Thursday 25 July 2013

Ask, And Ye Shall Receive

Does anyone take the back price on the exchanges? I've been running a little experiment, primarily on tennis and baseball, with the intent to make a small, very small, dent in the Premium Charge.

What I am seeing is that putting in a back at the 'available to lay' price is almost always matched - over 90% of the time anyway. It's something I have commented on before with the XX Draws - allow enough time before the event starts and you will be matched more often than not in the draw on football, and this seems to be true for tennis and baseball too. The amounts are all, for now at least, less than £100, and it is obviously easier to get double figures matched than triple, but it does seem that it is always worth asking.

Very little feedback from the post on the FTL plans for next season. Little Al has declined to enter "as it takes up valuable time that I could use to make $ instead" and I can understand that. Football wasn't Al's forte (ROI -19.5%) and it's good that he has moved on to other sports.

No affiliation here, but I did want to mention Skeeve, who some of you may have heard of. He specialises in non-league football, but has also had some early season success with Croatian football, including two nice winners today in the Europa league qualifiers:

25/7/2013 ELQ: (+0.75) TURNOVO - Hajduk (2.03* @Pinnacle) 1 point FT 1:1 (+1.03)
25/7/2013 ELQ: Lokomotiva - (0) DINAMO MINSK (2.62 @Pinnacle) 1 point FT 2:3 (+1.62)
Summary to date: 9 picks, 9 points staked, 5 won, 2 void, 2 lost +3.91 point profit, 43.4% ROI

* I was matched at 2.07 on two exchanges, again going back to my original point in this post that it pays to ask and be patient.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

FTL 2013-14 Draft Rules

With just a few days left in July, the 2013-14 European football season is almost upon us, so this is probably a good time to start putting some thoughts and ideas out there for both the XX Draws and the Friendly Tipster League (FTL).

Many of you will be aware that one criticism of the table last year was the inherent unfairness of using bookmaker prices for some entries, and exchange prices for others (notably my own XX Draw family of bets). As was pointed out, backing at 3.6 on the exchange and paying 5% commission is no better than betting at 3.47 with the books, and the point is taken. The FTL took off a little more than I was expecting, so this issue wasn't given too much consideration a year ago, as the intent was really to have a little fun and give a general idea of how various individuals or services were doing.

Levelling the playing field is something of a challenge though. Several entries last season sent in their selections along with a price and a bookmaker - e.g QPR v Stoke: Stoke +0.25 Asian Handicap (2.04 at 188bet), while Football Elite lists the best prices - often led by bookmakers I have never heard of, e.g.

Best Prices
3.26 with 5Dimes
3.25 with Panbet, Expekt, Unibet, 888
3.2 with Coral, Betway, Betsson, Betclic
3.16 with 12bet, Dafabet
3.1 with Pinnacle, PaddyPower, StanJames, BetFred, Totesport, Bet-at-home, Sportingbet, Skybet, Youwin
Jon (Talkbet) uses the format:
Ein Frankfurt 2.0 3.0Schalke 04 1.67 2.3
Draw -10.0 3.4
*** Back Away at odds in excess of 2.3
and others send in a selection and a price without saying where the price is available.

Since the FTL was for entertainment purposes only, there was no verification that the prices (where included) were available last season. For Football Elite, I usually took the price that was listed next to a bookmaker that I have first hand knowledge of so for the above I would use 3.2 from Corals, but this isn't a satisfactory arrangement.

Take Your Pick
As you can see, the above variations make it hard to be fair to everyone. It wasn't unusual for the same selection to be measured against multiple prices. For my XX Draws I used the exchange price that I was matched at (usually Betfair), but while this is reasonable enough for my personal records, I accept that there needs to be more transparency moving forward. I don't have the time to collect screenshots of every bet (there were over 517 XX Selections last season), so what I am planning on doing is establishing some ground rules which will doubtless reduce the profits all around, but will provide a fairer way of comparing the underlying performance rather than rewarding identifying a top price at some exotic sportsbook where no one can actually get on.

Rule 1: Selections will be from the top leagues covered by the FootballData web site (no affiliation, but it is an excellent resource). I don't think this will be an issue for most people.

Rule 2: The prices recorded in the 'official' table for backs will be the Pinnacle price as recorded at Football Data. Not only does this mean that all selections get the same price rather than depend on timing or an ability to find a top price in New Caledonia, but I consider this to be a reasonable compromise between using the average price and the best price. Pinnacle's price is usually competitive and while I don't want to penalise services such as Football Elite, or Premier Betting, or even my XX Draws, the returns listed may well be lower than subscribers can expect to find. Basically if you are a subscriber, finding the top price is up to you, but as a measure of the quality of each service's selections, there needs to be a standard in place.

Rule 3: Same formula for Under / Over (UO) or Asian Handicap (AH) bets, but UO bets will be measured against Football Data's 2.5 goal market, and the AH bet will be measured against the Betbrain handicap. This may not be popular, but as I have written before, if Under is value, then in the long run it should matter little whether you back the under in the 1.5, 2.5, 3.5 or 4.5 goal markets. Similarly some people like to go for a specific handicap, but if Stoke City +0.25 is value, then Stoke City +0.5 and +0.75 are value too. Both Teams To Score will be treated as a bet on Overs, but other speciality bets like 'more goals in the second half' or 'a total of 2 or 3 goals will be scored', correct score etc. will be excluded as the prices are not easily verifiable after the fact.

Rule 4: For Lay bets, I will use use the Average price from Football Data, plus 0.04, which as I explained in my Bundeslayga review of last season, is what can be achieved on average, on these odds-on selections. I should probably scale this 0.04 up as prices get longer, but to keep things simple I'll use a flat 0.04 for all lays at odds-on and 0.05 for evens or greater.

