Thursday, 30 May 2013

Elliott Short Of A Few Years Of Freedom

The trial of the infamous Elliott Short has reached it's conclusion after five weeks, with the 'Betfair King' being found guilty on nine counts of fraud and one of 'making or supplying an article for use in fraud' - the 2009 News of the World article. Although the five year sentence was based on the sum of £400,000, it appears to have been the case that several other defrauded 'investors' declined to come forward for various reasons, and that the true amount was closer to £1 million. The Daily Mail has the details of the trial:

A greedy gambler who boasted that he was the ‘King of Betfair’ after convincing family friends to sink £400,000 into his bogus betting system was today jailed for five years.
Elliott Short, 26, of Chester, Cheshire, lived a fabulous lifestyle - splashing out on a chauffeur-driven Mercedes, staying in plush hotels and being a regular at exclusive London nightclubs.
Short went on holidays around the globe, spent thousands of pounds on designer clothes from Ralph Lauren and Christian Louboutin in Harrods in Knightsbridge and went to Eclipse nightclub in Chelsea, south-west London.
He even managed to dupe the News of the World into running a story about his apparent success, convincing the now-defunct newspaper that he was a former City trader who netted more than £21million from his betting system.

Short had an impressive office in Knightsbridge and dazzled potential investors with his boasts of huge returns, insisting on paying for expensive items to show off his supposed wealth. One investor was told he would get monthly dividends of £70,000, but they never materialised.

He claimed he could make ‘extremely high returns’ using a system on gambling website Betfair, London's Southwark Crown Court heard.
But the system had never worked and the tabloid was forced to print a retraction after Betfair said the returns Short had quoted were impossible.
A jury convicted him of nine counts of fraud and one count of making or supplying an article for use in fraud, after a five-week trial.
Victims James Crawford - who met Short via his mother and step-father, Rosemary and Tom King - and Christopher Antoniou were each fleeced out of £200,000.
Short was acquitted of four further counts of fraud relating to another £200,000 from Mr Crawford, together with £20,000 invested by Melinda Barrett - a long term friend of Short’s mother.

Sentencing, Judge Peter Testar said Short ‘lied shamefully through his teeth’, adding that he was ‘potentially dangerous as far as the financial interests of others are concerned.’
The judge said: ‘The question is why did these intelligent people with the experience of the world allow themselves to be taken in by you?
‘You proved yourself to be a very accomplished confidence fraud trickster. You left a profound impression of someone who is deeply dishonest and shamefully mendacious. You deployed your charming personality to exploit that instinct in people to trust their fellow human beings.

‘Having conned others you simply poured their money away on hiring helicopters, taking expensive holidays, spending thousands in bars, nightclubs and restaurants and thousands more in shops.

‘You may not have wanted to cause harm to others and through your betting, you wanted to win. Who doesn’t? But the fact of the matter is that of the £400,000 that was paid, very little was actually spent by investing in Betfair.’
Short bowed his head as the sentence was passed, before being led out of the dock.
Prosecutor Mark Hick said he had ‘no assets and had some liabilities in relation to utility bills’.

He had been living in rented accommodation until he was convicted and remanded in custody.
Mr Hick said: ‘Despite his claims, Elliott Short did not have a successful betting scheme, and over the period of several months he lost all his investors’ money, either on his unsuccessful gambling, or on funding his lavish lifestyle.

‘Throughout this time, Mr Short continued to reassure his investors that he was making huge profits. Mr Short would celebrate his victories, dancing and chanting things such as ‘Who is the Betfair King?’
‘However, none of his investors received any money back, and it eventually became apparent that Mr Short had been lying to them all along.’
Mr Crawford was told he would receive monthly dividend payments of £70,000, but the cash never materialised. Mr Antoniou lost £200,000 given to him by his mother, Helen.
He too never saw any return on his investment and became suspicious after reading the newspaper article about the scam, although Short managed to fob him off with excuses.
‘Mr Antoniou recalls Mr Short telling him that most of his investors didn’t have a contract for months, if at all, and since he was friends with all of them he would never dream about "f***ing them",’ Mr Hick said.
Mr Antoniou told how Short would insist on paying for everything, shelling out for bills in excess of £1,000, to show off his supposed wealth. Bank statements revealed he spent more than £4,500 on a room at a Hilton hotel and almost £2,000 at Brinkley’s Wine Gallery in Chelsea.
The third victim, Melinda Barrett, a long-time friend of Short’s mother, ploughed £20,000 into the scheme, without ever receiving a penny back. Short denied the charges against him.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

FTL Update, and 2013-14

The end of the season is fast approaching, and there is still all to play for at the top of the Friendly Tipster League table. No change from last week, with no Bundesliga selections, but with seven of the eleven Extended selections reaching half-time with no goals, the HT 0-0 category moved into third place. Pete Nordsted's Drawmaster found a draw at Sunderland for the seventh time this season (from eleven picks) and moved up to 5th spot. The Bundeslayga system had a good week moving back into profit with three winners from four, and also moving into profit for the first time since October were the Extended Under 1.5 selections. These were down by 33 points less than three months ago, but 34 winners from 89 has righted the ship and the Extended selections are now ahead in every category (Match Odds, U1.5, U2.5, U3.5 and HT 0-0).

