Sunday 27 December 2015

Still The Best

Fizzer commented on yesterday's post:
Merry Christmas Cassini,
Just saw your latest update. I was about to send you a note saying how much I was missing your blog, still the best Sports Trading blog on the internet, but that I was having a BLU Christmas without you.
All the best - looking for the trend to continue tonight.
"Still the best Sports Trading blog on the internet". That's quite a compliment, but not an undeserved one in my, admittedly biased, opinion. As for the lack of recent updates, unfortunately I have been dealing with a few family issues, but for now at least, all is again well.

Despite the lack of recent posts, my hit numbers soared on Wednesday to a new record (938) for some unknown reason.
My excitement was somewhat dampened upon reading on the Full Time Betting blog:
Merry Christmas to all my readers old and new ( page counter shows 2892689 unique page views since 2010) so huge thanks to my mum who is clearly just refreshing the page 24/7.
Nearly 3 million! Puts my 1.1 million total since March 2008 in perspective.

It's also good to know that at least one reader (Fizzer) is following along on the BLUnders this season. We ended up with two selections last night, but took a small loss as they split, taking the record for the season to:
We go again tonight in Oklahoma City.

Cricket man Bossman megarain stopped by again to comment:
Merry Xmas.
It's likely we generally agree in the subject of hard work, and don't want to argue .. so, why am I arguing ?
Reading the Trading Bases book, its clear his strategy is modelled, whereas other sports clearly have data-mined advantages.
Each sport, is unique - not least, becos betting mkts/liquidity are different.

Anyway .. Have a Happy New Year .. and wish u all the best etc.
I would argue that no one is arguing here. Each sport is unique, and markets and liquidity are all unique too. Hard (or smart) work is an important ingredient, but you also need an edge to be profitable long-term.

Saturday 26 December 2015

Work Smart, Not Hard

Bossman megarain (possibly not his real name) has some thoughts on hard work versus an edge, concluding that you need both to be successful long-term. At least he didn't disagree with my assertion that any amount of 'hard work' can overcome a negative expected value (EV). Bossman writes:
I have no real wish to be a contrarian, aside from the joy it brings, to merely argue with others, but, I can sorta understand the advice Golden Fleece is giving.
Clearly, right-minded souls, will understand you need positive EV, on multiple outcomes, to base an (even, short-term strategy), which, given variance, even then, might not be profitable.
But, if you know there is no edge, you can work-around (and this is where the hard-work comes in).
I haven't looked at the offending post on the Betfair forum, not having been there in years, but .. providing the poster is genuine, which, is sometimes a stretch, then ..
By knowing you have no edge, you have done the 'homework', and maybe offer odds, which have positive EV, even if they reside, maybe in the 3rd Back or lay column, away from the market.
It maybe a long wait, and its time-consuming/hard work, to continually monitor/update positions .. but, it would be +EV.
As long as you have the knowledge, what an edge is .. and have the hard-work ethic, I think you can clearly still make (good) money in exchange betting. Logically, it has to be .. or, we would not be paying PC.
One of many amusing lines in my latest reading “Where Are The Customers’ Yachts?” which seems relevant to this discussion is this one:
“There have always been a considerable number of pathetic people who busy themselves examining the last thousand numbers which have appeared on a roulette wheel, in search of some repeating pattern. Sadly enough, they have usually found it.”
However much ‘hard work’ the roulette analyst puts in, they can never (long-term) beat the negative EV. Even if we allow for the possibility that a wheel might be imperfect, and a certain number or numbers offer a positive EV, this edge would certainly not be long lasting.

If you are making a long-term profit from betting on sports, you have an edge even if you do not realise it, unless you’re that one-in-a-million Lottery winner.

But what is ‘working hard’ though, when it comes to sports betting? It certainly shouldn’t be used to describe the activity of poring through gigabytes of data looking for patterns. Even if there were any edges to be found that way, someone or some entity with far greater resources than yourself would have found it first.

It seems to me that you need to work smart, rather than hard, to find an edge. You need to question conventional wisdom, look at assumptions from a fresh perspective and generate logic driven ideas for why the market, i.e. other punters, might not be correct.

Speaking of which, the BLUnders system continues to be profitable this season with the one Xmas Day selection - the Xmas night battle of Los Angeles between the Clippers and the Lakers - the most comfortable winner of the season so far, by a massive 29 points. Merry Xmas to us!   
At the risk of jinxing the current six game winning run, there is another qualifier in action tonight. 
With the Bundesliga now on their mid-season winter break, it's a good opportunity for an update on these systems also. As some of you will know, I have included the 2. Bundesliga this season and overall the two leagues combined are up 2.35 points from 89 selections, an ROI% of 2.64%

The less prolific Bundeslayawayga system combined over the two leagues is up 1.25 points from 22 selections, an ROI% of 5.68%

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Delusions And Laws

Among much sensible advice from Ben Carlson, author of the book "A Wealth of Common Sense: Why Simplicity Trumps Complexity in Any Investment Plan" is this:
But there are also a large number of investors who are delusional, because they’re making the assumption that they’ll be the ones who can pull it off, when in fact only a very small number of people can. There’s a seemingly endless supply of investors out there who try again and again to outsmart the markets, but only end up outsmarting themselves.
The Urban Dictionary definition of "delusional" -"Someone who is not thinking clearly, or thinks something will happen that, in all likelihood, will not" - is perhaps a little kinder than some other definitions of the word, but the point is that investors expectations are often not realistic.

