Sunday, 30 April 2017

Brexit: A binary outcome for a non binary choice

Introductory Note: Ever since Brexit, I have ranted often and at length concerning the vote and the next steps. Here follows a multi part series where I attempt to condense these rants into structured arguments. As always, comments are positively encouraged.

When the electorate of the United Kingdom were presented with a sixteen word question on 23 June 2016 they did so in the knowledge that they were being afforded their say on arguably the most critical question ever asked of the nation. That this was the most important vote of their lifetime seemed to be just about the only matter that both the Remain and Leave camps could agree on, showcasing the difficulty of the dynamic that the country faces ten months on from this fateful day. Indeed, the question posed to the nation was remarkably simple - Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? - although the eventual outcome is anything but. Yet, the referendum was utterly incapable of determining the next steps.

Whilst the Leave vote did have official representation in the form of Vote Leave, they held no authority to determine what comes next. As a consequence, they were free to offer whatever they wanted safe in the knowledge that the eventual calories would never pile onto their waistline, or that their current waistline would ever be held to account.

You want immigration controls? Well, we can give you that. You want to take back control in general? Yes, we can offer that too. 350 million per week for the NHS? Let me get my chequebook. You want to sock it to the politicians? This is your opportunity. Iain Duncan Smith will even provide the transport. In comparison the Remain campaign, hamstrung by the actual and diplomatic realities of power, were constrained to offer such treats as 'No, Turkey is not in line to join the EU', and 'better the devil you know'. The latter in particular was a total misread of the public mood. A public who felt and continue to feel the actual effect of the late noughties financial crisis. A crisis in fact which the (otherwise miscast) 'elites' have been sheltered from and have arguably never fully understood the actual impact it has had on families across the nation.

Quite frankly, the standard of the discourse leading to the election was an all time low. At times it felt more like a Reality TV show chronicling the career of Boris Johnson than a discussion as to the future direction of a nation. Let alone the topic being arguably the most engrained and complicated of all issues facing the nation. Indeed, one could argue that leaving this option in the hands of citizens was an utter betrayal of the principles of representative democracy.

Immediately after the polls closed we were informed by some that a slender margin such as 52% opting to remain would not lead to the EU question going away. A message which curiously disappeared once 52% had opted to leave and which would subsequently lead to such farcical headlines as 'Enemies of the People', 'Saboteurs' and democracy deniers for anyone who dared to query the mandate offered by the referendum.

Still, what should the leave vote have led to? Well, in accordance with speeches by the only man with true authority, the Prime Minister, it should have been the immediate trigger of Article 50 and departure from the Single Market. Those two points, whilst actually countered by many of the leave camp who understood the immediate mess this would bring and possibly countered their otherwise legitimacy, were mainstays throughout the campaign but immediately discarded by the Prime Minister who recognised the fallacy of his position following the vote. So, the need to anoint a new leader of the nation.

However, ten months on we should now have clarity on the direction the country is seeking to go down. But not only do we not have that, we have polls showing that a majority of people still want to belong to the Single Market or Customs Union despite the new Prime Minister ruling these out. Worse still, the same polls show a staggeringly high proportion of Leavers undecided on these topics.

In law there is a concept of 'informed consent' whereby a contract can be declared null and void if one party did not fully understand the agreement. For obvious reasons this does not apply to political agreements, but one has to be concerned about the legitimacy of any agreement when there is substantial cloudiness over what has been agreed to. Even if one took the undecideds to remain so only on account of the complete picture being unknown (i.e. trading options are dependant upon other more important aspects), it still highlights the tenuous nature of the vote.

Now, the upcoming general election looks to set out even fewer certainties concerning the Brexit decision. What is the position of EU citizens? What is the divorce bill? What will be the future trading options? Do we need to cap immigration? What can we offer other countries we need to set up trade agreements with?

The same electorate who were entrusted with the future of the country ten months ago are now treated with the derision of vacuous soundbites concerning 'strong and stable leadership' and the need to give a 'strong hand' for negotiations despite the public already having voted for Brexit and Parliament having approved the official trigger to negotiations. However, the truth is that a General Election is not required or able to lend credence to Brexit. As it currently stands, it is nothing but an irrelevant sideshow.

Meanwhile, those who cite remainers as being democracy deniers could not be further from the truth. Brexit showcased a disillusionment with the current direction of the country but gave no mandate for next steps. The only democratic justification for Brexit can be a future referendum with specific options for the next steps, along with an option to remain. Then, and only then, can it truly be said that the British public have endorsed Brexit.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Election Nights - What can 2015, Brexit and Trump teach us?

