Thursday 30 January 2014

FTL Update 30.1.14

There is one midweek selection still to be resolved (Neil is looking for a draw in the Nottingham Forest v Watford game) but as he is 30 points adrift right now, it's hardly going to make a difference.

Of the entries in profit, the big winner last weekend was the boring but useful Bundeslayga system with three winners from three and a move up the table of four places. The big loser was Peter Nordsted's Drawmaster which had no winners from four selections and dropped four places. Other than that, no one moved more than one place, and the top two remained the same - Cassini Value Selections holding a narrow lead ahead of Hofs Hackers.

Risking the kiss of death, I'll mention that the Cassini Value Selections are on quite a run right now - the last ten selections dating back to before Xmas have seen nine winners, and the spreadsheet is almost 'green all over':

Southampton's loss will teach me not to go for long-shots! Here are the 'in-profit' entries:
Having generously excluded my Value Selections from prize eligibility, it would be a nice surprise were the Bundeslayga selections to grab a consolation prize.

The highlight of the 'not-too-far-behind' section of the table was The Football Analyst who moved up two places (and trimmed his bounty liability by £25 to £175 thanks to Heart of Midlothian who were Away winners at Ross County on Saturday for him, and winners again last night at home to St Mirren, both by a scoreline of 2-1 coincidentally. As a result, Graeme swaps places with the XX Draws (Unders).
And then there are the rest. Little change at the bottom with some big guns still languishing. Football Elite and Premier Betting both made small profits, as did Rubicon who's on something on a roll, but these all have a long road back to the land of profit.  
With one game left, albeit the big one, it appears the road to profit has already closed for John Walsh and his NFL selections. Here's the results since the last update:
John's Moneyline selections are actually in profit on the season, albeit by only 0.26 points, and the damage was done by the Handicap bets (down 17.21 points) and the Totals bets (down 15.65 points).

Since we haven't updated the NHL results for a while, here are the results since the last update:

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Bidder Taste

With the Premier League making way for the FA Cup this past weekend, I'm saving the FTL update until after tonight's matches. One FTL entrant did try to sneak in a couple of FA Cup selections, but unfortunately there are no official prices on the Football Data web site so they are invalid. 

One selection was for Crystal Palace to win at holders Wigan Athletic which, not surprisingly, was a losing bet anyway. Do some people not realise that 'we' are focusing all our efforts on finishing in 17th place (or higher) in the league, and have no interest in "doing a Wigan"? And I'm not sure 'we' meant to win at West Bromwich Albion in the Third Round for that matter. Either West Bromwich Albion are worse than we all think, or they are so concerned at the possibility of relegation that they put more effort into losing! 

While we are talking about relegation, Crystal Palace traded as low as 1.08 to go down. Their price now? Around 2.4.

On to more serious matters, and the debate on court-siding rumbles on. There is, in my view, a dangerous belief that the presence of court-siders is of minor consequence, and might even be a help! I understand that some people have an agenda here, but to me it makes no sense. 

Here's Dynamic Tennis trading (via Sports Trading Life's) idea:
Therefore, you need to adapt your trading style. I trade tennis by taking positions in between points and with a short term view of getting out after a certain amount of points. I take up what I believe to be good value positions within a tennis match based on how the events are unfolding and how I feel the markets will react.
Except that this assumes the court-sider, or more accurately the trader with the advantage of being first, is happy to leave value behind. It is simply not possible to bet at poor (i.e. negative) value and make a long-term profit. And there is competition for the value left behind too.

Yes, I do understand that you could make a profit, but the odds are against it. [Unless your name is Emp of course].

Consider someone who is into buying up cars at auction. They might have an expert eye, but then so do lots of other people, but imagine that before the auction, one of your fellow car dealers has a word with the auctioneer, and says "I'll give you 60% of my profits if you let me have a mechanic take a look under the bonnet, and you don't let any of these other sods near it".

Assuming the mechanic knows his stuff, how are you or any of the 'blind' traders ever going to make a living from this? If you get to "win" a car, it's because the "seeing" trader let it go at that price. And yes, we all know that an auctioneer often looks forbidding...

Sports Trading Life continued:
Tennis Trading for the home trader these days is more about match reading and having a “feel” for the markets then anything else. If you can spot when certain players are likely to have a dip or feel the pressure then you can trade tennis profitably and it is a skill that is developed with time. If you believe your tennis trading edge is simply getting into the markets before anyone else then you have to go courtside and this seems like a tricky proposition.
"IF" you can spot... That's a big IF. While tennis isn't a sport I care for too much, it seems to be popular with many traders, and it is those people you are competing against. As with trading football, it seems unrealistic to think that you are the best reader of the game out there.
Look to trade by taking positions based on the match so far. Read the match and trade that way. When you do trade like this, courtsiders are actually a help since you see the markets move before the point is scored on TV. This can give you a few extra seconds to make your next decision while other home traders might be still making their decisions. Courtsiders also help provide the amazing liquidity you see on some matches. These guys are trading with 5-6 figure stakes which makes more money available to be won.
The markets moving before the point is seen on TV is one reason why I don't trade tennis. For one thing it is very annoying! As for the idea that you can somehow use the court-siders (and associates) move to plan your next move, really? Even if you knew that the fast-data trader often leaves a little value behind, there are likely to be hundreds of 'home' traders fighting over those scraps. While confidence in a trader is a good thing, I think a semblance of reality is useful too. And those 5-6 figure stakes are not charitable donations. They may well be won on occasion, but again, long-term, no - unless the fast-data trader is useless of course.

Back to my car auction analogy, and what is going to happen after a while? The 'blind'traders, assuming they have any sense, will soon get tired of buying what turn out to be crappy cars at too high a price and get frustrated at not being able to buy the better cars at a price they can make a profit from, so they go away. Occasionally a new guy shows up, but doesn't stay for long, certainly not through to the bidder end, and the auction business suffers because car sellers move to selling their cars elsewhere realising that an unfair auction means poor prices for them.