James left this comment on my last post:
It is interesting that many people who enter into sports trading do so to cut their teeth before entering financial trading. Some openly make it seem that financial trading is a man's game and their playing at being a sports trader is just child's play afore the main event. Can it all be ego?
You would think the daily reported financial scandals would make them wary of this "Man's World" that is financial trading but no, their one-man operation is the equal of any corporate/mafia concern.

You would also think their meagre bankrolls would be better suited to the capacity of sports trading where they are up against similarly sized bankrolls but they prefer to be kicked around in the multi-trillion "Man's Game". One chip against many deep stacks.
By my definition you are a "manual fundamental trader".
Yesterday's post referenced Joe Peta moving from Wall Street to sports trading, and Sammy moving in the opposite direction, but I really have no idea where most people start their speculating or where they end up. Sports trading is still a relatively new creation, but while there are similarities, the nature of sports markets is so different from the financial markets that I'm not sure it really offers much as an introduction.

As James alludes to with his reference to 'financial scandals', outsiders are never going to have an edge over those on the inside. Same with sports trading in events where someone is several seconds ahead of you. This is where the delusion comes in - how can your 'one-man operation' have any edge? Anyway, I've banged on enough about this in the past so I'll save my energy, but it really is nonsensical if you think logically about it. The problem is that people WANT to believe they can somehow be long-term winners, but wanting something very much doesn't make it true.

Another example of wishful thinking is this awful advice, posted by a Golden Fleece on the Betfair Forum:
An edge is helpful but not a necessity as hard work and discipline can overcome this.
Fortunately others are more clued in, with racingguru noting that:
You not only need an edge, you need to work to maintain it
and dlarssonf writing:
If you have no edge ( getting value ) you will not win long term, no matter how good your discipline is or how hard you work
The laws of probability don't suspend themselves because you want them to, which is probably why they are called 'laws'. 

Saturday 12 December 2015

Empty Guerdon

While I am not averse to the use of double-entendres in my blog post titles, any connection made between the subject of my 22 November post “Under-Taker” and my father’s current state of health, was quite unintentional.

Such a link would have been in extraordinarily poor taste, even for me, and James read more into that title than I had intended, but no harm done other than that I feel far less special as my blog is now merely a one-of-three for him, demoted from a one-of-two. I feel like Mrs. 7th Day Adventist whose husband has just announced that a new “sister-wife” has joined the family. I’ll get over it.

James’ comment was:
I am sorry to hear about your Pop and hope for improvement in his situation.
Also, I am sorry for flirting elsewhere but the double meaning of the title of your previous post meant that I didn't want to pry into your circumstances.
I think my "exclusive" reading list of three blogs has pretty much covered the spectrum of sports trading; theoretician, manual trader, algo-trader.
The good wishes are appreciated, but it’s probably no longer accurate to describe myself as a trader – manual or other. I learned long ago that I have no edge in financial trading, and while I clearly did have an edge in trading certain sports and events in-play for several years, opportunities today are few and far between. 

The trading landscape has changed. Some were efficient from the start, while others took longer to mature, but the competition has its act together pretty much everywhere these days, and while it is certainly possible to make money on any single event, the forces against which you are competing are likely too strong in the long term, especially if you are also fighting against the Premium Charge. The result is that most people spend an awful lot of time losing their money, at best, slowly, and for most of us, time is money. Bottom line is, it’s no longer worth it.

For financial investments, once reality set in that I have no edge, I have followed the simple advice to invest at least 10% of income in a diverse collection of low fee mutual funds and investment trusts and leave it alone. Although it was an appealing thought that somehow I could know more about the true value of a stock, commodity, currency or whatever than the thousands of professionals trading those markets every day, it was somewhat na├»ve. In my defence, it should be pointed out that the proliferation of books about how to beat the markets, how to trade like a professional etc. didn’t help, but as Fred Schwed Jr wrote:
“Probably no reader has ever been so rude as to enquire of a professional writer on financial matters why the writer, who clearly knows so much about money, is not rich. Nevertheless, many a reader probably thinks quietly about this.”
For sports trading, there is no parallel to investing long term, but punting (betting on an outcome pre-game, and letting it run) does at least share the benefit of saving that precious commodity of time. Waking up to an increased balance on your account and it’s easy to feel that you “have achieved life’s loveliest guerdon – making some money without doing any work”, which is another line from Fred Schwed Jr’s excellent 1940 book “Where Are The Customers’ Yachts?”. Of course, the real work of identifying an edge has already been put in, while placing the bet itself is the easy part.
Many of you reading this are undoubtedly familiar with Steve M (above) of Daily25. Initially famous for his large, at least by most people’s standards, stakes and unwavering commitment to following his strategies through both good times and bad, Aussie Steve has recently started to produce a weekly video update and is now achieving notoriety for the hairiness of his chest. If you’re into that sort of thing, I’d recommend checking out one of the earlier episodes as a number of complaints have resulted in Steve dressing rather more conservatively in his latest production. The concern for Steve appears to be that his ratings will plunge in sync with his neckline. Anyway, the weekly video is very watchable, with Steve coming across as a very straight forward and pleasant young man, although looks can of course be deceiving, (especially when it comes to Australians).

There are a couple of reasons why I mention Steve, and one is that this week he recommends a book called “Trading Bases” by Joe Peta and with the same book resident on my bookshelf, I can concur that it is a good read. The writer is a former Wall Street trader who made the move to betting on baseball.

The second reason is that Steve mentions a ‘fund’ based approach to betting. This is something that I have moved towards myself this year, with a number of systems across different sports being applied. I don’t believe Steve trades anything in-play – Australia has rules in place that make this very difficult – so his approach is by necessity similar to the one I am moving towards. Steve’s source for selections is from a number of tipsters, interestingly even when he doesn’t agree with their selections as he reveals in this week’s vlog. My selections come from my own research, with some of the systems shared here free of charge. While all the systems I use have a positive expectancy in the long term, the short-term can often be tricky, but by having several selection streams running in parallel, the profit line should be smoother.

