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Back with a whimper

October 15, 2011 Leave a comment

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.

Categories: General, Horse Racing, Sports

More portfolio changes

July 24, 2011 2 comments

Ever since Adrian Massey retired from the ratings game earlier this season there has been a big hole in my betting portfolio. Massey’s ratings powered many of the lay systems I was following at the time and without the ratings the systems simply collapsed. I have tried to rebuild my portfolio in the meantime but with few decent lay tipsters out there (I don’t really know of any, as it happens) I have had to switch some of my focus to backing horses rather than laying them. By adding some new horse racing tipsters to the mix I have probably improved the overall quality of my portfolio although quality is difficult to measure really. But I haven’t been able to fill that gap left by the Massey-powered lay systems…until now.

OK, I probably haven’t completely filled the gap but I have added a couple of new lay systems – Blinkered and Blinkered AW – to my portfolio and already instinct and gut feeling tells me the balance of my portfolio is better. I talk about the balance of my portfolio a lot and it’s another concept that’s almost impossible to measure and quantify. And when I do talk about balance it is usually to say I am happy with it and then not long afterwards I change the composition of my portfolio thus changing the balance. But because it can’t really be quantified I have to rely on instinct to measure how pleased I am with the balance and after adding in a couple of new lay systems I feel happier with the make-up of my portfolio.

The new systems came pretty much straight out of the latest SBC newsletter/magazine. No point denying it as other SBC members would probably spot it at a distance. But then surely that’s the point of the strategy articles in the magazine, so that readers can take these profitable angles and use them to make money. This time though I have been back over the angle identified and done some verification of the data to satisfy my own curiosity and as a result I have put my own little twist on the system identified in the article and split it into separate turf and AW systems. I’m not sure it will work so well on the all-weather courses but I am really after a year-round profit so I have decided to track turf and AW separately so that if it doesn’t work so well on the dirt I can easily drop it and just stick with the turf racing.

It feels slightly odd adding these systems straight into the mix like this. I don’t normally start following a system/service without really proving to myself that it will work and deliver the sort of performance I expect but I have jumped right in with these systems as the stats shown in the SBC newsletter really stood out and I have since been able to verify the angle they highlighted. That said, I will be keeping stakes small while these systems bed in and if it looks like they don’t work for whatever reason I will be swift to remove them but I feel they deserve a chance. And it gives me more lays, which is something I have been craving for a while.

In other news, I have been looking at whether it is possible to expand the Simplex method to other divisions. I have added one new division in each of the past couple of seasons and considered doing the same this year. I have crunched the numbers but I haven’t really found another division where I can balance risk and returns in the same way as I have been able to for the Premiership, SPL and Serie A

Serie B was a possibility but I can’t quite make my mind up on that one. I fear the Italian second division may be relatively tricky to follow in terms of getting hold of accurate fixtures and the bookies may not stand any sort of decent bet on these matches. That’s all speculation of course but if I have doubts I usually don’t proceed and it is unlikely I will extend the Simplex coverage to Serie B I’d say. I trust my gut, as you have no doubt picked up on by now, and this one just doesn’t feel right.

Bundesliga One was another possibility but there have been several losing runs of 20+ in the last few years and while they don’t happen that often they happen often enough to have a major influence on the staking. Most bets are a few points and in a typical season the stakes on most teams won’t even get into triple figures so it’s tempting to raise the value of each point to maximise returns but every now and then the stakes get up around 8000pts which means one needs to keep the point value low in order to control risk. In cases like this it’s hard to strike the right balance so its best left alone I feel. Bundesliga Two looks a happier hunting ground than the top division but I don’t like to include lower divisions unless I also have the top flight in action. I can’t really put my finger on why but it just doesn’t feel right to me so I won’t be expanding into Germany either.

Overall I have now looked at 16 different divisions across Europe and it seems I have already identified the ones where the method seems to work best so I am happy to sit back and let the systems do their work now. Further to my last post on Simplex though I have decided to keep the Prem Simplex stakes the same for this season. The game of football will still be around for many years to come as will betting so there is no point taking undue risks so I will use this season to build up more funds and data ready for larger stakes at some point in the future.

Categories: Football, Horse Racing

Review – Mark Johnston

May 26, 2011 Leave a comment

It seems that whenever I return from holiday I approach my gambling with a renewed enthusiasm and a real sense of purpose. The other day I said I was happy with my portfolio and while that is true at a high level there are potentially a few systems and services that should be dropped. I have on my Watch List page a list of those aspects of my portfolio I wish to review so it’s about time I worked through at least some of those reviews to give my portfolio a bit more of a polish. And I’m going to start with the Mark Johnston system.

