FIFA World Cup Predictions

With the week getting away from me, the analysis will be short and sweet!

In fixed odds for the tournament win, it is difficult to look beyond the four of Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Germany (ranging from 3.75 to 7.00, and 23.00 for France who are fifth favourites). But I don’t buy into the ‘European teams can’t win in South America’. There have only been four South American tournaments, and none since 1970, whilst football in terms of conditioning, preparation and ‘internationalisation’ has come on leaps and bounds. Whilst the gut thinks that Argentina have the best chance, I would favour Germany for their preparation, good team ethic, relatively kind draw and big tournament experience, not to mention the strength in depth that I don’t think Argentina and Spain have, whilst Brazil are at a premium as hosts.

The other option is the play the exchanges, or spread betting if that is preferred. Belgium are a team I highly rate, but at 26.00 for fixed odds and 28.00 on Betfair to win, there just isn’t much value. Without a major team in their half of the draw having a nightmare and not making it into the second round, it is unlikely that they will come in that much before the quarter final (which is where I would want to be getting out). But they may be worth a risk.

Chile, at 55.00 on Betfair, appear to me to offer good value. I can see them surprising some teams, and those odds should come in as the tournament goes on, enabling some profit to be taken before the quarters.

So, short and sweet – and with a pinch of salt!

F1 2014: Canada GP Preview

The Canadian GP is one of my personal favourites. The track offers pretty much everything that you could ask for, with some very fast sections, and nasty hairpin, ‘chicanes’ and a lovely little booby-trap that has well earned its nickname of the ‘Wall of Champions’. There have been some excellent races there, with more than its fair share of drama whether that is the aforementioned wall, the spectacular crash of Kubica (thankfully with no serious repercussions) or the pit lane ‘incidents’ that have seen the sort of shunt one would expect to be more likely at some inner city traffic lights!

That said, the very nature of the race makes it difficult to predict the possible outcomes from a betting perspective. Naturally there isn’t much that should stop the Mercedes (I can probably cut and paste this in for the rest of the season), but Hamilton is certainly edging out in front in the odds stakes, rated at 1.44 for this race compared to 3.25 for Rosberg. This seems a little unfair, although Lewis will be pushing very hard to make up for Monaco. Nonetheless, the 3.25 represents only a 30% chance for the German, and I think this is a little unfair.

The non-Mercedes market offers both Alonso and Vettel at 3.25. That is too short for Vettel, as this track won’t be a Red Bull favourite, but might be underplaying Alonso’s chances. I still like the FI performances, and ignoring Monaco (which is a bit surreal anyway), I think that 2.10 for both cars to finish in the points is quite a decent bet. More of a ‘punt’ would be for both Torro Rossos to score points at 10.00; that is a potentially decent return and with a race known for retirements it may well bear fruit.

The two traditional markets (as I will call them) won’t offer much value. The number of classified drivers comes in at 2.00 for under 18, 3.50 for 18-19 and 3.00 for over 19. Canada averages 31% retirements which represents 15.18 finishers, but the last race only saw 2 retirements and 20 finishers. Nevertheless, that was the anomaly in the data, and so the under 18 market appears the most logical.

The safety car to be deployed comes in at 1.50 for yes and 2.50 for no. Canada is notorious for the safety car, with previous deployments of 6 and 4 times in a race in its history, but not for the last two years. Given that the race is going to be dry, one element that usually results in the SC coming out won’t apply. In this case, rather than going for the greatest return I will ‘cover’ the under 18 prediction with a no for the safety car. Now you can guarantee that it will come out to clear out a single car accident which is the only retirement in the race!

Summary:

  • Selected Bet
    • Alonso to win in market without Hamilton or Rosberg (3.25 Ladbrokes)
  • Other predicitons
    • Safety car to NOT be deployed (2.50 Bet365)
    • Classified finishers: Under 18 (2.00 Bet365)

2014 Season Totals (based on level stakes of 1 unit)

  • Selected bets: 2 win, 3 lose for -0.12
  • Safety car: 2 win, 3 lose for -0.66
  • Finishers: 2 win, 3 lose for -0.95

(Bit depressing that really!)

 

EPL: The Palace Experiment – Betting on a Promoted Team

Betting is really a matter of finding value. Bookies aren’t mugs, and the odds that they offer are generally a fair representation of the underlying probability (slightly less usually, to give them their margin), and so the aim is to find those cases where the odds are not quite right. When multiple opportunities are available, such as in a horse race, there is a much higher chance of finding such value than in a football scenario with only three options – win, lose or draw. That is one reason why accumulators combining the results of multiple matches, goal supremacy, Asian handicaps etc. have risen in popularity in order to find some more markets where an edge is possible. But bookmakers also generally react to the market itself – they may think the appropriate odds are something in the region of 3.50, but if the money is flowing in on that selection then it will come in (and usually the other side goes out).

