An Open Letter to Barney Ronay

Dear Barney;

First of all, let me apologise for singling you out in this way. Something snapped, and your article - Only surprise about Mourinho’s return is people think it’s a good idea - was the final straw. This letter could have been addressed to any football journalist, had they written the wrong piece at the wrong time, so please don’t take this too personally. Let me also state that you write beautifully, and are unquestionably one of the best journalists working in football today.

Unfortunately, that has just made your failure to write about the right things even more irritating, and now you’re choosing to compound that by inviting us to share your irritation that the underlying football narrative  is dominated by trivia. This would be easier to take  if you weren’t writing the narrative.

So let’s talk about Paolo Di Canio, shall we? If you can divert your tired eyes from Mourinho for just one second.

You did well, at first.  During the four days when the Guardian noticed that Paolo Di Canio was a fascist, you managed to sneak a reasonably thoughtful and well-written piece about Di Canio past your editor. I say “reasonably” because there was one paragraph so appallingly idiotic that it seemed like it came from a different article, perhaps written by a Daily Express leader writer. Here it is:

In spite of which it is still necessary to deal with the issue of timing. Why now, many have asked? Di Canio has been manager of Swindon for two years without complaint. This is undoubtedly a valid wider gripe and there is an excellent point to be made about the lack of attention paid to events in the lower leagues. But the fact is this debate is happening now, and it is happening, rightly or wrongly, simply because Sunderland is a grander concern, more widely seen, more widely supported and reported. If Di Canio were to declare himself a fascist while running a suburban corner shop it would seem less of a pastoral, representative issue than if he were to do so as a director of Tesco. It is the same question of degree and scale that applies to all things.

Several points. Firstly: if you’re going to write about scale, then you need to use the correct scales. Swindon Town are not analagous to a suburban corner shop. Swindon Town are a football club who have sold over 200,000 tickets at their stadium this season, which I’m pretty sure will make them the single biggest provider of leisure activities in Swindon (population: 209,000). You appear to have confused Swindon Town Football Club with Tonbridge Angels.

Secondly: if Paolo Di Canio were to declare himself a fascist while running an actual suburban corner shop, it would be news, because he’s Paolo Di Canio, a highly recognisable name and dependable source of column inches. Your suggestion that the affairs of this “colourful” “character” had somehow slipped below The Guardian‘s radar in League One would carry more weight if The Guardian hadn’t printed two separate articles about his overcoat while you were ignoring him:

Paolo Di Canio’s sartorial elegance out of place on Swindon catwalk

Paolo Di Canio is reviving the legacy of Jose Mourinho’s coat

This, of course, compares favourably with the zero articles that The Guardian published about Di Canio’s alleged racial abuse of one of his own players while at Swindon. Something doesn’t add up here, but you’re not alone; the only national newspaper to report the Tehoue story was the Daily Mail. Which brings me to my third point: The matter of Paolo Signorelli’s funeral.

Either your search function is broken, or this next story wasn’t reported in The Guardian. In fact, as far as I can tell it was only reported by the Mail and the Sun, which is probably why I missed it until last weekend. Maybe you missed it too? Here, have some links.

Di Canio says he’s not one… but why was he at the funeral of an Italian fascist bomber? (Daily Mail)

Paolo Di Canio at bomb fascist’s funeral (The Sun)

Is this newsworthy? I’d say so. The Guardian apparently disagrees. Granted, this funeral occurred shortly before Di Canio took over at Swindon, but shouldn’t you be asking him questions about this, and how it tallies with his claims not to be a fascist? Would The Guardian give John Terry such an easy ride, I wonder? Or is this just another example of how degree and scale apply to all thigs: does the very mention of John Terry instantly change the Sunderland manager’s status from director of Tescos to suburban corner shop owner?

To be honest, Barney, I’d far rather read about Jose Mourinho’s overcoats than Paolo Di Canio’s, but, as you rightly point out, it would be best if we could read about something less trivial. Which rather begs the question – why aren’t you writing it?

Introducing Mothpunts… dot com!

Just a quick note to flag up the fact that I’ve gone over to the dark side, and started charging money for my tips.

Why? Well, there’s a couple of reasons. One is that I need money. But more importantly, I’ve spent a good deal of time lolling around in the seedy underbelly of Twitter Tipsterism in the past few months, and I’ve come across so much bullshit that I’ve been compelled to offer a competing service that is both competitive, and a service. That’s a rare thing in Twitter Tipster land: there’s so much fraud going on out there, it’s outrageous. It will be interesting to see how an honest, successful service fares in the midst of it all.

There is a third reason – I’m planning on developing some betting-related web applications which will become part of the subscriber package. These are going to kick every available kind of arse, and when they launch I’m going to be raising the subscription cost substantially to reflect that fact, but those who sign up now (before the TOP SECRET apps are launched) will get a locked-in, lifetime subscription rate of £2 per month.