My analogy might not work if the 'bought advantage' is only good for one auction - no one really notices perhaps, or accepts it as one of those things, but are traders really going to be so accepting of the likes of Sporting Data and their admitted employment of six people to travel the world and getting a persistent advantage?

It's also true that auctions, like casinos, are entertainment, and if you're there for a bit of fun expecting to pay a price for that fun, that's fair enough. I'm just concerned that articles like Sports Trading Life's paint a rosier picture of the situation than is actually the case.  

It seems to me that the auctioneer has a responsibility to ensure a fair auction, and should do his (or her) best to ensure that as far as possible, this is so. If the auditors see the same buyer winning all the better cars, one might expect questions to be asked, and if it is shown that "the auction house has been negligent and as a result you have suffered loss or injury", you may be entitled to compensation.

Friday 24 January 2014

To Climb A Tree

Taking time out from developing yet more profitable strategies - "it really isn't that tough" - Emp said...

Emp asks why it is fair for someone of higher intelligence to use that advantage while betting, but gaining an advantage from court-siding isn’t.?
To clarify, this wasn't what I was asking. I was challenging the assumption that creating a sports-betting model by hiring 15 quants and throwing 15 seasons worth of data through custom-made simulations (modus operandi of most big whales) is the same thing as intelligence.
No matter how intelligent an average person is, they can't do this, it's just like paying 'analysts' a matter of resource constraint.
To clarify, I was attempting to paraphrase Emp's eight itemised comments into something manageable, and I got close. Intelligence comes in different forms of course, and it was Einstein who said:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
There was a reason I placed the word 'analysts' in quotes. Someone pressing a button to reflect what just happened is not an analyst by any definition of the word.

Nick commented:
Ex-Betfair employees engaging in this seems to me like someone leaving the vice squad to become a pimp.
The sharks lost trust with Betfair years ago but once the mainstream cotton on it could spell big problems for them.
They need to work out a solution to this else the GC will step in and the only in-play betting will be top flight football.
Frog2 on the Betfair Forum suggested:
This issue needs to be urgently addressed. Market failure that leads to a small group of people draining others at double digit margins is not good for Betfair or other punters.
A few more details emerged at the court hearing in Melbourne yesterday, notably that Sporting Data employ six people to travel to tennis tournaments around the world, and that Mr Dobson had previously been kicked out of a tournament in New Zealand:
THE first person charged with Victoria's "courtsiding" offence is one of six people who travel to tennis tournaments the world over to send live score updates to a British betting agency, a court has heard.
UK man Daniel Thomas Dobson, 22, was arrested after an Australian Open match last week following intelligence received by Tennis Australia and passed on to police.
He's accused of using a device hidden in his shorts to send live point details from the match to betting agency Sporting Data Limited.
His lawyer, David Galbally QC, told the Melbourne Magistrates Court on today Mr Dobson was seeking to have the charges dropped. But prosecutors rejected Mr Galbally's submission and will push ahead.
Prosecutor Luke Excell said Mr Dobson was allegedly one of six people who travel the world to send live results of points won at tennis tournaments directly to the betting agency.
"He's previously been asked to leave a tournament in New Zealand," Mr Excell told court.
Mr Dobson has been charged with one count of engaging in conduct that would corrupt a betting outcome.
He allegedly had a device built into his shorts and linked to his mobile phone which allowed him to wirelessly relay the results as they happened.
Mr Dobson sent results before the agency could get them through the official channels and that had the ability to affect betting odds, a police prosecutor told a hearing last week.
But Mr Dobson's lawyers claim their client was simply collecting data for the betting agency.
Dobson was bailed to live in a Melbourne hotel following his arrest on January 16, but Mr Galbally said his client wishes to return to England until a March court date.
Mr Galbally said Mr Dobson planned to live with his father, Detective Inspector Tim Dobson of the Metropolitan Police, upon his return to England.
The court could therefore have confidence he would return to face the charge, Mr Galbally said.
The Office of Public Prosecutions proposed Mr Dobson post a bail surety of $100,000 to $500,000, a figure which Mr Galbally said amounted to "no bail at all".
Mr Galbally said the figure was excessive given police initially offered Mr Dobson a diversion for his alleged offending.
Diversion allows first-time offenders to acknowledge responsibility and be released without conviction.
Magistrate Gerard Lethbridge said he intends to allow Mr Dobson to return home on a surety of $10,000.
The hearing was temporarily stood down while the arrangements for the surety are organised.
Bongo had a few thoughts on the subject too:
Remarkable - almost 1/5th of bets matched on the Becker game were with a company breaking the rules of the tournament they were betting on. And they have potentially 6 people travelling the world, buying tickets for events, clicking YES I agree the terms at point of purchase, and then breaking those rules.
I suspect they're doing it for profit. Not benevolence. When a book subsequently goes to 100% i suspect that is those not rule-breaking who are coming in a second or two later.
Three directors with inside information about how Betfair works, one of whom may have been architect of the API.
I suspect they are mates with current Betfair directors but can't be sure. I suspect current Betfair directors know about them , and their rule breaking but rather than impose a sanction, they take their custom. But can't be sure of it. I suspect the Betfair disclaimer hasn't been updated to include 'private data feeds' along with the stuff about 'broadcasts' because they can't be bothered or because they don't want people to catch on that 1/5th of bets are with people who are cheating the event organisers rules.
Betfair needs new customers, and so do those on General Betting who make a profit here. First time betters will be naive, will take a few goes to get used to the buttons on this site, and won't be the coding and maths clever people. Does Betfair want them to see a bet they like at 3.4 - 3.6, they go to back 3.4 and immediately it's either unmatched at 3.3 or matched at 3.4 but the odds have changed to 3.5 depending on whether the first serve is in or out, which the guy sees on his TV half a second later.
What will keep a customer imv is if he gets matched at the price he likes and half the time or almost the outcome of the first point after the bet. That's going to excite and keep the newcomer.
What I would like to see:
Betfair sanction accounts connected to people breaking tournament ticketing rules - closure is appropriate.
Also hand over details of those accounts to HMRC so they can compare them to Sporting Data's directors' tax returns. The individuals are surely carrying out a trade so profits should be subject to income tax.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Low Latency Trading

In hindsight, perhaps I shouldn’t have taken a day off from blogging. I don’t believe I have ever had so many serious comments on a single topic. Possibly my thoughts on the great Adam Heathcote which generated a few more, although they were generally of much poorer quality, but very amusing, especially when my concerns over his 'trading service' turned out to have merit.
"Can I post a full and frank apology. Got this all very wrong. The service being provided is truly truly, utterly horrific."
All comments are published in the comments sections of the posts they responded to, and many copied at the end here, but since there is some replication, I’ll be addressing the points raised in general.