Finding value is often either a matter of a gut call, or the application of statistical analysis, or – as is more often the case – a combination of the two. Knowledge of the sport is essential, knowledge of what has happened in previous games/seasons/tournaments is vital. Whilst I have tried this approach with posts in this blog (particularly on F1 this season), there are many others that are worth reviewing. There are many covering exchange betting, but you could do a lot worse than checking out Dav Aulak’s blog (http://davaulaksportsbetting.blogspot.co.uk/) which covers football, tennis and a number of other sports on both sides of the pond. His picks are always accompanied by a clear analysis, and someone looking at taking their betting forward won’t go far wrong by checking the blog out (and this is from a Man City fan, the relevance of which will come clear if you visit).

So for the 2013-14 season I wanted to look at a season long market that could be checked and tested. I had read (and I apologise for the lack of an original source) that the promoted teams are often under-rated when it comes to their home matches. In this case I thought that Crystal Palace would be the team that could offer the best value, and so backed them for the win for each match at Selhurst Park (fixed odds) and laid the opposition on the exchanges (to cover both a Palace win and a draw).

With the fixed odds, the 19 home games came in at an average of 4.75 for a Palace win. That only goes down to 3.26 when the final top 4 are excluded. There were 8 wins from the 19 matches, for a +9.05 return on level stakes of 1 unit. Of course, the big result here was a win at 10.00 at home to Chelsea, but this is exactly what was expected in the theory – the odds offered would be higher than they should be, and at least once the team concerned would provide the upset.

On the exchange side of things the level stakes were at 2 units. This market returned a profit of +5.94 units. There were 11 winning matches here, and the average lay price was 2.48.

But let us not get too excited and think that this will result in 9.05x(stake unit) for every season! Palace finished with a home record of W8 D3 L8. The other promoted teams were Hull (7/4/8) who may have had a positive return (but I believe the odds would have reflected higher expectations of Hull – another thing to check!), and Cardiff (5/5/9). That said, Cardiff did beat Man City at home early in the season, and may have broken even but I doubt they would have hit the highs of Palace.

So we can restrict the conclusions to the play-off winners. Palace went up as the play-off winners having finished in 5th place in the Championship. What of this season? Leicester City won the title, and have been playing at the sharp end of the Championship for a while. I can see them doing rather well next season in the Premiership, and I am sure the bookies will as well. Burnley accompanied them as the other automatic promotion. This time the play-off winners were QPR, back up in the Premier League from a short stay in the Championship. Will they provide the same returns? QPR’s last stay in the Premier League was a disaster, notably at home where they won only 2 games, but a year out will have changed their approach and allowed them to get rid of a number of freeloaders. I don’t think the same value will be on offer this season, but it will be worth repeating the experiment to see if lightning strikes twice.

 

F1 2014: Monaco GP Preview

Generally, I can’t stand Monaco. I regard it as an outdated race on an unsuitable ‘track’ continued merely for the benefit of the rich and famous. Exciting races there are few and far between, and the fact that since 2004 only one winner has come from anything other than pole shows that it is hardly a race of surprises. Basically if it doesn’t rain, just watch the start to see if the pole sitter makes a hash of it…

With that in mind, it is difficult to make much in the way of predictions. Mercedes should dominate, but the track won’t let their massive power advantage show to the levels it used to. But before people get too excited, the 2013 race showed that they (and Rosberg) know how to set up a car for the streets of the Principality. Although there is a better chance for another winner, the quality of the Mercedes with both drivers having a Monaco win under their belt makes it difficult to look elsewhere – which explains the odds of 1.61 for Hamilton, 3.00 for Rosberg and 12.00 Bar. Actually, that 3.00 for Rosberg is looking a bit generous. The nicey-nicey battles we have seen so far are going to start getting more edgy, and in each race Rosberg will see the need for a win increasing. Those odds indicate that it is twice as likely that Lewis will win (62% to 33% roughly); but that does show the chances the others have!

The battle behind the Mercedes looks most interesting, and Alonso set down a marker on the Thursday P2 session. Yet this doesn’t seem reflected in the ‘Without Mercedes’ market, where he is at 5.50 with Ladbrokes, behind Vettel (2.62) and Ricciardo (2.75). That seems unfair on an excellent driver with 2 Monaco wins under his belt, and therefore the best value.

