Monday, 30 January 2012

A mention in dispatches

The Sultan, over at Centre Court Trading has undertaken a review of sports betting / trading blogs and I'm pleased to announce that this very tome is considered to be one of the readworthy (if that's a word!) football related blogs out there! Having built myself, Lamb and Bubbles Brian up he then knocks us all for six by saying that none of us have made it big (although it's not 100% clear if he is referring to our respective trading efforts or our blogging ones!). Sultan is, however, gracious enough to append the word 'yet', which I'll interpret as meaning there's still some hope :-)

Seriously it's nice to be recognised by one's peers, and I for one enjoy the cut and thrust of some of the debates and discussions that fly across the interwebs via this medium. For Sultan's (and anyone else's) information I'm not that bothered about 'making it big' - either as a trader or as a blogger. I started blogging mainly to try to help with what I did, and still do albeit to a lesser extent, see as my main trading problem - discipline. I have found blogging to be an entirely enjoyable enterprise and it has been an enormous help to me as I wrestle with an arguably flawed general approach and a weak will. If, in so doing, anyone has picked up even the slightest inkling of a tip (even if it's to do the exact opposite of what I do!) then that's great.

It never once occurred to me that 60 people would have the slightest interest in what I have to say, yet here we are a year and a half down the road and I've had just shy of 60,000 page views. That's either one or two very dedicated fans or a reasonable readership! 

I harbour no intentions or delusions of trading ever being anything but a hobby for me, but obviously it's nice to make a bit of money along the way. If anyone discovers the Holy Grail - my bid is  a tenner for it! In the meantime I'll stick to the odd Correct Score or goals trades and dabble here and there in a sort of blundering manner. If I can take out sufficient money for the odd good beer and curry and not top up the account anymore I'll be happy!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Don't be a plonker all your life, Rodney!

Had a successful trade in the Carling Cup Semi Final and did OK with the Napoli game tonight. Went to pick Gun Jr up from his part time job and settled back down to see Barca 2-0 up at about 60 minutes available to lay at 1.06. With little downside, a presumably apoplectic Mourinho and Real on the verge of yet another defeat at the hands of their rivals and their young manager I laid them for £200.

At 68 minutes the Winker made it 2-1 and, having achieved my initial goal of achieving decent odds movement, and doubting Madrid's ability to get a second, I took the green on offer - around £35. Sure enough Madrid equalised.

One of my usual trading maxims is not to look over my shoulder. If you leave a trade early and it goes in your (now 'ex') favour just smile inwardly and move on. Not tonight. The red mist descended, and, mad with myself for leaving  a small downside trade too early, I laid the draw. With about 15 minutes plus stoppages left, Madrid chasing a one goal deficit from the first leg, and Barca being Barca, there'd be another goal. Surely. So I took on a handsome £100 liability and gave myself lovely potential greens on a winning score.

It was then a case of watching the red slowly build up, and the draw price tumble. I even went in again at 1.2!!

Suffice it to say that the winning goal was conspicuous by its absence, and all the hard work on the evening's earlier trade and some was completely wiped out by this pointless and stupid trade. Talk about leave a winning trade too early and stay in a losing one too long - here it is - defined and in all its glory.

What a plonker!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

And almost exactly on cue...Cardiff 1 Palace 0 7 minutes

You couldn't write the script!

Match Odds:

And Correct Score:

I didn't get to the U2.5 quickly enough I'm afraid - but am pleased to report that my predicted prices for this situation were, if I say so myself, pretty damn good!

A blast from the past, or 'What a strange place the internet can be'

When I was a young man I developed a keen interest in things photographic. For younger readers I am of course referring to the heady days of manual exposure meters, f-stops and shutter speeds. All of which today's digital cameras hide so effectively from your minds. I remember saving my pocket money, earnt by doing two or three paper rounds, and buying one of these....

