Wednesday, 26 June 2013

MMA Betting More Profitable Than Boxing?

MMA betting may be a less popular betting market than boxing, but the potential rewards for bettors may actually be far greater. Market inefficiencies and a lack of statistical analysis means that mixed martial art betting could prove to be more lucrative than its more established counterpart.

It’s widely understood that the best way to make money when betting is to make more informed selections than the bookmaker or the majority of other bettors.

For boxing betting, that means overcoming traders who have over a hundred years of historical analysis to wade through, along with the balancing factor of a large volume of bettors in the market.

In MMA betting, however, there are far fewer historical outcomes or statistics to investigate. This means that informed bettors have access to roughly the same data as the bookmaker. If these statistics are used more effectively than the traders, your MMA betting will yield better results.

And because there isn’t a culture of data tracking in MMA associations, statistical players will also have an advantage over other MMA bettors who are helping shape the markets.

Using Statistics for MMA Betting
One of the best – and underused – resources for MMA statistics is, which tracks a whole range of fighter statistics, including:

- Record

- Height

- Weight

- Reach

- Stance

- Age

- Significant Strikes Landed per Minute

- Striking Accuracy (% of strikes landed)

- Significant Strikes Absorbed per minute

- Striking Defense

- Takedown Average

- Takedown Accuracy

- Takedown Defense

- Submissions Average

It also includes a match-by-match analysis of strikes landed, takedowns, submissions attempted and passes.
This information is incredibly useful in determining not just the outcome of the fight, but how the action will unfold. For example, if Fighter A has a high takedown average and Fighter B has very poor takedown defence it’s clear that the former will be looking to – and probably will – score some takedowns over his rival.

Going one stage further, however, we could notice that Fighter A‘s submission defense is terrible – compared with Fighter B’s impressive submission average. If that’s the case, Fighter A will likely change his game plan to avoid high-submission scenarios (such as fighting on the matt), and therefore try something else.

But what? Will he rely on striking? From here, having knowledge of the history of MMA is key.

Analysing match outcomes will provide invaluable data for creating a predictive model. For example, while it’s obvious fighters with an increased reach have a striking advantage, does this benefit overrule another fighter’s striking accuracy? And how greatly does a fighter’s Conclusions from this type of analysis can be generated, and compared with fighters’ statistics into a predictive model that would have a great chance at exploiting incorrectly priced odds.

It’s also important to note that within MMA there are varing levels of competition, with UFC, Strikeforce, Bellator and the women’s MMA presenting varying levels degrees of data. In MMA – as with other sports – the further you move towards the fringe, the greater your edge can become over the bookmaker.

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Dangers Of Weighting Probability From Intuition - Why We Play Lotteries But Underweight Rare Events

Do you know why betting on your favourite team is a bad idea? It’s for the same reason lotteries are so popular and people find judging the likelihood of rare events, like a hole-in-one, so difficult. It comes down to skewed perception resulting from what are known as the Possibility and Certainty Effects.

Many bettors don’t measure the value of a bet by its Expected Value (EV), but instead consider what they feel about the potential returns. For example, look at the graphic and try rating the importance of the increases in your chance to win $1million:

Though all of the options represent the same quantitative change (a 5% improvement) they produce different qualitative impressions – in other words, each option generates a different emotional reaction.

Option (a) moves you from no chance of winning the $1million to having a chance. And though it is a small one – with a probability of 0.05 – the move into the realms of possibility is a crucial trigger to positive emotion. This feeling is known as the Possibility Effect, which generally leads gamblers to overweight long shots, and is a driving force behind lottery participation which, for a small outlay, offers the a chance of a huge win.

Options (b) and (c) tend to have less dramatic impressions. Even though with (b) your chance of winning actually doubles, it still doesn’t provide a qualitative impact – it doesn’t push the same mental buttons.

