General Betting

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28 Jun 16 15:25
Date Joined: 27 Dec 04
| Topic/replies: 29,282 | Blogger: zooot's blog
data on 22000 horses, spreadsheet with 130,000 rows - lots of data.  Based on freely available data (which of course has lots of people looking at it) analysed in some quite sophisticate and creative ways.  Of course people with much more time consuming info / data collection methods would have info I was not accessing and so may find stuff I could not.  I personally chose the data analysis path rather than doing the tissue (form analysis) as my aim was to create a relatively automated approach with low time investment once the analysis was done - so the form experts out there are operating in a difference space to me and good luck to them.

This is what I found:
- most edges that seem strong with 6 or 12 months data disappear once you get to a coupe of years data cause they never really existed - they were temporary patterns
- stronger more sustainable edges tended to get ironed out with lots of data to be less than 3% and so make a loss after commission - what seemed like a 10% or even 20% edge slowly got ground down to not much when the long run of data was taken into account
- quite a few genuine edges remained but they only work with zero commission or at maximum 2%
- once you filter out the neutral and loss making situations from some remaining potentially/ apparently profitable edges (say 3-8% over commission) your huge volume of potential bets seems to shrink to just a handful a day or even one every few days  - so few it is hard to get volume needed to scale up and to test them or maintain confidence in them during bad runs that can last weeks or months
- lots of better edges sit in lower volume situations where your bets will move the market more, again limiting scaling up as people will copy you or the market will shift
- reversion to the mean is real and observable - edges can last for months, even a year and seem strong and sure but often suddenly plateau just as you get confident in them
- quite a few edges sit in higher odds zones where the ups and downs can be almost ridiculous, more like snakes and ladders  or a rollercoaster than steady gains.  The holy grail can appear before your eyes with strong steady wins over months and then all the gains can go in just a few days that make no sense but are really just normal streaks
-slightly over break even situations create long losing streaks that may be just a phase or could signal a market shift - which one ?  Can be costly to learn which ...
- other people seem to be either following in my footsteps or discovering interesting edges at the same time as me (probably simultaneously analyzing the same patterns I was and the same data) - A strong stable pattern of growth that you ride up and are just about to scale up on switches to break even in the space of a week or two and then straightlines like that thereafter
- I think betting markets are far more accurate and able to be studied than say the stock market which is much more emotional and driven by unmeasurable human perceptions and fake data so actually offers better opportunities than betting - much less perfect.
- by publicly releasing all the data it does BF helps ensure a more perfect market which is in its interests as the ultimate outcome in their mind is semi-breakeven punters grinding it out against each other with most of the money in the system being drained out as commission.
- stuff you would not believe influences betting patterns but often just slightly and not enough to easily exploit (I'll mention just one that has a small impact but never enough for me to make anything of and seems to vary in unpredictable ways so I don't think I am spoiling anyone's system - the number of letters in a horses name and the ratio between vowels to consonants in their name has a small but measurable impact on betting patterns at certain odds!

In short, over the longer run the markets are amazingly accurate and 5% commission is not just an annoyance, it makes most sophisticated betting approaches unprofitable.  The market adapts and shifts more and faster than you would expect.  Less liquidity, fewer mug punters, more crossmatching and betfair bots etc serve to flatten out edges over time and this is heading in one unfavourable direction.

So I leave after quite a few years, in significant profit still but with an average hourly earning rate over the years that would make a cleaning lady cry. I also have much improved Xcel skills that have helped me a lot at work.  Although I genuinely enjoyed the analysis I did, and trying all sorts of stuff, so am not bitter, ultimately it had to pay off in terms of profits as I am not a gambler and want a decent ROI for my time.

The point of this post?  Well mainly to spell out just how far you have to go to make money on BF long term and to highlight how what often seems like a system with simple analysis and short data runs  is probably not or will not last. 

So remember you have to go way beyond clever analysis of readily available data into detailed form analysis or highly sophisticated automated trading to make good money.  Or you have to get good at trading and spend a lot of tedious hours doing so.

Now with 2% commission there might be more scope but BF has gone to 6% and even 8% which is a joke in today's markets.  Lower liquidity, higher commission, more and more accurate markets is a tough equation to make BF appealing to the market.
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Report zooot July 4, 2016 2:56 PM BST
I had a good hard look at greyhounds (BAGS) and trialed a lot of stuff.  My conclusion was that their is inside knowledge for sure at work.  I logged data in the lead up to the off and found some interesting patterns that occur in the seconds before the off that pretty much spelled out the value bet in many cases.  But as you can't time the off exactly it is hard to exploit as it is split second moves with not much hint beforehand.  Like trying to catching a flash of lightning.  I also am sure that those with knowledge (both form based and inside track knowledge) push the odds around like crazy in the lead up to the off to create value for themselves through false favourites etc. and to lead everyone up the garden path then swoop in and snap up the value outsider.  But they also vary their patterns so that after a few days or weeks of a certain pattern, I think the do the opposite for a while and wrong foot everyone.  Once you have the knowledge to pin point true value or consistent track side info and a good bank it would be easy to do that sort of stuff either manually or most likely with a bot that has  3 to 5 strategies it mixes up randomly or in streaks to take the market this way or that sucking in the traders and the pattern hunters.  I am sure in greyhounds these factors lead to apparent systems / value being even more snakes and ladders than a non-manipulated market would be.

Years ago I read about dogs having things like two toes tied together with cotton or a bit of ginger up their bottom or sandpapering their paws to make them tender to create in the know advantage - who knows what goes on

On top of this is the huge natural randomness in all such events - apparent patterns can seem so real but be nothing but random streaks.  For example, if you set up a spreadsheet with 1000 hypothetical bets at say odds of 5 and set up to be roughly break even and then have a random number generator formula n a cell next to each bet.  Then cumulatively sum the results and graph the return patterns over time. Then calculate over and over and watch the graph create every shape you can imagine - long winning streaks followed by plunges to zero, steady returns for the whole set, zig zags up and down, a huge steep win streak followed by a horrific plunge - all due to just randomness.  This is very sobering to see and show what fools most people with short data / betting runs.

I am sure horse racing is well and truly having similar stuff go on. Some syndicates literally have teams of paid form analysts who specialist in certain tracks and compile odds.  They also have paid teams of high skilled programmers and analysts working out bots and odds strategies and have low commission due to their huge volumes that enable low margin strategies to work that lose money for average punters. With that sort of knowledge, why would you just stick money down as the market stands?  No, what you would do is push the odds around to favour you planned value bets for each race turning small value bets into huge value bets.  They would also be studying the same data I studied.  I was surprised in a way that I found as much value as I did in various angles but it seemed to me that once anything became too sustained over too long a period it was spotted by others (pros and people like me).  Some things remain that I found that seem to have missed them but they just sit in the 2-4% ROI before commission zone and so make a loss.

I know someone who used to breed greyhound who tapes every race on on two tracks and has his own rating system and wins consistently.  I tried my own system after a chat with him but found the value bets my crude efforts came up with to be way off the mark - I would lay something cause it seemed way too low odds and it would then steam in after I laid and go on and win.  I would have had to watch thousands of races over many years and get to know the trainers visit the tracks etc to move into his league - more investment than I have the time for.  He did not use the standard data available to all.  His knowledge of dogs came into it as well.

As for the pot of gold? Well it is more and more becoming the province of the few as time goes on.  The killer for me was realizing that I had lost confidence in any edge sustaining itself over time and being able to scale up to pay good money. I also realised how event such as horse racing, for all their randomness, are in a discrete little world that can be analysed very closely over time. Imagine the thousands of eyes staring down microscopes out there  at these little drops of pond water studying the movement of the creatures within.  Every horse fart and drop of sweat is logged smelled and analysed and built into someone's system. 

Some of the graphs my data produced of ROI mapped against certain factors produced almost perfect mathematical curves with barely a ripple in their lines.  I would look at them and just be in awe at how accurate the total market was.  Value exists in every race of course but can you grab that over and over?  You can out forecast the weather bureau on lots of days but their predictions over time of say daily maximums across the year will in general beat you by a long margin.

One system I walked away from indicates the challenge.  Over two year it was quite profitable.  But the number of bets was so few - around 15 per week.  Then in December 2016 after steady growth for 18 months it went flatline for 6 months.  Perhaps it will shift back into profit but can I be bothered doing all the analysis and placement for 6 months without earning a cent when for all I know it may be the end of the system or maybe a temporary blimp?  Stuff that.  Even it it did kick off again, I bet if I scaled up the market would shift to adjust to my bets and the value would go.

All very interesting but it reaches a point where challenge becomes a toil and other hobbies must be found.
Report pablo-fanque July 4, 2016 3:22 PM BST
hi zooot

I sent you a PM

Report aye robot July 5, 2016 7:42 PM BST
" the number of letters in a horses name and the ratio between vowels to consonants in their name has a small but measurable impact on betting patterns at certain odds!"

When you saw this - did alarm bells not ring????

What you're seeing when you see things like this is random clustering, it exists in all data sets and it is not the same as causal correlation. If your methodology shows up this kind of relationship then your methodology is flawed. If you do a statistical test and it backs up this kind of finding that tells you that the test is wrong - or that you're applying it wrongly.

