Wednesday 30 October 2013

Sponsorship Announcement

Fairfranco had a question about the (former) FTL table, correctly answered by Jamie and Emp. The column headings IP and LW do indeed refer to Implied Price and (table position Last Week). The +/- column shows how many places someone moved since last week. Whether the Strike Rate (SR) proves to be of any interest remains to be seen.

Graeme, The Football Analyst, has capped the bounty at £400 which is fair enough. I was actually expecting the trickle of of new entries spotting the value in taking Graeme on with a close to 20 point start to be more of a flood, but then TFA did liken himself to Barcelona which may have frightened off a few Cambridges, Alfretons and Lutons:

"Putting my systems into Cassini’s friendly tipster league would be like Barcelona playing in the Bsq Prem for a season"
Graeme did also suggest that as potentially the main sponsor of the FTL, he should have naming rights. It's just not a catchy name, with too many Ts and Fs. "TFA's TFL" or "The FTL sponsored by / in association with TFA"? WTF! But with up to £400 coming our way, I guess I can accommodate the proposal, so the FTL will henceforth be known as The Football Analyst Tipster League. With such large sums of money at stake, the "Friendly" went out of the window long ago anyway.
For those concerned that the impartial approach of this blog might be threatened, rest assured that editorial content will be unaffected, and I will continue to call it as I see it. If the TFA selections perform more like Barnet than Barcelona, you will read it here. Speaking of which, Barcelona did slip up again last night with Oldham Athletic losing at Notts County.

And yes Graeme, there is a minimum number of selections required - 64 for anyone joining before the end of September, and 56 for those in October. Plus no sitting on profits, with a minimum of five selections per month. With 22 entries to track already, I think I'll take Graeme's suggestion one step further and close it to new entries for this season. At this time of the year, as many of you know, much of my focus switches to the NBA which opened its 2013-14 season last night. The best sport for in-play trading by some distance.

Although my interest is mostly in the Western Conference, where 'my' Golden State Warriors (if you see a team live more than once, they are yours!) look very good to improve on last season's play-off run and win more than 47 regular season games, I will also be keeping an eye on the Brooklyn Nets in the East. Their Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov, is bankrolling more than $102 million in player salaries, (and projected luxury tax payments totalling $86 million) a sum higher than any other team in the league. They are the Chelsea of the NBA, albeit with an untried coach (part-owner Jason Kidd) but assisted by a former Nets head-coach in Lawrence Frank. I'm not sure the Nets are at home to Mr. Failure this season, and with Derrick Rose back and looking strong for the Chicago Bulls, and a strong Indiana Pacers team, Miami Heat face some tough competition if they are to make it to their fourth consecutive Finals.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Fizzer Fizzles

Overall, a losing weekend for the FTL tipsters combined, but some success stories within the total loss. The big winner of the weekend was Forza Fizzer who found five winners from seven selections, made a profit of 11.13 points, and leapt from 13th into second place overall, and first place (£225) in the race for the cash. Fizz had these decent priced home winners:


Emp held onto his overall lead adding another 4.66 points, and coincidentally also had Burnley and Yeovil Town in his selections. He also had Reims to win at Olympique Marseille at 8.18, and win they did, 3-2.

Fairfranco moved up to third overall (£112.50) gaining 5.58 points, and the idle Skeeve hangs on to third cash place and £67.50. Provisionally in fourth cash spot (£45) pending payment, is new boy Graham who opened his account with a 0.56 point profit. The only other entry in profit is my Cassini Value Selections, but they had a disastrous Saturday with all three losing without scoring and Toulouse the worst losing 0-5. Sunday was better with Bologna beating Livorno, although it could hardly have been worse!

Of the entries in the red, i.e. most of them, Punter's Friend made a move off the bottom moving up four places with an 8.5 point profit, and Murphy's Law also moved up four places with a smaller 0.72 point profit. Football Elite made a small profit, as did the Drawmaster, but the XX Draws (and Unders) as well as the Bundeslayga system all had small losses. Late goals again proved an irritation with three of the nine XX Draw games losing out to them, although Paris St Germain did score a late goal to make up for that a little.

Fedslam sat out this week, debutante Jamie Ayton had a weekend to forget, and Rubicon dropped four places. Webbo lost nearly five points, Scatter Gun dropped just one and then we have the big boys Peter Nordsted and his Premier Betting and The Football Analyst. Graeme actually made 0.7 points on the weekend but still drops one place with a bounty liability of £400 currently.

Pete's Premier Betting had another losing weekend. The Official bets, using the prices quoted by Peter, lost another 5.5 points, while the cash eligible entry lost 5.18 points. Sunday was actually a good day for them after a wipeout on Saturday, with Tottenham Hotspur v Hull City the low scoring game expected, and Sunderland defeating Newcastle United. The tide may have turned.

Rather embarrassingly, the Amateurs are now performing better than the Professionals, although as that simply means they are losing less, it's not too much to shout about. Football remains one of the harder nuts in betting to crack, but someone losing his nuts right now is my old friend Steve over at Daily 25 who had this to say last week:
How do I even describe how I’m feeling right now. Depressed, angry, pissed. I decided to get up at 5:30am this morning as I had $32,000 worth of bets on the League 1 and 2 games and knew it was a pivotal moment for my betting career. I’m pretty sure I have never lost that much money in just 90 minutes and I’ve had some big nights in Vegas.
The $ in question are Australian, but that's a lot of money to be staking on lower league football. I know when Steve followed the XX Draws that he didn't get the best odds, which is crucial in my opinion, and these were selections in big markets, and I can't help thinking that in less liquid matches, the value must be borderline at best given the stake size.
John Walsh's hockey picks have gone as cold as the ice they are played on. Since the last update, he had four consecutive losing selections but the rot came to an end last night as the Dallas Stars hung on to beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3.
After three losing weeks, John's NFL selections returned to profit this week, although still down on the season overall.

Back to football and goal expectancy, a couple of comments on yesterday's post. Jamie had this to say:
Well that's not really a provable statement, but if we let ϵ>0...

Lets go with the alternative statement of when is a football match likely to end in a draw, which then leads to either low goal expectancy (for 0-0 scorelines) or it suits both teams as you suggest.
Thus, a draw doesn't usually suit both teams.

Is this because a win is worth 3 points to the winner and a draw is worth 1 point each? - i.e. game theory.
Or because this is a sport we're talking about?
Maybe a model based on how much a draw would suit both teams would give a higher draw probability in some cases.

An in-play model might work with teams who play a specific style - i.e. more likely to sit back and settle for a draw with x mins to go.
Nick added:
As Jamie suggests you would think the points incentive of a win over a draw would effect the draw price. But the year they changed from 2pts to 3pts in England (1981/82), there was 121 draws, actually 3 draws more than the previous season's 118.
In a way it proves Cassini's "mathematical proof" on goal expectancies. If back then there were people running their BBC Micros or Acorn Electrons to get goal expectancies to derive match odds, their models wouldn't have been any less accurate, at least for draws.
It's an interesting angle, and while in the immediate period after the introduction of 3 points for a win, the number of draws dropped, they have since returned to the same level. As Nick said, there was an immediate drop in draws as might be expected with more goals:
In the five seasons before the switch, there were an average of 133.0 draws per season in what was then the First Division; in the five seasons after, there was an average of 113.4. By way of comparison, there were 108 in the Premier League last season and if you extrapolate that to take account of the reduction in the number of top-flight teams from 22 to 20, you get a figure of 131.
I think that in a match where the draw would suit both teams, this is reflected in the goal expectancies, weighted by just how much a draw would suit both teams. An end of season match where a draw would see both teams survive relegation for example would be a draw that would "really" suit both teams, whereas an early season Norwich City v Cardiff City might suit both teams, but maybe not enough to stop them trying to the end for a winner that would give them an extra two points.
Whether three points for a win possibly reduces the likelihood that teams will come to a tacit agreement to play out the final minutes of a tied game for a draw is an interesting thought, and it certainly seems that way at times!

