Friday 31 December 2021

Spreadsheet Love

The above Twitter account is clearly not a follower of this blog, but sadly is likely representative of the majority of punters out there. Sports betting isn't the easy road to riches that it is often claimed to be, but for those with discipline and the right analytical skills, it can still be a lucrative hobby.

My daughter gave me "The Retirement Handbook" by Ted Heybridge for Xmas, which included the advice to "learn to love spreadsheets." I think I may be ahead of the game in this category, especially when it comes to the encouragement regarding financial spreadsheets to "check this regularly, perhaps on a set day of the month."

Day? Unless I'm away from home, I check / update it on almost hourly basis! Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but I do tend to monitor things a little closer than is generally considered healthy, a habit that I should perhaps consider for addition to my list of 2022 resolutions, which otherwise looks remarkably similar to my goals for 2021, 2020 and just about every year since becoming an adult - using the legal definition since acting like a grown up seems to continue to elude me. 

My three weeks away is now at an end, a trip encompassing events including, but not limited to, the internment of my Mother's ashes in north Devon, several days at my sister's farmhouse in rural Kent, a stay at my son's new home in West Sussex and the rather depressing task of clearing out the family home of 66 years as my Dad now needs full time care and is in a care home. Visits to see him were paused due to staff members testing positive for COVID, and the Disney on Ice spectacular at the O2 was cancelled on the morning of the show although as this was grandad's treat paid for back in August, the refund will come in handy, even if it won't hit the books until next year. A first ever visit to Bluewater was the replacement activity with ice skating an acceptable substitute activity for the granddaughters even if the funfair was ridiculously expensive! 

We still have a few more hours of trading before the year end numbers are in, but barring an October 19th, 1987 scenario, December, Q4, H2 and 2021 should all be nicely in profit. The US Markets will also be open on Monday so no New Year Holiday over there due to the rule:
that the exchange will be closed either Friday or the following Monday if the holiday falls on a weekend, unless “unusual business conditions exist, such as the ending of a monthly or yearly accounting period.”
With December 31st obviously the end of a month, quarter and a year, there is no respite for traders there and a weekend to update my numbers is an added bonus. For those following my advice to invest in the S&P 500 over the FTSE, another win for the former makes it five years in a row and 12 "wins" in the last 13 years. I'll have the precise numbers some time over the weekend.

The EPL Draw System was very quiet while I was away, with only one match qualifying as "Close" which was the Brentford v Watford game on December 10th, won 2:1 by the home team thanks to a 96th minute penalty. This match was also a Toss-Up selection, and the ROIs for the 2021-22 season to date are now 79.7% for the Toss-Ups and 35% for the Close selections. Several matches were postponed and the league table currently looks like those from my youth, where a difference of several games in the 'Played' column between clubs was par for the course. Results for the Toss-Up selections at the turn of the year are as shown here:
My Crystal Palace have certainly played their part so far, and a notable lack of Big 6 clubs featuring in the selections. Only Nine of the 60 clubs selected in the "Close" category have been Big 6 clubs. 

Another reason why there were so few selections is that the average "difference" in December's 52 matches was 65.7%, a much higher number than the 52.3% for the rest of the season, and 34 matches had an odds-on favourite.

In the NFL, Small Road Dogs are now 40-24, an ROI of 22%, with two more weeks of the regular season remaining.

In the NBA the edge for Unders on Totals of 212.5 or higher seems to have faded somewhat while I was away but still up on the season with a gain of 25.3 points and an ROI of 6.8%. With December looking to be a losing month though, I need to take a look at the data before I resume betting on these.  

A Happy New Year to all of you as this blog enters its 15th year with the next post, a summary of 2021 and a look ahead. Stay safe, and take care tonight.  

Wednesday 8 December 2021

Goodbye 2021

Apologies for the lack of posts, and things are only going to get worse as I prepare to be away for three weeks for the Xmas period.

The EPL Draw System continues to perform well this season with twelve winners from 29 selections, and an ROI of 39.6%, while for the more selective "Toss Up" selections the numbers are six winners from ten selections and an ROI of 98%.

Since 2000-01, the "Toss-Up" ROI is now at 9.5% from 570 matches and the "Close" ROI is 7.8% from 1642 matches. 

In the NFL, the Small Road Dogs are now 40-20 for the season through 13 weeks, and almost certainly the 14th profitable season from the last 16.

In the NBA, backing Unders in matches with totals above 212.5 is currently winning at 57.7% for the season, but just 52.8% since the start of November. 

My next post will probably be in the New Year, so I'll skip the end of month updates that no one is interested in anyway, and have an end of year summary instead. At a high level, November was a losing month but to keep things in perspective, losses were less than 20% of October's gains, and with December nicely in profit to date, overall it should be a great year. Hopefully Elon Musk finishes selling his stock soon and the Tesla price remains close to its current level.

Merry Xmas and / or Happy Holidays. Stay safe, be lucky and all being well I'll be back in 2022. 

Wednesday 17 November 2021

Reading Between The Lines

Thanks to the GimmeTheDog site, it's once again an easy query that can verify the results for the NFL Small Road Dogs system on a Monday or Tuesday morning.

While the weekend just passed saw a small loss with the four selections going 2-2, the overall record for the season after ten weeks is a very solid 30-15 with the ROI over 30% and currently the highest for any season since the NFL went to a 32 team format in 2002:
As you might suspect, I track the results of each specific line, and with five and a half seasons since the extra point rule change made prior to the 2015 season, I thought some of you might be interested in how that rule change has affected the point spreads.
Prior to 2015, the profit was overall from the Road Dogs getting 3 and 3.5 points. The 'twos' were slightly profitable, while the 'fours' and 'fives' had a winning record, but not by enough to cover the vig.

