Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Work in progress...

I called the England game wrong in a fundamental way - in that the one goal win went the wrong way. However, I thought it was a very encouraging match for England. The 'old guard' weren't really missed, and it's no real shame to lose to the Dutch. Although in many ways they are an ageing team it's hard to contain Robben when he's awake and on form.

From a trading perspective it was, however, a good night for me. A good win on the England game at 1-2, made even better by the ensuing 2-2 and 2-3. I also thought Italy were far too short at 1.66 against the USA, and duly laid them pre match. I removed my liability on the game at half time and was duly rewarded when the States took, and held, a one goal lead. Wales let me down by failing to secure an equaliser against Costa Rica, and a lay of France at 0-2 against Germany would have worked for me had the Germans managed to score before the 90th minute! Hey ho.

Off to trade three Paulista games now - they do love a scatter gun in Brazil!

Pyscho and Scotty.... more of this please

I'm not after timing, it's 19.41 with a kick off against the Dutch due in twenty minutes. Obviously that title will read very strangely if the Dutch win 4-0; but for me I think these two characters are a bit of what the English national side needs. Steely minds and hard work.

Psycho has said he doesn't feel he's experienced enough to take the job full time. It's tempting to ask where, exactly, going for experience has got us hitherto.

Time, as they say, will tell.

My money, if you're interested, is on an England win by one goal.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Spreading the risk, and a favour to ask

An interesting post by Peter Webb on the nature of the mature football markets, part of which I quote:
Lots of people focus on just one match, research it to death and try and make a judgement on value; that’s fair enough. But often the market is ‘hyper efficient’ so value is tricky to find. Even if you can find it, it can take ages for the system to mature to a profit. Therefore one of the things I tend to do is spread my risk across many matches. This speeds up the maturity of the system I am deploying and gives me a better chance of a regular payoff.
I couldn't agree more with this assessment which is why my screen looks like some kind of Jackson Pollock painting with markets and chatrooms etc open all over the place as I try to multi-task. Peter's post wasn't totally altruistic though, as he goes on to extol the virtues of trading with BA linked to an Excel spreadsheet (which I suppose he has every right to do) .

I thought this therefore would be an ideal opportunity to bring anyone who is interested up to speed with my amateurish attempts to develop an SG bot as discussed a while ago.

Painfully slow progress, to be honest. With the first signs of spring and slightly warmer weather business is starting to pick up again, and I'm often late home and tired. Notwithstanding that I seem to have run into a couple of 'logical' walls, one in particular relating in how to establish the current score. I don't think it's sensible to rely on the stats sites for this - I've seen far too many errors over the years. So, as mentioned I intend to poll the correct score markets looking for 1000 odds to back, indicating that score is no longer a 'live' or available one. My thinking here is to implement some kind of binary tree with 0-0 as the primary node and going from there...

If anyone feels able to point me in the right direction I'd be grateful....

Friday, 17 February 2012

Ignore 'no goals' French football at your peril

I wasn't on all of these, and a couple of them were losers. But the winners were good winners - £70 plus on Angers and £100 plus on Tours.

Gross Retained v Net Retained

A comment posted on Cassini's Green All Over delves into the murky world of profit claims for services rendered, and suggests that Betfair commission should be deducted from any profits declared so people can see the true picture. Cassini quite rightly points out that different people pay commission at different rates on Betfair (some possibly even use Betdaq and pay even less!) and that showing the profitability of the trade in its original form is perfectly above board.

It's one of those questions which I suppose has no definitive answer. But I'll offer my opinion, for what it's worth.

In the motor trade, when we sell a used car we work off two basic profit calculations. The first is the profit generated by the sale of that car. This is calculated by taking the cost price from the selling price to give a gross margin. From that margin the expenses incurred in selling that car are deducted.... any paintwork, mechanical reconditioning, tyres, MOT's etc. Then the cost of any warranty and the VAT due on the margin  are also taken off to leave a GRP or Gross Retained Profit figure. The GRP is of monumental importance for two main reasons. First and foremost my commission is based on it. Secondly it is generally regarded as being the most important KPI as far as general profitability is concerned.