If three points for a win means more goals, then the number of draws would be expected to fall. There's a reason why the Bundesliga sees less draws than Ligue 1.

Incidentally, the origin of the two points for a win, one for a draw comes from 'challenge' matches, where a winner would take all, and in the event of a draw, the pot would be split.

Sunday 27 October 2013

Why The Draw Is (Almost) Never Favourite

While we await the conclusion of the weekend's matches and the official prices before the latest, eagerly awaited FTL table is published, here is a post from the Betfair Forum and my contribution to it. The original poster (the astronomy minded Swift-Tuttle) posed this question:

Does anyone have a mathematical proof (or could refer me to one) of why a football match is unlikely to end in a draw?
To put it another way, of the 3 results possible the draw is never favourite. Why not?
Please don't mention those matches in Italy where the Mafia are involved and the draw is a firm favourite. I'm discounting those.
My thoughts on this topic were:

The original poster asked if there was any mathematical proof why the draw can never be the favourite outcome in a match, excluding special cases where a draw will suit both sides such as are seen in late season Italian league matches or in the final game of round-robin group matches.

While it is not a mathematical proof in the true sense of the word, and unlikely to win me a Fields Medal (I’m too old to win it anyway), the answer lies in the fact that any credible football pricing model derives the match odds from goal expectancies, and the only combination of Home Team goal expectancy v Away Team goal expectancy which will result in the draw having the highest probability is when goal expectancy is very low.

If your model uses a simplistic method along the lines of “in the last 20 matches between a top team and mid-table team, 10 matches have been drawn” then you might put the draw probability at 50%, but such a model is fundamentally flawed and no serious punter would ever use such a model.

The probability of a draw is clearly highest when the expectancy of goals is low. Of the under 1.5 goal outcomes, one-third (the 0-0) results in a draw. Add another goal and one-third of the six possible outcomes results in a draw, but add one more goal, and the draw probability drops precipitously. The draw outcomes from the Under 3.5 goal markets total two from ten.

So unless the goal expectancy in a match is two or less, the draw will never be favourite, but the closer to zero the goal expectancy is, the more probable the draw is. The relative lack of interest in the draw as a betting outcome does, in my opinion, make the draw a value bet when the market’s expectation of goals is higher than it should be.

Results from my model show that in 1,823 such matches over four seasons in the top five European Leagues, 565 matches have resulted in draws, an implied draw price of 3.23 which, with the possible exception of the low-scoring Ligue 1, is usually an easily beatable price.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Eggs In The Hedge

Graeme, aka The Football Analyst, has put some of thoughts down on paper, well pixels, and you can read them here. I have to admit that all the systems Graeme maintains boggle my mind. Tracking the fifteen (three selection group by five markets) XX Draw based systems last season was more than enough for me, but Graeme is made of sterner stuff and effortlessly tracks 52 (I think).

Anonymous noted that:

Premier Betting in total are -28 points on their portfolio betting . The results are not on their site. I cannot think why.
I have them down by only 21.27 which is odd, but their web site should have the latest numbers. Unfortunately, I don't see any results at all from this season there yet, so I can't see the reason for this discrepancy. While I was there, I did notice this:
With the “Portfolio Approach” that we use for our own investments, we look at spreading this risk across varying markets and price points, much like a hedge fund manager would in the traditional financial markets.
I'm pretty sure that a hedge fund manager would not be backing Under 1.5, Under 2.5 and Under 3.5 goals in the same match though - the idea of hedging is to reduce the impact of a negative event occurring. Putting all your eggs into one basket is NOT spreading the risk, and nothing at all like a "hedge fund manager would do in traditional financial markets".  The Unders or Overs markets may be different markets, but they are correlated as I have explained before.

Peter also wrote this about the new strategy in 2013-14:
For the 2013/2014 season we will be offering a slightly different service than in previous years. We will now be giving you access to one of our successful betting portfolios. This is aimed at the slightly more experienced investor, who operates with a dedicated betting bank and can follow a strict fixed return staking approach.
I'm still confused by why there is any benefit to a "strict fixed return" (i.e. variable staking) approach.

As I wrote back in August:
I must admit I am a little confused by one method should have any advantage over the other. At evens, it makes absolutely no difference at all, and little difference around that price. If your edge is on odds-on selections, you maximise your profits by using variable staking, but if your edge is on longer odds, you are better off with fixed staking. The problem is that if your edge should turn out to be negative, the laws of mathematics mean that your losses increase by following that strategy.
My comments on the edge being negative seem most prescient.

While most football tipsters are struggling right now, John Walsh's NHL selections continue their great run.
Boston defeated Buffalo Sabres 5-2 last night and John's record of 12-4 is really quite excellent. 

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Trying Times

The trials and tribulations of football betting were present in all their glory this weekend, and last night.

Running down the FTL table in sequence as of last week, we start with last week's leaders, the XX Draws Under 2.5 bets which had a busy weekend with no less than 20 matches. Unfortunately there were too many goals, especially in Italy where there were nine penalties awarded, and only 8 selections finished under 2.5 for a loss on the weekend of 5.1 points. They drop four places to fifth.

The Cassini Value bets continued their good run with two more winners. On Friday night Roma beat Napoli and on Sunday the one Serie A result that did go Cassini's way was Genoa's 2-1 win over Chievo Verona. At Pinnacle's 2.16 and 2.11 the profits on these rise to 6.29 points. Nine winners from eleven selections, and a decent start keeps them in second place.

Skeeve had for selections in play for the FTL entry, but only Cambridge United won, but at odds-on which meant a loss on the weekend. With his official selections (starting the weekend in 14th place) having Cambridge in a university double with Oxford, who failed to win, these fared even worse with all three losing. Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, Skeeve's FTL entry currently leads the race for the first place prize money, in profit for the season by just 1.36 points but in third place overall.

Last week's fourth placed XX Draws had a frustrating weekend, with the 'ghost goal' in the Hoffenheim v Bayer Leverkusen proving to be an inauspicious start, which was followed up by no less than five wins being taken away after the 80th minute. Schalke '04 scored in the 91st minute to win 3-2, Nantes scored in the 87th minute to win 1-0, Atalanta in the 84th to win 2-1, Sampdoria scored a 96th minute penalty to win 2-1, (after Livorno had tied it up in the 92nd minute) and Hellas Verona an 88th minute penalty to win 3-2. And of course when the tie-breaker is the third goal the loss is taken on the Under bets too, and even more annoying when it goes in via the side-netting! In the short term luck is always a factor, but the net result was that of the 20 selections (a record number) only 5 finished level for a 2.30 point loss on the weekend - but still in profit on the season. By 0.02 points! They stay in fourth place.

