My reply to The Football Analysts reply (finally)

It’s been over a month now since I made a remark on my site about the Football Analyst system and how I thought having so many systems was a bit of an issue. I wrote:

I believe having so many systems is a bit of a cop-out at times and saw it with Formbet as well. With so many systems, one is always going to be winning and Formbet goes to great lengths to let people know of any one system that is ahead, but overall the system has a massive loss. TFA isn’t so blatant in regards to this but does let people know that it isn’t up to him if they win or lose. This is the beauty of these sort of systems for the tipster, they are always going to have a stream of players winning and letting others know how great they are, and the losers just leave.

This remark was coming off the back of more poor TFA results (since then I have lost a further $15,000) and was a little harsh, but I stand by my initial criticism that having all these systems allows a tipster to hide his results. This season there are a whopping 52 different systems to choose from. Many of them are correlated. Now to understand big numbers lets first talk about a deck of cards which has the same number of cards as Graeme has systems. If I was to ask you to shuffle the deck and then tell me how likely that those 52 cards had been formed into the exact same series before, what do you think the probability would be? I’ll save you the time and say that it’s as close to 0 as you can get.

“if each star in our galaxy had a trillion planets, with a trillion people living on them, and each of these people has a trillion packs of cards and somehow they manage to make unique shuffles 1,000 times per second since the Big Bang, they’d only be starting to repeat shuffles now.”

Now sure, this isn’t directly related to how you can pick your TFA portfolio, but does show that there would be millions of ways to play the TFA systems. This allows a massive range of experiences for TFA clients. You will have people like me with massive losses and others with massive wins. Let’s also add in the fact you can play these as straight up 1X2 bets, or AH(0) and other asians, and then you can flat stake or stake more on home wins and you start to imagine the almost limitless possibilities.

Now before I go on with this post, a little disclaimer. I am a big boy, I make my own decisions in regards to the money I bet and the services I follow. At the end of the day the only place for blame is with myself. Nothing I am saying below is to imply that Graeme has steered me to lose close to $56,000. The buck stops with me and me alone.

My issue was that this allows a tipster to cherry pick systems that are working well and advertise them to the general public, while moving the poor systems to the back of the room. My remark was more aimed towards Formbet then TFA, as I believe Graeme to be very honest, but I had noticed a few remarks that did not sit well with me. They were referring to how well the Euro and Draw systems were doing, and I will get this a little later.

To be honest, I assumed my rant would last about the same amount of time it took to write it. But it struck a cord with Graeme who replied as only Graeme can. In a massively long blog post. I have no idea how he can be so prolific in his writing. I know this reply of mine will take me hours to write and that’s without doing any research. Every Tuesday when I write the weekly results post, it takes me longer to update the numbers then to write my post. I like my blog writing the same way I like my sex, in and out quickly and leaving someone very unsatisfied.

Graeme posted the 2012/13 season results and also the results up to the end of January for the current season. Below you can see the results of that season and which models I played. This will give you a fair idea of what my options were for the next season. As you can see last season I did not pick the best systems yet still made a healthy profit. My goal then and this season was to follow the systems with the lowest amount of bets and highest ROC.

1213season

Moving on to how I came up with this seasons systems and I’m sure other subscribers have the same problems as me. With so many to choose from where do you even start. The first part was easy, Graeme had zero confidence in the Euro models. I thought they still had merit and told him so, but he was adamant they were not very good. That meant they had no place in my new portfolio. I had always been attracted to Draw models and would have liked to follow a few of them but again was told that these were new and probably would not do well. I still decided to at least follow a few but wasn’t sure which ones. That left me with all the UK based models to choose from. The 5 I had the previous season had done well so they were kept in and I added in 31-42, 33-41, 33-42, TOX, STOY, and STOZ. Now if you look at the chart, you see that these systems came 5th, 12th, 15th, 3rd, 6th and 2nd that year, but you will also notice that all these systems were the ones with the lowest number of bets and highest ROCS. From the start I wanted the biggest bang for my buck.

When reading the TFA twitter feed and blog posts/emails I felt there had been a lot more talk about the Draw and Euro systems, even though I was told specifically not to play the Euro systems and to be very careful with the Draw systems. I felt that these systems should be pushed more into the background as very few people would be following them, but as they did well, it seemed to me that they got a lot more airtime then they deserved. This was my main criticism. I was not attacking the TFA service but instead attacking a larger issue I see in the Tipster world. My actual results had no real bearing on the issue I meant to bring up.

