Thursday 28 November 2013

Best Friends

An excellent read from Punters' Verdict on the fallacy that the bookmaker is there for you, and a friend in need. The opening salvo is included below, but click on the link for the full piece:

Your friend, the bookmaker….
Bookmakers love to peddle the ridiculous notion that they are your good-hearted friends.
They work tirelessly to give the impression that they are firmly on your side – going out of their way to offer you the best odds, the sweetest deals, the latest cool technology, the biggest sign-up bonuses, the most markets, the broadest range of bets and the biggest and best range of options enabling you to get your bet on.
The wide-boy ‘geezer’ types employed to front the bookmaker’s television ads, combined with a fashionably ‘wacky’ approach to product promotion, might give you the impression that winning is a simple derivative of opening an account with the friendliest and funniest bookmaker.

Newspapers, TV output and radio shows aimed at the sports-betting enthusiast are literally over-run with friendly ‘betting experts’ – all giving the punter the benefit of their wisdom and experience seemingly free of charge. The fact that a good proportion of these ‘experts’ are on the bookmaker’s payroll is never questioned.

Do these people – the bookie’s fork-tongued PR men – really want you to win? Isn’t there a conflict of interest at work here? When some talking head – who takes the bookmaker’s coin for his daily bread – spouts on about good bets on Talksport or Racing UK – can he really serve two masters? Is he really going to be giving you advice that he believes will see his employer lose money on the market?
Of course he isn’t. So what use is his expertise or his advice? No use whatsoever. The whole thing is a sham. Broadcasters and publishers that persist with using the bookmaker’s employees to provide betting ‘expertise’ are doing their readers and viewers a huge disservice. If they really want to serve the punter then why not get some bona-fide pro-gamblers to give their view? How about giving us the opportunity to hear from experts who aren’t invested in the ultimate success of the bookie? How would that be?
But I digress. The purpose of this week’s column is simply to remind you that the bookmaker is NOT your friend. He is your adversary…. your opponent…. your enemy…. and you should never forget it. Don’t get dazzled by his stardust. Don’t get confused by his mixed messages. Don’t get taken in by his PR guff. The bookmaker is NOT your friend.
A number of tipsters give selections and the best price available, but often they are from an obscure bookmaker or one with a reputation for closing accounts as soon as the holder shows that they have a clue. As the above article says, "Boylesports, Bet365, BetVictor and others are famous for refusing bets, closing accounts or offering just a fraction of the stake requested", so how many people are really able to place the suggested bets at the likes of these companies? For all its faults, at least Betfair don't (yet) completely ban consistent winners.

There was an amusing comment on a thread on the Betfair Forum from TheVis who offered this advice
Get an account with Victor Chandler
If you can't get them to email you saying your account is closed within a few weeks then you should give up the game. 

Wednesday 27 November 2013

FTL Update 27.Nov

Here is the latest FTL sponsored by TFA table up to date as of last night. Let me know if you see any omissions or errors and I will double-check and correct them, but with so many entries each week, unfortunately I can't go back over several weeks looking for the odd penny!

Big winners - Hofs Hackers, who move into first place, Jamie a who also moves up five places to 13th, and Punters' Friend Neil up four places.

The losers? Football Elite dropped seven places after a very poor weekend, and Murphy's Law dropped five spots. The Football Analyst also had a poor weekend and midweek, and Peter Nordsted's Premier Betting had a clean sweep of losses to take over at the bottom.

Something of a gap has opened up between 17th and 18th place, and the bottom three are dropping away too, but as Hof showed this week, a good set of results and it can all change quite quickly. The TFA Bounty is currently at £375.

It's Thanksgiving in the US this week, and I will once again be overseas celebrating with Mrs Cassini and her family. The first day of Hannukah also happens to fall on Thanksgiving this year, an apparently once in many lifetimes rarity. The next one will be in about 79,000 years time, and I may not be here for that! I'll be able to send out the Cassini draws and value selections once the European League games are over, and the FTL table will be updated as per usual.

Sunday 24 November 2013

Gracias Carlos

There was just he one Cassini Value Selection this weekend, and an hour in, it wasn't looking good. Having taken an early (6') lead, Real Sociedad proceeded to let Celta de Vigo take a 3-1 lead. Fortunately, Mexico's Carlos Vela was in fine form for the home team, adding three more to his early goal, had another one disallowed for offside, and was the victim of Andreu Fontas' foul and second yellow card which saw Celta de Vigo reduced to 10 men. A little lucky perhaps, but I'll take it.

Also a little fortunate perhaps with the XX Draw selections, of which nine were in-play yesterday. Four ended as draws, but the lucky part was that two of the games (Everton v Liverpool and Eintracht Frankfurt v Schalke '04) ended 3-3. Not exactly the low-scoring affairs I was looking for.

I'll round up the football after the weekend is over, although I will say the Premier League table looks a lot brighter after yesterday's results.

I'm not hugely surprised that there was no request from the NBA Tips boys for me to point them in the direction of their many errors, and while their Quality Assurance department might have been expected to tighten up their process, that appears not to have been the case.

After reading and recording this selection on Friday, I was a little surprised to see an update of "WON" appended. (Strangely, last night's updates are not yet there).

