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The pitfalls of each-way betting

March 31, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m sure many of you have your own thoughts on each-way betting. To some it is a waste of time – if you fancy the horse to do well then back it to win and if you don’t think it can win why back it at all? To others it is a way of either securing some sort of return on a fancied selection if it fails to get home first but makes the frame. Or each-way betting is a handy way of profiting from big-priced selections that are unlikely to win but may run close.

I don’t know where I stand on the subject really. I think that’s mainly because I don’t pick very many of my own horse racing bets so don’t have to think about how best to back them. I follow a lot of systems and tipsters so the bet type and staking is all laid out for me. But I still have choices to make, in particular where to place the bet, and that’s something I want to look at now.

When betting there is often uncertainty as to whether you’d be better off placing the bet with a bookmaker or using the exchanges (e.g. Betfair). When it comes to each-way betting that uncertainty doubles. To illustrate this point let’s take the case of Break The Chain, a runner in the 3.30 at Towcester on Monday 28th March 2011. I received a tip for this horse around 12.30pm, some three hours before the race. The advice was to back it each-way at 4/1 with the BOG bookies on place terms of 1/5 odds for three places. Was that truly the best option though? I had to investigate.

When placing any bet I will always compare the prices offered by the bookies and what is available on Betfair. If the price on Betfair is better than that offered by the bookies, after factoring in commission, then I will usually go with Betfair unless I think circumstances will change that will make the bookies the better odds, e.g. a horse will drift out to a larger SP and I can place my bet with a BOG bookmaker. This isn’t an exact science by any means and involves a lot of feel and gut instinct. I don’t always get it right but I do well enough out of this. Better that than just taking the first price available.

And so it is that when I get a tip for a horse at 4/1 I look to shop around and see if that price can be beaten. At the time the tip came through the runner was available at 6.20-6.60 on the Betfair win market, i.e. it could be backed at 6.20 and laid at 6.60. Approximately £24k had been matched on this market and weight of money suggested that the price would contract, in the short-term at least, although there had been relatively little price movement since the market opened. As this was an each-way bet I needed to check the place market too since an each-way bet is just a win and place bet on the same selection. The place price was 1.34-1.39 with just £7k matched. The price for Break The Chain to place was creeping up according to the graphs but it had some way to go to be on a par with the bookies’ each-way place price.

Assuming we take the odds that are available immediately, the Betfair win price is 6.2, significantly greater than the 4/1 (5.0) available with the bookies. However, the place price on Betfair is just 1.34 compared to the 4/5 (1.80) you’d get on the place part of an each-way bet with the bookmakers. So which is the better option?

Let’s compare the returns from each when the horse wins assuming the current back prices taken:

Betfair: +5.2 (win) + 0.34 (place) = 5.54 exc. commission or 5.263 after 5% commission

BOG: +4 (win) + 0.8 (place) = 4.80 no commission

That assumes the price doesn’t drift and the Best Odds Guarantee doesn’t kick in and give us a bigger return. On that basis, Betfair looks to be the better option by nearly half a point but if the price drifts to 9/2 SP then BOG becomes the better option.

What about the returns when the horse just places:

Betfair: -1 (win) + 0.34 (place) = -0.66 exc. commission or -0.677 after 5% commission (bets are in different markets so commission is payable on the place profits)

BOG: -1 (win) + 0.80 (place) = -0.20 no commission

Here, the BOG bookie is by far the better option, and that’s without factoring in the chance that the SP will be greater than 4/1 and the returns will be greater than calculated above. If the Betfair SP on the place market is greater than 1.34 then our bet is unaffected; with Betfair you take a price and are stuck with it.

However, there is also a chance that a non-runner will reduce number of places paid out by bookies. This was an 8-runner race so any non-runners mean the each-way terms change to 1/4 for 2 places with bookies but Betfair still pay out 3 places. Therefore that must be factored into the calculation too.

If Betfair is the better option for the win bet and BOG bookies better for the place part of the bet what do you do?Don’t forget that an each-way bet is simply two bets (win and place) and there is no often reason why both have to be struck with the same firm. Admittedly not many bookies allow place-only betting but a few, such as Paddy Power, do. In this instance Paddy Power were offering a paltry 1/6 for Break The Chain to place. That’s comfortably the worst price I saw for that bet all day and actually quite insulting in some respects. There are other exchanges though. Betdaq were 6.60-6.80 on the win market with around £22k matched while the place market was running at 1.33-1.42 with just £666 matched. It appears that Betdaq also offer an each-way market but there was not a single price shown and not a penny had been matched on that market.

