Wednesday, 8 February 2012

PC Bother

Wednesday is PC day, or alteast it is for some; I’m lucky enough to still have a reasonable margin until I hit that magic 20% barrier. However that margin won’t last forever (at current rates c. 6 or 7 months) and if I want to avoid it I really need to start soon. In fact I probably should have started a while ago but, like any deadline I’ve ever had, I’ve left it up until the last minute.  My current charges are still in the mid 30s and so it feels like I still have a fair while to go which is the main reason I’ve been able to put it off but the longer I leave it the harder the job is going to be.

The next biggest reason I’ve put it off is that I simply don’t know what I can do to avoid it. I have several large hurdles to get over. Firstly, I gamble part-time as a hobby, some weeks I’ll trade a lot, some weeks not so much and some weeks not at all depending on both the tennis and my own schedules. This makes it very hard for me to keep my commission rate low, I’m generally able to keep it closer to 4 than 5% but as far as commission generated (CG) is concerned I am essentially wasting money. Secondly, my core tennis activity has far too low a CG figure and a large bottom line meaning that boosting the overall CG figure is going to be difficult. Lastly (and most importantly!) I don't have a profitable, high volume, high churn strategy. This problem is exaggerated by the fact that I don't have a sub 3% commission rate which means that the edge needs to be even greater to overcome the commission. The large CG gap caused by my main activity also means that it literally would have to be very high volume.

There are a couple of things in my favour though, as I mentioned, I do have about 6 months before I hit 20% and even then I will have the buffer of a £1000 ‘allowance’ and further more at first the charges will be relatively small. So its not as if I have literally left it to the last minute. Perhaps more important is the fact that avoiding the PC when you’re not already in the danger zone is probably cheaper than trying to do so once you’re already in it. My reasoning behind this thinking is that with the PC being charged weekly winning weeks are punished much more than losing weeks where there is no rebate. When you don’t have this enforced upon you, I suppose the main challenge is not getting carried away with large winning periods and conversely getting too dejected with long losing periods.

It is the ultimate aim of anyone who gambles on more than a £1 accumulator on Saturday’s football to one day win money on a regular basis. The sad fact is that, for most, doing so at a conventional bookmakers isn’t possible (although there are some operators where you won’t get easily restricted such as pinnacle – but then again there’s a reason for that) and therefore betting on an exchange is the only real way forward. Betfair were the frontrunners in this area and are still by far the biggest exchange and if you want to win there you have to pay them at least 20% of your profit in commission. At the end of the day they are a business and they now have shareholders to please. Anyone who doubts that Betdaq or any other exchange wouldn’t inevitably follow a similar path only need see my last post.

Those of us that did spend years and years plugging away without getting anywhere, either losing or essentially treading water do have a small advantage over someone who gets it much quicker because we should have pretty high CG amounts. If you’re not quite there yet perhaps that is at least some consolation J

As I see it I have a few options:

1)    Attempt to dump as much profit as possible from Betfair into an account somewhere else (like Betdaq). Thus reducing over profit and at the same time increasing total CG. I suspect though that this would be significantly harder to do efficiently than it at first sounds

2)    Develop a high volume, low edge profitable system the net effect of which would be to slowly increase gross profit but increase CG quicker. I suspect good candidates for this would be either football or horse racing, neither of which I have any particular edge on. Ofcourse, I could always pay someone else for their expertise but I suspect that whilst the CG % might be high enough the volume wouldn’t be unless I subscribed to multiple services. I also don’t know that I’d have time to manage a ‘portfolio’ of services. The other option available under this heading as I see it is to stick with what I know and take as many pre-event tennis prices as possible. This is looking to be a more likely candidate as I already rate players and keep a wealth of statistics which I’ve been using to help assist in-play trades. There’s no barrier to this other than an initial time commitment, but whether or not I could beat commission over a large sample of matches is debatable.

