Wednesday 25 December 2019

My Coup Runneth Over

Courtesy of the excellent Guardian newspaper last week comes this article which contains some great stories of betting coups.

The 'hole in one gang' story was covered here in 2010, along with a couple of other memorable tales from the early days of sports betting. 

1) The Yellow Sam coup (1975)

In perhaps the most famous betting coup in British or Irish horse racing history, the Irish former band manager and trainee Jesuit priest-turned gambler, racehorse owner and philanthropist Barney Curley, entered a horse named Yellow Sam in a National Hunt race at the small provincial track of Bellewstown in Ireland.

His reasons for targeting that particular course were quite deliberate: at a time long before the advent of mobile phones and email, it was serviced by only one telephone, a public call box. In order to ensure his horse went off at generous odds, he had previously run it in a series of races in conditions that could best be described as “unfavourable” (translation: over distances or going he knew the horse would not particularly like).

On race day, an army of Curley’s runners were dispatched to a wide variety of bookmakers with sums of money ranging in size from £50 to £300 which were wagered on the horse in the 10 minutes prior to the beginning of Yellow Sam’s race. As the money piled in, just over £15,000 in total, various bookies began to panic and attempted to contact their representatives at Bellewstown to get them to bet on Yellow Sam. By doing so, his starting price would be slashed and their liabilities would be hugely reduced. Unfortunately, their efforts at self preservation were scuppered when it became apparent that the telephone at Bellewstown was, at the time, being hogged by a particularly distraught racegoer who was having one final conversation with an aunt who was dying in hospital.

The grieving nephew in question was Benny O’Hanlon, a friend of Curley’s and his dying aunt was a figment of his imagination, unbeknownst to the betting agents standing in the queue waiting to use the phone he kept tied up until Yellow Sam had won his race by two-and-half lengths at the ridiculously generous odds of 20-1.

Curley’s profits on the race amounted to £300,000, which adjusted to current inflation rates amounts to about £1.4m. He used the windfall to buy stables and set up as a racehorse trainer and has proved a constant scourge of bookmakers ever since. His most recent of several big money coups was pulled off earlier this year, when he arranged for four horses from three different stables to win on the same afternoon in January and caned the bookies for a reported £2m.

2) The hole in one gang (1991)

Having conducted research into the probability of a hole in one being scored in a professional golf tournament was no more than even money, Paul Simmons and John Carter, two Essex men with backgrounds in the bookmaking industry toured the UK and Ireland looking for independent betting offices who would give them odds on a hole in one being scored at five different tournaments: the British Open, the Benson & Hedges, the Volvo PGA, the US Open and the European Open. They were able to get 100-1 on it happening at all five events in a wager that should have been priced at nearer 30-1 and placed a series of doubles, trebles and accumulators at similarly inflated prices.

Remarkably, at least one hole was aced in all five tournaments, with cigar-smoking Spanish bon viveur Miguel Angel JimĂ©nez bringing home the majority of the bacon for our intrepid duo by finding the cup with his drive during the European Open at Walton Heath in Surrey. Simmons and Carter won over £500,000, not counting the winnings they failed to collect from 12 different bookies who refused to pay out on the grounds they had been bankrupted by the pair or else failed to renew their licences for other mysterious reasons.

3) Fred Craggs: 50p millionaire (2008)

Started in fine style by a racehorse called Isn’t That Lucky and brought home by one named A Dream Come True, a 50p eight-horse accumulator placed by the agricultural agent Fred Craggs in the Thirsk branch of William Hill in north Yorkshire on the eve of his 60th birthday had the distinction of making him the United Kingdom’s first betting shop millionaire. All eight horses came in at combined odds of over 2,000,000-1, leaving Craggs to rue the 10p he’d wasted on the bet, as the William Hill small-print meant his winnings were capped at £1m instead of the £1.4m he should have got. “I lost 10p on this one because I only needed 40p to get the limit up,” he mused, upon being presented with his giant cardboard novelty cheque for a million quid. “That was an extravagance.”

In truth, another rule in the William Hill small print meant the firm could have capped Craggs’s winnings at £100,000 if they’d so desired, as some of the horses he’d bet on had been participating in races overseas. The company’s spokesman Graeme Sharpe said that further reducing the pay-out would have been “churlish”, but made no mention of the potential PR disaster such a mean stunt would have caused his employers.

Having placed his bet on a Friday afternoon, the regular small stakes punter and student of the form did not find out about his astonishing win until the following day, his birthday. Having called into a different branch of William Hill, in nearby Bedale, a member of staff asked if he had any betting slips that needed to be checked and he remembered his all or nothing Hail Mary punt from the previous day. “I had a nice warm glow in the shop but none of the other customers seemed to notice,” he said, before going home to dine with his family, who were not informed of his win until the following day.

“I did not tell anyone about it at first but I had to come clean to everybody on Sunday,” he said. “I was not going to get all demonstrative – I was not going to go jumping about and shouting. It is just going to make life a bit more comfortable. I will put a lump on a pension, some on the family and if there is any left, I will use it to make that little bit of difference.” Hailing Craggs’s achievement, Sharpe described his bet as “the most amazing bet ever placed since betting shops were made legal in 1961”. To mangle that old Yorkshire adage: where there’s luck there’s brass.

