect, by increasing the time period over which a customer would have to exhibit highly consistent profitability from the current 60 weeks to the entire lifetime of each customer’s account.

2. We chose to assign the commission we collect at the settlement of each market equally between those who win and those who lose, to focus the charge more on those who are incredibly consistent winners and to reduce the charge for big risk-taking winners. We chose to use the actual rate that we collect commission at the settlement of each market, rather than a fixed approximation, because we concluded it would be preferable to be accurate. Feedback from customers has been consistent that they consider transparency and certainty to be more important, so we’ll therefore simplify the charge by valuing the contribution of all markets in which customers lose at 3%, regardless of the actual average commission rate.

3. We included transaction and data request charges in the calculation of what customers have paid, reducing the charge collected. Customers have told us that they believe this is incorrect, that those charges exist to discourage excessive use of the site, and that there is the perception that those customers who run robotic strategies that use our facilities intensively are being treated unreasonably favourably. We’ve agreed and we’ll be removing transaction and data request charges from the calculation. The number of customers affected by this is negligible.

We expect those changes to be implemented in October this year, and we’ll communicate the precise details to affected customers nearer the time.
Do you accept that the Premium charge has caused a lot of very bad feeling from a group of some of your oldest customers?
Yes, we’re very aware that any increase in pricing is going to be unpopular. You’re correct to observe that the change we made typically affects customers who have been with us for some time - people don’t just come across Betfair for the first time and instantly adopt highly profitable strategies that minimise commission; they refine and optimise their strategies over time. It’s a change we felt was necessary to address a fundamental weakness of the simple commission on net winnings per market model, and there simply is no easy way to impose that kind of change on a group of customers who’ve become very accustomed to getting a lot more from Betfair than Betfair gets from them. Getting the message across about why the change was necessary is difficult, particularly as we’re not going to discuss the detail of our customers’ activities in the media. It’s our belief that those are issues between us and our customers, and we’re happy to have those conversations at any time. Betfair’s senior management team are more accessible than the management of any other betting operator: we’ve met with customers at our offices who wanted to discuss this, we done calls with customers for whom our offices aren’t conveniently located, and we speak to customers regularly at sporting events throughout the year. We’re hopeful that over time customers will have those conversations with us. While we don’t expect people to be happy about a price increase, we’re confident that in time it will be apparent that the biggest beneficiaries of the increased investment we’re making as a result are our winning customers.
Shouldn't the premium rate charge be restricted to accounts that win above a certain level of money?
No, we don’t believe that it should be. A threshold for the charge would be seized upon by those who have long lobbied for a category of exchange customers to be taxed and licensed, however inaccurately, as a viable definition for ‘business’ activity.
I am a premium charge payer on a regular basis when I have a winning week I am premium charged when I have a losing week like two of the last three it's just a losing week. Are there any plans for a rebate system for when I lose which only seems fair if I pay extra when I win?
There are no plans to introduce a rebate system for losing weeks. By definition accounts that incur the charge have demonstrated very consistent profitability over the long-term, so apart from making fraud trivial, any rebate would just result in a greater charge as soon as normal profitability is resumed.
Why can't you just take 5% commission from all winning bets and forget the premium rate charge?
Assuming people continued to bet in exactly the same way as now, that would have the effect of increasing Betfair’s revenues by about 50%, affecting several hundred thousand customers. I don’t think it would be particularly well received. The only customers who would benefit from such a change would be the customers who currently pay the premium charge, and they are already the group of customers who pay the least in comparison to what they win.
I have been following the methods outlined by Elliot Short in the News Of The World article some weeks back, and am still struggling to make my first million.

Could you please advise on where I may be going wrong.

Thanks in advance.

The News of the World printed a retraction of the relevant article, following a posting we made highlighting some significant inaccuracies in the story. That suggests that following the ‘system’ outlined might not be the route to riches….
Since I joined Betfair, my account is showing a deficit of more than £80,000, which includes £33,000 I’ve paid in commission. Only now am I beginning to reduce that deficit. 

Can you assure me that as I continue to reduce my losses, I won’t be hit with the Premium Charge until such times as my account is showing a profit?

If and when I am in profit, I will be only too pleased to pay the Premium Charge.