With option (d) the outcome moves to certainty (100%), producing an inverse of the Possibility Effect. This is known as the Certainty Effect, which means that, in the absence of EV calculations, outcomes close to certainty are generally underweighted in relation to their probability.

Vividness – thinking the ball into the net
Despite the benefits of weighting the probabilities, bettors still tend to choose to bet on team A over team B because they believe it is a more likely occurrence, not from a calculation of superior value.

Further to this, studies have shown that the objective use of probability in assessing outcomes declines where subject matter evokes a vivid emotional representation of an outcome, or the phrasing of a bet demands specific focus.

In relation to our lottery example, who hasn’t had the following idle discussion – “what would you do if you won the lottery?” This is an example of generating a vivid fantasy of an unlikely outcome. This inevitably leads you to overweight the probability of scooping the jackpot.

For the same reason, betting on your favourite team or player is a bad idea as your emotional attachment generates more vivid projections of the desired outcome – thinking the ball into the net – overweighting the probability.

Phraseology – the importance of wording
When a bet is worded in clear terms, it’s easier to make an Expected Value calculation – estimated or explicitly worked out – so weighting will be close to or match probability. Subtle variations in the way bets are phrased can however make a difference to the interpretation.

For example, outright markets can be phrased as either, ‘Player A vs. the field’, or as a long list of all participants including Player A (e.g. Player A: 3.201, Player B: 9.454, Player C: 11.232, etc.).

The first option offers a simplistic presentation of the task for Player A, which causes a cognitive overweighting of his probability of success. The second option – despite being exactly the same probability – seems a more daunting prospect, simply because the opponents that Player A must overcome are listed. This leads to an underweighted assessment.

Focus is as important as emotion
Similarly, focus is critically important to misjudging probability. It is common to see the following bets:

“Will Team A score?” Odds Yes/Odds No
“Will Team B score?” Odds Yes/Odds No

Bettors judgements are overweighted when focused on each option in isolation as opposed to a combination of both questions:

“Will both Team A & Team B score” Odds Yes/Odds No

One study in 1999 by Craig Fox and the late psychologist Amos Tversky clearly demonstrates this. They asked a group of US basketball fans to assess the individual chances of the eight quarter-finalists in the NBA Playoffs.
Judgement without recourse to proper calculation, leads to miscalculation of probability.

As the focus was solely upon assessing the chances of just one team at a time, and because as NBA fans they generated vivid impressions of each team, the aggregated probability for the outcomes was significantly overweighted at 240% for the eight teams. Of course, it should have been 100%.

When asked to just assess the chances of a winner from the Eastern Conference or the Western Conference probabilities were very close to 100%. This was because the two options generated less emotional response and were equally specific.

Rare events & underweighting – the hole in one gang
An infamous betting coup by two punters in 1991, who became known as the Hole In One Gang, neatly illustrates how the inability to visualize a rare event, and how judgement without recourse to proper calculation, leads to miscalculation of probability.

The pair, after intensively analysing statistics, calculated that the odds of a hole-in-one occurring at a European Golf Tour event were roughly 2.25. Armed with this knowledge, they toured the country targeting independent bookmakers and requesting odds for a hole-in-one being recorded at televised golf tournaments. These small operations didn’t have sophisticated risk assessors so put their finger in the air – i.e. simply relied on an intuitive judgement.

The bookmakers figured that a hole-in-one was a rare event, as they had little or no experience of one happening either personally (for those that played golf) or from television, where limited coverage meant that every tee-shot wasn’t guaranteed to be aired. As a result, quotes ranged from 4.00 up to 101.00. It was a perfect example of underweighting a rare event.

One of the golden rules of gambling is that any bet should be assessed in terms of Expected Value – the average of outcomes each weighted by probability.

Unfortunately, bettors tend to assign weightings to bet options based on how they feel about the probabilities, resulting in the Possibility and Certainty Effects, which can prove very costly.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Live Tennis Betting - Does Serving First Give An Advantage?