The (currently hideously ugly) website is here – M O T H P U N T S . C O M

Conviction-based tipping

OK, first of all, my attempts to guilt myself into posting by announcing an impending post have failed. The problem there is that the hypocrisy surrounding Di Canio makes me so angry that I can not write. Here’s the draft of my aborted post -

KILL KILL STAB MURDER AND DESPATCH. KILL KILL STAB MURDER AND DESPATCH. KILL KILL STAB MURDER AND DESPATCH. KILL KILL STAB MURDER AND DESPATCH. KILL KILL STAB MURDER AND DESPATCH. KILL KILL STAB MURDER AND DESPATCH. KILL KILL STAB MURDER AND DESPATCH. KILL KILL STAB MURDER AND DESPATCH.

Alright, not really. Like all the best things in life, that’s actually an endlessly repeated Half Man Half Biscuit lyric.

Anyway, I haven’t brought you here to discuss Half Man Half Biscuit, or even Paolo Di Canio. Instead, I’m going to discuss the ongoing success of my #mothpunts, which, at the time of writing, are going extremely well. 63 punts, 28.61% ROI. It’s still a small sample size, but it’s rapidly getting less small. There aren’t many tipsters who can boast that sort of success rate.

I was looking over the numbers, and I noticed a couple of interesting things. I’ve had a good week with the tips, including a 14-1 correct score bet. That’s my second win on the correct score markets; the other was at 33-2. Those two windfalls give me a 20% strike rate from my 10 correct score bets, with an ROI somewhere north of 300%. (It’s early and I’m too tired to work out the actual figures. It’s like I’m in a right brain mode, except that whole left brain/right brain thing is a load of old bollocks).

Here’s the thing; when correct score tipping, I only ever back one unit, but when I’m tipping on match result markets (or over/under goals) I will vary my tip size. Sometimes 1 unit, or if I like the tip more than usual, 2, 3, or on one occasion 4 units. And it turns out that if we disregard the (wildly successful) correct score tips, my record when placing 1 unit tips is not good. Not good AT ALL.

Prior to this weekend, I’d posted 16 tips on match result or over/under markets… and they all lost.  The shortest price on a 1 unit 1×2 or O/U (jargon, there) punt is 2.96, and most are between 2/1 and 3/1. These are not bankers, then, by any means, but we’re also not in the realms of unicorn-chasing; to go 0-16 on bets in that price range is absolutely ridiculous, and definitely involves a significant degree of misfortune, but also, it must be admitted, a similarly significant degree of poor judgment on my part. Quite where the balance lies between these two influences is impossible to judge, but it’s a trend worth noting.

Aside: I say prior to this weekend because technically, I had my first single-unit match result winner on Sunday. I tipped Ajax for 1 unit at 3.55 on Betfair, but the odds then (inexplicably) drifted out to 4, which was so juicy I was compelled to do something I’ve never done before, and add a second tip for another 2 units at the improved price. I’m not sure how this affects the trends. Anyway -

Also of note is my record with multiunit bets. Prior to this confusing weekend, there have been 36 multiunit tips, and 15 have won. The odds vary from slightly odds-on to 5-1, but the average doesn’t look that different to the single unit punts, (again, I’m tired, and not working it out right now. Going by eye, I’d say there’s very little in it), so it doesn’t look like I’m weighting my tip sizes too much relative to the odds, and this leads me to the following conclusions -

  • I’m allowing intuition to guide my hand when making these decisions.
  • My intuition is pretty awesome. 
  • I should give some thought to swerving single unit 1×2 and O/U bets

The problem with the latter point being that if I do that, then the two-unit bets effectively become the one-unit bets. And then what do I do? NEVER BET AT ALL?

Maybe I’ll just carry on as I’m doing. Did I mention that my ROI is 28.61%? I did? Good. I guess I probably don’t need to tweak things too much right now.

Generic “been a bit quiet” post.

I’ve been a bit quiet recently. Apologies to anyone who expects daily updates. You must have me confused with a more prolific blogger.

I would have been more noisy over the Easter weekend, but I was detained in the North of England, visiting relatives. This was difficult for me, as certain EVENTS were HAPPENING and I wanted to RESPOND, but a combination of unfortunate events conspired to prevent me having internet access for five entire days.

I would just like to take this opportunity to finger the principal culprit – Asus. Especially the individual idiot or committee of idiots responsible for choosing to put the Nexus 7′s power socket on the bottom edge of the unit. I have now trashed two of these machines when a slight tug on the power cord has sent it hurtling to the floor, connector first, with predictable consequences.

