First of all I would like to apologise for the lack of recent updates here. I thought being back at work would focus my efforts more during my spare time and as a result I would be updating this blog on a more regular basis but that’s not really been the case for a variety of reasons.
Going back to work has been quite a shock – in a good way. I’m surprised at how easily everything has come back to me. Getting up in the mornings isn’t a problem. The commute to work takes a bit longer than is ideal but isn’t any real hassle and I can do it half asleep. Plus quite a lot of the commute involves walking which gives me plenty of time to think about things and get my head in order, which is very welcome. The work itself is enjoyable and despite the fact I haven’t really used my software testing skills over the last couple of years I have been able to get straight back into it and am making a real contribution. The domain I am working in (oil industry) is one I have worked in before, in fact I have worked with these very same developers before which has probably helped me settle in quickly. I’m only supposed to be part-time at the minute but there is a lot of work on as we’re approaching a software release so this last week I ended up working the full week, and I don’t feel any worse for it which is an especially pleasing thing. But it does mean I haven’t had a lot of spare time of late.
What spare time I have had to spend on gambling activities has been spent making a number of improvements to my betting records. I mentioned recently that I had taken a spanking on one of my lay systems (Lay’em) and as a result I had started to record more details for each horse racing bet, namely the racing code and whether or not the race was a handicap. I wrote some VBA to go back all my previous bets and update them with the same information but it took a bit of time to get that code working 100% and to verify the output was correct. I also had to clean my data a bit as this code highlighted a few mistakes in my earlier records, errors I have now addressed. Once I had done all of that I needed to decide on how best to use this information. The idea behind recording these additional details was to allow me to break my systems down and look at stats based on individual racing codes.
The example I gave at the time was to look at whether the Lay’em performance was better on the turf or AW but I soon found that the way I displayed stats for each system/tipster was too constrained and wouldn’t easily extend to cover different racing codes so I had to redesign the way I handle all my stats. Initially I didn’t really know what the best way of doing this was and I began to write a number of user-defined functions that would calculate the stats for each system for each racing code on the fly. Unfortunately it soon became obvious that that way madness lie as my whole spreadsheet regularly ground to a halt while I recalculated stats over more than 70000 horse racing bets. Unacceptable so I had a rethink and went back down the normal VBA path with routines that are run as and when I tell them too rather than every time anything changes.
Throughout this I wasn’t really sure of the best way to present my data so I ended up playing with a number of different output formats. I knew I needed more stats but wasn’t sure of the best way to present them in a way that would mean I could get the best out of them. This is the wrong way round for me – I normally start with a much clearer idea of how to present the data but then I have to work backwards to generate the data in the first place. And of course every time I changed my mind about how best to display this data I had to tweak the VBA output code to conform to the new style. I eventually worked out I wanted separate sets of stats for my current portfolio and for all systems/tipsters regardless of whether or not they are part of my current betting plan. I wanted a breakdown of each system/tipster by racing code (or sport or whatever) but also wanted the figures broken down by month so I could view my progress throughout the year and it was this that caused me a few issues initially. But I got there even if it did take rather long than I had hoped for. The glory of it now is that I have had all this in place for a week or more now and have yet to find reason to change it which suggests I have ready access to all the stats I think I need. At bloody last!
So returning once more to the Lay’em system, which was after all the driver behind all these changes, I can now compare the turf and AW figures. It seems the system is profitable on both, netting 187.66pts on the AW and 117.56pts on the turf. Looking a bit deeper though the AW ROI is 1.68% compared to 0.26% on the turf. Concentrating on results from just this year (which I can do just by setting a combo box – yay!) the system has seen a poor time of it on turf with a loss of 17.53pts but it’s another story on the AW with a profit of 56.81pts so I am pleased the turf season is now over and we’re into the AW racing. Mind you, last year the turf lays made a profit of 72.01pts compared to 23.79pts on the all-weather so it goes to show you never can tell how things well go – past performance being no guarantee of future success and all that.
The long and short of it though is I wanted to look at the Lay’em system in more detail as I had taken some beatings on this one recently and had thought about deconstructing it and reviewing the rules via a system builder. That was around mid-October and with a remarkable change in form the system went on to record its most profitable month ever and I have been running it for around five and a half years now! The second half of the month saw a profit of more than 50pts which certainly helped turn things around. Had I not had such a month of two halves I may not have thought to add in the additional data I now record and I would still be in the statistical dark ages as it were so the poor run at the start of October has certainly put me in a better place overall.
Now I have these stats what can I do with them? The main way I plan to use them is to help me press my edges better by tailoring my staking for each system/tipster according to their strengths and weaknesses. For each racing system in my portfolio I now have a full breakdown by racing code and for the sports tipsters I have a breakdown by individual sport. I considered breaking down the football bets my division or betting market but I couldn’t really decide what I would do with such info at this stage so I have held off that. I can always revisit that decision in the future. Anyway, the idea now is that I can examine the figures for a tipster such as ProBandit’s A List and note that the overall ROI of 1.18% doesn’t tell the whole tale by any means as the AW bets have profited at a rate of 6.43% while the flat turf bets show a losing ROI figure of -4.11%. Take Sports Bet USA as another example. This service advises bets on all four major US sports (American football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey) but the performance across those sports is anything but equal. The NFL bets are running at a ROI of just over 12% but the corresponding figure for the baseball bets is -42.27%, albeit over a smaller sample of bets. It goes to show though that not all tips are equal and I should be able to improve my bottom line by staking more where the tipster has a good record and less where his performance has been poor.
Before I make any more staking changes I need to sit down and properly review the figures. For example, had I looked at last year’s Lay’em figures and changed my staking as a result I would have been staking more on the turf lays than the AW lays this year and as a result may not have made a profit at all. I also need to make sure I have an adequate amount of data on which to base my analysis. The Sports Bet USA baseball bets may show pretty hefty losses but those figures are based on just 31 bets. I want to be sure that I have a significant number of bets before deciding to deviate from my usual staking for that tipster, although it’s hard to put a definite figure on that minimum number of bets. I have a figure of 100(ish) in mind but bear in mind that is 100 bets for each given sport or racing code, not just 100 bets in total. I have recorded over 500 bets from the Insider service and my figures show the tennis tips show the greatest rate of return but as I only have 79 tennis bets from that service I don’t feel I have enough evidence to support an increase in stakes relative to other sports, especially as the bulk of the profits came from a single bet a couple of years back.