I had identified the Indiana Pacers as value in this game, and thinking that Betfair may have erred in crediting my account with a win, and anxious to let them know of their mistake, I checked the results, and sure enough, here was the official result:
Now it takes some creative mathematical jiggling worthy of the George W Bush administration to make 82 + 4 > 97. Yes, they do the 2 units = 1 unit if it loses, or 1 unit = 1/2 unit if it looks poor value later, so one shouldn't be too surprised. Admittedly, it has been a while since I left school, and I have been known to make the rare error, but I'm pretty sure I'm correct on this one. Let me know if I am missing something. Incidentally, the term 'draw' has no place in the NBA.

I was thinking that NBA Tips may have specialised more in medicine than maths at school, but apparently not. Actually, I'm not sure they are out of school yet, because does any adult Tweet like this?
Followed by:
Oh dear, but again, perhaps full-time education is ongoing. Fortunately for us all they are quick learners, going from clueless to meniscus tear specialists in just a few minutes. Whoever said that you need 10,000 hours to master something was only off by 9,999 hours and 50 minutes.
Well that's the verdict then. Close to 6 months. Given their proven lack of attention to detail and accuracy, if I were Rose, I'd be mighty relieved. Although not a direct result of my brief professional sporting career, I have had to undergo a couple of meniscus tear surgeries myself, but even with first-hand experience I wouldn't want to presume to offer an opinion or speculate on someone else's injury or recovery time. Here's the actual P&L record for NBA Tips since the last update.
This may bear little resemblance to their own numbers, but I think I have given enough examples of where they have erred to explain those.

Friday 22 November 2013

Reliable Numbers

NBA Tips claim that "a lot of effort goes into making our numbers reliable", which is a bold claim after having made mistakes with the number of games a team plays in the regular season, with the prices at which wins are recorded, and of course the intentional mistake of attempting to modify the bet several hours after posting it.

They posted their version of their results for this season yesterday, but unfortunately rather than confirm that the errors already mentioned were the exception rather than the rule, there are a number of other errors revealed. Some are minor, for example the 4.November bet on a player to score over 195.5 points, something even Wilt Chamberlain would have struggled to do on his best night, or the handicap moving from 13.5 to 13, but more serious are these:

The 2 unit stake on the 31.October bet is recorded as one unit in the spreadsheet.
And then we have this:
Bwin apparently give a bonus similar to Ladbrokes, as the recorded price has gone up to 1.85 in the spreadsheet.
It's not all bad news for the thousands of NBA Tips followers though, as on a couple of bets, they have actually managed to err against their own interests, so the errors do seem to just be down to carelessness or poor mathematical skills. Unfortunately, with at least 11 of the 91 bets in the spreadsheet having some kind of an error, the claim that "a lot of effort goes into making our numbers reliable" just isn't supported by the evidence. I would be happy to point out the other mistakes, but NBA Tips don't seem to appreciate my well-intentioned advice for some reason.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Best In Show

I sometimes check to see what visitors to this blog are doing, or at least what posts they are reading, and some can be seen reading post after post. I can now put a name to one of those visitors, who posted a much appreciated comment:

In the last two weeks I've been reading your posts daily from the start of your blog trying to catch up.
Hope to finish it before the NBA 2013/14 season ends :-)
Your insight into NBA is priceless and is the only useful information about trading it that I have found.
Best regards
High praise indeed, and thanks Nick. Read on - there are over 1,600 posts, at least some of which are useful.

Green All Over is indubitably the UK's leading free NBA betting advice site, and it was interesting that the post Nick commented on is a little over three years old, yet all the advice contained therein remains valid. Either I haven't learned much in three years, or the opportunities in the NBA remain the same.

The UK's leading free 'alternative mathematics' site had another creative accounting moment last night. A novelty bet was posted on the blog with a price of 3.6 at Ladbrokes
but the Tweet from the rooftops as the bet came in a winner was to announce not just the win, but that the win was actually at 3.8! Amazing scenes, but a sad reminder of how unfair life can be. Ladbrokes close my account, yet others are given bonuses.
Pleasing maybe, but misleading too. It's as likely that Ladbrokes are adding a bonus to the payout as it is that Sporting Bet allow you to pull back half your stake if the bet turns out to be poor value. Unfortunately, for the records, we really do have to stick with the initial bet, win or lose. The other three bets all lost last night, so NBA Tips are now down 17.22 points on the 2013-14 season.
John Walsh's NFL selections are also having a poor season, with another loss on the weekend, but the NHL is still handily in profit.

Monday 18 November 2013

Stupid Tap Tree (Anag.)

Despite it being a relatively quiet weekend, with several entrants idle, there were a few notable winners and losers in the FTL.

The big winner was Skeeve whose FTL selections went 7-1 gaining him 8.7 points and vaulting him from 8th to 1st place. Skeeve's Official selections, with several winning doubles, picked up 12.63 although most subscribers could have done even better as the prices he quoted as official were lower than those recorded by Pinnacle and likely others. Forza Fizzer went 1-5 and dropped from the top to 4th. Here's the profitable tipsters to date:

As you can see, a whopping 0.04 points separates second from fourth, and Forza Fizzer is actually just .005 behind Murphy's Law! And for the first time, the top four are all eligible for the cash prizes plus the TFA bounty.

As for the entries in the red, the big loser was Punter's Friend Neil whose 6-28, including midweek, resulted in a drop of 21.69 points and a fall to last place. Peter Nordsted's two entries were the beneficiaries as both moved up two places. Scatter Gun also had a losing weekend. The Football Analyst ended up with a small loss of 0.3 points, but the bounty reduces to £275.

