Saturday, 31 October 2009

The Smell Of Burning Fingers

Any doubts I may have had about avoiding the WTA Championships in Doha were set aside by last night’s game between Victoria Azarenka and ‘second reserve’ Agnieszka Radwanska. Azarenka was favourite, having looked the form player during the week to date. She led 6-4, 4-1 and 5-2 ( trading at 1.01 ) before a classic WTA ‘bottle’, losing five successive games to lose the second set 5-7, including two successive double faults at 5-6 40-40. She then developed the regularly seen ‘post-crumble’ injury, and eventually packed it in at 1-4 third set with cramping.

I’ve come to accept that I’m not a natural tennis trader, I hate the flip-flop of odds, and I’m more comfortable with the ATP, where there is less of this ridiculous blowing up under pressure. As I’ve commented on before, I believe the only way to success with women’s tennis is by laying heavy favourites in-play. And I’m not good at that, so I’ll continue to avoid around half the players on the tour, simply because I don’t trust them to keep their head together under pressure.

Another good reason for keeping big money in your pocket at this time of year is injuries. We’ve already had two back-up players competing in Doha, some wag on the Betfair forum suggested they’d be calling for Kristina Barrois soon ( world number 71! ). This weeks ATP tournaments have been littered with retirements, and we’ve basically got a load of knackered players trying to squeeze out a few more rankings points before the season ends.

So who’s backing at 1.01 in WTA games? The whole point of Betfair is matching money, and a laying strategy seems so obvious, but the money’s there to match. Surely once you’ve been burned a couple of times, you wouldn’t back in similar situations again? I’ve no problem with money-buying at 1.01 in the right situation, but any top-level WTA game is not the right situation. Fact.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Best Left Alone

Our top eight WTA ladies, all in Doha for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships.

My betting tip for the week - avoid completely. There is no-one on earth who's got a clue as to what may happen in each match. Sure, there'll be flip-flops to trade with but, frankly, it's not worth the stress on your organs. There's plenty of more suitable sport for betting around this week, including three ATP tour events. Let the girls have their highly-paid vacation.

I'd have had a chunk on Serena to have the most inappropriate outfit for the ball if that had been on offer. That's one area she's always consistent.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Turning Bad Into Good

I started today with a cock-up ( nothing new there ). Despite a couple of harshly learnt lessons about backing teams on the weekend following Champions League action, I placed a lay of FC Moscow for their away game at CSKA Moscow in the Luzhniki Stadium, scene of Wednesday’s contest between CSKA and Manchester United. The lay was based upon CSKA’s recent home record, but they were ripped apart by the away side, who scored three times in the first half. All red taken at 0-2, I caught a point made by the commentator on the live pictures feed, who noted that CSKA’s performance was probably caused by having played on the artificial surface on Wednesday. He believed that the surface took more out of players than grass, and that a longer recovery period than four days was required.

So on to the follow-up. A lay of Manchester United. Bullseye. Ok, it was only a small bet, but I do get great satisfaction from a smart win, often much more than from a more lucrative but obvious selection.

My best bet of the day? No, that was the lay of Arsenal at 1-2 about three minutes before the West Ham equaliser to red up at (£5) after an initial back of the favourites which I foolishly failed to green up.

I ended the day with a decent profit but, not for the first time, what could have a cracking day was hijacked by red cards. I had to set-off plenty of potential profit following three sendings off ( for Hamburg, Club Brugge and Livorno ). Bloody refs.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Sticking In Pins.

I regularly spend a solid five or six hours on Saturday afternoons following the in-play football on Betfair, generally accompanied by Sky Sports News’ Soccer Saturday.

On the occasions when I’m out for the afternoon, I usually have a little lunchtime punt on a selection of the afternoon’s domestic matches. This has over time evolved into a series of lays of away teams, although whether backing or laying, I always seem to end up close to zero profit. What does this prove? Either that I’m an average tipster, or more probably just that the odds setters often get it right.

Today I followed my usual routine – I picked out a batch of potential selections based upon the available odds and my own opinion ( in this case eighteen games ). I then researched the form and stats for each match, before whittling down to my chosen lays.

So today, I arrived at nine away lays ( Doncaster, Grimsby, Yeovil, Walsall, Wycombe, Swindon, Crewe, Accrington Stanley, Grays ). Result - seven wins, two losses. As usual (and as I have come to expect ), the resultant odds brought me back close to where I started ( well an £8 loss actually ).

