Sunday 29 March 2020

Cake or Death?

That poverty, stress and bad lifestyles cause death isn't in question, although the timeline is usually measured in decades rather than in weeks as is the case with COVID-19.

One reader commented on a story out of Italy where some people in the south are becoming restless after almost three weeks of "lock-down". 

As is the case here in California, and it looks like I may well be here for a while, grocery stores remain open, but the south of Italy has a big cash economy of unregistered workers and a higher level of deprivation and unemployment and money might be running out for some.

So while the virus hasn't reached the same crisis levels in southern Italy, hunger and hardship threaten to be problematic.

The comment was:

When the medicine becomes more toxic than the disease.
That logic doesn't hold up too well when the disease results in death, and it's hard to come up with a medicine any more toxic than that.

Trump hinted at this same argument last week suggesting that the country would be opened up in time for packed churches on Easter Sunday. Experts were horrified of course, and the unnecessary lives that would be lost were much discussed. 

Even most Republicans seem to understand that life is more important than money with polls showing 81% in favour of looking at the data and keeping restrictions in place until such time as that data says it is safe to ease up. "The virus sets the timeline". 

A joke doing the rounds here, not in the bars though, is:
What did Trump give up for Lent? Your grandparents.
It's been described as social Darwinism and is a non-starter with even Trump walking back the idea. 
Alabama’s disaster preparedness plan says that “persons with severe mental retardation, advanced dementia or severe traumatic brain injury may be poor candidates for ventilator support.”
This is the same Trump who announced in February that:
"When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done."
That would indeed have been quite a remarkable job, but a failure to react to the alarms in early January and ramp up testing have put the US in a bad position, made even worse by Trump's decision to disband the NSC's pandemic response team in May 2018. Despite those facts, he rates his performance as a 10 and takes no responsibility!

Anyway, I digress. After pointing out that we're talking about a deadly virus that can kill in three weeks, I got this response:
Charming. Not sure where 18 months suddenly came from but when you run out of rational, fact-based arguments and turn to abusive language, I guess the argument is won although given the situation we are in I'll put the reaction down to stress. 
While most of us are not expert epidemiologists, anyone who is interested in statistics has an abundance of data and models to look at, and as horrible as the topic is, it is statistically interesting. It was a while ago now, but I remember covering the Spanish Flu pandemic in my Pure Maths with Statistics 'A' level course and learning about CFR and R0.

It is this ever changing data that clearly shows the benefit of social distancing, lock-downs, travel bans and testing. 

With no action taken, viruses typically double the number of infections every six days, a rate of spread that would saturate the health care system in a matter of weeks. States and the UK are responding by building new field hospitals, but unless the rate of spread slows, these efforts will prove futile.

And once hospitals run out of ICU beds, equipment and staff the number of unnecessary deaths soars and it seems there are already serious shortages on both sides of the Atlantic for equipment right now, with staffing and beds to come in the next few weeks.

Stay safe and stay home and look at the data to see what's likely coming. It's not going to be pretty. 

Thursday 26 March 2020

Opening Day - Postponed

Today should have been Opening Day for Major League Baseball. I should have been watching my wife's home town team play the Colorado Rockies, but of course the season has been postponed indefinitely. 

All those trends for opening day will be saved for another day.

Whether or not it is possible to play a shortened season perhaps extending into November and a neutral World Series in an indoor stadium remains to be seen, but it seems likely that there may well be more than a few doubleheaders, a feature of the game I wrote about last September, if the season ever gets started. 

The NBA is still hopeful of completing its season in some form with one suggestion being that: 
The NBA could decide to cancel the remainder of its regular season and create a play-in tournament for lower-seeded teams to enter the postseason. The league could then set up a best-of-five series for the first round, before moving to a one-and-done tournament to determine the two teams that will play in the NBA Finals, which would also be a best-of-five, people familiar with the planning said.
The tournament and NBA Finals would be held in Las Vegas at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion, where the league hosts its annual Summer League events.
The NHL is hopeful of resuming in July and completing its season in September but we shall see. 

