Saturday 23 December 2023

Wild West

Long time readers of this blog will be, or should be, very familiar with the edge that has existed in the NFL since the 2006 season when backing certain Underdogs. 

It's one of the systems detailed in the Sacred Manuscript, and while I mentioned in my last post that the basic system hasn't had the best of seasons this year, an ROI of 9.6% from 1082 games is noteworthy.

As with many basic systems, there are certain conditions that improve an ROI, and with the basic rationale of this system that home-field advantage is overrated, this system is no different.  In US sports, travel is often a significant issue as I've mentioned before with four time zones spanning the country, and there are also major differences in climate and altitude. 

While some sports such as the NBA have made changes to schedules over the years to reduce the impact of travel:
NBA Home vs Road Score Differential is 5.4 points over the past 20 years and chart below shows it by team. This is road versus home, meaning that home teams win on average by 2.7 points. Top two teams have thin air, bottom two teams in NYC.
Thanks to Smoke The Books for this, an account worth following in my opinion and I believe it was this account that pointed out there are now websites showing you the travel schedules for NBA and NHL teams. Next level analysis! 

As touched on in the quote above regarding the NBA, the two home teams with the biggest advantage are the two at the highest altitudes - Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz.

Utah has no NFL team, but Denver does, with the Broncos playing at the "sponsor" at Mile High stadium. (The owners seem very keen to keep the reference to Mile High in there). 

The Western divisions, conferences and teams are of interest not just because of the mountains, but also because teams are far more spaced out than in the Eastern side of the country and travel (which works both ways) can be significant. 

For example, the Kansas City Chiefs play in the AFC West and have to travel about 1,350 miles when playing a Divisional game in Los Angeles, and are geographically farther East than the Dallas Cowboys who play in the NFC East.

Obviously there are lots of permutations to look at, but back to the NFL's AFC West and when following the Small Road 'Dogs System for games hosted in this division, the percentage of winners is 72.3%, compared to an overall 56.3% across all games. 

Unsurprisingly, the next best division is the NFC West, and the two worst divisions neatly filling the lowest two places in this table are the Easts although 'worst' here is a relative term since this is still a profitable strategy here. 

The NFL regular season is almost over, with the final games on the first weekend of 2024, and another year is over. 

Merry Xmas and / or Happy Holidays to everyone reading this, and all being well I shall be back in the new year for a 17th year of blogging. Stay healthy, and good luck.  

Sunday 17 December 2023

Totals Beat Spread

Not since December 2005 has an NFL Total been set at 30.5 or lower, but Week 14's Thursday Night game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots ended that almost 18 year run. 

The Patriots' previous three games had a combined total of just 39 points scoring 13 and conceding 26 and for the season they were 9-3 on Unders, while the Steelers had gone Under in 10 of their 12 previous games so it wasn't a surprise to see a low Total. Historically backing the Under on the few low totals in this range has been profitable with a 7-2 record but the total went Over with the Patriots winning 21-18. 

Thanks to Frederic J for pointing out that there was more interest on the Total in this game than on the Spread, though whether 'more bets' was also 'more money' isn't specified.   
With Week 15 currently in progress, we're getting close to the end of the regular season, and after three consecutive losses for the Small Road 'Dogs, we're possibly looking at a first losing season since 2017 for this system and only a third losing season since 2005. 

We still have something like 14 possible bets to come, including four today, so all is not yet lost. The Divisional sub-system is in profit as are the Totals Systems, although the latter have been having a tough time recently too with only one win from seven selections. The College System ended the season with a 45-31-4 record, an ROI of 14.8%. while the Totals System ended at 46-34, an ROI of 11.7%

At the end of November I wrote that the gain needed to recover and get to a new overall high was 4.4%, and at the halfway point in the month, with just eight trading days left for the year, this percentage has been gradually whittled down to just 1.76% with the major US Indexes either at, or near, all-time highs.

$TSLA is also helping, having a good month so far, although my employer's stock isn't, and is in danger of having a losing year for the first time since 2008. As of Friday's close, it is up 0.2% for the year, which isn't great for my Options and RSUs, but at least the exercise price on any new ones awarded next year will be lower and my discounted purchase price for the Employee Stock Purchase Plan will be similarly lower in January. 

Sunday 3 December 2023

November Numbers, Charlie Munger and Books

In my inbox yesterday were two emails, one from The Economist and one from The New York Times, both offering their 'best books of 2023'.

According to The Economist, the average (median) American reads five books a year. I'm not sure how that compares to other countries, but it doesn't seem like very many. The recently departed Charlie Munger was quoted as saying "In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn't read all the time – none, zero."

His former partner Warren Buffett spends "five or six hours a day" reading books and newspapers. Elon Musk read more than ten hours a day in his youth, and Bill Gates reads more than 50 books a year. Mark Cuban spends about three hours reading every day and has attributed his early career success in life to reading. Steve Jobs was also an avid reader, and was quoted in The New York Times as saying "the fact is that people don't read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year." I'm not sure where he pulled that 40% number from, but 
Jeff Bezos is also a voracious reader who reportedly "has often credited his success to the books he has chanced upon over the years."

While becoming a billionaire isn't the only measure of success in life, and almost all the names mentioned above have been what might be considered failures in other areas of their lives, the evidence appears to support the idea that reading is an activity that should be encouraged. 

With an expected 20 more years on this planet, an average of one book a month would mean I have only a couple of hundred books left to go, which is a very depressing thought, although with more time for this activity in the future (assuming retirement happens at some point), one book a week doesn't seem an unrealistic goal which raises the number to four figures which makes me feel a little better. 

