Category Archives: General

Playing the numbers or the heart

There are many reasons for betting – making money, adding some excitement to a game, the challenge of out-thinking the bookie or market and others that I am sure people can quote. The difference in why someone bets will often dictate what they will bet on, and naturally how much they will bet as well.

For pure thrills the games of chance come to the fore. There is no system for roulette, despite the best attempts to prove otherwise, and so placing money there is a pure gamble for the thrill. However, some prefer to apply some more logic to the process, and choose an event where there is a chance of making a judgement call.

In the case of a judgement, the first step is often to make the prediction. And here is where many, including myself, fall flat. Whilst I am not making a selection purely on wishful thinking grounds, it is still a ‘gut call’. Too many times I have placed a bet thinking ‘I am sure they’ll do the business this time’ – an example being the recent Lions tour where I had a 100% track record in my two margin bets; 100% the wrong way as I went with the gut feeling that the Aussies would sneak at least one of the tests.

A ‘true’ gambler, however, doesn’t rely on ‘feelings’. Here the world of stats rule, and so an assessment of form, previous matches, league results etc. are used to establish a probability of an event. That probability is then compared to the odds being offered in order to see if there is value in the bet. Why look for value than take what is on offer? Simply because whilst any one bet may fail, over time the value bets should cover those losses and leave the bank in a healthy position.

A simple example would illustrate, using exaggerated odds for the upcoming Premier League season. If our analysis showed that Chelsea had around a 30% chance of winning the title (based on a simple assessment that they are one of only three teams that could win – 30% for each with the remaining 10% representing the combined chances of the other seventeen teams) then we would expect odds of around 3.40 (12/5). If we found a bookmaker offering odds of 10.00 (9/1) then we’d be a fool not to take them – this represents only a 10% chance of winning the title. The gap between the ‘real’ probability and that represented by the odds equals the value in the bet. On the other hand, if we could only find 1.33 (1/3 or ‘three to one on’) then that would be a case of bad value; the probability offered is 75% which is much higher than our prediction. By the way, if your assessment of probability is that far outside that of the market it might be an idea to double check your numbers!

So the reasons for placing a bet are key to understanding what bet to place. There is no reason not to place a bet on your favourite team to win the Premier League/Aviva Premiership/Superbowl (not that I would, as I am superstitious that way), but don’t do that if there is no value in it and your main aim is to see a return. Similarly there is nothing wrong with taking to the roulette wheel or the lottery or such, but just don’t try to kid yourself that there is a system that can work here.


I am sure that a first blog post is meant to offer some tremendous insights, mission statements or general outline of a blog. Things are never that easy though, and a general topic quickly descends into waffle with no particular end achieved.

So cutting to the chase this blog concerns itself with sporting matters, as the title would suggest. However, it will also lean heavily towards the concept of sporting predictions. Such predictions can be seen as a purely intellectual exercise, or taken one step further and backing the predictions with cold hard cash. Of course, it should be noted that my own personal betting experience is with very low stakes, and so won’t be seen as a shortcut to giving up the day job!

I expect the analysis to start with the Premier League in football, with perhaps some intermittent comments on F1 before the NFL season kicks in. I will try to accurately reflect the accuracy of any predictions – unless they get too bad in which case some judicious editing may be required!