Betdaq has the best win price but the best place price is unavailable as a separate bet, only as part of an each-way bet with the bookies and that reduces the odds on the win bet. But what are the chances of the horse actually winning anyway? Is it worth sacrificing a bit on the win odds for better place odds?

If you’re betting each-way then the price (to win) is probably greater than evens, probably significantly so as in this 4/1 example. This means horse is far more likely to not win than it is to finish first so it is probably best to base conclusions as to which is the best deal around the best place price. Also by invoking the best odds guarantee available with several bookmakers you are protected if the horse does drift in the market. It only takes a fairly small shift in the odds for the BOG firm to become best on the win market as well as the place part of the bet.

This is very much an inexact science and quite often gut feeling and instinct come into it. If you think the horse will drift (and thus the market feels its chances of winning decrease) then you may want the BOG safety net. Alternatively you may want to lock up a decent place price (not that one was available here) on the exchanges and worry about the win bet later. There is so much to think about when betting each-way and it is hard to get every bet right but hopefully this example has given you something to think about before lumping on your next each-way selection.

Incidentally Break The Chain finished 3rd at 5/1 SP (1/1 the place) and 7.24 (win) and 1.35 (place) on Betfair. 8 ran. A bet with a BOG firm broke even but a bet on Betfair would have lost around two-thirds of a point.

Stalled

March 27, 2011 Leave a comment

The last couple of weeks or so have been rather odd for me. It has felt like I have been treading water. Like I have been in limbo waiting for something to happen. It’s a very odd state of mind, and not a particularly helpful one either.

While gambling isn’t the most dynamic and exciting of career choices it has its moments. I see each bet as a two-part event. The first part is getting the bet on. You have to compare all the prices available and try to get on at the best odds you can. This means weighing up various bookmakers against one another based not solely on price but also things like recent history with that firm as you don’t want to risk getting your accounts restricted or closed if you go on an extended winning streak with certain firms. Exchanges such as Betfair also come into the equation as you compare the prices on offer there, after accounting for commission, with the best the bookies can offer. But you also have to take into account the chances of the price drifting in which case you probably want to be on with a BOG bookie. Placing a bet is not as simple as finding the right market with your favourite bookie and putting your money down.

The second part comes when the bet is settled. Here’s where you find out how good a job you did in the first place. How does the price you took compare to the starting price? Were you delighted to get your order at 9.8 on the exchanges matched only for the horse to drift just before the off and return a starting price of 9/1 meaning you’d have been better off betting to SP? It happens, but you can’t beat yourself up over it. You just have to learn from it and move on.

When a bet is settled you obviously find out if it’s a winner or a loser. I tend to let losers just wash over me, accepting them as part and parcel of what I do for a living. It should be much the same with winners too really, and for years I was relatively disinterested in those too. That was until someone pointed out that if you don’t get any joy from the winners why bother betting at all? Now I do at least allow myself a fleeting moment of celebration when the winners come along. The bigger the winner, the bigger the smile. But it is soon back to business as normal for the next bet.

Except for the past couple of weeks. I have been going through the motions and little else. No excitement from fighting to get on at a good price. I have been flying on auto-pilot, putting all the bets on with barely a conscious thought as to what I am doing. And when it comes to settling the bets in my spreadsheet all I have really been aware of is that the ups and downs roughly cancel one another out and my net result for the day is negligible. In some ways it feels like just rewards for the effort I have put in but on the other hand I started to think that it was a good job I didn’t bother making too much of an effort if I am not going to make anything as a result.

What I was screaming out for was a big day. A day where I made a really tasty profit, one that would shake me out of my stupor. And if I couldn’t have that I would have the next best thing:  a day of heavy losses. I used to think that gamblers who said losing was the next best thing to winning were idiots but there is quite a lot of truth to it. It’s the excitement, the buzz that comes when big things happen in gambling. Whether that be a big win or a big loss you still get a buzz from it, a surge of adrenaline and excitement. It sounds stupid but in many ways I would rather have a day where I lost a wedge rather than a quiet day where nothing much happens.

It perhaps didn’t help that this lull I was experiencing also extended to my football research and system development. I’m not sure whether one was fueling the other and in fact it became a vicious cycle but both my gambling and system development were negatively impacted. Fortunately events conspired to break the cycle and greatly improve matters.

Things started to move on the betting front. The profits started to mount up and over the last few days I have had some good results and it’s all starting to tick along at a much better pace. The flat spot seems to have passed for a while and it’s back to regular action.

