Thursday 28 June 2012

Partita del Secolo

As predicted, the first Euro 2012 semi-final was a tight affair, and history suggests the second one today will be the same. Four of nine semi-finals since 1996 have ended 0-0, and five have hit half-time with that scoreline.

After a tournament without a 0-0 in 27 matches, we have now seen two in a row. Will we be lucky enough to see a third? As for the much debated Ronaldo decision on taking the fifth (he must think he's American!) the most crucial penalties historically are the first and the fourth - the ones that Portugal missed! At least this was the conclusion of a study by LSE professor Ignacio Palacios-Huerta who studied penalty shoot-outs going back over 20 years.

A repeat of the 1970 World Cup semi-final score between today's two teams is unlikely. Older readers will remember the 'Game of the Century' as it is known in Italy, when a game that was 1-0 to Italy for 82 minutes ended 1-1 with a late German equaliser and the game went to extra time. In front of a crowd of 102,000 in Mexico City, West Germany went ahead, Italy regained the lead, then gave up an equaliser before finally winning 4-3. Exciting stuff, but I like my 0-0s these days, especially with history on my side.

As I said a few days ago, I am hoping the Match Odds and Over / Under 2.5 goals markets continue into the domestic season, as these add another way to play the XX Draws. Today's game has seen the Draw / Under selection matched at 4.2, a more profitable way to back the 0-0 and 1-1 than in the Correct Score market where the prices are 8.8 and 7.8 respectively.

Speaking of the XX Draws, the currently reduced price expires at the end of June, so there are not too many days left. I am pleased that most subscribers from last year have renewed, along with several additional subscribers, and I would be doing myself a disservice if I did not mention that in the unlikely event that these selections are not profitable, there is a structured subscription refund plan in place which I believe is rare, if not unique, for this kind of a service. New for 2012-13 is that selections will be posted on a website as well as emailed, so the problems with spam folders, and the XX implying some kind of porn content, should be resolved.

Many thanks to all those of you who have already signed up. I shall be sending out emails ahead of the new season to confirm your email addresses are correct.

Wednesday 27 June 2012


The strategy of backing 0-0 and related bets (HT 0-0, Draws, Unders etc.) in every quarter-final paid dividends with the last game of the four, and an overall, but small, profit.

While Sunday was disappointing from a patriotic point of view, it was hardly surprising. I didn't realise until updating my records that is was eight years to the day since England's elimination on penalties to Portugal.

England have a problem with quarter-finals. In the 13 World Cups that they have qualified for, six times (1954, 1962, 1970, 1986, 2002 and 2006) they have been eliminated at this stage. If we include 1982, when there were no quarter-finals, but England were eliminated in the 'last 12 stage' (four groups of three) and were officially credited with a 6th place finish, that makes it more than 50% of World Cups.

1954 26th June 2-4 Uruguay
1962 10th June 1-3 Brazil
1970 14th June 2-3 (a.e.t. 2-2) West Germany
1986 22nd June 1-2 Argentina
2002 21st June 1-2 Brazil
2006 1st July 0-0 (a.e.t.) Penalties Portugal

In the European Championships, England have placed 5th to 8th five times in the eight tournaments they have qualified for. Not all those were official quarter-finals since the current format is relatively recent, but the four tournaments with the current format that England qualified for have seen two quarter-final defeats, both on penalties.

Semi-finals since 1996 are similar in outcome to quarter-finals, with four of the eight being 0-0 at half-time, and three ending that way. Two other matches were draws at full-time, and three went to penalties. Only Spain 3 Russia 0 last tournament has seen a winning margin greater than one.

Saturday 23 June 2012

Caviar Gets The Nod

I'm not usually a horse racing enthusiast, but Black Caviar's appearance at Royal Ascot today did get my attention, and some of my money. Some of you may remember my post last year where I mentioned that Black Caviar's average stride was 11 metres, two metres more than the average racehorse. Unbeaten in 21 races, once the forums and Twitter world saw non-racing people suggesting the horse was a lay in the low 1.2s for no particular reason (BC drifted from 1.18 to around 1.24 at the off, after trading at a high of 1.31), that was my cue to back. Black Caviar traded at 1.98 in running after the jockey eased up too early and nearly ended her unbeaten record, and more importantly, me some cash, but the 'wonder mare' just held on. Over £13 million matched on this race on Betfair.

Speaking of winning runs, and Scott sent me a link to an article on how the number 19 purportedly came up seven consecutive times at the Rio Casino in Las Vegas. The key word is 'purportedly' because it turns out that the display was the result of diagnostic testing, and not of free spins. 

The Euros continue today, and this weekend I am looking for the return of the draw. Euro tournaments are usually tighter than World Cups, and we now have 13 consecutive matches without a draw, and still no 0-0 this year. The quarter-finals usually sees at least one such result - since 1996 there have been 2, 0, 1 and 2 and all five went to Penalties. England v Italy is very short for the draw - trading at 2.92 for a small amount, but for a lot more at 3.05. Under the 'curious, rather than useful' heading, it should be noted that Spain have never beaten France in a competitive match.