Anyway. I’m back now, armed with a broadband connection and a desktop computer which only crashes intermittently. I shall now attempt to write something coherent about Paolo Di Canio. CAN IT BE DONE? TWO POSTS IN ONE DAY?

*Tension*

 

 

 

Fun with etymology

I’m still deep in the Ruby-hole. Amazing things are happening inside my hard drive, and I am beginning to harbour unrealistic hopes of unlimited wealth as a consequence. The potential for obscene financial reward is in fact so great that I don’t want to talk about what I’m doing in any detail. Suffice to say, I’m busy.

If you find yourself unsatisfied by my bi-monthly blog updates, I would like to point you in the direction of my girlfriend’s contributions to the fantastic The Etymologist blog. She’s posting funny and thoughtful articles about the etymology of various calendar-related word, a couple of times a week, and it’s all significantly more entertaining or interesting than anything you’ll find on here.

I have no idea where she finds the time. She’s even busier than I am.

Ruby ruby ruby ruby, and a #mothpunt update.

Blogging? Pointless.

Well, not entirely, but I’ve not had a great deal of time for it recently. I’ve been teaching myself how to program in Ruby, using the splendid Bastards Book Of Ruby. The goal here is to build webscrapers to allow me to hoover up a) sporting results and b) betting odds. This will enable me to a) write lots of interesting articles, and b) improve my already quite fearsome tipping.

Sorry. I have a) been doing a lot of  programming and b) got into the habit of breaking everything up into variables. This may be reflected in my c) writing style.

ANYWAY. As excellent as the Bastard’s Book of Ruby is, I’ve not been using it correctly. My hard drive is groaning under the weight of barely functional scripts that I’ve hastily written without any real thought; they’re so sketchy they’d make a real coder’s eyes bleed. Every time I learn about a new method I dash off and rewrite all my horrible scripts, and get nowhere closer to my goal. I hope to break this cycle of fail in the near future, and when I do, very exciting things will happen. Until then, there’s #mothpunts.

When I first posted about #mothpunt, things were going pretty well. Three monthson, and things have improved significantly. Consider the stats:

NUMBER OF MOTHPUNTS = 48

UNITS WAGERED = 87 units

PROFIT = 19.38 units

RETURN ON INVESTMENT = 22.28%

AVERAGE PUNT ODDS = 5.92

AVERAGE PUNT SIZE = 1.81 units

And if I could stop myself from tipping European cup football, my ROI would be closer to 90%. For reasons I don’t fully understand, I simply cannot pick winners in European competitions; I’ve only hit 3 of my 15 mothpunts in the Champions  and Europa Leagues, and those three winners were all at short odds. All told, I’m down 16 units on these markets, so I’m going to see if I can discipline myself to stop betting on them, at least until my totes amaze big-data-number-cruncher is up and running.

In the meantime, if you see me tweeting about Champions League #mothpunts, back the opposite result. And if you want to keep track of my progress, (assuming you already follow me on Twitter), then here’s the link to the barely-updated Google Doc.

 

UK Election 2015: 896 days to go!

As a poker player, I’m conditioned not to overthink things. There’s a great danger in overthinking in poker; if you overestimate your opponent’s skill level, you can end up doing very expensive things. As a result, I took a fairly lackadaisacal approach to tipping the US Election. All credit to Nate Silver, with his showboating, predict the board approach; a spectacualr success, but if you ask me, a little showy.  I was only really interested in the Next President market, and tipping that didn’t require a Big Data approach; a couple of glances at the latest battleground state polls each week was enough to tell anyone who cared that Obama was going to walk home.

I’m now turning my attention to the next UK General Election, which, thanks to our ridiculous new fixed-term electoral system will be held on 7th May 2015, barring some really happy event which brings down the Government*. It’s a good thing that it’s so far away, because this is going to be a far more challenging election to call than the US election. There will be many more decisive battles, each of which is of equal importance to the final result, there’s no constituency-level polling, and there are many more runners. I’m going to need a long run up at this one, but 896 days should be plenty of time to callibrate the value-sensors.

 

Speaking of which, let’s take a look at the odds.  I first blogged about the 2015 Election odds on the 4th of September, after Cameron’s anemic reshuffle. Here’s a reminder of how things stood then:

Overall majority next election:

Conservatives - 3.7 BF, 9-4 WH
Labour – 2.72 BF, 6-4 WH
No overall majority – 2.66 BF, 13-8 WH
Lib Dem/Any other party – 90/150 BF, 100-1 WH

Most Seats:
Labour 1.84 BF – 8-11 WH
Tory – 2.2 BF – Evs WH
LD – 130-150 BF, 80-1 WH

And here’s the current odds; I’m posting both back and lay prices for Betfair, as the market’s a bit flaccid (only £31k matched on majority market to date!)

