Wednesday, 30 September 2009

September - Car Crash!

I had prepared in my head an extremely long post detailing the calamities of the month, but can thank Alistair at ‘Bet Your Life Sports Trading’ for summarising the main issue for me in his response to comments from his latest post –

‘It seems to me, now more than ever, that having one's head in gear is significantly more important than the mechanics of the trade itself. Keeping the mind in shape should be at the top of our list.’

I’m going to blame rock festivals for my September performance, which was certainly more to do with mindset than any particular bet or trade. I’ve had an enjoyable summer, with regular festival weekends tucked between worthwhile and satisfying work, and fairly steady betting. With the end of the festival season, I think I lost the nice routine I had developed, spent too much time in front of the laptop and struggled to remember what my aims were.

I made an error in removing too much cash from my Betfair account early in the month, which left me with a smaller bank than I’m comfortable playing with. I subsequently went into a pattern of haphazard betting which led to an unsurprisingly loss-making month. I whittled away the bank, redeposited the money I took out earlier, blew that deposit, and spent most of the month playing with a tiny bank, making little progress. I finally deposited £500 into Betfair and had a couple of days away from the laptop to clear my head and start afresh in October.

I’ve made losses in the three major sports traded – football, tennis and horse racing. Probably as these are the sports generally available for me when I wish to throw an ‘Oh-sod-it’ bet. My most successful sport in the month was Australian Rugby League! Gah. There’s little point in deep analysis of the bets placed, nearly all the losing ones were either ill-researched, frustrated follow-on bets after a loss, or simple OFI punts. So probably best to forget September – a losing month where I learnt little to help me progress.

I’ve read plenty of blogs lately, and re-read a chunk of my own blog. It strikes me that there is no formula for success on Betfair, but all the successful guys have their own technique which they follow consistently, and have confidence in their own ability. So my October aim is to get back to doing what I’m good at, and try to keep in mind what I’m trying to achieve during each Betfair session.

It can’t be any worse than September!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Weekend Thoughts

I’ll start with a follow up to my last post :-

Kimiko Date

Contrary to my thoughts, Date wasn’t beaten by Hantuchova, nor anyone else, and won the Korea Open. She will be 39 tomorrow, and last won a title thirteen years ago. This week she’s beaten a series of decent names from the ‘second tier’ of the WTA – Kleybanova, Hantuchova, Kirilenko, Medina Garrigues – and is the second-oldest title winner in WTA history. Come on then, who backed her pre-tournament? No hands up then. The oldest winner ever? Billie-Jean King.

Shahar Peer

As I suggested, Peer did win the Tashkent Open without losing a set, just as she had in Guangzhoi during the previous week. Best bet of the coming week? She’ll pull out of the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo citing injury!

A step up in level for the WTA this week in Tokyo, with only Serena and Kim Clijsters missing of the big guns. Take out the only two with any consistent form, and you’re struggling for pointers. Safina is the defending champion, Venus the favourite (just). So it’s anyone’s tournament, basically. I can lend a pin to any optimists who wish to pick the winner.

I’ve noted before how my odds-on instincts often frustrate. I sniggered this morning at the odds available on Flavia Pennetta to beat Roberta Vinci ( 1.16ish I think ) in a first round game in Tokyo. Pennetta is inconsistent, Vinci limited but tough. Yet it didn’t occur to me to lay Pennetta, I just moved on to find the next value back. Vinci won 6-1, 6-2. A lay would have been a damn easier (and lower risk) way of making money than the long session I’ve just endured to pick off £3 and £4 wins on the evening’s footy.

Monitoring the cricket from Centurion today, it struck me how the odds-makers (and gamblers!) have no trust in England’s ability in the one day game. The odds on England remained extremely generous throughout the game, and I won a tenner backing at 1.61 and laying off at 1.07. Plenty of fingers must have been burnt recently, I assume. England are now third favourites to win the Champions Trophy. Don’t you just love sport.