The rules above are only draft for now, and if anyone has any constructive comments I would be interested as always. The goal is transparency and fairness, not to necessarily reflect the returns that can be achieved, and there will be no adjustments for commission, taxes, fees or whatever.

I know that Matt at Football Elite is raring to go in the new season, and I presume Peter Nordsted is too, and Neil and a few others have expressed interest in another season of the FTL. Neil has a new blog too.

My spreadsheet is updated with the promoted teams, (still pinching myself at the sight of Crystal Palace featuring) and poised to send out a steady flow of winners from the opening August 9-11 weekend in France and Germany. England and Spain start a week later of course and the Italians start the weekend after that, fashionably late.

XX Draw subscribers will receive the first email in early August, and if you are interested in signing up for either the XX Draws or the FTL, let me know.

The XX Draws should again be around 500 selections, which works out at less than 30p each.

I am still pondering the idea of an entry fee for the FTL this season, to deter any time wasters who send in their picks until things go wrong and then go silent. The fees would be awarded to the top tipster (or tipsters) at the end of the season. Again, any comments on this idea are welcome, and if you are interested, but not if it costs, let me know that too. Any fee will be minimal, perhaps £25.

Saturday 20 July 2013

European Football Growth Fund

Following in the footsteps of the now infamous Elliot Short comes a similar tale of woe featuring a fraudster by the name of  Darren Thompson from Whitstable in Kent. He took £50k from his Mum, and £300k from his wife's family. One 'investor' alone lost 600k and 138 people in all were conned by the European Football Growth Fund.
The Daily Mail (they like this stuff) has the full story here. No mention on how his marriage is going.
A conman who convinced 138 people - including his own mother - to part with with a total of £6million in a football syndicate scam has been jailed.

Darren Thompson, 40, earned a six-figure salary as a chartered accountant in major city banks before setting up the 'guaranteed' syndicate, which saw him persuade his own and his wife's relatives, friends and co-workers to plough in hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Thompson, who even produced a glossy brochure of fake information that promised 'big returns', was jailed for four years and eight months at Canterbury Crown Court after admitting fraud by false representation.

Thompson's mother gave him £50,000 to put into the syndicate, while his wife Nina-Louise's family lost £300,000.
The former City worker earned £150,000 a year at banks including Barclays and Credit Suisse before establishing the European Football Growth Fund in 2004, the court heard.
Prosecutor Stuart Biggs told the court Thompson first started betting on Betfair in 2004 and thought he could 'play the system' to make big profits, but that as soon as the syndicate was set up he started losing heavily.
Martin Taylor, defending, said Thompson had no previous convictions and simply got carried away, believing he could claw back money with even bigger bets.

Mr Taylor told the court: 'He believed that these figures were predictable and it was not gambling.
'He had a system and did not consider himself to be a gambler as it was very much a situation where the risk was spread.'
Judge Heather Norton, jailing Thomspon for four years and eight months, told him: 'No doubt your investors were reassured by your background in football and investment and no doubt too by the glossy brochures which you provided.
'Unfortunately, indeed tragically as far as your investors were concerned, by the start of 2007 you could have been in no doubt at all that this scheme wasn't working.'
Thompson convinced ‘high roller’ colleagues in the City to part with anything from £30,000 to as much as £600,000 to join his ‘guaranteed’ football betting syndicate.

Thompson used dodgy bank statements which indicated the syndicate was making huge returns to help convince people to invest.

But he was actually ‘useless’ at betting, losing between 73 and 91 per cent of all bets staked over a six year period between 2004-2010.

The court heard how Thompson had deposited £4.1million into various betting accounts between April 2004 and October 2010.

He lost £3million of that money and withdrew just over £1million. The remaining £2million he held back from the accounts, he spent, the court heard.
Despite his heavy losses, Thompson still managed to live a lavish lifestyle, paying for a Las Vegas wedding to wife Nina-Louise and trips to South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
He also accumulated a fleet of luxury cars including a Mercedes, a Jaguar, a Porsche and a 4x4.
Some of his victims were forced to remortgage their homes to pay for the ‘investment’, but were left with nothing after Thompson was snared.

One ‘investor’ lost a massive £600,000, but the average loss was around £40,000 among more than 100 people - most of them friends he met while working in London - duped by Thompson.

Officers from the Serious and Organised Crime Unit at Kent Police confirmed the unit had identified 138 victims of the betting scam.

They said Thompson ‘paid out’ to several investors in 2007, but only so they would invest more and to give the impression ‘the betting syndicate was doing well’.

Thompson pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation at Canterbury Crown Court and was jailed for four years and eight months yesterday.

Detective Constable Stuart Champion said today: 'Thompson abused the trust placed in him by some of his closest friends and investors.

'He provided them with fake data and drew up complex documents such as a declaration of trust to win them over and convince them to put their money in.

'Some of their money was invested into bets but they were never successful as Thompson never made a profit during the time he ran the syndicate.

'The rest of the money was spent by Thompson on holidays, his wedding and expensive cars while some of his investors struggled to make ends meet as a result.
'This sentence brings to a close a very complex case and I’d like thank those who came forward and the evidence we found was so compelling that Thompson had no choice but to admit the fraud.'

