Saturday 31 May 2014

Goldman Sachs Predictions

It's hard to believe that tomorrow sees the start of June. It may be an old cliché that time goes ever faster as we age, but it certainly seems that way. June sees the start of the World Cup of course, and I have written a couple of pieces for Betting Expert on this event, the first is here if you've somehow missed it, and it's been well received.

There's a second piece on the way, which is just as good - if not better - and on the subject of the World Cup, many of you will no doubt be aware that Goldman Sachs this week released its World Cup and Economics 2014 report, and all I can say is that if you have any investments under their management, stop reading and withdraw them now.

Take a look at the Predicted Group Results below. Of the 48 group stage matches to be played, GS are predicting that just one team will fail to score - poor old Cameroon who are predicted to go down 0:5 to hosts Brazil.
As you will understand after reading my next Betting Expert World Cup article, the complete absence of the 1:0 score in group matches comes as something of a surprise. With the group stage played in three rounds, the opening round has historically (since 1998) seen more than a quarter of matches end 1:0. Along with 1:1, it is also the leading score in the second round of matches, while in the third round 2:1 tops the list.

To predict 33 of the 48 matches (69%) to end as 1:1 draws, (not a single 0:0, or 2:2+ draw), is just nonsense. One would never guess they are American! 44 of the 48 matches will be either 1:1 or 2:1, the other four results being a pair of 4:1s (both Brazil v Croatia and Mexico), a 3:1 for Argentina v Nigeria and the 5:0 I mentioned earlier. England will be unbeaten, but eliminated, as I imagine several teams will be with the abundance of 1:1s.

The report likes Brazil and to a lesser extent Argentina, with the hosts predicted to beat their neighbours 3:1 in the final. Once again, the knock-out stages look good for Both Teams To Score, as all 30 do just that. Not sure about the third-place game, since it seems to be missing. Five matches are predicted to go to penalties, which would be a record high for a World Cup:
There is actually some interesting content in the 60 pages of the report, and Goldman Sachs has been in business since 1869 so they know what they're doing (you can re-invest your money now), but the model used to generate these scores is clearly in need of some improvement and they should probably stick to investing in the more traditional financial markets and stay away from sports.

'Port' Scott sent me a link to an article on Stephen Hawking's England-centred World Cup predictions, including his formula for England and penalties:
Some of those constants look a little off to me...  His conclusion on the winner is the same as Goldman Sachs - Brazil, and as an Englander of pre-1966 vintage, I like Hawking's observation about the red shirts! Shame he didn't mention the red socks.    

Friday 30 May 2014

Tense Situation

Most of you will by now have read the court-sider exposé by Carl Bialik on the excellent

If you haven't yet, read it, and understand that when trading in-play, you will only get matched at poor value if the court-siders are active.

One comment in particular deserves to be corrected, and that was from Sporting Data's Steve High who said:
The identity of the person on the other side of his bets didn’t matter. The clearest point I want to make is, he’s a guy who wants his bet to be matched.
This is not true, or at least disingenuous. The other guy wanted (past tense) to bet on a player at a certain price, but his bet is only matched if it is no longer a good value bet, i.e when the other guy no longer wants his bet matched.

It’s a bit like negotiating to buy a car for a certain price, and then seeing it get rear-ended while the negotiation are ongoing. You might still want to buy the car, but you are unlikely to want to pay the pre-accident price. A point has been completed, the game situation has changed, the probability of a win has changed after that point, and thus, so has the value price.

It's also a little sweeping to say the identity of the person on the other side of the bet doesn't matter. Technically it doesn't, but in a zero-sum game, will it matter when those other people wise up and realise they are playing in a rigged casino and walk away? Will it matter when the Gambling Commission rule that in-play trading is unfair, and ban it?

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Red Flag

With the abundance of top class football we are all lucky enough to have at our fingertips today, why anybody would bother with meaningless games such as international friendlies is beyond me. International competitive matches are hard enough to price up, never mind matches that no one cares about, and which might feature any number of substitutes by agreement with both teams so long as the referee knows the maximum number beforehand. If the following report, sent to me once again by Scott, (not a Scot), is to be believed, the maximum number of substitutes isn't the only thing about this game that is known ahead of time.

Foe the football analyst experts out there, Scotland played Nigeria once before, losing 1-2 in 2002. But that was an away game for Nigeria - the game at Craven Cottage is, of course, a home game for them, so all bets are off. In more ways than one.

Police have launched an investigation into attempts to fix a World Cup friendly between Scotland and Nigeria that is due to be played in London on Wednesday evening, the Telegraph can disclose.

Officers from the National Crime Agency, Britain's equivalent of the FBI which investigates serious and organised crime, are understood to have asked Fifa to issue an alert over potential attempts to rig the game.

The football match is one of a sequence of friendlies that serve as a warm up for the World Cup in Brazil next month and is due to be played at Craven Cottage, the home of Fulham Football Club.

The Scottish Football Association has been liaising with the NCA after the game was "red flagged".