And how many of the original eighteen would have been losses? Two! Irritatingly, the average odds of the nine discarded lays was considerably lower than the chosen nine. This game does your head in sometimes.

I’d be surprised if anyone can consistently make money from picking football winners ( as opposed to in-play trading ). If anyone knows different, please put me right. Until then, I’ll accept that those Saturday afternoon punts are just for fun. And try to make a profit elsewhere.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Return Of Pim-Pim.......and a gubbing!

I’ve been playing around on Betfair for the last week or so, making zero headway, due to a lack of aim and focus. I’ll leave the in-depth analysis for a later post, but I’d decided today that a substantial deposit into my bank, followed by some serious and consistent concentration, was the only way forward for me. I arrived home, and before I started my ‘new phase’, I decided to lay a couple of horses simply to round up my bank to a ‘£00’ figure as a starting point. The first lay hacked up! ( Azure Mist, 4.50 Yarmouth ). Pissed off, I decided the deposit was delayed until a day when my mood had improved.

A little later, Caroline Wozniaki lined up against the local ‘lucky-loser’ – Anne Kremer – in Luxembourg. Dead cert. But not enough cash in my bank for a worthwhile bet, so I stuck just £15 on to win a quid! ( I’m a sucker for rounding up balances ) before popping out with Mrs B for half an hour. Check out the Betfair forum for more detail of what happened, but to summarise –

At 5-5 40-A first set, Wozniaki called the trainer, took an injury time-out and had her thigh heavily strapped. From that moment, she destroyed Kremer, moving to 7-5, 5-0. She then shook hands and retired! A 1.01 gubbing. Carnage.

From reading the forum, it seems that at 3-0 second set, a guy on the forum had warned everyone that Wozniaki’s dad had told her to retire at 5-0, so that the local girl could win! I’m sure this will keep the forum excited for a few hours.

I’m just feeling lucky. This could easily have been my first bet after a major bank deposit. Phew.

A look forward to tomorrow, and a match of interest in Stockholm. To those who have only been following tennis for a couple of years, the name of Joachim Johansson may mean little. The 27 year-old Swede with the ‘Pim-Pim’ nickname has a current world ranking of 511 after an injury ravaged couple of years, but for a short while during the middle of the decade he was a rising force in the game, with a career-high ranking of number nine in early 2005, based around a huge serve ( I’m talking Karlovic-style ). Unfortunately this great strength led to ongoing shoulder problems, which in turn led to his retirement in early 2008.

I noted his tentative ATP Tour comeback a couple of weeks ago in Malaysia. Having played one Challenger tournament per month through the summer, the Kuala Lumpar ATP tournament was a warm-up for his main target for the year – to compete in his home event in Stockholm. He still managed to blow away Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets in the opening round, and follow that by reaching 6-4, 6-6 against Richard Gasquet before going down in three sets. Interestingly, he commented on his own lack of match fitness after the Hewitt victory, and withered in the third set against Gasquet. In Stockholm, he beat 83-ranked Peter Luczak in straight sets in the first round and tomorrow evening plays Juan Monaco ( who’s had injury problems in the last couple of weeks ). Johansson is currently 1.51 and, if I’m home in time, I’ll be on Johansson with the hope of greening-up after the first set. He will be extremely motivated and I expect a quick start. It may be that his comeback has a limited shelf-life, so this tournament is a huge one for Johansson. But if it goes to three sets – get on Monaco.

On non-sporting matters, two news items today have made me doubt the future of humanity. Firstly, I note the nomination as ‘Celebrity Mother of the Year’ for Katie Price, a plastic-breasted self-publicist with no discernable talent who seems happy to hawk her children around the world to suit her own agenda, regardless of what may be best for them. This decision can presumably only have been made on the basis that she is popular with the brain-dead.

A similar audience must also be those targeted by the producers of the record which will this week become Britain’s biggest-selling single of 2009 – some manufactured soulless pap sung by Cheryl Cole, wife of Ashley and former nightclub punch-up specialist. I understand how a song performed on primetime TV on a Saturday evening to fifteen million people is likely to sell in large quantities, but am deflated by the ease with which the audience continue to fall for this same trick year after year, buying fourth-rate drivel regardless of what their ears are telling them.

Maybe this is evolution – eventually we will all become brainwashed zombies who do exactly what we are told to by the black box in the corner of the lounge. Darwin didn’t see that coming.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

You Know It's Your Day When.........

Having giving myself a pat on the back for seven days of good discipline, I dropped my guard a little this evening with an old error – betting within moments of turning on the laptop, before giving myself time to assess the choice, or what I was aiming to achieve.