Overview
The Mark Johnston system is one I picked up from a Win2Win eBook several years ago. It concerns Mark Johnston runners (duh!) during the bulk of the flat season and focuses on the tracks where the trainer has a particularly good record. The system has a fairly low strike rate, around 15% or so, but has picked out some of my biggest winners over the years. Over the last couple of years it feels as though the system has lost some of its edge. Also my mentality may have changed slightly as I am no longer as comfortable with the long losing runs I associate with this system. Perhaps that comes with going full-time and feeling some of the pressure to deliver consistent profits where possible. Whatever the reason, I no longer feel I am getting the best from this system so it’s time to have a look at the figures in more depth.

Detailed Analysis
Ultimately the system has proved profitable for me, earning 87.25pts from 859 bets. My staking has been all over the place with this one over the years as for a long period it threw the balance of my portfolio completely out the window, returning significant profits and swelling the system bank when other systems were struggling to the extent that this system dominated my results. I reduced the stakes I used for this system a few times to build more security into my bank but also to reduce the degree to which my results were dependent on Mark Johnston. As a result my cash ROI is lower than the 10% I could have earned by placing 1pt level stakes on all bets.

If we look at how the profits have fallen over the four years I have been running this system a very interesting pattern emerges. 2007 and 2009 were hugely profitable (+50.47pts and +47.66pts) respectively with small losses shown in the even years (-7.44pts in 2008, -3.45pts in 2010). Going by that very small sample one may expect a bumper 2011.

Last year saw a massive increase in the number of bets struck, the figure almost double the 2007 number. 176 bets in 2007, 134 in 2008, 208 in 2009 but a massive 341 in 2010. Why? Has Mark Johnston expanded his operation significantly or changed his modus operandi and started throwing more runners at races? I don’t follow racing enough to know the answers to these questions. Sure, my holidays and whether or not I continued to bet while I was away could be a factor but surely not the major factor here as we’re only talking about a couple of weeks a year really. I am concerned that if this trend continues I could be set for a relatively large number of bets on this system during 2011 and I’m not sure I want to place that many bets on a system I don’t believe in 100% (which I don’t really if I am conducting this review).

The monthly split of the profits is also very interesting. The system only runs from May to November so there are only seven months of the year to consider and the first and last of those are relatively quiet. Even so, one wouldn’t really expect July and August to dominate as much as they do. Profits of 109.58pts in July and a further 42.94pts in August. October is a big losing month (-43.66pts) with the other months relatively breakeven but mostly slight losers.

The obvious conclusion to draw here is that the May to November time span is too broad and it should be limited to just July and August but is that fair? A profit of 152.52pts from just 332 bets certainly seems attractive but there is a considerable element of back-fitting there. It kinda makes sense as one could reasonably expect a big stable such as Mark Johnston’s to peak in the middle of the season and take advantage of the big prize money on offer around that time. But without a detailed database of horse racing results with which to check whether backing his runners in just those months would be profitable. I have had a quick look at the Racing Post site and their database and it is inconclusive, although the functionality is rather limited. I could get on HRB or similar and have a proper look but my instincts are telling me it’s not really worth it. It’s unfortunate but I am just not quite getting the right feeling from this system and already I am starting to doubt it’s continued inclusion in my portfolio. But let’s finish the review to be fair.

I said earlier I felt the system has lost its edge in recent years so let’s take a look at that angle. There were four winning months (May, July and August) and three losers last year. The system had a good start to the year, a dip followed by the traditionally strong summer peak and then tailed off. That may well go some way to explaining why I feel the system had lost it’s edge – it had a tough end to the year and the memory of losing has stuck in my head. In the last few months of last year the system hit several losing runs in excess of 20, including one of 28. Such runs are to be expected based on the SR but when they come towards the end of the season (the system ended the year with 20 consecutive losers) and you know there will be no more selections for six months it can be hard to take. There’s nothing to say these runs can’t happen at any time but the limited timeframe in which this system operates doesn’t help matters. It can feel like a long winter coming off the back of a long string of losers.

On the face of it last year was nothing unusual. OK, the number of bets was larger than expected but the SR was in the right ballpark, the longest losing runs were in keeping with previous years as were the average odds and various other key indicators of performance. I can’t actually find clear evidence that the system is losing/has lost its edge after all.

Conclusions
If the system doesn’t appear to have lost its edge and is performing ‘normally’ then where does that leave me? I came into this review thinking I could look for evidence of an eroded advantage and drop the system on that basis but that’s not how it has transpired. I suppose it then boils down to how this system as a whole fits into my current betting style.