At the same time my brain kicked into action again. It was as though my brain was waiting for my subconscious to mull over a few problems and report back with solutions and until that happened I couldn’t meaningfully progress with the football betting project. Fortunately something just clicked, completely out the blue, a few days back and I am back up and running in the right direction with that work again.

It’s funny how you can have these periods where the job you love seems like such a chore but that’s one of the drawbacks of working seven days a week. However, I am enthused once more. I am keen to get on with the gambling and with the football system development. I want to get on my PC and make some progress rather than sit around doing whatever. I never really experienced this in the 9-to-5 rat race but I actually want to get up and go to ‘work.

Lady luck cools my red hot poker

March 23, 2011 Leave a comment

It has been a little while in coming but finally I am going to talk at length about poker. Football, horses and all that can wait while I wax lyrical about cards.

Poker is a very important part of my portfolio for several reasons. For one it’s something I feel I have much more control over the outcome of than any individual bet. If I play terribly then I can expect to lose and I have only myself to blame. There’s no jockey to ride a finish a circuit too early. No referee to send off the wrong player. I am involved in determining whether I make a profit or not. To some extent, anyway. It doesn’t necessarily transpire that if I play the best I can that I will profit from poker, whether one looks at an individual session/tournament or indeed the game as a whole. But the better I play the greater the chance I should have of making money so it is in my interests to stay focused and do the best I can.

Poker also takes up my time. With sports betting all I need to do is log in to the bookie/exchange website, find the right market and place the bet. It takes seconds, really. Then it’s just a case of sitting and waiting. As discussed above I can’t influence the result so I don’t need to spend any time working on improving my return once the bet is on. Not so with poker. Once I sit down at the tables I am there till the end. I play SnG tournaments so I am at the tables till I either win the thing or am knocked out. I need to be on top of my game for however long that takes – just under an hour usually. That’s time spent playing poker, time during which I can’t do anything else – at least not if I want to maximise my chances of making money at the game. Poker is a way of keeping myself amused yet still trying to make money.

However, of late my poker has been anything but amusing. I am currently experiencing a truly awful run of results – I am without a win in my last 36 tournaments! These are only nine-man SnGs so by the law of averages I should have won at least one or two of them. (I know it doesn’t work like that, don’t worry.) I’ve had a few second and third place finishes (three seconds, six thirds) but these have not been enough to stem a fairly rapid flow out of my bankroll of late. Somehow though I am still in profit for the month – just!

To give you an idea of how bad this run is, I have dropped nearly 20 buy-ins over the past few days. To put that into perspective for non-SnG players the suggested bankroll is 40-50 buy-ins. I have lost close to have my bank in just a few days. Admittedly I am currently operating a much bigger bankroll than that as my main focus is on experience rather than profit at this point. I am still looking to make money where I can but I am looking to get more events under my belt rather than maximising my profit, else I would have stepped up to higher stakes by now.

I knew a run like this was going to happen and in a way I am pleased it has happened now. I am only a few weeks into my rebooted poker career and this is a welcome reality check. It also means this run as come at low stakes so in cash terms a loss of 20 buy-ins is pretty cheap compared to what it may have set me back had it not come along for a few months. That’s not to say that this is the only such run I will experience, nor that this run is over. That’s now how these things work. You can learn a lot from runs such as this one though, including resilience and mental fortitude.

It has helped that before I restarted my poker I read The Poker Mindset by Ian Taylor and Matthew Hilger. It was a book I learned really helped a couple of sponsored poker pros I was reading about somewhere (I forget where) so dug it off the bookshelf and gave it a whirl. Yep, decent book. I think I have a much better mental attitude towards the game and it’s vagaries too.

There was a time when I would go back and replay the last hand of every tourney I played but looking back I don’t know what this was supposed to achieve. Why concentrate on one single hand? Especially as mistakes that had a fundamental impact on my finishing position were probably made long before that point. And what does looking at one hand tell anyone? It is far more important to make the right decisions and forget about individual results and that’s what I am trying to do.

That’s why I am not worried about my results per se. I am slightly concerned about my play though. In the past I have had a tendency to play poker for something to do rather than as a way of making money. I sat down with the intention of passing the time and hopefully making a few quid rather than making a profit being my main aim. Bad habit. I still need to keep an eye on my play and my reasons for playing when I do sit at the tables. I know I am not currently playing to the best of my ability and need to crack down on my sloppy play. Even though the stakes are low there is no reason why I shouldn’t give it my all.