Jim Boyce, Britain's most senior football official and Fifa Vice President said that he hoped the police would do “everything in their power to get to the bottom of [attempts to fix the game]”.
Related Articles

Premiership footballers are expected to play at Wednesday's game, including Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel, Liverpool’s Victor Moses and Manchester United’s Darren Fletcher. There is no suggestion that any of the players are involved.
There are growing fears that World Cup warm-up matches will be targeted by match fixers acting on behalf of illegal betting syndicates in the Far East. In recent months, there have been a series of arrests following suspected attempts to fix matches in the lower English football leagues. There have also been allegations of illicit activity in cricket.
A Singaporean match-fixer claimed in his book that he helped two international sides qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Wilson Raj Perumal, a convicted match-fixer, claims that he assisted Honduras and Nigeria in reaching the World Cup through his activities.
Stuart Regan, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Football Association, said, "We have been liaising with the relevant authorities, the National Crime Agency and Fifa, and will be preparing for the match as normal.”
A spokesman for the National Crime Agency (NCA) said: "The NCA will from time to time provide operational detail necessary for public reassurance purposes. It does not routinely confirm or deny the existence of specific operations or provide ongoing commentary on operational activity".
Fifa has detailed plans to give footballers special briefings on what to do if they are targeted by match-fixers during the World Cup.
For the first time players from all 32 competing nations will be given “integrity sessions” by Fifa officials, when they will be told to report anything suspicious via a special anti-corruption hotline available only to players and referees.
The threat posed to the World Cup by organised crime networks all over the world is being taken so seriously by Fifa that it has put a raft of unprecedented measures in place.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Ralf Mutschke, Fifa’s head of security, also issued a stark warning to English football over match-fixing, saying a series of arrests by the National Crime Agency last year should act as a “wake-up call” about the seriousness of the problem.
Mutschke, the most senior anti-corruption official in the world game, also told the British Government it would succeed only in combating the threat to sporting integrity in the UK if it passed a law specifically to deal with match-fixing, something it has so far refused to do.
Mutschke’s greatest immediate concern was the World Cup, with the former senior German police officer determined to leave nothing to chance.
“Fifa, and in particular myself, has to make the presumption that the World Cup itself is under threat and implement the maximum protection for our competition as we can,” he said. “We are trying to protect the World Cup from fixing and we have set up a pretty wide range of measures to do so.”
As well as integrity briefings, those measures will include intelligence-led targeting of high-risk players, referees and fixtures. “We are also indicating the players, the teams and their histories in fixing and making a risk assessment,” Mutschke said. “Is it a group match, is it the first match, is it the end-of-a-group match, is it a final? This indicates the vulnerability.”
Security agents will appear at each of the 12 World Cup venues, social media will be monitored and scrutiny will be applied to suspicious betting patterns, he said.
Mr Boyce said, "Everyone who loves the game of football will be very concerned with any allegations regarding the serious problem of match-fixing.
"If police have been alerted to the possibility that something may occur tomorrow, I hope they will do everything in their power to get to the bottom of it.
"If anyone is found guilty in any shape or form, they should be banned for life without any form of equivocation.
On Tuesday the director of the European anti crime agency, Europol, said that match fixing was not a “major problem”.
“I still don’t think it’s a major problem in European football, not from what I see,” Rob Wainwright, director of the European anti-crime agency, told reporters at Uefa headquarters.
“But we are sending a message that we want to make sure it doesn’t become one.”
Meanwhile, Scotland manager Gordon Strachan is already preparing for the 2018 World Cup Finals - he's bought the Sky Sports package so he can watch it.

Monday 26 May 2014

2013-14 - An Extraordinary Season

While I don't follow, from a betting perspective, the lower leagues in England, I do keep track of some of the statistics at the league level, and the loss of draws last season isn't seen in every league here.

The Conference did see the draws decline by 8.3% on their 10-year average to a record low, despite a small decrease in goals, but League Two saw the goals scored decline to a 10 year low by 8.6% and the draws consequently increase by almost 14%.

For the lower English Leagues, the raw numbers are here:

The Conference saw a big up-tick in home wins last season, the 48% being the highest in the last 10 years, while League Two saw the opposite - the 37.5% home wins being the lowest in the last 10 years.

The Championship was also at a record low for home wins in the last 10 seasons at 41.3%. Everywhere I look, the 2013-14 season seems to be setting records. Based on the past 10 years, the following records were set in 2013-14:
  • English Premier League - Highest Away Wins
  • Serie A - Fewest Draws, Highest Home Goals, Highest Away Goals, (and obviously Highest Total Goals)
  • La Liga - Highest Away Wins
  • Ligue 1 - Highest Away Wins (tied)
  • Bundesliga - Highest Away Goals, Highest Total Goals
  • Championship - Fewest Home Wins
  • League Two - Fewest Home Wins, Fewest Home Goals, Fewest Total Goals 
  • Conference - Fewest Draws / Highest Home Wins
Only League One appears to have had an average season with the numbers pretty much in synch with the 10-year averages there, but the number of 'records' elsewhere, and the divergence of them, is to me quite remarkable.

I am debating whether or not to start tracking teams in these lower leagues. It'll be more work, but my trading takes up less of my time now, and it's an interesting challenge. While the top leagues are where the interest tends to be, it is also where the betting competition tends to be, and there may well be more opportunities in the lower leagues. Not too low or we run into situations where squads are thinner, and inside information about a couple of injuries, hangovers, marital problems or whatever can be significant. Not to mention the possibility of match-fixing increases as we move down.

Another Angle For 2013-14

I mentioned the Favourite-Longshot bias seen in some of the top leagues in 2013-14, and here is the summary for all the leagues combined.

I divided the 1826 matches (actually 1825 because there were no Pinnacle Sports prices for the Juventus v Sassuolo game last December), and looked at each set of results in quintiles.

The bias is present, at least to some extent, in the Home selections as well as the Away selections, but seems to have taken a leave of absence with the Draws, at least with the most favoured quintile. The other four are actually in line with expectations. It appears that the missing draws have mostly come from the shortest 369 or so.

