Saturday, 13 February 2010

Tough Going

For someone who backs outsiders, it is especially galling when an outsider wins and you haven’t backed it and that is exactly what happened when Crusaders defeated Salford last night. It also throws into question whether my “success” in assessing RL matches is more down to the general theory of backing the away underdog as opposed to assessing the teams.

I thought Salford would over achieve this season but after two games the pressure already seems to be on Shaun McRae. One look at the Salford side shows that they are a young and inexperienced side and you have to wonder whether this is the main reason for their struggles. The return of Mark Henry and Willie Talau may help the Reds, and let’s not forget that Salford had a similarly poor start last year before going on to defeat Saints and Leeds but the Reds already look to be rivalling Crusaders for the Wooden spoon, although I would think that the real value would lie in Harlequins who have looked equally as poor but are almost three times as long!

I also managed to get the other two games wrong. Hull defeated Huddersfield in a game that I considered to be a coin toss although the injury to Brett Hodgson did give Hull the advantage although at 2/1, Huddersfield still seem overpriced to me despite the eventual result. Also peculiar was the draw which usually trades in the mid 20s for non in play games but reached 40 before kick off which I also thought represented value despite not coming in.

Of greater concern was the Wigan v Hull KR match. Not because I thought that the value lied with Hull KR (As per any SKY game, I believe the real value comes in play and so use minimal stakes pre match and increase during the game – the 1.1 rule came in handy here) but because of the way the markets operated in play.

As per any in play event, you will encounter fast picture people but in the past, they have usually left “value” prices at non try events such as knock ons, penalties etc… However, I found myself knowing what would happen before seeing it because the market seemed incredibly ahead of my television which is making the markets impossible to trade in my usual manner.

However, the markets do seem unusually thin during the games at the moment so maybe the problem is not that the fast picture people are spreading their net wider, but that there are less traders taking a position. Either way, as long as the markets continue like this, then it is effecting my trading as I usually like to trade cautiously before imposing my position on my book whereas at the moment, I am having to do the latter first.

Maybe I shall have to display more confidence in my initial positions!

So on to tonight’s game and last night re-inforced my thoughts that it is hard to establish accurate opinions at ths stage without seeing the teams in action so far this season.

However, both Warrington and Castleford are fairly settled from their 2009 squads and I do feel that the maket might be overreacting to Castleford’s impressive win last week and home advantage. However, whilst I do think Tony Smith has removed Warrington’s inconsistency, I still cannot bring myself to fully recommend them at 1.5! Nonetheless, the value should emerge in play although if it is anything like last Saturday’s game, you may struggle to get matched. Here’s hoping to increased liquidity going forward!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Super League Round 2 - Quick thoughts

I like to get some brief thoughts down on here for the upcoming Super League games so here’s how I see things. I’m only going to do the Friday games now as it has been a very long day.

Wigan v Hull KR

As this is the SKY game, I would stress the point that you are more likely to find value in play so I would avoid overstaking to begin with. That said, I disagree with the opening odds. For mine, Wigan should be more like a 1.6 shot. I’m notoriously abysmal at predicting pre match prices, however!

This is the second game of the season for both sides, and neither have any new injury concerns. Both teams played inferior opposition last week and so you probably can’t read too much into their performances.

One thing I have noticed is that the markets have a tendency to hop onto bandwagons but also like to support long held views. Wigan have a reputation for being a “big side” despite not living upto this in the recent past – indeed their price nearly always seems lower (in my eyes) than what it should be.

So, why do I consider Wigan underpriced? Well, I agree that they should be favourites. Wigan can probably expect a Top 4 berth at the end of the year and this is the games that they need to win. However, 1.3s appears too low a price for two teams who are fairly well matched. I consider Wigan to be overly reliant upon Sam Tomkins for creativity and whilst he has been supplied with an improved pack in 2010 (Stuart Fielden seems to be as keen as ever, Iafeta has lost weight and Paul Prescott has a year’s more experience) and a master organiser in Paul Deacon who can take some pressure off him, I would always worry about a second season player being the hub of your team.

Hull KR are no mugs either. I do think they will struggle to replicate their 2009 success and they are light going forward but having reviewed the stats from their opening match, I think I may have overestimated their weakness in this area. Admittedly it was only against Salford, but Hull KR’s starting props set a good platform averaging over 8 m per carry whilst their interchange props averaged over 7 m. Not outstanding, and you can expect that to decrease against a better defence, but when you factor in the kicking game of Michael Dobson and Paul Cooke, I start to believe that KR are capable of matching Wigan in a territorial battle.

On account of the above and my previously expressed views on the fact that early in the season, so much is unknown and that RL can be a random game at the best of times, 1.3 is too short an opening price but I wouldn’t dive in. A good start from Wigan will see their price drop massively and allow you time to analyse the game on the field itself.

Salford v Crusaders

Crusaders have scored two tries this year and have gained fewer metres than Warrington despite having played twice as long. I like underdogs and you can never rule Celtic out, but their odds look very skinny.

Crusaders will improve as the year goes on, but I would be surprised if they found the cohesion that they have lacked so far this season against a Salford side, who appear to be largely underrated. I really like the Salford halfback pairing, especially with Daniel Holdsworth offering guidance from loose forward although the Reds’ backline is very green and lightweight.

Backing 1.3s will only lead you to the poorhouse so if you are going to cover anything, I would look at Celtic, but I would only advise very small stakes.

Hull v Huddersfield

Heads or Tails? That’s how I see this one. And given that one side is a widely available 6/4, I know who I am backing.

I was very impressed by Hull last week, but I was equally impressed by Huddersfield. Both have the makings of solid sides who will be impressive in 2010.

I just think the market has over-reacted to a good display against a very poor Saints side and are factoring in home advantage too much. Yes, Hull do have better go forward and have more experience in the halves, but Huddersfield’s backs look far stronger than Hull’s and they aren’t exactly poor in the halves and forwards.

This one really could go either way; no result would surprise me but given the odds available, I know where I think the value lies.

Monday, 8 February 2010

The Superbowl - The case for not trading out.

For various reasons, I had not really got involved in trading NFL as much this season as I had hoped to although I more than made up for this on Sunday night. I have given myself a lot of criticism recently over my trading performance in Rugby League, but it would be very difficult for me to offer any criticism of my Superbowl trading.

