Tuesday, 27 December 2011

"If you can't be on time, be early"

Having had the financial possibilities of NFL opened up to me by Cassini and others as a result of the recent discussion about finding value I found myself reflecting on some events from my past.

Before I joined the motor trade in 1993 I worked as a self employed representative for Encyclopaedia Britannica, selling books to the general public in their own homes and at exhibitions large and small. The MD was a highly motivational American chap, Joe D Adams, and I was fortunate enough to attend a Sales Management course he hosted. Like most successful men Joe used the ideas and thoughts of others that he'd come across in his experience, and chief among them was one Vince Lombardi, former head coach of the Green Bay Packers. He took the Packers from the edge of despair to the Superbowl, and his management techniques and life philosophies are now the stuff of legend.

The title of this post is a pretty accurate interpretation of what has become known as 'Lombardi Time' - the idea being that if you turned up for an 8 o'clock start at 7.45 you had a massive edge on the man who turned up with seconds to spare. There's that word, 'edge', again!

As with most things in life, success in trading football or other sports is much more about attitude and mindset than it is about ability, it struck me that Mr Lombardi's thoughts and sayings might be of interest to people grappling with discipline and other issues about their trading. Google 'Lombardi Quotes' - you'll find some real nuggets there - I personally had three 'cap fits' moments.

Here, in my humble opinion, is a great one with which to close:


Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas everyone

The turkey is defrosting, the port is decanted, the mother-in-law is due to descend at any minute and there's no football until Monday barring a few Scottish games this lunchtime.

Thanks for your continued interest in my witterings and season's greetings to one and all.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Battered and bruised, possibly even steamrollered, he smiled, picked himself up....

...and returned to the drawing board!

When confronted by two very convincing arguments (HERE and HERE) showing why one of the key 'platforms' of my particular trading style is fundamentally flawed it is either a very stupid or extremely stubborn man who doesn't re-evaluate what he's doing. I am neither (but please don't try to tell Mrs Gun that!).

At the risk of sounding somewhat 'aftertime-ish' I must admit that it the recesses of my mind I knew there was something wrong, but couldn't pin point it. Yes, I'm ahead after trading football for three / four years or however long it is now, but in my heart I've always known that I'm not as ahead as I should be for the vast amount of hours I've put in - progress has been slow.

I've always attributed this to discipline, or more accurately to the lack thereof. That is, and, I fear, always will be, a major shortcoming of mine (I can't even keep those blasted spreadsheets  updated properly!). As I don't know of a free or low cost way of curing it, I've got to work with it and try my best to control it. But if I accept the premise that some of my trading decisions are akin to picking pennies up from in front of an irate steamroller then I might be able to overcome the discipline issue by working smarter not harder.

 I trade as a hobby, any money made is welcome but not significant to my lifestyle (or it isn't at the moment, I should say). As such I'm not prepared to go digging for loads of stats, opinions, 'formbooks' etc. If that sounds lazy or haphazard I wouldn't argue. I have tried spreadsheets using various elo ratings and other esoteric things that google searches throw up with gay abandon. I suppose my approach could best be described as intuitive - I rely a lot on 'gut instinct' - sometimes right, sometimes wrong. But because trading in play allows the opportunity to adjust a flawed initial judgement on the fly you can often profit or curtail losses by being almost right or not quite wrong.

I am also not prepared to learn other sports. My forays into trading the nags have almost without exception resulted in losses, swearing and chasing. Tennis, although I know loads of people make loads of money from it, bores me to tears, as, I'm afraid, do all sports spawned across the pond (no offence to any American readers :-)). Soccer  is what I want to do.

So, how do I go about uncovering this value in soccer trading?

The bit about all this that I really don't get is this...assuming I did all the research and concluded that the true odds of a given event occurring were 2.8 at a given time, and it was available to back at 2.9 I've identified a value back.... in my opinion. No matter how strong my opinion is, and how robust the analysis and thinking behind it might be... in order for my value back to be taken.... someone else must see my price as a value lay. Maybe it's some muppet dodging steamrollers... but in his or her opinion my stake is there for the taking at a good price.

Maybe, just maybe, if I can get my head around that one I'll start progressing.

Thanks for all the input and constructive dissection of my words...it's been interesting and thought provoking.

For those that wondered, being in a minority of one is not as comfortable a place as my closing remark on yesterday's post implied it might be!

Monday, 19 December 2011

The vexing question of 'Value' in trading.

I think most people reading this or any other trading / betting blog will have a basic understanding of the concept of 'value' in relation to straight forward betting. You are looking to get involved in a bet when the odds on offer are better than your estimation of the chance of success for that outcome. Getting 2.1 on 'Heads' in the coin toss is the obvious, if unlikely, example. Mathematically of course it's impossible to argue against this... if you accept that you will likely lose more times than you will win then it is apparent that the only way to make money is to make more than you 'should' on your winners and lose less than you 'should' on your losers. The ability to analyse form, trends and markets is a must, of course, and (true) 'inside information' could prove invaluable.

Does this same definition apply to trading the sports markets? I really, honestly, am not sure.

The basic premise above still makes perfect sense in a trading environment - if you can secure odds which are better than the true odds on an outcome you will make more long term. What prompted me to pen this little missive is this paragraph in The Sultan's interview with Cassini on Centre Court Trading:

When learning, what did you find the hardest aspect of trading to crack?
The hardest part of trading is identifying the entry and exit points. Anyone can back the unders in a football match, wait five minutes for the price to drop a few ticks, and lock in a profit, but was the entry point value? Was the exit point value? A lot of people consider this to be trading, but to me, without a valid reason to enter or exit a market, it’s gambling. The predictability of price movements is the big problem with trading football in my opinion. The scarcity of goals means that prices trend in a very predictable way, and if the opening price was correct, you are unlikely to find value during the game. If the opening price wasn’t correct, then my approach is to take the value bet and let it run.
Many readers probably do as I do and scalp the unders markets in a football match. Why do we do this? One reason, as Cassini states above, is because the price movements are so predictable. All the time there is no goal, unders will reduce in price. So if I back £100 at 2, lay at 1.98, back at 1.98, lay at 1.96... recycling that same £100 and adding to it every time there is no goal, does it really matter if my entry and exit points are 'value' according to the traditional definition. I've struggled with this one - and I don't think it does!

The reason I enter this market is usually to cover another trade in the same match where I am slightly more 'value conscious'. It might not be a classical approach but if I intend to stake say £50 on a correct score trade and I can scalp a £40 green on both sides of the overs / unders in the same match then in my mind a) that's a valid reason to enter and exit that market and b) it enables me to view the entire match under one overall 'umbrella'. The gamble involved, of course, is that a goal might be scored after a back has been matched and before the lay has been matched. But that is a calculated gamble in my opinion and, yes, of course I've been caught! Many times! But I'm still 'in the game' and slowly but surely edging forward.... this time next year, Rodney!

I'd be interested in what people think and am quite happy to be in a minority of one :-)

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Is it just me that doesn't understand UEFA sometimes?

Wayne Rooney has had his three match ban 'modified' to a two match ban and a sort of 'suspended sentence' for the third match. This enables him to participate, if selected, in the final group match against Ukraine at the Euros next year. The offence, you will doubtless recall, was a petulant kick aimed at (and connecting with!) a hapless Montenegran defender in the recent qualifier. Not a mistimed tackle or a professional foul, but a deliberate hack. Some might argue that Rooney was frustrated. So what? Society would cease to function at all if any Tom, Dick or Wayne were to go round booting people out of frustration!

Last night, at the conclusion of Manchester United's dire defeat at the hands of Basel and their failure to qualify for the knock out stages of the Champions League, there he was right in the referee's face, yet again. I don't know why Wayne thought the referee was responsible for United's demise. Unless you know different I don't think it was the ref who missed an open goal from 6 or 7 feet! He does seem incapable of knowing when to stop.

I've nothing against the man, and admire his talents when they are applied in the right direction. But I can't help wondering if a player with less 'stature' (per chance with less financial 'pull'?) would have got such leniency.

From a trading perspective, I'm sure my old mate Lamb must be smiling inwardly at the news. I know he's been steadily backing England for the Euros and I'm sure the news will have caused England's price to come in a bit more.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Revisited: The trading mindset

I'm not an avid fan of tennis, and have not really tried trading it due mainly to being totally clueless about the game bar a few big household names. However I do read a couple of tennis based blogs, one written by a name familiar to me from the old Bet Trader forum days, Tradeshark. The other is new to me, and is called Centre Court Trading (CTC hence forward to save my fingers!).

Visually appealing to male readers, CTC features pictures of some very attractive lady tennis players. Having wrested my eyes away from them I read further and found a couple of interesting interviews with quite contrasting views about the trading mindset.

One featured a gentleman called John O'Dywer who seemingly had some very good times on Betfair a couple of year ago before losing his edge and his bank. The interview is worth a read, as is Cassini's detailed examination of what O'Dwyer has to say.