I’m having a couple of days away from Betfair now – basically work-related, but September has been a shocker and I want to restart again refreshed for October. I’ll hopefully have time to put together a doom-laden month-end review post for Wednesday!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Oldie Time (Again)

So you’re checking out the odds on a low grade WTA tour event, where the top two seeds are ranked 21 and 23 in the world. At the last eight stage, amongst the remaining unseeded players is a former world number 4. Interested? A slight problem. That ranking was gained in November 1995!

The tournament is the Hansol Korea Open, and the player Kimiko Date of Japan ( now known as Date-Krumm ). As the tennis world prepares for the return of Justine Henin, the Date comeback at the age of 39 is less likely to create shockwaves throughout the sport. But she’s a tough competitor who gave Caroline Wozniaki a scare at Wimbledon. Tomorrow, she’s up against the number one seed, Daniela Hantuchova. The Slovak should win, but my fact for your consideration – of Date’s twelve defeats this season, nine of those matches went to a third set. For a tournament winner, I quite like the look of Vera Dushevina. She’s won a title this year (in Istanbul) and took a set off Venus at the US Open.

The other WTA tournament this week is in the Tashkent, Uzbekistan ( check your atlas ). I generally like to bet against the winner of the previous week’s tournament, particularly on the WTA, as fatigue seems to be a more important factor than form . But Shahar Peer breezed through the tournament in Guangzhou last week without losing a set, and may do the same this week, at least until a likely final against Shvedova.

Any bets I place will be small – I’ll be asleep for most of the WTA games, and at work for the ATP tournaments.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Go 49ers!

I’ve been following the fortunes of the San Francisco 49ers since a 2005 visit to Candlestick Park for their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ( I also managed to see a Golden State Warriors NBA game during a 2 week holiday to S.F. ). They won the game 15-10, but struggled throughout the season, a 4-12 win/loss finish including victories in the final two games of the season. A slight improvement has been seen in the last three seasons, but all three have resulted in losing records and elimination before the play-offs. It’s not been a good time to be a 49ers fan in recent years.

So I thought I’d share a rare highlight – Frank Gore’s two long range touchdowns in Sunday’s win over the Seattle Seahawks. Gore was the back-up running back that day in 2005, but became the number one at the start of the following season. On Sunday, he put in a career-high 79 yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and then bettered it with an 80 yard touchdown run at the start of the second half.

With a new coach installed at the latter end of last season, and a 2-0 start to this campaign, maybe this is the year for a play-off berth. Just don’t bet on it.

I’ll also stick in a couple of pictures taken in the stadium before and after the Bucs game. Blame the blurry camera work on Mrs B!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A Fair Match Up?

This photo from the David Haye / Nikolay Valuev match-up announcement caught my attention.

Based on informed writing in the boxing press, Haye's current price of 1.50 for his November attempt at the WBA heavyweight title is close to the mark.

I'll admit to knowing little about boxing, but I think I'd have difficulty with an odds-on bet on a guy whose head matches up to his opponents shoulders.

Valuev may well have little talent, but a 55-1 record suggests that most struggle to overcome his 7'2" frame. Haye made his name as a cruiserweight, and with an 11" and seven stone difference to overcome, he must be a hell of a talent to be worthy of 1/2 odds.

Not a bet for me.

Monday, 21 September 2009

A Cruel Game..... For Mugs!

It took me until Tuesday of this week to get out of a destructive mindset and finally settle into trading with some purpose, after a predictably red fortnight. Once I had accepted that September should be written off as a potentially profitable period, I was able to release the frustration I’d been feeling and move forward.

Five days on, and I was feeling confident, with controlled and consistent trading making a modest but stress-free profit. So I’m more than a little irritated that one lapse in concentration blew away a chunk of that profit. I was listening to the Manchester derby on Five Live, and as the fourth minute of injury time passed, Mike Ingham noted that United had a last-chance free kick. I was tempted by the 1.05 on the draw – surely City could deal with one free kick. So £105 on. Yes, they dealt with the free kick. But not the couple of minutes beyond the allotted time, nicely described by Stephen Maher here as ‘Fergie time’.