In fifth place after last week was Emp, who as I wrote earlier had high expectations for the weekend. "Plenty of absolute slam-dunks this weekend, and I'd be amazed if I didn't win at least 5 points....." Well, in the end he went 14-13 from 27 selections and made 5.73 points, enough to climb into first place but more than two months into the season and despite a final warning last week, he has still not come up with the entry fee, so in order to maintain the integrity of the FTL and be fair on everyone his entry will be ineligible for the cash prizes. Just £25 via PayPal for months of entertainment, and maybe some money. Where are the rest of you? The standard is really rather low! Although due to the lack of official prices, European games are ineligible for the FTL, Emp did also manage to select away wins for Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea last night.

Last week's sixth place was Peter Nordsted's Drawmaster, but he too fell victim on a couple of selections to the late goal and dropped four points with all four selections losses.

Debutant Murphy's Law was effectively seventh at the start of play this weekend, but it has to be said that his opening weekend wasn't the best. Six losses from six on Saturday before Tottenham Hotspur's win at Aston Villa started a recovery. Unfortunately it was short lived, and Crystal Palace duly lost on Monday night.

Forza Fizzer in eighth place had one winner (Crewe Alexandra) from five selections for a small loss at the weekend, but one winner from two last night to make back a little, but still a drop to 11th.

My Bundeslayga system had just the one selection, a lay of Eintracht Frankfurt v Nuremberg and one game where the late goal worked in our favour for a small profit. They move up two places to seventh.

Fairfranco was in tenth place and had 16 selections on the weekend with five winners and 0.09 points profit, but he added on nicely with another 1.65 points last night and moves up to sixth not too far back at all.

The Football Analyst didn't have his best weekend with eleven selections, none of first ten won which had me extremely concerned, not because of the losses I incurred, but because the eleventh and final selection was Crystal Palace. The inevitable happened, I lost more money and Crystal Palace missed their chance to gain some momentum in their . Graeme had 10 more selections last night (11 actually but Wycombe's match was abandoned) and one winner, but at a good price (Carlisle United at 6.01) meaning the loss last night was only 4.99 points. With 13 entries ahead of him. Graeme's liability on his bounty promise once again goes up and now sits at £325 as he drops 8 places to 18th.

Twelfth placed Football Elite had two winners from six selections, but for FTL purposes, one of Matt's Draw No Bet selections will also count as win as a lay of Liverpool came in. FE make 1.51 points on the weekend.

Fedslam in 13th lost 1.64 points, while 15th placed Webbo dropped 2 points.

16th placed Scatter Gun fired ten blanks this weekend and describes his pain here.

17th placed Rubicon had a strong weekend finding four EPL winners out of six and making 5.67 points.

18th placed Premier Betting's woes continued with just two winners from seven and a loss for the FTL entry of 3.87 points while the 'official ' bets in 20th place lost just 3.48 points.

19th Punter's Friend won 5 from 19 and lost 7.09 points and drops below Premier Betting into last place.

All in all a tough weekend for most people, and the overall record of -121.27 points combined shows how tough it is to make a steady profit from football. Big guns Football Elite, Skeeve, Premier Betting and The Football Analyst are all struggling so far, but with more than three-quarters of the season still to play, nothing is settled yet. Here's the table:

As always, errors are always a possibility so please let me know if you see anything wrong and I will fix it.

John Walsh is also struggling to make a profit with his NFL selections, with another losing weekend (-3.14 points).
But the NHL is going tremendously right now for him:

Monday 21 October 2013

Results Optamisation

The debate about goal expectancy based pricing models rumbles on, with much of the conversation having moved to that of in-play models. To reiterate my opinion on trading football in-play, unless you are an expert reader of football and / or have a sophisticated model that can price the game accurately as events unfold, your time is better spent elsewhere. The average person is highly unlikely to be able to consistently find an edge. There is a lot of smart competition out there. Pre-game, the playground is much fairer, and as I wrote before, even though you can never predict how any single game will unfold, you can predict how they will turn out 'on average'. Anyway, here are some comments, starting with James who wrote:

Your goal expectancy should already include the 'game state' information - just not with the correct weightings.
I would like to know where Emp gets the data for all of those highly different situations. As far as I am aware the only place to get goals data (and more importantly shots data) given the game state are companies like Opta. Unless anybody else knows any good sources?
I'm not sure that there would be much improvement anyway, or should I say enough to justify the extra effort required.
James then added:
On a separate note - does anybody combine the XX draws selections with any bookmaker promotions?
I have no idea how people use the XX Draw selections. I imagine the profits from them are used for any number of quality of life enhancements, but how and where they are applied will likely vary. For some, they are probably best used to mitigate the Betfair Premium Charges, and some may well use them as part of a portfolio approach. Comments welcome, preferably after we have had a profitable weekend!

As for the first part, I think the Pareto Principle comes in here. As James says, it is likely that very little improvement would come from the significant effort needed to handle all of Emp's game states. Several full-time enterprises are engaged in this, and most of us do not have either the time or resources to get close to competing.

Anonymous says:
Think you may have missed the point Cassini.
Expectation of a goal is known to be dependent on the current score and there are variables in a game that can not be controlled that will accelerate and impede goal production.
It is the game state that will effect accuracy and shot on target production so if for example the game is 1-0 at half time to the home team you can look historically to see how this effects shot on target production to the home team and the away team in the second half and again should the game go 1-1 at any time you can repeat the process.
No model is perfect but the trap you are falling into is to not accept that in play models are far more precise then the static pre off models because you can react to the events such as a red card and an early away goal and 1-0 half time game state if you understand how they effect shot on target production and accuracy.
I never meant to imply that pre-game modes were more accurate than in-play models - only that as said earlier, the effort to develop the former is a lot less than the latter, and that the in-play model is up against serious competition.

Emp clarified his analogy of cricket and run expectancy by saying:
Sorry for the added comment, but I feel that I may not have made my point in the best way when giving my cricket analogy.
What I was trying to say with cricket is that playing styles depend heavily on situations. For instance, you can compute M.S. Dhoni's strike rate and averages, and contrast those with the bowlers economy rate and average. That particular calculation won't yield a reliable prediction of whether a team of 11 M.S. Dhoni's is likely to achieve a particular target. Why not? Because his averages and strike-rates are a cumulative of his performance over various highly different situations. Batsmen don't bat the same way with 25 overs and 5 wickets left as they would with 5 overs and 7 wickets left.
Similarly, and this is the point I was making, football teams don't play the same way when they are leading by two goals and when they are level with 15 minutes left. Stronger teams in particular, are disproportionately likely to score goals (at a rate above their goal expectancy) when the situation absolutely requires them to score.

There's no question at all that a highly accurate goal expectancy model (like Cassini's) will be very profitable, there's no way I was suggesting he should scrap it. What I was saying that an equally sophisticated model that measures relative strength of teams by analysing results (not based on these goal expectancy methods) could be equally effective.
I still contend that any model which ignores goal expectancy is, by definition, unsophisticated. Results in football are very often inaccurate reflections of the game and analysis of results may be of academic interest, but it is not a solid footing for making investment decisions.