As I mentioned previously, it's difficult to get motivated for something as trivial as betting while the ongoing pandemic plays out. 

Some light reading here for you in an article by Dave Hill titled The Perilous Future of Gambling in the Time of the Coronavirus.

Neither Dave or his friend are that great at maths: 
I texted a friend who is better than me at math and asked him what the odds were. He told me it was (½)^7, or about 99-1.
I made it 127-1, but let's not allow the truth to get in the way of a good story at a time like this. The more people gambling without solid math skills, the better. 

Monday 23 March 2020

Glorious Twelfth

This blog has now been active for a full 12 years, after debuting in March 2008 with this opening post

My usual anniversary joke can be seen here, and the blog is now up to 2,686 posts, but it's not the funniest of jokes and probably most of us aren't in the mood to joke much these days.

Keeping the blog going when the profits are flowing sounds very poetic, but it's true. With nothing to bet on, there's not exactly much to write about and while it seems like this is the perfect time to look at past data and research, I'm struggling to motivate myself to be honest. 

Not only are there more important things to concern us, but the return of sports is likely to be several weeks or months away.

I mentioned that I was planning to watch an MLR game here yesterday, but the entire season has now been cancelled, as has the XFL season although I have no interest in that.

My trip to Queensland in July is looking less and less likely, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Crystal Palace, and less importantly West Ham United, announce a change in plans anyway. They may well be busy completing the 2019-20 season. I'll take that right now.

If I think of anything interesting or relevant to write about I will post, but it's looking like I'll be stateside for a while. 

It's probably only a matter of time before California upgrades the current 'stay-at-home' order to a 'shelter-in-place' one followed by the total lock-down now in place in my ancestral homeland Italy.

Looking at the latest numbers, the CFR for Italy is now a terrifying 9.3%, (this is what happens when the curve isn't flattened and health systems are swamped) for the UK it is 4.9% and for the USA it is 1.3%.

As hospitals reach full capacity and run out of equipment in the UK and USA as now seems inevitable, not only will more patients die of the virus, but additional patients with other illnesses will also die as they can't get the treatment they need, although these will not be included in the official COVID-19 numbers.

Stay safe and stay home.

Tuesday 17 March 2020

Roxy, Thank You and ICU

That "Roxy" Roxborough is an intelligent man is clear from his pinned Tweet which states:

Four words to better health: Eat Less, Exercise More.....Four words to better sports gambling: Bet Prices not Teams.
That Roxy is a generous man with impeccable taste in betting related blogs became clear at the weekend when a generous donation to my retirement fund was made with the note:
Good stuff you write. Maybe this will get you a good bottle of Scotch. Roxy.
Donation and comment both very gratefully received and appreciated.

On the topic of Roxy's pinned tweet, to be honest I seem to do better with the last four words than the first four, but having arrived in California to the news that bars are closed, and restaurants only allowed to serve drive-thru, take-out or delivery, and with no sport (and no 'Final Four') to bet on, it appears to be a golden opportunity to focus on those first four words.

For those of you unfamiliar with Roxy, he has his own Wikipedia page while one 2018 article described him as:
A syndicated columnist, author and teacher, Roxborough is best known throughout the bookmaking world as the founder and owner of Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which generates betting odds for just about anything that moves.
If you follow 'Las Vegas legend' Roxy on Twitter, you'll find other gems, such as this one from January last year:
"Anyone can win betting small," Zeljko Ranogajec told me over lunch in Sydney in the early 1990's before he became the world's largest better. And so it is. Winning is just the first step. The next step, much harder, requires imagination to scale up your bets and stay in the game.
I would have linked to Zeljko's Twitter account, except apparently he has been a naughty boy, and has violated Twitter's Rules, so I link to his Wikipedia page lest anyone not know who he is. One might be excused for being unaware that Twitter actually has any rules given some of the tweets which are allowed with no concerns, but there you are. Scaling up is a skill that Zeljko seems to have mastered!