The overall numbers (not troubled by the draw, which is never going to be the favourite in a straight-played match), don't show the bias present much at all, but with the longest price being 2.85, that's not terribly surprising.

The higher priced Draws and Aways do confirm the bias, with big losses on both, but the fourth quintile of the Aways (priced between 4.3 and 6.8) shows much less of a loss than the 3rd and 5th quintiles.

It appears that what happened last season (2013-14) is that the lost shortest priced draws went to home teams, while the lost second and third quintile draws favoured the Aways.

Longer priced Home selections failed to confirm the Favourite-Longshot bias at the expense of the Draw.

I'll possibly look at a few more angles in the next week or two, but basically I've satisfied my curiosity about the XX Draw selections struggles this season, and ever the optimist, expect them to bounce back as the number of draws returns to their long-term averages.

That the less volatile Unders defied the odds and ended in profit despite the increase in goals (and decline in draws) was also a confidence booster, and speaking of which...

I was very pleased to receive a generous and quite undeserved bottle of Port from one loyal subscriber and FTL entrant this week (I'll protect his privacy). Let there be fewer goals indeed.

While the XX Draws lost 32.76 points on the season, the benchmark of all draws priced at sub 4.0 would have lost 70.88.

Overall, and in every league but France, the XX Draws beat the benchmark, by a lot in England, by a decent amount in Italy, and by smaller margins in Spain and Germany.
With the Under 2.5 goals selections, the top leagues were Germany and again the EPL.

Sunday 25 May 2014

The Draws Are Moving Away

Jamie A left a comment:

I'm not up to date with reading through your blog but I wonder if you could address something (you might have already done so).
There is the recurring theme of your XX draw selections being a bit 'unlucky' due to the decrease in draws across the various leagues this saeson - but I wonder where are these draws going and are they actually making your value selections a bit 'lucky'?
I can only assume that Jamie has been seriously ill, for what other good reason is there to fall behind with reading this fine blog?, so first, I wish him a speedy and full recovery.

This issue was first raised by Danny a few weeks ago, and was addressed in part here, although I wanted to wait for the season to end before drawing any conclusions.

Now that the season has ended, the draw count is in, and the decrease confirmed, the first question is why are the draws lower this season across all leagues?

Unfortunately I don’t have an answer to that. It is a World Cup season as discussed in this post here, but previous World Cup seasons have not seen this trend, and in the absence of any changes to the rules or allocation of points, I am putting it down to ‘just one of those things’. One season does not make a trend, and the Draws were up on their 10 year averages last season (2012-13) in both the EPL and Bundelsiga. 

Were this trend to continue, I might be tempted to posit that home advantage is diminishing and better (relative to the home team) away teams are not as willing to settle for a draw as they might previously have been. The increased professionalism of officiating might also be at play here. 

It is well known that home advantage comes from biased (albeit subconscious) refereeing decisions, but technology now means that not only are goal-line decisions out of the referees hands, but there is also better communication between officials, and the fourth official is there ‘helping out’ with the time added on, which traditionally would be longer with a home side losing than when it was winning.

As for the question of where are the draws going, and in support of my “diminishing home advantage at the top level” theory, the answer is that they are almost all becoming Away wins.

Of the 63 Draws ‘lost’ this (2013-14) season (based on 9 year averages because Serie A changed increased its membership in 2004-05), only one of them became a Home win, while a massive, and almost unbelievable, 62 (98.4%) became Away wins.

As Danny suggested a few weeks ago, Jamie also, not unreasonably, suggests that the Cassini Value Selections may have been beneficiaries of the draw drought. I accepted this possibility at the time, (obviously fewer draws means more homes and aways) but having looked at the numbers, since these value selections are almost always home selections in the 2.0 to 2.6 price range, it is obvious that if they have benefited at all from the dearth of draws, it is only by the minutest of margins.

The fact is that this season, anyone selecting anything other than away teams, would have struggled to meet expectations. The decline in draws is only one piece of the puzzle. The other side of this is why the Away win numbers are so high this season?

For those who like numbers, here are the 9-year averages across Europe, followed by 2013-14's results:
Away wins were at record (10 year) highs in England, France, Italy and Spain. Only Germany failed to set a new high, although they were still 8 wins above their 10-year average of 89.

One other observation is that except for Spain, in every other league the Home Goals Per Game (HGPG) minus the Away (AGPG) figure, i.e. the home advantage, is down on its 10 year average.

In Germany it is at 0.34 from 0.40, in France 0.37 (from 0.41), in Italy 0.35 (from 0.39) and in England 0.38 (from 0.42). Spain was at 0.51 (up from 0.42, in part because of the frequent thrashings handed out at home by Barcelona, Real Madrid and this year Atletico Madrid).

Top Books 2013-14

While the numbers from the top leagues show that Pinnacle Sports' prices are the best by some distance among the featured bookmakers on Football Data, they are NOT the top prices most of the time.

The featured books are Bet365, Bet & Win, Interweeten, Ladbrokes, Pinnacle Sports, William Hill, Stan James and VC Bet, but the maximum price quoted is often from one of the other 30+ books tracked by BetBrain. I use Pinnacle's prices for the FTL not only because they are usually competitive, even if not always top, but also because they actually take a bet. That VC Bet are top prices in 16% of matches is not much use if your account is closed or seriously restricted.

For Draw and Away prices, Pinnacle Sports offer the top prices 20% of the time. For Home prices, they are slightly behind VC Bet and Interwetten.