The other two traditional bets are also somewhat undermined by the nature of the track. A safety car to be deployed is currently running at 1.12 (around an 88% chance), with no SC at 5.50. With only 2 races of the last 10 not requiring a SC, the odds aren’t even generous at 1.12, but the logical bet would be that there will be a safety car. And that doesn’t even take the weather into account!

The average retirement rate in Monaco is 28%, which represents 6.2 cars – or 15.8 finishers if you prefer. Unsurprisingly, the market runs at <16 2.10, 16-17 3.25 and >17 3.00. The weather has to be taken into consideration though, and a wet or greasy track would change this. This therefore requires a call to be made on race day – a dry race track and the suggestion would be the 16-17 option, a wet track and <16 is the choice.

Summary:

  • Selected Bet
    • Alonso to win in market without Hamilton or Rosberg (5.50 Ladbrokes)
  • Other predicitons
    • Safety car to be deployed (1.12 Bet365)
    • Classified finishers:
      • If wet: Under 16 (2.10 Bet365)
      • If dry: 16-17 (3.25 Bet365)

2014 Season Totals (based on level stakes of 1 unit)

  • Selected bets: 2 win, 2 lose for +0.88
  • Safety car: 1 win, 3 lose for -0.78
  • Finishers: 2 win, 2 lose for +0.05

F1 2014: Spain GP Preview

The Spanish GP doesn’t seem to provoke much in the way of excitement. Perhaps that is because it doesn’t seem to provide much in the way of surprises, perhaps it is the restart of the season, or perhaps it is that this season seems done and dusted in many ways.

The gap doesn’t make it easy to translate the previous form into expectations for the race. Other, that is, than a Mercedes 1-2. At 1.44 there is no value there. For this race I will return to the ‘Both Team Cars To Have A Points Finish’, and select Force India at 2.25. With the good running from the team, this appears to be a solid bet. Hulkenberg has achieved a points finish every time, and Perez has for three out of the four races – the exception being a technical problem that prevented him from starting. The odds represent a 44% chance, and it appears to me that a performance that has been achieved in the last two races should be rated higher than this.

Looking at the ‘regular’ bets, the number of drivers to be classified is currently priced at 3.50 for 18-19, with 2.25 for under 18 and 2.75 for over 19. This race has been something of a car breaker, with an average retirement rate of 28%. Quite a few of those have been accidents, but the mechanical retirement rate is heavy. That rate would mean 16 finishers, which is a fair bit lower than the range predicted and represents some value. Added to this are the Renault engine problems in free practice today. All things considered, taking the under 18 options seems the best bet. Given that Ladbrokes are offering 2.10 for 17 or fewer, there is an opportunity.

The safety car comes in at 2.20 to be deployed, and 1.61 for no deployment. Despite all of the retirements, the safety car has only been deployed in two races since 2004. This would indicate that there is plenty of room at the track to retrieve cars without risk to the track workers, meaning that a safety car is unlikely – although nobody can predict what happens at the start! That said, 1.61 represents about a 62% chance of no safety car – I would say the evidence indicates that this should be more 80% (1.25) in general terms. This would represent value in the bet, as long as the potential for startline shenanigans doesn’t increase the risk too much.

Summary:

  • Selected Bet
    • Both Force Indias to finish in the points (2.25 with Ladbrokes)
  • Other predictions
    • Safety car to not be deployed (1.61 with Bet365)
    • Under 18 finishers (2.25 with Bet365)

2014 Season Totals (based on level stakes of 1 unit)

  • Selected bets: 1 win, 2 lose for -0.37
  • Safety Car: 1 win, 2 lose for -1.39
  • Finishers: 2 win, 1 lose for +1.05

F1 2014: China GP Preview

At least we now know that Mercedes should walk away with the titles this year. Their real pace, shown after the late safety car in Bahrain, was just ridiculous compared to the other teams – they might as well have been in a different formula. The real interest there lies in the competition between Rosberg and Hamilton, and the evidence from that last race shows that Hamilton holds the cards. Nico had a chance to lay down a real marker, a real case for being the top dog in the Mercedes team, but his inability to get past Hamilton will be interpreted as being the ‘second’ driver in the team.

