Saturday 24 July 2021

NBA 2020-21 Over

The 2020-21 NBA season wrapped up this week with the Milwaukee Bucks winning the final series against the Phoenix Suns in six games. For those of you following my Totals System it was another profitable season, in fact the best ever since totals started climbing, with the final numbers as below:

Roughly the same number of selections as last season, but an ROI of 22.5% was the best ever by some distance. There were only four qualifiers throughout the whole of the playoffs, and three of these went Under, but it would be churlish to grumble about that. 

For anyone following this system, the Total for next season will be 234.2 points, the smallest increase in a few years. The other metrics I track also show a likely slowdown in the increase in points, with the number of possessions showing a decline for the first time since at least 2012 and the number of three-point attempts only up by 1.5% which, by some distance, is the smallest in that time. 


Sunday 18 July 2021

Shots, Bucks and Graeme

In their first game back after the All-Star game, my wife's hometown San Diego Padres scored a club record 24 runs beating the Washington Nationals by an American Football score of 24 to 8 on Friday night. This is also the most runs by any team this season. 

On track to win the second game of the series last night, the game was suspended for the most American of reasons - a shooting outside the stadium in Washington with reports saying that four people were injured. Not my joke, or a joking matter, but some have said that one American pastime was interrupted by another American pastime.  

Backing the favourite in the first game after the break added another 1.11 units to our total, and since 2004 this simple system is up 49.22 units on the Money Line and 26.54 units on the Run Line, ROIs of 14% and 13.1% respectively. This was mentioned in 2019 so hopefully some of you took note:
Sports Insights has found that blanket-backing favourites had been profitable before and after the break in recent years, although those studies only look at the one game either side.

In the NBA, the first four games of the Finals went to the home team, but Game Five last night was won by the visiting Milwaukee Bucks . After winning the first two games, the Phoenix Suns traded as low as 1.23 to win the championship, but they are now outsiders at 3.94. Game Six is on Tuesday in Milwaukee where their record since mid-April, including the play-offs, is an impressive 17-1 straight up, and 12-6 ATS. 

I layed the Suns at 1.59 before the Finals started, and I'm happy to let this investment run. 

Finally some sad news that I stumbled across earlier today. In the early days of this blog I exchanged thoughts and ideas with Graeme Dand, who I described in this 2009 post as "very personable".

Graeme was also an entrant in the Friendly Tipster League and was famous for his (often extremely) lengthy blog posts often accompanied by screenshots of carefully compiled spreadsheets complete with pivot tables.

Check out some of his posts here

Even when communications with someone are all electronic, you get an idea of who the good guys and decent people are, and Graeme was definitely in that category. 

Our paths haven't crossed for several years, but it came as a shock to find out this morning that Graeme is dealing with a serious illness with a bleak prognosis.

Graeme was also an entrant in the Friendly Tipster League and actually one of the "Bounty Boys" as I called them, donating additional money to the prize fund.

Graeme was one of the winners with his TFA Draws finishing in eighth place but I can't recall if he came out ahead in the end.

Graeme also appears to have collected a small sum with his TFA_Raz entry, but after six years I have no recollection of what that was about.

All of this of course pales into insignificance when compared with the only really important thing in life, which is health. Making money is great, but without good health it is meaningless. I wish Graeme the very best and will be following him on Twitter with positive thoughts. You should do the same. 

Friday 16 July 2021

After The Break

With no MLB All-Star game last season, some of you may be forgiven for forgetting the strategy of blindly backing favourites in their final game before the break. As I wrote in 2019: 

Certainly blindly backing all favourites in the final game before the All-Star Break is a profitable strategy, +6.7% Money Line, +12.1% Run Line

This year the success of this strategy continued with another 4.15 units won. 

Baseball was scheduled to resume after the All-Star game last night, but the New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox game was postponed for COVID-19 reasons. There are 17 matches tonight, including two double-headers, but in the first game back after the break, since 2004 backing the favourite has an ROI of 14.5% on the Money Line and 9.2% on the Run Line.

The break gives us a good excuse to look at results for our systems to date, and overall it's been a winning one so far:

As I've mentioned before, I'm not sure why lefties are having so much success with our systems this season, but the numbers don't lie and are included above. This is a new trend this season so it could be just noise, but unfortunately with the pending demise of Killer Sports it will be a lot harder to track once this season ends. 

