Monday 31 August 2020

Unders Begets Unders in Playoffs

With the Denver Nuggets tying up their playoff series against the Utah Jazz last night, we have our first Game 7 of the 2019-20 NBA season.

With data going back to 2002, the Home team wins 74% of these games, and covers 57% of the time, but with Home and Away merely an administrative technicality in the play-offs this season, we can probably ignore this statistic. For the record, Denver are the "Home" team tomorrow. 

In 'normal' playoff games, Home teams win 64.4% of games, but this season that percentage is down to 55%.

In the First Round of playoffs, the numbers are 65% and 56.4%. The percentage declines from the early rounds to the finals as does the difference between the teams.

When looking at covering the spread, First Round games see the Home team cover 51% of the time, which is not too exciting, but the Totals markets in Game 7s show a tendency for the Overs to be 'over'-valued with Unders the result more than 60% of the time.  

Some of you may know that in a playoff series, a key indicator for Unders is previous matches in the series, an observation that gets stronger the deeper into a series you go.

For example in a Game 4, if the two preceding games both went Under, 53% of games will again go under. In Game 5, this percentage increases to 57%, in Game 6 to 63% and in Game 7s to 80%.

If you are impatient and want to jump in after just one Under, the numbers are 53%, 59%, 60% and 63% respectively. Stake accordingly. 

Unfortunately the Nuggets and Jazz series has gone Over in five of the six games, and the market seems to adjust to an Overs result much more efficiently than to an Unders.  

We may have another Game 7 this week if Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Houston Rockets tonight.

Sunday 30 August 2020

Birthday Boy Buffett

A winning start to the 2020-21 football season, although laying the 4-1 outsider isn't likely to excite too many readers because, to quote Warren Buffett (who turns 90 today), "nobody wants to get rich slow." 

Unfortunately, barring an unlikely lottery win, for most of us getting rich slowly is the only way we are going to get rich, but the good news is that so long as you don't leave it too late to start, it's something that anyone can do.
"Personal finance is just math mixed with discipline and self control." - Steve Burns
In fact, birthday boy Warren Buffett has made nearly 90% of his estimated $82 billion after reaching the age of 65. 
"Investing well is important, but investing well for a long time matters even more."
Of course that means he had about $8 billion to his name when he reached 65, and I for one am behind schedule on reaching that goal (unless Tesla keeps up its run) but we don't all need to be Warren Buffett to be wealthy or rich.
The 20th-century journalist and social satirist H.L. Mencken once quipped that a wealthy man is one who earns $100 a year more than his wife’s sister’s husband.
According to this article, you need $1.4 million (just over £1 million) to be 'comfortable' in the US, and another $1m to be considered 'wealthy', sums which may seem enormous in your 20s but which don't seem that enormous or unachievable as you get older. 

Coincidentally, the article mentions Warren Buffett's house and that it represents 0.001% of his total wealth suggesting a guideline:
Remember, housing should be no more than 30% of your income, so WB is doing okay!
I'm not sure that many of us live in a house that is 30% of our income, but perhaps the writer meant total wealth.

Funny how these articles never seem to mention his $11 million house in Laguna Beach, although he may have sold that by now. 

Baseball betting is definitely not helping me reach that $8 billion goal this season, with the T-Bone stakes getting burned to a crisp, and hot favourites performing lukewarmly at best. The totals systems are doing reasonably well though, but with the regular season half over, this isn't looking anything like a normal year.

As previously mentioned, I took a look at the Europa League (knock-out stages) this week and was expecting that clubs from the Big 5 countries might be poor value when playing clubs from other countries.

This turned out to be partially true, but the return from backing the 'Big' team was 6.18 units from 156 matches (ROI 4%).

The value in this 'Round-of-32' First Leg is to back the outsider, remembering that in football betting the outsider can be the Draw.  

