Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Boredom - The Road to Ruin!

I had planned an afternoon of trading tennis today and was all ready to go when the rain started in Gstaad so all the matches were delayed - hence no tennis now this afternoon.

This normally leads to me having a look around the Betfair markets for football or horse racing to trade but often because I hadn't planned to trade these markets I trade matches or races that I haven't really done the necessary amount of research on or even if I do my research the matches don't fit my criteria but I trade them anyway out of boredom or a misplaced sense of duty that I 'should' be trading. More often than not this leads to poor trading and losses and you are left with that horrible sensation of thinking you would have been better off doing nothing.

So I suppose the moral of this story is don't trade for the sake of trading, only trade markets that you are experienced in and that you have a good understanding of. So for example, don't trade a Japanese football match (unless you have a good understanding of the league and the teams involved) or a tennis match between 2 players you have never even heard of because ultimately, this is just gambling and you have no more than a 50% chance of getting it right.

As with most things in life its quality rather than quantity of trading that really counts so if you find yourself in this situation - scouring Betfair for something to trade - imagine how you will feel if you trade for 4 hours and end up losing money compared to how you would feel switching off your PC and going to play golf and then trading the matches you want to trade later or tomorrow.

Anyway, I'm just off to trade Croatia v Italy in the 2011 Water Polo Championships!!

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Is Making Money on Betfair really that Easy?

We talk to people all the time that want to make money trading/gambling on Betfair as they love Sport and they see it as an opportunity to give them an enviable lifestyle and release them from the shackles of their boring 9 - 5 life.

What never ceases to amaze us though is that the vast majority of these people are not willing to put the time and effort into becoming successful. More often than not, they will deposit a couple of hundred pounds in their account and after a few weeks, they have lost it and they become disillusoined and then think that its just not possible to make a living trading on Betfair.

Now, consider this, how long does it take to train to become an accountant, a doctor or a vet or in fact, how long does it take to become proficient at any well paid job - the answer is typically measured in years and definitely not months.

Consider also, in any other profession would you not have some sort of formal education to become proficient? Well why do people undertaking a career (even if its part time) not take advantage of the education and help that is available? I can only guess that it comes down to the fact that they are not willing to pay for this education - but what about the saying 'speculate to accumulate'. You will lose far more money than it costs for the education by trying it on your own and you will probably give up - denying yourself the opportunity and lifestyle that sports trading undoubtedly gives to those willing to master it.

So the next time you start trading, ask yourself, are you giving yourself the best chance of success? Why not complete our Free Investor Profile questionnaire to get an idea of the level you're at - click on the following link take the Sports Traders Health Check  

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

What is Value?

I was on the Betfair forum the other day having a chat with various people about various things and we got onto the subject of value and one guy was adamant that there was never any value in backing tennis players at odds of less than 1.08.

Now I could see his point in that you have to risk a lot of money to make decent returns backing at odds as low as this but as far as I'm concerned you can get value at any price if the price you are paying is too low. You will notice as well that liquidity on matches where the favourite is priced at under 1.1 is normally very high because a lot of punters see backing the favourite at these prices almost as 'free' money which of course it never is as now and again the huge underdog pulls off a massive shock and wins - thats the beauty of Sport!

From a traders perspective its less stressful trading down at 1.1 price range but clearly to make decent returns you have to have a large bank to play with. The reason its less stressful are that say you back the server at odds of 1.1 and he gets his serve broken in the first game then his price would only go out to around 1.2 maybe 1.25 so you have 'lost' 15 ticks eg using a stake of £500 you would be £60 down if you were to hedge out but remember the favourite is still priced at 1.25 so still heavily expected to win so you have a choice, you either let the trade run in the hope that he comes back (the chances are that he/she will) or you hedge out and take the £60 loss and recover this later by backing the favourite at the new higher price.

Compare this to backing a moderate favourite priced at 1.6 with £500, now obviously the returns are much higher if this player wins and you have backed them but in the same scenario if the favourite's serve was broken early then their price could quite easily go out to around 2.1, if this happened you could hedge out for £120 loss - its more likely to happen and if it does you have a much bigger loss. The problem with trading in this price range is that when a point goes against you, the money on the ladder can disappear and if you want to hedge out you end up having to hedge out at a ridiculous price as its the only price available.      

