Monday 28 February 2022


I had the thought on Thursday morning that anti-Russian, more specifically anti-Putin, sentiment might be a factor in the markets for the League Cup Final with casual punters showing their outrage by throwing their money behind Liverpool as a proxy for Ukraine against "aggressor" Chelsea, owned of course by Roman Abramovich, a close ally of Putin's. 

Whether or not this was part of the reason that Chelsea and the Draw drifted during the 72 hours before kick-off is impossible to say for sure, but it's an example of how there is sometimes an edge to be gained from unlikely places. 

The average prices via Odds Portal went from 2.32 to 2.19 for Liverpool, 3.21 to 3.37 for the Draw, and 3.4 to 3.57 for Chelsea. 

As I wrote in my last post, the Draw is where the value exists in Finals with no club having a fair win probability greater than 0.5, and the Draw opened at 3.16 on Pinnacle, drifting to 3.39 by game time, but as is usually the case, a much more tempting 3.6 was available on Betfair which seemed very generous given the history of this fixture and domestic finals in general.

A perfect draw ensued, taking the ROI on Draws in all 18 League Cup Finals since 2005 to 50%. Of the five Finals with no odds-on favourite, four have finished level but that's too few matches for the ROI to be meaningful.

Of the 18 finals, ten have been all-Big-6 matchups with, yes you guessed it, six results being Draws with the favourite winning the other four. 
With no selections in the EPL for the second consecutive weekend - the Brentford v Newcastle United game slipped out of contention - at least one reader made some money from Draws this weekend, and hopefully quite a few more of you.  

I've previously written about how the second half of the season isn't as lucrative as the first, and with 256 games played, we're entering into the time of year (particularly weeks 26-31) when the system really struggles:
I'm travelling again for work this week, so there will be no month-end updates, or any updates for that matter for a while. As things stand, February could go either way with the major index Futures currently down around 2% and the Cassini portfolio clinging on to a small monthly gain, a position I didn't expect to be in when the attack on Ukraine began, but the stock market is heartless, as the linked-to article explains. 

Friday 25 February 2022

War and Draw

Obviously, there are far more important things going on in the world this week than investing, but the reality is that life for most of us will go on pretty much as usual. 

The final of UEFA's Champions League has, not surprisingly, been moved from St Petersburg to Paris and it's crazy to think that the host nation of the 2018 World Cup is currently attacking the country and city that staged the Euro 2012 Final. 

Russia and Ukraine are both in the play-offs for a place in the World Cup Finals this year, but following yesterday's UEFA meeting, clubs sides from both countries will be required to play their home matches at neutral venues. FIFA meet this weekend to decide on the fate of the national teams. Should they both qualify, FIFA's draw for the Finals could be a little complicated.

As I wrote last week, it was a quiet weekend for betting with no EPL game coming close to being a Draw selection, and of the ten matches played, just one - West Ham United v Newcastle United - finished level. 

Midweek saw one "Close" selection which was Watford v this season's Draw specialists Crystal Palace, but for the first time in six games, Palace were unable to provide followers with a Draw, though at least one person was happy about that. The ROI for "Close" matches drops to 33.9% on the season.  

There should be a selection tomorrow with the Brentford v Newcastle United game currently a qualifier, and Brighton and Hove Albion v Aston Villa one to monitor.

UEFA's club competitions continued this week and the success of Away teams in the second leg of all-square ties continued with both Red Bull Leipzig and Barcelona winning. 

The conventional wisdom is that following an Away draw in the First Leg, the Home team will finish the job in the Second Leg. Of the 218 matches since 2004 where I have prices, 116 were won by the Home side, which is just 53%. Away teams win about 26% of the time, (27% following a 0:0, 25% following a score draw), but the value is on the Away team with an ROI of 11%.

As you might suspect, there is also value backing Away teams who had a comfortable Home win in the First Leg. It appears that Home sides facing an uphill battle give up a little easier than the market estimates.

This Sunday sees the League Cup Final in England, with Liverpool favourites to beat Chelsea. Of the 17 finals for which I have prices, the favourite has won 10 with 6 Draws, and backing the Draw has an ROI of 39% from this small sample. The edge is even greater when no club has a win probability greater than 0.5 (at fair odds), as is the situation for this game.
If we include FA Cup Finals, 5 of 11 matches meeting this rule have finished as Draws.