Across 271 matches (an odd number because Feyenoord were kicked out in 2007 and Tottenham Hotspur were awarded a bye), blindly backing the outsider would have returned more than 6%, a number that leaps to 19% when backing the outsider in 'Big 5 v other' matches.

In First Leg matches between Big clubs, back the Away for an ROI of 21%.

In the Second Leg, results vary depending on the First Leg of course, but backing the outsider when the Second Leg Home team lost the first game by three or fewer goals, has an ROI of 17% from 101 matches.

I'll look at other rounds and scenarios later, but there definitely seem to be some weaknesses in these markets. As a reminder, for the Europa League I'm using the average prices from Odds Portal adjusted to a standard 103% overround, so these numbers can usually be beaten.

Saturday 29 August 2020

Community Shield

Going back to 2005, Liverpool are the second shortest price (using Pinnacle) to win the season opening FA Community Shield today against Arsenal.

Only Manchester United at 1.49 v Wigan Athletic in 2013 have been shorter.

Previous results, with the favourite listed as the Home team:

Odds-on favourites don't have a great record, with three of the six previous such teams failing to win. Once again a sample size of 16 isn't enough data, but certainly backing underdogs doesn't appear to be the best bet in these games. 
In matches between Big 6 clubs, well, that's basically all of them...

Of the three non-Big 6 clubs to have competed, two (Wigan and Portsmouth) will play each other in League One this season, with Portsmouth still waiting for their Wembley date for the EFL Trophy Final of last season against Salford City. 

Friday 28 August 2020

Boycott Day Two and Europa League

The NHL, and better late than never, did finally decide to join the protests against racial injustice in the US.

The NHL drew criticism for not joining the NBA, WNBA, MLS and some MLB teams in suspending competitions or practices on Wednesday, before the player-led Hockey Diversity Alliance asked the NHL to push pause on games Thursday.
Play-off games were postponed last night and tonight while seven MLB games were also called off, as were all the NBA play-off games and WNBA games, but some semblance of normality may return tonight.

The spare time has not been totally wasted, as I've been working through some data from the Europa League, a competition I've never been too interested in before, at least not until it reaches the final stages. Matches between the likes of FK Anzi Makhackala and Metalist Kharkiv don't really set my pulse racing but I'm interested in seeing if some of the trends from the Champions League in the earlier knock-out stages are visible here too, but still a bit more work to do. I'm on track to finish it before the Round-of-32 in February, although Xmas being less than four months away is a reminder of how fast this strange year is going.

In my first post of 2018 I wrote that the better place for investing was the US:
In more traditional financial markets, once again the main US benchmark index outperformed the UK's FTSE100. Only 4 times in the last 24 years has the FTSE prevailed, and the disaster that is Brexit means the US and Overseas markets are where most of my investments will again be in 2018.
With the FTSE 100 closing below 6,000 last night, here's a comparison of two indexes since the 2008 crash:
The two have never before (at least since 1992) been so disparate and hopefully some of you at least diversified to include US funds in your portfolios. The FTSE 250 is up 184% since 2008, much better than the narrower FTSE 100 and its 35% gain, but still lower than the S&P 500's 286%

An index is comprised of stocks in various sectors, and as with sports investing, when you look below the surface, you find differences.

In the same way that, for example, backing the favourite in every Champions League knock-out stage game is profitable (ROI 6.9%), certain categories of matches are more profitable than others.

With indexes, even with the recent overall strength, sectors such as banking, energy and transportation are under-performing. Opportunities? I think so. I'm already invested in Lloyds Banking Group (a little prematurely perhaps) and watching others. 

Thursday 27 August 2020

NBA : No Basketball Again

If the 2019-20 NBA season wasn't already strange enough, three game 5 matches were last night postponed after players refused to play in protest at the latest police shooting of a 29 year old black man. Seven times. In the back. The victim, Jacob Blake, survived, but is paralysed from the waist down.

