Laying odds-on favourites


Some years ago a fellow trader and I were discussing the question of value, what it meant exactly and where to find it. At one point he remarked that just because a horse is trading @ 100/1 it doesn`t follow that its odds represent value. It could well be the case that 500/1 would be a fairer price on its chances of winning. 

Trading football teams can present similar contradictions. A top Premiership side playing at home on a balmy September afternoon in the FA Cup against a League Two side is trading @ 1.25 pre KO. Those odds may actually appear to be quite generous and the true price should be closer to 1.12! However, change the scenario a little, for example, it is mid-January, the match is being played in Cumbria and the Premiership club are fielding a 2nd XI team since they want to keep their top guns fit and available for a crucial, title deciding clash three days later. Odds @ 1.25 doesn`t seem so attractive.

That is a fairly overstated example of how to determine value but instructive nonetheless. In Wednesday night`s Champions League final Group games other factors (and in Man City`s case included the scenario similar to the one described above) were worth considering when looking to see if the market had misjudged the odds on certain teams.

Below is the preview I wrote for some of the games played on Dec 6th where I felt value could be had in laying heavy odds-on favourites. I have subsequently added the final score and the P/L on each match:



The final round of the Champions League Group stage matches sees a number of heavy odds-on favs who could be worth taking on as LAY material. 


If Sevilla beat Maribor and LIverpool fail to beat Spartak Moscow then the Spaniards will finish top of Group E. Maribor, the Slovenian champions, have been the whipping boys of the Group - Liverpool thrashed them 7-0 on their turf - but I`m not so sure that they will capitulate so easily tonight. I watched Sevilla v Deportivo La Coruna last weekend and witnessed an underwhelming performance. Yes, they achieved a highly creditable draw after being 3-0 to Liverpool but @ 1.26 away from home that price seems incredibly short.

LAY SEVILLA ASIAN HCP  - 1.0  & - 1.5.................2 PTS

Result : 1-1

P/L : + 2 pts / 140% ROI


SPURS v APOEL  19.45

Spurs have fallen off the pace in recent weeks with two losses and two draws that has seen the North London boys drop to equal sixth with Burnley in the Premiership. Already assured of finishing top of their Group Pochettino will make wholesale changes for the visit of the Cypriots tonight. Apoel are in fine form themselves with four wins in their last five and scoring goals doesn`t appear to be a problem. 4-0 / 6-1 / 3-1 / 4-0 victories is impressive

LAY SPURS......................2 PTS

Result : 3-0

P/L : - 0.6 pts 



To progress Leipzig need to beat Besiktas and hope that Porto fail to defeat Monaco. The Germans suffered a heavy 4-0 defeat to Hoffenheim last weekend while Besiktas, the surprise package of this CL Group, saw off rivals Galatasary 3-0 in the domestic league. The Turks are unbeaten in their last ten and are undefeated in their five CL group games. Although Besiktas have little to play for Leipzig do seem too short @ 1.40

LAY LEIPZIG....................2 PTS


Result : 1-1

P/L : + 2 pts / 280% ROI



No odds on shots here but supporting Shaktar could be the way to go. City are assured of progression to the next phase and their immediate thoughts will be the hugely important Manchester derby this Sunday. Guardiola will certainly be rotating his squad for tonight`s encounter.

LAY CITY ASIAN HCP 0 & +0.5...........1.5 PTS

BACK OVER 2.5...................................1 PT

Result : 2-1

Result : 1-1

P/L : + 2.5 pts / 82% ROI


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Anatomy of a trade


When selecting a game to trade preferably you should have undertaken a little research - read some preview sites, checked some stats, decided upon your entry & exit points, considered carefully your staking plan - and then hope that the two teams have read your script! Often you will find that they are illiterate. They simply don`t play ball, your best laid plans scuppered.........or not. Recovery from a losing position can be obtained with a little thinking outside the box and, crucially, a good dollop of patience.

Monday, 4th December Trade of the Day Preview & Staking plan:


Alaves are in free-fall at the moment and prop up the table having lost 11 of their last 13 La Liga matches. Their cause is not helped tonight by a crippling absentee list due to injuries & suspensions.

Girona by contrast remain unbeaten in their last five outings, a period in which they took the scalp of Real Madrid.

Girona`s matches see an average of 2.69 per game and Alaves 2.25. Seven of Girona`s last eight games have seen Over 2.5 goals


BACK GIRONA TO WIN + BTTS YES................£20 ( link to market here )

BACK 2-0................£9

BACK 3-0................£6

BACK 3-1................£3





P/L: + £138

Now, as you can see, all of the pre match bets on those markets selected were losers. So how did we end up not only with a winning trade but a profit of 363% ROI (return on investment)?

