Sport

GE2017 – Tracker – Thursday 18th May

Conservatives: Av u/o seats = 399.2 – 24hr change = 0 | Week change = 0

Labour: Av u/o seats = 163.8 – 24 hr = +1.6 | Week = +5

Lib Dems: Av u/o seats = 12.8 – 24 hr = -1| Week = -2.7

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Spreadex | Con 393-399 (24hr = -1)| Lab 162-168 (+4) | LD 14 – 17 (-0.5)

Sporting Index | Con 392-398 (-5) | Lab 160-166 (+5) | LD 14-17 (0)

(2015 result | Con 330 | Lab 232 | LD 8)

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A new poll from Ipsos Mori supports a trend we’ve seen in the betting markets over recent days. Namely that Labour support is strengthening, but appears to be strengthening at the expense of the Liberal Democrats rather than the Conservatives.

You’ve got to feel a bit sorry for the Lib Dems. This election was meant to be their big moment. Plucky Tim Farron was supposed to harness the power of the 48% to make the Lib Dems relevant once more. The #LibDemfightback has singularly failed to materialise and today the party is down to (another) new low seats line: 12.5 with Paddies and Ladbrokes.

There’s a good piece here from the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush on where it’s all gone wrong.

Neil Monnery (@neilmonnery) is doing some great work on Twitter tracking party odds in Lib Dem held seats and Lib Dem marginals.

His contention is that essentially every incumbent Lib Dem seat is in play and even the party’s leader and former leader can’t be certain of a return to Westminster (Farron is 1/7 to win Westmorland & Londsdale, Clegg 1/8 for Sheffield Hallam – not short enough for comfort).

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Whilst the fixed odds Tory seat lines have seen no change over the last week, there are bigger moves on the spreads. Sporting Index call Con seats down 5 from yesterday and move Labour seats up 5 to 160-166 (that’s still down 10 from the opening quote of 170-176 on April 21st).

We’ll see tomorrow what impact, if any, the reception and digestion of the Mrs May’s Tory manifesto has on the betting.

GE2017 – Tracker – Wednesday 17th May – Up for Dennis

Conservatives: Av u/o seats = 399.2 – 24hr change = 0 | Week change = 0

Labour: Av u/o seats = 162.2 – 24 hr = +0.7 | Week = +3.3

Lib Dems: Av u/o seats = 13.8 – 24 hr = -0.7| Week = -1.7

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Spreadex | Con 394-400 (24hr = -1)| Lab 158-164 (+2) | LD 14.5- 17.5 (0)

Sporting Index | Con 397-403 (+3) | Lab 155-161 (-1) | LD 14-17 (-1)

(2015 result | Con 330 | Lab 232 | LD 8)

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Selected others:

PM after general election:

Jeremy Corbyn: Best price 12/1 (Unibet) but as short as 5/1 (William Hill)

Theresa May: Best price 1/20 (Various), as short as 1/33 (also William Hill, come on lads!!)

Labour under 100 seats: 16/1 (SkyBet)

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For a week now not one of our three sample bookmakers (PaddyPower, Sky, and Ladbrokes) has moved its under/over Conservative seats line. The Labour line has drifted back up to a level similar to that before the locals. The Lib Dems, however, continue to slide with both SkyBet and Ladbrokes offering 5/6 under/over 13.5 seats. With the strong possibility of the party making a handful of gains in west London and a spattering of constituencies in the South West also in play, the time is right to go over Lib Dem seats.

Come on Tim! We need you to be winning somewhere!

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Rumours circulating in the pubs of Westminster that even some of Labour’s safest seats could be in trouble.

Dennis Skinner, the beast of Bolsover, is a Commons stalwart having first taken his seat in 1970. Paddy Power have the Conservatives 7/2 to take the seat. Meanwhile, deputy leader Watson is 4/11 to hold on in West Bromwich East. In elections gone by these seats would be hundreds-on bankers for Labour. However, add 9,000 or so UKIP votes to an apparently toxically unpopular Labour leader and you have a recipe to overturn 10,000 vote majorities.