The topic is that of the rights or wrongs of the practice of “data-harvesting”, as one article I read yesterday referred to it. Let’s first be clear that court-siding is not illegal. It may often be a breach of the terms and conditions of entry to a sporting event, but it is not illegal, nor does it have anything to do with match-fixing. On those points, I think we can all agree.

We can also all agree that people will always receive their information with varying delays. On-site is faster than radio, is faster than analog TV, is faster than cable TV is faster than satellite TV is faster than internet scoreboards and so on, and yes, if someone chooses to trade off the internet scoreboard or from the close of play Test Match report in their morning newspaper, then that is their decision.

And yes, nothing that Sporting Data or any similar companies are doing is breaking any rules.

The heart of the issue for me is that an in-play market should be as fair as possible to the great majority of people. The disclaimer that "The extent of any such delay may vary, depending on the set-up through which they are receiving pictures or data." satisfied the Gambling Commission in their 2009 study, and they saw no evidence that suggested there was an issue with the differences in data speed. They recognised technological advantages, but in general they were content, in no small part guided by the answers provided by Betfair themselves, that no abuses were taking place.

Here are some responses from Betfair in 2008 to the Commission:
Given the facts emerging from this case, the answer if the question were asked now would have to be different. There is at least one sophisticated operation, run by former employees of Betfair, attempting to do this, and probably more.
However, the details revealed in the past week show that for some time now, at least three years, there has been an organised effort to gain an advantage in markets over, not just a handful of people who willingly trade behind the protection of the countdown, but over a majority of people active in the market. Now again, there is nothing illegal or that contravenes any rules here. Any of us could make the investment to send out ‘analysts’ to various events around the world and give ourselves this edge, so technically one could argue, as several have, that it is fair. All is fair in love and betting after all.

Except for the complete novice, who should soon learn, and one hopes it’s a cheap lesson, anyone trading in-play markets will soon be able to determine their delay behind the first mover. Emp mentioned a cricket match trading at 2.24 and suddenly the price drops to 1.7. A key event has clearly occurred, and it’s the same, to varying degrees, in other sports.

To those who point out that it is possible to develop trading strategies despite this disadvantage, you are absolutely correct, but they will be strategies that you would implement during a pause in play rather than "in-play". There is after all "in-play", and "in-play", by which I mean technically, trading at half-time is in-play betting, but it’s rather different to trading while a game is literally in-play.

When I mentioned that betting during a break in play was akin to betting pre-match, this is what I meant. Perhaps the terms in-running and in-play, should, rather than be synonymous, be used more specifically in this regard? – a market is in running, but betting in-play means ‘during action’. Just a thought, but I think it would be a useful distinction.

Even Emp, who self-reportedly finds it astonishingly easy to develop a profitable strategy despite having obsolete data, must see that trading in-play with a delay greater than the countdown safety net cannot be profitable long-term, assuming the first mover knows what they are doing of course, or is extremely risk averse and leaving some value on the table. Otherwise any bets you are matched at will be at poor value. And if you are making a long-term profit,your profits are reduced from what they would be. As a respected poster on the Betfair Forum puts it:
I'll keep it simple.

You are vulnerable to operators with quicker information than you if
i. you leave up unmatched bets in play
ii. you are unable to cancel these unmatched bets within 5 seconds of a point being considered to be won.
i.e. you are attempting to be a market maker with significantly out of date information, i.e. you are an idiot.
So while the in-running markets may still be lucrative to those with an edge based on skill and knowledge of the sport, the in-play component of these markets is unlikely to be.

Anyway, back to the core of the matter. Below is a silly chart showing, with completely made up numbers, how an in-running market’s traders might be getting their data, and with what delay.
The numbers aren’t important, and are for illustrative purposes only, and what they illustrate is that in the above scenario, in an in-running market with the standard five second delay, someone court-side (not necessarily literally, but with access to court-side data) will be able to match bets left in the market by all but other court-siders and radio traders. In my example that would be 96%.

As many readers will know, the delay is often more than five seconds. Some Spanish football matches are at 8 seconds, and I believe I have seen as much as 10 seconds on some markets. The NHL delay was 5 seconds in the early days, and I believe is now 8 seconds, so the 5 second ‘rule’ is not a rule. Betfair change it at will – it is not consistent across sports, and in baseball I have seen different countdowns on different matches - and while I am not sure what factors they consider before making changes, it’s reasonable to assume that getting picked off will have generated complaints and result in markets dying if individuals feel their protection is gone. Five seconds is presumably the default, because that is the amount of delay that ensures most traders can cancel bets if there is an adverse turn of events. Perhaps it came from the worlds of horse-racing and football, and was just applied to other sports without much thought.

So one might reasonably ask why has there been no change in the tennis markets regarding the countdown. Betfair will know that the same (for example) 20 accounts are frequently winners, but have chosen to ignore the data showing them that an increase to 8 seconds would protect all but the satellite and internet traders (and newspaper readers). Again, I need to emphasise that these numbers are completely nonsense – please focus on the idea.

My assertion here is that Betfair, as a publicly traded company beholden to its shareholders to maximise profits, should take steps to stop the same accounts from continuously profiting at the expense of other traders, and ultimately at the cost of reduced profits for Betfair.