I know Cassini’s loins get all tingly when I mention him on this blog, but he has a timely blog post which helps with this point. He was saying how Peter Nordsted (A tipster) had posted an under bet for subscribers to his service and then posted the opposite side on twitter. This is a blatant example of what I was trying to get at. With so many different bets (and overlapping bets) it is easier for a tipster to point to the winners. Again, this is not Graeme, this was leveled at the dodgy tipsters in general and I stupidly placed the TFA system in there when trying to make a point. To me it is like the old trick of sending out 1000 tips in the mail with 500 saying to bet on one thing and 500 saying to bet on the other, then sending a second tip to the 500 initial winners and splitting them into two groups once again. By the 5th letter you still have 62 people who think you can’t lose and will pay for anything you say. Add in social media and it would seem that this fraudster is a betting genius.

The issue directly related to TFA is the adding of the draw systems and any new systems. With these he is now covering pretty much 75% of results. If the main systems were to fail like they have this season then it stands to reason that the Draw systems are going to look like the most amazing thing ever. Now current and future subscribers are likely to jump onto these next season and if things revert to the mean they are going to be very disappointed, and Graeme can easily say that they did a bad job of choosing a portfolio. Every season you are going to have some systems producing ludicrously good ROI’s and some the exact opposite. Most people (including me) only see the upside and happily jump in and lose money. I feel the overriding goal of any Tipster is to make his subscribers a profit, that is the one and only goal, if he can do this everything else will take care of itself.

With Graemes consent here are a few of the comments from emails we exchanged before the start of the season.

I’ve attached a portfolio spreadsheet for you. I’ve incorporated the systems you’ve outlined below and just added the top two draw systems for good measure. These are systems D3-D6 and D3-D7. I would give the Euros a miss this season after the rollercoaster last season and I think your portfolio needs to be weighted towards the more proven systems like it is now.

You do have the option of just applying an arbitrary max bet but I’ve done a quick piece of analysis for you on your portfolio of bets. As you will see, the returns from following these multiple bets are very high and therefore, any max bet you apply will just reduce your profit in the long-run. Your decision at the end of the day but based on all the analysis, any cap just reduces your profit. The best bets are the ones appearing on more systems and the fact you stake these the heaviest is the way to make the most money long-term I think. Plays the biggest stakes on the biggest edge.

Hopefully this gives you what you are after mate. I like this portfolio and with the bank you have mate, no reason why you couldn’t make a lot of profit next season as long as the systems don’t go off the rails.

This is where Graeme is different from the majority, he takes the time to try and help his clients. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but as you can see, we both thought that it was a fairly good portfolio. That last sentence is very prophetic though. Up until March 19th I have now bet a total of $549,376 and lost $55,087 which is a -10.02% ROI and a loss of 55% of my bank. I did lower bets at one stage and since then have broken even.

tfaresults

Now I knew that this unique snowflake of a portfolio was massively correlated. It was either going to have a fantastic season or the one that it is actually having. I took those risks based on the past numbers and my faith in the TFA system. I was greedy and have paid for it. The lesson for me here is to understand the downside of risk. I only saw the potential upside when factoring in what to bet on. It’s easy to get carried away about all the future profit you are going to make and not think fully about what would happen in a bad season. Sure this season has surpassed all previous draw-downs, but I should have factored even these unlikely events into my final decision. I keep thinking I need to make massive amounts of profit quickly, when really I should be seeing this as a 10 – 50 year experiment. There really should have been no rush to make hundreds of thousands per year just 3 season in. But I do want to move this into something that is sustainable and allows me not to have to work.

In Graemes post he states that I was unlucky and also that the portfolio I choose was not very good. He does also say that it has not performed as well as past years. I agree somewhat. I agree that the system has not performed the same as it has in the past. I also slightly agree with the fact that my portfolio wasn’t great, but it was based of all the information that was available to me at the time and Graeme also seemed to agree it was a good portfolio. Luck on the other hand I don’t agree with. Luck goes both ways for all of us. It seems like the easiest answer when both good and bad things happen to us. I prefer to think of it as timing. I had poor timing, I did not hear about the TFA system until last year, and upped my stakes and portfolio at the wrong time.

The overriding question for me and a lot of current subscribers is if the current season is a blip or a sign of things to come? Has the market caught up or was it just one of those bizarre seasons that happen every few years? Graeme is now going to look at his current models and tweak them and it also looks like he will be adding even more systems next season. I don’t have those answers and only time will tell. What I do have control over though is if I will continue to place my money on these bets.