That said, I am often doing all I can, making the right decisions but not getting that little slice of luck that you need from time to time. For example, my short-stacked shoves seem to be up against stronger hands a lot of the time and when they are not the villain will outdraw me. I’m often getting my money in ahead and sometimes dominating the villain but he’ll pair his kicker and get out that way. It’s annoying when these things happen but it’s decisions that matter, not results. I was right to get my money in ahead and I should play the hand exactly the same way in the future.

So what can I do about this bad run? Nothing really. I need to ensure I am playing the best I can, making the right decisions at the right times. If I do that then things will turn themselves around for me. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow. But it will happen.

Categories: Poker

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.

March 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Today is a day I have been dreading for a little while now. I knew it was coming, I even knew when it was going to happen, but even so it’s a little bit of a shock as the full impact of what has happened dawns on me. It’s a kick in the balls I have been expecting but that hasn’t lessened the pain any.

I’ve maybe made it sound overly dramatic but I’m talking about the closure of the Adrian Massey website and with it his ratings service. The loss of those ratings has cost me my tipster service and also a good chunk of my own gambling portfolio. I’ve known for a week or so that this would happen and that it would happen today but it is only know that it has happened am I really able to determine how I am affected and what I can do about it.

The past week or so has been a funny old week. I have felt somewhat in limbo, unable to take positive decisive action as though at the back of my mind I felt that Massey’s decision wasn’t real somehow. Maybe it was the wording of his announcement, in particular the bit where he said it was “likely” the last day would be 19th March. Subconsciously I may have been clinging to some hope that maybe the last day of his ratings wouldn’t be 19th March and perhaps he’d even change his mind about retirement altogether. But now I have to face reality as the ratings service has indeed stopped as Adrian said it would.

The dust hasn’t completely settled as I’m not yet 100% sure how many of the third-party tipsters services I follow are similarly affected by the Massey issue but for my own part the picture is clear enough. I have had to suspend my tipster service (Unity Racing) which is a shame and feels like a massive failure but these things happen. If I step back and look at things from an impartial point of view I can accept that the Classic Lays and Premier Lays systems just weren’t working as well as I had intended. It’s hard to fathom why that should be the case but I have to accept the facts as they are. Unfortunately the closure of Unity Racing has been a little harder to accept due to the excellent recent performance of the Market Leaders system. This was a new lay system introduced at the start of the year to make up for the lousy performance of the other systems and after an inauspicious start it has been flying. I can’t help but think this could have turned around the fortunes of Unity Racing and also made me a nice profit along the way but as it relied on Massey ratings it is no more. Of course, a good few weeks or even months is no guarantee of future performance and the Market Leaders system may not have saved Unity Racing from failure anyway.

But it’s no good wondering whether any of these systems would have made me my fortune over the coming years. They’re gone, deal with it and move on.

And that’s what I am trying to do. This morning I have rejigged bits of my spreadsheet so that only my current active portfolio is displayed. The various systems I have lost to the Massey ratings have been reclassified as discontinued. Acceptance that they are no more and that I must move on.

If I do have a problem accepting that the Massey-based systems are no more and that I must deal with this and move on then it will be because of the change in mindset I will have to adopt. Good laying systems are hard to find, as are decent lay tipsters. Because of this it will be hard to replace the lost laying systems with like-for-like. If I want to increase the number of systems/services in my portfolio (which I think I do) then the lack of successful lay offerings out there means I am more or less forced to add more backing systems/services to the mix instead. Unless of course I take the time to develop my own laying systems but as I said last week I want to work on my football system research at this time. By adding more backing systems I am going to have to accept a greater number of regular losses punctuated by big wins rather than the small regular wins punctuated by large losses that typifies a lay-heavy portfolio.

It may seem to many that what I am moving towards is becoming a normal gambler, one who backs far more than he lays. And maybe that’s it, maybe the loss of the Massey ratings will force me into normality. Now let’s see if I like being normal.

 

Simplex summarised

March 16, 2011 Leave a comment

With Inter Milan drawing away at Brescia on Friday night, another season on the Simplex football systems has come to an end. All Premiership, Scottish Premier League and Serie A teams have now ended their betting sequences and I can tot up the figures and see how the season went.

The Prem Simplex system is the oldest of the three having just completed its third season in my portfolio. In that time it has made a total profit of 13,635.52pts at a return on investment of 50.54%. If we break those returns down by season we see profits of 1,633.00pts (43.00% ROI) in 2008-09, in the following season we made 5,511.16pts (85.27%)  and a total profit of 6,491.36pts at a ROI of 43.41% this season.

