My least favourite feeling in gambling isn’t a losing bet or a bad read – it’s the good reads that don’t get rewarded. Nothing is more frustrating than uncovering a statistical angle or a scheduling quirk that gives you an edge on a bet, but failing to cash in on it. But inevitably when using exchanges and offering up prices to be matched rather than just taking what’s available, the market will get away from you.
For instance I might have a team priced at 1.91 when the market has them at 2.1. If i don’t get matched at 2.1 and the price slides to 1.99, I’ve got to re-evaluate. Am I so certain of my edge that I’m willing to take a worse price?
The overwhelming urge of course is to chase the market, and adjust your bet to try and get matched. Well I’m not breaking any news here when i say that’s probably not the most profitable strategy in the long run. Not chasing a price is one of the main things I’ve been focusing on this season and it takes a unique kind of patience (and is of course not the most exciting piece of betting advice, but I think it’s a valuable one).
Searching for the Ultimate August Pitcher
As a quick note on my background before we get started, I’ve been betting seriously on Baseball and American Football for around 4 years now and showing a decent profit for much of that.
This baseball season on Matchbook i have wagered: £147,886.56 as of writing, with a profit of £3,023.49, so hopefully I have some ideas and edges worth sharing!
And talking of edges, this late in the baseball season, they are getting harder to come by as the books have pretty comprehensive data on teams. This means i’m looking for recent changes in pitcher statistics, specifically in velocity which can portend either improved mechanics if it’s increased, or declining mechanics and fatigue if it’s dropped.
Here’s how important fastball velocity is per the Hardball Times:. At higher velocities, runs allowed per nine innings decreases by roughly 0.20 per additional MPH. So if a pitcher adds 2MPH he can shave almost half a run off his ERA. Which may not sound like much, but it’s more than enough to give you an edge worth betting. And according to recent research by 538, higher velocity is also symptomatic of a pitcher on a hot streak, and his results improve by even more than increased velocity alone would suggest, perhaps thanks to improved command or more break on off-speed pitches.
So, who are who looking at here. One pitcher with a buy signal blinking on is the Brewer’s Chase Anderson. Anderson opened the season throwing around 92.4mph on average and was basically a league average arm. However some time around June his velocity jumped up 2mph and his strikeout to walk ratio (the best predictor of future success) jumped up.
However, Anderson was also injured in June before the market really adjusted to his improvement. He returned last Sunday with a strong effort in Colorado with his average fastball velocity still up at 94.4mph.
He is opposed on the mound by Kenta Maeda, another bet-on arm for me and I’ll also be looking to the under if it’s 8 or higher.
Mispriced Fight of the Century?
Finally, the big punting event of the weekend for me is the Money fight, with Conor McGregor taking on Floyd Mayweather.
I’ve seen several traders, and combat sports bettors I respect say this is the most mispriced major sporting event they’ve ever seen, and I’m inclined to agree.
The price is almost entirely driven by public money. Jessica Bridge from Ladbrokes was pretty symptomatic of all the bookmakers I’ve seen or heard from when she said earlier this week:
“We can’t give Mayweather away for love nor money, and punters are firmly in the McGregor camp no matter the odds”.
CGT Technology, the Nevada SportsBook also said this week 92% of the bets were on the Irishman, while Matchbook’s Head of Brokerage Aidan Barry said: “Matchbook has a queue of punters lined up to get money on Mayweather. We’re best price in the world on McGregor right now and we expect that to continue up until fight time.”
No matter what you think, Oddsmakers, who have done this for decades almost unanimously think McGregor should be at least double his price, and in a vacuum I’ll side with oddsmakers over the public.
UFC analyst Reed Kuhn studied the public money phenomenon in UFC main events and found that just backing the favourite was a profitable strategy, theorising that the story of a fight was always to tout the underdog as having a genuine shot to win. And that’s what we have here on a massive scale.
The narrative is obvious. McGregor is a supreme trash talker, and the entire promotion of the fight is that the Irishman has some magic in his hands and can do the unthinkable. Even Floyd is selling that story, telling media McGregor has all the advantages on paper. Combine that narrative with the good underdog money and you have the reason Mayweather is now a 1.31 shot after opening as short as 1/27 at some books in Las Vegas.
