Friday 30 April 2010

Au Revoir Betfair

A new country is now added to the list of countries from which Betfair no longer accepts bets. Somewhat bizarrely, it is France, and likely home to several thousand Betfair accounts belonging not just to ex-pats, but Frenchies as well.

The French Government's attempt to protect their monopoly on gambling will, of course, ultimately prove futile, but in the meantime the consequence is that Betfair and several other mainstream companies will be pulling out of France. As Mark Davies of Betfair says it:

The arduous task of contacting our French customers with this unhappy news begins immediately; and we will set about closing accounts and blocking French IP addresses when it becomes necessary to do so. With great regret, we're pulling out of France.

Absurd and ridiculous, though, it unquestionably is.

The simple fact is that we know, and customers know, that there are plenty of work-arounds for IP blocking, should people chose to use them; and without operator co-operation, the chances of the French government enforcing their legislation - short of sending the police randomly into people's front rooms and catching them on their computers - is zero. Operator co-operation will only come from those with brand names to protect, so the law will shut out precisely the sort of company that ought naturally to be welcomed in.

Anyone else who wants a bit of the action in defiance of the French government has the playing field wide open, so the black market will flourish. By France's own estimates, it already equates to around 5,000 sites, even before the addition of new rogue operators which are likely to pop up in the way that music file-sharing sites did when Napster first got banned. The music industry has struggled to recover from that position ever since, but the French have chosen not to learn from past mistakes. Instead, they will deny people proper choice and competition and force those who want it to find it in the illegal market. They are failing their citizens in consequence, and it's a shame to see it.
Perhaps they have other priorities right now. The AP and UPI reported that the French government announced that it has raised its terror alert level from Run to Hide. The only two higher levels in France are Surrender and Collaborate. The rise in the alert level was precipitated by a recent fire which destroyed France’s white flag factory, effectively disabling their military.

Update 1.5.10: A couple of comments have informed me that the post in question has now been removed. I can't say I'm surprised. The post in question was certainly a little more revealing about about at least one topic than perhaps Betfair, or Mark in hindsight, were comfortable with.

Thursday 29 April 2010

Enda Fractions?

A rather embarrassing error in this piece from Enda Brady for Sky News. No Irish jokes please:

British gamblers are making history today when bookies use decimal odds at a racecourse for the first time.

Until now bookmakers have always priced up horses using fractions but a campaign aimed at getting more young people interested in the sport claims their methods are "outmoded and unfamiliar".

Racing for Change says that using decimals will give customers better value by improving competition and offering a wider range of prices.

"We need to attract a younger audience and to do that we need to overhaul betting language that is alien to anybody who went to school since the UK went decimal in 1971," said Chris McFadden, chairman of Racing for Change.

Punters at Ascot racecourse today are able to use the new betting system, which could spell the end for much-loved racing phrases like Burlington Bertie (100-30) and Double Carpet (33-1).

"There are some dinosaurs in racing who won't want this, but we'll give the gambling public whatever they want," bookmaker Paddy Power told Sky News Online.

Under the new system - widely used already in Australia - odds like 9-4 would be priced up as 2.25.

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Clay Million

Roger Federer's defeat today cost one Betfair client £1 million. Backing at 1.06 and 1.05, he lost out when Ernests Gulbis won 2-6, 6-1, 7-5 in the Rome Masters.

As the Guardian reported it:

It was a weird match, Federer coasting early on but then disintegrating under pressure at the end against a strong young opponent who kept blowing one golden chance after another through impetuosity and nerves. "When I was missing all those match points I was shitting in my pants," the Latvian said. "Sorry to be so rude. I was so nervous. I was shaking. It was a terrible feeling."
Rude words that could most probably be attributed to Mr Marigold as well, although as I have said before, amounts are all relative - a million to me is not the same as a million to someone else. I hope not for this guy's sake. To me, that's a lot of money! There's certainly some big amounts appearing (or disappearing) these days.

Monday 26 April 2010

Reminiscences of a Stock Operator

I've written about this book before, and if you haven't yet read it, it is an interesting read with many of the ideas contained within it relevant to trading sports markets. The style is archaic to say the least, and some of the later chapters drag somewhat, but it gave me a few ideas, and Yahoo!Finance has this on it today:

Ask any Wall Street trader over a certain age (say 22) what books help readers best understand the market and "Reminiscences of a Stock Operator" is certain to come up.
Written in 1923 by Edwin Lefèvre, "Reminiscences" is the fictionalized account of real-life speculator Jesse Livermore, who made and lost several massive fortunes in the early part of the 20th century, most famously by shorting the market in 1929.

"The newspapers all blamed the crash on Jesse Livermore - he was heavily short [and] made a fortune," says Jon Markman, Marketwatch columnist and author of a new annotated version of LeFevre's investing classic, which marries actual events with the fictionalized account.

If that "blame the shorts" mantra sounds a lot like the current brouhaha over the role John Paulson, Goldman Sachs and others allegedly played in the 2008 credit crisis, it's no coincidence, Markman says. "There is nothing new on Wall Street."

Although the original "Reminiscences" was written in 1923, "all the events in that are described in that book have analogs to what's happening today," he continues. "All of the advice that's given by the great Jesse as fresh today as when it was articulated in 1923."

Although Livermore was a noted short-seller, he was fond of saying "when you're in a bull market you have to trade with the bulls," says the very bullish Markman. "That's something very relevant today. Jesse Livermore would say: ‘As long as the trend is up, you got to stay with that trend. Don't fight the tape.'"
Of course, poor old Jesse Livermore ended up taking his own life, so don't follow his example too far.

Thunder and Storm

A 90th minute penalty saw Football Elite’s one short list selection Getafe win 4-3 today at 3.0. After trailing 2-3 to Sevilla with 76 minutes gone, it wasn’t looking too promising, but luck evens out, and today it was my (our) turn.

The Sports Betting Professor’s baseball selections are looking a little brighter with seven winners from the last nine since Thursday, and with the Los Angles Angels currently leading the New York Yankees by four runs (8-4) in the eighth inning, it’s looking more like eight from the last ten. With six of these eight winners starting as underdog, now might be a good time to start following the selections with money. Actually, last Thursday might have been a better time to start! Small stakes only, for a bit of fun and added interest.