Since 2015, the 'twos' have become losers, the 'threes' have become even more profitable, the 'fours' are in the 'profitable but hardly worth bothering with' category, but the biggest difference is in the 'fives' where the winning percentage is up hugely to 59.5%. 

Five has become a pivotal number given that a team scoring a touchdown to lead by five is now incentivised to go for two points and lead by seven (rather than six) while similarly a team scoring a touchdown to come within five should go for two to reduce the deficit to a field goal rather than four points. Wins by five points have jumped as shown in this graphic from
Another comment from schnakenpopanz who pointed me to the gimmethedog site, writing:
Hello again, thx for the citation of my comment. Another part which is very interesting to me: The direct influence of officiating in the NBA this season. As mentioned here: 

How does this translate to the betting market and odds/lines/totals? If the lines of gimmethedog are correct. Blindly betting unders are 120-76. 2020 over was 581-575 for Overs. 2019 575-543 for Overs. So the Market AND the bookies hasn't transformed yet to these changes. The totals are very inefficient. A 60% edge is very unusual.
At the time of writing, blindly backing Unders this season has a 125-82 (60.4%) record with two pushes, but there are signs the market / bookies are adapting. 

The NBA season has been in play for four weeks now, and the average total has steadily declined. In week one, the total was set at an average of 223.06 points, declining by week to 219.47, 216.05 and 215.4. We can be pretty certain the season will not end with Unders showing a 60.4% record! Over a 1,080 game regular season plus playoff games, a 60% edge would indeed be very unusual. 

Tesla has been in the news again this month, with CEO Elon Musk selling (so far) a mere $6.9 billion of Tesla stock. That the stock is only down 5.3% this month is perhaps a good sign for the long term, and a modest drop following its incredible 43.6% jump in October. 

There's also the small issue of the company being sued for a rather reckless Tweet from Musk back in August 2018, an event I remember well. At the time I was rather ill in hospital, although not as ill as my room neighbour who had just days to live and whose time was spent saying his farewells to friends and family, a rather depressing experience for me, as it no doubt was for him. It was all very well pulling curtains around his bed, but I couldn't help but overhear every conversation, however hushed. 

Anyway, I remember the Tweet, and in particular the frustration that I wasn't able to trade the stock that day, but in the end my indisposition was a blessing in disguise.
The price of 420 was a 33% premium on what I'd paid for them in 2017, and had I been in a position to do so, I may well have sold at that point in time. At the start of August I was in the red, but after Q2 earnings and then the infamous Tweet, they were about 20% up. They fell back over the next few days, and by the time I was in front of a computer again, the moment had passed. 

As I wrote at the time, a little crudely perhaps:
At the time of writing the gains are currently well into six figures and my illness was very well timed. Who says there is no god? 

Taking a 20% profit would have been quite upsetting to look back on given today's percentage:
Finally, I have finished reading "Trillions - How a Band of Wall Street Renegades Invented the Index Fund and Changed Finance Forever" by Robin Wigglesworth, and a very interesting read it was. It will now be passed on to my son who also likes such books. Put it on your Xmas List if you like books about finance and investment. 

Sunday 14 November 2021

New Balls? Please!

My trip to Chicago is over, and it appears that the country has gone betting mad. 

The Monday Night Football game while I was there was in Pittsburgh, between the Steelers and the Chicago Bears. I wandered down to the hotel bar to watch the second half and enjoy some beers and healthy chicken wings - while my wife wasn't able to monitor my calories - and fell into conversation with a rather loud American, cursing his luck for betting Overs. Since the total he'd bet was 40 and it was 14:3 with most of the third quarter to come, I wasn't quite sure why he was so certain he'd lost, but I bit my tongue.

Mr. Portland (Oregon, not Maine), informed me that his rationale had been that he'd been "wiped out" on the Sunday games, had decided that the Monday game would definitely go Under, but because he'd lost so many bets on Sunday he went against his "research" and backed Over. But he did want to make clear that he wasn't a complete idiot by telling me that he only bets $25 a time. This assertion (about being an idiot) was later found to be false, with the conversation turning to politics and references to "Sleepy Joe Biden", and the wild claim that "it's impossible to make any money from sports betting". I bit my tongue (again) on both topics. There was a lot of tongue biting that night.

Ultimately the game was comfortably Over finishing with 56 points, and with that bet a winner, he turned to his phone and started looking at betting on the outcome of the next play, soliciting opinions from the small group present. By this time we had been joined by a couple of slightly more normal people, one a German living in Brazil, the other an Angeleno, who both found the whole situation highly amusing, especially when towards the end our friend was about to back the Bears to win the game until I pointed out that the Steelers only needed a field goal to win the game. Cue total astonishment from the Portland Proud Boy, exclaiming "Oh yeah, that's right!" and a change of strategy subsequently rewarded with another winning bet when the required field goal was kicked with 26 seconds left. I was half expecting a beer for my troubles, but no that didn't happen.

I asked Mr. Portland which sportsbook he used, and his answer was Bovada, a company with a good reputation in the US but who typically post -110 lines (1.909) on 50/50 bets, a vig that would make it difficult to make money long term. 

Once the game was over, he wanted to move on to NBA betting, but with meetings the next day, I needed my beauty sleep but my parting gift to him was telling him to look at Unders in NBA games this season.

Prior to leaving, it appeared that "backing Unders when the total is greater than 212.5 is currently the best bet".

As mentioned in the last post, the "overt, abrupt and abnormal" rule change has had a significant impact on scoring, but there is one other factor that may be partly contributing which is the revelation that after 37 years of using a Spalding manufactured ball, the NBA now uses a Wilson.