A shocker in the NHL where John Walsh last night had his first losing selection since November 6th:
and arguably an even bigger shock in the NBA, where NBA Tips1 had their first profitable day since November 11th, and only their third profitable day this season, gaining 1.05 points:

Rising Suns Beat The Heat

We have a winner. The quiz question to name the only team to have led in the Fourth Quarter of all their NBA games this season was answered correctly by a couple of people. Charlie was the first to offer an answer:

The Miami Heat must have led in the fourth quarter of every game this season, with three losses by a total of six points. Probably too slow to get the subscription, but then gamblers don't always get out of bed early... Regardless, I enjoy reading the blog and hope you continue for many more years.
A fellow premium (but not super premium) charge payer,
Unfortunately for Charlie, Miami Heat never led in the fourth quarter of their November 1st game in Brooklyn. They came within one point in losing 100-101. 

The correct answer is the Phoenix Suns, and the first person to send in the correct answer was Chris whose email address has now been added to the XX Draws distribution list hopefully a good thing for Chris!

The discussion on whether or not to let positions run continues with Emp having this to say:
This issue is interesting to me because cricket (a sport built for in-play if ever there was one) presents this issue all the time.
I think a good general heuristic is to not add more at short prices to positions that are profitable (could be greened up) unless the position offers massive value. Also, consider that value assessments might be wrong and destructively so at short-prices. An example for those who follow cricket: many were slaughtered by India's effortless 359 run chase against Australia, though the half-time prices as short as they were looked to offer real value on Australia

I agree with Cassini about greening up. Theoretically maximizing EV should matter over bank preservation, but the latter allows you to build up more smoothly, not to mention that people aren't robots and very few can perform perfectly despite large set-backs and swings.
That said, sacrificing value to green up can be destructive and makes no long term sense, so I'd just let it run.
An example of how these things work out when the value is to lay more than enough to level-up is shown below in today's NFL game when I layed the Detroit Lions for more than required:

The decision was vindicated when the Steelers 'roared' back with 'pride' to beat the Lions, although I had given up some of my green by the end to pretty much level up the outcomes. 
Ellis returned to say:
If the 'fair (correct / true) price available' is 1.6 then you are saying that outcome has a 62.5% chance of winning. You can then adjust your position to reflect this % chance.
Not sure what's being second-guessed if you are confident that 1.6 is the correct price?
Nothing is being second-guessed if you do this. My original discussion point was whether, despite believing a price to be fair, traders have a tendency to try to be clever and take a less than optimal approach.

Fizzer asked:
Cassini, In this example, I'm interested to know how you would approach it if the value price was still with the Thunder. If, for example, the Thunder price was 1.7 would you bet more on the Thunder because there was value in doing so or, because preserving your bank is important, would you stick with the +2300/-600 position given that, in your fair odds situation there was a 37.5% of losing. (I'm assuming the 3rd option of hedging or leveling up at bad odds is not a consideration because you are giving up value).
If the value was on the Thunder at 1.7, I would look to load up slightly green-heavy on them, except that as Emp cautions in his comment, adding at odds-on might be the optimal play, but unless the value is 'massive' it might be better to act as if the price were correct. 1.2 might be a value price to back at, but it's a brave man who would add on at that price. 1.7 is better, but still odds-on. 

As for levelling-up at bad odds, I am sure I have done this in the past, and probably will do again. As a non-robot, if I have been in a bad position all game, the tendency is that, should the opportunity arise to get out with little damage or even a small profit, it's very tempting to do this at the first opportunity, even if the correct play is to hold the position. It's frustrating to lay a team early at 1.3 for example, and then watch them take a big lead and trade for ages in the 1.0x range. Then the game tightens up and the price comes out to 1.3 and the feeling of relief can easily trump the knowledge that 1.3 is really not a value price to back at. We're all different, and only the professionals can be expected to make the optimal play every time, but it's a lot easier to make the right decision if your stakes are 'sensible'. 

Sunday 17 November 2013

Rose-ier Betting Results

I believe that on many occasions, and indeed quite recently, I have mentioned that one of the hazards of betting pre-game on basketball is the impact on prices of team news after your bet has been placed.

I kindly shared this advice with the good folks over at NBA Tips1 earlier this month, after they were caught out on an Oklahoma City Thunder game in which Russell Westbrook's appearance was uncertain.

Not for the first time, it appears my advice is falling on deaf ears, this time involving a Chicago Bulls game and the always doubtful / possible Derrick Rose.
After advising a one unit stake to their hundreds of followers, the NBA Tips1 people seem to think that one hour before tip-off it is possible to contact Sporting Bet and halve your stake. It isn't. Once a bet is struck, save for palpable error, or some irregularity, it is a done deal. You can trim your position by taking the other side, but if you are looking to do that, the odds on the other side will have shortened.

Tipsters cannot change their bets after they have been published for several hours! If you choose to tip pre-game in a sport like basketball, this is a risk you take. You can't reduce your stake just because you don't like news that comes after the bet is struck.

Of course, on occasion team news will work in your favour, but calling Sporting Bet to double or triple your stake at the original odds won't be successful either.

In my opinion, to maintain any credibility at all, bets and P&Ls have to be recorded as posted. I didn't follow their selections last season, but if this massaging of the numbers took place then, it would certainly help explain a total that appears to be quite remarkable.

NBA Tips show a loss on 2013-14 (including pre-season) of 11.94 points. My numbers tell a different story, and will now be at least 0.5 points lower unless NBA Tips1 do the right thing and record using the original stake size of one unit.

Try calling your stockbroker and reneging on an order you've placed - "Oh, sorry - I just saw the latest results and I'd like to halve the market order I placed four hours ago please".

