Sunday, 20 June 2010

Rugby League - The Greatest Game of All.

To anyone who has questioned my love of rugby league, you only need to look at today's games to understand my love for the greatest game of all.

Four games kicked off at 3.00 PM today. Leeds v Crusaders saw last year's Grand Final winners take on last year's Wooden Spoon collectors, who were missing both of their halfbacks. Regular readers will be aware of my 1.0 first half rule, but even I have to say that at 1.1 pre match, I saw no value in the away side. How wrong was I as the Crusaders collected an unbelievable 32-26 victory. I say unbelievable but really, looking at results over the past two seasons, it was anything but.

Two further games this afternoon saw incredible comebacks. Castleford led 22-6 at Salford (1.7 pre match) after 30 minutes only for Salford to come back to level the game with twenty to go before a late Cas try secured victory whilst Hull led Huddersfield (1.7 as well) 18-0 at the break only to lose 32-18. Sadly, twenty two men kicking a ball from one end of the pitch to another dominated the sporting attention of the nature, and there was practically no money matched in these games.

Adding to the above was the main event. Wigan v St Helens on Sky Sports at 5.15. Quite frankly, anyone who reads this blog with a spare 80 minutes needs to watch a replay of this game to marvel at unprecedented levels of intensity, physicality and, above all else, entertainment. As St Helens fullback Paul Wellens said afterwards, "I've been watching the World Cup and some of them are stealing a living."

Now, in the interests of fairness, I need to disclose a pretty big bias in that I am a childhood Saints fan. Growing up, I hardly missed a Saints match home or away but since defecting to the other side of the Pennines, it's fair to say that I've lost interest in terms of following my hometown club as closely as I used to. It's probably also fair to say that the recent dominance of Saints has also eeked my interest away. With ten successive Cup Semi Final appearances and with the Saints always being there or there about, the thrill of winning has really subdued from the initial glory days at the start of the Summer era. In fact these days, you are more likely to find me at a lower division game!

However, today, for the first time in a very long time, I felt sheer delight at the result in what was otherwise a meaningless league match. Whilst even the most ardent of RL fans would admit that the standard of games served up this year has been substandard, this was as good as any game of the recent past. Indeed, watching the game in the pub (a byproduct of still not having SKY installed in Leeds), I could hardly keep a straight face and even felt the need to watch the final few moments infront of the television. What good that would do, I have no clue.

In terms of trading (Hello Betfair Mobile) I made a conscious decision to keep all my green on Wigan despite laying Saints as low as 1.05. (Note, this was another game where a comeback occured (From 1.01 to 1.3) which I didn't predict and believe me, I predict a lot.) It's an interesting fact that whereas most people often look to back their teams financially, I always do the opposite as if to provide a "can't lose" situation but more likely to support my rather general negativity accordingf to those closest to me! The end result was a loss of £1, but the sheer elation of the victory which returned me to such memories like Twickeham 2001, Old Trafford 1999, 2000 and 2002, Wide to West and the Hand of God - Tommy Martyn style was worth far more than my possible monetary gain.

After all, I trade for enjoyment, the challenge and the profit and as the latter is surely to enhance the first and this result unilaterally provided a greater degree of enjoyment than the financial reward could have.

So believe me when I say that my words are insufficient in describing this game and it is a spectacle that you should really look to watch even if you have never watched a RL game before in your life.

Finally, you may note that I only mentioned three of the four 3.00 PM games. That is as the other, Hull KR v Quins was a 1.01 express train although it did see the return to action of Rob Purdham, Harlequins skipper who has been missing on compassionate leave after his brother Garry was one of Derrick Bird's victims in Cumbria.

And if after watching St Helens v Wigan, you feel the need to watch Rugby League live, well there will be no better chance to do so than England v Cumbria at the end of the year in memory of Garry Purdham. Sure the intensity and skill may not be on the same level, but a more noble cause there isn't.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Trading not to lose

The best advice for a new trader, in my opinion, is to trade not to lose. The worst advice for an experienced trader is to trade not to lose.

Trading not to lose is an expression I use where you set up a trade with the belief that the market will go against you. Therefore, at the slightest twitch, you look to scratch to avoid a major drift, or at the slightest sign of profit, you take it. However, an experienced trader should really not be concerned with looking to lose but rather taking a long term view. A losing trade does not a losing trader make more than a winning trade makes a winning trader.

It is an issue that has plagued my decisions, ironically, the more succesful I have become.

I strongly believe that the biggest skill a trader needs is confidence and the ability to make mistakes. Very few trades are strictly linear. Most will have the odd bump in the road but an experienced trader should be able to deal with that but it seems that the more I trade, the more cautious I become.

For instance, in Bradford v Warrington tonight, I strongly expected the Bradford price to trade below 1.2 prior to kick off. All the trading statistics I hold and market data I have pointed to this. However, despite backing at 1.23 in the early morning, I made a neglible pre match gain. This was due to my reticence to use large sums of money and my unease whenever the price held firm. And when the game went in play, I became more cautious - bailing out of my 1.0 First Half lays in the 1.1s just to avoid red - treating each trade as one that needs to be "won" despite actually "losing" by greening too soon. What could have been a very large position on Bradford became nothing more than a pleasant Warrington position.