That's the good news. The other seventeen contenders are all in the red. Backing Ian Erskine's 'Lay the Draw' selection is the best of the worst, followed by some Classic categories and some extinct contenders. Jon (Talkbet) and Neil are anything but extinct, but Neil is likely wishing he had quit at the end of January when he was up over 9 points, and in sixth place. Possibly he is wishing he had quit in July is Football Elite who had no selections this weekend. Little Al found one draw from the EPL games (the Sunderland v Southampton game) but the five losses meant an overall loss.
The grand total number of bets is now exactly 1700, for an overall loss of close to 48 points. The XX Draws (all categories) are up 72 points (not helped by the Classic selections it must be said, but fortunately more than compensated for by the other categories) while the professional services are in the red due to the under performance of Football Elite.

Speaking of which, I checked in to Daily25 and saw this rather interesting comment on the last week of April:
Soccer was the only sport to have an off week. Football Elite went 0-3 again and lost another $6,000, absolutely disgraceful, I think in the last 15 bets there has only been 1 or 2 winners. XX Draws made another nice profit and that’s usually the case when other soccer models don’t perform. It added $3,300. Combi FI lost $2,000 and TFA Established and Euro lost $800.
"Usually the case when other soccer models don't perform"? Steve does specifically mention Football Elite, who certainly are having a nightmare season, but Matt and I have observed how often our selections are the same, so perhaps Matt's misfortune is my gain.

Last weekend, (Matt had no selections this latest one), we overlapped on just two selections, both from the Bundesliga, and both were away wins. I take some comfort from the fact that both were Under 2.5 with Schalke '04 winning 1-0 at Moenchengladbach thanks to an 82' goal, while Bayer Leverkusen won 2-0 at Nuremberg.

As I may have mentioned before, Matt calls this overlap the result of us both fishing in the same waters, and the away team in my selections has won more times (176) than the home team (166). 153 have been draws. At the end of the season, I'll look back at last season and this and see how profitable laying the home team in these matches would have been.

Finally, after receiving positive feedback (and several renewals) from current subscribers, I have decided to continue the XX Draws service next season. Prices for new subscribers will be the same as last season - a bargain £99 for anyone joining before the end of June, rising to a still incredibly reasonable £149 after that.

Based on this season, there should be a little over 500 selections, and I think this offers really good value when compared to other services, but then I am biased!

Payment can be made via PayPal to

As for the FTL next season, several people have asked about how they can join, and I'll give this some thought. To encourage people to actually stay in for the full season (no one likes a quitter as they say at AA meetings) I may look to collect a small deposit of say £20 which will be paid out to the non-pro first three at the end of the season. Just a thought.