4) The 6,479-1 novelty bet (1989)

While the name may suggest it is less serious than “serious” betting on sports events, the discipline of novelty betting can be a lucrative source of income for bookmakers or, less frequently, their customers. In their ongoing efforts to part as many punters as possible from their money, bookies will offer odds on the weather, religion, politics, reality shows, TV talent contests, the Christmas No1 and pretty much anything else you care to mention. While the stakes they accept on such bets tend to be limited, the potential for reward for society’s more prescient can be huge.

In 1963, William Hill bookmakers accepted a £100 bet at 100-1 odds from a customer named David Threlfall, who wagered that a man would walk on the moon before the end of the decade. Threlfall trousered his £10,000 in winnings with fewer than six months to spare, only for his good fortune to evaporate when he was killed in a crash in a sports car he’d bought with some of his winnings.

Threlfall’s winnings were small beer in comparison to those of an unnamed, 40-year-old rune reader with his finger pressed firmly against the cultural pulse, who placed a £30 accumulator in his local bookies in Newport, South Wales on 30 December 1989. The customer bet on a series of happenings before the turn of the century. Cliff Richard had to be knighted (4-1), the rock band U2 had to be a going concern (3-1), as had the BBC soap opera EastEnders (5-1), while its Australian counterparts Neighbours (5-1) and Home and Away (8-1) needed to still be on British screens.

All five events, such as they are, duly came to pass and a couple of days into the new millennium our intrepid mystic marched up to the pay-out hatch to collect the sum of £194,400 his 6,479-1 acca had netted him. As nobody had passed his slip on to head office when he placed it, it took a couple of days for the bet to be confirmed as a legitimate one and our hero was duly paid what remains the record amount for the biggest novelty bet win in the history of the bookmaking industry.

5) D Four Dave wins at Kilbeggan (2010)

In June 2010, a horse named D Four Dave romped home in a low key handicap hurdle race at an evening meeting at the small course of Kilbeggan in the Irish midlands. It was sent off at odds of 5-1, having been available at 14-1 earlier that day, in a state of affairs that suggested somebody had fancied it to win in a big way.

It quickly emerged that the horse had been the subject of an enormous gamble orchestrated by one of its part-owners, Douglas Taylor, the managing director of a recruitment company named MCR, with the help of 200 unwitting assistants, who were paid €30 each to place the sum of €200 on the nag by following specific instructions they were given in a letter along with the cash. To help maximise the secrecy of the sting, most of those employed were foreign nationals, many of whom had a very poor grasp of English.

Having received an envelope containing a watch with an alarm set for 6.55pm (five minutes before the horse was due to run) and their betting stake and instructions, they were driven to 200 different betting shops around Dublin and Kildare. The instructions were as follows.

“Dear Employee, enclosed you will find:

A completed betting slip for the betting shop that you have been sent to. €200 in cash for which you need to place the bet.

You should also have a watch with an alarm set to go off at 6.55pm. Your job is to place the bet exactly when the alarm goes off at 6.55pm. You need to be at the counter before the alarm goes off to be in position to hand over the betting slip and say to the person at the counter ‘I will take the price’.

When the person hands you back the betting slip you will pay over the €200. You then have to place the betting slip back into your envelope and return the slip immediately to your supervisor/driver along with the watch when he comes to pick you up. You can then return with your driver/supervisor to MCR office to get paid. Thank you.”

By having all their bets placed simultaneously to avoid arousing the suspicions of the shops they targeted and minimise the chances of shop staff getting through to head office to get the all-clear to take the bet, D Four Dave’s connections had hoped to land over €200,000 in the event of their horse prevailing what his trainer had reckoned to be “a bad race” that wouldn’t take much winning. But while their four-legged runner kept up his end of the bargain on the race track, not all of their two-legged ones proved as reliable in the betting shops and the clever coup landed those behind it considerably less than the hoped for sum.

“It is understood that some of them could not read the note they had been given, while others tried to place the bet after the race had concluded and the horse had sauntered home by seven lengths,” noted the Racing Post, although Sharon Byrne, the chair of the Irish Bookmakers Association, said many firms had taken a big financial blow.

“The whole of Dublin and most of Kildare were hit,” she confirmed. “Some of those recruited had really bad English and couldn’t even read what they were given. The staff could see two watches on most of their wrists and were aware that something unusual was happening. Some of the bookmakers’ staff got to keep the note that the runners had been given, although some of those recruited got a little aggressive and insisted they get the note back.”

With the Irish bookie Paddy Power reporting losses of up to €50,000 in the sting and their fellow bookies Boylesports claiming to have lost “a five-figure sum”, it seems clear that the majority of those recruited to place the bets managed to follow their instructions. “It was a really well-executed gamble,” said Boylesport spokesman Leon Blanche. “It was a really good punt landed.”

The coup’s instigator, meanwhile, insisted he’d pulled it off just to see if he could and was philosophical that it wasn’t as successful as it might have been. “It didn’t quite go to plan, some people didn’t make the journey and others got the instructions mixed up,” said Taylor. “It was just for fun and not for the money though.”

6) Slippery characters at Sheffield greyhound track (1996)

It’s the betting coup that got away. Or didn’t get away, as the case may be. Five of the six animals involved certainly weren’t meant to get away, as anyone who has ever witnessed the comical sight of a startled dog attempt to break into a sprint on a well polished floor can attest.

