I have to decide whether my glass is half full or half empty this week. Or, rather, whether my grail is half full or half empty after a weekend of ‘value’ based frustration.
This week’s Holy Grail tips arrived, as usual, in plenty of time. Saturday’s qualifying matches coming in three separate emails between 3 and 5.30pm on Friday, which gave ample opportunity to try to get on at the prices quoted. Unfortunately I was busy on Friday and so didn’t get chance to study the games until Saturday lunchtime when I was faced with a bit of a dilemma.
I discussed perceived value in an earlier post and bearing in mind that the Holy Grail is estimated to return a profit of between 10% and the 16% or so at which it is currently performing and given that the very premise of the system is finding matches where a team is quoted at a higher price than that at which the software calculates it should be, then surely the odds taken need to be at an appropriate level or the very basis of the system is undermined?
So it was that I found myself torn when presented with the contrast between the prices at the time of the emails and the odds available to me on Saturday afternoon. Basically the Premier League selections had largely seen their odds crash through the floor. A comparison between the prices on Friday afternoon and those on Betfair at 2:45pm on Saturday shows the following: Norwich unmoved at 8.8; Aston Villa in 17.2% from 6.8 to 5.8; Stoke in 21.7% from 7.0 to 5.7; Bournemouth in an incredible 28.6% from 4.5 to 3.5 and Liverpool in 12.5% from 5.8 to 5.2. I had already backed Aston Villa (what WAS I thinking?) before I stopped to question the value now on offer. Stoke and Bournemouth’s price collapse in excess of 20% each did not seem to offer sustainable value in the long-term for a system whose margins are half that. I therefore decided to leave both alone.
Now the football fans among you will know what happened next. Anybody who knows me and my luck will also be able to take an educated guess. Imagine my delight when at one point in the afternoon the only two Premier League sides to have scored a goal were Stoke City and Bournemouth. When The Cherries took a two-goal lead I was close to tearing my hair out. Of course Swansea fought back to deny Bournemouth victory and save me a point’s worth of stake, but Stoke held on meaning I had turned down a winning bet at 5.7 which resulted in my making a 1-point loss on the system this weekend. Had I been on smartly on Friday afternoon and taken the odds quoted in the emails I would have made a tidy 5-point gain as the system continues to deliver. It now shows a 20-point profit in six weeks at quoted prices and that is despite a week off for the international break. My own mixture of missed bets, reduced odds and playing around with the ‘Draw no bet’ option sees me having broken even over the same period. How do I always manage to do this? How do I have the ability to turn a straightforward 20-point profit into merely breaking even? These are the questions I often mull over at night as an alternative to sleep.
But – as the old song puts it – you should always try to accentuate the positive. I find myself wondering whether the collapse in prices for four of the five Premier League selections is entirely coincidental. As mentioned, the system looks for teams which appear to be overpriced. The Premier League is the division in which the most money is poured into the markets and maybe the collapse in the odds on offer is just a reflection of the market recognising the initial overpricing of these teams. It happened again to a lesser extent with West Ham on Sunday when their price moved from the 6.6 at email time to 6.2 by the time I placed my wager. If this proves to be the case on an ongoing basis then there is a clear potential trading opportunity here. As an extreme example, a 10-point back bet on Bournemouth at 4.5, 24 hours before kick-off, could have been laid at a quarter to 3 on Saturday for a guaranteed profit of nearly three points. A little bit of weighting on the lay stake and you could be left with an effective free bet on the Holy Grail selection and still have some profit tucked away whatever the outcome. In those cases where the odds don’t come in they should hopefully not have drifted too far, based upon the idea of them being selections that were seemingly overpriced to begin with, thereby leaving losses fairly low.
Now I am not suggesting that anyone should base an entirely new strategy on an analysis of only six matches, but this does give an example of how my mind works. What I will definitely be doing from now on is recording any change in odds from the initial email to those available around ten to fifteen minutes before kick-off. This may have been a freak week but there is nothing to be lost in keeping tabs on the situation.
I will also definitely be making more of an effort to back the selections on receipt of the email in future. No doubt if you check back next week you will find details of how the odds on every pick drifted out of sight after I backed them, but that is for another day.
Paul Dixon is a lifelong sports fan and author of the book Fun and Games in Fife and Gretna– a humorous look at an Englishman’s journey into Scottish football. He has been making regular profits from betting since 2012.