Joseph Buchdahl has written 3 books on sports betting. He’s a featured writer for Pinnacle.com, an advisor to the tipster site Pyckio. He’s analyzed the efficiency of betting markets, tested many hypotheses about the betting markets over the years. He has his own website called football-data.co.uk where one can get access to closing line histories and read many of his articles. You can also find him on Twitter @12xpert.
I came into this business 20-30 years ago, basically through Patrick Veitch. I would not say I was a bet runner for him, but sometimes I would place his bets and then collect the winnings.
I was intrigued by how this worked, and that is kind of how it all started, even though the writing and analysis part came later. Other than that, I am a science graduate from Trinity College, Cambridge University.
Difficult one to call isn’t? No one has the slightest idea what to do with it, and there are so many difficult things such as: players' contracts, shirt deals and so on.
But definitely, the best thing would be to finish the season, even though that means playing behind closed doors. The question is on the lower leagues and if they can afford to do something like that. But I think it needs to be finished, and then worst case if this thing goes over the summer then we can reduce the matches for next season to 24 games or something like that.
Football is something that gives a lot of people meaning, so even if it is played behind closed doors it is something that gets people engaged.
We all miss this, right?
Not so much these days, largely because I have been restricted or banned from many different bookmakers. But I do like to have another source of income, but in the later years that has come more through affiliations and through some betting exchanges.
Yes, and that might be the biggest lesson that betting has taught me. That I had no idea that UK and other sportsbooks all over the country are still allowed to do many of the things they do, and it’s basically about extracting as much value as you can before you get banned.
Well, right from the start it has always been about finding value. Whatever way you look at betting you are going to try and find outcomes that are more likely to come through than what the odds that are offered.
Everything I have ever done regarding my own betting is trying to find value, and that is the one thing that fits into any of the strategies I have tried.
Well it’s just to repeat isn’t, Value Betting is all about finding something that is more likely to happen than what the bookmakers suggest with the odds.
If the bookmaker offers something at 2.00 and there is in reality also a 50% chance that will happen (without the margin), and if you bet at that 1 million times, there you go, you are split even. But if you bet on the same thing that in reality has a higher chance of happening, you will make money.
I’m not doing any huge amount of modelling myself these days, the reason for that is because I work on football data analysis and help people understand analysis that’s already out there. I don’t have to go into too much detail on the wisdom of the crowd strategy right now, but you can read all about it on my website.
What I always would have liked to do, was to get involved in live betting. It is a better market than the pre-markets, kick-off odds.
At the same time, it’s much harder to get in the data and algorithms on live betting, but we have always been intrigued by it. There would be so many things in live betting it would have been good to have data on, but that’s something for another life, I guess.
No, I never did any of them, I have always liked Value Betting as my main type of betting. Also, placing an arbitrage bet has a high probability of actually losing at the sharp bookmakers, and you’re more hidden from the bookmakers by just doing regular Value Betting.
Yes, you really need a high turnover. With the Monte Carlo simulations I know people that have been coming up to me after 1000 bets, even happened with people after 3000 bets where they still haven’t made any money. That leads to them not being confident to the system, but if the data is correct I most definitely am.
Mostly football and some tennis, I know one of your questions later was about my best betting story. Best betting story is often related to the biggest win, or not win in my case, because I didn’t place the bet. This is a lesson for everyone that wants to be a value bettor, which everyone should be.
I think it was something like 2000, 2001 or something like that. It was the start of the ski jumping season, and I had been watching the qualifying round on Eurosport, and this Slovenian ski jumper named Peterka had won the qualifying round, now he had been a world champion a couple of years before.
But he hadn’t been on his level the last two years. When he won the first round of the qualifying round, I thought “wow, I’m gonna have to look at the odds”, and William Hill were posting 200-1, and I thought “jeez, 200-1, I better get a tenner down then.”, because it would have been a 2 grand win, but then I thought “nah, even if the odds are 10-1 it’s not likely that he’s going to win, therefore I’m not gonna waste ten pounds.”
Anyways, he ended up winning the entire event, so that would have given me 2,000 quid. I think some people actually put some money on him winning that day, and after my knowledge William Hill never had odds like that on him ever again.
