Showing posts with label World Cup. Show all posts
Showing posts with label World Cup. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Why Horse Racing Tells me That Germany Will Beat Spain

By: T.R. Slyder,, @AndyDisco on Twitter

Horse Racing Lesson #1: Recent Form Means Everything

Why it favors Germany: Germany won their last two games, 4-1 and 4-0. Spain won their last two games 1-0 and 1-0 with David Villa scoring both goals. Hmmm, that looks like a pattern, does it not? Germany scores 4 a game, and Spain 1. 1 David Villa goal to be exact. Who on Spain has PROVEN they can beat you if Villa doesn't? No one. Spain may have better passing, a deeper team, and a Euro 2008 and trophy, but zero people find their last two wins more impressive than Germany's.

Horse Racing Lesson #2: The Fewer Changes for a hot Horse/Team, the Better

Why it Favors Germany: This could be a wash, because Mueller is out for Germany as well, but with Spain benching Torres, we don't know how that will disrupt their (delicate) offensive rhythm. What if this throws off David Villa? Who else will score? What if Germany just loads up on Villa and lets the new guy beat them?

Horse racing taught me to take a pass on a horse trying something new for the first time at a high level. For instance, if Rachel Alexandra (a dirt horse) ran on grass against elite company, I would bet against her. If she started running sprints (she prefers longer distances) against elite company, I would bet against her. The only way I'd bet a horse trying something new is if they did so against far lesser competition.

Spain is making a change and it is against elite competition. I'd bet Rachel Alexandra on the grass in an allowance race, but not in the Arlington Million. Sorry, Spain.

You don't change horses midstream, if there is any current.

Horse Racing Lesson #3: History is a Factor, Even if you are Unsure why or how.

I'm in a relative hurry to get this post published before the soccer match starts, so I can't research this as much as I would have liked. But certain trends in horse racing can be hard to ignore. When I first heard about these trends I was very skeptical of them because I couldn't explain them, nor could anyone else. For instance- European horses do disproportionately well in Breeder's Cup grass races, and the Arlington Million. Other than Street Sense, the winner of the Breeder's Cup Juvenile hadn't went on to win the Kentucky Derby in a very, very long time. In the last decade, The Arkansas Derby has produced significantly better horses than the Wood Memorial.

Can I offer some explanations for those trends? Yeah, kinda. But I can't paint the whole picture, and I don't think anyone can. As I've gotten a bit better at horse playing, I have learned that the question is NOT "WHY is that the trend?" the question really is more simply, "WHAT is the trend?" and follow it.

I don't think Native Americans could explain why three-leaved ankle-high plants resulted in an itchy rash after touching it, but they ignored those poison ivy plants, nonetheless.

The World Cup tie-in here is that Germany has the history here. They have won three World Cups and Spain is in their first ever semi-finals. Do I know why that is? No. Can I profit from that phenomenon, without being able to explain it? Yes. Historically, Germany has found a way to win and Spain hasn't. That is objective and is there for us to observe. I don't know exactly what about capsaicin on our papillae makes chili peppers taste hot, but I know they are. That's really all I need to know.

Horse Racing Lesson #4: Don't Be Afraid to Pick Against the Experts

Spain seems to be the slight betting favorite in this match. It's about a half-notch below a "Pick 'em", but Spain is favored, albeit slightly. Alexi Lalas picked Spain over Germany though and he knows a ton more about soccer than I do. Shouldn't I be concerned?

Not really. He cited his rationale for why he thought Spain would win, but he could have picked them for reasons we don't know. Maybe he has a Spanish wife or girlfriend. Maybe he thinks Germany will win, but Spain is the trendier pick to make, and he doesn't want to go against trendy soccer thinking. Maybe he believes Spain will win, and is simply incorrect.

Horse Racing Lesson #5: Avoid the Results That Would Make you Feel the Most Stupid

This sounds stupid, but has been done me a world of good at the track. Here it is in practice. I think Germany will win. They scored 4 goals against an ok England team, 4 goals against a very strong Argentina team, and more impressively, held Argentina to just one (garbage time) goal. They shut down Messi and Tevez, so why can't they shut down only David Villa? If Germany won this game 4-1, wouldn't you think, "Well, yeah. I shoulda seen that coming, both teams were trending in that direction." and you would feel stupid if you took Spain.

Taking Spain, essentially, represents your thinking that Germany will, for some reason, score 3 or 4 goals LESS than usual and Spain will probably score more than they usually have been. Doesn't that seem like a big departure? A lot of trends have to end for that to happen. If you DID assume that, and it didn't happen, wouldn't you feel like kind of a dumbass? Let's go over the 4 possibilities and how I see it.