We Are All Individuals

Not for the first time, Peter Webb falls into the trap of assuming that everyone else's sporting interests and decisions align with his own. In his latest post, Making hay while the sun shines, Peter trots out that:
At this time of year you have many opportunities, so I will stretch every sinew to do as much as I can.
One could argue that there are many opportunities year round, and the strength of these opportunities rather depends on the areas of your expertise. I might also suggest that Peter needs to engage the services of an ergonomics consultant if 'every sinew' is stretching as he trades. It sounds most uncomfortable.
My potential to do something interesting is much higher in the summer than the winter, so my mantra is work now and analyse later.
That's a personal statement, and is likely different for all of us. My potential to make most money lies in the winter months, with the six months of October through March generating 67.1% of my annual profits, and the summer months the time when I should be putting my feet up. The reason is that I do little trading on cricket or golf or tennis and almost no racing (although that is a year round thing anyway), and those six months see all my big hitting sports in full flow, or in the case of baseball, ending with the play-offs. Peter continues:
If you really are serious and do this properly there is no reason to be doing anything else this weekend. Be wary of ‘experts’ that don’t have their nose pressed to the screen at this time of year!
This weekend I will be looking at financial opportunities in the evening baseball and basketball, but watching the cycling and the golf with a sporting interest. Cricket, not so much.
Currently we have some racing, golf and cricket all coming to a head this weekend and soon it will be Glourious Goodwood as well.
Well that's nice, and a trip to Goodwood is a 'glorious' occasion - definitely 'one u' should do... , but in a few weeks (October / November) we will have European Football, the NFL, the baseball play-offs, the NBA and even the NHL with its new two Conference / four division alignment which should provide some new opportunities. Will Peter be waxing lyrical about the opportunities at that time?
So you can see that the time for rest in sports market is the winter, when sports are scarce and often cancelled.
A totally parochial and incorrect statement. There are a few other countries besides the UK around the world, where our winter is their summer, or where many sports are held indoors, and usually, but not always, unaffected by the weather outside. Just yesterday, the NBA's Summer League was interrupted by torrential rain:
Stoppage – With 7:43 left in the third quarter, the Chicago vs. Dallas game was stopped because of a leaky roof during a thunderstorm.
The roof leaked in front of Dallas' bench. Play resumed after a brief delay, and an attendant used towels to keep the floor dry.
Wasn't expecting that from Las Vegas in the Summer!

I do agree with this line of Peter's though, although I have changed the wording to make it read better:
Reap the rewards while the opportunities are there, and at other times in the year or your life, you can sit back a little or work on the next big thing knowing you did the best you could while the opportunity was there.
Great advice, but it's important to understand that those opportunities come at different times for each of us, and as I have commented before, the best opportunities are often found where the sun isn't shining. 

Are you really more likely to find value on the final day of the Open or Second Test, with thousands of eyes looking at the state of play, or on the late night Washington Nationals v Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game?
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Seneca

Pay Less Now, More Later

I received the following email from my 'account manager' yesterday, but I suspect it went out to number of people because the changes detailed are about as useful to me as a chocolate teapot.

As part of a wider review of Pricing at Betfair we have taken the decision to remove Transaction Charges from all Premium Accounts with immediate effect. Initially this is on a trial basis until 31st October 2013, if there is upside in terms of increased volumes and bet count then we will look to extend this further.

We believe this will help you with bet matching and in particular within markets where there are a number of runners.

Furthermore Betfair have also reduced the base commission rate to 0.5% for Asian Handicap markets in all Football matches. Again this is on a trial basis but the timings for this are from today (19th July) to 17th August when we will review the outcome.
I have never paid a transaction charge, and as frenetic as trading can sometimes seem, I doubt that I have ever come close to the 1,000 bets an hour needed to qualify. As for markets with 'a number of runners', how many markets don't have a number of runners? There's always at least two! Perhaps he means 'a large number of runners' but again, I am seldom involved in markets with more than two or three outcomes, so the benefit to me is likely to be absolutely none.

As for the reduction in base commission rate to 0.5% for Asian Handicap markets, again this is useless for anyone paying the Premium Charge. Whether I pay 5% up front and another 45% a week or so later, or pay 0.5% up front and 49.5% later really makes no difference. I tend to agree with Forum contributor Hazel:
It's a bit of a con trick by the premium account manager to try and make premium charge payers like myself think that we are getting something.
A resurrected post from October 2011 states that 480 customers are affected by the Super Premium Charge. If true, one can only suppose that number is a lot higher now. A couple more years will mean that anyone full-time for 10 years or more will have almost certainly have reached the barrier by now.

I await the email that says the decision has been made to remove Premium Charges. Why Betfair are trying these changes is interesting though. Presumably the transaction charges have driven some key players away, and Betfair's AH markets were never the most liquid, so perhaps they are trying to become competitive in this area. 

Captain Flint

Regular readers will be familiar with Nate Silver and his best seller The Signal and The Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - But Some Don't. 

After three years at the New York Times which featured his excellent FiveThirtyEight blog, Nate Silver is now headed to ESPN, as the New York Times itself reports. 

As I have written before, Silver started with baseball statistics, so he has a sports background. It will be interesting to see how how ESPN uses his talents. His political expertise has certainly been lucrative, much to Al's chagrin as I recall, although his foray into NFL predictions earlier in the year was a little less successful.

One old post that I was just looking at has a picture of my little bird Winston. Unfortunately the poor little chap had a mishap last weekend, and fractured his ankle, and after several hundreds in vet bills, here is how he looks now and for the next five to six weeks as he 'heals'...
Wounded Warrior Winston
Mrs. Cassini wishes to allay any concerns readers may have that the accident was the result of a trade gone wrong. It was completely trading unrelated, and the result of butting heads (literally) with one of my dogs. 

One rather amusing story arising from this incident surrounds him not being too happy with his first splint and trying to destroy it by chewing on it. Concerned that he might be doing some harm, Mrs. Cassini ordered me to take a day off work, and take him back to be checked. The earnest young man on duty decided that Winston needed a protective cone to stop him from being able to reach his splint, and took Winston away to a back room for the fitting. 

After about 30 minutes together, the vet emerged sweating quite profusely, hair somewhat dishevelled, tie askew, and shirt no longer neatly tucked in - and little Winston with no cone. In a rather frustrated tone, the vet announced that Winston (all of 25grams) had a "bit of an attitude", wouldn't allow him to fit the cone, and could I please take him somewhere else. He handed me a card for a 'specialist' avian vet, and hurried off while taking rapid and repeated sips out of a hip flask. I was quite proud of my boy.   