The postponements were triggered by the Milwaukee Bucks (from Wisconsin where the shooting occurred) who refused to come out of the locker room for their game against the Orlando Magic. To their credit, the Magic said they would not accept a walkover, and the league quickly postponed all three games scheduled, the other two being the Oklahoma City Thunder v Houston Rockets and the Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Lakers games. Both Los Angeles teams (Lakers and Clippers) have now "voted" to stop the season, but other teams are not aligned, so how this will play out remains to be seen. Voted is in quotes because some reports consider this to have been a "poll" rather than an official vote.

Three MLB games were also postponed "to draw attention to the issues of racial injustice and systemic oppression." The games were the Milwaukee Brewers v Cincinnati Reds, Seattle Mariners v San Diego Padres and Los Angles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants. Only about 8% of MLB players are black, a number that has declined in recent years, but the Seattle Mariners have more than any other club.

Three WNBA games were also postponed last night as were five of six scheduled MLS games, but the 97% white NHL went ahead with its play-off games with a rather weak "moment of reflection in the effort to end racism and fight for social injustice". 

Investment life outside of sports goes on meanwhile with Telsa soaring past $2,250 today after closing at a new all-time high yesterday after CEO Elon Musk hinted that the company may be able to double the density of its batteries in three to four years. On September 22nd, the company holds a "Battery Day" about which there is much speculation.

The company now has a market capitalisation of $400 million, which is double what it was just two months ago. One of my better investments. 
Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives reiterated his Neutral rating and $1,900 price target for Tesla, but raised his bull-case scenario target from $2,500 to $3,500.
Another individual thinks it'll more likely be somewhat lower:
“In a nutshell, Tesla is essentially a busted growth story. I know that sounds crazy to people looking at the stock,” Gordon Johnson, CEO and founder of GLJ Research, told Yahoo Finance’s the First Trade.

Johnson has an $87 price target on the stock by the end of next year. (You read that correctly.)
Which would make it one of my worse investments, but for now, I'm happy to let this one run.

With just three trading days to go this month, and today looking good (Tesla close to $2,300) I'm in good shape for my second best month ever, behind April of this year.    

Monday 24 August 2020

UEFA : Updated European Favourite Analysis

One win for the favourite and a rare win for an underdog in the two European football finals from the weekend but no large profits.

Depending on when you backed Bayern Munich, you may even have made a small loss with the price on Bayern Munich shortening to odds-on in some places, although Pinnacle closed at around 2.02 and 2.14 was the price I took on Betfair.

Here are the numbers updated, and not a pretty sight for those who prefer the underdog in finals:

There were 76 knock-out round matches, fewer than the usual 90 owing to the change in format to single elimination in later rounds due to the pandemic. 

In the Champions League since 2004, the ROI when backing the favourite is 3.6% which increases to 7.8% in Big-5 matches.  

Backing the favourite in every knock-out match this season (Champions League and Europa League) had an ROI of 20.2%, and in Big-5 matches, of 40%. (Big-5 in this context means matches featuring clubs from England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain). There were no intra-league matches this season, and you shouldn't need to be told that one season is a small sample size, so don't expect those 20% / 40% returns every year.

Even before the 2019-20 competitions were concluded, the 2020-21 campaigns are already underway, and I'll probably have some more stats later. 

Loss Was Almost Impossible

Another look back into the past, and here are a couple of systems for all you horse racing enthusiasts.

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that either of the two was actually profitable, and the first was one that I thought I had invented myself when I was ten years old as I wrote when setting up this blog many years ago. 

