Saturday, 27 April 2013

Snooker and Football

I'm not sure if you are going to be able to guess what this post will be about under the cryptic title I have chosen, but I'm sure you can have a little guess. The snooker World Championship has been running for a week now and it has not disappointed so far with huge amounts of quality and excitement on the baize. With round 2 currently in progress, the biggest shock so far is Neil Robertson's first round exit to Robert Milkins, after one particular blogger astutely tipped Robertson as a good back-to-lay option... Moving on and there were other first round casualties for what I like to call the 'mid-runners' (ie not those in the group of favourites in the betting, but not big outsiders either) Higgins, Allen and Maguire (who I did actually say was unreliable, so maybe that is 1-1). Their defeat along with Robertson's has altered the market somewhat, with Ding Junhui in to 7.4 from 14s and Shaun Murphy in to 15s from 22 (although Shaun is through to the quarter finals already). The favourites still remain close with Trump at 4.5, O'Sullivan (who dispelled any doubters with his first round victory over Marcus Campbell) in to 4.8, and Selby is at 5.6

In addition to the front-runners there have been a few surprise performances not least from 21-year old Michael White, who has already knocked out Mark Williams and Dechawat Poomjaeng and will go on to face Milkins or Ricky Walden in the quarters. He is currently at 22 to win the tournament and although I don't advise backing the in-form man, especially one so inexperienced, if he can carry his momentum into his next match there is no reason to suggest he could not make the semis. Poomjaeng, who was unfortunately knocked out yesterday, has been the source of much entertainment in his brief spell at The Crucible and I'm sure many will be sad to see him out. I think Maguire's quote that he doesn't think Poomjaeng 'is the full shilling' pretty much sums up his antics. 

Over in football land United sowed up the title in brilliant fashion and we have entered the stage of the season where the outright markets begin to settle or partly settle their bets. I'll be honest and admit this does confuse me slightly as it skews the profit and loss margins on each market as each team gets knocked out of the running. But anyway, the biggest market still left in contention definitely seems to be the race for the top 4, or even top 3, while the final relegation spot also seems unsettled. I feel each weekend between now and the end will be crucial for both of these battles and it is difficult to see who has the easiest run in for the top 4 race. Arsenal face United at home this weekend and although Ferguson has rightly vowed to honour the top 4 race, I don't see any reason why Arsenal cannot take at least a point from the champions-elect. If they can avoid defeat on this occasion they would certainly appear to hold a small advantage over the other two, who still need to play each other on May 8th. I am sticking with my belief that Chelsea will be the ones to miss out, while Arsenal will take 3rd place. This is not the market belief however, as Chelsea are favourites for the top four at 1.33 and top 3 at 2.04. We shall see. 

Down at the bottom it is really difficult to call and I won't be getting involved there. On the surface it seems that Wigan have the tougher run in but I get the impression people are reluctant to oppose them due to their heroics in recent seasons. I can't help but feel though that this may be one season too far for the club, especially as they have the FA Cup final to think about as well, although I do hope I am wrong. Enjoy your weekends.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Betfair Snooker World Championship 2013

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am impartial to a bit of snooker from time to time and over the last year or two it has become a kind of second sport for me. Unfortunately this tends to be strictly from an enjoyment perspective and not so much from a betting perspective, partly because snooker doesn't have the liquidity required to trade properly and partly because the sport is so unpredictable. The World Championship starts on Saturday though and it is sponsored by Betfair after all, so it should show an improvement liquidity-wise.

The draw for the competition was made yesterday and it made for a slight rearrangement on the outright winner market, as each of the favourites' route to the final was determined. As far as the betting goes the outright market is the most interesting as usual but it is typically difficult to pick yourself a winner, with the favourite starting at a huge 7.2. The big news so far has been the return of defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan having played his last competitive match of snooker in the final of last year's World Championship. He heads the betting at 7.2 but I really cannot see myself backing him, especially as favourite. Everyone knows what Ronnie is like and how he plays, no one can predict anything he will do though and he could be sensational or awful. I wouldn't want to back anyone who had not played the game for a year, let alone someone who is renowned for being a bit of a basket-case. Don't get me wrong, I fully hope we see the old Ronnie back to his glory days to give a strong defence of his title, but I won't be backing him to do so.

Neil Robertson, Judd Trump and Mark Selby make up the rest of what Betfair is calling 'The Big Four', and you can currently get 1.89 on any of them to lift the trophy. Throughout history the winner has tended to be one of the big players in the game at the time, as indeed should be the case, and it isn't since 2005 when a young Shaun Murphy won the title that an underdog has come through to win. You could argue that last year was a shock with O'Sullivan winning despite his poor ranking and age (oldest winner since Ray Reardon in 1978), but Ronnie has been somewhat of an anomaly all throughout his career so it can possibly be excused (and he was actually still one of the favourites). Of the other three of the 'Big 4', the most appealing to me is Robertson at 7.4 who is the only former World Champion of the three. He certainly looks good for a back-to-lay as he has been the most consistent throughout this season (despite actually going all the way only once) with 1 win, 3 finals, 3 semi-finals and quarter. He is just coming off the back of his impressive China Open win and I think he could be ready to take it to the next level. Alternatively, Mark Selby at 7.8 has been world number one for intermittent parts of the season and, although he has been less consistent with only one final, he also won the UK Championship and the Masters and is looking to complete the Triple Crown. Judd Trump at 8.4 is my least favourite of the four by far and tends to have his price shortened somewhat due to his playing style. This season he won the International Championship and finished runner-up at the Shanghai Masters, but let's himself down far too often and has failed to get past the second round of ranking events on 5 occasions this season. Two years ago he announced himself to the world by finishing runner-up in this tournament, but I think it may still be a tad too soon for him to go one step further.