Back to Wall Street, and I see that Betfair Tennis Trader Sammy has seen the writing on the wall for tennis trading. As I have written on many occasions, this link being one example, the chances of being profitable over the long-term trading court-sider infested sports are slim at best. Sammy's next project makes me wonder if the lesson has been learned though, as he writes:
You might wonder what my next adventure is? I've decided to try to learn a new game. And that's the stock exchange game. I've been grinding the Stockholm exchange roughly the last 2 months. My goal is to be break even for the first 6 months and anything better is just a bonus. It's a totally different beast the stock exchange compared to the sports exchange. But it's a lot of fun and I'm learning a lot of new things. We will see how it goes. =)
Good luck with that, but it's not a totally different beast in my opinion. As with tennis, Sammy will soon find out that there are plenty of people more knowledgeable, or at least with more current information, than him about the value of stocks traded on the Stockholm Exchange.

I'm not even sure why I am mentioning Wall Street and stocks this morning. Last week, in particular yesterday, wasn't a pleasant experience with Wall Street's worst week since August. As bad as the numbers were, it was arguably preferable to looking at Steve's chest though...

Thursday 10 December 2015


Sent as an email rather than as a comment was this idea from Phil:

BLUnders seems great... what about SLOvers?
Hi Cassini

Love the blog. Thought I'd just raise what (to me) is an obvious question. If BLUnders works, then assuming that bookmakers correctly price 50% of games to hit the over and 50% to hit the under, does betting overs when teams have no spread (pk) make money?
Love the input. An exchange of ideas is what this blog should really be all about. Limiting selections to games where the spread is zero means a very small sample size, somewhere around 24 bets a season.
Above are the results from the 2010 season on, one good season for Phil's SLOvers, but no evidence that there is any edge with this strategy.

If we expand the range of selections to include matches where the spread ranges from 0 to 2.5 points, the numbers for the last five years look like this:
Again, one good season, but the Over / Under ratio over these five full seasons plus 2015 is pretty close to 50:50 and we are looking for trends, not single season blips.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

And Then There Were Three

My lack of posts in the past few weeks has unsurprisingly meant Betfair Pro Trader's eyes wandering, resulting in another blog being added to his previously exclusive list of two. Given James' fine taste in blogs, Trader247 is another one worth checking out, especially if you have an interest in bots.

My excuse for the lack of posts is that my father was re-admitted to hospital almost two weeks ago, and there has been a lot going on with blogging well down the list of priorities.

With trading opportunities limited, the quick and easy daily bets are proving their worth. I know at least one other person is now following the BLUnder System, and it has been on something of a roll this season with a record (including last night's win) of:
An unsustainable ROI% of course, boosted by a current winning run of six, but no one following will be complaining.

The Bundeslayga has also added a little of the past couple of weekends, with a more sustainable ROI on the season of 10.9%

Sunday 22 November 2015

Under Taker

Gratifying that at least a couple of people have had their interest in NBA betting piqued by my recent observations on the effect of big spreads on Totals betting.

bossman megarain (possibly not his real name) commented on Spread The Word:
Very interesting post, involving a lot of data analysis/research.
I rarely bet on basketball, (which is probably a mistake), but was fascinated by the book 'Gaming the Game', which, as you are probably aware, largely recounts the tale, of a bent basketball ref, shaving points on games, he had bet on.
In trades across many sports, 'mug' punters want to see action, and many 'Mr Unders' type betting strategies will be profitable, as it seems the lines are inflated, to account for this public need.
Keep up the good work.
Whether or not rarely betting on basketball is a mistake rather depends on whether your betting would be profitable in the long-term.

The book Bossman references, "Gaming The Game" is about the 2006-07 scandal involving NBA referee Tim Donaghy and professional gambler Jimmy Battista.

The suggestion that Unders betting strategies might be profitable because mug punters like to see scoring is one that has been mooted before. While Unders is the preferred long-term strategy, I'm not convinced it is because of the 'mug' punters.

Across the major US sports, Unders wins more than 50% of the time (excluding Pushes) in every sport, but only in the NHL would blindly backing it be a profitable strategy. Since the start of the 2013 season, Unders are hitting at 52.34%, which at Pinnacle Sports' 1.952 represents a 72.62 point profit from 3,749 bets, an ROI of 1.94%.

In Canada, the Canadian Football League from 2013 on has an even better ROI of 3.72%, but from just 321 bets. Only three more games to play this season with the Division Finals today, and the Grey Cup Final next week. In the NFL, last week was a big week for Unders with 10 wins from 13 (two Pushes).
Incidentally, another winner (2.1 on Betfair) for the BLUnder System last night as the Miami Heat and (still winless) Philadelphia 76ers played out a 187 point game. The Sixers led by 17 points at one stage, so this loss won't do anything for their confidence! The BLUnder ROI moves up to 23.8% on the season after 15 selections.

Friday 20 November 2015

Stewing It Under

Football Investor Stewboss asks:

Daft question but are you advocating betting in the Overs / Unders market or the handicap market for these?
I was told years ago in a training class that "there are no stupid questions", but the trainer had apparently never met Stewboss :)  I'm just kidding. It's good practice to look at other possibilities.

On double digit handicap spreads, there is no obvious edge with the split over the last three full seasons (and 2015) 51.6% to 48.4%. Going back to 1995 onward, and it's even closer at 49.2% to 50.8% over 3,929 events.