The beauty of trading as opposed to straightforward punting is that the betting exchange provides the facility to manage your position during the entirety of the match. This can include moves to reduce or even clear your initial liability; you can perform what is known as "hedging" a market whereby you are left with a profit on all outcomes. This is also known as "greening up". You can use other markets in addition to the ones you selected pre-match. You can back or lay different scorelines or the Over/Under goals markets.

Girona were pre match favs @ 1.68, hence the markets & scorelines were selected to reflect the home team`s apparent superiority and the away team`s perceived inferiority.

The staking plan was weighted heavily in favour of Girona with an insurance policy in the Correct Score market to guard against Alaves not scoring. All well and good but there are dangers here. 0-0 is one, any draw scoreline or Alaves win would also be losers.

As stated earlier we are looking for the teams to read our script and thus we have certain specific scenarios mapped out that will allow us to execute our pre determined in-play moves. In this case 1-0 or 2-0 at HT would be ideal. Why? Because the odds on 2-0 & 3-0 in CS would be lower than what we had backed pre match. Effectively, this scenario allows us to manage our position, specifically by reducing our initial liabilities. 
1-1 at HT is not as ideal but not a disaster either. Both teams have scored now which is good; the market will expect the heavy fav to go on to win the game and therefore the first part of our trade - Girona to Win + BTTS YES - will have odds lower than the 4.2 on offer pre KO. Again we have the opportunity to reduce the initial £20 liability on that maket.

Half-time: 0-0.........hold on, that`s not in the script!! All of the prices in the markets we have selected have now drifted so the possibility of reducing our liabilities have all but disappeared. Yes, we could exit the Correct Score market by "redding up" (leaving an equal negative figure on all scorelines) and thus accepting the trade is virtually over and a loss on the trade will be the end result.

However, this is when another important aspect of trading comes into play: Patience. There is 45 minutes left to play, we have already identified in our pre match research the average goals scored & conceded by both teams in the 13 games so far this season in La Liga. We also know historically across all leagues that 75% of all goals arrive between 35-90mins. Patience, brother, patience! The pre determined plan to reduce liabilities can still be effected provided a goal (preferably to Girona) is scored early-ish in the 2nd half. 0-0 still remains the biggest danger which can be offset to some extent by LAYING the fav. It`s an option which will result ultimately in a losing trade but at least not a 100% loss. Remember: think of options to reduce your liabilities rather than focusing solely on what you want to happen.

59` : 1-0. The odds on 2-0 have now halved from pre KO @ 8.6 to 4.1........3-0 odds are the same. We are far from being in a winning position but we are at least back on track to managing responsibly our liabilities.

62` : 2-0.  The advantage of two goals arriving so close together is that the market has not really had time to settle and any plans to LAY have not been executed. This is, admittedly, a slice of luck which can happen as regularly as those moments when bets you place are not matched because of unlucky timing. As with dubious penalty decisions in a football match, these injustices and strokes of good fortune in a trade even themselves out over time. 
Now some daylight is appearing in the trade. The scenario we would have preferred to show itself in the first half is now in full technicolour in the 2nd half. GREEN UP Correct Score for £36 over all scorelines leaving just the £20 liability (and £8 red on an earlier HT score bet). We cannot lose and an £8 profit is guaranteed whatever the result.............but if Alaves score then the trade moves into cruise control.
At this point I generally like to LAY the leading team - in this case @ 1.03 - for £70. It is cheap and reduces the £8 potential profit to £6. The upside to this additional £2 expense is enormous as we shall see later.

71` : 2-1. The trade has now swung completely in our favour to the tune of + £80 should the score remain the same. 3-1 & 3-2 also secures the same profit. 2-2 or any Alaves win also will produce a similar green P/L.
With that level of profit now guaranteed we can "spend" a little of that; we can go shopping with some free money if you like. In this case we went to the 4.5 goals market and layed Under 4.5 £40 @ 1.10. We also cleared the £20 red on Girona/BTTS Yes which was trading @ 1.17

87` : 2-2. Nothing has changed in terms of our potential profit but one more goal will be the proverbial icing on the cake.

93` : 2-3. Christmas comes early

FT : 2-3

P/L : + £138

CS: + £36.........Girona + BTTS YES.......£0...........Match Odds  + £70............Over 4.5  + £40.............HT score  - £8

girona alaves





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Pirlo the pearl


The Italian midfield maestro, Andrea Pirlo has played his last game for New York City and has officially retired from football period. One of the greatest midfield players to grace a football pitch he was one of the few who truly gave meaning to the phrase "the beautiful game". It is fittingly appropriate that I am taking time to reflect on the genius of this player at a time when England`s manager Gareth Southgate announced that due to Harry Winks` injury Jake Livermore of West Brom will take up the creative midfield responsibilities in this Friday`s friendly with Germany. Yeah, right.