Larry emailed me with this link, and worth a read if you're interested about this kind of thing. One paragraph states:
While it’s still early in the season, the league is currently experiencing a temporary shooting slump, with an approximately 2% lower overall field goal and three-point percentage compared to last year. While a short offseason and new foul call interpretations have been subject to blame, some trainers, players, and analysts are now pointing towards the new Wilson ball as a possible issue.

While I think the primary reason for the decline in points is the new rule, it is certainly possible that the change of ball is a secondary contributory factor. Some players are talking about it, although of course being able to blame the ball rather than your poor shooting could be convenient.

Paul George of the Los Angeles Clippers is quoted as saying:

"Not to make an excuse about the ball, but it’s a different basketball. It doesn’t have the same touch/softness that the Spalding ball had, and you’ll see this year. It’s gonna be a lot of bad misses”

He himself seems to have adjusted just fine, currently fourth in the points-per-game category, up from 22nd last season. 

As to my comment regarding the 212.5 line, the record now for the season at this entry point is 98-57-1 which is 63%, and in November is so far 40-30 (57.1%). I am indebted to schnakenpopanz for pointing me to in his comment:

Hello, long time reader, but only my first comment. Thx for all the work you put in, I learnt a lot from your experiences.
I have been working together with the killersports platform a while ago and been active in several subgroups and worked with a lot of people from the core group.
So I think this will be quite interesting for you. killersports as you know it may not exist, but there is a subsite formed by other members which continues the SDQL format.
So far it is in beta testing and hopefully will catch up to the painful emptiness that killersports aka sportsdatabase left us with.
I have used it for test purposes a lot right now and it looks solid, but shortcuts we are familiar with may not work from the get go. It looks promising.
If there are other things I may help with, feel free to ask.

Cheers indeed as beta testing or not, this is looking to be a hugely useful site. Many thanks to schnakenpopanz for sharing this.

Some of you may recall that AT asked about Small College Dogs recently, and while the Gimme The Dog site doesn't recognise the "Division" parameter, the numbers for all matches this season shows a less than exciting record of 44-45.

Dr Tsouts commented that:

I am tracking most of Cassini's systems for almost 2 months and I am slightly negative on NCAAF handicaps with a record of 26 wins, 28 losses and 2 void. But numbers are better when following straight wins with 9 wins and 13 losses and a 8.3% ROI. The picture in NFL is great and I am waiting a correction but now I have 7 wins and 4 losses in straight wins (money line) and 27-11 in handicap with the extraordinary 27-11 record!

The record is now 28-13 record with four selections this week.  

Thursday 4 November 2021

Overt, Abrupt and Abnormal

The subject isn't about my personality, although I've been described as all three at some time or other, but was triggered by an interesting observation from Larry regarding the NBA Points Total System this season. He noted:

Numbers definitely down and here's some stats after 2 weeks into new season which may interest you.

Fewest number free throws per game in modern era of NBA

Lowest offensive efficiency number since 2014

Lowest 3 point % since 2003

Lowest field goal % since 2000
I can't say I am totally surprised at these numbers because as I wrote in an email on October 21st regarding the season:
One area to keep an eye on, and which may slow - or even reverse - the steady increase in points scored, is the NBA's rule change concerning fouls on shots.

The rule change I was referring to was the one implemented ahead of this season to:

discourage offensive players from making "overt, abrupt or abnormal non-basketball moves"
Essentially, NBA referees will no longer reward offensive players who launch themselves into defenders. 

While we are only a few days into the season, the rule appears to be having more of an impact than I was expecting.
Nine points fewer per game than last season. Almost half of those are from 'lost' free-throws and the reduced 3-point percentages Larry mentioned easily explain the rest. 

Rather than adding 10 points to the previous season's average, it seems this season we will need to subtract a few, but the whole premise behind this strategy over the years has been that the public is slow to adapt to changes in the game, and shy away from previously unseen totals. Now that points are in decline, that edge isn't there, since the public is by now used to totals in the 220's. 

Of the 10 matches so far this season with the highest Totals, eight have gone Under. Until the market catches up to the impact of this new rule, it would seem logical that Unders will be value. Sadly without Killer Sports, it's not easy to verify this but this blog is about giving you ideas and doing your own research, so good luck if you run with this one.  

Wednesday 3 November 2021

Totally Out of Reach

A few comments on recent posts, which makes the task of writing a new post much easier. Working backwards, and on the most recent post, my old friend "babyduck" took a break from Chipstead pond and the White Hart to say:
Good effort, with the weight loss. I need to do the same!

Losing weight really isn't difficult, although it's not as easy as gaining it, but it's just so boring! I do find it motivating and critical to keep records but basically it simply requires self-discipline, and for one's social life to grind to a complete halt. Fortunately, when I set my mind to something, self-control isn't an issue, and so far as social life is concerned, it helps that I'm not very popular.

Diego commented about my NBA Killer Sports comment that it was "Early days, and the unavailability of Killer Sports for the NBA this season is certainly an inconvenience" writing:
I don't know what you miss about KillerSports, but at

you can do basically the same queries. For example:

date, team, o:team, total@total>=230 and site=home and date>=today

By the way, thank you for the blog, I enjoy it a lot :)

This does work for selecting the matches, although I'm struggling to see how to get the game results to display. The SDQL is certainly different from the very easy to use Killer Sports version, but if there's a manual somewhere this could be a useful resource. Anyway, thanks for the lead Diego and the 'official' results so far from the NBA Overs System are now 0-0! The 234.5 mark may be a tad high. 