Scott (who seems to have a lot of free time) also sent me a link to a statistical look at the Euros which may interest some of you. The latest percentages are shown on the left. 

This year's tournament now has a very Western European look to it. 

Thursday 21 June 2012

New Market

I had a record whopping eleven bets on today's quarter-final, all based on the low scoring and tight nature of the small sample of 16 previous Euro quarter-finals.

A new market has appeared, although it may have been around for a while and I've just not noticed it. It's the "Match Odds and Over/Under 2.5 goals" market, which is of interest to me as a draws aficionado, who has pointed out ad nauseum that the two markets are related - if you expect less goals than the market, the draw price is value, and the Unders markets are value. I'm hoping this market will be kept into next season's domestic leagues, as it offers another outlet for the XX Draw selections. Not too much in-play liquidity though, were I tempted to lay off.

Looking at today, I have also had bets on the Under 2.5, Under 3.5, HT Draw, HT 0-0, First Half Goals Under 1.5, Draw, HT/FT - Draw/Draw and backs of the first goal after 30 minutes. 0-0 really would be a 'perfect' result, but with 9 of 16 (now 10 of 17) similar games being scoreless at half-time, they seem to offer as good value as any other bets available.

Second half just under way, and extra time would be very sweet.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Moving On

As predicted, England advanced from Group D with no problem. Group winners for the first time since 1996 and I really could not understand how the opening day's results made England's task harder, and so it transpired. Ukraine are just not very good, and as I said earlier, it was an advantage to play them later rather than in the opening game when hosts tend to be at their best.

It all works out rather well on a personal note too, as I have a 90th birthday party to attend on Saturday night, and my absence for a football game would not have gone down well. Winning the group means that the big game is on Sunday, so family friction is avoided. And with the Cassini name in the family tree, I'm on a winner whatever happens!

For the record, England have only played in two Euro quarter-finals, and neither was decided in 120 minutes of play. In 2004, England lost to Portugal on penalties after a 2-2 draw, and in 1996, they beat Spain on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

Of the 16 quarter-finals since the Euros adopted their current format in 1996, no less than nine have been 0-0 at half-time, four have been 0-0 at 90 minutes, seven have been draws after 90 minutes, and six have gone to penalties. 10 Unders, 6 Overs - expect some close games.

In the NBA, the Miami Heat selection looks better than ever, as they won the pivotal game and take a 3-1 lead and are now down to ~1.22 after 2.58 pre-game 1. No team has ever come from 1-3 down to win the NBA final.

Monday 18 June 2012

Russian To Judgment - Czech First

The Czech Republic became the first Euro group winners ever with a negative goal difference. Had Group A been a World Cup (FIFA) group, rather than a Euro (UEFA) group, Russia would be through, and Greece would be exiting the Euros, but because football can't decide the best way to break ties, Russia is out and Greece move on. Even the top leagues in Europe can't agree on the best way to separate teams level on points.

Historically, goal average was the tie breaker used in football, but in 1970 FIFA adopted goal difference for that year's World Cup. In 1962 and 1966, goal average was the tie breaker, and in 1958 three of the four groups needed play-offs to decide the second placed team to advance. Northern Ireland and Wales won theirs, although both would have been eliminated on both goal average or goal difference, while England lost theirs.

While UEFA has long favoured the head-to-head result in its Euro tournaments, individual countries favour different rules. The EPL of course uses goal difference, as does Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga while Serie A and La Liga use head-to-head. Other top leagues are similarly divided - the Dutch go for goal difference, the Portuguese for head-to-head. Whether or not it is true that UEFA wishes to avoid the Peru '78 scenario, (where an already eliminated team rolls over), I have no idea, but head-to-head are the rules, and Russia, who traded at 1.02 To Qualify, have only themselves to blame, as indeed does the person who thought 1.02 was a value bet.

In small groups in major tournaments, it's rare to see Team A beat Team B who beat Team C who beat Team D, (Group B notwithstanding), which opens the door to all sorts of interesting possibilities. After two rounds this year, not one team was guaranteed a quarter-final place.

Saturday 16 June 2012

Comebacks, Understandings And The NBA Finals Heat Up

Until yesterday, England had come from behind to win in 90 minutes in major tournaments just once, and never after first throwing away a lead. In Euro 2004, England went behind versus Croatia after 5 minutes, before bouncing back to win 4-2. In World Cups, there was an a.e.t. win in 1966 by that same score that some people may remember, and another a.e.t. win in 1990, when Cameroon were beaten in the quarter-finals 3-2, but wins after trailing are rare indeed for England.

England To Qualify from Group D are now 1.33 / 1.34, but the lay of Ukraine at 3.65 offers a better deal, unless you want to include the possibility of England and France both losing, and England going through on goal difference / scored!

I see someone on the Betfair forum admitted to having 60k Euros on Germany to qualify at 1.02, thinking that their 6 points from two games guaranteed that outcome. But of course, with two other teams on three points (Denmark and Portugal), and not playing each other in the final game, there could be three teams on 6 points, and Germany eliminated, but not too likely. Germany is trading at 1.05.