I plan to review my whole portfolio with a view to adjusting stakes based on the figures for individual racing codes/sports so that I press my edges better. I will update this blog with all the review details as writing things down helps clarify things greatly in my mind. It’s as if by explaining it to someone else I have to first get it all straight in my own head. But for now the work I have put into my betting records over the last couple of weeks means I won’t be running the Lay’em rules through a system builder – the system is clearly profitable as it stands and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
As of Monday there will be a significant change to the way I gamble – I’ll no longer be punting full-time as I have decided to go back to work!
I had been giving more and more thought to returning to work and had decided that it was something I was probably going to have to do in the not too distant future but I hadn’t really been looking for a job as such, this one more or less found me. It’s software testing again working for a company that develops software solutions for the oil and gas industry so it’s a domain I have experience of. I’ll also be working with a number of people I have worked with in a previous role which means I’ll be back among familiar faces. Add to that the fact that this is a part-time role and I’m starting on a temporary (three-month) contract and it’s about as gentle an introduction back into the world of work as I could have hoped for really. My health issues should all be behind me now but after more than two years away from the nine-to-five world I’m glad I’m not plunging back into the deep end with a full-time role working alongside people I don’t know.
Not that this really signals that much of a change for me, at least not in gambling terms. Despite what I may have claimed in the past punting isn’t really a full-time occupation for me. It doesn’t take that long to get the bets on each day and enter them into my spreadsheet and it only takes a few minutes to enter the results and settle the bets. In fact I have taken several steps over the last few months to keep a lid on things somewhat such that if I needed to I could once more fit my gambling into a lunch hour, and that’s where I am now.
When I first set out along this path of the professional gambler I figured the time I wasn’t actively gambling would be spent doing research and so on. I’d be looking for ways in which I could make more money, either by analysing my own data or taking a detailed look at a number of commercial offerings but that’s not how it really worked out. In the early days I gave poker a serious bash, trying to play as much as possible, but that didn’t turn out to be quite as profitable as I’d hoped. I had the wrong mindset a lot of the time and that was holding me back. I knew the theory behind the game really well following years of reading numerous books and magazines on the subject but I wasn’t able to translate that into suitable profits at the tables so that went by the wayside. I did do some software development, knocking up a few VBA-based projects based around various ideas I’d had along the way as well as working on some data analysis and system/tipster reviews for other people, all of which obviously occupied some of my time but that wasn’t a long-term thing by any means. Thinking back now I can’t really see how I spent my time each day, which tends to suggest much of it was rather wasted. Sure, I was ill and so didn’t feel like putting in eight hours a day most of the time but even so I don’t have a lot to show for my time when I was allegedly a full-time gambler. However, now my non-work time is limited I hope to make much better use of it.
Some of this summer was spent on yet another attempt at working up an idea I had several years back but have never been able to see it through to fruition. It has changed forms several times over the years but earlier this year I finally worked out what I wanted from it (a database-driven gambling-related website) and set about teaching myself the necessary skills to get there. I bought a couple of books on web development and started to teach myself proper HTML (as opposed to the odds bits I had picked up along the way which had resulted in some pretty sloppy code) plus PHP and MySQL. I haven’t really touched it since I went into hospital a couple of months back but now I know I only have a few days a week on which to work on my own stuff I want to focus properly and spend that time learning the rest of the skills I need before cracking on with getting something online. The plan (as it stands) is to have a rough first draft website up by the end of the year. I don’t expect there to be much data or functionality in place at this stage but I want the basic site online so I can then develop the rest of it iteratively as time allows. Daft as it may sound, I’m not sure I would get as much done if I have five days a week rather than just the couple I will have now I have taken on this part-time job. I’d have too much time available without this job, and that means little or no pressure to deliver which in turn means I am unlikely to make a great deal of progress. That’s just how I operate it seems.
Even though this job offer came out the blue and I hadn’t really been looking for work I am confident that accepting it and going back to work is the right decision, for a variety of reasons that I don’t want to dwell on too much here. Punting for a living was putting too much pressure on me to deliver results and ultimately things just weren’t quite happening for me. I’m glad I had a go though and I hope to return to gambling for a living again in the future but I think I started down this route before I was really ready. Then again, circumstances suggested it was worth a go given I couldn’t hold down a proper job at that stage. So no regrets about the decision I made back then and none about my decision to return to work. It’s all about what feels right at the time, and this feels like the right move now.
Incidentally, the blog name won’t change despite the change in circumstances as I will still maintain a professional approach to things even if I am no longer full-time.
That holiday was just what I needed. I was able to completely forget about gambling, horse racing and so on and came back utterly refreshed and ready to face the game once more, only this time with a renewed energy. I had reworked my staking before the break and now felt I was in a much better position to make some confident strides forward and show reasonable returns for my efforts. Unfortunately this new enthusiasm didn’t last too long as I soon started taking hits with heavy losses recorded on Monday and Wednesday this week. Sure, part of the reasons behind the large losses were the greater stakes applied to some of the services in my portfolio but that’s not the whole story as one of my lay systems in particular had a stinking few days. And this is certainly not the first time the Lay’em lays have really screwed up my monthly figures. I trimmed the stakes back during September in an attempt to keep a lid on the losses but they are still coming.
Now would probably be a good time to review the system and work out how it could be improved or whether it should be dropped altogether. I have the system rules but it is hard to work out how to change them, if at all, because I don’t have a complete database of racing results on which to test the changes. I have records of the qualifying bets I have placed but that’s not enough as they represent only a subset of possible bets were I to change the rules. I need a system builder to really strip the system down and rebuild it so maybe it’s about time I signed up to HorseRaceBase for a short membership. If I recall correctly they have a short free trial available so I could maybe use that to revamp the system. I just need to find the time to do that and also to analyse the data I have in my spreadsheet to see if there are any quick changes I can make to improve matters until such time as I am able to fully deconstruct the system. I will, of course, post up detailed findings here in due course.
In some ways the recent poor performance of the Lay’em system has been a good thing. It has roused me from my slumber somewhat and made me seriously reconsider what data I record in my betting records spreadsheet and how I present statistics based on that data. For example, the system is a flat laying system but are there any significant differences between the performance on turf and AW? Err, I don’t know because I don’t record whether a race is flat or NH let alone whether it’s turf or AW. But that’s all about to change as I have written some VBA to go back over all my horse racing bets and note the racing code, surface and whether or not the race was a handicap. I’m still not 100% sure how I will use all this information but it’s about time I had a better breakdown of performance for these systems, as well as the various tipsters I follow. It’s about time I knew whether certain tipsters were better on the turf than the AW so that I can also consider varying my stakes depending on the racing code or surface.