Who will take the second shot in this snooker match? We'll find out, after the break.

Thursday 15 July 2021

When the Draw is Winning

For those who took the Draw and Under in the two finals this past weekend, another profit and the final numbers for the Draw system for the two 2021 tournaments are 11 Draws from 22 matches and a profit of 15.96 units.

For Copas, Euros and World Cups combined since 2004, 153 matches have resulted in 60 Draws, and 60.92 units of profit, an ROI of 40%
Sixty Draws is 39.2% of matches and while we, or more specifically I, only have prices going back to 2004, I do know that the percentage of Draws in the 401 matches going back to the 1919 Copa America tournament (the first year that a knockout match was played) is 34.2% with an average goals per game of 2.64.

Goal expectancies were higher in those early years, with the probability of a match finishing as a Draw consequently lower. Prior to the 1976 Euros, the Draw percentage was less than 22% with an average goals per game of 3.6.

Since 1976, the Draw percentage is over 38% with an average goals per game of 2.34. The average has stayed pretty much the same over the past ten years (2.36), twenty years (2.27), thirty years (2.38) and forty years (2.33) with the percentage of Drawn matches over that time 41%, 38%, 37% and 37%. 

It seems reasonable to conclude that the system would have been profitable for longer than the 17 years for which I have data. A Draw percentage of 37% means an implied price of 2.70 and not one Euro, Copa or World Cup match has been priced at that level. A couple of Africa Cup of Nations matches featuring Egypt had the Draw as favourite in 2017 at an average 2.61 and 2.65 but this is highly unusual.  
Some of you may be wondering if this system works in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which is the North, Central America and Caribbean equivalent of the Euros, but is equivalent in name only as it is a tournament of a much poorer quality.

Only Mexico (11th) and the USA (20th) are ranked in FIFA's top 40, and knockout games where the favourite is as short as 1.06 aren't exactly the competitive games this system is looking for.
Either Mexico or the USA have won 14 of the 15 previous tournaments (Canada with the one other title) and these two countries have met in the final six times. 

The 2021 tournament began last week, with the knockout stage starting on July 24th, but with an ROI (since 2009) of -15% (-6.03 units from 41 matches) it's not a tournament that sets the pulse racing. The ROI is positive at 13% on matches where the favourite has a 'true' win probability of less than 0.667, but none of the six matches where the Draw is considered most likely have ended that way, but six is a small sample size of course. 

Wrong Number

A great story yesterday about a major error made by Las Vegas Sportsbook Circa Sports when posting the opening points total for the WNBA All-Star Game, a total which subsequently moved by some 50 points.

The error was that the sportsbook director, Matt Metcalf, failed to take into account that the All-Star game wasn't the typical All-Star game which usually see no defensive play and ridiculously high totals. With an Olympic Games coming up, the game this year was between the WNBA All-Stars and the US Women's National Team, and as a result the game would be taken rather more seriously than usual. 

The game finished under the closing total by 19 points and under the opening total by some 70 points. A couple of observations I found interesting were that the total was posted for two hours before the first bet was made, a bet on Overs which may well have been a spoof, and how many other books simply copied the line. 

Credit to Circa Sports for honouring the bets they took, and if you haven't seen their sportsbook in Las Vegas, I've heard it's worth checking out at three floors and more than 30,000 square feet. I had a ticket offered to me for the Tyson Fury v Deontay Wilder III fight later this month, but unfortunately that has now been postponed to October 9th. If my ticket offer still holds, I shall check out Circa Sports for myself at that time. With the NFL season underway, it should be a great atmosphere. 
The over/under total on the WNBA All-Star Game moved more than 50 points Wednesday, a historic line movement on a number that a Las Vegas oddsmaker calls the "worst I ever made."

Las Vegas sportsbook Circa Sports, the first to hang an over/under on the total points scored in the game, opened it at 248.5. An hour before the game tipped off, the total was sitting at 195.5.

The 53-point movement was the largest shift that multiple veteran bookmakers could ever recall, and it wasn't caused by any attempt at corruption or by a rush of big wagers. Instead, it was simply a mistake by an oddsmaker who was short on time.