This is a Zenit E 35mm SLR camera, made in the USSR. The one pictured above is a posh one - the photo voltaic cells you can see on the pentaprism case are an (extremely basic) exposure meter - mine didn't have such luxury. I think I handed over the not inconsiderable (in those days) sum of £40 odd for my camera and it was a fantastic piece of kit. I don't know how many times I dropped it, left it in direct sunlight, got it wet and yet every time it came up trumps and went straight into battle again.

What has this nostalgia got to do with trading football? Absolutely nothing, or so you'd be forgiven for thinking. Yet, on casually glancing through my blogging stats I came across the following buried in the 'Search Keywords' section:

Somehow, people seeking how to correctly expose photographs using this antiquated bit of photographic equipment are ending up here reading about Scatter Guns and Correct Score trading.

To paraphrase a certain Mr Greaves, 'It's a funny old world'.

Apprenticeships....and shortcuts

Jose posted this comment recently:
Hello Gundulf,
I'm portuguese and I discover your blog last month. Let me say thank you because I feel I learned a lot with you.
One question if possible:
If it's possible can you please tell me how does the odd 3-0 moves with an early goal? Imagine a favorite with +-1.80.
There are no shortcuts in this business people! The only way to really get to know what happens to odds is to put the hours in and watch lots of markets. Do your apprenticeship with small stakes - or even with nothing more exciting than a spreadsheet and pretend money!

That said there is lots of help available in blogland and elsewhere on the web to ease this process, and I'll do my best here.

Cardiff play Palace tonight in the second leg of the Carling Cup Semi-Final. They are 1.74 favourites at the time of writing, so let's have a look at the relevant markets...

Match Odds:

Correct Score:

And U/O 2.5:

Actually, as you look beyond Jose's actual question it quickly becomes apparent that it is an impossible question to answer accurately. Here we have a 1.74 favourite, but a game in which goals are expected to be hard to come by. 3-0 is at 17 and Any Unquoted at 11. A quick flick over to the 2.5 market confirms that market expectation is firmly on the side of less than three goals. Were this a typical Dutch or Icelandic game with favourites at the same odds I'd expect both 3-0 and AU to be considerably shorter, and U2.5 to be in the 2.2 - 2.4 range. Were it a typical French game I'd expect 3-0 and AU to be considerably higher and U2.5 to be around 1.7 or even in the low 1.6's.

The correct score market is one that is subject to considerable over reaction when a goal is scored, and frequently opportunities to make a quick relatively safe in and out profit abound. If Cardiff take an early lead, let's say at 5 minutes, what will happen to those prices?

Match Odds: Cardiff shorten to about 1.3 ish, the draw goes out to about 5 - 6 and Palace to about 11-14.

O/U 2.5 - Under goes out to 3. - 3.5 I'd think.

But with CS, and 13 possible remaining scores, things are a little more complicated. Firstly the price of 1-0 will go out.... with 85 minutes plus stoppages the probability of the match ending 1-0 is lower than it was at kick off. As a guide, 1-0 will be roughly whatever price 0-0 was before the goal. As a guide I'd expect AU to halve in price, and 3-0 to come into about 9 or 10. Both will immediately start to drift back out again as time ticks by.

If we look at our typical Dutch / Icelandic game where 3-0 might have been at 8 or 9 at kick off the odds movements would be far less dramatic. The reason? Basically because the game is heading in the general direction that the market expected in the first place - so there is less 'room' for the 3-0 odds to fall!

So there we have it, Jose! I'm sorry it took so long to reply to your comment, but I don't think a simple 'I reckon it would do 'x'' would have been much use to you. These markets are inter-dependent - all ultimately driven from the Correct Score market, which itself is driven by two factors: time remaining and current score.

For a concise look at how the CS market operates have a look at SoccerDude's post on this very subject. For a bit more insight into how the Match Odds and O/U 2.5 inter-relate (or sometimes don't) Cassini's post makes good reading.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Manchester 2 London 0

Two very interesting Premier League matches yesterday. Man City v Spurs at lunchtime and Arsenal v United at 4 pm. Both matches were arguably 'six pointers' and so it was not unreasonable to expect close games.