Even after this terrible season I still believe I can make a profit from betting on Soccer and that the best way to do that is with Graeme and the TFA systems. Finding a profit from Soccer is very important to the long term success of this portfolio, it is the biggest sport in the world and it is slightly easier to get bets on then other sports. It is also my favorite sport. But after this many seasons without much to show for it, year 5 will be the pivotal year. If I can’t make a profit from it in year 5, it will need to be removed from my portfolio.

Clearly I have no idea what I am doing in regards to picking the systems. Who better to create the perfect portfolio for me and other subscribers then the models creator? So what I am going to do for next season is let Graeme design my portfolio (if he is up for it), and then at the end of the year track it against my current one. I’m happy to follow whatever bank size, bet types and systems he feels will generate me the best return. I feel this will also help many other subscribers who also feel lost in dealing with so much choice.

We as humans do not do well with choices. We think we want choice, but in reality when given a myriad of choices, we end up wishing someone else would do the hard work of making the choice for us.

Surgeon Atul Gawande found that 65% of people surveyed said if they were to get cancer, they’d want to choose their own treatment. Among people surveyed who really do have cancer, only 12% of patients want to choose their own treatment.

Spoon feed me Graeme, take away my choices.

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  • Hejik

    Fair post Steve, you should rant more often!

    Not wanting to go over old ground, I’m sure all these ‘Tipsters’ are chuffed with life when the going is good and you’re giving them much free publicity. For them then to have complaint about the flip side when things aren’t running as planned is poor form in my opinion.

    I’d certainly be concerned about the introduction of more systems next year, as I’m really not sure you need 60 when you already have 52. Presumably at this point there would ALWAYS be a host of systems winning because you’d quite possibly be covering every result on every game in some way or other.

    Food for thought if nothing else.

  • TFA

    Hi Steve.

    Thanks for taking the time to reply and I really enjoyed
    reading your response. 🙂

    I’d love to sit here and ‘do a Skeeve’ and say you’re
    talking bollocks mate but reading your post, I couldn’t help but agree with nearly all of it. I apologised on Twitter earlier for the fact that maybe I have discussed the draw systems a little more this season than I should have done given not everyone is following them but that’s in no way deflecting attention from the other systems and their underperformance. I’ve laid into my other
    systems on numerous occasions this season and they are an embarrassment at the moment tbh!

    I said this in my original post but I think the fact I
    report on the results of EVERY live system bet I’ve ever given covers my ass a great deal. I don’t think it really matters whether I have 1 system or 100 systems as long as I report on all results. As I’ve said before and as Cassini’s league shows again this season, creating profitable football betting systems isn’t easy. The fact I seem to be able to do it season after season and with different sets of ratings and systems is what makes TFA unique but I agree that the service is now a mess with 52 live systems.

    When I started out, I would never have believed I would
    end up with 52 systems after 3 seasons of live results but the truth was, until this season, I had a golden touch with building systems and therefore, the more the merrier was my thinking! I’m a really strong believer in a portfolio approach to betting and I think that you want a very high turnover of bets with a small
    edge and the more edges you can find, the more diversification you get and so on. Hence, adding another set of systems this season looking at draws was a natural progression for me and likewise, I continue to hunt around for an edge in the Euro leagues.

    As I’ve said before, I could have stopped developing ratings
    after my first rating algorithm and my first system but as you have correctly picked up on, that would mean I’m following one set of bets. I don’t want all my eggs in one basket (I don’t know any successful football bettor or betting syndicate who does this) and therefore, if I want to get where I want to get to at this game, I need more systems, more edges.

    This is the first season I’ve followed anything other than TFA systems seriously and it’s no coincidence that I added FI to my portfolio. I watched Stew’s bets for a year and then took the plunge this season. The fact is though, I spent hours and hours understanding the correlation of our bets, how they’d perform in a portfolio with my systems and so on. My staking plan was
    such that if TFA struggled, FI could potentially fill the hole. However, if TFA did well, FI couldn’t hurt me too much.

    I said this on Twitter but if following TFA/FI over the
    last 4 seasons, you can’t lose money! In the season FI lost, I made massive profits and this season, it has been reversed. I mentioned this in my post but that your staking plan is a big issue this season for FI/TFA. I think you need to correct this next season.

    Ideally, I’m looking for 1,500 unique bets a season with
    a 3%-5% edge long-term. I thought I had taken a big step forward this season with following my Draw systems and FI but unfortunately, my other systems have killed my returns this season. However, that’s why I follow so many systems, to cover myself for this possibility. I think that’s where you need to get to with TFA/FI long-term although at the moment, you’re lumping on less unique bets with massively variable stakes.