AT commented:

Do you not play Small College Dogs anymore? I've read most of your blog and never saw where those dropped out of the regular rotation

I stopped publishing the College Football Small Dogs when Killer Sports stopped tracking them. I like the results of my systems to be verifiable, and identifying qualifying matches (I focused on Division 1A colleges) went from a few seconds to, well, much longer. With, I believe, 254 colleges in Division One football, it's no small task doing this manually and I like an easy life.

Referring to the NBA totals, Annis asked: 

So what was last year’s average total

The table below shows the total used for backing Overs since we noted that the points being scored were steadily increasing:

If the question is asking what was the average total points per game last season, the answer is 224.2, i.e. ten fewer points than the 234.2 we are looking for this season. 

And I think that is it for comments, but there was an interesting Tweet that @statsbet looped me into.

I do like things like this, so thank you Statsbet. The Tweet was this:
Aside from the missing apostrophe, the last sentence is absolutely correct. I'm pretty sure no sane person would ever have their entire retirement savings fully invested in stocks, because as this example shows, that's a recipe for disaster. A couple of bad years early on, and you're out looking for a janitorial position to boost your income! 

A lot of this was actually covered recently in my Diving Into Retirement post where the conclusion was that even a 4% withdrawal from an S&P 500 Index Fund would have resulted in running out of money on 13 occasions since the Index's inception, so 5% would be bordering on reckless. 

The story of DFA (Dimensional Fund Advisors) is covered in the "Trillions" book mentioned in my last post. Chapter 9, "New Dimensions" if you're interested.

Monday 1 November 2021

Perfect Storm, Indexes and Eating Pies

As disappointing as September was, October more than made up for it with what might be called a perfect storm. My concerns raised in September's review turned out to be unfounded:

Fortunately it's [September] the only such month, although a little concerning that October is the next worst month.

Of the stocks I've mentioned here previously, Tesla, Boeing and Lloyds Bank were all up on the month, while Bitcoin, Pfeizer and Berkshire Hathaway were down.
Looking at those stocks a month later and in October, Tesla was up 44%, Lloyds was up 11%, Bitcoin was up 47%, Pfeizer was up 1.7% and Berkshire Hathaway was up 5%. All returns that wouldn't look out of place for a year! 

Only Boeing spoiled the party down almost 6%, but more than compensated by the company fortunate enough to currently have my services at their disposal gaining 18%, with my options and RSUs consequently moving nicely into the money, while the S&P 500 Index was up close to 7%

Some of you longer term readers will know my love for Index Funds since I've mentioned them since at least 2014, especially the S&P 500, and I'm currently reading Trillions, by Robin Wigglesworth, which is an excellent book about their creation - "How a Band of Wall Street Renegades Invented the Index Fund and Changed Finance Forever". 

The FTSE 100 was up 2.13% on the month and for the 24th time in the past 28 years - and 12th of the last 13 - looks likely to again have a lower return than the S&P 500 this year.
On the topic of indexes, one much followed one is the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which being comprised of just 30 stocks, isn't representative of the overall US market, but it is old, even if only one company (Procter and Gamble) was in the index prior to 1976.  

In 1999, a book was published titled "Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting From the Coming Rise in the Stock Market" in which the authors predicted that the index would reach the "titular milestone" by 2002 or 2004. In the event, that didn't happen, but the number was finally reached today, almost two decades later! 
In the January 2000 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, Glassman and Hassett replied to a critic of their theory that "if the Dow is closer to 10,000 than to 36,000 ten years from now, we will each give $1,000 to the charity of your choice." For the Dow to be closer to 10,000 than to 36,000, it would have to be below 23,000. As things turned out, the index was not even at half that figure ten years after Glassman and Hassett's prediction (the Dow's highest close in January 2010 was 10,725, reached on 19 January). In early 2010, Glassman and Hassett conceded they lost the bet and they each donated $1,000 to the Salvation Army. It wasn't until 18 October 2017, coincidentally the day before the 30th anniversary of Black Monday, that the Dow closed above 23,000, thus finally reaching more than halfway from 10,000 to 36,000. Following multiple downturns, including the 2020 stock market crash, the Dow continued rising toward the titular milestone, finally reaching 36,000 on 1 November 2021 (but has not closed above it).
The Sports Investment bank grew by 3.9% which didn't really impact the big picture, but it's always nice to make some beer money, for those months when beer is allowed of course.

October saw nine Draw selections for the EPL "Close" System and a 13% ROI from the three winners, although we're on a losing run which happens quite often with Draw betting:
Interesting that for the second consecutive season, Away wins in the EPL are currently more frequent than Home wins, even with crowds back. 

The NFL Small Road 'Dogs System had a good month with a 14-9 'official' record looking likely. Killer Sports haven't updated the past weekend yet, but my results show these went 5-2 on a busy Sunday. 

The NBA Overs System has so far been very quiet as mentioned previously and in the MLB playoffs two of the three 'Hot Favourites' lost (all Los Angeles Dodgers), there have been no Overs qualifiers, but six of the eight Unders bets have been winners. At most, there are two more games before the 2021 season concludes.

In summary, October was the best month ever in real terms, and at 7.64% the third best ever in percentage terms, at least since 2011. The 48.93% year-on-year number was slightly disappointing, as it failed to beat the high of 48.94% set at the end of March! 

October also marked a 100% climb from the March 23rd, 2020 pandemic nadir, and it was also a good month for the Sober October and weight loss challenge I set myself.
Target is 20lbs and, unlike some of my financial targets, this one is all up to me.

After a month with an average daily intake of just 1,095 calories, 196 miles covered on foot - mostly walking, but with a little running, 166 miles ridden on the bike, no alcohol and no meat - I did eat a lot of fish though - the final tally for pounds lost was 20.8, which is my best ever 31 day total beating the 19.8 pounds lost in January 2016, another "dry" month. Losing weight gets tougher the older you get and although I suggested "this one is all up to me", there's only so much one can do, and it was very pleasing to hit that 20 pounds number this morning.