The summary isn't pretty reading for Bet365, Bet & Win, Stan James, Ladbrokes or William Hill, but BetBrain's books do include the exchanges without adjusting for commission.

How would betting every Home, Draw and Away with Pinnacle Sports have worked out last season?

Overall, the Homes would have been profitable, Aways down slightly and Draws, not surprisingly since there were hardly any, down by a lot.

English Premier League - 2013-14

As with the other four leagues already reviewed, draws in the EPL were down on their long term averages, and the decline was steepest in England. With a strike rate of just 20.5%, draws were 22% down on the 10 year average and 23% down on their 5 year average. 20.5% was the lowest anywhere, and it is not a surprise that backing the draw in every match would have cost you 74.39 points. Somehow, the XX Draws managed to be profitable.

As in Spain and Germany, the Favourite-Longshot bias is present, and if we look at the 380 matches in five groups of around 76 each, the draw returns break down as follows:

The top two - favourite - quintiles made a small loss, and the benchmark of backing sub 4.0 is down 34.88 points, much worse than the XX Draws which eked out a profit in this league of 3.54 points.

The Unders fared well in this league too. Backing the Under 2.5 goals in every match would have lost you 12.92 points, while the XX Draws backed as Unders made a profit of 5.41 points.

Bundesliga - 2013-14

The Bundesliga sees more goals than the other top leagues, and thus the draw expectancy is always a little lower than the others. At 20.9%, 2013-14 saw the draws down almost 17% on the 10 year average and down 16% on the 5 year average.

Backing the draw in every Bundesliga match would have cost you 52.91 points.

As in Spain, the Favourite-Longshot bias is present, and if we look at the 306 matches in five groups of around 61 each, the draw returns break down as follows:
The top - favourite - quintile makes a small profit, but the benchmark of backing sub 4.0 is down 21.34 points, a little worse than the XX Draws total of down 17.10 points

The Unders fared very well in this league. Backing the Under 2.5 goals in every match would have lost you 28.91 points, while the XX Draws backed as Unders made a profit of 4.14 points.

Next up, the English Premier League.

Saturday 24 May 2014

Professionals Welcome

I interrupt this analysis of the 203-14 season to clarify something I wrote here which has caused some confusion. If the highly regarded Football Investor (@FootyInvestor) is confused, then I imagine many people are. What I wrote in regard to running another Friendly Tipster League in 2014-15 was this:

I'll also only include paid entries next season, and no longer include the 'official' selections from the professionals in the table.
What I did last season was modify entries from professionals such as Peter Nordsted who would send me something like this as his Official selections and prices:
Those are Peter's prices listed, and I maintained an entry in the FTL for these 11 bets at the prices listed to be fair to Peter, even though the bookmakers listed are often ones known for limiting or closing accounts and are of little use to most of us.

The list of selections often included bets for which the Football Data web site doesn't record the prices. Half-Time bets are one example, and the Under / Over bets they record are all for the 2.5 goal markets, so where Peter selects Under 1.5 as he does in the example above, the bet for FTL purposes is on the Under 2.5. Where he selects both Under 1.5 and 2.5 as he does in the Everton v Fulham game, it becomes one bet - a good thing for Peter as the result was 4:1.

To me, it's nonsense to bet on multiple unders or overs in the same match - If Unders (or Overs) is value, then ALL the unders (1.5, 2.5, 3.5, etc.) will be value since all prices are derived from goal expectancies.

So the filtered selections for the FTL entry end up being as few as five matches in this case:
14/12/2013 Man City Arsenal 2.5 Goals Under 2.5
14/12/2013 Everton Fulham 2.5 Goals Under 2.5
14/12/2013 Everton Fulham Full Time Away
14/12/2013 Newcastle Southampton Full Time Home
14/12/2013 Hull Stoke Full Time Away
The prices recorded on any winners are taken from the Football Data web site, and use Pinnacle Sports' prices on the match odds bets. Thus each week, I have two separate sets of selections to track - one is the professional's selections, and one is the FTL modified selections qualifying for prize money.

I recorded these like this:
The ($) designation meant that is was eligible for the FTL prize money. I expected the two sets of results to be similar over the course of a season, and they were (at least in terms of position). Peter's modified entry ended up 11 points better than his official bets because it eliminated a few of his losing selections, while Skeeve's modified entry benefited by excluding his Conference South selections (no prices on the Football Data page) and separating his doubles into singles:
All I was trying to say is that for next season, I will not include in the table the services 'Official' results - only the modified, and valid for the FTL, entry.

I may well keep track of both sets of selections, and provide occasional updates, but FTL table will be cleaner and make more sense if the official results are excluded.

I hope this is clear.

On a completely different topic, my wife (American) just asked me who Kwizbar Rangers are!    

La Liga - 2013-14

La Liga is never the best hunting ground for draws, and like all the other top league, the draws were down on their long term averages here too, but only a little short of the 5 year average.

Backing the draw in every La Liga match would have cost you 23.65 points.

Here the Favourite-Longshot bias is present, and if we look at the 380 matches in five groups of around 76 each, the draw returns break down as follows:
The top two - favourite - quintiles make a small profit, but the benchmark of backing sub 4.0 is down 4.70 points, not too far off the XX Draw total of down 3.07 points

The Unders fared relatively well too. Backing the Under 2.5 goals in every match would have lost you 15.76 points, while the XX Draws backed as Unders made a loss of 6.48 points.

Next up, the Bundesliga.