As for 'The Field', Higgins and Ding (14s), Allen (16s), Maguire (19.5) and Murphy (22) make up the rest of the main pack with a fair chance of doing well this time round. Higgins and Murphy are the only ones with World titles to their name, and it is the latter who I feel has once again been severely underrated by the markets. He remains number 4 in the world (ranked 5 in this tournament because O'Sullivan is first seed) and has been pretty consistent all the way through the season, with one final, four semi finals and two quarters. It may just be past him to win the tournament, but I will be backing him to make the quarter finals at least. Mark Allen is another who has performed well this season and is up to 6 in the rankings, though he is another who frequently struggles to make it past the second round (on 6 occasions). He also has a very difficult draw with the way it is structured, so I would not really advise backing him. Stephen Maguire is at 19.5 and this must be for his world ranking (5) alone because he has not really performed well this season. He won the Welsh Open and made the semis in China, but on eight occasions did not progress past the 2nd round. His draw is not the harshest however and he could progress until he meets Robertson in the quarters, but I wouldn't back him to get that far based on his recent form.

Overall the tournament is extremely difficult to call either way, much like any other world sporting tournament, as the prestige of the Crucible mixed with the length of the matches (1st round is best of 19 frames, progressing to the final which is best of 35) means anything can happen. I'm not sure I will be having any big punts on it, but maybe a couple of small interest bets. From a in-play trading perspective, I would be looking to back Mark Selby if he went behind early on in a match and lay Judd Trump/Neil Robertson if they took a big early lead. Robertson and Trump's playing style relies upon their long potting being perfect which is difficult to maintain for a whole 19+ frames and they are known to frequently take the foot off the gas when they're ahead.

Otherwise though, sit back and enjoy the tournament! Much like golf or test cricket, it is a sport which is relaxing to watch as well and can be left on in the background (particularly when you have revision to do...), but can also be exciting at times and unmissable! I only wish I didn't have exams soon so I could go to Sheffield and watch it. Good luck.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Revolution or Evolution?

After Ladbrokes bought the floundering Betdaq last year many were hoping for a long awaited serious challenger to the monopoly created over at Betfair. Earlier this year the 'Betdaq manifestso' was released and waxed lyrical about promising 'more liquidity', 'lower rates' and 'no premium charge', and while this sounded promising most people were waiting before they passed judgement on whether the takeover had been successful or not. A few months on then, how are Betdaq doing?

I was impressed to see Aintree splashed from top to bottom in purple the other day as the Daq marketing team had obviously chosen to go all out for the National. Huge white tanks were driven up the roads outside the venue as those on board cried 'Don't settle for Betfair' and covered the crowds in Betdaq flyers. Flyers, tanks and billboards are all lovely but they aren't much use if there is still no money in the markets. In a bid to gain more liquidity quickly, they offered commission free winnings on the National and this did certainly seem to have a positive short term effect (see below). Where the struggle lies however, is getting people to keep their winnings on the site and not, as I did, withdraw them immediately to return to Betfair.

Picture of total matched on the National (taken from Twitter account of @TrevDaq)

The biggest competition this week is The Masters and I was surprised to discover that Betdaq currently has almost double the amount matched in the outright winners market than Betfair, with £13.6m and £7.1m matched respectively. This would definitely appear to suggest that the tide may be turning and as long as Daq can keep hold of a few customers from each tournament, then it may well begin to compete. It will be interesting to see how the two progress as the tournament goes in play.



Unfortunately however things are not looking as good in Betdaq's other markets and if we delve into one of the (subjectively) biggest football matches of the day, the Daq's liquidity begins to fall down once again compared to Betfair.

A poor show from BetDaq

Better from Betfair

This is much the same across the board for most of the sports today, so it would be fair to assume that many of the National punters have just moved their winnings along to the Masters in search of another 66/1 winner.

So what can we learn from this? Is Betfair a machine which just cannot be caught? Or are BetDaq in it for real this time? Personally it looks to me like the Daq are still finding their feet and are progressing slowly but surely with the strong backing of Ladbrokes. This type of thing does not happen overnight, people do not just wake up and decide to take all of their pennies out of Betfair, it will need to be a very slow and gradual movement from one to the other. Offering the odd commission free market at the big events seems to be working so far, though I'm not sure what it does for their profit margins, but it is still going to take a lot more than that to work permanently, though based on the show so far their backers are willing to invest a lot in marketing and branding to boost their reputation, which is a positive sign. I'm not sure if it is possible or not but I would have thought that offering a commission free period on, say, football for a month would gain the site a lot of attention and attract a lot more customers. While I reckon this would be too much for the profit margins to handle however, it would probably achieve gains in the long run, even if there were short term losses. 