My wife's hometown here is a beach community with a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on your perspective) number of bars, the aforementioned closure of which will probably see some of them go out of business. Sad enough in itself, but there are also the bar staff who lose their jobs, the cleaners and maintenance staff who lose theirs, the beer distributors who service the area need fewer staff, fewer trucks, and so it goes on.

Roxy's Las Vegas, (he doesn't own the whole city, just calls it home at least some of the year), is also seeing some dramatic changes, with MGM shuttering their Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Luxor, New York-New York, Excalibur, and Park MGM casinos / hotels. The leisure business will be hit hard.

While not everywhere has yet adopted such extreme measures, several have, and many more will in the coming weeks. What that all adds up to is at best a recession, and quite possibly a depression. 

As generous as Roxy's donation was, I have to say that it didn't quite cover the hit taken by the collapse of stock prices over the last couple of weeks. What a difference a month makes. I returned from South Africa to a spreadsheet that peaked on February 19th and serious thoughts of a March 2021 retirement, yes less than a month later several hundred thousand worse off, at least on paper and looking like I'll be working for a while longer. 

After conducting my 'keep things in perspective exercise', I'm now back to where I was in January 2019.

As the Irrelevant Investor put it (from a US perspective):
The declines over the last few weeks in the stock market have been fast and unrelenting. But being concerned about your portfolio at this stage of the game is a luxury.
Roughly half of the country doesn’t own stock. These people are much more anxious about their job security than the decline in the Dow.
For millions of Americans, the next few months are going to be trying times. Wages will be cut and jobs will be lost.
As sorry for myself as I might feel, which actually isn't that sorry since it's been a good run for many years, there are many more people who will be far more impacted by COVID-19 and the stock plunge than me.

Staying positive, and the Irrelevant Investor (again) published a table showing average returns after various numbers of years after buying stocks after falls of certain percentages.
The 3, 10 and 20 year percentages are annualised, and I am certainly not recommending investing in stocks at the moment but at some point, greed will be on a par with fear and prices will bottom out. 

Having sounded a positive note, here's a less positive one.

Unfortunately this virus causing this economic shutdown is going to run for a lot longer than I'm seeing mentioned. "July, August" was mentioned but it'll likely be longer than that. 
In the US, the population is 327 million, give or take a few. Spanish Flu infected 27% of the world population, and while COVID-19 appears to be more contagious, that percentage would equate to 88 million. About 17% of cases require ICU treatment which is 15 million people, and the USA has just under 15,000 ICU beds. 

In the UK, applying the same numbers (and yes they are best guesses), 18 million people would be infected, with 3 million requiring ICU treatment. The UK has about 4,000 ICU beds. 

Even assuming that every ICU bed is available (and most are not), and without accounting for the average treatment time or the fact that there may not be enough healthcare staff and personal protection equipment available, the importance of flattening the curve, of which we are all now familiar, is made starkly clear. It is highly unlikely that many / most cases requiring intensive care will get that level of care. 

We've probably all seen pictures from Italy of patients being treated in corridors when the health system was overwhelmed and the mortality rate there, based on the latest and always changing numbers, is about 7.7%. 

You can extrapolate the numbers for the USA and the UK if you want, but they are rather depressing. It puts those stock losses in perspective.

Wash your hands often and stay home if you can and if you don't understand the importance of social distancing, check out these simulators.

Stay safe. 

Sunday 15 March 2020

Crisis Reaction and Sports Investing

I wasn't expecting a Sky News segment about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, (you may have heard of it), to trigger a blog post, but the words of the WHO's Executive Director Dr. Michael Ryan regarding acting decisively to slow down the spread of viruses do have a parallel with sports betting.

Dr. Ryan said:

If you need to be right before you move, you will never win. Perfection is the enemy of the good. Speed trumps perfection. 
Sound familiar? Dr Ryan continues with:
Everyone is afraid of making a mistake. Everyone is afraid of the consequence of error. But the greatest error is not to move.
As I've said about the far more trivial topic of sports betting, if you wait until a system is proven, you're too late.
The greatest error is to be paralysed by the fear of failure
A lesson not just for crisis reaction and sports investing, but for life in general.