I guess as with all these things it depends on your attitude to risk but you do have to question why liquidity in matches - tennis especially - is so much higher when there is a heavy favourite involved.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Will he stay or will he go?

Well as a keen Man City fan, I have been reading with interest over the last few weeks about the Tevez saga and whether he's leaving or not. It now looks like a foregone conclusion that he is heading back to Corinthians and I just wish they had let him go sooner as the last thing any team needs is player whose heart isn't in it. Let him leave and start focussing on the players that are there and the new season.

What will be interesting though will be to see if the odds on City to win the title start to go out as a result of him leaving. They are currently 3rd favourites and priced at 5.2 but they were as low as 4.9. I have no doubt that him leaving will impact the team adversely, when he didn't play last year, the team didn't look as dangerous and he scored a third of City's league goals last year.

However, I was surprised when I looked at the stats in more detail as actually City didn't really miss him that much when he didn't play - in the 2 seasons he has played for City the team has won 52% of the matches he has played in and 50% of the matches they have played without him. Also, the team only scores 0.06 less goals per game without him in the team.

So I predict, that City will cope without Tevez fine next year although City's price to win the title will drift a bit over the next few weeks when they secure Aguerro and he starts banging in the goals, their price will start to come in again.....or is that just wishful thinking??

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tennis In Play Odds

I was trading a match this morning and it reminded me of why I love trading tennis so much because the opportunities to make profits are amazing. The match in question was Kolar v Pervak at a WTA tournament in Austria. To give you some background, Kolar is a sixteen year old who has been quite successful on the ITF tour and is obviously one for the future but this is her first WTA tour event. Pervak is a seasoned pro and is ranked 61 in the World.

Anyway, Kolar won an error strewn first set 6 - 4 largely due to the fact that Pervak was serving terribly, she must have had around 10 double faults. Anyway, Kolar then went a break ahead in the second set and in fact raced to a 5 - 2 lead and by this point she was priced at around 1.04 but remember, she was only one break of serve up and was a game away from the biggest win of her career. There wasn't actually much between the players on the day, Pervak was just making more unforced errors.

As you can guess, Kolar tightened up as victory was within her grasp and Pervak won the second set and then went onto win the match so anyone that Layed Kolar late in the second set would have made a great return whilst risking little.

The point I am trying to make is that when trading tennis you have to look at the big picture and work out the real chances of a certain outcome happening. In the example below, whilst Kolar should have been favourite when she was 5 - 2 up in the second, should she really have been priced as low as 1.04. Remember, she is only 16 and has never even played a WTA event before, she was bound to tighten up.

So when trading tennis, don't just look at the ladder interface on ISI Trader, make sure you think about the bigger picture and try and think what each player is thinking. You will find that players are priced too low sometimes as they approach victory as closing out matches is always difficult especially for the underdog.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Open Championship Preview

Tour: All Tours – a Major
Tournament: British Open Championship
Course: Royal St Georges, Sandwich, Kent
Yardage: 7211
Par: 70
Time Difference: GMT

Lee Westwood is our main selection to win the Open Championship this week and merits a maximum bet. Retief Goosen has a consistent record in the third major of the year and merits support. Padraig Harrington excels at links golf and he can get in contention to win a third Open.

Sergio Garcia has shown decent form following a sabbatical from the game and looks a good bet in the Top Continental European market. Matt Kuchar showed his adaptability at the Scottish Open last week and we like his chances to be top American. Simon Dyson proved his liking for links golf in Scotland and as an outsider he can make the top ten.

This year’s Open Championship is being played at Royal St Georges in Sandwich on the Kent coast. The course is the only Open venue on the current rota that is located south of the north west of England. That region has three different Open venues and the rest of time the championship is played in Scotland. There is a train link from London so there should be healthy crowds due to size of the catchment area.

The Open has been held at Royal St Georges four times since 1981. Two of the champions have originated from the United States, one from Europe and one from Australia. The winning scores have been 4 under, 2 over, 13 under and 1 under. Greg Norman won the tournament with 13 under in 1993 when playing and weather conditions led to low scores.