There are numerous ways of nobbling a greyhound before a race, from the traditional method of doping to the less sinister ploy of filling them up with food in order to ensure they run sluggishly.

At Sheffield greyhound track in January 1996, some industrious ne’er-do-wells attempted a far more ingenious scam, by reflooring five of the six starting traps to be used for that particular evening’s racing with shiny new rectangles of Formica laminate. Clearly aware of the huge advantage handed to any greyhound that gets a fast start in greyhound racing, our villains left trap No2 untouched, banking on any dog sporting the blue jacket getting off to a flier in hot pursuit of the hare once the stalls opened, while its rivals would be left scrabbling helplessly like Bambi on ice.

Sadly for the unidentified cheats, stadium staff discovered their handiwork before the commencement of the evening’s racing, the Formica was removed and racing commenced as usual. In the first two races, the dogs in trap No2 both went off as favourites, in a state of affairs that suggested somebody somewhere had put a decent amount of money on them. Neither won. By the third race, there was little or no financial interest in the occupant of the blue box, which means the slippery characters behind the stunt knew they had been rumbled and promptly cut their losses.

Tuesday 24 December 2019

Caught In A Landslide

Mark tweeted the above earlier today, and my response was this:
Are you suggesting that someone with the skill to win at betting long-term is someone who would be unaware that they might not be able to extract money from a business indefinitely? This seems highly unlikely to me.
As stated in my previous post, sportsbooks / bookmakers are not charities. They exist to make a profit, and it's nonsense to think that any business would allow themselves to be exploited indefinitely should a loophole or vulnerability be identified. 

All-you-can-eat buffets ban customers who eat 100 plates of sushi and don't drink alcohol. Casinos will ban players they believe to be card-counting.

With the possible exception of individuals on the autistic spectrum, it seems almost impossible to think that anyone with the skill-set required to develop a long-term winning strategy would be someone unable to comprehend that they won't be allowed to win forever. It's basic common sense. 
No escape from reality, open your eyes, look up to the skies and see
The theory of winning at betting is one thing, but as many have discovered, the practical reality is somewhat different. This practical limitation on rewards needs to be factored in when deciding how much time and effort to spend working on developing an edge.

If the only profitable avenues for your systems are soft sportsbooks, save yourself some time because its useful life will ultimately be limited.

While I'm a big fan of the sharper book model and exchanges, there's always the risk that these may also change the rules, with the introduction of the Premium Charge a prime example. 
I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy
Because I'm easy come, easy go, little high, little low
Any way the wind blows doesn't really matter to me, to me
Anyone quitting their job to go full-time on Betfair before 2011 would have found themselves facing an up to 60% reduction in income on reaching the lifetime threshold, which may sound a lot but isn't if it is your sole income. 

There's always the chance that sharp books and exchanges will start to ban winning customers, or lower the threshold at which punitive charges are applied. Matchbook's threshold for example, is effectively nothing:
1. $1,000,000 (one million US Dollars) of Betting Volume; and/or
2. $20,000 (twenty thousand US Dollars) of Betting Profits
The bottom line is that unless you are incredibly naive, you know your opportunities for winning money from soft books are very limited, and there's a risk the sharper books and exchanges might change the rules. 

So put in the time and effort while understanding this reality. 

I'd also add that the discipline required to develop an edge is a skill that may not make you a fortune from betting, but which can serve you well in other areas of life. 

And with that, a Merry Xmas to everyone and before feeling too sorry for all these poor footballers who have such a hectic schedule coming up, a reminder that in the olden days, football clubs often played on three consecutive days over the holidays:

Betting Is Consensual - A Privilege, Not A Right

It's nothing new, but the topic of bookie restrictions flared up again yesterday with an article in The Times about Bet365's temerity to make money "by using data modelling to limit winning customers' ability to bet".
Joseph Buchdahl commented that:
Bets are always consensual, and if one side refuses to take action from another, that's their right, no matter how annoying it might seem to a skilled punter.
As I wrote in this post back in 2014:
The advertisement in the bookmaker’s window, web-site or in the Racing Post is an “invitation to treat”. The advertiser, in this case the bookie, is under no obligation to enter into a contract with a punter interested in an agreement at that price.
We, as punters, have the choice to make a bet, (an offer), and the bookie then has the right (but not an obligation) to lay the bet (an acceptance). If we choose not to make an offer in the first place, or the bookmaker chooses not to accept the bet, there is no contract.

This is the law, it’s a fact of life, and in my opinion whining about it is somewhat unlikely to result in modifications to contract law.
When I tweeted a link to that old post, Joseph generously commented:
The Times' article quotes a Bet365 spokesman who says:
"Online gambling operators, including Bet365, seek to manage their liabilities by restricting or refusing to accepts bets/wagers from certain customers. A bet is a commercial arrangement between two willing parties and there is no statutory right to bet.
In the same way that a customer can decide whether or not they wish to place a bet, a gambling business is also free to decide who they accept bets from, and on what terms, to manage their business and financial liabilities, just as an insurance company may do when setting premiums."
That there is no inalienable right to bet is a fact of life, and all the whining about it is futile. As Joseph says:
Bookmakers unfortunately are not charities so don't have to fund your activity if they don't want to. It may seem annoying but that's how it is.
Some were upset about the impact on horse racing of bookmakers trying to make a profit:
Cassini: Racing is a dying sport. Why promote it at all?