James Joyce once said "Life is too short to read a bad book" and while I used to feel that having started a book I needed to finish it, I'm getting better at stopping if I'm not enjoying it. (It took me years to master the art of walking out of a cinema when a film wasn't enjoyable, darn those sunk costs, but I got there in the end). Best to only do this if you're alone though, as wives / girlfriends tend to find this behaviour unsettling if you get up and walk out. And yes, I did make that mistake on one occasion, although in my defence I did let her know what pub I was headed to.    

The most recent books I've finished were Morgan Housel's "Same As Ever" (very enjoyable, although perhaps not as good as his first book "The Psychology of Money", which was always going to be a tough act to follow, and prior to that the Sam Bankman-Fried / FTX story "Going Infinite" by Michael Lewis, one of my favourite authors but again not his greatest book as he has also set a very high bar. 

I'm currently listening to the Elon Musk biography by Walter Isaacson on the recommendation of my son (who incidentally got engaged last month) as he is a big fan of the author and 28 chapters in, it's a very interesting listen.   

The benefit of audiobooks is that I can use the time I spend walking or running each day productively although more of my time these days is spent walking, and if I'm running I should probably concentrate more on not falling over and breaking anything again. 

Are audiobooks better or worse than actually reading?  Apparently "there is little to no difference in comprehension between the two types of consuming literature. Even though the information is processed differently by our brain, recent audiobooks vs reading research from 2021 showed that the overall difference between reading and listening in terms of comprehension was negligible" so that's good! 

I do find my mind sometimes drifting while outside, requiring a rewind, but the same thing happens when I'm physically reading a book. My mind will wander and I suddenly realise that while my eyes have processed a page or two, my brain wasn't paying attention and didn't register the words. Hopefully that's not just me, but it seems like a no-brainer to spend my 90 minutes a day walking / running time listening to a book.

At this time of year I start planning for the new one, setting goals (something within my control) and targets (those outside my control, e.g stock market returns) and reading / listening to more books will be part of that exercise next year.

With November behind us, here are the monthly system updates which most of you are interested in, as well as a few more general / personal updates which most of you probably aren't interested in - but documenting them helps keep me focused. 

Starting with the American Football systems, and overall the six systems had a 49-38-1 record, which is an ROI of 10.8% and up 8.65 units. December will be a little quieter as the regular College Season ends next weekend. The NFL Systems were 19-12-1 while the College results were 30-26. 

Only a few Draw selections in the EPL last month with the International break reducing the total number of matches to 30. Of the nine qualifiers, only one (Everton v Brighton & Hove Albion) finished as a Draw for a monthly loss of 5.48 units. Fortunately this loss was pretty much offset by the Draws in Spain's Segunda División of which there were seven from 17 selections and a welcome profit of 5.06 units.

The Serie A system only had three selections and lost 1.61 units while in Germany the profit was 3.55 units from 36 selections. 

Over in the States, the NBA season had its first full month but the two main systems overall had a 48-51-3 record for a loss of 5.3 units, while in the NHL we were up 3.61 units from 70 selections which all adds up to a profit of 8.48 units for the month from 325 selections, an ROI of 2.6% which might not sound too exciting, but which I will take any day of the week, or month of the year for that matter. There were also some profits from the Cricket World Cup that have previously been reviewed so I'm not going to count those here again as they are not included in the Sacred Manuscript. 

As for the big picture, well November was very good indeed - the 4th best month (out of 155) on a 'per day' basis and 5th best overall. Only 13th best by percentage gain at exactly 5.00%, but I'll take that any day also. For those who like their numbers, the S&P 500 ended the month with a poker straight, at 4567.8 but more importantly was up 8.9% for the month, and Tesla was up 19.5%

Even boring old Berkshire Hathaway was up 5.5%, with the passing of Charlie Munger taken in its stride and my less boring FOMO "investment" in Bitcoin was up 13%. It's having a good year, my best performer to date +265% with Tesla up by a mere 95% YTD. 

All things considered, a great month although I'm still in a drawdown from my 20th April 2022 all-time high, but the gain needed to recover is now just 4.4%, much improved from the 20.02% gain needed just over one year ago on 12th October 2022. Another month like November and I'll be back atop the mountain and retirement will psychologically definitely be easier if I'm at, or near, the summit. 

As for my heath goals, considering the excesses of Thanksgiving Day with my wife's family, overall a loss of 5.6lbs was quite a good result, achieved because I was able to keep Sober October rolling well into November. When I have a drink (or two), on average my weight two days later is up by slightly more than a pound (1.037lbs to be precise) a number that is slightly higher than the morning after a drink (or two) which is up 0.85lbs - probably due to some dehydration. 

My average weight in November was its lowest since July of 2011 which I am very pleased about. December is always a tough month for weight though, with an average weight gain of 5lbs a year over the past 12 years but if I can keep the damage to a minimum, a solid Dry January should get me back on track. 

I ended the month at 2,276.8 miles walked / run for the year, and my revised goal of 2,400 miles should be hit before Xmas. My original goal of 2,023 miles in 2023 turned out to be far too easy and was achieved in October. Thank you employer, for the extra hours now available to me as a telecommuter. I shall use them on books next year. 

For 2024, I think I'll be better served by taking fewer, but longer / more challenging walks, and I do have plans to hike up Ben Nevis in July, (another summit to aim for) so training for that will help. 

Finally, a couple more quotes from Charlie Munger who as I mentioned earlier passed away last week just a month shy of his century.
"You don't have to be brilliant, only a little bit wiser than the other guys, on average, for a long, long time."

“It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.”

Tuesday 21 November 2023

World Cup Cricket and Two-Thirds Century Wraps

Despite finishing with a loss in the final, my first real participation in cricket betting during this World Cup has been a positive one. 