The second interview features the aforementioned Cassini himself, and again makes interesting reading. Several things caught my eye, some of which I'll return to in a later post. The one comment which really intrigued me is this one below:

What do you think are the biggest mistakes that new traders make when attempting to become successful?

A couple of mistakes come to mind, one in the preparation, the other in the execution. One is over confidence. Too many people seem to think that profitable trading is just a matter of sitting down at the PC and that somehow the funds will simply roll in. They think that in a sport like horse-racing (something I never touch by the way) they have an edge over insiders and full-time traders with years of experience. Really? Optimism is good, but so too is realism. The other is the need to let winning trades run and cut the losing trades short, whereas the tendency is to do the
exact opposite. 
I don't know about you but both 'caps' definitely fit this trader.

When I stumbled across Betfair, through reading 'What Really Wins Money' for those interested, I definitely thought I'd breeze my way to millions. Watching Adam Todd and others make loads trading the nags made it all look so easy. Several blown banks later I had to take stock and decide whether to quit whilst behind or to actually sit down and plan a strategy to make trading work for me. Whilst what I do now is far from perfect it does provide me with a usable second income, and more importantly for me, a hobby that requires a bit of thinking.

Of more relevance to me, and, I suspect, to most semi seasoned traders is the comment about cutting winning positions too soon and staying in losing positions too long. How many times, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, have we wished we were still in one position and out of another? I would try and count those that apply to me but am acutely aware that I don't have enough fingers and toes!

The bigger of the two issues is that of staying in too long in what is clearly a losing position. I believe this stems from the natural human trait of wanting things to be all right, and believing that they will be all right. We often ignore all evidence to the contrary. I can even remember when I was young enough to still believe that an England football team would win another major tournament switching from BBC to ITV to see if they were winning on the other side! How daft is that? But a similar attitude still occasionally invades my trading mindset.... 'Hang on a few minutes more, Dave, get that red down a bi........F@@@! All gone now!'

An old sales manager of mine used to say 'if you can identify a problem you're two thirds of the way to solving it'. Sage words. So why, why, why do I still do it? I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times it HAS been ok.... but the losses, with those few 'ok's' taken off, outweigh the red screens that were available I'm sure.

Which brings me to closing winning positions too early. I suppose the problem with football is that there is no script. Anything can and does happen. I'm writing this having just witnessed Man U go out of the Champions League to little Basel. Not that I'm crying about it, you understand :-),  but I'm sure most people would not have expected that to happen.

A couple of nights ago Botofogo were drawing 1-1 in Brazil after 15 minutes. I did my usual little lay of O2.5. A nagging voice in the back of my head was telling me that I'd marked '1-1' as a highly likely result pre-match and I'd structured my Correct Score trade (as usual) around that. True to form I ignored the voice, took the green on O2.5 at half time and exited my SG as well. That brilliant piece of trading made me about £30. But cost me over £100. My total exposure was a mere £17.

I can't explain why this should be so. I'm not unintelligent - I managed to get a good degree back in the day - but I have concluded that I must be stupid!

On my little trading pad that sits to the left of my PC I have written  Cassini's words, verbatim (hope there are no spelling or punctuation errors - he don't like them! :-)) and will write them at the top of EVERY fresh page as I tear the old one out. They say you have to do something nineteen times consecutively for it to become habitual. Let's see.

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Jury is still out after an interesting first try...

With an interesting card full of promise in the UEFA League this evening I tested the latest SG tweak. The matches between Stoke and Dinamo Kiev and Salzburg v Paris SG were traded using the tweak, whilst that between Macabi Tel Aviv and Besiktas was traded with the traditional SG method.

Needless to say the law of Sod took over, the two 'new' ones had a goal before the 30 minute second entry time and the other one didn't!

By staying in longer perhaps than I should I was able to make both the first two pay handsomely, and had an acceptable result in Tel Aviv despite the game bypassing 1-1 yet finishing 2-2. In fact this game was great all round as I laid Besiktas at 0-2 for a £2 liability, greening up at 1-2. I then laid the draw in the final moments only for the Turks to nick a last minute win.

I am yet to be pursuaded by the tweak - I think I need a few more evenings with it, and to do one that works out as I hope, before passing judgement.

I said that I don't intend to bore everyone with a P&L style blog, but for those interested I will regularly update the two new pages added this evening with 'Latest Trades' and 'YTD' screenshots.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

You've got to laugh...or you'd cry!

First time out with the latest SG tweak - Uni de Chile v Vasco in the Copa Sudamerica. Three backs on 1-2 2-1 and 2-2 just been placed....you don't need to ask what happens, do you?


Here we are five minutes after Uni took the lead before my second three bets were matched. As you can see I can pretty well scratch the trade. So although this wasn't the first time out that I wanted it's been useful in the sense that I now know that it's still tradeable....

Onwards and upwards...

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Is this a 'Light Bulb Moment'?


I've spent some time mulling over the comments made by Rob and Lamb in repsonse to my post discussing how the SG trade is best suited to goals later rather than earlier in a match. The points made are very valid, and it occurs to me that entering most trades at the beginning of a match might not be the most efficient way to leverage these scorelines.

The whole premise of the trade is that there are two (relatively) evenly matched teams, and that the expectation is that there will be around 3 goals in total. Assuming this assessment proves to be accurate the obvious question is 'when do we expect the goals to be scored?' Unfortunately my crystal ball is still back at the dealer's undergoing warranty repairs, so I am unable to find the answer! However, experience tells me and intuition suggests that in a close contest the early stages are likely to consist of some probing and pushing, both teams feeling the other out like two boxers testing each other for reach, strengths and weakensses. In qualifying games I am working on the assumption that most will still be 0-0 after 30 minutes.

At the half hour mark the 1-1 price will have barely moved at all, whilst 1-2 and 2-1 will have drifted a little bit, as would 2-2. But three other scores would have steamed quite a bit - namely 0-0 1-0 and 0-1. There seems little point to me in getting involved with 0-0. If the game is destined to end that way, so be it. With the possible exception of people actively trading 0-0 as a speciality it is any correct score trader's nightmare - so my intention it to ignore it.

I have therefore formulated a little trial and it works like this. I am going to back 1-0 0-1 and 1-1 at the outset for a fiver each. If the game is still 0-0 at half an hour I will then add 1-2, 2-1 and 2-2 to the mix with £2 stakes, taking whatever odds might be available to me. If the match is still goalless at half time I reckon that by greening both 0-1 and 1-0 that I'd be able to cover the £6 stakes on 1-2 2-1 and 2-2 or pretty close to it. I'd then have a properly formed SG, including 2-2, owing me the princely sum of around a fiver. I know from experience that matches with a goalless first half often result in good wins for the SG, so that would be a great situation to be in.

That leaves two other possibilities. Firstly that a goal goes in before the second tranche of bets have been placed. Unless the goal is ridiculously early I reckon the trade should be scratchable if desired by greening both the odd goal score and the 1-1. My more probable course of action, however, would be to hold fire, let both scores' odds steam a bit more and then re-assess. Obviously at that stage I run the risk of 0-2 or 2-0 and a wipeout from what could still have ended up being a winning trade.

What about a goal after the second tranche of bets have been placed but before half time? The answer, I suspect, depends on the scoring team.

If the home team or favourites (which could, of course, be the away team) score first then my inclination would be to let the whole trade run for a while. The one goal score and would continue to steam, and 1-1 would probably stay roughly where it is, maybe even drifting a little bit. With the passage of time, unless the market believes the leaders are totally dominant, 1-1 will start to come in as well. I think that whatever might happen later I'd green 1-0 / 0-1 once the entire £10 invested on those two scores could be recouped - in other words I'd be in the same position that I would have had using the old method, the difference being I'd have better odds on 1-2 and 2-1 as well as having 2-2 covered.

If the away team or the underdogs were to score first it is my belief that the trade would then be in a fantastic position. After letting the market settle it would not surprise me to find that a decent green screen could be achieved there and then if desired, maybe leaving a nice big lump on 2-2. But that is probably not the route I'd take... The 0-1 1-0 would have been backed at higher odds than the same score on the favorites / home team so almost certainly I'd green that score as soon as the market had re-settled and then proceed in time honoured fashion.

Most of the above is, at this stage, conjecture. Unfortunately the month end pub quiz beckons this evening so I won't be able to try it during the mid evening matches and haven't decided whether or not to trade the late Latin American games. But I am sitting here having written this post with an air of optimism for this ammendment to what I believe is already a winning trade.

Time will tell....

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Think I'm going to try going purple.

Yet another loss (small but annoying and completely unnecessary) due to Betfair suspending an in-play  game.

I've never really understood why they have to 'manage' football markets anyway. They don't suspend cricket after a wicket, rugby after a try or x-factor after (another) useless act. So why  do they have to suspend football after a goal, red card or the merest hint of the side netting bulging / ref scratching his backside?

If they must 'manage' it - then please can they do so? Not just leave people unnecessarily out on a limb.