Anonymous had this to say about Emp's comment:
"Similarly, and this is the point I was making, football teams don't play the same way when they are leading by two goals and when they are level with 15 minutes left. Stronger teams in particular, are disproportionately likely to score goals (at a rate above their goal expectancy) when the situation absolutely requires them to score."
There is no data to confirm that the above is true .
"What I was saying that an equally sophisticated model that measures relative strength of teams by analysing results (not based on these goal expectancy methods) could be equally effective."
I worked for a football trading house and for pre off they use POWER Models i.e. player rating and in running they use Shot Strength data which is manually keyed .
All models are based on relative strength of teams or goal expectancy.
What other method would there be?
What Emp confirms is the lack of knowledge of the effect of game state during the game for the simple reason that people do not look at the data.
There is data and there is interpretation.
Unusually, I fully agree with Anonymous on this, - "all models are based on relative strength of teams or goal expectancy".

His "football trading house" comment also confirms what I have said about the competition that you are up against in-running. That's not to say pre-game is easy - just easier, in that you have more time to analyse data, and that prices are far less volatile than in-play prices.

Saturday 19 October 2013

Le Mieux Est L'Ennemi Du Bien

Emp has a different perspective on goal expectancies. After contrasting the nature of football with cricket and the NFL, completely irrelevantly because the games are not even close in style or format, he writes:

Football isn't remotely like that though. Teams aren't equally likely to score throughout the game since they can bolster their defence by squandering attacking chances, throw everyone forward and everything in between. I refuse to believe that all of those highly different situations have goal expectancies that are even remotely close to each other.
Secondly, which strategy the teams will use is highly dependant on the score-line at the time, and thus a static goal-expectancy cannot be the most accurate way of doing this. I know it can still be profitable, but that's very different from it being optimal or theoretically correct. This is looking at batting stats and calculating "run expectancy" would do much worse than an experienced cricket fan just watching and betting based on his understanding.
Also, your final para attacks a rather ragged straw-man. No one who was using a model based on those considerations would use such crude categorizations or stats. I saw you making fun of a system based on this which was hilariously crude, but that doesn't mean one can't classify teams in an intelligent manner. Alas, I don't want to divulge too many details of how my model works, so I won't go in depth, but I will say that performances of "Team Type X" vs "Team Type Y" are in my opinion a more accurate determinant of the result of a football match then any goal expectancy model.
Clearly any one match can be approached by the two teams in a number of ways, and depending on the current score, may well change their in-play approach, but pre-game goal expectancies should be arrived at after looking at a number of factors. The fact that the closing lines are so accurate is a reflection of the ability for number crunchers to estimate very accurate expectancies.

Once a game goes in-play those estimates may or may not prove to be in line with expectations but Emp’s assertion that the observed and the expected aren’t “even remotely close to each other” is somewhat off target. The expectation may be for the home team to score 1.5 – and of course on occasion this may not even be close, e.g they score 6, but this long-term average will be close to 1.5. If it’s not, your model needs some work.

Games where the expected isn’t remotely close to the actual, are called outliers. West Bromwich Albion’s 5-5 draw with Manchester United on the last day of the 2012-13 season was an outlier. Occurring as it did on the last day of the season, with many teams final placing already set, such matches do tend to be played in a more open style, but even so a ten goal draw was quite unexpected.

United’s 1-6 home defeat to Manchester City a couple of seasons ago was an outlier. United hadn’t conceded six at home since 1930, but such results happen once in a “blue moon”, (it’s why we play the games), but the average over a large number of matches will be very close to expectations.

Emp does understand that once a game is in play, the current score affects the goal expectancies of the teams. Goals beget goals as the saying goes, meaning that, as John Haigh puts it: “the more goals that have already been scored up to the present time, the greater the average number of goals in the rest of the match”.

It’s also well known, and statistically proven that more goals are scored later in a game, “but these two points are second order factors: by and large, the simple model which assumes that goals come along at random at some average rate, and irrespective of the score, fits the data quite well”.

It’s important to understand that your estimates of goal expectancies are not always going to be correct. That would be an impossible task, but what is quite possible is to come up with reasonably close predictions.

I mentioned earlier that if your model isn’t close to the actual results being observed, you need to change it. I keep track of all my spreadsheet’s expectations, and make sure that (long-term) they are close to the actual results. Obviously you need a large amount of data before drawing any conclusions, but if your expectation is for a team to score 1.5 (on average) then after a few hundred observations, the average should be very close to 1.5. If it is 1.0 and your 1.4 expectation is actually 0.9 and your 1.3 is 0.8 etc., you are clearly expecting too much, and you need to look at your numbers. In this case perhaps increase your zero-inflation?

Anonymous commented that:
Expectation of a goal is dependent on the current score and all the variables that are known to impede and accelerate goal production such as a red card and a early away goal. The flaw in any model based on goal expectancy is that a) goal to shot on target ratio is not consistent game by game and b) there is not a predictive model that can predict the early away goal or the red card or lack of motivation or human error etc.
Some good points on the surface, but Anonymous falls into the trap first noted poetically by Voltaire, who wrote:
Dans ses écrits, un sage Italien
Dit que le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.
The best is the enemy of the good”, although it is probably just a coincidence that Voltaire should write of ‘a wise Italian saying this in his writings’... Probably.

Indeed goal expectancy will change as the drama of the game unfolds but no model will ever be perfect. If such a model could be created, no one would be interested in football any more. Football isn’t meant to be predictable. It is the unpredictable, random, variable nature of the sport that makes it the world’s most popular game, but the inability to develop a perfect model isn’t a reason not to develop a good model, and not being perfect doesn’t make it flawed in the sense that it is invalid. Yes, it is ‘flawed’ in the sense that it isn’t perfect, it won’t predict every result correctly, but a model isn’t designed to predict one match correctly.

There are a lot of football matches played, and if your model – on average – can identify value, then by any measure, that is a success. You don’t give up on it just because in a game or two, there was an early away goal, or a red card or a header into the side-netting was erroneously awarded as a goal and your predictions were 'losers' as a result (even if the game is replayed as seems likely*). Of course these things will happen, but you accept them as part of the game, and sometimes these unexpected events work in your favour anyway.

I keep track of the number of times one of my XX Draw wins is taken away after the 80th minute (so far this season ) and while it’s annoying, in the long-term it is balanced out by late goals that generate a win from a previously losing position. It would be ridiculous to scrap a model that has been profitable over 1,803 games just because it didn’t predict that Valencia would score a 90’+4’ goal and ruin a perfect draw. Look at the big picture, accept that your model will never be perfect but go ahead and build something good anyway.

My XX Draws have already had results such as 0-7, 6-1 and 6-2 this season, which taken on their own would be somewhat embarrassing, but when you see these outlier results in the context of the total 1,803 matches, they are more easily accepted. And the 5-5 draw I mentioned earlier was actually an XX Draw selection, an example of how the unexpected can sometimes work for you.

* The game in question was an XX Draw selection, so arguably this 'ghost goal' cost me a winner.  Rudi Völler, Leverkusen's sporting director, said: 
"We're so embarrassed that the goal was given, but we can't be held responsible. Hoffenheim have spent such a lot of money on a nice stadium. Maybe next time they should buy some proper nets."

