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Friday, 13 December 2013

How To Use Horse Racing Speed Figures

Watch the video below for some great tips on using speed figures.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Here's A Formula To Evaluate Betting Tipsters

A simple way to evaluate a tipster’s true abilities is to take the square root of the total number of selections and add that number to one half of the total plays made:

√ (No. Selections) + ½ (Total Plays Made)

For example, if he has 400 tips, the square root would be 20, which added to one half of 400, gives a total of 220 theoretical wins.

If the tipster is 20 selections above 200, he is two standard deviations above average. There’s about a 1 in 40 chance of a 50% handicapper doing that. So a player with 400 selections would need to go 220-180, or 60-40 with 100 selections to be this rare.

Without being a master statistician, you can quickly see that the more selections you can view, the easier it is to evaluate a tipster. In many cases, it’s safer to follow someone with a lower winning percentage if they have a lot more plays.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Should You Bet On Winning Streaks?

There’s no doubt the best sports stars are defined by their ability to consistently avoid defeat: Roger Federer at Wimbledon, Jose Mourinho at home and Floyd Mayweather in the ring. But are these sprees caused by great skill – or just good luck?

The characters listed above are all at the top of their respective professions, but why have they managed to put together winning runs above and beyond their – sometimes equally – talented peers, both past and present? The truth is that alongside their talent, luck is a key factor in establishing winning streaks.

Replacing characters with coins
If you step away from the performances and personalities of professional sports and think of these runs as mathematical occurrences, it’s much easier to understand how our perception of winning streaks is skewed. Take the ‘Pretty Boy’ for now, and imagine matches as coin tosses rather than skill-based competitions.
If you were to toss a coin 100 times, probability dictates that you’ll have a 75% chance of seeing a streak of at least 6 heads (or tails) occurring in a row, and a 10% probability of witnessing a streak of at least 10 consecutive heads (or tails).

Imagine if that sequence were shown to you in the following fashion, with “O” representing heads and “X” representing tails:

As a human, you’re naturally drawn towards the easiest definable pattern – the big sequence of Os in the fourth row. Does that mean this period is more notable than the others? Did heads take the initiative? Did it show great skill? No – it is a coin. Probability dictates that sometimes these sequences just happen.

For tennis players, boxers, managers etc., any run of form – although winning streaks are particularly poignant – can skew our judgment in a similar manner to the pattern above, and also cause us to overestimate the chances of the pattern continuing.

For example, having replaced O’s and X’s with W’s and L’s (for wins and losses), look at the following pattern:

On your first impression, what result do you believe fills in the “???”? Most people would imagine that the winning would continue. Now take a look at this image:

What do you imagine fills in the ??? here? Naturally, we continue the pattern and enter “WWWWW” – even though anything could fill this space. Why? Purely because the human brain naturally creates patterns and sticks to them – even if there’s no rationale behind it.

The skill factor
Of course, no one would suggest that the greatest sports personalities achieved their feats through randomness alone. It’s obvious that their talent has allowed them to be in a position to achieve such feats. In essence, their skill makes them a weighted coin, more disposed to landing on “H” (or win) than some others, but it’s by no means a definite outcome.

For example, when Rafael Nadal plays on a clay court he could be considered a very heavily weighted coin. His clay-court win percentages over the last five tennis seasons were 96%, 93%, 100%, 92%, 96%. With an average of 95.4%, it’s obvious Nadal’s wins aren’t caused by luck, but chance could have played a big part in his perfect season in 2010.

So is the reason Federer dominated at Wimbledon because he was much better than Pete Sampras? Or are the Heat as good as the 1970s Lakers side after their recent streak?

The answer is maybe. Realistically, winning streaks are due to a combination of factors – one of which is luck. By ignoring the input that chance has, we leave ourselves victim to over-rating the chances of teams on winning streaks.

In American sports, chance could be considered as playing a bigger part in proceedings, as the egalitarian structure ensures that there is a fairer division of talent between teams, and therefore less opportunity for a single team to dominate as in European soccer.