Here is the New York Times article on Nate Silver - can you tell it's a quiet morning?
Nate Silver, the statistician who attained national fame for his accurate projections about the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, is parting ways with The New York Times and moving his FiveThirtyEight franchise to ESPN, the sports empire controlled by the Walt Disney Company, according to ESPN employees with direct knowledge of his plans.
At ESPN, Mr. Silver is expected to have a wide-ranging portfolio. Along with his writing and number-crunching, he will most likely be a regular contributor to “Olbermann,” the late-night ESPN2 talk show hosted by Keith Olbermann that will have its debut at the end of August. In political years, he will also have a role at ABC News, which is owned by Disney.
An ESPN spokeswoman declined to comment on Friday night. Mr. Silver declined to comment. The employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Mr. Silver’s deal could be announced as soon as Monday.
Before creating statistical models for elections, Mr. Silver was a baseball sabermetrician who built a highly effective system for projecting how players would perform in the future. For a time he was a managing partner of Baseball Prospectus.
At public events recently, he has expressed interest in covering sports more frequently, so the ESPN deal is a logical next step.
Mr. Silver’s three-year contract with The Times is set to expire in late August and his departure will most likely be interpreted as a blow to the company, which has promoted Mr. Silver and his brand of poll-based projections.
He gained such prominence in 2012 that President Obama joked that Mr. Silver had accurately predicted which turkeys the president would pardon that Thanksgiving. “Nate Silver completely nailed it,” he said. “The guy’s amazing.”
Speculation about the future of Mr. Silver and FiveThirtyEight heated up shortly after last November’s election, and he was wooed by no small number of other news organizations. Jill Abramson, the newspaper’s executive editor, and Mark Thompson, the chief executive of The New York Times Company, said earlier this year that they would try hard to sign Mr. Silver to a new contract.
NBC News and its cable news channel MSNBC was another interested party.
In an e-mail several weeks ago, Mr. Silver said negotiations were continuing with The Times “and I’m still trying to make a decision.” He informed The Times on Friday of his plan to leave.
He occasionally hinted in interviews and public appearances that his relationship with The Times had moments of tension. But it was mutually beneficial. The news organization gained Web traffic and prestige by hosting his work, and he received a salary, a wider audience and editorial support.
The same will most likely be true at ESPN.

Friday 19 July 2013

Suns Shine In Las Vegas

I'm not sure how many of you read my piece on the NBA Summer League over at Betting Expert (with whom I do have a relationship) but it has proven to be even more profitable than usual this season.

The NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, started as recently as 2004, but it is on the verge of becoming a major event.

After a few years of finding its feet, this year is the first where the league ends with a tournament and a champion. Previous versions have been a lot looser in format with no official winner, but I think this year will be looked back at as the year it really became a mainstream event.

I stated in my article that liquidity is way down on regular season NBA games, but I am seeing some relatively big money (£2k to £3k) appearing, usually early in the second half and usually looking to back the team ahead around the 1.6 to 1.7 mark. If the team's lead is slender, this is not a value back, although value doesn't always win unfortunately.

The new format also opens up the possibility of two teams meeting up for a second time, with both games on a neutral court. For example on Saturday, the Phoenix Suns comfortably beat the Portland Trailblazers.

When the same teams meet again five days later, that's a pretty good guide to how the second game might play out. While the teams want to win, these aren't play-off games, and the emphasis is on player development. If a set of young and inexperienced players loses by a lot one night, they're not likely to turn it around in the space of a few days. Lest you doubt the unbeaten Suns commitment to this tournament, the roster features the Morris twins, who played much of last season in the NBA - Markieff featured in all 82 games - and they came from 24 points down to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday. 

One more team to watch is the D-League Select team. With none of these players having an NBA contract, it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out why they be somewhat motivated.

The only other unbeaten team is the Golden State Warriors, who were also unbeaten in 2012.

Another example of opportunities being found in unusual places. The games I have been able to watch have been interesting. Summer League is like a hybrid of the College and NBA games. Some of the players are, to say the least, inconsistent, scoring points galore in one game, and then unable to hit the proverbial cow's bottom in the next.

In other NBA news, the Charlotte Bobcats will be no more after next season, after the NBA approved restoration of the Hornets name, recently relinquished by the now New Orleans Pelicans. I hope you're all keeping up. 

Finally, from William Hill's head of PR, Richard Thomas, via Betting Expert (with whom I still have a relationship):
Many punters complain these days about not being able to get a bet on or having their accounts restricted. Are these complaints fair?
Customer restrictions are a reflection on bookmakers being rightly focused on client betting patterns and history. Those complaining are frequently those who are unprofitable to the bookmaker, and, in a commercial world, why would any business stand losses to an individual?
William Hill adopt a philosophy of offering 'something for everyone, rather than everything for someone', meaning we want the majority of our customers to benefit from our enhanced prices or special offers, rather than a single big bet to one high-roller. With a William Hill Priority Price, we typically offer 5,000 bets at £20 a time on a selection at an enhanced price, the equivalent of laying £100,000 in one hand . Taken in this context, I hope people understand our business methodology.
To the answer that "those complaining are frequently those who are unprofitable to the bookmaker", we can probably add "or those whom we expect to become unprofitable to the bookmaker." So take it as a compliment if your account is closed or limited!  

Thursday 18 July 2013

Credit Where Due

While the issues raised in my recent post on Betergy's Cliftonville v Celtic, or was it Celtic v Cliftonville Champions League Qualifier, remain valid, I do have to give credit where it's due, and report that Betergy did nail the correct score of 0:3 in this game. It wasn't the longest of long-shots, but a decent priced winner nonetheless, I think in the 7.5 range.