This was the second season I had been using the SPL Simplex system and as with the Prem Simplex version profits have been pretty consistent. In 2009-10 the system made a profit of 515.10pts from a total stake of 896.40pts for a ROI of 57.46% whereas this season the profit was 378.60pts from 1338.16pts, a ROI of 28.29%. Overall the system is running at a ROI of just over 34%. A lower profit this year but that is perhaps to be expected as I reined the staking in slightly this season having done some more number crunching over the summer. I felt the stakes where getting a little ahead of themselves at times and based on past data thought they should be reduced slightly. That probably explains the lower ROI than last year but anything around 30% is not to be sniffed at really.

This season was the first for the Serie A Simplex system and I am rather pleased with how it went. A profit of 1467.90pts was made at a ROI of a tad under 20%. That latter figure is a little disappointing compared to the other Simplex systems but the staking multiplier is different for this system and is set to balance risk and reward for this division. Over the years Italian football results have been known to be somewhat unreliable, shall we say. There has long been talk of match-fixing and results being agreed in advance so I spent a good period of the summer poring over previous Serie A results to ensure that this system would work as desired. A ROI of 20% is lower than for the other divisions but is still pretty decent for any football system so I think we can safely say this system worked out well enough.

How do these systems make money? There are two main triggers to juicy profits: an extended run of results that don’t include a draw and games that unexpectedly end all-square. The former means the stakes are getting high so landing a winner will result in a tidy profit. The latter means the odds are greater than ‘normal’ and a winner at greater odds makes for a greater profit. If the two can combine – an unexpected draw to end a long run of games without one – then it’s a very easy, very nice profit, thank you very much. These factors came into play in the Premiership and Serie A more than the SPL this season, increasing the profits from those leagues but even without some of the extremes we saw this season I would still have made a juicy profit.

Gamblers talk of profits in terms of points mostly but the rest of the world deals in hard cash so I need to think about how I make most cash from these systems too. I have been stepping up the stakes year on year by increasing the value of each point with each new season. As you can imagine the value of each point still remains quite low when you consider that this year stakes on the Prem Simplex system got up to nearly 5,000pts. And this was not a freak occurrence as I found out previously. My stakes on the Serie A games got up to nearly 1,000pts while things were much more restrained in the SPL with stakes not exceeding 100pts on any single bet.

I’m a big fan of organic bank growth so like a system to make enough profit to support a larger bet before increasing the stakes. That’s why I have steadily increased the stakes on the Simplex systems and why I will continue to do so.I have a ladder of stake increases defining what stake each Simplex system should use based on how long it has been part of my portfolio and will stick to it religiously. After making a chunky profit last year there is a tendency to raise the stakes quite a bit more than previously planned. After all, higher stakes will mean higher turnover and a greater cash profit, right? It also means that if there happens to be a repeat of Wolves’ run without a draw the stakes on that system would be massive! I’d be way outside my comfort zone but more than that I would have hugely overstaked my bankroll and would be taking stupid risks. If I get my staking wrong I risk a huge loss if it gets to the point where I am unable to stake high enough to cover earlier losses in the sequence. Not because of a house/bookie limit like with Martingale staking on roulette, more because I will have run out of money and would need to mortgage the house to raise the stake. And I don’t think the missus would really appreciate that.

As I have declared the season over for these systems there will obviously be no more bets on them till August. It means a long summer without some of my most profitable systems but that’s the way it has to be. The system rules limit the action one can get from these systems but it also hugely limits the risk. If all three systems can carry on in the same vein again next season then I will be a happy bunny.

Categories: Football

End of an era or a new opportunity?

March 13, 2011 Leave a comment

I was hoping this day wouldn’t come for a long time but it seems as though Adrian Massey has effectively announced his retirement. I mentioned the other day that the unavailability of the Massey ratings reduces the size of my active portfolio as several systems/services depend on his ratings and other data he provides. Well, in a week or so it seems they will be unavailable permanently. I need to assess the impact of Adrian’s retirement on my own gambling and work out the best alternative.

Assessing the Damage
The loss of the Massey ratings has a direct effect on several lay systems in my portfolio: Easy Money Lays, Market Leaders, Classic Lays and Premier Lays. The first of those is one of the most profitable lay systems I follow while the remainder form the Unity Racing tipster service I run. If I lose those systems then I will be forced to close Unity Racing too. Bugger!

Adrian Massey’s website was more than just the ratings though. I know several tipsters, including a few I use, who use Massey’s system builder functionality but if he’s no longer updating his database then the system builder becomes pointless. That has a knock-on effect for a few services I follow, although how many is not clear at this stage.