On the rare 'very' large spreads, those of -17.5 or more, there is an edge in backing the big favourite to cover the spread, but since 1995 there have been just 64 such opportunities resulting in 38 wins, 26 losses.Since 2005, these are 16-11.

Strangely in the five seasons from 2008 to 2012, only 2010 saw any selections, so you would need some patience to follow this, although last season (2014) did throw up a whopping nine selections going 4-5. The Golden State Warriors were the big favourite in six of these (2-4), and have also been the selection twice this season already (0-2).

So my suggestion is to look at backing the Unders in the Totals markets on games where the handicap is large.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Spread The Word

Jack Sparrow, possibly not his real name, commented on yesterday’s Blunderful post:

The spread was -12, In your previous post you mentioned -16.5, can you clarify this please?
"In the last 20 NBA seasons, only one team favoured by 16.5 points or more has lost the game straight up."
Are we to use all double digit spreads or is there a cut off?
The story about the straight up success of teams with a spread of -16.5+ was meant as merely an introduction to the world of big NBA spreads in general. Perhaps no one else found it interesting, but that the Brooklyn Nets came within a missed lay-up of ending a sequence dating back to 1998 seemed to me worthy of mention.

The line that I use for the Blunder System is shorter than the -16.5 of that story. Games of this spread are relatively rare, and don’t generate enough bets each season to make it worthwhile.

Jack asks “Are we to use all double digit spreads or is there a cut off?

First, there is no “we” here – no obligation for anyone else to act on these findings at all. I’m simply sharing some findings with you all, free of charge I might add, for you to completely ignore or for you to modify and take the idea further.

Second, it’s important to understand that there is no single official line for spreads or totals on these games - witness Betfair’s habit of including several spreads for each game, or the differences between various sportsbooks in the US.  The Spurs v Trail Blazers game of Monday night is a case in point. Jack says the spread was -12, the source I use had it at -12.5. You need to make your own choice as to what data to use.

Third, yes there is a cut off that I use, based on my choice of spread source, historical results and number of bets to be generated per season (for me, around 100 or so). Anyone else wanting to follow this idea would need to reach their own decision on where to draw the line (pun intended), preferably after looking at historical results generated from their selected data source.

Pegguy Wort, again possibly not his real name, commented on the initial post on this topic, asking:
What size of handicap do you look for when you're selecting games for this system?  
As the table above shows, backing unders on any spread of -6.5 or more would be profitable over the past ten full seasons, so it's a personal choice of where to draw your line. If you want 100 bets a season, you'd be looking at around 11 for your spread. If you want two bets a season with a bigger ROI%, you might look at -17.5 and greater!

The San Antonio Spurs are again a selection tonight, with a spread of -14 v the Denver Nuggets and a Total Line of 195.5. The Spurs are 3-0 for us so far this season on Unders.

Tuesday 17 November 2015


Another very comfortable winner last night for the newly christened BLUnder System - Big Line Under - as the San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers played out a 64 point first half in a game where the Totals line was set at 201 points. Although calculated to 1.952, the Unders (200.5) traded pre-game at 2.08 on Betfair.

The final points total was 173, and the win by 28 points was the easiest since Feb 9th, 2015.

Yet another International break this past weekend provides a good opportunity to review the Bundeslayga system which is also showing another nice profit on the season to date.
Profits from strategies like these might not be very sexy compared with the thrill of trading, but they are a lot less time consuming, and a lot less stressful.

Sunday 15 November 2015

Widespread Unders

In the last 20 NBA seasons, only one team favoured by 16.5 points or more has lost the game straight up.

March 17th, 1998 was that famous occasion, when the Washington Wizards favoured by 17 points lost by one point at home to the Denver Nuggets some 6,451 days ago!

The reason I tell you this is that last night saw the closest we have yet come to a repeat, with the Golden State Warriors (-17.5) needing a late 3-pointer to tie and take the game into overtime to beat the Brooklyn Nets.

The all-time record of teams at -16.5 or more is now 98-1. Perhaps the Warriors pre-game price of 1.03 / 1.04 was value, but a few backers would have been sweating had they been watching the game.

The reason I happened upon this little fact is that during the Summer, I was asked my opinion on NBA Totals betting in games where one side was heavily favoured. My gut response was that Unders was more likely to offer value, my thinking being that a team with a comfortable lead has a tendency to psychologically ease up, rest starters, and in addition the valuable extra points from the fouling towards the end of a close contest are absent.

I looked at the data for the last twenty seasons to see if this idea had any merit, and found that while the older data from 1995-2004 showed more equality between Overs (474) and Unders (480), the numbers since 2005 showed more of a bias (54.8%) towards Unders (487 - 402) and since 2010, even more of a bias at 56.5% (247 - 190).

As a result, we are now busily backing Unders on qualifying games, although 'busily' isn't really the appropriate adjective to use here, since the number of qualifiers is a little under 100 per season, a very manageable number for a part-timer.

Similar to the UMPO System, this is not a "get rich quick" strategy, but it is useful for generating slow and steady returns, for mitigating current and future Premium Charges if you are on Befair, and with just two losing (both small) seasons since 2004, it's another relatively low-risk system that doesn't require hours of precious time.

Last night was a busy one though, with two qualifying games - the previously mentioned Golden State Warriors v Brooklyn Nets game which finished Under despite going to overtime, and the San Antonio Spurs v Philadelphia '76ers game which ended with a total of 175 points, i.e about as comfortably Under as they come.

The numbers above are calculated to a price of 1.952, which is the usual Pinnacle Sports price, and are intended as a guide.