I don’t instinctively bet on situations where one kick would blow my whole stake, so I haven’t a clue why I took the draw on – maybe I was just surprised to see 1.05 being offered. I was interested to see that in similar circumstances, Bet Angel’s Peter Webb laid the draw. So who’s the mug? Yes, I can complain about my luck, having being burnt on my only error of the day, but frankly I deserved the kicking for taking on a high risk bet. I’m sure my £105 was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the losses and gains Michael Owen’s late intervention caused.

Anyway, I kept my head and after a session extending into the evening, I pulled the day back to (£12). It could have been considerably better – I’ve been following Melinda Czink over the past few months in the WTA events, and fancied her to turn over Lucie Safarova in Quebec today. But, following my earlier calamity, I was cautious about leaving a large stake open for a long period, and had to settle for a £20.00 profit. So a bad day survived, and I look forward optimistically to the coming week.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

And The Oscar Goes To......

Ever heard the one about the bloke who get a 12-point driving ban by picking up four 3-point speeding tickets in one journey?

Watching tonight’s Everton / AEK Athens Europa League tie, I was struck by the performance of AEK’s former Spanish international, Juanfran. During a couple of weeks where sport has been dominated by allegations of cheating, Mr Juan Francisco Garcia managed on four separate occasions to fall to the ground, head in hands, claiming to have been hit in the face. Eduardo would be proud of his performance.

If a two match ban is UEFA’s idea of a punishment for simulation, then I think Juanfran’s four separate offences worthy of a life ban! Oh, I forgot, the appeals committee overturned Eduardo’s ban. Give Juanfran an Oscar instead.

In the earlier game on ITV4, Fulham managed a draw at CSKA Sofia, having made nine changes to the team that started Sunday’s game against Everton. Two thoughts –

· Does it not make a mockery of the supposedly all-important season-ending chase towards a place in Europe, when the following autumn a club puts out a second string team when the European matches actually arrive.

· Last year Aston Villa took a similar view to Fulham, and their line-ups in Europe showed the lack of depth in the club’s squad. Tonight’s Fulham line-up had considerably more quality than Villa’s, including Kamara, Gera, Greening, Nevland and Simon Davies. I like Fulham under Roy Hodgson, and I think they have a squad depth to ensure they’ll be competing for a European place again this season. Even if they don’t care about Europe.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

US Open Thoughts

OK, so I managed to put the Indian sign on Rafa Nadal, who was swept away by Del Potro in Sunday’s semi. I take some comfort from Del Potro’s subsequent title-winning performance against Federer tonight, which brought to a halt a 40-game winning run for Roger at the US Open. My only bet was a pre-match back of Federer, greened up at the end of the first set. I did consider a back of the favourite at 1.13 when he took the third set, but was scared off by the odds and the late hour - I’m only writing this post now having woken up from falling asleep and missing the ending! So I can’t comment on the actual performances in the match, and will simply note that anyone who beats both Federer and Nadal in a tournament deserves the winner’s cheque.

Plaudits to the Argentinian, who will take most of the headlines, but my star of the tournament has been Kim Clijsters. Her title win is a terrific achievement, but surely an embarrassment to a batch of players who’ve been floating around the top 10 for a number of years without ever totally convincing ( Safina, Kuznetsova, Dementieva, Jankovic etc ) and then watch Clijsters walk away with a grand slam only weeks after returning from a two year break. Ultimately, Clijsters is a winner, and there aren’t too many of those in the women’s game.

A bizarre ending to the women’s final. No, it wasn’t a foot fault. And no, that doesn’t excuse Serena’s behaviour, which was sadly in character for the younger Miss Williams, who tends to sometimes give the impression that she is bigger than the game. The long delay in the appearance of any apology does her image no favours. I checked out the American tennis blogs, which are usually so vociferous in their support of the Williams sisters. All quiet…….

Congratulations to the Brit who won at Flushing Meadow. Not Murray, nor Robson, but Heather Watson, winner of the junior girls title. It’s amazing that we have two female juniors right at the top of the game, with no British role models to follow in recent memory. Hopefully, both Robson and Watson will make a successful leap into the senior game.