How would you know the difference? Well if there's a causal effect then you should usually be able to say what it is - or at least posit some plausible options. Then when you've found that mechanism you should usually be able to make further predictions and test them against your data to prove it. In this case there is no plausible causation that I can see.

It's possible to observe an effect but not know the cause, but in that case you'd want to have a very strong signal before you believed in the effect. This is obviously a weak signal or you wouldn't be using the caveat "at certain odds." If there was some causal relationship that I/you/we might not have thought of then you would certainly expect it to be apparent across the full range of prices.

The maths of this is very straight forward and requires no statistical training, just apply the following:

small effect + no causation = b0ll0cks.
Report pxb July 5, 2016 11:36 PM BST
the number of letters in a horses name and the ratio between vowels to consonants in their name has a small but measurable impact on betting patterns at certain odds!

I can think of several reasons to do with human behaviour that would cause this.

And there is no necessary relationship between size of an effect and statistical significance. With very large datasets as we have here, small effects would be statistically significant.

Although I do agree that you should always look for a cause for any effect you find.
Report aye robot July 6, 2016 10:31 AM BST
Go on then pxb - explain how the ratio of consonants to vowels in a horses name effects its price, then we'll try to work out a way to make a further prediction to test the hypothesis.

If you're going to say something about certain types of names sounding more appealing and therefore getting over bet then I'm calling it in advance. In the last few years I did a research project botting up well documented psychological/behavioral phenomena in the conditions most likely for them to occur - for example I did a big study into prospect theory in in-running markets. I even called the robots Amos in tribute to Amos Tversky. There was no discernible signal. The description of prospect theory won a Nobel prize (along with other discoveries) but betting markets are sufficiently efficient to overwhelm it's effects in real time. That's why I don't believe that calling your horse "Toto" rather than "Tophat" can move its price.

More broadly - the approach is simply wrong. If you fish for "patterns" in data then you will find them, then you'll invent some spurious explanation for why they occur and an even more spurious one for why they "disappear". All of this is evident in the OP. A much better approach is to make a prediction based on a hypothesis then try to prove it. Genuine edges are perpetual and do not fade.
Report bettinghelp July 6, 2016 12:17 PM BST
I have a hunch that horses with Arabic names have a higher ratio of consonants to vowels than non-Arab owned ones, and since they're predominantly owned by wealthy Arabs, and are better bred horses with greater ability, they thus have shorter prices in general.

But if the hunch is correct, it's just a linguistic pattern visible within a set of results. Do I win a Nobel prize if I'm right? Or should we consider horses whose names contain Boy, Girl, Lass or Lad, who are invariably donkeys?  'Twasn't always thus, mind you.
Report aye robot July 6, 2016 1:40 PM BST
If that were the case it would be very easy to prove with numbers - just test all Arab owned horses regardless of their names to see if they offer extra value. No hunches needed.
Report bettinghelp July 6, 2016 2:15 PM BST
I didn't say anything about value. My hunch is about the possible relationship between the letters in horses' names and their ownership, which in turn might lead to one possible explanation (i.e.their generally shorter prices) for what appears to be betting-related patterns connected with the vowel/consonant ratio.

Since I don't have the data, I'll just have to stick with hunches for now.
Report aye robot July 6, 2016 2:38 PM BST
It's true that you didn't say anything about value - I was thinking more about the OP.

Even so I think what we're seeing here is a good illustration of narrative/causation type bias. The OP makes a suggestion that is almost certainly spurious but rather than see it for what it is there is a tendency to believe a story - even a not very plausible story rather than the numbers. Is it even true that Arab owned horses have consonant heavy names (or whatever)? I doubt it, and I certainly don't have evidence for it. Is it true that Arab owned horses generally go off shorter? I don't see why it should be, even if they are generally better horses that would usually mean they run in better races with other good horses so that should wipe the slate on that one. People will tend to believe a causal story - or worse yet an anecdote over evidence because of thinking biases, that's a weakness that we have to understand in ourselves if we are to overcome it.

For wider world examples think of the MMR controversy, "zero tolerance" policing or homeopathy.
Report screaming from beneaththewaves July 6, 2016 11:26 PM BST
My "anecdote" involves an independent betting shop owner telling me twenty years ago that races won by horses with long names were always welcome in his shop, since so many of his punters couldn't be bothered to write out their names. If true, then extending that over the thousands of betting shops in the country would cause such horses to drift to bigger prices.

For what it's worth, when I bought a yearling, I made sure her name boasted the maximum number of characters allowed for a thoroughbred (18 including spaces). She raced 10 times, won four races and I backed her for three of those wins. She drifted in price for nine of her 10 races, including all her wins, for which I backed her on-course with bookmakers who knew I was the owner, and every time her SP ended up bigger than the price at which I'd backed her. The only time she shortened was when the stable backed her (I didn't - she looked overtrained) and she had to be pulled up.

Purely anecdotal, proves nothing, but does make plausible zooot's finding that "the number of letters in a horses name ... has a small but measurable impact on betting patterns at certain odds."
Report Capt__F July 6, 2016 11:33 PM BST
or even Jesus saves
Report DFCIRONMAN July 6, 2016 11:40 PM BST
zooot You say :-

In short, over the longer run the markets are amazingly accurate and 5% commission is not just an annoyance, it makes most sophisticated betting approaches unprofitable.  The market adapts and shifts more and faster than you would expect.  Less liquidity, fewer mug punters, more crossmatching and betfair bots etc serve to flatten out edges over time and this is heading in one unfavourable direction.

Markets are "accurate" in that they are priced to a "book" %........but almost every race have "value" in the odds......especially BF odds.

There are "patterns".........numerous ones......but, in a highly competitive type race ( say a handicap hurdle race where say 16 runners)runners),it is unlikely that patterns alone would not clearly indicate a horse with a strong chance of winning . Numerous factors usually have to be considered and taken into account. Those are the factors that are not so "easy" to spot.

"Patterns" in certain types of races are more consistent.......say listed races where all horses are same age. However, the odds generally will be fairly low due to such "patterns" being known by bookmakers etc......and some "patterns" can easily be spotted by an average punter!

Probably at least 100 factors can be used to rate horses in a race from basic data (race card)..........What makes it more difficult for someone with little knowledge of horse racing in UK are the effects that GOING CHANGES have on race results.

It is highly complex looking for edges that can produce high ROI ....and may take decades before you find one. As life can interrupt such a search.......births, marriage, illness and of course your can take years before you find 1.

At least you had a go......Cool

BTW climate change may make many edges disappear.....but also some other edges to be found. Tongue Out
Report pxb July 7, 2016 11:13 AM BST
I have a hunch that horses with Arabic names have a higher ratio of consonants to vowels than non-Arab owned ones,

That's part of it. Different languages have different ratios of consonants to vowels, and quite a lot of horses have foreign names.

Rather than the horses being better or worse, I'd say it's simply that a significant number of punters aren't the most literate people and avoid horses with non-english names, because they don't know what it means, don't like the 'foreign' sound of it, can't spell or pronounce it.

Similarly, with longer names, they are more likely not to know what the words mean or be arsed to remember and write the name down as Screaming says.

Obviously, without knowing the exact correlations I can't be more specific.

I wouldn't look for an effect in running, which would be dominated by more sophisticated punters, less swayed by the horse's name.

In the unlikely event I ever own a horse, I'd chose an obscure and hard to spell word like 'eschatology gyre'.
Report pxb July 7, 2016 12:03 PM BST
or worse yet an anecdote over evidence because of thinking biases

I'd say you are the person dismissing evidence because of 'thinking biases'.

And anecdote is merely a small dataset. And note the anecdote presented here is consistent with the evidence in the OP. In scientific circles we would call that independent verification of results, albeit with a small sample.
Report zooot July 7, 2016 1:54 PM BST
On the topic of word length and vowel ratios, there is heaps of research that says these factors impact on readability in english. Do a google search on readability indexes.   Punters read, scan, memorise and get fixated on thousdands of horse names as part of the betting process.  Of course it would have an impact of some sort over the long haul in terms of tendencies to favour or not favour certain names and readability of names.

Words with lots of vowels are typically harder to read than those with a higher ratio or consanonts.

Betfair's UK listing pf horses by odds order changes the way it works compared to other markets.  It changes from country to country in impact due to cultural factors and the ways markets are presented.  Over time I also think it has shifted as fewer average punters use betfair.  The relationships were more clear a few years ago.

My findings were that the effects are small and lessen with longer odds.  They only impact pre.-off.  The effects are also more fickle than other form based factors.  It is an interesting thing to note but in my experience it will not make you any money.  I also think it would work differnetly on betfair compared to in bookmaker odds.

It is / was real but I would not recommend it as a factor or filter.  As it is so much left field to form factors I found it never supported other filters you may use and so does not necessarily help improve an existing system or data set.

