Thursday 29 October 2020

Blue: Dodgers, Moons and Waves

As it turned out, just the one World Series game was left with the Los Angeles Dodgers winning their first title in 32 years, but another profit took the final season total to £538.56 which, as I mentioned before, feels more of a win than it should. 

The bad news is that with the NBA, NHL and MLB seasons all ending fairly recently, it could be a while before the daily leagues return, which for the indoor sports is usually around this time of year. 

For the record, in the MLB play-offs this season Unders had 28 wins to 25, (and 100% when the game time temperature was less than 55F as was the case in the Regular season), while backing the favourite was profitable on both the Money Line (+7.21 units / 9.1%) and the Run Line (+13.95 / 25.2%). Other than in 2017, this hasn't typically been a profitable strategy in recent seasons, but this season was by no means typical and I'm not sure we can read too much into it.

The NFL season appears not to be hugely impacted by the reduction in crowd size, sometimes to zero, with the Small Road Dogs System 14-9 for the season so far. Not a big surprise given that this simple system has had just two losing seasons since 2005.

The question for this season was always whether the market would continue to over-value the Home side even with no or fewer fans in attendance, and the answer so far appears to be yes.

In the Presidential Election, Biden has drifted slightly from 1.51 / 1.52 to 1.53 / 1.54, tremendous value unless you believe the polls are more wrong than they have ever been before.

The Economist has Joe Biden with a 96% probability of winning the Electoral College and to win Pennsylvania, around 93%. As Political Gambler Paul Motty noted today in this article, Biden at 1.53 (was 1.59 at the time of the article) looks like another solid bet. 

The race for the Senate is also interesting and having backed the Democrats at 2.84 early this month, the price has moved in the right direction. It's interesting to note that since 1900 there has never been a Congress where the House and President have been Democrat controlled while the Senate has been Republican controlled. The Economist actually gives the Democrats an 83% chance of controlling the Senate, although this includes the tie. 

The tight Senate races in Georgia (two), Iowa and South Carolina will decide this. 

Hopefully the theme of blue will continue next week. The Dodgers play in blue, there's a blue moon in America for the first time since March 2018, and the first for the whole country on Halloween since 1944, and a blue wave or tsunami to come on Tuesday.

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Back to Baseball, Biden and Barrow

I'm back a couple of days earlier than originally scheduled, which is a good thing as it means everything went according to plan, and so with the World Series still in progress there are still another one, or maybe two, games for me to add to the season profit reported in the last post. Game Six is tonight with the Los Angles Dodgers 3-2 up in the series and favourites versus the Tampa Bay Rays. 

Draws in the EPL are also back after starting the new season with none in the first 20 matches, the pace has since picked up with 13 in the last 38. The "Toss-Up" matches are up by 3.71 points using Pinnacle's closing prices, but we've only had three selections. As a reminder, in these matches, backing the Draw in all matches has an ROI of 7.33% (adjusted for an overround of 103%) since 2000. The ROI in Big 6 games is now over 31% in that period following last weekend's perfect draw in the Manchester United v Chelsea game.

In politics, the US Elections are less than a week away, and Biden is still value at 1.51 / 1.52. To reach 270 Electoral College votes, Trump needs to secure all the Lean, Likely and Solid red states, the five "toss-up" states, plus three of the "Lean Democratic" states unless he can win Pennsylvania in which case one other state would do it. That seems a tough ask, and his poll numbers are tanking by the day with early voting at a record high with over 70 million people already having voted. For those who say "yeah, but the polls were wrong in 2016", one week prior to the election in 2016, Clinton was up by between 2.2 and 3.5 percentage points (and won the popular vote by around 3 million). Biden today leads by 7.4 to 9.1 points.  

Finally, congratulations to Barrow who tonight won their first Football League game in over 48 and a half years, a new record as even Brighton haven't gone that long between league wins.  

Friday 16 October 2020

MLB 2020 - When Breaking Even Is A Win

Another work trip starts tomorrow, so I shall again be off-line, this time for two weeks. Rather unfortunate timing really, with the MLB play-offs in full swing, meaning I shall miss every game of the World Series, but my boss doesn't revolve his business around the MLB season apparently.

After a disastrous start to this unique season, I'm more than happy to finish the season with a small profit.

In a season where the several changes were implemented, some before the season and some during the season, it was always to be expected that some of the long-term profitable strategies might not be profitable.

Obviously not having fans in the stadium was likely to be impactful, but more significantly the rule changes implemented weren't exactly minor tweaks with some of the major adjustments being American league rules throughout, fixtures changing to play geographically close rivals, a shortened regular season (60 games versus the usual 162), changes to the rules for extra-innings with a runner starting on second base, and limiting double-header games to seven innings. Basically the 2020 season bears no resemblance to any previous season. 

My latest read is "The Psychology of Money" by Morgan Housel (highly recommended), and Chapter 13 is sub-titled "The most important part of every plan is planning on your plan not going according to plan".  Although this book wasn't published prior to the season, it's a philosophy I've adopted for some time now (sports betting provides some valuable lessons in life). Cut the losing systems, stake appropriately (based on Kelly), and keep evolving.