On Wednesday, around 7 a.m. PT, Matt Metcalf, sportsbook director for Circa Sports, saw an opportunity to post the first total on the WNBA All-Star Game on the betting market, he told ESPN. He had a morning meeting at 9 a.m. and still needed to get showered and dressed for work. Rushing, Metcalf said he looked at the total points scored in the previous All-Star Games and landed on 248.5 as the opening number for this year's game.

"At worst, I don't think this was more than 15 points off. That's as bad as I think it could be," Metcalf said. "I didn't think it would be the worst number ever."

Metcalf said he didn't take into account that WNBA All-Stars were facing the U.S. women's national team, which is tuning up for the Olympics and expected to take the game more seriously than traditional high-scoring All-Star Games that are often played with reduced intensity and lackadaisical defense.

"This is very different than a [typical] All-Star Game," Las Vegas Aces coach Bill Laimbeer told Sports Illustrated. "Normally everybody is kind of goofing around. That's not what USA Basketball wants. USAB wants a very competitive game."

The 248.5 opening number was up for a couple of hours at Circa before the first bet came in, and it was on the over from a respected account that pushed the total up to 252.5. Metcalf said he believed the bet on the over was designed to "dummy up" the market, a tactic used by professional bettors to mislead bookmakers about which way they're going to bet.

At that point, sportsbooks in the U.S. and internationally began posting over/under totals similar or identical to Circa's number. With more sportsbooks having the total on the board, bettors started to bet the under, and the line began to plummet.

"I've been monitoring this stuff since 2004, 2005," said Rex Beyers, risk manager for the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, "and, off the top of my head, I can't think of a bigger move. It's certainly in the top five."

The SuperBook opened at 251 and moved the number 32 times before it settled at 197. Beyers said they hadn't taken any limit bets on the under but were just trying to stay in line with the market.

"We have more money on the over than the under," Beyers told ESPN a few hours before the 7 p.m. ET tipoff.

The WNBA All-Stars ended up handing the Olympic squad a rare loss for a final score of 93-85, with the total 19 points shy of the closing over/under.

In the past when some bookmakers have posted bad point spreads or totals resulting from a typo or mistake, the sportsbooks have voided the bets on those numbers, claiming "palpable error." Metcalf emphasized that this wasn't the case with his WNBA total: "I made a horrific number, hung it and took bets," he said.

Metcalf estimates Circa took only six to 10 limit bets on the under that caused the line to drop so significantly. The opening limit was $2,000 and later reduced to $500.

Circa, which caters to professional bettors, has earned a reputation in the industry as having sharp lines and totals.

"I always say a bad number is better than no number," Metcalf said. "I think we earned some trust by the numbers we've put up in the past -- granted, we may have blown that all today.

"I think the market respects our numbers for the most part, but we're not perfect. We're going to make some bad numbers. That said, I would never expect that we'd put up a number that's 50 points off on a total."

Saturday 10 July 2021

Final Countdown

As previously mentioned, and as some of you may be aware, a couple of major football tournaments come to a conclusion this weekend, with the Draw worth considering in both games.

At the time of writing the Draw for the Copa América final between Brazil and Argentina as priced by OddsPortal has shortened by several clicks to an average of 3.13 and when the Fair Draw probability is calculated, it is 0.308. In major tournament knockout matches where this number is 0.3 or greater, the ROI for the Draw is 48%. 

For the Euro 2020 Final, the Draw is also very short, with an average price of 3.00, and with the fair probability here at 0.324, when this number is 0.32 or greater the Draw ROI is 79%. Here are the results of previous matches in this range:
Bear in mind that the sample size is small since I only have data going back to 2004 but in my opinion the Draw in both matches offers great value, and if you have followed this strategy through the tournaments you're playing with profits. I have bets at 3.3 and 3.1 for the two matches.

The Under 2.5 goals is also a value proposition here at around 1.5, with 13 of 14 similar matches going Under until the Paraguay v Peru game last week where the Draw was strangely favourite as mentioned here. The Under is this game was 1.37. 