Interesting to see that the 2-2 draw between Spain and Croatia (Group C on Monday) has traded as low as 5.0. Almost identical to Group C of Euro 2004, Italy again face the prospect of a win in their third match not being enough, if the two teams they have already played draw 2-2 or higher. 2004 saw Sweden and Denmark conveniently draw 2-2 (a penalty for Sweden and an 89' equaliser), and the market seems to suspect the same could happen again. It looked to be more a case of the score happening to reach 2-2 at which point both teams, knowing the situation, effectively stopped trying, rather than a pre-match agreement to play for a 2-2, and the Over 2.5 at 1.74 would be a safer bet.

With the Oklahoma City Thunder losing a home play-off game at last, the Miami Heat can take advantage of the H-H-A-A-A-H-H format used in the final to win out. As I suggested in the Finals preview at Betting Expert, the Thunder were too short at 1.72, and Miami are now favoured to win at ~1.94. I actually expect the Thunder to win a game in Miami, and go back to Oklahoma City trailing 2-3 to set up an exciting Game 6 and possibly Game 7.

Friday 15 June 2012

History History

Group C last time around saw a draw and a 4-1 whooping, which wouldn't be a surprise this time around.
There's that history repeating itself (almost) yet again. As I pointed out yesterday, the results from the second round in 2008 really are remarkably similar this time around.

For Group D to follow the pattern, it will be two narrow (one goal) wins, and hopefully one of them will be for England.

I'm off for a long weekend today, so the blog will likely be quiet for a couple of days, but there's plenty to read either here or at "page removed" if you miss me too much.

Thursday 14 June 2012

27 Up, 27 Down

Not that it means much, but the second round of group matches in Euro 2008 saw two 2-1s, a 1-1 and a 3-1 in the first four matches, very similar to this year's second round results. Group C last time around saw a draw and a 4-1 whooping, which wouldn't be a surprise this time around. I actually think that at 2.38, Italy are value to beat Croatia, but presumably there is a good reason why they are this price. An expert on international football I am not, but Italy were impressive against Spain, and I don't think Croatia's win over the Republic of Ireland was anything special. With a family name of Cassini though, I am a little biased anyway when it comes to Italy.

It's actually quite surprising how few Euro matches are Any Unquoted winners. Only seven teams out of the last 108 (54 matches going back to 1996) group games, have scored 4 or more, which makes the 4.9 on Spain v Republic of Ireland look a little tight.

I was hoping the highlight of last night's baseball would be another win by the Los Angeles Dodgers, but it turned out to be the perfect game thrown by Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants, just the 22nd perfect game in 140 years of MLB history, and the first in 130 years of Giants baseball (including their days in New York as the Gothams before becoming the Giants). A rare event indeed, although this is the fifth since 2009, so there's been something of a glut of late! There should have been one more. A blown call by an umpire in 2010 on the 27th batter in a game, cost pitcher Armando Gallargo of the Detroit Tigers his place in history. 
After the game, [Jim] Joyce acknowledged his mistake: "I just cost that kid a perfect game. I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay."
For the record, the Dodgers lost another close one last night to the Angels (1-2) after leading 1-0. The losing sequence moves to one. My accountant will be relieved to hear that there are no qualifiers from tonight's truncated schedule. 

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Crimea River

Gundulf left a comment on yesterday's post, which was:
Cassini, I'm sorry but I've read and re-read my post and I'm blowed if I can see any derision aimed at England's result against the French!
The point that I was trying to get across is that in many ways Ukraine beating Sweden was the worst result for England in the context of the four remaining group stage matches.
I actually agree with you that the result against the French was more than acceptable!
I guess what wasn't too clear in Gundulf's post about England's supposed uphill struggle following Monday's results, or what I misinterpreted, was that the premise for his opinion was not so much the England - France draw, but rather that result combined with the subsequent win of Ukraine over Sweden.

Even so, I'm still of the opinion England's task is no tougher after the opening matches than it was before them. In fact, I would say it was slightly easier. England don't even have to beat Sweden, since a draw, and a win versus Ukraine, will see England with 5 points and enough to go through. Ukraine are the weakest team in the group, so as I see it, for them to take points off Sweden is a plus. Non-contending host nations perform better in opening games than in subsequent games, and it's an advantage that England play them last, and with a certain Wayne Rooney chomping at the bit to get involved. Ukraine's win over Sweden reminds me of the last time a non-contending host won their opening Euro game. In 2000, co-host Belgium beat Sweden (also 2-1), and in their second match, lost 0-2 to Italy, before losing their third game 0-2 also (to Turkey).

Top tipping yesterday, with the Poland - Russia draw and Under 2.5 goals bets both winners, and as a bonus, I correctly predicted the pre-game off-field problems, although I was struggling to find a market where I could fully capitalise on this amazing insight.

Baseball. One advantage of looking at the relationship between the Match Odds and the +1.5 / -1.5 handicap markets is that an anomaly immediately jumps out. For example, it might be that when a team is at 2.02 on the Match Odds market, then typically the -1.5 handicap market will be at 3.1 or so, and ~1.6 on the +1.5 handicap market. If there is money to lay at 1.53 on the +1.5 market, that is value. This was the case yesterday when the Los Angeles Dodgers +1.5 were layable at 1.53. I took the full amount, and was able to green up several hours before the first pitch. The correlation between related markets is an interesting one, across a number of sports, but I like baseball because there are so few markets that it doesn't take too much time to run through the matches - 15 a day at most.