Your Guess/Actual Winner.......Thoughts afterward

Spain/Spain.....Hot Damn. Spain scored a lot more/Germany scored a lot less than they have been trending, and I predicted that correctly. I know my soccer.

Spain/Germany....Goddamnit. I got talked into Spain. I mean, of course I knew Germany looked unbeatable. I just assumed some trends would do a 180, Germany would randomly suck and Spain would score more goals against Germany than they could muster against Portugal. Any monkey with eyes could tell you that Germany looked to be playing better. I just incorrectly predicted a major trend reversal.

Germany/Spain.... Goddamnit. Can't blame me for that one. Germany's last two games were against solid opponents and they had an 8-1 goal differential. Spain? 2-0 overall goals versus Paraguay and Portugal. I took a stand, bet the on-the-field trends, and ignored a lot of experts and the betting odds. I guess they knew something I didn't afterall. Next time I will have to weight their arguments more.

Germany/Germany...Hot Damn! I told you! I told you! I told you! Germany has too stout of a defense, too creative and multi-faceted of an offense, too much history and no reason to think that train was going to screech to a halt against its will.

What option makes me feel the stupidest? The first one of four, so I have to avoid that in favor of the last one.

We'll see how I do. The game is about to start.

That's how I roll.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Great Sports This Weekend

By: T.R. Slyder,, @AndyDisco on Twitter

1. As the English announcer says, Saturday features a soccer match betwixt, "Argenteener and Jaminee." or Argentina and Germany. That will be a doozy. For Germany. The result will forever send the debate between which God likes more: Sausage or Chimichurri. Today's Brazil/Netherlands game taught me that God prefers marijuana and tulips over thongs and tan accelerator.

2. Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin. You aren't going to drop $60 for it on Pay per view? What's that? You're going to go to Twitter and search, "watch ufc116" and going to find an illegal, free feed on the web? No way, me too. I'm picking Carwin to upset Lesnar due to ring rust. He is a long shot, so a safer bet would be to bet that I learned the phrase "ring rust" about two weeks ago. It's true.

3. I Want Revenge makes his long-awaited debut start since his injury that had him scratch on Derby Day in 2009 as the morning-line favorite (only because Quality Road wasn't entered). He is the 7-5 favorite in Belmont Park's Suburban Handicap (Gr.II) on Saturday where he takes on a 2-1 Regal Ransom, among others.

Here he is kicking hiney in the aforementioned Wood Memorial.

That's how I roll.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Shots on Goal

By: T.R. Slyder,, @AndyDisco on Twitter

I know this has been a low scoring World Cup, but what I'd like to know is if fewer shots on goal have been attempted? I have seen about 7 actual saves from goalkeepers so far, and I've seen at least 8938378940043908233737363 shots that were at least 2 yards wide of the goal and never had a chance of going in. When a team is down by a goal late in the game and they have an scoring opportunity, it baffles me when a player's shot misses high and wide by 15 yards despite the shot being taken from about 10 yards out.

With seemingly half of the goals we HAVE seen have been soft goals let in via goalkeeping bluders, I don't understand why more shots are not on goal.

Apparently losing is preferable to benefiting from a garbage goal.

That's how I roll.

How do you say, "I'm Wearing My Predictin' Pants" In German?

By: T.R. Slyder,, @AndyDisco on Twitter

I'm picking Germany to win the World Cup.

They were my longshot pick before Michael Ballack got injured, then I soured on them when I heard Ballack was gone. Like many, I assumed that since Ballack was so good, the team couldn't replace him and would be much worse off without him. Then while watching Germany play against Australia (keeping mind that Australia is pretty terrible) I learned that the German youngsters had won the u16, u18 and u20 world cups. Now that class was in the world cup for the first time- Thomas Mueller, Mesut Ozil and Marko Marin, et al. and appear ready for the big stage. Being that they're youngsters the pressure isn't on them as much as it may be on Miroslav Klose, and the now-with-expectations Luaks Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger, who all appear primed and ready to make another deep World Cup run.

I tried to take into account how weak Australia was and how liking Germany after that game was like taking North Carolina in the NCAA tournament because they somehow managed to blowout 16th-seeded Rider, but I couldn't be talked off of Germany. What I impressed me most about Germany compared to the other World Cup favorites I watched was the calm that Germany felt in their opposition's zone. When the other teams would advance the ball deep in the zone, they start to speed up their game and rush things- kinda like a fish tank when you drain out 2/3s of the water and the fish swim faster and more frantically. But Germany was different- they looked just as calm, confident and composed as when they're sharing the ball at midfield. It reminded me of one of the tests psychologists use to evaluate a serial killer. While exposed to footage of a murder, a serial killer will show no elevation in heart rate: a murder scene doesn't faze them. It's just another part of life- you pick up a newspaper, you make a sandwich, tie your shoes, and murder some people. No big deal. I saw some of that in the German squad- dribbling in their zone, passing at midfield, or passing deep in enemy territory- they all looked equally collected and panic-free.