As I've been mentioning these past few weeks, backing most favourites in World Cup games had a decent ROI of 4.9% from the previous three tournaments and while overall the ROI has since declined to 4.3%, by passing on the ultra-hot favourites which historically are a losing proposition, the 2023 numbers were +1.63 units from 40 matches. 
With Thanksgiving Day coming up, an American wife and a two-thirds of a century "birthday" coming up tomorrow, I'll be on Overs this week. Overseas with the in-laws, over-eating and possibly over-drinking for the next few days. I like to mark these special occasions, although my wife thinks I'm a little crazy. For my one-third of a century I went to the Bahamas, and for my 25,000 days celebration in September of 2025 - which also happens to fall on a US Holiday (Labor Day) - well who knows. Hopefully I'll still be above ground, but life can come at you fast. 

Saturday 18 November 2023


This season, the NBA has introduced an "In-Season Tournament" which isn't exactly the most exciting of names for a new competition, but is basically a competition within the current regular season whereby some games effectively count double. Wins or losses count towards the standings in the traditional 82 game regular season and also to the standings in the new tournament.

The 30 teams are split into six groups of five, three East and three West, with each team playing four games against their mini-league opponents, two home and two away. The six group winners plus one wildcard team from each region will then play a traditional single elimination tournament with quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final, with the last two rounds in Las Vegas in early December. 

As with any rule or competition format change, it's often worth paying attention to see if there's an edge to be found, but with just 73 games played so far, it's not possible to draw any firm conclusions. It's not even clear whether teams or players will be taking these doubly important games any differently. There's a nice cash bonus ($500,000) to players on the winning team which sounds like a lot of money but to the elite players on say $30million a year, it might seem insignificant. The average NBA salary is around $9.7million which is the highest for any team sport in the world, but averages are distorted by the superstars (Bill Gates walks into a diner...) and the the median salary is a paltry $4.6million this season. Four teams have already been eliminated. 

Early signs are that these games are going under more than non-in-tournament games, (the average line for in-tournament games is 227.8 versus 225.6 in regular games) and underdogs are performing above market expectations. Something to watch for.

For Sacred Manuscript followers, the Totals System is firing on all cylinders so far, and while the other main system is profitable on non-tournament games, it's negative on the in-tournament games. 

It really would be much simpler to call this new competition the NBA Cup! 

Thursday 16 November 2023

Gambler's Fallacy

I'm not going to mention any names, but one tipster with an excellent track record who I've been following for several years now, recently sent an update with an interesting, and surprising, suggestion:

We're currently a few points down for the season with both official and unofficial picks, so if you've been thinking about upping the stakes at some point, this should prove to be a great time to do that.
I couldn't agree less. Increasing stakes in an effort to recoup prior losses is loss-chasing and something which is often viewed as a defining feature in the transition from recreational to problem gambling.

If your system is profitable at level stakes, there is never any need to chase your losses. The positive expected value (+EV) will, in the long run, result in profits.

Unfortunately the long run can be very long and natural variance means that there will be sequences, often painfully long, when a +EV system will lose, but the problem with increasing stakes and chasing these losses is that we have no idea when the system will turn profitable again. 

Tossing ten heads in a row doesn't mean we should increase our stakes on tails. If anything, it would be the opposite because, if the same coin is being used each time, it may be biased, but in sports betting where the events are all independent, the system has no memory and thus no idea of when it should start reverting to the mean. 

Gambler's fallacy. Past events do not affect future probabilities.

A system may NEVER revert to the mean, because in sports betting an edge can vanish overnight, and increasing stakes would be a serious threat to ones bank. 

Moving on to the Cricket World Cup, and if you followed my 'back most favourites' strategy you'll have banked a couple more winners in the Semi-Finals with India (1.37) and Australia (1.74) prevailing. 

India are around 1.5 to win the Final this weekend and Favourites have won all three previous Finals and have a good record in Knockout games:

Tuesday 14 November 2023

Cricket and FRAN

With the opening stage of the Cricket World Cup now complete, thanks to Odds Portal I have now have the approximate prices for 167 such matches since 2011 which show that backing the Favourite in these games is a profitable strategy with an overall ROI of around 2.7%.
With the number of sportsbooks offering prices somewhat limited in earlier years, though up from five to eleven these days, the data isn't perfect but the trend is apparent and while the number of knockout games is small, just 17 so far, if we include these games, the trend becomes even stronger.

Hopefully the screenshot above is self-explanatory. It shows the outcome of backing the Favourite for both the opening group and latter elimination stages and the ROIs, so for example, Favourites in the knockout stages have an ROI of almost 21%, and in all matches of 4.3%.

All Favourites are not equal however, and the next image shows the results by band:
Backing at very short odds isn't usually the best idea, and if the shortest priced 46 favourites are excluded, the ROI climbs to 6.2%.

India are about 1.37 to beat New Zealand in the first semi-final, which is very close to the price they were to win the same match up four years ago, and lost.

Not relevant for betting purposes, but it's a curiosity that New Zealand are the only country to win a knockout game as the underdog, having done this in 2011, 2015 (both v South Africa) and in 2019 versus India and they have good pedigree in World Cups reaching the last two finals.  

When New Zealand and India met in the opening stage of this World Cup, India won by 4 wickets, but New Zealand were always in the game and at one stage were 178-2 before ending at just 273. The numbers tell me to back India though, and it's about numbers, not teams.

Another rare comment on the blog, this time from my old friend schnakenpopanz who wrote:
Hi again, As I have often mentioned, I follow your blog with great admiration. What is your opinion on rating systems? On the one hand, ELO is often used to rate teams better. I use Ken Massey's site a lot. Especially for college sports, it allows for very good ratings. Thank you very much and good luck.

