Saturday, 29 March 2014

Le Problème de la France

The deep dive into the state of draws this season continues, and one thing stands out. There is a problem in France.

I mentioned yesterday that a winning or losing system isn't necessarily an indicator that the system is any good. The phrase I used was that a rising tide lifts all boats, which basically means that a sequence of results either above or below the long-term and expected averages can be deceiving. Regarding draws in the top five European leagues, 2013-14 is almost certain to be a season long sequence with draws under represented across the board. One of the advantages of including five leagues is that the results should be less volatile than if you select just one league to follow. This season appears to be an exception with the draw percentages down on both the 5 year and 10 year averages in every league.

Here are the current season numbers and the 10 and 5 year averages:

It looks like the worst league should be England, the best France, but as the post title hints at, this is not the case.  The next screenshot shows this season. The last five full rounds (50 matches each) in each league are shown, with the number of draws and the returns if backing every draw in those 50. 
The "All X" column shows the futility of backing every draw, at least the futility of doing so at Pinnacle Prices, and the other columns show the results of backing the sub 4.0 draws and the performance of the XX Draws.

Finally, Betslayer left a comment suggesting that it is not the total draws that are hurting, but that: 
...surely it has to do with the number of low scoring draws not just draws? (as that is your target area). I have done a lot of research in this area and surprisingly this season is a great one for under 2.5 draws (across 14 European leagues).
Fourteen leagues is a significantly larger pool than the XX Draws 'draw' from, and it appears to be the other nine leagues where his statement that backing 0:0s or 1:1s is working this season. 

In England, Germany, Italy and Spain, the Under 2.5 goal draws are all down on last season, (England 16.3% from 20%, Germany 14.8% from 18.6%, Italy 18% from 20.5% and Spain 15.7% from 16.8%) and in France they are about the same (slightly up at 22.6% over 21.3%).   

Friday, 28 March 2014

FTL Midweek Carnage Update And Tsunami Warning

The midweek results were no kinder to most FTL entries than the previous weekend. One entry made a profit, with thirteen making a loss. The eight idle entries were the beneficiaries. I have added a new column on the far right showing the change on the previous published table.

The "in-profit" entries are down to five, and they are:
The Bundeslayga were the one profitable entry with the lay of Borussia Dortmund in the Revierderby a winner finishing 0:0. 

The "in contention" group is up to three members, and they are:
No positional changes, but all three lost as shown in the new column.

As for the "losers", you can see from the final column that all who were active lost a little more this week.
Peter Nordsted was the biggest loser with none of his Premier Betting selections winning, and no Drawmaster winners either, but Jamie A, the XX Draws and Rubicon didn't fare much better. The Football Analyst reduces his bounty liability to £300 by virtue of Peter's woes rather than his own success, and the Totals section of the spreadsheet makes for depressing reading. 
For those of us looking for draws, the last few weeks have seen what might be described in business terms, as a challenging environment. Skeeve left a comment on my post regarding his selections, or more his staking and multiples strategy, which ended with a PS:
I hope this upcoming weekend is the one when you nail all the draws and get back to profit :)
The problem I have with that statement is not the sentiment, which is appreciated, but that it implies the draws are there to be nailed. However this season, the draws have been notable for their absence across all five of the leagues I follow.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a system looking for a particular result will struggle when the frequency of those results drops below it’s expected and long-term average, and will look great when they exceed expectations. The key is whether the selections being made are performing better or worse than a set of selections chosen at random. Your index fund might have been up 22% in 2013, but if the index it uses as a benchmark was up by 35%, that was a poor year for the manager. Something I will perhaps incorporate into the FTL next season is likely a benchmark or two.

Looking at the EPL, the last 50 matches have resulted in just 6 draws. Overall this season, this league is on course for its lowest draw total since the outlier of 2005-06 (20.3%). With the 10 year average at 26.3%, it's clear that a draw system will struggle, but unless something fundamental has changed, there will be times when the draws exceed expectations. In other words, when judging selections, it is important to look at more than just the P&L. A rising tide lifts all boats.

Backing all draws in the EPL would have lost 50.12 points. Limiting bets to the sub 4.0 selections would have lost 19.31 points (I used 4.0 because it is rare for an XX Draw selection to be priced greater than this) so it's some comfort that the EPL XX Draws are up 4.22 points. 

La Liga is my best performing league this season, and I will look at them along with the others this weekend. One plus to the poor run is perhaps seeing that the selections have value, even if the tide has ebbed. I'm hoping the receding tide it is due to a coming tsunami. 

Thursday, 27 March 2014


As the carnage continues unabated in the FTL table, (I'll update the numbers after tonight's matches complete the midweek schedule), I thought I'd address the topic of zero-inflation, a subject I mentioned in a post I wrote for Betting Expert back in 2012, and which a few people have asked me about since that time, including one recent request for help on Twitter. In my post, I wrote:
The intricacies of the Poisson distribution need not be fully understood for you to make use of it, because Microsoft’s Excel has a built-in Poisson function. Before we look at Poisson in action, it is important to know that several studies have found that the probability of draws is underestimated by Poisson.
The reason for this is that the probability of zero, and to a lesser extent 1, is under-estimated by Poisson, which is why an adjustment needs to be made to the output. A search of the Internet for ‘zero-inflation’ – a fancy term for increasing the probability of zero – will reveal a number of studies, and some ideas on how to apply this.
The zero-inflation in football is a challenge, and my attempts to solve the problem involved a certain amount of trial and error since there is, to my knowledge at least, no set formula for football models. Basically, I made an initial 'best guess' and then tracked my expected (predicted) scores against the actual scores. It's not a quick fix, but over a period of time (you probably need at least a season), you can see if your calculated goal expectancies are reasonably close to the actual results.

