Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Diversification

Thanks, and apologies to Maurice, for it was he who came up with the idea of looking at the Half-Time 0-0. He wrote:

Let's hope it will be another good year with the XX draws. The 0-0 Half-time was my idea. It's not a big leap from unders to 0-0, to 0-0 HT, so maybe others have thought about that too. I also want to test that coming season with low stakes. I will use the classic XX draws and not the extended.
Matt very kindly came back with some numbers for previous seasons, after my last post which showed that the draw had performed very strongly. As I suspected, based on the fact that the edge on the unders wasn't huge, it does appear that this season is a statistical blip for him, although when selections are subjective, it's hard to tell whether the selection criteria from season to season remains the same, or is subject to subconscious biases - "I picked Norwich four times, and they didn't win once" for example, is likely to influence your opinion of Norwich next time they show up on the radar. I'll be watching these selections next season for signs that the draw bias might be continuing, but a strike rate of 34.3% on draws is historically high.

Here's what Matt wrote:
This was something I looked into when I was doing the review, primarily because as you say I noticed there was a fair bit of crossover with the FE bets and your XX bets and they are typically the same "type" of games.
Unfortunately I think it was just a random case of the recommended bets happening to hit a lot of draws this season (34.3%). I wouldn't expect that long term.
The shortlist bets this season only had 28 draws from 117 bets (23.9%)

2010/11 season there were 22 draws from 97 bets (22.6%) for the recommended bets and 39 draws from 152 bets (25.6%) for the shortlist bets.

2009/10 season before that it was 31 draws from 121 bets (25.6%) for the recommended bets and 50 draws from 129 bets for the shortlist (38.7%).

2008/09 season the rec bets and shortlist bets were all together as one and the draw rate was around the 25% mark from memory.
So I dont think there's much mileage in backing the draw blindly although there certainly could be an improvement with manual intervention.

I think it is interesting that we both pretty much target the same kind of games but bet on different outcomes, yet both make a long term profit. Before the start of the season we will have to compare results and have a look at what happens when there is a crossover of FE bets and XX bets. Could be an interesting angle there.
Well, it's before the start of the season now, and I did just that, giving up several hours of my life that I will never get back, a sacrifice for readers and subscribers everywhere. I took a look back over the season just gone to see what those 'crossover' matches were, and how they fared, and the findings are that:

There were 13 matches, 6 were draws and 5 were home wins. We both lost on two of the matches.


Returns from the strategies of backing the draw, Under 2.5 goals, and Home wins in these 13 matches gives the following:

Draw: 8.6 pts. / Under 2.5: 2.04 pts. / Home: 3.83 pts. / Total: 14.47 pts.

Had Borussia Dortmund's two matches not seen very late 'draw-breaking' goals, the results would have been even more interesting, but even so, 6 draws from 13 selections is a very impressive strike rate. Worth monitoring next season perhaps. 

Incidentally, if you subscribe to Football Elite on the basis of what you read here, please use the exclusive Promotion Code "ILOVECASSINI". It won't benefit you in any way whatsoever, but it'll maybe make Matt feel like he needs to pay for my next holiday. Clacton, here I come.  

ROIs are meaningless from such a small sample, but available upon request. Six matches were goalless at half-time, and no less than four matches stayed that way. Backing 0-0 would thus have been profitable too, which leads me to a comment from fairfranco, who wrote:
An excellent set of results.
Just wondering, while your draws coming in may be more satisfying, and was the initial push behind your selections, the under 2.5 goals clearly made a lot more money (LSP) last season.
With the higher strike rate and much lower LLS and overall season profit surely unless the correlation between the 2 changes then the ROBG will be much higher on the Unders than on the draw.
Does this not make backing the Draw pretty redundant?
Not redundant, no. It remains a useful way of taking advantage of an edge. I reserve the right to change my mind on this, but I see spreading the bets across different markets somewhat similar to diversifying your investments. Statistical variance is going to mean that even over an entire season, one bet type will perform better than another. 

Most financial advisers recommend a blend of investments - for shares, a certain percentage large-cap, some in mid-cap, some small-cap, some International, etc. It would be rather silly to put all your money into one stock. If, in an up-year, the stock market climbs by say 10%, the FTSE100 will show a big difference between the performance of companies, even those in the same sector, but by spreading the investment (diversifying) you smooth out the returns, and limit the volatility. Draws at an average price of 3.55 may not seem hugely volatile to some, but we're not all made the same when it comes to risk tolerance.    

For example, my XX Draws were profitable over 156 matches, to the tune of 16.85 points, outdone by the Under 2.5 goals on the same selections, which returned profits of 30.28 points.

But then Football Elite's selections were also profitable over 96 matches, with the return from backing the draw 19.64 points However, these selections outperformed the Under 2.5 profits which were 5.76 points.

Both selection sets were profitable, but the most profitable way to play them varied. In fact, it's highly likely that backing Under 1.5, or Under 3.5, or the Half-Time 0-0, or Full-Time 0-0 or Time Of First Goal might well have been even more profitable for either, or both, selection sets. All the above should live or die together in the long run, but short-term, no. If there is an edge on the Under 2.5 goals market, it is because the market expects more goals than my spreadsheet does. That difference will also reflect an edge in prices across the markets above and some others too.

Rather than put 10 units (for example) on the draw for each selection, I can see some merit in spreading that money across several markets, and diversifying the risk. 

So yes, backing the draw could be considered redundant, but it's profitable, and as seen from Football Elite's results, the Unders isn't necessarily going to be a better return than the draws. Losing runs will be shorter, but the losing run on the Under 3.5 or Under 4.5 goals markets will be even shorter still. 

Last season, I backed the draw and the Under 2.5 with the same stake, and next season will probably keep the stakes the same, but add more bets to at least some of the markets mentioned. The 0-0 really will be a perfect draw next season! 

Just for fits and giggles, I summed the profits from backing the XX and FE selections as draws, and the total was 33.79 points. Backing the Under 2.5 in the same matches, and the total is 36.04 points - pretty close. 

Finally, no post is complete without a comment from BigAl, and he kindly stopped by on his way home from hospital, after having his sides stapled back together. They apparently split from laughing too hard! He had this to say:
It makes me chuckle that someone who has spent a not insignificant amount of time picking holes in the systems / tipping services of others, is marketing his own subscription service using........
ESTIMATED ROI AND ASSUMED PRICES!!
Yes, I can see the funny part there myself, but not wanting to go to Casualty any time soon, I shall try to control my merriment. 