And it doesn’t stop there either. When recording sports bets I obviously record which sport the bet relates to but when I display my statistics that information is lost. For example, Sports Bet USA covers the four main sports in the US (American football, ice hockey, baseball and basketball) but my Stats page only displays the overall performance figures for the service as a whole. I need this information broken down by sport. If the ice hockey (for example) tips are dragging down the overall figures I need to know that so I can think about betting to lower stakes when the service releases ice hockey tips.
This is all fairly noddy stuff and it’s amazing that I haven’t thought to do all of this ages back but I guess when things are working there is a tendency not to tinker. And it’s only recently that it has become clear to me how broken some aspects of my portfolio seem. Of course, further analysis may just show that all I am experiencing is natural variance but at least then I know luck isn’t with me at this stage rather than having to make significant changes to any of my portfolio. It’s better to know where I stand, for sure.
There are also going to be other significant changes to the way I run my gambling but I will come to that shortly in another post as it’s a whole separate discussion to this one.
September hasn’t exactly been the triumphant return to action that I was hoping for. In fact it has been somewhat of a disaster and at times I have seriously questioned the wisdom of carrying on. But it’s in my blood, it’s certainly under my skin, and I can’t just stop doing something that deep down I love doing even if it does sometimes kick me in the knackers so I will carry on regardless. However, I am cutting this month slightly short to go on holiday for a week. I feel like I need a break despite the fact I recently had five or six weeks off, but that was different. That was for health reasons, this time it’s to re-evaluate and take stock. At least that’s the plan. But when does anything I do ever really go to plan? And this is no exception as I will explain shortly.
I spent part of yesterday doing a bit of blog housekeeping, namely writing the monthly reviews for July and August. July’s review hints at some of the frustration I have been feeling of late. During the last six months or so I have failed to make much of a profit and I haven’t been able to really work out why. I feel like I have a balanced portfolio but there is no way of measuring this, at least not quantitatively. It’s easy to measure profits, rate of return and so on but how could one measure portfolio balance? Obviously you want to maximise profits and rates of return and being able to track changes in these quantities can help you do that but if you can’t measure how balanced your portfolio is in the first place you can’t monitor how that balance changes over time.
What makes the ideal portfolio? This varies significantly from person to person based on circumstances, attitude to risk, what they want to achieve from gambling so on. Personally I like a fairly busy portfolio (although if I fail to make any real profits for much longer I may have to go back to work in which case I will rue building up a large portfolio as I won’t have the time to run it) with a mix of sports and betting types. I have all that: horse racing, football and sports betting are all covered; I have backs & lays, win only & each-way. On the face of it it seems as though I am starting from a solid foundation yet I am still struggling to make any real money at the minute. Why?
Perhaps the problem is actually my staking rather than the composition of my portfolio. It’s all well and good having plenty of services covering a variety of markets but if you’re not staking the best performers at higher levels than the underperforming services then you won’t make money. Maybe it’s time I thoroughly reviewed each and every betting bank, looking for places where I can safely raise stakes and where I should reduce stakes. Bear in mind though that as my ROI has been relatively stable for a good while now I would like to increase my overall turnover and thus increase my profits so it’s a delicate balance getting my staking right.
And it’s about now that things deviate from the plans I had laid out. I took a wee break in the middle of writing this post as I had an appointment with the local practice nurse so she could give my massive scar the once-over to make sure it has all healed properly now (it has, thankfully). During the walk to the surgery it hit me. Everything suddenly fell into place and I realised what was wrong, which was both pleasing (because I had finally cracked it) and disappointing (because it had taken till now to spot what is actually quite an obvious problem).
Whenever I take on a new system/service I start it off with small stakes while I learn what to expect in terms of win frequencies, odds attainability and so on. My portfolio has undergone a fair amount of change in the last year or so which means much of my portfolio is still operating to relatively small stakes. However, there are a few systems/services that have been around for a while now and are staked at a higher level than these newcomers. This is a big problem because it effectively means that a fairly small fraction of my portfolio determines whether or not I have a profitable day/week/month/whatever. This staking disparity means that the performance of systems such as the Lay’em lays and services such as ProBandit’s A List heavily dictate the overall performance of my portfolio. Any losses on the larger staked elements of my portfolio cannot be undone by success on other systems/services unless they record truly staggering figures. I clearly need to improve the staking balance and the easiest way to do this is to raise the stakes on some of the relatively new services that I now feel comfortable with and review the stakes for the heavyweights such as the A List.
Now that I have finally worked out what needs to be done I may as well strike while the iron’s hot…
- NHPM Lays – these have been on a good run this year with solid profits in each of the last four months and are up over 50pts this year despite a setback in March so look an excellent candidate for higher stakes. I cut the stakes on this system last year when it hit a tricky patch but the long-term record is a good one and I am happy to raise the stakes once more.
- Winning Racing Tips – I have six months worth of data for this service now and it has been going great guns, delivering consistent profits and is one I was seriously thinking about increasing stakes for even before I identified the need for a greater balance across my portfolio.
- Sportsman Racing – I like what Scott is doing here with is racing bets but the bulk of his profits have come from one good month (April). That said, there have been no significant monthly losses (-1.14pts in June is the largest I have on record) so I can raise the stakes here without greatly increasing my risk.
- The Sportsman – a similar logic applies to Scott’s sports betting service too really. I knew his sports bets came with an advised stake that was usually a small fraction of a single point and so started with a point value higher than I would for other services but looking back I feel I can safely increase that figure without exposing myself to an undue level of risk. Indeed this would bring the average stakes into line with similarly performing services thus giving me a better balance.
- Football Elite – Matt has a good record with this service and I half contemplated a stakes increase during the summer but postponed the final decision till nearer the start of the season. Unfortunately I was out of action at that point so this month I just carried on at last season’s stakes to make life easier. However, looking at things now I think I could reasonably increase my stakes for these bets.
- Northern Monkey – this service isn’t far away from a stakes increase but I need to see a little more consistency first. At the current stakes it would be in exactly the right ballpark though so no worries on that front.