Before the game, I held a very strong opinion that New Orleans would win the Superbowl. Their starting price in the 2.7s not only seemed generous to me but also seemed to be extraordinarily high for trading purposes although I was keen not to overcommit given that the market could collapse if Indy started quickly. So, I regularly fed £10 lays of Indy into the system until the point where I would reach my maximum liability.

In addition to this, I had placed a £50 lay on Peyton Manning as MVP. Now, of all sportspeople worldwide, I would assert that I believe Manning to be the best of the very best and believe that his work ethic and cerebral approach sets a superb example for all he acts as a role model for. However, I expected Manning and the Colts to under-perform. Manning is so great at processing information quickly that I considered the two week delay would be a disadvantage as the extra time to gameplan would not help the Colts as much as it would the Saints, whilst I also could not get away from Manning’s previous struggles in big games.

As it was, the Colts did get a flying start and at 10-0 up, could readily be laid at around 1.25 although my drip feed strategy ensured that my average laying odds were significantly higher than that! However, on account of my maximum loss, I opted not to invest in the Saints any further.

The turning point of the game though when Pierre Garcon dropped a regulation third down pass when Garcon had a lot of space ahead of him and could have turned the play into a big game. What happened next was the result of several unprecedented but courageous decisions which history will prove to be the correct calls but were decisions that I supported and even predicted!

The first was the decision to go for it on 4th and Goal from the 1 with two minutes to go in the first half. Not only was this the correct call, but in an ironic twist of fate, I believe the Saints’ failure turned out to be the best result. By backing the Colts up so much, they neutralised the Colts’ two minute offence which scored 14 points against Baltimore and 7 against New York. So, rather than losing the two minute game 7 – 3 or tying it 7 – 7 by getting the ball back and kicking a field goal, the Saints won this encounter 3 – 0 which really was an exceptional result.

The only issue in all this was the Colts’ decision to run on 3rd and 1 which was a huge error but even if the Colts had converted here, New Orleans’ decision to go for it would have still been the correct one and the failure would have rested upon the run D of the Saints.

And then there was the onside kick. The play that more than any other will define the coaching career of Sean Payton. However, this was not a gambling play but a carefully considered decision and one that had little downside. Given how Peyton Manning can tear a defence apart in the first drive of the second half, it was almost irrelevant whether he first fielded the ball on the Saints’ 40 or his own 20 whilst the chance of denying Manning an all important possession was one that could not be turned down.

After all that, there was never any doubt in my mind that the Saints would win and from a trading prospective, this was the ideal game to show how I wish to trade.

At this point, I could have locked into a nice profit and left the market happy and profitable. However, I didn’t. Until the Saints went two scores up, I considered the market to be out of line with the odds as I perceived them to be. Therefore, I didn’t trade out but rather sat on my position. Then, after the interception of Manning, I considered 1.02 and 1.03 to be a generous laying price and was able to equalise my book for a very nice profit of between £200 and £300.

That is how I perceive my “sports” trading should be. If I identify value, the key is not to achieve green but to rather profit from the investment. By all means, give away 2 or 3 ticks of value; especially when eliminating red but I should not look to green up simply for the sake of green. This is not like how I trade the Correct Score market on football where I take no view and therefore should always look primarily to achieve green but rather I should take advantage of any knowledge I have about the sport and remain true to my convictions. Once I do that, the profit should follow.

The irony in this is that I achieved this in a sport where my knowledge is substantially less than it is in Rugby League but what if that is not irony but the crux of the issue. Regular readers will be well aware of my tendency to be overly harsh on myself and people who know me on a more personal level will be well aware of my poor reaction to any type of “pressure”. Maybe, by advocating certain selections and by holding these views, I am in fact placing perceived pressure on myself to be correct, and therefore, as opposed to being able to sit back, I look for any possible method to justify my initial opinion.

Of course, that’s complete rubbish but that doesn’t mean it is not true but the real irony in all this is that when I advocate these selections, I am not advocating them with any planned trade out but rather doing so in a general sense so regardless of my Profit and Loss, the desire to be correct will emerge only from the end result of the game, further negating the need to trade out early.

And if a blog is designed to be used to allow you to develop trading strategies and to think through your approach, I consider that the above could be the epitome of what I want to achieve through the posts that make up my blog. Now, only if I can stick to it!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

A quick update and how do you solve a problem like St Helens

A rather quiet today on the trading front where the odds of all three games at kick off meant that I would want an initial small stake on the underdog although in all cases the outsider did not reach the odds that I would have expected. As it was, thanks to pre match trades in Wakefield and Warrington, I ended up with a very small profit in those games despite having greater green on the losers whilst the Salford v Hull KR game saw a small loss which was largely though in play lays of Hull KR at 1.1 (12 – 6) and 1.05 (18 – 6) which I’d be happy to take on every day of the week.

So, despite a losing day, I actually feel far more up beat than yesterday. I feel that performance will produce profits and not the other way round. So, whilst I felt I traded abysmally on Friday and Saturday, I actually felt that I traded well today and feel confident in asserting that making such judgements in the future should lead to nice profits.

I also continued my theme of trading the draw in Rugby Union and ended up with a small profit from the two televised games today although once again I ended up keeping a large green on the draw which amounted to nothing in the end!

So given that the post so far has been very short and as I am merely waiting for the Superbowl to begin given my decision to avoid Dancing On Ice, I thought I might take this opportunity to post on the problems that I feel St Helens are likely to encounter this season.

Now, I could write enough on this to crash my computer so I will try to keep it brief.

Saints’ problems, for mine, start with the midfield combination that Mick Potter is looking to use in 2010 in Kyle Eastmond and Leon Pryce. In Rugby League, nearly everything will go through your halfbacks and when you lack a controlling influence there, you shall struggle. It is very difficult for me to recall a successful side who lacked a chief organiser. Of course, that is not all you need but it would be like preparing a roast dinner but not including a meat dish. (Or meat substitute for vegetarians.)

Whilst both Eastmond and Pryce have exceptional ability and dynamic skills, neither is cut out for the organisational role. More are creative runners who will do their damage by taking on the line, albeit in different ways. The irony in all this is that Leon Pryce came to St Helens to assume the stand off role because he wanted greater responsibility. However, Saints fans will struggle to recall one game which Pryce has directly influenced in his time at Saints. He has had some exceptional performances, but these have come off the back of other players laying the foundation. Without that, he sinks quicker than quicksand and his otherwise poor effort will only stand out like a sore thumb in such a team.