Betergy appear to grade themselves based on the result rather than the odds, so a predicted win for Barcelona at home to Granada (1.06) would count the same as a predicted win for Real Betis v Real Madrid (10.56). Not that the latter is a likely prediction.

If you predicted a home win for every favourite at 1.5 or less in the big five leagues last season, you would have had a 'successful' prediction 76% of the time. Sounds better than a pre-tax / pre-commission return of 2.46 points from 305 bets, but perhaps a little misleading as a measure of the predictions success rate.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Looks Good On Paper

Sports Trading Life had a recent post on paper trading, and anyone heeding the advice given in my last post on the Bundeslayga System may be considering this option.

In my view, since the cost of entry is so low, there is very little to be gained from paper trading. Officially the minimum stakes on Betfair and BETDAQ are £2 and £1 respectively, but the workaround to reduce this is well known, and so you can reduce your risk literally to a few pennies even if your brilliant system looks to lay 10.0 chances.

Someone once said that paper trading isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, and to a certain extent this is very true. In my experience, paper trading (i.e. everything is purely theoretical) doesn’t give you the whole story. The world is not perfect, and when you ‘go live’ with a system, it’s surprising how often you come across issues that, on paper, could never happen!

Prices and stakes available on paper aren’t achievable perhaps, or the selection criteria that seemed so clear on paper now throws up two or more selections because the numbers keep changing. That lay of 1.06 you saw and wrote down on paper vanishes from the screen before the countdown clock reaches 2. That kind of thing.

Paper trading can give you a rough idea, and for a trading activity with a higher cost of entry, options trading perhaps, paper trading first is an excellent idea, but for betting on sports?

Just play with £1 or £2 stakes, and get some real-life experience, but don’t expect your stakes to be scalable.

The worst that can happen is you lose a little money learning that your idea doesn’t work so well. Or you might happen to win a little money while learning that your idea has some merit.

Specific to the Bundeslayga, your risk is already lower than the ‘minimum’ because laying at say 1.5 means you are risking only half of the entered amount.

Anyway, if you can’t afford to lose a pound or two, then you should probably be focusing your time on something else anyway.

The Concerned Engineer

There's an old engineering joke, and not really that funny a joke either, but it's about a hot air balloonist who isn't sure where he is. He sees a man on the ground, lowers the balloon and calls out:

"Excuse me, can you help me? I don't know where I am."
The man below replied, "You are in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet about the ground. You are between 42 and 44 degrees north latitude and between 83 and 85 degrees west longitude."
"You must be an engineer," said the balloonist.
"I am," replied the man, "but how did you know?"
"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct, but it's also of absolutely no use to me whatsoever." 
I was reminded of this when thinking about Danny and his answers to the question of account preservation, and more recently his response to the question "but if he knows where to get Betfair's closing price for free, I'd be interested in that data". Well, we got a response, but once again, the answer is of no practical use.
Closing Betfair prices can be found at the excellent Oddsportal site. Must admit I usually go from the Pinnacle price but you can cross check the closing BF Oddsportal price against Fracsoft. It costs about 68p per game on Fracsoft though, however that site also is a great resource.
Well indeed they can, but only one at a time, which is an inconvenience when looking back at a season, but the numbers are also not very accurate. Looking at the last day of the season XX Draw Selection of West Bromwich Albion versus Manchester United, the draw price was matched personally at 4.0 on Betfair, but the Oddsportal Back price is reported as opening at 2.67 and closing at 3.52, while the Lay price closed at 3.84 after opening at 5.42. I very much doubt that there was a .32 difference between back and lay prices.

The rest of Danny's comment only shows that he doesn't read what I write, which is unfortunate. He also had this to say:
I do however have genuine concerns about some of your posts.Taking Bundaslayga for instance I am skeptical as these yields strike me as somewhat unlikely and I am wondering if there is a "devil in your detail". Also I would caution anyone to use that strategy next season unless you have done your own research and verified the returns.
"Genuine concerns" sounds very dramatic, but we are talking here about a suggested low-risk system that you may or may not decide to use alongside your other betting strategies. The turnover will certainly help to reduce the inevitable Premium Charges if you are successful on the exchanges in the long run, and if you are sceptical about the returns, (as you should always be), do your own research, run your own numbers. My post was an update on a system I first mentioned back in 2010 I think, it clearly explained where the prices I used were from, the actual prices I was able to get, and anyone has had plenty of time to follow this for themselves and decide if it is for them. I'm not telling you all to rush out and try this - I am putting out there an observation that you can choose to blindly follow, ignore completely, or take a look at yourselves, make modifications as you wish, and see if it suits you.

What these "genuine concerns" are is quite baffling and a little pathetic to be honest, as is Danny's habit of making false claims. Ad hominem arguments are both false and annoying. My track record has been well documented on this blog for many years, and readers can make up their own minds whether comments such as this one are justified:
Anyway we can all make ourselves look like winners if we try hard enough can't we?
Danny's comments will no longer be giving the oxygen of publicity. I like comments, they make it easy for a blogger to keep a conversation going as it were, but there's a limit even to my patience.

Jimbo suggested that:
maybe the Mr Murphy's post title could be 'There is none more blind than those who refuse to see'. .. Just a thought like
You can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make her think. 

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Guest Post Invitation

Al has repeated my suggestion from July 3rd that Danny share some of his apparent wisdom with us, although as we are still awaiting delivery on his promise of tips on how to preserve our bookmaker betting accounts - or at least ones that we can actually use. The first batch did indeed ensure longevity for our accounts, but taking less than the best prices and voluntarily restricting your bet size are not what we are looking for.

His latest comment lets myself and Peter Nordsted know that when betting on baseball, we are up against stiff competition, although unfortunately no link is supplied.