If they are not, then you adjust the inflation parameter accordingly. I track my goal expectancies in 0.1 increments so over time, an expectation of say 1 goals should see an average close to 1 goals. Some bands will be off by more than others, for example my 0.7 band currently averages 0.702 which is excellent, but my 0.9 band averages 0.995 which is not so good (off by 10.5%). If your expectancies are all lower or higher, then you need to make an adjustment, but if some are higher and some lower, the difference is probably noise, and the extreme expectancies will have a relatively low sample size.

Whatever numbers you inflate the zero and one by, a deflation needs to take place on the other outcomes to compensate since the combined probabilities of all possible goal totals cannot be greater than 1.0. The two goals bears the brunt of the deflation in my model, with less on the three and less again on the four, five and so on.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Stripped Naked - How Tips Are Best Viewed

A losing weekend for many of us, especially for the 'bigger' names in the FTL table. Myself, Skeeve, Peter Nordsted, The Football Analyst and Football Elite all had fairly sizeable losses.

Here is the profitable section of the table with a few comments:

The Cassini Value Selections were a rare ray of sunshine, making another 1.01 points with four winners from seven selections, and the three losing teams interestingly all scored first. A couple of selections in Spain couldn't hold onto leads, first was Real Vallodolid on Saturday and then on Sunday the slightly more anticipated and watched El Clasico where Real Madrid led 2-1 before it all got rather Messi - and Aston Villa let their lead over Stoke City slip as well.
Also interesting was that the prices on every selection shortened, most significantly Norwich City who shortened to 2.14 from an earlier 2.2.

Skeeve had a small  loss (0.88 points) on his FTL customised entry (more on that later), while his Official selections (also slightly customised) lost 4.01 points.

The XX Bundeslayga selections made a small profit of 0.25 points with one winner from two, while Fedslam lost 1.93 points.

No changes in position for the top five, but Webbo picked up 1.55 points to move into fourth cash place ahead of the XX Draws (Under 2.5) which lost 0.75 points.

I usually have a 'contenders' screenshot at this point showing the entries down by less than 10 points, but only Hofs Hackers falls into that category this week, so here are all the losers:
On a weekend where there were just eight draws in the 49 top five leagues across Europe, Peter Nordsted's Drawmaster managed to find two of them and moves up three places. The XX Draws managed to find exactly none of them for an embarrassing wipe-out, and drops down three places. Football Elite lost 3.43 points, but managed to move up one place, while Jamie A had a poor weekend losing 7.55 points. The Football Analyst lost 6.0 points last midweek, and another 3.81 at the weekend, and the bounty is now up to £325 with 13 ahead of him and sitting on a loss of 32.21 points on the season just behind Premier Betting who had another poor weekend. Their modified FTL entry saw all 10 selections lose, but the Official entry picked up a winner on a half-time market for a loss of 8.5 points. Neil took his total selections up to 650 but lost another 6.31 points

All in all a pretty awful weekend. Even Jonny G couldn't beat the lack of draws although he did hit two from 13 selections for a loss of just 5.79 points.
I mentioned Skeeve and his modified selections earlier, and here is why. In his weekend update email to subscribers, he wrote:
We're now at -31.6 with the doubles for the 2013/14 season so far, which is half of the recommended bank for the doubles (the Asian Handicaps are now at a small +3.2 point profit for the season after making a bit less than +10 point profit since January, so we're currently a bit more than a third of the bank down with both sets of picks combined). So they're obviously rubbish all of a sudden, aren't they? I've lost my edge, the bookmakers win, it's time for retirement, hello sunshine.
But wait, how come I'm one of the most successful services for the current season participating in Cassini's friendly tipster league with a +15 point profit at a 15% ROI? Does Cassini live in some sort of a parallel universe? This season, fortunately for him - yes, he does. The thing is that Cassini is recording my bets as one-point flat-stake singles (and ignoring the Skrill South parts of the doubles because of odds-recording issues). With so many half-won-half-lost double bets this season, it's easy to understand what makes the difference.
As Skeeve says, there are a few differences between what Skeeve says to do, and what I actually do. (I can be difficult, so I am told).

Firstly, as the Football Data web site doesn't include the Conference South, I discard those selections from the FTL entry, so if the South selections have been poor this season, that's my gain and Skeeve's loss.

Secondly, if Skeeve selects a double or a treble, I simply make that tip into two or three single bets, with one point on each. Skeeve might have the same selection in multiple bets - I only count the selection one time.

Thirdly, if Skeeve selects a team to win by -0.5 or -1.5, the bet is recorded as a single on that team to win. (Football Data don't include the AH prices). And, as I do for others, any DNB, (0), or +0.5 bets are recorded as lays of the opposition.

So whereas following Skeeve's recommended bets exactly as prescribed would mean a loss to date of 28.4 points, the more conservative approach of betting (non Conference South) selections as singles is up 14.16 points.

Betting Skeeve's selections as prescribed except to a level one point stake would be in profit by 7.29 points, which suggests to me that the problem is not with the selections, it is with the stakes and the combining of bets into multiples.

This weekend is a case in point - Skeeve had four doubles and an AH bet. All four doubles lost, a suggested stake of 10 points down the pan.

The four doubles were:
Kidderminster Harriers and Luton Town 4 points
Forest Green Rovers and Macclesfield Town 2 points
Forest Green Rovers and Sutton United 2 points
Macclesfield Town and Sutton United 2 points
So it's an expensive afternoon when Sutton United can't score at bottom of the table Dorchester Town and Forest Green Rovers can't score at home to Welling United and Kidderminster Harriers can only draw at home to Southport. Luton Town and Macclesfield Town both won, but their placement meant their wins were wasted.