The moral of the story is that if you think you find value, put your money on it before it disappears.
I’m not a big bettor, so just a few hundred pounds, I guess. My worst bet was Paula Radcliffe in the Athens marathon 2004, she was a big favorite and everyone had her as the winner of the race. It basically led to me just listening to other people and not putting in the work to see if there was value there.
Therefore, I didn’t take into account the heat. Even though it’s probably not the biggest amount of money I’ve lost on a bet, it is definitely one of the stupidest bets, and it lost and I deserved it.
The most important one is to not always believe in your results. Of course, after 1000 bets you’re going to see a signal, but if you win 3-4 bets in a row, that doesn’t mean nothing, and vice versa. You are going to have to look at it in the long-term, and then you’re going to see if you have found value or not.
Exactly, you could really change the outcome and say they won because he did this, or he did that. But none of that doesn’t really matters, the most important thing is to know that there is so much variance in 1 single game, meaning you have to look at it long-term.
Simplest advice is just to work hard, do your modelling and understand the principles of value betting. Keep trying, keep enjoying it, and maybe most importantly, do not keep throwing away money you can’t afford to lose.
The first that comes to mind is T-test and Z-test, and of course you could look at the Closing line. I have put together a betting calculator on my website, which basically is the mathematical version of a Monte Carlo version.
But absolutely, if you don’t like math or the T- or Z-testing, knowing how to do Monte Carlo simulations is a really good start. Also, I recommend people checking out something called a P-Value calculator, and something called Sports Betting Calcs which has a Monte Carlo simulator you could check out.
In my second book I wrote about tipsters, not really knowing what it meant back then. But I can explain it simply, 120 tipsters came to me a while ago for my verification, they had really good existing records, and frankly I had no reason to believe they were fake.
Well, I thought that maybe 2-3 of them was, but overall, I just thought they had been doing really well. All together the 120 tipsters had something like 24,000 tips with an aggregated yield of 17%, so you’re thinking “right, these guys are gonna be brilliant, I’m gonna have to follow them”. I did, I verified the duration they stayed with me, and over the 19,000 or so tips they placed after I verified them, their aggregated yield was just 1%.
What does that tell me? Does that tell me they were cheating? No, it does not. It tells me they had been lucky before they came to me, the only reason they came to me was because they had been lucky, and vice versa the ones that never came to me hadn’t had a good luck streaks like the others.
So, there is my survivorship bias. After once I started verifying them, their luck started to regress to the mean. And their mean was in so many cases pretty close to zero.
I’ve written about a couple of tools so you can check out if a tipster is cheating or not. You can for example tape records and study their patterns. There are a couple of test software’s on pinnacle, as well as on my website you could try out.
This is also something I might discuss in a book later on about things you can do in a Monte Carlo simulation, just to see if the patterns they show correlate with their results. Even if someone got a 10% edge over the bookmaker, the individual results can still lead to a 10% edge over the short term, and you will still get these random patterns.
If you then can apply some tests and show that the chance of what you see are 1 in 1000 or 1 in 500 that something like that would happen under normal circumstances, you can assume that this tipster is trying to manipulate his record and therefore are not to be believed, I’ve written about this in my pinnacle articles.
If there are any worth following is a really tricky one. I mean, I have become more negative about tipsters over the years, largely because I don’t think any of them are any good. In that sense we can say no one is worth following, why follow someone that’s lucky when you can be lucky yourself?
Regarding paid tipsters, In my second book there was a paid tipper that had only 250 tips, and there was no direct correlation between the subscription fee and the number of tips, that’s the case with so many of them.
One criticism of those that are free, is that they seem to be affiliate tips. Meaning they make money when the bookmaker makes money, meaning that their tips must be rubbish.
If you look at it the other way that your tips actually work, then the bookmakers won’t make money so that’s absolutely bollocks. That has been a big thing in the UK earlier, where tipsters have been giving away tips that have a negative expected value instead of positive EV.
Another point about paid tipsters is, why would they sell those tips, why not place them themselves? From the tipster’s perspective, I think they should give away stuff like T-testing or some form of real proof to the public, that way we can know that the tipster is legit.