Over the past two years I have traded three very distinct, extraordinarily unique and utterly disturbing political events. What follows is my attempt to distil the key lessons from these markets, even if I feel that the similarities to the impending General Election are quite low.

By way of background, I have only ever entered the markets after the polling booths have closed. There is no doubt that there is extreme opportunity before the polling booths close but that is beyond the scope of this post. Equally, whilst these markets have ended up with some of my largest 'one and done' profits, this has largely been on account of my refusal to hedge on account of diametric opposition to the eventual outcome. (not a recommended approach) Also, this post relies solely upon my memory so exact timings / odds may not be entirely accurate.

I would also note that at all times, my approach consisted on focusing on both the eventual outcome and side markets with multiple options. Clearly, I won't be contesting the markets as keenly this time around so I am not losing anything when I say that the latter is traditionally more advantageous. After all, the more options available - subject to sufficient liquidity - the more opportunity there is to take positions. Equally, at a time when the likelihood of an underdog win is considered highly remote, multiple option markets could turn into the only real trading possibilities.

Obviously it goes without saying that the initial reaction - be it exit polls or the first confirmed results are vitally important. In all three events, the expected outcome has been heavily queried.

In the UK, exit polls have been rather reliable for some time now due to the very precise methodology that has been developed. I would query the likely accuracy of the exit polls this time as I consider that local swings will be much more volatile than national, but these should provide an opportunity. These provide a RESET button, although knowing the initial base is highly critical for reasons I shall come onto. I still have recollections of a Conservative / UKIP coalition trading in double figures after the exit poll in the 2015 election. Whilst this may have been partially due to low volumes, my bemusement at this was on account of the polling that predicted no (or tiny) UKIP advancement. Certainly, the notion they would have produced enough MPs to be party to a coalition was easily double figures itself!

Equally, I recall in all three markets that the initial movement was held up (or even reversed) after a short while. It was almost as if the market did not trust what it had been told. However, if a football team goes 2 - 0 up; even if it is a Conference side against a Premier League outfit, you must a) consider the advantage they hold but b) consider the reasons for that advantage.

Now, that's not to say that a Conservative majority government in 2015 should have seen that plunge to odds on from double figures, or that the Newcastle vote should have made Brexit favourite, but was it really right that a dynamic shift in expectations moved the market from 1.06 to the 1.2s? Make no doubt about it - for me the better price to lay (a bet, not a trade - 1.06 was a ridiculous trading price) was 1.2 when there was clear evidence to support a leave victory.

Political trading for mine also differs from normal trading in that I do not recommend an exit point. To start with, these are short events subject to rapid changes so stakes should be applied that you are comfortable with. However, the potential market movement and event developments are so diverse that you cannot accurately plan. What may look like value at one moment can be instantaneously turned on its head.

As should your approach. Do not be afraid to admit errors. I remember that I regularly initially sought to lock in a profit (usual approach) and then ended up reversing that into an alternate position when events suggested that, although I lost a couple of ticks, I should reverse (political approach). This is obviously easier in high liquidity markets but the recent volumes traded on politics suggests that this should not be an issue.

However, you can only take that approach if you are fully aware of what the key areas are. Clearly if you are trading the political markets you will have good knowledge, but you can always have more. Say there's a 6% swing in an early declared North East swing this time around. What is the sitting MP's Brexit position? What was their role in the campaign. How are the fringe parties contesting the seat? That's not to say that you need to have a filofax on every constituency and its area, but focus in on areas which you think could be critical. In the US election, the swing states were well known but were the voter precints?

Finally, in all markets there has been a spell where the outright value has been greatest. A few hours in, there is usually sufficient empirical evidence available to strongly indicate what the eventual outcome will be. Use it. I would say that those trading the markets have been spoiled recently as the sheer drift of the overturns has been such that there seems to have been a point in the evening where profit has looked to be secured.

Ironically, despite a tendency to green up myself far too early, this has been where the best value has originated. I seem to recall Leave being 2.0+ at 2 o clock in the morning even when all results were beginning to show a fairly steady swing away from expectations and of the size that would produce a Leave victory. Why did the price take so long to move? Well, I would suggest that was caused by those looking to lock in a profit and the sheer scale of the movement. You cannot sprint a 800m race for instance! However, if you are only doing a 200m race you can speed by and take the baton.