- Racing Angles – this can be a bit hit and miss so I am keeping stakes low there. This is probably the lowest staked of all the horse racing aspects of my portfolio but I don’t mind that as it’s not a tipster service per se and I’m sometimes not sure how to get the best out of the advice given so using small stakes while I work that out seems advisable.
- Blinkered & Blinkered AW – two lay systems that were added to the portfolio during July that both operate on small stakes and should stay that way until such time as I have built up more data and confidence in them.
- Simplex systems – it is very hard to change staking levels during the season due to the way the staking works but these were thoroughly reviewed before the season started so I am happy to leave these be.
- The Football Analyst – I won’t be changing the stakes here either. These are the newest additions to my portfolio and I need plenty more data under my belt before I raise the stakes. It’s been a rather unremarkable start to the season but watch fortunes change this weekend while I am away and can’t get the bets on.
- The Insider, Bet Bank Alerts & Sports Bet USA – none of these are delivering consistent enough profits to warrant higher stakes. Of the three The Insider is performing the best but raising the stakes here means tying up more funds in the ante-post bets that make up the bulk of this service and I’m not prepared to do that at this stage.
- LTO3 – a system that has struggled this year but it has a good long-term record so I am hopeful of it turning things around. Stakes were upped a notch in April but every month since has been a loser so it’s time to knock it back down a peg.
- A List – a service I identified in the recent monthly reviews as underperforming this year yet it is the highest staked of all the racing backing systems in my portfolio so trimming the stakes somewhat seems like a natural move.
- Lay’em – my most heavily staked laying system and one that is failing to deliver on the promise it showed at the start of the year. It has a great long-term record but one has to wonder if the edge is starting to get eroded away. I actually reduced the stakes on this one earlier in the month in a bid to stem the losses so no further action is required at this time.
All the staking changes will come into force immediately after the holiday. Looking back over my portfolio in my spreadsheet now I feel happier with the overall balance and hopefully October’s results will go some way to reflecting these improvements.
One tipster I haven’t mentioned in the above list is Piecost. That’s simply because I don’t know what’s happening there. I was following his free handicap selections on the SBC forum and they were one of my best performers in recent months. However, I see from the SBC newsletters he is running a private service but I don’t know any more details. Is he still running his handicap selections for free on the forum? If not, how much is his service and does he have any spaces? Do I have room for another paid service in my portfolio at this time? I’m sure the answers to many of these questions can be found on the SBC forum but I haven’t yet been back on any of the forums I used to frequent so I have no idea what has gone on there since the end of July. There’s no point looking before I go away either so getting back up to speed with forum life can be a job for when I get back. Then I can reassess where I stand with Piecost and go from there.
The original ending to this post was rather bleak because I had sketched it out before I had my moment of clarity on the way to see the nurse this morning. I was basically throwing my hands up and exclaiming that I had no real idea how to take this gambling venture forward. I planned to use my upcoming break to mull things over and come back with some fresh new ideas that would hopefully see me turn things around but instead I managed to crack it all this morning. Now I just need to give these staking changes time to bed in and see what happens but, and I am aware I have said this many times, I feel my portfolio now has a much better balance and truly believe this could be a big step forward. They say a change is a good as a rest and even though I have made changes to my portfolio I am still going to take a week off and go on holiday. I deserve it after how this month has gone so far.
It’s taken a while – longer than I expected – but I’m back. Yay!
Let’s start with the good news: the operation was successful. It provided the surgeon with more of a challenge than expected due to a number of complications that I won’t go into here but ultimately it was successful. Initially my recovery went well too. I was in hospital for a little over a week, which is right in line with expectations. And for the next couple of weeks after that things were going nicely and I was recovering well. OK, my wound wasn’t healing in places but it’s around 18 inches long so perhaps one shouldn’t expect it all to heal at the same rate. But as the wound continued to refuse to heal my recovery stalled somewhat and it was another couple of weeks before I could even contemplate sitting at a PC and doing what I do. I was in some pain and I just didn’t feel like (OK, couldn’t) sit at my PC for any length of time. I needed more time to recover and sensibly decided to put my health before the need to check my email and try to earn a bit of cash gambling on the horses. As it is, I have been online for just over a week now, on and off, but only now have I really felt up to bringing this blog up to date.
So here I am again and let’s hope it’s back to business as usual. Although I hope the results I have had this past week aren’t going to typical of the future as I have had a rather tough time of it since I started gambling again. The horses have been kicking me in the wallet and the football results haven’t been much kinder. In fact virtually my whole portfolio has struggled. I know a week isn’t really a long enough period to accurately assess anything but already I could do with a change in fortune. I immediately started to question my stakes as the losses began to mount and though I have tried to hold my nerve I have knocked a couple of them down a tick while I try to restore some confidence in the systems I follow. I have figures going back a long way for some of these systems and they are profitable in the long run but the losses incurred in this past week have made me doubt things, especially coming off the back of such a long break. There are a lot of red figures in my spreadsheet at the minute and my Betfair balance has taken a hell of a knock. I could really do with a lot of those red figures turning black and my Betfair balance ticking up to reassure me that I have made the right decisions and that I can make this game pay. At the minute I’m not sure that is the case…
There are quite a few of you reading this blog on a regular basis now and I thank each and everyone one of you for that. I wasn’t sure my random ramblings would appeal to too many people so I am pleasantly surprised to see so many of you popping by on a regular basis. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really have a plan for this blog and tend to just burble on about whatever I feel like at the time. I toyed with the idea of working to a regular schedule, maybe one or two posts a week, but that’s not me. Sometimes I will have a lot to say for myself and at other times I can be lost for words. I don’t want to force a post where I have nothing of interest to say and in doing so compromise the overall quality of the blog.
I try to keep my postings reasonably relevant to gambling and try to look beyond the daily P&L aspects of gambling for a living and bring you something… more. It’s hard to put my finger on but I suppose I am trying to give you something you can use. If I tell you I made 25pts profit yesterday what good does it do you? None. If I share with you my thoughts on a tipster service, such as The Football Analyst, then you have some information you can use. You can see what I think of it and use some of my facts and figures to help guide your own analysis. Any independent review of a tipster is worth something, and my reviews are always fully independent.