While I love looking at ratings, the challenge I have is using them to beat the market. A little history, but back in 1987 (36 years ago!) I bought a book called The Punter's Revenge - Computers in the world of gambling - by Tony Drapkin and Richard Forsyth (I still have it in fact) and one chapter which had a big influence on me was 8.4 "Rating the strength of football teams".  

The method was named FRAN (Football Rating Assessment Number) and was based on Elo (not ELO!) with Home teams "risking" 7% of their rating and Away teams 5%. I was quite fascinated by the idea, and spent many hours in the late 1980s / early 1990s maintaining ratings, looking for value, and with some success. 

I remember one midweek round of matches when I had a number of multiple bets on Away wins in Divisions Three and Four, (in those days you couldn't bet on single matches), and all five landed for what, at the time, was a rather nice payout. I remember it because waiting for the final results to be confirmed made me late to meet a friend at the pub, and she was less than impressed with my excuse. 

I think I've mentioned before that I'd look at the prices in the Racing Post on my commute into London, stop at a phone on my walk to the office and call in my bets which was great until my bookmaker accounts all got closed down in fairly quick succession, which was probably more than a coincidence, and made me realise that my time could probably be spent more profitably elsewhere. Similar to my reaction when told I'd have to pay Premium Charges, part of me was satisfied that the ban meant my success was being confirmed. 

But I never forgot the idea, and many years later I resumed maintaining ratings on teams which is how I stumbled across the typical profile for matches with a higher than expected probability of ending up as a Draw, which became known as the XX Draws system back in 2012 or 2013. 

Like everything else, the betting landscape has evolved a lot since the late 1980s. Betfair made it possible for me to make money consistently again from betting, but other, far more sophisticated organisations, were developing their own models to identify value, and a relatively basic model based on an Excel spreadsheet was never going to find an edge.

I think ratings compiled by others are a good starting point, but because they are widely available, you need to identify a weakness (one example might be the rating for home field advantage) and tweak the overall rating to improve it, but of course everyone else is trying to do the same thing. 

Fortunately the sports markets aren't efficient, and in some cases remain inefficient for much longer than should be expected, and if you identify new trends early, and adapt your model accordingly, there is some hay to be made, at least for a while.

"The trend has vanished, killed by its own discovery." -Benoit B. Mandlebrot

Saturday 4 November 2023

October: Texas, UMPO, Cricket, Indexes and Health

The 2023 baseball season came to an end earlier this week with yet another underdog win for the Texas Rangers who clinched their first ever World Series on the road in Arizona.

On Opening Day Texas was 50-1 to be champions, and their win is the biggest upset since 2003 when the Florida Marlins won after starting the season at 75-1. 

If you've been following along with the UMPO System, you would be quite happy with the results this season.  

36 bets, 24 wins, and a 17.96u profit while the sub-category HUMPO System had four wins from five bets, and a profit of 3.69u

ROI percentages from a single year where the number of selections is fewer than 40 are meaningless, but they are available for each season here if anyone wants to see them.

The final numbers for this season and the 19 seasons for which we have data are:
With the number of selections also low for any given week or weekend, I've decided that my system updates would be more meaningful, if not necessarily more interesting, if they were published on a monthly basis. For infrequent tournaments like World Cups, and playoffs, I'll make exceptions, but for most competitions that take several months to complete, I think once a month is more than enough. 

For October the results for some of the systems I mention were as follows:
European Football clearly isn't doing very well so far this season, and with the baseball and Rugby World Cup now over, how November plays out will be largely dependent on how the daily NHL and NBA systems perform although American Football will be contributing. 

I've also been dabbling with the Cricket World Cup where favourites appear to offer value, but not the very hot favourites. 
The above table shows favourites in six bands, from strongest to the weakest left to right, and the trend is clear. Cricket isn't a sport that I've spent much time on before, but I'm always looking for markets that might be inefficient and was inspired by this article by Paul Krisnamurty who speaks a lot of sense on political events also and is worth a follow on Twitter. I mean X.  

Overall, October was a poor month. The FTSE100 was down, as were the major US indexes, and Tesla lost almost 20% which didn't help. Of the 153 months since I started tracking, October ranked 141st in real terms, although a slightly better 131st in percentage terms. The saddest part of it is that my net worth is lower now than it was two years ago, and I'm still working, never mind that I've not yet started drawing on my retirement savings!

The three main problems people face when they retire are apparently "financial insecurity, health issues and social isolation" and October was at least a good month for the second of those categories. 

As I mentioned previously, I usually try to do Sober October, and this one was 100% successful, with the consequent weight loss of 17.8lbs, the second best ever behind the Sober October of 2021. I'm now back to the 50th percentile for my height and need to stop drinking. 

The number of days when I have alcohol is more closely correlated to weight loss than the amount of alcohol, not surprisingly a pattern strengthened by counting calories in and exercising, and on that front I set records for both steps (17,652 per day) and miles walked / run (8.63 per day). 

The winter months in blue are clearly much better for my health than the yellow summer months. Good luck in November. 

Sunday 29 October 2023

World Cups - Rugby to Cricket

It appears that Adam Johnson has sadly passed away at the age of just 29 after his horrific accident last night while playing for the Nottingham Panthers which makes the rest of this post seem very trivial. 

Ice hockey has always been a dangerous game. The frozen puck can do some serious damage when hit at speed, and most players lose teeth or suffer facial injuries during their careers.