I suggest that by not putting a stop to this practice, they are also jeopardising the long term regulatory approval for in-running betting. As mentioned before, the Gambling Commission has already previously expressed concerns, and evidence showing that Betfair have continued to allow a preventable “unfairness” to persist won’t look good. The fact that at least three beneficiaries are former Betfair employees with inside knowledge of the company’s products, application and workings is another wrinkle.

The Gambling Commission may have been ok with a handful of people having an edge from fast data at one event, and perhaps a different handful of people having the same edge at a second event, and so on, but I doubt that the GC would think too highly of a small group of  people giving up jobs, setting up limited companies and paying for flights to foreign lands, hotels and all the other expenses that go along with that, to make money from a timing loophole. Such a sophisticated operation exploiting a (currently legitimate) loophole would surely be of interest and probably concern to them. What’s their mission again? “Keeping gambling fair and safe for all”.

One final question on fairness – Emp asks why it is fair for someone of higher intelligence to use that advantage while betting, but gaining an advantage from court-siding isn’t.?

I think we’ve already covered that ideally, trading should be a contest between individuals with the outcome based on “skill and knowledge”. While some individuals will lack the dedication to put in the effort and hours to master trading, and others, through no fault of their own, will not have the basic tools to ever learn in the first place, imagine a naturally gifted athlete who trains hard for an event, only to be beaten by a less hard working athlete who decides to use steroids. The authorities do what they can to keep sport clean – perhaps they may seem ineffective, but drug testing and results can be complicated and tainted, but Betfair know which accounts are benefiting from an advantage that could be closed – and yes, again, syndicates using fast-data are doing nothing illegal, nor breaking any rules.

For the numerous commenters who picked up on my reference to the financial markets being regulated, yes it was slightly tongue in cheek. As many readers will know, I have long stated that day-traders sitting at home in their underpants are at a disadvantage. In 2010 I quoted the CEO of Charles Schwab on the subject of day-trading saying “It's a tough gig. You're competing against mega-institutions that are trading in hundredths of a second."  Plenty of others have information faster than you, and some of it is inevitably inside information. And I have written before that it is the same with horse-racing, and with perfect timing based on my Twitter feed, there was something a little dodgy that went down at Newbury just yesterday.

Here are most of the comments on my last post, with the occasional additional response.

Thatwasthepension writes:
This courtsiding isn't fair to the casual Betfair traders but it's within all legal rules. If you think the financial markets are better, forget it. The series of cheating spotted last year by the Nanex team should open the eyes of all financial traders. A good entry point starts in this post:'s only the tip of the iceberg I believe.
All addressed above I believe.

Great post, and great topic. Not sure I understand this part:
"It is illegal for Australian operators to offer micro-betting. In-play betting is allowed on the outcome of a match, but not via online platforms. Punters have to ­telephone a wagering company instead. Many international jurisdictions allow online in-play betting"
If that's the case, where does the in-play liquidity on Betfair during the AO come from?
Anonymous had an answer: 
The statement is almost right. If I correct it I imagine that would answer your question. It should really be:
"It is illegal for Australian operators to offer micro-betting. In-play betting is allowed on the outcome of a match, but not via online platforms FOR AUSTRALIAN PUNTERS.
AUSTRALIAN Punters have to ­telephone a wagering company instead. Many international jurisdictions allow online in-play betting"
So the answer to your question is "from punters not in Australia"
John Walsh had this to say:
I'm sure that my television feed is different being in Canada.

You bet on the NBA. Are you implying that your feed is more than 5 seconds delayed but place bets during the action anyway?
"In-running" certainly, not necessarily "in play", but occasionally depending on my delay.

Matt from the dormant submitted a small book:
Good articles Cass..
I believe SD are probably set up as a company so that they can employ people, pay them properly and the relevant tax etc. The data is then sold to themselves basically, acting as a betting syndicate, buying the data from SD the company. Betting syndicates not needing to pay tax.. or depending on how they have it set up, they might be betting on their own individual accounts, risking own cash.
The liquidity in the Aus Open is still being provided by remaining courtsiders (imo not many, maybe one or two) and internet feed users (bet365 etc).. net feeds are fast enough to allow you to cancel before you get 'sniped' by courtsiders. Net feeds are still going to be preferable to enetpulse anyway as their info, although it is probably quicker, will have mistakes and also delays around hawkeye challenges.. Though I guess if folks like SD have an automated strategy, they could put safety measures in place. The human eye is superior.
Is it possible for the ordinary punter to win on tennis in play ? Yes. In play more so than pre off.. there's plenty of value, most of the bigger market makers and value bettors use staking calculations which end up playing around the current sentiment... sentiment is emotional, and so there are plenty of emotional cul de sacs the market goes down you can find to exploit if you are patient. At other times, the market is very 'mathematically correct' with tight spreads...maths lacks reality and judgement, if you are good at reading body language or you know particular player attributes then a bet at market price can still have an edge, or at least, a temporary one.
Liquidity is really good in this respect.
Regarding courtsiding in general.. It has cost me a very very large amount of money over the years - I have been sniped 100s (maybe more) times by these guys... It's my mistake, and for the most part, the platform's fault for making it possible, and not the guys exploiting it (moral / ethics aside).. just my opinion, however I accept, I am well informed of the situation, ordinary punters will not know the effect this has to any edge you thought you had over time. I think many moons ago I wrote a blog post saying that when you run a platform, you have platform running responsibilities that bookmakers do not have. That is the ensure there is a level playing field for all your users, and total transparency and best execution in the markets (cross matching is horrific). Betfair have flunked these responsibilities, instead, choosing to play their bookmakers license card when it suits them. Platforms have specific regulation to prevent conflicts of interest (stock exchange?)...Betfair does not need to play by those rules.
Personally I find point to point fluctuation sniping to have some minor shades of grey, I'd rather them do 'something' to make sure it didn't happen, it would be lovely to be able to relax trading these markets, solutions are not readily forthcoming though. The problem with point to point stuff is, there is still room for opinion on price, did you intend to leave you money up? did you fat finger it? did you get carried away or suddenly form a strong opinion on who would win..? You could legitimately place some of these snipey looking bets.
A very large issue for me, was the period of time when courtsiders could grab the entire depth of market after the match point had ended and before even Betfair could suspend the market - that is totally wrong on every level. They have become much better on this in recent times. Betfair response to this was to again suggest that they must allow for people guessing, for chance and opinion.. why could this not be someone guessing that player B was going to win the point? ....The issue is, previous point odds can easily be 1.1 or higher (Wawrinka last night was 1.67 on match point).. they are never going to bet at 1.01 unless they 'know'. Saying that there was an example last week with MP odds of 1.2, courtsiders swiped everything down to 1.01 only for there to be a late call from the umpire, they ended up with 20k at 1.01 and 02 on their books. I'm sure this wasn't enough discouragement though.
Could they use the incoming bet feed to suspend? Could they display it for users perhaps?
Their issue with this (besides whether it is technologically possible) is probably that traders might well just cancel everything when unknown quantities are coming in taking their bets.. even on tight spread action. Matched volumes could go through the floor. It would certainly be fair though..? and they are called, BetFair.
It would certainly be technically possible for Betfair to do something with an incoming bet at 1.01 if the current back price is 1.67. Maybe have an additional delay or reject the bet for being 'out of range' perhaps. But then there's the layers at 1.01 who would be pissed if the 'winning' shot turned out to be long...
Emp is completely right in his statement. If you want to trade in the markets (financial, sporting, name your arena) then it is beholden on you to ensure that you know what you are doing. That means knowing what the latest state of play is as much as it means being able to work out what the correct value is given that state of play.