Kyle Eastmond is one of the greatest natural talents to emerge in Rugby League in a long time, but like such naturally gifted players they have never really been tested on their way up to the game. Being such a fantastic athlete, Eastmond has always been able to rely on his physical skills to influence a game as opposed to being forced to develop the mental side of his game. More than any other young player in Super League, Eastmond has the ability to make your jaw drop, but that is not enough for a number 7. Especially one who is being asked to exert a controlling influence.

If you look at the other young talents at halfback in Super League, you will notice that Richie Myler has been paired with Lee Briers, who is one of the most intelligent players in the game. Sam Tomkins has Thomas Leuluai who can alleviate pressure from him and Wigan have also made an excellent signing in Paul Deacon, whose experience will greatly assist Tomkins in avoiding the second season syndrome.

Even Stefan Ratchford has the fortune of playing alongside Matty Smith, whilst inexperienced and raw himself, and Daniel Holdsworth who will play a more controlling game allowing Ratchford the freedom to express his natural ability.

In so many ways, Eastmond is so similar to Sean Long when he arrived at St Helens. A terrific athlete and outstanding broken field runner, but he could not control a game. However, he did not need to as Long was often paired with Tommy Martyn who would play this role, and he would also benefit from Keiron Cunningham and Paul Sculthorpe at the peak of their careers. Long would go on to become one of the best controlling halfbacks in Super League, and there is no reason why Eastmond won’t. However, this will take time and will also require help from his team mates.

Of course, St. Helens have a natural organiser who is not only a member of the first team squad but who is a regular member of the starting thirteen. A player who has displayed huge potential previously but has never quite managed to convert this into ability. Step forward Jon Wilkin.

It is no co-incidence that Saints’ best performance of 2009 came when Jon Wilkin was forced into playing 7 and assuming the controlling role. Like Lee Briers, Wilkin is one of the most naturally intelligent players on the pitch and it is the fact that Wilkin has never been able to assume this role that I believe has lead to him never fulfilling his potential. At the moment Wilkin is used as a wide player who gets through a lot of work and makes some good runs. But that’s like hiring Hugh Grant for a film and asking him to portray an American. Yes it can be done, but why waste what he is best at.

Wilkin has invariably been compared to Paul Sculthorpe throughout his career and whilst he lacks the athletic ability that Sculthorpe possessed, Wilkin is as naturally creative a player as Sculthorpe ever was and is the man who could step into the organising role and save Saints’ season.

Meanwhile, if Saints wanted to keep Wilkin in his current role, they could do a lot worse than giving youngster Gary Wheeler a run at halfback. Wheeler is a far more intelligent player than Eastmond who has looked at home whenever he has played in Super League. However, Wheeler has suffered from injuries and has never been given a run in the middle of the park.

Even if Saints solve this problem however, they still have several others that they need to address; one of which being the three quarter line. Over Super League, Saints have had some of the best attacking three quarters. From the Paul Newlove and Anthony Sullivan combination to recent Australian signings Matt Gidley and Jamie Lyon, the Saints have not lacked for strike power out wide. Until now.

The current three quarter line of Ade Gardner, Gidley, Sia Soliola and Francis Meli possesses a world of size but a dearth of speed, finishing ability and with the exception of Gidley, creativity. Soliola is a second rower in all but name but so were Lee Gilmour and Willie Talau and that never hurt Saints, but at the time, there was a lot more creative outlets on show. Ade Gardner is another who has not come close to realising the potential he showed as a youngster. A solid Super League player he is, but it would be a stretch to label him as anything more whilst Francis Meli gets through a lot of work but can be a liability in defence and does not possess natural finishing ability.

Added into Saints’ creative problems in the middle of the park and you can see why the most attacking team in Super League history is now finding themselves in a slump going forward. However, the proposed solution to the halfback problems could also help to solve the lack of firepower out wide.

By freeing up Leon Pryce from the centre of the pitch, you would be able to move a strike player who can take on the line out wide whilst still allowing Pryce the freedom to showcase his skills. Of course, Pryce has previously expressed displeasure at playing out wide and this showed in Saturday’s game when Saints moved James Roby to the wing as opposed to Pryce, who has played for Great Britain as a winger previously. So, such a strategy would potentially result in an unhappy player although hopefully a more mature Pryce would be willing to accept such a move for the benefit of the team.

Those changes might help Saints to score more than 20 points in a match, something they have managed just twice since July 2009! Issues would still remain however, including how you fit three hookers into a side (something I admit to having no idea on!) and the biggest problem of all, Mick Potter.

Potter did a fantastic job at Catalans but has arrived at an entirely different creature in St Helens and the tactics he appears to have learned at Bradford and implemented in Catalans have not gone down so well with the Saints fans. Potter appears to prefer a naturally conservative form of attack and relies more upon brute force than individual brilliance. This style of rugby goes against what Saints have come to expect and coupled with a lack of silverware last season and Potter’s rather dour outer personality has already lead to some fans calling for his head – an overreaction not usually seen on the terraces of Knowsley Road. However, this is the squad that Potter has put together and without a major upturn in performance levels, the fans might get their wish sooner than expected.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Red is my friend - Green is my enemy

The above title is possibly the strangest you shall see in a trader’s blog but it is the most accurate representation of my current feelings that does not involve swear words. Nights like tonight make me want to give up trading. Allow me to explain.

I earned £12 on the Hull v Saints match tonight. £12. From a match where I tipped a team who started at 4.5. Yet again, I employed the computer game mentality of avoiding losses but in doing so only proceeded to overlook the part of my brain that analysed the game.

I have already explained why I saw value in this game. The weather conditions only served to increase the value I saw and at one point, I did have a substantial red on St Helens. However, the market was very very illiquid on account of the fact that the game clashed with the 6 Nations. (And judging by that market, there were enough ill advised bets to justify such a switch for general rugby traders.)

So, in my panic and in the absence of my usual trading style working (submitting several bets based upon various events – it failed because there was no money in the market) I closed my position for a tiny green. Why? I have a substantial bank and have already mentioned the fact that any monies earned are purely “profit”.

It can only be my complete and utter desire to avoid failure in any walk of life. My quest for perfectionism which turns a fear of failure into an absence of action.