In the NBA play-offs yesterday, he also had a winner with the Milwaukee Bucks easily covering the -1 spread at home to the Atlanta Hawks. No selections from today's four games where wins by the Spurs and Jazz would put the higher seeds in both series in serious danger of elimination. I also have a feeling that all is not well with the Lakers these days. Oklahoma City have all the momentum right now, and the Lakers are looking vulnerable having been backed as low as 1.05 to win the Series after going 2-0. Game Five is always key, and if Kobe Bryant continues to struggle, the younger Thunder could well eliminate the number one seed in the West.

Also soon to be elimnated in the USA is the repressive Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act passed in 2006.

Two Democrat Representatives (Barney Frank and Jim McDermott), are leading a group that proposes to repeal the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which is set to go into effect June 1. Their plan would legalize and tax online gambling.

"We have an activity going on illegally in this country and we’re pretending it doesn’t exist," McDermott said. Internet gambling "people have said 'We want to be legal and we’re certainly willing to pay taxes,' and we need the money. On every count, this is a net positive."

“American adults want to be able to do what they want with their own money without the government interfering,” Frank said.
You think?

As a poster on the Betfair forum commented:
An English-speaking nation of over 300 million suddenly being allowed to gamble on here should lead to interesting times
except that the 300 million figure can be reduced to those with Internet access (86.8 million homes) and then adjusted for the 79% who are "Christian or Muslim" and who obviously won't be gambling with their chances of going to heaven by, well, gambling. Would they? Surely there are no hypocrites in the religious community.

And in Australia, from 250 to 1.01 in the blink of an announcement (although someone knew several days ago it seems)
Melbourne Storm were stripped of premiership wins in 2007 and 2009 and fined $500,000 for breaching the NRL's salary cap by $1.6 million over the last five years.

The NRL also ruled Melbourne will not earn any premiership points in 2010. Sportingbet Australia reacted by slashing Melbourne's wooden spoon odds from $250 to $1.01.

"Melbourne have gone from $251 to $1.01 for the wooden spoon in the space of six hours which has to be the biggest betting move in history," Sportingbet Australia's chief executive Michael Sullivan said.

Sunday 25 April 2010

Don't Eat All The Pies

According to the Yahoo!Finance site, not only does being good looking help you to earn more, but being thin helps too.

A study by the Ohio State University Center for Human Resources Research found that the obese accumulate only about half the net worth of non-obese Americans, and gender and ethnicity make a big difference. Overall, a one-point increase in body mass index dropped net worth by $1,300. But wealth increases are nonlinear; that is, a 10-point change from a highly overweight reading means much more.

Now for earnings: The Ohio State study found that a typical woman earned $314 less annually for every one-point increase in BMI while a male counterpart earned $161 less. Another study by a New York University sociologist found that, for women, a 1% increase in BMI led to a 0.6% decrease in income, a 0.4% decrease in job "prestige" and a 0.35% decrease in the likelihood of marriage. To keep this simple, assuming this is true, just a one point increase in a man's BMI could lead to a drop in savings over 30 years by as much as $10,700 (assuming a 5% annual return if these earnings were not otherwise lost), while for a woman, a savings impact of over $20,000.
To please Anonymous and satisfy his desire for figures, from now until the end of July, I shall update at least once a week with my weight - the idea being that by going public with the numbers, I will be extra motivated to hit my goal of 13.5 stone (189 lbs). The trading lifestyle isn't conducive to good health but I'm told (thank you dear) that it's important.

Starting weight 15st 4lbs (214 lbs). Oink oink.

Saturday 24 April 2010

Changing Seasons

Football Elite have decided to take a cautious approach in the final days of the season so there were no Recommended Bets today. The two short list selections both came up short with Schalke '04 winning at Hertha Berlin and Mainz held to a 3-3 draw by Eintracht Frankfurt.

After going 5 for 5 in early April, the short list selections have since gone 1-8 with 4 of those losers actually losing rather than losing by drawing if you follow my drift.

The Sports Betting Professor's week didn't go too well either. His 13 MLB selections went 6-7 but for a small profit. Overall 23-36 this season, for a loss to 100 points level stake of 1297.14. Tuesday was notable, only because his four selections all lost, and scored just 1 run between them, and giving up 25!

In the NBA, his play-off record stands at 3-3 for a small (after commission) loss of 11.2 to a 100 point stake. Still up overall on the NBA since I joined though, but only by 30.95 on an outlay of 2900 points. Not a huge ROI, but at least it's in profit.

I should stop receiving these selections any day now, since they haven't been paid for, but they continue to hit my inbox, so I shall continue to follow them. The end of April means the domestic football season is all but at an end, but in baseball it's the opposite with teams getting into their stride. And of course the NBA is at an exciting stage of the season with (usually) plenty of close games, and consequent trading opportunities.

Why We Gamble

I was reading an interesting article about the “Real Reasons You Gamble” by Dr Maurice Farber from the Department of Psychology at the University of Connecticut.

In his opinion, there are six vital factors.

In my opinion, some of his opinions are a little out there, but here they are:

1) To relieve boredom. Many people feel desperately bored and empty. Gambling offers excitement, an antidote to boredom. Playing the game makes the hours go by like minutes.

2) The challenge of a battle. To many, gambling is a “war,” a battle of wits between the gambler and his opponent or “the system”. While gambling, we can attack, conquer or retreat without the deadly effects of real battle. Money adds interest to the battle. If the stakes are not too high, no one is really hurt. Thus, gambling can be a way of having your cake and eating it, too.

3) You can dream a little. Gambling is often related to the secret wish of many of us that something wonderful will happen, solving all our problems. Our ship will come in. Gambling small stakes for large winnings is a manifestation of the wishful day-dream aspect of gambling. It may explain why so many sweepstakes tickets are sold and why there is so much long-shot betting. Undoubtedly, there are people who never really expect to win, who know that the odds are heavily against them, but gamble only so they can dream luxurious dreams.

4) The feeling of power. The cravings people bring to gambling sometimes involve an unconscious or conscious magical belief that they are all powerful and cannot lose. They believe the horse they bet on is sure to win, the speculative stocks they buy sure to go up. This is a complicated emotional side of gambling and even may be related to deep unconscious sexual feelings. Perhaps to the extreme gambler, winning is something akin to sexual experience; to this gambler, losing becomes associated with sexual punishment.

5) The “family enemy” explanation. To some gamblers, the opponents stand for family members against whom the gambler feels hostility. For instance, the opponent may symbolize the gambler’s father, who for various reasons may be resented by the gambler. Or the opponent may be seen as the brother who the gambler believes was favoured by his parents. Thus the gambler seeks to “defeat” family members against whom he has harboured ill feeling since childhood.