I am not sure if you have been following the finance markets recently (i.e. over the past decade!) but there has been an exponential growth in High Frequency Trading. This is where the big banks spend ever more money to get over lower latency feed and market access.
Market access used to be measured in hundreds of milliseconds. It has now got to the point where if you are not working to nano second response times you are history. In the light of that then I guess the multi second sporting data latency we are talking about here is an outright joke.
Sporting Data obviously have an edge you don't have. I think the forums need to either work out how to regain that edge or stop complaining.
It seems to me that a lot of the punters who are complaining now are people who have historically done well out of their (value) edge but are now concerned that they are losing it to the low latency players. I don't recall these historically successful people complaining about the money they were taking off the mug punters who didn't have their value edge in the past.
Adapt or die.
Most points already addressed, but just to emphasise again that the "low latency" players value edge comes from knowing what has happened, not from researching, from models or from studying games.

Anonymous (same one) again:
You only need ultra low latency if your edge is really just about getting into the market quicker than everyone else. If you have a different type of edge that is latency tolerant then you are fine.
Most people would say that the most successful "trader" in the financial markets is Warren Buffett. Probably as far away from the high frequency setups as it is possible to get.
As I said before: adapt or die.
Not really. Warren Buffett isn’t what anyone would think of as a "trader". He isn’t in and out of a stock 50 times a day for a start. He does his analysis, he looks at the long-term, and he buys (or sells). More akin to betting ante-post than on an individual match, set or game really.

I appreciate there's a big intersection on the Venn diagram of Betfair punters and people who wear foil hats, but what would lead someone to believe that just because someone once worked for Betfair that they get any sort of special arrangement?
The people at Sporting Data left Betfair in 2009, since when Betfair's entire management team, every single solitary one of them, has been replaced. Why would Betfair's current management want to give away money to people they've never even worked with?
I don't know that there is any evidence of a special arrangement, but we know they are using their personal accounts, and it would be remarkable if Betfair weren't aware that three of their Premium Charge generating accounts belonged to former employees. Why their management allows this to continue is also unknown at this time.

Hejik left a comment on the Sultan sideshow:
You would appear to have ruffled a few feathers with your cynicism Cassini.

Sultan has got a right paddy on and won't publish my comments (very polite and very fair questions) which is hardly in the interests of fair-play, I'm sure you will agree.
With no right to respond with a contrary opinion on his blog, I figured I'd little option but to raise the question here where readers will hopefully follow his link.
I hope I haven't overstepped.
The Sultan issue isn't a priority for me to discuss right now, but suffice it to say that the argument that you are held back by a lack of money, yet you have an edge, is nonsense. The magic of compounding means that if you have an edge in a sport like tennis, you can soon build a decent bank from any amount. Edges are not derived from bank size as Odwyer (whatever happened to him?) seemed to think.

I'd like to address a lot of what you said since you think it's so very ridiculous. I have quite a few observations.
1) It seems somewhat rude and is definitely incorrect to say that I don't think.
2) Betting during a break is most emphatically not the same as betting pre-game, because in sports other than football, prices don't move in that smooth Poisson distribution based manner. Prices that are efficient pre-game can become inefficient during the game (certainly in some sports at least).
3) On the possibility of winning methodologies, a few questions and some observations.It's obviously true that being able to bet after every point is better than only during breaks, but I'm not sure why not being able to do so would cripple all methodologies except those of the people doing this strategy (which is what you imply when you say that only those same accounts will keep winning).
4) If your point is that no one would bet if they knew these sharks were doing this, I assure you that's not true...plenty of people just enjoy gambling and many of them are OK with it being slightly -EV or not as profitable as it would without those tactics. Being first to the info just doesn't seem all that heinous to me, given that even without court-siding, feeds would be assymetric depending on where in the world you live.
5) As some have mentioned, info isn't as a matter of fact symmetrical in financial markets either, and leaving aside stocks, in currencies and commodities,(where insider trading is perfectly legal) there is wild information asymmetry and this doesn't seem to have dried up markets or killed non-shark participation.
6) In the market I really know- cricket, court-siding can be profitable if one did it, but it doesn't hurt market viability at all. To begin with, if one's looking at Betfair, it's pretty easy to tell what a sudden change in odds represents in terms of the action that happened. You'd have to be utterly stupid to see the price change from 2.24 to 1.75 and not realize a wicket has fallen. Recognizing inaccuracies in the adjusted price is more than sufficient to be massively profitable.
I think this is significant because cricket is the best sport for in-play betting and court-siding doesn't even begin to affect the functioning of the market (which isn't even primarily on Betfair).
I would disclaim though that the best approach to cricket-betting is based on hugely in-depth knowledge of the players and not mechanical trading type approaches. In other words, in-play value betting.
I also want to point out additionally something I missed out:
I don't agree with your distinction of this information as being "unfair" but edges created by use of Poisson Distributions, Markov Chains and highly simulated computer models (which most big sports-betters now use and which no recreational punter would ever be able to use or recreate due to financial barriers) as being fair.
Can you please explain a) how automated and algorithmic betting models and the like are fair but this isn't b) how it's fair for me to be watching with binoculars from a high-rise building and placing my bets (definitely possible on most cricket grounds) but not courtsiding and c) assuming courtsiding was banned, why would it be fair if my TV feed was on a 5 sec delay and yours on a 15 sec delay?
Life isn't fair Emp, we all know that. As someone who finds it all so easy to make a fortune, you are clearly one of life's lucky ones.
...develop a method that can withstand being 10 seconds late on info, it really isn't that tough.
Most, if not all, of the key points raised have been clarified above already, although I'll just point out that while all markets are likely to see one party or another have an advantage based on timely information at one time or other, the difference here is that the same small group of people always have that advantage. Quite different.