Opinion Divided

With a couple of high-profile exceptions, the FTL entrants tend to focus on the English Premier League. Skeeve and The Football Analyst look lower down the English leagues, while Football Elite and myself look at the big five leagues in Europe, but the majority of focus is on the EPL, and it’s interesting to see the differences in opinion for where the value lies. Not only that, but some matches are pretty much ignored, while others show up in the selections of several people.

This weekend is a typical example. Every game has at least two opinions, with three matches having five – Manchester United v Southampton, Stoke City v West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace v Fulham.

In the Manchester United v Southampton game, opinion is split with two going for the home win, two for the away win and one for the draw.

Stoke City v West Bromwich Albion is similar, with two draws, two away wins and one home.

And the Monday Night clash between London titans Crystal Palace and Fulham sees no one going for the draw, two (including The Football Analyst) picking Palace and three choosing Fulham. I actually have Fulham just three points higher than Palace in the Elo ratings, and a win would likely see Fulham drop to the bottom.

We have a new entry this week, as Murphy’s Law makes his debut, and another £25 in the pot raises the cash prizes for the top four.

A couple of entrants both asked within hours of each other whether they could vary their staking so that they could put more points on their bigger value selections. I’m going to say no for three reasons. 1) This could easily get out of hand if we had no limit, with nothing to stop someone putting a million points on a selection knowing that coming last with minus a million points means as much as with minus twenty. 2) It’s easier to administer the table with a fixed liability on each bet and 3) I don’t want to 'do a Betfair', and move the goal posts while the season is in full swing.

Next season is a way off, but were I to do this again, I might think about the £25 entry fee buying you 25 points, for you to invest as you wish. Lose your points, and you can buy in again perhaps.

Emp was one of the people asking about this, and I’m sure he won’t mind my sharing some of his comments. 

“If you can allow for variable staking, please add double the points for the last two selections, those represent enormous value”
– the two selections being Tottenham Hotspur (@ Aston Villa) and Fulham. He also wanted to double up on Queens Park Rangers (@ Millwall), Bayer Leverkusen (@ Hoffenheim - somewhat fortunate winners last night), and Wolfsburg (@ Augsburg).

Emp concludes with a very confident “Plenty of absolute slam-dunks this weekend, and I’d be amazed if I didn’t win at least 5 points….”

We shall see.

For those interested in the surging TFA's selections, they are:
Forest Green Rovers (@ Grimsby Town)
Welling United (@ FC Halifax Town)
Woking (@ Wrexham)
Colchester United (@ Brentford)
Rotherham United (@ Milton Keynes Dons)
Coventry City (@ Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Plymouth Argyle (@ Hartlepool United)
York City (@ Newport County)
Bury (@ Portsmouth)
Birmingham City (@ Leeds United)
Crystal Palace (v Fulham)

Wednesday 16 October 2013

High Calibre

The "Donate" button on this blog must be a contender for the Internet's Least Used Button, or at least was until yesterday, when I noticed an extra £25 in my PayPal account. I won't mention any names, but it's nice to receive a tangible appreciation for my efforts. In this case, the reason given was:

Wow thanks for your very solid deconstruction of Iverson's crap app.
While much of what I write is intended to stimulate some debate, and to put ideas out there that will enable people to make some money, saving people from losing money is just as good I guess, and I appreciate the recognition. The generous gentleman and myself haven't always agreed on everything in the past, in fact quite the contrary, so the gesture was even more unexpected and appreciated. 

My faith in humanity is restored and although there was initially, and understandably, some disappointment that the Nobel committee decided to award this year's prize for Economics to Eugene Fama, Lars Peter Hansen and Robert Shiller for their "empirical analysis of asset prices", this donation has helped cheer me up and I remain optimistic that 2014's prize will be mine for my "empirical analysis of football prices". I'm not sure the prize is awarded via PayPal, but I shall make sure my credit ceiling is raised just in case.

My new friend continued:
I have a lot of time for Mark's blog but the problem in this game is you never know people's real situation or motivation.
Fundamentally I have very similar views to you in that I see football as a very difficult nut to crack. As you yourself have said the big problem is there is such a big shift in odds upon a goal and goals are infrequent. I mean if this were racing it would be like backing a horse having just seen it smash through a fence.
I will have to re-read the posts but it's great to see such a high calibre of posts recently. I really liked that one about team x v team y being more important than goal expectancy which is very much how I see things myself, not that I have any data to prove it!
I've had a couple of good comments on goal expectancy, although no additional inputs for the equation, and pricing up football matches, and have a post drafted on another computer, but for today, only a rather mundane update on John Walsh's NFL and NHL selections I'm afraid.
The NFL selections had another loser on the Monday night game as the Indianapolis Colts did not beat the San Diego Chargers, and his NFL returns on the season dip into the negative, but his NHL success continued with two regulation time winners from three last night. The New York Islanders lost in overtime after leading 3-2 with 2:01 remaining in regulation, a result which gave the Buffalo Sabres their first win of the season.

Monday 14 October 2013

Patriots Altar Saintly Outcome

It was not a good weekend for Mr. Walsh, or more specifically his NFL selections. Three winners and four losers so far, for a guaranteed loss on the weekend even if the Monday Night Football selection obliges.

John was a bit unlucky really. The Carolina Panthers @ Minnesota Vikings bet lost by a point, and only a last minute comeback from the New England Patriots saved them from a defeat to the New Orleans Saints. The unbeaten Denver Broncos versus the win-less Jacksonville Jaguars wasn't quite the 26 point thrashing the market expected, with the Broncos winning by 16. 

As for the FTL, the numbers for the weekend are updated and the big winners were Forza Fizzer (up 5 points) closely followed by The Football Analyst who gained 4.62. Skeeve made a profit as did Punters' Friend Neil, and debutant Fairfranco opened with a 2.55 point loss. Scatter Gun lost 3.60 points and dropped 7 places.

With Fairfranco's entry fee added, first place (XX Draws Under 2.5) is now worth £200, second place (Skeeve) £100, third (XX Draws) £60 and fourth place (Emp) £40. The Football Analyst moves into tenth place with only eight entries ahead of him now eligible for a £25 bounty bonus. There is one minor error in the Amateurs total in the image below, (forgot to include Fairfranco) but that has been resolved. Please let me know if there are any other mistakes, and I will address them. 

Sunday 13 October 2013

Inputs Needed

Jesse Livermore, the Boy Plunger, wrote:

At the risk of over quoting:
"Football prices are derived from goal expectancies, the current score and the time remaining, and with occasional blips where a goal is more probable, the trend is pre-determined."
"Whether they should be is debatable."
"How is this debatable?"
It's debatable because one might say:
The prices are real, the goal expectancies can be derived from prices using the inputs you mentioned, some you didn't and A MODEL. If someone has a different, better model (or believes one exists), or believes the model is bad then he would think prices should not be derived from goal expectancies etc.
Prices are indeed real, the current score is real, and any unknown in the equation can be solved if you know the other values, but what are these other inputs to the equation that I didn't mention?
18: The Cassini Formula?

The Black-Scholes formula uses five inputs for pricing options, while a similar model for football prices is unlikely to win a Nobel Prize for Ecomomics, the three inputs I have listed are all you need. The short term nature of the match means we can safely ignore risk-free interest rates.  