It's an annoyance that is near enough impossible to explain to my non trading friends who remain incredulous at my ability to earn my current profits and consider my negative reactions to be absurd.

It's also nothing new. Regular readers will be aware of my issues with red. At the moment though, my trading stinks. Fortunately, my monetary results do not equate to my performance with the premium charge popping back on my radar, but I am becoming more cautious without reason and my net scoreboard position is becoming almost crimson.

There was an excellent point made on the excellent Flutter F1 that the worst feeling is the winning trades that are cut short, and that is definitely my main issue. I've explored possible reasons for this previously - hypothesizing that this may be due to a "need to win every trade" and a desire not to "throw earned money against the wall" but I need to remember that red is my friend and that green is the enemy.

At the end of the day, what I need to remember is "so what if a trade goes against me?". Firstly, I am not dealing in obscene sums of money. At no stage would my liability ever be in excess of three figures and my results show that trusting my instincts would actually lead to much greater results. Secondly, so what if I am wrong. At the moment, I appear to be trading with a thought that I "cannot be wrong" which is complete crap and lending itself to my trading not to lose / scared trading approach.

As usual, imagine if I ever did trade with confidence! Then, there would be no stopping me...

And as usual, any comments would be gratefully received - especially if anyone can offer any advice that can assist me!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Name appeal and favouritism

Reputation is a funny old thing. It is invariably something that you only acquire long after you deserve it and something that you give up long after you should. You only have to look at the NFL all star game, the Pro Bowl, to see a good example of it in action. With alarming regularity, players who had a good previous year are selected despite a mediocre year and, for those who have been a top player for a while, quite often continue to be selected well after their powers have peaked and they approach the steady decline to retirement.

It’s an issue that for mine has interesting influence on betting markets. I’ve chronicled in the past extensively on my beliefs as to the correlation (or lack of) from previous results to future performance in Rugby League, and especially so in relation to market behaviour and starting prices.

It’s also a trend that I am starting to see more and more in Formula One where opinions on driver ability appear fixed and drivers get far more support than they deserve.

A quick look at the Race winner market for the Canadian Grand Prix proves my point. Ferrari were undoubtedly slower than Mercedes and around the same pace as Renault in Turkey, and have no new planned improvements to speed their car up, and Montreal would not appear to be a track which would suit them.

However, Fernando Alonso is a clear fifth favourite despite having a car which would place him at best seventh. Alonso’s poor season (for all the talk that Massa is underperforming this year, Alonso has arguably been more disappointing – he has definitely made more mistakes) has simply not been factored into the price.

Yet, Felipe Massa is eighth favourite for the race, behind Robert Kubica and Michael Schumacher, and is available at odds three times greater than Alonso. Massa has had a disappointing season, but the general perception that he is a poorer driver than Alonso is blindly factored into the price despite the fact that they have the same car.

So, is it clear where the value lies?

In my opinion, trading value lies more with Fernando Alonso.

Allow me to explain. As a trader, it is important to remember what your goal is and that is, to make a profit. To do so, you need not select the winner. What you need to do is back at a price higher than that you can lay at, or vice versa and the successful trader will take into account the fact that Alonso has his supporters which will always drive his price down further below his true chance of victory, whereas the lack of support for Massa will see his price drift out to well beyond his true chance of victory. Of course, for gamblers, there is little question where the true value lies (and the same goes for traders who are more reliant upon on track events to achieve profits.)

None of this should be construed as a recommendation to back Alonso, however. In Formula One prices are so heavily reliant upon grid position that trades should not be made until this is settled. (Note – I would believe that leaving a position open during Qualification is akin to gambling.)

Indeed, in several races this year, I have seen Alonso start behind Massa at shorter prices, stay behind Massa at the start who can drift severely whilst Alonso stays at the same, much shorter price, despite sometimes having a further two cars to overtake to get to Massa, a very difficult proposition in Formula One! (Although we must note that in play liquidity is sketchy if your car is outside the top 5 or 6 and so is more reliant upon individual driver opinion than if Alonso was actually near the front of the field.) Also, in Australia I remember Lewis Hamilton being favoured over Jenson Button despite all pit stops having been made and Button having a lead! Sometimes it can work out, like last week when Hamilton was curiously favoured over second placed Vettel, but the vast majority of times, it doesn’t!

Finally, whilst being far away from a F1 expert, if I had to list the drivers in accordance with likelihood of victory this week, I would go Hamilton, Vettel, Webber, Button, Rosberg, Schumacher, Kubica, Alonso, Massa, Petrov. (I think the Red Bulls have more chance of victory than the McLaren, but the quality gap between Hamilton and Button means that I believe Lewis has the best chance.)

A quick look at the market would show where I believe the value to lie, and for once, I have actually availed myself to keeping an open position on one driver, even if the superiority of the top 4 is such that it will be difficult for an outsider to break in.