Unfortunately with most top sports shutting down at least for a few weeks, there aren't a whole lot of opportunities for betting these days. Presumably markets in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases / deaths is considered bad form? 

A few weeks off isn't an issue for me personally, but thousands of people in the industry will be impacted as the shutdown goes on. 

Hopefully anyone who relies on sports or sports investment for their primary income has something to fall back on.

Expect a rush of offers for casino betting such as this one, from what used to be a fairly decent site, courtesy of @Day25:
"The next level"! Good grief. 

I had something of a nightmare a couple of nights ago, dreaming that I'd lost £10,000 betting in a market that I had no idea about. It was quite a relief when I realised it was just a dream and my account was still healthy.

One of my nephew's works for a "sports betting consultancy" but with no top class football to analyse or invest on, layoffs are a possibility.
"I'm a business person, I don't like having thousands of people around when you don't need them. When we need them, we can get them back very quickly."
So said Donald Trump a couple of weeks ago when asked if shutting down the White House National Security Council's entire global health security unit and eliminating jobs addressing global pandemics in 2018 was likely to hamper the U.S. government's response to the coronavirus.

Well of course not. Nothing is ever his fault. Just this past Friday, he said that he doesn't "take responsibility at all", quite a U-turn from his views on leadership in 2013.
It's a little concerning that some on social media still don't get why banning big crowds is important in slowing the spread of the virus. This article in the Washington Post explains it all quite clearly. I suspect the sports that have suspended for four weeks or so will be extending those suspensions. I hope I'm wrong.

I don't follow the NRL too closely but was planning to see my first live game in Township, Queensland on July 12th, but that league seems to be one that hasn't planned for a long stoppage and begging for a handout because "it's not our fault". 

Except that it is your fault for not planning for such an eventuality. We have business continuity exercises at work every six months, a royal pain in the arse to be honest, but when these things happen, the importance of the exercises and preparedness are clear.

But the big picture is that these are minor inconveniences. People are dying, and more people will die than necessary if the government continue with their 'herd immunity' idea which has a couple of gaping holes. One is that there is still some doubt about whether or not survivors develop immunity, and even if they do, what happened with "Wave Two" of Spanish Flu in 1918-20* was that the virus mutated anyway. 

The government should be doing everything they can to 'flatten the curve' and avoid saturating the NHS and seeing a mortality rate like that of Italy at 6.81% which is what happens when patients can't be treated properly. 

Unfortunately this policy being followed by every normal country basing their decisions on science comes at a huge economic cost, which the Tory government can ill afford after the Brexit debacle, so what's a few thousand lives if we can limit the damage to GDP? How about suspending Brexit for a few years?  

And on that note, I'm off. With yet another birthday anniversary fast approaching, as tradition dictates I shall be in the USA next week, although my plans to run a 5k race and catch an MLR game there on the big day have been scuppered. My daughter's plan to join my wife and I in the mountains with her kids for some skiing was blocked yesterday by the not-unexpected decision by Trump to add the UK to the list of countries for which the European travel ban applies. Stay safe.

* Corrected from 2018-20; thanks to Si and Willi

Friday 13 March 2020

PGA - Playing Golf Abandoned

Although stock market futures for Friday the 13th have just turned green, the possibility that all the gains since the 2016 US election of Trump will soon be wiped out remains.

On Election Night the S&P 500 closed at 2,139.56. Yesterday it closed 9.99% down at 2,480.64 meaning that another 14% drop will see all the much talked about gains evaporate.
In true Trump style, the Tweet above contained a small error which is that there is no such thing as a 409k. He meant 401k, which is the common name of the personal retirement account used by many Americans. 