The game in question featured those two giants of world football, Nacional Asuncion and Tacuary in Paraguay. The match was 1-1 after 8 minutes - crying out for a little lay of u2.5. Now I appreciate that is a risky trade to enter, but it's something I frequently do and look to exit after 10-15 minutes. Getting close to my exit point, the game was suspended. I shrugged my shoulders and flicked between GT and Flashscores to see who had scored and, to my considerable annoyance, it became clear that I'd been locked out of a profitable trade yet again by this company who supposedly put customer service and satisfaction at the top of their priorities. Right.

Needless to say the third goal came just before half time. And, immediately afterwards, as if by magic, the rest of the markets related to the game re-opened.

Let me make one thing clear. I am not annoyed about losing money on this trade. I'd laid O2.5 at 1.1 for £100 so it was only a tenner, and anyone daft enough to lay O2.5 at 1-1 after less than ten minutes is leading with the chin! What I am annoyed about is that I was denied the opportunity NOT to have lost that tenner, or even some of it, and to have made a nice return on it. And for what reason? Almost certainly because they 'lost' their data feed. Flashscores didn't. Livescores didn't. But Betfair did. Great.

The latest edition of Geeks Toy facilitates trading on Betdaq I believe. I am going to explore this. People will undoubtedly tell me there is no liquidity and not as much choice over there. I am open minded about that at the moment (I've even got a sneaking suspicion that there might be the odd couple of hundred quid sitting in my account - really MUST try to remember my password!). As most of the trading I do involves a maximum exposure of £20 or so I'm not too concerned about the possible lack of liquidity, but if Betfair continue to cheese their customers off as they've been doing for  a couple of years now, perhaps that situation will change.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Slow burn trades and last gasp goals

Anyone who has been reading my ramblings for any time, or who has tried the Scatter Gun trade for themselves will appreciate the fact that the trade works to its peak performance with later, rather than earlier, goals.

Because of the frequency with which the 3 scores end up as actual results you can usually, if you wish, escape with an acceptable loss up to about 65-70 minutes. But, long term, you'd almost certainly be better of sticking with the trade at 0-0 or 1-0  / 0-1 or even 2-0 0-2 because of the number of late goals. Over the last few days three games have produced late goals to turn potential losses / scratches into nice profits. Last night in particular saw Godoy snatch a late 1-2 against Boca and the match between Banfield and Argentina Juniors progress from a nice 1-1 to an amazing 2-2 in the final few minutes.

The frequency of late goals is the main reason why I so strongly advocate smallish stakes for this trade...and that, for me, is a mindset thing. If I'm considering a maximum £20 loss (usually a lot smaller so that is a rarity) I'm a) more likely to stay in beyond what would normally be deemed a sensible exit point b) not likely to get panicked into precipitate action as soon as a goal is scored and c) able to withstand the odd total wipeout without unduly impacting on my bank or, more importantly, my confidence.

With effect from1st December I'm going to start recording just my SG trading activities on the spreadsheet I shared with you a few posts ago - then hopefully I'll be able to better assess the long term possibilities of this trade. I won't turn this into a 'P&L' blog so Cassini and co can sleep easy - rather to see if any trends develop which might help in match selection or whether my current 'blanket' approach is adequate..

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Whoops a diddly daisy!

Made a bit of a cods of a trade tonight, and did something I don't think I've ever done before.

Having made a lovely green by laying U4.5 at the start of Valencia's demolition of Genk I decided to splash out a speculative tenner from that win by backing AU on the Correct Score 2 market at 13 at half time. At 7-0 I thought it was time to green up. For some reason I can't quite reason out I decided to do it on the Betfair screen rather than on GT. As the market formed I was amazed to see AU at 1.67. A couple of taps on the old calculator gave me my lay stake which was duly placed to give, I thought, a £50 green. Fantastic. Crowed about it in the green room, back slapping all round from the boys.

Then I flicked the same market open on GT to see no green, AU at 8 and a £10 red.

I'd laid the right amount on the correct runner in the wrong f@@@@@g market!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

For a second or two I thought GT had broken...

...but I should have known better! GT doesn't break - the reason there were only half a dozen games showing for tonight is because Betfair have the smallest in-play coupon I think I have ever seen, and all bar one of those games is in Latin America which kick off that much later in the evening.

So what have we learnt from the International Break? For me, a number of things...

1) Spain are not invincible. Watching the first half of the England game highlighted the massive skill gap between the two teams as far as I am concerned. Spain were calm and controlled, pinging the ball around England's midfield with unerring accuracy. On the rare occasions that England wrested the ball away from Xavi and co the seemed to pass or lamp it straight back to them. At 1-0 down, however, especially as time ebbed by, Spain lost their composure and seemed vulnerable. True, they had enough chances to equalise and probably even to win but some stout defending and off colour finishing allowed England to hold on.

I didn't watch the following match against Costa Rica. But I did take advantage of Spain's discomfiture at being 2 goals down at half time by laying Costa twice in the second half, to be rewarded by a bit of a last gasp equaliser.

2) Fabio still doesn't really seem to know what sort of team he is trying to build. I really struggle with the concept of 8 or 9 changes in one of the last competitive matches before an international tournament, and struggle even more with the silly number of substitutions allowed. Perhaps it's my imagination but it seems to me that he is following a sort of throw mud at the wall in the hope that some sticks approach.

3) Germany are unpredictable. Struggling against the Ukraine one minute (another successful two goal lead lay by the way) and ghosting past a much better team in the Netherlands the next.

4) I really ought to find another sport to trade when the footie cards are so dire!

Ideas on a postcard, please.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

What a glorious thing INDIRECTion can be....

Having come up with what I thought was a reasonably accomplished yet simple to use spreadsheet to record a month's trades on I sat down during the enforced boredom of the International Break to force myself to write a Year to Date sheet on which to record the twelve months of the calendar year. At the outset I considered how best to do this and ended up drawing up two sheets - one for analysis of the financial side of trading, the second compiling a (hopefully) useful set of basic match and trade statistics.

Then I began the tedious task of typing the formulae.... =Jan!C10 ... =Feb!C10....=MarC10... which, with over 200 formulae to be entered, soon became too much for my incredibly feeble attention span when faced with tasks like this. Thinking there must be an easier way - and voila! - the INDIRECT function offered exactly what I sought. The syntax, however, was as clear as mud and there were several bouts of good old fashioned Anglo Saxon oath muttering before I came up with this:


...and then this:


The data is a bit sparse at the moment, but I will return to these two sheets as time goes by to see what, if anything, detailed analysis can bring to bear on my trading the Correct Score, Match Odds and Goals markets.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Go against the market... that's where the pot of gold is sometimes to be found

A near enough verbatim quote from yours truly in the green room last evening..."Uni Cat should be a routine home win..." I therefore didn't lay them at 1.4 or so. I didn't take 0-0 on at 30 and I refused to get involved in Under 2.5 at nearly 4.

Magallanes won 0-1 with the goal coming at 85 minutes.

Great!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

You cannot manage what you don't measure.

A mentor of mine from years ago when I was involved in managing a sales team of direct sales representatives used this line all the time. In a commercial setting it is, of course, absolutely necessary to measure your progress against target, your expenditure, turnover and profit / loss. Why should sports trading be any different?

I keep being asked what the SG strike rate is and what the return is and whether it's a long term viable strategy or a lot of misses punctuated by the odd big hit. And I didn't really know. Because I wasn't measuring it....although I suspected it to be profitable.

About the only benefit of these blasted international breaks with their associated appalling in-play coupons is the it has given me the time to come up with a spreadsheet to measure the success of the SG so I can metaphorically look people straight in the eyes and say 'Yes, it's profitable'.

At the moment I have only completed the Monthly sheet, detailing the trades and featuring a Summary section. The next task, as I while away the evenings until proper trading can resume, is to write a YTD summary sheet to collate all the monthly trades in one place so some useful analysis can be undertaken.

This is the main record portion of a monthly sheet:



You can see this allows me to record the basic match details, date, combatants and result as well as whether the match was over or under 2.5 goals. It then allows me to enter stakes and returns on 3 markets, the correct score, the goals markets and the match odds market. I rarely use all three in a match and very rarely go outside of these core markets. I have decided to record just the main stakes but to record all profit. The profit (or loss!) figure is therefore potentially exaggerated in relation to staking as I'll often scalp the CS or one of the goals markets. I decided to record it that way not because I wanted to show an unrealistically high ROI (although that is the truth of it in some matches) but because I wanted a simple and graphical way to see how the trade panned out as I traded it.

There are then three columns to record some useful facts - did the game at any point hit 1-1 (the magic score and the cornerstone of the trade), did I get a back on the 2-2 scoreline, and was it a 'Set and go' trade - i.e. a punt with no in-play trading at all. There will only be the odd one or two of these but it's something I'll sometimes do with the late night American matches.

Finally the last three columns show the overall picture for that game, and automatically show Green for a profitable trade and Red for a losing trade. I toyed with the idea of a 'Comments' field but decided that with my appalling discipline record that was probably a step too far!