Last night's first selection of the Atlanta Braves went down 4-6 after taking a 4-0 lead into the eighth innings. Two home runs, including an Alex Rodriguez Grand Slam, soon turned that one around! But things got a lot better in the second game, where the Dodgers trailed 1-2 in the bottom of the ninth, before scoring four runs and winning 5-2. We don't believe in luck of course, but perhaps the unfortunate run of 'random fluctuations of probability' is over for the time being. The selection today is again the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The opening game of the NBA Finals is in the books, and the Oklahoma City Thunder held serve, winning again on their home court by 11, 105-94. 1.5 at tip-off, they drifted to 2.6 at one time, before gaining confidence in the third quarter. Durant and Westbrook combined for 63, while the Heat's LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 49. It's usually said that defence wins championships, but this year could prove to be an exception. Both teams were close to their regular season scoring averages, the Thunder average 103.1 and the Heat 98.5. Thunder remain unbeaten at home in the play-offs, and are 1.5 or so again for Game 2 on Thursday.

XX Draws, and I think I've found out why the option of backing the Under 2.5 goals was more lucrative than backing the draw, and it's all down to France. Last season, there were 212 Unders in Ligue 1 compared with 222 the season before, but in 2010-11, 48% of those unders finished as draws, whereas a surfeit of 1-0 home wins last season (60 compared with 34), saw the percentage of draws drop to 35%. 

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Drawing Conclusions

I was feeling quite good about England's prospects for advancement after yesterday's, in my opinion, quite reasonable result against France, until I read Gundulf's take on it:
Firstly, England now have in my view even more of an uphill struggle to get anywhere in the competition than they started off with. A win against the Swedes is now not optional, and I'm afraid that with Woy's inherently defensive and negative approach I just can't see that happening. Let's play devil's advocate and say that France and Ukraine draw and England beat Sweden. That would mean us going into the game against Ukraine, on their turf and with their tails bolt upright, with the hosts needing a win to progress to the quarter finals. Can't see that going our way, personally.
A draw in the opening game against the group favourites, a team on a 20+ games unbeaten run,  is not a bad result for me. I'm not sure how many Euros or World Cups Gundulf has seen, but you don't have to go back far to see that an opening draw is not a bad result. In the last World Cup, no less than seven teams, including England, drew their opening match, and advanced from their groups. In fact, England drew their first two games. Spain went one better, or worser, and actually lost their opening game, and I'm sure no one reading this is unaware of how they ended the tournament. In the last Euro, 2008, Turkey, Italy and Russia all lost their opening matches, but still advanced, as did England in 2004. My memory just reminded me that when I was a boy, I remember England failing to win their opening game versus Uruguay in 1966, and thinking all was lost.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying that I don't agree with Gundulf that England's result was too shabby.  They may well end up failing to qualify, but if they do, it will be because of failures in their next two matches, not because of drawing the first one.

The Poland - Russia match today promises to be as interesting off the pitch as on it, especially if many of the Russian fans march to the stadium wearing T-shirts featuring the Soviet hammer and sickle to celebrate (Russia Day) as rumoured. 

Host nations have a decent record in their second matches, although as with their opening games, recent tournaments haven't been so favourable. The last nine matches going back to Euro 2000, have seen hosts win 4, draw 2 and lose 3, with 6 Unders and 3 Overs. Under 2.5 is priced at 1.75, and another draw at 3.4 will be my 'fun' bets.

The only other two losses for hosts in second matches came as far back as 1938 and 1954. Between 1954 and 1990, the hosts won 15 of 16 matches with one draw in 1986.  

I was rather hoping that my run of losers in the baseball would come to an end last night, with two selections after a week of five losing selections. The Atlanta Braves went down 0-3 to the New York Yankees, and in the Battle of Los Angeles, (that's the freeway series, not the 1942 incident) the Dodgers had a 2-0 lead over the Angels, but let it slip to extend my losing run to seven. A consolation win for the +1.5 handicap bet, but as Peter Nordsted has observed, baseball betting is a funny business. That's funny as in peculiar, not funny ha-ha. There is nothing remotely amusing about seven losing bets in a row!

I'm on the Dodgers and Braves again tonight if you want to lay them. 

Sunday 10 June 2012


Some older readers may remember former England international Paul Mariner. He's been named as the new coach for Toronto FC, and says:
"I'm a very modest man, but I've got unbelievable confidence in my own ability".
Somehow that doesn't sound too modest, but with Toronto propping up the MLS East with 9 defeats in 10 games, he'll need all the confidence he can muster.

Miami Heat play their sixth ever Game 7 tonight versus the Boston Celtics, playing their 29th. Home teams in the NBA win Game 7s 80% of the time (88-22), and the price on Miami is 1.25 / 1.26, which reflects this.