What I need to recognise is that in all this, green is my enemy. It is the friend that is the bad influence. Red? Red would be the true friend. The one that you probably don’t want to admit to liking. The one that isn’t cool but the one who will be there for you when you need him. Part of the reason I became attracted to trading was the fact that my risk averse nature needed overhauling. Rather than doing that, it appears to have cemented the risk averse nature. (I am a person who at 21, started a pension and invested in Gilts to avoid the Stock Market…)

And of course, the more errors I make like this the more I beat myself up and the more risk averse I become. A self perpetuating motion of avoiding failure which in fact only achieves avoidance of success.

I guess that’s enough psycho-babble for now though! Just one thought though. I have turned down Castleford at 12 last night and Hull at 4.5 tonight. I’ll allow you to count the potential loss of earnings. (And that does not include other successful positions that I have recommended in the past eight days.) Maybe my future lies not in trading but in offering advice. After all, those who can’t, teach!

I would love to hear from anyone who might be able to offer any advice which would help in rectifying the fact that I trade out too soon. Of course, the Castleford and Hull victories were extreme examples of my problem. (Usually, I can minimise the issue by making successful trades and apportioning the green in a manner that reflects the game but in these two games, the in play markets disallowed this.)

As for the game itself. Hull’s forward pack was as impressive as advertised and whilst Saints did suffer from the fact that three of their three quarter line either missed the game or went off injured early, they suffered from a complete lack of direction. Kyle Eastmond and Leon Pryce cannot play together. Like Sean Long in his early career, Eastmond needs a controlling influence which Leon Pryce is not. Of course, Saints already have someone like that in their match day seventeen, Jon Wilkin, but Mick Potter continues to ignore this despite the fact that when Wilkin was asked to control the game, Saints managed to beat Leeds at Leeds.

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s games, and I see no stand out value but I do know which side I would want to be on in all games.

In Wakefield v Catalans, I consider the away side underrated. I would have been all over them but for an injury to key man Thomas Bosc which makes me less keen on them given that everything is likely to go through Bosc now that Greg Bird has left. However, Catalans have other impressive players and their sheer physicality could cause problems for Wakefield, especially if the Wildcats go with only three props again which is likely given the absence of Richard Moore through suspension. I consider that the market over-estimates Wakefield’s win last week (although the match fitness gained last week could be key) and the home factor but I would advise against piling on given Bosc’s injury.

Salford v Hull KR is another match up between two teams where I am higher on the underdog than most and lower on the favourite than most. I would ideally prefer to watch the game and validate my thoughts but at anything around 5/1, Salford are good value to get involved in whilst the value obviously increases the more Salford drift.

Hull KR for mine could struggle this year given the lack of go forward. Joel Clinton will be a very important addition and his absence is therefore a big blow for the Robins. Meanwhile, Salford have the task of bedding in several new players which could hamper their start but they have some very talented individuals including Stefan Ratchford, who I feel outshone Richie Myler last year. The Reds’ backline is very young and inexperienced but could cause some problems, especially if Ashley Gibson can realise some of the potential he showed before suffering some unfortunate injuries.

Apologies to the Red Red Robin who has posted some good comments recently!

Finally, Warrington v Harlequins seems to contain the least value, but surely all readers have noticed the trend by now which compels minimal involvement? Warrington have the strongest squad in the competition by my estimation and whilst Tony Smith has strived to remove their inconsistency, you can never be 100% certain with Warrington. As for Harlequins, the loss of Louie McCarthy Scarsbrook only serves to further weaken a light pack but the Quins did show good away form last year and after this week, you never know.

As usual, any comments would be greatly appreciated. Am I being too hard on myself and after timing too much or am I spot on? I endured a similarly difficult start last year (See posts from February / March) but such feelings subsided as the season went on. Maybe I just need a pre season too?

Friday, 5 February 2010

Even more furious

Last year I won the Rugby League Tipping Competition on the Rugby forum on Betfair and did so largely due to my belief that favourites are massively overpriced when at home. So, when the corrected Leeds v Castleford odds were settled today, I knew that this was a great opportunity. Castleford could be backed at 12.5 whereas I would make them somewhere between a 6 – 9 shot.

Irrespective of the initial stake placed, I then proceeded to do the one thing I had vowed not to do this year. Accept crazy odds to avoid red. So, from my initial pre match position, I managed to earn merely one third of my potential profit. That was beyond ridiculous and summed up tonight’s trading which once again saw my emotions take control of my brain. And of course, next time I look to back an away underdog and let it run, you can be as sure as anything, that it won’t come in. The worst of both worlds.

And in a twist of fate that is beyond ironic, I managed to cost myself £21 by getting the markets mixed up and backing Crusaders in their game. To the person who had left a lay of Crusaders up at 9.2, enjoy my money. You thoroughly deserve it. (That may sound sarcastic, but it is not intended to be.)

So I am in a position tonight whereby I am thoroughly annoyed with my trading performance, although pleased that I was able to call the Bradford v Huddersfield game rather successfully.

Before the game, I stated that I thought Huddersfield were too large. A position that is very uncommon for me as usually I think home favourites are backed too short. At one point Huddersfield were as low as 1.57 which was probably correct or maybe a bit low but drifting to 1.7 made them exceptional value and whilst I adopted a wait and see approach, I was able to profit from the return of the draw on LSD with 50 readily being available with the score at 0-0. Erm yeah. Good luck with that.

As you know my one big rule in first half trading is to oppose 1.1s and this strategy worked out very well tonight. However, I must say that I had expected Bradford to tire around this period but the Brett Hodgson mistake when attempting to score and the whistle of the referee gave Bradford renewed enthusiasm which saw them score two late tries in the first half to send the market out to 1.3.

At Half Time, I could have opted to take a level green of around £100 but instead opted to take around half this on Huddersfield, leaving £300 or so on Bradford. At 1.3 I considered Huddersfield marginally underpriced although their early scores brought them into a level which was not worth jumping on and so my position largely remained the same throughout the second half. Another ironic incident given my actions in the Leeds v Castleford game.

So all in all, a total profit of £100 from tonight’s work although I understandably feel that I am significantly behind on the “net scoreboard”. You only get so many gifts in a year and I feel I have wasted a couple this evening due to an abysmally constructed attitude towards trading.