With a work trip to the Windy City this month and the Xmas festivities in December I shall no doubt be doing "Dry January" again in a couple of months in an effort to lose the probable 'gains' between now and then. This health stuff never ends! As the Daily Mash reported in 2015:

If you want to be fit you have to keep doing exercise forever, it has emerged.

Healthy eating and sport have been condemned as a scam after it was revealed that they only lead to more healthy eating and more sport.

Carolyn Ryan of Cardiff said: “After two months of going to the gym I asked my personal trainer when I’d be fit enough to stop all this and eat the fuck out of some pies.

“The look on her face. She said that if I relaxed my diet regime even for a week then the fat would pile on again even faster than before, and if anything I should be stepping it up.

“I thought it’d be like A-levels where once you’ve passed you never think about history ever again, but it’s more like revising history five nights a week for the rest of your life.

“She says after a while I won’t even want a Toblerone any more. That made me cry.”

Personal trainer Donna Sheridan said: “Getting healthy isn’t a sprint, it’s an endless marathon through featureless terrain pretending that chips and sitting around watching telly don’t exist.

“However I do have the warm glow of knowing that I’m better than everyone else.

“Unless they’re right and I’m the moron. Which I occasionally think, but I get that out of my system with a nice eight-mile run.”

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Stock Crashes and Squirrels

Two more winners, and one loss, for the Small Road 'Dogs this past weekend (Week 7), taking the season's record to 22-10, and a less impressive - but still profitable - 7-5 for the Divisional matches. This week was actually the first of the season when Home teams were in the majority for winners against the spread, covering in 10 of the 13 games.

In the NBA, followers of my Overs strategy could be in for a quiet season, since after one week we have had just two selections. 

On Opening Night, the Brooklyn Nets - Milwaukee Bucks game was half a point shy of qualifying and finished Under. The following day saw the first qualifying bet with the Sacramento Kings - Portland Trail Blazers starting us off with a winner, but on Sunday, the Golden State Warriors - Portland game took us back to square one with an Under. Early days, and the unavailability of Killer Sports for the NBA this season is certainly an inconvenience.  

In the Premier League we had one "Toss-Up" selection this weekend, with Leeds United and Wolverhampton Wanderers delivering a winner with a 1:1 Draw albeit thanks to a 94th minute penalty. Here are the results for these selections since 2010:
Brentford v Leicester City was a "Close" selection, and was a lot closer than the other "Close" selection which was the Big 6 game (or rather rout) of Manchester United by Liverpool. The ROI on "Close" selections over the same period is now 5.28% from 746 selections.

Not to spoil the month end update, but with Tesla currently setting record highs as if the year was 2020, and incidentally joining Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook in the trillion dollar company club, and with Bitcoin having a strong month, it's looking like it will be a good month overall, (famous last words). 

Still two trading days to get through, and October has historically been an exciting, to put it mildly, month for stock markets with today (27th) the anniversary of 1997's Asian Contagion crash, and 10 years earlier, October was the month of the Black Monday crash which I remember well, following as it did, the Great Storm which closed the Stock Exchange on the preceding Friday. A loss of 23% in two days wasn't pleasant, but it was an important lesson fortunately learned at a time when, in real money terms, I didn't have too much!  

Finally, from Wikipedia, an unexpected final detail to Aaron Zang's personal life page:
Zang played Magic: The Gathering during high school and won a Chinese championship in the card game. He graduated from university in 2005. In 2013, he founded a company specializing in Bitcoin in Shenzhen. In 2019 he got a pet squirrel.

Sunday 17 October 2021

NBA 2021-22

The NBA regular season returns this week (on Tuesday) with the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks hosting the Brooklyn Nets, who are favourites to win the championship this season. The Nets were ousted from the playoffs last season by the Bucks in overtime in game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-final. The Los Angeles Lakers are second favourite, the Bucks third, and the Golden State Warriors, who haven't made the playoffs for the last two seasons, fourth favourite along with the Utah Jazz.

As some of you will know, the strategy of backing the Overs in games where the Total is "high" has been a profitable one since the average points per game started climbing after 2012. For no reason other than I ran out of fingers, I've been adding ten to the previous season's average points totals and backing Over for matches where the total is set higher. 
There were 150 fewer games in 2020-21 with each team playing 72 games rather than the usual 82, but enough games were played to allay any concerns. Other than total points scored, a couple of other metrics I keep an eye on are the pace of the game, and the number of three-point shots being taken and scored. In line with the increase in points scored, the pace of the game has also been steadily increasing since 2012, although last season it fell slightly, but only by 1.1%.

As well as the faster pace of the game, the other key metric driving more points being scored is the increase in three-point shots being taken and also being scored. 

When the three-point line was introduced in 1979, it's an understatement to say that teams were slow to recognise its potential. In the 1980-81 season, teams attempted an average of two three-point attempts per game, scoring from 25% of those shots, i.e. the grand sum of one and a half points was the average in a game from shooting a three!  

Forty years on and the numbers are a record high of 34.6 attempts per game with a near record high 36.7% conversion rate. At the height of the Chicago Bulls success, the 1996-96 season was a 36.9% conversion rate, but last season was the next highest and from more than twice as many attempts. 

The bottom line is that the expected number of points per game from threes has climbed from 1.5 in 1980-81 to more than 38 last season. With change comes opportunity. 

One other number that helped last season was the number of turnovers which at 13.8 per game is the fewest since this stat was first recorded back in 1973. Since 2000, this number has stayed in the 14 to 15.1 range so it will be interesting to see whether this turns out to be a trend or a blip. 