The only player to break par over the 72 holes of the 2003 renewal was Ben Curtis who holed a putt of decent length on the 72nd to post a score that nobody could match. However, this was a tournament that Thomas Bjorn lost. He took 3 to get of a bunker on the 16th hole and those dropped shots cost him the title. Scoring was relatively high eight years ago and avoiding bogeys was the key attribute.

As with all links courses scoring can be affected by weather conditions. If the wind blows then finding the greens and fairways is of paramount importance. Temperatures are forecast to be below average for this time of year and moderate winds are also expected. This course rarely produces a birdiefest as the fairways allow little room for error and the greens are difficult to navigate.

The Open is the third of the four major championships that take place during the golfing year. The only notable absentee is Tiger Woods who has withdrawn due to a selection of injuries. The favourite is Rory McIlroy who won the US Open last month in some style. However only Woods since Mark O’Meara in 1998 has won more than one major throughout any one season.

Luke Donald is currently at the top of the world rankings. He has contested 10 tournaments in the US Tour this season and made the top ten eight times. He won the PGA Championship in May which is the flagship event of the European tour and last week’s Scottish Open. Despite such consistency Donald’s best finish in a major was a third in the 2005 Masters. In 26 appearances in major championships Donald has finished in the top 10 on just four occasions.

Lee Westwood has risen to number two in the world on the back of great consistency in the majors over the last three years. In that time he has had five top 3’s from 10 championships. He was third in the Open of 2009 when a 72nd hole bogey cost him a place in the play-off with Tom Watson and eventual winner Stuart Cink. He was second a year ago at St Andrews, seven shots adrift of champion Louis Oosthuizen. On his current progression Westwood has a great chance of winning his first major at this year’s Open.

Westwood was interviewed before the final round of the Scottish Open on Sunday. He virtually admitted that he wasn’t overly concerned about winning that tournament. He suggested that his focus was the Open Championship. Tee to green Westwood is an imperious golfer and I believe his time has now come to win his first major championship.

Retief Goosen has made the cut for the last twelve years at the Open. In that time he has had seven top 10s, including in the last two years. In 2009 Goosen was just 2 shots away from a play-off and last year he was 6th, 7 shots behind the winner Louis Oosthuizen. In his last eight rounds in the Open Championship Goosen has beaten or matched par. He was tied 10th at Sandwich in 2003 so knows he can play well on the course.

On current form Goosen deserves our support this week. He made the cut at the US Open in June with a score that in normal circumstances would have been close to winning. The selection is a proven major champion having won the national championship of the United States twice, in 2001 and 2004. He played well at the Scottish Open and may have got closer to the winner if the tournament had not been reduced to 54 holes due to the weather.

Padraig Harrington won the Open Championship in 2007 and 2008 and also has a US PGA Championship to his name. He has mastered the art of links golf and is a perennial winner of the Irish PGA Championship, often played on a links course. He chose to play the Scottish Open last week, probably because it was played on a seaside course. He played three solid rounds in similar weather conditions as those expected at Sandwich.

The selection was 22nd when the Open was held at Sandwich in 2003 but since then he has taken his game to a new level. He is in the top thirty for finding the greens in regulation on the European Tour. He also figures in the top 25 for total putts per round. These skills will be at a premium on the Kent coast. The Irishman will not be fazed by any inclement weather and has the temperament and ability to hold his game together if the wind blows.

Sergio Garcia deserves a major due to an overall level of consistency over the first 10 years of his career. He first made a name for himself at the 1999 US PGA Championship when he beat everyone in the field except Tiger Woods as a 19 year old. The player formerly known as El Nino has an excellent game from tee to green but his woes on the greens have been costly. He was 7th at the recent US Open with four solid rounds at or below par.

In 2007 at Carnoustie he missed an eight foot par putt on the last hole to claim his first major. He was beaten in the playoff by Padraig Harrington despite hitting the pin on one of the extra holes. Twelve months earlier he was in the final group with Woods at Hoylake. Overall he was in the top five in the Opens of 2005, 2006 and 2007. His finishes in the Open have improved progressively over the last 3 years. He is the most consistent performer in the Open over the last 10 years of players from Continental Europe.

The highest ranked player from the United States is Steve Stricker at number five. The former world number 2 was 5th in the US Open in 1998 and 1999. He has recorded 5 top 10 finishes in the 20 majors he has played since 2006. Stricker’s tournament win at last week’s John Deere Classic was his eleventh on the US Tour. He has played in 10 Opens since 1996 and recorded just two top 10s over that period. By choosing to play in the States last week he is at a disadvantage due to the need to acclimatise and adapt to links golf.