The second figure is the Net Retained Profit and this is rarely calculated on a per car basis although there is no reason why it couldn't be. Essentially it is obtained by deducting things like sales person's commissions, advertising costs, any administrative costs and business tax other than VAT from the GRP attained. The key point is that those costs will vary significantly business to business and even month by month - i.e. they are variable but not related to the trading of any one particular car.

To put that concept into the perspective of  a service such as Cassini's draw selections the GRP is the key driver and that is return - stakes. Simple. The net will vary person to person. I don't know what he charges (but am sure it's reasonable :-)) - but lets say he charges £20 per month. If trader A does 20 trades a month his cost of doing business is his commission and £1 to the seer per trade. Trader B trading just ten matches per month will also pay commission at whatever his rate is but his cost per advised trade is £2.

There is no fairer way than declaring the GRP of a trading service's results in my opinion. Commission and the cost of using the service are both costs of doing business and although they will influence people as to whether or no the service is worthy of their hard earned or not - the key to what the service delivers is its gross profit.

So there.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Black Arts

Eddie, at a Football Trader's Path, has written the first episode of what hopefully will be a fully fledged series guiding the rest of us on how to price up Match Odds. Anyone with more than a modicum of interest in trading this great sport should read, study and digest this post, even if, like me, you rarely touch Match Odds.

An understanding, however sketchy, of the basic principals behind how bookmakers and market makers price up these events is worth its weight in gold when you are putting together a trade on a particular match in my opinion.

The first method Eddie considers is that of using 'Goal Supremacy' as a means of calculating Match Odds. In its raw form this is a mechanical exercise, and the sample match he uses throws up prices quite close to those offered in the markets. In the comments responding to the post, and in the follow up post, questions are raised about how to 'tweak' the mechanical method to take account of the quality of the opposition in the six games from which the goal supremacy figures are taken, the type of match (should cup matches be excluded, for instance?) and even the 'type of goal' with  a point about 'deserved' and 'junk' goals.

As always when a piece of writing grabs my attention I start to think about how I have approached these things in the past, and what might change with my new found wisdom.

When selecting my SG trades the Match Odds market is always my starting point. I seek matches where the teams are relatively evenly matched, in terms of market price at any rate. Then I look at who the teams actually are, the reason being that two Scandinavian or Dutch teams closely aligned in match odds will quite often throw up high scoring matches and similarly with two evenly matched French teams you are staring down the barrel of a possible 0-0!

Depending on how many matches coincide on the coupon I might then go and look at recent results, and this is where I think 'tweaking' a basically sound mechanical system can throw you off the scent. It is very easy to start doubting the validity of your initial selection, and then it becomes harder to commit to the trade. But what understanding how market odds are compiled will do is to aid me sense check my estimations of possible goals - obviously I seek at least two and preferably three (in the correct sequence if that's not being too greedy!) by glancing at the prices on offer in the CS market when I've opened it to set my trade.

Whatever your view might be I urge you to read Eddie's prose - and Eddie, if you stop by and cast your eyes over this, bring on Part II please :-)

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Payment not required.

My father loathed football with a passion, apart from one particular aspect of it. A fond memory of the old chap is of the whole family driving home on cold, wet Saturday afternoons guessing the football results by the inflection  in the voice of James Alexander Gordon on the car radio. Dad was brilliant at it, despite probably never taking even the slightest interest in the actual results. I suspect that the concept of the Scatter Gun was somehow formulating in my early teen mind - the preponderance of 1-1 1-2 and 2-1 scores struck me even then!

So it was with a wry smile that I noticed the following in the first blog post by Jon, aka Fedslam:
      I can't get my head around someone giving out so much information and guidance for free.

Maybe he's right. It's nice to read a positive review of the trade, but all I've done is to use the facts of the frequency of the scores in question to construct a fairly simple, fairly mechanical trade around it. Jon is obviously far more disciplined in his trading that I am - he obviously keeps detailed records for a start! I think he has fully grasped  the fact that the strategy (if that's not too grand a title for it!) is so flexible and open to an individual's interpretation that tweaks and tries are to be actively encouraged. 