In more positive news however, the markets felt the same as last year and I called the games well so I guess if that is to continue, then my trading performance should improve (this was after all the first “competitive” Super League Friday night of the year) so maybe I am being unduly harsh on myself. Truth is however, I always am!

I will want to watch the replay of the game after posting this but my initial thoughts are that the game went as expected. Huddersfield are a solid team who probably will offer the most consistent range of performances this year. Bradford are poor. They lack go forward. Their backs have very little pace and creativity and their Australian halfback pairing is disappointing. I expect Matt Orford to find his feet and play better as he becomes more comfortable, but Brett Kearney was every bit as poor as I expected. Maybe it is rust following a long lay off, but I don’t see anything in him at the moment which makes me think he can even be an upgrade from Ben Jeffries last year!

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s game (which hopefully I will trade better), I think the current market prices are right. The return of Sean Long is such a wild card but we know that Long produces his best performances in big games and there won’t be any bigger than this. I would probably favour Hull as like I am with Bradford, I am low on Saints who I feel have no organisational ability in the halves and a dearth of pace out wide although their forward pack looks impressive. Hull will take time to develop a comfort level with all their new signings, but it is hard to see them disappointing as greatly as they did last year. However, I would want to watch the opening to the game before making any predictions that I would need to rely on!

Time to go and calm down now and to work out how to improve on today for tomorrow. It is natural to make mistakes. It is just frustrating to make the same mistakes!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

A quick look at Round 1

For the reasons set out in the below post, my preview for the first round of Super League probably won’t be as detailed as usual but it always helps to get a few thoughts down so here goes.

The first round is always more unpredictable. Whilst it is relatively easy to analyse teams on paper, you can never be certain how they will actually perform.

Huddersfield v Bradford

As this is the SKY game, I feel the best opportunities will arise in play and so initial positions should be relatively small to begin with. Usually I prefer away underdogs but for mine, the value is with the home favourites here.

I’m really low on Bradford this year. They have a horrible three quarter line and only four recognised props in their squad; two of which are Danny Sculthorpe and Craig Kopczaz. The former is definitely out of this game and the latter is doubtful too. Add in the fact that their second rowers are more second rowers / centres than second rowers / props and I really think they could struggle to gain the yards. I also have a huge question mark hanging over Brett Kearney who missed all of last year with an ankle injury. Last year I was very high on Bradford but this year, I expect them to not make the Top 8.

Huddersfield look to be a solid outfit who have a very deep squad. I’m not sure they have the genuine talent to be a Top 4 team this year but equally they look very likely to finish in the 5th – 8th slots. They have made some shrewd new signings and with Kevin Brown back from injury, they should have a more attacking presence than they had at the back end of 2009 when they fell away badly.

However, this is the first real competitive match of Super League XV so it might be worthwhile to watch the game as much as to trade it to try to assess how things might play out.

Wigan v Crusaders

I would expect Wigan to finish 4th this season. Whilst they have only signed Paul Deacon to add to their 2009 squad, new coach Michael Maguire has seemingly given Wigan a lift in the off season and has improved the fitness of several key players which should help them as the season progresses. The key concern for Wigan will be avoiding the second season syndrome for star man Sam Tomkins. The experience of Paul Deacon should be hugely beneficial in avoiding this and giving Tomkins greater freedom to impose his considerable talent on games.

The Warriors should therefore be too strong for a Crusaders side who whilst impressing last week are clearly the weakest side in the league at the moment. However, anything at around 20/1 represents some value and whilst speculative, is a decent shout.

Leeds v Castleford

Leeds proved last week why they are the cream of the crop with their performance in the last 15 minutes and with Brent Webb and Jamie Peacock returning to the fold, the Rhinos should improve on last week’s showing.

However, Castleford Tigers are no mugs and 1.1 is a ridiculously low price. The Tigers are clear underdogs for the game and I expect them to finish 11th. However, they do have some genuine quality in the halves and pace in the backs. Whilst they have a thin squad and the strength in the forwards can be questioned, if the Tigers can play an expansive style at Headingley they could cause an upset.

I will post on the other games tomorrow. For now, I have a very nice e-mail to write to Betfair!


Warning: The below post may contain strong language.

Usually I would look to post a preview of the weekend’s upcoming Rugby League but frankly, I feel too pissed off to do so.

I have mentioned before how I keep an eye on RL markets from Monday onwards and on this Monday, I noticed that there was already a large amount of money available to back Castleford at 15.5.

I thought this represented a good trading opportunity and therefore backed it. More money kept on appearing at these odds and I kept topping up. I had expected the market to possibly have Leeds as low as 1.1 and whilst it was definitely unusual to see such money early on, who am I to quibble. For all I know, Castleford’s squad could have been hit with Swine flu.

Of course, when someone started to lay my draw bets that I put up as an attempt to possibly green up, I began to get an idea that something weird was happening in the market. However, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth and after checking that I was not misreading the team names, proceeded and by Tuesday evening, I had a very nice position which would enable me to fully green for £100 before the game kicked off once the draw market fully formed.

Today, Betfair voided the market as the market had been “malformed”. Instead of them listing Home, Away, Draw they had listed Home, Draw and Away. Clearly someone had not realised this and had been trying to take advantage of me by offering odds out of sync with the market.

However, for a company who regularly switch the order of teams in connection with odds, I fail to see how a market has been “malformed” when all the freaking possible options have been listed. If when they change the running order in Formula 1, and I get mistaken about which driver is on which line, can I claim that the market has been “malformed”?

The lines clearly displayed the possible options. The fact that someone did not realise this is the fault of the individual. (Or bot – more on that to come).

So why have Betfair voided the market? Frankly, I do not believe for one instance that they looked at the market, realised their error and decided to void it. As a company they have proven that fairness is not a key issue for them, and the commission on my winnings would be worth something! On a few occasions you see early market prices to be completely out of line, but as far as I’m aware they are not voided.

So why void this? The key issue here for me is that the Rugby League markets usually have no liquidity so early in the week. Look at this week’s games. They have around £10 matched but they all have an attempt to lay a short price favourite and to lay the draw at the same odds at around the same price that I backed Castleford at. This points to one thing. I was not betting against an illiterate user but rather a bot that had been misprogrammed. For that, I take no issue with taking prices. This bot was merely attempting to collect money at prices which it considered to be advantageous for itself. If it gets it wrong, it deserves to have to deal with the issue.