Nothing I have to say on here really generates much in the way of discussion though. I had hoped the blog would be a bit more interactive and that I’d get some feedback on certain subjects. Not the sort of feedback that just says “Thanks for that, very interesting” or whatever. I’m thinking more about debate, discussion, arguments even. Maybe I’ll write about dropping a service because I can’t get it to work for me. I figured I might get a few other views on the tipster from you lot. Am I only one it’s bombing for? Maybe you have found a way to get the best from it? They’re just examples, of course, but you get the idea.
I don’t want you to feel you have to join in though. If you have something to add then by all means chip in but if you’re happy to sit back and have me preach to you then that’s cool also. I like the sound of my own, err, typing and I often have a lot to say for myself so I don’t mind. Actually, maybe that’s the problem – that I have a lot to say for myself. Verbosity can be a problem. As I said above, I don’t plan this blog, it just flows from the fingertips. If I outlined each post in advance I could then work out which bits could be cut to limit the post to a readable length but that’s not how I work. This might put some of you off; maybe you’ve landed here by following a link from another blog and thought “Bloody hell, I’m not reading all that crap!” – an understandable point of view. If I made posts shorter and more accessible it just wouldn’t be me though.
Perhaps you’re not joining in because you’re taking the ‘secret’ part of this blog’s title literally. Maybe you want to hide in the shadows and not admit to anyone that you’re interested in gambling for a living. Again, understandable given the looks I get and the stupid questions I have to answer when I tell people what I do for a living. All part of the cross I have to bear although I’m not sure I’d readily give it all up no matter how daft the question.
So whatever your reasons for looking in and whatever your level of interaction, I thank you. While you’re here have a little look around you – is there anyone else about? With so many readers and only so many hours in the day you’re almost certainly not alone. You may not know the others in here with you but you do at least have something in common. You share an interest in gambling (or perhaps in me, which is a little worrying) so that’s an icebreaker if nothing else. Because for the next few weeks you’re going to have to talk amongst yourselves as I won’t be around to lead the discussions. I go into hospital on Sunday for major surgery that will keep me out of action and away from my PC for…I don’t really know how long. I expect it to be a few weeks but it all depends on how the op goes initially and then how fast I recover from that. But I will be back as soon as I can and who knows, I may even deliver that post on leveraging.
The Football Analyst is a system-based football betting advisory service run by a fella called Graeme Dand. Graeme contacted me through my Soccer Systems blog partway through last season and initially there was a bit of a personality clash and we perhaps got off on the wrong foot. Since then, and especially in the last few weeks, Graeme and I have had some good challenging discussions on the SBC forum and via email and I think we both now have a much better understanding of where the other is coming from. Most of the discussions we have had concern The Football Analyst so I figured it was about time I had a look at the service in more detail.
The Football Analyst uses a system-based approach, which makes sense when you understand Graeme’s fondness for data, spreadsheets and analysis techniques. Over the last couple of years Graeme has developed a number of betting systems, many of which underwent a live trial on his blog last season resulting in what have come to be known as the established systems. There are also several new systems being trialled over the coming season but as these have yet to have any live testing I will limit my analysis to the established systems only, a total of 11 systems.
It’s not my place to discuss how the systems were developed but I think a few explanatory words concerning the names are required. The various systems on offer have very simple names: System 6, System 21 etc. It’s refreshing to see a nice, simplistic approach to naming rather than trying too hard to come up with grandiose sounding titles. The naming convention also allows the user some insight into the system development methods. The 11 established systems are split into five ‘single-number’ systems and six ‘combo’ systems. The former are individual ideas worked up into systems so System 6 presumably looks to exploit a different angle to System 8 and so on. The combo systems are the common selections from the constituent systems, e.g. System 6-21 is the overlap between System 6 and System 21 so selections in System 6-21 are those that appear on both System 6 and System 21. Not everyone would think to develop new systems from the intersection of others so full credit to Graeme for thinking outside the box here.
In order to analyse any system I need data. Graeme was kind enough to send me data for all of his systems covering backtesting and live trial data where available. He also sent me performance summaries for the established systems, showing the number of bets, winners, SR, profit and ROI for each system broken down by season, division and so on. But not being one to take too much on trust when it comes to gambling I wanted to verify these findings for myself.
Unfortunately, I can’t completely verify Graeme’s figures as the team names have been removed from his data. Bets are identified by date and division and include the predicted result, actual result and the odds. Normally I wouldn’t take the match result and odds from a tipster’s record but would extract them from my own database but that’s not possible here as I require the team names to uniquely identify the matches. I can recalculate whether each bet was a winner or a loser and the profit/loss of each bet so I can at least double-check some of Graeme’s workings but I have to take the rest on trust, which doesn’t sit too comfortably with me. That said, I don’t think Graeme is trying to screw me (or anyone else). He told me that he doesn’t keep the team names in his analysis sheets which is a little unfortunate as it means I can’t verify as much of the data as I would have liked so I will just have to make do really. It puts a slight caveat on my findings but as I said I don’t think Graeme is deliberate obscuring data to make verification impossible, it’s just how he chooses to work with his data.
As the service on offer includes a number of systems it may be tempting to ask the service operator for some advice on how to get the best from what is on offer. Graeme will be the first to admit he doesn’t have all the answers when it comes to the best way to use his systems so I will perform some analysis of my own. It’s a matter of personal preference anyway when it comes to balancing risk and reward and volumes of bets so I would always prefer to do my own analysis rather than rely on someone else’s opinion.
I have split the data from Graeme into the individual systems, recalculated some aspects of it and also analysed the results in terms of seasonal returns, performance by division and so on. Where possible I have verified my figures against the summary data I was sent so I have confirmation that my figures and Graeme’s match. Let’s take a look at each system individually.
Over the past five seasons System 6 has seen in excess of 3000 bets with a strike rate of just over 45% generating 468.85pts in profit at a ROI of 15.06%. On the face of it these are attractive figures but it is worth noting that there has been a year-on-year decrease in profit and ROI with last season returning less than 25pts profit at a ROI of less than 5% (24.68pts at 4.31% to be exact). This is significantly down on the first season performance which saw a profit of 169.07pts with a ROI of 22.66%. The SR is also much lower for last season than for any of the previous seasons. Only 41.71% of bets last season were winners, a few percent lower than average and nearly 2.5% lower than the previous worst (44.10% in 07-08). There is not too much of significance in the performance breakdown by division. The system is profitable across all divisions although not so much in the Championship. One can’t expect any system to be equally effective across all leagues though; there will be some natural variance and I think that’s all we’re seeing here. The same is true of the monthly split so no need to look any deeper at that.