Backed the Cassini way, you would have had four singles bets, and four points risked.

Kidderminster Harriers Lost -1.00
Luton Town Won +0.31
Forest Green Rovers Lost -1.00
Macclesfield Town Won +0.74

Net Loss: -0.95 points

Skeeve also had a selection of Dartford to win at Hyde (4 points at 1.99) which they duly did, although at a Pinnacle price of 2.07. Here's another area where Skeeve is leaking points. Those 0.08 points add up over the course of a season, and it is to his credit that his recorded prices are always on the low side. No Bet Victor / bet365 / Paddy Power or unattainable prices for Skeeve.

Backing in multiples and with multi-point stakes can easily work the other way of course, but I don't like them. To me, there is no logic in linking, say, Forest green Rovers and Sutton United together in one bet, and unless you know your edge, betting three, four, five points whatever can look very much like chasing. The only thing that makes a bet worth four points rather than one is that you have a huge edge.

The true measure of the quality of a tipster's selections is the return on them when they are backed as singles with level stakes. Stripped naked, their beauty, or ugliness, is all too apparent.  Had all Skeeve's selections (the multliples) won, his profit would have been 13.48 points. That's a 23.48 point swing on five selections, and you can see how such a possible variation in returns makes it hard to judge the quality accurately.

To conclude, I would say that stripped naked, Skeeve's tips aren't bad at all. The FTL compares all tipsters as equitably as possible, and compared to the big hitters of Football Elite, The Football Analyst, and Peter 'Weatherman' Nordsted, Skeeve is currently well ahead, and the only one in profit.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Six Down

Six years ago today, on a Friday the 21st March, the Chilean architect and painter Guillermo Jullian de la Fuente died, but the day is now remembered and celebrated as that when a young Cassini revealed himself to the world.

Or to put it another way, the Green All Over blog was launched.

1,746 posts later, and the darn thing is still going strong with 639,000 hits per my counter, and according to Blogger, some 807,000 hits. Will we hit a million by this time next year? Will the blog still be active this time next year?

The first two comments were from Graeme Dand (before he turned into TFA) and Mark Iverson, both still in short trousers at that time, and both still very much alive and well in the betting / trading world.

I have a standing joke that I trot out every anniversary, which might not be side-splittingly hilarious, but I like my traditions, so here we go.
Not all the 1,746 posts have been hugely interesting admittedly, but the other 1,745 have been...
Certainly not many betting related blogs have been around for so long, and I probably wouldn't have expected to still be here six years on back in 2008. There are a few reasons why I'm still here. One is that I am still profitable - as any blogger will tell you, it's easy to blog when things are going well, not so easy when they are not. The golden days have gone with the Super Premium Charge, but it was always just a part-time hobby, and in many ways the money was secondary to the intellectual challenge of trying to find edges and competing with others.

It helps that I am multi-dimensional so far as my interests in sports are concerned too. If your focus is on one sport, it's not so easy to find new angles to discuss.

The blog has evolved too, as have my Elo based ratings. Looking back, some of my ideas were rather basic, (OK, embarrassing), but there is no shame in that so long as you learn from your mistakes and improve.

The FTL gives me regular content too, at least during the football season, as do the comments and mentions I find of the blog around the blogosphere. And then there are my 'campaigns' to call out nonsense, unfairness or wrong doings where I see it, and in betting, there is a lot of that.

And this year of course, there was one individual's attempts to silence me with his ludicrous claim to have reported me to the police - my 'crime'? Linking to another blog post. That was an interesting saga which generated a lot of additional hits.

Oh yes, and a thick skin helps too. I'll be out celebrating for a couple of days, but I will be back for a seventh year of stimulating content. Happy Spring.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Tingly Loins

That Steve over at Daily 25 is becoming more and more of a character each day. In his latest post, on the topic of Graeme Dand's 52 systems that make up the TFA, he came up with a couple of corkers.
I like my blog writing the same way I like my sex, in and out quickly and leaving someone very unsatisfied.
The hint that there is possibly a connection between blogging and sex is interesting. Some blog daily, some blog more than once a day, while others need longer recovery periods between posts.

Graeme does have amazing stamina when in action, but he's not in action that often. Weekly is usually good enough for Steve, but his choice of words is sometimes disturbing:
I know Cassini’s loins get all tingly when I mention him on this blog, but he has a timely blog post which helps with this point. He was saying how Peter Nordsted (A tipster) had posted an under bet for subscribers to his service and then posted the opposite side on twitter. This is a blatant example of what I was trying to get at. With so many different bets (and overlapping bets) it is easier for a tipster to point to the winners. 
As I mentioned, the main theme of Steve's post wasn't my loins, but Graeme's abundance of systems. It's something I've commented before, and it does seem unnecessary, especially when you consider the limited number of matches that make up the pool Graeme draws from each week. 46 league matches plus 12 Conference Premier games generating enough bets to warrant 40+ systems does seem a little excessive.

It's not like an investment fund choosing from thousands of companies of different sizes and across different sectors. This is one country and the top five leagues in one sport.

Of course, Graeme's selections can and do appear in one or many systems, but it does make it difficult to assess how good the ratings are. For me, the measure of a system is one point per selection - are you up or down?

When you vary stakes and combine selections in multiples or select opposing selections for different audiences, it's easy to see why accusations of smoke and mirrors have some merit. Although not perfect by any means, the FTL does at least apply one point per selection, all of which are singles, and uses the same source for all prices allowing a like for like comparison to be made. Yes, Pinnacle's prices can often be beaten, and Draw No Bets and Asian Handicap bets have to be recorded in ways that the selector didn't advise, but over time, who is finding value and who isn't will show through.