Friday 23 May 2014

Serie A - 2013-14

Moving into Italy and Serie A now, and the percentage of drawn matches in 2013-14 was the second highest across the top leagues, but at 23.7% was the lowest in Serie A in the last 10 years,

Backing the draw in every Serie A match would have cost you a small fortune, 38.48 points to be precise.

Even more than with Ligue 1, the Favourite-Longshot bias is nowhere to be seen; in fact the bias is reversed. Again, if we look at 380 matches in five groups of around 76 each, the draw returns break down as follows:
The only profitable quintile is the middle section, and the benchmark of sub 4.0 priced draws is comfortably beaten by the XX Draws which lost 'only' 11.15 points.

The Unders fared relatively well too. Backing the Under 2.5 goals in every match would have lost you 11.24 points, while the XX Draws backed as Unders made a loss of 3.13 points.

Next up, La Liga.

Ligue 1 - 2013-14

After that very childish previous post, here's a more serious one reflecting on the draws, or more specifically general lack of draws, in the top leagues in Europe last season.

We'll start by looking at the draws by numbers, relative to the 10 years and 5 year averages for each league.

Very strangely, the percentages of matches finishing as draws is down in every league, when compared to both that league's five year averages and ten year averages. Ten measures, and every one was down.

Emma Pilling, also known as Andrew, commented:
Very strange results regarding the draws this season in the main leagues. What parameter effects all leagues? What is your opinion on the affect of the World cup on the individual players psychology for this year?
What parameter indeed? It is a World Cup year of course, but so were 2006 and 2010 and no such pattern was seen in those seasons. Quite the opposite in the Bundesliga where the 2005-06 season was a record high for draws in the Bundesliga with over 31%, and the next high season was 2009-10 with 28%. France's low of the last ten years was 2009-10 (25.5%) while 2005-06 was the highest in 2005-06 (27.6%) and the lowest in England (20.3%). In other words, no pattern - draws were up in some leagues, down in others, which is how averages like these usually work.

As for the psychological effect of the World Cup on individual players, I'm not sure there is much. Players in contention for a place need to play well during the season of course, but they need to play well every season at the top level. The risk of injury might cross a few minds as the season winds down, but top players play a lot of big matches whether it be Champions League, World Cup, European Championships or domestic games. I'm not convinced the mindset is any different in a World Cup year, and I certainly can't tie in a lack of draws. I think it's just one outlier of a season.

Looking at the leagues one by one, we'll start in France, where the percentage of drawn matches was highest at 28.7%, and closest to the longer term averages. Overall, one could have done a lot worse than backing the draw in every Ligue 1 match. The 380 bets at Pinnacle Sports prices would have resulted in a loss of 3.0 points, by far the best return of the five leagues. What is unusual here is the absence of the favourite-longshot bias already reported on in England and Germany. If we look at 380 matches in five groups of around 76 each, the draw returns break down as follows:
The money makers were those in the 40-80 percentile bands, and with the benchmark I proposed for the XX Draws being any draw priced at under 4.0, this made the benchmark in Ligue 1 hard to beat.
In fact, the XX Draws in France were just not very good. It wasn't that the percentage of matches finishing as draws was particularly bad - it was more that the matches ending as draws were for the most part not the likeliest of matches to end all-square.

The Unders fared better though. Backing the Under 2.5 goals in every match would have lost you 3.58 points, while the XX Draws backed as Unders made a profit of 1.52 points. A very strange league last season.

Next up, Serie A.

Like Taking Candy

The disbursement of the FTL (sponsored by The Football Analyst) prize fund is under way. Graeme could hardly wait to handover the bounty and Fedslam has been paid. I'm still awaiting confirmation of Skeeve's PayPal address (he is dealing with a bereavement at the moment), but Fedslam and Webbo are probably in Bali spending their winnings.

As is Graeme's wont, he went into great detail about his season and noted that the 'official' prices on his FTL entry were in profit by 3.4 points, i.e. 14.12 points lower than the recorded prices from Pinnacle Sports. It's no picnic, and an issue that affects everyone to some extent, possibly Graeme more than others, but as I mentioned yesterday, actual results will usually be better than those in the table. If you want to read Graeme's full reply, it is in the comments. I would have included it in this post, but Blogger were looking to charge me extra for disk space.

The one event that has made this League all worth while though is that Graeme and Neil are now friends! Neil commented first saying:
Again big thanks to Cassini for running this, it has been a hoot.
Fair Play to Graeme in coughing up his hard earned, we don't exactly see eye to eye but he has sort of grown on me as the season has progressed :-)
The Barcelona of the competition turned out to be more of a Barnsley but hey as I finished bottom I am in no position to throw any stones :-)

I am looking forward to next season already.
Graeme's reply almost brought tears to the eyes:
I do think we just started off on the wrong foot in the SBC forum tbh mate. I maybe shouldn’t have been so strong in my initial postings on your footie thread but I think you actually had a lot of good ideas generally. As I’ve said before, I don’t hold any grudges at this game and life’s too short for that sort of thing anyway!
Enjoy your summer mate and battle can commence next season again.
So everyone knows, I’ll probably enter Atletico Madrid next year instead of Barcelona tbh, I clearly missed the fact Barcelona have gone off the boil a bit and they aren’t as good as they once were. I would name all my systems as footie teams but given the number of systems, I'd have to use Sunday League team names at some point! :)
I'm not sure Atletico is the team to be next season though. It was good to see them break the Real Madrid / Barcelona grip on La Liga, but I fear it's all downhill from here. Still, better than Barnsley I agree.