After this, I seem to recall there then being large swings as the markets cotton onto outcome reality and the battle between value and profit looks to reach maximum intensity. At this time if you are confident in your approach, you can look to add to your profit with consistency. These markets are not linear. There will be bumps in the road and if you sit there with a net waiting for one to be hit, you can occasionally collect.

Then, you can sit back. Knowing your pocket has been padded but knowing that the despair you may feel over the upcoming months will not have been truly recompensed by the outcome the public has chosen. But that's another story. For another day. For now, those are my initial reflections on trading political events. The biggest question that now remains is whether a similar reversal will happen this time...

As ever - any feedback is greatly welcomed; especially as I look to get back into blogging and am aware of the need to refine my style. Or, if anyone wishes to discuss the markets themselves further, feel free to message me on Twitter @ TheRealMoaner

Footnote - Main Markets Traded:

Politics / 07 May 2015 General Election : Overall Majority

Politics / 07 May 2015 General Election : Next Government

Politics / EU UK Membership Referendum : EU Referendum - Brexit

Politics / EU UK Membership Referendum : EU Referendum - to Remain Vote Percentage

Politics / 2016 US Presidential Election : Next President

Sunday, 23 April 2017

A return to writing

So, if you are here, you may remember me from such inane mutterings on sports trading as how to trade the draw in rugby league, or laying sub 1.1 shots which somehow came off nearly almost as often as called, or how I was an idiot who couldn't hold his nerve when push came to shove. Or you may have just come here from Twitter, or stumbled across this page from nowhere. Regardless, welcome.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been looking for a reason to return to blogging and I am very grateful that the Prime Minister herself took time out of her schedule last Tuesday to provide me with an opportunity. For, at least over the next 6 weeks, I will look to focus my articles on the upcoming general election - using my recent experiences on Betfair primarily to offer insight on event trading and anything else which occupies my mind at 4pm on some idle Tuesday. (probably politics in general)

You'll have to bear with me though. I have never been the most judicious at using the English language (or writing, as you may say) so it may take some time for me to get back into the flow.

As for how things went personally in the six years since my last post, pretty well, thanks for asking. I'll cover this more at a later date but one of the main reasons I have looked to return to blogging is on account of reaching PC2 and the need to find some new interests to occupy my interests on a Saturday night as I feel the air is getting hot...

A general election quite like no other

"So we need a general election and we need one now, because we have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done while the European Union agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin." claimed Theresa May on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street as she sought to justify the ripping up of the Fixed Term Parliament Act.

General Elections always have key themes: It's the economy, stupid. Things can only get better. The pound. The coalition of instability. Yet, the central theme is always in the name. General.

The economy, NHS, schools, pensions, immigration, international development, you name it. Anything and everything is to be debated and decided upon prior to a general election. Indeed, the sheer variety of options on offer to the electorates often render a final decision incapable of being positive agreement. More, a considered 'least worst case option.' And that's not even considering the fact that public personalities always skew results to be more than just about principles.

But so it is that we approach the 2017 election, with such views being even more obscured than usual on account of the impending Brexit negotiations. To be frank, how can anyone choose whether to support a high or low tax agenda or an interventionist or laissez faire state approach when the underlying state of the economy is so murky. For those who attach themselves to such principles, Brexit may be no more a decider than an outcome. However, the number of people who hold such iron clad views is little more than a statistical anomaly in comparison to the electorate as a whole.

Yet, we are to believe that this election will, above all else, provide a 'mandate for Brexit'. A mandate for Brexit which apparently was not sufficiently delivered by a 51.9% support in June 2015. Despite this result being viewed as 'THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE'. Despite this result being nearly universally supported by a newspaper media frothing at its mouth over the outcome. Despite this mandate being wholeheartedly supported by 80% of the House of Commons, in contrast to the 51.9% support for Brexit per se.

This is my major difficulty with the 2017 election. It is being called, ostensibly, to provide support for a cause which has already been supported when this cause will not be entirely reflective in the final outcome, unlike the previous referendum. Of course in reality, the election has been called to exploit the current difficulties experienced by the official opposition whose leadership has sought only to alienate the vast majority of the constituents it looks to represent whilst the anti Brexit party continues to be hamstrung by its U turn on tuition fees (even if the current government's U turns are both more heavily numerous and significant).