Here are the correct numbers from NBA Tips with the bets as first recommended:
Speaking of the 'right thing to do', Danny had this to say after last weekend's FTL sponsored by TFA table updates:
Cassini thanks for the FTL update. How you are able to manage all these entries is an organisational miracle in itself!
With regard to the FTL, I think it would only be fair to award 12 points to anyone who backed West Brom at Chelsea on Saturday, seeing as the Chelsea penalty decision was one of the most SCANDALOUS in the history of the game and a total fraud in my opinion. I think it only proper that FTL stands up for fair play and as the politicians like to say 'It's the right thing to do'.
I think Danny has a point. All my losing XX Draws now have a recommended stake size of 0.01 units, while the winners should be backed with 10 units each. By my calculations, these selections are now in profit by 324.39 points. Call your bookmaker and let them know that modifying stake size after the fact is now standard industry practice.

John Walsh added yet more money to my account last night with a winning selection of the New York Rangers over his previous night's selection Montreal Canadiens. He writes:
Couldn't help but laugh at you not wanting to be disrespectful to the Oklahoma City Thunder. I believe you mentioned that Golden State is your favorite basketball team. Do you feel like you disrespected the Warriors?
I bet on the Montreal Canadiens last night and against them tonight. I'll let you know if Lars Eller calls me out.
John does have a point. Yes, I did disrespect the Warriors! Never good when the sporting outcome you want doesn't match the best financial outcome. Having had the Warriors as "my" NBA team for several years, I am all too familiar with their hot and cold streaks, and having seen the Warriors give up a 14 point lead to trail by one, that knowledge no doubt influenced my decision to not fully level up. There may have been an element of emotional insurance there too - the joy of a win balancing the lost cash, and maybe the thought of going in too heavy on the Warriors and I would jinx them. It's all very complicated. I have to say though that I did not get £900 of pleasure from the win. A game 7 win in the Finals might have come close, but game 9 of the regular season? Nah, nowhere near. Gambling is so much easier when you have no allegiance / emotions though.
Golden State Warriors 2017-18
Football now, and on a quiet weekend, Skeeve had an excellent day in the FTL sponsored by TFA. He hit four winners from seven, and two draws from two. Punters' Friend Neil did not fare so well. Having crawled back to being down by just 4.47 after last weekend, Neil hit a paltry 4 from 25 yesterday, following on from 2 of 9 in midweek. There could be some more red after the updates. The Football Analyst had four winners from eleven, while Hofs Hackers also had the two Skeeve Conference draws (Chester v Luton Town and Barnet v Cambridge United) for a profitable weekend. Updated table when the prices are out there.

Finally, quiz time - with the first loss of the season for the Indiana Pacers last night (or was it only half a loss?) there is only one team who has led in the Fourth Quarter of every game this season. Name them. A free XX Draw subscription (includes Cassini Value and Bundeslayga selections) for the remainder of the season to the first person emailing the answer to. calciocassini @ 

Saturday 16 November 2013

Equalising Formula

L commented on my past post about levelling up your profits (or losses) writing:

Nice stuff
Is possible to specify mechanically the risk reward ratio of bets in this case variable hedge? For example, at twice the rate sell 50% stake etc...
It is an easy calculation to determine how much you should lay to level up your position. Basically it is the difference between your green and your red, divided by the price, so if you are in the position I was in, Warriors -£600, Thunder +£2,300, Thunder price 1.6, the formula of (Difference) / Price tells you the amount to lay is £1,812.50.
Difference = £2,900 / 1.6 = £1,812.50. 
If you lay this amount, your red of £600 on the Warriors goes to a green £1,212.50, while your green on the Thunder reduces from £2,300 to £1,212.50.
It's easy to set up a simple spreadsheet to input your three variables, and output the amount to lay.

Ellis Rayner said:

If you believe 1.6 was a fair price then how about loading your greens to reflect that? 1.6 = 62.5% so based on your figures about £1,420 and £850
I'm not sure what Ellis is suggesting here by 'loading my greens'. Sounds like something my Mum used to do with my dinner. My What If? formula shows that laying £1,450 would leave a situation close to what Ellis suggests, but when you leave your outcomes significantly different with a fair (correct / true) price available, one is in second-guessing territory, which is a land I am trying to leave.


A frustrating Thursday night / Friday morning in the NBA with the Oklahoma City Thunder giving up a game-winning shot as time expired in a loss to the Golden State Warriors which cost me about £900. Well, £450 after Super Premium Charges are taken into account – not that there is anything ‘super’ about them.

One thing that I always seem to mess up on is how to close out a winning situation. As is my wont, I was laying the Warriors at what I felt to be too short a price, and my opinion appeared to have been proven right when the Thunder completed a comeback from 14 points down with 7 minutes left to lead by one with 2.3 seconds left.

At this point I am in the red on the Warriors, decently (by my modest standards) large green on the Thunder, so what to do? The Thunder at this point were trading at about 1.6.

Basketball is perfect in these situations, because there’s a time-out when the market settles down and you have time to make a decision, for which there are a few options:

A) Take no further action

B) Reduce or eliminate the current risk on the Warriors

The position I was in, using approximate numbers, was Warriors -£600, Thunder +£2300, Thunder price 1.6.

Now that’s a decent win if the Thunder hold on, but do I want to risk losing £600 in the event that they don’t? That’s a rhetorical question, because the answer is that I am not in the business (albeit part-time) of gambling, and preserving my bank is important, so the question becomes, “is that price of 1.6 value”? 