While we are on the subject of modeling here is an interview from "advantagegambler" who talks in detail about baseball modeling.
Hopefully it will be of use to Pete Nordsted and others as it shows the level of competition you are up against if you are looking to beat straight up betting markets.
It is quite detailed but the content is good IMO. Maybe Cassini will even learn something.
Cassini is always learning, and one thing he is well aware of is that betting is not easy. I am well aware that the competition is exactly that - competition. They want my money and I want theirs, and while there's the occasional price that really is a gift, for the most part finding value is a matter of research and patience. I've written before that one big advantage we have is that we do not have to make a bet. We can wait patiently for a value opportunity. Baseball betting is no different from betting on any other sport, in fact for me it is one of the easier sports to win at, (second in my all time list), possibly because so few people fully understand it. You wait for value. Just this past Sunday, when someone is looking to back a team at 1.04, (true odds 1.17 - ahead 4-1 with four innings to play) I can only say thank you very much. As it happened, the 4-1 ended 4-3, but taking the lay was value, and you can lock in profits long before the final whistle. Or out.

Thanks to Danny for his concern, but while I always have room to learn more, I do ok.

On my post updating the results of laying home favourites in the Bundesliga and other top leagues, Danny commented:
What are you talking about with these average prices? What is it an average price of exactly? Not much good using an average of bookmakers is it?
And what timeframe are we using? Why don't you simply use the Betfair closing price? Sounds like Cassini economics at work again here.
I'm not quite sure Danny can read, or he was in too much of a hurry to comment that he missed a few things, but I explained in quite some detail what the average price was, where I took it from, together with a qualifier covering the laying of such bets, together with some real world numbers suggesting how the price you can typically lay at relates to the 'average price'. I do hope Danny knows what 'average' means, but if he knows where to get Betfair's closing price for free, I'd be interested in that data. Ignorant comments that show a complete lack of understanding of the point of the post are getting a little tiresome, although the attention paid to the blog is, I suppose, the sincerest form of flattery.
Coming Soon - By Danny Murphy

As Al says:
Danny - Any chance of a guest post?
It would be good to get your take on things.
It would indeed, and perhaps a little background to help us understand that your expertise is actually based on a proven track record of success. Unfortunately in my experience, those who are the first to take pot-shots at others who have actually had some success, are usually those who haven't had any themselves. I hope to be proved wrong.

So Danny - please feel free to write a post for the ages. "Everything I Know About Gambling" by Danny Murphy might be too brief for publication, so title the post what you like, and get writing. The importance of staying hydrated has already been covered.

CalcioCassini @

Sunday 14 July 2013

Lost In Translation

At my current Betfair discount rate (6%), I need to win at a rate of less than about 1.137, i.e. if I win (gross) £1,136.87 and lose £1,000 to stay below the Premium Charge radar. Easier said than done, although strategies like the Bundeslayga help. For fun, I decided to lay Betergy's selections today in Norway's Eliteserien, a league I know absolutely nothing about. Unfortunately from a PC mitigation perspective, Betergy had a bad day, with four of their five predictions losing. Apparently their in-depth analysis didn't include the phase of the moon, an oversight that I am sure will soon be fixed.

Perhaps not surprisingly, our old friend Danny Murphy has leapt to their defence, suggesting that I should give them a chance:
The article above is a bit incoherent and quite a lot is lost in translation I feel. However team motivation, weather and players are important factors and I expect they are using weightings too so why not give these guys a chance?
Weightings too! Well that makes all the difference then. Alexandra and Jakub are certainly earning their money right now, with CNN following on the heels of the Wall Street Journal with a similar article.
Kornilov says his system uses two layers of data to predict outcomes, first looking at basic statistics like a team's past performance and average number of goals. The second layer of data includes information related to the weather and life events that may affect players' motivation.
I'm a little confused though. The latest prediction is for Celtic to beat Cliftonville 3:0 next week, at 9:40 on Tuesday 16th.
Leaving aside for the moment the fact that Cliftonville are the home team, and that the game is at 7:45 on Wednesday 17th, the odds are a little strange when compared to Betergy's probabilities.

Betergy calculate Celtic have a 60% probability of winning the match, with 15% for the draw, and 25% for Cliftonville.

Prices quoted are a little out of line with these probabilities though - Celtic 1.08 (IP 93%), Draw 7.0 (14%) Cliftonville 17.0 (6%). That's quite an over-round for a start, but Betfair's prices currently have Celtic at 1.21 so is the tip to lay Celtic or back Cliftonville which is where the value lies? Somehow the concept of value seems to be missing from this site, but perhaps it is there, and just lost in translation as Danny suggests. Or perhaps it isn't.

Saturday 13 July 2013

2012-13 Bundeslayga Update

Many of you will be familiar with my Bundeslayga System, first introduced back in 2010. It's a very simple strategy, and I tracked the results for the last 49 qualifiers of the 2012-13 season in the FTL table, ending up 5.45 points. It's been profitable for many seasons, and always on the look out for other opportunities, I took the time on a quiet Saturday to review the full season, and also take a look at the other top leagues.

One qualifier here, is that the prices I use in the analysis are the 'Average' prices from the excellent Football Data web site (no affiliation). When laying, it may well not always be possible to get this average price, since one might reasonably expect exchange prices to be higher than bookmakers. A quick comparison of the prices I was matched at compared with the Average Price in Football Data shows an average difference of 0.04, i.e. if the 'official' average price is 1.82, laying at 1.86 is usually possible. There is also no commission included in these numbers.

So with those not insignificant qualifiers in mind, the Bundeslayga strategy (home lays in the 1.34 to 2.0 range) returned 13.11 points from 90 selections, a decent ROI of 14.6%. Once again this league was the best for this strategy.

Laying EVERY home Bundesliga team would have returned 32.80 points, which from 306 selections is an ROI of 10.7%, lower than the Bundeslayga range, but as we all know by now, Return on Investment is for show, Rate of Bank Growth is for dough. £s, not %.