The data from the above sheet is then collated in a Monthly Summary section which is shown below:

This is largely self explanatory, but the impact of the game hitting 1-1 really stands out for me as the outstanding conclusion from the detail of the matches.

All the trades you see entered so far are real trades made this week - nothing is made up or 'manipulated' and now I've finally written this (it's only taken me 4 years to wake up to the importance of jt!) I can't wait to see just how good or bad this SG really is!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

So, so close....

...to a chunky win.

Dripping low liability lays into a market is an old favourite of mine and I thought, for a few sweaty seconds, that it had paid off big time tonight! A match featuring an old 1-1 favourite of mine, Univerida Catolica in Chile, was 0-0 at half time. I drip laid into the U3.5 goals market until I had a £13 liability and a £750 win should it come in.

I honestly thought the whole punt (it's not really a 'trade', is it?) had gone west even when Espaniola took a one goal lead in the 70th minute - the U3.5 didn't budge off 1.01 so there was no way out. As Uni Cat away from home are perennial favourites for a 1-1 result I was comfortable laying 1-0 to cover my £13 liability on the lay. Sure enough the equaliser came on the 88th minute. So I was in a scratch position.

I don't know if it's my imagination but I'm convinced Betfair markets take a lot longer to reform than they used to after a suspension. Whether or not, no sooner had the Geek's Toy bar turned green again than it went red again. Initially I thought the game had finished. But no - Uni Cat had taken a 1-2 lead! Suddenly I was offered a green of over £50 - so I pressed the green button. And ended up chasing the bloody price down until I was left with just over a pound on unders and over £500 on overs when it suspended again. There followed a period of confusion (in my mind, at least!) until it became clear that the match had, indeed, ended.

So a scratch turned into about a £15 profit! An excellent result really as it had looked like a total loss for quite a long period of time! I know I've written before that I don't NEED the money I make from trading. But £500 is £500 and tax free to boot! Even if I had been unable to come up with a suitable project to use the money I'm sure Mrs Gun would have had some ideas (assuming she somehow found out about it!) - and it would have been damned handy just before Christmas. But it wasn't to be!

The key point is that to 'nearly' be right can still produce a result. Even if it does sometimes lead to a disappointment.

Friday, 4 November 2011

A two goal lead is never enough until the final whistle blows

Three games in the Europa League that I'm aware of yesterday evening in which two goal leads evaporated! PSV v Happoel at one point was 1-3 and ended 3-3 (what odds that score at the off I wonder...?). AZ 0-2 up at Austria Vienna at half time pegged back to 2-2. And finally our own Birmingham City snatching a 2-2 after Brugges took a two goal first half lead.

Sure there were other games where 2 goal leads stood or were extended, Fulham and Braga for example. As both were firm odds on favourites I would expect that at 2-0 or 3-1 both could have been laid at very low odds. Would there have been any point? As it turned out no, but, as always with trading you must consider both the maths and the implications of further goals.

Turning to the maths first... and this is simple... if you lay at just under evens you need to win more times than you lose to make a profit. If you lay at 1.2 you need just a 21% strike rate to be ahead, and if you lay at 1.05 that strike rate drops to just 6%. But that's gambling talk - and this is a trading blog :-) so let's consider what a goal or two, or indeed no goal imply for the trade.

I got home from work last night and the first of the in-play early kick off Europa games to catch my eye was the PSV match - with, incredibly, PSV 1-3 down at home. Happoel were available to lay at 1.44. Bearing in mind that 50 minutes had passed this in itself suggested a PSV fightback was very much on the cards so I was happy to take them on and oppose them. A 59th minute goal from PSV enabled me to take a handsome profit at Happoel's odds flew out to 2.46.

As has been said on here and elsewhere apart from goals and red cards time decay is the major reason for odds changes in football matches. But with over half an hour left I knew the Happoel price would stay in that region for a good fifteen to twenty minutes as long as there were no goals or cards. As it transpired Happoel did get a red card just after 70 minutes which probably slowed the steaming of their odds as full time approached. Sure enough the equaliser did eventually arrive, but I was long gone by then.

The point I'm labouring to make is that when you enter a trade like this you need a plan. Decide what to do if the losing side score and stick to it. You can 1) green up once the market settles (as I chose to do in this match) 2) reduce your liability on the leaders to nil or what you consider to be an acceptable loss to leave a nice green on the draw or the current losing team or 3) let the whole thing run in expectation of an equaliser. The other thing to decide BEFORE entering the trade at all is how long you stay in / how much loss you take before getting out of the trade if there is no goal.

It's probably fairly safe to assume that if you enter a trade like this and a two goal  lead becomes a three goal lead that your trade is dead and buried!

These opportunities present themselves on a daily basis. If it's an area of trading that you wish to explore why not try with low stakes and watch how the market behaves and what you can learn from that. I promise you it's a fun and exciting trade and potentially a very profitable one with a relatively small downside.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Would you like to go pro?

One of the blogs I read daily is that penned by my friend Lambretta, or lamb as he is affectionately known. As an aside,  anyone who thinks that Lay the Draw is an old hat trading method would do well to look at lamb's blog - it will give you a different slant on the notion, I'm sure.

Lamb answered a query from a reader asking about going 'pro' - and  wrote a very good piece on that - to which I added my thoughts. It got me thinking more deeply about going 'pro' and what the motivation for doing so is, and what, in my opinion, would you need to do to 'make it'.

I'm reasonably lucky - I've got a well paid job that I thoroughly enjoy most of the time, so going pro is not on my horizon, but I'd be lying if I said it hadn't crossed my mind. So I'm writing this from a position of ignorance really - I'd be interested in full timer's thoughts or wannabe pro traders alike.

Let's look at money first - take a person making £30,000 p.a. in a job s/he dislikes or hates as the model. Ignoring things like company cars and pensions 30k netts down to £22,760 per annum after tax and NI or around £88 per day working 5 days a week. As 'gambling' and 'trading' income is currently tax free in the UK that's what that person would need to make to replace that income. Assuming 5% Betfair commission you need to make £93 bar a few coppers. At a modest rate of 3% per day you would need  a £3k trading bank to achieve that. Getting involved with PC or super PC complicates things a bit - but for simplicity's sake let's ignore that for now.

On the face of it that doesn't look too complicated or difficult. I manage to make a decent amount in the evenings and on Sundays, not that much but a useful amount. But it doesn't matter to me one jot if I make it or not. It's a lot different when / if the mortgage is dependent on it! I trade for pleasure and if I make a profit - well and good. Which brings me to the bigger question as far as I'm concerned - mindset.

The key to this trading lark, whatever level you are at, is discipline. And that is the biggest single factor which would cause me to fall flat on my face as a full timer. It's not just in-play discipline to which I refer. To trade full time and successfully you need to work hard at it. Ploughing through coupons, stats, websites, spreadsheets etc to pick a trade or two in which you can have the confidence to commit the stakes needed to achieve the target. Having the discipline to record your activities in the same way that you would do your books in a traditional business. Having the discipline to stop when things are going well. Or when they are going horribly wrong. Having the discipline to study your sport to develop your knowledge - that is where any 'edge' is likely to come from.

Even if I could lick that one I would have another issue to confront - the solitary nature of sports trading. I work in a busy showroom - there are always other people around, staff, customers, visitors etc - and there is plenty of interaction with others. The sports trader, apart probably from chat rooms, usually works from a pc station in a study or spare bedroom etc on his / her own. I traded cars from home for several years - and it was this issue more than any other that caused me to give up the dream and go back 'home' to where I belong - among other people, bantering and joshing with colleagues, solving customers' issues and making sales.

I'm sure most of you, like me, are bombarded by post and emails with the latest (or more usually, recycled) systems, strategies, cons and wheezes all promising untold riches, the life of reilly and a ten hour 'working' week for a £40 investment. Some of you, again like me, will have invested wasted a few £40's to find that the Holy Grail is still wherever Monty Python left it. This is only my opinion but I've a sneaking suspicion that no system yet invented and marketed can achieve what you need to do to 'make it'. If someone had invented or discovered such a gold mine why on earth would they punt it around for £40??? You'd keep schtum and quietly sit there under the radar banking fortunes.

Anyone hoping that sports trading for a living means the same as retiring early in my opinion is heading for a fall. It's a job. Of work. And the harder and smarter that you work the more successful you will be. So I'll carry on with my SG's, 2 goal lead lays and other little tickles invented by me or others to  give me some beer and curry money. And leave full time trading to full time traders. If you can make it I'd sincerely take my hat off to you, but I reckon most don't and won't.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Early goals, profiting from them, and from the expectation of them....

A small group of us were sitting the Green Room discussing how best to go about trading the Shamrock Rovers v Galway match in the Emerald Isle earlier this evening.