Aside from winning streaks, the same caution should be applied to using any form guides as an indicator. Should we really believe that a team with a five-game form of LLWWW will beat a team at WWLLL?

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

How Loss Aversion Affects Outcomes - Why Players Perform Better When They’re Losing

Whether a golfer, soccer player or tennis star, professional sportsmen hate to lose. That’s obvious. But did you know that athletes actually perform better in situations where they are striving to avoid defeat, rather than if they were just aiming to win?

The psychology behind this “loss aversion” is simple: humans hate to have things taken away from them. As such, if an outcome is framed as “losing”, sportsmen and women will perform extra-hard to avoid it. There’s been a lot of research on the subject, but one the most potent real-world examples is on the PGA Tour, which demonstrates the effect of loss aversion on professional golfers.

After studying 2,525,161 putts from the PGA Tour between 2004 and 2009, researchers Devin Pope and Maurice Schweitzer observed that a disproportionate number of putts for par were completed compared with attempts for a birdie. A huge 82.9% of putts for par were successfully completed, while just 28.3% birdie attempts were sunk.

Of course, not all putts are equal, and it’s likely that many of the birdie attempts were from more difficult distances than the par attempts. However, even when the researchers averaged-out the distances, golfers still putted 3.7% more shots for par than for birdies. But why?

The researchers theorised that loss aversion must play a part. While both situations – missing a birdie and missing a par putt – mean that the player is one shot worse-off, psychologically, sinking a birdie will always be considered as “winning” a point – putting the golfer one-under. A bogey will always be seen as losing a point (one-over), and therefore the golfers seem to up their game for losing situations.

Loss aversion also leads to another golf-specific issue. Player’s birdie putts – when missed – tend to go short, putting them in a more advantageous position should they miss the hole. Over-hitting risks putting the player in a position that could be even worse.

Loss aversion for other sports
Loss aversion is easily quantifiable in golf, but it’s also a phenomenon that can have a big impact on a variety of sports and situations. An obvious example is towards the end of soccer matches.

If a team is winning, they tend to become more defensive towards the end of a game, rather than try to attack to extend their lead. This happens despite the fact that league structures reward teams who score more (goal differences) or in two-legged ties where aggregate scores can prove vital.

To some extent, it also goes in the face of common sense – teams who have been performing well alter their tactics, despite their original strategy giving them the advantage to begin with.

The change in tactic can be attributed to human heuristic called endowment theory. Endowment theory states that a person – or in this case, a team – becomes even more loss averse when they have already gained something. Therefore because teams start games at 0-0, when they score a goal (or are endowed with it), they reframe the match in the new terms.

Considering their 1-0 advantage, the team’s desire to score more goals lessens, because a win and two goals is only marginally more valuable than a win and one goal, but both are worth more than a draw,
Loss aversion could also explain the tactics employed in the first leg of a two-legged tie. Away teams tend to approach the game defensively, opting to counter-attack, while home teams strive to avoid conceding an “away goal”, which is valued at more than a home one.

Reference points, not three points
The avoidance of conceding in a two-legged cup-tie is a good example of how it’s not just for the end result that can be influenced by loss aversion, but also the desired outcome.

If a team expects to win a game 3-0, the side could be loss averse to anything but that final outcome. This is because that score is a “reference point” – the outcome the team expects to achieve. Anything less than that outcome would be a disappointment. Likewise, if a home team in a cup-tie wants to avoid conceding, loss aversion wouldn’t just apply to the match outcome but also to conceding a goal.

An example of loss aversion for tennis
One of the biggest examples of loss aversion occurs in tennis, usually twice per service game. Tennis stars across the spectrum (and almost without exception) utilise a slower second serve to avoid committing a double fault and automatically losing the point.

However, while only 65% of first serves go in, 75% of those points go in favour of the server. For second serves, the result is 50/50. That means the potential win percentage for a fast first serve and a slow second serve is 66.3%. If two fast serves are used, it’s 75%.

This loss aversion in tennis serves actually costs players an 8.7% chance of winning the service point.