Unfortunately when the 0.04 deduction is factored in, the returns on laying every team in the Bundesliga drop to 25.76 points.

I have previously commented that laying at ~1.3 and below is not a profitable strategy, but last season would have produced 3.61 points.

Looking at other leagues, the 1.34 to 2.0 range is profitable across the board, but it becomes even more profitable to expand the range.

Most interesting for me is that the 1.68 to 2.22 range (45% to 60%) returned 63.96 points from 604 selections (ROI 10.6%) across all five leagues. For a part-timer looking to churn but entering bets manually, this number isn't too unmanageable spread across a season.

Friday 12 July 2013

Polish Prediction Engine

A little busy today to answer all of Danny's questions, so time only for a lazy post courtesy of the Wall Street Journal, although I have to say not up to that reputable publications normal standards by a long way:
In-Depth Analysis? Complete Bollocks more like
WARSAW — If someone could predict with 90% accuracy the outcome of a soccer game, you might be tempted to put a bet on that match.
Betegy, a startup here in the Polish capital, is claiming just that on some games in major European and global leagues.
CEO and founder Alex Kornilov, a Ukrainian who came to Poland to study, said the company has just signed a deal with a U.S. broadcaster to provide forecasts for its soccer service. The details will be made public shortly. The company is working on a prediction engine that will be able to forecast the score.
At the heart of the company is an algorithm that takes in a huge range of factors. These include not just past performance, but things such as whether it is the manager’s birthday, a significant home match, even the weather. “Imagine that, say, Manchester United is playing Liverpool,” said Mr. Kornilov. “We know that Manchester United has more players who can strike from long distance. Usually in poor weather the manager will tell players to shoot from further out.
Knowing these small things allows us to tweak the analysis in favor of Manchester United.”
Last year, the company was analyzing games in just five leagues–France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.K.–but has now grown that to 25, including Japan and Latin America.
The company came about almost by accident. Although based in Warsaw, Mr. Kornilov had a software firm in Ukraine. One of his developers had, as a hobby, worked on as soccer-prediction engine. He approached Mr. Kornilov.
“I didn’t believe it, so first I turned him down. But he came back. So I said ‘OK, you are so insistent. I will open an account with a book maker to bet on the Bundesliga [the main German league].’”
He put in €50 ($64.60) and bet according to the predictions the engine produced. “When that went to €300 really quickly I realized ‘this is it’. We spent months testing it to prove it. It really worked.”
Not every game can be predicted, and different leagues command different levels of confidence. The U.K. Premier league has high levels, since there are a few strong clubs and that gives the league stability, Mr. Kornilov said. “On games that we can call, for some matches we can predict with around 92% to 93% accuracy. For others it is around 55% to 60%.” Given there are three possible outcomes of a match, picking at random would give a 33% chance of success.
The same stability was true of the German, Spanish and Italian leagues, all of which had predictable “super clubs.” But he said there were some leagues where the success rate falls off.
“The French league–totally unpredictable.”
The company is working on tournaments as well as leagues. In the recent Confederation Cup, Betegy correctly predicted Brazil’s victory, although Spain was widely tipped. The company didn’t quite get the score right (it predicted 2-1; the result was 3-0).
The company is considering branching out into other team sports such as basketball and American football. But it’s not for every sport, even ones that attract large amounts of betting.
“There is no one in Ukraine who understands cricket. I don’t even understand the rules,” he said.
I shall be adjusting my Elo ratings to account for the five success factors above. I presume Jose Mourinho's birthday is December 25th - any other manager's special days known? This is important. But this was the best line:
Do they need to win because they are at home for the 100th match?
There may well be no one in the Ukraine who understands cricket, and there also may well be no one in the world who understands what the hell that sentence is all about. And if Manchester United play Liverpool in 'poor weather' in the "UK" Premier League, well my money is now on United - with all those players who can strike from long distance. Price not an issue - I'm all in. It really works.

Full Disclosure - I have no affiliation with Betegy. Nor do I want one.

Thursday 11 July 2013


Danny has the secret to successful investing:

But so what? What difference does the odds structure make? If the odds are smaller bet more, if they are bigger bet less.

It doesn't matter what the odds structure is if you are betting into 105% markets and failing to beat closing lines. Must I teach Cassini to suck eggs? Successful investing is about finding VALUE not worrying about what the odds range is.
Unfortunately for Danny, that there is ample evidence that the sports investing markets are not strongly efficient, so the 'odds structure' as he puts it, is critical, and very much does matter.

Danny does at least seems to have gleaned from this blog that successful investing is about finding value, but one thing at a time Danny.

On an earlier post, Danny commented:
I just wonder if it is a case of thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the pond? Put it this way would you have confidence in a system for the Championship written by a US guy with little interest in soccer? If it was anyone other than Nate Silver I would not be too enthusiastic.
The way I see it, if you don't have a lot of enthusiasm for the sport then it's too easy to miss things. Can you do well from a sport you don't know that well? It would be good to hear Cassini's thoughts on that.
I took Mastering Betfair down to the beach yesterday, not hard to see where Cassini got all his good ideas from :).
The question of whether it is possible to consistently profit from betting on a sport you don't know too well is an interesting one. My opinion on this is that without an in-depth knowledge of a sport, you should certainly not attempt to trade it in-play, because the likelihood is that you are competing against people who know far more than you do about it and you need to understand the subtleties of it so that you know what effect specific actions will have on the price. As for finding an edge pre-game, the data is there for all to see. My concern here though would be apophenia.

Without having a full understanding of a sport, it would be easy to detect a pattern in data that in reality doesn't exist. To use baseball as an example, a sport as well understood outside of the USA and Canada as cricket is inside those countries, i.e. not very, it might not be immediately obvious why the National League teams score less runs than the American League, or why American League teams win more inter-league games than they 'should'. Or why are so many runs scored at Coors Field? As mentioned a couple of days ago, data for games against divisional opponents shouldn't be lumped in with games against other teams in the same league, and both should be kept separate from inter-league games.