6) The desire to lose. Perhaps the most curious paradox about gambling is that some gamblers really have an unconscious desire to lose. These gamblers seem so controlled by hidden guilt (which may arise from childhood experiences) that they actually play to lose as a means of relieving their guilt. People who persistently bet on very long odds often are of this type. They may protest long and loud about losing, but unconsciously they are deeply satisfied.
As a trader rather than a gambler, I’m rather pleased that few of the factors apply to me. The first three I can identify with a little. I do find trading and investing a challenge, but an intellectual challenge rather than anything resembling a “war”. Trading is exciting, but without it I certainly don’t feel “desperately bored and empty”. Do I dream a little? Perhaps occasionally. Certainly last weekend when I backed at 100-1 to win £129,000 the thought did cross my mind as to what I might do with it, but I don’t usually play for life-changing amounts.

To the last three factors he lists, this is where he lost me a little. While it does sometimes seem that I can’t do a thing wrong, there are other times when I can’t seem to do a thing right. It’s all part of the game, and nothing whatsoever to do with sexual feelings. The “family enemy” explanation? I’m not buying it. My opponents are other exchange users, not my parents or siblings.

As for the desire to lose, the people I know who fit this description are more attention seekers than sufferers of some hidden guilt, or at least I thought they were. Reminds me of a childhood friend who at around age sixteen spread a story around that he had discovered a note in his father’s desk, revealing that he (the son) only had a year or two left to live. I believe the term pity-f**k came into existence around this time, just for him. When I saw him in the pub last Xmas, he looked remarkably well for someone who should have died nearly 40 years ago. It just dawned on me! My childhood feelings of envy are being played out on the exchanges with my hostility directed at him!

Liverpool Lay

Role model Steven Gerrard is the subject of a vicious rumour currently spreading like wildfire. Allegedly he's been cheating with a 16 year old girl from Liverpool who is now pregnant.

Clearly this story has no merit.

What girl from Liverpool waits until she is 16 before she gets pregnant?

Anyway, last I heard, Gerrard was in London recording the England World Cup song with Gary Glitter and Bill Wyman.

And former 'nail technician' wife Alex Curran is allegedly carrying on with Derby County's Kris Commons, whose partner had their first child in January.

In other news, police cordoned off Liverpool city centre this morning when a suspicious object was discovered in a car.

It turned out to be a tax disc.

Just kidding - I have nothing against Liverpool as a city. Very friendly. Been there three times and was only attacked once - in January 1977. [The Liverpool FC rosette that was purchased as part of my cunning plan to avoid further trouble was donated to a bar in Magaluf after Liverpool's European Cup win later that year.]

Friday 23 April 2010

Sinners - You Bet!

April 23rd, St George's Day, William Shakespeare's birthday, (he also died on his birthday), Cervantes birthday (thus the designation of today as International Day of the Book) and a day of celebration not only in England but also Hungary, much of Spain, Georgia, Lebanon, Palestine, Newfoundland, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovenia, Russia and Malta to name but a few.

About St George himself, the Catholic Encyclopedia "takes the position that there seems to be no ground for doubting the historical existence of Saint George, but that little faith can be placed in some of the fanciful stories about him". A not unreasonable attitude that they somehow fail to see should apply to their beloved Jesus just as much. Well, no one ever accused the Church of being rational. One doesn't have to look far for other nonsense from them:

Gambling is contrary to the teachings of God's Word and is therefore sinful.

Gambling is a way of practicing dishonesty. It is a form of taking what does not rightfully belong to a person. Interested in obtaining something for nothing, the gambler tries in every way to attain his ends, and usually is concerned to learn all the "tricks" he can. He is interested in "fleecing" those that are inexperienced. Gambling often takes the wages from innocent mothers and children and returns nothing. Along with gambling frequently goes cheating, and both are forms of dishonesty. Paul states, "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth" Ephesians 4:28. Although the word "gambling" does not appear in the Bible, the practice is clearly condemned in numerous passages of scripture. Gambling is based on the evil desire to get money or goods which belong to someone else without giving fair value in exchange. The Bible calls this sin "covetousness" and makes it clear that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Romans 1:28-32).

Because gambling encourages the "getting something for nothing" philosophy, it also encourages laziness and indolence. Men and women who set out on a career of gambling shun honest labor and become parasites. States and cities where gambling is legalized and a "big business" become mere parasites living off the productive labor of others. Such statements as Paul made in II Thessalonians 3:10,11, certainly conflict with the gambler's ideal of living.

Thursday 22 April 2010

Pay Up Pompey, Pompey Pay Up

A friend drew my attention to an item buried near the bottom of Portsmouth "City" FC's Creditors' Report. Sandwiched between "Security Costs" and "VAT Receivable" is a strange item: "Ransom Payments". For £308.50!

Most businesses that survive insolvency are obliged to meet the demands of key creditors who may attempt to obtain force majeure (or ransom) payments in order to guarantee their continued support, so it may be as boring as this, but I hope not. Sounds like a good story.

And when did Portsmouth FC become Portsmouth City FC? 20th May 1999 apparently. They kept that quiet.

In other news, this from the Guardian:

Metin Tolan, a physics professor at the University of Dortmund, claims to have devised a 'complex' mathematical formula which shows Germany will win the World Cup this summer. "It is very simple, all my calculations prove this," he parped. "The last time we won the World Cup was back in 1990 and there have been four tournaments since. The average finishing place of the team is 3.7 and [they] win the title every fourth or fifth World Cup. Nobody can beat us this year and you can already put the champagne on ice."
At 15.5 on the exchanges, I'm all-in on Germany. Or maybe not. It may all be "very simple", but perhaps just a little too simple.

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Another Catholic Scandal

Apparently it's not just Italy that has problems with teams being less than fully committed towards the end of a season. Any Catholic country that starts with an "I" seems to suffer from it.

The BBC reports today that:

Bookmakers in mid-Ulster have been on the alert after spotting an irregular pattern developing in some end-of-season Irish League matches.

Local bookmakers have decided to suspend betting on some games after punters placed unusually high bets.

Particularly high betting was placed on the outcome of a recent Distillery verses Glenavon match which the unfancied Distillery won 3-1.

Glenavon chairman Adrian Teer said the club has launched an internal inquiry.