Whatever the case, BetDaq appears to be slowly evolving into a genuine competitor to Betfair and it will be interesting to see if they can begin to match everyone's expectations soon. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013


Forgive me dear bloggers for the unsightly blemish on my page to the right of your screens. I did tell myself that I would never advertise or try to sell you things, but I have been tempted into betraying my word. Technically I am not committing the worst of sins as this is not my own product, just one which I am a big fan of and I am sure the majority of you have it in your portfolio already. The reason it has now appeared on my page is because I can claim a commission if you sign up through the link and I believe, as I have said many many times before (see older posts), that everyone should be a member. For those who don't know: It is risk free matched betting, whereby the system guides you through cashing out all of the bookmakers' free bet offers for a guaranteed profit. I completed the initial service well over a year ago but have continued to make profits (around £400 this year, and I am currently doing a special new bonus offer of up to £150) and the service continues to improve with videos and written guides to make it easy as possible. Free bets occur all the way through the year, especially when there are big sporting events on, and Mike (the creator) sifts through them all to present you the best and safest ones on offer. There is also a friend referral scheme of £20 each time you recommend someone, so it is just money all round really. If you want further proof of how good the product is, I challenge you to find a bad review of it online, I haven't seen one yet! So, to cut a long story short, do me (a poor, skint student) a favour and sign up through my link. You will make money I promise. Here ends my sales pitch!

The weekend saw a feast of action once again and the big result was at Loftus Road where Wigan obliterated the Hoops' hopes after Remy's stunning goal. Betfair now has QPR at 1.05 to go down, while Wigan's point leaves them 3.0 for the drop and Villa's crucial win at Stoke pushes them out to 5.4. Sunderland are now the favourites for 18th place at just 2.86 for the drop! I still think a lot might change before the end though. Remarkably Stoke, who were once as high as 700/1 for the drop are now just 8.2. Up at the top Arsenal continued impressively with a win away at West Brom, while Chelsea crept past Sunderland and Spurs struggled to draw to Everton. Top 3 prices are now : Chelsea 2.08, Arsenal 2.46, Spurs 6.2. City's win at Old Trafford had the grand effect of pushing United (previously at 1.01) out to 1.02 for the title. Nothing to see here, according to the markets at least.

I was at Aintree on Saturday and had a great day as usual and I even managed to get a bit sun burnt! Betting wise it was a nightmare as the bookies absolutely swept up all throughout the day, particularly in the National itself with 66/1 Auroras Encore winning. I was pleased to see that all 40 horses returned safe and sound however, and I hope the future of the National is now a little safer than it was (not that I really think it was ever at serious risk). Enjoy your week.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The Final Stretch and the National

Into April we roll and there are only 7 or 8 Premier League matches for us to enjoy before we have to succumb to other sports over the summer months. The weekend had a small impact on the league, with Chelsea dropping points, Southampton claiming a huge win and Wigan shaping up to form another great escape. QPR now look resigned to the Championship after their 3-2 loss at Fulham made them 1.11 for the drop, only behind Reading who now sit 1.06 after their defeat at the Emirates. The top four race continues to enthrall and Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal now sit within 4 points of each other, while Arsenal and Chelsea have a crucial game in hand. Chelsea and Spurs still need to play each other but due to the former's triumph in the FA cup that game will now be pushed back, meaning Spurs will have a potentially crucial free week allowing for a much needed rest for their squad. Spurs were the big winners over the weekend as they moved up to third and the market readjusted to make them 1.76 for a top four finish.

Looking at the fixtures over April you would have to look at opposing Chelsea in every way. They potentially face 8 fixtures throughout April, possibly more if they progress in the Europa League, and Benitez looks to be prioritising the cup competitions over the league, as was the case with Di Matteo last season. I backed Arsenal for the top 3 last week at 4.4 (now 3.3), but you can lay Chelsea for the top 3 at 2.34 or even the top 4 at 1.49 if you wish. Incidentally, Arsenal could also benefit from United winning the title quickly, as it might take United's edge off their fixture at the Emirates at the end of April. At this stage of the season it is tempting to force bets, in an attempt to make more money before the season finishes, particularly as I am not on track to reach my profit target. It is clear however that doing this could jeapardise the profits I already have and a large amount of discipline is necessary here to resist rising greed.

Elsewhere we have the Grand National this Saturday which I will be attending as usual, I just hope the weather picks up before then! Unfortunately this is not an occasion which bookmakers offer free bets as they do not feel as if they need to, while some even withdraw or reduce their sign up bonus, meaning I will have to be digging into my pocket to pay for my punts. I know little about horses as it is and the National is renowned for being a lottery, so I won't bother trying to 'analyse' the race and give you all my 'tips'. If you are interested however, I'm going for Colbert Station at around 15/1. He's a dead cert ; )

Enjoy the race and I hope some of you get lucky. Fingers crossed for no more snow.