Behind the Mercedes things are getting interesting. Naturally those engines are leading the way, but Force India are making the most of their advantage. Perez is driving like a man with a point to prove (and probably laughing his head off each time he passes the McLaren drivers and garage), whilst The Hulk may well have finished on the podium were it not for his poor qualifying. Williams are still up there, but appear to be behind an improving Red Bull. Hopefully the team can continue their challenge for the title of ‘Best of the Rest’. Red Bull themselves will probably be pleased that their nightmare start is improving, although they will be upset that their appeal against Ricciardo’s DQ in Australia was rejected (Seriously, why did they bother? It was never going to win). Ferrari are battling with McLaren for the title of fifth best team at the moment, and that is nothing short of a disaster for the team; a disaster which has seen the end of Domenicali at the team (a tad unfair I thought – the engine is simply rubbish and that should be where the heads roll). McLaren had a bright start, but have faded. Both Button and Magnussen retired with (convenient?) clutch failures, and they will be determined to get back on track (no pun intended) in China.

The other news from Bahrain was the frankly ludicrous decisions regarding penalties. Sutil quite simply should have had his licence suspended immediately with his actions over the weekend, and the other penalties don’t seem to have any basis in logic. Hopefully that will just be a one-off in the season.

So what can we expect from China? Well a Mercedes 1-2 looks as though it should be on the cards, certainly to the level that any other decision is a shot in the dark. That is reflected in the odds of 1.50 on a dual forecast for Hamilton/Rosberg. To be honest, that only reflects a 66.6% chance. If we assume that the only thing that can stand in the way is a mechanical problem, then they run at a rate of 16% (1 failure out of 6). Even if we allocate a 10% chance of some accident related damage, the chances of not finishing 1-2 are 26%, meaning the chances of finishing 1-2 are 74% (around 1.35). So there is still value in that bet, assuming you accept my 10% ‘accident’ chance!

One tempting bet is the ‘Both team cars to have points finishes’. That didn’t pay out last time, but currently Force India, McLaren and Williams are all offered at 1.67. Which team has the best chance of beating those odds/probability (around 60%). Well each team has failed with at least one driver, but McLaren retired both last time. A driver fails to hit the top 10 1/3 of the time, so they are out. Williams and FI have both a one driver fail, but for Williams this was an accident whilst for FI it was a failure to start. In this case, although everything is screaming at me to suggest FI, I’d have to back Williams.

For a bet with a greater return possibility there is the ‘Race winner nationality’. A German winner is offered at 2.38 compared to a Brit at 1.67 (with an Aussie at 19.00, Finn at 23.00 and Spaniard at 34.00). The German seems the best value, as it covers Rosberg but also Vettel and, importantly, The Hulk if anything were to happen to the Mercedes. The British odds are, realistically, only for one driver, and worse than can be got for Hamilton directly so there is no value there. Is 2.38 high enough though? That is where an individual’s risk/reward element comes in.

The highest return may come from the ‘Betting w/o Rosberg and Hamilton’ though. Because of the much more variable performances behind the Mercedes the odds are better, although Vettel as favourite at 4.50 seems a little short even if he has taken a third so far. The other top finishers are Magnussen (13.00) and Perez (11.00). Alonso can’t be counted out, but at 8.00 the odds are too short given the Ferrari’s performance thus far – Raikkonen’s 11.00 is more ‘realistic’. In this market, I would lean towards Hulkenberg at 8.00 – the same as Alonso, Bottas and Massa, but with what appears to be a far better car (similarly Perez at 11.00 offers good value, but still remains a little more unpredictable). The odds represent a 12% chance, but this is a driver with a 6th and two 5ths behind him and a reputation as a solid, if competitive, driver.

The two other ‘usual’ markets are classified drivers and safety car. Bet365 has this at 15-16 (3.25) with under 15 at 3.75 and over 16 at 1.80. China averages 18% retirements (equates to 18 drivers finishing), and only in three of the last 10 events have enough drivers retired that would bring the equivalent number this year down to 16 or fewer. There is value in taking the over 16 offer.

In terms of safety car deployment, this comes in at Yes 2.20 and No 1.61. Three safety cars have been deployed in the last 10 races in China, and with fine conditions expected there is no reason to change that belief. The only SC deployment in Bahrain came as a result of an accident, and that is likely to be the case in China as well. I’d predict no safety car, but I am not so sure that there is value in the bet.