Most tennis commentators will tell you that players always want to serve first in a set. The theory is that it’s easier to play from a game up than it is to be trailing a game behind. But do statistics show that players who serve first actually win more often?

At the most basic statistical level, this conception is shown to be incorrect. Data from four consecutive Wimbledon tournaments – the most server-friendly competition – show that only 48.2% of sets in the men’s singles are won by the player serving first. In the WTA? Just 50.1%.

When Prof. Jan Magnus of Tilburg University and Prof. Franc Klassen of the University of Amsterdam looked at sets won when serving first on a set-by-set basis, however, they noticed the strange pattern displayed in the table to the left.

Why does opening the serving in the first set provide an advantage, but a disadvantage on most other occasions? The reason for this drop-off is because of how the server is decided for sets other than the first one.

The player who serves first in the second, third, fourth or fifth set is always the player who received in the final game of the previous set. And because the better player in a match typically wins the first set – and on his serve – it’s usually the worse player who receives in the final game of the set, and therefore serves first in sets other than the first one.

Focusing on the winners for live tennis betting

We can look more objectively at whether serving first in tennis is a benefit by analysing how they perform after winning the previous set. Using this information helps eliminate the set-by-set bias that unbalanced matches (good players vs. bad) provides.

In the ATP, the result is that there isn’t much of a difference between serving and receiving win percentages after winning the previous set. When serving in the second set after winning the first, the win percentage was 72.5%. For receiving: 68%. In the third set it was even closer 73.9% to 72.1%.

In the fifth set, it was actually 48.3% to 51% in the receivers favour, but these occurrences happened so rarely that the data should be considered unreliable.

Therefore it’s fair to conclude that serving first – except in the very first set – has no impact on who will win the set, and should probably be excluded from live tennis soccer betting calculations

The female factor in live tennis betting

In a similar fashion to the ATP, the women’s singles first set also provides an advantage for the player who servers first, with a winning difference of 13.2% over receivers.

Interestingly, after winning the first set, WTA players who receive have a higher win rate (75.2%) than those who win and then serve again (72%) – although this reverses back to a more typical 60.1% vs. 63.5% for the third.

Why the first set?

Sometimes critics suggest it’s better to receive in the first set, as the server hasn’t warmed up and is more prone to making mistakes. While the number of mistakes in the opening service game of the match might be higher than average, the chance of winning that first game is also increased compared to a normal service game.

In the ATP, the probability that the server wins their first game is 87.7% compared with 80.8% for a normal service game. For the WTA, it’s 74.3% vs. 63.4%. Therefore if you’re interested in live tennis betting, it’s actually more likely that a server will win the very first game of a match, rather than lose it due to not being warmed up (perhaps the receiver is even less prepared?).

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Monty Hall Problem - Knowing When The Odds Are Against You

The Monty Hall problem is a prime example of how, when presented with a seemingly simple choice of potential outcomes for an unknown outcome (like a football match), some bettors display an ignorance of the fundamental mathematical principals.

In simple terms, if a bettor cannot recognise implied probability and whether a bookmaker’s odds represent ‘value’ they will never make any money in the long term.

The Monty Hall Problem

A brand new car is behind one of three doors. Behind the other two is a goat. You must correctly guess which door hides the car in order to win it, but you have no prior knowledge that allows you to distinguish among the doors.

After you choose a door, one of the other doors opens to reveal one of the two goats. You now have another option – do you change door, or do you stick with your original choice?

Named after the host of “Let’s Make a Deal”, a popular US show in the 60’s & 70’s which formed the basis of the poser, the Monty Hall problem is a seemingly simple mathematical puzzle effectively demonstrates how people struggle with what appears to be a very straight-forward choice.

With this simple yet cleverly posed teaser, the show demonstrated how the average person can demonstrate counter-intuitive behaviour when faced with probability conundrums – and the same is true of casual bettors. When this question was posed in Parade magazine, 10,000 readers complained that the published answer was wrong – including several maths professors.