I have not looked much lately as I lost interest in it but years ago horse names that were 13 letters long used to show a persistent kink in the data over multiple years and races types.  Up to 2014 this was quite pronounced.  I think it has faded as the markets got more and more driven by super sharp forma analysts.  It would make an interesting Phd topic for a statistics student or linguistic student.
Report pxb July 7, 2016 9:34 PM BST
Behavioural aspects of betting are of interest to me. Probably the first 'edge' I found on bf was purely behavioural, and nothing to do with the merits of the teams. Still works today, although perhaps not so well.
Report zoom_top July 8, 2016 5:48 PM BST
Hi Zooot-
My internet has been down for 3 days due to my choice of living in a regional area. Anyhow, I just thought I would let you know that I read your return post. I have no idea how this thread got on to horse name lengths acting as a barometer in any way at all - very curious ! Anyhow it is clear that you have delved very deeply into the punting business - far more deeply than I would ever aspire to. I have never really worried about bots, market manipulation or trading. Some would say - well if you're not a trader on Betfair you have Buckleys. My theory has always been that if there an angle or angles even within one race let alone over a period to which the general public has not given enough credit and I'm able to use my wealth of general knowledge about the nature/foibles of greyhound racing then I can isolate one dog which may be to my advantage. Well that theory has been tested to within an inch by the guile of the racing manager. I had never encountered such fiendish tight grading until I embarked on my 'journey'. 3/1 the field or better is not uncommon. In a field of 6 or 8 as it is here in Australia, I had never seen so many races where the percentage difference between the top 4 favourites was so miniscule or prone to fluctuate to such an extent that, should you be using that as a yardstick for the 'actual' chances you would be all at sea. These movements confirmed my theory that I could beat the dogs if I ignored these movements and approached it using my well established mores. So .... Just find the dog, wait for the best price that is being offered and click your mouse. That's the plan. The inside knowledge that I mentioned earlier was always going to work against me but I wasn't aware in the early days to what extent it was going to cause a problem. I am currently 'on a break' from punting while I think about my next move. I won't be backing any NSW dogs soon as the Greyhound Industry here has been banned as of 1st July 2017. Too much 'wastage' which is probably true.
Report henryluca July 8, 2016 11:41 PM BST

A very very good topic and a thread I hope is contributed to by many.

Initially some outstanding matters I would be pleased to understand.

1. What is considered to be an edge. Perhaps a definition would be helpful.

2.What is the freely available data you used.

3. What do you mean by sophisticated and creative ways

4. What was the [i]analysis
technique-for the data

An understanding of these matters will help understand your findings and comments.

Report zooot July 9, 2016 8:34 AM BST
- by edge I mean a consistent pattern of value where ROI is positive over long runs of races where signals / factors which can be measured repetitively from a data source that can be obtained consistently enough to analyse and to use to then predict future value.

- betfair publishes SP result everyday with a range of criteria listed such as morning odds, sp odds, volume etc. and this data goes back years (quite tedious to download to excel over long runs - it has interesting stuff but is a bit like a bunch of gold miners panning in the same riverbed over and over.  The gold thins out as the years go on.

- better edges would come from data that individuals or syndicates source themselves from race videos or a host of sources (very time consuming to develop and maintain for a lone punter). For example, one pro punter began years ago with a one page checklist of factors that were measured for every horse from video footage.  By now they would be doing that times 10 to maintain their edges in terms of data (that is beyond the resources of all but syndicates or fanatical full timers).
Or else you can use excel to log data live pre-off and analyse that.  That tends to produce huges volumes of data and leaves you chasing the mirages of often meaningless and manipulated odds movements.

- sophisticated and creative analysis - well that is for people to find themselves by analysing the hell out of data looking for patterns that mean something real not for me to give away.  Obvious logical things will generally have been found long ago and the value squeezed out of them.  There are still plenty of things left but as I have said they seem to typically sit below about 3% ROI before commssion in the longer run or, if profitable, leave so few bets in such special situations that it is hard to get volume.  Others, face long no return periods or sustained losing streaks (often dramatic downs and ups) that take the fun and confidence out of them (picture sticking with a theoretical "profitable" system that was losing money for say 6-8 months of the year)  Or else they sit where $$$ volume is lower and your bets in that zone start to shift the odds ironing out patterns. For example, a few things I found only worked if your bet was the first one matched after you placed it.  If someone jumped in front you missed out on getting matched at value, if you chased higher to get matched, the value was gone - small edges are so sensitive and fragile. Anything like that would not allow scaling up at all. A minimum stake bet might get matched, go bigger and bang the traders jump in front.
- analysis was using xcel forumulae to build up indexes for chosen criteria that signalled when to bet next time these were met.

A conclusion is that the market is:
- incredibly accurate long term as it is so heavily studied by so many people that most measureable factors are measured and factored in to hundreds / thousands or punting strategies.  As the average punter market declines this force that moves market into value situations is declining.
- the readily avaliable data has been mined so much that year on year it is declining in value (I think I observed live the death of some of the significant edges that remained over the past 12 months).
- remarkably easily moved by fairly small scale bets and / or persistent betting patterns  in value situations to move back to no value
- a plaything for some deep pocketed, low commission paying big players who have evolved to use computerised systems to shift markets in their favour to exaggerate value for them in ways that only they (and perhaps a few very sophisticated others)can know live and that are set up to confuse and mislead the average trader and punter.

Sadly, I think BF are well aware of this and see the sportbook as the answer at a corporate level and thus have shifted their strategy in a way that is speeding up what was probably a natural decline of the exchange.

Seriously I think the stock market has way more value than BF long term as a betting venue as there are fewer true measures of value - it is mostly about hype and opinion without the reference point of wins and losses and odds to create genuine value measures as is possible in sports betting and commission is lower (but is in general very over valued right now so does not mean value exists day to day or year to year - jumping in now in most cases may be a terrible idea but next year who knows).
Report zoom_top July 9, 2016 11:54 AM BST
Hi Zooot
A conclusion is that the market is:
- incredibly accurate long term as it is so heavily studied by so many people that most measureable factors are measured and factored in to hundreds / thousands or punting strategies...

Just looking at that statement for a minute ......

If we look just at the favourite in a high liquidity race we can plot the percentages of the field and assume then that we don't need to create our own mechanism to establish a market on the race or any similar races. We cam say that task has been done for us by the punting public? So unlike days gone by when bookmakers would employ people to set the prices, that task has now disappeared? The problem is horses being animals don't necessarily know where they are in the market and run according to their percentage chance. I have run tests on this - not the accuracy of what you are saying but rather around the expectancy aspect. So over a number of races the stats tell me say that the favourite, when 10% higher in the odds than the 2nd favourite will win X number of races I can establish a betting system based on this information. I think that what I'm trying to say is that if you statement is true ( and I'm not necessarily disagreeing with it ) then why is it that most of the betting public ( traders excluded ) are still backing horses which statistically have a very low chance of winning ?
Report romfordiron July 9, 2016 11:54 AM BST
Really interesting read Zoot. An elegantly summarised analysis of the difficulties in beating commission when punting. To me, I've never been able to see how anyone can make decent money from punting on an exchange, unless of course, they have inside information or courtside etc. There are still a multitude of ways to make money on an exchange, but the commission structure has always penalised outright punting.
Report zooot July 10, 2016 4:45 AM BST

Yep commission levels is my main beef with the exchange - 5% is outrageously high relative to the profit potential for outright punting.  It may be necessary to pay for BF high cost structure.  Perhaps a super low cost exchange model could exist one day and offer 1% commission - that would kick life back into exchange betting.

I don't think most punters on BF know just how much a 5% leak is draining them. It is sort of hidden if you look at your statements. I always plotted my analysis of my history and data analysis to show cumulative gains / losses in graphical form and had a no commission graphs and one with commission factored in.  So often I would see a really promising pattern and then see it turn b/e or loss making with commission applied.  Commission is like a great big hot iron onto wrinkled fabric that smooths out all the value in the system.  Graphs without commission have so much more life in them (ups, downs, zig and zags etc)  Then you add in commission and they so often shift into a steady sloped decline.  If you get up to 7 to 8% commission as in some markets almost nothing survives in terms of profit.  Now some super high volume punters pay much lower commission than me and this gives them a huge advantage.  Combine that with a bit of manipulation and the board becomes tilted to their favour in a major way.  Commission discounts are a BF controlled discouragement to smaller punters.  They may not always be aware of it consciously but the steady commssion leak in their bucket of funds and need to top up funds tells them something is not right.  I know the cry of we need the big players for liquidity pop up but I would prefer thinner markets with more value and a level playing field and lower commission for all that a big subsidy for the syndicates.

You can reduce your commission by having multiple bets in the one race but that supposes you can find lots of value bets per race. My analysis kept ending up with too few bets to make this strategy work.

Zoom top
I have found all sorts of quite dramatic value patterns at low odds (and other odds) such as you may find or are investigating. For example there may be a sustained pattern where horses with odds of say 1.8 to 2.3 in certain situations produce a marked spike in my graphs that screams out that you have hit the pot of gold.  It can be like a hot zone where a sharp spike shoots up at 1.8 and then at 2.3 shifts back into loss.  You study your data set and it seems consistent across many situation and so must be real. So you target that spike and odds zone and wait for the profits to roll in.  Well what happens often is that it goes okay for a while and then suddenly hits a huge losing streak - almost as though someone is trying to play with you head or was watching you ready to suck you in and then pull the rug out from under you.  Well over time I have concluded that a lot of odds zones exist with hot and cold zones - the ROI from say 1.5 to 10 does not follow a steady return level on any given time period.  But what happens is that these zones shift over time in (for me) unpredictable ways.  Your hot zone can shift to cold zone in a space of a few days and the cold zones can be like black holes you fall into.  Such zones exist all over the place in betting in short runs of data.
They dissappear over the long run in any data analysis.  They tend to exaggerate both winning streaks and losing streaks compared to say a computer generated set of events.