BigAl is quite right. My choice of words is certainly misleading, and could be considered rather amusing I suppose. 

I should, of course, have made it absolutely clear that the 'estimated ROI' and prices would have been more accurately described as 'UNDER-estimated' ROI and that the 'assumed' prices will, in practice, almost certainly exceed those available for the 'Classic' selections. Apologies, and thanks to BigAl for pointing that out. This will be the last time I listen to my lawyers incidentally. 

Seriously, while the Classic selections are at the heart of the service, and are what they are judged on to this point, the inclusion the bonus 'Extended' selections next season, comes at the request of every subscriber (bar one) who responded to my request for input. No one has to use them, but they will be included so that subscribers have that choice. I don't have much supporting data other than their long-term strike rate, as I have made quite clear, but draw prices are robust little devils, and I would be very surprised if the average draw price on 'Extended' draw selections, turns out to be less than that of the 'Classic' selections. The strike rate is the key statistic here, the draw price is 'almost' secondary, simply because it is not going to be significantly lower, unless there's something fishy going on. 

Speaking of which, I may have an explanation for the under-performing results from Serie A - games are being fixed! Not unheard of in Italy of course, but the latest scandal might show that a lot more matches than most of us thought, are not being decided on the pitch.   
As disappointing as those results from Italy are for the 'Classic' selections, the strike rate in Serie A for the 'Extended' selections is the best of all leagues - 64 winners from 189 selections, an implied price of 2.95. 

There's that benefit of diversifying again, this time across leagues, and selection range. 

I've created a simple web site for the XX Draws with results from last season, and the prospectus. 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Cat Skinning

I was reading a self-review of the Football Elite service, and the opening paragraph in a section titled Over / Under 2.5 Goals was this:
I’m not generally a fan of backing things that are an unintended side consequence of something else but as the years go on it’s becoming more and more apparent that there is value in the unders with the sort of games the recommended bets tend to be.
On the face of it, such a correlation may seem surprising to many, but upon further analysis, perhaps not so much. That there is a correlation between my own XX Draws and the Unders markets is to be expected, because, as has been debated ad nauseum, the fewer goals there are, the higher the probability of a draw.

Matt's Recommended Bets are subjective, and typically his modus operandi (a lot of Latin in this post) is to seek underrated home teams playing more illustrious opponents. You can see the type of scenarios that Matt is looking for here. Matt finds teams in the same leagues that I follow, (in fact. my choice of leagues was influenced by Matt), whose strong home records have been under appreciated by the market.

Last season, several teams featured multiple times, e.g. Hannover '96 were selected 11 times, with a record of 7 wins and  4 draws. Hannover alone contributed 8.25 points of the season's profits. Other teams chosen multiple times were Ajaccio (selected 8 times, 3 wins, 4 draws, 1 loss), Atalanta (6, W3, D3) and Evian Thonon Gaillard (6, W4, D1, L1). Those last three added another 6.85 points.

It should be noted that Football Elite's Recommended Bets are not always to win straight up - often the selections is a Draw No Bet, +0.5 or +0.25, and these bets alone showed a profit of 11.63 points on the season.

Overall, Matt's record from 96 match selections was 37 - 34 - 25, for a profit of  7.81 points. Overall, Football Elite's profit on the season was 14.75 points when the ante-post (more Latin for you) bets are added in, but since they are a different type of bet altogether, and I think it confuses the situation to lump these in with the match selections.

Anyway, 7.81 points from 96 selections, an ROI of 8.1%, is decent enough, and indeed, as Matt notes, there is also an upside to backing the Unders in these games. This would have generated another 5.76 points of profit, not insignificant.

It's interesting that a strategy of simply backing Hannover '96 those eleven times, and doing nothing else, would have generated more profit, and an ROI of 75%! But hindsight is wonderful.

What I find most interesting perhaps, is that the character of matches that Matt ends up selecting, and the matches the XX Draw spreadsheet selects, are quite similar. In broad terms, the spreadsheet identifies matches where a combination of recent form and long-term rating, when adjusted for home advantage, predicts a match likely to be low scoring. Matt's selection process identifies matches where the home team appears to be value to beat the away team, and because Matt seldom looks at odds-on selections, the matches he ends up with are games with no clear favourite, and thus the draw is on the shorter side than average. Running the numbers, the average draw price on FE's selections last season was 3.43. This may seem a little short, but the really interesting thing is that if the draw had been backed in those 96 selections, rather than the home team, the profits would have been 19.64 points on the season.

That's 19.64 points on the draw versus 7.81 points on the home team, an increase in ROI to 20.5 %. And these numbers are from using the data at football-data.co.uk. It wouldn't be unreasonable to expect that with bets in early on the exchanges, those prices could often be beaten.

The FE selections were under 2.5 goals 58% of the time, and the average goals per game was 2.42. The fact that the edge on the unders was fairly modest means that the observations above could be a blip, but it would be interesting to hear from Matt how his match selections would have fared in previous seasons if backed as draws.

Most football services that I am aware of, admittedly not many, seem to go for selections in the 2.0 to 3.0 range, thus avoiding both odds-on selections and the draw. Understandably most services, or more likely their clients, want a steady flow of winners, at better than evens (if only slightly) but I think this is a mistake. If the numbers from previous seasons are even close to 2011-12, Matt, and his clients, would be far better served by targeting the draw, albeit with its inevitable longer losing sequences. The evidence so far shows that this is where the value is.

None of the above observations are in any meant to be a criticism of Football Elite, who have been out there for a while with many happy customers. In the same way that I didn't immediately connect the dots and realise the potential of Unders betting along with the draw for my XX selections, I'm simply pointing out that there may be other, more profitable, ways to play selections, if the risk tolerance of clients is high enough of course.

I have seen a few comments about the correlation between Under / Over prices, and the TOFG (Time of First Goal) markets, and someone (I forget who, sorry) recently left a comment suggesting that the Half-Time 0-0 market might be another opportunity. It certainly should be, and is something I'll be tracking next season. For the record, in 2011-12, of the 156 XX Draw selections, 60 were 0-0 at half-time (38.5%, IP 2.6) and the average TOFG (when there was one) was 33.66 minutes. Unfortunately, I do not know what the HT 0-0 prices were, nor what the average TOFG is, but I would hope that both offer some value.