The Monty Hall Solution

The solution to the Monty Hall problem is simple: always switch doors. After the first door is opened, the car is definitely behind one of the two closed doors (although you have no way of knowing which). Most contestants on the show intuitively see no advantage in switching doors, assuming that each door has an equal (1/3) probability.
This is incorrect – in fact, the chances of winning the car double by switching. While it is true that originally each door had a 33.3% chance of hiding the car, after the first goat is revealed, the probability that the car lies behind the remaining door is 66.6%.

It is easiest to calculate these probabilities by imaging that you’re picking between your original door (33.3% probability) and the combined probabilities of the other two doors (33.3% + 33.3%). This is because once you choose your door, the other two are then paired together – there is a 66.6% chance it is behind one of those two doors. When one is then removed, there is still a 66.6% chance that the car lies behind the remaining door.

You can test this for yourself using the Monty Hall simulator here. You can even run the simulator automatically to produce thousands of results – which will prove the above probabilities.

Knowing When the Odds Are Against You

This problem cleverly illustrates how easy it is to fall into the trap of treating non-random information as if it were random. The current UK TV show “Deal No Deal” – involving 26 unopened boxes containing varying amounts of cash – pays homage to “Let’s Make a Deal” by exploiting the general public’s weak grasp of probability in a similar way, as contestants fail to understand when they are in a statistically strong or weak position, and instead act on false ‘gut feelings’ about chances of success (see our article about heuristics for more information on this).

Such notions are all too common mistakes in gambling when bettors frequently act against their best interests, particularly when bamboozled by clever marketing ploys or encouraged to indulge in betting as a lifestyle choice rather than a question of mathematics.

Betting requires the skill to understand whether the odds offered on an event represent the statistical probability of that event occurring. It doesn’t matter if it’s a game show, playing the lottery or online sports betting, understanding and finding value, is the key to profit.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Fantasy Soccer And Soccer Betting - How Playing Fantasy Soccer Can Help Your Betting

Fantasy Soccer has exploded over the last decade with millions of virtual managers poring over statistics for hours each week hoping to gain an edge. The analysis involved has strong similarities with betting handicapping, so success in the Fantasy World could lead to profit in the real world of betting.

Utilize the time you spend on Fantasy Soccer

The title “fantasy” in Fantasy Soccer (or Fantasy Football, as it’s known in Europe) is quite misleading. At their cores, both fantasy soccer and soccer betting are based around solid statistics.

For example, player values are not just made up off-the-cuff; they are created from sophisticated calculations that take into consideration a host of statistics concerning the player.

And while real-life team owners hold extensive negotiations over even the smallest transfers in the hope that their decisions will pay off come game day, so too do fantasy soccer players spend hours each week examining player statistics, evaluating their fantasy squads and contemplating transfers.

With so much data available in fantasy soccer, it is the perfect tool to practice your statistical analysis, and to improve your chances of making a soccer betting profit.

Stats, Stats & More Stats – Make Use of Stats Databases

There is a plethora of information available on soccer fantasy websites which can help aide your sports betting decisions – most websites offer vast data on both players and clubs.

We all make generalisations regarding players’ abilities as there is no way we can objectively watch every player and attribute him a value. Thanks to Fantasy Soccer, however, factual data is freely available to inform bettors how many assists, goals, successful passes and tackles a player has completed.

Tapping into this data is a great way to improve your knowledge of soccer betting

Negative contributions are also highlighted – yellow and red cards, missed penalties, in-completed passes and goals his team have conceded with him on the pitch.

Specific team data is also available. Stats ranging from team goals to possession statistics are ready available alongside average number of bookings per game and when teams are more likely to concede.

Moneyball was a famous book written by Michael Lewis looking at the success of Billy Beane and Bill James at Oakland A’s. The pair enjoyed unpredicted success by basing their transfer policy on a numbers based interpretation, and away from subjective decision making.