Saturday 14 November 2015

Royals Killing, Car Pimping And Hairdressing

It has been a few days since I posted - unfortunately my 88 year old father was admitted to hospital a few days ago, and remains there in a precarious state of health, so I have been busy ferrying my Mum to and from the hospital and providing support as best I can, which is not my forte I have to admit. There can be few places as depressing as a hospital ward full of confused old people whose lives are all but over.

Since my last post, I had the pleasure of attending the Rugby World Cup Final at Twickenham and although at first sight it appeared that Steve M (currently in the midst of a massive winning run) and myself were sat on each others laps, on further review it appears we were actually diagonally opposite each other (Steve's view on top, my view below):

It seems a long time ago now, but a memorable day out.

Also rapidly fading into the past is the 2015 MLB season, which saw the Kansas City Royals win the World Series versus the New York Mets and single-handedly see the UMPO system return a handy profit. Here's baseball expert Tony's thoughts on the subject:
Enjoyed your October blogs, as always, and good to see the UMPO end up with another good year thanks largely to those Royals.

You will have the precise figures but it looks like UMPO made about 9.5% in the end, going 17-19. Within that the Royals went 9-4 with over 53% ROI.

Reminiscent of last year with UMPO going 18-14 and, within that, the Royals going 7-3 (+54.5% ROI).

The general public really doesn't seem to like the Royals, which has been great for UMPO followers. I think it's because the Royals are unspectacularly good. The general market jumping on board playoff games seems to go for the big name pitchers followed by power batters. The Royals really don't have either. What they do have is the ability not to strikeout, to run the bases well putting pressure on the other team, and to play great defence. None of these qualities drive the public imagination when it comes to betting.

This article in the Pinnacle betting articles archive touches on that from last year. In the example used, only 11% of bettors were on the Royals - but these were the heavy hitters.

There has been a lot of criticism on twitter/blogs etc today about Eric Hosmer making that game tying run in the 9th, saying he should never have attempted it and he just got lucky. What do the Royals have to do to get the praise due to them? Really pleased to see Joe Peta (12-2 in October by the way, +10.77 units) come out with this response today looking at the true value decision of running vs not running.

Finally, 2016 World Series odds came out today - still no love for the Royals, they are 11th Favourite at 18/1, the Mets are 2nd favourites at 10/1. Give me strength! All UMPO followers will be hoping for the Royals, and other underrated teams like them (Giants?) to be back in the playoffs next year.
I have to admit that with everything else going on, my interest this year was limited to putting on bets rather than watching the games. The actual 'official' figures (although in practice these were beaten quite handily) for UMPO 2015 after the World Series were:
As Tony noted, wins on the Royals contributed all the profit - 5.84 points to be precise, as they went 8-4 during the post-season. The Royals are not a fashionable or big market team, which is what casual bettors tend to look for.  The Pinnacle Sports article Tony provides the link to above is well worth checking out. It includes these lines:
Three times, the percentage of bets on KC was in single digits - In the months we had been running BetShares, we hadn’t seen this many single-digit occurrences in any major markets -and in those three games, the lines barely moved against the Royals, if at all.
Money moves our markets, so if the market hasn’t moved, the amount of money on each side should be fairly even. In a case where only 5% of bets are on one side and 95% on the other, the total amounts wagered on either side are very likely similar, in which case the average bet on the 5% side is nothing short of massive. It’s well-known that one habit of sharp (big) bettors is to fade the public; when you recognize that Pinnacle Sports offered the best price in the market on the Royals’ opponents in all three games, you understand why the public was betting against Kansas City, and what those sharps saw to keep the market in check.
We asked our lead MLB trader how much the line would move if all those bets were of the same size. He estimated it would represent a probability shift of 30-40%, so 60-80 cents.
Those bets on the Royals were likely very, very big.
I probably owe Leon Pidgeon of Simple Soccer Stats something of an apology, having lambasted his corner betting analysis in this post last month. Mr Pidgeon (perhaps not his real name)
I normally enjoy reading your blog as it's regularly updated, interesting and intelligent. I also have a chuckle at your sharpness but not this one as I see my site is on the receiving end. The one plus point is I know someone actually reads what I post on the blog.

Yes, 4 games is a ridiculously small sample size but all these stats are taken from pages on the website and they provide these stats whether a team has played 1 match or 45 matches and it's automatic. For me the important phrase in my post was "The price is just a guide to convert past results into a decimal price."
That is the reason I provide these equivalent odds on my site so a user can see what a percentage is in terms of odds. If something has happened 57% of times then I think it is useful to know that equivalent odds for that would be 1.75. It probably helps when making decisions on whether to bet or not and saves time for site users. None of the stats are recommended bets and I did point that out to the user. I don't see how that is irresponsible.
Back to enjoying your other posts now.
I can be a little acerbic at times, part of my charm, and perhaps I was a little harsh on Leon. I do still have an issue with the comment "if something has happened 57% of times" in this context. For example, that a team has been awarded 10 or more corners 57 times in their last 100 matches might be true, but those 100 matches were all unique events, and lumping them together for the sake of analysis isn't logical and any price generated from such an approach would be nonsense. A team might well be averaging three goals a game over whatever period, but it makes a big difference to their expected goal figure if their next opponent is Manchester United or Yeovil Town.