The reason I rarely pursue the Mk II approach that Jon is advocating boils down to the fact that I found it just tended to over complicate things for me. There is considerable merit in it, especially if Jon's observations about first goal times stand the test of a larger sample size. I suspect they will because the matches the trade favours tend to be close cagey affairs, certainly at the start.

My latest 'tweak' is to set the trade up in the normal way, and then to top up 1-1 2-1 and 1-2 at 50 minutes or so if it is still 0-0. Taking advantage of double figure odds on 1-1 and odds into the early 20's on the other two scores really boosts the green when the trade goes your way, without needing to increase the initial stakes by too much.

What can't be too mechanical, and to a greater or lesser extent shows whether the person conducting the trade tends toward the trader or the punter, is choosing how and when to take your profits. I'm reasonably confident that if I'd hedged 2-2 on all the games that 1-2 or 2-1 occurred with a reasonably decent amount of time left that I'd be ahead compared to the number of games that actually hit 2-2. Remember, although the trade is geared to 1-1 1-2 2-1 there are plenty of other results that can result in 1 or two of those scores being hit at some point. Greening those matches at the right times can result in really big wins relative to stakes, and those are the matches I aim at. In doing so I probably sell myself short on others, and miss some completely. So I wish Jon / Fed all success in his exploits and hope he continues to religiously record his efforts for my benefit as much as his. Any 'slate' he might feel he owes me will have been wiped clean :-)

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Incredible value drops through my letterbox!

Cassini makes the point that a young and (formerly) enthusiastic blogger who had discovered sports trading was being a tad optimistic in expecting returns of 30-40% per month from trading in-play football matches.

The good news is that if our young friend parts with £77 he can achieve figures considerably in advance of 30-40% per month.

A 16 page sales pamphlet has hit my doormat - and I've got to say it looks very tempting. Due to the discovery of something that happens early in all football matches that hit strictly defined criteria this system promises.... drum roll.... an 80% strike rate with a return on investment of .... bigger drum roll...'up to 224%'.

The pamphlet is at pains to point out that with an 80% strike rate you can't lose, and that by compounding your winnings you should double your bank every couple of weeks. Of course, nowhere in the sixteen pages of sales letter is there any hint at what you need to do - just the promise of vast returns for 'what amounts to a few mouse clicks'. I think it's something to do with the exchanges though because it mentions 'a new style of internet betting'.

Obviously such a system is extremely valuable potentially. But, if you hurry, you can take advantage of the early offering before the author hikes the price to the full value (which isn't actually stated) as long as you send a glowing testimonial for future marketing purposes.

Needless to say my debit card has stayed firmly glued to the relevant section of my wallet, but I thought it would make an interesting dicscussion...

How can we make 220% with an  80% S/R in the early stages of a football match. Again, answers on a postcard please.

Mention in dispatches for the best answer, but if any knows the real answer a private email will do nicley!

It's not there yet...

... but probably will be soon.

I refer, in case you were wondering, to the Next England Manager's market. Having heard the news of Fabio's resignation whilst driving home tonight and having also heard that most bookies are no longer taking bets on a certain Mr Redknapp now there is no danger of him spending a few months sewing mailbags I hurried home to lay him in the market.

I'm not going to get involved with the pros and cons of  Harry's candidacy - there are enough pundits, pub experts and twit-ters out there to bore us all senseless many times over.

However, in my opinion the job is enough of a poisoned chalice to make any rational man think at least twice about taking it, there are other possible candidates and a good chance of Champions League soccer next season at Spurs. Enough of a case can be built, in my view, to make a lay of our Harry a viable option.

So come on BF - get the market up - I'll take a grand at 1.02 please.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

This is becoming a recurring theme!

Whilst I don't agree with everything that Cassini says I keep finding myself coming back time and again to the words he uttered when interviewed by the Sultan. I reproduce them again for your delight and delectation:

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. 
The bold font, italics and underlining are mine, the question Sultan's and the answer Cassini's.