A spokesperson for bookmaker Toals said: "This is the third time in three months that a similar thing has occurred involving Glenavon."

Adrian Eastwood of McLeans, said suspicions were aroused by people who normally did not frequent an office wanting to have a single bet of a few hundred pounds on a football team.

Modest bet

"They don't normally come in ... but they have got some information or they have heard something about the team, you just don't know.

"Most people who have a bet on the football like to pick three or four teams and do a modest bet, an accumulator, and in big feature matches people would have a few hundred quid on a team, Manchester United in the FA Cup (for example), but in an Irish League match, it just doesn't happen unless there is something strange happening.

"When matches are competitive, there won't be a problem. At the end of the season certainly when matches are less competitive, then bookmakers are wary. Usually that is reflected in the prices, the prices wouldn't be just as generous."

The suspension on betting, however, does not necessarily mean any offence has been committed.

Punters are often aware there is less at stake at the end of the season, with teams often blooding young players or have experienced players exhausted or injured.

In April last year, leading bookmaker Paddy Power suspended betting on all late-season Irish League games except those involving Linfield and Glentoran.

Paddy Power said at the time there had been an unusually high number of bets placed on teams which had no chance of winning the league title.

"This isn't necessarily something sinister," said the bookmaker.

"People on the ground might know that a key player is or isn't playing or something as simple as that."
My son has finally departed, delayed a couple of days by the volcanic eruption, which was good for me as it gave me a couple of extra unplanned days with him. Unfortunately not enough time for me to erase my backgammon or pool tournament deficits, (in fact, they got worse), but at least my lead in darts was extended.

So it's back to work with a vengeance on the exchanges. April has once again been a poor month for me, which hasn't helped at all, but the last few days have seen the tide turn a little, although trading has been limited.

Monday 19 April 2010


From the BBC comes news of another betting scandal. How long before we read a story about how wrestling is fixed?

Police in South Korea are investigating allegations of match fixing by professional players of sci-fi-themed strategy game StarCraft.

The game, made by World of Warcraft developer Blizzard, is enormously popular in South Korea.

Leagues of professional players compete in televised tournaments and receive coaching and sponsorship.

However, some players and officials are alleged to have accepted bribes from gambling websites to rig the games.

There has been little coverage of the event in the country's mainstream media but the Korea Times website claims that the Korea e-Sports Association filed charges against individual players and coaches in March 2010.

According to the newspaper StarCraft accounts for 70% of so-called "e-sports" activities in South Korea.

A spokesperson from the Korean Embassy in the UK told the BBC that there had been no official statement from the Ministry of Culture but did confirm that an incident had been reported to the police.

Website Gamepron said the news was being compared with the 1919 Black Sox scandal, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox baseball team were found to have deliberately lost games.

Sunday 18 April 2010

A Bit Of A Scare

A mixed day for Football Elite with the Recommended Bets winning with Sampdoria at 2.9 beating AC Milan but Parma losing 2-3 to Genoa.

The one short-list bet was Bari who went down 1-2 at home to Napoli.

The Sports Betting Professor's nightmare start to the MLB season continued yesterday with an 0-3 record. Overall he is now 14-27 for a loss of 1359.13 on the season to a level 100 points stake using the US Sportsbook prices with no commission as correctly pointed out by a sensible Anonymous comment.

In the NBA he had one winner, and one loser. The Celtics easily covered the 4.5 point spread but in the earlier Cavaliers v Bulls game, the tip was the Bulls +11.5.

The Cavs won by 13, so this was a loss, but on reading the update today, the clear impression is that the bet was a winner.

"Well the Bulls gave me a bit of a scare, always hate to lose and NBA game by a basket or less especially when it's a B bet."
I'm not sure about anyone else, but my interpretation of "gave me a bit of a scare" is that after looking bad for a while, ultimately everything worked out ok. Maybe it's just me, but I found that wording a little, shall we say, disingenuous.

The Lakers v Thunder game is coming to an end as I write this, and with the Thunder staying close to the end, there were several trading opportunities. The Lakers always seem to hit 1.0x too early, and yo-yoing between say 1.04 and 1.09 for decent amounts is a relatively low risk strategy. The handicap was Lakers -8.5 and the game ends with the Lakers winning by 8 after the Thunder traded as high as 5.9 on Betfair.

Sadly, no Mr Lumpy on the Dodgers v Giants game tonight.

Freak Result

Limited opportunities on the first day of the NBA play-offs with all home teams winning as favourites and all covering the spread. Perhaps today's match-ups will offer better trading fare.

I got somewhat distracted from the games myself when I happened upon a baseball game where someone wanted to back at 1.01 at the top of the fourth innings with the score at 5-0. Not just back with the often seen couple of thousand but with over ₤330k.

Now I know the bet lost, and it cost me the ₤1,200 that I was prepared to risk, but there is no way that 1.01 at that stage of the game was a value back. Tim Lincecum is a great pitcher, and looked to be in good form, but even so. As it turned out, the San Francisco Giants added four more and the Los Angeles Dodgers were unbelievably poor only briefly looking like doing anything, but for me the upside of six figures was huge. While ₤1.2k is a lot to lose on one play, and I'm never happy at losing, I have no regrets over the decision. I still believe it was the right one at that stage of the game.

The Chinese Grand Prix is about to begin. Small stakes only, but Vettel and Red Bull look good, whereas Ferrari and Alonso at 7.0 are looking very layable with their problems. The anticipated rain will liven things up.

Saturday 17 April 2010

NBA Play-Offs

Football Elite had two short-list bets today. Stuttgart won at 2.3, but Fulham were held to a 0-0 draw by Wolves, a team who have picked up as many points as Liverpool away from home this season!

The Sports Betting Professor's baseball tips went 2-1 yesterday, but to a 100 point stake (assuming 5% commission) they are down a massive 1126.17 points after a 14-24 start to the season.

He's back with an NBA selection today, as the play-offs get under way. Last year, the opening games of each series were split 4-4, and were 2-6 in 2008, and with the market typically heavily favouring every home team in the opening game, (the longest price is for the Celtics at 1.56, the shortest is the Cavaliers at 1.11), I will be looking at an initial lay of the home team. None of the weekend play-off games overlap, so there's a veritable feast of action ahead, and hopefully some close games. Not many NBA games see the favourite steadily descend to 1.01 which makes the NBA so perfect for trading.