I’m pleased to hear that you’ve refined your betting strategy and found a way to win on Betfair. As mentioned in the answer to an earlier question, we’ll be making some changes to the way the charge is calculated in October. The change that’s particularly relevant for you is that we’ll change the definition of long-term from the current 60 weeks to the entire lifetime of your account. Not only will you need to be in lifetime profit to even be considered for the charge at all, but you’ll have to get to a point where the commission you’ve generated is less than 20% of your gross profit. That’s much harder than it sounds, and only a very small percentage of winning accounts win at that rate.


After large losses, I regularly call Betfair to explain that I didn't mean to put the bet in, but the cat jumped on my keyboard. It never works though, but apparently I am not the only person to think of this excuse. As painful as some of my losses are, I'm thinking this guy has more serious problems.

Dogs have been blamed for eating homework - now a Florida man says his cat downloaded child pornography.

Police are charging Keith Griffin of Jensen Beach, Florida with 10 counts of possession of child pornography after finding more than 1,000 images on his personal computer.

Griffin told police he had been downloading music, and that his cat jumped on the keyboard when he left the room. He said "strange things" appeared on the computer when he returned.

He is being held in Martin county jail on $250,000 bond. No word on any charges against the cat.

Sunday 9 August 2009

Remember The Titans

The summer is finally coming to an end. I say finally not because I don't like the longer days and (supposedly) sunnier, drier days, but the summer months are just not that good for me for investing. First we have the new football season, (although if the results continue as they did yesterday for me, that may not be a good thing), and in less than two hours we see the return of American Football with it's meaningless Hall of Fame game between the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans are favourites at 1.68, (or 3 points in the handicap), a price that is a lay for me. In a game where starters are likely to play only a small part of the game, why one team is considered almost twice as likely to win as the other seems crazy to me. The Titans may well prevail, but they are not value.

For what it's worth (nothing IMO) Buffalo has won 4 of the last 5 meetings between these two teams. Betfair will have the game in-play but BETDAQ rather disappointingly do not even have the game listed.

Saturday 8 August 2009

Opening Day 2009-10 Summary

Championship: 5 draws from 5 selections

League One: 3 draws from 5 selections, 2 losses

League Two: 1 winner, one loser

Conference: 1 winner, one loser

The problem was that of the 10 Championship and League One selections, the eight draws were all predicted as home wins! Quite a feat really. As I wrote yesterday, opening day usually throws up some odd results. I layed Norwich City for a fun bet too, and look how that result turned out. I doubt that anyone predicted that!

I will wait for six matches before betting with significant money, by which time form for this season should have started to sort itself out.

Opening Day 2009-10

Football is back, and whilst I shall only be investing on games NOT involving any promoted / relegated / demoted or heavily financed teams for the first month, I shall be dabbling on games where my CRAP (Cassini Ratings And Performance) ratings suggest value.

Home value selections are:

Crystal Palace 1.99, Preston 2.22, Reading 2.02, Sheffield Wednesday 2.05, Watford 2.15

Brighton 2.04, Bristol Rovers 2.13, MK Dons 1.72, Oldham 1.8, Southend 2.82

Bury 2.15, Lincoln City 2.37

Cambridge 1.84, Oxford 1.78

Southend (v Huddersfield) look very good value at 2.82, but there may well be a good reason why the price is so long. Southend are rated higher, and although Huddersfield finished last season the stronger, current form isn't that current when it's from three months ago! Opening day is always a time for caution, but the above selections will give me an interest at least, and hopefully a profit.

For what it’s worth, my top-rated selections for the Football League and Conference divisions are listed below along with the prices available on the exchanges :

Championship: Sheffield United (11.5) / Plymouth Argyle

League One: Leeds United (4.4) / Hartlepool United

League Two: Bury (13) / Notts County

Conference Premier: Stevenage Borough (10) / Eastbourne Borough or Wrexham

North: Alfreton Town / Hyde United

South: Hampton and Richmond Borough / Worcester City

Notts County are unlikely to struggle due to the summer changes at the club, but they might not do quite as well as the market seems to expect.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes Newcastle to find their feet. I expect them to do well, but often it seems that clubs take a couple of months before they get things going. WBA may well start strongest of the relegated teams.

Other teams I will be watching with interest are the big four in League One (Leeds, Charlton, Norwich and Southampton). League One is usually a competitive division, and all four of these will be big scalps for the lesser teams in that league.

In the Conference I expect Luton to regain their League place, but so does the market so no value there! AFC Wimbledon will not win the league this season, and 18 is too short. A value lay.