Monday, 28 May 2012

XX Draws

As promised, here is a full review of the XX Draws from the 2011-12 season, as well as plans for the 2012-13 season.

In summary, the XX Draws finished the 2011-12 season with a record of:
When backing the Under 2.5 goal option in these matches, the record was:
Towards the end of 2011-12, I started to include additional selections – those which fell just outside of the ‘Classic’ XX Draw parameters, but selections whose results were nevertheless profitable. These became known as the 'Extended' selections, and over the 53 selections where prices were tracked, these generated an additional 2.65 points and 7.2 points on the Draw and Unders respectively. 

A total of 57.98 points in total for the ‘XX family’, from 209 matches for a combined ROI of 13.6%.

The inclusion of the Extended draws has been well received by subscribers. While the ROI may be a little lower than for the Classic selections, “ROI is for show, ROBG is for dough” – ROBG being Rate Of bank Growth, and nothing grows a bank more than plenty of value priced winners, and over three season, the Extended selections outnumber the Classic selections by 709 to 361.

Below are the results of the Extended selections over three seasons. Note that the estimated profit is based on the assumption that the average draw price for the ‘Extended’ selections is the same as that for the ‘Classic’ selections. Logically, since these matches ‘should’ be considered less likely to result in draws, the estimates may be on the low side. 

2012-13 should see around 156 Classic selections again, and perhaps 230 or so Extended selections. With the Under 2.5 goals option, that's close to 1,000 investments, all for a very reasonable, and competitive, £99 if you act fast, and includes a rare, and perhaps unique, refund policy if the results are not profitable, or you wish to cancel for any reason. Last season, one subscriber dropped out in mid-season, and I am fine with that. When you are backing draws, the Longest Losing Sequences (LLS) can get uncomfortable, although the LLS on the Under 2.5 goals is an amazingly low 4. 

Anyway, full details are in the 'prospectus' available at http://www.docstoc.com/docs/121590717/XX-Draw-Selections-Prospectus-2013 or I can e-mail to you upon request. I can also provide a full list of the results from 2011-12 upon request.

Trading Without Losers

There's an old Wall Street saying which is that:
"If you can get your hands on a hot new stock, you probably don't want it."
I'm probably not the only trader out there who sees what looks like a value opportunity, hits the 'Enter' button, and then goes through a number of emotions as the countdown ticks inexorably down to zero before revealing your fate - matched or unmatched. While looking at the Promotion market during Saturday's Huddersfield Town v Sheffield United game, shortly after half-time, I saw a decent amount, £2k + I believe, available to lay on Sheffield United. Having backed Sheffield United at 1.93 before kick-off, I could not understand how, after 45 minutes of football, and no goal, their probability for promotion had increased so much - from 52% to 57%. With no decent chances for either side in the first half, it was hard to see any logic behind this. Unfortunately, my fastest fingers were out of shape, and the money was snapped up by someone else, but in a contest that is essentially a coin toss, when you see a skewed price like this, it's value.To my mind, the price at this stage should have been 2.0, or at least close to it.

Back to the opening quote though, and there is always the concern that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Sometimes, but not always. The trick is knowing when the money sitting there all on its lonesome belongs to an idiot or a savant I guess! Or should I say, an outsider or an insider?

A Slate.com post by Harlan J Protass last Friday included this:
Trading on inside information, though, is fundamentally different than other types of financial fraud. It doesn’t cause other investors to feel a pinch in their pockets. It doesn’t trigger layoffs. It doesn’t bankrupt companies or shutter factories. And it doesn’t wipe out pension plans or 401(k)s. James Altucher, a Huffington Post financial columnist, has made the case that insider trading actually should be legal for the sake of transparency: If investors can see that corporate insiders are buying and selling stock, the market will more accurately reflect a company’s true condition and value.
"It doesn't cause other investors to feel a pinch in their pockets"? Mr. Protass is a lawyer, but even so, he should be aware that in trading, there is a loser for every winner. It's a zero sum activity.

I can certainly see the logic in the argument that insider trading should be legal, given that in practice it is naive to think that the small possibility of prosecution is going to stop people from making serious sums of money. It's similar to the thinking that, by making drugs illegal, people are going to stop (ab)using them. It doesn't work that way!

Anyway, I've railed on before about how short-term stock market outsiders are just gambling in the financial markets - if someone is selling me shares at £10, why would I want to buy them? I might be able to buy them and sell them on to a greater fool later, but I am almost certainly over paying, and when there is no greater fool to sell them onto, I am going to take a hit.

More evidence that liquid sports markets offer outsiders a better deal than the financial markets. The single, most important, requirement for trading profitably is information. If someone has better information than you, you're gambling without an edge, and in the long-term will lose. Very likely when trading stocks, currencies or options. If you have the same information as others, it becomes a question of who can make the best use of it. What weight do you put on certain factors? How much of an edge does a move give you - i.e. how much do you risk? Or you could be the Wembley half-time tea boy, and know something no one else knows - like what you just slipped into the Huddersfield Town players tea-cups.

Now just where did that £2k wanting to back Sheffield United at 1.75 come from? If it was the tea-boy's account, he needs to up the dosage.

A wealthy Blades fan overconfident in his team's chances? A wealthy Terriers fan looking to hedge the heartbreak, should his team lose? Someone looking to hedge a bet, but then why not do that pre-game?

I shall probably never know, but according to Mr. Protass, whoever it was "didn't feel a pinch in their pockets."

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Play-Off Time

My latest piece, on the upcoming Western Conference NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder is now published over at Betting Expert.

When the Eastern Conference finalists are determined, I plan to add another post on that series also, and of course, for the NBA Finals themselves.

I am also working on a post about the very interesting study that Peter Nordsted sent me via a comment the other day. The paper is titled Why Are Gambling Markets Organised So Differently From Financial Markets? and while most of the data is drawn from the United States and the NFL in particular, and the findings are more pertinent to the US Sports Books rather than to UK bookmakers or exchanges, it is an interesting read as you might expect with its author being the controversial Steven D Levitt. My post on this topic will also likely be posted over at Betting Expert in the next few days, so stay tuned.