My P&L for the US Open ended at +£180. Satisfactory, particularly as I’ve placed considerably less trades than in recent grand slams, due to a combination of tiredness and a little lack of confidence with tennis betting. Unfortunately, this is the only bright point of my month so far. I’m still scratching around and my recent record of alternating decent / dismal months looks set to continue!

Finally, plenty has already been written on the Adebayor incidents at the weekend. My only addition to the debate is to wonder why the bananas throw on to the pitch happened to be in the hands of Arsenal fans at the particular moment that Adebayor celebrated in front of them. Brought along as a nourishing mid-game snack? Unlikely. The term ‘football supporter’ has sadly become an insult in recent times. This incident did nothing to improve that reputation.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

And Then It Started To Rain......

On Thursday evening, Rafael Nadal was involved in a tight battle with Fernando Gonzales in the US Open quarter final, when the rain intervened at 7-6, 6-6. Suffering further discomfort from his ongoing abdominal injury, Rafa was under pressure. Lose the tie break, and he would need another two sets to move through to the semi, whilst protecting his injury. The rain delay meant there was a risk that he would have to play on three successive days if he was to win the title. Not too promising then.

Yesterday’s wash-out has changed Rafa’s chances completely. Firstly, the final has been rescheduled for Monday. So still potentially matches on three consecutive days. But the extra day had given his injury time to recover. And within 32 minutes of walking on court today, suddenly we have a live title contender. Four successive points won the second set tie-break , and then Gonzalez capitulated to a 6-0 third set thumping. Leaving plenty of time for Nadal to recover before his semi against Del Potro tomorrow.

I just couldn’t see Rafa as a winner of the tournament up to this point. With straight set defeats to Del Potro and Djokovic in his two tournaments since his three month injury break, he looked well behind Murray and Federer in form and fitness. But now it’s down to a four-man shootout, and I think the odds compilers have it right – Federer around 1.7, Rafa next at 5.2, Del Potro 7.2, Djokovic 11.00. Looking for someone capable of beating Federer? Step forward Majorca's finest.

Let battle commence (weather permitting!).

Monday, 7 September 2009

Why Can't That Happen More Often?

I had £60 on Sussex tonight at 1.13 in the Pro40 League match at Hove that I was monitoring on Cricinfo (Mrs B had control of the TV remote!), after Nottinghamshire lost their third wicket 180 runs short of their chase. I then went back to following the Wickmayer / Kvitova match at the US Open for a couple of minutes, before flicking over to Betfair – Sussex could be laid at 1.01! Wow, how did that happen? The screenshot from Cricinfo makes it clear – 4 wickets for zero runs in one Dwayne Smith over. Easy money!

Sadly, for each winner there’s a loser – check out Stephen Maher’s post here. Better luck next time, mate.

I increased my bank by 62% today. Sounds terrific, but it probably just reinforced my opinion on the limitations of small stakes betting as a practice ground for full-time or high stakes gambling. I know that many bloggers have pointed out the benefits of using small stakes during the learning process of Betfair trading, and in the specific area of pre-race trading this is good advice. But if I break down tonight’s bets, how many would I have been happy to place if my bank and stakes were multiplied by 20? Less than half.

Not Too Bright

So your club has been involved one of the biggest scandals in the history of Rugby Union. They have been pilloried from all quarters for damaging the reputation of the sport, and will expect a rough reception wherever they travel. It will take a major charm offensive to regain their image. Presumably, as the Harlequins players prepared for kickoff in their opening game of the new Guinness Premiership season against Wasps, one would have thought that protecting their team’s image would be high on the team talk agenda.

20 seconds into the game, Quins’ George Robson tackles Wasps Joe Simpson, and follows through with a head butt. 46 seconds into the game, he is shown a red card.

No further comment needed.