His son Eric, with almost perfect timing, tweeted (now deleted) last month:
The S&P 500 closed that Friday at 2,954.22 which means that the answer to his question is no. Down 16% since that great advice. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  

As I've mentioned before, it helps to maintain perspective and although my spreadsheet has never seen such carnage (currently down 8.37% this month and 15.79% off the February 19th high), I'm still where I was in June of 2019.

Work was quite interesting yesterday with the news spreading faster than COVID-19 itself that an employee's wife had tested positive for the virus, and that the employee was being tested triggering a rush for the exits and unilateral declarations of "I'm going to work from home". Turns out that it was all an unsubstantiated rumour but just to be safe, I'm working from home myself today although more because it's a Friday than from any viral concerns.

A little surprising that the PGA has also decided to cancel tournaments for the time being. Golf isn't the most physical of sports so a few precautions should have kept the players safe> It's outdoors and as fans are supposed to be quiet anyway, no one would notice if they were excluded. 

Will the Premier League follow suit today? Quite likely with players now testing positive. Unfortunately Lindsey didn't like my suggestion for deciding the title in the event of an abandoned season:

Everything's All Over

As predicted earlier, the NHL has followed the lead of the NBA in suspending their season, and the NCAA's hugely popular basketball tournament, aka March Madness, has been cancelled. The outdoor US sports of MLS and MLR have also suspended their seasons while MLB is delaying the start of their season by at least two weeks. 

If the NHL regular season is over, here is how that system has fared since the divisional re-alignment of 2013:

So sports investment opportunities will be seriously limited in the coming weeks. One former newspaper editor, in a rare show of common sense, tweeted:
Leaving aside that I couldn't find any "top" Premier League manager who has yet tested positive for COVID-19, I did see that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has tested positive and it will surely only be a matter of time before the league suspends action. 

Were it not for being attacked by their fans in January 1977, an incident which left a 12 year old Palace fan with a fractured skull, I might feel some sympathy for Liverpool, who may well have gone on to win their first title in many decades, but no, it's just too bad. Abandon the season as happened in 1939-40, expunge the results, and start the season again in August. Could be a reprieve for Bury! 

Thursday 12 March 2020

NBA - No Basketball Action

And just like that, the NBA season is suspended after the Utah Jazz's All-Star center Rudy Golbert tested positive for COVID-19, now officially a pandemic. There is still time for the league to finish an albeit shortened season should circumstances permit, but for now at least, there is no more NBA. Test results on other Jazz players will be announced later today, but there is also the possible infection of players on the teams the Jazz have played in the past couple of weeks. 

I suspect that the NCAA's March Madness may also become a victim and be cancelled along with several Conference Tournaments but for now the post-season tournaments are almost all still scheduled to go ahead, but with no fans allowed.

The case for playing on wasn't helped by the irresponsible and incredibly stupid decision by Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg last night. Despite being visibly ill, he insisted on coaching in the Big Ten Tournament game v Indiana in close contact with players and other coaches. They lost by 25 points (Nebraska finished bottom of the Big Ten so he's probably worried about losing his job) and a trip to the hospital confirmed he only had a common cold, but crazy to ignore the advice to stay home if you're not feeling well. 

As an example of my level of responsibility, I was in the pub at the weekend, someone coughed, and we all decided it was necessary to self-isolate. My wife isn't too happy about not seeing me for two weeks, but I'm trying to act responsibly. 

If this is the end of the regular season, at least the Road Favourites System ended nicely in profit again after a disappointing 2018 season.

As for the Overs, backing this outcome when the total was at or above 229 points as recommended in October will end the season nicely in profit:
It seems likely that the NHL will follow suit, and possibly the MLB season will open with crowds limited in size. Data for matches played in closed stadia is pretty much non-existent, but as I've written before, changes in circumstances can offer opportunities to bettors able to think how the change might affect outcomes.

We are living through strange times. On the subject of leagues being suspended, the proposal that the Premier League be cancelled immediately and awarded to the team with the current best form over the last three matches meets with my full approval, although one has to feel a little sympathy for Liverpool who now have to wait at least another year for their first Premier League title. 