A model is just a fancy name for a tool that process the inputs you have. Pre-game you have 90 minutes of 'playing' time remaining, you have your estimated goal expectancies and from those inputs you can derive your prices. Or you can reverse engineer your model, and use price data to give you the goal expectancies per the market.

If you don't derive your prices from goal expectancy, what do you derive them from? It seems to me that any model that doesn't use goal expectancies is, because of its simplistic nature, unlikely to be profitable in the long term. For example, that a team placed placed between fifth and eighth has historically beaten a team placed 16th or below 60% of the time might be an interesting tidbit for readers of a match preview, but is it enough to justify lumping on if the price is available above the implied 1.67?

Value Is Not An Option

A couple of intelligent comments on the debate of subjective versus objective analysis as it relates to football. Bayes is well known on the Betfair Forum and his thoughts are always well worth reading, and he had this to say:

I'm afraid I'm with The Investor on this one.

You are correct that match odds are determined by goal expectancy, but pre off goal expectation for both sides can be very different from what's observed. The market tends to be pretty slow at picking this up (although it's getting quicker) and good match readers have a decent edge.
In the glory days of Betfair treating their big customers like royalty, they took me and a few others to Roland Garros. It was 2008 and one of the punters there was a young guy who had a huge edge in pre off football. He was a mathematician but the crux of his edge was that he watched lots of live lower league football and recordings of all UK televised football. I'm sure he used some maths as well, but his edge was largely based on his subjective judgement.
No need to be afraid - the Investor is as much respected as Bayes is, and I am just facilitating a debate on this topic.

A match could very well begin in a style which the market wasn't expecting, but while I don't look at games in play these days, certainly in the past it was extremely rare to see the Unders price drift from the opening kick-off without a goal actually being scored, or conversely drop like a stone. It would sometimes stall, but never for too long due to the downward pressure from the time component, but if the goal expectancy was significantly different to pre-game, shouldn't either of these movements have been easily observable in these markets?

Perhaps this is what Bayes means by the market being slow at picking these up, but markets usually adjust pretty quickly, especially liquid ones with thousands of eyes watching and trading the games, and I'm just not sure how much opportunity there is for 'good match readers' to make decent profits in football. Other sports where 'genuine' trading happens (prices move more gently depending on the events being observed) I agree.

To the second part of Bayes' comment, I absolutely agree that in lower leagues this is very possible, but the debate was specifically related to 'big markets'. If you specialise in an area in which there is less interest, then it is clearly much easier to be an expert. I recall reading a few years ago about someone who specialised in the lower Scottish Leagues, watching games in person, building relationships with clubs and players and essentially becoming all-knowing about these leagues. The trick is finding a balance between being an expert but where there is little or no money and being knowledgeable, but less of an expert due to the number of rivals you have, in leagues where there is more money - 'big markets'.

Anecdotal piece here: I noticed yesterday that my son's former team of Chipstead were listed in Betfair's FA Cup matches. Not too many people watch Chipstead play, so the number of 'experts' is few, but was there any money to be made? When I looked pre-off, 1.02 was available on all three options (although given the result, that might have been value for the away option!). The point though is that there is a minimum level where you expertise can be viably profitable, and probably that is around the Football Conference level.

Emp is alive and well, and chimed in with a comment on the same topic:
"Football prices are derived from goal expectancies, the current score and the time remaining, and with occasional blips where a goal is more probable, the trend is pre-determined."
Whether they should be is debatable. My system doesn't care at all about "goal expectancies" for instance. I think this argument is coming perilously close to begging the question.
"The sporting markets are different, but one similarity would be that it seems unlikely that someone making little to no use of data would be able to consistently identify 'incorrect odds' and have a real and long-term edge over a more sophisticated (in technical / data terms) and professional (in every sense of the word) rival trader in a big market"
According to this logic, there is a 1:1 (or close) correspondence between the complexity of the data used and accuracy of your predictions. That's a very debatable conclusion. Even if professional firms use complex data, they can still be analysing it in the wrong way and asking the wrong questions. In fact, institutional hierarchies and group think make it very difficult to reverse such behaviour if it's there.
Finally if all your liquidity and prices come from goal expectancy models, the edge of people using them should theoretically constantly diminish (to the point that deviations from your expectancy are more likely to be due to valid circumstantial differences than due to mispricing).
While there is always more than one way to skin a cat, the only way you can be profitable long-term is by identifying value, and to do this you need to be able to price up matches, i.e. you need to be able to accurately determine the probabilities of various outcomes and compare these with the market. If professional firms are analysing it in the wrong way, their results will show this and the model will need to be improved.

"Whether they should be is debatable"? How is this debatable? I am not saying that the goal expectancy is static. As Bayes noted, this number may well change in-play, (and pre-game as team line-up news, injuries, tactical news filters out) but as option prices can be determined using the Black–Scholes–Merton formula, so prices in football markets can be determined using the parameters I listed. The Black-Scholes-Merton formula has been proven to be 'fairly close' to the actual prices, and the even the observed 'volatility smile' identified might be a parallel to market movements seen in football when there is a breakaway, a 'free-kick just outside the box', a corner, possible red-card, injury etc.  Incidentally, unlike many sports, the time remaining is also a variable in football, and I suspect the likely amount of time added on is an opportunity, but the formula holds regardless.

The issue of how complex the data used should be is another thing. Again a balance needs to be struck. Most of us do not have the time or ability to look at data beyond a certain point, and the usefulness of some data points is debatable anyway. Possession is a good example. In my opinion, the raw possession percentage is meaningless. The type of possession is what is relevant, and this information is generally not freely available.

As for liquidity coming from goal expectancy models, I'm not sure where this comes from. Money comes in from individuals or entities who either believe they have identified value, or want to back their favourite team or have an interest in a match. I doubt that too many casual punters have priced the games up using goal expectancies, but anyone serious about winning will have done so.

Successful long-term betting isn't about finding winners - it's about identifying value and doing this subjectively is a lot harder than doing it objectively - in my opinion.

Unsophisticated v Quants

The Investor stopped by with an opinion on Analytical's Spiders comment that:

I find it highly unlikely there are many if any serious bettors betting weekly on the big leagues, using their opinion and making long term profits. I've never met or heard of any and I've met a few having been a full-time trader/gambler for 10 years.
Well they are certainly there. In play they are the match readers, and pre off there are also people making money from incorrect odds in big markets without using sophisticated databases, stats and quantitative info.
On the subject of match readers being serious investors, my doubts about this are that football is such a well studied and popular sport that it is unlikely that on any game with decent liquidity, i.e. being watched and traded by thousands, that any one individual is going to spot a significant edge that no one else has spotted. It's always possible, but they might be better employed managing the England team.

Football prices are derived from goal expectancies, the current score and the time remaining, and with occasional blips where a goal is more probable, the trend is pre-determined. Markets for many (most) other team sports are much more influenced by 'readable' factors, but football is unique in many ways. It is low scoring, substitutes are limited, once a player is replaced they can't come back, there are no time-outs, and no foul-trouble (well, yellow cards I guess), and no official reviews of critical situations.

Now if a football match starts and the pre-game goal expectancies are looking wrong, the market will of course adjust, but to me it seems incredibly arrogant to think that you have the ability to recognise that before all the other watching the same game.