Now, if Betfair had e-mailed me to explain the situation, I probably would not have been bothered. If it was a genuine error, then fair enough. It is the fact that they unilaterally voided a market which they did not communicate to me which really pisses me off. Possibly an announcement on the forum confirming the error? No, they just voided it.

How can I rely on bets that I place in the future not being voided? How can I rely that when I take a price it will stand? For instance, last year during Warrington v Catalans, Catalans could be laid at 1.06 despite being 6 points behind with 10 minutes to go! In the future, will Betfair look to void such markets? Because again, this was clearly an error.

And what about errors I have made where I have typed the stake in the odds and vice versa. Can I expect these to be voided? And why not? If it is my responsibility to proof my bets before submission it is surely another user’s responsibility to proof their bets before submission.

I simply cannot understand this. So are Betfair seeding the markets? Or are they seeking to protect someone? Or am I hellbent on conspiracy theories unduly? The fact is, I’m honestly not concerned about the profit lost. It is rather the precedent that it sets that concerns me and the fact that this seems very unfair.

All in all, I find Betfair’s conduct disgraceful. Now, I know that the only place I can trade in play on Rugby League is Betfair so I won’t be cutting my nose off to spite my face. However, equally I do not feel that this can be let drop because of the precedent it may set.

So what do you the reader think? Is this an overreaction? Or do you think like me that this poses serious issues which need responding to?

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

During a Super League Game

In my previous post, I outlined the rather unique way I consider pre match odds when trading Super League matches. Now, I will very briefly outline some of the easier to explain strategies I use during the match.

Now, this is just an overview. Obviously some of my trading strategies will be very difficult to explain and will depend upon the flow of the match as I see it and there will be very little point in outlining these. (I also don’t want to explain how I do things 100% - the market isn’t liquid enough to allow someone to copy my entire approach and leave a profit for me!) However, I shall outline some of the more general things to look for when trading a match without explaining how I attempt to read the game during the game because as anyone who has read the below post will know, it makes no sense!

Trading the draw was pretty much the first strategy I ever used. I started trading at around the time the Draw layer appeared. (Someone would push the draw out to 100+ for around £1,000 until there was a draw in the Salford v Celtic Crusaders 2008 Grand Final)

Now, trading the draw can involve using small stakes and yet be very profitable if you back first. The simple idea is that whilst the chance of a game ending up as a draw is small, the chance of the game being close enough to bring about a drop in the draw odds is relatively high. (I know that draw layers can consistently profit which does beg the question of who actually loses, but as we all know, everyone on Betfair wins anyway…) In two years, I can probably count on one hand the games that have caught the express to 1000. And, to be honest, most of these have been games where the draw strategy is clearly unavoidable.

So, you back the draw early on. What to do next is entirely up to you. You can either leave it until it reaches a point where you are happy to trade out to remove any liability, or you can look to consistently trade the draw throughout the game; taking advantage of price swings as the market overreacts to events and the relatively low liquidity available forces position takers to take up positions which are amenable to traders.

One position I have recently started to adopt is to look to lay the draw. The truth is, there are times where the draw odds can be too low and are profitable laying. Any game which sees a starting position of below 25 is definitely a long term laying proposition whilst I have also been interested in the differences in the market for a game that is level at Half Time or which sees a gap of 2 or 4 points. The fact is, if a game is level at HT, I don’t think the odds of a draw at FT are necessarily lower than if there is a gap of say 2 or 4 points. We are not dealing with football here where the result sees few changes. You can look to expect over 20 points on average in the second half of a RL game which should see points differentials increase. Even the most recent game, Leeds v Crusaders, which was scoreless between 41 and 60 minutes, saw the draw occasionally peak out to beyond the Half Time odds!

And whatever happens, I have never seen the draw be less than 10 after 60 minutes, which limits the potential liability involved.

Of course, the chance of the game ending up as a draw is low which raises the question of when to trade out. In the playoffs and the 4 Nations final, I took the position of letting my draw bets run but on the whole I would say this is unadvisable. (You have no idea of my reaction to the Wigan v Castleford playoff game when with 77 minutes gone, Castleford kicked to the corner and the ball just bounced into touch before Kirk Dixon got there. My £14,000 possible profit on the draw matched the colour of my face!) It depends on how you trade the game in general. The truth is I prefer to close my liability pretty quickly but to keep my green on the draw. That sounds somewhat of a contradiction but that works well with my trading style.

One other piece of information is what to do when the draw comes in. I can recall several draws being overturned last year. The 1.01 in Castleford v Leeds when I was sat in a pub without SKY not having a damn clue what was going on. Leigh v Featherstone(?) where 1.4 got turned over. Saints v Wakefield where 1.8 got turned over as Saints missed a late kick. Leeds v Warrington where the draw traded around 2.5 before getting turned over as I again sat in a pub clueless.

In situations like these, I advise to take the profit. I am a trader and when the draw comes in, I get out. However, when the draw is reliant upon a conversion being made, there tends to be several people like me who are too keen to get out and offer very appealing prices for gamblers to take a good punt.

The fact is, you can either join the draw train at the start or the end. However, if you jump on in the middle, you will probably find there is no door.

Finally, there is the whole issue of to what extent backing the draw covers the underdog but I don’t plan to go into this right now other than to say that I usually view the two as separate to begin with although if I have a large enough green on the draw in the second half, I will sometimes use this to justify having a lesser position on the underdog when the chances of a 1.01 train are higher.

Which brings me onto the next strategy and also relates to some of my points that I made yesterday.

Fundamentally, Rugby League is a game full of random events. You can be the best player in the world, but you will still drop a ball and miss a tackle. When that happens cannot be predicted but it will happen. For that reason, I will look to lay 1.0 shots in the first half (Possibly discounting Crusaders). Of course it won’t always come off but it will come off even in the most unlikely of situations. For every clear 1.0 lay (Warrington at 16-6 v Catalans in 2009) there is a 1.0 lay which looks so unlikely but comes in (Catalans 30-0 v Bradford in 2009) or an unlikely 1.0 lay which drifts to a very profitable price (Salford 18 – 0 v Celtic in 2009). Plus you will regularly run into the evening up of the penalty count!

It is easier to do so when you already have some green on the market, but it is something that should be done at all times. 1.0s in the second half aren’t as clear cut and cannot always be advised although at times there are definitely some great opportunities.