The other point I want to make here is about how it is possible to find so many value selections from such a relatively small list of selections. My pool is the top five European leagues, usually 49 matches per week, and of those there are maybe 13 or 14 are draw / under value bets on average, and the Value Selections for this season total 75 - which is 0.054% (1 in 20) of the matches. I do look for a 10% minimum edge on these bets, and maybe should settle for less, ROI for show and all that, but I'll see this season out before making any changes.

A comment on the Football Form Labs guest post, more of a sales-pitch than I was expecting, misses the point that most football bettors are not full-time syndicates with millions of other people's money to invest, but part-timers / hobbyists looking to make a few extra quid for themselves:
Great stuff Will > high turnover and low margin is the only way to win in the long run which is what every betting syndicate around the globe is doing.

Pointless having 4/5 bets a weekend . It will not work. You need a big rod in a big sea.
The statement that "high turnover and low margin is the only way to win" is clearly incorrect, and I would disagree with the 4/5 bets a weekend being pointless line too.

If the point is to make a little extra money and not spend all weekend watching sports, then I would say this is the perfect set up. What "it will not work" means I'm not sure. For many of us, it works just fine. What one person is looking for in betting, as in life, is not necessarily what others are looking for.

On the subject of the Fidens Fund, I had one email expressing concerns. It's not a new idea, and Centaur Sports famously went bust in 2012 doing the same thing.
Back when the fund launched in 2010, the directors of Galileo told CNBC that they were using high-level software that took five years to develop, and expected to a 15-25% return on investment.
But last week investors got a letter saying the fund was being liquidated and all the money was gone.
On paper, this seems like it should have worked (Mark Cuban even endorsed the idea in 2004). Plenty of professional gamblers make their living handicapping sports and finding value in point spreads. And with all sorts of cash and technology at its disposal, you'd think a fund like this could generate some decent returns.
So what went wrong?
According to the Journal, the fund told investors that they lost it all due to "sheer bad luck".
Sheer bad luck, or just an idea that is fundamentally flawed? Sports betting markets are a small fraction of the size of financial markets and strategies that work in the latter won't work in the former. In betting markets, it's an advantage to be small - your £20 can be easily bet at top prices, your £20,000  not so easily, and your £75,000 or more? Prices will start to shorten and your edge / value will decrease.

If Fidens do have a sustainable edge, why would the operators not just invest their own money and compound it?

At the average edge of 3.76% they claim (over 9,400 bets), an edge found on 3,000 bets a year, 'just' £1million would be worth about £1,757,596 after a year, if risking the stated conservative 0.05% of the total fund.

Why they would need those additional minimum £20k deposits is the big question prospective investors should be asking. The additional money won't mean better prices - there's no bulk discount in betting.

An edge of 3.76% over 9,400 bets is very impressive, as is finding 250 value bets a month, but as stakes rise and best prices are that much harder to get on at, that number can only come down.

28 investors with just under £1.5 million invested means an average investment of around £50k. The 'performance fees' applied at the end of each quarter (at a rate of 50% on the profit in that quarter) would generate, using the numbers provided, about £3,785 per account. Multiply that by 28, and goodness! That's £424k a year.

Stand by for news of the launch of my new Cassini Value Fund. My loins are tingling.

Grab Your Raincoat

I seem to have a few threads going at the moment, which is good. At my age, it's good to keep the brain exercised. 

No prices or rationale yet from Peter Nordsted and his 'opposing tipping' strategy, but Hejik had this comment:
Good post Cassini and as usual I'd agree with much of it.

I find Peter's methods of operation astonishing to be quite honest and am extremely confused as to why he is so widely respected as a 'Tipster' and 'Betting Writer'.
I must stress this is merely my opinion but I've found his level of knowledge regards all things betting somewhat wanting and most of his ideas are just back-fitted nonsense and apparent guesswork (rigidly banding teams) and the sort of thing I was trying to make work in my first 6 months of betting.
The evident lack of progress and knowledge development over such a long period of time is quite startling and his approach to self-improvement, in a betting context, would appear to be denial of the very need for it.
I stress there's no personal ill-will as Peter actually seems a real gent on the face of things, but when you put yourself up as some kind of expert yet it's apparent to experienced people that you're anything but, you must be prepared to accept an amount of criticism of your ideas.
As I've said elsewhere, recent events would suggest that people need to "wise the hell up" and start questioning things a bit more.
The rigid banding idea is, of course, nonsense as Hejik says. Whether it is Peter or anyone else, the logic is akin to that of deciding to carry an umbrella on March 25th every year, because since records began, it has rained on that day more often than not.

To my twisted way of thinking, it is rather more relevant to check the weather forecast that morning. The weather on March 25th 2013, 2012, 2011, ....1892 is data, but it's useless data if you want to know what to wear on March 25th 2014.

Last night, Pete's 'model' suggested a bet on the Colorado Avalanche @ 1.91 playing at the Winnipeg Jets. I say 'model' in quotes, because to me, a model spits out a probability, and you bet if you can find a price that beats that probability.

A model is not something that tells you that March 25th was wet 70 times in the last 100 years, and 4 times in the last decade, is 80% wet in Leap Years and in years ending in a 1, it has rained every year except when there was a World War in progress or Halley's Comet was paying Earth a visit. That is trivia, all very interesting to some perhaps, but it is not useful data to base your clothing choice on.

Did Peter's 'model' suggest Colorado should be priced at 1.81, and thus (allowing for 5% padding) 1.91 was value? No. The selection was made because it just so happens that a narrow band which includes the 1.91 opening Colorado price, has in the past been profitable.