On the 9th of June will we be asking ‘Were you up for Dennis?’

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My attempts to turn roving vox pop political reporter during my time in Chicago have hit the wall. Few Americans know the UK is having a general election, fewer care.

Interestingly, Brexit does have cut through here – most likely because it’s lumped in with Trump as part of the ‘populist’ / ‘post truth’ phenomenon. The names Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are met with blank lack of recognition; Boris Johnson is the only UK politician that appears to have any profile. “He’s like the British Trump,” said one man.

2001: An Ashes Odyssey?

I was penning a poetic introduction to this summer’s imminent Ashes based around my own formative experience of Ashes misery when I was distracted by Cricinfo.

If you want to see how much has changed in English cricket, particularly the dynamic against the Australians, since the dark days pre-Michael Vaughan, I recommend a look at the scorecards from the 2001 series.

Australia won 4-1, but that’s only half the story. This, truly, was a demoralizing drubbing. Two innings defeats in the first (Edgbaston) and the fifth (The Oval) framed eight and seven wicket margins at Lord’s and Trent Bridge respectively.

England managed to bowl Australia out on only four occasions in the entire series (and one of those was for 576 runs). Even in the single Test victory (the fourth at Headingley), England’s bowlers did not manage to take twenty wickets – instead an attacking declaration by stand-in skipper Gilchrist and a sublime century by Mark Butcher sealed a consolation.

Take a look at England’s selection and you can see a losing mindset. It’s almost as though they went into the series expecting to be thrashed and picked a side that might at least prolong the agony.

Ian Ward struggled at Test level. He now does a good job laughing at Charles Colville's jokes.

Ian Ward struggled at Test level. He now does a good job laughing at Charles Colville’s jokes.

The First Test saw England go in with seven specialist batsmen (admittedly with Stewart taking the gloves at 6). It was a batting line up that included Ian Ward and Usman Afzaal, players with decent county records but utterly exposed at Test level. None of the batsmen offered anything significant with the ball (although it must be noted that Butcher did pick up four cheap wickets at the end of the Australians’ mammoth innings).

That left a four-strong bowling attack of Gough, Caddick, Giles and White. Now, Gough and Caddick were fine bowlers and Giles came of age in the 05 Ashes (complementing a far more threatening seam attack), but did Hussain and the selectors ever truly believe that this foursome was capable of taking 20 wickets?

The selection of White (career batting av: 27, bowling: 38) is indicative of a defensive approach; a man to bolster the batting at eight and bowl at a fair pace. To play White as part of a four man attack though? It’s almost as if England had given up before the coin was tossed.

As a point of balance it should be noted that Australia picked seven batsmen (including Gilchrist, at 7, who really announced himself to English audiences in this Edgbaston Test with a blistering 152 at over a run a ball). However, with an attack of Gillespie, McGrath, Warne, and Lee – all at the height of their powers – they could afford this luxury. Not to mention the fact that the Waugh brothers offered very decent part-time support (not that it were needed too often).

Second Test at Lord’s and England ditch spin completely (picking Cork in favour of Giles). Ramprakash is recalled to the side in place of Afzaal in another fool’s errand. Australia only need to bat a second time for 3 overs to win.

At Trent Bridge England picked five bowlers (Tudor in for Cork, and Croft added – White batted seven but, if proof were needed of his redundancy returned 7 runs and 0 wickets in the match) and managed to bowl out Australia for 190 in their first innings. Ignoring Butcher’s Headingley, this was the only match of the series in which England were part of a meaningful contest.

England reverted to four bowlers for the final match of the series at The Oval bringing in Phil Tufnell (1/174) and Jimmy Ormond (1/115). Usman Afzaal was recalled and made fifty in what would be his final Test Match. Warne took eleven wickets in the game.

Tufnell bowling at The Oval. He was too often brought in when other options had been exhausted.