More so, I do not believe that the electorate will cast their vote solely on account of Brexit, no matter the pre agenda coverage. Whilst Brexit is indeed the number one topic in the political classes, it is not necessarily so amongst the general public. Especially when we have not yet left the EU so are unable to confirm just how things will change. The general public may well have their primary concerns which are Brexit topics, but they may equally be influenced by a recent incident at a hospital, or their child's school. Perhaps they may be most concerned by who will most keep the nation safe in view of the global terrorism threat.  Their latest energy bill could push them to the direction of a party which promises to regulate these. They may even vote on account of how they view their local MP or the performance of the political parties as a whole.

So this election will, in all probability, produce a result which explicitly supports the course of action the Government plans to take. It will certainly be used as such. Yet, whilst the Prime Minster may claim that this result will bring Westminster together as the country is coming together, specific Brexit polls which show steadfast 45% opposition in together with the c. 5 - 10% of the country who are diametrically opposed to Brexit will continue to feel alienated. Only, this election looks to further quieten those who continue to believe in the 48.1% of the country who disagreed with this policy decision.

A decision which looks likely to succeed in the short term but which may only increase the volume at a later date. Although by then the noise could well be cancelled out by something else.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Round 9

Unfortunately, I haven't had time to place together my thoughts for this evening's games so I need to resort to listing them in sentence form!

Huddersfield v Warrington. Disagree with the market prices who look to have not factored in home advantage but I do fancy Warrington to sneak home and exact revenge for their first week loss.

Wigan v Catalans. A "justified" 1.1 shot but like last week, there's only one backable team.

Crusaders v St Helens. A fair price all things considered but Crusaders must be the option at the current odds.

Hull v Bradford. A scizophrenic side against a mediocre one. Anything could happen here so probably best to stay away.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Round 8

Last week I all but said that I expected my fortunes to take a downturn and it takes an excellent judge to be able to predict when they are wrong so I can at least take solace from that.

This week appears even harder to review and so I expect this to be the shortest preview yet.

The Friday night game on SKY is Wigan at Leeds and currently sees the visitors trading in the low 1.7s a price which appears fair. Leeds have been nothing short of poor this season and were incredibly unconvincing last week against Wakefield. However, they do remain a side which on paper, is capable of excellent results. One day, it will all click and they will produce the dominant performance they can do. Will it be against a Wigan side who will be desperate to avoid successive defeats. Well, it could be although it would be surprising. As with any SKY game, the value will come in play.

The other Friday night games see Castleford travel to Hull FC and Hull KR travel to St Helens. Hull FC showed their true schizophrenic powers at the weekend when they held a four point lead over Harlequins, conceded three straight tries in seven minutes before scoring four tries in the last fifteen minutes to win. It will surprise no-one then that I have no interest in a game where the market is fairly close.

The other game, Saints v Hull KR, screams out to be a game that I should be interested in. The home side on a good run of form against an away side who have been woeful recently. An over enthusiastic market then drives the price of the home side down too low. However, my stomach isn’t interested in this although my head is. Maybe a small back of the away side might be in order but it isn’t a game that I am overly confident on.

Saturday night sees more of the same when Salford host Crusaders. An in form home side against an away side out of sorts although again, I have reservations. This one is easier to explain in that Crusaders demolished Salford in Round 1. That is therefore more likely to act as a barrier against complacency for the home side and as a roadblock to the market driving the price down irrationally; even moreso when considering that these are two sides who aren’t regularly featured on SKY. Still, the pre match value does lie with Crusaders but I expect the biggest value to emerge in play.

Sunday sees two expected walkovers and a stroll in the park. Will it be that simple?

Warrington v Catalans reminds me of one of my earliest oppositions to home favourites when in 2009 the home side traded as low as 1.06 against Catalans before losing. The fact that 1.06 is likely to be the starting point for this game best illustrates the direction the two teams have gone in since. Certainly, that 1.06 was more valuable than this 1.06, but at 1.06, there can only be one side that can be backed.

Huddersfield v Wakefield is likely to be another 1.0 starting price and whilst the away side is unquestionably where the best value lies, the prices do reflect the talent available to both sides. Wakefield have performed admirably against Warrington, Hull and Leeds in recent weeks but I do wonder whether they may just fail to reach that level of performance this time around. However, there is still only one option available.

The other game on Sunday is where my strongest feeling lies but even that, for my standards, is ten parts water to one part juice. Harlequins are coming off a thrashing by Warrington and a capitulation against Hull whilst Bradford are also haven’t been in the best form recently. However, the Yorkshire side are in the 1.3s which is definitely a price driven by home advantage rather than anything else.