Anyone enjoy backing horses in-running? A note of caution spotted earlier – whilst following a lay in the 5.40 at Worcester, I noticed the second favourite Le Toto trade down to 1.02 before being overhauled by the outsider Olympian Boy. All within a couple of seconds. Ouch. I regularly see tennis matches swing away from similar odds, but you generally have a chance of limiting your losses if you’re prepared to red out promptly. With racing, it’s gone. I struggle to believe anyone makes money backing at low odds in-running.

I made a 34% profit on my bank today. From this fact, and having read my post yesterday, you can probably deduce that my starting bank was circa £100, not a nice four-figure lump. I’m still considering my strategy for the coming weeks. But for the next couple of days, I’ll keep it small and steady.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

The Isner Bet

A triumph for John Isner last night, taking out Andy Roddick with a 38 ace performance in Flushing Meadow. The 6‘9” youngster from North Carolina came to my attention a couple of years ago, when he was a lowly ranked wild card in Washington but reached the final ( losing to Roddick ), firing huge quantities of aces whilst beating Henman, Haas and Monfils.

When I saw the result this morning, two things sprang immediately to mind.

· Isner added to my general knowledge this year when he had a spell out of the game suffering from ‘mononucleosis’, or ‘mono’ as it is known to Americans. Plenty of articles referred to this supposedly well-known illness. It meant nothing to me. Was I medically ignorant? A little searching came up with the answer – in England we know the illness as Glandular Fever.

· Mr Isner was involved in my lowest point whilst using Betfair. Anyone involved will remember the incident clearly, and I was on the wrong (red) end of it. In July '08, at Newport, Rhode Island, Isner was involved in a grass-court match against fellow American Jesse Levine. Isner was favourite, and the match progressed unmemorably for those using the official ATP scoreboards, my own bet of £1050 went on at circa 1.07. Only in the last couple of games of the match did the markets start to separate from the scoreboard. As the boards showed a 6-3, 6-1 Isner win, money was still available on Isner and the markets showed plenty of activity. Today, in this situation, I’d get my liabilities out quickly. But, one year ago, I mentally took my £70 profit, which was backed up by Betfair adding that sum to my account. An hour later, £1120 had gone from my account. Levine had won. The official scoreboard had transposed the scores throughout the match, and clearly 99% of those trading the game were following those scoreboards. Big kick in the nuts. I’m sure Betfair received plenty of complaints that night, but settled up on Levine pretty quickly.

I think I was more irritated a couple of weeks later when I spotted Katerina Srebotnik’s game in Portoroz, where Bet365’s scoreboard showed the game, but the official WTA board had no scores available, and odds were available on Srebotnik from layers clearly without score updates. Made a few quid, then Betfair suspend the market and void it. I shrugged my shoulders, and then thought I’d ask Betfair for their justification of the voiding. Betfair noted that they hadn’t turned the match in-play. Fair enough. What pissed me off was the line ‘we want to be fair to all our customers’ in their reply. I sent a response back to say they weren’t fair to the many who got stuffed during the Isner game. Their crap response – ‘…we accept there were issues with the result of the Isner match, but….’. Basically, as many have pointed out on blogs this year, it’s nothing to do with fairness, it’s all about Betfair making commission, and there was bugger all to be made on the Srebotnik match.

Learning outcome – keep away from iffy odds. If you’ve got liabilities, get out. Trying to be clever is a road to nowhere.

Lost The Plot

My September aim for continued concentration has quickly fallen apart! Over the last couple of days I’ve lost the plot with my betting, so no bets this evening as I reset my head.

It may be a reaction to the last few days of last month, where I maintained a particularly high level of discipline in the knowledge that I had a month-end blog post to write (!), but my mindset has been off-beam for a couple of days, with predictable results. My problems probably began on Thursday, when I decided to make the second withdrawal from my account this week, in an attempt to tidy up my personal finances and allow me to have the rest of September with no further need for withdrawals from Betfair. This left me back with a circa £300 bank once again, and whilst I momentarily reset my aims towards steadily rebuilding my bank, my subsequent actions suggested that I’m getting a little fed up with this small-stakes betting.