Tufnell bowling at The Oval. He was too often brought in when other options had been exhausted.

In many ways 2001 was the dark before the dawn. What might surprise some was that coach Duncan Fletcher and central contracts, those oft-cited agents of recovery, were in place by this time. People often talk about the 90s as the nadir of English cricket, but this 2001 series was an ugly hangover. Perhaps the hangover that in its head-pounding, stomach-churning misery convinces the boozer not to drink again.

Volatility, bet sizing, and relative success

Fixed odds betting writers and tipsters tend to talk in terms of ‘points’.

They might recommend: Bale to score first, 1pt at 4/1.

One point refers to the size of your standard bet. Depending on how flush or reckless you are this might be 10p, £1, £10, £100 or, if you’re a Premier League footballer or Russian oil baron, £10,000. The idea is pretty straightforward: using points allows the tipster to recommend a bet size relative your standard stake.

For example, a standard tip (like the one given above) might suggest a 1 pt bet, a day’s NAP (i.e. a strong recommendation) might suggest a 2 pt investment, whilst a more speculative outsider (perhaps with some each way value) may well be tipped up to the tune of 0.5pts.

The nature of fixed odds betting means you only stand to lose your stake: the maximum loss of a one point bet is one point, if your usual punt is a tenner, then a tenner is the most you can lose. Your winnings, naturally, depend on the odds offered.

Of course, spread betting is quite different: the size of your win or loss varies according to just how right, or how wrong, you are in predicting a certain outcome.

An example:

In a cricket match, a fixed-odds firm will offer you a ‘runs line’. Say England are batting first in a Test Match, the bookie might set the line at 320.5 (the half is there to ensure the tie is out of play) and the punter can either back England to get fewer or more runs than the prediction (normally called the ‘unders’ or ‘overs’) – the odds will typically be 10/11 or 4/5 for either option.

Not exactly a road: Sabina Park, 1998

Not exactly a road: Sabina Park, 1998

Your mate on the ground staff reckons it’s a good pitch and suggests you back the overs for 2 pts. Your standard bet is £10 and as you trust your friend with the heavy roller, you stick £20 (2 x 10) on England to make 321 or more.

Unfortunately the surface is dryer that a Jack Dee joke about a Jacob’s cream cracker, the pitch does all sorts from ball one and England collapse to 115 all out. You’re £20 out of pocket and need to have a stern conversation with your pal.

Imagine the same scenario with a spreads firm. They make England’s 1st innings runs 315-330. You’re backing England to bat well so you ‘buy’ at 330. A 2pt (£20) stake here equates to £20 per run. England’s collapse doesn’t just cost you a score, it costs you £4,300 ((330-115)x20=4300)). Ouch. You’re seriously out of pocket and fantasizing about that heavy roller and your friend’s head.

We clearly need a different way of describing stake size for spread markets. However, one more element to consider first:

Whilst it is perfectly feasible to be 200 runs out (either higher or lower) on the prediction of a 1st innings score in a Test Match, the number of goals in a football match very rarely goes beyond the range of 0-8 (obviously having ‘minus goals’ is impossible and 9,10,11+ goals in a game is very, very rare – but does happen, just look at the closing day thriller between the Baggies and Man United at The Hawthorns).

We refer to this difference in the range of feasible outcomes as ‘volatility’. A trade on innings runs is thus more volatile than a trade on total goals in a game of football.

A market’s volatility will typically be reflected in the size of the spread offered. An innings runs quote typically starts with a spread size of 15 (315-330) whereas a total goals quote will typically have a spread of 0.2 (2.65 to 2.85, for example).

We can think about the size of spreads wagers (and the relative success of their outcomes) in terms of spread times stake (SXS), that is the size of the spread multiplied by the size of the bet. The bigger your typical bet is, the higher your SXS will be.