When I find time, I shall also be updating my numbers and plans for the XX Draws next season. I have had a request to accept payment via Moneybookers and will take a look at this.

I had one other comment which was this:
Hope you are well. Unrelated comment here but I seem to remember a blog post you did a while back saying that you had a few football trading manuals from some scammers that you were wiling to send on to anyone who wanted them. It may well be a long time ago you said that or it may well be a dream I had last night but if it's the former, could you be so kind as to send them to me.
Unfortunately, or really not that unfortunately (as they are all rubbish), I lost these 'manuals' some time ago with a disk failure, so I no longer have them available. It would certainly be a dream were any of these systems to have had any value, but they don't. Save your money. Typically 50% of the pages are taken up with explaining how Betfair works, accompanied by screen-shots of various quality, followed by a statistically unsupported claim that after x number of minutes, it becomes value to make bet y. There may be a couple of images showing a match or two where this worked, but the truth is that any supposed glaring inefficiency such as these across football markets would be recognised almost immediately, and would cease to exist.

Two very evenly matched teams in action at Wembley as I write this post. A small bet on Sheffield United based on their form, both season long and recent, and a small bet on the Under 2.5 goals. Sheffield United did lose 0-3 at Huddersfield Town back in September, but eight months is a long time in football. On the other side, Huddersfield have the benefit of experience, having lost this fixture last season to Peterborough United who scored three times after the 78'. 

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Crowded Out

Alpha Dog
With uncanny and spooky timing, no sooner had I mentioned Peter Nordsted and his success with backing baseball 'dogs, than he starts blogging with an opening post on the very same subject, complete with a mention of the amazing blog that changed his life - or at least the way he "approaches betting, especially on the US sports".

The amazing blog can be found here, and Peter's Trade On Sports blog has been added to the blog roll. Peter highlighted the following quote from this post of mine from 2009 (in case you are wondering, the joke at the time was about Adam Heathcote's 'Exchange Secrets' tipping service - whatever happened to that?):
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.
Underdog
Picking underdogs, or laying favourites. Long-time readers will be familiar with the Bundeslayga system, (laying odds-on selections in the Bundesliga), and will have been rewarded to the tune of 17.88 points from 177 selections. Laying the Away shorties (the Bundeslayawayga selections) performed very well, with just 35 selections but returning 9.73 points profit with a longest losing sequence of just four and a 45.7% strike rate. 

As I have written before, there are a number of reasons why people like to back favourites, and why a contrarian approach can reap rewards - why do people follow the crowd? From the world of stocks:
Comfort - It is comforting to see other people doing the same thing we’re doing. When you’re lost and trying to find your way, it is comforting to see other people in the same location even though they are lost too. At least you’re all lost together.
Fear - It is scary to be alone. It’s hard to believe that everyone else, except us, could be wrong. Maybe we’re the one that is wrong. We caution pioneers – “they are the one’s with arrows in their backs.”
Risk Aversion - When you go against the crowd, you accept full responsibility for the results. It used to be said that nobody was ever fired for selecting IBM. When you invest with the crowd or invest in an index fund it is a safe way to avoid criticism.
BigAl posted a comment on my post about useful and interesting data, writing:
I think you're probably underestimating the skills of the very best sports gamblers / modelers.
This sort of data would be invaluable to them. Obviously not all of it, but they'd love the chance to find out.
In terms of in-running, you're right, probably not that useful in the current markets. But mainly for liquidity reasons.

I doubt that even the very best of sports gamblers / modelers can make use of the statistics I was referring to, such as the distance a player runs during a game or his top speed, but I am well aware that other data is very useful. I think that most data that is of use to gamblers is readily available, or in the case of PPP (Points Per Possession), easily calculable - it is the data that is of most use to coaches that is proprietary.

As for liquidity, basketball liquidity in most NBA games is fine, especially at this time of the season, but baseball and ice-hockey (even with the Stanley Cup play-offs in full flow) are very poor. BigAl added:
A guy called Haralabos Voulgaris is an interesting character in the NBA betting world.

http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-04-28/sports/30044313_1_gambling-bug-haralobos-voulgaris-basketball-expertise
and this was a link to a great read - thank you. Here's just one quote from Mr. V, something of a gem in my opinion - read and learn:
“In life, I find that people have a really tough time being honest with themselves, and saying ‘boy was I ever wrong about that.’ But when you are losing money, reality tends to set in. I have had a lot of really well-thought-out theories or methods that simply weren’t profitable, and it is my opinion that those theories were just flat-out wrong.”

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Rating Statistics

Heat Big Three, Celtics Big Three
Scott sent me a link to a good piece on ESPN about the technology that some NBA teams are using to track their players. Well worth a read if you are interested in this topic, but for me, it does beg the question of how useful this information, and indeed other similar data from 'fluid' sports, really is from a gambling perspective.


Baseball, and its sabermetrics, is atypical of most sports, in that it is a game made up of set plays, all of which start with a pitch, and with a limited number of starting and ending positions. Thus over the many years that statistics have been tracked, the historical probability of team A winning from a position of being x runs ahead after y innings with runners on first and second with one out (for example) is known. More importantly, because the game is made of of set plays, there is enough time between plays to actually use the data for betting. Unfortunately, in-play baseball liquidity in most games is rather poor, but in theory you can gain an edge.


Spurs Big Three
In basketball, not so much. Yes, the game stops often enough for time-outs, or free-throws, but when a game is in full flow, I challenge anyone to be able to make use of rebounding statistics, distance a player has run during a game, top speed etc. Valuable information for the coaching staff I'm sure, but outside of being able to use free-throw statistics (it makes a big difference which player is on the line, and late in a game, can make a big difference to the probability of a team winning) the data is of academic interest only to punters. Jamal Crawford hits 92.7% of free-throws, Dwight Howard hits less than 50%. Three point shooting is another useful statistic - I've mentioned the Golden State Warriors and their ability to hit three pointers, and last season they had 3 players in the top 20 in this category (plus a fourth who is now at the San Antonio Spurs). In fact, the Spurs are even better, with five of the top 20 players in the league. The Charlotte Bobcats best three-point shooter, I hear you ask? D J Augustin - 34.1% and 94th place.