Thursday 7 October 2021

Wild Card Winners

A nice start to the MLB playoffs with two winners in the 'best-of-one' Wild Card games. The Boston Red Sox extended the misery of Road Favourites in the American League by beating the New York Yankees 6:2 and those published ROI's are now even redder.

In the National League game last night, my advice was again spot on, although it was a close game only won by the defending World Series champion Dodgers (3:1) in the bottom of the ninth inning, with two outs. 
Now the Division Series are all set, with the Dodgers (106 regular season wins) facing National League West rivals San Francisco Giants (107), with the other series in this league being between the Atlanta Braves (88) and Milwaukee Brewers (95). 

It's the first time the two California clubs have met in the post season, and the 19 regular season games between them were narrowly edged 10:9 by the Giants. 

In the American League, the Red Sox (92) play AL East Division rivals Tampa Bay Rays (100), with the Chicago White Sox (93) playing the Houston Astros (95). 

The AL series both start today (Thursday), with the NL series both starting on Friday. The team with the higher number of regular season wins has home advantage in a 2-2-1 format and are best-of-five games, while the Championship Series and World Series are all best-of-seven. 

Tuesday 5 October 2021


Rather rare these days, but a couple of comments which is nice. Dr Tsouts asked:

Do you suggest MLB favs strategy only for regular season?

If the question is what I think it is, i.e. do I recommend the 'Hot Favourites' strategy in playoffs, then the answer is yes, if the team are playing at home. 

When the team is from the National League the Money Line (ML) ROI is 22.1% from the 24 matches, with a similar number for the Run Line (RL).  In the American League, the respective numbers are 11.7% and 20.9%, and interesting to note that there has only been one loss from 13 bets since 2007. 

For all favourites, there's a rather unusual difference between backing them on the Money Line or the Run Line, with the former showing a negative ROI of -4.1% and the latter a more positive 3.0%. This is seen in both the National League and American League.

Forget about Road Favourites in the American League though, a scenario which includes tonight's game in Boston between the Red Sox and the New York Yankees. These have losing ROI's of 15.6% (ML) and 12.4% (RL).

The second comment, also from the aforementioned Dr Tsouts, was regarding the winning start to the NFL season for the Small Road Dogs:

Regarding NFL strategy a vast majority of the selections have won straightforward!

Indeed they have, although last night's bet on the Las Vegas Raiders was a loss on both the Handicap and Straight Up. Killer Sports is under new management, and their numbers for this season are not correct - for example last night's loss is showing up as a win, but hopefully this will be corrected soon.

The third comment was on my "Retirement" post and BabyDuck (why not duckling?) suggested that I:

Get spending! White Hart, Chipstead to discuss trip/s to West Indies for England's tours next Jan-Feb and/or March. All on you!

With my annual bonus coming in March, I will not be negotiating any kind of severance before then unfortunately, but combining travel and watching sports is certainly high up on the agenda for those early years of retirement.

For the record, the White Hart is a decent pub in a very nice village. My mother was raised in Chipstead and my son played for the Youth team there. 

Monday 4 October 2021

T-Bone Cooked, Wild Week Ahead

The MLB season is now over, with four of the final day's "Hot Favourites" successful, and a Wild Card game tomorrow in the American League between divisional rivals Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees after both teams won their games. The game will be in Boston with the Yankees currently slight favourites.

The National League wasn't quite so dramatic, although it's worth noting that in the West, the San Francisco Giants needed to win 107 games to win the division, with the Los Angeles Dodgers winning 106 games. At the start of the season, the Over / Under on Giants wins was 74.5, and they became the second team since the 1994-95 strike to beat their total by 30+ games. The 2001 Seattle Mariners beat their line of 81.5 by 34.5 games, winning 116 games. For those who love history, this matched the record number of wins set by the Chicago Cubs in 1906, although the Cubs played fewer games.

I mentioned in my season preview post back in March that the New York Yankees were favourites to win the World Series, with the Los Angeles Dodgers second in the betting, and the San Diego Padres third. The first two find themselves in a Wild Card game while the Padres faded badly in the last few weeks of the season and missed out on the post season altogether. 

As for the Giants, they entered the season at around 40-1 to win the Division, the longest since at least 2008 when @SOHistory started tracking these things.

For those following the systems I've mentioned in this blog, the overall results were good. The one disappointment was that the T-Bone System was a loser for the second consecutive season. One losing year in a season messed up by COVID adjustments is one thing, but the same in a normal season is another. Here are the results from last season and back to 2011:
That was really the only bad news. The Hot Favourite System had a poor start and end to the season, but the heart of the season between May and August more than made up for that. Only two of the last 28 May-August months (excluding the 2020 COVID season) have seen losses.
As for the Totals Systems, these were again profitable with the Under bets generating 88.5% of the profits from 58.7% of the bets.
So back to the playoffs and the second Wild Card game is the National League game on Wednesday when the Los Angeles Dodgers host the St Louis Cardinals. 

The 'best-of-one' Wild Card games are a fairly recent development, introduced in 2012, so we only have 16 such matches to look at given the 2020 season adopted a one-off Wild Card system. 

Bearing in mind the small sample, it doesn't appear that the Home 'advantage' is much of an advantage here at all. Road teams overall are 9-7 (+2.63 units) with Road Favourites 4-1 (+2.93 units), with the National League only seeing three home wins. 

All of which isn't good news for the Dodgers, whose opponents are in fine form this past month including a win streak of 17 games which pushed them over the line. The Dodgers though are on a seven game win streak and are around 1.48, with the Cardinals losing three of their final five games.  Resting players is one thing, but in a sport like baseball, winning becomes a habit. Back the Dodgers! 

