Saturday, November 14, 2009

"How can you claim to be objective if you're not betting ALL underdogs that match your half-baked requirements on any given day?"

As I write this, a few hours ahead of game times on the 14th day of my 7-dog test, I am a breath-taking $118 ahead, with two lines in the black and resuming with minimum bets, one ahead overall but with a loss to recover, and four waiting to recoup a total of $3,000 in LTDs between them.

A whole set of "Catch 22" rules are applied by skeptics to any attempt to make steady money at gambling, chief among them that all losses are to be expected, but wins are sheer fluke and may never be repeated.

So when for a few days underdogs fall short of the 45% win rate that I estimate to be the magic number for profitability, I hear a chorus of told-you-so's and hoots of derision.

But when turnaround is achieved as predicted, I'm accused of cooking the books.

I'm not complaining, just observing.

Anyone out there who believes that, like casino table games, the sports book can't be beaten in the long run is entitled to his opinion. And his losses.

I am happy to forge ahead with my strategy, confident that the math is on my side.

For those of you on the fence about all this, just consider the simple truth that the bookies need underdogs to win a high percentage of games in order to make the extra profit that their expensive tastes demand.

It's not enough that they squeeze the odds each way by 30-40% on top of the rake that they are guaranteed by the arithmetic. Like Oliver Twist, they always want more, more, more.

(I, on the other hand, have modest expectations and am unsullied by greed!).

I must admit that the other day, I looked at the latest set of finals and wondered why on earth I had skipped a block of potential picks that turned out to be underdog winners.

Then I remembered that I usually make my selections several hours ahead of game times so that I can post them online and avoid the predictable claims that data is added to the file after the fact.

So from time to time, there are gaps in the line-up, usually because the odds-makers in Las Vegas (or maybe the Land of Oz) are on an early AM coffee break or simply can't make up their minds.

The "Why 7?" question that keeps coming up is fair, but I want to say again that the picks I post are in the order that they became available to me, and I take the first seven whether I like them or not.

There are all kinds of ways in which the strategy's performance in this test might be improved, but cheating is not one of them.

I am just relying on the math to confirm that as time goes by, the dog win rate (DWR) will reach at least 45% and probably much more no matter what selection criteria are used.

So, for example, I might decide that I only want to back underdog teams named after animals, and in time, the DWR would prove out. Or teams with more than seven letters in their names...

As a concession to the skeptical comment above, I will from now on run a separate file tracking all qualifying "dogs" every day, the range being odds of +100 to +180, and the candidates being games on the NBA, NFL and NHL schedules.

I believe I have the right to ignore all college games, partly because the odds are all over the place, but also because there are too darn many of them and I just don't need the extra paperwork!

Monday, November 16, 2009:

One of those turnarounds (well, almost turnarounds) that makes skeptics sniff in search of the smell of books a-cooking, happened Sunday after three wins on Saturday left me pretty much even.

The entire premise of this strategy is that one or more lines that have dragged on in red ink for a while is likely to recover on any given day, simply because winning underdogs are as important to the bookies' bottom line as winning favorites, if not more so.

The math is simple enough. Even if the dog win rate (DWR) falls as low as 40% overall in the short term (trust me, it won't ever happen in the long term!) no harm will be done as long as dog paybacks average +125.

At a 45% DWR, the break-even average PB is +112, and at 50%, it's +100.

Given that in the thousands of game results I have analyzed, covering four major sports, the average dog payback is +132, an eventual recovery for any prolonged LTD is as sure as the sunrise, even if it doesn't come as often.

My commitment to maximum objectivity is exposing me to all manner of temptation, but I don't plan to cave even though it stands to sense that intelligent choices are more likely to help the bottom line than hurt it.

When the 7-dog test has run for a few more weeks and the BR is too large to fall back in the red, I may revisit the idea that I should adopt a more selective approach.

But for now, accepting dogs in the order in which the NBA, NHL and NFL schedules drop them on my plate is working just fine.

I did not much like today's options, I should add, but sucked 'em up anyway: Edmonton, New Jersey, New York, Anaheim and Tampa Bay on ice, and Portland and Dallas from the wimpy three-game NBA line-up. As I type this, the 7-Dog BR is at its highest level to date.

Watch this space...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009:

I may have to ease up on my aversion to skimpy Monday line-ups! Yesterday's dogs did pretty well for me, winning the bigger bets, losing the smaller ones, and putting me another $400 or so up at day's end.

It's too soon to check today's finals (it will be about 6:30pm by the time I post this) and I can understand why some people feel it's reckless to get almost two grand ahead and then shell out $1,400 for a new crop of betting slips.

I look at it a little differently.

To me, a sports books is seeming more and more like a bank, where you waltz in, make a deposit, and plan to withdraw your money, plus a little interest, when you need it.

The big difference is that with the bookies, you are on a 24-hour cycle: Money down by lunchtime as a rule (earlier on weekends, of course), then back to the cashier a day later to either cash your winning tickets or make a new set of bets and hopefully still walk away with a little extra dough.

I spent some time today trying to figure out how strategic or systematic betting might profit from backing favorites all the way rather than dogs, keeping in mind that faves generally win more often than they lose.

That was Pete's idea way back when, and all this time down the road, I still can't figure out how to make favorites consistently profitable in the way that underdogs are.

It all comes down to losing 100% of your bet when the favorite goes down, and getting ahead by pennies on the dollar when it wins.

Interestingly, no one who has looked at this dogs-only concept for more than five minutes supports it.

No one has come up with contradictory math to disprove it, because no one has actually spent serious time studying the numbers.

The consensus is that these are underdogs fer %$#@&sake so how can they possibly make money in the long run?

Back to the arithmetic again: lose 100% when you lose and win 87% on average when you win, and you have a problem; lose 100%, but win 132%, and you don't have a problem - the bookies do.

It's always possible that all today's picks will go down and I'll be back to just a few hundred bucks ahead.

But it's not very likely.

An important reminder: The only person likely to make money out of this blog is you, Dear Reader. There's nothing to buy, ever, and your soul is safe (from me, at least). Test my ideas and use them or don't. It's up to you.