The problem with trading football is that you need liquidity to make it worth while, but when you get the liquidity, your chances of finding an edge are reduced. I have no idea whether or not football professionals (not necessarily players) trade games or not, but it's unlikely that none do, and it's even more unlikely that I know more about football than they do. We might like to think we are experts, but few of us really are, and it's why I long ago gave up trying to trade football. I do think that there are often scenarios where someone with an understanding of probability can profit, but again, you're not the only one trying to do this.

For pre-off trading, I know personally that there is at least one professional set up profiting from the big leagues in Europe, (in this case the Dutch league), but they are a full-time operation with several employees and making extensive use of data. I do find it hard to believe that there are too many serious investors out there competing against such sophisticated organisations using only a subjective opinion, although what the definition of 'serious' in this context is should probably be established. 

I think a look at the financial world of day-trading is probably relevant here. In the days of the Dot-com bubble, many of us probably knew at least one person who gave up a career to day-trade full-time. It was easy money, with tech stocks on an upward trend, but the bubble burst, as bubbles tend to do, and I do not know a single day-trader these days. 

What made it viable for that short time wasn't that these full-time amateurs had an edge over the full-time professional traders, but that their gambles were kept profitable by the rising market. 

I remember asking my former chemist acquaintance how he could possibly think that he (looking at a blinking screen) could have an edge over the full-time traders fully aware of what orders and why, were coming in to the market.

The sporting markets are different, but one similarity would be that it seems unlikely that someone making little to no use of data would be able to consistently identify 'incorrect odds' and have a real and long-term edge over a more sophisticated (in technical / data terms) and professional (in every sense of the word) rival trader in a big market.  

Saturday 12 October 2013

Chester Draw, Stars Shine

A few lower league aficionados were in action today, led by Top Guns Skeeve and The Football Analyst. Both made gains, no official prices yet but Skeeve found a perfect draw in the Chester v Cambridge United game but again split his Gateshead / Hereford double. Good for his FTL entry though, as Gateshead should be priced above evens. TFA Graeme will be in profit after finding five winners from thirteen including Crewe Alexandra at an outstanding 6.8 for me at least. I was out for the afternoon, and looking at the results thought I had about broken even, so it was a pleasant surprise to see a positive movement in my balance.

The TFA has one more selection tomorrow - Barnet v Wrexham.

Debuant Fairfranco started his FTL campaign with a loss finding one winner (Leyton Orient) but four losers. Forza Fizzer also picked Leyton Orient and two other winners to go three from four and make a profit. The benefits of using an official price is shown here incidentally, with the price for Leyton Orient listed at both 1.97 and  2.6.

Punters' Friend Neil moved away from draws this week, and found five winners from eleven selections. Not sure if that'll be a profit or not yet, but Neil has a couple of selections tomorrow anyway - Coventry City v Sheffield United and Bradford City v Tranmere Rovers.

John Walsh's NHL selections continue to be profitable. The Pittsburgh Penguins failed to win last night, but the Dallas Stars more than made up for it winning at 3.0 (although I was 'only' able to get matched at 2.72).

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Chester, Draws And Flyers

Three entrants had selections in last night’s full schedule of Conference Premier matches.

Forza Fizzer went for Dartford (v Salisbury City) and Kidderminster Harriers (v Forest Green Rovers), The Football Analyst went for away wins – Nuneaton Town (@ FC Halifax Town) and Chester (@ Alfreton Town) and Punters’ Friend went for the draw in the Lincoln City v Tamworth game.

Everyone made money with wins for Kidderminster and Chester while Neil extends his winning run of draws to two and moves out of last place. The Football Analyst reduced his bounty liability by £50 after moving up a couple of places. The bottom third of the table now looks like this:
John Walsh had two NHL selections last night, Pittsburgh Penguins (1.8) v Carolina Hurricanes and San Jose Sharks (2.03) v New York Rangers. Both won easily - the Penguins 5-2 and the Sharks 9-2, so John is off to a flier this season, unlike the Flyers of Philadelphia who dumped their head coach after losing the first three games of the season. As often seems to be the way, they won the fourth game under a new head coach last night. 

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Defining Moment

As promised, here is a more detailed look at the FTL table as we have a quiet spell ahead of us due to the international matches. Scott (Rubicon) noticed that the FTL table was missing his (losing) results from the weekend, and this oversight has been fixed. In my defence, I should say that the results were entered and the error would have been caught, but thanks to Scott for showing his integrity and dropping himself down four places.

FTL Table Updated 8.Oct.13
From the top down, the XX Draws Under 2.5 selections hold on to first place, adding 0.52 points to their total after 7 winners from 13 selections. First place is currently worth £212.50 including the £25 bounty from The Football Analyst.

The Cassini Value selections stay in second place with a small profit on the weekend’s three selections, and up to third after propping up the table as recently as 17th September are the XX Draws.

Five winners this weekend following on from six winners from 12 last weekend, and the seasons ratings and form appear to have settled down nicely. In the red by 17.85 points on 14th September, that they are now in profit at the often tight official odds from Pinnacle is very pleasing. Even with commission, the exchange prices are often significantly higher, but using Pinnacle across the board does make the relative merits of each service or entry more transparent.

Emp was inactive this weekend and drops down one place. He has mentioned some health issues in the past so I am hoping that this is not the reason for the lack of selections.

Skeeve had six qualifying selections, finding three winners but dropping 0.58 points and one place. Still good enough for fourth place though.

His strategy of linking bets in doubles lends some volatility to his results, and as a result his official selections are currently down in 12th place, down 5.35 points.

Peter Nordsted’s Drawmaster continues to be profitable, with another winner from three selections this past weekend making 0.69 points and dropping one place.

The Bundeslayga System had its best weekend of the season with two winning lays from three and a profit of 3.34 points. The lay of Wolfsburg at an official 1.32 (Pinnacle's 1.28 + 0.04) was the big winner, but Stuttgart also failed to win. Bundeslayga moves up five places.

After three weeks in the doldrums, Scatter Gun shot back with five winners from his weekly ten, and a 4.8 point gain moves him up eight places to 8th.

Football Elite moves up one place to 9th after finding two winners from four and making 0.82 points. Perhaps Matt should stick to Ligue 1, which is where four of his five winners this season have come from. He would be up 3.53 rather than down 3.82!

In tenth place is Fedslam whose two winners from eight were not enough to prevent dropping down three places and 2.78 points.

Webbo sits in 11th place, after dropping 5.15 points and five places, Forza Fizzer dropped 2.56 points to 13th and Rubicon (Honest Scott) is now in 14th after dropping 4.64 points.

Peter Nordsted had another poor weekend, and his official service account bets (using his prices) are now down 17.79 points on the season and in 17th place. As discussed previously in this blog, Peter’s placing several eggs in one basket is proving to be costly.

I certainly don’t understand the strategy myself. As I have pointed out, if Under 2.5 is value, then it means that the market has the goal expectancies too high, and every Under bet will be value. It should then simply be a case of betting at the price at which your tolerance for risk is best matched. Many people seem to find the right balance around the evens mark, but if you have an aversion to the length of losing runs probable at this level, then it is fine to adjust your market of choice to a more suitable one. Perhaps you like the higher returns of the Under 1.5 market and can accept the longer losing runs at this level, or maybe you are far more conservative and prefer the steady flow of smaller wins with shorter losing runs found in the Under 3.5 market. Any approach is fine, but I just don’t understand spreading essentially the same bet across multiple markets. Why not simply increase your stake on the market you prefer?