The odds of various markets pre-match were interesting to put it mildly. I don't recall EVER seeing 0-0 in a 'proper' league match at odds of 100 on Betfair. Shamrock were 1.09 to lay in Match Odds, Under 2.5 was at about 6 and even U6.5 was 1.25 to lay! The two that caught my eye, and that I traded, were the 0-0 and Any Unquoted. I put £10 on 0-0 at 100, and laid AU at 1.7 for £50 for a total exposure of £45.

In the event it took Shamrock just under half an hour to break the deadlock, by which  time I was long gone! In the opening few minutes the 0-0 price had loads of gaps and some green room residents happily scalped a nice green there - I exited when I was able to double my money - about 15 minutes in I reckon, but was happy to drip my way out of Any Unquoted as the price rose. Interestingly the markets had the game priced right as it transpired - the final score was 4-0. I and my roommates were able to profit reasonably safely because the market expectation was for early goals - and they didn't come. The 0-0 was a bit of a gamble I suppose, but I was happy in the expectation that the price would fall off a cliff quite quickly and it certainly did.

A game with an early goal, and a missed opportunity for this trader, was the Freiburg v Leverkusen match in the Bundesliga. Herr Ballack fired Lever ahead after  about 2 minutes. What is interesting is that in this situation the price of 0-1 and 1-1 both drifted massively from their start positions. Why? The early goal obviously means there was still 88 minutes + for there to be more! What I should have done but didn't was to put a small back on 0-1 at enhanced odds and enter the 2.5 goals market to take advantage of the massive over reaction in there which I'm positive would have happened.

If you are looking at putting together a correct score trade in favour of a heavy favourite where early goals are expected my advice would be to go easy on the stakes on 1-0 and 2-0 - both will be available at significantly higher odds after an early goal, yet won't tumble too quickly if there is no goal.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

I'd much rather be out of trade wishing I was in it.....

... than being in a trade wishing I was out of it.

I forget who first introduced me to this little truism, but the words have brought considerable comfort over my trading times as I've lashed myself mentally for not trusting my instinct.

I'm sitting here trading some Brazillian matches at just after midnight and to be honest not an awful lot is happening. The game immediately preceding these matches was an U22 affair between Brazil and Cuba.

I looked at the match, knowing diddly squat about either side and Cassini's words came flooding back to me..
There's little downside to opposing teams at prices in the 1.05 range and you could always be in for a Plzeƈt surprise...
Brazil were at 1.08. A sure fire thing, you'd say. I walked away. And then made the fatal mistake of looking over my shoulder. As I type this the match has just passed the  86th minute mark, and it's still 0-0! Brazil can now be backed at 3.65! So let's examine the maths...lay Brazil at 1.08 for £100. A huge £8 liability. Green up at 3.65 (for those who don't know the maths the formula is (lay stake + lay liability)/current odds) with a £29.85 stake for a £70.40 green screen.

I've just glanced over that same shoulder to see 90' on the clock and a Brazil red card - now at 7's.

And the moral is... remember that little phrase, and if you walk away from a good trade without getting involved, don't, whatever else you do, check the result! You'll cry in your beer!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Profiting from reading the markets

One of the many benefits of trading football markets on the exchanges is that there is usually a knowledgeable pool of people forming an opinion as to how a match is playing out, reflected in the prices being traded. An excellent example of this occurred during the UEFA League match a couple of nights ago between AZ Alkmaar and Austria Vienna.

I'm not very knowledgeable about either Dutch or Austrian soccer, although I do trade both leagues occasionally, but I'm prepared to trust the collective opinion of other traders to an extent. Vienna were two goals to the good at half time, yet were trading at 1.46. The price offered is substantially odds on - and the market is proposing that Vienna have a 68% chance of winning the match. Therefore it follows that the draw and a home win between them represented a 32% chance / probability. Put it another way, 2/3 Vienna 1/3 the field.

A quick check of the graphs showed that AZ were easily the pre-match favourites, trading at about evens with Vienna at around 4. So here we are, half way through the match, and the dogs are two up away from home. To my mind, despite the mathematics in the above paragraph, Vienna were a value lay in this situation. I laid them for £50 at 1.46 with a liability of £23. The reason I concluded thus is that 1.46, in my opinion is too high a price to indicate a market totally convinced that the outcome is anywhere near certain. I didn't look, but I'd be reasonably confident that 2-2 would have been trading no higher than about 20. If that was the case then I might have doubled up my lay or have stuck a tenner on 2-2!

I suppose it's easy sitting here writing this secure in the knowledge that AZ did, indeed, pull the match back to 2-2. Theses trades don't always work - and I normally only lay two goal leads if the price is substantially lower than it was in this case.

The key point in this trade, to me anyway, was that the market was far from convinced by the current situation. Admittedly it took Alkmaar longer than I would have liked to score the first goal and it required a bit of a leap of faith to stay in - but I couldn't green up anyway - and I hate taking small reds when I'm convinced a nice green is around the corner. Some people reading this will be thinking 'the silly old s*d's punting again'. And they'd probably be right. But - trust the market and long term I suspect us old trapunters will be ok!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Side trades to accompany the Scatter Gun trade

'ORDINARY' SIDE TRADES

If I'm totally convinced that a match will be a slow burner I'll sometimes use quite large stakes (relative to my £12 max SG stakes that is) to scalp under 2.5 in play. I'll use £100, backing and laying off one or maybe two ticks lower. The main aim is to get my SG stakes covered on the U2.5 - so that if it finishes with less than three goals I at the very worst break even or have a nice result if it finishes 1-1.

A variation on that trade is to scalp 0-0 0-1 and 1-0 during the first half, typically using £5 on each. Again the aim is to get free cover on those scores in the first half if possible.

Both those side trades are inherently slightly risky in the overall scheme of things, but my experience tells me that the U2.5 trade particularly works well and is a reasonably quick moving market. An early goal, whilst inconvenient, doesn't wipe you out of either the side trade or the main trade. The downside to these two techniques is that they are quite labour intensive, and if I'm trading two or maybe three matches simultaneously this is asking for trouble!

'RESPONSE' SIDE TRADES

Backing U2.5 after an early goal at enhanced odds can achieve a similar result to that described above in quite short order. In a typical SG match U2.5 at kick off is usually around 1.75 to 2.05. If there is a goal in the first 15 minutes the odds would normally go out to between 2.7 and 3.3 ish. After a few minutes of wild fluctuations the price settles and holds for a while as the market waits to see if there is a quick second goal. If this is not forthcoming the market then over reacts the other way and plummets for a while. Time it right and as long as no second goal is forthcoming you can ride it all the way back to the start price and cover your CS stakes.

A more extreme trade is to back U2.5 after a second goal, especially if, again, it is relatively early in the match. Requiring either a steady nerve or a gung ho attitude this trade can really pay dividends. A third goal spoils your day though, so only use small stakes if doing this!

The basic idea of both the above is to secure your CS stake money in the event of there being no more goals, I certainly would not recommend any long term commitment to either - the less time you are in the market the less chance there is of getting caught by another goal. Get in, achieve your aim, and get out!

The last little trick in my SG armoury is the good old two goal lead lay. How many times do we see two goal leads evaporate? Even tonight, as I was going out to my weekly attempt to keep some pretence of fitness, I noticed Ebbsfleet Utd were 0-1 down to Luton. I advised the TF crew to lay Luton if thy took a t 0-2 lead as Fleet are good for home goals. Checking Flashscores confirmed that Luton did indeed score a second in the 71st minute. The final score? A 90th minute equaliser made it 2-2! Hope some of the guys got on it because I reckon Luton would have been about 1.08 to lay! In the context of the SG the two goal lead lay can work really well - as long as the 1-2 / 2-1 score isn't too late in coming. If you can lay a leading team at 1.2 or under with a reasonable time left on the clock a goal to the losing side can result in a 'double bubble' trade as us people in the South of England would refer to it. The price of the leaders drifts whilst obviously the 1-2 or 2-1 is  a winning SG score in its own right. The trade is even better if you had 2-2 covered as well.

As with most of the trading I do the primary goal in trying one of these response trades is to gain potential leverage in the trade a whole. I'll happily take a handsome profit out of 2.5 and lose my entire SG stake or vice versa as well as readily accept a nice green on 2.5 and a 1-1 scoreline.

If you try these I suggest small stakes to start whilst you see what the markets do, and again, if you do get involved have a clear idea of your aim and get out of the market at the earliest opportunity once that aim is achieved. Stay focused and stay disciplined.

And finally, do as I say, not as I do!! :-)

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Cambridge v Stockport - such a shame....

.... that it was 1-1 by 20 minutes!

The match finished 2-2 having passed through 1-1 so had the first two goals been about half an hour later we would have had a maximum trade! Personally I took my stake out from 1-1 at about 60 minutes (just as well - 1-2 came at 63 minutes!) and greened up at 1-2.

Such is life, but a big well done to Lay Away, who correctly called the game and presumably made himself some pennies.

How to trade the Scatter Gun

In this post I'll deal with the ideal trade, followed by a couple of common situations to give you some ideas as how this trade might and can unfold as a match progresses. Unlike many other Correct Score trades which work best with early goals and plenty of them, the SG works best with fewer goals, and goals which come late in the trade.

