Saturday, August 07, 2004

The Racing Post is 'aving a laff

The Racing Post Sports section used to be the bible for sports gamblers. It boasted Mark Coton and Paul Johnson, both excellent tipsters and top notch journalists. Before having a bet, the Post was required reading. No more.

The standard of journalism is only higher than the standard of selections they give. The writers seem to have no concept of the principle of value betting, merely tipping what they think will happen rather than the value selection. And the notion of "no bet is the best bet" has obviously never occurred to these guys.

All are to blame, but probably the worst offender is Ian Coyne. He regularly tips up correct score and half-time/full-time selections on football matches where the percentage hold for the bookie is the highest and the chance of finding a value selection is remote in the extreme.

I must absolve Kevin Pullein from guilt for the Post malaise as although he is a dreadfully dull writer, his selections are at least well thought out and he may well be a long term winning punter. I would offer big odds any of the others on the sports desk are winners.

I will give two brief examples of the state of decline of the Racing Post.

In Thursday's Post there was a chunky preview pullout for the new football season. Full of facts, stats and pretty dreadful journalism.

The worst two pieces of advice, in my opinion, were these:

1. Paul Kealy's 3rd tip for exchange punters is "Never be afraid to guarantee a no-lose book. The team you have backed is a goal ahead with minutes left on the clock. Do you close out for a profit or let it ride to collect the full payout? The choice is yours, but when you're in a great position there really is no excuse for not at least covering your stake. Hard-luck stories are ten-a-penny in football matches - just listen to the late goals flying in on Soccer Saturday".

This is complete and utter bollocks. It shows the mentality of a loser. You should never hedge unless the new bet (and it should always be considered a new bet) is a value bet. To lay off with say, 10 minutes to go, is giving up a large percentage of your potential winnings and over the long term will cost you money.

2. Mark Langdon is responsible for the other travesty. He advises his readers to have a double on Thierry Henry to be Arsenal's top scorer this season at 1/4 and Ruud Van Nistlerooy to be top Man Utd goal getter at 4/9. The double pays about 8/11.

This is tipping at its laziest. He's obviously spent 3 seconds looking at the betting and said "Of course, the favourites are shurtanties!! Lump on!!!". There are the little matter of injuries, loss of form, a great season by a team mate (Utd have got Saha and Smith who aren't too bad last time I checked) and the ever present possibility of a transfer abroad to consider. If 8/11 is value I'll eat my hat. You can have as much on at evens with me as you like.

If you follow the Posts selections for sports you might as well flush your money down the toilet. In fact, that is probably a better way to spend your money. It will save alot of hassle and time..


Anonymous Anonymous said...

can't say i ever believed the racing post sports section (unlike the racing section) was ever staffed by anything other than total idiots. though some of the journos may (and i emphasise the word may) have some clue as to sport they have literally zero clue as regards how to win at gambling as they are only too willing to demonstrate through their inane comments day after day after day. i know plenty of knowlegdable, literate gamblers who wouldn't mind writing for the post so given the monkeys they have employed the obvious conclusion is that the post pay peanuts.

5:05 AM  
Blogger Andy_Ward said...

In the old days, when I could read the paper for 2 hours at work, I used to buy the Post. At one point, the value debate was reaching its head. The Post decided to settle the issue once and for all. Their top tipster arranged a contest against a reader from the "you can't eat value, back winners" school. So what did they do ? Bet on every single football game that weekend. All 58 of them. The reader won, and thus value betting was discredited forever.

I thought, to hell with this, if their top guy doesn't know that value betting goes hand in hand with selective betting, then I'll stop paying for their "expertise".


PS tough game yesterday, very hot, but we did ok and nearly won it at the end, good save from their keeper from Thorpe's header.

3:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mr ward, you're making it up. not even the post could be that imbecilic. or could they?

6:00 AM  
Blogger Andy_Ward said...

No, we nearly did win it at the end :-)

Seriously, they did, I remember it very clearly. Every single match.


6:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll have an even 'monkey' please !

3:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neglected to mention that the even 'monkey' if you want it is down to Karabiner.

Let me know if it's a bet.

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that some of your criticisms are valid. Mostly the decline of the Sports Betting section is down to Bruce Millington's decision to staff the desk entirely with unproven 21-year-old novices. The lack of any decent competition is certainly a problem as well.

However, a couple of things to consider: often The Post tips because it has to. If it constantly gave out 'no bet' advice for live football matches for example, a fair slice of it's readership - which is just as awash with mugs as shrewdies - would go elsewhere. Likewise the paper simply has to have a headline tip for Premiership winner, cricket series, even Big Brother. It just can't not.
More darkly, I think that the sports tipsters do have a strong concept of 'value' but are encouraged to ditch it in their writing. Two possible reasons: first, since no records are kept recognition will come from volume of winners, not overall record. They have their careers to think about. Second, mug punters like winners and care less about overall profit. Long term grinding profits may actually turn off bettors who want the quick fix of a winner or two. They'll remember backing Yoo-ni-ted at 5-6 and copping a wad, then doubling it up on England to beat the Windies and getting the lot, subsequently having a cracking weekend, much more than they will the attritional bleed of winnings that 'value betting' might accrue them.
Also, I think The Post very effectively, if unconsciously, illustrates the tensions in gambling theory currently prevalent. You touch upon 'value v winners', but perhaps more important is 'stats v feel'. Old-school tipsters and punters often rely on a combination of the evidence of their eyes, player form and gut feeling more than dry statistics. The newer breed - check out James Pyman's tennis column, or Alex Deacon in the RFO - prefer a dispassionate number-based analysis as their bedrock. The Post has to strike a tricky balance between the readability and 'weekend punter'-friendly format of the former and the often less readable but more professional style of the latter. Sometimes this is very difficult.

If you really want to get annoyed ask what the official line on poker is. Let's just say it rates slightly below polo in the current pecking order.

Sorry about the length. Didn't realise this was such a bugbear of mine!

9:57 AM  
Blogger The Camel said...

Interesting views. Which I almost totally agree with.

Is this choas speaking? If not, do you mind telling me who you are?

Thanks for the fascinating insight.


9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best not let on actually, since I may have to go back to working in the charlatan/tipping industry one day!

I'm enjoying the blog immensely, by the way.

10:13 AM  
Blogger chaos said...

Not me I'm afraid. I'm flattered,though, to be associated with the logic and style. I agree with the writer as a marketing strategy it's very good: give people what they want to read. As gamblers we hate conflicts. Usually we know exactly what we want to bet on and look for evidence to back it up, it's only natural (THM political debates are a prime example). If you want to back England every time they play then you are unlikely to fall in love with a journalist who consistenly makes a credible case to lay them. In all probability you will still back them, but if the bet fails you will feel twice as bad - because you know they should have been layed! It's all about the feel good factor I guess - if all the turkeys want it to be christmas!

Your advice about the late lay is certainly mostly right I feel; however, in cases where punters get too exposed, which is probaby often for some(me!), then I think it is the right thing to do. This can easily occur when you chase too much value. Knowing that you have an escape hatch (e.g. lay if your team goes 1-0 up) reduces your risk to some extent and allows you to buy more value. Then I guess it becomes a trade off between EV's - the value vs the escape hatch. Unfortunately, I just lump on and give no consideration to such trade off, maybe some do. One rule I do have: I usually try and wait to lay off an exposed position after a goal, there is usually a lot of competition pushing the price out.


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