Spain is too wussy for me- they lost to us last summer for God's sake.
Brazil is strong as ever, but they're trying out a new brand of ball that I think is just going to be too much of a challenge for them to win. They will be dangerous as always, though.
Argentina is probably my second choice, but I think they will find a way to screw something up before their time in South Africa is over.
The Netherlands and England will have to show me a LOT if I am going to take them seriously in the world cup.

That's how I roll.

Monday, June 14, 2010

One Metric to Determine Best World Cup Betting Value

By: T.R. Slyder,, @AndyDisco on Twitter

I combined's aggregator for the (betting) odds of each team to win the 2010 World Cup with Nate Silver's world cup (winning) odds to arrive at, given these two sets of data, the dollar amount that a person can "expect" to win with each bet.

What the numbers really tell us is that, for Spain, if it wins you would win $450 on a $100 bet (100 X 3.5 odds + the 100 back that you bet = 450). In combination with Silver's win percentage, that means that you have a 14.85% chance of winning $450. When you do the math, you get an expected return of $66.83 on a $100 bet.

In a sense it's like in Fletch when Chevy Chase says something like, "there's a 50/50 chance of survival. But there's only a 10% chance of that happening.".

So here's the breakdown. I went with only the top 9 teams in descending order of betting odds favoritism. I show their odds, their win payout, then the win %age as predicted by Nate Silver

Country- Gambling odds= (Payout if they win)- Silver's Win %age = Payout * %age

Spain- 3.5/1= ($450) 14.85%= $66.83
Brazil- 4.5/1= ($550) 22.39% = $123.15
Argentina- 6/1 ($700) 10.35%= $72.45
Holland- 8/1 ($900) 10.03%= $90.27
England- 8/1 ($900) 8.18% = $73.62
Germany- 9/1 ($1,000) 4.11% = $41.10
Italy- 16/1 ($1,700) 1.86%= $31.62
France- 25/1 ($2,600) 1.51%= $39.26
Portugal- 25/1 ($2,600) 3.54% $92.04

The single biggest explanation for this is that Nate Silver gives Brazil a huge relative chance (22.39%) of winning the World Cup, over the next likely candidate, Spain at 14.85%- or about 33% more likely. So by Silver's metric, Brazil is a clear favorite, but the betting odds have them listed as a slight second favorite.

We all know that a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link and, some of Silver's win percentages seem questionable (is Brazil really 5 times more likely to win than Germany? or .33 more likely than Spain?), but again, I wasn't claiming to personally swear by all of this data, I'm just saying, "Hey, I did this and thought you might be interested.".

A Few Clarifications for Gambling Rookies

You may be asking what the difference is between betting odds and win odds, since after all, the betting odds are the odds to win it all. The difference is that Silver's win odds, are (his interpretation of) the objective odds to actually win it. The betting odds at various betting sites, are generally an accurate reflection of the probability of winning, but are ultimately designed to entice betting. They are running a business after all.

To help illustrate the difference between the two, consider a hypothetical: If me, you and 9 of our friends fielded a team in the world cup, we would have a 0% of winning (true odds), but the odds-makers would offer a bet on us anyway, just to entice betting, thereby making them money. They would give us odds of 750,000/1 (gambling odds), and gladly pocket the money that our friends bet on us, or people accidentally/drunkenly wager on us, knowing full well the odds of us winning is zero.

Now take that theoretical into a real life example. Instead of you, men and 9 friends, imagine you are in England selling bets to the English betting public. They know damn well English fans WANT to bet on England, regardless of the odds, thereby making it a seller's market. So if England really has a 10/1 chance to win, the oddsmakers want to sell odds at 8/1, since it's a seller's market. And if England does win, that will save them 20% of all payouts. However, the betting public can also shop around a little and take whoever gives the highest odds. This may give our sportsbook incentive to drop their odds to 9/1 in order to offer more value.

Most of the oddsmakers represented at are from England, so in this exercise, I'm not sure how close to true odds these sports books are because so much of their betting is hinged upon taking money on England.

Note: All of the odds used were current at the time of writing.

That's how I roll.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Where I Draw The Line With Soccer Jargon

By: T.R. Slyder,, @AndyDisco on Twitter
I wanted to get this out before the 2010 World Cup started because this has been annoying me forever.