This is a timely reminder - not only to Southgate - but to all English fans that technique is not the sole attribute required to perform at the highest level. You also need intelligence. The title of Pirlo`s recently published autotbiography - "I think therefore I play" - is instructive in this debate. This is Descartes not Del Boy. "Football is played with the head," Pirlo once shrugged. "The feet are just the tools." The headline image of this piece illustrates the point as Pirlo is surrounded by three bamboozled, toiling English players but seems to have all the time in the world as others were charging about with little purpose or clarity of thought.

The man had style with substance, coolness and panache. Steven Gerrard (who would probably misread that last word as pancake) in a post match interview after the 2005 Champions League semi-final churlishly said that Pirlo`s nutmeg on him when AC Milan were 3-0 up was "disrespectful".  Jealousy, Steven, is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius. The Italian had the last word, however, when in the 2012 Euros quarter-final penalty shoot out, Pirlo executed the panenka pen. Not only did it show ultimate composure and strength of character but it dealt a psychological blow to goalkeeper Joe Hart and totally changed the dynamic of that shoot-out. Ruthless but stylish.

While most footballers on reaching retirement consider staying in the game as a coach or pundit, Pirlo has stated that he will turn his hand to winegrowing rather than playmaking. He also expressed his desire to play more tennis, copying the sportsman he most admires, Roger Federer, a man who also wears the crown of sultan of suave.

Maybe I`m being too hard on Gerrard and his ilk. Maybe the poetry in motion that Pirlo epitomised cannot be taught. Yet what the English players can learn from this most sublime of football players is that one vital ingredient of genius is patience. Pirlo also added to the mix the qualities of skill, technique, beauty and poise. A legend.

This month`s Top Trader prize will not be £15 but a copy of Andrea Pirlo`s autobiography

 pirlo book


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Given that Ian is the only trader left standing who has not been cross-matched, redded up, greened up, backed, layed or otherwise abused by Harvey, this month`s award goes to him. On receiving the nomination Ian had this to say:

I'd just like to thank my producer, the director and my fellow artists involved......

If I was to reflect on the trading month, I would say that it is very typical of my approach to trading when I am functioning at my best.  (As you know or may recall, the one problem I've often had with my membership of the forum is the temptation/obligation to over trade or find trades to post rather than waiting for proper opportunities to arise - it's something I'm sure you, Bingo, find difficult as members will understandably be expecting you to pull a rabbit out of a hat every time you show your face in the trading room)

A fairly new approach for me has been looking for opportunities to lay AOHW in games where popular opinion would be that carnage was on the cards (Man City and Barcelona being prime examples)  This stems from our conversation about sides which "Park the bus" and concede possession and territory for the sake of structure and solidity.  That lead me to the belief that often the price for AOHW would be far too short and/or even if the floodgates did open, it would often take some time for the short favourites to make a break through.

The strategy works best when the CS2 market offers some cover as this can usually be obtained at good value.

Careful match selection and patience also enabled me to pick up a few scenarios where we were able to ride down on the 0-0 in the CS market, before laying the draw at low liability in the second half.  Timing, price watching and study often give us good reason to believe that a game is likely to be a "next goal wins it" scenario, and if timed right one can get out with a profit without needing to test our nerves by leaving ourselves exposed.

One thing I really focused on this month was taking first profit, particularly where that was my original aim. If your trade works, take the profit when it's there, walk away and don't even worry about what if's. You know it makes sense !

Variations on the old reliable Vista also paid dividends on more than one occasion.  Particularly pleasing was the fact that I had only two losing trades for October (although I did need to work hard to scratch a handful of neutral outcomes as well)

Another standout for me was the fact that as confidence grew, so did the clarity of decision making and the timing of those decisions. I let the stats and the state of the game dictate my trade, tried to keep things simple and backed myself to make the right decisions.  All the things, in fact, that I would say were my strong points if I was being arrogant !!!!

So, a welcome return to form, and absolute proof positive for me that match selection and patience are two of the strongest tools in a trader's armoury.

My only concern is that this will turn out to be like the "manager of the month" award in the EPL and I'll be having to move house and enter the witness protection programme to avoid angry members by the end of November !!!!!!

In all seriousness, as you are aware, I stepped away from the forum for a period of time. As the clouds started to clear and I returned to the fold, so to speak, I was immediately struck by the fact that the atmosphere, mutual support and general lack of dick swinging is a great practical and emotional support to members of all levels of experience. There are clearly some very capable people in this group. If we continue to work together, we will all benefit. We're not in competition with each other, and the positivity that engenders is a huge bonus for me, particularly given the fact that I spend so many hours working in the middle of the night on events 13,000 miles away.

I hope to continue to contribute positively to this most excellent forum, a forum which remains the only one to which I have ever subscribed in over 10 years of trading for a living. There is a reason for that, and for that reason I thank you.

£15 on its way!

Ian has asked that the prize money be donated  to the Alzheimers Association




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