Back to football, and Chelsea have drifted to 1.8 following their loss at Tottenham today. They've been backed as low as 1.13. A very exciting finish to the season.

Eleven Silly Men

There's a great blog post from Tom Fordyce on the BBC Football page about dealing with the tension of supporting a football team whose fortunes are in the balance as the season winds down.

Some of the tips struck me as being useful for the sports investors among us whose fortunes waver from time to time.

Phillip Hodson, fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy was consulted and had this to say:

"As biological creatures, we need to oscillate between tension and relaxation if we are to survive and thrive. The problems start with tension that's never relieved. When you're anxious about an event or outcome, like the position of your football team, the tension is 24/7."

"You can't control the external event, but you can control your reaction to it," advises Hodson. "One of the easiest ways of doing that is to take some fairly vigorous physical exercise. That will make you tired, change your breathing, make you hot and then cool down, and that takes you into the phase of relaxation.

"If that's impossible, you can do it very simply if you clench your fists and squeeze all the muscles in your arms and shoulders as hard as you can for about three seconds, and then let go.

"You can also try to put yourself under a different kind of stress. Give yourself a different deadline. If you have a piece of work to do, that can be a different kind of tension and quite refreshing."

"The trouble is that your brain is at war with your feelings," says Hodson. "Your feelings are one of dread, yet your brain says, well, these things happen.

"It is helpful sometimes to try to picture an image of when you were quite young, a day when you were gloriously happy. Look at that picture, see what the sky is like, and memorise all the elements.

"Imagine the happy picture and dwell on it in your mind when you're at your lowest. Because it's quite hard for the brain to feel both happy and sad, that can work quite well. It will take your mind off it for a while, and it's the release you're looking for."

"Tis better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved at all," wrote Tennyson, and although Alfred, Lord never experienced the pain of a 4-1 thrashing at rain-soaked Vicarage Road in November, his famous words ring true to this day.

"If you want to feast you must fast," confirms Phillip. "If you want to enjoy your team's sporting success, there must be a contrast. If it was all 6-0 victories, it would be very boring. Being beaten is part of the game.

"Unless you care about the fate of your team, unless you're in love with them on some level, you can't experience that joy. But because you are in love with them, you are going to be let down at some point. Becoming vulnerable to the good stuff makes you vulnerable to the bad stuff. It's what we call unavoidable unhappiness.

"All love ends in pain at some stage. Even if you live happily with a wife or husband for 60 years, someone has to die first."

Fearing we were moving into somewhat morbid waters, I steered the conversation back to practical matters. Should the worst happen and the relegation whirlpool suck your boat down, is it better to drown your sorrows alone or with your fellow shipmates?

"We all grieve in different ways," says Hodson. "The thing is, does your method work? If you want to throw yourself into work for a while, or to tell yourself you don't care, that's fine - it's part of the grieving process. But if it's all about denial, your grief will still catch you up at some stage. You will be ambushed by the bad feelings.

"Anything that helps you get through that time is good. Sometimes the first thing to do is just to accept your feelings.

"It's good to feel, it's horrible not to. If the feeling part of your brain doesn't work, you can't even tell me what you want for dinner."

What of our real-life partners? Despite their best intentions, not all can appreciate what the distraught fan is going through. Can the offer of a cup of green tea assuage the bitter sting of defeat at Middlesbrough to a flukey deflected goal? Experience of those close to the author would suggest not.

"If you know that your partner is upset, don't try to tell them it doesn't matter, or that it's only a sport," advises Hodson. "Instead, say something like, 'I can see you're gutted, I won't say another word'.

"There are many people who can't access football emotionally or mentally. If, for you, football is life and death, yet you're living with someone like that, they need to work quite hard to be supportive.

"It's not about '11 silly men kicking a ball into a net', it's about whether your partner's feelings of distress matter to you. If they don't matter, you don't have a relationship.

"What's interesting is that supporters of the team that wins have a much higher sex drive than supporters of the team that loses, and they often express it. Try to upset that research by making yourself do it that night, or be a great lover, because you'll get a sense of euphoria from it."

So there we have it. Go for a long run, throw yourself into work or put in a blinder between the sheets. Or, should you have the energy, attempt all three.

A lot of truth in the above, especially the part about having to suffer defeats to really appreciate the victories, in life as well as in football. My own comment to the post was this:
I've been a Palace fan since 1967 - but it's not my fault. My Mum was living in Purley when I was born, and it never occurred to me to support anyone but my local team. True - they don't win much, but when they do have some success, it really means something. Even the bad times are good. Some of my greatest memories are from when 'we' played in the old Division Three for three years with Malcolm Allison and then Terry Venables at the helm. Games versus Brighton? Wonderful moments. Man U fans just wouldn't get it. We were the "Team of the Eighties" except that we ended up spending most of it in the old Division Two, ending with Coppell at the helm, and finally back at the top level. That 0-9 defeat? Almost funny really. Reaching the FA Cup Semi-Finals through the back door and then Wembley via the main entrance and one of the best experiences that sports can ever give you? Priceless. And now we're in a prolonged slump yet again. Administration? Points deduction. from play-off hopefuls to relegation fighters in one fell swoop. The drama. The ecstasy. The pain. Well, not so much pain now to be honest. I'm too old for that. Emotions run lower as one gets older. Thirty years ago I might have cried, but as others have pointed out earlier, football is but a tassel woven onto the tapestry of life. Que sera. You know what would really bug me? If Palace win the Cup the year after I die. That would be very irritating. Enjoy your teams. The successes and the failures. The importance of winning and losing is overrated. There's always next season, and if not, there are always some great memories. No one can take those away. Well, except Alzheimer's I suppose.

Friday 16 April 2010

Send Her Viktoria's

Viktoria Azarenka seems to have picked up some bad words in her English classes.

Most of you probably know what happened in her match earlier this week against Christina McHale, (opened 1.07, drifted pre-game to 1.43, then drifted out despite winning the first set before, surprise, retiring hurt). Here are her comments on the 'scandal' from Twitter:

hello everyone! i had to retire from my match today, because of my injury i got in marbella! too bad i didnt have enough time to get it better

tried to do everything possible,but unfortunately i couldnt do going back to europe now to continue treatment and hopefully i will be ready very soon!

now from the internet i read some nasty things about me and my match today! specially from my own country! its a for people who think i tanked the match or whatever they certainly dont have a fucking clue what they talking about... and rules of wta tour
The rules she mentions are the WTA requirements whereby, as a top 10 player, she has to play a number of non-Premier events or she gets fined. 