This could also be the final game of the NHL season, with the Los Angeles Kings playing in New Jersey with a 3-1 series lead. Some coincidences for the Kings is that in the post-season, they have lost just three games, with every loss coming in a Game 4 when they have been at home and looking to close out a series. Which all points to a win tonight in New Jersey. Kings are evens. This will be the second big sporting event in the state of New Jersey today, following Argentina's 4-3 defeat of Brazil with a Messi hat-trick.

I have been asked about my baseball page on the "page removed" web site. There is nothing too exciting going on here. The idea was to trial having a password protected page for the 2012-13 XX Draws season, and I'll be putting up selections here when the time comes. The baseball selections are all home 'dogs (or evens priced) who meet a couple of qualifying conditions, and are still very much in the trial phase with small stakes only. I'm interested in whether the best way to back these is in the Match Odds or in the +1.5 or -1.5 handicap markets.  

Saturday 9 June 2012

Poor Stewart

As I while away the hours leading up to tonight's Euro 2012 games, a couple of things caught my eye. One was a Betfair forum post with a link to a video showing "Russian hooligans are beating Stewart". How they knew the guy's name is beside the point, but someone commented that the fight was "25 vs 4". I couldn't resist replying that it was perhaps "5 and 2 squaring up to each other?" Very funny stuff, if I do say so myself. As a follow up comment said "that's very funny - you're wasted here" - which is why I spend little time on the forum these days.

The other was the statement from someone that "I have recently been to Liverpool twice on holiday". Now it seems to me that when you are representing a service, it might not be the best marketing strategy in the world to tell people that your holiday destination is Liverpool. Nothing against Liverpool - I have been there twice, and was only attacked on one occasion, which is a better record than some destinations in England have, but nevertheless, it's probably not in my top ten holiday destinations. The trappings of success usually reach a little beyond Liverpool when it comes to holiday destinations.

On a more serious subject, I had an email from a Paddy in, you guessed it, Ireland, who has asked for his blog to be added to my blog roll. His is not the usual request though, as he explains:
Hello Mr Cassini, you don't know me by this is but I was an avid reader and contributor to the sports betting / trading community. I have now begun another chapter in my life and trying to recover from gambling addiction. I have started a blog to try to assist me in my journey and would appreciate it if you could find a way to plug it for me, It may sound contradictory but I think some readers of these BLOG (including my own one in the past) may have similar issues to me and I would appreciate a little help from influential bloggers such as yourself. If you feel it is inappropriate I will understand but hey ho, it was worth an effort. Wish me luck.
It might be an inappropriate request were I to be asking for this blog to be added to that of a blog dedicated to quitting gambling, but I have no problem the other way around. Gambling for most of us, is harmless entertainment. A very few people do well from it, but sadly there are also a few who for whom it is not harmless entertainment, but a destructive force that most of us can't begin to understand. I wish Paddy the best in his battle against addiction - not just gambling, but also with alcohol.

Well that was a jolly topic. Back to the Euro 2012 games coming up, and I'm not sure why the Netherlands price (Match Odds v Denmark) has drifted out to 1.83 (from as low as 1.5) but that is where my 'fun' bet will be today.

Someone Doth Protest Too Much

A couple of people have come to Alan Hansen's defence after his much reported 'impossible' picks - one Mr Gary Lineker, and one commenter on this blog. The claim that the BBC misinterpreted the selections might be credible enough, were it not for the fact that they amended the story later. If the question asked was really one of  "who are the top four contenders" rather than "predict the semi-finalists" then why change the four selections for Hansen down to three, and leave the other 13 pundits with four?

Anyway, there are more important issues in the world right now, none more so than Game 7 in the NBA's Eastern Conference tonight, although some people in Syria might beg to differ.

The Boston Celtics failed to win out at home in Game 6 on Thursday night, and travel to Miami, where they will face a Heat side full of confidence, and hot favourites, after a big performance from MVP LeBron James in Boston. James went 45-15-5 (points, rebounds, assists), and that was after easing up in the second half! Miami opened at -450 (1.22) but they can be backed on Betfair at 1.27.

The baseball selections have had a poor week, as tends to happen with baseball. Liquidity in some of the handicap markets is challenging - I was unmatched in one market where just £21 was matched. Saved me some money as it happens.

The Euros are finally under way, and no surprise to see an Unders and the home team fail to win with yet another draw in the host nation's opening game.

2010South Africa11MexicoD
2008Switzerland01Czech RepublicA
2006Germany42Costa RicaH
2002South Korea20PolandH
Netherlands10Czech RepublicH
1998France30South AfricaH
1988West Germany11ItalyD
1974West Germany10ChileH
1970Mexico00Soviet UnionD

Friday 8 June 2012

Host Opening Games

In twenty-seven World Cup and 'Euro' tournaments (at least since the Euros moved to an eight team finals format in 1980), only three host nations have ever lost their opening matches.

That would be the most recent three in the Euros.

In 2008, Switzerland lost 0-1 to Czech Republic, and Austria lost by the same score against Croatia. In 2004, Portugal lost their opening game to Greece, but prior to this, host nations, if not winning too often, never lost.

Prior to 1966, when football really began, the host nation won every opening match, but since that glorious summer, only ten have won.