THE IDEAL TRADE

This one really is idiot proof, and you'll be surprised how frequently matches pan out in a similar fashion. The game is 0-0 at 55 minutes, the 2-2 bet has been placed and then there is a goal. It is better for the trade if the underdogs score first, but the basic premise is the same from here on in...you can either green up the 1-1 or let the trade run. Assuming you do the latter, ideally the equaliser comes at around 60 minutes. At this point you can achieve a fair green screen across all scores, but my preference is to simply remove my 1-1 stake from the trade. If you backed at say 7.4 for £5 and lay £5 at even money or thereabouts (decimal 2.0) you will leave about an even profit on 1-1 1-2 and 2-1 with a handsome profit sitting on 2-2. If there is a third goal the smart thing then is to immediately totally green the current score. The 2-2 would also be eminently 'greenable' but I'd normally leave that alone and keep my fingers crossed for a second equaliser - then you really would have hit paydirt!

UNDERDOG SCORES FIRST

The dog scoring first is your absolute ideal event, especially if it is an earlier goal than ideally would be the case. As long as there have been no red cards to the favourites the market expectation is that the favourite will come back and get an equaliser. As a result the 1-1 score will steam right in. The other three scores will come in a bit, but not as much. If you wanted to, you could almost certainly exit with a small profit at this point unless the goal was very early in the match. My preference is usually to let the market settle and then to reflect on what the markets are telling me. If 1-1 is trading a lot lower than 0-2 / 2-0 then I'm usually content to go with the market and wait for an equaliser. A saver bet (i.e. one which just covers your total stakes) on 0-2 /2-0 is an option. The underdog's Match Odds price also gives an indication of which way the market sees the game going. If the indications are not so positive in the favourites direction I might decide at this point to reduce some of my liability by laying a bit of 1-1 and the score in favour of the underdogs off a little.

I must say though - that with only a small stake at risk, I normally just let the trade run if the dog scores first.

FAVOURITE SCORES FIRST

This is where your trading instincts and preferences come into play. We really would prefer a dog first trade, but in the absence of what we want we have to make do with what we've got as so often in life. Basically with the favourite ahead the market will probably favour 0-2 2-0 over 1-1 - but of course the relevant 1-2 / 2-1 price will come in a bit. You can probably scratch or take a small loss at this point.

Trading now becomes more subjective, or more of a punt, depending on your viewpoint! Again, because of my small stakes I usually let the trade run and hold out for an equaliser. As long there is only a one goal lead prices won't shift dramatically and the scratch / small loss situation will hold for several minutes in most games. The danger, obviously, is a second goal to the favourites. You might, therefore, choose to back 2-0 or 0-2. A less obvious reaction, however, is to back 0-3 or 3-0. Firstly, you will get higher odds and secondly if the favourites get a second and it's not too late in the match you could probably scratch the trade by laying off 2-1 / 1-2 and the relevant 3-0 score.

NIL NIL AT HALF TIME

The SG works a lot better with later goals, but for those of you more inclined to protecting your bank an exit at half time for a scratch or small loss is usually possible. You don't normally find 1-1 has moved too much, and in some cases it might have eased in bit.

The more aggressive stance at or after half time is to actually consider getting in deeper! I'll often put a couple of quid on both 2-0 and 0-2. The odds will have drifted since kick off and what you are really doing is buying leverage in the event of a goal.

There are other eventualities but I can't cover them all! The key to the trade is to make sure you act decisively and don't look back!

In another post I'll cover some of the more aggressive actions I sometimes take to attempt to maximise the SG.

An ideal SG for this evening if you want to try this out....

On a VERY poor card today, littered with U21 internationals and other unpredictable potential banana skin matches there lurks a gem of a game for an SG trade. In the Blue Square Premier league Cambridge take on Stockport at 7.45pm UK time. The first screenshot shows the odds on Match Odds, CS and U2.5 - absolutely perfect!


I appreciate that Stockport's match odds lie just outwith the stated odds in the previous post, but a trader needs to be flexible with his rules - they are meant to be guidelines not edicts. The CS odds and U2.5 odds are absolutely spot on.

A quick glance at the recent form reinforces the potential of this match to produce a winning SG - Stockport away from home don't seem capable of any score other than 1-1!


I would hazard a guess that HandyAndy will have flagged this game as a Homer, and wouldn't be surprised to see both trades discussed in the Green Room this evening.

A word of caution - the fact that I have made a song and dance about this game will almost inevitably mean that Stockport will win 0-8! You have been warned!

If you do choose to trade it I wish you all the very best with it.

The Scatter Gun trade - thoughts after a year or so of trading it..

This post was prompted by a number of different things, but the catalyst that turned thought into type was a question asked by James in the form of a comment on an unrelated blog post. He asked about filters, particularly with reference to some missed opportunities in the form of slightly odds on favourites and how much to stake on the 2-2 scoreline.

At the risk of repeating myself I feel I must make a couple of things clear...those of you who have been reading for a while will know that I am no record keeper! My 'success' with this trading strategy has no proper statistical back up so there's a leap of faith on the part of those who try this out. Having said that I think the Trading Football community will attest to the power of this trade and it is frequently used in the chatrooms for suitable matches.

For this post I intend to describe the basic trade and match selection, in a subsequent post I'll go into more detail about the mechanics of the trade, including discussing our options when the players don't bother with the script. If people are interested I'll also detail some of the riskier but potentially lucrative side trades that I indulge in alongside the SG in a third post.

The Basic Premise


The table below shows the distribution of certain scores for 2009-10:

Note that 1-1, 1-2 and 2-1 account for over 25% of those games. Add 2-2 to the mix and getting on for a third of all matches played finished with one of those four scores. Of course, as traders rather than punters, matches which finish 3-1, 1-3 and with other scores all have the potential at some point during the match to hit 1-1 or 2-1 or 1-2 thus giving us options to trade or let the trade run.

With nearly a third of games likely to fall within these scores it made sense to me to try to devise a trade around them. Hence the birth of the Scatter Gun.

MATCH SELECTION


It doesn't take a rocket scientist to appreciate that matches finishing 1-1, 2-1 or 1-2 are most likely to occur when the two teams are relatively evenly matched. I tend to look for games where  the match odds are between 2 and 4. I'm not too concerned about which way round the odds are - in other words I don't believe that home advantage is terribly important and I'll happily SG a match where the away team are the favourites. I also usually look at the Correct Score and U2.5 markets as well. I'm looking for matches where 1-2 and 2-1 are priced between 10 and 14, where 0-0 is no higher than say 12-14 and where the odds on U2.5 are below about 2.1.

There are plenty of matches which fit the trade in Match Odds but where the other markets suggest a game with plentiful goals. Norway, Sweden and Iceland spring to mind as countries where this might happen but where high scoring games are more common than say in the Premiership between two well matched sides.

James's question mentioned matches where the favourites are quite a bit below evens - and I've got to say that I often take matches on with favourites trading as low as 1.8, but these choices are generally what I would call 'gut feeling' trades and usually would involve teams and leagues that (I'd like to think) I know well.

As an added comfort you could also consult some form figures - either on Betfair or one of the many stats sites out there. Forums like the Betfair forum (if you can put up with all the egos and nonsense on there!) and OLBG, Punters Lounge etc can also offer good clues - there are some very knowledgeable specialists out there dishing out their knowledge / opinions for free.

STAKING

In the early days of the trade I'd more or less Dutch the three key scores, and look to add 2-2 to the trade when the price hits the mid twenties. Over time I have revised this thinking ,and now stake at £5 on 1-1 (odds typically between 6.8 and 7.8) and £2 on 1-2 and 2-1 if evenly matched, or maybe a bit more on the lower of the two odds if there is  a bit of a discrepancy. I still look to add a £2 back of 2-2 at about 25-30. The reason I made this change is that the whole trade revolves around 1-1. If that score is hit at some point during the game we can't lose (unless we get gung-ho and let the trade run with no laying off of liability). It therefore makes sense to weight the trade in favour of 1-1 - effectively we are buying leverage and flexibility.

So in a match where 2-1 and 1-2 are about the same price, and that stays 0-0 long enough for me to get 2-2 matched in the mid twenties my total stake if a whole £11. If there is a larger gap in the 2-1 1-2 then I might stake £3 on the lower to give a total maximum stake of £12. I rarely go any higher, but if you want to I'd suggest you keep to the ratios mentioned here.

The reason I use relatively small stakes is that it doesn't bother me if I suffer a wipe out. I KNOW the SG is profitable over time (despite not keeping records!) but with a maximum of £12 loss I'm not going to be forced into exiting too early, or to keep a losing trade going longer than I should in the vain hope of a turn round.