Admittedly the proposal was made by a Crystal Palace supporting Twitter account with about 12 followers, but I'm good with it personally.

Sunday 8 March 2020

Drawing Conclusions, Perhaps

One of Bill Benter's observations (see my previous post if you are unaware of whom he is) was that:

In the author's experience the minimum amount of data needed for adequate model development and testing samples is in the range of 500 to 1,000 races.
The English Premier League has been around for more years than there is betting data, but thanks to Joseph Buchdahl's Football Data web site at least we have data going back to the last few months of the second millennium.

This will come as no surprise to followers, but since that first 2000-01 season, there have been 7,498 Premier League matches, and after adjusting for the over-round, if you had backed the Draw in every game where no team had greater than a 50% implied probability of winning, you'd be up by around 2.49% from 3,525 matches.

If you narrowed this down to the 40% level, your ROI is up to 10.26% from 1,217 matches. There is a 1 in 99 chance that this outcome is from luck, so don't get carried away:
It's a promising sign though that the 40 selections so far this season heading into this weekend had an ROI of 34.3%.

The Draw appears to be most undervalued when the Away team is favourite, but not by a big margin:
Quite a contrast to when the Home team is a modest favourite:
When there is very little difference in win probability between the two sides, the Home / Away factor isn't apparent:
The 73 matches where the probabilities were identical had a 6% ROI. Games where the win probabilities of the two teams are close continue to offer an edge to Draw backers.  

Incidentally, has anyone noticed that the over-round on Pinnacle's closing prices which started the season (first 50 games) at 102.6% has since climbed over the last 50 games to 103%? 

Saturday 7 March 2020

In Data We Trust

Continuing with the theme of myth busting from the last post, and neatly touching on the topic of whether (betting) skills learned in one sport are transferable to a completely different sport which some of you may have caught on Twitter, MLB has this interesting article on Michael Jordan's one season in baseball after leaving the Chicago Bulls at the height of his fame and success.

Reaching the top in any sport is hard, and the number of hours required to spend on getting there means that there is little time left to build on any ability you might have in other sports. Athletes might be above average in several sports in their younger days, but to reach the top they need to choose one and specialise.

The (betting) example of Bill Benter is an interesting one with a Bloomberg Article referenced here in May 2018. The article discusses Benter and his partner Alan Woods in some detail, but not so much Robert Moore who had a few psychological issues and committed suicide in 1997.

Moore often wagered up to $2 million per day on horse races and received an annual return of 38%.
That is quite an ROI! 

Hong Kong horse racing is quite different to that in most other countries, with just two tracks and a small number of jockeys, trainers and horses in training. This "closed" racing population, as Benter describes it, offers advantages to modeling over the more usual horse racing environment.  

Betting is also huge here, with the largest horse racing gambling turnover in the world generating an average of US$12.7 million in gambling turnover per race which is six times larger than its closest rival France at US$2 million, while a race in the United States only generates $250,000 on average.

Betting on horse racing in Hong Kong is "ingrained in local culture and is seen as an investment", which it certainly was for Benter and Woods who turned their initial US$150,000 into close to a billion dollars "through the development of one of the most successful analysis computer software programs in the horse racing market". I think the "one of" might be something of an understatement!

Unfortunately when Benter returned to the US and tried his methods at baseball for three years, he could only break even. In my opinion, the Hong Kong horse racing markets in the 1980s likely offered a lot more opportunity than baseball markets in the 2010s. For one thing, computing had come a long way in those 25 years.

The article is well worth a read though as I said at the time. There are a number of lessons to be learned if you are serious about being profitable in betting.

One of the first that jumps out is that it sometimes pays to persevere. Of that initial $150,000 some $120,000 was lost and Benter returned to Blackjack to build up his bank again.

There's a story in the article about the effect of weather on a horse's performance, which although ultimately wasn't helpful, it's the process and lengths he followed to reach this conclusion that offer important lessons.

Determining which of the many variables were useful indicators was of course the key, and as readers of this blog will know, often the most valuable are in plain sight. 