A Lucky A Day: If it were starting from scratch it would have a hell of a job getting off the ground, that's for sure. But it is part of British culture and employs a lot of people. There are quite a few incentives to keep it going, even though in its current form its not really viable.

Cassini: Pedestrianism was once very popular and funded by wagering but "was largely displaced by the rise in modern spectator sports and by controversy involving rules, which limited its appeal as a source of wagering". I see similarities with horse racing today.
Along with sensational feats of distance, gambling was a central attraction for the large, mostly working-class crowds which came to pedestrian events.
Horse racing has had a good run for its money, if you'll excuse the puns, but the sporting habits of society evolve. Cock fighting and bull baiting aren't what they were. Professional rowing? Sunk without a trace.  
Like cricket, horse racing had been organised since the eighteenth century and was followed by all classes from Lords to commoners. Gambling was at the core of its attraction and a flutter on the horses was extremely popular, despite its illegality(until 1963) when the bet was placed in cash and outside the racecourse. As with soccer, the sporting press offered form guides and was studied closely, with elaborate schemes being developed to predict a winner. The racecourse itself was often rather disreputable, with the sporting entertainment on offer to its large crowds being supplemented by beer, sideshows and, in the nineteenth century, prostitutes. It provided the middle classes with an opportunity to (mis)behave in a manner that would be impossible in wider respectable society.
Prostitutes! Who knew?

Going back a little further, 2012, to be precise, I wrote these words:
In my opinion, unless the rewards have a good chance of being available at least for a while, it’s simply not worth the effort needed to open these accounts.
One of the beauties of the exchange concept for me, was that winning accounts do not get closed down. They may do in the future, but for now they don’t, and while the commission charged to winning accounts may seem excessive, when you consider the alternative of not being allowed to play, well, at least the choice as to whether or not to continue is yours.
When Ladbrokes and Coral closed my accounts down in the 80s, I had no alternative other than to quit. I could have opened new accounts in other names, (and that was a lot easier back then), but it’s a road to nowhere. Sooner or later you run out of relatives and I don’t have many friends for some reason.
I still don't have many friends, but I do have other betting options these days. Yes, Betfair may be taking 50% of profits, but this penalty only kicks in after reaching a lifetime limit, and complaining about paying a higher rate of tax as your income increases isn't something that is morally defensible. Payer a higher tax rate is generally a good problem to have.

My complaints about the Premium Charge were about how it was implemented. The goal posts were moved, but I don't set the rules and no amount of crying or whining will move them back.

The 2008 implementation of a 20% tax was reasonable, but in late June of 2011, the second, and more punitive, phase was introduced when I was already about 90.4% of the way to the lifetime limit. It didn't seem fair to include previous winnings in the lifetime total, but there are some things in life we control, and for those we don't control, we adapt.

In my case, this meant that the time spent trading in-play could no longer be justified, so I moved to a bet-and-forget approach. Winning 50p for a few minutes 'work' is one thing; winning 50p after several hours is quite another.

As it happens, liquidity on the in-play markets I followed took a dive around the same time anyway, so in a way, the Premium Charge did me a favour. I made lemonade with the lemons I was given, as the saying goes.

And how did the bet-and-forget approach go this weekend?

We had several Divisional matches with the Unders going 5-2, and just the one Small Road 'Dog (Green Bay Packers) who won last night.

The Divisional Road 'Dogs, which included the Packers, went 4-1 on the weekend.

Since 2011, the final week of the Regular season is always all Divisional games, so next week will be a busy one. and after that it is on to the play-offs and the Wild Card weekend where Unders is where the value is usually found:

In the NHL, there was one losing selection in the basic Road Favourites system (below, right) while the numbers on the left are a more profitable sub-set: 
NBA Road Favourites moved their record for the season to 10-4, while Overs are now 45-38-1.

Saturday 21 December 2019

Capitals Skate, Tesla Accelerate

It was a good night for the NHL Road selections last night, with all three teams winning comfortably by exactly three goals. The Capitals were a selection for the Road Favourites system (below), which is now nicely in profit after the slow start to the season mentioned last month
Two of those cities above also combined for a win for Overs in the NBA, with the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors combining for 240 points. The only disappointment of the night was the Memphis Grizzlies losing in Cleveland but we're not going to win every selection so no point 'grizzling' about it. 

The Road Favourites NBA system has another qualifier tonight in the Los Angeles Clippers looking to improve on its 9-4 (69.2%) record this season. 

It's looking like a very quiet Week 16 in the NFL for the Small Road 'Dogs with just one qualifier at the time of writing, and that is Monday night's Green Pay Packers who are currently getting 5.5 points. 

As is traditional on the last Saturday before Xmas, the NFL has three matches on the schedule including Divisional Road selections Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams. There are also several Under System qualifiers this weekend including the two games mentioned above and then just one week of the regular season before the play-offs begin.

