Michael Pryde is a full-time professional sports punter focusing on major sports like baseball, basketball and football. He has developed models that run simulations on each game to find the team most likely to win the game (or cover the spread). When those projections differ to to the market, they become value bets. Listen to this week’s podcast or read the full transcript below for a number of valuable pointers for sports punters.

Punting Insights You’ll Find:

  • How he progressed from a keen amateur to full-time pro
  • Why it’s important to maintain a flexible mindset
  • The best betting options for maximum returns
  • Why big liquid markets present massive opportunities

Today’s Guest: Michael Pryde – Sports Predictor Model

David Duffield: Good to have a chat with you Michael. You’ve been with us for a little while, but never been on the podcast, so it’s good to talk. Why don’t you just explain to the guys a little about your betting background and they might soon find out you’re not an old grizzly veteran, but just run us through your background as a sports punter.

Michael Pryde: I’m one of six boys, so sports and gambling’s been pretty much my childhood. Yeah, there’s always been an interest there for sure. About four years ago, my older brother Matt and myself were interested in trying to find a way to find an edge with the AFL and NRL in Australia and after trying for about a season, we found that there’s kind of like a lack of stats and fixtures to develop a long term edge.

I mean, that’s not to say that there aren’t guys out there who have success, because I know there are, but using the statistical approach that we do, it wasn’t really a vital option. Then we kind of looked into the American sports and found that the multitude of stats available and fixtures suited us perfectly. It was from there that we developed an algorithm to take on the kind of the Vegas bookies. That developed over about a period of about six months, so yeah.

David Duffield: And then amongst that period of learning and experimenting, I think you started some actuarial studies. Do you just want to explain what they are?

Michael Pryde: Do you mean personally I started it?

David Duffield: Yeah, I think it’s a fairly dry subject but it’s one that has some points in common with what you do on the sports.

Michael Pryde: Yeah, personally I was studying actuarial studies at UNSW in Sydney and I mean, they don’t really look at sport, but a lot of the foundations from that, pretty much all the foundation from that helped with this and it was kind of like a unique balance with the actuarial side and mathematical side to the sporting kind of life that this family is. It was a really good mix, kind of turned into what it is now. My older brother Matt, studied engineering as well, so he’s got a really extensive mathematical background as well.

David Duffield: Because as an actuary, you’re basically using data to access the likelihood of an event happening, often for insurance companies and the like.

Michael Pryde: Yeah, businesses and companies and models, the whole idea is to find out whether a system or model is going to work in the business world. This is kind of applying that to the sport team world. A lot of the ideas are carried right through into both kind of fields.

David Duffield: With the American sports, like you said, the bonus is there’s just so much sport played whether it’s the amount of baseball games per day or college football on a weekend, and NBA every team plays eighty odd times. So the opportunity’s there and you can also get a decent bet on so there’s a couple of big bonuses, but in finding a model that works, you’re trying to beat a fairly efficient market or very efficient market. How do you go about testing your theories and seeing if you’ve got an edge to do what you need to, which is achieve a solid profit?

Michael Pryde: Well at the start of every season, well a long way before every season, we assess every team, every team in every sport and we look at key stats, historical data, trends developing within the leagues and the individual teams. So we have a good base to every team and then from there, as the fixtures become available, we match up team vs team and we don’t look at the market before hand, we just kind of match them up and develop our own market and from there look at the real market and compare where we think we have an edge and where we don’t. We do that over a very long season with a lot of games.

David Duffield: You mentioned that there’s an algorithm, but it’s effectively a simulation program that you run where you match up the run through, I don’t know if it’s thousands of times, but just tell the guys how that works.

Michael Pryde: Yeah, so we have a simulation which spits us out a probability of an event happening, so for the basic market of head to head, it gives us a probability of team A beating team B and then in terms of the line, obviously team A to beat team B by minus three, or four or more, whatever. That’s where we kind of get a probability and from there we can compare those to the odds and obviously a two dollar market is a 50/50, so when we feel as if we’ve got an edge over the market, that’s where we take it.

David Duffield: What about even before that stage, when you’re in the research, modeling, testing phase, how do you test certain theories and then how do you put those all into one all encompassing algorithm?

Michael Pryde: That’s what our algorithm does. It does kind of amalgamate all those stats. I mean, that is our system. We have the ability to have an algorithm which can simulate the probability of something to happen vs obviously not to happen. It’s literally just gathering key stats and obviously for every sport, the stats are different and that’s a part of trying to evolve week to week, day to day and that’s how it works.

David Duffield: You’ve been doing this full time for a while? Obviously your brothers are involved on a part time basis, but you’ve been doing this full time since some period last year?

Michael Pryde: Yeah. I’ve been doing it full time for about eighteen months now and we’ve been doing it for about, coming up to about four years. Obviously at the start it was a lot of trial and error but we’ve been doing it for about four years and probably about three and a half of those years, we’ve been doing it, I mean I haven’t been full time but we’ve been doing it full time, outside of jobs and stuff.