From the "About Me" section:

The first system I came up with was a simple one - back the favourite and double up after a loss until a winner. Simple enough in theory, and I told my Dad about it. Not being a betting man himself, he ran it by some of his colleagues, and came home to tell me that it wouldn’t work because a long losing run would mean that the bank would be empty. Then there was always the possibility that the winner would be returned at odds-on, meaning that the total returns would not match the outlay. Not what a ten year old wants to hear!
Far from inventing it, the idea (Martingale) had been around since 18th century France and probably prior to that. Here is an article from the Lowestoft Journal of Saturday 19th October 1907:
At Lynn County Court. on Thursday week, Henry Cozens, bill distributor, of Lynn, sued C. Wood, 148, Old-St., London, EC for the return of £1.
It appeared that plaintiff received a circular in July, entitled "Speculation on the Turf," in which he was invited to take a share of £1 in a capital of £75, in order to work a system of backing the favourites in the various races, by which system £1 per week on each £5 invested, and 4s. on each £1 was produced.
Loss was almost impossible. and profits were paid weekly. The system, one of backing all the favourites, and doubling the stakes after the loss., in order to win back losses, was explained, and plaintiff forwarded a sovereign. The average winnings were given as about £35, deductions leaving about £17 to £20 for division amongst the shareholders.
In one circular Wood set forth the winnings as amounting to 206 per cent., but as his expenses in attending a race meeting were heavy, he was able only to pay 1s on each £1 invested. His expenses were generally the heaviest item in the weekly account. He regretted that the winnings of 206 per cent were not up to the average. and hoped for better results in the following week's operations.
Then the system began to show evidences of breaking down, owing to the unfortunate circumstance that the favourites for the most part failed to win, while those which did win were at such short odds that the profits were small, and were more than swallowed up by the expenses. Wood expressed his sorrow at this, and in one communication he said he should start for Goodwood Races on the morrow, and trust to luck. Several letters passed from Wood to Cozens and ultimately be wrote that he had tried and failed.
Before that Cozens, in accordance with the terms stated in the circular. had given a week's notice for the return of £1.
His Honour gave judgment for plaintiff, with costs, but added: "Whether that judgment will bring you anything or not is another matter." (Laughter.)
More merriment in court occurred in Manchester in November 1928, as the Western News reported on another "system":
A get-rich-quick betting scheme that proved a failure was described at the Manchester Assizes yesterday, when Mr Justice Humphreys sent James Knox (31), of Liverpool, to nine months' imprisonment for three cases of fraudulent conversion.

Mr Clothier, who prosecuted, said that sums fraudulently converted were one of £25 and two of £30. Knox was a married man with five children, and claimed that he had a racing system by which sums of money could be made very quickly, and it was by that way he induced a man named McLelland to become a partner, together with two other men. When Knox explained his system to McLelland he said his secret system should bring £1 a day profit!

The secret of the system, counsel explained, was that one must either back an odds chance at five to four or an evens chance, unless one had information. (Laughter.) McLelland handed over £25 guaranteeing that he would not divulge the secret. The £25 was not be touched, and was to be refunded on dissolution of the partnership, while the profits were to be shared on an equal basis.

Mr Clothier said the system did not pay, and when McLelland asked for his money back he did not get it.

The other counts were of a similar nature.

Mr Wingate Saul Jr. (for Knox), said the man had been more fool than knave. He made nothing and paid £60 in wages, and sold part of his furniture to pay wages. The Judge described the system as a sham.
Back in 1872, the Batley Reporter and Guardian opined on gambling, writing:
Gambling is a vice of a serious character. The winner gives nothing in return for his unlawful gains, and the man who hopes by betting speculations to reap the reward which properly belongs to honest industry, commits a mistake fatal alike to his happiness and character. The perpetual feverishness, unrest, and thirst for gain possessing the gambler. must inevitably tend to destroy all that is pure and noble in his nature.

Saturday 22 August 2020

Measly Draws

Although I have every confidence in the rationale behind Longsight's 1964 revelation about "the tendency for clubs to draw several matches after ending a long run without a draw" just in case this method fails me, I've been continuing my research which of course knows no bounds.

Next up is this little nugget from the Aberdeen Evening Express of February 22nd, 1956 which reveals "the extraordinary way drawn matches cluster together on the [football pools] coupon".

Describing this phenomenon to be "almost as catching as the measles", Paul Burden finds it curious "the way one drawn game seems to affect several others immediately below it".