In the NFL, the five Sunday qualifiers from the Small Road Dogs System went 2-2, although I got lucky with the Indianapolis Colts who became an 'official' non-qualifier after I'd backed them as a +2.5 selection. The final selection of the weekend is tonight, but don't tell my wife or she will not be happy.
It was also a winning weekend in the Premier League with the two matches qualifying as "Close" or "Toss-Up" both finishing 2:2. When it comes to Draw betting, winning sequences aren't typical, but we now have three in a row and an unsustainable 54% ROI on the young season for the Close qualifiers, and 91% for the Toss-Ups! 

Sunday 3 October 2021

Game 162

With 161 games in the books, today sees the final regular season games in MLB and an interesting situation surrounding the American League Wild Card places.

As the MLB site explains:
Four teams -- the Yankees, Red Sox, Mariners and Blue Jays -- remain in the hunt for the two AL Wild Card spots, though the Yanks and Sox have at least guaranteed themselves an opportunity to play in a potential tiebreaker game. Both would clinch a spot in the AL Wild Card Game with a win. If the Yankees (hosting the Rays) and Red Sox (on the road against the Nationals) both win on Sunday, then Boston would host New York in the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday (Red Sox won the season series, 10-9, giving them home-field advantage for the winner-take-all showdown).

Of course, if either of them lose, it would open the door for the Blue Jays and Mariners. Toronto needs a win at home against Baltimore and a loss by New York or Boston to set up a potential tiebreaker game on Monday for a chance to earn a Wild Card spot. Likewise, the Mariners -- who kept their postseason hopes alive with a dramatic comeback on Saturday night -- need to beat the Angels again on Sunday afternoon, and get a loss by either the Yankees or Red Sox, to put themselves in position for a potential tiebreaker game.

All games start at the same time today, 8pm BST. The Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays are both probable selections for the Hot Favourites System which looks to have a busy day with three other matches likely. The Yankees aren't a qualifier as they face the Tampa Bay Rays who won their 100th game of the season last night, the only AL team to do so this season. In the NL, two teams from the West Division have both achieved that - the Giants and the Dodgers.

We also probably have five selections for the NFL's Small Road Dog System today.

Good luck if following. 

Friday 1 October 2021

Sobering September

It had to happen at some point and after ten consecutive months of gains, the recent market downturn meant a loss in September. Historically (which in this case means since 2010) September was already one of the two worst performing calendar months, and with a large loss this year, just over six figures, September as a month is actually negative overall across those 11 years. Fortunately it's the only such month, although a little concerning that October is the next worst month.

Of the stocks I've mentioned here previously, Tesla, Boeing and Lloyds Bank were all up on the month, while Bitcoin, Pfeizer and Berkshire Hathaway were down.

Regarding the sports part of my portfolio, and losses here (2.79%) due to the poor finish to the regular season for hot favourites and totals bets.

The Hot Favourites System ended September with an ROI of -3.8% (ML) and -10.5% (RL). Both are still nicely up on the season at 7.6% and 8.0% respectively.

In contrast, the T-Bone System was up in September (3.8% / 5.9%) yet remains down for the season (-5.4% / -2.9%). 

For the Totals Systems, the Overs were down 6.6% while the Unders were up 4.6%

There is still one weekend left in the regular baseball season before it ends on Sunday, with the playoffs beginning on Tuesday although there is the possibility of a tiebreaker game as discussed in great detail here

As I mentioned previously, the NFL Small Road Dogs System continues to be positive so far this season with 13 winners from 16 selections, and likely five selections this weekend. It's still early days and with so much media coverage about Road Teams in general, it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see this particular golden goose meet a sad ending by Thanksgiving, but as I've written before, old habits and biases die hard, and it may yet be a while before this goose is cooked. It's well worth having a gander at this system, and long time readers will know I'm not one to send you on a wild goose chase. 

The 2021-22 NBA season is just around the corner, with the first pre-season game on Sunday. The regular season opens on October 19th, a week after the NHL opens its season with an expanded 32 teams. The Seattle Kraken are the new franchise and are in action on opening night. The expansion means the Arizona Coyotes move from the Pacific Division to the Central Division, and as you should know if you read this blog regularly, Divisions and Time Zones are important in this sport.

In the EPL, the pain of the late equaliser against Crystal Palace on Monday night was somewhat eased by the match's qualification as a 'Toss-Up' selection, and a steady start for Draws this season. Below are the results so far for both "Close" and "Toss-Up" selections:
On a personal note, I shall be doing the Sober October challenge again this year, and hoping to shed some of the pounds I've put back on after regaining the use of my right leg which has mostly led to me eating and drinking too much. 

My data from the past two years tells me that on days I drink, I gain on average 1.1lbs, while on days I'm dry, I lose 1lb. If I intake fewer than 2,000 calories, (my Basal Metabolic Rate is currently around 1,921), exercise and abstain from alcohol, I'll lose an average of 1.1lbs a day almost 74% of the time, but the average gain is only 0.7lbs on 22% of the days with the others being flat. Target is 20lbs and, unlike some of my financial targets, this one is all up to me. 

Friday 24 September 2021

Diving Into Retirement

Back in 2008, my how the years have flown, I wrote a post titled Kelly Criterion in which I concluded that:

Most gamblers are probably best served by using a flat 2% of their bank per bet, since figuring edges in sports is, as mentioned earlier, very difficult.

It's a number that I have stuck pretty close to over the years and which has served me well. While I also suggested that "Increasing this to 3%, or occasionally 4% on an especially good play, is reasonable", a naturally conservative person such as myself gets a little uncomfortable with 1/25th of the bank at risk on any one bet!