Looking ahead to next season then, and Graeme has very generously offered another bounty:
Happy to contribute something towards a prize pool again for next season. Don’t fancy getting into a bidding war but something like this season would be OK for me I think. £25 for everyone who beats me up to a max of £500. 

Could be a nice payday for some of us although the first prize isn't likely to reach a hundred grand...

While a good start is always good, it's important to remember that it's a marathon, not a sprint.
 Finally, if Hejik wins, it will be a:
This post has gone down the toilet in a hurry.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

FTL 2013-14 Wrap

It's over. Not Green All Over by any means, but the 2013-14 Friendly Tipster League is at an end.

And the winner is... Cassini Value Selections, with a profit of 24.77 points and a 20.47% ROI. No money though (it's considered poor form to enter and win your own competition) so the money goes elsewhere.

As many as 23 entries joined the party, with a prize fund of £500 to be had, as well as a £25 bonus for anyone finishing ahead of  a very confident The Football Analyst.

With The Football Analyst (Graeme) finishing ninth, five qualifying entries managed to do just that, Skeeve, Webbo, Fedslam and my own Bundeslayga and XX Under selections.

The pot prize money goes to:

  1. Skeeve (£250) 
  2. Webbo (£125)
  3. Fedslam (£75)
  4. Bundeslayga (£50)
In a moment of madness back in the Summer, I donated £50 to the pot to get the ball rolling, so it's nice to get it back!

Graeme - when you read this,  £125 via PayPal to calciocassini at would be in order, and I shall then redistribute the funds to the other winners.

Other than messing up Jamie A's numbers several weeks in a row, everything went pretty smoothly considering the total number of bets was close to 6,000! Unfortunately, the number of winning bets was quite a bit short of that, at just over 2,000 but the more relevant number is that combined, the entries lost 381.22 points. Only 7 of the 22 entries present at the end were in profit.

Here are the profitable entries with no positional changes:
Only the Cassini Value Selections and XX Draws were in action on the final weekend, although both wish there was a release clause excusing them from making end-of-term selections as both made losses.

The lower two-thirds of the table looks like this:
Football Elite had one final selection, which lost, and Jamie A dropped from 17th to 18th with a poor final weekend. Rubicon had one selection, a lay of Barcelona, and was the only profitable entry. Down 60 points in January, Neil could easily have walked away, but he stayed in there and kept me busy with 770 entries over the season and deserves some credit for staying the course, as do other Amateurs who found themselves off the pace with no real chance of cashing in. Three entries fell by the wayside in January (Graham C, Scatter Gun and Murphy's Law) but everyone else hung in to the end.

Had there been one, Rubicon would have won the prize for biggest weekly profit making 30.95 points in one week in May. Unfortunately he followed it with 19 losses and a short winner the following week, such is life.

Just for interest, if we strip out those entries (lower selection totals) who left early to avoid the traffic, and sort by ROI, Neil actually fares a lot better moving up to twelfth. Only Rubicon and Peter Nordsted's Premier Betting have a double digit losing ROI, and my hilarious joke that next season, Peter's service should be renamed Championship Betting, can be repeated. At least Matchbook readers are in the money, being tipped the other side of these bets!
It's been fun. We must do it again some time. I have some ideas to hopefully improve the whole thing, but using one set of prices (Pinnacle Sports) for everyone seems to work quite well so long as everyone understands that these prices, and thus totals, can often be beaten and that the table is for comparative and entertainment purposes only.

One idea is to award prize money to every entry in profit and make it proportional to the size of the profit, so for this year, and assuming all entries qualified for prize money, the returns (last column) would have been:
I'll also only include paid entries next season, and no longer include the 'official' selections from the professionals in the table.

No harm in looking for sponsors for next season now, so if Graeme, Ian Erskine, Skeeve, Football Elite, Premier Betting, SoTDoc or anyone else would like to bid for sponsorship / naming rights, don't be shy.

And if any readers are interested in entering for 2014-15, or have any comments or suggestions, shoot me an email.   calciocassini @   or leave a comment.

Sunday 18 May 2014

Life After Super PC

Lazy Trader commented:

How can someone call themselves a professional sports analyst when they've only made around £18K per year since they've been on Betfair.
Although compared to the majority of 'Betfair' trading trainers out there who don't even pay PC let alone super PC I guess Mark should switch to training like the tennis guy who was touting for investors
Mark has a less than optimal approach to trading, which was the topic of much debate back in 2012. The result is that long-term profits are reduced, and long-term should be all that matters, but when one has bills to pay and mouths to feed, the short-term results assume more importance. I'm not sure where that £18k a year figure comes from. I think Mark started around the same time as me on Betfair (2006) so in 8 years or so he has made an average of £31,250 a year, and presumably that was a much lower number in the early years and higher since going full-time.

However, the Super Premium Charge of 40%, 50% or 60% is likely to hit Mark in the pocket, and it will be interesting to see what adjustment's he is able to make. I have no idea how liquid BETDAQ's cricket markets are, but I know their NFL markets are poor in comparison.

As for switching to training, I think it's something Mark has done, or he is certainly considering. Last October, Mark replied to the Sultan saying:
Also glad to hear that things are going well in your Trading Academy. It’s something I’ve thought about doing for cricket in the past, so knowing you are making something similar work for Tennis is encouraging.
The world is always changing on us, and as I mentioned in January 2012: is the same in sports trading. Just when we think we have a market figured out, it changes on us, so it really becomes important to first notice that the change is occurring, and second, to adapt to the change and either find a way to continue to profit from it or move on. While it may be true that, as a group, “we’re not very good at that”, those who can adapt quickest obviously hold an advantage, at least until the rest catch up.
At least the Super Premium Charge came with a lengthy warning period - for some longer than others, but don't get me started on that again.