And it's almost time for the dreaded annual reviews which mean absolutely nothing to anyone but the writer! I will say that if you have read this blog for a while, and taken my advice on Tesla stock, your bottom line for 2019 will be a brighter shade of green than would otherwise be the case, with the stock breaking through $400 this week and touching $413. 
Shares of Tesla hit a fresh record high for the third straight session on Friday, and were just $7 shy from the $420 per share price at which founder Elon Musk sought to take the electric carmaker private more than a year ago.
My personal bottom line was boosted last weekend with a surprise, but very welcome, donation from follower Ben who wrote:
Thanks for all the wonderful help you've provided me this year mate! I hope you spend the cash well, I hear a beer goes down well this time of year.
I should be able to find time to enjoy a glass or two over the next couple of months. I'll be in California this time next week with my wife and daughter to see in the New Year, and will be heading to South Africa in late January to watch a little cricket with my son. 

Tuesday 10 December 2019

Zoning Out

A few years ago, it was a profitable NBA strategy to back the Unders when the line was 'big'. After looking good over an 11 year period from the 2005-06 to 2015-16 seasons, the system became a victim of the inexorable rise of the Overs as more and more points were being scored.

The definition of a 'big' line is subjective, and the line I used was 11.5. As is often the case, as one system dies, a new one is born, and markets for games with 'big' lines do currently (since 2010) show an inefficiency that some of you may want to look into, especially in December, but not after the All-Star Break. 

In the nine seasons since 2010, the strategy of backing favourites giving 14 points or more before the February break has a 63.3% record ATS and 71.7% in December, including last night's win by the Boston Celtics.

14 points or more is optimal in terms of ROI, but with an average of only 20 bets a season, that entry point is not for everyone. Lowering the threshold to 12.5 points or more drops the ROI slightly to 61.1%, but more than doubles the average number of selections. 

It's also worth looking at time zones as I have mentioned before. Big favourites heading West appear to struggle to meet expectations, although conventional wisdom has it that it is harder to perform after flying from West to East. 

If you eliminate teams travelling from other time zones to the Pacific Time zone, the ROI is up to 62.8%.

Week 14 of the NFL season saw a profit for the Small Road 'Dogs with two wins and a push from the four selections taking the season win rate to 58.5%.
In Division games, the record was 2-1-2 and 59.5% for the season, while the Divisional Unders went 3-2 after last night's NFC East game between the Eagles and the Giants was a winner despite going to overtime.

Unfortunately the two charity bets generously donated by Steve failed to come in, although the Dolphins / Fortyniners double came very close with the Dolphins losing by one point to a late Field Goal. Unfortunately the bet was straight up so the fact that the Dolphins were getting 5 points and covered was of small consolation.

Finally, the NHL System which was in the red at the end of November has now moved back into the green:

Thursday 5 December 2019

The Wonder That Is Steve

Good guys in the betting space are few and far between, but one who has been around for many years, and who will hopefully be around for many more years, is Steve ( @Day25 ) whose Daily25 blog has been around for almost as long as this one. 

Steve is a man of his word, and I well remember the thrill of waking up on Xmas morning 2012 and finding a gift hamper by the tree, his way of thanking me for some Draw selections:

Not one to say something and not follow through, here is a gift page created for the master of the draws, Cassini.
And now Steve's generosity continues with using $4,500 in bonus bets from Aussie bookmaker Top Sport who, and credit where it is due, "is the only Australian bookmaker to actually take a decent bet and usually have Pinnacle like prices" for bets to benefit charity.

Last night, the following tweet popped up in my notifications:
Joseph Buchdahl, or one-two to his friends, is also one of the good guys out there, and the chances of three decent people being lumped together in one tweet must be far greater than the 5/1 mentioned. Odds at this level or longer are generally not my thing, but given our history together with the Draw, my initial response was:
There were only two problems with my selections.

The first was that Top Sport's price on the Tottenham v Burnley Draw was only 4.9, although in my defence I looked at Betfair where 5.0 is available, completing ignoring the fact that with commission taken into account, the price would be less.

The second problem was that Steve wants bets that will be settled before Xmas, and as bad as Brighton are, even I don't think they will be confirmed as relegated before Xmas! 

We go again, and with the option of an accumulator, will now select the following bets on the NFL this weekend:

$50 double on Miami Dolphins / San Francisco 49ers 
$50 treble on Indianapolis Colts / Carolina Panthers / Kansas City Chiefs  

Meanwhile it was a perfect night for the NBA systems last night, with the three Totals games going Over and the Brooklyn Nets winning by 12, when 4 would have been enough. 

Tuesday 3 December 2019

Digging Deep In The Den

Some useful words of wisdom for traders is shown above, courtesy (apparently) of Morgan Housel, who is worth a follow if you are into trading and investing.

While financial markets are quite different from those for sports betting, not least in size, many of the principles overlap.

For example, on the topic of biases, Morgan had this to say recently:
You can’t ever know everything about a company because the deeper you dig you more you realize that things you thought were simple are actually endless webs of complicated people with different and shifting needs, held together by a precarious shared goal.

At some point decisions have to be made, which means pulling the trigger when you know there are things you don’t know and being OK with that. This is less about willingly closing your eyes and more about the realization that a few variables tend to dictate the majority of outcomes. Putting the odds of success in your favor is about understanding those variables while accepting the unknown baggage that rides along.
As it relates to sports rather than companies, there are an infinite number of variables you can look at when analysing an individual match, but the key here is that "At some point decisions have to be made". 

I've written before about the futility of waiting for everything being perfect before entering the fray - "perfect is the enemy of good" is the appropriate saying.