Finally, in the NBA, the All-Star game on Sunday saw a total of 323 points, which was right around where the books had the total. The record points total in these exhibitions remains the 374 points scored in 2017. Team Lebron won the game by three, just failing to cover the -5.5 points they were giving, but this isn't my kind of event for investing. 

Saturday 19 February 2022

UEFA Changes

With seven of the eight EPL games this weekend having a team at odds-on, and the NBA on it's All-Star Break, it's looking like a quiet weekend for investments. 

The 20 midweek European first leg games produced just three Draws, which wasn't a surprise, especially given how many Home sides were favourite.  However, due to some changes this season, past results aren't necessarily a reliable indicator for what the future may hold.

The big changes are to the Europa League format, which no longer has a Round of 32 as such, but a Knockout Stage prior to the Round of 16 - which effectively is the same thing, the creation of a new third competition, i.e. the Europa Conference League, and perhaps most significantly of all, the abolition of the Away Goals Rule.

HKibuzz commented on my last post:
Interesting. The rule change about away goals will probably have some impact on these figures too. I suspect that in the more balanced games, the team playing away first might just be more conservative and be happy to settle for a draw and complete the job next, at home. They are no longer rewarded for taking risks away in the first leg. That might explain, in part, Real Madrid's very defensive strategy yesterday (along with PSG's good performance).
One of the justifications given by UEFA for scrapping this rule was that:
The impact of the rule now runs counter to its original purpose as, in fact, it now dissuades home teams – especially in first legs – from attacking, because they fear conceding a goal that would give their opponents a crucial advantage.

As HKibuzz suggests, the rule change means that Away teams are now disincentivised from pushing for that away goal, and will be happier with a 0:0 result than in previous seasons. In the past, while a goalless draw Away was often a decent result, it always left the worry of conceding at Home and thus requiring two goals to win, and so wasn't anywhere near as satisfying as a score draw. With the new rule, a 0:0 result is much better. 

From a betting perspective, since at least 2004 there has been a nice edge (ROI 13%) backing Home teams in First Leg games when the team is an odds-against favourite, and where the Draw is second favourite. Whether this continues remains to be seen.

As you might expect, the best strategies for betting on the Second Leg of ties vary depending on the First Leg result. There's certainly been a big difference in Second Leg matches following a 0:0 draw and those following a score-draw in the First Leg. 

In all Second Leg matches following a Draw, backing the Away team has an ROI of 9.4%, but backing the Away team after a 0:0 has an ROI of 27% increasing to 83% on matches with no clubs from the Big Five leagues involved. My suspicion is that in these games there is basically less interest, and lazy sportsbooks tend to overweight the win probability of the Home team knowing this is where the dumb money will go. It seems reasonable to assume that prices are more accurate for the likes of Real Madrid and AC Milan than for clubs such as Maccabi Haifa, FK Crvena Zvezda and Osmanlispor. 

Tuesday 15 February 2022

City, Cincy and Crypto

The Champions League Round of 16 starts tonight, and for those of you wondering if this is a good place to look for Draws, the answer is no. 

Blindly backing the Draw in the 144 first leg matches going back to the 2003-04 season would have resulted in a loss of 11.74 units, (ROI -8.2%), with the damage coming in the past two seasons - with just the one Draw - and from matches where the Home team is favourite. 

In matches where the Away team is favourite, the ROI for the Draw is positive, but in matches where the second favourite is the Draw, the ROI jumps to 14.6%

The Sporting Lisbon v Manchester City game does fit this profile, but the current 1.314 price (Pinnacle) is very short with the sweet spot for the Draw in matches where the fair Away win price is in the 1.95 to 2.3 range. 

There have been three previous matches with the Away team at this short a price -  all Manchester City, all in recent years, and all resulting in an Away win. Bayern Munich are a similar price tomorrow.
In the EPL last weekend, we had two winners from four selections with the Brentford v Crystal Palace match the most pleasing from a betting perspective.
As discussed in this post, the match was always a candidate although in the end the price drifted out to 3.28 and nowhere near being a sub 3.0 price which triggered the post. 

Crystal Palace matches have been a selection five times this season so far, and every one has been a winner. Southampton are 3 from 3, and only Norwich City have yet to be a qualifier. Leicester City matches are the most frequent qualifiers, with the West Ham United game making it five winners from 10 games. 