3)    Develop a high volume, low edge unprofitable system with a similar effect as 2) except for there would be a slight reduction in gross profit. Now I could do this one with my eyes closed as could almost everybody, the trick would have to be to not lose everything! In some ways this is essentially 2) and I could probably have a decent go at losing to commission on the football as well.

4)    Assuming either 2) or 3) fail or I don’t bother then I can always suck it up and pay the PC. However, I’d rather not do that if I can help of it.

5)    Move my business elsewhere, such as Betdaq. I tried this last year with moderate to little success – the platform sucks and the liquidity was patchy, sometimes decent, and sometimes dire. This would be the ultimate solution but its not a viable one now and there’s certainly no guarantee that they wouldn’t introduce a similar scheme, except then I wouldn’t have any room to manoeuvre.

6)    Give up gambling and find a new hobby.

It looks like I’ve got a fair bit of work ahead of me if I am going to steer clear and I need to start being a little more proactive in planning that work. Even on ‘bad’ weeks like the last one I only managed to get my CG up to 15% which really does illustrate what a monumental task it will be. If anyone has any great pointers they want to share then I’m all ears!


Friday, 3 February 2012

Comeback Jack

It has been great this week to see Paul-Henri Mathieu return to the ATP Tour for the first time in almost 2 years after a serious knee injury. His comeback started last week (as far as I'm aware) in the qualifiers for the Helibronn challenger where he put up a valiant effort against Ruben Bemelmans narrowly losing the first tiebreak to 6, breaking in the 11th game of the second to take it 7-5 before finally getting broken in the third losing the match 7-6(6) 5-7 6-3. This week he was handed a wildcard in Montpellier and despite looking a little shaky beat Cedrik Stebe fairly comfortably in the first round. Yesterday he played World #50 Jarko Niemenen and for the first set at least looked very competitive breaking the Fin's serve in the first but after losing the tiebreak in the first fell apart to lose 7-6(4) 6-1.

PHM used to be one of my favourite players up until his injury layoff he was my second most profitable player as he could be relied upon to be unreliable. It is easy to caricaturise a player and perhaps my memories of him choking every lead are a result of that but I know I made a fair bit of money on him throwing away leads. My most profitable player up until that point? Another Frenchman, Gilles Simon, mainly because he had a habit of losing the first set and then going on to win, if I remember correctly in 2008 he led the tour in 3 set comebacks with 18. He was a great player to watch back then, his slight build in stark contrast to the majority of players and his ability to soak up pressure and consistently paint the lines was something to behold.

Anyway, whilst I doubt PHM has enough talent left to return to the top 20 here's wishing him all the best in his comeback.

Another player making a comeback this week was Fernando Gonzalez who has been out (and back in briefly) also for the best part of 2 years this time initially due to a hip injury. Unlike PHM I never made an awful lot of money on Gonzalez but I certainly enjoyed watching him play. His forehand coupled with his haircut made him absolutely terrifying. Larry Stefanki once said Gonzalez had the best forehand of all time and there can be little debate that it is up there. The power, accuracy and consistency of it is simply amazing. I'd love to be able to hit just one shot like that; I'd probably never need to pick a racquet up again. Anyway given a wildcard in Vina del Mar he looked understandably shaky in his first round against Pere Riba but the Spaniard simply didn't have enough about him to take advantage. Yesterday though Joao Souza did. Gonzalez was still half asleep through the first four games of the first set before getting a break back and going on to lose the first set 6-3. He came out roaring in the second set, throwing in several incredible forehand bombs and even a few cheeky squash shots but from two breaks up he collapsed and eventually lost 6-3 7-6(6). Again, I'm not sure that at 31 he is capable of getting back into the top 20 let alone top 10 but hopefully he can make a solid comeback and entertain us all with that magical forehand.