Now I'm a Chelsea man, and although I like Spurs as a team and am a big admirer of Harry for all his faults,  the only time I'd ever actively support the Gooners is when they play United - so in my heart I wanted the above score line to read the other way round... but hey ho! From a football fan's perspective, tribal prejudices apart, it would have made for a much more interesting run-in had the London teams both won.

Of the two games, the City one looked a nailed on home win, whereas the Arsenal match had 'Scatter Gun' written all over it as far as I was concerned. Something convinced me to take the same approach with the City game - the absence of two crucial players being a deciding factor for me. Was I glad that I did! At 2-0 it looked dead in the water, but an uncharacteristically sloppy piece of defending and a world class goal brought first the 2-1 and then the 2-2 in for a nice green. This was further enhanced by laying 2-2 at low odds with a few minutes left on the clock. What a shame that Defoe couldn't quite stretch that extra foot or so, and that Super Mario got the winner.

Feeling suitably buoyed by that one the Arsenal game, by comparison, was a doddle of a trade - the goals coming almost exactly at the right times. Had the Gooners managed an equaliser my day would have been complete - as it was I had to suffer a return of over £150 from a total investment of about £25. I can live with that.

Continuing my occasional forays into other sports I thought I'd have a go at the NBA tonight - see if I can pick up a couple of these big swings I keep reading about. Wish me luck (for, I promise you, there will be little or no skill involved!).

Monday, 16 January 2012

Some questions for the statisticians....

Thank you to everyone who pointed out that AU covers more scores than just 4-0. I promise you, despite the tripe I often write, I DID know that :-)

So after that little exercise I have a couple of questions, born out of curiosity rather than intent.

Firstly, the same stats are available to all, so a Poisson distribution designed around average home goals, average away goals or average total goals per game will presumably present the same results for everyone trying it. So for it to be of any use some subjective input must be made. How, for example, should we treat the errant results?  The stand out errant result so far this season was surely the Man U trouncing of Arsenal by 8 goals to 2. That match skews Man U's home goals too high, and suggests the Gooners are (too) easy to score against. As the season progresses, assuming no more such errant results for either side, these averages willl come down a bit, but I'd be interested to hear how this kind of thing might be addressed.

My second question, of  purely academic interest, is how do I get Excel to calculate a PD for any score of 4 or more goals to either side? I'm assuming that you don't need to calculate and aggregate 4-0, 4-1, 4-4 etc to achieve this but I'm blowed if I can work out how to do this! What did occur to me was to calculate the PD for all scores up to 3-3 and subtract the sum of those 16 results from 100. The resulting figure looked about right for some very evenly matched low scoring sides, but put say Man U and Chelsea in there and ... let's just say I'd back AU at the suggested odds!

My toying with this has reinforced in my mind the substantial gulf between the mathematically competent (and despite my self deprecation I am reasonably adept at 'normal' maths) and the statistician!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Maffs and I - uneasy bedfellows

Cassini kindly pointed me in the direction of a post on his blog (here)  in which he discusses mathematically assessing a match using the aforementioned Poisson method. This I have read. Four times, now. I've also tried to make head or tail of the wiki article on the same subject.  Microsoft's help files on the Poisson function in Excel might just as well be written in ancient Mandarin for all the sense they made to me. This is in no way due to the quality of the writing in any of the pieces, by the way. I'm  sure that to the mathematically adept if all makes perfect sense.

Then it occurred to me that I don't NEED to understand the bloody thing, just to know how to use it! So a quick google search later saw me reading a page at Pinnacle's web site explaining one way to calculate the number of goals a team is likely to score in a match against a known opponent. A video on Youtube  then showed me how to use the Poisson function in Excel. A mixture of both techniques would enable me to price
up a Correct Score market for myself. Marvellous.

A little bit of data crunching of stats from the Premiership so far this season, downloaded from that wonderful stats site football data into a workable spreadsheet,  I entered my first Poisson calculation with baited breath.

Thinking it made sense to use real data to try to model a real match I've come up with the following for tomorrow's clash between WBA and Norwich :-

 A nil nil draw has a percentage chance of 5.27, equating to 18.98 decimal. With 0-0 priced at the time of writing at 14.5 to lay -  that looks a value lay to me.