For that reason, I always advise laying handicap markets late on. Not only can anything happen, but to the vast majority of players, whether you win by 6 or by 10 is immaterial. They may sprint 100 metres to win a game, but to preserve a margin of victory in a game that has already been decided? It doesn’t always happen.

The final thing to discuss is definitely the most difficult but profitable trade and something I call the inverse tick. Markets on Betfair as a whole overreact to events and this is definitely true for tries and Rugby League has a special friend in this instance – the video referee.

Now, to get this correct is not easy and requires you to almost be at one with the market. However, if you place your lays correctly then not only can you get matched at the trough of the market, which might allow for a few ticks profit when it recovers but you run the hope of saying hello to the video referee.

When this happens however, there is one thing to remember and that is that the benefit of the doubt always goes to the attacking side. So, unless you can be 100% certain that it is no try, you are always more beneficial to trade out before the decision arrives especially as in some cases people who have matched your bet at the bottom can be anxious to look to limit their possible loss.

So there is a quick introduction to the world of rugby league and trading a match.

Obviously however, the key in all this is to study the market and study the game. I believe there is profit to be made in the RL markets and I know I started from scratch so it can be done. However, at the end of the day, it is only your observations and your application that can allow you to prosper.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Approaching a Super League game

I have recently had a couple of queries as to how I approach trading a rugby league game and whilst long time readers of the blog will be more than familiar with the central tenets of my strategy, it won’t hurt me to lay out some of my more general theories in one post.

Or rather two posts for I believe there are two main building blocks in my trading; namely how I approach the match when considering what could happen and how I look to trade the match.

Quite unlike most people, the number one difference I believe in my trading style is that I largely disregard form. Now, I don’t use spreadsheets or have ratings or anything like that. I just compare the strengths of the expected playing line ups in conjunction with any general believes I hold.

Now this may sound like a direct contradiction – how can I disregard form but stay true to general thoughts. Well, I shall try to explain although it may not make much sense.

I do not have specific results, but I can recall the fact that Brian Noble coached teams tend to perform well against Leeds. I can happily recall all the times that Warrington sides have beaten favourites and lost to underdogs or choked away seemingly unassailable leads to St Helens! This is something that I have observed over the past 10 years. Now, is there anything to back this up? Possibly. Possibly not. The truth is that is a theory that I have picked up over time which is also true with a general approach.

Whereas I consider form to be something different. Form to me is just the result of a previous random event and I consider that the markets overreact to an individual instance. For example, let us consider that fifteen kicks are made to the St Helens backline in a game with five going to Paul Wellens, five going to Ade Gardner and five going to Francis Meli. Imagine that Wellens drops 3 and Gardner and Meli drop 1 each.

All of a sudden should we consider that Paul Wellens is now the weakest of the backline at catching kicks? And what can we use from this information? Well, we do not know the nature of the kick. What if the kicks to Gardner and Meli were directional kicks with no pressure whereas Wellens was dealing with high balls and pressure?

“Form” is just a previous result with insufficient data to fully explain it. On the pitch, I believe that each individual action is a random event within the game and this is why I will usually look to lay favourites. Although each incident may be one random event,
I will tend to place my trust in observations of a more long term duration and I will always prefer my feelings to any statistics.

I don’t care that Team X hasn’t won at Ground Y since Year Z. They will have never played Team A at time B and in any case, does not each unsuccessful attempt merely bring you closer to success? If you throw enough mud….

So, if you look at a game and consider team A to have the stronger outfit and to possess a much stronger forward pack which will allow their halfbacks to control the game, you should ignore that they lost last week and that they haven’t won on this date for fifteen years.

However, not everyone believes this and it is definitely true that a side who has won three consecutive games will have more natural confidence and higher morale than their opponents who have lost six in a row.

My assertion in this instance is that the market overrates this impact and for this I would like to refer you to two matches last year that I believe are the gold standard for my way of thinking.

Round 23 – Super League

Bradford 2/7
Quins 7/2

The next week – Super League

Quins 8/13
Bradford 15/8

There are plenty of other instances of this. For example, Hull made a terrific start last year winning five from six. As a result, despite then going on a very bad run to finish 12th, the market seemed almost blind to their struggles at first – just referencing their initial results to support a conclusion that they were a good side.

In the above example, a side who were large underdogs become favourites in one week because the game is being played at a different ground and because they won their game in the previous week. I don’t want to say I told you so…

Which leads me into my second point which concerns “home advantage”. Now, I agree that there is definitely some benefit in having home advantage although I don’t know if it is as big an advantage as considered. Some teams prefer the routine involved in an away game, some teams dislike the travelling. Some players prefer to play in front of their own fans whilst others may prefer to be the “villain”.

Of course, another reason for home advantage is the impact some consider it has on the referee. I don’t buy this and much prefer to believe that refereeing decisions are, if anything, consciously evened up as opposed to being influenced by the crowd although I largely believe that all refereeing decisions are neutral and of themselves random. After all, you could penalise every tackle and every play the ball if you were so inclined.

Whereas home advantage gives a major shift in the odds which I believe is disproportionate. Of course, in a new year, this theory may prove to be incorrect but if anyone wants to have a look at the maths from 2009…

So, as you might be able to guess, in Week 23, I believe that the market grossly underestimated Harlequins’ ability to win and looked to support them. In week 24, I believe they went too far and supported Bradford. I am not concerned with who will win the game as who I perceive to offer the greater value.

So, what am I trying to say? In one easy to understand paragraph?

Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the teams playing. Account for long held opinions and consider the true prices of each team’s chance of victory. Refer to variables such as possible weather conditions and the referee when considering value. Finally, look out for form / reputation / home advantage considerations which may skewer the prices available.

Anyone still reading would probably think that this post is completely useless. That I am making it up as I go along. And you may be true. After al, I consider the number one most important trait to have will be the ability to constantly switch opinions during the game. However, up to now anyway, this strategy appears to work for me and whilst you may not be more informed now, hopefully my next post, on various trading methods during the game will be of more use.

Monday, 1 February 2010

January 2010 Review

The start of a new year always offers a chance to start afresh and wipe the slate clean, that is a positive. What is a negative, or rather can be a negative, is how you react to what are usually unachievable objectives. Let’s face it, if it was easy enough to implement new ideas, you would not need to wait for a new year to begin to do so.