The two losers this weekend were both "Toss-Up" selections, with the two winners both in the "Close" category. ROIs for the season are now 39.7% and 37% respectively.

Any of you treating the Cincinnati Bengals as Road 'Dogs for the Superbowl on Sunday would have been rewarded with a win, although the Los Angeles Rams won straight up, the second consecutive season that the winner has been crowned in their own stadium. The Arizona Cardinals will be hoping to make it three in a row next season.  

And finally, I'm not sure who first came up with this, but I found it quite amusing:
With inflation at 7.5%, you lose half your money in 9 years. The only way to outperform that consistently, that I have found, is crypto. Just this year, I’ve already lost half my money.

Thursday 10 February 2022

Wine in Decline

At the time of writing**, the upcoming Brentford v Crystal Palace game looks like it may be a member of the exclusive sub-3 club, with the Draw currently priced by Pinnacle at 2.99. 

The book is currently at an overround of 104.9% versus the season average of 102.4%, so there's a reasonable chance the price will yet move out, but should it go off at shorter than 3.0, it'll be only the 16th such occurrence in more than 3600 games during the Pinnacle era (2012-date). 

Four of these matches ended in a Draw, but only five matches were Over 2.5 goals so this is probably just the result of a small sample size, given that of matches going Under, 38.2% of the results are Draws. Overall, the percentage is 25.1%.

Of the 8201 matches since 2001 in the EPL, the Over / Under 2.5 goals split is remarkably close to 50/50, with the actual numbers 50.3% to 49.7%.

There was only one qualifier from the midweek matches, with Newcastle United v Everton a "Toss-Up" but unfortunately a loser. The ROI on "Toss-Ups" drops to 57% for the season and for "Close" to 34%. Backing the Draw blindly in all matches has an ROI of 8.5% as Draws look to hit their highest total in six seasons. 

There has been some publicity over the past few days about the number of NBA favourites covering the spread in recent days. Over the past weekend, the split was 13-1, and since then the record is 16-4-1 bot for the season as a whole, the percentage is just 50.7% so this appears to just be normal variance. 

The All-Star break is coming up next week, but if you took my advice from the end of January to be "backing Overs when the total is greater than 223" you're probably quite happy with a 23-14-1 record since. 

On a totally unrelated topic, I was reading a New York Times article about wine, and how millennials aren't consuming it in the same amount as boomers like myself, meaning the wine industry faces a problem as demand drops, but I thought this line was very funny:
As the father of two millennial sons, I am something of an expert on being unable to persuade millennials to do as I suggest.
Any parent can probably relate.

** Since starting this post, I now see the Brentford v Palace Draw has moved out to 3.08, and very close to being a "Toss-Up" selection. 

The 3p Parlay By George

Betfair recently announced that the minimum stake had been reduced from £2 down to £1. Of course it has always been easy to bet less than the minimum amount with a simple workaround that I wrote about in 2012. I'm not sure how much difference this will make, probably very little, and I'm also not sure why the minimum was set at £2 in the first place. 

Another company in the news recently for allowing a stake at lower than their usual minimum was Betfred. In this case the stake allowed was 3p placed on a 10 match Draw accumulator, a story that shows I'm not the oldest lover of the Draw. 

Here's the story in full from Alistair Mason of the Press Association:
An 85-year-old grandfather pocketed more than £2,600 after placing just 3p on a bet at his local bookmaker.

Janus “George” Wagonback put his 3p – a stake so small it would not usually be allowed by Betfred – on a 10-fold accumulator last week, eventually claiming winnings of £2,686.04.

“I’ve had some significant wins on the football over the years, much bigger than this one,” said Mr Wagonback, from Sutton-in-Ashfield in Nottinghamshire.

“But then again, I usually bet more than 3p, which is basically loose change that I had in my pocket.”

Betfred normally operates with a minimum stake of 5p, but were happy to make an exception for Mr Wagonback as he is a regular customer.

He bet that all 10 matches in his accumulator – Millwall-Preston, Wimbledon-Cheltenham, Bradford-Leyton Orient, Colchester-Rochdale, Swindon-Crawley, Dundee-Dundee United, Hibernian-Hearts, Ross County-Aberdeen, St Mirren-Motherwell and a World Cup Qualifier between Lebanon and Iraq – would be draws, at odds just short of 90,000-1.