My spreadsheet also calculated AU (or at least, it calculated 4-0) as having a Poisson of .15 - decimal 666.66. Therefore laying AU at 10.5 must be the value bet of the century!

So my intention therefore is to do a double headed lay of those two scores for £100 stakes each leaving a £1300 liability on 0-0 and £850 on AU. Any scores in between land me £200 less BF's commission.

You're more than welcome to join me, but if I were you I'd seriously ask myself whether the author is maybe dabbling in dark arts that he hasn't fully fathomed out yet.... your choice!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Light relief - anyone see this French Cup match on Monday night?

Angers v Monaco. For all the world a nailed on Scatter Gun... 0-0 at less than 9, 1-1 in the mid 7's and 1-2 2-1 in 11 -14 range. Angers slight favourites. Exactly the kind of game I look for. And... it was in France... so a nice controllable trade.. two to three goals a realistic expectation. No dramas, money in the bank or at worst a small loss if it finished 0-0 or 1-0.

The match busted just about every available major in-play market. It was 3-3 at half time, so all the goal markets bar O/U 6.5 were dead and buried (tbh I didn't even notice if there even was a 6.5 market - it's not one that leaps into most traders' minds when considering a French match!). H/T AU dead (what price that? 25? Higher?). Any Unquoted in Correct Score at 1.24 at half time. CS2 (if there ever was one - again didn't look!) history. Angers won 4-3 with what must have been the last kick of the game, by which time AU must have been over 6 I'd think if not higher.

I've heard tell that some traders use something called 'Poisson Distribution' in spreadsheets to help them evaluate market prices vis a vis current odds. I've read about the thing, but it befuddles my mind. I will revisit it again and attempt to understand it.

In the meantime, from the recesses of my mind, stretching back several moons to A Level French I think a poisson is a fish. That is a noun. Add a 'y' to the English translation and it becomes 'fishy' which is an adjective. I can't help but wonder if that's nearer the mark in this case.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Interesting replies....

... from Mssrs JDT and Haltdalsufo. Thank you both for taking the time and trouble to pen such long, well argued and interesting comments. BTW I assume you are both gents, if not, my apologies!

Turning first to JDT's post. I didn't mean to imply that value seeking traders just go on gut feel. I appreciate that most, if not all, will have spreadsheets, databases and other resources with which to gauge whether or no a price represents value. Your point about opinion being clouded by what they see or hear, and to an extent how they feel themselves is a valid one and that I think is what I was trying to say.

I've personally got some doubts about too much reliance on a purely mathematical model... for two reasons. First it makes no allowance for emotion - such as the way in which Leeds seemed to perform in the immediate aftermath of Gary Speed's death for example. Second I can think of at least two purely mathematical models that I'd rather not emulate.One is the automated trading systems in bank currency rooms a few years ago and secondly who can forget the 'no hurricane'  messages put out by the Met Office running computers and software (not to mention far more data!) much more sophisticated than anything most traders can aspire to!

Haltdalsufo points out the irony that I struggle with the concept of value trading yet seem to follow its thought process and act accordingly. I was aware of that dichotomy as I wrote the post, funnily enough, and I think he is right to a great extent when he says that a lot of my actions are taken after number crunching the value question, albeit subconsciously.

Returning to that Man U trade as an example, I didn't really expect that trade to win - but was convinced that a movement of odds in my favour was very likely. The point being that by being nearly right, or not quite wrong, I was able to profit with a fairly minimal downside had I been totally wrong. Obviously at some point I made a call about the risk / reward involved, but probably would still have entered the trade at higher odds - because, in my opinion, City were not going to just lie down and take it!

Similar trades that I have entered have had both outcomes - and in some cases I've taken a full loss or a full profit and in others smaller greens and smaller reds. How many, at what odds and with what strike rate I couldn't tell you and obviously it's the winners that you tend to remember.

I've no doubt that my thinking on this subject is somewhat confused - in a way I think I try to pick trades at good values but which I think have a good chance of working for me. If I haven't that faith the odds on offer don't interest me and I leave it alone - value or not!