On the gambling front there has been a bit of a comeback to form myself in last two days  largely thanks to two matches yesterday in the form of Dodig/Garcia-Lopez and Gonzalez/Souza. The Gonzalez match in particular was one where everything went my way. It sure is nice when that happens, just a shame it’s all too rare an occurrence.

I've never been too profitable gambling on NFL, in fact I've probably lost money but every year I have a little punt on the Superbowl - because it only matters when there is money on it. I haven't placed my punt yet but I will probably look to take the Patriots with a handicap. Elsewhere this weekend it is shaping up to be a big weekend for deciding the Champions League places with Chelsea/Man U on Sunday and Liverpool/Spurs on Monday and also in the relegation battle with QPR taking on Wolves with both looking to take advantage of Blackburn, Bolton and Wigan all having tough fixtures. All in all it should be a decent weekend of sport

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Psych

Gambling as a hobby can be mentally crippling at times (I can't imagine what it would be like if you relied on it as an income). Take the last two days, over that period I've made a modest profit of just under £150 but that headline figure disguises the path I took to get there. On Monday I started off losing a large sum of money and gradually earned it back to end the day with a small loss. Yesterday started with a bang and I made a significant sum only to lose the majority of it back during the course of the evening. Two almost completely opposite paths that were accompanied with two completely opposite feelings.

I was never a particularly big 'chaser' even at my worst as a gambler, and although I will occasionally adopt more risk when behind this tends to be when I'm already behind in a market as opposed to being down for the day/week/whatever. There's a solid(ish) reason for that as there is in effect less commission to pay on any winning trades from that point onwards. Back to the last two days and at all times I was completely in control of what I was doing, I was pretty happy with all but one of the positions I had (lack of concentration meant I forgot to cancel a bet). The nature of my trading style means that I'll have a lot of medium size wins and small losses and the odd big loss or big win so I'm perfectly used to the variance in my results. Nevertheless I felt very content to only lose £80 on Monday after being so far down but conversely felt disappointed with yesterday's profit (despite it being larger than the previous day's loss!).

I'm not a big one for targets, my only real targets are to make as much money as possible, and enough to make it worth the time invested. Despite that, it is very hard not to pay attention to how you're doing on a match/daily/weekly/whatever basis and it’s perhaps only natural to create artificial checkpoints. Still, it seems illogical that a losing set of bets brings more happiness than a wining set where the only distinction is the order those bets came in.

I see Leeds have 'dispensed with the services of Simon Grayson and his coaching staff' today. It is a decision that is hard to fathom, sacking the manager the day after the transfer window closes effectively leaving him to take the blame for selling their captain (and best player over the summer) and giving the new manager a clean slate. Hard to fathom unless you remember that Ken Bates is in charge, that is. What exactly Neil Warnock or any other manager will be able to do with Leeds' squad that Grayson couldn't I don't know. It was a rather callous wording of his exit too which is probably representative of the bad blood between the two. I read earlier that Grayson has the highest win % of any manager Leeds have had and having watched highlights of some of Leeds' recent games it would seem the players are more to blame than the manager. A little like at Goodison yesterday despite what Mancini says.

Back to tennis and the undoubted highlight of the week so far has been the camera feed in Marseille this year. Court microphone off, umpire microphone on, has been the general theme which I have to admit has been slightly off putting at times. The umpire last night in the Kamke/Serra match spent most of the time relieving trapped wind and muttering to himself. After half an hour or so I was having to stifle back laughter on almost every point, which might explain why I managed to lose so much money. Still, it has been interesting to get an umpire’s perspective.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Behind The Times

Yesterday this article popped up on my phone's RSS feed. The article is about people's fears of not embracing modern technology. It quotes an interview with Douglas Adams over 10 years ago: "Everything that's already in the world when you're born is just normal. Anything created between birth and the age of 30 is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it. But whatever is invented after you've turned 30 is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it -until it's been around for about 10 years, when it gradually turns out to be all right really." Fortunately I'm still the right side of 30 but I have to admit that whilst I've got a Facebook account, it is definitely not on my daily list of things to do. As for Twitter, well I simply don't get it.