NHL 2020-21 Review

Tampa Bay Lightning clinched their second consecutive Stanley Cup this week beating the Montreal Canadiens by four games to one, and the NHL season is now over. I know I wasn't the only one following my system this season and while it disappointed in the post season, overall it was another successful season, as they have all been for many seasons. 

The basic system is on the left, and a slightly modified more selective system is on the right.
Unfortunately with the Killer Sports site going into a permanent hibernation in the next few weeks, producing such tables as above will no longer be possible but clearly the edge persists and I'll continue to follow the systems next season. 

For those wondering, over the 11 seasons above, the record in playoff games is +23.78 units (ROI 9.7%) and +22.79 units (19.3%), slightly above the regular season averages.

Avoiding the Draw and backing the favourite in third-place playoff games continued to be a profitable strategy last night in the Copa América although the winning goal, and a good one it was too, didn't come until a few seconds after the three minutes of added time, just as the game was looking guaranteed to go to a penalty shootout at 2:2. This tournament doesn't bother with extra time. 

Of the 13 third-place matches in Copa América tournaments, only one has ever finished as a Draw as I mentioned previously while in Euros and World Cups all-time, the numbers aren't much better with just 4 of the 25 matches finishing as as Draws. In the era of prices, the record is:

Wednesday 7 July 2021

Euro and Copa Profits Locked In

The Euro 2020 semi-final between Italy and Spain last night saw another win for Draw backers, who are now up by 8.98 units with just two games remaining and thus a guaranteed ROI for the tournament of at least 47%. With the smallest probability difference (19%) of the competition between these two teams, this result was not a huge surprise and the 'official' average price of 3.16 was easily beatable with Pinnacle at 3.22 and higher on the exchanges.  

In the 2021 Copa América, another guaranteed profit with the same system now up 3.14 units, with just the final to come. The second semi-final between Argentina and Colombia finished 1:1 with Argentina advancing to the final on penalties where they will face Brazil on Saturday. 

There's also a third place playoff game in this tournament, but as mentioned previously, it's best to ignore these matches, especially in the Copa where only one of 12 such contests has ever finished level - the 2001 game between Honduras and Uruguay in case you were wondering. 

The two teams had met in a Group game just 10 days earlier, which may be an angle to research. Honduras isn't a CONMEBOL country of course, and were invited to take part in the tournament for the first time, but after taking third place they've not been invited back! 

I'll update the numbers once both tournaments have ended, but hopefully some of you took advantage of this perennially profitable system.

The Phoenix Suns held serve in Game One of the NBA Finals beating the Milwaukee Bucks and covering both the 6.5 point spread and the Overs - Game Two is on Thursday - and in the NHL the Montreal Canadiens avoided a sweep by winning Game Four against the Tampa Bay Lighting, who now lead the best of seven series 3:1. Game Five is tonight but first, another Euro semi-final. 

Monday 5 July 2021

Copa América Draws

This year, the Copa América tournament is proceeding simultaneously with the Euro tournament. In the past the Copa has usually been played in odd years, with the 2016 tournament a one-off centenary celebration.

Effective from 2020, CONMEBOL have now aligned their tournament with that of UEFA in even years, but of course the COVID-19 pandemic delayed both tournaments.

For those of you backing the Draw in the Copa knockout matches, and this is historically a good strategy for the same reason it is in other major tournaments, we are in profit after the Quarter-Finals with a very unusual winner in the Paraguay v Peru game. 

This was the text book example of a "toss-up" game with the Draw actually the favourite at prices varying from 2.7 to 2.86. 

The Draw should never be favourite as I explained in 2013:
The probability of a draw is clearly highest when the expectancy of goals is low. Of the under 1.5 goal outcomes, one-third (the 0-0) results in a draw. Add another goal and one-third of the six possible outcomes results in a draw, but add one more goal, and the draw probability drops precipitously. The draw outcomes from the Under 3.5 goal markets total two from ten.

So unless the goal expectancy in a match is two or less, the draw will never be favourite, but the closer to zero the goal expectancy is, the more probable the draw is. The relative lack of interest in the draw as a betting outcome does, in my opinion, make the draw a value bet when the market’s expectation of goals is higher than it should be.
Some books had Peru as second favourite, others had Paraguay, and the result was indeed a Draw, although if the market was expecting few goals, they might have been shocked with the 3:3 final score! 