Perhaps my real problem is that want to have my cake and eat it! To seek out value and pick winners!

Probably a good job I don't have to pay the household bills by trading ,eh?

Sunday, 8 January 2012

In my opinion, ultimately, it's a matter of opinion.

During the recent debate over finding and acting on value in sports trading someone made the observation that your decision to enter a market should not be influenced by what you think might happen. This is another area of trading 'philosophy' or 'best practice' which I really struggle with.

Surely, before anyone enters a market to trade (or straight bet) on it they have formed an opinion of what might happen within that market.

For the value seekers it goes like this....If the market odds of an outcome are, lets say, evens, and your assessment of the true chance makes those odds 1.9 you have found a value trade / bet. For your bet to get matched someone must, by definition, be of the opposite opinion. You can't both be right.

For the win seeker the same thought process, from a different angle admittedly, must be undertaken.

The value bettor doesn't bet unless he thinks he has identified value, the win seeker doesn't bet unless he thinks he has identified a winner! So both those bettors / traders will certainly be in some of the same markets, albeit for different reasons.

The point I'm labouring to make is that it all boils down to your own opinion of how things will turn out. The best either type of bettor can say of his decision to enter a market is that it was the right thing to do 'in my opinion', until such time as someone invents a fully functional crystal ball. Both decisions reflect, somewhere in the machinations, an assessment of what might happen, and the likelihood of it's happening.

One of the great thing I love about trading is that it offers you the opportunity to be almost right or almost wrong. Despite my recent forays, admittedly half heated, into other sports I basically trade only football. I'm not going to mislead anyone by suggesting I'm some sort of expert - the pinnacle of my soccer career was the school team and a few run outs in the colours of a local pub, However, I'm well read around the subject and would say that I can read a game reasonably well. There is also a plethora of free data, and opinion, around the interwebs. I also think I can get inside a market's head in some situations - where fan money and / or people desperately trying to liquidate poor positions is driving prices higher or lower than they should be.

All of this means that quite a lot of the trades I enter are done so primarily on my opinion of the outcome, in the context of the price on offer. 'Gut feel' you might say.

Driving home from visiting relatives this morning Mrs Gun suffered the commentary of the first half of the Manchester FA Cup derby on Five Live in relative silence. I was thinking to myself that there were probably a lot of betfairers trying to scramble their way out of poor positions by the time it was 0-3!

The commentators could not see past a five or six goal 'revenge' for recent events at Old Trafford. And who could blame them, really? The match sounded completely one sided and Mancini's attacking options looked limited.

Unsurprisingly, when I got the lappy fired up I saw United there to lay at 1.02, and laid them for £1000. At 2-3 I could have traded out for a green book of about £200. Instead I adjusted my position slightly to leave £60 on United and close to £750 on the draw and City. Despite their best efforts City couldn't get a third, and in places Utd could have extended their lead, so ultimately I traded out for just under £150 all round.

Had I found value? I really, really, really don't know. I suspect I had...but the odds were proven right by the fact that  City couldn't find an equaliser. Did I do the wrong thing by not taking the £200 when it first went to 2-3? If I thought I had found value should I have stayed in and taken the £60 I had on United in the expectation of the £750 on  a draw? Having taken the £150 how sick would I have been had that last minute free kick sailed into the top corner?

This, for me, illustrates the beauty of trading. The £20 I staked on that trade, in truth, was probably dust as a gamble the second my finger pressed the submit button. I knew and accepted that. But I was firmly of the opinion that City would not just roll over and die. So the 'trade' lost, but was a winning trade....fantastic.

Had I genuinely thought City were 100% a defeated team would I probably would not have entered the trade, value or not. In my opinion it was a trade worth doing, and not just in light of it's success.

I was seeking only price movement, and got it. From there on in how you handle the resulting situation is individual and must be down to a degree to personality and risk aversion.

That's my opinion, for what it's worth :-)

Friday, 6 January 2012

Not so sure about this one...