Life threatening injuries like the one that occurred last night are fortunately extremely rare, and in its long history, only one NHL player has died from injuries suffered on the ice (Bill Masterton in 1968 when he hit his - helmetless - head hard on the ice, went into a come and passed away two days later) but there was a fairly recent accident similar to last night's back in 2008 when Florida Panthers' Richard Zednik (also 29 at the time) almost died when the skate of a teammate accidentally sliced his neck in a game against the Buffalo Sabres. 

The Sabres were also involved in a game in 1989 when their goalkeeper Clint Malarchuk suffered a similar injury but survived.

Skates to the face are not unheard of but a death will doubtless bring the question of neck guards to the fore again. 

Hockey is a tough sport, and in many other ways it reminds me of Rugby Union, with its traditions and mutual respect. All very sad. RIP Adam. 

Well, speaking of Rugby, and the World Cup has finished with more success for the strategy of backing hot favourites and opposing weak favourites. 

England were 1.39 to beat Argentina, and did so, while New Zealand were the weakest of any of the 32 World Cup matches for which I have odds, and unsurprisingly lost to South Africa who have now won half of the World Cup tournaments they have taken part in.

If you'd followed my suggestion going into the knockout phase this year, you would have had a 100% winning record, with the four hot favourites all winning for a 1.00 unit profit, and the four underdogs all winning for a 5.73 unit profit. Luck was certainly on our side, which is always a plus.

From the 32 matches all-time, 20 of the 21 strongest favourites were winners, and 9 of the 11 weakest were losers (see left). If only every sport was as clear cut, and it's a shame this tournament is only quadrennial, and not only for the investment opportunity. It's a tournament that is slow to get going with so many one-sided games, but when those more competitive games come along, it's hard to beat as a sport. 

Although there are no elimination matches in the Six Nations, a similar pattern is seen here, although backing very short priced favourites is not profitable long term.

We have to wait a while for the Rugby Championship next summer, and there's the new Pacific Nations Cup featuring Canada, Fiji, Japan, Samoa, Tonga and USA which will take place next August / September which will have some knockout games.

We're also getting closer to the knockout games in the Cricket World Cup and in these games the strategy - based on the huge 17 game sample since 2011 for which we have data - is to simply back the favourite. 

The weakest of them all did lose, as did two others, all curiously to New Zealand who are thus the only underdog to win in these games and currently well placed to make the knockout stage again. Unlike England.  

Backing the favourite has an ROI of 21%, but as mentioned, it's a very small sample size. 

For those following the Underdog System in the World Series, we had another winner last night, officially probably at 2.3 but the site isn't updated yet. I layed the Texas Rangers at 1.73. The series is now tied after two games and moves to Arizona for the next three. 

In American Football, it looks like we'll be 3-3 on the College games, and not many qualifiers from the NFL today, although we did start the round with a winner on Thursday night. 

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Uncanny Ability - A Story of a Person

Comments on the blog these days are few and far between but Gnome Mange, possibly not his real name, had one on a post that was published more than six and a half years ago regarding the infamous Peter "Pee Wee" Webb. Gnome Mange wrote:

After nearly 6 years I now think you are correct. All these horse trading pre-off is just marketing gimmick to sell his software, probably with the blessing of Betfair themselves to bring in more liquidity.

I tried pre-off horse trading myself and it makes no sense. There is no rule where the odds have to be, it could go anywhere. I fail to see how staring at odds moving around somehow give you insight to the future...
Read the original blog post for more details, but the only surprising thing about this comment is that it took six plus years for GM to reach this conclusion! 

Many personal web sites, including this one, have an "About Me" section, but not Peter. 

Peter has an "About Peter" section, written in the third person, a trait described in the book "Identifying and Understanding the Narcissistic Personality" by Elsa Ronningstam, an associate clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School in this way:
"Referring to yourself in the third person creates distance between "I" and "he." So if you have an exaggerated view of how great you are, you could be using this distance to make yourself even bigger."
Without further comment, here's a paragraph from Peter on Peter:
It’s not only this pioneering approach that has caught people’s imagination but also Peter’s uncanny ability to predict and exploit whatever market he embraces. However, it is always characterised by a deep understanding of risk and a lifelong pursuit of its limits. This is a story of a person, who from his childhood, has sought through a very personal journey, to profitably apply a passion for numbers and statistics to real-world markets.

The ability to predict and exploit any market would indeed be uncanny. It would also mean that Peter would be one of the wealthiest, if not the wealthiest, people on the planet. I suspect he isn't, and as Gnome Mange says - "It makes no sense". When someone is talking about themselves in such a flowery and ridiculous way, it should ring some alarm bells to anyone thinking of parting with their money. 

Thanks for the comment though and the trip down memory lane. Moving on to more current events, and it wasn't a bad weekend overall, although the Bundeslayga System had a bad round and dented the profits.

The Rugby World Cup (RWC) semi-finals went as expected, but it can hardly be claimed that the South Africa bet was value even if it did ultimately land. Up 0.29 units and we now have odds for 27 RWC elimination matches, and 18 of the 19 shortest priced favourites have won, with just one of the other nine prevailing. New Zealand are a weak favourite in the Final, and while Third Place matches (or Bronze Finals) as Rugby refers to them are best avoided in football, in Rugby they do seem to go to form.  

In the MLB playoffs, the underdogs continue to do well. Very well in fact with 12 winners from the last 15, and twice as may wins as losses in total (22-11) when even a 50/50 record would guarantee a profit. With just the World Series to come between two Wild Card teams from the West, we're up about 16.76 units so far. The favourites, with home field advantage, are the Texas Rangers, who play the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rangers have never won a World Series. With a negative ROI of 1.9%, underdogs tend not to do so well in the World Series, although now that the Designated Hitter rule has gone, that might change. 