Generally speaking I prefer consistent, steady profits. That’s why I am attracted to lay betting although I recognise the greater ROI associated with backing horses. Steady profits come from a steady stream of winners so we’re not talking about longshot low SR systems, and that’s what this system is really. On that basis then this system isn’t one I would naturally choose were I constructing a gambling portfolio from scratch. Then again I have spoken at length about the need for diversity, both in the sports covered as well as the types of services and systems that form one’s portfolio. I am genuinely torn over this one.

OK, here goes then. If I had access to HRB or similar I could deconstruct this system and tinker with the rules – an advantage of systems that I have spoken about before. I could look at the effect of narrowing the timeframe to just July and August. In doing so I would end up with a very limited sample each year but with a view to plucking out just the most profitable bets. But if I do that then I should also look at the course-by-course breakdown of results too to see if the results at any of the individual courses are dragging things down. In short I’d be tearing the system completely apart and almost starting from the beginning, and that’s not a route I currently want to go down. My future direction is football not horse racing, at least in terms of system development. I have my doubts over the Mark Johnston system in its current guise and because of that and the fact I don’t have the time and motivation to give it the attention it needs I am going to drop it from my portfolio with immediate effect.

A tough decision that one but the effects of the long losing runs are burned into my brain and I would rather steer my portfolio towards consistent returns at the expense of the occasional big win.

Categories: Horse Racing, Reviews

Ch-ch-changes

April 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Sorry, things have been a bit quiet on the gambling front and that has translated into a quiet blog also.I added a few new pages recently, including a review of my activities in March plus a new Discontinued Services page listing those systems and services that are no longer part of my portfolio for whatever reason. I also updated my Portfolio Breakdown and Watch List at the same time so that everything is representative of my current portfolio. But these are page changes so probably don’t show up on RSS feeds and subscriptions. So there’s me thinking I have added some new material recently while you lot are thinking it has been very quiet for the past week or so. Sorry about that.

It’s partly the time of year. It’s easy to blame the changeover from NH to flat for many things. I know a lot of tipsters are cautious as the flat horses don’t have a lot of relevant form in the book so they are more reliant on whispers and early glimpses of a stable’s form to see how various fancies are likely to perform. Often stakes are reduced with just a few minimum stakes bets to play with. And with the jumps racing winding down a little there are fewer NH meetings so the systems are picking out fewer bets there. All in all it makes for a quiet life on the racing front, and when it’s quiet I often find other ways to amuse myself.

My football research hasn’t moved on much since I wrote that it had stalled and that was a couple of weeks back at least, wasn’t it? I don’t really know why though. The area I am working on at present isn’t the most interesting I suppose but it is essential data processing that ought to lead to useful, meaningful conclusions. But it’s a bit of a slog at the mo and any output is merely an input to another process or provides steerage to other aspects of the research. I couldn’t complete this particular area of research and make money from it, not directly, and that’s perhaps what is dragging me back. Maybe I need a change of tack for now, get on with some alternative research and hope that provides the spark I need to kick it all into action and make real progress. Right now I am lacking enthusiasm somewhat and that’s a bad place to be given the size of the project as a whole.

Then there’s poker, of course. When I started playing again at the start of March I was full of beans, full of ideas and full of promise. I have only played around 150 low-stakes SnGs since then and already I am feeling a little burned out. Actually more stuck in a rut than burned out. I am playing as part of a routine but the way I play has become routine too. I need to inject some spark there too. I need to focus on the game of poker more, not my email, the internet etc. I play four tables at once and I am wondering of I need to throw a couple more into the mix to give my mind something else to work on. No time to get distracted, that’s the basic idea. Always a hand on the go somewhere. I did think about stepping up the stakes a little (and only a little) to try and force my mind to focus. Make the stakes mean something, even if only a little bit still. But I think that way madness lies. If I can’t get my game right to beat the fish at the lowest levels how can I even think about going up a level? Right now I am playing poker as though it were a game; it’s entertainment rather than a potential source of profit and I need to smash that mindset – somehow!

It’s surely no coincidence that the lack of focus for poker and the football research comes at a time when my health is less than 100%. Not that I am desperately ill, nor am I dying – no more than anyone else is anyway. But the adrenal tumour I have does cause problems now and then, and the drugs I am on to counteract the effects of the tumour don’t help any. I have good spells and not so good spells and I guess I’m verging on the not so good at the minute. But I’ll get over it. A bit more of a spark on the gambling front might help kick-start things. What I really need is some good early flat season profits and an exciting Grand National on Saturday. That’d see me just right I reckon.

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.

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.

 

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