A subsequent email from Peter said:
I have also had an email on whether Colorado is still a pick as they have drifted out to 2.04.
The answer is yes as the selections are all based on the opening prices.
Presumably the answer would have been yes if the question had been "Is Colorado still a pick as they have shortened to 1.09?" since the selection is based on the opening price?  At what price are these selections recorded in the record books? 1.09, 1.91, 2.04?

Selections have to be based on value, (using opening price is ridiculous), and if you don't have a clue what the 'true' price should be, you are just wasting your time and ultimately money, although I doubt that anyone plays a 'system' like this for real money.

Colorado lost 4:5 after leading 1:0 by the way, although irrelevant to the issue.

Like football clubs, weather patterns change from week to week, month to month and year to year. Using previous weather records for a specific date as a predictive tool is as silly as using Manchester United's record versus Liverpool since 2005 to calculate the probability of a win against them in 2014. That it rained heavily on April 1st in 2012 and 2013 doesn't mean it will rain again in 2014. Look out the window and check the forecast if you want to know whether to grab your raincoat.

Danny left this comment:
I am not a fan of using current form for a couple of reasons.
One is that it's something punters put too much emphasis on and it tends to drive the price on a team too low as a result. And it's even worse if the team has a big following, try getting value on Leeds for example if they have won their last four matches.
Another reason is if you are talking about the last six games you are looking at a very small sample and luck may well have played some part. Also home and away form are very different animals so is there much point in lumping them both together?
Market theory would suggest teams in good recent form could get over backed so I would argue price action is a better way to find value than form.

Every team has it's price!
When have Leeds ever won their last four matches? If form leads to teams being backed too short, then there is an opportunity on the lay side. The trouble with basing selections on price is that you are effectively trying to reverse engineer the selection.

If you input your (useful) data into your proven model, it will generate probabilities which can be compared with the market's assessments, and value bets jump out at you.

If you start with the prices, it's not so easy to objectively say what the true price should be and explain why the market has it wrong.

Colorado are not value at 1.91 because the market at one time thought they were a 1.91 shot. They may be value at 1.91, or they may not. Had they opened at 1.89 would they have been value? 1.9?  Such arbitrary distinctions based on lines drawn in the sand while looking back, make no sense.

2% chance of rain today according to the forecast. I'll leave the brolly at home. 

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Football Form Labs Guest Post

My recent post in which I took a quick look at Football Form Labs triggered a response from Will Wilde, the Head Trader from that organisation. Since I have no experience of them, and my observations were based on a very quick look at a few web pages and screenshots, when Will asked for the opportunity to guest post here, I had no problems at all.

Here is Will's post, unedited and in full, and its presence here should not be taken as an endorsement of their products or trading services, merely as another opinion from the other side.

Thanks Will.

Hi Cassini

Thanks for taking the time to publish your article on Football Form Labs.

I can’t see on our logs that you have actually taken out a trial of either Form Lab MAX or Form Lab Black. Both are available on a free 14-day no-obligation trial. You can cancel the subscription at any time during the 14 days and you won’t be charge. If you haven’t you might find this reply a bit confusing and long-winded!

Form Lab Black launched in May 2011 and we have been providing Daily Report recommendations since then. You can see a list of all Daily Report recommendations that we have published on the P&L section of the Daily Reports tab in Form Lab MAX and Form Lab Black.

Form Lab MAX contains Daily Reports, Game Notes, Match Data and Pre-Match Query. In addition Form Lab Black includes In-Play Query, Players and Live Logic additionally. To avoid me droning on the two user guides are published in full here:

In short, Daily Reports are editorial recommendations, trends and identification of key players missing from that day’s matches. Match Data gives a snapshot including 20+ Form Tables for all of the 50+ leagues we cover, Game Notes are an automated selection of a strong trend or trends in a match (not necessarily signifying value), Pre-Match Query allows you to query our 50+ leagues over the past five seasons, In-Play Query (as the name suggests) does the same as Pre-Match Query but allows you to add the dimension of any match situation into your query (based on time elapsed, match position etc), Players lets you query the effect of an individual or a combination of players across nine leagues over the past five years (for example you could query the database on how Manchester United do when Rooney and Van Persie start since Van Persie joined Manchester United when away from home: W16-D6-L3 when both have started netting on average 2.16 times per match compared to W4-D2-L3 when one or both have been absent as they’ve scored just 1.67 goals per game. Obviously we have sample size issues but you get the idea), Live Logic is the smartest of all of the tools available in Form Lab Black. Live Logic is customisable in-play bet prompts every five minutes or whenever a goal is scored for all 50+ leagues that we cover.

With any software of this nature it is very easy to pick ‘holes’ and therefore some intelligence is required when deciding the query you should make and how much reliance you should put on the past results.

Onto your questions about the Pre-Match Query output, on the Pre-Match Query tab you will see you have a number of options to choose when querying a match. For example, if you toggle between CP (current position) and FP (finishing position) on Position or, the generally more useful, Opposition Position your query results if FP is selected will only bring up matches where you faced teams that ended the season in that position, regardless of where in the league they were when you played your match during the season. For example, your games against teams that finished in the top-10 would only show up in a query of Opposition Position FP Top-Half. This isn’t to say that Current Position is of no use, as that team was a top-half team at that point in the season. Naturally, you encounter issues at the early stages of any season and those games aren’t included in the algorithm that produces the automated Game Notes. You can also query on Form, Time of the year/season and under the current manager. The ability to see how other teams may have performed when in a similar run of form or league position as the team in question, and at a particular stage of the season, is also a very good indicator of whether the price on offer is value. As an aside, on any of the query tabs on Form Labs if you hover over the ‘i’ you will see Tool Tips on how to get the most out of the software.