I'm not, by any stretch of the imagination, a 'new' trader. This blog's over a year and a half old now and I'd been trading a fair time before I decided to start opening my soul to you lot!

So, you ask, what did you do this time Gun??

Well.... I am probably the only Chelsea fan in the whole wide world who laid them at 3-0 this afternoon with £200 at odds of 1.03. Yep, I chucked six quid of my hard earned cash in the direction of a draw or a United win. And then traded out for a handsome profit after the first (slightly) dodgy penalty.

I'm not going to witter on about it. But, if SAF mentions a disputed penalty from the first half of the game if I can bring myself to suffer Match of the Day tonight, there's an extremely good chance that Mrs Gun will be dispatched to Bluewater tomorrow in search of a new television set.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Time to flex my (intellectual) muscles

Working, as I do, in the retail motor industry means that a lot of potentially very profitable trades are unavailable to me due to the fact that I am unavailable on Saturday afternoons. Frustrating as this is there is no way round it unless a way can be found to automate the process.

I distinctly remember as a spotty teenager playing around with programming a Sinclair Spectrum SX in a language called 'BASIC'. I managed to draw something that sort of resembled a tank and was able to animate this thing across the screen of the television the computer was hooked up to. It introduced me to some basic (no pun intended) programming principles such as loops and if.... then... else constructs. Why I didn't pursue a career down this road I've no idea; obviously I saw no future in it :-(

Over the years I've dabbled with programming as a hobbyist and I think it is now time to see if I can get my two main pastimes working in tandem with each other. My favoured trade, as regular readers will know, is the so called 'Scatter Gun' trade which can be worked very mechanically ... i.e. if this condition exists then do this or else do that. I'm sure this can be worked into a programme, or 'bot' to take care of things whilst I'm off enjoying selling cars.

Although I'm self taught with the help of various books and the internet I'll state up front that most of the specialised code needed to access Betfair programmatically has been learnt by studying a very useful thread by a chap named Mumbles on the Betfair developer's forum, so credit for any success where it's due. I'll take the blame for any failure right on the chin!

I'm sure a professional developer would start armed with a piece of paper or two and sketch out the main structure of his bot before firing up the relevant software. I'm not a pro, and planning on paper is not one of my strong suites so it's straight in at the deep end with Visual Basic .net 10 for me!

Fairly obviously this isn't set to win any 'User Interface' awards, and this is the unstarted finished product! So there's a few hoops to jump through along the way.

There are a few issues that I've yet to confront properly (and probably loads of 'Gotchas' round every corner) - for example how to keep track of the current score. I know from bitter experience that Flashscores and the like cannot be 100% trusted so it seems to me at the moment that the only sure fire way of establishing the current score is to loop through all possible Correct Scores looking for odds of 1000 to back.

As I start getting this mock up wired for action it might be that I appeal to cleverer readers than I to assist with the gotchas. Hopefully someone will come to my aid. I expect progress on this to be slow, as my patience when things like this aren't doing what I would like them to is akin to that of a toddler playing with Lego. So, please bear with me!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Official - lightning can and does strike twice!

An almost unbelievable last couple of nights' trading which I'd like to share with you.

The Monaco v Lens game last night had all the attributes I look for in setting up a Scatter Gun trade. Close match odds, low U2.5 and two 'slow burn' teams. The match was, predictably, 0-0 at half time. Monaco made it 1-0 shortly after half time, adding a second not long afterwards.

A quick lay of them in Match Odds at 1.06 resulted in a nice green as Lens got one back. Then it seemed to stalemate, so I took the green on 2-1 and left a nice chunk on 2-2. At about 85 mins I went back in and laid Monaco again from the previous green at 1.05. Lens equalised with what must have been just about the last kick of the game.

If I re-wrote the  above, substituting 'Lorient' for 'Monaco',  'Lyon' for 'Lens' and 'tonight' for 'last night' I wouldn't need to change another single bloody word! Madness.

The moral of the story?

Don't let anyone ever tell you that French games are no good for trading. In my experience they are excellent for trading.