The breakeven SR, based on average win odds of 2.55, comes out at 39.27% which is quite a bit lower than the average SR for the past five years suggesting there is an edge to this system but last season’s results show a much reduced edge with the lower SR. The longest losing run (LLR) saw 13 consecutive losers, which is perfectly in line with the calculated expected longest losing run (ELLR) of 14. In other words, things have already gone about as badly as we could reasonably expect them to go on at least one occasion and the system has survived. The profit peaked at 471.64pts and reached a low of -6.99pts but those figures assume each bet runs consecutively rather than some running concurrently so they are a little misleading but useful nevertheless. Based on the ELLR and previous drawdowns one could probably get away with a bank of around 30pts for this system but a larger sum would obviously provide more security.
System 7 shows a number of similar characteristics to System 6 as it happens. It’s not as busy as the previous system with 1516 bets of which 729 (48.09%) were winners generating a profit of 258.20pts (17.03%) but the SR and ROI are slightly higher. The same trend across the seasons can be observed too with the SR for the 10-11 season much lower than previous seasons (43.34% against a previous low of 46.25% in 07-08) and nearly 5% down on the five-year average. Unsurprisingly the relatively low SR results in a smaller profit too, just 16.19pts last season at a rate of 5.52%. In fact the year-on-year drop in ROI is evident once more with the latest season’s ROI not much more than one-fifth of the 06-07 figure (25.26%). The divisional breakdown doesn’t show anything of great concern. The relatively poor Championship performance is evident once more but I don’t think it’s worth worrying about. Incidentally the strike rate for the SPL is under 42% but the bets in that division show an above-average return of 19.23% demonstrating that strike rate isn’t everything. Presumably there has been some value opposing the Old Firm over the years. The monthly splits show losses in February and April over the years but I don’t feel it is anything significant.
With average win odds of 2.43 resulting in a breakeven SR of 41.09% it looks like there is a decent edge here again but once more the most recent SR indicates a much smaller edge. System 7 has yet to experience the worst of it, based on the LLR and ELLR of 8 and 12 respectively. In other words there has been at least one losing run of 8 bets but given the sample size and strike rate one could reasonably expect to have seen a run of 12 consecutive losers. The total profit peaked at 272.57pts, over 14pts higher than the end of season total which suggests there was a rough little spell towards the end there. Indeed, a quick check shows that April ’11 saw a loss of nearly 15pts which pretty much explains that one. Despite that, a bank of 25 to 30pts ought to be sufficient I’d say.
Another continuing trend is that of a decreasing total number of bets – System 8 has far fewer than System 7 which was well down on System 6. Over the past five seasons there have been 830 bets on System 8 of which 417 were winners for a strike rate of 50.24%, the highest of the systems I have looked at so far. The ROI is also the highest of the three systems analysed, registering 23.24% with a total profit of 192.93pts. However, the familiar trend of a below average season in 10-11 is evident once more. The SR drops of to 44.38% for last season with 14.34pts profit coming at a return on investment of 8.96%. Admittedly that rate of return is better than for the previous systems in the same season but it is still below average. The Championship performance is weaker than the other divisions once more with the SPL not too far behind but this time there are no concerns over the monthly figures.
An overall strike rate of 50.24% suggests a significant edge when one considers the average winning odds are 2.45 giving a breakeven SR of 40.77%. It’s true once more that this edge was much smaller last season with the lower SR but even last season’s figure of 44.38% allows plenty of wiggle room. The recorded LLR is 11 consecutive losing bets which is actually slightly longer than the ELLR of 10 so followers of this system have already had a taste of how bad things can get and should be prepared. There was a peak in the total profit at 202.84pts which occurred back in mid-March so the system had a bit of a rocky end to the season. As with System 7 it was a tricky April that did the damage. Given the greater SR and the impact that has on the ELLR a bank of perhaps just 20pts would suffice but personally I would look to go with at least 25pts if not 30pts.
Attention now shifts to System 21, a much busier system than the previous one with a total of 2455 bets, 1148 winners (46.76%) and a profit of 477.68pts (19.46%). This system fits right into the same pattern we have seen previously though and it should come as no surprise that the figures from the early seasons are much better than those for last season. In the last campaign the SR was down over 6% on the average at 40.70% with the ROI right down at 4.69% with a total profit of only 22.92pts. The SR, profit and ROI have decreased with every passing season and one must wonder if this trend will continue. Interestingly though none of the individual divisions stand out on the figures particularly. There is some variation in performance level across the leagues, obviously, but none of this seems significant. The same can be said for the monthly figures with no time of the year outshining any other.
The average odds of the winners on System 8 are 2.55 so with a 39.15% breakeven SR there is the usual edge we have already seen with the other systems although this time that edge is pretty slim for the 10-11 season. And the figures suggest there are worse times ahead. To date there have been losing runs no longer than 10 consecutive bets but the expected longest losing run comes out at 13. This, combined with the poor performance last season (January, February and April were all losing months), is a bit of a concern. Indeed, the profit peaked in early January (at 491.02pts) and has slipped back around 14pts since. That’s perhaps not that worrying but who knows if the previous trends will continue and next season will be even worse? Based on the ELLR a bank of 30pts could be enough but given what we have seen here I would be tempted to revise that figure upwards.
The last of the single-number systems to come under scrutiny is System 22 which has seen 1219 bets over the past five years of which 586 have been winners (48.07%) resulting in a total profit of 323.57pts which came at a rate of 26.54%. Once again though last season was poor in comparison to what had gone before. The first couple of seasons saw ROIs up around 40% but this was probably unsustainable anyway. Last season’s ROI was 8.89%, which in isolation would be respectable but is poor compared to the five-year average and previous seasons, and the strike rate was way down at just 40.82%. There are no divisional concerns at all this time and the profits are pretty evenly spread throughout the season but that tendency for the latest season to be the worst of the bunch is a little off-putting.
I have no problems with the edge this system seems to have with a breakeven SR of 37.99% due to average win odds of 2.63 but obviously the edge is reduced in the latest season with the SR so low. Followers of this one have experienced the worst of it too as the LLR and ELLR both come out as 11 losers on the spin which would suggest a bank in the region of 25 to 30pts. The total profit reaches a high of 339.70pts in mid-January of this year but it’s pretty much all downhill from there. In fact last season was very much a season of two halves, more so than I have observed for any of the other systems. It was profits all the way until mid-Jan, up 37.91pts at one stage but the rest of the season saw a loss of 16.13pts with losses recorded in January, February, March and April.