The offending trade was a back at 1.08 on South African side Eagles against Sussex in the Twenty20 Champions League. Low odds, but I just couldn’t see how the Eagles could fail to knock off a small remaining total with loads of wickets in hand. I slowly watched the scoreboard unravel, as Sussex’ slow bowlers put the brakes on the scoring rate. I made the decision to first offset my anticipated profit to lower my liability, and shortly afterwards I took a £20.00ish all-red.

My second error got me out of the mire. I made it unknowingly at the time of placing the bet – ok, who checks the rules of the bet regularly? As the game reached a tight climax, I’d already written off my £20. With five required to win off the last ball, a boundary forced a tie ( Eagles went on to take the match in a one-over ‘super over’ contest ). I assumed a tie would average the red/green position of each team – in my case a £20 loss.

Wrong – match void. A windfall!

It’s worth checking the rules occasionally, particularly if you’re trading competitions you’re not too familiar with.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Winning When It Counts

Yesterday’s World Cup qualifiers reinforced an opinion I’ve held for a while about top-level football - that teams only perform to their optimum level when the outcome matters. I could probably make a case that this applies to many sports, but footballers seem particularly adept at underperforming in dead matches.

Would England have been beaten in Ukraine if they had needed a result? I doubt it. In the majority of games, teams needing a result achieved their aim when competing against opponents with nothing to play for. Only Bulgaria blew my argument, capitulating to Cyprus. I’ll put that down to the south European temperament. Stand-out results were away wins for Paraguay and Chile in the South American qualifiers, Serbia’s demolition of Romania to confirm their qualification to South Africa, and Germany’s win in Russia.

So can I carry this opinion forward into a profitable strategy? In international qualifiers and Champions League games, probably. In league football, different rules seem to apply. I’ve basically given up on football betting during the last month of the league season, due to the daft results which occur. What’s the difference? Probably my old nugget – ‘mental fragility’. Lesser teams will crumble under pressure, whereas top players improve their performance.

I’ve added the highlights from Argentina’s win over Peru – an incredible finish. I particularly enjoyed the Argentinian defender’s attempt at a backheeled flick clearance from his own penalty area, with his team leading 1-0 after 89 minutes.

Friday, 9 October 2009

A Matter Of Taste...The Sequel

In a post at the end of the last football season (here), I included Manchester City's Stephen Ireland as one of my players of the year. Despite the mammoth expenditure undertaken in recent times by manager Mark Hughes, Ireland remains a vital part of City's march upon the existing elite of English football.

A stylish playmaker with an eye for goal and a willingness to work hard for his team, Ireland is quickly becoming an established star of the Premier League.

However, great footballing ability tends to go hand-in-hand with crap taste, whether it be in music or purchases. Pictured below is Ireland's girlfriend, one Jessica Lawlor, at the wheel of a white Bentley Continental R that Stephen managed to pimp up to the total value of £260k.

Nice. Umm.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Stuck In A Rut

Anyone who has read my blog for a little while will have spotted that I have been unable to maintain a consistent profitable spell for any length of time. I started a monthly review for my own benefit, but it has become a marker for detailing the up/down rollercoaster that each month has brought – decent March, May, June and August, crap April, July and September. Now a tough start to October means that I’m glad that this week’s lack of evening football gives me a chance to spend a little time away from the Betfair screen. One of my strengths over the last year or so has been my ability to reset my head and start again after a calamity. My problem at the moment is that, even without self-induced calamities and with discipline generally intact, I’m still not making a profit. Bah!

The weekend just passed was one of the hardest I’ve been through in the last couple of years. My main chosen weapon was a lay of away teams, and a few outright backs where the favourites looked solid. There were plenty of successes, but United’s performance against Sunderland ( an equaliser way too late to trade out my back of the home side ) and Sunday’s defeats for Marseille and Juventus took away most of the profits gained. My mood was also severely damaged by the large amount of scratched trades as a batch of home favourites went behind, and I lacked the conviction to hold out for a home equaliser ( which usually appeared just after I’d scratched ).

I finished Sunday with a kick in the teeth – a lay of mid-table IK Start in the Norwegian top flight away at Rosenborg ( season’s record – played 26, won 19, drawn 7, lost 0 ). Rosenborg led 1-0 and 2-1, so I saw no need to green up. That Start scored in the 89th and 90th minute to win 2-3 should just go down as a reminder of why sport is so interesting, and a warning about the pitfalls of gambling – there’s no such thing as a certainty. But after the frustrations of the weekend, I was in no mood for philosophical amusement at my downfall. ‘Pissed off’ does not convey my thoughts. And October started in the red.