My expected monthly earnings without the Massey-dependent systems and services probably drop by around 20%. That is a finger-in-the-air estimate, admittedly, but it feels like it is in the right ballpark at least. Adrian is obviously free to do as he pleases with his website and I should be grateful that I have been able to take advantage of his efforts for as long as I have but now is the time to seriously think about how to make up that monthly shortfall.

The Alternatives
What am I looking for in the alternatives to Adrian Massey’s website? I can’t directly replace the affected systems as they use the Massey ratings so I would have to develop new ones. Therefore I need a system builder. On top of that it would be nice to have some form of ratings available too. I can’t say what features my tipsters who previously used Massey’s site would require; I’m only focusing here on my own needs. Selfish, I know.

FlatStats – from £25 a month up to £165 for the flat season (to 5th Nov)
As the name suggests this online database only covers flat racing so the scope of any systems developed via this site is immediately limited. There is a system builder but I haven’t looked at it a great deal to see if it really suits my needs as I am put off by the fact that I wouldn’t have any NH data to work with. I don’t have a strong personal preference towards one racing code but nor do I see the sense in limiting my options. I know that with racing on the AW as well as turf there is flat racing all year round but I would rather at least have the option to develop NH systems. This option is a non-starter because of that.

HorseRaceBase – min. donation of €7.50 per month
HorseRaceBase (HRB) is a web-based horse racing database that includes a system builder and several other tools to help users profit from horse racing. One of these additional tools is a ratings generator, which allows the user to weight various factors and create their own ratings. No longer must you be dependent on a third-party rating source, you can determine exactly how those ratings are built. Interesting.

The system builder has a lot of variables to help find a profitable angle around which to build a system. The list looks absolutely massive at first until you realise that most of the variables are repeated for the horse’s last race, last race but one and so on. It’s still a pretty impressive list though and includes a few variables that relate to the composition of the field (such as number of horses in race who won last time out) that other products (including Proform) don’t support.

Access to the full functionality of the website is granted on a donation basis with a minimum donation of €7.50 a month although a free three-day trial is available for new members. It looks like you get a lot for your money but as with all these things, it will take time to have a proper look around and see if HRB does what I want.

Proform – from £11.75 per week (min. 8 weeks subscription)
Several years ago I used to subscribe to Proform. However, I didn’t get anything like the best out of the software. I didn’t find the time to keep the database up to date let alone analyse the day’s qualifiers for stand out bets. I certainly didn’t have time to get to grips with the system builder. The perils of working for a living I guess.

The system builder that is the main appeal of the Proform package and in that respect it’s probably the daddy of all system builders. It has a pretty good-looking interface and judging by the screenshots on the website it seems absolutely rammed with variables allowing one to investigate a massive number of angles. Perfect. Several of the systems I currently use would need to be redeveloped were I to move everything over to Proform as some of the variables are not supported. This may not be too big a deal if the system builder can be used to readily develop suitable replacements though. And there are in-built ratings that may help when trying to replace those systems lost to Adrian Massey’s retirement, especially as the ratings were given a favourable review by SBC over the last few months.

Proform isn’t cheap though. The minimum subscription is eight weeks, costing a total of £110, while subscribing full a full year will set you back £611. Admittedly the software should pay for itself fairly readily if you put the effort in, develop some good systems and make use of the various other features too. But you need to put the time in to get the benefit out, something I have shown I was able to do in the past.

I have recently read three separate reviews of the software, all released within a few weeks of one another which suggests that Proform have been actively marketing. These reviews came with campaign/offer codes reducing the cost of subscribing but unfortunately as a former subscriber I am not eligible for such offers. Boo! Simon, the man behind Proform, did offer me an alternative offer code when I contacted him but it was a very limited offer and I wasn’t ready at the time to make a decision. If I am honest, I still don’t think I am ready.

None of the Above – free!
This option has to be considered. I’d have to drop the affected systems from my portfolio and effectively close down Unity Racing, which itself involves a few issues, but this remains a possibility. The affected systems include one of my most profitable lay systems (Easy Money Lays) and losing that would be a real pain but nothing lasts forever. I have made good money off the Massey ratings over the years so I can’t really complain.

This is obviously the cheapest of the options, at least in terms of monthly outlay, but who knows what the ‘cost’ of dropping the Massey-dependent systems and closing down Unity Racing would be.