That some data is also key for no apparent reason is also something that Benter has written about:
The author knows of no 'common sense' reason why this factor should be important. The only reason it can be confidently included in the model is because the large data sample allows its significance lo be established beyond a reasonable doubt.
This is the Sumo 15th Round problem, for which ultimately there was an explanation, even if it was elusive. Trust the data.

Benter knew that Kelly is optimal and he also faced the challenge of having his accounts closed when he started to win too much. The $50 million won in 1997 proved too much for the Hong Kong Jockey Club:
The club had come to see the syndicates’ success as a headache. There was no law against what they were doing, but in a parimutuel gambling system, every dollar they won was a dollar lost by someone else. If the everyday punters at Happy Valley and Sha Tin ever found out that foreign computer nerds were siphoning millions from the pools, they might stop playing entirely.
If only Betfair's Premium Charge kicked in at such a level!  

Alan Woods died of cancer in 2008 aged 62, while Benter is alive and well, with other interests but describes himself as a one-trick pony:
Benter also runs a medical transcription company, but it’s only modestly profitable. “I find the real business world to be a lot more difficult than horse racing,” he told me. “I’m kind of a one-trick pony.”
Markets all have their own personalities, and expecting one to behave like another appears to be unrealistic. The influence of some inputs certainly persists, but in general being a successful bettor in one sport doesn't mean you can be in another. At least not without a lot of work. 

Friday 6 March 2020

The Third Win Adage

One of the innumerable adages in sports is the above - that "it's hard to beat a team three times".

March is the time of year when college basketball has its March Madness and teams in the Conference tournaments often play teams that they have played, and sometimes beaten, twice before in 'league' play.

About two years ago, I read this article by college basketball coach Bob Walsh on this topic. The statistics used to disprove the adage were:
According to STATS LLC., there have been 981 similar matchups across Division I college basketball over the past 10 seasons. The teams entering the third game 2-0 are a combined 710-271 (.724 winning percentage) in the third meeting.
Which led the author to conclude that "it clearly doesn’t follow that it is hard to beat a team 3 times. In fact, it’s actually kind of easy."

As always, it's good practice to do your own research and at the time, the record in such matches going back to the 2006 season showed a 72.5% winning record when a team is going for its third win of the season over the same opponent. Unfortunately with an average line of -6.6, this isn't a profitable strategy on the ML with the market clearly not buying in to the adage.

Most tournament games are on a neutral court, but often one of the teams hosts the tournament so some games are considered Home / Away games.

In these games, when the team going for three in a row was an Away team, they had a poor record ATS of just 40.4%. Since the article, the Away team has a 100% losing record, something to look for as the conference tournaments take place. 

In the NCAA tournament, which starts on St Patrick's Day this year, the record ATS for teams who beat their opponent on the last two outings (not in the same season as such match-ups are extremely rare) underdogs have a 76.9% record. 

In the NHL, the system selection last night was the Toronto Maple Leafs who lost after a shootout at the Los Angeles Kings, but the story of the night was the five goal performance, including the winner in overtime, of the New York Rangers' Mika Zibanejad, the first five goal performance in the NHL since I told you about this one in November 2018.  

Meanwhile the gyrations in the stock market this week saw a new record set for an up day on Monday, only for it to be well beaten on Wednesday although losses on Tuesday and Thursday rather spoiled those successes. Fridays have been down days all but twice this year, and futures indicate that trend will continue today. 

Tuesday 3 March 2020

Men In Tights

It's been a while, but as predicted by the futures markets overnight, finally stock markets were green all over yesterday.

Tesla was up 15.25% on the day including after-hours trading, and the record dating back to October 16th, 2018 for overall best day in spreadsheet history was well and truly smashed exactly one week after setting a new record for the overall worst day.

March is off to a good start, unless you wanted to use your Robinhood account for trading, in which case you missed out because the app was down all day, with some reports suggesting it was due to a coding error which failed to account for the Leap Year!

It's a logical idea and a good story, but the truth may lie elsewhere.