This is top-notch research, and if Paul Burden is still alive 64 years later, he must be a very wealthy man. If he has passed away, presumably his family are enjoying the fruits of his ground-breaking research. I'm not sure how I've missed this, since I've always considered matches to be independent events, but it's hard to argue against this evidence.

Somewhat surprisingly, the same writer was still banging on about "consecutive draws" nearly eight years later for the same paper. From Xmas Eve 1963, and some of you may recall the unusual set of results two days later in Division One when 66 goals were scored in the 10 games played:
I wonder how helpful the tip on how you can get a free line because "the stake runs to an odd farthing" was? "Look after those farthings, and the pennies look after themselves", said no one ever. 

One possible reason why Mr Burden hadn't retired to a life of luxury may have been that Draws don't necessarily follow other Draws! 

This from Super-X (possibly not his real name) in the Daily Herald of November 6th, 1963:
I'm not quite sure I get how "that's the next best thing" but almost a year later, (December 1964) Longsight was forced to defend his reputation against a regular reader's accusation that he "must be bonkers".

The accuser was actually mistaken as prior to the Derby County match, Crystal Palace had drawn two consecutive league games followed by a (rare) defeat but the game in question did actually end in a 3:3 Draw. 

Palace were in the midst of a run where they drew five matches out of seven. 

The Crewe Alexandra v Oxford United game also ended as a Draw (2:2), presumably why these two matches were cherry-picked in Longsight's response.

The accused continued with his defence: 
The answer was: Yes.. So what?

There is absolutely no point in avoiding for treble chance purposes matches matches involving clubs which have had a run of successive draws.
The question is not "Can they be expected to draw again ? But "Can they be expected to draw these particular matches against these particular opponents ?"
This week, for example, my nap draw is Exeter v Grimsby, although Grimsby have drawn their last three away fixtures.
The match fulfils so many of the draw probability tests I apply to all games that it tops my Formula X list.
Unfortunately for followers, the match ended 4:1 although I am curious as to what these "draw probability tests" might have been, but probably too late to inquire now.

It appears there is a lot about the Draw I don't know but I did know that in 1921, Crystal Palace set a club record of five consecutive Draws:
And that it was in 1961 that Palace set the club record of 24 league games without a Draw:

Friday 21 August 2020

Secret of the Draw, From 1964

The Daily Mirror's Pools 'expert' Longsight had an article in the paper on April 8th, 1964 with the headline "Draws all come out in the long run", noting "the tendency for clubs to draw several matches after ending a long run without a draw."

Further examples were given including Aston Villa (6 in 11 after a run of 16), Wolverhampton Wanderers (8 in 16 after 13), Huddersfield Town (6 in 12 after 15), Plymouth Argyle (5 in 8 after 11), Bristol City (4 in 7 after 10), Colchester United (5 in 12 after 11), Hull City (6 in 12 after 12), Shrewsbury Town (6 in 13 after 13), Gillingham (5 in 6 after 18) and Oxford United (5 in 12 after 10). 

And then the reason is explained:
The explanation is, of course, that the general average of draws is about one in five games. 
Clubs which run up long sequences without a draw can be expected to restore the balance to some degree once the run is ended.
So now we know, and it's all been out there in the public domain for more than 56 years! I can't wait to put this into practice next season.

Tuesday 18 August 2020

Europa League Final and Cash Panickers

The Vanguard Group, the company that came up with the first index fund, revealed yesterday that fewer than 0.5% of investors "pulled the ripcord and moved entirely to cash" during the "Corona Crash."

The average age of these "panickers" was 56, so one can assume they have retirement on their minds, but with the indexes now at, or close to, new highs, they might be regretting their decisions.

The S&P 500 dropped 33.33% from its February high, and then bounced back over 50% to end up almost exactly where it was. 