They are a big factor in leading us all into apparent winning systems / approaches and then dashing our hopes with a sudden deep losing streak.  Where do they come from?  Well partly just from randomness - random numbers plotted will form all sorts of weird patterns that appear like trends.  But also human behaviour, systemised betting, weather etc. will tend to vary over time shifting zones around.  On top of this is manipulation, which if done well by big players, would purposefully try to create and destroy patterns to maximise the pain for those being manipulated.  A common stock market feature is that it tends to shift in ways that create maximum pain for the most people.  If you could control markets to some extent, you would try to wrong foot people as much as possible or periodically shift your whole approach just as people start to get familiar with it.

One comment I read once from a bookmake insider was that they periodically changed the whole methodology behind how they calcuated their SP (which is a key reference point for all of us)  so that it stuffed up all the punters analysis.  Even if it cost them short term, wrong footing the market long term is very important.  Well the same philosophy would be built into syndicates approaches.  Don't use the same strategy too much purposefully let an approach run for a while then do a big switch around.  For those who doubt such syndicates exist, there is plenty up material in the public domain including tax investigations to prove they do.  If you made up say 25% of the market in a race on the exchange and you had quite accurate form analysis enabling you to create a book price for each horse what would you do?  Place lays down exactly as per your book? Or would you try to exaggerate a possible favourites low odds by clever use of betting patterns and push out the odds of a genuine long shot then cumulaye lays of the favourite and backs on the outsider?  Course you would try to shift it in your favour.  Which creates value if you too can analyse form and spot the value.  But for data analysis approach like mine this creates false patterns and unfavourable losing streaks in profitable systems that damage confidence.  In the stock market one person summed it up like this "there is a big club and you are not in it".

In greyhounds you see it all the time in the fast moving thin markets. So often the early drifter suddenly steams in.  Close to the off the value bets start to become apparent as dfriters steam in.  But the by the time the evidence is there the value is long gone.  Or it happens in the last 15 seconds before the off in a massive swoop of value by those in the club.

What I am saying is that when you analyse things and decide to lay all horses between odds of x and y who have done xyz in their last two races and who farted twice in 2015 in the final straight before losing narrowly, you may have something, or you may have nothing.  If you have something, it may be that in two weeks time for factors you may never understand, the odds zone x and y may have shifted to be x+.6 and y+.6 and so all you bets below x+.6 are now in a black hole zone that kills your profits and only become apparent weeks later when you re look at your system with more data.  Then you shift up to the new zone and it may or may not hold.

Over time all these zones melt into a long run data set and become little kinks in it that hint at value or may provide a few % one way or the other but not enough to overcome commssion. In my experience value exists more often between 10 to 30 odds for example than witn favourites.

Now if you did true quality form analysis and understood racing like some forumites appear to, all this discussion is immaterial as you are playing a different game and can take advantage of value spikes when they occur on a horse by horse basis and just not bet when things are manipulated or zoned out of your value zone.  I have considered that path but don't think I have any special abililties in that area and my aim was to produce something that was not too time consuming in the long run.  Form analysis or self collected data is very time consuming. So I tried to make the most of available data to avoid that commitment and faced the limitations of that approach.  Trading also works but I've done that before and seem to have reached a point where I can no longer face the tedium and frustrations of trading (was fun years ago when it was new for me and easier.
Report zooot July 10, 2016 7:24 AM BST
Another thing you must genuinely take into consideration is your tolerance for losing streaks.  If you read up on betting you know they will happen but reality is quite different.  For example

System A laying

From September 2014 to April 2016 made ₤2500 after commssion with odds 6.6 to 15 with 3800 bets risking on average about ₤100 per lay so ROI over that time 0.6%.  Thin pickings after commssion but just profitable and ₤2500 is nothing to sneeze at.  Note you have risked ₤380,000 pounds to win that money.  The worst losing streak took ₤1000 off the earning peak.  You just don't get steady returns.

Now between April and July 2015 it made nothing with a flatline pattern
From September 2015 to April 2016 it made nothing with two deep losing streaks and one recovery streak

Since April I don't know - it is another pause? Or the end of the system?

Looking at the overall graph of cumulative return for the whole time period you would say it looks okay. But those periods of no return are very long. Months and months plugging away earning nothing. That is the reality of low profit systems.  Sitting through them is not a thrill a minute.

Now if you KNOW they are temporary it might be okay but given so many trends fade back to the mean the chances are that long pauses or declines in return are the end.

Quite often people kick off their systems or scale it at the peak of a trend once they have enough of a track record to justify them.  Then in the natural cycle of trends, it is more than likely that this will be when a pause or decline sets it.  That is fun and has probably stopped many good approaches in their tracks.Betfair was never easy but in the goldrush early days miners could stumble upon viens and nuggets all over the place.  There was more room for the excited explorer to find something easily or pioneer a new approach.  Now it is for big boys and clever niche operators all digging away in the same well panned river bed.

All just stuff to keep in mind as you chase the pot of gold so you don't waste too much family time, money or fun in the real world learning lessons that are summarised above.
Report lewisham ranger July 10, 2016 11:27 AM BST
how depressing is this thread Laugh

have a punt, win or don't win, it's a game, just like life's a game Cool
Report zoom_top July 10, 2016 1:37 PM BST
Hi Zooot-
Your approach to statistical analysis, punting and emperical realisations/implications is quite different to the way I approach the endeavour. I have enjoyed reading a different point of view and have a more sombre/sober attitude as a result of it. I can visualise you giving a lecture on the subject to would be investors/punters. I wouldn't think to compete with you intellectually as I feel I would be out of my league. I wonder though, if punting is not now possible for you, if you were to totally embrace your findings that is, where to now ? All avenues for investment, particularly here in Australia, are very very competitive. The Stock Market is not the gold mine it once was and you certainly won't make much on bank deposits - term deposits !!  Do you wipe the blackboard and take a fresh approach to Betfair betting ? Do you still believe that you will uncover something you might have missed or is all hope gone ?
Report starship July 10, 2016 1:56 PM BST
i make a living via punting.
i do one greyhound track
i get the dvds
study the form
look at a race, cross of the dogs i dont fancy
i bet at BETFAIR ON THE PRICES of the other dogs.
i could bet a dog that i make 3rd fav because of the price on here
been doing it for the last 20 years.
was a bit easier before betfair, when u could get a decent bet on in the shops.
them days are gone.
so far this year i have had 6 BET365 Accounts closed.
the ricks they make on the early prices are frequent.
will post on tuesdays the ricks,
if u have a BET365 accounts, bet the ricks and if u like, arb back on betfair
Report zoom_top July 10, 2016 5:26 PM BST
ricks ????
Report starship July 10, 2016 6:17 PM BST
ie yahoo victor was 7/1 on the early prices.....i made it 2/1
sp was 9/4
Report zooot July 10, 2016 11:12 PM BST
Zoom top

Starship's approach is the way I would go if I got into it again. I know someone who makes good money doing something similar.

Specialise in tracks or race types and track factors that are hard to measure and on information that is not generally available to the mass market.  That is my point  in these posts - its hard and so you have to go way beyond the obvious or the easily available info to make money. 

A flaw in my approach of lots of data analysis is that I have not had the extra dimension someone like Starship would have where he can spot value on the day and pick the eyes out of a days racing.  Data analysis approaches done my way gives you a generalised value set on any given day but I had no ability to say anything was above or below its true odds for the day or spot a pushed out odds situation by the manipulators. 

The guy I know who studies greyhound form will say " I spotted a dog at odds of 20 that should have been around 6" and he jumps on and leaves the rest alone.  My approach on the same day would have probably had a whole mix of bets from poor value to good value all mixed up with a light overall value edge.  Whereas he would usually be getting well above the value point most of the time on much fewer bets.

You can make money trading as well and with that at least you know very quickly if you are making money.  When trading most days should be profitable.  If not you have to improve you technique - so you won't waste lots of time on dead ends.  Just don't chase and have the patience of a saint.

Want to make money:
- trade
- go the form approach and become an expert and learn how to price up a race
- create some amazing data set of your own info but remember the points above still
Report zoom_top July 11, 2016 1:58 PM BST
Thanks zooot I won't shoot myself after-all Cool
Report pxb July 11, 2016 10:10 PM BST
Specialise in tracks or race types and track factors that are hard to measure

That applies in other sports as well. I am well aware that people are now using predictive numerical models. Even bf now publishes the results of theirs. I also see indications that there are momentum bots similar to those on stock markets. And who knows what else.

There are still people making money on here without collecting and analysing data. I know because I'm one. But you need to specialize.