And now thirteen years on, a similar, but more important calculation is when to retire and how lavishly do I spend in those early years of retirement before old age replaces living with "existing" and ultimately "existing" with "death." 

Hopefully the "existing" period, if it occurs at all, will be brief, because it doesn't seem to offer too much in the "things to look forward to" category. [At 94, my Dad has this week moved out of the house he has lived in since 1955, close to 66 years, into a care home so excuse the depressing tone of this post so far.] 

Anyway, back to those early years of retirement and the risk is that if you spend too much, you can be left with a shortfall in later years, but if you spend too little, you're not going to enjoy that retirement too much.

One frequently used rule of thumb for retirement spending is known as the 4% rule, or eponymously the Bengen Rule" after William P. Bengen, the retired financial adviser who first articulated the idea.
It’s relatively simple: You add up all of your investments, and withdraw 4% of that total during your first year of retirement. In subsequent years, you adjust the amount you withdraw to account for inflation. By following this formula, you should have a very high probability of not outliving your money during a 30-year retirement according to the rule.
Another way of putting it is that your portfolio should be at least 25 times your annual expenses (plus taxes) in retirement. 

Thirty years should be more enough for me. I've not led quite such a healthy lifestyle as my father, but these calculations really would be a lot simpler if one knew their date of death. I just depressed myself still further by using this stupid web site to calculate it, the result being:
I've made a note in my diary with a reminder. It appears that another ten years is added on by going from drinking "twice a week" to "never" but that's not really "enjoying" retirement, and while another ten years would be nice, that's a high price to pay. 

If I were to step up the drinking to daily, which doesn't seem unreasonable, and start smoking a pack a day (which would be idiotic), I can be done here in fewer than eight years! 

However my wife will be returning from abroad next week, and the Cassini tradition of "Sober October" will be in full force (extra tough this year since it encompasses five weekends), and with "Dry January" also a thing and just around the corner, I shall have to recheck the predicted date of my passing next year.

Anyway, 10-K Diver is one of the accounts I follow on Twitter and they had a very interesting thread on the 4% Rule, the basics for which are:
Suppose your retirement portfolio is a well-diversified basket of stocks, like the S&P 500.

Historically, such a basket of stocks has returned ~7% per year, plus ~2% in dividends. This is a total return of ~9%. 

Assuming your annual expenses grow at ~2% per year (roughly the rate of inflation), your portfolio -- which is growing much faster at ~9% per year -- should have no trouble financing your expenses in perpetuity.

This means you'll never run out of money.

Here's the chart over 30 years with those numbers:

Which is all well and good, but as most readers will be aware, that 7% increase each year in the stock portfolio is about as consistent as our betting returns. Of course over the long-term they are profitable but profits are not consistent from season to season, and edges can disappear over time or overnight. 

The chart to the left shows the annual percentage increases and declines over the last 29 years with the average and median actually above the 7% mark which goes back to 1871, before the Football League was formed and just 10 years after Crystal Palace FC was formed. If you know, you know. 

Anyway, I encourage you to read the thread in full for yourself, but 10-K Diver back-tested the 4% Rule going all the way back to 1871 and did a "what if Joe had retired in year...". The result was that Joe would have run out of money 13 times, most recently if he had retired in 1972 and lived to 2008, which is 36 years of retirement and not a duration I'm likely to experience. 

The shortest period before going bust was 23 years, when a 1968 retiree would have gone bust in 1991. 

Back to Bengen, and "based on his early research of actual stock returns and retirement scenarios over the past 75 years, Bengen found that retirees who draw down no more than 4.2 percent of their portfolio in the initial year, and adjust that amount every subsequent year for inflation, stand a great chance that their money will outlive them."

"A great chance" isn't certainty though, and unlike blowing a betting bank, it's a little harder to start again when you're in your 90s! 
Given that the 4% rule fails sometimes, what's the solution?

10-K Diver then applied a 3% rule, i.e. the portfolio was 33.3 times that of the annual withdrawal. This time there were no failures, not one instance where this rate of spending would have ended in disaster. 

So 10-K Diver took the idea a step further, and did some stress testing, a term some of you working in IT will be familiar with, and no, it doesn't refer to the weekly one-on-one with your manager. 

What this entailed was looking at the worst periods in history, so the worst one year period was 1930-31, the worst two years from 1929-31 and so on. 

For our stress test, we'll assume that in our first year of retirement, stocks will deliver the worst 1-year return in history.

And in our first 2 years of retirement, they'll deliver the worst 2-year return in history.

And so on, for the first 20 years.
After that, he assumes the average 7% growth and allows for inflation to be at 4% rather than the original 2%. His findings:

How well do our rules serve us in this stress test?
Well, the 4% rule runs out of money in 10 years.
The 3% rule runs out in 13 years.
The 2% rule runs out in 20 years.
The 1% rule never runs out.

Once again in life, the 2% rule looks likely to suit me perfectly. As 10-K Diver said in a reply "The 4% Rule will likely work most of the time. But it’s a bit too aggressive for me personally." 

After all, 
But when it comes to retirement, it's far better to overshoot than undershoot.

You do not want to run out of money in old age.

And even if it turns out you've been too conservative, that's not so bad. You get to do more charity, leave more money to your kids, etc.
The thread and replies also contain some interesting ideas, for example one was about maintaining a separate cash float to use instead of withdrawing from the portfolio after a bad year, which I like. 

The bad news as I get ready to post this, is that I don't have a huge amount of time left, but the upside of that is that I do have more than enough to last me, and fewer years to spend it in than I thought, although my wife, kids and grandkids would probably prefer I leave at least something behind.