Despite Harlequins recent poor performances, they have shown enough that they are a side at or around the level of Bradford and whilst the Bulls won’t be easing off just yet, they are significantly shorter than the price they should be. I therefore do expect Bradford to win, but I would not expect them to win with the regularity that the market does.

However, that is the issue. All these games are played one time and one time only and anything can, and usually does, happen.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Round 7

Looking back on last week’s predictions were a real eye opener as it seemed that everything fell into place; with nearly all of my original thoughts being correct including predicting a Wakefield victory despite the Wildcats starting the game in double figures! One day I might grow the fortitude to trust my instincts (and remove the painful splinters from my bottom). Of course however, much of my success is down to randomness so I fully expect to have a couple of weeks where I get everything wrong; much like how I sometimes rate a team higher after a defeat than a victory. So without wanting to get everything wrong, let’s quickly look to this week’s games.

The big game of the week is the Friday night televised game between Wigan and Warrington which sees the two best sides in the competition go head to head. Usually in such games, my feelings towards home advantage automatically sways me to the visiting side, but yet again it seems that, contrary to history, the market is underrating Wigan significantly.

Let me make it clear, the best value should be found in play but I cannot understand why the reigning champions who have been very good this season should only be 1.75 favourites. Whilst they are missing some regular players, they have shown the strength in depth to cope with all but the worst injury crisis, and their opponents should not be over-estimated based upon a thrashing of an average side.

It certainly looks like the market is overreacting to Warrington’s impressive scoreline last week but once the match starts, that counts for nothing.

The other Friday night game sees St Helens host Bradford and Mick Potter return to his former club. I have been underwhelmed by Bradford this year whilst St Helens looked a different side last week once they fielded a 13 man team. The market therefore looks right for this game but if I had to choose, I would prefer the potential reward of the underdogs.

That is also true in the Saturday night game in France where Catalans are 1.4 to defeat a Salford side coming off an impressive victory last week. I’m not ready to buy into Catalans just yet and whilst their recent performances have been more impressive than I anticipated, I would not treat them as sub 1.5 favourites for any game.

The televised Saturday game sees two sides who lost as 1.5 favourites last week when Huddersfield travel to Hull KR. My gut feeling is that Huddersfield, at 1.6, are too short. That said, it is hard for me to piece together a convincing reason to back Hull KR. The best I could possibly do is to expect the Robins to look to kick start their season in front of the Sky cameras with a home crowd desperate for their side to live upto the hype but that is a weak argument!

Moving onto Sunday and Leeds v Wakefield looks to be appropriately priced. Whilst Wakefield are coming off a victory, Leeds impressed last week and are significantly the more talented side. Given Wakefield’s young squad, I expect two victories to be too much to string together.

The most intriguing game is Hull travelling to Harlequins in a game where I’d almost favour both sides to lose. Harlequins started the season very well but were woeful when losing 82 – 6 last week whilst Hull have only one victory all season and lost at home to Wakefield last week.

There is no doubting that Hull are the more talented side, significantly so on paper. However, they look to be in free fall whereas Harlequins’ loss was more likely to be a blip and a result of an average squad simply having little more to give. I therefore cannot agree with Hull being favourites, although given the potential variance in Hull’s performance level, whether Harlequins’ price is worthy of constituting value is questionable.

The final game on Sunday is Castleford hosting the Crusaders. I mentioned last week of Castleford possibly doing a Hull and if the Crusaders can produce their form from Round 1, they do have the ability to secure a shock victory. That said, the current odds look about right although like Saints v Bradford, if I had to choose, it wouldn’t take long to decide.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Round 6

After Friday night, we will be thirty eight games into the one hundred and eighty nine games scheduled to be played this season. With time flying by so quickly, I am determined to make these previews more and more concise. (Removing the second more would be a good start.)

There won’t be very many laughably priced games left at this rate. Certainly few as daft as Harlequins’ starting price of 7/1 against St Helens last week.

Friday’s night game is another that I will miss although this one is much more like Warrington v St Helens than Huddersfield v Harlequins. In other words, I disagree with the odds. At the start of the week, Huddersfield could be backed (or in my case, laid(!)) at around 2.0. However, following the suspension of the Tomkins brothers, the Giants are edging towards 1.5.