If it isn’t, then the right decision is to take the value, whether that be backing or laying, but if the price is close to value, and in my opinion it was close enough, then I want to at least eliminate the downside. So first my numbers became Warriors £0 Thunder £1,940, but then I want to at least show a profit on the event, which means giving up £60 from a Thunder win to buy £100 on a Warriors win. Continue this through to the pivot point and you end up with approximately £1,200 on each side.

Unfortunately for me, as the screenshot shows, I didn’t lay enough, stopping at the £600 mark. I've noticed this before in myself - it's almost as if I don't want to be disrespectful to the team that got me into the winning position! 
It seems like when I level up, I would have been better off leaving the bet to run, and when I don’t level up, I would have been better off had I done so. Of course it only seems that way, but assuming the price is close to fair, following a rule to always level up would take away the second-guessing afterwards. 
Still in the NBA, and NBA Tips are still under water, although the bleeding has stopped for the time being. Still down on the season by 16.76 points (ROI -26.6%) though. 
Like the Peugeot lion, John Walsh goes from strength to strength in the NHL, with a push and two winners since the last update, and now up by 10.02 points (30.36%). His NFL picks aren't quite so good yet, although he did eke out a very small profit last weekend.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Model Bettors

In my Bad Bettors post a few days ago, I wrote:

In other tipster updates, John Walsh had a quiet week in the NHL, but another profitable one. Interesting to note that after backing in Regulation all season, the last three selections have all been Moneyline bets. I am trying to ascertain why the change and will update you if I get an answer. After 30 bets, an ROI of 28% is very good.
John did indeed reply, and here are his words of wisdom on a few topics:
It's quite an honor to be in a post titled 'Bad Bettors'.
First I will address why the change from regulation betting to moneyline in my NHL bets. The simple answer is to get value. There are sections of the season in which certain teams play to overtime more frequently and of course the opposite is true. If I can get more value (from my model) then it only makes sense. My current feeling is that the implied probability from the odds haven't caught up to this in some cases. Last season was really different with the lockout shortening the NHL schedule.
I'm not defending NBA Tips methods. I don't know who it is or how he/she comes up with selections. This person may have an edge, there really is no way to tell with such a small sample size. That is one of the toughest things about sports betting, getting a large enough sample size to know if the system has an edge.

I think being a fan of the sport is necessary to be successful at betting on it. It's like the engine on a car, you need the motor for the car to work but you need the steering wheel, brakes, etc.
Betting on (American) football determining team weaknesses, changes in personnel, etc. are the other parts of the car. At the same time you can have a system that has worked in the past but if you don't know why it has, you could be in dangerous territory. You have to have the motor in the car for it to work. I've played football, coached football, watch every NFL game. The NFL network is on my television all summer. NBA Tips could be the same with a system that accounts for every factor.

Public knowledge is different now than even 5 years ago with so much information being accessible from a phone. My NFL model didn't suggest Tampa Bay was value in the game that just finished. I really thought the implied probability wasn't taking the whole Dolphin offensive linemen situation as enough of a factor. Miami had a patchwork line with a split dressing room and what sounded to me like very little leadership. Not to mention the distraction for the game. Although, the second half of this game is the most impressed I've been by the Dolphins all season considering the previous factors coupled with being down at the half on the road.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Miami Dolphins game was more than a little frustrating for me. I laid the Buccaneers after they went up by 7, and the Dolphins then played about as bad as I have seen a team play for most of the remainder of the half. Usually I would be looking to lay the leader at the half, but I couldn't see anything but a runaway Bucs win. Thus it was with mixed emotions (surprise, relief and also a little annoyance that I'd missed an opportunity), that I was able to trade out for a profit when the Dolphins played surprisingly well in the second half. In the end, the Buccaneers retook the lead and held on to win.

John's NHL model would appear to be working, although a new bet type for this season (totals) was a push on Tuesday night. He mentions NBA Tips, and 62 bets is indeed a small sample, so we'll revisit their results later in the season. The bet selection process isn't working so far, and it's a strange model that finds value in bets as diverse as "first to 20 points", " highest scoring quarter" and various individual player totals, but we'll see how it all settles down. I would certainly be most impressed if these selections proved to be profitable long term. Incidentally, they recorded a profit of  57.35 points last season, but I didn't follow them until the end of the season when they must have hit a bad run, because I posted a comment in June, and never received a reply:
I am not sure where these results were proofed, but they read this blog avidly now and will let us know I'm sure. The Heat Rebound post shows how an example of how an edge can sometimes be found pre-game, and while I would love to be proven wrong, I'm just not convinced that NBA Tips have a genuine long-term edge. More than a month ago, I wrote the following, and I haven't seen anything since to change my opinion:
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 na├»ve 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.
Emp posted a comment on my Mugs and Shrewdies post, and I'll try and get to those in the next few days, and Jesse Livermore shared this joke with us:
Two economists are walking down the street. One says: "Hey, there's a dollar bill on the floor." The other says: "Impossible. If it were real, someone would have picked it up by now."