Things started ok, with four winning lays on Wolverhampton’s Thursday evening meeting. With hindsight, the research and cross-checking left a little to be desired. Since then, a catalogue of bets with little semblance of strategy :-

· Friday 8.00pm(ish). Whilst following the US Open, I inexplicably threw a third of my bank at a win for Dutch second division side De Graafschap – at 1.11 whilst leading 2-0 – who proceeded to blow their lead in the 88th minute. Where did that come from? Consistent staking? Bollocks.

· Friday 9.30pm(ish). I throw my bank on the pneumatic-chested Sophie Reade (above) to win Big Brother 10 at 1.15 – a winning bet but hardly consistent with my aims for the month.

· Saturday am. Heavy ( if successful ) bets on both soccer and NRL from Australia, winning £49 in just over an hour.

· Saturday 1.45. Sitting in the cafĂ© in House of Fraser Birmingham, tucking into a scone and looking through the day’s tennis line-up on Betfair Mobile, I bring to the fore my ability to match a pointless ‘oh f--- it’ attitude with simple bad luck. I click on the ‘next UK race’ button, and then randomly lay a horse at way higher odds than I’d normally choose, simply out of frustration at my lack of focus. I pick out Cheveton at odds of 20 in the 1.55 at Haydock, and it bolts up. £200 gone. An expensive scone then. I could have bought an I-phone 3G with that amount!

So it’s time to take a deep breath (again). The toughest part of this game is discipline, particularly following a loss. In the main, I’ve banished this demon. I have skills and strategies to allow me to make profits. I’ve shown that I can maintain focus when I have a goal. But with no goal, I fall apart!

So tomorrow, I’ll decide between two options, both which require discipline and consistency, to move forward with:

1. Start from £100 and build up to £1000+, no withdrawals, complete focus and consistency, no excuses, no timescale.
2. Put a sum equivalent to a large percentage of my ‘part-time’ winnings on Betfair since March back into my account, and let the weight of bank force me to concentrate!

My criteria for success remains as it did at the start of last month, so the second option is not necessary for profit achievement, I simply think I’ll take my betting more seriously with substantial sums at risk.

Finally, a terrible moment for horse racing overnight in Malton. I’ve only been following racing for a few weeks, but the name of Jamie Kyne had been lodged in my head as a highly-regarded apprentice worthy of caution when picking out horses to lay. I will admit to not having come across Jan Wilson. But when two talented young people are taken from their friends and family at the age of 18 and 19 respectively, there is sure to be a huge sense of loss for many people within the racing community. A sad day.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Elena and Jelena - Gone.

The first few evenings of the U.S. Open have been dominated by a series of strong favourites with prohibitive odds winning convincingly. I’ve been irritated by a seeming lack of available value – I backed Nadal pre-match at 1.06, but the same odds on Gilles Simon? No thanks. I suppose value is irrelevant if the pick wins, but 1.0.. bets generally tie up too much of my bank to make them worthwhile.

Tonight saw the first big casualties in the women’s draw – Jankovic and Dementieva ( I’m dismissing Ivanovic, she’s in shocking form at the moment ). I haven’t seen reports on the matches, but they were both slightly unlucky to be drawn against a couple of in-form and motivated young players in Yaroslava Shvedova and Melanie Oudin ( a good pick in Scott’s preview ). I did spot odds available on Shvedova of 1.46 at match point on her own serve – cracking value for those with a stronger stomach and bank balance than me.

I was pleased to escape with a £2.00 loss following a back of Sabine Lisicki, I’m not sure how she managed to lose to the limited Anastasia Rodionova, but I’m pleased I kept calm and pulled out a few trading techniques to recover my initial £105.

Wins for a couple of my favourites earlier – Sorana Cirstea and Yanina Wickmayer. Fortunately I backed pre-game and couldn’t follow in-play – neither match was straightforward so I’d probably have ended up all-red if I had been following.

If there are any money-buyers out there tonight, Miss Sharapova will definitely win in the evening session game, but at 1.03, I’ll be safely switched off.