Loss Aversion and Bettors
Loss aversion isn’t limited to professional golfers and soccer teams. Bettors can also suffer the influence and make irrational decisions because of it. We’ll be discussing that in more detail in the coming weeks.

Friday, 25 October 2013

How To Gain An Edge In Challenger Tennis Events

Getting an edge
Challenger Events mix raw young talent making their way up the tennis rankings alongside journeymen on their way down from the main ATP Tour. As such, Challenger Events present a unique challenge as well as opportunity to tennis bettors, and are a source of invaluable information for anyone betting on the main ATP circuit.

Available information – such as injury news – can be sketchy, while modest prize-money, more humble venues & small crowds add in complicated motivational and situational factors. This however represents a real opportunity to gain an edge for those bettors prepared to do the research.

Not so shocking shocks
Casual bettors may, for example, have been very surprised at Dan Evans' run at the 2013 US Open. Having been ranked as high as 367 in March, Evans came through three rounds of qualifying at Flushing Meadows before knocking out 11th seed Kei Nishikori (in straight sets) and world number 52 Bernard Tomic.

"The Challenger event name is well chosen ..a million miles from the glamour of the ATP Tour"
However, those who studied Evans’ form on the Challenger Tour leading into the US Open – making consecutive finals at the Vancouver Open and Comerica Bank Open – would have been less surprised. Evans’ performances are even less surprising with the knowledge that he had made important changes to his coaching team and in his previously wayward personal life.

Recent Challenger events have featured a former world no.8 – Radek Stepanek – who won in September in Orleans, and previous no.38 Donald Young who won back-to-back tournaments in California. At one time Young was considered one of the game’s hottest prospects before falling down the rankings, including a 17 game losing streak (the 3rd highest in Open era).

Another example of a challenger doing well recently is Vasek Pospisil. It’s no coincidence the Canadian won back-to-back Challengers – Johannesburg & Vancouver – before reaching the semi-final of the ATP 1000 Canada Masters.

Challenger in name & nature
The Challenger event name is well chosen – the environment is a million miles from the comfortable hotels and glamour of the ATP Tour. Jamaican born Dustin Brown won the AON Open Challenger on clay in September, and reached the 3rd round at Wimbledon in 2013 (beating Lleyton Hewitt), but those high profile results belie a career that has been a struggle. Dread-locked Brown has spoken of travelling around Europe in a campervan clawing a living by playing Challenger and Futures level events.

Understanding the difficulties that players like Brown face in just competing on the Challenger Tour is crucial. But those bettors that are prepared to do the research can utilise this kind of information to turn the challenge of Challenger Events into potentially significant rewards. Reason enough to start betting.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

A Pro Gambler (Billy Walters) Explains How He Analyses A Game For Betting Purposes

Billy Walters is a very successful pro gambler having made millions over the last few years. In this video he explains some of the analytics he uses when betting.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

First Half (Five Innings) Baseball Betting Strategies

The great advantage of betting on the first five innings in baseball, otherwise known as the first half, is that your fate is in the hands of the two starting pitchers. This means you can safely ignore other, more random factors, such as the benches and both bullpens.

Baseball Strategy – Magnify Your Edge
First, if you have the advantage in the first five innings you can have a larger advantage than you would have in the entire game, because the situation in which you have that edge is magnified. If the line is in error, chances are that those later innings are minimizing that error, assuming the error does not originate from the bullpen.

The second half also introduces random elements out of your control that can cost you the win. Close games and blowouts have different dynamics late in the game. Wind conditions can change, there are substitutions and double switches. Early in the game, you can look at a known lineup against a known opponent and not worry about the rest of the game causing interference with the result of your bet.

This is also true in other sports. If you know that a team is likely to dominate the early going, especially the opening five in basketball or the early game plan in football, you can often get a far larger advantage by betting on the first half or first quarter of the game before things get randomized and teams adjust.

Baseball Strategy; Secondary Betting Markets
The second advantage is the benefit that always comes when you target a secondary betting market rather than a principal game line. As with alternate runlines and team totals, you get to focus on the first half line and study it.