Anyway, if you think you had a bad day, you might gain some perspective from this guy who bought put options in Amazon (a risky play in itself) and then couldn't get in to the app to close out his position:
One guy, who clearly doesn't read this blog, got caught with an open put on Tesla! A much smaller loss than the Amazon guy, but perhaps still significant as a percentage of his account. Crazy stuff.

While I do have a Robinhood account, I've never used it for trading options or stocks, and decided I never would after the company was fined in December by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority over concerns "that it didn't give its users the best deals on their trades." 

Such findings and fines are not exactly confidence filling, and what the heck someone is doing risking that sum of money on Robinhood I have no idea. That had to hurt. Yes, trades are free on Robinhood but this seems like a case of "you get what you pay for."

Reading through some of the comments and it seems that most account holders never had a backup plan. When trading money that is significant to you, whether that is hundreds or millions, it seems to me that it would be prudent to have a plan for such eventualities. Eggs in one basket anyone? 

After seeing all these losses, I'm not sure an update on going 1-1 on the NBA Totals last night will be too interesting, but life goes on. 

Monday 2 March 2020

Washington Wins

Some good news overnight with the Washington Capitals beating the Minnesota Wild to end the losing streak at three, which tied the longest such run since the system started in 2013, but more importantly the stock futures have turned from red to green overnight although of course this doesn't always get reflected when the markets open.

Washington was good for me last night. The Wizards (at Golden State) along with the Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans were the two winners for the NBA Overs system from three selections.  

An email regarding the MLB Systems mentioned the overlap between some of the T-Bone selections and the Hot Favourite selections, and since 2013 the numbers for these systems, with a couple of other groups for your awareness, are:

My definition of 'hot' at -200 or shorter is somewhat arbitrary, but -240 (1.42) or shorter is actually the optimal price in terms of ROI.

The table above should help you to avoid the costly favourites. 
With Opening Day not too far off, I'm able to share that backing the favourite in Opening Day Divisional games when they won fewer games than their opponent in the previous season has a database all time ROI of 28.4% and an incredible 63.7% on the Run Line. Only 33 matches going back to 2005 so don't go crazy but worth considering. The rationale is that there is a carry over from the previous season which doesn't fully account for the close season changes, and the market lacks confidence in the favourite and there is thus value. 

It's a bias that also exists in the NFL where the all-time record for Opening Day Home Favourites has an ROI of 24.4% in all matches, though 'only' 16.6% in Divisional games.

February Made Me Shiver

February certainly ended with a bang, with markets dipping into correction territory in record time. Gains in the first three weeks of the month were more than offset by the sell-off resulting in one of the worst months in spreadsheet history which goes back to 2010. 

In real terms it was the fourth worst month ever, in percentage terms the sixth worst, but it always helps to have some perspective and all it means is that I am back to where I was in November of last year, and in November of last year the numbers were at a record high and I was quite happy with things.

It's also worth remembering that unless you sell the shares or funds you own, you've actually lost nothing, and history tells us the worst time to sell is when everyone is in a panic. This week will be interesting with stock futures currently pointing to another losing day on Monday. Buckle up. 

As for sports betting, with half the month lost to being in South Africa, and the NBA's All-Star Break, things were pretty quiet. The NHL System, which since the league re-structured in 2013 has never had a losing sequence of greater than three, ended February with a losing sequence of three. History, of the wrong kind, will be made if the Washington Capitals lose tonight. I'm on at 1.83, although the price has since shortened slightly. 
For the season overall, the system still has an ROI of 7.6% so it's not all doom and gloom. Again for perspective the current losing streak was preceded by a seven game win streak. 

In the NBA, at the 229 or higher entry point, Overs came in 52.7% of the time in February for a small profit, but it's baseball that has been occupying my time of late. The 2020 season starts early this year as I've mentioned, March 26th to be precise, and that's not too far away. Hopefully the trends of recent years will continue but the realist in me says that at some point the markets will catch up. We shall see.