Thx again zooot. Very interesting.
Report siwaadupa July 12, 2016 12:59 PM BST
Friend of mine received 3800(this includes holiday pay) Euro for 35,5h work per week assembling BMW 7 series(ok, not easy job which requires physical abilty- mainly walking)- which gives you around 160h per month and you have guaranteed holiday pay(28 days) bonuses paid plus you put money to pension pot. When I see people here, chasing for peanuts or they are happiest in the world because they have bots which gives them 5 pound per day it just amazes me.
Peasant assembly workers, very often without school have more in BMW than best shark traders here, who call themselves sports traders with salary lower than cleaners, even uber pays more now! I got caught paying surging charge 2.2-27km ride with uber gave him 80Euro gross for half an hour(70Euro net).
Keep wasting your life for profitable system here ;)
Report screaming from beneaththewaves July 13, 2016 12:12 AM BST
For years I've been posting how the ridiculously high commission rate is killing the exchange.

Imagine you're a decent judge and a decent punter who has a few £100 bets every day. Not trading, just straight backs or lays, taking a view. Exactly the sort of punter the exchange needs. Your commission discount is an apparently reasonable 20%, making your effective commission rate 4%.

Being a decent judge, at the end of the year you've come out on top, to the extent that your gross profit before commission is £3500. You're plainly a shrewdie, in fact one of the very shrewdest punters in the land if you can consistently beat the overround to that extent over a long period. So what does you Betfair account say your net profit is after commission?

I'll tell you: MINUS £3500.

How the hell can you, a winning punter carry on? Never mind the losing ones, who'll have paid very nearly the same amount of commission as you have, but for the privilege of losing on top of it.

All the whining about the Premium Charge on here is a red herring. Betfair love the Premium Charge whiners, because a tiny, winning minority have succeeded in drowning out and concealing the real Betfair rip-off: of the huge, losing majority.
Report pxb July 13, 2016 9:04 AM BST
For many people I suspect, including me, bf is just a hobby, with the bonus of making some money and giving sport some extra interest. It was intellectual challenge for me. I don't need the money.

I doubt there are a hundred true professionals left on here. And as I said earlier I'm tired of doing stuff just to keep away from the PC. It's a chore (the novelty of figuring out how to do it has worn off) and I'm likely to leave soon because of it.
Report romfordiron July 13, 2016 10:48 AM BST
I agree that commission is an issue in attracting punters, but it has been there since the start, and was there during the boom times. For many price sensitive punters, it's a question of weighing up the cost of commission against the slightly worse prices and ability (or lack of) to get a bet on with the bookies.

PC, however, is also forcing punters away indirectly by pushing liquidity providers away. Once main markets are illiquid, there's nothing to attract big punters. The dead side markets are meaning the small £10-£20 punters are looking elsewhere.

The lack of advertising for the exchange is obviously a further issue.

None of these issues are likely to be resolved soon - it'd cut short term revenues and the business has 2 sportsbook brands to promote.

I can foresee there will always be betting exchanges - individuals and bookies will always want to hedge at the true market rate, and it'll be there for the big bettors who can't get on with the bookies. However, I think it will be a much more streamlined operation.
Report lewisham ranger July 13, 2016 12:00 PM BST
most premium charge complainers are surely just bot users.
Report lewisham ranger July 13, 2016 12:01 PM BST
I heard that most big football punters for example, they won't bet on betfair as 5 percent commission is just too high.

they'll punt on the asian exchanges where the commission rate is much lower and can take any size of bet.
Report zooot July 13, 2016 2:21 PM BST
Maybe they should scrap the current PC charge, reduce the commission level to 2.5% and have no discounts on commission. Then when people hit a high earning per year threshold they go from 2.5% to 3.5%.

That would make it easier for or less painfull for average punters.  The tilted table effect of low commission towards big syndicates would be gone and the premium charge would be a manageable drain on big winners, not a brick wall.

A major point of difference for BF of better odds is totally undermined by the high commission structure.

In the early days BF was like many new things where people think they can make money. We're gonna be rich was in the air and enough people seemed to be going well to justify the hype.  So commission seemed like a small detail back then.  It is now, in a much tougher and more sober marketplace, a huge issue - either known to punters who analyse their data or understood by most others more in a sense of "something is not right" by people who seem to be betting well but have a steadily declining bank.

BF should be reducing commission over time given that the market is so much more accurate that it can't support 5% anymore.  The moves to 6, 7 and even 8% in some markets just boggles the mind.  8% would strip a bank so fast that any newbie would find the BF experience quite unpleasant.

Given that an exchange attracts those who care about factors being supportive of a fair go and fair chance of making money an exchange must appear to support this concept or else they will not come, or leave quickly and defintely won't tell their friends to try it out.  The last time I suggested to someone to try betfair was about 8 years ago!  Word of mouth not working well out their.

Anyway, as someone once said  "Never in human history have so many lboured for so long for so little"  Just make sure it is still fun and doesn't cost you too much if you stick around.
Report Thin and Crispy July 13, 2016 2:57 PM BST
I gave up trying to make money just backing many years ago.  Now I just scrape a meagre income from trading horses .I've had enough and if I had an alternative I'd be off.
Report romfordiron July 13, 2016 2:59 PM BST
It is a real shame, but there are so many issues with the exchange in terms balancing revenue with long term viability, that I can't see the decline stopping or even decelerating.  I've made a good living off the exchange for 5 or 6 years, but now fully accept that I don't have a future trading full time on here. It's a shame, but such is life.

I'm actually quite looking forward to doing something else now. There's only a certain number of times you can read and input numbers on a screen before it starts to become tedious!
Report Thin and Crispy July 13, 2016 3:17 PM BST
Perversely my problem is I'm not losing money.  Because I can still make a profit it holds out the hope that if I keep at it It'll come good and so I carry on with what feels like death by 1000 cuts.
Report starship July 13, 2016 7:05 PM BST
I heard that most big football punters for example, they won't bet on betfair as 5 percent commission is just too high.

their very little value on the football
whereas like me i bet greyhounds,
and when i dog is say 4/1 and i take 6/1 on here and sometimes a 6/1 is 12/1,
i find 4% on my winnings to be good value.
piont is u make a selection 3/1 and you get 4/1+ on here, the commission will not deteremind whether you win or lose,
being a judge will decide that
Report Barton Bank July 14, 2016 12:09 AM BST
As someone who has paid a lot more in commission than I have in Premium Charge, I can't say I would relish having it "reduced" from 2 percent to 2.5 percent as a matter of course and then increased to 3.5 percent if I win whatever the high earning threshold above is deemed to be. Leave the bottom rate of commission at 2 percent and drop the maximum rate from 5 to 4 or maybe 3.5 percent and you might get an increase in liquidity.
Report screaming from beneaththewaves July 14, 2016 12:23 AM BST
I agree that commission is an issue in attracting punters, but it has been there since the start, and was there during the boom times.

The point about the way commission works on here is that it takes months, if not years, of wins and losses before it becomes evident that nearly everyone, even most winning punters, are paying way more in commission than they make in net profit, thus turning them into losing punters. It took that long for the effects of the commission structure to work through and become the factor which ended the boom times.

Say you're a heavy, regular punter who plays in 5000 markets over a period of a year and gets your commission rate down to 2%. In 2,500 of those markets you make a pre-commission profit of £1,000. In the other 2,500 markets you make a pre-commission loss of £990. Thus overall you show a pre-commission profit of £25,000 over the year. What is your actual net profit after commission of 2%? The answer is nothing. In fact, after commission you will have LOST £25,000 over the year. Even at 2% the Betfair system charges you £50,000 of commission on a £25,000 profit.

But the point is that the winning and losing markets aren't distributed evenly. So it takes a whole year to realize exactly what has been happening. But when you do realize ...Shocked

Yet Premium Charge payers still reckon that THEY are the ones hard done by because they're asked to pay back just a fraction of their POST-commission profit.
Report romfordiron July 14, 2016 8:44 AM BST
Screaming, I fully understand your point. It brings us back to the original post on this thread - the difficulty of beating commission when outright betting. As I previously said, it's down to the bettor to weigh up the attractiveness of betting on here and paying commission, or struggling to get on with bookmakers at usually slightly worse odds. Without a doubt, other exchanges and bookmakers are more attractive a lot of the time.

However, an exchange also needs the PC payers, who are often full time or at least part time. Without people seeding markets and then providing liquidity, there is no exchange. I fully concur that without bettors wanting to punt, the exchange will also cease to exist.

To suggest that PC isn't an issue is to underestimate the importance of liquidity in keeping an exchange healthy.
Report starship July 14, 2016 9:14 AM BST
i know at least 3 people who have have hit the premium charge.
the way i look at it,
i put x amount in, i take a wage every week and i am above my x amount  i put in.
so the amount commission i pay is neither here or there, or am i missing the piont?
Report zooot July 14, 2016 10:17 AM BST

By being good and form analysis and pricing up individual races you are getting on average way over the true odds.  Backing at 6 when the true odds are 4 is huge value and commission is a non issue.  You get what could be called specific identified value.  You would have a high proportion of bets way over the odds and much fewer poor value bets.

In contrast, my big data set approach has identified what could,be called generalised value with large numbers of bets that are value and lots that are poor value.  Combined they create an edge but a skinny one compared to you.  Also, on the day I have tended to take what odds are there that meet my criteria without any ability to screen out poor prices on a race by race basis.  My criteria say bet, so I do without a judgement on specific value. Big margins make commission a minor issue.