Regarding your comment about the output page you will see that in any output query you have a Summary of the results below in the box above. The Odds Conv row is just the odds conversion of the percentage. Nothing special there, but to those less au fait with decimal odds than yourself it can provide helpful. The much more interesting row is the P&L row which is what would have happened had you backed that result in the matches you have chosen. These odds are based on the average odds across 25 bookmakers at kick-off. The four-game sample you mention isn’t interesting from an odds conversion or P&L basis however Pre-Match Query allows you to query not just on the teams in question but also the full league. So for instance if we select ‘All Teams Home’ in Pre-Match Query and ‘Seasons 08/09-13/14’ in ‘Period’ and Generate for the Premier League we can see the Summary of all 2191 Premier League games since 2008/09. You can narrow this query down again by selecting team / form type or, perhaps, a period in the season. In this example, the Odds Conv and the P&L are more interesting than a four-game sample of Swansea’s home games.

Football Form Labs was designed as a betting tool to help bettors. Both Form Lab MAX and Black give users access to our database in an easy-to-use interface where they can form their own strategies and quickly bring up relevant past results from a huge variety of domestic leagues. With the addition of a consistently profitable editorial section (Daily Reports) we feel that at £30 a month for MAX and £60 a month for Black (with discounts available for quarterly or annual subscriptions) that they offer great value to the keen bettor.

Fidens exists as a separate entity to Form Labs. I won’t regurgitate everything that is written in our prospectus: but Fidens has many great selling points:

1) Is completely transparent. Investors can see every bet that has been placed on their account through a simple online login.

2) We don’t hold any of the investor’s money. We use an independent broker to place all of our bets. It is all held in the investor’s broker account and they can withdraw their investment without penalty at any time.

3) All profits for UK investors (and investors in many other countries) are completely tax-free.

4) We are extremely low-risk placing less than 0.50% of FUM on each trade.

5) We are extremely high-turnover. We bet in 27 leagues around the world and place over 3000 bets per year.

6) Our average edge per bet over 9,400 bets is 3.76%.

Fidens is unique. Syndicates of the past have tended to be secret, unscalable and unsustainable but Fidens is completely different. We currently have 28 investors with just under £1.5m under management. I’m happy to provide referees (away from here) if you wish. Fidens, in its current format, is scalable to approximately £15m under management and we hope to be at that level within 18 months.

Thanks again,

Will Wilde

Head Trader, Football Form Labs

Eyebrow Raising

As promised, here is a more detailed update on the last few days of FTL action going back to last Tuesday (March 11th). First, the profitable entries:

The Cassini Value Selections had a poor weekend, with just one winner (Stoke City) and three losses, for an overall loss of 1.71 points, but still a healthy ROI%. Hoffenheim managed to lose a 2:0 lead as well, which hurt. Augsburg lost 1:2 (after leading) and Elche drew 0:0.
Skeeve made small profits (less than a point) on both entries while the recent run of good results for the XX Bundeslayga system added another 4.44 points with three winners out of three. Fedslam  made 6.62 points to remain in 5th place (3rd money spot) but a large lead over 6th place and the XX Draws (Under) selections which were up 2.25 points.

The zero to -10 points group is:
Once again, a reminder that my results for Football Elite treat the DNB bets as lays of the opposed team, and use Pinnacle Sports prices and so will be different from their official results. As mentioned yesterday, The Football Analyst was the big loser here, and I shall spare Graeme the agony of repeating myself. The XX Draws had a roller coaster weekend which started with four winners from five (including a fluked 3:3) and everything going swimmingly before they went the remainder of Saturday and Sunday without a single draw from 12 matches. Monday was almost two for two, but a 90th minute goal by Napoli took away one winner and they ended with an overall loss of 1.07 points from 18 matches.
 Forza Fizzer emailed me to announce that he is retiring gracefully from the FTL. He led the table in early November, up by 13.72 points at that time, but only two (both less than one point) profits since then have seen a slow slide down the table. The fizz has fizzled out.

Funnily enough, Forza Fizzer has had almost exactly the same number of selections as Premier Betting and Rubicon, and is in the same ball-park on results too, with a few more wins to his name.
And then there are the Jonny G draw selections which after 34 selections, are improving, but down by 14.48 points after the latest round.
As most readers will know, I do like my draws, and it's strange that the draw-hunter entries (XX Draws, Drawmaster and now Jonny G) are all finding them hard to come by, yet Football Analyst Graeme is tripping over them. He has 11 Draws Systems, and all 11 are in profit.

And speaking of multiple systems, Anonymous commented that:
Considering you have about 4 separate entries in your own league table it's a bit rich to criticise Pete. I'm sure many people running systems will have 'overlaps' or multiple selections just because of the way the data is interpreted. Maybe Peter's brief from Matchbook sometimes means the result will be at odds with his own view and much like you cherry picking and highlighting whichever of your 'entries' is doing best Pete will do much the same.
Not for the first time, Anonymous misses the key point, which is that this issue is not about cherry-picking, overlapping selections or data interpretation - it is about giving contradictory tips. Diametrically opposed selections. Heads and Tails. Both cannot be value. 

Not that it is relevant to the debate, but yes, I have four separate entries in the FTL table, of which two (the XX Draws and Under) are closely related (more cousins than siblings perhaps) and of the other two, one is specifically targeting Home lays in the Bundesliga, while the other is looking for Home winners. There is no conflict of interest. There could well be an overlap, for example if the Away price is so far off that both the Draw and the Home prices could be value, but you won't see a contradiction such as my tipping Heads on here and Tails to my subscribers. 

The issue is that if you have a profitable model, as Peter claims (although some eyebrows might be raised* at that claim given the losses so far this season) it makes no sense to over-ride the (profitable) model by tipping the opposing (and thus losing) selections. Why would an experienced professional allow subjectivity to question the output of a long-term winning model?   