Let’s now have a look and see if this idea of using the crossover between individual systems works, starting with the first of the combo systems, System 6-21. Given that both constituent systems struggled in the most recent campaign compared to previous years it is only reasonable to expect the same from this system and it doesn’t disappoint. The five-year figures show 1546 bets of which 737 were winners – a strike rate of 47.67% – generating a total of 365.51pts of profit at a rate of 23.64% but last season that SR was down as low as 41.61% with a ROI of 9.08%. Once again these figures could be acceptable had previous years not set the bar so high. There are double-figure ROIs in each of the divisions covered so this combo effort has addressed the potential Championship defect seen System 6. With the exception of below-average figures for October – where the ROI drops off to under 5% – the profits are spread right throughout the season.
The decent overall SR allows a good margin over the breakeven SR which is 38.56% thanks to average odds on the winning bets of 2.59. Results to date have been relatively blessed though as the longest losing run has only reached nine in a row whereas the sums reckon on an expected longest losing run of 12 bets. The advised bank figure, based on that ELLR, is right in line with the other systems coming out at around 25 to 30pts. The peak in the total profit came at 370.81pts back in January of this year and things have been a bit flat since then. There were three losing months in the second half of the season but fortunately they were all small losses (-1.21pts in January, -4.35pts in February and -2.10pts in April).
Next under the microscope is System 6-22, the overlap between System 6 and System 22, fairly obviously. The intersection between these two systems is smaller than we saw previously with 944 bets in the past five seasons. In that lot there were 457 winners for a strike rate of 48.41% and a profit of 283.93pts at a healthy rate of 30.08%. The decreasing SR and ROI is evident once more but I am inclined to more or less forgive that given last season’s profit of 25.26pts at a return on investment of 13.66%. Even a further dip next season would probably still result in a nice profit. That’s not to say it’s not a worrying trend, of course, just that it is slightly less concerning than for previous systems. Once again the Championship difficulty seems to have been addressed as the profits are fairly evenly spread across the divisions and throughout the year.
The edge is slightly bigger for this system than for the previous system with a breakeven SR of just 37.22%, the lowest of any of the systems analysed so far. In terms of losing runs things could get a little worse as the ELLR comes out at 11, one greater than the longest losing run experienced to date but the figures are pretty similar so the data should give a reasonable idea of what lies ahead. As with previous systems the peak profits came midway through January, reaching 296.57pts, and things dipped in the second-half of last season.
The spotlight shines on System 7-21 now, a system that picked out 958 bets of which 483 were winners for a strike rate of 50.42% and a total profit of 244.45pts at a rate of 25.52%. And finally the spell is broken – the 2010-11 figures are right up there with previous years. OK, so the first season was a stormer with a ROI of 38.11% but since then things have calmed down a little and last year’s 19.39% ROI is almost identical to the figures from 07-08 and 09-10. The strike rate from last year is down a little on previous years at 46.28% but it’s not a world away from 07-08’s 47.03%. When the figures are viewed by division rather than by season a slight question mark appears over the SPL. There are far fewer bets in that division than in the other leagues, the strike rate is significantly lower and the bets seem less profitable with a ROI of just 6.44%. It may be nothing to worry about, the effects of a relatively small sample, but I felt it worth noting all the same. In terms of monthly profits, across the years February and April exhibit a dip in performance but again I don’t think it need overly concern us at this stage.
Once again the system seems to enjoy a sizeable edge, the overall SR being well in excess of the 40.17% breakeven SR dictated by the average winning odds of 2.49. There are longer losing runs on the horizon though as the longest to date has been seven but the figures suggest an expected longest losing run of 10 in a row. Given those figures one could reasonably employ a bank of around 25pts I’d say. For this system the profit peak, 250.77pts, is only a few points above the current figure and occurred in mid-March, a couple of months after most previous systems peaked. That suggests the second half of the season wasn’t so bad for Systems 7-21 and a look at the profits by month backs up that view. Losses were recorded in February and April but the magnitude of each was no worse than a typical winning month so in effect they both just cancelled out a winning month.
System 7-22 is one of the quieter systems on offer providing 667 bets over the past five seasons. Of those bets the system picked the winner on 336 occasions for a strike rate of 50.37% and made a profit of 224.14pts for a 33.60% return on investment. Unfortunately the all-too-familiar trend of the seasonal ROI dropping on a year-on-year basis is back again but despite that last season’s profit of 32.65pts was generated at a rate 24.92%. This may be nearly 20% down on the 2005-06 figure but it’s still bloody good. The SR is low again for the 10-11 season, the 45.80% recorded being the worst seasonal performance of the seasons I have data for, and it’s around 5% down on the overall average but that seems to be the way of things. When viewed by division it becomes apparent that profits are spread very equally throughout the leagues and the story is similar for the year-round split although February raises a very slight cause for concern.
The winners have come at average odds of 2.65 for a breakeven SR of 37.70%, a long way short of the overall system SR indicating a solid advantage here. Once again the expected longest losing run is a couple of notches higher of the worst run experienced to date. The ELLR comes out at 10 but we are yet to see a run longer than eight losers in a row on this one. Once again though a bank of somewhere around 25pts would seem sensible based on these figures. The total profit reaches a maximum of 234.43pts in mid-March, again suggesting a calmer second half of the season compared to the earlier systems. In fact System 7-22 underwent a similar season to System 7-21 in that respect.
We’re coming towards the end of what’s on offer now and second-to-last we have System 8-21. The past five seasons have seen a total of 325 winners from 636 bets for a strike rate of 51.10% and 168.42pts coming at a return on investment of 26.48%. The seasonal strike rate for 2010-11 is again well down on the average at 46.09% but isn’t a million miles away from the previous worst figure of 47.92% in 2007-08. It’s still the worst of the bunch though so it’s not all good news. The ROI for last season is also significantly lower than in previous years at 15.91% but the previous trend of an annual drop-off is not apparent here with a more random variation in the rates of return. As we have seen with some of the previous systems a question mark hangs over the SPL figures which actually show a slight loss but I have no real concerns other than that as the profits seem pretty well spread throughout the campaign.