One comment said:
I don't mean to be Rude but I think Pete is doing the betting technique of going for a cluster of bets in one game to get out of trouble which generally leads to further long term loss .
For the FTL table, selections of any under or over bets are rolled together and use the recorded 2.5 goals market price. This strategy would have seen the losses on Peter’s Premier Betting Account Bets trimmed to just 8.6 points, good enough for 15th place. It may well be that the poor performance of the Account Bets is a blip, but as has been suggested, the strategy of clustering bets is a risky one.

The Football Analyst had his long overdue ‘weekendus mirabilis’ finding seven winners from twelve selections and recouping roughly a little over half of his previous losses. Although the upward move in places is just two, in terms of points another weekend of 10.74 points and Matt will be in the prize money and the bounty liability significantly reduced. His current bonus liability stands at £300.

Everyone, in fact, bar Punters’ Friend who had a poor weekend hunting draws. Only the last of his 13 selections (West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal) finished even, so at least Neil is now on a winning streak!

Scott mentioned in his email that:
I am surprised that your myriad variations on the XX theme as well as other ‘professionals’ are eligible for prize money!  :) 
I am certainly not professional – more on that subject later – but I do take a professional approach to my hobby. I believe Skeeve, Peter Nordsted (Drawmaster / Premier Betting) and Matt (Football Elite) are full-time (I could be wrong) but if anyone wants to contribute £25 to the pot, then they are in, professional or not. Skeeve and Peter chipped in, although Matt has stayed out and thus Football Elite isn’t eligible for prize or bounty money.

Although it is still early in the season, we’re getting to the stage where we can’t keep saying that it is early in the season, but so far the professionals are certainly not distinguishing themselves.

If last year is any guide, there is no guarantee that, even over a full season, the cream of the professionals will rise to the top. Pete Nordsted's Drawmaster finished best of the non-XX Draw entries in 5th place +14.41 points, while his Premier Betting service was up 1.65 points. Football Elite finished 2012-13 down 13.25 points. Excluding myself and TFA from the 'Amateur' category, here are some numbers:
2012-13 End of Season Summary
2013-14 7.Oct.2013 Summary
John Walsh’s NFL bets continue to be profitable overall, although he lost two points with just two winners from six this weekend.

The NHL season is still raw, but two winners from four selections is a decent start, and on the first one, I was actually matched at 5.0 with the official record price a mere 2.3

Fortunately, I am not following NBA Tips with any money. The error in the total number of games in a season didn’t fill me with confidence, and without meaning to appear rude, they appear not to have any idea about the purpose of pre-season games. Theses games are not played anything like a regular season NBA game. Rare is the coach who gives a darn about the result. One notable exception last year was Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson who said he wanted to win, and they won all six I believe. This year, with a proven winning team, he has said that he doesn’t care about winning, and has joined pretty much every other coach in using the games for establish the playing roster, easing players with previous injuries gently back into action, and trying out a few new ideas and tactics. Play tends to be sloppy, especially the first couple of games with timing off and players just not game ready.

I did try to point out via Twitter to NBA Tips that their selection of Over 201.5 for Sunday night’s Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets game might be suspect with no relevant data, and their response was, let’s say, a little naïve and of course, no supporting data.
“With regards to tonight we feel like this will be rather open in style and Nuggets will certainly help this. Nash / Gasol also aid the open D we expect tonight. We feel if our followers can get around 1.8 at 201.5 this is value especially as Bet365 have pitched the line at 205.5.”
"We feel...". Based on what? Steve Nash and Pau Gasol were indeed back, but returning from injury they are most certainly not match fit, and are most certainly not going to play for too long in meaningless games. In the event, Gasol and Nash both played for less than 22 minutes, with Nash failing to score a single point. Both players had minus ratings, -14 and -5 respectively.

NBA Tips mentioned Denver’s scoring average last season of 207 – what they may not have realized is that Denver had a new head coach on the bench – former Lakers star Brian Shaw. The style a team plays is that of its head coach, and last season’s average total in regular season games has absolutely nothing to do with a first pre-season game.

Pre-season games can offer value opportunities, but backing Overs pre-game at a recommended 1.8 (in fact only £6 was traded pre game on Betfair at a high of 1.75 so at least no one appears to have followed this poor advice) is not one of them. The game was apparently poorly played with the two teams combining for 50 turnovers, and the point total of 172 was well short of what was required.

And finally, back to the subject of being a professional, a word which is defined as someone"
 “engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as a pastime”.
Someone, Anonymous of course, had this to say about yours truly a few weeks ago via a comment on Mark Iverson’s post responding to my criticism of his Football In Play app (criticism justified incidentally as evidenced by Mark's concession that "I’m aware that ‘SIP’ does have limitations"):
Cassini’s blog has gone down hill over the last 18 months, he just uses it to plump his ego by issuing rhetorical attacks on others. When those others try and have a discussion with him, he just uses that to fuel the fire.
Try challenging him on his track record and he just ignores the posts, they never appear on his blog. He has attacked many other blogs, while seeing himself above criticism.
His blog really serves no useful purpose any longer. He so up his own arse I’m embarrassed for him.
Rather rude if I may say so, but a couple of things, one is that my rule of thumb is to ignore negative comments from Anonymous trolls and I don't recall any posts anywhere challenging me on my track record.

Why would they? The blog pretty much covers my trading life on Betfair and if any reader seriously thinks I would spend five and a half years writing 1,633 posts and creating fake screenshots for imaginary trades and Premium Charges, well, they really need help. I have no time for such nonsense, but this comment about part-time is interesting:
I would ignore blog posts from egocentric attention seeking bloggers who don’t trade full time but position themselves as experts and feel the need to regularly stick the knife into other blogs to generate interest in their own!
Funny how the advice is to ignore my post, yet here he is doing exactly the opposite! And not to mention that my criticism was of the app, not Mark's blog, but anyway, those small issues aside, why should the opinions of a part-timer dismissed so quickly? What is the definition of an expert anyway?
A person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.
One could argue that anyone making a consistent profit from betting and trading is an expert. There's certainly no requirement that you need to be full-time.

When I’m trading an event, is the fact that I have a job relevant? Well, to anyone who understands these things, the answer is clearly 'no', but trolls posting anonymously are unlikely to understand that.

Arguably, trading as a hobby has advantages, but besides that, unless your edge is from trading horse racing (unlikely), cricket or tennis, there is simply no need to give up a full time job to go ‘professional’. Most sports are played at the weekend or in the evenings, and there are plenty of opportunities at those times to allow you to have the best of both worlds. And if there’s an event on during working hours, either “work” from home or take some holiday.

It's true that maintaining ratings and spreadsheets takes time, but if something has to give, it should be social life and not a career.

But all that aside, trading is not an activity that requires you to be professional in the definition of the word as stated above – it only requires you to have a professional approach. Giving up your job and starting full-time as a trader isn’t in itself going to help your trading. Indeed, the added pressure could well be detrimental, and disastrous when the Premium Charge goes up to 80% or the bar lowered to £25,000.
“We often miss opportunity because it's dressed in overalls and looks like work”
― Thomas A. Edison