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.