“I was confident the Scottish games would all be draws, as they often are up there,” he said.

“I didn’t know I’d won until I checked the paper the next day.

“I did feel good, but can’t jump around much these days – only little jumps.”

Mr Wagonback is originally from Budapest in Hungary but moved to the UK as a political refugee in the 1950s.

He is an experienced chess player, having represented his club in Mansfield, and was also named Mr Nottingham in 1969 on the back of his fitness and body-building exploits.

He said: “I have always been a winner because I set my mind to achieve things.

“My ambition is to skin Betfred for a million.”

Betfred boss Fred Done said: “I’ve been in this business for over 50 years, and cannot remember anyone winning so much from just three pence.

“It is a truly remarkable win, with him beating odds of virtually 90,000/1.”

Remarkable indeed, and I liked the comment “I was confident the Scottish games would all be draws, as they often are up there”. They are? We may be missing a trick here. Graeme? We need your input. Put those horses down for five minutes and look at the Draw in your country.  

With only one selection featuring a team priced at odds-on (Swindon Town), Mr. Wagonback may well be a reader of this blog. Using Pinnacle's prices, the accumulator would have been closer to 132,000/1 with the Lebanon v Iraq Draw priced as favourite at just 2.74, one of the shorter Draw prices you'll find.  

Tuesday 8 February 2022

Déjà Vu as Draws Rule Again

With a perfect draw in the Final closing out the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, it's another winning competition for the Knockout Draw strategy, not only for the 'no odds-on' system but also for the basic every game system. 

As I mentioned at the start of the year, the small amount of time required to place 15 bets proved to be well worth it:
The result from backing the Draw in all 15 knockout games was +2.69 units, while from the more evenly matched subset, the 7 games generated +7.39 units of profit.
With results from the eighth tournament now included, the ROIs increase to 12% and 30% respectively for Africa. 

Even the Third Place Play-off game got into the act, although these aren't included and 3:3 results aren't what we are looking for anyway. 
For Burkina Faso it was a case of déjà vu. Those of us of a certain age, as well as knowing Burkina Faso as Upper Volta, may recall the third place play off in 1998 when they lost on penalties to the (not very) Democratic Republic of the Congo despite taking a 4:1 lead in the 86th minute. 

Twenty four years on, and they suffered a similar fate holding a 3:0 lead into the 71st minute, and were still looking good at 3:1 after 84 minutes. Hosts Cameroon then scored twice in the last six minutes before winning on penalties.

Unfortunately that is it for International competitions until the World Cup but it was pleasing to hear from some of you that you've been playing this system and making money. 

Saturday 5 February 2022

Tight Draws in Africa

If you're playing the Draw in the Africa Cup of Nations knockout stage, you should be guaranteed a small profit with just the Final to come. The 'official' results from backing the Draw in all 14 games so far is 0.89 units (6% ROI) and from the matches with no team fairly priced at odds-on, a more exciting return so far of 5.59 units and a 93% ROI, though as I've written before, ROIs on such a small number of matches are fairly meaningless. 

The Final tomorrow (Senegal v Egypt) is a 'no odds-on' match with Senegal favourites and the Draw at around 2.83, (2.85 on Pinnacle and 2.96 on Betfair.) This will likely be the 8th match of the 15 where the Draw price has been priced at 3.0 or shorter. This is a familiar trend in the Africa Cup of Nations with 7 of 15 in 2019 and 6 of 7 in 2017 (with the one exception priced at 3.04). That 2017 tournament was the first time I have seen the Draw be the favourite, and which actually happened in two matches, neither of which ended as a Draw. We did also see this in the Copa América last year in one game, which did finish as a Draw, but in 8194 EPL matches, the Draw has never been favourite.

Contrast these numbers with the EPL where this has been the case just 16 times in the Pinnacle era, which is 3634 matches, with a shortest price of 2.89 (in a game that did finish 0:0). It's almost as if the sportsbooks are reading this blog, but as always, the average prices used can usually be improved upon.

The Third-Place game isn't a knockout / elimination game so it's not a candidate, but if you're interested since 2006 the return is -0.60 units from 24 matches, a number hugely inflated by the 100% winning record for the Draw in the now extinct Confederation Cup and the one Gold Cup playoff in 2015:
The Nations Cup is too new, but looking for the Draw in World Cups, Euros or Africa hasn't historically been a great idea.