Readers will be aware that I bought into Tesla a little over two years ago at a little under $315 and yesterday it closed at $1,845, a record high. Why?
Well that's helpful. Fortunately the writers of the above headline may have missed the vote of confidence from one analyst:
Shares of Tesla Inc. TSLA, +11.20% shot up 9.8% in afternoon trading, to propel them above the $1,800 mark for the first time, after an upbeat call from Wedbush analyst Dan Ives. The stock has now rocketed 31.9% over the past four days, after the electric vehicle maker announced a 5-for-1 split of its common stock. While that sounds like a big gain over such a short time, this would mark the eighth time the stock has produced a 30+% rally in four days this year, the biggest being a 52.7% rocket ride in the four days ended Feb. 4, in the wake of a better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings report.
As mentioned above, Tesla will split in a couple of weeks, so my stock will be back down to where it was two years ago, which would normally be rather disappointing, but under these circumstances it's all good, and today the price has hit a new high at $1,923.87. 

The Europa League Final is coming up, and like its big brother the Champions League Final, the edge in these games is with the Favourite:
When comparing Europa League Finals with Champions League Finals, the results are surprisingly similar over the past 16 years:
CL is Champions League / EL is Europa League, although if you needed me to tell you that, betting might not be for you. 

Data only goes back to 2004 unfortunately, but here are the previous Finals with Favourite listed first:
Of course, in Europa League Finals, it has to be pointed out that backing against Sevilla is a risky venture since they have the competitions best record with 5 wins in 5 Finals, including two as 'Dogs.

Internazionale have a decent record with three wins, although all were when it was called the UEFA Cup, and all were in the last millennium several years before Sevilla got going in 2006, but while this is all interesting, 2020 is a new game and Sevilla are on their seventh manager since their 2016 win. I suspect that Sevilla may be shorter than they should be with ill-informed bettors reading into Sevilla's Europa League record something that isn't there, but all the better for backers of Internazionale. 

Monday 17 August 2020

Favourites: MLB, NHL and CL

Slow starts are somewhat magnified this season with just 60 games in total, but finally some signs of life for MLB's Hot Favourites and the systems in total are actually in profit for the season!

In the NHL, the trend I mentioned for Unders in empty stadiums has continued with a 40-26-4 record. The books are adjusting the total as might be expected, but for now Unders is the play.

With no Home advantage, these playoffs are unique, but I've been looking at the records of Favourites and Underdogs since the league re-structured while ignoring the venue.

Historically, backing the Favourite in an NHL play-off game is not a great idea, and actually one that is getting worse by the season.

This season appears to be following the same pattern, with 'Dogs currently showing a 15.1% ROI. I think I've mentioned before that accounting for time zones in this sport can be helpful, with the Eastern Conference often quite different to the Western Conference (teams are geographically closer together in the East), and Eastern 'Dogs typically do better, another trend that is continuing this season, even though there is no travel for the teams. 

The European Football season is finally reaching an end, with the Champions League Semi-Finals tomorrow and Wednesday.

With the single-leg / neutral ground format being used for the Quarter-Finals and Semi-Finals there's now more data for this category.

Backing the Underdog in Finals has a terrible record since 2004 (just the one winner in sixteen matches), but if we include the Quarter-Final wins as underdogs last week by RB Leipzig and Lyon, their record is much improved.

Bottom line is that we have no precedent for a neutral Champions League Semi-Final in an empty stadium, but if we use the data for Finals, the value is in backing the Favourite.  

Friday 14 August 2020

Batting Near The Mendoza Line

Seven (of 30) MLB teams have already played one-third of their scheduled 60 fixtures for this season, although the St Louis Cardinals have played just five, which leads me to believe that not all matches will be completed, and placings will be determined based on win percentage. Had they won 3 of the 5 matches played rather than just two, the Cardinals would be in good shape for a play-off spot, but presumably a "minimum games played" rule would be in play to avoid this type of situation.

Big favourites, at least on the Money Line, are still struggling to recover from early losses, although the Run Line bets are slightly positive. 