In contrast Matt Kuchar decided to play in Scotland last week. He has played in the Open 6 times and his best finish was 27th a year ago. We recommended Kuchar last week as we thought his game would be suited to seaside golf. His bogey free round of 66 on Friday suggests Kuchar has the attributes to score well playing golf in the dunes. He eventually finished tied 10th in Scotland after three rounds below par. At third favourite in the top US market, Phil Mickelson may be supported but in 17 appearances at the Open he has just one top 10 finish and Kuchar is preferred.

Simon Dyson indicated his liking for links golf when interviewed in Scotland over the weekend. He secured a place in the Open field when David Toms withdrew through injury. He was third in the BMW Championship, the tournament that has the strongest field in Europe after the Open itself. He played well in Scotland, beating par in each of his three rounds. The Open has a record of producing big priced players doing well and Dyson looks a good price to make the top 10.

It’s going to be a great championship at Sandwich this week. we’re not expecting a birdiefest but the winning player will have to consistently find the fairways and greens and hole out to avoid bogeys when required. That profile applies to Lee Westwood and we can see him finally winning the major championship that he craves and, in our opinion, deserves.

Trading Recommendations

When betting on golf you should bear in mind that you don’t require a high strike rate to make a profit. The prices available are such that several winners a season can result in a healthy profit. The recommendations initially are all back bets but we will suggest lay trades when applicable as each tournament develops. Last week we recommended a 2 point bet on Steve Stricker on the US Tour and he won at 8.2. He was available to lay at 1.4 before the final round so a profit was guaranteed whatever the outcome.

5 points win Lee Westwood at 13.0
1 point win Retief Goosen at 55.0
1 point win Padraig Harrington at 44.0
2 points win Sergio Garcia Top Continental European at 7.0
2 points win Top US Matt Kuchar at 12.5
1 point win Top 10 Finish Simon Dyson at 14.0 

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Monday, July 11, 2011

A great weekend!

Another great weekend for us with our main selection in the John Deere Classic - Steve Stricker, winning the tournament for the third successive year, quite a feat. He is one of the quietly efficient Americans on tour at the moment and he is actually the 5th best golfer in the world according to the World Rankings. A good bet for the Open? - well our golf expert is compiling the report as we speak but the fact that he chose to stay in the States last week rather than take the opportunity to practise some links golf may well work against him.

We also had a decent weekend on the tennis with big John Isner winning the Campbells Hall of Fame Tennis Championships as predicted. An interesting stat for you on this match, it featured the biggest ever height differential with Isner measuring in at 6'9 and Rochus at the other end of the scale at 5'6. Partly as a result of this big John served 22 aces and only faced a single break point and in fact only faced 5 break points all week and was only broken once in 5 matches - great serve stats and therefore the perfect player for the MT1 Strategy.

Roll on Thursday with the start of the Open!

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Friday, July 8, 2011

To Take or Not To Take That is The Question?

A great question that many sports traders often asked us at ISI is when should I exit my trade.  There is no simple answer to this question as each sports trader will have his own trading plan, edge or niche and therefore a different exit point.

So how do we go about answering this very important question, well if we take a quick look at it from the many different points of view, hopefully we can unravel the mystery.

Earlier we touched on the point that the decision to exit should be based firstly on the trading plan you have set yourself and secondly the way in which you trade.  For example (name edited to Cassini after accidently calling Cassini, Paul - Sorry not sure how that happened) Cassini could not have said it better in his post over on his great blog Green All Over.  In a nutshell Cassini is a value trader and therefore his exit point is when the price you are trading no longer offers value.  Cassini has been trading on Betfair for a number of years and has created his own edge by working out whether he thinks a price on offer is value.  He does this with a combination of his own odds compiling and a great understanding of the games he is involved in and the phases they go through both on and off the pitch (the Betfair traders).  His edge seems to be very successful and he is passionate about his hobby that also makes him money.