The difference between the actual strike rate of 51.10% and the breakeven SR is around 10% again as it has been for previous systems I have analysed. The average winning odds are 2.48 resulting in a breakeven SR of 40.40%. Unlike the last few systems I have looked at though this one has seen the worst run out already. There has been a run of 10 losing bets in a row and that’s exactly what the ELLR predicts should happen. The peak profit is around 10pts higher than the current figure at 178.67pts, a value that was recorded in January but was almost equalled again in March so it seems again that we have another relatively stable second-half to the season for one of the systems. A closer look at the figures shows February was not as bad for this system as for some of the others but April was worse with a loss of more than 12pts from just 20 bets. Swings and roundabouts though I guess.
Finally we come to System 8-22 which has seen the fewest bets over the years of all the systems, just 457 of which 237 (51.86%) were winners creating a profit of 160.47pts at 35.11% return on investment. Like the previous system the seasonal strike rate was lowest of all in the most recent season, as was the ROI, but the variation in those figures shows no clear pattern and is more random than we have seen before. Also in line with the previous system the divisional performance figures are excellent for all divisions other than the SPL which does little better than breakeven really. A similar question mark can be placed over the figures for April as the bets in that month show a loss across the years, albeit only a slight one (-1.92pts, -3.92%).
The average winning odds for System 8-22 are a touch higher than for System 8-21 at 2.61 which gives a lower breakeven strike rate of 38.38%. This compares very favourably to the overall SR and one can expect to see a solid advantage from this system. The longest losing run to date has been eight which is one notch lower than the ELLR figure of nine. Similarly to previous analyses the peak profit is around 10pts above the current figure, standing at 171.22pts which was achieved in January and all but equalled in March. In fact this system seems to have operated almost in parallel with System 8-21. As with that one February was a steady losing month while April was a proper stinker, a loss of all but one of the 14 bets struck for a loss of 12.30pts.
With 11 established systems to analyse there is a lot to take in. Fortunately there is a general template that nearly all those 11 systems seem to follow and that’s one that includes a relatively poor season (in comparison with what has gone before) when the system is opened up to live trialling. We’ve seen that year on year decrease in the ROI and SR in the majority of the systems analysed and one can’t help but wonder what the cause of that is and whether it is set to continue. Why should there be such a drop-off in strike rate? Was last season an odd season results-wise (other analysis I have done on football data suggests otherwise)? Perhaps the systems aren’t able to live up to the billing afforded them by the backtested results. Maybe there is some other reason but in all likelihood we’ll never really know.
It’s an important point to raise because at this point we don’t know if this trend is an ongoing one. Are last season’s results typical of a live season for these systems and thus next season we should expect more of the same? Or next season could we expect a further drop away in performance? If so, it raises doubts about whether one should be following some of these systems. On the other hand though, despite the annual drop-off in performance, several of these systems have shown excellent profits in their live trials and that has to be respected. And of course if performance were to return to previous levels the profits would be incredible. Future performance can never be known in advance and ultimately there isn’t enough live trial data to go on at this stage to determine how these systems are likely to perform in coming years.
Graeme had mentioned previously that last season was one of two distinct halves that my analysis agrees with that finding. Lumping all the systems together we see a very profitable run covering September through to the end of the year, the ROI of which was running close to 25%. January is a transition month with only a small profit and then the rains came. A loss of over 60pts in February was cancelled out by March but there wasn’t enough action in May to rub out the 90pts-plus loss registered in April. One wonders what caused these poor months and the same questions around results etc arise again. If we look at SRs over this period the winners were coming along at an average rate (48.01%) until the turn of the year and it was the second half of the season that suppressed the seasonal strike rate.
On that basis, rather than worrying about last season’s figures as a whole I probably need only concern myself with wondering why the second half of the season was poor. As mentioned above, I don’t expect to find an explanation easily but what these figures tell me is that problems with these systems are either something that has only kicked in recently or are temporary. Until I have more live trial data to go on I won’t know for sure but unless the system rules have been changed mid-season (and Graeme assures me they weren’t) then I have to assume the downturn is a temporary one. Overall though the performance figures all include bad runs such as the one observed last season, in which case if I am happy with the numbers – which include 20%+ ROIs don’t forget – then the bad runs shouldn’t unduly worry me.
Given last season was the live test I have to give the figures from that year more weight than those from previous years. On that basis I am happy to rule out System 6, System 7 and System 21 due to the low ROI figures recorded in the 2010-11 season. The returns are better for System 8 and System 22 but are they good enough? I am happy with a reasonably heavy workload when it comes to football betting as I want the volume, or churn as it seems to be termed these days, but I can still afford to pick and choose the systems I follow. The six combo systems give better returns than their constituent parts and would give me around 1000 bets a season, which is plenty, so System 8 and System 22 also slip by the wayside.
Do I want to follow all six combo systems though? Looking at it again the discrepancy between the 2010-11 figures for System 6-21 and previous seasons is pretty large which puts me on the back foot. But the returns from that relatively poor season are still pretty good so I am tempted once more. The drop-off for System 6-22 and System 8-21 is less pronounced so I am happy enough with those I think. System 7-21, System 7-22 and System 8-22 don’t exhibit this same drop-off tendency and offer excellent returns so all make the grade. It then seems a little daft not to take on System 6-21 but to follow all the other combo systems. After all, System 6-21 still made a nice profit last year and more of that this coming season would be perfectly acceptable.
So there we have it, more or less. From the 11 established systems available I plan to follow the six combo systems with each tracked separately in my spreadsheet and each utilising a separate bank of around 30pts (exact figures to be confirmed). I will be on at low stakes as I look to build up more live test data before perhaps eliminating the weakest of the systems for 2012-13 and perhaps replacing them with other systems that are due to be trialled this season. I am going to keep it simple and stick to level stakes throughout with equal sums going on the home and away selections with no draw cover. That’s the staking I used when analysing the data and that’s what these findings are all based around so it seems only right that I stick with that staking. I saw recently that Graeme is using a different staking strategy but I won’t be following suit even if he is the expert on these systems. It’s my bankroll and I’ll play by my risk management rules. I also can’t verify the odds for any of these bets to date so the profits have to be taken on trust somewhat and that’s another reason for me to keep the stakes down.
In short (ha!): there’s a lot to like about what’s on offer and I have cherry-picked what I feel are the best systems but as independent verification of the odds and profits is not possible I will only be on to low stakes.