One reason may be the general decline in Hits this season, a key metric in baseball, and no surprise that with the Designated Hitter rule being applied in both leagues, the National League is leading the American league in this category as well as in Runs per Game for the first time since the two leagues were realigned to have the same number of teams. 

The trouble with this shortened season is that it'll be over by the time we have any meaningful data. Here are some stats for the season to date:

Hits are below 8.0 per team per game, doubles and triples also at a record low, and average Strike-Outs close to a record high. 

At 0.24, (the Mendoza Line is considered 0.2), Batting Average is at its lowest since 1968 (.237) and some of you may know that following that season, the pitchers mound was lowered to (literally) even the playing field. Early days yet of course, and this is a season like no other, but Axios suggests one possible reason as the:
Empty stadium effect: Fielders are making more plays in part because they can hear the crack of the bat. The fan-less backdrop may also help them see the ball more clearly.
I'm not sure if the decline in Hits, Doubles and Triples (Home Runs are actually at a high this year) is related to the performance of hot favourites, but as I read just yesterday in The Creativity Code (Art and Innovation in the Age of AI) by Marcus du Sautoy, there isn't always an understanding for why something is true, even if it is proven: 
For now though, AI offers mathematicians an incredible tool through which to magnify their own creativity and skills. Some mathematicians believe the field has already reached levels beyond any human’s ability to stretch. Many proofs, for example, require so many combinations and calculations they can take hundreds of pages of complex equations and years to resolve, even with algorithms. Even so, some mathematicians resist using computers and algorithms, because though they might prove something, machines can’t say why. In other words, they can prove the results, but they can’t confirm the understanding. For most mathematicians, understanding matters as much or more than the fact of proving or disproving a statement. Nevertheless, a growing body of researchers has come around to the reality that the future of math includes man and machine. Just as people climb Mt. Everest on their own, but need machines to reach the moon, math now needs algorithms to scale new heights. 

Sunday 9 August 2020

Faltering Favourites

Brentford's 73 years of hurt will, unfortunately, be extended by another year at least after losing out yet again (no promotions in nine attempts) in promotion Play-Offs. 

For the matches I have betting data, backing Brentford over the years would have been costly:

One win in twelve matches, and that in the one match they were odds-on (versus Swansea City this season.) Of course, as soon as I mention that the Draw isn't generally a good bet in Play-Off Finals, along comes a perfect one. 

Here are the updated numbers for Play-Off Finals on neutral grounds:
In Baseball, MLB continues to have issues with COVID-19, with one team (St Louis Cardinals) having played as few as 5 games, while others have played the scheduled 16 matches.

If you follow big favourites, a strategy that has been profitable in 17 of the last 18 "months" (I combine the few games at the start and end of the season with the appropriate full month adjoining it, i.e. March with April and October with September) you will have noticed that July was not a good month. 

Of course, this season is unique with no crowds allowed, and an opening day delayed by more than three months. With double headers already being scheduled to make up for the postponed games, the season is likely to be even more atypical but August is traditionally a good month for favourites as is the second month of the season. 

Lacking a crowd, it's perhaps not surprising that Unders is the result in 57% of the games so far, and the NHL has also resumed play with similar results, 23-17-1 for Unders since the restart. 

In the NBA, teams seem to have adjusted to the empty arenas with the points since the restart now averaging 226.2.

Prior to the interruption, the total was averaging 222 points, but after an initial few games with fewer points, the average has increased. I stopped playing the Overs when the total is set at 227 or higher when the break occurred with a 161-121-8 record, but have been watching it since the restart. Currently it has a losing 12-13 record so no real damage if you'd continued. 

Tuesday 4 August 2020

Bees Stung - 73 Years Of Hurt

Back in April, I wrote about the 1946-47 season and how the topic of voiding it came up after a spell of bad weather, a decision that would have cost Liverpool the First Division title. 

What I didn't mention was that at the other end of the table, such a decision would have saved Leeds United and Brentford from relegation. 