In fact McGregor is now almost the same odds as Canelo Alvarez was to beat Mayweather back in 2014 and three times as likely as Maidana in the pair’s first fight. Mayweather was only -200 to beat Manny Pacquiao.
We know Mayweather may have lost a step having been out the ring for two years and at 40 years old, but judging by the photos of him that have been released he looks as good as ever, and Chris Eubank Jr emerged from their training session recently saying Floyd looked just as sharp as when training for Pacquiao, and was taking the fight just as seriously.
So we know what Floyd will bring: supreme defensive ability and quick counterpunching. He has had no problem dealing with younger bigger fighters in the pas. See the Canelo fight for what I think this one could look like at the very best for Conor.
Of course Conor is the X-Factor, and the one reason I don’t recommend lumping all of your money from all of your bank accounts on Floyd is that we don’t really know what the Irishman looks like as a boxer.
We’ve seen his training videos, which are so bad I genuinely think they might be a joke or an attempt to mislead the Mayweather camp, and we’ve seen two short clips of sparring. The first one he got bashed around by Chris van Heerden and the second one he cuffed around Paulie Malignaggi for 20 seconds or so.
Both videos were short clips rather than full sparring videos so we can’t put too much stock in them but van Heerden said last week he was underwhelmed by the Irishman’s vaunted punching power
“I call a spade a spade and I’m gonna say this: we had 16oz gloves on, we had headgear on — I was not fazed by his power at all! I wasn’t. And I’ve been in the ring with a lot of guys that can hit. And I’ve been hit harder, way harder, by guys with 16oz gloves and headgear on. I was not fazed so it’s difficult for me to say what his power’s like because honestly, I was not fazed. Not at all.”
Malignaggi echoed that sentiment, saying on a podcast : “It’s definitely above average. I wouldn’t say it’s ‘Oh my God’ power,”
“Now, ‘Oh my God’ power is very rare. There’s above average power, so if he lands a good shot on you, I mean granted, with small fight gloves he will hurt you, but it’s not ‘Oh my God’ power where every time he touches you you’re like my goodness, this is very uncomfortable. It’s not that kind of power, but it’s good enough.”
Now given that McGregor’s only shot is to knock Floyd out, I am willing to lay the 3.3/1 on him landing that knockout blow on the greatest defensive fighter of his generation, who has only been caught with clean power punches 7 or 8 times in his career and has taken one standing 8 count in his career.
So Mayweather at 1.31 is a bet. But there’s some other ways to attack this fight. I think Floyd by decision at 3/1 is also a superb value bet and more palatable for those who dislike laying big prices.
That price is also inflated by the the now infamous 8oz gloves, (Floyd has fought 46 of his 49 fights in 8oz glove so no edge for Conor there) and the fact Floyd has spoken about giving the fans what they want and knocking McGregor out.
Will he f***.
He did no such thing against a one-armed Pacquiao, taking no risks on his way to an easy victory despite the boos of the crowd.
Mayweather values his undefeated record far more than he values the crowd’s approval in what is likely his last fight.
He is also famously a light puncher these days, with his hands prone to breaking, and having last knocked someone out in 2011.
McGregor has also got a stout old chin on him, having taken his 3 MMA losses via submission, and never being knocked down despite the onslaught of Nate Diaz in 4oz gloves in some of his recent fights.
Finally, I think there’s an angle here for an in-play bet, for those who can stay up until 5am for the fight.
Floyd is well known for being a slow starter, regularly taking 2 or 3 rounds to ‘download’ his opponents movements, timing and patterns.
Similarly he will never have seen anything like Conor’s style, which is almost Karate-like in the UFC, where he slowly walks forward, side-on with his lead hand pawing at your face.
McGregor is also rumoured to be working on 5 or 6 ‘surprises’ in camp including stance shifts.
All of which means he could take the first couple of rounds while Floyd is being his usual cautious, calculating self. If that’s the case, the deluge of public money will continue in-play and we could see Floyd at 1.5, 1.6, 1.7 as the rounds by.