Basically unless you can afford a data collection infrastructure delivering light speed latency and you can ignore/tolerate any copyright breach fines on that data, then you are going to lose.
Matt is back:
Not sure if that 'fair' question was directed at me Emp, but to be clear, during a match I'm fine with folks playing with the fastest data - the platform rules allow it, people will do whatever it takes to take out inefficiencies and do this as quickly as possible. Adapt or die as someone else says.. it's just a fact of life (or platform).. Personally I find these guys quite useful at times as I can get a nice price when I spot that they have been able to get some action.
Any comments I made on fairness relate solely to the same speed used once the match has finished in live time, and before Betfair can suspend. That is wrong and unfair imo, there's no prospect of the other side ever winning.
On a lighter note, some BIG money coming in on the Queen's abdication, sent to me by Scott.

And finally, I mentioned Matt's dormant blog earlier. While retrieving the link for you all, I happened to start reading it and not far down was this excellent post which included these words:
What will eventually topple Betfair does not necessarily need to be completely different (just in the right areas). As their website grew, they moved further away from their original idea. Their decision making process became messy, resulting in poor choices in usability, cost, design, customer service and regulation - the number of areas upon which improvements can be offered by a rival increases, as do the grievances of the current userbase (see Premium Charge, Cross Matching etc. as Cassini pointed out).
What is required IMO is a return to, and improvement upon, what the exchange concept was always about, betting person to person. Of course Betfair is still doing this, but they increasingly push their alternative products, where they take a much greater share of the profits. This aside, there are innovations to be made in the way people bet with one another, the way markets are set up and the social aspect of the site. I have a few ideas, but I won't be posting them here.
One thing I am more than happy to post is that any rival would do well to push for much better regulation. A site that actively seeks the same restrictions (or a variation) placed upon FSA regulated exchanges would be a leap in the right direction. Best practices must surely involve not placing bets on your own exchange (even if it is hedging multiples), not compromising on best execution (cross matching) - exploiting your own platform's short-comings for profit.
Conflicts of interest (or potential conflicts of interest) need to be banished, as does this ability to switch between Bookmaker and Exchange at will, exchanges are very different to the former and should be treated as such.
The length of this post might rival one of Graeme's at The Football Analyst! Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Sporting DataGate

More developments on the story that refuses to go away, except on the Betfair Forum where a thread on the topic has been pulled by the powers that be and contributor Ballabriggs has been banned.

Betfair have not just censored the ballabriggs account from the forum, they have closed it too.
It's ok to leave the company knowing how the markets operate inside out, who wins, and how they win. It's ok to set up an external company, betting on Betfair markets, using courtsiders sent not just to places where it is legal to bet in-running, but also to places like the Australian Open and the US Open.

It's ok to send young 22 year olds putting them at the risk of prosecution to these places.

BUT. It's not ok to talk about it.

Betfair have to realise the enemy isn't the messager, it's the people straining at the very edges of legality, offering very poor out of date value to Betfair customers, which in turn does wound Betfair profits.

There is now a 2nd investigation in the news today, this time into a cricket courtsider.
While there isn't much about this topic that is amusing, there was a comment on Ballabrigg's ban that did bring on a smile:
I think Betfair have outsourced the forum management to Sporting Data.
Mark Iverson sent me a link to a radio interview conducted by Sporting Data CEO Steven High. The interview explains who their clients are, or rather aren't. They have none. They have directors, and they use the data themselves, so the clarification number one posted on their web site last week is at best misleading.
"The set-up is a little obscure in that we have a company who itself does not bet however we are directors of that company and on our personal accounts we bet but the reason for that is to comply with UK gambling regulations and become as tax efficient as possible".
 Anonymouse stepped away from the cheese to say this and this:
Betfair have never given a monkeys, and this time they may have gone too far. If the Australian regulator works out what has been happening, it would be no surprise for Betfair to lose their Australian license for all in-running sport.
So the three ex Betfair employees send someone to courtside, and then bet on their own accounts from London. Great. Stay classy Betfair.
Emp chipped in, with:
I don't think there's anything unfair about getting faster access to information that is in the public domain than others. I also think that if you are gambling your money on events, morally speaking, regulator aside, it's your job to ascertain what the conditions are and decide if and when you want to place bets. I have no sympathy for those who can't be bothered to find this out, or for those who can but can't get access to this fast information and hence want others not to have it, so that they can be profitable.
If you can't access this info, develop a method that can withstand being 10 seconds late on info, it really isn't that tough.
I agree it's morally speaking unfair that plenty of bettors don't have PC or Super PC due to negotiated benefits, but it's a private company and they are not required to provide you with a platform to mint money. I've seen similar levels of entitlement from poker players on Poker Stars and I can't agree with it.
I fully agree with Emp on his first three words. The rest of his comment, not so much. Does he believe that trading should be a test of skill, person A pitting their wits against person B, or should the markets be more scrappy and about who can gain a big enough technological edge to ensure victory? If you believe the latter, then fine. It's every man for himself, but then what happens? Word will get out that the markets are unfair, and liquidity will fall, and when liquidity falls, Betfair make less money, and as a public company, they have a duty to maximise profits for shareholders. There's a reason why financial markets are regulated, and why London and New York are financial centres rather than Kabul or Baghdad, and there's a reason that the Gambling Commission took a close look at in-play betting in 2009. Emp might not care, but the GC might.