It is a difficult game to predict because Wigan are missing Sam Tomkins, Martin Gleeson, Pat Richards, Paul Deacon, Brett Finch, Stuart Fielden, Eammon O’Carroll and Joel Tomkins. Especially important is the loss of Tomkins, Deacon and Finch who are undoubtedly three of their most important creative players.

Meanwhile, for two years Huddersfield have slowly ascended into the top class of clubs although their success has been built more on consistency than creativity although the Danny Brough and Kevin Brown partnership is developing into a very good one.

However, I believe Wigan to be the better side and therefore I would make them favourites. Now, with the Tomkins’ suspensions and the lack of halfbacks, it is understandable the market would look to back a Huddersfield side coming off an impressive win but at a price nearing 1.5?

I’d be most confident that this game won’t produce many points, but I would look to favour Wigan who boast a terrific away record and a strong consistency and who have their backs up against the wall. However, whoever wins won’t shock me but at the current prices, there looks to be value with the Lancashire side.

There are three non televised games to accompany the main event and I don’t have much to say on two of them. Catalans and Crusaders are the two sides I feel least confident on and therefore I can’t find any value in this market whilst Salford v Hull KR looks to be priced correctly, although I remain expectant that Salford could, at some point this season, develop into the Top 8 side I thought I saw pre-season and at odds over 3, they do look the better value.

The other game in action this weekend is Hull FC v Wakefield. Likely to be priced in the 1.0s, I fancy Wakefield to win this. From watching last week’s game, Wakefield, whilst extremely limited in attack, showed exceptional character and a solid defence. Meanwhile, despite running Wigan close last week, Hull remain very much the schizophrenic side. Capable of brilliance or disaster and with no middle ground.

This is the type of game Wakefield can win. Now, as with any 1.0 shot, the price is there for a reason. However, returning to the club that he coached to Challenge Cup success, I believe John Kear can motivate his side to a shock victory which could see the end of Richard Agar’s reign in Hull.

On Wednesday this week, I would have made Leeds massive favourites for their mouth-watering tie against St Helens. The latter appeared very much to be a club in meltdown, insistent on allowing sides to play against them with a man advantage. Then however, something has happened to make departing Scrum Half Kyle Eastmond suspended for “Serious Misconduct”. Several will tell you this should be for a series of effortless displays which have to be seen to be believed, but apparently it may relate to the only action he has performed this year, which was giving an alleged V to fans who had the audacity to boo his performance although other darker rumours continue to circle in the background.

With that, I believe St Helens can win. From a market’s point of view, the loss of Eastmond is a blow as he is a central player. However, Eastmond’s sheer lack of effort and the likely increase to team morale that will form as the club bonds together in adversity act as positive factors in my view.

Whilst, as with any SKY game, the biggest value is likely to develop in play, I again have a fairly strong belief in the underdog away side.

Turning to Sunday and again Harlequins look likely to be massive underdogs away to a Lancashire side although given Warrington’s form, the price is more understandable. Surely lightning cannot strike for a third time although again, there is only one price that can constitute any value.

The other game on Sunday is, in my belief, the perfect example of too much being read into one game and an over reliance on form.

Castleford Tigers, who were as long as 1.55 to beat Catalans at home last week are now as short as 1.8 to beat Bradford away from home and given the importance that the markets place on home field advantage, that is an absurdity.

As it is, I do struggle to find massive value in this game due to the fact that I underrate Bradford in accordance to the market so far whilst I have overrated Castleford. Maybe the market is coming round to my way of thinking but maybe, Castleford could end up like Hull last year.

A fast starting side who the market initially views with contempt before jumping in and staying in bed with the side even as they produce woeful performances which belie their early season form.

I believe Castleford are too good to fall into such a situation but it is worth keeping an eye out for.

Back to the game, and I agree that this is one that looks too close to call and one that I can’t see any massive value in. However, here’s hoping to some value being found during the games.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Round 5

I imagine this will be without doubt my shortest work, as this week of Rugby League action looks, on paper, to be one of the most uninspiring that we have been treated to in a while. Although it may just be that any optimism has been dulled by one of my worst weeks trading wise last week which saw a 1.04 reversal in the annual Varsity match last year stick in my mind unduly despite there being an enormous gulf in quality between the two sides. An alcohol strengthened blind judgement call which turned out to be erroneous and a malfunctioning phone which contributed to not leaving a market at the appropriate time.

The total cost was less than my earnings in the World Club Challenge, but being someone who looks to draw arbitrary distinctions on a monthly basis, it wasn’t the best start.

