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...