In College Football, the manuscript systems went 4-2 ATS and 5-1 on the Totals for a nice profit, while in the NFL we went 3-4 ATS and 2-1 on the Totals. Combined for the season, these systems are now 104-60-5, up 40.9 units.

It's still early in the NHL season and like last year, it's off to a slow start down 3.75 units after 31 matches. Last season we were down 12.25 units at the end of November, but we still ended the season in profit. 

The 2023 NBA season started last night with two games, but no qualifying bets, which may be a good thing after 2022 was a disappointment for both systems, with rare losses. A blip, or has the edge gone? Time will tell. 

And finally to football, and the good news was that I updated the document early on Saturday morning with a new system and it produced two winners for subscribers from two qualifiers. The Bundeslayga Systems were terrible as mentioned earlier, losing a combined 7.24 units, the Segunda División Draws had one winner from three for a tiny loss, and there were no selections in the EPL. 

Tuesday 17 October 2023

Anyone For Tennis?

One of the biases I identify in my so-called Sacred Manuscript is Recency Bias, defined as:

The tendency to overemphasize the importance of recent experiences or the latest information we possess when estimating future events. Recency bias often misleads us to believe that recent events can give us an indication of how the future will unfold.

It's a strong bias and several markets in team sports I follow reflect this, and while Tennis isn't a sport I follow closely, the well known Tennis Tipster Nishikori noted the other day that:

Betting against a player who has defeated any of the BIG 3 in his previous match has been highly profitable.

This does seem a very reasonable premise, and Nishikori explains his thoughts and analysis in the Tweet linked to above, well worth a read, concluding with this chart:

An excellent analysis in my opinion, but I don't always agree with Nishikori. Earlier this month, he tweeted that:

If you think about it, Betting on Tennis ultimately comes down to assessing the pair "QUALITY vs. FORM" of both players. Easy to say, difficult to do.
While it's always nice and neat to simplify, my thoughts on this were that there are a couple of other parameters to consider, namely "Health and Motivation".

Nishikori replied that he'd include both inside Form, but that seems a stretch to me:
Neither have anything to do with form though. You can be in great form and then get sick or injured or have personal issues arise that impact your motivation.
My definition of 'FORM' in sports betting is a simple one - it's the record of performance in previous events, and specific to tennis, a player's form is one thing, but their health and motivation are unrelated. Yes, if a player gets injured during a previous match, this will be reflected in a lower form rating, but if the injury occurs between matches it won't be reflected. 

As for motivation, this is one of the reasons I mostly stay away from individual sports. In team sports, a player feeling unmotivated for whatever reason will likely not significantly impact the outcome unless they are in a key position such as pitcher or quarterback, but in an individual sport it makes all the difference. 

False Favourites

International breaks during the league season are rarely welcome, but this one was nicely timed with the Rugby World Cup Quarter-Finals taking place.

There was some football of course. La Liga's Segunda División was in action and we had another profitable weekend here with losses for the season now down to 10.85 units - not great of course, but better than where we were a couple of weeks ago.

Our good luck with the American Football ran out with two of the NFL Underdogs getting three points but losing by four. With the College game also having a poor round, the overall American Football record was 16-20-1 but for the season the systems combined are 81-51-5 which is a strike rate of 61%, i.e. well above the 51.23% needed for most of us to be profitable on these bets. 

Baseball underdogs continued where they left off with two wins from three in the Division Series and a 15-9 record and +10.15 units. 

But it was in the Rugby World Cup where we really had success. Looking at numbers rather than teams, it was clear that the value in these games was on backing the favourite when short-priced and opposing the favourite otherwise.
The shortest priced favourite to lose a World Cup elimination game was New Zealand at 1.39 in 2019. Otherwise favourites up to, and including 1.42, had all won their games. 17 winners from 18. 

Above that price, and the market produces false favourites. Of ten such matches, including this past weekend, only two have been won by the favourite. 

I wrote on Sunday morning:
Today they [South Africa] are underdogs at around 2.42 to beat host nation France and these odds look good value to me.

For once, we had luck on our side. Q. When was the last World Cup game to be won with the help of a blocked conversion? A. Never. Ireland could have won their match, and England weren't exactly convincing, but sometimes these things go your way. It won't last.

Unfortunately the New Zealand / South Africa double won't make you too wealthy next weekend with both favourites by some distance the shortest in World Cup history for a Semi-Final. But the Final should be good! 

World Cup Semi-Finals, Finals and Favourite's price:

Sunday 15 October 2023

Springboks Off a Bye

The Rugby World Cup moved to a five-team Pool Stage in 2003, meaning that one team would have to be given a bye in each of the five rounds of matches. While I've written before about a bye not always being beneficial going into play-offs, in a physical sport such as Rugby Union, a bye week before the knockout stages might well be considered advantageous, allowing players an extra week to recover from their knocks and bruises, so it would seem fairest to give the final bye week to a team which is almost certainly not going to advance. Non-Tier 1 teams in other words.

Of the 24 such allocations, most of theses do for this pattern with the likes of Namibia (3 times), Japan (3), Fiji (2), Georgia (2), Russia, Romania, USA, Portugal, Canada, Chile, and Samoa being allocated this final bye week. None of these countries have ever advanced so far as the Semi-Final.

Italy were given a week 5 bye in 2003, which leaves six other times when a Tier 1 nation has been given this possible advantage, and not to be a conspiracy theorist, but the three nations involved are all from the southern hemisphere's Rugby Championship - South Africa (3), Argentina (2) and Australia. 

Neither Argentina in 2003 or 2019, nor Australia this year, advanced to the Quarter-Finals, but South Africa have advanced on all three occasions, which would also be the last three World Cups including the current one, and always as a Pool B participant too. Someone at World Rugby clearly likes South Africa!

