I placed an equal £5 stake on 270 Premier League fixtures and monitored my results. I didn’t analyse the games for a mathematical edge, and I didn’t use any trading techniques. I simply used the Betfair Exchange to back Premier League Match Odds selections I believed were good value. I called this ‘Mug Bets — The Experiment‘.
So how did I do?
The Results Went Exactly As I Expected
It’s spooky just how accurate my prediction for the Mug Bets experiment was:
The result of all 270 bets yielded a 0.00% ROI, with the Betfair commission of 5% applied. The profit ended at just +£4.33.
Think about that for a second. After 270 Mug Bets, I was almost exactly even.
the running pnl graph of the Mug bets:
By all means check through the Week-by-week updates published here, if you find it a little hard to believe.
It’s a lot of bets. To put things into perspective, I placed the equivalent of 2 bets every weekend for 2.59 years (assuming no summer break).
► So why did I predict i’d break even to begin with? Wasn’t that a bit pessimistic?
I have faith in the efficiency of the betting markets. But I’ve never had faith in my own ability to beat those markets using guesswork alone.
Furthermore, I know from experience that if you use the betting exchange for all of your bets and remain rigid, then you stand a good chance of breaking even or losing only a small percentage of your total stake (after commission). This leaves you significantly better off than at the Bookies.
So it seemed logical — opposed to pessimistic — that I wouldn’t lose or gain much profit over a sample of 270 Mug Bets.
Breaking Even. What Does It Prove?
On one hand breaking even might prove that i’m not particularly good at highlighting value! But on the other hand, isn’t it impressive to be even slightly up after 270 Mug Bets in one of the most efficient betting markets in the world?
I think your opinion of the result depends on your expectations from ‘Mug Betting‘. I have low expectations for betting like this — so i’m pleased with the result.
Undoubtedly, what the PnL highlights is something crucial about sports betting:
It doesn’t matter if you’re winning or losing now — it matters where you’ll be in the long-run.
► You need Value to earn
With any type of gambling there’s an an ‘edge’ — usually in favour of the Bookmaker or Casino. You absolutely need a way of shifting the odds in your favour in order to earn a profit.
It’s not about “picking winners” and it’s not about luck. It’s about achieving value in every bet/wager you place, so that you will eventually come out on top. Most people simply don’t have this advantage — and most don’t fully appreciate what it means.
To learn more, read my page on Value Betting.
► I didn’t have an ‘edge’
The ‘Mug Bets E’ shows that my knowledge on football yielded no edge in the Premier League Match Odds betting market. I evidently needed a proven, founded advantage — like those on the Trademate feed, which i’m monitoring here.
Basically I just backed what I thought was value, or what I ‘felt’ was a good bet. It wasn’t smart enough. And despite the peaks and troughs of my running PnL, the overall conclusion is that I couldn’t beat the accuracy of the odds on such a liquid, busy marketplace.
► How much worse off would the Bookies have left my Mug Bets?
If i’d used standard Bookmakers I would have certainly lost money.
Bookmakers have lower odds than the Betting Exchanges. Precisely how much lower depends on the specific Bookmaker, markets, size of the odds, and liquidity/demand, amongst other factors. Reasonably speaking you’d expect the odds at the Bookies to be 5-15% lower than Betfair for Premier League fixtures.
So if we take the best and worst case scenarios within the estimated 5-15% range we have the following results:
- 5% lower: -£35.63 (-2.64% ROI)
- 15% lower: -£115.57 (-8.56% ROI)
An Important Lesson…
Something else worth learning from the Mug Bets Experiment is that you shouldn’t make assumptions on small data sets. Look at the results up until 80 bets in. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was a winning trend.
Up until 80 bets in
If I had raised the stakes here I would have convincingly lost money from the experiment. The PnL was almost entirely downhill from this point onward (apart from one enormous win when Watford beat Arsenal at the Emirates).
So this poses a problem. At what point should you raise your stakes?
I suggest that you constantly monitor your current ROI and be realistic with your expectations going forward. You’re looking to achieve 5-10% ROI, that’s all. This sample was sitting well outside my expectations, at +35.37%. That ROI couldn’t possibly hold steady. It was inevitable that the results would ‘even out’, and I predicted the downfall several times throughout the Mug Bets Week-by-week updates. Read more on this topic here.
The moral: raising the stakes after a short winning streak is very dangerous.
► But why exactly did the profit drop off?
Well, one theory I have is that I was doing a good job to begin with — but I lost my edge.
There were a number of predictions on my Best Tips For Premier League Football Betting 2016/17, which I used to support my selections. For example, I thought Man United and West Ham (relatively speaking), were hugely over-hyped by the media during the summer. I also believed Chelsea would bounce back from their poor 2015/16 campaign. These ideas helped me to find price inaccuracies in the early half of the season.
But I felt the odds were becoming increasingly sharp as the season went on. As the public sussed out the rough standings of the 20 teams, my once ‘wise‘ ideas were now held by the majority. The odds changed accordingly, and I lost my ability to identify value. I needed fresh ideas to maintain my edge — but I didn’t have them.
The other thought I had was that I was just very lucky to begin with, and variance evened itself out!
Either way, the positive start was never going to continue in that fashion.
Was I Biased Towards Spurs?
No, actually. In fact, I didn’t have enough faith in them…
Of the 27 Spurs games during the ‘Mug Betting Experiment’:
- I backed them to WIN 16 times (Correct bets: 11)
- I backed the DRAW 9 times (Correct bets: 0)
- I backed their opponents to WIN 2 times (Correct bets: 1)
The obvious downfall here is that I incorrectly backed the Draw far too many times (9). Of those instances, Spurs won all 9 times. If i’d have been more biased/faithful, then i wouldn’t have suffered a crippling -£45 loss on the ‘Draw’ selections alone.
Arguably, I may have overcompensated when it came to Spurs. I was aware that I could be unintentionally biased, so perhaps I subconsciously avoided backing them too often.
THE RUNNING PNL GRAPH OF THE Spurs RESULTS:
Based on this small sample, it looks as if I started to gain more faith in Spurs as the season went on. But I wasn’t rewarded for this — because the odds obviously didn’t have much value. This suggests the majority of others also agreed that Spurs were going to win most of their remaining games and finish high in the table.
Could I Have Done Better?
I’m convinced i’d have done better if I didn’t bet on every remaining fixture. I often found it restrictive choosing a selection from a fixture where I didn’t see value in any of the 3 outcomes. If I were ‘allowed’ to skip matches, I would have been more selective.
If i seriously wanted to improve my results and earn a profit from the Premier League betting markets, then I’d need something more than just my opinion. That’s for sure.
You may know more about football than I do, but you still need to know something more than the crowd in order to be profitable. So I hope this post prevents you from being too much of a Mug!