As for Mastering Betfair, I hate to disappoint Peter, but I have never read a page of his book. It came out in 2009, several years after I was already established and paying Premium Charge on Betfair, and I felt that my trading was already at 'the next level' as Peter phrased it. I just watched the promotional video, and related to my last piece on the role of women in investing, it did make me laugh that at one point Peter says to the camera:
 "it's not very nice having to ring up your wife and say 'sorry about this but I've just lost £500 on Manchester United not beating Crewe''". 
Why on Earth would anyone have to ring up their wife about any loss, never mind such a small one? We shouldn't have to answer to anyone but ourselves. Is the Betfair account in joint names? How can you make the right decision, either for stake size or selection, if you are answerable to someone else? It kind of reminds me of the subject of investing for others. Once you are beholden to someone else, you are not able to have a full disconnect between the money and the investment decision. And where was Peter's wife at that time of night anyway? Not doing the laundry apparently. Or perhaps those Mastering Betfair royalties add up and Peter has a big house, and she was in the East Wing doing the ironing at the time.        

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Money For The Boys

In Peter’s comment that I commented on yesterday, Peter wrote:
“I also invest in the stock market and I have been derided for this before but whenever I make any financial commitment I always discuss it first with my wife. Although we sometimes have disagreements in what shares to place our money, sports wise she just lets me get on with it. However we first agree to how much we are willing to place into the venture and she periodically likes to know how the investment is going.”
With less than a quarter of all jobs in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) held by women, either women are not interested in such subjects, or they are put off by social factors.
If we look at chess, why are only 3% of the top players are female? It may be because chess is not the most exciting of interests, but you might expect most people to be interested in money. Not when it comes to making decisions about it though.
If women are a significant part of the economy and control an important percentage of investment capital, the story is much different when it comes to women managing money.
According to recent research, women represented a scant 10 percent of all traditional mutual fund managers, a figure that has barely budged over the past decade despite increasing numbers of women with degrees in finance and women certified as financial advisors.
The disparity is even more apparent in the world of alternative investments: In early 2008, women managed a mere 3 percent of the approximately $1.9 trillion invested in hedge funds.
Investing decisions are best made by the person most qualified to make them, and if you are in a relationship, in the majority of cases this is the man. Not always the case I know, and nothing to do with men being more intelligent than women, but unless Peter’s wife is qualified or experienced in some way to offer input on the topic of financial management, the decisions should be left solely to Peter.

As a courtesy, bigger decisions should certainly be communicated after the fact, but typically women have little understanding of risk and reward, erring on the safe side more often than not, and don’t understand probability. They could if they were interested, but they are generally not.

I have a personal anecdote to illustrate some of these points. One concerns the time that my grandfather returned home from the Stock Exchange in London and over dinner told my grandmother and mother that he had bought a new house and that they were moving. It was the first they had heard of it. I rather like that decisiveness. No getting into a big debate about whether or not to move, how much to offer, should we / shouldn’t we etc. The first the girls knew of it was when it was a done deal.

There was something of a rebound effect from this incident which rather illustrates the second point. My mother, quite possibly determined not to be in the same situation as her mother was, always had a say in investment decisions, and unfortunately for my future inheritance, she always erred on the side of (extreme) caution. When it was suggested decades ago that investing in the stock market was a good idea, her reaction was one of horror, with her saying that unless you knew what you were doing, you could lose everything. Once her mind was set, any attempts to explain diversification, spreading the risk, were doomed.

 It’s essential to have a disconnect when it comes to money and investment decisions. You can't be emotionally connected in what you are doing or you're lost, and women (in general) cannot make this disconnect. Top women poker players? Few and far between. If you are even remotely concerned with having to explain yourself to others, or about an upcoming bill that you need to pay from your winnings, even with artificial constraints such as the date on the calendar, you are not going to make optimal decisions. This is why it is so important for your betting bank to be totally separate from day-to-day money, and money that you can comfortably afford to lose.

One of the first things Mrs. Cassini and I agreed upon was that financial decisions would be exclusively mine. Financial decisions by consensus lead to poor financial decisions. She handed over the keys to her accounts, and as she’s just not that interested in making financial decisions, the arrangement works rather well. She doesn’t even look at her quarterly statements.

In return, I agreed to stay out of the kitchen and laundry room and away from all domestic duties, and if I say so myself, I have done an excellent job at that. My sister visited recently for a few days, and was amazed that I had no idea how the washing machine works, but I am just not interested. I’m sure I could master it if I wanted to, but it’s called division of labour. I know how the coffee-maker works by the way, but she didn’t seem too impressed by that. Anyway, I would hope that Peter doesn’t offer Mrs. Nordsted advice on her laundry techniques for example or suggest ways in which her cooking or ironing might be improved. These can be sensitive topics I’ve found, and definitely not to be raised when the iron is hot and close by. It leaves a mark.

All Mrs. Cassini needs to know is that the bills are up to date and that when she goes to the supermarket, that there is money available to pay for the groceries. In return, all I need to know is that freshly laundered clothes will be available each morning, that the house will be kept clean, the lawn mown, hedges trimmed, gutters cleared, cars serviced on schedule and that a good meal and a cup of tea are just a click of the fingers away.

Sports investments - money and decisions - are absolutely outside of her purview. The funds are ring-fenced, in an account in my name, and are mine to invest as I wish. She has never once asked me the state of my account, and I would find it very annoying were she to do this. The idea of asking her if, or how much, I can invest on a basketball game is a non-starter.

I guess the bottom line here is that you have complete trust in your partner. When trust is a little thin, you have more problems than your partner poking her nose into your investing activities.