Hardly a surprise that, less than fully fit, she fulfils her obligation but not wanting to risk further damage, pulls out early on.

Thursday 15 April 2010

Sea-Legs No Handicap

The Sports Betting Professor's baseball selections are worse than I thought. He described the situation in terms of 'finding our sea-legs' but to a level stake of 100 points, his 31 selections for this season are currently 10-21 for a loss of 1196.05 points assuming 5% commission.

To the Anonymous poster who asked

"Aren't the SBP picks handicap as well? Makes it all the easier!",
the answer is no, none of them are. They are all Money Line bets. Someone needs to read up on baseball betting!

It was also not a question of calculating whether the selections were in profit or not, but a question of determining just how much in the red they were. As I said a few days ago, with my son here, priorities are changed and calculating the P&L on tips that I haven't asked for, paid for or backed is not high on that list of priorities.

17 of his 33 selections to date were underdogs, including 13 of the last 17. A definite trend in the last few days away from the favourite. I wonder why?

The regular NBA season finishes tonight will all but two teams involved. Several games are meaningless, with top players resting for the play-offs and rookies looking to impress, while a few have play-off implications. Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz looks to be the top game for trading with the Jazz (1.51) possibly finishing as high as second in the West or as low as fifth.

With so many games being played in a rather less intense manner than might usually be the case, the overs in many games could be a good bet. The Los Angeles game for example.

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Preparedness Meets Opportunity

Lucky for me, for I now have something to post about, there have been a couple of comments on my last post questioning why the ratio of winners to losers falls as the size of the wins or losses increase.

The first comment was that “It's probably because, like most "traders" you back at non-value prices and lay at non-value prices because you don't actually know what the prices should be”.

The obvious rebuttal to this idea is that if anyone consistently backs at non-value prices and lays at non-value prices, their trading will not be profitable over the long-term, but as I am now in my sixth year of trading, I am reasonably confident that overall I am finding value. If the value was poor, I think it would think the luck would have caught up with me by now, although as April is currently in the red, perhaps I am speaking too soon!

I would also imagine that if "most" traders are losing money, then they will not be traders for long.

The second comment is hard to take too seriously, since the language, misspellings and poor grammar used, reminds me somewhat of the Intelligent Design believers who comment on atheist web sites thinking that they have something new to contribute to the debate, but who instead simply reveal their overall lack of intelligence and inability to understand the subject.

To me it suggest you're crap at trading and just gambling to have a pnl with those type of daily profits.
While I accept that there is always room for improvement in my trading, the suggestion that I am “simply gambling” can be easily debunked by my earlier observation that luck would have caught up with me by now had this been the case.

He goes on (in more ways than one…):
But surely this isn't the same Cassini who continually tells us the amounts he makes are no ones elses business and refuses to ever validate his 'winnings' and now we're expected to believe he regulary makes 4 figure sums on a daily basis.
There is only one Cassini here, and the amounts I make are indeed the business of nobody but me.

Whilst it is very kind of you (Anonymous) to offer to audit my accounts, it really isn’t necessary. I keep my own fairly extensive records, and besides, I would first need to validate your credentials, as well as understand why exactly you feel you have the right to see my accounts?

How many other accounts of bloggers have you previously audited? Do you have letters of recommendation from those people? Would you need a statement of my net worth too so that my average daily profits of 1p, 10p, ₤1, ₤10, ₤100, ₤1,000 or whatever they might be, have some perspective? Would ₤1,000 a day excite you more than ₤1 a day? What if it was Bill Gates who was making the ₤1,000 a day? Understand that ₤1,000 a day to someone with a net worth of ten million is no more interesting or relevant than ₤1 a day is to someone with a net worth of ₤10,000.

Is this really so hard to comprehend? Apparently for some, yes. I could understand this curiosity if I were selling something, but this blog was never intended to be for financial profit. It’s just my ramblings on (mostly) a number of sports investment related topics. If it is numbers you are after, then check out the blog roll to the right of this page and you’ll find several. I assume that when you read The Sun each morning for your financial news, you have already verified that the journalists are suitably qualified?

Also, please note that nowhere in my post did I claim to “regularly make 4 figure sums on a daily basis”. What does that even mean? That each day I regularly make 4 figure sums? I wish! Assuming that Anonymous means “frequently” (but then I never said that either), anyone who is into their sixth year of trading, and involved in several markets on most days will, by the law of averages, have a significant number of days where the net profit or loss runs to four figures. In fact there are no doubt many out there whose account balances fluctuate by five figures from time to time, but I’m not at that point yet.

The trick is to increase the frequency of those four figure days, and the ratio in which the good days outweigh the bad days.


A losing day for Football Elite yesterday with the one Recommended Bet (Sporting Gijon) going down to a 0-2 defeat at home to Tenerife at 2.0.

The Sports Betting Professor, who I suspect isn't really a Professor at all, is now 12 winners from 26 selections, a situation described by him as 'finding our sea legs'. However, since many bets are on the underdog, this might actually not be too bad. I shall run the numbers when time permits.

Right now I am trying to recover from a record 32 point defeat at Backgammon to my son. The doubling got a little out of hand, and my 21 point lead earned over several nights was turned on its head by one big play that didn't quite come off. A little like my trading this month, or more accurately, a little like my trading period.

A quick look at the numbers shows that days where the profit is over £100 exceed days where losses of £100 by a ratio of 2.88 to 1, but when it comes to bigger amounts, the ratio drops significantly. 123 days have seen swings in excess of £1000 with 70 on the good side, but when it comes to the £3,000 days, for every 2 on the good side, 5 have been on the bad side.

Does this suggest that I am not letting the good trades run for long enough, or that I am not cutting the bad trades short quick enough? I think it's the latter, for the reason discussed a few posts ago - the inability to set a stop-loss. Many of the markets I trade are extremely volatile, and that is usually a good thing, but when those losing days come along, they do hurt. Even more than losing to my son at Backgammon.

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Stalker The Devil

Whether or not Anonymous is a stalker (or a stalk mauler for that matter) or not, he keeps returning to the blog to amuse with his simplistic comments, and an uncanny ability to miss the point.