In fact, you are probably giving far more thought to the line you’re thinking about betting than the sports book does when putting the line up. The sportsbook will be applying a formula and hoping it is close enough, but they can’t afford to deal an abnormal line until someone bets.

This lets you find opportunities where the first half line does not follow the moneyline or total for the game the way it normally should. Unlike runlines, there can be little question such differences exist. The big unknown is which ones are important and how much each of them is worth.

Baseball Strategy – Starting Pitching vs. Bullpens
The biggest factor is the starting pitcher versus the bullpens. If you have a strong bullpen, that helps you only in the second half, whereas a strong starter is mostly good for the first half.

When you see a particularly strong pitcher starting with a poor bullpen or vice versa, that’s a great time to look at betting the first half. Knowing how to properly compensate for this could allow a disciplined bettor to benefit in both directions. He could bet into seemingly fair lines when he has the advantage, and could safely take value when the lines have moved too far.

Of course, to do any of this you need a guide for what first half lines are supposed to be when betting baseball. Having five innings instead of nine reduces the edge of the better team. In exchange for that, they get the benefits of their usually stronger starter and the small mathematical edge that comes from ties.

The net result is that favorites for the game tend to be slightly smaller favorites for the first five innings. This effect remains small until about -150 (1.67) and gets sizable by -200 (1.50). It does not seem to matter whether the home or road team is the favorite.

Totals for the first half are trickier because in baseball, numbers are created anything but equal. The fact that 7 and 7½ are almost as different as 7½ and 8½ makes it hard to give an accurate rule of thumb to translate a game total into a first half total.

The later innings of the game tend to be lower scoring on average than the first five, and there are only four of them (plus extra innings), so more than half the runs will likely come from the first five innings. The result of this is that the first half total will be slightly more than half of the total for the game, once all numbers are adjusted to smooth out all irregularities.

Baseball Strategy – Get Good Numbers Quickly
As with all conversions, the best way to get good numbers quickly is to write down the betting lines a sports book is offering on a variety of baseball games. You can then use these historical lines as a guide to future games. You can even use this technique to learn about the market’s perception of a particular team.
For example, by analysing the first half lines traded at a sports book over two days, you can quickly gain an amazingly accurate ranking of the respective bullpens in MLB.

As usual, the usefulness of a line comes down to how well you understand it and what a good number would be; whether it lets you bet on what you like and against what you dislike, what the limit is and how thin it is being dealt (where thin means lower juice/commission). Use our betting calculator to find the theoretical hold for any market.

Baseball Strategy – Always Play at Best Price
Most bettors have learnt that betting the main game line is the way to obtain the best odds. Maximizing your use of all the resources available to find the best odds will pay dividends every bet you make.

As long as you’re playing for no more than a few dimes and choose the line you bet carefully, it is one of the easiest ways that any player can increase their potential winnings substantially, by simply playing at the best available price.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

How To Win At Betting Using Expected Value

Expected Value is a great a way to measure whether a bet is potentially profitable. In fact, one mathematician even used EV to guarantee multiple lottery jackpot wins. Despite its usefulness, however, many bettors are unfamiliar with the technique. Learn about it here.

Expected Value – or EV – is a method used to measure the relative values in a two-sided decision, like ‘will a coin land on heads or tails?’ It does this by using a simple decision matrix that weighs up the upside and downside of the two options.

It’s best used by bettors to determine the amount you can expect to win or lose on a given bet – with a positive EV indicating a profitable proposition. The UK National Lottery, for example, has a negative EV of -0.50p – you theoretically lose 50p for every £1 invested – which means that it is a bad bet for making money.

How to Calculate Expected Value
The formula for calculating Expected Value is relatively easy. Multiply your probability of winning by the amount you could win per bet, and subtract the probability of losing multiplied by the amount you stand to lose per bet:

(Amount Won per Bet x Probability of Winning) – (Amount Lost per Bet x Probability of Losing)

The easiest betting example is a fair coin toss, in which there are two choices. Imagine you wager £10 on the two outcomes, which both pay out at the same rate (probability of 0.5 or 2.0 in Decimal odds). This produces a decision matrix that has an EV of 0 for either outcome. This is because the probability of the two outcomes is the same, so if you tossed a coin forever you would theoretically just end up all square.