Most host nations' opening matches in the Euros are low scoring affairs, with none of the ten being decided by more than one goal. From a small sample, four matches ended 1-0, four finished as draws (three 1-1, one 0-0), and two finished 2-1. The host nations' record is perfectly symmetrical, with two 1-0 wins and a 2-1 win, and a 1-2 loss and two 0-1 losses to go with the four draws. There is one other similar match from the 1990 World Cup which can probably also be included in this small set, and on that occasion, Italy beat Austria 1-0.

All the evidence points to a low scoring match when Poland host Greece, and Ukraine play Sweden, except that quite coincidentally the two countries involved in the two over 2.5 games were Greece and Sweden! 

Which piece of history will repeat itself?

While these kinds of stats, with their small sample size and lengthy time-spans between tournaments, may appear to be of academic interest only, but certain things stand out. The draw occurs more frequently than expected - in the 23 host nation opening matches since 1966, ten have been drawn - three 0-0 (but only one since 1970), six 1-1 and a 2-2 draw in Japan, and just 7 of the 23 have been Over 2.5 goals. Unfortunately, evens is not available on the Poland v Greece game today. At 1.48 / 1.49, the Under 2.5 goals is priced as you might expect, and with millions of people looking at stats leading up to this match, that's no surprise. I am well aware that I have no edge.

Which means fun bets only. 

Thursday 7 June 2012

Off Colour Predictions

The overpaid BBC 'pundit' Alan Hansen has revealed the full extent of his research, picking three teams from Group B to reach the semi-final stage.

Nice of him to explain in reference to Spain, that being favourites 'doesn't necessarily mean they will win it'.

Top punditry there for you. From a betting perspective, international football is of little interest to me. With very few meaningful games at the international level, ratings and form are far less useful than in club football, and the format of the tournament is relatively new meaning that the data for the tournament is very thin. Backing Under 2.5 goals in the knock-out phase is one trend over the years, but we have to get through the group matches first.

Apparently having a nickname of 'Bluebirds' no longer means you play in blue.  Cardiff City revealed a new badge yesterday, and a new red home kit after 104 years in blue. They've not always played in blue though, as their first home kit from 1899 to 1908 was a rather fetching "chocolate brown and gold chequered shirt". Maybe red's not so bad after all.

Their Wikipedia entry has a line I found a little strange:  "Over the next two years Cardiff welcomed many of Britain's top sides to Cardiff, including Middlesbrough, Bristol City and Crystal Palace,"

There's a strange bot in play on the baseball these days. Above is how I amassed a small fortune while waiting for the NBA last night - the £3.23 is the key, as in an earlier game (right), the same bot was laying this amount. I'd take it, wait a few seconds, and the same bet would reappear. Slow work, but in the quiet MLB markets, there's some value bets to be taken it seems. Only £3.23 you may scoff, but they add up.

Monday 4 June 2012

Heat Lose To Celtics, Celta Is No Fix

For the third consecutive night, the two MLB selections were the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (v Texas Rangers) and New York Mets (v St Louis Cardinals). No joy in the first game, but the Mets won 6-1 as 2.1 underdogs in the second. A nice win at 3.1 on the -1.5 handicap was more than a bonus. The -1.5 handicap markets are currently the most profitable of the three available ways of backing the selections (excluding the 5 innings line which I've not looked at). Interestingly, the ratio of +1.5 to Match Odds to -1.5 profits is almost exactly 1:2:3 (2.48, 4.96, 7.51). Well, it's interesting to me anyway.

In the Eastern Conference Finals, my prediction that the Miami Heat would win on the road came up just short, with LeBron James fouling out (for the first time in four seasons) with 1:51 left in overtime, and the Boston Celtics, up by one at that time, went on to win by two. A good game for trading with the Celtics as low as 1.09 (with an 18 point lead, second quarter) before Miami came back and led in the fourth and were layable at 1.5. Both East and West Finals are now tied at 2-2, with all eight matches being won by the home team. The West's turn tonight as the Spurs v Thunder series returns to San Antonio.

Apparently a few people were caught out by the Celta de Vigo v Cordoba Spanish Segunda Division game yesterday. I'm not sure why. Claims that the match was fixed are, of course, ridiculous, given the game situation. Win or draw, and Celta de Vigo were promoted. Win or draw, Cordoba make the play-offs. What's to fix? Both teams know very well that a draw will suit them both perfectly, so it's hardly a surprise to see a game where neither team was interested in winning. There's a big difference between a fix, and a game where both teams know that a draw suits them both perfectly. Most bookmakers were not offering prices on this game, and anyone betting on the exchanges has only themselves to blame if they lost. Understanding the game situation is crucial, which is why late season matches, second legs, final rounds of group games etc. are to be treated with respect. If in doubt, stay out. Don't be crying 'not fair' if you get involved, and get your fingers burned. It's unfortunate, but the expectation that every game is played with both teams trying their hardest to win, is naïve to say the least:

I didn't have much money on the game but I just think it needs investigating further, as it is not fair to the general betting public.
Still a fix and if the people backing can be proven to be connected to the teams it's a crime imo.
Well, good luck with that. There is no crime; nothing to investigate. The match was a victim of the schedule and results over the preceding 41 matches. Nothing more. Remember Liam Brady's quote about football in Italy:
"When a draw suits both teams in Italy, the game will end in a draw. It's all to do with the mentality of the Italian people. They see nothing wrong in such an arrangement."
Speaking of Italy, and far more serious is what appear to be the genuine fixing of games there. Again. 