The latest is that he's not so impressed with 3 winners from 3 bets. Well, nor would I be if they were all at 1.01, but Football Elite had winners on Sunday at 2.54, 2.26 and 2.38 which combined with laying the Blackburn v Manchester United draw at 1.54 was a very good day by most peoples standards. Whether or not this is 'spectacular', the word I used to describe the day, is of course a matter of opinion, but I'm happy to call it that. The accumulated odds on all four were 38-1 - better odds than Anonymous or his professional Roulette players can expect on any one spin of the wheel!

Football Elite have certainly shown that they are finding value. Combining the Recommended Bets with the Short List bets, after 171 selections we are up 119.93 to a 10 point stake after assuming 5% commission.

Despite not having paid a penny for them, I'm still getting the Sports Betting Professor tips. Although he has stopped with the NBA for the remainder of the regular season, (he may have read my post a few days ago commenting on the fact that at this time of year the form becomes unreliable) he has been sending out the MLB picks. I'll review these at some point, but if yesterday's selections are anything to go by, it's not too impressive with no less than six losers from seven selections.

By the way, the mention of the SBP having read my blog and being influenced by it was tongue in cheek - as are a few other things I say. Always fun when the joke goes right over someone's head though.

Monday 12 April 2010

Essex Boys

From ESPN today:

English county cricket faces a test of its integrity with two Essex players under investigation for what is believed to be 'spot fixing', where bets are placed on elements of a match rather than the actual result. On Friday, Essex police confirmed they were involved over 'match irregularities' and since then speculation has been rife over the depths to which potential corruption has spread.

Sources close to the investigation have told Cricinfo that anyone found guilty would face "very serious punishments" but the concern for the game is how to crack down on the illegal betting market in an era of satellite television and easy internet access.

It is somewhat ironic that it is the global reach of the county game - a format many believe passes by virtually unnoticed - that has created this situation. It is understood that the match in question was a televised Pro40 game last season, which was broadcast on the subcontinent.

Any county game that is shown on television in the UK is also available in India and Pakistan through a reciprocal agreement and that opens the way for the illegal market of betting, which is still believed to be rife on the subcontinent despite extensive attempts to clean up the game in the wake of the Hansie Cronje scandal in 2000. However, despite the links to the subcontinent, the source said a strong UK-based involvement shouldn't be ruled out.

Unlike traditional match-fixing, where the end result is the important aspect, spot fixing is based on betting around small moments within a match, for example how many runs will come off a certain over, or how many no-balls or wides will be sent down. There is the potential for these elements of a game to be manipulated with the final result being unaffected.

Even the most insignificant extra can be worth huge sums of money and the other 'advantage' for the bookies is that it only requires a couple of players to be tapped up instead of a whole team. A source said this method was very much the preferred option these days.

Since the lid was blown off match-fixing at the start of the last decade the game has gone to great lengths to stamp out the problem. International teams are now briefed extensively on what to look out for and not to talk to individuals they don't know, but at last year's World Twenty20 in England it was revealed that approaches had been made at a team hotel in London. The ICC and its anti-corruption unit (ACSU) are aware of the current situation in England but are leaving it in the hands of Essex police.

Sunday 11 April 2010


A spectacular day for Football Elite, with three Recommended Bets winners in Espanyol (2.6), Sampdoria (2.28) and Real Mallorca (2.45) and although the short-list selection on Blackburn Rovers to beat Manchester United didn't win at 8.0, covering the draw ensured a profit and a great day. I am covering the draw with all these selections. Since joining, only 16% of the Recommended Bet selections have actually lost the match, with only 20.83% from the Short-List. Malaga and Real Madrid were losers this weekend, but overall a good weekend. To a 10 point stake, Recommended Bets are now +15.70 and Short List are +104.23.

Not so good in the Masters where a lay of Phil Mickelson is about to give me a loss. I had high hopes for K J Choi to put some pressure on Mickelson at some point in the final round, but when the price on Mickelson drifted out past my lay price, I made the error of getting greedy and held out for more.

Another disaster was Carlton losing to Essendon, on Saturday but baseball seems to have turned around. One of the worries of a new season in any sport where you have a winning record is that the strategies you employ will no longer work, but although I am currently down after the first week, it's not by much and I think mostly down to a lack of liquidity which will improve when the NBA regular season winds down. I'm optimistic that there are profits ahead.

A weekend for looking back in many ways. This weekend a year ago, I dropped over £3,500 on the NBA, so the spreadsheet tomorrow will reflect a boost in the 365 day moving average, barring a disaster.

Twenty years ago this weekend was undoubtedly the greatest football moment of my life when Crystal Palace reached their first (to date) FA Cup Final after their never to be forgotten 4-3 win after extra-time versus Liverpool at Villa Park. It's hard to conjure up a scenario that would ever match that. Palace had never played a full 90 minutes at Wembley before, they had lost 9-0 to the same opponents earlier in the season, and the game itself had just about everything.

The Grand National this weekend was the 44th since the first one I remember was in 1967 when Foinavon won at 100-1 after turning around and taking another run at one of the fences. When your first Grand National was that one, it's kind of hard to beat, although the years of Red Rum, Crisp and Rag Trade were memorable, as was Aldaniti's win for Bob Champion.

I'm getting old.

Saturday 10 April 2010

Molte Grazie

Thanks to Thirsty for drawing (pun intended) my attention to a couple of dodgy Italian games. The first game between Lecce and Torino in Serie B this afternoon had the draw trading pre-game at 2.05 but the match finished 2-1 to Lecce.

Tomorrow in Serie A, relegation strugglers Bologna and Lazio seem to have agreed to settle for a point each with over £300k traded on the draw as low as 1.5 (currently 1.59) compared with around £6k on each of the two teams.

April Gloom

I'm in one of those 'can't do anything right' runs at the moment. That's not actually totally accurate, but the bigger investments are all going wrong right now, while the smaller ones win at the usual rate. The bottom line is that having not had a losing month since April 2009, I am on course for another poor April, but plenty of days left to turn things around.

It's silly season in the NBA, with teams resting star players as I wrote about a few days ago, and early days in the MLB where only the San Francisco Giants remain undefeated, and only the Houston Astros remain winless. Tiger Woods is performing better than I thought he might in the Masters, (fav at 3.6) and Darren Barker has just won me a small amount at a massive 1.15 by beating Monsieur Affif Belghecham. Boxing is not one of my sports, but after trading at 1.01 early on, the market seemed to overreact with its subsequent drift.