The season was ultimately completed and while Leeds have since returned on four occasions and achieved some success, Brentford haven't, spending most of their time since at the third level. 

If they win the Championship Playoff Final today, they will end a 73 year absence from the top flight, breaking the record gap of 70 seasons currently held by Bradford City.

Brentford haven't won a top tier game since beating Leeds 2:1 on 5th April 1947 (with two goals from former Crystal Palace players, in case you didn't know). 

Here are the results for the Championship Play-Offs since 2004:

And below are the outcomes from backing Favourites, Underdogs and the Draw in these games as well as in all neutral ground Playoff matches:
A common belief among bettors is that in Playoff Finals, with teams finishing within three (usually) places of each other (five in the National league), and the game being so important, matches are likely to be close.

The truth is that only 15 of the 67 matches to date have ended as Draws (fair odds 4.47), while the average (adjusted) Draw price is just 3.38. 

40 of the 67 matches fall into the 'close' category, but unlike in the EPL, there is no edge in backing the Draw here either. 

Sunday 2 August 2020

Thirteen Towns

A win for Draw followers in the National League Regional play-offs where the sequence of at least one of the Finals ending all-square since 2013 was extended with Weymouth and Dartford playing out a scoreless draw in the South. Weymouth were promoted to the National League after winning on penalties.

In the North, Altrincham won 1:0 at Boston United, the first win for an Away team in a Final since 2015, to make it eleven Under 2.5 goals in the last 14 finals. 

I think someone must be reading this blog, because the Draw price in both matches shortened following Friday's post.

In the National League Play-Off, while backing the Draw is historically not a profitable strategy, I backed the wrong horse opting for Notts County, when laying the Draw would have been a better option perhaps, but Harrogate Town won the game and become the 20th 'Town' to play in the Football League, and the seventh in the last quarter of a century. They've come a long way in 40 years!
For those who like this kind of stuff, Harrogate follow these other 'Towns' Macclesfield (1997), Cheltenham (1999), Yeovil (2003), Aldershot (2008), Crawley (2011), and Fleetwood (2013) into the League since 1997.

The League (Premier and Football) now has 13 Towns and 13 Uniteds but Citys lead after Salford's promotion last year with 14. Rovers (5) and Wanderers (4) are some way adrift. 

Here are the updated results from the National League Play-Off Finals:

The usual warning that the sample size here is small, and in the neutral finals at least, one result can turn red to green and vice versa.

The FA Cup was also completed this weekend, with Arsenal again winning as Underdogs. Including League Cup Finals, the results for Cup Finals since 2004-05 are:

Saturday 1 August 2020

FA Cup Final 2020

Don't believe everything you read about the FA Cup Final today. Whoever wrote the above somehow missed out on the Finals of 1975 West Ham United v Fulham, 1980 West Ham United v Arsenal, 1982 Tottenham Hotspur v Queens Park Rangers, plus the two Arsenal v Chelsea finals already this millennium. Other than that, sure, it's been 53 years...  

London clubs have actually dominated the FA Cup in the Premier League era with only seven of the 29 Finals not featuring a London club.

Three Finals have been all-London matches, and 16 Cup wins have gone to London (Arsenal 9, Chelsea 7). 

While Crystal Palace and West Ham United have both made an appearance, (both with Alan Pardew as manager), it's rather an oddity that Tottenham Hotspur haven't appeared in a Final since 1991.

It's the third Arsenal v Chelsea Final today following those of 2002 and 2017 both of which were won by Arsenal but it's Chelsea who are favourites this time, although that status didn't help them in 2017.
The H or A actually refers to the Favourite or Underdog and while the Draw is the most profitable outcome, three of the five came before 2008. 

On the other hand, in matches where neither club is odds-on, as is the case today, 50% of the (four) games ended in a Draw. 

Including FA Cup Semi-Finals, which are also neutral, we have a rather unusual situation where backing every outcome would have been positive (the result of a small sample and a couple of long-priced winners for the Draw and Underdog):