I approached January 2010 looking to produce a more conservative, considered approach and that started well. In the first ten days I traded 21 markets, producing a profit in 20. The only one that showed a loss was a £1.86 loss whilst trading the Valencia v Espanyol match odds market before kick off.

The other twenty markets included a mix of correct score and match odds trades on football, three rugby union markets which I will comment more on later and a penny profit on the cricket!

The end result of all this was a total profit of just over £300 and some consistent, well thought out trading plans.

Unfortunately, the next day was not so great. It started with a loss of £166 on Leicester v Ipswich thanks to a goal inside 30 seconds. At the time, I was unperturbed by this. As a 0-0 scalper, I have to accept the fact that sometimes a goal will be scored which will cause such a loss and what made this one so heavy was a drift in the pre match 0-0 odds from 11 to 12, seeing me jump on board at 11.5 and 12 whereas it is usually the case that 0-0 odds will come in or stand still.

However, in such circumstances, I should not look to double up. Rather than backing pre match at 12, what I should attempt to do is to insert a back into the market at kick off. I would have been able to place my lays and would have avoided being in the market for quite as long although obviously this is not a fail safe plan.

What really irritated me on my trading was a £86 loss on Dancing on Ice the same evening. In 2009, I had traded both X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent very well and felt I could do the same on Dancing on Ice. However, after this loss, combined with additional losses in Week 3 of £30 and in Week 4 of £40, I am starting to arrive at the conclusion that I am unable to trade this market.

The main reason for this is the vastly decreased liquidity. My preference is for short term trades. I do not like to sit on an open trade. This sees me cutting short my good trades too soon whilst allowing bad trades to run longer in the guise of value. For instance, this week I backed Heather, Emily, Hilary and Sharon in performance to be eliminated. The first two shortened whilst the latter two drifted. However, whilst I cut out my Emily and Heather trades too soon, I let my positions on Hilary and Sharon run believing them to be value. That they may be, but if you cut your position on some and not others, then you can end up with an unequal book and whilst in high liquidity markets, I find an ability to buy myself out of trouble, I cannot do this in lower liquidity markets. Therefore, I think that I will look to give this market a wide berth in future.

And as for the £86 loss in particular, the two most galling facts were the fact that I had opposed the “late money” which had proven to be amazingly wrong in the X Factor and that even had I attempted to get out of the trade, having an open position when the show begins is very daft. It is alright to point out that in every other show they had allowed 10 minutes recap before closing the phone lines, but I had no evidence that this would be the case this time and not taking this into account was very very poor.

So, £300 up after 10 days to £60 up after 11 days. I had climbed the stairs slowly and then fallen down nearly all of them again!

What happened next? Well, without going into too much detail some of the issues that I have referred to previously reappeared and my trading suffered, possessing more of the computer game mentality.

I had once again arrived at near the £300 mark when the most obvious display of my stupidity when trading appeared. Just a quick note, I had managed to get myself back to £300 in 7 days thanks to more football trading, a couple of rugby union trades and a well timed lay of Arizona against Green Bay as an insurance bet as a Cardinals fan!

The game where my next loss arrived was Bolton v Arsenal which saw 0-0 drift from 18.5 to 20 pre kick off and then a £5,000 layer look to disrupt the usual linear progression of 0-0 and as a result, mess up my book. My response was two fold. Firstly, the 0-0 odds were greatly inflated and I recognised that there was some value to be held in keeping 0-0 green. That was a perfectly appropriate thought process.

What was not was that after being able to remove any red at 12, I decided that wasn’t good enough and therefore looked to insert a near maximum back at 11.5 literally 30 seconds later. Now, I knew that I was at the front of the queue at 10.5 so that the risk was minimised some, but this was just a sheer stupid trade and even when I had the opportunity to scratch it, I refused to. And then the goal went in…

Sometimes, I can let personal issues affect my trading and this was the perfect example! I betrayed my process in anger and rightfully suffered.

Worse was still to come when the next day, I looked to trade the Newcastle v West Brom correct score market at half time. One particular score, 2-1, moved against me but as I knew that this would come in during the second half, I was content to let it run rather than accept a loss.

I then got distracted, and without even being able to decide whether to cancel, a very early goal was scored which saw me down over £200. Just a ridiculous trade which goes against everything I try to accomplish through my trades and a trade which actually saw me in negative figures for the month.

The next two weeks saw me get back into the green at around £100 although this also saw some very poor and ill considered trades actioned during this point although not with the stake level as the errors highlighted above before the return of Rugby League helped to lift me to nearly £400 profit for the month, before a Dancing on Ice error saw me end the month £347.01 up excluding the result of any trades on the Superbowl market.

So, what have I learned?

To start on a positive, I have displayed a clear ability to succeed. All the errors made have been identified and are easily rectified. I have shown the ability to profit consistently when I remove any external emotions from my trades and turn off the computer game mentality. This should also look to improve with the return of Rugby League.

Secondly, and I feel dirty for even mentioning this, I am starting to enjoy rugby union. For as long as I could think, I have hated the game and everything it stands for. However, recently, I have found it reasonable to watch and have been able to make consistent profits with all the nine games traded showing a profit. It also helps that I find it an incredibly rhythmic sport to trade and my draw trades do not even compel me to view the game.

I am not sure whether the internationals with increased liquidity and volatility are a good area to trade but I am confident that with some adjustments to draw trading such as in the second half where the score numbers affect the draw largely and sees liquidity fall off that this can be an increasingly profitable area for me.

Also, the return of Rugby League will hopefully see earnings grow. After all, this is the sport that I get and where I can best apportion any green earned through trades.

However, I must ensure that I retain full control of my emotions when trading. It is true that when the opposite is the case that I probably feel more inclined to trade but I cannot allow that to make poor trading decisions for me.

Above all, I should focus on why I trade which is for the challenge and the enjoyment as much as the profit and to look to decrease self imposed pressure wherever possible (The issue with being a complete perfectionist…!). I have already noticed a marked reluctance to trade football with rugby league back and I should look to continue to trade what brings about the most pleasure.

Total Results:

Cricket - £0.01
NFL -- £40.11
Rugby League -- £213.31
Rugby Union - £143.95
Soccer - £102.12
Special -- -£152.49

As usual, I am grateful for any comments after another incredibly lengthy attempt at some (As usual) heavy self-analysis!!!