If, however, we change the return on Heads to pay £11 – so a probability if 0.48 or odds of 2.10 – this changes the matrix, and produces a positive EV of 50p for backing Heads. This means that if you were to make the same bet on Heads over and over again, you can expect to profit an average of 50p for each bet of £10, because the odds received are better than the implied odds of the event.

Expected Value of Coin Toss
Calculation (Heads – Tails):
(£10 x 0.5) – (£10 x 0.5)
(£10 x 0.5) – (£10 x 0.5)

EV of Coin Toss (£11 return on Heads)
Calculation (Heads – Tails):
(£11 x 0.5) – (£10 x 0.5)
(£10 x 0.5) – (£10 x 0.5)

You should bite the hand off anyone offering you that opportunity, because in the long run you will not lose. And it is important to stress it is in the long run, because EV is theoretical.

Winning the lottery with EV
EV originated way back in the 17th Century after a discussion between a trio of eminent mathematicians about payouts for dice games. One of them, Blaise Pascal – later to become famous for his work on binomial expansions (Pascal’s Triangle) – was the first to use the idea of Expected Value, as he struggled with much a weightier quandary – the existence of God.

Many years later, a Romanian mathematician, Stefan Mandel, understood only too well how the EV for lotteries worked, and used his knowledge to take advantage of circumstances when lotteries can actually be a good bet. The UK National Lottery has a negative EV of 50p for every £1 staked.

To win the National Lottery, you need to match six numbers drawn from 1 to 49, of which there are 14 million possible combinations, meaning the chance of winning is 14million to one. Therefore in order for this to be a profitable bet, the return – the jackpot – would have to be greater than the odds, but lotteries tend to function as a risk-free method for governments to generate treasury funds, so the odds normally outweigh the return as stated above.

A ranking of common gambling activities from bingo to blackjack (in terms of EV) would have large lotteries at the bottom. The UK National Lottery as an example has a negative EV of 50p for every £1 staked (so -0.50p). This is why it is derided as an indirect form of taxation. Of course, lottery players, even when presented with the EV calculation – or an equivalent argument – are happy to put their money down seeing the 50p as the cost of buying the excitement of being in with the chance (no matter how small) of winning a life changing amount of money.

There is however, an exception to the standard EV for lotteries, however. When a winning ticket isn’t sold for a given draw, the jackpot rolls over and is combined with the jackpot from the next draw. When a jackpot rolls over enough times, it can rise to a point where the EV becomes positive. Mandel understood this and set about finding a way to exploit it.

The theory was simple. Wait for a big enough rollover, and then cover all the possible permutations. The practical implications enormous – he needed to buy tickets to cover all the permutations – that is long time at the local convenience store. Despite the extent of the challenge he succeeded in that monumental task (on a number of occasions). His outlay was less than the jackpot, which having bought tickets for every possible combination of numbers, he scooped (notably benefiting from a lack of shared winners).

The principle of exploiting specific situations of positive EV is at work when card counters try to get the better of casinos at the blackjack table, focusing on fleeting situations when the make up of the deck gives the player a potential edge over the house.

Buying up 14 million lottery tickets, or learning to count cards are both beyond the means of the average bettor, but there are two situations when positive EV is a realistic objective. Arbitrage & Niche Market Handicapping.

Arbitrage & Positive EV
Arbitrage is the explicit exploitation of odds from separate bookmakers which when brought together to form an artificial market provide a positive EV.

Arbitrage is an increasingly popular form of betting, having been the successful and legitimate basis of financial trading for many decades. Arbitrage is not a flakey system – the mathematical logic is irrefutable. The issue lies with the reluctance of many bookmakers to accommodate arbitrage players, which is where Pinnacle Sports stands out, operating an arbitrage welcome policy.