For football, there are some great blogs out there that analyse all kinds of aspects of the game - headed goals, woodwork strikes, etc. including, rather perfectly timed, this piece from the excellent soccermetrics.com - which mentions:
I'm not writing this post to demonstrate how awesome my little algorithm is, but rather to demonstrate that predicting league performance, whether by on-field event data or off-field financial data, is very difficult and captures very little of the variance present in actual league performances.
As a gambler, it's important to be able to separate the useful data from the interesting data. Is team data more important than individual data? For a sport such as basketball, clearly the individual player data is of greater importance than in an eleven player sport such as football. The loss of LeBron James for example will impact the odds on a Miami Heat win far more than the loss of even a missing Messi would be for Barcelona. Most top NBA teams have a so-called 'big three', and the loss of one or more of these can turn a 1.5 shot into a 3.0 shot, as we have seen this season with the San Antonio Spurs. One reason why rating NBA teams purely on team statistics is fraught with problems. As for baseball - the same teams play against each other on two, three or four consecutive days, and the prices fluctuate wildly, all because of one key player - the pitcher. To be meaningful, team ratings need to allow for the stats for this one individual. Unfortunately, starting pitchers rarely pitch the whole game, so how much does the starter's numbers count for? Perhaps not so much as you might think, and perhaps a reason why opposing short priced favourites in baseball is a better option than trying to buy money. 

Peter Nordsted has certainly had some success with this strategy this season, and I believe last season too (at least until the late part of the season when favourites, often 'needing' to win, seem to do just that a little more regularly), and he also offers one good reason for betting based on ratings, even if he does end his sentence with a preposition:
That's the beauty of following a value ratings based system. It takes all of the emotion out of making the decision of what to bet on.
I remember clearly my Mother overhearing me tell someone to "Fuck off" when I was a young boy. She was furious. "Don't you ever let me catch you using that expression again", she shouted. "Using language like that is not appropriate. 'Off, is the direction in which I would like you to fuck' is much better English" - a lesson I have not forgotten.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Champagne

No luck for the XX Draws today in their final fling for the 2011-12 season, with three Classic selections all ending up as one-goal margins, as did the one Extended selection. The last round of fixtures is always dangerous, with teams looking to win titles, or places in Europe or avoid relegation, but with an objective selection system, they all have to be recorded. Two selections included the top two teams. Montpellier needed just a point at already relegated Auxerre for example, and won 2-1 for their first ever French Championship. Paris St Germain needed to win at Lorient to have any chance, and did just that, copying Montpellier in going a goal down before coming back to win.

Caen and Dijon join Auxerre in Ligue 2 next season, Bastia, Stade de Reims and EspĂ©rance Sportive Troyes Aube Champagne (I may refer to them simply as Troyes from now on) replace them. Reims and Troyes are both from the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, and Ajaccio's narrow escape means two teams from Corsica in Ligue 1 next season.

And with the end of Ligue 1 action, the season ends for me, and the final Tipster Table standings are:


It should be noted that the results for Football Elite are for their Recommended Bet (matches) selections only, and does not include their season long bets on League Winners, Relegation or Top Goalscorer, as these are of a completely different nature to the Match Odds bets.  Matt's official results when including these are:
Bets 100, Winners 42, Draws 33, Losers 25, Staked 99.00pts, Profit/loss + 14.75 pts, ROI 14.8%, ROC 59.0%.
The XX Classic selections backed as Unders finished well clear in the end, with no losing streak longer than four. Much less volatile than backing the Draw, with its losing sequence of 16 not for everyone. The XX Extended selections also fared well on the Unders, but prices were only kept from mid-April so no conclusions are to be jumped to here, and the longest losing streak of three is from a limited sample. I'll be updating all the stats on these in the next few days, including taking a look at the HT 0-0 results.

The consensus from subscribers is that I should include the more numerous Extended selections. This will likely slightly reduce the ROI, but it is the ROBG (Rate Of Bank Growth) that is important, and the importance of the ROI can be exaggerated.

Backing the 'Lay The Draw' selection was a profitable strategy, and Geoff's Draws fared very well over 137 selections.

If anyone is interested in pitting their wits against me and others next season, let me know. Tracking these picks isn't too onerous, and it gives me something to post on each week.

No champagne for me last night, but a bit of a headache today following Chelsea's heroics in Munich, and a few too many beers. Unfortunate outcome for Tottenham Hotspur, and the lack of Champions League football there next season may well be a serious blow to the club's future. I'm not sure UEFA envisioned a situation where the champions of Europe would finish outside the top four in their domestic league, but this is now the third time it has happened. Twice in England (where Everton were controversially granted a reprieve and allowed to enter) and once in Spain, when Real Zaragoza finished fourth and missed out. I have a feeling that RdiM may well miss out on the manager position, as Chelsea will be looking for a proven manager to ensure that they stay in the top four in England. Too much money at stake, and while di Matteo has had Chelsea performing superbly in Cups, I'm not sure that will be enough to convince the owner that he is the man for Chelsea to move forward with. We shall see. 

As expected, the mention of this blog over at Ian Erskine's blog yesterday resulted in a surge of hits, and the 400,000th hit will come some time tomorrow (Monday). It seems like only yesterday when I was paying out on the 333,333 hits competition! Perhaps a half-million competition is in order? 

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Decent Guys

Ian and Cassini
I was pleased to read today that Ian Erskine drops in on this blog from time to time, and has taken no offence at my wilful (and some might say provocative) abuse of his Lay The Draw selections. As I mentioned in my comment over there, one key thing is obviously your selection of the matches most likely to meet your requirements (high scoring if you are laying the draw, low scoring if backing the draw), but additionally your discipline to stick with a method fully for a decent period of time. 0-0 draws do come along when least expected, and the XX Draws have had seven goals on a couple of occasions (twice in three matches as it happens). 

Understanding that these things will happen is part of the game, and you lack the emotional strength to deal with it, you're in the wrong game. One of Ian's qualities is his focus on educating people into understanding the true nature of long term success at betting. It is not a question of signing up to a service, trading every selection profitably, and watching the cash roll in. It is a matter of making good selections, making consistent decisions in regard to those selections, tweaking those selections if necessary (being careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water of course), staying disciplined in times of adversity, always learning, and more money will come in than go out over time.