The biggest change in 2020 was the reversal of value of backing some Hot Favourites (1.5 or shorter), which after three years of increasing profits, hit a wall and lost 4.8%. The month of August saw a loss for the first time since 2011.
For the T-Bone System, which is also a favourites based system, here is how the season ended, with previous seasons included for perspective.
The Totals strategy overall was slightly profitable, although the seven innings rule for double header games reduced the number of qualifiers for Overs. 
Unders actually showed a small loss with the heavy lifting all being done by the Overs in games where both clubs were from the National League. Apparently the market underestimated their ability to adapt to the Designated Hitter rule, because this matchup was also sole reason why "Hot Favourites" were a losing proposition this season.

Usually the winter is the time for looking at the previous season's results, seeing what edges may be vanishing and where new ones might be appearing, but I don't see any point in going over the 2020 season in much depth.

Some of the rule changes may become permanent, but a 60 game regular season played in empty stadiums against geographically selected opponents is hopefully unique rendering the data from this season almost useless, but this pandemic is nowhere near over, so perhaps not.  

Friday 9 October 2020

New Balls Please

I have been critical in the past about the quality of some of Pinnacle's articles which are frankly sometimes embarrassing, but an excellent article and a great example of creative thinking comes in this article about the impact of ageing balls in tennis

It's probably fortunate that author Jonathon Brycki's interest is in sports and not medicine, or the article might have been quite a distressing read for men of a certain age, but for anyone who is a tennis in-play "between games" bettor, this is a must-read article.

I say "between games" because as I have written before, court-siders will always an advantage in-play, but between games when the market has settled, an edge such as the one proposed by Jonathon might be significant. 

The data from eight years of Grand Slams indicates that ageing balls do have an affect on serve and hold percentages. The magnitude is somewhere in the order of 1-2 percentage points for both. While this may seem relatively insignificant, in betting markets that are becoming increasingly efficient, a percent or two will often be the difference between getting your money in behind and having an edge.

The margin might still be too large to overcome, as Jonathon makes clear here:

It’s unclear whether bookmaker’s live tennis models incorporate the age of the balls, and even if they don’t, the inefficiency may not be large enough to overcome their margin. In any case, incorporating potentially unique data and insights into your model will drive it in the right direction, and improve the accuracy of your predictions.

As I have mentioned before, in a binary market, grandma should be able to pick winners 50% of the time, so in a market with a tight margin, you don't need a huge advantage to be into profit.

But back to the article, and kudos to Jonathon for the idea, the research and for sharing his findings, although perhaps the fact that his findings have been shared is proof that the edge isn't of any practical use. 

Regardless, it's a great example of the process we should all be following in our never ending quest for an edge. I wonder if any such study has been done in cricket regarding the impact of an ageing ball?  

Sunday 4 October 2020

COVID-19 Suspends Play

For the last few days I have been away on my first work trip since January, and as a result of a positive COVID-19 test at one of the sites I visited, am now in quarantine. The good news is that you will likely see an increase in posts, and if this is not the case, then it's likely bad news and it was good knowing you!

The big news while I was away was that several of the US Presidential Election markets are currently suspended on Betfair due to the President testing positive. There's some confusion about why Betfair would do this given that in similar, although arguably less serious previous instances (e.g. Clinton 2016 pneumonia, Sanders heart attack) the market has not been suspended. The last price traded for Biden to win was 1.52, so hopefully many of you are in good shape, unlike Trump.

With 35 Senate seats up for grabs, the market here is also interesting, with the Democrats now favourites to have a Senate Majority at 2.8 in a three-way race with the tie very much a possibility. Republicans currently have 53 of the 100 seats and 23 of the 35 seats in this election are held by Republicans.

The Democrats will probably lose their senator in Alabama (Doug Jones) who won a special election in 2017, which means that Democrats need to win five of the 23 seats for control. Four would give them a tie, and with the Vice-President likely to be Kamala Harris, in effect that would be a win, but for betting purposes, only a tie.

Of the 23 seats, the Democrats are currently projected to win those of Martha McSally (Arizona), Cory Gardner (Colorado) and Susan Collins (Maine) which means they need one to tie and two to win from the toss-up seats of Joni Ernst (Iowa), Steve Daines (Montana) and Thom Tillis (North Carolina). In addition, four seats are in the 'lean' category and could yet move to toss-up. One seat to keep an eye on here is Lindsay Graham's in South Carolina where polling shows a close race, the incumbent being out raised financially, and as chairman of the Senate Judicial Committee will be spending a lot of time in Washington on the Supreme Court nomination. 

On the more traditional sporting events, the NFL Small Road 'Dogs System continues to produce winners. Week Three saw nine selections, with six winners taking the season record to 10-6. It's looking like we only have two selections today.

My father-in-law is currently in shock following the San Diego Padres first playoff series win in 22 years last week as they advanced to the NLDS where they will play the Los Angeles Dodgers. One piece of history from their win in Game Three against St Louis Cardinals is that the Padres were the first team in major league history, regular season or playoffs, to complete a nine-inning shutout by using at least nine pitchers.

So far in the MLB playoffs, as was the case with the NBA (41-35) and NHL (66-52), Unders is the play on totals with an 11-7 record. 

With the increase in goals per game in the EPL, the Draw continues to be an elusive outcome, but more on that later once we have the official prices for the fourth round of games from Mr. Buchdahl.