As a reminder of the issue, the match in question was Saturday's Aston Villa v Chelsea match. Premier Betting Account subscribers were advised:
Fair enough - Pete's selections are from a model so the Unders and the Draw, overlapping selections, were both identified as value. If Under 1.5 goals was value at 3.75, the Under 2.5 would have been value at around 1.93. Allowing for an edge of 10%, this means that Pete's model would have generated a price of 1.75. Even if Pete works off a narrower 5% edge, then we have a price of 1.83 for the Under 2.5 and the Over would therefore be at about 2.20.  

Pete's Matchbook preview concludes:
So my recommended trade for this game is Over 2.5 goals at around 2.00.
How does this make any sense? The 'profitable' model says the true Overs price is 2.2 - so value (assuming a 5% edge) would be at 2.31, and that is a LONG way from the recommended 2.0.

Either Peter is recognising that his model is not, after all, profitable, and has no confidence in its selections, (bad news for Premier Betting Account subscribers) or Pete is advising bets he knows are not value on Matchbook (bad news for Matchbook's readers). True, the Matchbook reviews are just noise, with no real substance to the 'analysis', and are there just to attract clicks and bets, but to suggest what you know is poor value as a recommended bet seems very poor form.

Although confirmation of Peter's model's price on the Under would be nice to know, we don't need it. Which ever way you slice it, one of Peter's audiences is getting poor advice. The issue is not that the advice overlaps; it is that the advice contradicts, and to maintain credibility, you need to be consistent. It would be nice to get a clear explanation from Peter, but I'm not sure there is one.
* I once told a friend that she drew her eyebrows on too high. She looked surprised.

Lab Work

Sunday was not the best of days, but while out riding my bike, I belatedly thought of another benefit to being advised a selection and a 'true' price rather than being told a subjective recommendation and a 'target' price.

As we all know, the target price is quite often quoted from a sports-book known for closing sharp accounts, and while technically the price might be available, for anyone with half a clue, it's probably not.

The problem with being told that 5.0 or whatever is available is what do we do in the not improbable event that it is not available. How much buffer is in that 5.0 price? Is 4.5 still value? Tell me the selection and the 'true' price, and I can make an informed decision on what price available to me is acceptable to take.

Mark asked for my opinion of Football Form Labs, a name with which I was not previously familiar, and as I always do as I am asked, I took a quick look at their web site.

This Twitter conversation below caught my eye:

Apparently the 'game notes' (presumably trivia curiosities) can be misleading, but I liked the comment that head-to-head records shouldn't be taken seriously. That was a plus, but there are plenty of negatives. The reference to league table positions is concerning for a start. As I have written before, for betting, the league table is often useless. Aston Villa are a top half team. So are Manchester City. Mainz '05 may be 6 points ahead of Hannover '96, but that may be just noise. Have they played six games more? We need signals, and unless you are smart with how you use your input, you generate garbage for output.

Back to league tables - early in a season they are too volatile, and being bottom with 0 points after five games against Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Crystal Palace is quite possibly better than being top after wins over Cardiff City, Fulham, Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City. 

Late in the season, they don't reflect current form. A club (see previous post) may be quite a different entity in March or April than it was in August. Have any teams changed manager this season?

The vagaries of scheduling is also the reason why looking at a team's previous n games without any adjustment for who those opponents were, is useless. And placing teams into tiers is also flawed, because while some teams you can be pretty sure belong in Tier A, for most teams it is only at season end that you can look back and say where teams belonged.

From the screenshots here, it appears Football Form Labs not only use league position, but also without any accounting for strength, make simplistic calculations of odds based on a sample size of 4. (See left). So the draw is value at anything over 1.33 then? 

I may be misreading this - without paying £30 a month it's hard to get a full picture - but it does all look rather basic and simplistic from what I can tell.

The statistics being used are all very interesting as curiosities, but using data in this way is not useful for predicting future outcomes. The web site looks professional enough, and 'labs' in the name suggests something rather clever is going on behind the facade, but I don't it, nor do I see anything that would justify paying money for 'interesting but ultimately useless' information.

The same people also operate a tax-free proprietary managed betting syndicate called Fidens - a fund willing to take your money and trade "on your behalf".

Minimum investment is £20,000. Performance fees are charged though, before you rush in, but only 50% of profit quarterly. "A minimum of 50% of performance fees are re-invested in Research and Development to maintain our proven edge". 
We use a combination of high-powered algorithms sitting on top of our vast and bespoke database of historical results
With over £1million under management and 3,000+ trades placed turnover in 2014 will exceed £18milllion"
With numbers like that, I really hope their algorithms use more than the simple stats the web site shows.

Unfortunately 'historical' (what other kind of results are there?) results are not enough, in my opinion. Anyone have first-hand knowledge of this group?

They do have one endorsement on the main page though:

"I am very impressed with the results you are having, and there is no doubt that Form Lab Black is definitely the best commercial product out there" 

Pete Nordsted - Subscriber

but Peter has yet to get back to me with his prices on Manchester United or the Over 2.5 goals in the North London Derby on Sunday. Both bets were value based on Peter's prices, so it will be interesting to see how large that edge was in Peter's estimation.

Nor has there been a clarification yet on the rationale of recommending Heads to subscribers, and Tails to Matchbook readers. The October statement was more obfuscation than clarification.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

FTL Update - Short Version

It's taken longer than usual to update the FTL table this morning, so time only for the screenshots with the briefest of comments. A fuller summary to come. Note that the updates include midweek games from last week as well as this weekend.