You pick the eyes out of the race card.  I do too but with a much more even mix of good and poor value.  Skinny margins make commission a killer.

Now lots of people either fall into:
- something like my approach of generalised value but through many different paths and so commission is a huge issue
- a version of your approach but without your skill or specialisation so they lose or break even and in either case commission is again a big drain on them. 

I have tried the form and pricing up races a few times for short periods with ratings systems and judgements but the results seemed to show that I was missing something significant.  I remember pricing up dogs and seeing odds movement and results that suggested I was way off.  In know what you do but admit I don't understand how to do it.  There seems to be an element of mystery and alchemy to form analysis.  I've read that if you watch enough races it starts to become something you can see, you just know the hard to measure stuff.

I probably took the wrong path but did so cause I enjoy digging in the data for patterns.  I tried watching lots of greyhound races but didn't really like doing so or seem to get any inspired ability to make better bets from it.

I think you under-estimate how rare your skill is among the general BF population.  Or perhaps we did not focus enough?
Report starship July 14, 2016 10:54 AM BST
I WAS at the stow picking up videos when i noticed a bookie picking up the videos.
suprised me as i did not think he got the vids.
as he walked away i said, i did not know you got the vids, he replied i do, as he walked further away,
i said, do u look at them.
because we got the same vids, look at the same race and yet he barred me from betting with him.
so we can all look at the same thing, it is how we inturpted it.
phil ivy [ great poker player ] came out with a classic line,
we all play the same game, well almost.
Report zooot July 14, 2016 11:18 AM BST
That is why form experts can maintain their edges over time. 

In contrast, some things I have found that are in the data and measureable just take one big punter or syndicate to stumble on / find and they will soon be gone.  However, the attraction was the aim to find the viens of gold and then mine them with automated bet placement while I lived life away from the computer.

Perhaps I should drive the family crazy watching endless racing videos?  Or perhaps not as over the last few years a few relatively small stock market picks have made me way more than BF over the same time period with 1/1000 the time commitment.
Report zoom_top July 14, 2016 3:04 PM BST
"However, the attraction was the aim to find the viens of gold and then mine them with automated bet placement while I lived life away from the computer."

That's the dream, Zooot, that's the dream. When you find out how this is done please private message me, I would love to get my hands on that one.
But joking aside, the one critical element I have found on here (betting BF) is connected to what Starship has said. Not only do you need to be very selective in your choice of wager, but find betting propositions that are priced strongly in your favour. That is a human skill not something that a computer can necessarily determine. Bots may be able to "skim" but they still need to combat the takeout. All the you tube videos I have seen talk about very small profits on a race using a number of techniques. Well that's fine if you want to work for a very small hourly rate. I also agree strongly with Starship's point of specialisation. Your betfair a/c needs to be 3 steps forward and one step back. 2 steps forward and one step back will see too much erosion due to takeout. (I'm probably repeating what has already been said !) I've also learnt that patience is the most important quality a punter can possess. And secondly the ability to have absolutely no emotional attachment to the endeavour.
Report fixed July 14, 2016 4:38 PM BST
also next time one is transformed from loser into winner by reading "study, look for edge, be patient" tips in a forum would be the first time
Report Ericali July 15, 2016 9:33 PM BST
I'm currently making money on a horse racing system, but have only been doing it for 47 days so far.....
Report askari1 July 28, 2016 10:54 PM BST
I've never been able to formalise my knowledge in a commission-beating system.

I know when a horse is likely to come down the hill well at Goodwood well enough to make money (there was one today). But this is dependent on the analysis of specific horses; the draw; the trainer's historical record in races at the track, meeting and race; even the likely pace bias and whether a horse will get cover.

The stage I'm at is that I'd like to have 100-150 bets a year and not punt otherwise (I have a part-time job and have mostly laid according to my own tissues for 15 years on here on the big horse days). The slog of market-making without automation isn't worth it, and isn't where my ability lies; I have a slight form edge.
Report stu July 30, 2016 12:18 PM BST
There are load of edges, but not necessarily ones that could be written as a set of strict rules, as Askari suggests above.
Report stu July 31, 2016 8:44 AM BST
I sometimes think the idea of 'automation' is to blame for the idea that markets are too efficient - they probably are too efficient if all you want to do is write a program and sit back without using any effort on your own part. Pretty mad to imagine it would be that easy really.
Report Mr Magoo August 2, 2016 5:27 PM BST
zooot: Going back to your original post, how are you calculating your matched odds? Are you taking the starting prices, or looking at the wide range of odds matched on here?

The wonderful feature of horse racing is that the odds move so much, and while some of it will be due to new information (going changes, or perhaps astute judges watching a horse as it parades), most of it (IMO) is surely speculation. If a horse's price has changed by say 20%, there must have been value available at one end of the prices or the other.

So if you have a strategy that seems to have no edge when using BSP, it could well be profitable if you managed to catch earlier bets that were at better odds. Of course, it works both ways - if you're not betting right at the off then you can end up with much worse odds than the SP. There's nothing worse than watching a horse's odds plummet from 10/1 down to evens when you've laid it at double figures, and then it goes on to win easily. Even if it loses, you still end up kicking yourself for not laying the lower odds :(

The other 'gotcha' when looking at the wild odds movements is that you need a decent estimation of how much you'll actually get matched at early prices. Naturally this also can work against you, and you may finding yourself struggling to fill high-odds bets on fancied horses, while your bets on the unloved runners get taken in full.

But still, the fact that the odds vary so much surely indicates that there was value for the taking, and the pots of gold are still out there to be won... at least, I hope so!
Report stu August 2, 2016 8:17 PM BST
Adapt, update, analyse and respond - all constantly required IMO in order to play with an 'edge', something related to the above post too.
Report Gallivanter August 2, 2016 11:44 PM BST
Stu, you say "There are load of edges, but not necessarily ones that could be written as a set of strict rules."

Have you considered looking at these edges in relation to each other? I don't mean totting up points for each runner and betting the best. I'm thinking more of examining the differences between all the variables for every runner and calculating a percentage chance of winning for each one. That gives you a fairly good tissue to work with.
Report stu August 3, 2016 12:31 PM BST
Interesting comment gallivanter - not sure I entirely understand your idea of looking at differences without assigning these as 'points', but I guess you mean generally make it more numerical in nature.

My only problem with that is that I see that different factors affect each market (my personal view), so the possible different permutations of factors would be rather huge to do this in such a direct way, or have a simpler structured system. As my points above were meant to imply, I think finding edges is a constantly changing process rather than stationary.
Report kincsem August 3, 2016 1:25 PM BST
I don't often look at the General Betting forum but this thread looks very interesting.  I'll read it in detail later to pick up fresh ideas (fresh to me).

Everyone seems to be intrigued by the one example the OP threw out - horse names.  I'm sure he has tested dozens of other angles with his large data set.
When he said some ideas only produced 15 bets a week I saw a different world.  I have less than 15 proper bets a year (and a few entertainment bets).

My interest is thoroughbred pedigrees.  My database has 389,370 horses this morning.  I also have other databases that I compare to the pedigree database.
I see thousands of horse names every day.  I even analysed all names in my database and extracted a count of each word used in horse names.
The most common were Miss; Lady; La; The; Royal; My; Blue; Golden; Red; Sweet; Princess; Little; Silver; Queen; Star; High; Bold ...
I believe well named horses are better horses, probably because the person naming the horse is better educated, wealthy, well read, and can afford better stock.
My preference is for a one word name about seven or eight letters, or a name that rhymes, or makes me smile: Prominer; Hittite Glory; Darn That Alarm.
However, I do not use names to select bets.

My idea is to analyse pedigree in volume (using programs I write) to identify good pedigrees and poor pedigrees.
I have some results that I will expand when my data collection/tidying is complete (very nearly).
Over the winter I will automate the ideas I have been collecting.
My preference is high odds in Group races (flat), 10f and over.
If I can find one negative in a favourite I become interested in the outsiders.

I am with the OP in thinking you must work in areas other people do not, and oppose beliefs others hold.
Report fixed August 3, 2016 5:16 PM BST
and by laying it all out here your subconsciousness indicates that all this shielded-from-reality static-database-from-past juggling may be good entertainment for some but will not lead to anything meaningful in a dynamic live now/future environment.....

your subconsciousness is right about that
Report zooot August 4, 2016 11:16 PM BST

I've tried many approaches to odds selection over the years when doing both stats based approaches and odds movement based approaches - SP, early prices, some based on movements of odds.  The simple answer to what I found is that the market has the overwhelming tendency to reflect value overall.

Bet very early, for example, and if backing you will tend on average to back at lower prices as the layers start low and slowly move their prices up as the market develops.  So of course you should lay early?  But then on average the value bets will tend not to get matched or the only way to get consistently matched is to take prices at the top of gaps which overall equal poorer value. If you take odds available early as they are then to ensure an instant match you will tend to consistently get matched at poor value.  If you place a bet at a more value price and wait for it to get matched, you will tend to get matched by steamers (when laying) or drifters(when backing) and in both cases you tend to get matched at poor value. 