David Duffield: It’s been your sole focus for what, 18 months?

Michael Pryde: Yeah, we’ve had it full time, I’ve been full time with this for 18 months

David Duffield: What do you consider your strengths to be? How do you, I’ve mentioned before it’s an efficient market, it’s not like a maiden race at Bendigo where there can be some cheap or softer pricing. If you’re talking about NFL head to head, the line’s pretty much bang on, so how do you find value there?

Michael Pryde: One of our strengths is literally the magnitude of betting that we have at our disposal. I mean, whilst we do respect that the markets are really efficient and tight, the fact that there’s, as you said, there’s eighty games a year per team in the NBA and there’s over 2,500 fixtures a year in the Major League Baseball, and within every game there’s three or four markets so we feel, and we’ve proven, that there’s ways to get an edge over those markets, day to day. Also, the nature of betting allows for a lot of trends to develop within the betting markets.

David Duffield: So you’ve done the research, the modeling, you’ve run through the simulations for the upcoming games, then it’s a matter of who and how you’re going to bet, so is most of your action with Pinnacle Sports, the big offshore bookmaker and Matchbook? Is that where most of your turnover goes through?

Michael Pryde: Yeah, so Matchbook’s better in terms of the odds you can get, but Pinnacle – I mean their limits are huge. I think it’s $50,000 per NBA head to head bet, so I mean I think if you’re betting that much, you’re doing pretty well. But they have the reputation of not cutting off their punters, in fact they welcome successful punters because they can use their tips to manipulate their own markets. They are two of the bookmakers we use and yeah, they’re the two best.

David Duffield: Do you just want to explain Matchbook, because a lot of guys would never have bet with them before?

Michael Pryde: Matchbook’s a company which they offer the best odds in the world I think. In a lot of the markets they do because their line betting’s $1.99 usually each. I mean, that’s pretty much spot on so they’re quite good. You won’t get the limits that you would get at Pinnacle with Matchbook, but they are very, very good.

David Duffield: It’s along the lines of Betfair as a betting exchange.

David Duffield: Obviously it varies by season, but how many bets would you have in a normal month?

Michael Pryde: We usually have about three to four a day, so about seventy to eighty a month. Obviously, depending on the season that changes, during some of baseball season there’s only the one sport whereas coming up to October, November, December there’s both college sports, NBA, NFL, European soccer, so there’s a lot going on. It varies from day to day, but about three to four bets a day.

David Duffield: Typically, the staking’s around about two and a half units, about two and a half percent of your bet?

Michael Pryde: Yeah, that’s spot on.

David Duffield: I’ve spoken to some people in the past that do the sports, the US sports and it’s just data, data, data and they do OK from data mining and number crunching. Is there any subjective input, obviously you have a passion for these sports but does that come into it at all in the way you approach the modeling and the betting?

Michael Pryde: No, not at all because I mean, that was our problem when we tried to do the NRL we were trying to back the Knights every way and that was never going to work, but the thing with the American sports, I mean, we follow them, but we don’t barrack for any teams and as such, when we’re matching up the teams day to day, it’s literally team A vs team B. We have no emotional or any sort of bias toward any team. It’s a very objective sort of system, we feel that’s the strength because we can’t be manipulated emotionally into making any bets.

David Duffield: From some analysis we’ve gotten just recently over the last 18 month period, there will be a very slight tightening of the plays in terms of the, I suppose the probability that your algorithms come up with the ones that were closest to the borderline, were only marginal, so we’ve basically eliminated those which is maybe between five to ten percent of the plays. It wasn’t a massive amount, but they weren’t contributing at all so we’ll just have it slightly tighter and that way the strike rate and the ROI will improve.

Michael Pryde: Yeah, definitely. I think that’s one of the most important things about sports, but any sort of betting, you’ve always got to be willing to change and keep up with, and be able to manipulate your, not manipulate your system but be able to change your system with the times and I think it’s very important that, we’re always looking to improve and this, right now, as you’ve said, we’ve cut down on our bets, about five or ten percent of our bets and that will increase our wire and profitability.

David Duffield: Excellent, well, it’s a pleasure to have you on board, because I do like the NFL and the NBA, I’ve even learned to like the baseball, it’s been a pretty solid season. With Foxtel and obviously all the coverage on the internet these days, it’s real easy to track the games so it’s a nice diversification outside just the pure racing, harness and dogs portfolio.

Michael Pryde: I know, it’s great. The sports are so popular, it’s really easy to get on and follow.

David Duffield: Good stuff. All right. Thanks for chatting with us today Michael. If anyone wants to ask any questions or get any more information, they can just fire in a comment on the blog and we’ll respond to that straight away.

Michael Pryde: Okay, cheers Dave.

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