Implied EV
Whereas arbitrage trading exploits explicit situations of positive EV – the opportunities are concrete if fleeting – there are also situations where the positive value can be implied, emanating from a variation in opinion. Serious bettors build their own handicapping systems, and therefore generate their own opinion of a given market. When the odds that their system generates differ widely with what a bookmaker is offering, they perceive positive EV – based on their assessment.

This is likely in niche markets, when the playing field between bookmakers and independent bettors is more even. This can produce a decision matrix in which you are receiving odds that are better than those implied by the bet, and therefore in the long run the wager would give you a profit.

A brilliant mathematician wrestling with the biggest question of all may have created EV, but it is actually better suited for more humble means. It is an excellent tool for bettors to establish how profitable a bet might be. If you haven’t been using it, there is no need to resort to a decision matrix to reason why.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

How Do NFL Preseason Favourites Fare? Are The Odds Stacked Against The Preseason Favourites?

There’s an interesting phenomena in NFL betting. Teams picked as favourites for individual matches are more reliable than those marked as preseason favourites who often disappoint. In fact, over the last ten seasons, only one preseason favourite has gone on to win the Super Bowl.

The only team to survive the “Curse of the Super Bowl Preseason Outrights” in the last decade was the Indianapolis Colts in 2006, who had odds of 7.000, and beat the Chicago Bears 29 – 17 in Florida.

See the table below for a rundown of pre-season favourites and the eventual winners over the last 10 years:

Pre-Season Winners Over The Last 10 Years
Pre-Season Favourite
Eventual Champion
St. Louis Rams
New England Patriots
St. Louis Rams
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New England Patriots
Philadelphia Eagles
New England Patriots
Indianapolis Colts/ Philiadelphia Eagles/ New England Patriots
Pittsburgh Steelers
Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Colts
New England Patriots
New York Giants
New England Patriots
Pittsburgh Steelers
New England Patriots
New Orleans Saints
Indianapolis Colts
Green Bay Packers
New England Patriots
New York Giants
Green Bay Packers
Baltimore Ravens

This year’s favourite is the 5.760* San Francisco 49ers, who couldn’t manage one of the greatest comebacks in Super Bowl history last season and finished just one touchdown away from lifting the Lombardi Trophy.

However, in the last sevens years, no one of odds that short has succeeded in the NFL. The table below shows you the odds for the eventual winners for the last seven years:

Pre-Season Super Bowl Odds For Eventual Champions
Super Bowl
Preseason Odds

This year, the following teams have odds of 20.00* or less:

Favourite-To-Under 20.000 Range
Team Name
San Francisco 49ers
Denver Broncos
Seattle Seahawks
New England Patriots
Atlanta Falcons
Green Bay Packers
Houston Texans
New Orleans

So what’s behind this inability to correctly predict a correct favourite? There are numerous possibilities, so we’ll just list a few potential ideas below:
  • The draft system/no relegation in NFL makes talent more fairly distributed, so it’s more difficult to accurately predict how well teams will play each season
  • Even a small miscalculation in skill, when extrapolated over the many games played in a season, means that a season-long prediction is difficult
  • The market could be shifting as bettors allow bias for their teams outweigh rational thought, backing their favourites to win rather than an objectively better team
  • Pressure of being favourites
  • Playoff system should bias the best teams
  • Absence/ reasons for long winning streaks
It’s also important to remember exactly what the 49ers odds imply. Odds of 5.760* imply that the probability of San Francisco actually winning the Super Bowl is 17.4%. To put that in context, the New Orleans Saints’ (at 19.000*) have an implied probability of 5.29%, so just 12.1% lower than the 49ers, despite the odds difference being quite noticeable.

This pattern suggests that preseason is the perfect time to back longer teams and fade favourites, with bets on the longer teams potentially gaining more value as the season progresses when a clearer picture emerges.

Whatever happens, however, it goes without saying that there is a lot of value to be had if you can accurately predict the winner in the preseason. Even the smallest win in the last seven years would have netted you £130 on a £10 bet.