Which brings us neatly to the question of how, exactly, to play the trade. That's the subject of another post, and until then good luck with your trading.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Latin American trading opportunities... an insomniac's insight

Rarely being home before about 7 pm, getting fed and watered, having the obligatory daily debrief with Mrs Gun and whichever offspring can muster more than a couple of grunts means that I usually don't get down to trading much before the 7.45 / 8 pm kick offs. Whilst on most evenings this affords a wide choice of matches to get involved with if I chose, these blasted international breaks means the card is, to put it mildly, of a poor quality. I enjoy my trading, and, if Mrs Gun is be believed, am addicted to it! But Arsenal Youth v Swansea Youth a) holds little appeal and b) is a complete bloody lottery!

All this brings me fair and square to the Americas. By the Americas I refer mainly to Latin America and in particular Chile, Argentina and Brazil. There are some massive clubs there, not, perhaps, the size of some of the mighty European outfits but still worthy of respect and attracting decent liquidity on Betfair.

What I like about these leagues is that they could almost have been created specifically to host the scatter gun trade. My colleague Handy Andy is usually Homering these games as well - as the two strategies have very similar profiles in terms of what are qualifying trades.

If you like to watch the matches you trade a lot of these games are on either Betfair or something like Bet365 - I can only assume that Murdoch's stranglehold on European soccer doesn't reach across the Atlantic.

There are two key things I would suggest you look out for - firstly the games are either very low or very high scoring! There is a rarely a medium scoring game. Secondly, a quick glance down a list of  in-play Latin American league games on Flashscores or similar will show more than a smattering of red cards. These people are passionate both on and off the pitch!

If your working patterns allow, or, like me, you can survive and thrive on little sleep do have a look at some of these matches. They are easy to trade, can sometimes be watched, and usually attract decent liquidity.

I'm off to trade one of my favourite Latin teams, Godoy Cruz, at home to San Lorenzo in Argentina. My prediction is 2-1 Godoy. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Yet another two goal lead goes begging ..and then...kapow!

I had spotted that Falkirk v Rangers was 0-0 at half time, but the mental note to do something in the second half got lost in my synapses. Until JB pointed out in chat that with 15 minutes to go Falkirk were 2-0 up. I duly laid them at 1.15, and went in again a few minutes later at 1.07 with a fair chunk. Unfortunately I had my traders hat on tonight rather than my punter's hat and greened at 2-1 only for Rangers to equalize a minute or two after I'd hedged my position. The draw was begging to be laid at 1.3 and so I obliged - for Falkirk to run out 3-2 winners. A return on investment of about 400% in ten minutes.

It almost beats working for a living sometimes..

Human nature, punters and tick size = profit opportunity!

Regular readers will know that I'm a big fan of laying with low liabilities. Given a team with an early two goal lead and you'll usually find me laying them in Match Odds and if feeling brave laying Any Unquoted in Correct Score. Neither of these trades are meant to be outright winners, but with the former a goal to the losing side usually results in a nice profit and with the latter time decay forces the price out surprisingly quickly as the market normally totally over reacts with respect to that scoreline.

I've been trading football on Betfair for some years now, and I've often thought that after a goal the price on 'Unders' drops more quickly than the price on 'Overs' rises only to dismiss it as an optical illusion. For those fans of low liability laying, liabilities don't come much lower than in the Over 1.5 market after an early goal has been scored and I've quietly made a few quid doing just that lately. I've also lost a few quid but that's not the issue right now! And I became more convinced than ever that unders drops quicker than overs rises - and - after thinking about it - reckon I know why.

In the premier league season 2010-11 80% of all matches had 2 or more goals, so an early goal leaves the Over 1.5 at very low odds. To see what this means have a look at the chart below. Let's assume the market settles at 1.1 to lay overs, and 11 to back unders. I've reversed the odds of the unders so that they correspond to the overs odds to give the closest to 100% combined implied  percentage chance on both sides of the market.

The yellow boxes represent a perfectly matched market, with the implied chances adding up to exactly 100%. Notice that as the price rises on overs and falls on unders that the figure tends away from the perfect 100%. This is because on Overs at this point the tick increment is .01 whereas on unders it is either .5 or .2 on the prices shown.

The two red figures represent a £100 liability on both sides - i.e. a back of unders for £100 at 11 or a lay of overs for £1000 at 1.1. The two green figures show the hedged 'green' resulting from a one tick move on both markets. The astute trader would rather lay then back on those figures....

Or would s/he?  Let's have a look at what actually happens. Imagine my surprise when I logged onto my trading PC on returning home from work to see the gooners 0-1 down at home to the mighty Shrews! Ignoring any personal preferences a Chelsea man has for the discomfiture of our North London rivals I thought this match might illustrate my thoughts perfectly, and so it proved! The screenshot below shows the 1.5 goals market after the goal:


Notice two things... firstly the market really does expect at least one more goal! I was able to back a tenner at   25 on unders! You can see my hedge lay already in place at 18.5. Secondly look at the discrepancy in the amounts waiting to trade overs compared with unders! I haven't added it up properly but it looks to be about £400 on unders and £15-16k on overs! This makes no sense really.... if you are convinced a second goal will come  your back is sitting the queue at 1.05 or 1.06. You stand a good chance of a goal occurring before your back bet is matched! The brave soul who laid my £10 at 25 stood to lose £240 if there was no second goal, but he definitely got his lay matched!

This next screenshot was taken about three minutes later...


You can see my lay hedge has been matched, I'm the price of a pint ahead of the game, and overs has moved just one tick!

Human nature seems to move us in the direction of betting on something that we think WILL happen. So, with the above 80% stat in mind punters and traders alike back O1.5 at the start of the game, even though it is usually at an odds on price. With a goal early on the traders look to lay their backs off and secure a green book, free their cash up and go off in search of other opportunities. At 0-1 with over three quarters of a match between a premier league team and a lower league team many more punters will pile in with a straight back. The result is this log jam on O1.5 which will take time to clear. Watch these markets, in a big game (and with respect to Shrewsbury, this wasn't a BIG game!) you will see many thousands of pounds getting matched and queuing to be matched on overs.

In the meantime you'll see people like me over on unders sometimes nicking 5 or more ticks in the time it takes overs to move just one! The bigger green on a one tick hedge on overs doesn't now have quite the same appeal, does it?

I've said before that I'm not a mathematician, and I'm sure some people will correct my interpretation of the figures... but I know which way I'm going in this trade in future - all in favour of the larger tick size, quicker matching times and a fast buck!

I think it's only fair to end this post with a wealth warning....

"BACKING UNDER 1.5 GOALS, OR LAYING OVER 1.5 GOALS AFTER ONE GOAL IS SCORED CAN RESULT IN FINANCIAL LOSS! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!"

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Trading is sometimes a question of hats

It's not that I have switched career from executive cars to millinery, but rather a question that you must make sure you are wearing the correct hat on before trading your own team! The hats in question today are the 'fan's hat' and the 'trader's hat'.

Manchester United at home to my team, Chelsea. I definitely entered this trade with the wrong hat on! Thinking that a poor Arsenal side flattered MU a couple of weeks ago and that their only match against strong opposition resulted in a hard fought draw during which they looked decidedly dodgy I carried full steam ahead with a Scatter Gun trade. To compound matters I laid U1.5 instead of U2.5 at 1-0 by mistake and got wiped out there by the second goal. Even then the old glasses definitely had a blue tint as I hung manfully on for a late 2-1. At 3-0 by half time the original trade was dead and buried and I only escaped with a modest profit because I took the 'tiger line' and laid Any Unquoted at about 1.3 for £100.

As an aside, laying the AU at 3-0 / 0-3 often pays off - I've said before I frequently do it and think it works for two reasons - first because it's a relatively low liability trade and one which I'm prepared to commit to for at least 30 minutes, secondly because I think most teams adopt a sort of 'job done' mentality at 3-0 and think the game is safe. I was fortunate in this match as Shrek missed a penalty! You won't catch me shedding any tears about that!

On a more positive note, I had my trader's hat on earlier in the day when I laid both Man City and Evian both of whom had two goal leads. Both games finished 2-2. It really is quite staggering how many 2 goal leads are let slip by teams these days.

I was of the opinion pre match that Fulham would test City, and thought at 1-0 and 1.24 that I was happy to oppose the sky blue Mancunians. My only regret was not doubling up on the trade when they went two ahead!

The situation with Evian was a bit different. They were playing Paris St Germain, who have spent the national debt of Brazil on new players this close season. Their two goal lead was not expected - and the odds reflected this fact. Depsite being at home they were 1.3 to oppose at the mid point of the first half time at 2-0. PSG got a goal just before half time, but rather than green it up there and then I decided to let the trade run until it was back to a scratch position and review it then. It was one of those bizarre games where for reasons best known to themselves Betfair suspended the market no fewer than TEN times before the equaliser went in.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Just like buses....

...another one comes along. What odds was Any Unquoted at in this match at 79 minutes, I wonder? I had my trade covered and was awaiting an equalising goal from Juniors when, for the second time tonight, Any Unquoted came in an amazing spell of about 10 minutes. Why hadn't I put just 50p on it, you ask? I don't know why - but I never seem to learn! Amazing, isn't it?