Another financial markets orientated website, Philosophical Economics, has these words of caution regarding patterns which are all too common in sports betting. "Over the past 10 games, when a team has fewer than 168 running yards and they were an underdog playing a team averaging 238 or more passing yards..." or a real life example from today that just hit my inbox:
When we sample a system to test claims about the likelihood that it will produce certain outcomes, the sample needs to be random, blind. We cannot choose our sample, and present it as a valid test, when we already know that the results confirm the hypothesis. And so if we believe that there is something special about the New York Rangers, Game Sevens, and MSG as a venue–if we believe that the presence of those variables in a game changes the probability of victory–the appropriate way to test that belief is not to cite, as evidence, the seven at-home game sevens that we know the Rangers did win, the very games that led us to associate those variables with increased victory odds in the first place. Rather, the appropriate way to test the belief is to identify a different set of Rangers games with those properties, a set that we haven’t yet seen and haven’t yet extracted a hypothesis from, and look to see whether that sample yields an outsized number of Rangers victories. If it does, then can we legitimately claim that we’ve tested our belief in “the data.”
There has to be some rationale to these things, something I discussed in my Rationale Thinking post in May, which currently sits at #4 in my Top 10 most popular posts so someone's reading it.  

Week 13 of the NFL wasn't the most exciting from a betting perspective with the two Small Road 'Dogs splitting 1-1, and the Unders splitting 2-2.

In College Football, the system went 1-4-1 but as is often the case in sports, late weeks in the season are historically treacherous, so the damage was more to the official records than to the bank. 

Friday 29 November 2019

Rebels Push and T-Bone on Full Kelly

The Mississippi Rebels lost their rivalry game yesterday by one point, but unfortunately that was all they were getting, so the game resulted in a Push.

As of right now, we will have five more College selections in Week 14 of the season this weekend, including two today - Miami (Ohio, not Florida) and Kent State who are getting 3 and 4.5 points respectively.

Week 14 is pretty much the final week of the regular College Football season, with just a handful of Week 15 games to come so at 59-37-7 I think I'm safe in recording a nineteenth consecutive winning season for these selections.
On the NFL front, it's looking like a quiet weekend with just a couple of probable Road 'Dog selections, although we do have five Under bets to add a little interest.
Triggered by Church of Betting's post on staking referenced in my previous post, I thought I'd show the outcome of using Full Kelly on baseball's T-Bone System this summer. Results have now been updated to include 2019 by the way. 

Note that this isn't every T-Bone selection, but a sub-set comprised of selections where the edge is historically larger.
From 2014 to 2018 (i.e. 5 seasons), the ROI on these selections was 13.1% from 352 selections, and the ROI for 2019 ended up being in line at 13.4%. 
The initial bank size was £1,000 and I used a stop loss at 67%. Fortunately this was never hit although we got close with two losses in the opening four selections, a risk of this extremely aggressive staking system.

Note that when there are more than one selection on a day, the stake on each game is the same and the bank is only updated at the end of a day, not after each bet. Most of us have better things to do with our time, and some games are played simultaneously anyway. 

The final bank was £3,555.31 after peaking at £4,091.26. The stop loss moved to over £1,000 on Star Wars Day, after which we were playing with house money.  

Thursday 28 November 2019

Football Wash and Ice Hockey Woes

The five NFL Road 'Dogs went 2-3 last weekend, while the College selections went 5-4 so pretty much a wash. 

With the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, there will be three NFL games today but it's not looking like we will have any Road 'Dogs, although there is one likely College selection (Mississippi).

For the season, the NFL selections are 35-25-1 and the College selections 59-37-6.

In the NBA, the while the Road Favourites System is 5-2 following Monday night's win by the Portland Trailblazers in Chicago.

This is a long-winning system that takes advantage of the public underestimating certain teams:
Backing Overs when the Total is 224 or greater is still proving profitable, with a record of 49-35-1 for the season so far.

While it might seem as though all my systems just keep on generating money, that's not always the case, as illustrated by my NHL System which has struggled this season.
Church of Betting has a good post on the topic of staking, with the confirmation that nothing beats Kelly if you have a positive Expected Value (+EV).

Because Kelly has some practical limitations when it comes to sports betting, a topic also covered by Church of Betting, my belief is that most punters are best served by using a 2% of the bank, as discussed in this post here. If you have a larger edge, and if you follow some of my public systems you're in that category, then 3%, 4% or even 5% is reasonable. 

Friday 22 November 2019

Newtonian Laws, Proof and Irrationality

@Lordlard made a similar point in a comment on my previous post Why Betting Systems Work. He wrote:
Other advantage of systems are on the behavioural side: they completely kill any emotion in betting. Events are ‘numbers’ in a never ending dataset and abstract from what they actually ‘are’...and not even worth watching. You can watch sport for purpose of watching sport only.
As I've said before, if you have a 'proven' system, then...:
To get worked up over individual bets is as unproductive as a casino manager worrying over the outcomes of individual pulls of the slot machines.
'Proven' is in quotes because when it comes to sports betting and markets, there can be no such thing. If a system were 'proven', it would no longer work. 

Even the 'immutable' laws of Physics, are only 'immutable' with respect to defined conditions. If conditions change, for example in Physics, events occurring at atomic and subatomic scales do not follow Newtonian laws, then the outcome may be different.