    One thing you touch upon is the need to understand the
    downside. I’ve said this before but IMO, this game is all about controlling losses. Previously, my own portfolios have done this OK over the first 3 seasons but this season, it is an epic fail for me personally. It’s easy to make money at this game when the systems have an edge and results go your way. The issue is what happens when there is a run of poor results and this season, this is where I have gone wrong along with many others. Very few have got it as badly wrong as you have done but as you rightly say in your post and as I’ve said, I don’t think there is anything fundamentally wrong with your portfolio based on past
    performance although there is high correlation which means it is boom or bust. The fact this is the worst season I’ve had and the fact the filtering of the systems hasn’t worked well means that you’ve caught the worst of the results this season. Any other season and you’d be quids in!

    One thing that is clear is that the service is no longer fit for purpose for everyone and 52 systems is too many and the days of letting people run riot with picking portfolios is maybe not the way the service should operate. Over the first 3 seasons, it was impossible to lose money and therefore, it glossed over the fact that people created some dodgy portfolios. When every system is profitable, Stevie Wonder could pick a portfolio of systems to make a profit. The test was always going to come during a poor
    season and unfortunately, too many of you have made large losses this season.

    I’m not sure I agree that the system creator is always best
    placed to create a perfect portfolio. I’m best placed to develop a profitable system but as I’ve seen this season, I haven’t exactly done a great job with my own portfolio of TFA systems. Importantly though, I’m in profit this season and when I compare that to where you are and some others, it’s a massive difference!
    Hence, I’m better placed than you maybe but there are a lot of subscribers who have beaten my returns each season and I
    expect it will be the case again this season.

    As for Hejik’s point about advertising, I love this blog as it gives a real insight into the difficulties with making a profit at this
    game. Until this season, people joined TFA and thought it was a cashcow. Pay £180, make £5k or £10k or even £35k (;)) but it’s not always easy. I remember falling out with someone last
    season and telling them to fuc* off and refusing their renewal as they complained they only made 40% or 50% profit last season whilst others were making 100%+. I said it at the time but they didn’t appreciate just how good
    that return was. This season is a wake-up call to all of us and next season, if people renew or new people join, they will join with expectations that this isn’t easy. I’ll direct everyone to this blog so they can see what happened this season!

    Anyway, happy to do as you request and I’ll do my best to
    help you out for next season if you decide to renew. As I said to someone last night on Twitter though, if this current drawdown continues and anyone loses their betting bank assigned to TFA, I would suggest they move on and don’t look back. I would give you the same advice too mate. I would never reload my bank for any system, tipster or service myself. Earlier this season when I lost 50% of my bank, I was walking away from this if my bank went. Thankfully, that’s as close as I’ve ever come but if the worst happens here mate, walk away. Plenty of other systems and services out there with an edge on football.

    Best of luck for the next few months.

    Graeme

  • BetPreviews Thomas

    To quote Graeme “Ideally, I’m looking for 1,500 unique bets a season witha 3%-5% edge long-term. ” …surely if you’re a professional football bettor then you would expect to do a lot better.

    Personally I think there is very little edge for an analyst that runs multiple systems..focus on one…work it, refine it and make it the ultimate product.

    Sorry I din’t know you personally but I know about betting and follow a group of very successful analysts. I just don’t know how you can operate all these multiple systems and hope for long term success.

    Maybe you should read this Graeme to realize what is required of a successful system

    http://espn.go.com/blog/playbook/dollars/post/_/id/2935/meet-the-worlds-top-nba-gambler

  • Tom

    Come now, 1500 bets a season at 3-5% is the dream. You’re kidding yourself to think anything higher is sustainable long term.

  • I’m at 5240 at 2.66% with still 3 months to go for the season. Without TFA that’s 2400 bets at 6% ROI.

  • Tom

    Exactly! 6% would be wonderful, but it isn’t whats happened.

    Maybe you will keep TFA for next season and he will be great, then tipster X will be rubbish and you can say it would have been 8% if it weren’t for X!

    Such is gambling and why 3-5% sustained is the dream!

  • Agree for the most part. I do work off 2-5% as a realistic return. But if I look at just Sportpunter returns over the past 4 years they are well over 5%.
    It can be done, but you might be sacrificing ROC for it

  • BetPreviews Thomas

    I disagree Tom. He should be hitting 8% or higher. Why is that unsustainable? He is doing this as a professional and has hundreds of games to choose from on a weekly basis for 9 months.

  • It’s not his full time job. So can’t really call it professionally