What you want (on average) is to get matched early on steamers when backing before they steam much or early on layers when before they drift much.  If you do that you will get rich.  But unless you have a factor that tells you ahead of time what is going to happen you are left to work wit the average tendencies just described which do not favour you.

That is where true form analysis can create powerful edges as you have an extra dimension to work with and spot value in the context of that race, that time of placement and that horse.

Also, my approach was dependent to a large extent on data based around the SP price.  That was the reference point.  Value often exists at SP - just with the challenges discussed earlier.  So if I tried a placement approach at odds away from SP I had lost my point of reference and any judgement on vale at that point was lost.

I've seen incredible stuff in analysing my historical bets where if only I backed the ones that moved in say 4% from the price I took I would have made a killing.  But there was no way without a time machine to identify those that would do this.  It can get super precise.  Made up example here - but it may be that 5 minutes before the off prices below 10 and above 5 that then steam in 3-4% offer good profits.  But if they steam in over 8% they don't.  But at the steamed in price the value is gone.  At the point when the value existed I had no way to tell if they would be in the 3-4% category (I tried to look for signals but none where reliable).

So in short, you must assume as a guiding principle that overall the market will tend to match bets, move, shift and morph in ways that tend to minimise your opportunities to spot and take value. They rarely (overall) do so to your advantage. Value will be apparent all over the place in hindsight though.

A generalised value approach such as I pursued for reasons described is at the mercy of this market tendency to a fair extent dampening the value level to below commission. 

Inside knowledge or being very good at form analysis can give people that extra dimension to pick the value before the moves occur.


I always overlay market edges (filters) on top of one another.  This improves results a lot but I found the number of bets dropped dramatically.  I have some things left I could pursue which are highly filtered and in theory would make money.  But doing all the stuff to place say 6 bets a week seems questionable ROI.  If I knew those edges would sustain for the next 2 years and could handle scaling up to higher stakes it would be okay but with 6 bets a week and normal losing streaks thrown in, there would be months and months of losses at times even in winning systems.  Uncertainty and doubt settles in strongly when you plug away for months going backwards. The "fun" completely goes out of it and it becomes a negative in your life.  What is a thousand pounds won after 8 months of dispiriting grind?  Is that worth it?

High volume offers more potential but also shortens in time the losing streaks.

That is a question for the exchange - high commission may make more money in the short term but in terms of an "amusement ride" the site ends up with players who don't enjoy the ride and don't tell anyone else that it is fun.  That is a big limiting factor for BF.
Report stu August 5, 2016 10:23 AM BST
zoot - I think there's another important factor here, which is size of stake.

If you're a big player vs a smaller stake player, you may have less opportunities. The guy looking for smaller, but good, returns will do better these days (IMO).
Report stu August 5, 2016 10:23 AM BST
By good, I mean regular and consistent profits (just not very high for each market on average)
Report zooot August 5, 2016 12:03 PM BST
Out of interest, given how form analysis and specialisation seems the answer, I set up a rating system for greyhounds including form data and observed form from watching races to run through the process of compiling data and my own unique observed factors.

After a week I could see how it could work and I got a sense of where it could create a long term edge but, core blimey, the time it took to watch all the races, update data and then on the night try to roughly price up 10 races on two nights of the week was massive.

Hours and hours to update data and also to price up and then hours to place bets at the best prices on the night. Like taking on a second job after hours with no light at the end of the tunnel in terms of the workload declining much over time.

So one day when I retire I might look at that again if I am lost for things to do but till then - no thanks.

Makes it all pretty easy to walk away from.
Report henryluca August 12, 2016 10:06 PM BST
So I leave after quite a few years, in significant profit still but with an average hourly earning rate over the years that would make a cleaning lady cry. I also have much improved Xcel skills that have helped me a lot at work.  Although I genuinely enjoyed the analysis I did, and trying all sorts of stuff, so am not bitter, ultimately it had to pay off in terms of profits as I am not a gambler and want a decent ROI for my time.

The point of this post?  Well mainly to spell out just how far you have to go to make money on BF long term and to highlight how what often seems like a system with simple analysis and short data runs  is probably not or will not last. 

So remember you have to go way beyond clever analysis of readily available data into detailed form analysis or highly sophisticated automated trading to make good money.  Or you have to get good at trading and spend a lot of tedious hours doing so.

More accurately this should read
'spell out just how far I have to go  etc...'

data on 22000 horses, spreadsheet with 130,000 rows - lots of data.

There will be many profitable just 'surprisingly' couldn't find one

22000 horses ....
Report boom322 March 21, 2019 6:47 PM GMT
Excellent Article...
Report Dr Crippen March 23, 2019 5:27 PM GMT
Very useful information in the opening post for anyone considering that approach.

I've never taken the view that there's a magic formula or a system that will work long term.
If there were, these days with computers and some very clever people around (such as here on this thread in fact )with the ability to exploit the data, then almost every winner would be at shorter odds in races where form is exposed.
Report roadrunner46 April 9, 2019 11:40 AM BST
so the computer geeks have got zero chance with their edge based data systemsLaugh
Report ZEALOT May 11, 2019 2:41 PM BST
There are edges in horseracing that will always exist . There is no substituting VALUE . I take it you are talking of BSP where edges are eroded .

Take for example are horse that has been matched at a low of 3.2 and a high of 4.8 and goes off at a BSP of 3.9 . It doesnt matter if the horse wins or loses or falls or pulls up . The aim if to beat the price . If you layed at 3.2 or backed at 4.6 you have obtained VALUE and do this over a vast number of bets and you win . There are folk on here who play the horses who would find it impossible to lose in the long run .
Report lewisham ranger May 15, 2019 12:13 AM BST
why do you need systems? if you are intelligent, and just apply common sense, you can approach every race on it's individual merits...
Report DFCIRONMAN May 15, 2019 11:37 AM BST
Systems can enable CONSISTENCY in arriving in a selection.....whereas, the brain can operate at different levels from day to day. You do NEED to be reasonably "intelligent" to devise such a system that takes account of the multitude of relevant FACTORS that apply to each race chosen....Common sense can vary again from day today.
Report DFCIRONMAN May 15, 2019 11:41 AM BST
Taking on every race is a good learning experience.....but certain race types provide better VALUE , where your "edges" are stronger. Filtering the race types is important.
Report lewisham ranger May 15, 2019 3:48 PM BST
so what you are essentially saying is systems are the only way to maintain discipline.

I really don't believe in systems. Sure, I believe in accumulating knowledge and applying that knowledge to races. but systems? I don't believe they exist.
Report lewisham ranger May 15, 2019 3:52 PM BST
Filtering the race types is important.

this is the flaw in systems I'm getting at. you have to back every runner that meets your criteria, even if logic dictates you shouldn't back it.
Report DFCIRONMAN May 15, 2019 10:02 PM BST
Not true LR.

There is "subjective " input as well, and this , together with all the other FACTORS can provide a strong system of ratings.

If ratings are made on a CONSISTENT basis, the holy grail lies before yoooooooooo......if you can identify how to use the system!
Report DFCIRONMAN May 15, 2019 10:05 PM BST
"Filtering of race types" - There are "simple " race types....BUT the VALUE is better if you rate more complex race types, whether on NH, Turf or AW.
Report lewisham ranger May 16, 2019 10:18 AM BST
surely a system is just that, you are backing say gosdens second string exclusively in any race. or any kodiac in a two year old race, I don't know, I'm just throwing out an example. you can't rule one out because if you do that you're not sticking to the system. to be honest I don't really understand what you mean by "filtering race types" and how that applies to a system. perhaps you could elaborate.

It's the inflexibility of systems I don't like. Anyway I don't see why you would need a "system" if you have all the information in front of you, all the stats, all the form and so on. it's just a question of applying that in an intelligent way.
Report DFCIRONMAN May 16, 2019 12:00 PM BST
Just preparing to to a meeting today not much time to respond.

A rating system needs to be capable of allocating points on a CONSISTENT basis......taking account of NUMEROUS FACTORS. It is not a simplistic system like the Gosden example you put forward.

Race types are numerous as well...Claimers; Sellers; stakes ; listed; Conditionals; Ladies; amateurs; Hunter Chases; .....etc etc etc These are IMO simple types of races or just more erratic races to rate.

Mixed age handicap races are where some VALUE can be found...whether NH, Turf or AW races. The average "punter" just will find it difficult to take account of the multiple FACTORS that can give certain horses a better chance of winning such races.

Have to go now.......interrupted by phone call....Probably will post again over week-end .

GL whatever your approach to betting on horses is.
Report lewisham ranger May 16, 2019 12:03 PM BST
ok df, thanks.
Report DFCIRONMAN May 18, 2019 1:32 PM BST
As posted  above, there is also "subjective" input when doing the ratings, therefore the combination of :-

A. CONSISTENT points for each horse in a race....using the data from a race card ( taking account of all the data that is IMO "relevant" to deserve points  for each horse)... and

B. SUBJECTIVE points for certain  FACTORS that punters are unlikely to take account of when just looking at a race card (No way can I expound  on these FACTORS as they are a key part of arriving at a "holy grail"  ratings "system")

Once you have the ratings, then ,due to the consistent way that ratings are arrived at, you can apply various BETTING STRATEGIES that ALL can give good to VERY GOOD ROI.