We can all agree that conditions would definitely change if a betting system was 'proven'. 

The fact is that markets change. Even a system with 19 consecutive winning years will eventually lose. As gamblers, albeit hopefully with an edge, we understand that. 
"The trend is your friend, but you know it will end"
The trick is to identify an edge, and play it until the edge is gone. In the same way that trying to time market tops and bottoms precisely in stocks is a futile task, so is timing when an edge starts and ends being profitable, but that's no reason to miss out on making gains for most of that period.

The one constant would appear to be that humans act irrationally. 

Speaking of winning systems, and the NFL Small Road Dogs moved to 33-22-1 for the season after the Indianapolis Colts covered in Houston last night. 
The ROI for this season is currently the second highest since the league re-organisation in 2002. Hopefully some of you followed me on that one. As a Divisional game, it was also an Unders pick and 14-3 for the season is excellent.
Since revealing that nugget more than two years ago, the ROI on the subsequent 207 bets has an ROI of 9%. I hope someone took note.

By now, everyone must be on the College Football Road 'Dogs who started Week 13 well with Eastern Michigan (+3.5) winning at Northern Illinois by 28 points. The season record now stands at 55-34-6.  With the season almost over for the system, the winning streak almost certainly continues into a 20th season next August. 

Thursday 21 November 2019

Why Betting Systems Work

Anyone who has ever spent more than a few minutes on a betting forum will no doubt have seen threads with titles along the lines of "Does a football betting system that works exist?".

Remove 'football' or substitute any other sport for 'football' and the question still holds good. 

While the question is somewhat naive the answer, technically at least, is obviously yes - betting systems do work, but the caveat is that they shouldn't work in perpetuity. 

In an efficient market with rational participants, systems will have a limited shelf-life, although as in the case of College Football's Road 'Dogs, this 'limited' shelf-life is 19 years and counting. As I've mentioned before, the good news is that market participants are not rational, but are influenced by biases, often long-held.

SmarterSig had an interesting perspective on the subject of "do betting systems work" concluding a very readable article with:
Systems do work, they work in the sense that there are rule based methodical betting methods that produce consistent profits and they work because they give people a valuable apprenticeship in understanding data.
Probably not the answer most readers looking for easy money want to read, but the writer makes a good point.

The same point applies to making a budget of any kind of plan. However well you try to accurately predict the future, invariably you're wrong, but:
A plan is important because it's the foundation to help you helping you project objectives and achieve your ultimate goals. Having a plan helps you define the full scope of a project but it also helps you stay focused, set goals and objectives, meet deadlines, measure success and debrief the entire project.
Or as Dwight D Eisenhower put it:
"I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable"
 SmarterSig's article also makes the point that:
There are benefits to system development beyond the uncovering of a successful system, one of which is the journey itself. Analysing data from a system perspective is a great introductory way to get a feel for the terrain you face as a punter. The amount of loss you need to overcome in order to become profitable and more importantly what factors move you closer even if in isolation or combination they do not quite achieve long term profit. The study will give you a greater feel for the biggest hurdle all punters have to overcome, namely variance. In other words the kind of winning and losing periods once can expect to experience even with a decent looking system.
What makes a 'decent looking system' is subjective, but because sports markets have inefficiencies, opportunities are out there for those willing to do the work. Just don't expect them to last for ever, which is why, if you should uncover an edge, you need to act on it. By the time you have statistical proof that a 'system' works, it will likely have stopped working - if you see what I mean.

In a liquid market, as I've written before, simply "picking your selections at random means you should break even over the long term, excluding commission of course", so even if your edge turns out to be an illusion, you shouldn't lose your shirt. Keep an eye on the sleeves though. If they are gone, it might be time to cut your losses.

This "@SmarterSig" chap (aka Mark Littlewood) might be worth following if you are into horse racing.

A quick look at some of his other posts show some quality content, something that is something of a rarity these days. He appears to be of a similar vintage to myself, although we differ in our opinions of Farage. In one recent post on horse racing, he (Mark, not Nigel) writes:
I had begun my betting career with a strong bias against handicaps which I now realise was a mistake. My belief that there was no point arguing with the handicapper who’s full time job was to make all the horse’s theoretically dead heat was incorrect but it took me a few years to realise this.
I recall coming to the exact same conclusion on handicaps myself back in the 1970s, although the direction I ultimately took was away from horses altogether. Mark writes in one post:
My belief that there was no point arguing with the handicapper who’s full time job was to make all the horse’s theoretically dead heat was incorrect but it took me a few years to realise this.
Ignoring the incorrect apostrophes, I remember avoiding handicaps for this exact reason. Larger fields were another reason, and for a few years in the late seventies, backing the favourite in non-handicap Novice Hurdles and Novice Chases with 6 to 10 runners was a system I followed, and I see variations are still in vogue 40 years later! Somewhere, quite possibly in the attic at my childhood home, are some notebooks with the results neatly documented in my 'just left school' handwriting. If my parents ever move, and 64 years after moving in they are still there so don't hold your collective breath, I shall put on my hazmat suit and attempt an extraction.       