It makes sense that soccer jargon doesn't sound very American Englishy- the game was neither invented here nor thrives here. Given how geographically dispersed the game is, it also stands to reason that it might have a few verbal oddities too and I'm totally ok with that. At the risk of sounding too jingoistic, there is still one I cannot stand. But first I'll review the tolerable ones.

Pitch- the playing field. As in, "he was the best player on the pitch tonight." I don't know why they can't just call it a "field", but we call a baseball "field" a diamond, so I guess I can cut them some slack.

Nil- zero. As in, "his team lost 3- nil." It sounds a little Eurotrashy, and for some reason seems to be used only for soccer, but I guess I'm ok with it. Well, I'm ok when foreigners use it. I hate when American soccer fans feel obligated to say "nil" as if it ups their soccer credibility.

Match- usually it's a soccer match and not a soccer game. As a former tennis player I am ok with that because I know that in tennis you play points, games and sets, which are collectively known as a match.
Football- I wish the rest of the world called it soccer, but I must concede that calling it football makes a lot more sense than us calling our football, "football".

Here's what annoys me about soccer lexicon- when people refer to a country as plural, as in, "England are very strong right now and should advance to the finals", or, "If Argentina are really ready for the challenge, we'll see it early on."

The country, (e.g. England, Argentina) is singular. It is only one country. Conversely, their team, though it comprises several players, is still singular. The singular verb in that case is "is.". You say, "where is your shoe (singular)?" and "where are your shoes (plural)?". One may correctly say, "The players on Spain are in top form" but you can't say, "Spain are in top form".

Sadly, stupidly, maybe arrogantly, annoyingly, lamely, unfortunately, seriously-what-the-fuck-ly, this grammatical rule is repeatedly broken in an attempt to sound more soccer credible. The same a-hole who will say, "Where is my book? I have zero books. Where are your books?" will later put on a soccer jersey, and turn on the soccer match and state, "England are great. They'll win 4-nil." . And it is fucking awful.

As indicated above, I'm ok with some with some slang unique to one's sport. I don't chastise snowboarders for riding "goofy" or getting "squirrelly". It's how snowboarders talk, and that's cool. But they still have the dignity to keep the rules of grammar in tact. They don't say, "Dude, hill steep I anyway down ride it to the wall balls, bro. What? Oh no, it's ok to make my own syntax because I'm talking about a sport, bro." They know better.

With all of this crappiness (sadly) in mind, the real question is: Do I sound more learned about soccer when I make a poor, jargon-buttressed prediction like, "America are going to win the World Cup 6-nil over Argentina." or when I use non-soccer jargon but make a rational prediction. "If Tevez gets injured Argentina is not going to win 3-zero, but probably 3-1."?

Don't bother trying to answer it. It's an Ancient Chinese Riddle.

how I roll.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

It's Time we Look Into the Future

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

Lets take a look at the Las Vegas futures pools for the KY Derby, March Madness, the World Cup, and Baseball. Not because I have some insight that you can gain, but because it's fun to think about the playoffs/post season/huge race, etc. even when it isn't not all that close to us.

First up: KY Derby. (you can find the past performances of the Derby eligible horses here.) If you have never heard of any of these horses that's ok, as I have heard of about 4 of them. This is the second "pool" or round of betting, you can see that atop the list it says "Pool 2", some horses were dropped or added since Pool 1 and odds on some horses have changed, (drastically in the case of Eskendereya- click here to see the race that precipitated his odds plummeting).

KY Derby Future Wager Pool 2 Odds

#Horse M/L Odds
1 Aikenite 50-1
2 American Lion 30-1
3 Buddy’s Saint 12-1
4 Caracortado 12-1
5 Connemara 20-1
6 Conveyance 12-1
7 D’Funnybone 30-1
8 Dave in Dixie 30-1
9 Discreetly Mine 30-1
10 Dublin 15-1
11 Eskendereya 6-1
12 Jackson Bend 20-1
13 Lookin at Lucky 6-1
14 Nextdoorneighbor 30-1
15 Noble’s Promise 30-1
16 Odysseus 50-1
17 Radiohead 20-1
18 Rule 20-1
19 Setusko 50-1
20 Sidney’s Candy 20-1
21 Super Saver 20-1
22 Tempted to Tapit 50-1
23 Vale of York 30-1
24 Field (all others) 7-2

Many of these horses raced in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile, the chart of the results can be found here And the race can be viewed here.

That race was 1/16th of a mile shorter than the Derby will be, and was raced over a synthetic surface, whereas the KY Derby will be run over dirt. A few random notes about that race and the Derby:

-You can get 30-1 odds on the winner of the BC Juvenile in the Derby Futures Pool.