However value trading is only one of the many methods available to sports traders.  You have sports traders nowadays using charting and pattern spotting as their preferred method of sports trading.  So your exit points should be in line with the re-occurring pattern formations.  Meaning if your style is to swing trade certain sports markets using advanced charting software like QuantSports.  Your exit points may be based on Candlestick pattern formations and or with certain technical indicators.  Or your sports trading style may be based on a particular market behaviour and its effects on the price such as football markets where in the right market we know that a price will decrease by 82 ticks in the first 45 mins if no goal is scored or in other words roughly 18 ticks every 10 mins.  In this scenario your exit point is based on your trading plan and style again.  Lets say with further research you decide the first 10 mins of certain games have the highest chance of staying goalless. Your trading plan may be based on exiting at the 10 minute mark once again nothing to do with value but more to do with patterns or behaviours.
So the key to assessing the correct exit point comes down to two key elements, your trading plan and the strategy you are going to adopt.  Once you have these in place, the final and most important part is match or race selection i.e. if you have chosen the correct match or race for your preferred strategy and your trading plan is a sound one, the question of exit is no longer a question.

As with all sports trading or trading as a whole a major factor in becoming successful and ultimately profitable is discipline.  Yes we may sound like a broken record but we cannot emphasise enough how incredibly important discipline is to your sports trading.  If you become too greedy or do not accept loses when they happen, you will never make it as a sports trader no matter how good your strategy or trading plan is!

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Today's Tennis Selections

The matches we have selected for today are:

Isner v Clement - start time 2000 GMT
Rankings are 46 and 169 and starting odds are 1.34 and 3.64 respectively, Isner leads the H2H’s 2 - 0. 

Isner’s stats are as follows, he has held serve over the last year 90.2% of the time and his opponents have held serve 88.8% of the time. He has won 4 of his last 10 but generally been beaten by top players, he lost a 5 set thriller against Nadal at the French Open and lost to 15th seed Almagro at Wimbledon in a tight match.

Clement stats are: he has held serve 74% of the time over the last year and his opposition have held serve 79.1% of the time. He has won 7 of his last 10 but all his wins have been against players outside the Top 100.

We think Isner’s serve will be too much for Clement, he served 10 aces yesterday in 9 service games and won 76% of points on serve. Follow the MT1 Strategy on the Isner serve and green up every time he holds.

Llagostera Vives v Martinez Sanchez - start time midday GMT

Rankings are 88 and 62 and starting prices are 1.39 and 3.34 respectively, MS leads the H2H’s 2 - 0.
LV’s stats are as follows: she has held serve 63.7% of the time over last year and her opposition have held serve 60.7%, she has won 7 of her last 10 but the highest ranked player she has beaten in that time is Cornet, ranked 78.

MS’s stats are; she has held serve 65% of the time and her opponents have held serve 67.6% of the time, she has won 5 of her last 10 but all her wins have been against top 50 players.

MS didn’t face a single break point in the first round and won 80% of points on serve whereas LV struggled through against Lim (ranked 240) and won in 3 sets but faced 10 break points and only won 51% of points on serve.

Follow the MT1 strategy on the MS serve and leave stake open for LV service game to try for the early break or if LV serves first follow the WT1 strategy on the LV serve. Green up when MS breaks serve.

For more information on trading tennis and other sports, visit

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Possibly the Best Opportunity Around.

I read an article about Betfair in the Business section of The Daily Telegraph last friday, it was actually talking about how the Chief Executive was leaving and that shareholders weren't happy with performance since the company went public.

However, what stood out for me were the numbers quoted, they said that the number of active Betfair users had grown by 15% over the last year and the number now stood at 950,000 active users! How many businesses can say that they have grown their customer base by 15% over the last year, not many I would guess.

Now when you consider that the vast majority of this growth has come from punters moving away from traditional bookmakers to Betfair, but they are still essentially punters, putting bets on the outcome of an event. You can see the opportunity for Sports Traders, as liquidity improves so do the opportunities to create win/win situations regardless of the outcome of the event.

Not surprisingly, football is now the sport most bet on, on Betfair with it accounting for over 40% of revenues just slightly ahead of Horse Racing. Football is now big business in every respect but you can bet that most punters betting on football are doing it with their hearts and not their heads - this again gives those of us with the know-how to make big profits.

All in all, a great time to be a Sports Trader, with the rest of the economy stalling, sports trading is going  from strength to strength.

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