Sunday 17 November 2019


In the good old pre-Premium Charge days, trading sports in-play was where the easy money was, but it could be quite stressful. The relatively infrequent four figure losses are not pleasant, even if the edge meant that in the long run the bank kept growing. In the five years from 2006 to 2010 I had 59 such bad days, with one loss taking 275 days to recover (financially) from. Emotionally, it only took me 250 days... The point is that when something is stressful like this, taking a break can be beneficial.

With the less stressful 'bet and forget' approach that I have now adopted, taking a break is just annoying as effectively, every day that you are not active is a missed opportunity.

So it's always with mixed feelings when I come back from a holiday, run the numbers and see what I could have won, as "Bullseye" would put it.

I missed three weeks of the College Football season, and of course the Small Road 'Dogs had winning weeks in all three, including a 7-0 sweep in Week 11. Overall a 21-8-1 record, and when I'm back for Week 12, they can only manage a 3-3-2 week. For the season, the system is now at 54-35-7 and looking very good for a 19th consecutive winning season. 

Earlier this year, I wrote about being unconvinced by an 18-0 record. Barring a disaster, the unconvinced will soon need to explain away a 19-0 record, but yes, of course the market here is efficient. It's just a pattern... 

The same three weeks were missed in the NFL also, plus the Thursday night game for Week 11, but here I missed out on a losing 4-7-1 record. This weekend the system has four selections all currently in play - Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans and New York Jets looking to improve on a 31-20-1 overall record for the season. 

I've also missed the start of the NBA season, which in recent seasons has been interesting to follow from the totals perspective. Bucking the trend of recent season, it appears the points total isn't increasing, at least not yet:
The strategy of backing Overs on high totals does continue to be profitable, with the 224 total (58.3%) looking optimal so far.

In other news, this year's Fields Medal could be heading to this guy who has somehow discovered that coin tosses are NOT independent events...
Now you know. Good to know that such people are out there competing against us, and with such confidence. 

One final note is that while I was away, this blog passed the 2,000,000 hits mark.
It only took about 11 and a half years to get there, but as with accumulating wealth or losing weight, it's a slow and steady process (barring a lottery win or amputation of course).    

Tuesday 22 October 2019

NBA Totals 2019

So I did say that yesterday's post will be my last for a while, but I don't actually leave until Thursday and I find I have a little time on my hands to look some more into totals.

After a slight misunderstanding, Bumby Lansford was able to confirm my numbers for low NFL totals in non-divisional games. 

The results from different data sets will always differ slightly, but over a large sample size, an edge should persist across all of them. 

Turning to NBA totals, which i briefly touched on yesterday, Neanderthal asked:
222.4 was the average total points scored last season during the regular season while the average total for betting was 221.7. 

For anyone else interested, I'll be looking at backing Overs when the line is set as 229 points or higher to start with. I would recommend keeping an open mind on totals as they have a tendency to change as the season progresses.
2018-19 Regular Season Overs
For example last season, before the All-Star break the average total was 220.7, while after the break it jumped to 224.0.  While the NBA All-Star break is approximately mid-season when including the playoffs, it is more like 70% of the way through the regular season.

Another way of looking at the in-season changes is by splitting the 82 game season into two halves which shows the first half average total set at 220.2 with the second half at 223.2, both by far the highest ever and quite a leap from 2011's half season numbers of 190.6 and 194.7. 

In previous seasons, the first half totals have generally been close to the second half totals of the preceding season, but last season was an exception, increasing from 214.1 points to 220.2. 

As you might expect, the sportsbooks adjusted quickly to the money coming in on Overs because of the jump in scoring. 

The average total was at 216.1 in game one, at 219.4 in game two and 222.6 in game three and 224.6 for game four. 

Worth mentioning that not all conferences are created equal, and nor are all teams. Backing the Overs in Los Angeles Lakers home games last season when the total was 225 or higher won just 31% of the time. The Golden State Warriors at home were also costly for Overs, at 39%, and overall these two teams were two of the top five highest totals.

While it is understandable that the public would push the total high for Warriors games, I'm not sure why this happened for Lakers games as the team were a mess from the start last season. LeBron James was presumably one reason, but he missed 17 games through injury and only played 55 in total, and the Lakers finished 4th of five in their division, and 10th in the Western Conference, again missing the playoffs.

This season should be different after a summer of changes, including Head Coach, and they are currently joint favourites on Betfair (second favourites just about everywhere else), to win the NBA Championship this season along with the other Los Angeles team, who they happen to play on opening night tonight although most of Los Angeles would have been hoping to watch the Dodgers in the World Series. 

The Clippers are nominally the home team, (they share the same stadium), but are 2.5 point underdogs. The "away" team won all four matches last season, but over the last seven seasons, the Clippers have won 23 of the 28 local derbies. 

There's also an edge in betting on more rested teams playing a team from another conference coming off an overtime game, but I gave enough free help in the summer with my post on conferences and time zones which included this comment:
I share this idea because I'm a generous chap, and by the time the 2019-20 season rolls around, you'll all have forgotten about it! 
One system that Neanderthal hasn't forgotten about is the BLUnders System that worked so wonderfully a few years back in a world where NBA scoring hadn't exploded exponentially: 
The System used 12+ favourites, but with the previously discussed increase in points, which shows no sign of slowing down, any Unders system is up against it. 

The BLUnders Away System showed a profit again last season but there are few selections and I don't consider the BLUnders Systems to be worth pursuing for a while: