Sunday, 6 September 2009

Review of the weekend to date.

I was looking over some of my initial blog posts earlier and this reinforced the progress I have made. I probably would not have believed that eight months later I would be looking to pay the premium charge for the first time but that looks a 1.01 shot given my weekly results.

The two SKY Rugby League games this week were very different yet very similar in so far as a home favourite yo-yoed to begin with before coming home in the second half. However, anyone looking to trade the draw would have been stunned by the difference in the draw prices.

In the Saints v Leeds game, the draw struggled to rise above 30 in play in the first half which was a surprise. Now, I have always advocated backing the draw early on, and I do get uncomfortable when I don’t have a very large green on the draw as aside from the trading opportunities, it is also good insurance for a poor trade.

Recently however, I have become more comfortable with taking on red on the draw and this game was the perfect illustration of when to lay the draw. For whatever reason, the draw could be laid at 14 at Half Time. Now, the market seems to panic when the scores are level at Half Time as latecomers to the draw look to build up some green on the draw. However, a long term view is that the draw will not reduce in a linear fashion in the second half; and even if it does do given that the draw very rarely enters single figure territory until 60 minutes have gone, it is a fairly low risk trade and whilst the draw never exploded until very late on, it did rise enough to allow me to trade most out in the high teens and low twenties whilst also backing some back at around the laying price.

As for the game itself, it was a heated affair which resulted in one of the most ridiculous sin binnings of all time. Put simply, Keith Senior should have been sent off for his punch with two minutes to go, only for referee Phil Bentham to sin bin him. The colour of the card was irrelevant; Senior would be off for the rest of the match but he should have walked given the touch judges’ report on his punch whilst Leeds’ other tactics, including a disgraceful chicken wing tackle on James Graham, should also see one or two players take an enforced rest next week when they wrap up the Minor Premiership.

The rest of my trading was unspectacular; the only point of real note being my decision to oppose Saints when Leon Pryce was sin binned, only for that to not work out real well although I did at least manage to cut my losses before Saints’ first try although I was quite frustrated by the lack of liquidity on the game but Friday games won’t be the same without me whinging about liquidity!

Saturday’s game was quite the opposite with much more liquidity available which was quite bizarre given that the game conflicted with a cricket match, the US Open and England’s friendly! Still, that may have been helped by someone, or some people, strongly opposing the draw as the draw drifted from 30 to 40 in almost one movement before the match, and the draw was also heavily laid throughout the game early on which did allow me to build up several thousand on the draw which, at 16 – 12 to Hull KR, I felt very comfortable about whilst I even thought that Hull KR’s try on the hooter could be a very good thing, as it would ensure that I did not trade out too much at too high odds! However, a second stray Warrington pass, ensured that Hull KR went three scores up and that my draw bet was effectively over, although the increased liquidity and my draw trades did help me to my best result of the week at around £130.

I also got involved in the other games, with my strongest game being Wakefield v Catalans and whilst a draw lay and a back of Catalans being taken just before kick off did make me slightly nervous and disappointed (I really need to exit non TV games 15 minutes before kick off) I did end up earning a not inconsiderable £30.

A draw lay was also taken in the Wigan v Hull game which again made me slightly uneasy, especially given Hull’s first half performance, and I ended up with a very small £2 loss on the market.

Huddersfield v Celtic also saw Huddersfield start at 1.06 which, even for a layer like myself, was ridiculously high and I only wish I had been strong enough to take some of this and / or take more of the absurd 1.07 in play when Huddersfield were 6 – 0 up. As it was, I ended up winning around £2 from the main market, whilst Celtic’s late comeback allowed me to take around £5 from the handicap market.

Meanwhile, this weekend has fastened up two further strategies which I will look to commence next year. The fact that they could be heavily affected by one result means that I won’t look to implement them next week but I will outline them now.

The first is to lay the draw in non in play games. My draw backing in SKY games comes from the trading opportunities they offer; very few games will end up in a draw. Still, being able to lay the draw in the low 20s would seem to offer value although obviously I will need to strengthen my nerves to follow through on the strategy!

The second relates to handicaps and my reluctance to enter handicap markets because whilst a team will fight tooth and nail to hang on to a victory, they probably won’t always display the same commitment to win by 16 as opposed to 12. So, and whilst I acknowledge that liquidity may make this a non starter, I will look to consider laying handicap favourites in play at the end of games. As I mentioned, very little money gets matched on handicaps in play, although I may look to put out some prices towards the end of matches although this is something I will look to investigate more in the close season.

And the close season is rapidly approaching with just one more round of Super League and just a further 16 televised games remaining. Never fail however, because the NFL is starting up. I had limited success trading this last year and will need to look to reintroduce and refine my strategies for the upcoming year. I will look to outline my thoughts on the season and trades next week although one thing I have noticed is the amount of markets available before the season commences with the Superbowl market, Division markets, Conference markets and Team Win markets all looking to hold some value.

Still, I am unsure whether to get involved in these markets or whether this is too much like straight gambling. (Would this also interfere with my trading of individual matches?) Any thoughts from anyone would be greatly appreciated!

Still, that’s another matter for another day with slightly more pressing issues for today! The first is the premium charge with a £50 - £60 bill looking likely. I was tempted to look to possibly trade between Betfair and someone else to avoid the charge (even if there was little profit, at least it would avoid the premium charge!) but with Betdaq having no introductory offers and most Bookmakers limiting accounts these days, it probably is something that needs to be saved for another day.

Secondly, there are a further two SL matches today and whilst Quins v Cas looks to be priced fairly appropriately (although the draw is too short), I do feel that Bradford v Salford may offer some value and will look to possibly carry some liability in play on Bradford. 1.2 is too short and whilst Bradford stand on the verge of making the top 8 which would be a terrific achievement, I just think the current price is too short given that Bradford have struggled with consistency all season and that Salford have managed to beat both the top two teams this year. Still, that’s just my thought; anything can happen but we will know the outcome this afternoon!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

You play to win the game.

This week’s National League 1 game was by far the most infuriating game I can remember this season. It is perfectly acceptable that a couple of refereeing decisions might go one way, the ball might bounce another way, that’s part of the unique randomness that makes Rugby League so great. However, when a team plays with a certain disregard and apathy to whether they win or not; well there is nothing wrong with that as they are perfectly entitled to do so but it sure is frustrating.

Barrow travelled to Sheffield in tonight’s SKY game knowing that they only needed to gain a “Bonus point” to secure the league. Meanwhile, Sheffield were faced with the prospect of finishing anywhere between 2nd and 6th so were desperate for a win.

Trailing by twelve in the second half, Barrow received a penalty in Sheffield’s half where they made the decision to go for goal. At this stage of the game, the rationale behind the decision was clear. Barrow had little concern as to whether they won or lost; the key aspect was whether they got the bonus point or no points. (A bonus point is awarded to any team losing by 12 or less.) It was a slightly curious decision, because 2 points by itself would not have any real advantage unless Sheffield then dropped a goal.

It did make sense that when Barrow got another penalty, they would go for a further 2 points – keeping the bonus point should Sheffield get an unconverted try.

Barrow then dropped a goal to lower the margin to 7. Again, a slightly curious decision because again by itself, it would have a limited impact although it would make a huge difference when Barrow then dropped another goal, meaning that even another Sheffield try would ensure that Barrow kept their bonus point.

Only Sheffield didn’t follow the script, or followed it too well, as Barrow ended up getting another try to somehow draw level, before a late Sheffield drop goal and try ensured that Sheffield won by 7 in a result that kept both teams happy.

Now, I have no issue with either team. They both had an objective to meet and even though I disagree with Barrow’s method (their safety first approach actually created further risk in my opinion) you can’t blame them. They had nothing to gain by winning as opposed to obtaining the bonus result and in no way was the game “fixed”.

My immediate frustrations were more with my trading, which I shall explain shortly, but before I do, I hope that the fundamental flaw with the bonus point system has been promoted. It is a system which rewards one side whilst not punishing the other. (Obviously there is the issue of points difference but in a game tight enough to invoke the bonus point, a 6 point swing in points difference is negligible.)

And Sheffield themselves have been perhaps the greatest beneficiary of the bonus point system, given that they currently sit 2nd despite winning less games than the team in 6th! The Eagles have achieved the bonus point in each of their losses and maybe it does reward consistency (mediocrity I would suggest).

However, if the RFL are to continue with such a system, and I don’t think they should; the argument that it keeps losing teams “interested” is flawed because any team that is close enough to the bonus point will still have a chance to win (until the very end) whereas a real thrashing will not be brought back to the bonus point! then I think at the very least a system needs to be incorporated where a team is punished for allowing a bonus point. This could be very easily achieved by having a Points system of 4 for a win, 2 for a draw and 0 for a loss, but 3 and 1 if the game qualifies for a bonus point.

Anyway, enough of my thoughts on RL in general; there will be an off-season for them, and onto my trading! My style of trading is very much to trade the market to apportion the green as I see fit. It is something that I have done very well this season; except for tonight where whenever I backed one team, the advantage would shift to the other!

It got to the stage where I just found it funny. I seemed to be able to control the course of the game and somehow at Half Time, I was only effectively £30 down. In part this was due to my draw trading; I had over £2,000 on the draw; a result of the poor liquidity on the draw in National League games! I even got the price swing at Half Time wrong, well I actually got it right, but I had bailed just before the market suddenly swung 3 or 4 ticks!

Anyway, my second half trading was better to begin with, catching onto Sheffield’s score and trading the draw well before Barrow decided to just go for the bonus point. At this time, I had around £2,000 on the draw, a couple of hundred on Barrow and a red of around £150 on Sheffield.

However, when I saw Barrow’s antics, I basically gave up trading the game. I looked to just get out at any price only for Barrow to comeback and see my 1.1 backs of Sheffield and my Draw lays of 30+ go to 2.5 and 6! I’ll let you count up how much that cost me, but it wasn’t over yet as in my haste to try to get on Sheffield in a change of possession, I actually missed the price I wanted and got the next. Only for the liquidity to be so bad that instead of getting 2, I got 1.2!

Looking back, I suppose it was near enough a miracle to win just under £100, but it could have been so much more… And it should have been. I just got so agitated by Barrow’s tactics that I failed to appreciate the context of the match and yet again, I had an abysmal trading performance only to be helped out at the end for a reasonable profit.

Still, I missed out on a chance to earn a larger amount, which I need to start doing on account of my recent qualification for the Premium Charge. Forgive me if I fail to celebrate too loudly. At least Betfair did notify me that they would reimburse the charge for the first week (Gee that was nice but why not also reimburse the remaining allowance for that week as well?) A whole £27.02, I can’t imagine all the delights I can buy with that, but at least Betfair did have the grace to point out that the charge would only apply if I continued to be “successful” (Not true – if I win one week and then lose the next; you don’t refund it!) and they even had the modesty to sign off with Betfair – Betting as it should be. (Indeed, if you like losing approximately 20% of your winnings through a calculation that no-one understands and cannot replicate!)

A quick preview of the weekend’s action, and I do mean quick because I am in need of sleep!

Saints v Leeds – The value will come in play as usual. It depends on which Saints side turns up and whether the rumoured disagreements with Coach Potter are actually true. One to watch.

Wigan v Hull FC – It’s hard to see Hull winning a second successive game but you guys know my feelings on 1.1 or 1.2 shots! Especially when the other team are so reliant upon a rookie halfback who can very easily have an off day. (See Myler, Richard.)

Moving onto Saturday

Hull KR v Warrington – Again, wait and see. The value will come in play and whilst it is a must win game for Warrington, will their Cup celebrations have adversely affected their preparations? Tony Smith is a stickler for detail, but it is incredibly hard to focus fully after such an emotional high. Personally, if Warrington win here and go onto make the playoffs, it would be such an achievement that I would make them a good shot to get to Old Trafford.

Celtic v Huddersfield – Obviously Celtic are putting out youngsters who aren’t ready for Super League, but remember, the same was said about Huddersfield against Saints. Not one to invest wisely in, but if you have £2 which the premium charge would otherwise take, there are worse ways to lose it.

Catalans v Wakefield – Classic case of overrated home bias. Catalans should be favourites and are most likely to win, but might the pressure get to them? Whilst Catalans do have a genuine home advantage, do not forget that Wakefield have had 2 weeks to prepare, and anything over 3 is worth strong consideration.

Finally, on Sunday there are two games.

Bradford v Salford – A mixture of Catalans and Wigan. Bradford are again the clear favourites, but it must be remembered that Salford have defeated both the top two this year (so have Bradford as well). Bradford have put together an excellent run of late but might the week off have stalled their progress? They need to win to keep their incredibly faint playoff hopes alive (although they could be crushed before they play). Again, anything in the 1.1 – 1.2s is worth a back of the away side. It’s worked up until now.

Harlequins v Castleford – The tightest game of the round and probably the most important. Whoever loses will be all but out of playoff contention, although Castleford’s last match against Celtic could see them scrape through even with a loss here. A very tough game to call as my two main strategies conflict. (Recent poor form v Home bias) For that reason, I’d be tempted to go with the outsider which is currently Castleford, but this is obviously not a very strong call!

Although, as with all of them, I have qualified and disqualified them all so many times in my head that whatever happens, I won’t be surprised! If only I stuck to my original opinions, I would have had a much better season (Probably!) And remember, as usual, I’ll send you a 100% refund cheque for the cost of my tips if they go wrong.

14 Super League games remaining, and 18 Televised games remaining so it is time to make the most of everyone of them before I attempt to re-find my social life on weekends!