The hardest part of the SUBJECTIVE input is that you need to take account of certain FACTORS that CHANGE as at different times in year.

Trust this helps LR.......The fact that people say that "systems" only work for a short period of time, then DON'T work is down to them probably not having an understanding of WHY this occurs.

It is likely to take many years to produce a complex "system" that can operate on a CONSISTENT basis and then you NEED to understand how to use such a ratings "system" ( which can take many more years to arrive at this "understanding").

Most people will just give up on their "system".....then they say "systems don't work"....meaning they have not really understand the complexities regarding horse racing etc etc

Anyway....I trust this post is helpful...and GL with bets.

Cheers the nooooooooooo
Report lewisham ranger May 23, 2019 3:12 PM BST
actually I have a theory with systems. I don't think the market corrects to systems over time like people will have you believe.

most of the time because people don't bet in a disciplined way. if people want to punt the favourite, they'll do so. they won't care that stats or numbers or form says it's a rubbish price. they'll punt it anyway.
Report ZEALOT June 4, 2019 10:04 PM BST
Lewisham 100% correct . I dont know why folk say that , it baffles me .
Report Dr Crippen June 5, 2019 12:02 PM BST
The first place to start is in deciding what type of race you are going to bet in.

For instance - a typical class 4 handicap. The horse with a single lowly novice win to it's name is the most likely winner and will probably start favourite. Yet there will be horses in the race with much better form.

Then in the next handicap you study, they'll all be exposed and the form horse in the highest class might win.
That is unless something has been dropping down the handicap showing no form in the process, and is now very well handicapped if they decide to go for it.
Or it might just be going backwards. 

Some very different situation there, so how do you work a system to accommodate just those few?
And there are many more to consider.
Report Sandown July 23, 2019 3:18 PM BST

I'm pretty certain that with the effort you have put into your analysis you have demonstrated that you could turn your negative positions into positive ones.

What you are clearly not seeing is that you haven't gone past first base - all your effort has gone into selection, but there are 2 other very important strands which you are neglecting, and you do not have to turn yourself overnight into a form expert to do this.

Firstly, you must understand that the game is really about pricing and staking as well as selection. I reckon that you could take your selections and make a profit above commission rate IF you knew how to price a race and if you staked using a mathematically sound staking plan.

The latter aspect - staking is freely available if you google Kelly staking. The pricing aspect is a little harder to do as it would involve theory and lots of trial and error. Only by pricing up a race will you find the right  races to play in and learn by practice how to develop your pricing skills.

You will have to learn about probability but that just requires reading up - its all available.

Right now you are like a prospector with just half a map - find the other  half.If you do, you will find that you have a completely different experience betting on horses- and anything else come to that.
Report Dr Crippen September 7, 2019 12:15 PM BST
The Kelly Criteria requires that your percentage-estimations (probabilities) are better than the bookmaker’s estimations.

So you only need to be better than the experts employed by the bookies - lol.

Best of luck with that.
Report Sandown September 12, 2019 11:55 AM BST
So you only need to be better than the experts employed by the bookies - lol.

Yep, that's just about it, in a nutshell.To win at anything, you have to be better than other people. That surely doesn't come as a revelation to you Dr Crippen? Or  does it?

As a point of fact, it's not really the bookmakers that you have to be better than, it's the market i.e. other players.Bookmakers are just the middlemen in reality.
Report Dr Crippen September 13, 2019 11:20 AM BST
That surely doesn't come as a revelation to you Dr Crippen? Or  does it?

What a patronising question from Sandown.

He comes on here stating the blindingly obvious, and takes a swipe at me by asking an insulting question like that.
Report Sandown September 13, 2019 1:34 PM BST
Your sarcastic comment deserved nothing less, Dr C.I'm happy to continue any debate at a more informed level, if you wish.
Report Dr Crippen September 15, 2019 11:32 AM BST
So Sandown, you took offence at my criticism of an online company which is only set up in order to take money from punters.

But what's the point in bickering? Especially when you seem heavy on rhetoric and light on substance yourself.
Which is the first thing you need to address by the way.
Report Sandown September 15, 2019 12:34 PM BST
For someone who has been on here since 02 I had hoped that you might have more to offer but obviously not.I'll leave you in peace from now on Dr C.
Report Dr Crippen September 15, 2019 7:37 PM BST
Well that's a shame Sandown. So it's no use us anticipating anymore revelations such as:

''To win at anything, you have to be better than other people.''

I'm sure that little gem took many punters a very long way.
Report Sandown September 18, 2019 7:15 PM BST
In short, over the longer run the markets are amazingly accurate and 5% commission is not just an annoyance, it makes most sophisticated betting approaches unprofitable

This is the most important conclusion drawn by zoot, who having been on the site since 04, is obviously an experienced player and his analysis of a large data base is surely sufficient to support his conclusion.

It confirms many academic studies into the subject over many decades, not just in the UK but elsewhere (USA,Australia mainly). These studies also observe the existance of a favourite-longshot bias (where outsiders are over-bet to return a greater loss than at the front end of the market) although analysts of horse-racing markets since the emergence of exchange markets also confirm that exchange markets show that this bias largely disappears.(punters tend to be more knowledgable than bookmaking and PM players.)

What is not reported is the variance around each price bracket due to over and under betting, essentially because this is much harder to demonstrate. Horse racing win probabilities estimated by individuals are inherently unprovable at the time of play and can never be shown on an individual race basis. This makes the problem totally different to say the problem of games of pure chance (roulette, dice) which have a mathematical basis where results can be shown to meet known statistical theorems.

Zoots aim of finding sufficient edges to enable him to set up some kind of automated selection strategy was always likely to meet with failure because "edges" will be found by the market eventually and disappear given the efficiency of the market.

This is not the same thing as saying that a predictive methodology which seeks to identify profitable bets is impossible to develop. I am not alone in having done so, and I am certainly aware of at least one large antipodean organisation which operates in the UK (not hugely on the exchanges) which bets in six figure stakes on a daily basis.

I do not know of anyone who wins regularly for medium and large amounts that does so without knowing how to assign probabilities more accurately than the market does and to stake according to proven mathematical staking plans. In every race it is theoretically possible for half the field to be over--bet and half under bet according to ones own estimates of outcome although I would say that the actual fraction of the field to throw up a worthwhile value betting opportunity is usually about no more than a quarter of the field

Any player who succeeds in this game will know that the amount of known information relative to theoretically knowable information  which cannot be obtained by everyone (insiders have the best chance) is at least equal. But the element o chance involved is also at least the equal of either if not both.

I believe that it would be possible for me to have taken zoots selections and made a profit on them through purely through the identification of positive and negative value and applied the appropriate staking to each. Of course, it would be far easier to start with my own selections in the first place.Difficult to prove such a claim, but if it easy to make money out of random chance games like roulette if given over -the odds on any chosen number when not spending any time on selection, then it follows that  in a game of 50/50 skill/chance one can do better than playing roulette.
Report Dr Crippen September 22, 2019 11:52 AM BST
I take a very different view to that of zooot and those who he seems to have impressed.

The way they approach the problem will never work in long tern. 

In fact thinking that there is a system out there was his first mistake.
His second mistake was that he appears to treat every race the same anyway.

So he'd lost before he'd even started.
Report DFCIRONMAN September 23, 2019 10:56 AM BST
"In fact thinking that there is a system out there was his first mistake."

DevilLaugh.........Obviously Dr C you don't have one !
Report Dr Crippen September 24, 2019 11:52 AM BST
Please DFCIRONMAN if you want to debate, then try and write like an adult and not a teenager sending text messages littered with little faces to their pen pals.

It just makes you look like a child.
Report DFCIRONMAN September 24, 2019 2:12 PM BST
You are the one DR C who posted -"In fact thinking that there is a system out there was his first mistake."

What you base that on is a "fishing" expedition IMO........

I've already posted, near start of thread, that having a complex "system" is necessary to take on mixed age H/C races ( excluding certain types of races)....whether NH, AW or Turf. It is the pathway to the "holy grail".

Not going to debate whether it is or cant say any more than what I've already posted earlier.

GL with bets.
Report Dr Crippen September 24, 2019 3:03 PM BST
Thank you DFCIRONMAN, that's better.
Report Coachbuster October 2, 2019 11:03 PM BST
great posts zoot enjoyable read .

I get the impression we're all very much on the autsistic spectrum on here with out many of us realising it .... 

anyway ,about the premium charge main gripe is the way you are charged for a winning week , but then an equally  losing week follows  and so therefore you end up paying a charge for no profit whatsoever .   Similar to Screamings' scenario i guess ...equally unfair  ...
Report Dr Crippen November 4, 2019 1:20 PM GMT
In fact thinking that there is a system out there was his first mistake.

Absolutely, but that's not to say you don't have to be systematic in your approach.

But if anyone thinks that a foolproof system that anyone can work is out there, they're going to be dissappointed as was the author of this thread.   
For the simple reason that every race throws up a different set of circumstances that cannot be covered by a straightforward system.

Even the principle way of assessing horses which is collateral form is subject to opinion.
How many times does the private handicapper agree with the official ratings?
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