So to summarise:

  • Selected Bet
    • Hulkenberg to ‘win’ without Rosberg/Hamilton (8.00 with Ladbrokes)
  • Other predictions
    • Safety car to not be deployed (1.61 with Bet365)
    • Over 16 finishers (1.80 with Bet365)

2014 Season Totals (based on level stakes on 1 unit)

  • Selected Bets: 1 win, 1 lose for +0.63
  • Safety Car: 0 win, 2 lose for -2.00
  • Finishers: 1 win, 1 lose for +0.25

F1 2014: Bahrain GP Preview

Malaysia went pretty much as expected, but the challenge to Mercedes was much closer than I had thought possible in only the second race of the season. Red Bull, in particular, performed strongly although Ricciardo will have quite the mountain to climb after his penalty for Bahrain. It may just be me, but I can’t help thinking that a double penalty for a single offence is a little unjust. And the media’s attempt to give the impression that Red Bull need to drop their appeal or else Vettel will be penalised for his comments is just asinine. Vettel has every right to say if he thinks the new engines sounds ‘shit’.

Malaysia also showed that the performance of the rookies was no flash in the pan; things were trickier this time with Magnusson only making 9th after his little collision with the disappointing Ferrari of Alonso, whilst Bottas followed his 5th with an 8th. Of course, the most interesting thing there was the spat between him and Massa – I don’t think that one has run its course, and Bottas won’t be making way for a guy who spent so many years being Ferrari’s bitch and now wants to get all the attention. Kvyat is the dark horse of this bunch, with a 10th to go with his 9th in Australia, and demonstrating some impressive skills in the Torro Rosso. Lotus actually got a car to the end, and almost got a point, although they have to be very disappointed with things so far. But that is what happens if you decide to sacrifice racing principles to cold cash in driver selection! But the greatest ‘concern’ or ‘disappointment’ has to be the Ferraris. Alonso’s ability to secure fourth in a slow car shouldn’t surprise us, but Raikkonen yet again didn’t impress. Points were possibly beyond him after the early collision, but there didn’t seem to be much aggression in his driving. At the other end, Hulkenberg continues to show why he should be in a top team – my more ambitious prediction would be that he will be driving a McLaren next year.

Predictions for Bahrain are tricky. It is not a well loved racetrack, and switching the race to the night is clearly an attempt to breathe some life into the track and into the event that many are still uncomfortable is still on the F1 calendar. There aren’t many weather considerations, other than a potential for extreme temperatures (mitigated by the later start) and the wind blowing the sand across the track. This can have an impact on the start of the race, and a Mercedes finds itself in 3rd or 5th that might be worth a punt for leading at the end of the first lap.

The usual first market to consider is at the sharp end and generally driver results. There is every expectation that Mercedes will continue to dominate, but I am not as comfortable in predicting a 1-2 such as the one that came in in Malaysia. In fact, the odds on that are now 1.83, compared to the 2.63 from last time – the new odds reflect the probability that I established last time out and so there is no value there. There is a good chance of a Mercedes-Vettel result, but one still has to expect something to go wrong with either Mercedes for that to come off. On that basis, Hamilton (2.00) and Rosberg (3.25) dominate the driver outright market, with Vettel next on 8.50. Simplistically that means an 80% chance of a Mercedes winner, with Vettel next with an 11% chance. Again, no value.

The market I have chosen for Bahrain is ‘Both Team Cars To Have Points Finish’ on Ladbrokes (Ladbrokes seem to have more F1 options than Bet365). Note that this is not the ‘both cars on the podium’ market – that is wrapped up with Mercedes again! There isn’t a great deal of money to be made here, but I feel the 1.73 on offer for McLaren is just too much to ignore for a team that has had both cars score in both races whilst overcoming problems at the same time.

My other two classic markets are the number of classified drivers and the safety car presence. Bet365 has this at 15-16 (4.50) with under and over separately at 2.25. In this case the assessment is that in a dry race the trials and tribulations of the new regulations will cause most of the problems. But Bahrain traditionally has lower attrition, and may be cooler. I would expect 17 or more finishers as at least an even chance, and so that would be the bet.

Safety car is 2.50 for a yes, 1.50 for a no. The SC rarely makes an appearance in the race, and 1.50 actually offers good value in this case, but not enough of a return to account for the pure variables of a driver sliding off on the sand.

So to summarise:

  • Selected Bet
    • Both McLarens to finish in the points (1.73 with Ladbrokes)
  • Other predictions
    • Safety car to not be deployed (1.50 with Bet365)
    • Finishers over 16 (2.25 with Bet365)

2014 Season Totals (based on level stakes of 1 unit)

  • Selected Bets: 1 win, 0 lose for +1.63
  • Safety Car: 0 win, 1 lose for -1.00
  • Finishers: 0 win, 1 lose for -1.00