A little old, but this article about the Betfair 'Front Room Five' in the Guardian amused me:

Maybe my irritation levels are at a caffeine-related high, but my big problem with the Betfair ads is that friends simply do not sit around on sofas talking like that in real life. People without friends might, when they call radio phone-in shows. One might even talk about football in this stilted fashion to make conversation with the newsagent; but if I know someone well enough to be invited into his front room and share his lovely sofa, and then he starts bending my ear about whether Manchester City have the strength in depth to make a late run for the top four, I start wondering whether it might not have been a better plan to stay at home and sort out my sock drawer.

The people behind the campaign say it underlines what ad men like to call the proposition; that Betfair is the closest thing in the industry to striking a bet with a mate. Up to a point, yes, but your mate is unlikely to ask for three different identification documents, proving address and credit-worthiness, and will probably also not try and interest you in his highly-addictive Casino Games, giving you the opportunity to take your gambling to what the Front Room Five would undoubtedly call the next level.

Thursday 8 April 2010

Easterlin Paradox

A timely article, again from Yahoo!Finance, which may be of interest to those who consider it appropriate to reveal and discuss earnings with strangers:

Two Tips for Boosting Your Happiness
by Laura Rowley
Thursday, April 8, 2010

Henry Louis Mencken once wrote, "Wealth (is) any income that is at least one hundred dollars more a year than the income of one's wife's sister's husband." A new study suggests that's what matters most when it comes to money and happiness -- not absolute income, but where we rank compared to peers.

Researchers Christopher Boyce and Gordon Brown at Britain's University of Warwick were intrigued by the "Easterlin paradox" -- a phenomenon first articulated by psychologist Richard Easterlin, who found big jumps in economic growth in nations such as the United States and Japan were accompanied by declines, or only marginal increases, in reported happiness.

"We were trying to understand why money doesn't bring as much happiness as one might expect, particularly to understand why happiness levels in developed countries are flat over time and have not risen in line with income growth," Boyce wrote in an email.

Other studies have suggested that within countries, it isn't absolute income that matters to happiness, but how one's income compares to people in a social reference group, including work colleagues, neighbors or fellow college grads. This is known as the "reference-based model."

For example, a 1995 Harvard survey asked college students if they would prefer to live in a society where they had an income of $50,000 and the average person earned $25,000; or one in which they had an income of $100,000 and the average person earned $200,000. More than half chose the income that was lower in absolute terms but twice the average, according to the study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization.

Boyce and Brown examined data from 12,000 adults in a panel study from 1997 to 2004. They conclude a "rank-based model" matters more to happiness. It still depends on comparison, as does the "reference-based model," but with a slight twist: Let's say you're the top earner in your reference group, and your pay rises 10 percent, while everyone else's remains the same. Under the reference model, your happiness would increase because you got a boost and others didn't. But under the rank model, the raise wouldn't affect your happiness since you're already the alpha dog. What matters is not the change to your income, but your relative rank.

The pattern has shown up in other countries as well. Economist Carol Graham identified a group she calls "frustrated achievers" in Peru. Nearly half of Peruvian workers with the most upward income mobility reported that their economic situation was negative, or very negative, compared to 10 years prior because they perceived themselves as ranking lower on the economic ladder than others.

In practical terms, I think allowing our happiness to depend on either the reference or rank model is profoundly silly. Most people have no idea what their peers earn. We create a proxy of earnings based on consumption behavior, which is even sillier, since we may be comparing ourselves to someone drowning in consumer debt to support a lavish lifestyle.

"I don't think people have a clear idea of how much others earn, and I do think that they create a mental proxy through their perceptions of others," Boyce agreed. "It is these perceptions that are the most important, but clearly our data does not contain such information. I think this could easily be a false proxy, and could have consequences for how we choose to live. Our perceptions of others may be encouraging people to work harder than they would ideally like to just to keep up with everyone else. And I think it is very likely that such false proxies may be encouraging people to draw on credit."

For Boyce, the takeaway is that once people earn enough money to meet basic needs, "the relationship between income and well-being is very low," he notes. "To the extent that it does matter, it is how income relates to others. It is important for individuals to be aware of this as it could mean that the race for status through income can only make us work harder with little payoff.

"We would be much better placed (both individuals and nations) to concentrate less on the pursuit of wealth and on aspects of life that have been shown to produce a more sustainable increase to well-being," Boyce continues. "For example, investing in our mental health, spending time with friends and family and understanding that internal processes (such as our personality) have a greater impact on well-being than external factors."

A new study published in Psychological Science suggests that people may want to add another low-cost activity to that group -- engaging in meaningful conversation with others.

Researchers from the University of Arizona and Washington University in St. Louis equipped 79 college-aged men and women with a small digital recording device that sampled 30-second conversation snippets every 12.5 minutes over four days. Participants filled out psychological surveys about their well-being and personality three weeks apart. (Three friends also assessed the participant.)

The conversations were sorted into "small talk" and "substantive" categories. "Small talk is uninvolved conversation where only trivial information is exchanged," says Matthias Mehl, assistant psychology professor at the University of Arizona and co-author of the study. "Substantive is a little trickier. We don't have too many conversations on a daily basis that would qualify as truly deep, but we wanted them to be engaged or involved in a topic where meaningful information is exchanged." (Functional talk -- i.e., "whose turn is it to take out the garbage?" -- and school-specific topics were eliminated.)

The happiest people spent about 25 percent less time alone and 70 percent more time talking compared to participants at the bottom of the well-being scale. In terms of content, the happiest people had twice as many substantive conversations and a third as much small talk as the unhappiest folks.

"The higher the percentage of all conversation allocated to small talk the more unhappy people are," says Mehl. He who gave a personal example: "We learned in the aftermath of my daughter's birth how dramatically the conversational landscape shifts. We mourned the loss of substantive talk other than baby-related issues. There are so many things to organize and newly establish and negotiate, you can't have any nonfunctional conversation about things in life. That -- and sleep deprivation -- is what has made us most unhappy."

But the study presents a chicken-and-egg problem: Do meaningful conversations make people happier, or does happiness cause people to seek more depth in their interactions?

"As scientists we don't know," says co-author Simine Vazire, assistant psychology professor at Washington University. "It might be worth trying to engage in more deep conversations. It doesn't have to be about philosophy or religion, you can have deep conversations about sports. It also doesn't require more self disclosure, but getting beyond the script of a superficial encounter."

Alternately, Vazire adds, "if you want to have more real connections with people, try to act happier and see if that leads to more meaningful conversation."