So what strategy do I have in my locker to bring things back on course? That hackneyed old phrase – ‘back to basics’. Yep, the only way to succeed in the long term is through discipline, bank management and waiting for opportunities, rather than forcing issues. So I’ll plug away with football betting and any random opportunities which fall at my feet. Horse racing and tennis bets are limited at the moment ( for an 8 till 6 worker ), but that’s hardly disastrous, based upon a glance at my recent P&L’s.

I did have an interesting play with one of my old spreadsheets, one that was used at a time I had a percentage-based daily or weekly target. These targets proved to be unhelpful , causing inconsistent staking and chasing to meet an artificial goal. But using the sheet simply as a guide as to possible profits gives a worthwhile example of what can be achieved with steady and modest gains. Think you can make £10 a day with a £150 bank? Think you can make £30 a day with a £1,000 bank? £50 a day with a £2,000 bank? Doesn’t look impossible, does it? Achieving this regularly can quickly add up to a substantial profit. My past error was to be too ambitious with my targets, and to allow daily losses to affect my medium-term strategy.

Less greed, more patience – a recipe for getting out of a rut.

Sunday, 4 October 2009


The NRL season finished this morning in Sydney, with a 23-16 win for the favourites, Melbourne Storm, over the Parramatta Eels in the Grand Final at ANZ Stadium.

Despite originating from the heartland of British Rugby League ( born in Leeds, and once lived just five miles from three club stadiums – Castleford, Featherstone, Wakefield ) I have never had any great interest in the game, being a lifetime football fan. But I have had good recent results following this season’s NRL action, and had another small win on the Grand final today. My P&L for the last three months shows 20 transactions, with 19 wins and one scratch. I’d be ecstatic if I could transfer that hit rate onto Football or Tennis.

Why the success? It’s certainly not down to research. I simply check the NRL ladder and recent results, before watching matches develop (on a scoreboard!) and backing in-play at an appropriate moment. I have only two answers :-

· The better teams generally hold on to leads ( as happened this morning, despite a few scares ).
· I am betting in the morning.

As many who trade on Betfair as a hobby will know, you are often in situations where time on the computer has followed a day’s work, and mental fatigue becomes an important factor. I’m sure I’m not alone in having my performance ( and P&L ) deteriorate at the end of a Betfair session, particularly during the evening. Whilst the successful full-time traders will be in optimum mental state for their allocated working hours, the part-timer has to find whatever time is available, and often that may be when the brain is functioning at well below it’s best.

It seems to me that my NRL bets were done with a positive and decisive outlook, and that my confidence was rewarded with profit. I spend plenty of time in the evenings scratching bets and taking small reds on other sports as my confidence evaporates at the first sign of a turnaround in a match. Is a sharp mind also a brave mind?

Maybe I should move to Canada. Then I could follow Saturday’s European footy in the morning.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Dome Heads

Inspired by tonight's performances by Fulham's Andy Johnson and Paul Konchesky, and with consideration to the five minutes my monthly haircut takes nowadays, I offer to you my domehead XI. Due to the rapid timescale from initial idea to blog post, this is not a definitive list, just whatever I pulled from the random place that is my memory.

Fabien Barthez

French showman with a bad habit of saving his calamities for the big occasions.

Danny Mills

Tough-tackling full back turned radio pundit, who bizarrely managed to gain 19 England caps.

Franck Leboeuf

Cultured ex-Chelsea and France centre-back, now living in L.A.

Terry Mancini

Ex-Arsenal and QPR defender from a time when bald top and long sides were perfectly acceptable.

Paul Konchesky

Like Mills, ex-Charlton. Like Mills, a tough tackling full back. Like Mills, no hair.

Bobby Charlton.

The legendary 'comb-over'. Nuff said.

Thomas Gravesen

Danish hard-man who was for a spell part of Real Madrid's 'galactico' line up

David Armstrong

Fan's favourite for many years at Middlesboro and Southampton in the seventies and eighties, with 3 England caps.

Attilio Lombardo

Former Sampdoria, Juventus and, er, Crystal Palace wingman
with 19 Italian caps.

Dion Dublin

Popular centre forward for a string of clubs, who started and finished his 20 year career at Norwich City.

Andy Johnson

Birmingham City fans will remember the young blond-locked Johnson. Everton and Fulham fans wont.

Anybody I've missed?