Everything is efficient in full aggregate, so in that sense the closing line is very efficient. But on a result to result basis, 1 thing can happen 100% and one thing cannot happen 100%, so in that case it's completely inefficient.
So, efficiency is to find a strategy that gives meaning, we can show that games that pinnacle have as a 63% chance of ending in a home win, also have a 63% chance of ending in a home win. So, if you do all those percentages correct you get value.
Bigger market seems to be more efficient, and the smaller market seems to be less efficient.
Long shots, or underdogs, seem to be winning less than what the odds indicate. I guess one way to describe it, is that if you bet on the hot favorite in football every single time, you will lose maybe 1% of your bankroll (with the margin).
But if you bet on all the underdogs (with the margin), you will lose maybe 20%. There is an easy explanation for that, the bookmaker does it because they can exploit overconfidence and underconfidence for an outcome, and the second reason is that people love underdogs.
But the bias is that underdogs will lose you more money percentage than what the favorites will.
Well, to answer that we need to clarify the question. If we’re talking about making money, lots of people, because lots of people get lucky!
On pinnacle, if I can remember correctly, I think it is 25% of people making money after 1000 bets, and 1 in 100 after 10 000, that doesn’t mean you have skills the first 1000 bets, it can also mean you’ve been lucky. But if we’re talking about profit in the way ‘have you found value’?
That you will have a profit even after 10,000 bets, then the answer is different. Then 1% of the best have enough skills to make the bookmakers pay. The problem with those bettors is that the bookmaker might be quick to limit you and ban you if they find out.
I like singles, because the odds are lower and the probability of winning is higher with singles. The advantage of accumulators is of course that you double your advantage, let’s say you got a 5% edge on a single, and a 5% edge on another single, and bet on that as a double, you’ll get a 10% edge.
But at the same time, it’s half the chance of that betting going in. But I mean, I guess that’s the thing with betting, it’s a tradeoff.
This one is more about T-testing and how to analyze data about other people's work. It also goes into psychological effects about people that bet, not only sports but also casinos and poker. This is more a general book about how to find value and what benefit that can have for people in the long term.
The second one is a book about verifying tipsters and finding out if they actually are any good. There are a lot of stories of different tipsters I’ve verified, and a lot of data to find out which are legit or not. It is a complicated book to read, but it was also a really complicated book to write as there is a lot of complex stuff in there. But you get a really good flavour of how the market operates, and how people operate.
Wrote this one nearly 20 years ago, wrote a bunch of stuff on betting forums, articles and so on. One day I thought I should write this down more formally, and that turned out to be this book. It’s basically about stake sizing and more basic stuff around the sports betting world. This also was my introduction to Monte Carlo simulations.
Honestly, I don’t think most of them try to do it. But I guess the most common way is to fake their results. What annoys me is people that are cheating and selling those tips, because they bought it and lost money. I think it is morally wrong and should be illegal.
I’m old school and stupid so I use excel, I never bothered with anything else and have always stuck to that. R looks like an amazing package, and I’ve heard a lot of positives about it, but as I said I have never tried it.
No, I don’t. Never have gotten into that, so the answer is no, moving on.
My home team is Cambridge United, but they don’t give me too much reward. Another big team of mine is Liverpool, but I don’t want any consolation about the current situation, I don’t want it.
Formally elsewhere, no. More like if anyone has asked me to do some freelance work I have been doing it. People have asked me about what they can start writing about that’s interesting for people. To that I answer it’s more about writing about stuff that is interesting for you, isn't it?
I’ve done it in a very unconventional way, I’ve written it and then I went to the publisher. After I found the right publisher I just sent it over to them, and that has been the case ever since. Wrote it, sent it, asked what do you think? They answered they will just publish it just as it is. That has been the case with all my 3 books.
I think it’s nice to use a publisher, you get a number which officially makes you a writer. But in terms of sales, I don’t think it is much of an advantage.
Over the years I’ve sold maybe several thousand units, but I don’t want to do it as a living, I just like to keep the writing reputation and it’s kind of showing who I am, and of course, I really enjoy writing. It’s a passion of mine and has been for a really long time.
Best way is email through my football data website, or maybe even better on Twitter at @12Xpert.
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