In Profit

Only positional change here is that the XX Draws (Under) move into the top six at the expense of Webbo.

In Contention
The big change here is the six places dropped by The Football Analyst with three winners from 21 selections, and a loss of 14.34 points. It also means the bounty liability increases to £300.

For those following the SoTDoc selections, they had their best week so far finding 5 winners (from 18 selections) and losing just 1.83 points.
As always, please let me know of any errors. Jamie A always does!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Difference Between Club And Team

Peter Nordsted commented on the previous post, by referring me to a comment on a similar observation made last October. Back then, Peter wrote:
To clear this up I do freelance writing for Matchbook where I am asked to concentrate on the Top televised matches for the Premier League and Champions League and I am asked to do a write up and finish with a recommended trade for that game.
The analysis I provide for Matchbook is based on a statistical view point but also contains my own subjective opinion.

The selections that are produced for Premier Betting are based on a situational model that has proved profitable over the past few seasons and contains no subjective opinion of my own whatsoever.

Indeed some of the selections go completely against my personal thoughts with the Everton v Newcastle game being a point in case.

For example 2 weeks ago the model as well as the Drawmaster (which is based on a similar model) suggested backing the draw in the Everton v West Brom game whereas my personal opinion would not have been to take this position on.
From an investment point of view I invest in the Premier Betting selections along with other selections in different leagues which the model suggests.
In the previous 2 seasons all of the Premier Betting picks were based on myself and Danny’s personal opinion but we decided that we wanted to share part of our profitable portfolio with members and this is how will go going forward.
I hope this clears matters up and just to reiterate although I co-head Premier Betting none of the selections given by Premier Betting contain any subjective opinion.
This approach has highs and lows and we will only be judged by results by the performance at the end of the season come what may.
I suppose one benefit of advising Heads to one audience and Tails to another is that one group will be pleased, but the latter is not the paying Premier Betting Account subscribers this season.

Although Pete starts with "to clear this up", in fact, the confusion was compounded.

The Matchbook analyses is "based on a statistical view point but also contains my own subjective opinion."

The Premier Betting selections "are based on a situational model that has proved profitable over the past few seasons and contains no subjective opinion of my own whatsoever." What Peter means by "based on" is not clear. Either the model is objective or it is not.

So the question remains, even if you have a profitable (objective) model, (and the evidence suggests this is not the case), why would you diverge from this model and offer opposing (i.e. losing) advice to another audience?

One follow up comment from the time was this one:
Well first things first that clears up nothing. The explanation makes as much sense as having different selections for paying and nonpaying viewers. If Matchbook are happy to just have subjective views that's one thing, but why would you have them in the first place, if you have a successful situational model for paying subscribers (are you not convinced of its worth?)....ignoring your own businesses advice is pretty damning evidence of its quality.
Analytical Spider offered this at the time too:
I like Pete and don't think it's an integrity issue as has been alleged but surely amongst the biggest gambling follies is going with subjective judgement bets. Unless you're betting on niche markets or lesser known markets I find it highly unlikely there are many if any serious bettors betting weekly on the big leagues, using their opinion and making long term profits. I've never met or heard of any and I've met a few having been a full-time trader/gambler for 10 years.
Given Pete's apparently got a successful data based strategy I find it a little strange he'd even want to offer subjective opinion (certainly on one like an over/under market in the prem). Personally I've found the longer you're successful at betting the more you realise how fallible opinion is (certain markets/situations excluded) and I'd tend to agree with the above comment that it doesn't reflect well on the quality of his model.
I like Pete too. In all my dealings with him, he comes across as a very nice man, but most of his Tweets suggest selections are subjective:
I think the champions offer some value in the Man Utd v Liverpool game. See preview #MUFC #LFC
"Think"? What price does the model have for Manchester United? "Some value"? How much edge does the market price offer?
We should be in for an entertaining affair when Spurs meet Arsenal tomorrow #THFC #AFC
Peter uses 'entertaining' to mean 'lots of goals', but if the market expects lots of goals too, where is the value? What price does the model have for the Unders markets?  How much edge does the market price offer?
I think there is value in the O2.5 goal line in the A Madrid v AC Milan #ECL
"Think"?  What price does the model have for the Unders markets?  How much edge does the market price offer?

An 'objective situational model' will generate these numbers, and if it is profitable as Pete asserts, why not give those numbers and why contradict the profitable model with subjective opinions anyway?

Finally, there are contradictory Tweets of this nature:
Man Utd have a strong home record v Liverpool. Please see full betting preview #MUFC #LFC
Man Utd have only won 1 of last 5 matches hosting teams of Liverpool's stature #MUFC #LFC
As I have tried to explain before, the first error here is in confusing a club with a team.

Manchester United and Liverpool Football Clubs, like any football clubs, are not fixed entities. Their composition is constantly changing, often from game to game, certainly from month to month and season to season. Players come and go. Injuries, suspensions and tactics affect team line-ups. Managers come and go. Philosophies change. Players improve, players peak, and players decline.

Comparing a club against another club is almost always a waste of time, and the further back you are looking, the more futile the exercise is.

'Strong home record' is a very vague phrase anyway, and given Manchester United's recent history, it could probably be used for every home game this season, but any profitable model would recognise that Manchester United of 2014 are not the same Manchester United as 2013, 2012 or any recent seasons.

It may be a curiosity that Manchester United (the club) has a 'strong home record' (whatever that means) versus Liverpool (the club), but it's useless data (noise) to put into a model.

Who made a betting decision based on this information I saw yesterday?:
This is an extreme example admittedly, but if you understand why this information is, from a betting perspective, useless and dangerous, then it should be easy enough to extend that understanding to comprehending why comparing club versus club results is also useless from a betting perspective.