In 2015, a rested South Africa team beat Wales 23-19 as 1.36 favourites, and four years later they beat host nation Japan 26-3 priced at 1.16. How advantageous was that extra week of rest? 

Today they are underdogs at around 2.42 to beat host nation France and these odds look good value to me.   

While the wins yesterday for Argentina and New Zealand were good for the bank, it's unfortunately set up a rather one-sided Semi-Final next week, with New Zealand around 1.14 currently. 

Saturday 14 October 2023

Byes, Dogs and Rugby Union QFs

It's not been a bad week so far. Our baseball underdogs continued to shine with 13 wins from 21 games through the Wild Card and Division Series rounds. We have a couple of days off until the League Championship Series round starts on Sunday

The three teams who each won more than 100 games during the regular season - Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers - are all eliminated, which adds fuel to the fire for the idea that byes aren't always a good thing, at least not in a sport where teams are active daily rather than weekly, for example the NFL. 

Two of the four remaining teams play in the same Division - American League West - and while there are only a handful of playoff matches of this nature, the 'dog has won five of the nine to date. The Houston Astros won nine of the 13 regular season games between the two clubs.

In the NFL, we started Week 6 with a win last night, but it doesn't look like there will be too many selections for the Small Road 'Dogs this weekend. although one is a Division game.

In contrast, it looks like the College Football systems will have around ten potential qualifiers in their Week 7 round of matches with most matches available on Betfair, albeit with little liquidity so far. 

I'm most looking forward to the Rugby this weekend, and if England should fail to beat Fiji, they would be the shortest priced team to fail to win a knockout match since our records began in 2011. 

For the other three matches, historically favourites in the same range as Wales (1.55), Ireland (1.74) and France (1.77) are to be opposed. England lost to France in 2011 at 1.58, Ireland lost to Argentina in 2015 at 1.65, Ireland lost to Wales in 2011 at 1.82 with the latter losing in the next round to France at the same price. Australia did beat Wales in 2011 at 1.69, but it's a small selection of matches. 

Here are the previous Quarter-Finals:

Wednesday 11 October 2023

Severed Arms, Closed Accounts

I've mentioned the legend that is Billy Walters a few times in this blog. If you're serious about sports betting, you will have heard his name and back in August I mentioned his autobiography Gambler

The book doesn't disappoint, and with a back cover quote from this blog's old friend Roxy Roxborough how could it? 
"Is he the greatest handicapper of all time? Maybe.
Is he the greatest bettor of all time? Unquestionably."
I bought the book mostly for his Master Class and Advanced Master Class chapters, but his life story before we get to that point certainly isn't dull. 

The book is of added interest because he used to live in the same area as my in-laws, and I would often walk past his rather luxurious house which overlooked the Pacific Ocean just north of San Diego in Carlsbad. 

Out of curiosity, I looked on a real estate website (Zillow) the other day to see its value and saw it's for sale at just: 
Billy Walters sold it on my birthday in 2021 for $20 million, but sadly it wasn't a surprise birthday present from my wife. Maybe next year. 

This morning I get an email from Zillow with the subject "Take the next step. Request a tour today." Wouldn't that be nice! Coincidentally, that exact sale amount gets a mention in the book, with Walters writing:
The truth is, until I decided to write this book, I would not have taken $20 million to share the details of my system. Friends ask me why I'd want to give away my secrets now. The simple answer is I'm not getting any younger and I want to give something back to sports fans.
Obviously there's a bias in the book towards the American sports, and there's nothing wrong with that, and the market leaders he identifies for tracking how lines are moving are given as Circa, MGM, Caesars, Sports411 and our old friend Pinnacle.

Billy doesn't mince his words when discussing William Hill and Paddy Power with regard to knowing how to book, and it's an issue most of you reading this will be familiar with:
As an example, in England when we were doing business with William Hill, if an account won as much as two weeks in a row, his limit might be reduced from $10,000 to $50 a game regardless of how he won. Instead of removing a finger, the books cut off the entire arm. That was their mentality. That's how drastically winners were punished.

Paddy Power of Dublin, Ireland, was even worse. They only offered a $500 limit. If an account won three bets in a row, they would close the account. Over the years, I had two hundred accounts at Paddy Power that lasted an average of four days. Sadly, that's the way many legalized bookmakers operate today.
I'm not going to repeat much of his advice, you'll have to buy the book for that, but it's pleasing to see validation for some of the things I've written about here over the years - Home Field Advantage, Divisional Games, Time Zones, previous performances and not betting more than 1% to 3% of your bankroll on a single bet to name a few. Thursday games in the NFL also get a mention, and as I'd hoped, there are also a few new ideas to take on board.

Tuesday 10 October 2023

Europe v USA

Another week behind us, and mixed results as usual. It would be nice for all systems to win all the time, but of course that is unrealistic, but so long as the gains exceed the losses in the long run, we're doing ok. European regular season football does seem to be a struggle these days though. In the Ryder Cup of sports investing, the Americans currently have the upper hand! 

First to American Football where the NFL results were disappointing but fortunately there weren't many selections with only one Road 'Dog bet which never looked like winning. 

There were three selections for the Totals systems with just the one winner, but the College version of the game more than compensated. Here, the eight College bets had six winners and one push.

For the season to date the American Football systems are a combined 63-31-4 for a profit of 30.12 units with both sports, and all six systems, profitable so far.   

In "proper" football, the EPL Draw system had just one selection, Arsenal v Manchester City, which ended 1:0, so at least the Unders came in at 1.86 for those who play this strategy. For the season, the Close selections are now up just 0.31u with the Toss-Up selections +2.07u. Hard work! 