Ian wrote:
One final mention of a blog worth visiting occasionally as he nicely gave me a mention this week http://green-all-over.blogspot.co.uk/. I dont know Cassini but he has referred to me a few times both positively and negatively. He is a winner I believe and I think it is more on US sports etc that he makes his cash but I read his blog most days and it is entertaining reading and knowledgeable even if we do not always see eye to eye, I think he is decent genuine guy, (like myself)
As I Tweeted a few minutes before the play-off game today, I have 'fun' bets on goals and West Ham United today. The HT 0-0 Lay just came home with a 35' minute opening goal, but the Over 2.5 goals bet may be at risk of going down. The two previous finals with opening goals around this time ended Under, as Hull beat Bristol City 1-0 with a 38' goal in 2008, and Watford beat Bolton Wanderers 2-0 in 1999 with another 38' goal. But in 1993, the first goal didn't come until 43' and ended 4-3 as Swindon Town beat Leicester City. No team has ever come back from a Half-Time deficit to win in 90 minutes, and the last time a HT leading team failed to win promotion was an occasion I remember only too well - 1996 when Crystal Palace ended up losing to Leicester City after extra time.

The £90million Match

IMV, it's rare for someone who can make money betting not being able to make considerably more money doing something else. The exception will be people who temperament means they are bad at suffering fools or working for others.
So wrote a long-time (10+ years) member of the Betfair forum recently. I have to agree, at least with the first sentence. The second sentence has some merit too. The skill set required to be successful at sports betting are in high demand in business, and as much money there may seem to be in the sports markets, for most of us, there's a lot more to be made in more traditional trades. Askari's second sentence suggested that the rare exception of a person who can make more from sports betting than he can elsewhere, is the type of person who does well working in isolation. The IT world used to be full of such characters, less so nowadays, but it still has more than its fair share perhaps, and it's interesting to me that a number of successful sports traders seem to be from this background.
Golden Ball

Play-offs have been with us for 26 years now, hard to believe, and today's game is the 23rd 'final' where the prize is promotion to the top division, and the riches that accompany it. There is no single sporting event in the world more valuable to the winners - an estimated £90million. That's quite a lot!

West Ham United lost in 2004, and won the following year, while Blackpool defeated Cardiff City in their one appearance in 2010.

Five of the 22 matches have been scoreless at Half-Time,  (implied price 4.4), and four have gone to extra time, with two being decided on penalties. 62 goals in those 22 matches, (excluding extra-time), and 11-11 for the over / under 2.5 goal market. The game tends to be feast or famine, one finished 0-0, and eight finished 1-0 while five have seen five or more goals - including the last two seasons.

West Ham certainly had the better of Blackpool during the season, winning 4-0 at home and 4-1 away, and the odds of 1.98 on West Ham to win in 90 minutes look generous. 1.56 on promotion for West Ham if you fancy they'll need more time.

Blackpool reportedly failed to sell their ticket allocation, so maybe their fans aren't too hopeful of a repeat win.

My son is a Chelsea fan though, so I have to hope Blackpool can win to keep the coincidences going before the big game later which I have already written up here

Friday, 18 May 2012

EPL In Numbers

Some more interesting statistics from the EPL this season.
  • Stoke City won every match where they held a half-time lead, which was only six, as Stoke are very much a second half team.
  • Bolton Wanderers lost every match where they trailed at half-time. All thirteen.
  • Manchester City scored 19 goals after the 80 minute mark.
  • Neither Manchester club conceded a goal in the opening 15 minutes of a match.
  • Manchester City conceded just one goal in the first 30 minutes of a match.
  • 22.3% of goals in the EPL came after 75 minutes.
  • Only four home teams, losing at half-time, came back to win: Fulham(2), Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea and Sunderland.
  • Five away teams, losing at half-time, came back to win: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Norwich City, Stoke City and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
  • Manchester City never went into half-time trailing when playing away, and only once at home.
  • Manchester United were ahead at half-time in 24 matches, and went on to win all but one of those.
  • More matches finished 1-2 than 2-1.
  • Manchester United scored the most penalties - 9.
  • Manchester City lost five matches, but not one was by more than a single goal.
  • Fulham opened the scoring in just 14 matches, and conceded the first goal in 21.
  • 116 Away Wins (30.5%) is the most in the 20 years of the Premier League.
  • Wigan Athletic remain the only team to have played in the English top division and not been relegated from it.
I thought they were interesting anyway. If anyone sees any errors in that list, let me know please.  If I don't receive at least five comments telling me how boring that was, I shall repeat for the other top leagues I follow in the next few days.

I'm sure most readers have already read my Champions League piece over at Betting Expert, (and 'Liked' it I hope) but one more coincidence to add to the "Consider This" section full of coincidences at the end is this:
In 2010, Blackpool won the Championship play-offs to reach the Premier League. 
Chelsea will be hoping for a Blackpool win almost as much as the Tottenham Hotspur family will be hoping for a Bayern Munich win on Saturday.

I-Spy

After drifting to 110 on Betfair, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has traded as low as 1.3 today after the rumour that Randy Lerner's private jet has been seen in Kristiansund, Norway. Most readers are probably aware that after managing Manchester United'd reserve team from 2008, Solskjaer moved to Molde and led them to their first ever title last year. Not a huge amount traded a 'big' prices, but plenty in the 3.x range. Now where did I leave my I-Spy Aircraft book?

Josh followed up on my post yesterday about 'poor' Manchester United,
As for what you said about my latest article however, I felt that I addressed the issues you pointed out throughout the piece. The aim of it was to shine a bit of realism on the bitterness from United fans, as outlined in the title.
...and indeed he did. My point was really that there is no point in even bringing the subject up. Whatever team you support, this is the way of the world these days. Personally, I would love to go back to the days when any one of half-a-dozen teams were in with a realistic chance of winning the title at the start of a season, but that's not going to happen. Whining, especially from a Manchester United, Chelsea or Paris St Germain fan, about a club having too much money, is just not going to win any sympathy.

It's a bit like the Super Premium Charge. Whining about it doesn't earn any sympathy, and while we would all love to turn the clock back a few years, it's not going to happen. But every now and then I reserve the right to have a small whine.