Finally James Butler, author of Programming for Betfair: A Guide to Creating Sports Trading Applications with API-NG commented:
I am guessing that we are of a similar age, considering your musical taste and that you are a fellow reader of The Punter's Revenge (TPR).
Great content, awful binding. The book sits on my shelf in pieces. My first degree was in astrophysics during the 1980s. One day the computing teacher presented a lecture on AI in which he discussed BEAGLE, which is mentioned by its creators in TPR.
I got my hands on a copy of TPR and attempted to replicate Forsyth's BBC Micro code (unless you have a different copy of the book) with not much success on my ZX Spectrum. Forsyth was the programmer whilst Drapkin was the "punter". I still communicate, now and again, with Tony who still produces HOOF ratings from his home in France.
The lecture on AI made me realise that I was in the wrong game (at the time - now I wish I was an astrophysicist rather than a code jockey) and I dropped out of the degree. I was a a full-time amateur cycle racer at the time and got a few fill-in jobs as a BASIC programmer and mini-computer operator whilst seeing if I had it in me to be the next Robert Millar. I was a good climber but not able to keep up with the peloton on the mostly flat courses.
I gave up cycle racing and went back to study when I was 25 years old. This time choosing Essex University, which, if anyone is interested, has a damn fine computing department. I have done post grad at Oxford but I still think Essex is better at computing than Oxford. It's only negative is that Essex not a Russell Group university, which probably says more about the Russell Group than it does Essex. Even though I jokingly add, after someone asks "Where did you study?" and I answer "Essex. I have an honours degree in car pimping and hairdressing." I shouldn't really put down Essex or myself like that.
TPR is a good read, even today. You can get a free copy in PDF format from Tony's HOOF ratings website. Link can be Googled as my eyes are just about buggered for today.
Aside from our ages, it does appear that James and myself have at least a few common links, although my copy (1987 first edition) of The Punter's Revenge is actually still bound together quite nicely, and is still dipped into from time to time.

We both had brief cycling careers and links with the University of Essex which certainly suited my son who graduated with a First and is well on his way to a successful career in Finance and Accounting.

That's all for now. Posts may be few and far between for a while, but there is a wealth of valuable and interesting content in the archives. Even with no new posts, the average hit count over the past two weeks was close to 500 and surely
people can't be wrong!

Thursday 29 October 2015

BASIC Programming

A couple of comments on my Trading Superman post, the first contained some clarification from Sheva Wigwam (possibly not his real name) who informs me that: 
Market Wizards is a series of books written by Jack Schwager, in which he interviews traders regarding their experiences and philosophies. Well worth a read.
The famous and highly esteemed Investor once again stopped by to add some of his thoughts on football trading, a topic he knows more about than just about anyone, so pay attention and take notes:
Thanks for the kind words haha.
You're right, I don't look at (old) head to head stats.
As for goal minutes, nothing beyond incorporating the fact that expected goals tend to rise over time in play. If there have been a lot of goals in the 17th minute of the EPL this season, I wouldn't treat that as something interesting for betting purposes.

If I wanted to increase winnings p/h I would only do the best EPL, CL and international games, or even better, only run bots!
I need to look into this 'running bots' thing. For anyone interested, University of Essex (coincidentally my son's alma mater) graduate James Butler's book has received very positive reviews:
One gets the impression that the author knows what he is talking about. He also has the necessary writing skills to explain the concepts in an easy to comprehend way.
It's a pity my old COBOL skills are no longer relevant! Or perhaps they are...
You do not need any programming experience to create the applications, just a logical mind.
Now that, I have, and as I have mentioned before, the 1987 book "The Punter's Revenge - Computers In The World Of Gambling" by Tony Drapkin and Richard Forsyth had a big influence on my life. It was the "dawning of the age of microcomputers and contains BASIC code for those interested in writing their own programs to run on their 'Amstrad CPC 6128'". 

With apologies to the great Mary Hopkin:
Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd win with Ladbrokes, Coral and Hill
We'd live the life we choose
We'd bet and never lose

Monday 26 October 2015

Porsche 904

If there is one day in the year when I might expect this blog to set a record for hits, it should probably be the day the clocks go back. With 25 hours to work with, the day is 4% longer than most, but nonetheless it was a pleasing surprise to see the previous record of 793 blown away this weekend with a score of 904.

For those who like this kind of thing, the counter will be at 1,111,111 some time this week, at least for a few minutes.

Moving on to things that are actually interesting, and Trader Feed had another excellent post, including these words:
One of the takeaways that he emphasized is that we never find success by discovering an edge and sticking to it religiously through life. Rather, edges in markets continually evolve and, like all entrepreneurs, traders succeed by adapting to their evolving marketplaces. The question of finding one's success as a trader (or remaking one's success) begins with a more fundamental question: In what respects am I a genius? What am I truly good at? How can I leverage those strengths in the current market environment? It's our strengths that will fuel strong performance, not our copying of others. Perhaps the trader who feels stupid is like the fish judging itself on tree climbing. No amount of efforts to improve climbing will help the fish; only the decision to get in the water and swim.
That brings us to the second--and perhaps more provocative--implication of the multiple geniuses view. If all of us are geniuses in some respect, all of us are also idiots in some fashion. We have our blind spots, our weaknesses, our flaws. If it's our strengths that fuel our success, it's our weaknesses that can derail us. Indeed, sometimes it's excessive reliance on our strengths that makes us idiots!
Perhaps most of us are too modest to consider that we are geniuses in any respect, but most of us have strengths and all of us have weaknesses. While many traders work in teams, and have the opportunity to learn from others, the same can't be said of sports betting traders. It's a very lonely activity. A few years ago, a few communal trading rooms sprang up, but I'm not sure that any are still going. As I mentioned here, people don't like to be told they are wrong, and while coaching people in an office setting has its own challenges, I'd suggest it's a lot easier to get through to someone there than it is to get through to someone set in their ways and thinking independently. I use the term 'thinking' loosely.