Whether you have sympathy for people who get caught out isn't the issue. As a reputable company offering a platform for individuals to trade against each other, there is an expectation that, as much as possible, the contest is a fair one. It is clearly not a fair one if the same three accounts are winning most of the time with an edge, not from knowledge of the sport and game-reading, but because they are one point ahead. The comment "If you can't access this info, develop a method that can withstand being 10 seconds late on info, it really isn't that tough" is laughable. As has already been discussed, it is not impossible for the Average Joe to win with sharks in the market, but it is a lot harder, and if your method with a 10 second handicap works, imagine how much it would make you if the market were a fair one. If you are not actually losing money, it is still costing you money in reduced profits. Emp mentions Poker, and it's a little like playing Poker against someone who has already seen the flop, or the turn or the river cards. You can win, but long-term, it's not very likely unless the guy with the advantage is absolutely clueless.

John Walsh raised the same point in a comment:
I don't want to take away from the discussion about Sporting Data, but I would like to address the part of G's comment about the ordinary punter having any chance.
I mainly trade the North American sport markets. The most liquid of those are NFL and NBA. When trading I assume that there are court siders. In fact I use them to figure out how much lag is in the feed that I am getting. For the NBA my feed is usually 10 seconds later than bets coming in, which would mean it is 15 seconds behind the action unless someone has a privilege of not being required the full 5 seconds delay on bets, which is another debate. For this reason I limit my betting to breaks in the action, which can be frustrating when I see an opportunity I'd like to jump in on but know I'm at a disadvantage if I do so I stay disciplined (a very important trait of any successful trader). Through experience and knowledge of the game I believe the ordinary punter can be successful. I use some in-play models but I don't think they are required to be successful. Cassini written much on this blog about being successful at betting in-play in the NBA. Odds get too short on teams that just finished a big run. Let's say Sporting Data is using their model and betting on the team that is a favorite at a certain point in the game and backing for what they feel the odds should be. Now you get others betting in the market that make bets that are for lower odds, lets say they are scared to miss out on what looks to be a winner. This is an opportunity where knowledge of the game and experience betting in-play comes in to play. In fact Sporting Data may have helped you get better odds because they are putting down large amounts that aren't getting fully matched and creating fear in the market.
If I have a television feed that is within the 5 seconds of live action I will put bets out there that if a team scores points the bet may get matched by someone reaching too far for a bet.
Meaning if odds were around 2.00 I would lay the team with the ball for 1.50-1.90, depending on what point of the game it was, and if they made a three the bet may get matched. If it doesn't it's not a big deal and if it does I would feel I got value.

The three-point shot is more popular now more than ever in the NBA. This creates more variance. It makes it harder for models to work, such that Sporting Data are using.

The NFL can be similar. If you look at the regular season game between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos. Denver was leading 24-0 at the half and were a huge favorite. I took that half time opportunity to make a huge bet on the Patriots. Teams constantly make adjustments through the game but half time gives coaches/players the largest amount of time to make adjustments. Bill Belichick is one of the best at making those adjustments. If the Broncos were down by a big score at half time I would have looked into betting on them too.
There is a point in a game if a team has a big lead that they will start to think about being conservative and using the clock. They may not stay aggressive and throw the ball as much because a deflection could mean an interception or a touchdown for the other team, an incompletion means that the clock stops. Comebacks are common in the NFL.
So G I feel there is chance for an ordinary punter in these markets to be successful. I'm an ordinary punter. I may use some in-play models but I rely on knowledge of the game and experience in the markets to get an edge.
Take my word on it that television feeds are not anywhere near 5 seconds of live action (I've been to NBA games), and betting on breaks in the action is akin to betting pre-game. The game state is known, although someone court-side will be able to see if LeBron James is hobbling off to the dressing room, or Aaron Rogers has dislocated his shoulder while the rest of us watch commercials. Speaking of game state, here is another reason why long-term, the presence of someone one play ahead of you will cost you money.

Here's a little graphic I drew up at the beginning of the 2013 baseball season.
Note how much the odds change after an out. If someone has that information, you really are up against it, unless you are Emp, in which case a model should turn this handicap into a winner. "It really isn't that tough".

And substitute an 'out' in baseball for a three-pointer in basketball, or a touchdown or turnover in the NFL or a home run with the bases loaded. The fast money will take anything of value before you even see the play - it really is idiotic to think that someone with fast data isn't hurting the average trader. Yes, you can still profit, but it is still costing you money, and it is ultimately costing Betfair and its shareholders, money.

Unfortunately the next Betfair shareholders meeting doesn't appear to be until next September, but shareholders, and I would say account holders too, have a right to know if certain accounts are protected by a special arrangement from Premium Charges and if all bettors are subject to the same delays. Sporting Data does not have an account we are told, the bets are all made from personal accounts. Are ex-staff accounts exempt of certain fees?

And what will the watching Gambling Commission recommendations be if it shown that in-play "irregularities" benefiting former employees have continued un-addressed for at least three years?