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Mugs And Shrewdies

Cobo wrote:

Thank you for addressing my doubt in length Cassini.
It's true the markets pre-off are very very accurate and difficult to beat. At least in tennis they are, and they have improved even more these past three years. This is a fact. Or as some people say, a true fact.
Regarding in-play, it's true lots of things can happen that make the price more difficult to assess. That plus fear and greed.
Anyway, if there are opportunities in the Stock Exchange, which has far more people and money trying to profit from it, there is no reason to think betting exchanges should behave differently (except perhaps having more opportunities from that lesser competition).
Of course, having advanced stats of historic in-play game action from a team/player will always help make a better decision.
P.S: And English is NOT my mother language, so please forgive any mistakes ;).
This part is rather casually thrown out there:
“Anyway, if there are opportunities in the Stock Exchange, which has far more people and money trying to profit from it, there is no reason to think betting exchanges should behave differently (except perhaps having more opportunities from less competition)”.
I would argue that while there are indeed opportunities in the trading of stocks, and there are similarities between stock and betting exchanges, there are also significant differences between the two. The biggest is that a stock buys you something tangible – a share in a company’s assets and future earnings – a genuine investment, whereas a bet is more like a traded option that will shortly expire either worthless or in the money.

In my experience, unless you have inside information, you are never going to beat the stock market long-term. The simple truth is that other people with far more money at their disposal will always be ahead of you and the price you can buy at or sell at is always the price that insiders are happy to trade at, i.e. a value price for them, not for you. I've written in this blog many times that you are not going to have an edge by looking at publicly available data.

What allows the common man on the outside to benefit from stocks is the long-term nature of the stock market. Stocks have yields which provide an income, and the stock market inexorably rises as a whole, as the economy grows. The best we can realistically hope for is for our investments to grow broadly in line with the market, which is why you should invest money consistently in index funds and forget about it. Trying to time your entry or exit into / from the market is futile.

Including dividends, but excluding inflation, the stock market's long-term return has been around 9.6%, accounting for inflation it is closer to 6.2%, and after a few years, whether you paid £4.81 or £4.82 for your BP shares isn’t going to be an overwhelming concern. The market for most stocks is so liquid (14 million BP traded yesterday) that the negative edge is always going to be small.

Several studies show that market timers typically get into a market after a period of solid growth, and having missed much of the gains they then exit after the market ‘corrects’ itself and thus miss out on the start of the next bull market. Fund managers love to say how they can beat the averages, but unless they have inside information – look up Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta, Ivan Boesky or most recently Steven A Cohen – they may get lucky for a year or even a few years, but long-term, they won’t beat the average.

There is no long-term nature for sports investing, and no income from dividends either because your bet has no intrinsic value. To make money from sports trading you need to be entering and exiting the markets at net value prices. You do not have the cushion of dividend income or the expectation that the value will rise in time.

What it boils down to is that you need to be better at assessing the true probability of an event than someone else. One advantage of sports betting on the exchange is that amounts bet are typically much less than the stock market sees on trades, and you can ask for a value price rather than have to take or leave what someone else offers you. Put your bet out there, be patient, and you only need one mug for the bet to go live.

I found this comment on the Betfair Forum in a thread about in-play trading:
Some of us are also making a living trading in-play using Sky Sports pictures. What enables us to profit is being able to price up the events as they are happening.
One of the attractions of betting in-play is that the playing field is more level in terms of information. Pre-off, a few privileged individuals can profit from their inside knowledge. Once the event starts, most, or almost all, of that information becomes public.
This, Feck, is probably a big reason why the pre-off markets are rather dry, especially in your chosen sport, which is more vulnerable than most to the effect of insider trading.
The chosen sport referred to is of course horse racing, but the contributor [Contrarian3] is on the same page as me. One comment on the thread was this:
In Running is where the mugs do their money at a far quicker rate and the shrewdies make theirs. 

Monday 11 November 2013

Bad Bettors

The comment about losing more that would be expected on coin-flip selections is interesting. Is this really true, or do people win 50% of their bets, but at a price of 1.9 inevitably lose due to commission?

It was meant as a rhetorical question, because the answer is that overall bettors do fare worse than would be expected. Emp said...
Well for proof look at it this way; I dug up your results from last year.
Amateurs- -115.26, -9.61%ROI Over 1199 selections.
The spreads/commissions are certainly not large enough to eat up a 9.61% ROI and 1199 bets is a good enough sample to say this isn't variance.
What's more as you note on that very post, this -9.61% ROI has this positive selection effect that the worst betters were disproportionately likely to quit in the middle. Had they stayed, it would probably have been a lot worse.
This is a very rough proof, but I think it's enough to justify what to me is intuitively obvious, that there is such a thing as being really bad at betting without knowing anything whatsoever, and thus reversing those tendencies must necessarily demonstrate a handsome profit.
Unfortunately last season's FTL wasn't intended to be scientific and only covers football so the use of its results as a proof should probably not be allowed, There were no 'official' prices used, as the table was for general comparison, but other studies have shown that there really are bad bettors.

Poor money management is usually cited as the primary reason, but there is also this from a US targeted article:
Most sports bettors know just enough to make them dangerous, as there is a great deal of difference between being knowledgeable in the NFL and being knowledgeable in NFL betting.
Being able to name the starting offensive line for the Dallas Cowboys isn't likely to help a person win a bet.