We had one Draw from the two La Liga's Segunda División selections at the weekend, but the terrible start to the season means we're still in a hole down 13.15u. and the Bundeslayga system is also down this season by 10.66u despite a small profit at the weekend.

But to end with more good news, and some of you may recall my MLB post from last year about byes not necessarily being a positive for teams and that trend has paid off nicely again this season so far with three of the four rested teams losing the first game of their series. 

As I mentioned, backing 'Dogs at this stage of the season is historically where the value is, and this strategy is up 6.2u so far. 

Friday 6 October 2023

Baseball, Interrupted

I haven't written too much about baseball this season, since the significant rule changes implemented this season rendered previous (pre-COVID) data pretty much worthless and I decided to wait-and-see for the most part.

The new rules seem to have been effective, with MLB reporting a 9.6% increase in attendances this season, although the first post-season game had the smallest attendance in over 100 years yesterday, and the average duration of a nine inning game down to 160 minutes, the shortest in 40 years.

As expected, the new rules meant more runs scored (+7% per game in 2023 from 2022), and more stolen bases (+40%) but as these were expected, there was no blanket edge on the totals which were split almost exactly 50/50 : 1169 to 1165 with 85 pushes. 

With the regular season now over, I took a look at how some of the previously profitable systems would have fared with the new rules. 

Starting with the 'hot favourites' system, and for the six seasons before COVID, the ROI on the Money Line was 7.3% (310.78 units) while the Run Line was just behind at 7.1% (156.07u) with the difference due to the higher overround in the latter's prices. 

Unfortunately, for many reasons, along came the pandemic, and everything went to pot. Significant changes were made to the rules, and the the much shorter and delayed COVID season of 2020 would have seen the same system as above produce losses of 4.8% (-16.25u) and 11.7% (21.35u).

The National League reverted to not using the Designated Hitter (DH) rule in 2021 and some normality was restored with the relative numbers being 8.1% (85.52u) and 7.9% (44.65u) but unfortunately for no other reason than to mess up my systems, the DH rule was adopted universally leading to a 2022 season where the numbers were -3.7% (-52.66u) and -4.9% (-35.55u). 

The wait-and-see approach for 2023 meant I was able to avoid losses of 6.3% (-72.28u) and 5.3% (-31.47u). Sometimes the best betting decision is not to bet. 

Back in July, I observed that:
The markets do seem to be overrating home AL favourites this season when playing NL teams, so there might be an edge opposing these
This strategy would have resulted in a small profit, but using Killer Sports these days is somewhat misleading with the change in overround that I mentioned earlier in the season. Even so, had you followed this strategy from the start of the season, the ROI would have been 3% but in reality higher.

COVID also killed off the T-Bone System which long-time readers may recall was successful for many years. From 2011 to 1019, the system had an ROI of 7% from 1090 bets, but since COVID has reversed to one of -7.3% from 685 bets. Opposing these selections would have given you an ROI of 5%, again a number that could easily be improved upon.

One system, and a good time to mention it with the regular season over, which does seem to be relatively untouched is the UMPO system, which again has been around for a long time, although with a small number of selections each season, it's highly sensitive to variance.

It would normally be in contention for a place in the Sacred Manuscript but with the turmoil around the baseball markets, for now it's on the watch-and see list.

Here are the latest numbers for the basic strategy, but touching back on the overround issue, using Bet365's prices for this season, the profit would be 12% greater than the 'official' returns.

Tuesday 3 October 2023

Buying Time

Another weekend wrapped up with the NFL Monday Night game a winner for the Totals System, although these only went 1-2 in Week 4. 

I thought there was only one qualifier for the Small Road 'Dogs System this weekend in the NFL, but the 'official' results showed that there were actually two games. 

When I ran the query about 30 minutes before the early games began, and the one result was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3 at New Orleans Saints, which was also a Divisional game. I'd read earlier that:

As I noted in my reply, with Small Home Favourites over the last ten years (550 bets) hitting at just 42%, this wasn't a bet I'd have been comfortable with, and certainly not at -120 (1.833) but then you wonder or worry what the backer knows that you don't. 

Well not much perhaps, because the Road' Dog won rather easily 26-9 although for the record, my stake was a little smaller and I had the Bucs at +4 at 2.06.

The game I missed out on was a loser, actually a double loser, as it was also a Divisional game. Sometimes these work in your favour, and sometimes they don't, so officially the NFL results for this round come to 3-4, and for the season to date combined are now 28-11-1. 

The College Systems made up for the one loser going 7-6-1 for the week and for the season are now 28-16-2. 

The EPL Draw System was back in action with three selections, and one winner for a small profit, and was arguably a little unlucky not to have a second winner with the Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool game. 3 winners from 8 for the season, and +2.31 units. 

Perhaps the tide has turned for the Segunda División Draws with three long overdue winners from the five selections reducing the units lost so far this season by 4.61 to 9.92

September overall ended up slightly positive, an outcome that was in the balance until the final trading day on Friday. It was the first month since September 2019 when the total was less than four figures, but at least this time the number was green. 


The above quote, or similar, is often bandied about, but it's not exactly true as one reply noted and Nick has addressed himself:
Looking after your health may be able to buy you more time?

Presumably this was posed as a question because being in excellent health isn't going to help you if a meteorite lands on your head, but since most of us die from natural causes rather than accidents, looking after yourself is a good idea and with that in mind, I am once again taking on the Sober October challenge. In 2021 I achieved it but last year, not quite. 

With an 87% correlation between weight and alcohol days, the pounds will come off, though October 2021's loss of 20.8lbs is unlikely to be beaten given I'm at a lower starting weight. The further away you are from ideal, the harder it is to lose them.