Reductio Ad Absurdum

My post yesterday included a few lines about meaningless data, and another example reared its head on the Simple Soccer Stats blog. In a post titled Corner Odds User Question And How They Are Calculated we see (edited for readability):

This question was received this morning

Example: Aston Villa v Swansea for the Line 9.5 corners in Match. Your site says for under 9.5 the odds are 1.33 so when I get under 9.5 on bet365 at 1.83, there is a big value or is the 1.33 not the odds?
The reply given was

Yes that is saying there is value. Aston Villa at home have had 14, 9, 9 and 8 corners and Swansea away have had 7,4,7 and 12 so that means 6/8 matches have been below 9.5 corners.
6/8 = 0.75 (75%)
1/0.75 = 1.33
Using the past games the price should be 1.33 but obviously there are lots of other factors to consider and it is not as simple as that. The price is just a guide to convert past results into a decimal price.
Indeed, it really is not as simple as that, as the author does at least recognise, and his blog is certainly honestly named. I just find it incredibly irresponsible to even put that 1.33 out there. It's complete nonsense, based on a sample size of four matches, and no context whatsoever - even a beginner would recognise that a Home game versus Manchester City is not comparable to a Home game versus a (for example) manager-less Aston Villa. A 37.6% edge is huge, and indicative that someone is missing something. If it's not the market, it's you.

Are you really confident that your "model" is better than everyone else's? 

Clearly the person asking the question was excited about finding such 'great value'. That the bet was a loser is really neither here nor there. Value bets can and do lose all the time, (well, not ALL the time), but this bet never had anything like 37% in value. 37% on an EPL market? Highly unlikely.  

As Shapeshifter said back in 2014:
I know some excellent sports data analysts, some who have worked with firms both here and America. It is a whole different head-space. One I have known since high school, originally he dove heavily into the stock market then taking his love of numbers and incorporating it into sports. Conversations with him have taught me the one thing that is of utmost importance: each piece of information has to be put into context.
The big problem with Simple Stats model is the reductio ad absurdum that such a complex and random problem as total corners can somehow be be turned into something easy. 

Sunday 25 October 2015

Perpetual Change

While catching up with the Big Pairs blog this morning, I noticed that he gave my win:loss ratio post a mention a few days ago:

The strike rate was 67.9%, with profitable trades averaging £54.04 and loss-making trades averaging £29.39. Having read Cassini's recent post on this ratio it's something I will be tracking into the future.
That's an impressive ratio. Mr Big also touches on the recently covered topic here of time and work / life balance, writing:
Aside from the reading I also spent some time assessing my trading progress to date. Two weeks away from the markets has helped me realise that I need to find a better balance in life and not spend every waking hour in front of the screens. When I eventually do leave my job and trade for a living I don't want to be spending 18 hours a day working.
Indeed, that would not be healthy for either the eyes, or ones relationships. Seventeen and a half hours a day is more than enough per day, in my opinion.
“When it's all said and done, the only thing that matter in life are so damn simple. Family, friends. being safe and well. I think before the war a lot of people got sucked in by the crap on TV. They thought having the right shoes or the right jeans or the right car really mattered. Boy were we ever dumb.”  John Marsden, The Night is For Hunting
There's little point in accumulating wealth if you don't have the good health and time to enjoy it.

James put on his glasses to provide more details on the state of his health, sharing that:
Okay, so I do like the odd calorie or ten but not to the level where it causes obesity. I can never drink alcohol consistently enough to be an alcoholic as I get sick of the stuff if I drink it on consecutive days. I haven't touched the Weston's for over a month. Also, I can't see the benefits of putting dead leaves in your mouth and setting fire to them.
One thing I am proud not to have an addiction to is chasing losses. Fibonacci and Martingale are not in my algos, just mocked in my blog. Mocking never seems to work though, many people flock to those two temples of insanity no matter how many times we warn them off it.
I did like all the Bohemian Rhapsody lyrics in your blog titles. I also noticed a partial one from Olivia Newton-John and even a title from a Yes album though they might not have been intentional.
Something calls me from a dark place... so time to rest my eyes.
The piece on mocking was particularly interesting. The attitude that somehow the laws of probability and mathematics won't apply to them seems extraordinarily pervasive. I'm not sure if I have mentioned this story before, but a former colleague was heading to Las Vegas and excitedly telling me about his roulette system. Never mind that Roulette in Las Vegas is an even worse idea than in England with its "00" slot, but his system was this - watch until one of the colours (not green) came up three times in a row, and then start betting on the other colour, doubling up after a loss. When I politely pointed out that the wheel has no memory, he said he understood that, which is why he would wait until the same colour had come up three times in a row before starting! The chances of 4, 5, 6 or even, heaven forbid, 7 times in a row were huge, or so he thought. And this is, by most measures at least, an intelligent, well educated man.

I think another reason mocking doesn't work is because people just don't like to be told they are wrong, even if logic makes it clear that they are. Their ideas become a part of them, often entrenched, and criticism, even if polite and fair, is seen as an attack on them, rather on their ideas.

I wish I had kept the details, but I read a story once about a respected scientist who had essentially devoted his working life to proving a theory. Towards the end of his career, he attended a lecture on his area of expertise, and evidence was presented proving that the scientist was wrong. At the end of the lecture, he walked onto the stage, shook the speakers hand and told the audience "I was wrong".

I am not sure many of us could do this so readily, but there should be no shame in admitting you were wrong about something when presented with evidence proving so. Politicians have a particularly hard time with this, with changing your views seen as a weakness, but if you take a position on something, hopefully based on facts, and the facts change, there should be no shame in changing your opinion.