What many sports bettors don't realize is that they're actually competing against other bettors who spend countless hours on handicapping, studying trends, injuries, and betting angles.
It's no secret that [American] football and basketball are the two sports that receive the majority of the betting dollars, just as it's no secret that most long-time sports bettors will say those are probably the two toughest sports to show a long-term profit in.
I can't help but think of NBA Tips when I read this. They clearly love the NBA, but love of the game and public knowledge isn't enough as explained above. They like to Tweet from the rooftops when a double comes in as it did last Tuesday (at 4.2), but down by 16.28 points after 49 selections suggests that they are falling well short of finding value, and updates to the P&L page are behind my own numbers.
I will now appear to be a complete hypocrite and say that on rare occasions, I do have a punt on a basketball game, for small stakes. Last night's game in Los Angeles between the Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves did stand out as a value bet with the Lakers very poor so far this season - no Kobe Bryant, and Pau Gasol posting career lows with Steve Nash also struggling - and the Timberwolves looking good with the two Kevins (Love and Martin) in sparkling form. I asked for 1.94, and as often is the case, I was matched, a little peeved when I checked and saw I'd missed 1.99 earlier. Not really. The downside of betting early in this sport is, as I have mentioned, that you can be left high and dry with late team news, so I tend to err on the side of caution and bet late with all the facts. The Timberwolves led by 24 at the end of the first quarter and never looked back winning by 23.
In other tipster updates, John Walsh had a quiet week in the NHL, but another profitable one. Interesting to note that after backing in Regulation all season, the last three selections have all been Moneyline bets. I am trying to ascertain why the change and will update you if I get an answer. After 30 bets, an ROI of 28% is very good.
John has an NFL selection tonight, so I shall update those later, but here is the latest TFA FTL table after the weekend. The selection of Sunderland at 8.97 to win v Manchester City and to a lesser extent, Newcastle United at 7.15 to win at Tottenham Hotspur led to some big moves.
Big winners were Murphy's Law (up 10.97 thanks to the North-East duo of Newcastle United and Sunderland), Punter's Friend (up 8.28 - Sunderland) and Webbo (up 6.28 - Sunderland, plus a lay of Chelsea). The big loser this weekend was Emp whose 37 selections lost 10.91 points, and cost him 7 places. Murphy's Law moves up 9 places to third (and £75), Punter's Friend moves up 5 places, and Webbo goes up 4 as does Fedslam who moves up to second place in the process (£125). Graham C moves up to fourth and £50.

Slipping along with Emp were Hofs Hackers and Fairfranco, but although Forza Fizzer lost 2.21 points, he retains first place and the £250 first prize that goes with it. My own value selections also remained static, despite a profit of 2.34 points.

The Football Analyst was up 0.07 points, but lost one place. His liability (max. £400) on the bounty increases to £325. The late Stoke City penalty at Swansea City cost TFA and a couple of others a winner, including Peter Nordsted whose official selections still had their best weekend yet this season +5.58 points. Peter's Premier Betting entries still prop up the table though. Football Elite has quietly moved into profit and up to fifth place, and a special mention for Punter's Friend who was at one time down 22.22 points, but has gained back 17.75 points in the past three weeks.

In total, up about 20 points this weekend, but still more red than green. As always, with 197 selections to update, the possibility of error always exists. If you see any palpable errors, please let me know. Should be a little quieter next week with the International break, but Skeeve and TFA will likely be active along with a few others. 

Sunday 10 November 2013


As I suspected, Emp suggests that any tone of patronisation in his earlier comment was quite unintended.

I think this may be cultural rather than a second language issue. English is my mother tongue for all practical purposes, though I speak two others. Does homework have a negative connotation for you?
I just said your research was impressive, why would that come across as patronising? Research is very important, and I don't think this is a very elementary observation; certainly, large numbers of blogs, sports-betters analysts and others haven't realized this, so it certainly is impressive, even though I guess you may have taken it for granted that anyone should know.
Interesting question on homework. For me the word has quite positive connotations, although it suggests an assigned school task rather than a voluntary adult exercise. The schools I attended (or rather, were sent to) both put a premium on achieving results and homework was part of my routine from the age of five, when we would be sent home with ten words to learn how to spell, some antonyms and synonyms and examples of their use in a sentence. 

I suspect that had my preparatory (primary / elementary) school not established the routine of homework, that I would have resented it at my secondary school, but it was in fact a useful excuse to avoid having to help with the washing up. My parents could hardly promote the importance of school work, and then deny me the opportunity to attend to it. It was also my life-saver on Saturday mornings when my parents would take a weekly shopping trip to Croydon which I hated, but homework provided me with a great excuse to avoid that nightmare too. I say excuse because I don't remember actually doing too much homework, but spent the time listening to sex offenders and paedophiles on Radio One, although I don't remember the word 'paedophile' from my ten daily words from prep school.

I guess the reasons that the comment "I am impressed you've done your homework" could be interpreted as patronising are a combination of possible sarcasm, the suggestion that I may not know what I am talking about, (do many Premium Charge players not have at least some idea?) and the inferred 'surprise' that I do, and also maybe that calling the research 'homework', suggests talking to a child. Anyway, a breeze in a teacup and I really didn't assume any insult was intended. Research does sound a much better word than homework though!

Emp followed up with:
I do think that with regard to both in-play as well as pre-game, you are falling a little into the difficult/impossible conflation.

It's true that very very few people will have edges against a market dominated by smart money, but that isn't the same as impossibility.
The ease with which countless bettors manage to lose well over what they would with a random coin-flip selection method and level stakes implies that it must be possible to be profitable without inside knowledge.
Indeed if NBATipsGuy is as consistently bad in the future, his tips are as good (and probably better) than any of yours or TFA's.

It's obviously essential to contemplate what your edge might be, but I think it's also a mistake to ascribe deity status to analysts simply because they are running a hedge fund, have fancy computer models and swing a big line. Plenty of them manage to lose as well.
The comment about losing more that would be expected on coin-flip selections is interesting. Is this really true, or do people win 50% of their bets, but at a price of 1.9 inevitably lose due to commission? NBA Tips are mostly made at around the 1.9 mark, although some Individual player bets are as low as 1.72 which is a recipe for disaster. You need one heck of an edge to make a profit on novelty bets backing at those odds. NBA Tips continue to lose as I expect for reasons previously detailed.