Betfair - Pricing And Crack Trading Team

Some very well thought out ideas on Betfair's pricing strategy, and their 'crack' trading team, written as a comment on Mark Davies' blog by Graffiti and deserving, in my opinion, to be read by a few more eyeballs:
Betfair’s problem is a very simple one. Have they ever put enough thought into their pricing?
Market liquidity operates along an S-curve / sigmoid function. Initially it is hard work (the first early players can’t get matched at a fair market-clearing price, or bets they leave up are unmatched). Once a market reaches a critical mass, then the conflicting opinions kick in, and the betting turnover starts increasing at a much faster incremental rate, with only a proportionately smaller increase in the number of players.
Betfair need to address the S-curve with their pricing. It just isn’t good enough to have the same pricing policy for a major liquid market, as it is for a side market where there is a danger of liquidity drying up.
If a layer operates in a big main market, they pay normal charges. But someone putting liquidity up into a side market adds a much greater value to Betfair’s diversity of markets/betting events. There has to be the introduction of a financial incentive for people, especially key big layers, to make it cheaper to operate in a market which will be in essence a lot less profitable for them (their bets won’t get matched as easily/often, they will have to give away value to get anything matched).
Betfair’s pricing is almost exclusively based on profit/loss, whereas it needs to be changed to reflect liquidity, especially urgently needing to focus on favouring people who leave bets up in illiquid markets. The time and effort people put into side markets makes them proportionately much harder work and more hassle. This must be reflected by Betfair in its pricing, and is why Betfair’s current pricing is, well, a bit meh.
Betfair needs at the extreme, where a market has dropped below critical mass, to not just offer zero commission to big layers, but if the little fish come and nibble away, paying 5% commission on their side of the bets, why not give maybe even half of the commission to the layer. You would then in effect have NEGATIVE commission on bets in these markets to the layer, whilst a boost in turnover overall, with Betfair getting half of the commission, is better than getting none at all, surely? .
A market maker would suddenly find that markets which were much more costly to them to price up (not just in pecuniary terms, but in time terms too) would suddenly be back in play and worthwhile participating in.
You then reduce these discounts/incentives once sizeable liquidity has been reached.
There is something intrinsically valuable to Betfair in having as many markets being offered, with as deep liquidity as possible. Ever thinner and narrower side markets drive people away. The reason side markets have shrivelled is solely because of a faulty mix of pricing/incentives to people to get involved in them.
There is also huge room for a new type of market-making. The “crack trading team” is a throwback to the stone age of bookmaking, and an embarrassment for Betfair. What is obvious, is the crack team often don’t understand pricing in the internet era. The crack trading team needs to be disbanded, it is a waste of time and money. Betfair haven’t spotted what to replace them with. I remember Betfair buying a small company/startup which analysed betting patterns (to stop linked accounts, through intelligent analysis of them..?). That is where the future of pricing is, that is where Betfair will find the answer to their liquidity problems.
A large part of me thinks the Betfair sportsbook and exchange separation is a huge mistake. Ebay made a strategic decision to show less information/clutter to new users, to keep it initially simple, but more frequent users were allowed a much more full set of information. I think the exchange and sportsbook should be merged, where someone who logs on in the UK (to keep things simple), they will see say 5/6, and take 5/6 on a bet, but behind the scenes you could actually give them 1.95 or whatever the current higher price available is on the exchange. That would keep things simple for Joe Public, but bearing in mind Yu and Morana’s epithet when they spoke together on record saying they could see that people kept coming back and playing more when they got a better run for their money (hence why Yu was in favour of the Betfair education/statistical database tools etc), this would combine great value, with simplicity. I suspect the crack trading team don’t care how profitable Betfair is, they probably care how much money is diverted onto their poor prices (often with knockback size).
Betfair should be a £5billion+ company. It should be the biggest and best bookmaker of all. I don’t even think that gambling bets should be the flagship profit for the Betfair exchange to match, but that is by the by. 
It would be great to see Betfair in 2015 aspiring not to be Paddy Power 2013 “Lite”, but to be Betfair 2013 “heavy”, if you see what I mean.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

May Delay

I've been a little tardy on the Friendly Tipster League update from last week, but here is the table as of last Monday. The midweek updates and this weekend's results will be posted early next week. A lame excuse, but I have had family staying with me on all week, and my usual routine has been a little disrupted, but in a good way. It seems like forever ago, but the highlights from last weekend were that the leading XX Extended Draw category has seen its lead trimmed back after going 0 from 6 selections, while the second place XX Bundesliga selections had two winners from two selections. Among the other leaders, Peter Nordsted's Drawmaster found two draws from three, which guarantees the season will end in profit for these, and little change among the other 'in-profit' contenders.

In the red zone, Neil's nightmare Spring continued with four losses from four, and Football Elite's nightmare season continued with another losing weekend, while Talkbet chalked up a second profitable weekend in a row.
Nothing from a few of the regulars this weekend. With the silly season upon us, a few people are being extra cautious. My own XX Draws have had four selections voided in the last couple of weeks, with the draw price well below 3.0 - and three went on to be draws.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Looking For A Silk Purse

Webbo asked on the last post:

What price did you get out at Cassini? Or did you let this one run? I remember you saying once you have no intention of losing your whole stake when you trade so why wouldn't you have 'redded up' at 1.01?
Unfortunately it is not clear to which event or bet his comment relates to, but when trading, it is true that I have no intention of losing my whole stake. Unfortunately, whether it is my intention or not, that unfortunate outcome does result from time to time. Sometimes the market moves against you, and you do not get an opportunity to trade out at anything close to value. In trading the NBA for example, one risk of getting involved late on in close games is that you will see huge swings. Great if you called it right, but unfortunately us mere mortals sometimes call it wrong, and we are left holding a large red. For less liquid sports such as baseball, the problem is often that there are no takers at the true price, but you are better served in the long run to hold a position than you are to trade out at an unfavourable price - assuming of course that you are staking sensibly, which is easier said than done when a great opportunity presents itself. Webbo says “why wouldn’t you have ‘redded up’ at 1.01?’ In my experience, 1.01 is not usually a value back. It can be, but more often it is the case that the 1.01 is taken and the price then moves out. Years ago, I read a reported statistic from Betfair that only 70% of 1.01s actually won. I have no idea if that was true then, or is true now, but what I do see in the sports I trade is that the 1.01 gets taken too early.