Some good news out of Rome is that:
There is not much evidence that the chariot races were subject to bribes or other forms of cheating in the Roman Empire. In the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire, there seems to have been more cheating.
Italy seems to be one country that has regressed in this regard in the intervening years.  

Fudgey Business

The perils of trading the Next Manager Markets from the outside. It must be true, the bookies 'were shocked' and it's in the Daily Star:
VILLAGERS in the sleepy home town of new Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers raked in a fortune by backing him for the job.
Shocked bookies suspected a leak and suspended betting on him after a string of big-money punts, despite the then Swansea chief being a 10-1 outsider.
A Daily Star Sunday investigation can reveal more than £100,000 was wagered from the small village of Carnlough and neighbouring Larne in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
And delighted locals were celebrating a monster payout when their hero Rodgers – nicknamed Fudgey – was named the new Kop boss.
The betting sensation has now prompted claims that punters had inside ­ information that Rodgers, 39, had been offered and accepted the Liverpool job.
Shortly after 3pm last Saturday, ­Northern Irish bookies slashed odds ­dramatically as a flurry of bets came in for Rodgers – before closing the betting.
McLeans bookies cashier Laura ­Gribben, 32, who works in the Larne branch, said: “We stopped laying bets on Rodgers on Saturday because everyone was wanting to get hundreds on him.
“A rumour that he had got the job spread like wildfire. My dad and his mates even got a bet on it.”
Nearby betting shop Toals also ­suspended betting.
The rumour is said to have started at McAuley’s pub, where Rodgers’ brother Declan runs the Cheyennes disco upstairs, where Brendan used to dance.
Barmaid Ciodhna McCormick said: “All the lads in the pub backed Fudgey last Saturday.”
Rodgers was an outsider, having turned down Liverpool’s approach to talk to him when the heavy punts were laid.
One bookmaker said: “It started around 3pm on Saturday.
“Out of nowhere we were seeing big bets being placed online and over the phone – and every one of them was from Carnlough or the surrounding ­areas.
He added: “It was only when I got texts from ­contacts at other bookmakers that we ­realised this was Rodgers’ home town. That was when we started to panic and had no choice but to keep chopping the price.
“Seven-to-one, 9-2, 3-1, 2-1, evens – but the money kept coming. 
“You’d see the ­surnames cropping up too, entire families were lumping on. When you see a pattern like that you ­presume there’s inside info ­going round and it looks like they had.”
In other news, scientists have discovered that water is wet.

Sunday 3 June 2012


As I had predicted at the start of the series, the Western Conference Finals will now go to six games or seven games with the Oklahoma City Thunder again winning at home. Seven out of seven for home teams to date in the Conference Finals, but that could come to an end tonight when the Miami Heat will make the adjustments needed to take a 3-1 lead versus the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Finals.

The baseball system produced another winner as the New York Mets again had a shut-out win versus the St Louis Cardinals as the 2.18 underdogs. I also take these teams on the -1.5 and +1.5 markets, and the -1.5 market is currently the most lucrative of the three. I should check with Peter Nordsted to see if he places bets on the handicap markets as well as the Match Odds. 

The second pick of the night was again the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who were playing AL West Division rivals the Texas Rangers. The Rangers pitcher was Yu Darvish, who has a great record so far this season of 7-2, but his ERA is actually higher than that of his opposite number Chris Wilson, whose ERA is 2.57. Add to that the fact that the Angels have won 9 of their last 10 matches, and are playing at home, and the value bet had to be the Angels at 2.06. Baseball betting can be strange at times. Texas did have a four game lead in the division, but their form over the last ten games is 5-5, was nothing too terrifying. The result was a 3-2 win for the Angels.


As well as working out how to put tables into posts, as you can see above, I also managed to work out how to display my XX Draw Results (from 1/1/11 to 20/5/12) on the "page removed" web page in a readable format saving  the need to download the file, and as an added bonus, also worked out how to password protect a page. It was a very productive afternoon. Next season, in addition to emailing out the selections, I will upload them to a page on the web site as soon as the numbers are entered from the previous matches, and the selections are generated, which should allay any concerns about email going to spam folders, presumably because anything with XX in the subject is considered pornographic. Of course, when I started calling the bonus selections 'Extended', that didn't improve the chances of the e-mail not going to spam folders everywhere!

All very quiet on the football front for me, as I await the line-up in La Liga to be determined on June 17th. I did have an email from Griff who had some questions relating to Elo ratings for football, one concerning how to incorporate promoted teams, and I will be addressing this subject, along with a lot of other good stuff, in a post on the subject of Elo ratings over at Betting Exchange later this month.

Finally, an article that will be of interest to IPL followers was forwarded to me by Scott, and can be found here. On the subject of models, there was a quote by the author in a comment which was:
Like a lot of other things in life, it cannot replace human judgement, but it certainly can help in making better decisions.