Friday’s three games look set to see the favourites all set off at below 1.2 and the biggest gulf looks set to be in the televised game where Warrington travel to Wakefield. It seems almost absurd that Wakefield were 1.6 home favourites just two weeks ago. However, Warrington look in danger of being hugely overrated if they do set off at the 1.0 price that current looks probable although Warrington are undeniably clear favourites.

Wakefield do have a reputation however for raising their game when it matters and I have to say I actually expect them to produce a competitive performance against a Warrington side which is without Brett Hodgson and Adrian Morley. Still, it is very hard to see Warrington trailing at the final hooter, although I know who I’d rather be backing at the current prices.

But if you merely wanted value, look no further than the sheer absurdity of the price in the St Helens Harlequins game. Now, Harlequins’ bubble may have burst last week with their defeat to Huddersfield but they have proved that they are a competent side. Meanwhile, St Helens look to be a side whose best days have passed and have a lengthy injury list including key creators Leon Pryce and Jon Wilkin and have strong doubts over prop forwards Josh Perry and Louie McCarthy Scarsbrook. Throw in an uninterested Kyle Eastmond and a rookie stand off, and the price of 1.2 looks one that would have been calculated Pre Season and not one that reflects the ability of the teams.

Harlequins have managed one shock victory this year and it is said that lightning doesn’t strike twice. Maybe not, but this price sure looks indefensible.

The other Friday night game sees Leeds host Salford. The Rhinos go into the game with no recognised prop forwards and an injury list as long as most people’s shopping lists. Salford are no mugs and are capable of a victory, their recent performances have not displayed their potential, but you would think that Leeds’ massive desire for a win and a better performance after a lukewarm start under coach Brian McDermott should see them home, but the value would appear to lie with the visitors.

Saturday’s televised game looks set to be overshadowed by an irrelevant competition called the Six Nations which you may have heard about. Castleford have had a great start to the season and do look too long at 1.4 against a Catalans side that are yet to display any of their traditional flair but one could question whether Castleford could sub-consciously ease off. However, the key for this game is to get a second opinion on Scott Dureau, the Catalans halfback who looked dire against Harlequins in the season opener. A team can only go as far as their halfbacks will take them and Dureau’s performance could indicate how the Catalans will fare until Thomas Bosc returns.

Amazingly, Sunday also sees a further three games with very strong home favourites.

Wigan host Hull and whilst Hull are coming off an impressive display last week, it is hard to see Hull gaining something from the match. Certainly, 1.25 looks as fair a home favourite price but the more this slips, the more the value edges towards a Hull side who, on their day, could compete with any side in Super League.

Huddersfield host Bradford and again, their starting price of around 1.4 looks fair although this may be due to the fact that I seemingly have Bradford rated far, far lower than anyone else which is something to factor into any equations. Certainly, Bradford are far from no hopers but I don’t see value screaming out to me at the current prices.

Lastly, Super League looks set to welcome Willie Mason as Hull KR host Crusaders. I’ve wrote previously that I haven’t been able to get a hold on Crusaders but with Michael Dobson missing for the hosts, this match looks to have the most value for away backers. You would expect that the frenzy created through Mason’s introduction should see the Robins home, but they still need to create the tries and if the price is in the 1.1s, I would be very careful as the Crusaders have shown this year that they can score points.

After a bad week, the tendency is to go conservative and there are very few high value opportunities this week. However, if you put your head away totally you miss everything, and I would be more surprised if there was not two games that go against the grain this weekend. Which two? Well, if you know, please let me know!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Round 4

It’s fair to say that the next few weeks of the season can offer the highest risk / reward of the year. With most teams now having been televised twice, and three games played for all teams but Castleford, most have been able to build fairly solid opinions of all teams.

However, in my opinion such opinions can be prematurely formed and can occasionally not be fully reflective of a team’s abilities but rather an indicator of form although it can be very difficult in separating the two.

The Friday night SKY game is the prime example of this where Harlequins host Huddersfield and a fairly significant amount of money was matched in the mid 1.6s before the price crashed to below 1.5 and it is a game which I would struggle to price up.

At the start of the season, Harlequins looked like being one of the weakest teams in the competition; devoid of strength, skill and speed. However, coach Rob Powell has the Quins playing out of their skins, with victories over Catalans, Crusaders and Leeds this season. Meanwhile, Huddersfield have not been particularly impressive and since their opening victory, have appeared to be rather overrated considering starting prices.

I am not sold on Quins however who appear to be a side playing to their maximum rather than turning out to be a significantly better team than advertised. That said, I do think that Huddersfield appear significantly on the short side at below 1.5 although as per usual with SKY games, I would expect the biggest value to show itself in play, even if this is another game which I will miss.

Another game on Friday night sees Hull FC take on Crusaders. Hull are the only side to have not won this season and they have carried on their awful 2010 end of season form. I say form, but I strongly believe that Hull are an incredibly overrated side who appear to be poorly coached. I had Hull rated significantly below their average prediction and the current price in the 1.4s appears incorrect.

However, I have not been able to get a handle on Crusaders. Last year, I continued to hold a belief that they were a woeful side even as they scraped a playoff place. Being a side largely made up from Australians, I may have difficulty in establishing their baseline but having seen them twice this year, I have been suitably impressed. More so in Cardiff than in Wrexham but they look a team capable of scoring frequently.

That is in direct contradiction to Hull who, especially with Sean Long out, look stifled for creativity and lack that little bit of magic out wide. I would not be surprised if Hull win. They should be favourites, and they could canter home but it’s fair to say that I far from agree with the starting price.

The other Friday night game sees Wigan travel to Salford. The Warriors will surely be extra keen to rebound from their WCC defeat whilst Salford will play hosts without their top two coaches, with Assistant Phil Veivers in Australia and Head Coach Shaun McRae having been placed on a month’s leave due to an unspecified illness. Whilst you could usually look to expect a club to pull together in such circumstances, the ability and professionalism of Wigan should see them through although my thoughts on low odds are well known.

Saturday night sees Warrington host Leeds Rhinos on SKY in what could be a cracker. As with any SKY games, the main value will lie in play and this is a difficult game to call. Whilst I feel safe with describing Warrington as a top team, Leeds have been incredibly poor this season. Whilst they have missed key players in Danny McGuire and Jamie Peacock, it has been the basics that they have struggled with.

However, I can imagine that the Rhinos will be extra fired up to set things straight and kick start their season. So whilst the current prices would look to favour Warrington on paper, I could easily see the Rhinos coming out all guns firing and securing what would be a surprise victory.

The other Saturday game sees St Helens travel to Catalans where, hopefully, they can leave Kyle Eastmond – sans passport. Eastmond’s performance against Warrington may have been one of the worst I have ever seen in Super League – certainly the worst if you were comparing ability against performance. Whilst nearly all Saints fans wanted to release Eastmond immediately, one can only hope that with the news now being made public, Eastmond can produce a performance like he actually wants to play. That said, with Saints set to recall Leon Pryce, they should be able to defeat a Catalans side who produced an excellent victory last week but, unless Scott Dureau is capable of replicating Michael Dobson’s impact on the French outfit, should continue to struggle for the majority of the season.

On Sunday, Bradford host Wakefield and the Wildcats return to being heavy outsiders from the favourites they were last week en route to a 32-6 mauling from Salford. Wakefield will struggle this year, but coach John Kear is at his best with his back against the wall, and Wakefield’s young side are capable of springing the odd surprise this year. Therefore, if they continue to be heavy outsiders, there will certainly have been worse shouts this year. Especially as Bradford are yet to impress this year and with their first choice halfbacks out injured, may lack for organisation and creativity.

The other Sunday game sees Castleford take on Hull KR and sees a price which baffles me.

The Tigers have been excellent this season although one may wonder how their week’s break will impact any momentum they had built up. Meanwhile, Hull KR are without their key player in Michael Dobson and also have Jake Webster suspended. I expected the Tigers to be around 1.5, especially given the “home advantage” but bizarrely, the initial prices see the bookmakers unable to separate the two clubs.

I have been higher on Castleford than most this season and it would not shock me if the Tigers did lose, especially given my thoughts on home advantage. However, from an odds point of view, the price appears staggering especially when Hull KR are without their key player who for the past two seasons, has been their dominant controlling force. It is just such a rarity that I consider a home side to have been overpriced; usually I can’t even agree any home price!

A quick note as well that National League rugby returns to SKY next Thursday which sees an additional televised game per week which can be traded. Hopefully this will be competitive than the one sided Varsity match that was televised tonight which again resulted in a maximum loss. Maybe last year’s memory of a 16-0 turnaround stayed strong! However, the gulf between the two sides was as large as any that I can recall seeing and Oxford eased home to victory so comprehensively, that even the largest handicap was traded at 1.01 after 25 minutes!