- Lookin at Lucky was undefeated going into that race (all of his races coming over a synthetic surface, like he saw in the Breeder's Cup), lost by a head, will race on natural dirt in KY Derby, yet still remains co-favorite at 6-1. Doesn't seem like great value. He also loses value for having a superstar trainer in Bob Baffert- who doesn't hurt his chances of winning the Derby, but also skews his price, much like buying a condo in a Trump-owned building. The owner doesn't make the condo good or bad, but with an owner like Trump, you can be sure you won't be getting a steal, either, in fact, you'll probably overpay.

-D'Funnybone was the 4th betting favorite in Juvenile and is currently 30-1. You can see him winning his 2010 debut here in the Grade 2 Hutechson Stakes.

- Vale of York had never raced on anything but grass before his win in the BC Juvenile.

-Aikenite finished 5th and was the third betting favorite in the Juvenile and is now at 50-1.

-Noble's Promise was the second favorite in the Juvenile, finished third by a head, and is now 30-1 in the Derby pool. Why? Because he has never raced on a dirt surface.

So that's the Derby. I haven't paid much attention to horse racing since the Breeder's Cup, but I am starting to pick it up again now. I am not making any predictions just yet, but just trying to gather the facts, note the trends, and begin watching the upcoming Derby prep races.

NCAA Futures- taken from

Future Book Odds

Kansas 4/1 2/1
Kentucky 8/1 4/1
Syracuse 25/1 7/1
Villanova 14/1 10/1
West Virginia 15/1 15/1
Michigan State 6/1 15/1
Duke 16/1 15/1
Texas 7/1 18/1
Ohio State 40/1 18/1
Purdue 12/1 25/1

I didn't include all of the teams, but I thought these were the only ones with a chance to win it. It looks like the only real value on the board is Duke at 15-1. The point of playing a Futures Pool is to get better odds NOW then you would at the time of the event. If Kansas goes undefeated until the tournament starts, they still won't be less than 2-1, so they offer terrible value. If you love Kansas, why waste your money now when a player could get injured before the tournament starts, and why not just hold your money and take them at 2-1 on the day the tournament starts? Same goes for Kentucky. Syracuse was great value at 25-1, but 7-1 seems fair, and I can't see their price dropping below that before the tournament starts. Again, the point of a future's pool is to assume more risk (injuries, the unforeseen, team falling apart, etc.) and get a price break as a result. Unless you think that Duke, OSU or MSU will make a big run betwixt now and the start of the tourney, you'd be silly to make a wager on the current NCAA futures.

Baseball- taken again from Opening Line Current

N.Y. Yankees 3/1 14/5
Boston 13/2 11/2
Philadelphia 13/2 6/1
L.A. Angels 17/2 14/1
Detroit 20/1 24/1
Seattle 125/1 50/1
Arizona 75/1 60/1
Toronto 75/1 125/1
St. Louis 8/1
L.A. Dodgers 9/1
Tampa Bay 11/1
Chi. White Sox 12/1
Atlanta 12/1
Chi. Cubs 14/1
Colorado 20/1
N.Y. Mets 20/1
San Francisco 30/1
Texas 30/1
Minnesota 30/1

Again. If the Yankees were in the World Series, they'd be about about 1/1, so why take less than 3/1 in March? If your goal is to make $200 on the World Series this year, you could either bet about $65 on them in March, or about $110 in October. I'd prefer the latter, since if you do the latter, you at least know that the Yankoffs are IN the world series. Same for Boston and Philly, If the WS were the Yanks and Philly, Philly would be about 3/1, so why take them now at 6/1?

The only real value I can see might be with the White Sox and Mets, and I am not really sold on either.

World Cup- I got it from this site.

2010 FIFA World Cup – June 11 – July 11 – South Africa

Spain 9/2

Brazil 5/1

England 11/2

Argentina 9/1

Italy 11/1

Germany 12/1

Netherlands 12/1

France 14/1

Ivory Coast 25/1

Portugal 28/1

USA 50/1

Your guess is as good as mine, but my value play is Germany. True story: I have ESPN on while I am typing this and while typing Germany was my value play, I saw they lost 1-0 to Argentina. It's probably an omen. The only stand I will take is to not bet on England, they are just total wussies and love choking on the big stage. Don't believe me? Ask Tim Henman how his Wimbledon career went. England reminds me a bit of the Cubs- they make a lot of not noise, play up their tradition and love of the game, occasionally don't suck, have a huge and wild fanbase, and often confuse their bed for their toilet so to speak.

That's how I roll.