A quote from the article I quite like is "There is a point when, arguably, you should know about something." I'm beginning to think that perhaps Twitter is something I should know about. However, I think that this is a valid concept in the gambling universe, when the Betfair API was first introduced I was sceptical at best and as time went on I had the opinion that I was 'good enough' without it. Of course, I was still break even at best at this point. Then one day I decided that perhaps it was worth just trying, what was the harm? Anyone remember Betfair Rapid? It was pretty unimpressive (being polite) but I thought that one click betting was the best thing since sliced bread; I could now make bad decisions 5 times quicker. Result. Eventually I stumped up the £5/month for Gruss and the rest is history. In a similar fashion I saw no point in keeping proper records but eventually I started to make notes and record my bets and then slowly I moved to downloading my results from the Profit and Loss screen and onto requesting a detailed transaction record/audit trail/account statement/call it what you will from the Betfair 'Help' Desk. With this I was able to start to build a picture of my overall activity and cull the unprofitable parts of my betting. Another example, it took me a long time to embrace laying low/backing high and accepting I wouldn't win every bet. I'm still not Roy Keane on losing but accept that it is inevitable.

There are still a few things I've yet to adopt, social media being one, tipsters another. My next big thing to embrace will be diversification and building a portfolio of sports/approaches to both spread my profit base and also hopefully combat the ever looming PC. I have a few ideas in mind across a few sports; I'll probably go into this in more detail at some point in the future. Once that is in full swing I might take a crack at this Twitter lark. It could be interesting to see what applications it could have with gambling. As for tipsters I’m going to have to stay ignorant for now.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Trader's Nightmare

Yesterday's Australian Open final was almost certainly described as a "trader's dream" by someone at some point. I can see why someone might have this opinion: the masses of liquidity, both players taking it in turns to dominate, the sheer length of the match, the ridiculous amount of time in between points. But in order for a trader to enjoy a "dream", another must suffer a nightmare, and I most certainly had a nightmare yesterday.

A professional sportsman's performance can be effected by all manner of things ranging from the food he ate to the amount of sleep he had the previous night to how his home life is. Pretty much any small detail can have an adverse (or indeed positive) impact on the level at which he performs. Therefore it is perfectly plausible that the same can apply to sports traders and it would explain why I was so bad yesterday; except it doesn't. I had a good night's rest, felt relaxed and calm, my home life is good, there was no pressure on me to win etc, etc. Sometimes sportsmen, no matter how good they are, are simply outclassed by their opponents; was I outclassed by the market? I normally avoid matches between high-profile players, especially finals because I don't like the amount of money in the market. When there is more money, the dynamics change and I'm simply not comfortable with them. Having said that there were plenty of opportunities for me to get involved yesterday, I just read almost all of them completely wrong, either that or I was unlucky. Sometimes you have matches/days/weeks like that where you can't do right but that is the nature of gambling and the gods of variance.

As a follow up to 'Embedded Value' here is some 'downloadable value'. I'm not entirely sure that downloadable value works as valid business concept but nevertheless I did go 'back to the drawing board' and soon gave up again. As I mentioned in my last post, statistics interest me and their applications within gambling are varied, all the way through the spectrum of analysis to prediction. Whilst Excel does have a data mining add in, it is not an especially useful data mining tool. MS Access on the other hand is, in comparison at least, pretty good. Still, despite its limitations Excel does present data quite well and so on the link you can download a functioning hard copy of the embedded head 2 head calculator. The data is more accurate, and the functionality slightly improved. I did originally try to incorporate some other features that I have in my databases but in the end gave up. After all, I don't have endless amount of time. With that in mind I hope that this might at least spur a few on to explore the possibilities that collecting and analysing data has. If not then it is simply an offline H2H calculator. I've put the data back into the spreadsheet in a similar format to that found at tennis-data.co.uk for those of you that want to keep it updated but can't get the data elsewhere. Hopefully there are no errors and it is reasonably self explanatory, but I did it in a rush so please let me know if there are.