I said I was going to have a look at some other sports in 2012 and last night I had a look at Ice Hockey - and what a strange trading experience it was! Another seemingly relatively short game in terms of playing time, but again it takes bloody ages to play! The match I tried was between Chicago and Philadelphia, and I laid the draw in the second period at 2-2 early in the second period. A two goal lead to the favourites did little to move the odds for absolutely ages, and as time wore on I'm afraid I got bored stiff and took the little green on offer. There was only about 12k trade on match odds as I finished up, but the lack of real movement surprised me.

I'll have another look at the sport again, but must say I struggle a bit with all these long winded matches... one of the reasons I've never taken to tennis or test match trading.

Next on the agenda is a dabble in basketball, to be followed by some rugby....maybe if I keep looking I'll find something I enjoy trading as much as I do football.

Then I'll have to come up with a new blog name....

Sunday, 1 January 2012

My first attempt at NFL

I finally took the plunge and dipped my toes into the murky NFL waters this evening. For no other reason than the subject of my post about Mr Lombardi the obvious game of choice to trade was that between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions. I am pleased to be able to report that I somehow managed to turn an initial £20 liability into a £45 green  - I used chicken stakes for my first trade!

So, what did I learn?

Firstly, that it is useful to suspend normal European logic when trading across the pond.

I had noticed the '@' symbol in the coupon on Geek's Toy and had assumed The Geek has misplaced his 'v' somewhere. I was immediately impressed by the sheer numbers of away teams that were red hot favourites! This looked an interesting proposition. It wasn't until I noticed on the Flashscores screen that the team names were reversed that I queried what was going on. The ever helpful Robbo explained in patiently indulgent terms that of course the '@' symbol informs you that the Lions were 'visiting with' the the home team on the coupon were the away team on the pitch....right....

Having got my head round that one, the second thing  I then learnt was that the game was to consist of four quarters each of 15 minutes duration. And would take about three hours to play......the Packers' game actually lasted nearly four hours! When I was a younger and fitter man I'd have been on my second pint after 18 holes of golf in that time!

The third thing that I learnt was that Flashscores is even slower at updating the scores in NFL than it is with soccer... a more accurate source of information about what is going on is needed I feel...

Those observations are, of course, tongue in cheek. I actually quite enjoyed the swings that went on, laying , greening, using that green as the liability on another lay. I hadn't a clue what was going on in the game, but strangely found the markets quite readable, and gappy. A scalper's paradise in fact. I especially liked the complete absence of the 'Suspended' sign flickering on and off like a Belisha beacon!

I made 26 individual trades during that game. Did I over trade it or under trade it? I haven't a clue to be honest - but it was an educational experience. Perhaps I was very fortunate with my game choice, perhaps the next time I try it I'll come horribly unstuck. My suspicion, however, is that there is consistent money to be made from these markets for little liability and I like the thought of that. It hasn't made me want to understand the mechanics of the game, even less to watch it, but I will take a detailed look at it from a stats point of view and will definitely be back for more.

One thought from flicking between the match I was trading on the Toy and the Betfair coupon was that in closely matched NFL games a nice green might be available from a simple lay the field at say 1.8. Perhaps some more knowledgeable than I could advise?

Happy New Year!

We hosted a NYE party last night - a bit of a subdued event in many ways as a close friend died whilst on holiday  a few weeks short of his 50th birthday a few months ago, and he was sorely missed. NY is always a time for reflection, resolution and a spirit of positive hopes for the forthcoming year.

I'm not going to bore you all with my intention to give up smoking and my plans for the four hundred odd quid a month I'll save, nor with my resolve to lose the extra weight I've been lugging around for far too long on this tired old frame.

What I will bore you with are the following trading resolutions:

1) Keep  better, proper, detailed records
2) Use what I learn from 1) to improve my trading
3) To be much more selective in my trading outside of the SG model - to reflect more before jumping in and to have a reason to enter a market.
4) To look at, and learn how to trade, some other sports and expand my trading horizons

A happy, prosperous and Green 2012 to all who visit this corner of the interwebs.