One of my peeves is that of referencing meaningless data as if it has significance.
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.
That was an extremely silly example to make the point, but you do still see such comments out there. Such details might be interesting as a tidbit on the BBC Sport match preview page, but they should have no place in a serious article about betting.

As for song titles and lyrics in my blog titles, yes I do this from time to time. Coming up with a title actually takes as long sometimes as the actual post. I do like my music, especially Queen who I saw live many times in my teens and twenties, and I do like my puns too, so that's a device I use also from time to time. Just using the date is the easy way out, but I can't say such titles make me think "ooh, that looks interesting. Let's see what that is about". At least titles along the lines of NFL Week 7 do tell you (presumably) what the post is about, and perhaps save you a click if the subject is of no interest, but I like to be a little more mysterious and pique curiosity. It seems to be working, with the daily hit count averaging over 600 this past week.

Back to Betfair Pro Trader and James again, and he has some kind words in his most recent post, about the two sports betting blogs he reads:
The sports betting blogs that I do read are not of the profit and loss type. Those blogs are Green All Over and Sports Trader. Neither of them have anything to sell, be it tips, courses or merchandise. I have had a few mentions from Cassini, the nom de plume of Green All Over and here I return the compliment. I can't say that I am all that interested in association football or baseball but I do like the analysis of a sport and the modelling of a trading strategy, which Cassini so eloquently does with his wig and pen. Also, Green All Over contains a lot of philosophy of sports trading that I enjoy reading, mixed in with off-topic and more general investment content.
While I am somewhat familiar with Green All Over, and I do agree with James that it is excellent, Sports Trader was a new blog to me, and has been added to my blog roll for a look when time permits. The bad news is that the recent jump in hits is probably all down to James catching up after some time away focusing on writing his book Programming for Betfair and the hits will likely drop into single digits very soon.

Perhaps it is the ongoing Rugby Union World Cup that made James feel he needed to prefix football with the word "association". I am fortunate enough to have a son who has two tickets for the final next Saturday, and barring a rift in the family during the next week, I am reasonably confident that one of them will have my name on it. I'm looking forward to it. I've not been to Twickenham since it was renovated, and I have never seen the Haka live either.

James ends his post with these words:
So there you have it. I read just two sports betting blogs that make me think rather than make me wonder why I am not making obscene amounts of money like the P&L blogs, which is probably just as well as I doubt that most of the P&L blogs are telling the whole truth.
There's always the good old Benford number tests if anyone cares enough to validate the numbers reported by someone else. Personally, I think you can get a good feel for whether someone is profitable or not, certainly from longevity, but also, as James says in reference to Sports Trader:
Again there is no mention of winnings or losses. I can only imagine that such attention to detail has been rewarded with some profit.
Sports Trader has been blogging since 2009, and while he doesn't post too often (just 37 mostly short posts in that time), the impression is that he knows what he is doing. n the other hand, I haven't got a clue, and have just been lucky for the last 10 years of perpetual change.
"A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people." - Will Rogers

Saturday 24 October 2015

Trading Superman

The much respected Betfair Forumite Investor stopped by to comment on my Measuring Up - Is This Just Fantasy? post. 

The problem with PnL/hour for me as a useful metric for my own trading is that my PnL is extremely dependent on liquidity. So if Betfair bet volume doubled or halved it would massively affect my PnL given no change in skill (relative to other traders). I know my average margin is x% and it is fairly steady across bands of liquidity, so given expected turnover of y, I can work out what I expect a football match is worth to me. So I use it more before trading than looking at it after the fact.
As for avg win size vs average loss size, it probably will be the case that the best traders have a good ratio (I remember something like this being mentioned in market wizards as well), but it won't hold true all the time.
My favourite measures are margin on turnover (normalised to make a £100 back at 1.1 and a £10 lay at 11 equivalent), and share of market matched.
I'm not familiar with Market Wizards, but I'd like to see the article or thread. I did come across these words from Peter L Brandt while looking around for it:
I was mentored by a man with something like a 75/25 ratio whose average profit was substantially higher than his average loss. This man was a trading superman, a genius, a one-in-a-million. Few people are born with such a gift from above. 
Sounds to me like Mr. Brandt is talking about Investor himself! He IS the Messiah!

Profitably trading on football has proven to be a very tough proposition, and I tip my hat to the likes of Investor who have shown themselves capable of doing this. Somehow, I doubt this has been achieved by looking at head-to-head results from several years ago, or looking for patterns in goal minutes.

Measuring margin on turnover or share of market matched are certainly other ways of measuring proficiency, although they both require additional record keeping. As a casual part-timer, it's really just academic anyway, with no real benefit to me for keeping more records. After 10+ years, I have a good feel for my strengths and weaknesses, and what events are worth my time, which is why I'm becoming a big fan of simplification these days. After all, there are two ways to increase ones PnL/hour - either increase profits or reduce the time spent. With the Premium Charge, not just nibbling away at, but taking great chunks out of profits, it's far easier to be more selective about the events to trade and reduce the 'hours' side of the equation.

On the topic of simplification, the UMPO system is about as simple as it gets, and heading into the World Series, it is in profit by 1.87 points (and more importantly with an ROI of 6.45%).
The World Series starts on Tuesday night, and is between last season's runner-up Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets, who are in their first World Series since 2000. There is no clear favourite, with the Royals having home 'advantage' in the best-of-seven series.
For Trivia buffs, this is the first World Series between two expansion teams. Strangely, for a "World" competition, it is once again two US teams competing.
"Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” ― Steve Jobs