Overall Majority Betting, 22/11/12

Con – 3.9/4.4 BF, 9-4 WH
Lab –  2.44/2.6 BF, 6-4 WH
No Overall Majority – 2.68/2.84 BF, 13/8 WH
Any Other Party  - 190/1000 BF, Lib Dem Majority – 100-1 WH

Most Seats Betting,  22/11/12

Con – 2.28/2.32 BF, Evens WH
Lab – 1.78/1.8 BF, 8-11 WH
Lib – 130/170 BF, 80-1 WH
Any other – 220/980 BF.

A nice little swing towards Labour, there.

Now, I don’t plan on doing any analysis today; I’ve wasted an hour sort-of writing this, and I have other stuff to attend to. However, I will end with a note to self – have a look at the results from the recent PCC election debacle. Some might say this is entirely useless data, given the record-destroyingly bad turnout and the fact that people are being asked to vote politically for an entirely non-political issue (or at least, you’d hope it was non-political), but nonetheless, I’d say it might give us an indication of the state of the hardcore political vote.

 

Or perhaps not. Something to think about on another day. I’ve got 896 of them to play with, after all.

 

 

*(For the record, I am not entirely politically neutral, but I am almost entirely politically disenfranchised. Of the available parties, I hate Labour marginally less than the alternatives, but if you were to call me a Labour supporter to my face, I’d shout at you. You have been warned).

Introducing #Mothpunt.

I’ve dabbled with online tipping, on and off, for the best part of a decade now. I’ve had good runs and bad runs, but overall I fancy I’ve been a little bit ahead of evens across the course of my disorganised, ill-considered online tipping career. Notable highlights from this year include sort-of, almost picking the West Indies to win the Twenty20 World Cup, and spending two entire months blogging exclusively about Barack Obama’s inevitable reelection, and imploring people to put all their money on him, with gratifying results. The lowlights, on the other hand, are too numerous to mention.

Public prediction is an unforgiving business. Ask these guys.  As a result, there’s a temptation to shroud predictions is a cloak of plausible deniability, so when results don’t go your way, you can claim it wasn’t so much a prediction as a suggestion; less of a copper-bottomed promise, more an observation of an emerging trend. My West Indies pick falls into that category; had that particular not-even-slightly-a-country failed to win the tournament, you wouldn’t be hearing about my glorious 7/1 pick on this blog.

To avoid this, I’ve decided to formalise the tipping process, by announcing all my tips on Twitter, using the hashtag #Mothpunt. Each tip will be announced with the price on Betfair at the time of the tweet, and the number of units to wager. I’ll keep a Google spreadsheet of the mothpunts, with full details and links, here.

At the time of writing, I’ve already published 11 Mothpunts, totalling 23 units worth of tips, generating 2.8 units of  profit, for an ROI of 12.17%.

 

 

Presidential Odds Watch: Soul Calibur edition

This victory strengthens the soul of: OBAMA. YOU WIN!

Odds on Obama’s victory are now pretty steady at MARKET CLOSED. My work here is done.

Presidential Odds Watch – Mario Kart Edition

Another debate comes and goes, and has no effect on the betting.

The instant polls agreed that Obama carried the night. Public Policy Polling published a poll showing Obama won the debate 53% to 42%. A CNN poll gave it to Obama by 48% to 40%.

And yet the odds have barely shifted:

Obama 1.5
Romney: 3

I have developed a theory, which I hope to prove in the next couple of weeks. I call it the Mario Kart Theory of Modern Elections. It states that during a General Election, the media will prefer a close race, which will provide more drama, and hence more revenue. As such, they will seek to influence the public’s perception of the election by portraying the race as being closer than it actually is, and they may even succeed in making the race closer by doing so. (The Obama/Romney race is a perfect example of this).

For those of you who aren’t massive nerds, this is known as the Mario Kart Theory because it’s famously something that happens in Mario Kart races; in order to keep the game interesting, the racers who are trailing receive speed boosts and power ups that help them to catch up. This is known as the rubberband effect, and it’s been implemented in various ways in the umpteen different iterations of the Mario Kart franchise over the years, but the most famous (and recent) example is the Blue Shell, which is a power-up weapon that tailenders receive which flies to the front of the  course, and takes out the leader.

The coverage of Romney’s Debate One performance is a perfect example of a Blue Shell.  A similar thing happened in the last UK General Election, with Nick Clegg’s heavily hyped debate successes, and I’m pretty confident that there will be many, many more examples.  I’m pretty busy right now, so  don’t quite have the time to research this properly myself, but I’ll hopefully get round to looking at some hard data over the next few weeks. In the meantime, it’s a point worth bearing in mind for any political gamblers – the media abhors a blowout, so until the Blue Shell appears, lay the favourite.