And finally, from the Australia Financial Review comes this, and apologies for the long post, I'll take a break tomorrow (probably).
Betting syndicate defends actions of courtside analyst
The British employer of the man arrested courtside at the Australian Open on January 14 says the betting syndicate has been sending its ­workers to the tournament for the past three years and despite losing on the match in question, was on track to make a profit from the tennis ­tournament.
Sporting Data director Steve High claimed his employee Daniel Dobson had done nothing illegal by relaying information on the outcome of individual points back to the company in Surrey, just outside of London.
This information was used to take advantage of a delay in the fluctuation of odds on betting exchange Betfair.
Mr Dobson, 22, was arrested on Tuesday after the round one match between Australian Nick Kyrgios and German Benjamin Becker.
He is alleged to have “engaged in conduct to corrupt a betting outcome” by using an electronic device in the pocket of his shorts, which was linked to a smartphone, to send the information to Sporting Data.
But Mr High said he believed laws under which Mr Dobson has been charged have been applied inappropriately. “To have criminal charges pressed was unthinkable to us,” he said.
“We were shocked that the police got involved. Obviously it’s in the hands of the court, but we’re still strongly of the opinion it’s not illegal.”
Victoria Police declined to ­comment while the case was before the court.
Mr High said Sporting Data first sent one of its ‘data analysts’ to the Australian Open in 2012.
At the 2014 tournament the company has three paid analysts including Mr Dobson. The other staff members have stopped working ­following the charges.
Mr High would not disclose Sporting Data’s overall financial details, but he revealed that the company had laid bets of £74,346 ($139,000) on the Kyrgios v Becker match. The company had 148 bets matched on Betfair, but lost £2763. On a betting exchange, every bet laid is matched by another punter willing to take the opposite outcome. The exchange takes a commission on winning bets.
“Obviously we lost on this one and actually we were having a pretty poor tournament even before Dan was pulled in,” Mr High said. “I think we were still marginally up overall for the tournament though and we still expected a good profit for the tour­nament.”
A Betfair spokesman would not comment on individual punters, but said the total bets matched on the exchange for the Kyrgios v Becker match reached $776,461 (£423,627).
At a press conference following the arrest the Victoria Police said Mr Dobson’s employer was using the information to place bets on ­individual points. This is known as micro or spot betting.
But Mr High said the company was only laying “in-play” bets on the outcome of a match. It is illegal for Australian operators to offer micro-betting. In-play betting is allowed on the outcome of a match, but not via online platforms. Punters have to ­telephone a wagering company instead. Many international jurisdictions allow online in-play betting.
Mr High was previously employed by Betfair in the United Kingdom as a senior product manager until 2009. While working at a smaller betting start-up he developed an automatic trading tool and started Sporting Data with two other directors in 2011.
The company uses mathematical models to predict how the odds on the outcome of a match will fluctuate after a point is won or lost.
By knowing the outcome of a point faster than it is relayed either on a television broadcast, or updated on a betting exchange, the company can decide if the odds offered are out of line and as such could provide an arbitrage opportunity.
Mr High said Sporting Data approached Enetpulse, the Danish company engaged by international tennis authorities to sell live result information to betting operators like Betfair, about also paying for the data but it refused. The company could not be reached for comment.

A number of gambling experts said sophisticated punters often use un­licensed wagering operators because the markets available on matches between relatively un­known players aren’t deep enough to be lucrative. Mr High denied his ­company used illegal operators and only used licensed betting exchanges Betfair and ****.
“I don’t have the contacts to know who they would be and to trust them to pay up,” he said of illegal operators.
Mr High said Sporting Data would fight the charge against Mr Dobson, and was paying his legal costs. The company had taken advice in the United Kingdom twice before in the past to ensure their use of courtsiding was legal. Mr High said his data analysts acted covertly, such as hiding the electronic devices, because the company knew it was violating the terms and conditions of spectator tickets. “We have had people ejected from other tournaments. We want to be as discrete as possible,” he said.
This was the first time a Sporting Data employee had been charged with a criminal offence, despite the company sending staff to all four of the grand slams and other tournaments. Mr High said tennis most suited the company’s mathematical models, but they had begun testing football and cricket as well.
Mr Dobson has been charged under laws introduced last year by the Victorian government that make it an offence for anyone to “engage in or facilitate any conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of a sport or racing event resulting in financial advantage”.
“The court case may well have the affect of confirming we are [operating within the law], but I’m not going to want to go through this experience again,” Mr High said.
He is considering legal action against Channel Seven’s Today Tonight, after what he said were incorrect reports about his company. Today Tonight sent a television crew to his home and tried to interview his wife, he said.
“I didn’t know much about ­Channel 7 before but I know I’m not a fan now,” he said.
Mr High said he was reconsidering having employees courtside, but also said it was unlikely that tennis authorities could stamp out the practice. “I think maybe the tennis authorities should consider other ways of working with us and we could have a grown up discussion about courtsiding,” he said.
Tennis Australia did not respond to requests for comment.
Interesting to see that they are now looking at beating the clock in, I mean 'testing', football. Cricket, I think we all knew about.

Monday 20 January 2014

FTL Update 20.1.14

Another weekend behind us, and another week closer to the end of the season. Highlights from this weekend's entries in the FTL table as far as positions are concerned are the rise of Drawmaster (Peter Nordsted) by four places into fifth place overall (third place for the cash) and the drops by three places each of Jamie A and The Football Analyst.

The top two remain in the same positions - Cassini Value Selections adding 2.66 and Hofs Hackers adding 1.52. Skeeve is in 3rd with his 'Official' selections, and his FTL eligible entry is in 4th place.

Interestingly, all the entries in profit by double figures are extremely selective, as illustrated by the corresponding double figure ROI percentages. It seems logical that the popularity of football and football betting would result in broadly efficient markets, and if you accept this premise, by definition you realise that the matches where you may have an edge will be few and far between.

Here are the entries currently in profit:

The middle order, those in the red, but not by much (i.e. single digit deficits), looks like this:
The Football Analyst's bounty liability increases to £225 after another poor weekend, but he is not too far off the pace and a good weekend could make a huge difference.

And those who are somewhat off the pace:
Scott's profit of 7.22 points on the weekend is a little lost with the big red numbers, but it was good enough to move him up one place in the standings. 

Several entrants were inactive this week, Murphy's Law, Forza Fizzer and Graham Carter, as well as the XX Bundeslayga system which had no matches to choose from. Back next week though. 
As always, please let me know if you see any errors.