Anyway here's the screenshot....

Monday, 12 September 2011

Don't think many would have seen this one coming..

The Portuguese league is not noted for high scoring affairs, so I backed U2.5 at about 1.6 at the start of the match between Academica and Nacional, scalping it down to give me a nice, safe, green of about a tenner. U2.5 was trading at 1.18 at half time. Thinking the game would be won by a one goal margin I placed a lay of £100 at 1.05 and another at 1.01 - my thinking being that I'd be able to green up after the only goal and improve a bit on my position, a free profit but a tiny £4 profit if it finished 0-0.

The second half got under way and I was flicking between that screen and the others that I had open as time slipped by and U2.5 crept downwards. I remember noting that 3-0 was at about 400 as was Any Unquoted at about 60-65 minutes (approx figures but you get the idea...).

My £100 lay was literally next in the queue at 1.05 when the suspended sign came up. A red to Nacional, followed by a penalty and the only goal of the game as I thought.

But, as the screenshot below shows, that was not the case!


There must be some layers bemoaning the fact that they thought they were buying free money! And my lay was not matched and I left the game alone...oh well!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

So, did it get any better in play?

In short, NO! The screenshot below shows a massive £142 matched just before the end of the game. The annoying thing?? My analysis was spot on and the match finished 1-1. 'Nuff said.

Never mind fan money, please, let's have SOME money!

I've been trading football matches on Betfair for a few years now, and posted a while ago about poor liquidity in some late markets. Tonight's coupon features a classic Scatter Gun trade - Hadjuck Split v Dinamo Zagreb. Bursting with anticipation I hot footed it straight into the Correct Score market just after the game had started to be confronted by this:

Not a single penny matched. Zero, zip, nowt! And we are not talking a 2am BST kick off here either - a perfectly respectable 7 pm BST start on a Saturday night to boot.

Ironically I took a call from a Betfair customer service chap the other day asking how they could improve the site and or their service. His words to me were along the lines of 'we know there is a small problem with liquidity in one or two football markets' and that they are 'actively looking at ways to improve the situation'.

May that day come sooner rather than later on this evidence. I haven't looked but my suspicion is this isn't the first completely empty market and won't be the last. No wonder revenue and profits are down - I wanted to place just £9 or £10 into this market and couldn't.... poor show.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Fan money - don't you just love it??

I am English, and although following the national team brings more than its fair share of heartache I love it when they win. I enjoy trading England matches much more than I do watching though! The reason? Loads of over optimistic patriotic money saturating the markets!

My suspicion is in truth that this money is around in games involving big clubs as well - ie Chelsea, Arsenal and Man U fans piling in on their teams (and loads of other teams I'm sure!). But with England games all those fans come together and lump on the national team thereby exaggerating the effect.

I had no doubt that England would win, and neither did the majority of traders and punters. But match odds in these games seldom offer much in the way of margin. But, at 1-0 after 35 minutes the Any Unquoted price was 4. Irresistible. That figure means that according to the market, with only 55 minutes roughly of football remaining, that England stood a 25% chance of getting three more goals (or, indeed, of Wales getting 4!). In my opinion that was way too optimistic so I laid AU for £25 with a liability of £75.

For a concise but insightful view on trading where the value lies, rather than on what you think is going to happen, have a look at Cassini's post about the match odds market in the same game.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Does anyone else get nagging voices inside their head?

And I don't mean the missus reminding you of jobs that need doing, or the sort that cause you to go beserk with a pick axe!

No, I'm referring to the little voice that says 'Charlton are too low at 1.83' as tonight's match with struggling Sheffield Wednesday was about to start. As young Wright-Phillips put them a goal up after three minutes it seemed my voice was telling me porkies tonight. A frenetic start, a goal to the good and seemingly an easy victory. The only question was how many more they'd score. They didn't score any more. But Sheffield Wednesday managed one in the second half.

So if I thought they were a value lay at 1.83, what were they at 1.25???

But by then I'd told my voice to shut up and go back to sleep and an easy trade became a slightly more challenging affair.

What really frustrates me is that this isn't the first occasion that my little voice was spot on, and this isn't the first occasion that I've totally ignored it on. Doubtless there will be others.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Someone made a catastrophic error last night...

...but, for a change, it wasn't me!

The Argie Bargies were waiting for (any/some)thing to happen in the All Boys match when Athletico GO went 0-1 up against Fluminese who were substantial pre-match favourites. One of the AB stalwarts noticed that 0-2 was available to back at 40! Quite a few of the guys climbed on, but unfortunately by the time I'd caught wind of it the money had disappeared. By all accounts a substantial amount was matched leaving that layer with a monumental liability!

There was much debate over the state of mind of that particular punter, with the most popular argument being that he was three sheets to the wind and that drinking and trading do not mix! I think the more likely explanations are that he meant to offer 40 on 1-0, but put it on the wrong scoreline, or that he meant to offer a cheeky back at 40 rather than a lay.

As an aside, for anyone newish to this trading malarkey who is wondering why he might have wanted to offer to lay 1-0 there is a rational explanation. Let's assume you'd laid 1-0 at odds of 7.2 for £100 pre-match. Your liability would be £620. Obviously at 0-1 your lay has been successful, but your £620 is still tied up until the end of the match. If someone can back 1-0 at 1000 for £2 they lose that £2 from their winning lay BUT free up the £620 immediately to go and make some more money with it elsewhere. That is why there is nearly always a couple of quid on the lay side of any defunct correct score. In case you wondered. That doesn't fully explain this situation though as no one in their right mind would back a dead score at 40!

Giving this brave soul some credit for not being paralytically drunk when he entered the trade, he probably wished he was when the score became 0-2 in the 62nd minute. And there it stayed until the 83rd minute when Fluminese found their shooting boots and turned the tie round to win 3-2. I bet there were a few choice words being uttered at a trading station somewhere in the world!

Three lessons here for me:

1) Take advantage of other people's mistakes and if you spot an obvious one jump on it quickly.
2) An earlier post refers - yet another two goal lead goes up in smoke in a matter of minutes - keep an eye out for these and again take advantage of relatively low liability lays
3) The power of the chatroom. On this occasion yours truly was too slow out of the blocks to take advantage of this opportunity, (having a smoke probably!) but several people did because one of the many pairs of eyes in there spotted it and pointed it out. Subs are £25 per month, jumping on this with a tenner at 40 would have paid several months if you had stuck with it and exited at 0-2!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

What a difference a half makes - now £12k matched

Wherever the money was, it came back! The match ended 1-1 - my earlier post about silly starts refers! As you can see by full time over £12k had been matched on Correct Score, and I made over £20 from my original £9 stakes - with a nice wad sitting on 2-1 and 1-2 should it have gone either way.


Perhaps the lesson to be learnt here is that there are occasions where it is better to get involved in the second half of matches - I wouldn't mind betting that most of that £8k traded in the second half was people scalping the 1-1 having decided the draw was looking likely.

A sure fire winner!

Here's the half time Correct Score screenshot for the Depo Cali game mentioned below. I said 1.01 the matched amount would be less that £5k and it hasn't even made £4k!


If you look closely you, like me, will be wondering why I should be finding it relatively difficult to secure a sensible green with the score at 1-1 at half time! The reason, simply, is that no one is trading the game. This is becoming  a much more frequent occurrence lately and I for one hope it rectifies itself soon.

I wonder where all the money has gone....

I'm fairly sure it's not just my imagination but there doesn't seem to be anywhere near the liquidity in the football markets (outside the big games) compared to last season. I don't remember it being a drama getting my scatter gun stakes matched in even the most obscure matches before kick off. Often this season I've seen markets with less than £300 matched with only minutes to kick off. Here is a screenshot from tonight's must trade Columbian tie between Deportivo Cali and Once Caldas. With 6 and a bit minutes to kick off only £600 matched. I appreciate this isn't a Manchester derby, and with a 9.30 BST kick off it might be late for some to trade - but, really, where is all the money?


If I remember I'll screenshot it at half time, but 1.01 it'll be less than 5k matched.

Is it the new 60% 'tax' Betfair are charging their big players? Has lots of liquidity moved to the PC free environs of Betdaq? Are there too many live games on the coupons diluting liquidity? Are Betfair or the big players no longer 'seeding' markets? Is it the same story on the nags? (No good asking me - I'd be just as well dropping £20 notes into the drain as trying to trade our four legged friends!).

It's not just pre match either. A chatroom colleague was bemoaning his fate in an English Championship match (I forget which, but a game you'd think would attract money) last Saturday afternoon, all the money apparently left the market at kick off and stayed out until 15 mins or so had gone by, leaving him with an unhealthy and inescapable position on 0-0!

Fortunately for me, trading scatter guns with £9 stakes rarely means liquidity is too much of an issue. If your trading comprises trades requiring more outlay, such as laying the draw for example, I think I'd be checking liquidity very carefully in all but the biggest games if I were you!