Sporting Differences, Innate Ability

Cobo asked:
Hello Cassini, Are you sure that "advanced not publicly available stats" reasoning can only be made for NBA? I don't know, it may be the same in baseball, hockey, tennis... At least I really don't know where to get info like distance a tennis player run on each match, placement of shots, etc... and that is being tracked for sure. Of course, in that case the effect anything has on the player is even bigger than in basketball. I talk about tennis as it is what I trade, but the situation may be the same on other sports. Also, as much as I completely agree with your post on numbers VS intuition (people not relying on numbers), I certainly think there are people with an innate ability to price risk and take advantage from it consistently. Needless to say, these are just a few compared to the number of "pro" tipsters giving advice. Coming back to the NBA, if they have those advanced stats they for sure should be able to track the price in play far more accurately than you or anyone else.
I don’t believe I ever said that, and I certainly never intended to imply it. There may well be other sports it applies to as all sports are different, and need to be looked at individually. I just happened to be comparing football and the NBA in response to RandomMan’s comment, and because those are two of the few sports that I actively involve myself with.

Each of the three sports mentioned, baseball, hockey and tennis have their unique characteristics. Baseball is laden with statistics probably more than any other sport, and it is a series of short plays from a limited number of states. I doubt that there is any meaningful data in this sport that is not publicly available. Hockey has similarities to football (team sport, low-scoring), but the all-important power-play is a big difference, as is the importance of the goal-tender. Not as important as an all-star player in a basketball team though, a sport with a similar number of players but very high-scoring. Tennis (specifically singles) is an individual sport, and obviously anyone in the player’s inner circle, including the player themselves, is at a huge advantage, and as Cobo says, even more key than in basketball. Tennis is also technically the same sport whether played by men or women, but everyone knows that in practice the two are essentially different sports and need to be treated as such from a betting perspective. The inner-circle comment applies to horse-racing too, and here we have a sport where connections know a runner isn’t going to win, and it's an accepted part of the sport. Just don't be too obvious about it. Remember my Two Swallows story? I do, and a good lesson.

Regarding the use of stats versus the in-play price, the NBA teams who currently pay for the data are not interested in the betting angle – they are interested in winning games and the data they collect, is collected for that purpose. Their advanced stats will tell them, for example, based on the current opposition line-up, what match-ups and plays would be optimal, but not what the prices should be when up by five with 2:23 left in the third quarter, one all-start player with three personal fouls and another having an off-night shooting bricks. This might well change if in-play betting takes off in the USA, but for now at least, a combination of understanding the game, and understanding the market, affords an outsider a good chance of long-term profitability.

The reason that in-play offers value is, as I have written many times in this blog, that the market - driven by fear and greed - often overreacts and someone with the ‘innate ability’ to price accurately can profit from this. The ‘innate ability’ isn’t actually innate at all, but something learned from studying the markets and watching hundreds of games. After a while, you instinctively ‘know’ when a price is wrong – that ‘blink’ moment I have written about. Look at the chart towards the end of most NBA games, and see the ups and downs.

Some of those movements are down to errors – perhaps it is greedy people forgetting that basketball is a game of momentum, or a nervous nelly not understanding the impact of two early personal fouls on LeBron James. These errors in pricing do not occur, or at least not with any real money, in the settled pre-game markets where decisions are more deliberate (as in after long and careful consideration). In-play, he who hesitates is lost, so you need to instinctively ‘know’ value when you see it.

Contrast the basketball chart with one from football, and you’ll see why I am of the opinion that trading football in-play is, for most of us, unlikely to be a profitable activity long-term. With prices changing in minimum increments, and often stalling, there are just not many non-Suspended price-changing moments in football to take advantage of, and when there is, we are unlikely to be at the front of the queue with several thousand people watching the games in many countries.

Emp writes, perhaps a little patronisingly awarding me a Gold Star for my knowledge:
I am impressed you've done your homework and know why home-field exists in almost every sport. It's also worth noting that this is most pronounced in basketball, because more than any other sport, refereeing is highly subjective. Very large numbers of fouls, many of which are close/either way calls, not to mention that superstars at home can go from the locker room to the court without being called for travelling.
I can at least die happy now, knowing that whatever else I achieve in life, there was always that one time when Emp was impressed. It means a lot to me.

His final line was actually quite amusing, and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that with English a second language, he didn’t actually mean to come across quite as patronisingly I have suggested. I like to think that occasionally I know what I’m talking about.

Tyttetrading had this to say on my response to RandomMan, and his perfect English makes the point very clear :
Hi, also, I think Cassini did explain it in and earlier post. The difference is also in the difference between trading/betting using knowledge about the sport or if trading/betting using knowledge of the markets. As mentioned in many posts, one of the reasons for the value that often appears on the draw in soccer matches, has nothing to do with the sport. It's because the bookmakers adjusts there odds to level their risk. Most bettors want to bet on a team, meaning that not much money will go on the draw. To attract money to the draw, and thereby level risk, the bookmaker can offer higher odds on that outcome. I hope you understand my point, my English not being perfect (sure that Cassini will point that out:-)).
Finally, does anyone else find it quite amusing or bemusing that Ladbrokes are now actively touting their Exchange, while Betfair are actively promoting their sportsbook?