And finally, another video for you all. Some more incredible tekkers on display, this time the sport is football.


Sunday, 29 January 2012

Rock Star

As I've mentioned before something I'm looking to improve on this year is being able to follow and trade more than one market at once. I'm not convinced I'll ever be able to fully concentrate on multiple things at once but I've almost perfected rubbing my belly and patting my head. It’s a start at least. Today I decided to attempt to follow the Australian Open final and the final round of the Abu Dhabi Championships and see how I got on. The theory being that there would be too much money in the match odds market for me to be overly successful and that the golf was suitably paced for me to be able to divide my attention between them both.

My golfing ability could be described as 'poor' at best but along with a number of other sports it is one I am looking at in an effort to diversify. Whether or not golf is a sport I have, or could have, an edge in is debatable but, like most sports these days, statistics play a big role and statistics interest me. I probably don't have enough exposure to the dynamics of the sports' in-play markets yet to be able to be confident that all my decisions are sound but I find the best test of any approach is to stick some money in the market and see what happens. So that's what I did and after 3 holes I layed Tiger Woods at 2.2 with Robert Rock also managing to go 2 under and a chasing pack not too far behind. Perhaps a little lucky but Tiger bogeyed the next two holes and his price went out beyond 3/1. His price did come back in again later to trade around evens but I stuck with my initial position. The other position I took was against Rory McIlroy at 7.8, it is hard to remember the exact circumstances but I believe he was on -10, 3 behind Rock and a hole further ahead. He was out with Paul Lawrie who was on the same score but trading at 17s so I decided that it was something worth taking on. A few holes later he was trading at 19s and I decided to take my money back which, as it turns out, was a decent play as on the next hole he birdied his shot and when Rock came upto the hole he bogeyed it and McIlroy briefly went favourite. Anyway Rock went onto win the tournament and both the lays won. The nerves were obvious telling for Rock though; going into the final hole he had a 2 stroke lead, at the tee he asked everyone to put their cameras away and proceeded to hit his ball right on the edge of the water hazard. He did indeed drop a shot but it was enough for the win. Congratulations to him.

Congratulations also to Novak Djokovic for winning his fifth slam and taking his record in slam finals to 5-2. Nadal's third consecutive loss is apparently a record; probably not one he'll be proud of. Unfortunately I lost all the money I made on the golf and a little bit more on the match itself. I just wasn't able to read the game very well, but despite that it was an absolutely cracking match, almost as good as the 2009 final between Nadal and Federer. There were so many good moments but my two favourites occurred in the final set. At 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 0-0* 15-15 Nadal hits a sublime forehand winner cross court almost painting the baseline, except it wasn't a winner, Djokovic somehow gets it back and behind Nadal. Backpedalling, almost to the point of falling over he hits the same forehand winner right into the corner. Incredible. The other was probably the final turning point at 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 4-4* 30-0, two games earlier Djokovic fell to the floor with exhaustion after losing a 31 stroke rally and in this point his shot hit the line but was called out. Djokvoic asks the umpire for his opinion and he agrees with his line judge, Djokvoic challenges anyway and it was in. Djokovic gained some belief from there and the rest was history. Or was it? This Wikipedia page was written a full 10 minutes before the match finished. Conspiracy? duh duh duh.

Anyway, a final note, Nadal’s serve statistics seemed to mirror last year's efforts against Djokovic with 67% 1st serves in, winning 66% of those serves but only 45% of the 2nd. The  tour now moves on, a few hard court tournaments, a few clay court tournaments, the first round of the 2012 Davis Cup before the tour arrives in Acapulco - my favourite tournament on the calendar, but more about that nearer the time.