Starting with the 2007 tournament, backing the Draw in the knockout stages of Copa América tournaments has an ROI of 45% with Quarter-Final matches at 75%, but as with the Euros, in Semi-Finals the value is historically on the favourite with an ROI of 20%.  

Sunday 4 July 2021

Lightning Strike and Sinistral Pitching

Hopefully some of you made some money on the Tampa Bay Lightning who won Game Three at an 'official' 1.79, and who will be a qualifier in Game 4 tomorrow when they attempt to sweep the Montreal Canadiens to retain the Stanley Cup. Their odds won't be so generous this time though, currently at around 1.67 but drifting slightly. 

The NBA Finals are set, with the previously mentioned Phoenix Suns playing the Milwaukee Bucks, a franchise that last reached the Finals in 1974 and last won the title in 1971. The Suns have home court advantage and they have never won the title, losing in 1993 to the Chicago Bulls and in 1976 to the Boston Celtics. The Suns are favourites for the title at around 1.63. 

No more winners for Draw backers in the Euro 2020 tournament, but a profit is already guaranteed with three matches remaining. Profits from the 12 matches so far are 6.82 units.

History is on our side. Of the 88 Euro knockout matches ever played, only 51 have been decided in 90 minutes, with Belgium the only country playing five or more games with all being decided in regulation. 

Of the remaining teams in this tournament, Italy's Draw percentage is 57%, England 50%, Spain 47% and Denmark 29% but in Euro Semi-Finals, the edge is to back the favourite, with an ROI of 39%, but obviously a small sample size. 

If we include World Cup Semi-Finals, the ROI on favourites is still high at 26%, but the Draw becomes profitable also. Which all looks rather promising for a dream Italy v England Final but this scenario also looked promising in 1990 until two disastrous penalty shootouts led to the elimination of both countries and to probably the worst World Cup Final of all-time.

In baseball, July has continued the good run for hot favourites with four out of four so far and one selection (Los Angeles Angels) today with the added bonus that the starter (Patrick Sandoval) throws left-handed, and such throwers have a remarkable 33-3 record this season.

Friday 2 July 2021

Moving Day

Yesterday was Moving Day in Quebec, but at two games down in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Montreal Canadiens will need to get moving if they are to end Canada's drought in this competition!

It was also Canada Day, but little to celebrate for that province with the Tampa Bay Lightning winning the first two games and game three tonight likely to see the Lighting as a qualifier for the NHL System, although so far this season, this has not been profitable in the playoffs overall even if the Lightning specifically haven't been to blame.

The regular season gave us 51.5 units of profit to play with, but unfortunately the 26 playoff games have seen us hand back 6.23 of them.

In the MLB, June continued the good fortunes of May with the Hot Favourites adding another 14.1 units. Left handed starters were 14-1 for the month (32-3 for the season) as I mentioned last week

The T-Bone System lost 2.07 units, while the Overs added 9.8 units. You may recall that I mentioned the success of Unders in May writing:
The Totals Systems combined are comfortably in profit after 179 games (29.96 units) but interestingly all the profit is from Unders with Overs slightly down, although making up ground after a slow start to the season.

The probable reason was discussed in early June and the subsequent clampdown my umpires has not surprisingly seen this avenue of easy money closed down. After being in profit by 28.85 units through the end of May, in June we lost 4.8 units, but again overall a profit for the Totals Systems.

There's also a football competition currently in progress, and if you took my advice about backing the Draw in knockout matches, we're almost guaranteed a profit already, even with seven matches still to come. Four draws from the eight Round of 16 matches mean we are up 6.94 units so far, perhaps a little lucky with two 3:3 results on Monday given that no World Cup or Euro knockout game had previously ended with this result, but we'll take it. 

In the NBA, the Phoenix Suns reached the final after missing the playoffs for ten years straight, a record I believe, and will likely play the Milwaukee Bucks who now have a 3:2 load over the Atlanta Hawks. For the Overs System, we've only had four qualifiers in the playoffs, three of which went Under. As in most sports, there's a big difference between regular season games and playoffs. 

Good luck in July. At noon today, the year will be half over.