I don't always agree with Ian Erskine, but his end of season review / email today contained some good advice on topics such as reviewing your results often to see what works, and more importantly, what doesn't work, being honest with yourself, willpower and self control,  leaving your betting bank alone and letting it grow ("if you have to earn money in your gambling to withdraw and pay a bill it will affect your ability to bet without emotion"). You can read Ian's post in full here.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Pass The Tissues

Sound Advice
Josh, at Goal Nineteen, asked for a link exchange, and I have obliged, although with just four posts since June 2011, it may not stay on the blog roll for too long, as three months without a post and the link gets removed to ensure everything stays fresh and fruity.

Apparently a bitter Manchester United fan, Josh rather amusingly writes in his latest post about his feelings on Sunday at the final whistle:
"Yet it did not take long for the pain and anguish to turn to anger, and the familiar old claim that City have 'bought success' began to take hold again".
Oh my. I'm not sure what most impartial readers think, but coming from a United fan, that seems pretty rich to me. The bully at school gets angry when an even bigger bully joins the school!

Top ten Premier League transfers include:
Wayne Rooney, Everton to Manchester United, August 2004, £25.6 million

Juan Sebastian Veron, Lazio to Manchester United, July 2001, £28.1 million

Rio Ferdinand, Leeds United to Manchester United, July 2002, £29.1 million

Dimitar Berbatov, Tottenham to Manchester United, September 2008, £30.75 million
Poor little Man U - hardly the people's club. How dare another team try to buy success! Has any Premier League Champion NOT bought success? It's a business. Teams are buying their way out of non-league football like never before. Crawley Town last season, Fleetwood Town this season. Who, outside of Fleetwood, had even heard of them just a couple of years ago? North West Counties League (Level Nine) in 2005. That's an impressive climb through the ranks.

But back to Manchester United, and their financial reports (as of February 2012) show that they have spent £500m in interest payments since 2005.
So the total cash taken out of United, to pay for a takeover the fans and then board did not want, was £497.5m by 31 December. In round figures, and anyway now, with two months further interest from December, the Glazer family have been responsible for £500m going out of United.
Perhaps some of that 'anger' should be directed at a more appropriate target. 

Incidentally, the submarine and Kenny Dalglish reference in yesterday's post proved prophetic within a few hours. Quite coincidental, although no doubt the Internet is rife with conspiracy theories saying 'he knew'.

New South Wales Trading Ban

A follow up on the recent post about traders on New South Wales horse racing not being allowed to trade any more, and it isn't only for accounts based in NSW:
yeah....finally I got through the number and they said they want me to stop trading NSW racings ,I said ok then they reactivated my account....and thats it.....

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Below The Surface

Full Speed Ahead, Mr Dalglish
Looking at reasons for Liverpool's under-achieving, compared with their ratings, and it is typified by the two results below, coincidentally exactly six months apart.

On 10.Sep.2011, Liverpool  lost 0-1 at Stoke City, who had just one shot on target (to Liverpool's 11).

Then on 10.Mar.2012, Liverpool lost 0-1 at Sunderland, who had just one shot on target (to Liverpool's 5).

The League Table simply awards 3 points to the victors, and none to the vanquished, but clearly this is far too simplistic when rating teams in a low scoring game like football. Liverpool are better than their record suggests, although going an entire season without turning their 'real strength' into points is quite an achievement!

Betfree247 commented on the ratings:
Surprised to see Stoke down there to be honest. If Villa get their next managerial appointment wrong they could be a casualty next season, squad looks very poor on paper and they need someone who will be able to work on a tight budget, no point them hiring a cheque book manager.
Stoke City's rating may be a bit false given that they quite clearly took their foot off the pedal once safety was earned. Working backwards from the end of the season, there was the 2-2 draw with lowly rated Bolton Wanderers, a sorry 0-1 loss at QPR where may managed just one shot on target, draws at home to Everton and Arsenal (who both had more shots than their hosts) , a thrashing at Newcastle where they managed all of two shots on target, and a draw at Aston Villa (three shots on goal).

Meanwhile in that time-frame, Wigan were getting seven shots on goal in a 1-2 loss at Chelsea, defeating (and out shooting) Manchester United, winning at Arsenal with another seven shots on goal, thrashing Newcastle United 4-0, and winning at Blackburn Rovers with 19 shots.

Poorest effort of the season was Blackburn's failure to muster a single shot at Tottenham at the end of April. Contrast this with the strategy of Wigan, and it's hard to think other than that both strugglers got what they deserved. In fairness, Wigan had just two shots at home to Everton in February, although they earned a point courtesy of an own goal that day.

The prize for most shots in one game? Manchester City's 35 on Sunday in the season finale. 

Worthy of note was Aston Villa's failure to get a shot on target in their 1-2 defeat at home to West Bromwich Albion last October, (penalties don't count as shots on target apparently), and they may well struggle again. Appointing Alex McLeish was always a strange decision to me, although I said that about Pardew at Newcastle, so don't read too much into my opinion of managerial appointments. So long as Dougie Freedman doesn't end up there - he's not on the list, for now at least. 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Posting Away

Some of you may have read elsewhere that a handful of my more considered posts will now be made over at Betting Expert and the first, on the subject of this weekend's UEFA Champions League Final and a look back at the fate of teams from the capital in that competition. I've also looked at the history of teams playing 'home' matches in the final, either on their own pitch, or on another ground within the same country. It would be immodest of me to say it makes a fascinating read, but it does.


My more mundane ramblings will continue to be posted on here, and rather like Zach over at A Beautiful Numbers Game, I will link to any away posts I make.


And so for any readers remaining, here's a quick review of the EPL ratings highlights at the conclusion of hostilities. Manchester City topped my ratings, followed by Manchester United in second place. No surprises there, nor the bottom two with Wolverhampton Wanderers rated last, and Blackburn Rovers just above them, but there are several over and under-achievers. Liverpool started the season ranked third and ended it in third. Then come Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, but no sign of Newcastle United until we get to 9th place. Ahead of them are Everton and, perhaps surprisingly, Wigan Athletic. In mid-table come Fulham, West Bromwich Albion, Swansea City and Queens Park Rangers. The remaining teams, and those to watch for relegation next season, are Sunderland, Norwich City, Aston Villa and Stoke City. As I wrote a few days ago, the four lowest rated survivors last season were Bolton, Wolves and Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers, a strategy that would have caught all three relegated teams, although at least one promoted team usually drops straight back down. 