Some of you may have woken up yesterday morning to find that one baseball game was still in-play. The Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim game went to 19 innings and didn’t end until 9:42am BST. Money had traded at 1.01 on the Angels – not mine unfortunately - and they went on to lose.

I mentioned the Brooklyn Nets – Chicago Bulls game at the weekend in this post. Here, not only 1.01 traded, but also 1000 traded, and the ‘sure-thing’ lost.

Even when a 1.01 wins, more often than not, a little fear creeps in to the market, and you can back at 1.02 later on. I caught the end of the Golden State Warriors game on Sunday night / Monday morning, and the Warriors had a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter, up by 16 / 18 points or so. I layed five figures at 1.01, not because I expected the Warriors to lose (although that would have been a nice bonus financially) but because I expected Denver to close the gap at some point, which would result in a few rattled nerves. Greed and fear drive the markets. Sure enough, I was able to back some back at 1.03, some at 1.02 and make a little low-risk money when the lead dropped to 13 or 14. All it takes is a turnover, an ‘and one’ or a three-pointer to shake someone’s confidence.

The second part of Webbo’s comment went like this:
BTW, I'm trying to test an edge I may have over thousands of bets on the football. It's puzzling me that using a Kelly staking system this is profitable but to level stakes the bets make a slight loss just short of break even.
I wanted to know what you thought of this as I remember you and someone (Al maybe?) debating whether a system can make a loss at level stakes but a profit using another staking method. I previously thought you were right but now I'm not so sure.
Not sure about me being right?!! Oh ye of little faith.

A system can certainly make a loss at level stakes but be profitable using another staking method - in the short-term. In the long-term, no. For an example, look at Roulette. The true odds on black are 2.0556, whereas you will get paid at 2.0. Can you employ Martingale to overcome this negative expectancy? For a while, most likely you will, but sooner than you might think, probability catches up with you and you hit the house limit, run out of money, or you lose your nerve. Labouchere might seem a gentler way of playing this bet, but again, sooner than you might think, probability catches up with you, and you have a losing run and the stake size becomes too high. There's a reason there are no professional roulette players.

Unlike in Roulette, the edge on football bets will vary from event to event. It is quite possible that the edge on the smaller Kelly stake selections is negative. Perhaps Webbo would tell us what the level stakes P&L is when the lowest Kelly bets are expunged from the data set. A few higher value bets with larger stakes would compensate for the lower edge bets.

And now the moment you have all been waiting for - the Friendly Tipster League updates from the weekend. The XX Draws (Extended) had three draws, all 0-0, from 10 selections, three one goal games, and a 90th minute goal to take a draw away, so overall not bad. The Monday night game between Aston Villa and Sunderland was the final selection of the weekend, and not the best suggestion the spreadsheet has ever had.

Just two Classic selections, with the 1-1 draw between Real Vallodolid and Sevilla ensuring a profit on the draw bets. No joy in the Bundesliga though, where an 87th minute goal prevented one draw from two selections.

The top six are all from the XX family, with the Extended HT 0-0 moving into a Champions League spot:
while the next six, and the remaining profitable, entries are:
Premier Betting moved up form 13th, while Drawmaster came up empty and drop down from 6th.

In the red by less than 10 points are these nine:
The Bundeslayga selections are having a bad run with just two winners from 12, and the big gainer was the Extended U1.5 selections which has mentioned above had six winners from 10 selections. Neil's poor run continues too, with just one profitable weekend since mid-March. At the end of January, Neil was in 6th spot, and up 9.63 points, just 10 points off the lead.

The Hall of Shame candidates are this sorry lot:
Football Elite's nightmare season continues with just 4 winners in the last 25 selections, and my own XX Draws (Classic) remain in the relegation zone. Credit to Football Formbook though for keeping the selections coming on his blog. Plenty of others gave up long ago.

And hello May. Until this morning, April was something of a nightmare month, and the only one in the red in total.
April Daily Averages (Net)
After seven years of roller-coaster results, I finally realised where I was going wrong and after a decent, if not spectacular April this year, every month is now green, although April remains very much an outlier.