This is like betting, where real bettors simply crunch numbers and amateur bettors go with gut instinct or make very simplistic conclusions such as who is highest up in the table.

Tapping into this data is a great way to improve your knowledge of soccer betting and help you make more informed soccer betting options.

Up-to-date News – Knowledge is Power

Being one step ahead of the game is relevant for both fantasy league managers and sports bettors. The difference between being up-to-date with the latest news could be the difference between winning and losing.

News about injuries, suspensions and starting line-ups will all have an influence on betting decisions, and fantasy soccer websites offer breaking news on all of the above.

For instance, let’s say Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie are injured but might be recovered in time for their next game. If you move them out of your Fantasy Soccer squad early in the week, you’ve reduced the risk that you’ll have two useless strikers for that weekend. If they recover, however, you’ve wasted vital transfer opportunities and removed two high-scoring players. What do you do?

Knowing what action to take in a similar same risk/pay-off situation is also vital in soccer betting. If Rooney and van Persie were injured, betting for Manchester United to win before they are confirmed as fit would give you better odds and increase your winnings – however, if they aren’t fit, Manchester United will undoubtedly have less chance of winning.

Having this information readily available could allow you to gain a slight edge over the traders and therefore help you make a soccer bet before the odds are updated.

Spot Form: Take Note of Players and Teams In-Form

Fantasy Leagues offer bettors the chance to look at features throughout the website to aide their soccer betting. And certain fantasy soccer websites offer in-depth club and player form guides, which are a fantastic way to spot mismatches.

For instance, there are tables and graphs highlighting players who are in form and those who aren’t. Acknowledging a player in a rich vein of form that is playing against a team that is struggling or a player in poor form can create mismatched opportunities.

If you regularly play fantasy soccer games, it would be beneficial to utilise the software on offer for your sports betting, and if you don’t, it’s about time you signed up, to ensure you have the best opportunity to make a soccer betting profit.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

NFL Key Numbers Betting - Landing On 3 & 7 In The NFL

When betting on NFL handicaps (also known as spreads), punters should be aware of two NFL key numbers: 3 and 7. These two victory margins are more common than any others, and understanding their importance can dramatically help your NFL handicap betting.

Why Are 3 & 7 the Key Numbers for NFL Handicaps?

From data collected since the start of the NFL (in 1920), a massive 11.8% of games have finished with a winning margin of 3 points. The second most common was 7 points (7.4%), while the third-most frequent was 10 points (5.7%) – the two most frequent margins added together.

By adding the two most common winning margins together it works out that 3 and 7 point victories account for a massive 19.2% of all NFL games, and when added to the third most common, they account to 24.9% – a quarter of all results.

In more recent times, a study by Andy Iskoe over a 17-year period covering the 1990/2000s showed that 15.1% of games ended with a 3 point margin, with 7.1% at 7 points. The study also showed that 6 was the next most common margin, occurring 6% of the time.

The reason these key numbers occur more than any other is due to NFL scoring. For instance, three points are awarded for a field goal, while 7 points is the amount of points awarded for a touchdown and a successful conversion.

How Key Numbers Affect Betting

Now that you’re familiar with the key numbers, you can use them as a barometer for what side of a handicap provides the best value. The general rule is that you should avoid betting when the line is at +2.5, +6.5, +9.5 and +3.5.

These numbers, which are enticingly close to the key numbers to tempt casual bettors, are designed to encourage you to bet on those outcomes. In truth, however, the bookmaker knows that probability is in his favour.
The same is true for the opposite side of the handicap – avoid backing at -3.5, -7.5, -10.5 and -4.5.

This also affects alternate markets, where bettors should be careful when buying or selling points across the key numbers.

Bookmakers will often charge a lot to buy a point in your favour across a key number. If they are pricing 4, 5 or 6 as equally expensive, however, they’re simply trying to take advantage of uninformed bettors.