Nothing Special

If someone was going to disagree with my assessment that the most dramatic end to a Football League season in England remains the 1989 2-0 win by Arsenal at Liverpool even after Sunday’s drama in Manchester, the odds-on favourite would have been BigAl. I suspect he has fallen victim to a form of the ‘recency effect’ here, human nature being to place more emphasis or importance on recent events than on previous ones. If you are too young to remember an event, then it is much harder to compare it with later events and to some extent, younger people could be excused for thinking that nothing so dramatic as Sunday’s events has ever happened before, but the truth is that it has.

I am not an Arsenal fan, but even for a neutral observer, that Friday night in May 1989 would be hard to beat for drama. The build up to the game was dramatic in itself. As goal.com wrote:

On Friday, May 26, 1989, the League Championship was decided in the most dramatic finale to any English top-flight campaign. The two leading teams, Liverpool - managed then as now by Kenny Dalglish - and Arsenal, met in the very last match of the season. Every other club had completed their programmes (this game had been postponed because of the Hillsborough tragedy six weeks earlier).

Liverpool, with a 24-match unbeaten run, had relentlessly closed a 19-point gap on the Gunners. Already FA Cup winners, the Reds had thrashed West Ham 5-1 in their penultimate match and were now three points ahead of Arsenal.

Uniquely, everything was still at stake for both teams in an all-or-nothing scenario. Anything better than a two-goal defeat for Liverpool and the title would be theirs; victory by two goals for Arsenal would deny the Reds the Double and make George Graham's Gunners champions by virtue of number of goals scored.

Yet Arsenal hadn't won at Anfield for 15 years. Liverpool hadn't lost there by a two-goal margin for three, and had only done so nine times in the previous 18 seasons. The momentum of recent results was with Liverpool, as was a tidal wave of emotion. Arsenal's chances of winning had been written off by everyone outside of Highbury.

But 4,000 Gooners made the trip north to Merseyside, as much in blind hope as expectation. The kick-off was delayed 10 minutes to allow the visitors to take their places in a corner opposite the Kop. It merely added to the tension.

The Arsenal players presented a £30,000 cheque to the Hillsborough disaster fund and came onto the pitch carrying bouquets of flowers which they handed to Liverpool supporters around the ground. Then the action got underway.


Arsenal needed to win by two or more, any other result, and the title was Liverpool’s. The stage was set, and after a goalless first half, Arsenal took the lead in the 54th minute, and that was how it remained until time added on – which, back in those days, was at the discretion of the referee alone.

As Jason Cowlet describes in his book The Last Game:

Thomas clinched the first Arsenal championship in a generation with the last kick of the last game of the season at Liverpool, who until that moment were boringly brilliant, imperviously collecting trophies every year and not beaten on their own turf for an eternity. The miracle of it all: Arsenal had to win by two goals otherwise the trophy went to Liverpool, Thomas’s goal was the second goal, cracking the championship code in a final match decider which has had no equal in terms of table-turning, last-moment drama whatever team you follow. It was a film-script ending – only Michael Caine, Pele and Sylvester Stallone had a more impossible finale when they beat the Nazis in Escape To Victory.

I was tracking the Premier League Winner market as the drama on Sunday unfolded, and while Liverpool would surely have traded at 1.01 had Betfair been around, Manchester United didn't go quite that short. I thought they had hit 1.09, but I've seen 1.07 over was matched at Geoff's fulltimebetting blog. When City equalised, the price jumped out to ~1.26, but not for long. 1.01 on the other side very soon after!

Manchester City have actually pulled of a similar miracle before, on May 30th 1999. BigAl, and other younger readers, may not recall that it wasn’t too long ago that City were in the Second Division (third level), and looked to be missing out on promotion via the play-offs trailing 0-2 to Gillingham with time running out. Scoring one in the 90th minute, and an equalizer in the 95th minute (the latest regulation time goal in Wembley history), City tied the game 2-2 and went on to win promotion on penalties.

Of course the other Manchester team famously scored two stoppage time goals (91’ and 93’) just four days earlier in the UEFA Champions League final, as they came from behind to beat Bayern Munich 2-1.

1999 was a big year for drama. At the other end of the league that season, who can forget Carlisle United goalkeeper Jimmy Glass joining the attack when his team were awarded a corner with 10 seconds left of the season and the game tied 1-1. Needing a win to avoid dropping into non-league football, Glass scored with a volley, (unsurprisingly the only goal of his career), and Scarborough went down - never to be seen again it seems, as the club folded in 2007.

On a more personal note, I well remember a night in North Wales at the end of the 1976-77 season. Crystal Palace went to Wrexham for their last game of the season, needing to win by two goals for a realistic chance of promotion. (A win by one would have meant missing out to Wrexham if the Welshmen drew their last game of the season on the following Saturday; any other result and Palace missed out). After cruising to a 2-0 lead, Wrexham tied it up late at 2-2. Resigned to another season in the old Third Division, when Palace scored in the 90th minute, while the game was won, it probably still wasn't enough, but amazingly almost straight from the kick-off, Jeff Bourne scored another, and we had won by the two goal margin. In the end, Wrexham lost the last game at home to Champions Mansfield (my, how times change), and Palace were promoted. Not quite at the level of Arsenal or Manchester City's triumphs, but that's probably about as good as it'll get for me - although the 1990 FA Cup Semi-Final v Liverpool wasn't bad either! 

With moments like these, it's no wonder football is the world's game. 

Meanwhile, back to the more mundane business of updating the Friendly Tipster Table, and Geoff pulled off an amazing finish to the weekend, though not quite so amazing as those endings mentioned above. After opening his eight selections with five losses, Geoff's last three selections were all winners, with draws at Sandnes (me neither), Ajaccio and IFK Gothenburg, and his season profits climb to 6.89 and 6th place. 

The XX (Classic) matches had one winner from three selections (the game at Ajaccio), and the Extended had just two winners from 10, but six were under 2.5 goals so a profit on these. I'm sure Geoff would like to play all summer with the Scandinavian leagues, but I shall be wrapping this up after the French league is settled this weekend. 
Penultimate Standings
It's unlikely that the XX Unders and XX Draws will be caught at the top, as there won't be more than a couple of selections at most, if that. I wish I'd started tracking the Extended selections earlier, as they have fared decently over 50+ matches at what can be a treacherous time of the season, but I'll be writing more on these next week.