Conclusions
I’ll be quite honest about this, the timing of Adrian’s decision is bloody awful for me. I had a plan that involved me spending the next few months bashing away at a major football research project with a view to developing a number of profitable football betting systems. These systems would be added to my portfolio at the start of next season and the profits they generated would be use to fund horse racing system development, including the purchase of the necessary tools. Now my plans may have to change.

Do I put the whole football system development idea on hold in order to concentrate on rebuilding my horse racing portfolio? Sign up to one of the system builders (HRB or Proform) and spend as long as it takes getting to grips with it with a view to initially replacing the lost systems and eventually moving on from that to develop additional systems. I need to be cautious about the use of ratings though. I want any ratings, and the associated parent software, I use during system development to have a decent future. I don’t want to have to rework systems that have been built around HRB ratings if I then switch to Proform, for example.

Or do I accept that I am going to lose a chunk of my portfolio, forget about those systems and press on with the football research project with a view to producing a set of profitable systems in time for the 2011/12 season? Should I try to move some of my portfolio’s focus away from horse racing and towards football through some of my own system development?

The loss of several profitable systems is obviously going to affect my profit so I need to think about how best to make up that shortfall. And this is not a decision to be rushed I feel. It comes back to what I was saying recently about increasing my profit and turnover – do I add fresh blood to my portfolio or increase the stakes on the systems I already follow? The fresh blood would obviously come from whichever system builder I sign up with but is that the right route to go down? Would I be better off focusing instead on the remainder of my current portfolio?

There are many ways forward to consider here including whether to sign up to a system builder (and if so, which one) or to continue with my football system development, whether to replace the lost racing systems or increase stakes on those that remain and whether to close down Unity Racing permanently or look to restart the service with new systems. I don’t know which, if any of those, are the right option either.

Flat Stats is out as I don’t want to limit myself to one code of racing. HorseRaceBase is the cheap option compared to Proform and, having proved before (albeit in different circumstances) that I don’t always have the time to get the best out of software, the cheaper the better in some ways. HRB looks, at first glance, to have the functionality I need and it wouldn’t cost me very much at all to sign up for a few months (or however long) to really find out if it suits my needs. I don’t have a huge amount of experience of horse racing system development so it would also suit me to learn my mistakes cheaply. On that basis if I sign up for a system builder it will be HorseRaceBase, at least initially.

IF I sign up for a system builder, that is. Because at the minute I am sorely tempted not to bother. Sure, the closure of Unity Racing and my failure as a horse racing tipster weighs heavily on my mind but I must give this concern the proper weighting. My hard drive is littered with numerous projects I have started but not seen through to conclusion and I am determined for that not to happen with this latest football research and system development project. I want to see something come of it and I’m not sure that will happen if I put it on hold now to concentrate on horse racing system development.

At present my favoured option is to continue with the football system development with a view to signing up with a racing system builder further down the line. In short, stick with my original plan. I am also seriously considering a brief time out to crunch a few numbers to see which areas of my portfolio could take a greater stake as I look to make up for losing several profitable lay systems. This just feels like the right thing to do at this time, but I want to just mull things over a little longer before committing to anything.

Categories: Horse Racing

Review – ProBandit A List

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

This is a review I hadn’t really planned until very recently. I had been perfectly happy with how the ProBandit A List service was going until someone on the Secret Betting Club forum questioned the performance of the Near Qualifier (NQ) bets. For those of you who aren’t aware, A List bets fall into two categories: System bets and NQs. No-one was doubting the success of the System bets but were the NQs actually profitable?

Curiosity was starting to get the better of me. Were all the profits due to the System bets? When I reviewed this service for SBC, getting on for a year ago now, I concluded that one should treat the two types of bet the same and back them equally. But now I had more data to work with I figured I should check whether that was that still the case.

Overview
The data set I will be using for this review comes from my own betting records. There are 870 bets (counting each way bets as two separate win and place bets) of which 287 were winners (32.99% SR). These bets generated a total profit of 39.23pts at a ROI of 11.43% to advised stakes.

This data set divides down into two subsets as follows:
System Bets: 680 bets, 248 winners, 36.47% SR, 40.40pts profit, 14.20% ROI
NQ Bets: 190 bets, 39 winners, 20.53% SR, -1.17pts profit, -1.99% ROI

You can see at a glance that the NQ bets are not profitable and have a much lower strike rate than the system bets but this alone isn’t sufficient justification for me to drop the NQs from my portfolio. I want to look deeper into each subset of data and get a better feel for them.