Friday 16 May 2014

Mark - My Words

I see that Mark Iverson has become the latest proud member of the Super Premium Charge Payers Club, Back in 2008, when the Original Premium Charge was announced, Mark wrote:

Will I be affected? Yes – providing I continue to post the type of results I’ve become used to over the last 12 months etc. I’ve done some quick calculations and I’m guessing that the amount of charges I pay would double.

e.g. Between 1st January 2007 and 30th June 2008 I made just over 15k Gross profit and paid Betfair £1,110 in Commission to leave me with a net profit of just under 14k. Under their new scheme I would expect to pay over £2000 for the same level of profit over the same period of time.

This is a hefty increase and I just hope Betfair know what they’re doing as not many companies would survive if they increased prices so significantly. The markets exist because of the liquidity provided by the bigger players and if there was a viable alternative I’m pretty sure some of them would now be looking to jump ship. But this is where the problem lies as the lack of competition ensures that Betfair are able to do what they like and the rest of us have no option but to follow.

This is a stark reminder that good times don’t last forever and if this is the beginning of the end, then one thing I don’t want to be doing in 10 years is sitting here kicking myself for missing the boat.

It’s time to consider my options and hope that Andrew Black returns from his sabbatical sooner than expected.
Andrew never did return of course, and Betfair are still going, if not strong. Their reputation is certainly no longer what it was, in large part due to the Premium Charge which appears to have had a detrimental effect on the markets. No one knows how many have jumped ship as Mark puts it. The Premium Charge itself appears to have been introduced, and later modified, to profit from the Flash Boys of Betfair, those groups including former Betfair insiders, who set up with the sole intent of (quite legally and within the rules) getting key information ahead of the majority of traders and consistently winning.

Betfair know these people will happily pay the 50%. There's nowhere else for them to go and ply their 'techniques', but whether Betfair's profits and / or reputation would be better served by stopping this activity, making the markets fair again, and scrapping the PC, only they and their shareholders can decide.

In the meantime, traders such as Mark using the traditional skills of valuation and judgement (as should be the case and was the founding fathers dream) to make their profits continue to lose out to proponents of the rather less cerebral approach of sending agents court-side and betting from (effectively) the future.
All of my knowledge has come from studying the sport which is something I think most punters fail to do.
Congratulations to Mark anyway. For me, the result has been a move away from trading and Betfair. With many in-play markets not available anywhere else, I've been getting more (yes, much needed) beauty sleep, and as a part-timer, it's not really a big deal. I was spending a lot of free-time trading and had done for several years. It was time to slow down anyway. Good luck to Mark opening other doors as the Betfair one closes.  Perhaps Mark can find time to improve the Soccer In Play app?

Wednesday 14 May 2014

FA Cup Final Preview (Exclusive)

I am fortunate to be able to reveal Batchmook’s statistical in-depth FA Cup Final preview ahead of the official publication date. You should be able to make a lot of money by reading this now, and beating the market on this one.

Batchmook’s football statistical analyst emeritus expert (Naughty Pete Sted's) preview is here:

This season’s FA Cup finalists have been drawn together in three previous competitions.
Arsenal and Hull City have met five times in FA Cup matches, with Arsenal edging Hull 2 to 1 with two matches ending as draws.
Most recently, in the Quarter-Finals of 2009, Arsenal won 2:1 at home after trailing 0:1 with 16 minutes remaining. However, as this match took place in an ‘odd’ numbered year, it is clearly not as relevant as earlier matches in ‘even’ years.
Previously the two clubs met in the 1930 Semi-Final with Arsenal advancing after a replay winning 1:0 at Villa Park after a 2:2 draw in the first match at Elland Road. Hull led 2:0 with 20 minutes to go in the first match, and I therefore perceive value in laying Arsenal in the half-time market. These matches are particularly relevant given that both were played on neutral grounds, as of course the FA Cup Final will be. Interestingly 1930 saw the first World Cup finals and with this year also being a World Cup year, I perceive there is value to be had in backing Uruguay to win the World Cup.
The two clubs also met in 1908 and again a replay was needed to decide the winners. After a goalless draw in the first game at the Manor Ground in Plumstead, Hull City won the replay 4:1.
Arsenal were named Woolwich Arsenal in 1908 and while the relevance of including previous results from 106 years ago is beyond reproach and statistically significant, I must admit that the stats may not be quite so relevant given a club name change. Also, I note that the badges of both clubs have since changed which makes the statistical relevance of this match even more difficult to assess. Interestingly, 1908 saw the Olympic Games staged in London.
In summary, with two of the three ties previously needing a replay, I perceive that the draw offers some value. With 13 goals in five matches, the Over 2.5 is where I perceive value. I also think there is some value (although I won’t say how much) in laying the draw, and in backing Under 2.5 goals. You may also want to lay Uruguay as they only win World Cups played in South America when the year is divisible by 10 with zero remainder.

Chewing The Numbers EPL and Bundesliga

As I mentioned in my previous post, the 2013-14 seasons for the English Premier League and Bundesliga are now in the books.

Looking from a draw perspective, the two seasons have much in common. In Germany, the goals per game average went over three goals per game for the first time this millennium, which reduces the probability of draws of course, and the resulting 64 draws (20.9%) was just one higher than the lowest total of the previous ten years.