Saturday 2 June 2012

No Hitter

Winning Green
One of my two baseball selections last night was the New York Mets to beat the St Louis Cardinals. Slight underdogs at 2.04 in the Match Odds markets, and 3.15 giving 1.5, they did something that they had never previously managed in their 51 year history. After 8,020 games, they finally had a no-hitter, winning by 8-0. Mrs. Cassini's Dad will be happy - he was a minor league player with the Mets franchise in his youth, and coincidentally is from, and now lives in, the city of the only MLB team yet to throw a no-hitter. Three times they have come within one out of success, nut they won't be one of my selections any time soon because they are currently the worst team in baseball. Answers on a postcard please.

The second selection was the Anaheim Angels v Texas Rangers (2.2 MO and 3.15 -1.5) and they come from behind to win 4-2. As I wrote in August 2009, and Peter Nordsted recently highlighted recently:
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.
In basketball, the two Conference Finals are getting a little closer after the home teams won their home matches for 2-0 leads in both series, followed by the home team success in games three. I predicted a long series in the West between the Spurs and Thunder, and if the Thunder can win tomorrow, that will be a winner. Six games was 3.0 and seven was 2.88.

Speaking of basketball, BigAl drew the attention of many via this blog, to an interesting read about NBA gambler Haralabos Voulgaris, who, the article claimed, made his money, at least in part, from his 'predictive models'. To my simple mind, NBA games are not suited to this - the line-ups, and thus the match-ups, change constantly, and there are too many variables. You can model pre-game to a certain extent I agree - but in-play, I had my doubts. Too many unpredictable variables. Players have off nights for one, players get into early foul trouble, injuries happen - none of these can be predicted pre-game, and there was some confirmation of this during the Boston Celtics v Miami Heat game three last night when Haralabos tweeted:
No model, just gut intuition 
and later
all my in game stuff is based on my gut subjective stuff
I felt quite relieved. The key to trading games like basketball, unlike football, which isn't 'real' trading since most price movements are predictable based on the pre-game prices, is the ability to read the game, and for me, it's the ability to rid your mind of what has BEEN happening, and be able to think about what is going TO happen. I've written before about the importance of time-outs in basketball. Coaches call them to stop momentum, and to make adjustments to line-up or strategy. The tendency is to think that the hot team will continue where they left off, but this often isn't the case. Another advantage of time-outs as your entry and exit points, is that the prices are stable.

Friday 1 June 2012

Winners Mean Business

BigAl did actually make a good point in his last comment, writing:

If I can raise a point. 
You often justify your ideas with "average prices". I hope you can see that this is a dangerous approach. I suppose in simple terms, its only the price of the winners which count when you're analysing the final returns of this type of stuff. The returns of the winners in the data for which you don't have prices could conceivably be low enough to produce a negative ROI even if the average price were to be what you think.
To be fair, your xx draw prices are fairly constant due to the similar type of matches you pick but you have indirectly picked up on the above issue with your comments on the Italian results.
Sensible points and constructive criticism are always welcome here. To give an extreme example to show BigAl's point, six draw selections at 5.0, 5.0, 4.0, 4.0, 3.0 and 3.0 gives a (mean) average of 4.0, but if the two winners were the 3.0 matches, it's clearly a wrong approach. I have the draw prices for 225 matches going back to 1.Jan.2011 and while the price on winning draws is, as might be expected, shorter than the (mean) average price, it's not by much. In fact, two leagues had the average price of winning draws at a longer price than the mean average. 

However, it would be more conservative for me to err on the side of caution when making my projections, and use the median averages. For those interested, and we all should be, the numbers across all leagues for the draw prices are:

In England and Spain, the price of winners is longer than both averages, whereas in France, Germany and Italy expectations are met, and the winners are slightly shorter than the averages. While a healthy 72 of those 225 matches were draws, 72 spread over 5 leagues means that each sample size is still small. These numbers will become more reliable as time goes on. As BigAl also commented, data mining can be an issue if you drill too deep with a small sample.

For example, are 126 selections enough to determine that the Bundesliga selections should be excluded for the Extended selections? For me, yes - because there is a reason why these results are disappointing. But surely this also means that the Bundesliga should be excluded from the Classic selection too? For now they have the benefit of the doubt, but it's more likely that the Bundesliga will be removed from the XX Draws altogether, than that they will be added to the Extended.

The Leagues I follow were chosen because they had the top 5 UEFA rankings, and because they were Football Elite's leagues also. Atill waiting for news of my Clacton trip incidentally. Portugal recently replaced France in that list, and I'm thinking of including the Portuguese Liga from next season, on probation. There are also some leagues in Eastern Europe that I have my eye on - Slovakia has a low average goals per game at 2.29 last season 2.19 before that, with 27% and 30% draws respectively. Unfortunately, I know nothing about Slovakian football, but 23.7% of matches ending 0-0 or 1-1 sets my pulse racing. That's even higher than Ligue 1 (22.9%).    

Anyway, thanks to BigAl for the helpful comment, and the prospectus has been updated to reflect the median and winning prices, and a thank you to George for spotting an error on the Stoke City v Everton game on May 1st which has now been corrected.