TSM Analysis
In situations like this, where I am splitting one of my data sets, I can’t readily use my normal betting records spreadsheets for the analysis so I turn to The Staking Machine instead. In this case TSM tells me the System bets have average win odds of 3.25 which combined with the SR give an edge of 18.47%. With such a strike rate we can expect a losing run of 14.4 bets and indeed a run of 14 consecutive losers has been recorded in this data set so it seems reasonable to assume we’re dealing with a representative enough set of selections.

Add the NQ bets back into the mix and while the average win odds increase to 3.45 the edge drops to 13.89% due to the lower SR. The full data set contains a streak of 21 consecutive losers, exceeding the statistical estimate of the longest losing run which comes out as 16.9. It just goes to show that sometimes you can experience a downswing worse than anything you thought possible which in turn highlights the importance of good bankroll management, something I will be touching on again later.

The Official Line
With the SBC forum thread gaining more and more interest it was pleasing to see Paul Bell of ProBandit give his view of things. The official word is that the NQs are there to help smooth the profit flow. Longer losing runs would be experienced without the NQs and they themselves are not intended to provide a serious long-term profit. The system bets are the main drive but the NQs just smooth out some of the bumps along the way and it is up to the individual as to whether they follow them or not.

A Smoother Path to Profit?
Paul’s argument sounds convincing and at the time I was happy to go with it but I have started to think more deeply about what he said and to question it slightly. Have a look at the graphs below, for example. Is the blue profit line (representing the profits accumulated by backing all selections) particularly smoother than the profit line for just the System (red) selections? Similarly the graph showing the variation in strike rate suggests that the NQs are doing little to smooth the ride.

We saw earlier from the TSM figures that because of the lower strike rate the expected losing sequences for the full data set are longer than those for just the System bets. And this is demonstrated by the actual runs experienced: 14 consecutive losers for the System bets but a massive 21 if we include the NQs too.

Staking
ProBandit advise a stake along with each tip they provide. Presumably the larger the advised stake the greater the confidence in the bet. Is this advised staking helping though or would one be better off to level stakes? We saw earlier that to advised stakes the total profit was 39.23pts at a return on investment of 11.43%. If my calculations are correct (and I am pretty sure they are), this drops to 7.81% ROI for 1pt win/0.5pt each-way. It seems that the advised staking plan is helping to generate greater profits.

Bankroll Management
Mike & Dan at SBC suggest a bank of 50pts for this service which is probably about right if you’re following all the bets but I think that is overly cautious if you plan to just follow the System qualifiers. In that case a bank of 30pts, which is roughly double the longest losing run if you’re excluding the NQs, should be more than adequate.

In fact you could tighten things up even more if you were feeling brave. While the longest losing run may be 14 System bets this only equates to a drawdown of around 6pts (based on an average stake of 0.42pts) so you could potentially get away with a bank of around 15pts. By the same rationale a bank of around 25pts would suffice for the full set of A List bets. That said, my preference is for a bank somewhere between these two extremes, around 20pts for the System bets and perhaps double that figure if the NQs are included also.

Win or Each-Way?
Finally I want to have a very quick look at win v each-way betting. Would one be better off backing all the selections win only or are the each-way bets contributing as expected? Backing win only would result in a profit of 26.73pts from a total stake of 251.19pts for a ROI of 10.64%. Limit the data to System bets only and you’d have a profit of 27.64pts from 199.81pts staked or a ROI of 13.83%. Both of these figures are slightly down on the ROIs achieved by backing each-way when advised so it seems that once more Paul knows what he is doing when it comes to advising the right type of bet.

Conclusions
I set out to investigate the performance of the ProBandit A List NQ bets and to establish whether or not I should continue to back them as I do the System bets. I quickly established that the NQs were not profitable and ran at a lower strike rate than the main System bets. The smoothing effect that was claimed was not evident either so it is difficult to see what the NQ bets really bring to the party.

I mentioned recently a need to increase my turnover but I also need to increase my profit and the bottom line is more important so while ditching the NQs while reduce my turnover it should increase my long-term profit and also my overall ROI. The peaks and troughs of the System bets are not so extreme that I can’t do without the alleged smoothing effect of the NQs. I will no longer be following the NQ bets.

While I had the data up I also briefly investigated alternative staking plans and betting methods. I found that advised staking significantly outperforms level stakes and that each-way betting, where advised, is profitable. In short one should follow the advice given with each bet.

Disclaimer – This review is based around my own data, including odds, gathered over the past year or so. As such this is very much an unofficial review of the service and all opinions stated are mine and mine alone unless otherwise stated. This review is no way endorsed by ProBandit or Secret Betting Club. I think that’s my arse sufficiently covered.

Categories: Horse Racing, Reviews