In England, the goals per game average was actually the lowest in five seasons - by a single goal. The averages have been remarkably consistent over this period:

With two teams each scoring 100+ goals, one might expect the draw percentage to have been in line with expectations, but the draw count was 78 (20.5%). It rises slightly with Liverpool and Manchester City's draws excluded to 21.9% but not by much at all.

As was the case with the Bundesliga, the 2013-14 draw count was just one higher than the previous (last ten seasons) low. Percentages around 20% are both well below the 5 and 10 year averages which in England were 26.6% and 26.3% respectively, and 24.8% and 25.2% in Germany.

More significantly, the 0:0 and 1:1 draws were down in both leagues. In the five seasons between 2009 and 2013, there were an average of 74.4 low-scoring draws in England. In 2013-14 this total was 55, a decline of 26%.

In the Bundesliga, the five season low-scoring draw average was 55.6. In 2013-14, a similar 23% decline resulted in a total of just 43. Th 2:2 draw was also at a new low in Germany (12) although the nine 3:3+ draws were at a high. Unfortunately these rare flukes are not the profile of match we are looking for - in other words, the wrong type of draw.

The Premier League is especially interesting, because the one goal games (1:0 / 0:1) were up on the five year average, totalling 75 instead of the expected 60. A 25% increase in these scores, with the 0:0 and 1:1 down, appears to be rather bad luck. Would it have been too much to ask for a handful of these to end up as draws? Apparently!

For the heck of it, I looked at the 2:0 and 0:2 score too, and these were also up - by 20%. And just to rub salt in the wounds, the 2:2 (semi-fluke) draws came in 21% less than the average, and the 3:3+ draws (massive fluke) was about the same.

At least the Bundeslayga had the decency to have a decline in one goal games as well as 0:0 and 1:1 draws.

As I have discussed in the past month or so, it has become all too apparent that making a profit is not a good way to measure the merit of a system. Of course, it's human nature not to look too closely when the profits are coming but the silver lining in the cloud of the XX Draws making a loss is that I came up with the idea of comparing the selections to a benchmark. In the case of draws I chose all draws priced below 4.0, and they produced some curious results.

Using Pinnacle Sports draw prices, in both England and Germany, backing all draws priced at under 4.0 would, not surprisingly have resulted in a loss; 34.88 points in England, while in Germany it would have been 21.34.
Coincidentally, and not the last coincidence of this post so read on, the percentage of winners in both leagues is almost identical, at 24.6%. The XX Draws performed rather well in England, ending the season with a profit of 3.54 points, and beating the benchmark by 38.42 points. The Bundesliga is not quite so impressive (and while I understand that making 3.54 points is hardly impressive, it is relatively impressive), with the benchmark beaten by just 4.24 points, despite having a slightly lower strike rate. Overall in these two leagues, the XX Draws beat the benchmark by 42.66 points.

Just for fun, I looked to see if the Favourite-Longshot bias continues in the draw price, and it does. Backing the draws from the shortest up to 3.51 in England - 3.52 in Germany - would have resulted in small profits in both leagues, with the winning percentage in both leagues again identical - this time at 29.7%.
I'll have more data once the seasons end in France, Italy and Spain, but from the first two leagues I would say that the XX Draws were a little unlucky to be competing in a season that appears to be an outlier in draws.

It was a record season in the EPL for Away wins though, (32.4%) and anyone with a system backing Aways should be aware that the benchmark for these would have resulted in a 19.3 point profit (35.68 points if restricted to selections priced at under 9.0).

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Penultimate FTL Update

A light work load this weekend with the season winding down, and likely to be even lighter next weekend now that the top leagues in Germany and England are also in the books, the latter unsurprisingly being where the majority of interest is.

At the top, the Cassini selections fell victim to the 'nothing to play for' problem, and although two selections led (Southampton and Espanyol) neither could hold on and a loss of three points resulted. Skeeve season is over but he looks well placed to collect the £250 first cash prize. Premier League specialist Webbo's season may be over now too, closing his account with a small (1.1 points) loss, but looking pretty good for second cash prize of £125.

Fedslam made a small profit and swapped places with the Bundeslayga selections which ended the season on a negative note but once again, in the green. The other FTL entry in the green is the XX Draws Unders which added 2.5 points to their tally for the season, and with 30 games left from the selection pool these could yet take fourth cash place.

As for the remaining entries, Hofs Hackers moved up one place by staying idle, the result of The Football Analyst's one selection losing. Graeme may be done for the season also, in which case his bounty liability is likely to stay at £125.
Peter Nordsted's Drawmaster swapped places with idle Fairfranco making 2.86 points profit, while Rubicon took off last week's Big Winner t-shirt and replaced it with a Big Loser one after finding one winner and 19 losers. The XX Draws had another losing weekend (-3.3 points) while Premier Betting had mixed fortunes. The Official bets lost two points while the FTL modified entry made a small profit. And winning the wooden spoon for now is Neil, who lost three points but has soldiered on to the end despite adversity and found time to write:
Just wanted to say thanks for running this competition this season, you have done a sterling job, I am looking forward to next season already :-)
It has been fun, and I will almost certainly be running a similar table next season for anyone interested. There will probably be a little activity this weekend as the season officially concludes, at which point I will be looking for PayPal addresses for Skeeve, Webbo, Fedslam and XX Bundeslayga - oh wait, I have that one already - and Graeme will be looking for mine so that I can redistribute the "Barcelona of the Conference" bounty.