A SXS of 100 would equate to a £6.66 bet on innings runs (15×6.66=c.100) but a £500 bet on total goals (500×0.2=100) – both hefty wagers. Working to a SXS of 15 would allow a £1 bet on innings runs and £75 on total goals. A smaller punter might look at a SXS of 5 – that’s a 33p bet on the cricket and £25 on the total goals.

Using SXS allows us to consider a bet size appropriate to our means across different sports and markets. The spread tipster can express a particularly strong recommendation (equivalent to a fixed-odds 2 or 5 pointer) by suggesting a SXSx2 or SXSx5) or a more tentative punt as SXSx0.5.

Thinking in terms of SXS also gives a means of comparing the relative success of bets. It is clearly not satisfactory to equate a 2 point win (i.e. very slim) on a cricket runs market to a 2 point win (pretty significant) on football goals.

The loss talked about in the cricket example earlier could be represented as follows:

-215 (points lost) / 15 (size of spread) = -14.3

If, in the football example, I had bought goals at 2.85 and the match was a seven-goal thriller, that would be:

(7-2.85) = 4.15 (points profit)

4.15/0.2 = 20.75

In my previous post I discussed underestimating England’s series ton ups by 23 points (original spread = 52-57, make up = 34):

-23/5 = -4.6

You can calculate what you might have won or lost by multiplying this figure by your SXS. So if you had a SXS of 100 you would have lost £460, A SXS of £15, loss of £69, and a SXS of 5 (unsurprisingly) a loss of £23.

I will use this method to keep a running account of the success (or more likely failure) of my spreads tips. So, for this week I’m -4.6.

Results: Eng vs NZ 2nd Test

Buy England series ton ups @57

Make up = 34. Loss of 23 points

This bet could have gone better. It could have been a good deal worse.

The skies over Leeds were always going to be a problem and with the first day washed out this bet was in horrible shape.

What was really needed was an England batsman to make a so-called ‘daddy ton’ (150+) and, as such, whilst it was great to see Joe Root make his maiden Test century it was a frustration that he fell soon after.

With only 4 ‘ton up’ points from England’s first dig in the bag things were looking decidedly bleak when New Zealand fell short of the follow on target. If Cook had enforced, in all likelihood, NZ would have suffered an innings defeat or, if England did need to bat again it would only be to knock off a few.

Whilst Boycott and Botham chuntered about Cook’s conservative decision not to enforce, I was smiling. The captain decided on a bit of pre-Ashes batting practice  and personally notched up 130 thus adding 30 points to the ton-ups market  and reducing the loss.

England vs NZ, 2nd Test, Leeds

The first test of the summer at Lord’s was a low scoring affair with neither side managing to make more than 250. The pitch was atypical for headquarters being somewhat sluggish and even offering some assistance to orthodox spin from early on. A damp outfield didn’t help matters with many shots which might have been boundaries come August pulling up inside the ropes.

Headingley promises to offer a quite different surface. Various ex-pro pitch reading shamen are predicting a flat one and their reading is supported by cold hard stats. Joe Root, by a distance England’s most impressive batsman at Lord’s, made 236 here earlier in the season for Yorkshire (vs Derbyshire) and in the most recent match on the ground Adil Rashid (remember him?) made 180.

With an England batting order keen to answer critics and certain players (Bairstow, Compton and Root in particular) looking to cement places in advance of KP’s return and The Ashes, big tons are surely on the cards. With no batsman having reached three figures in London, both Sporting and Spreadex make England’s series (effectively match) ton-ups 52-57 or, if you fancy one or two of the Kiwis to make big runs too, combined ton-ups can be had at 74-81 at Spreadex (a point preferable for buyers compared to Sporting).

In principle it would make sense to be long on England ton-ups. However, the forecast for later in the week is mixed (i.e. actually pretty horrible) and rain is not conducive to big scores – batsmen can’t make runs sat in the pavilion and overcast conditions tend to favour a bowling side – so it would be wise to treat this market with caution and with an eye on the sky.

Recommendation: if it shows signs of sun in Leeds, BUY England ton-ups @57