The Betting 360 podcast is back in action and our special guest this week is Stephen from our AFL betting model.

We’re 14 rounds into the season so it’s a good time to discuss what has happened so far and of course what we have to look forward to over the next 3 months.

Punting Insights:

  • Why they believe the market is wrong on West Coast, Fremantle and Sydney
  • How West Coast’s efficiency has helped them become this season’s surprise packet
  • Why player ratings have been incorporated into the AFL model
  • How closing line value is used to measure the likelihood of long-term success
  • Some key things to consider when betting on the total points scored market

Today’s Guest:
Stephen from our AFL tips package.

Dave: How have you found the AFL season so far?

Stephen: It’s been a season of ups and downs I guess in terms of looking at performance for the year in terms of betting results. It’s definitely been an exciting one in which we’ve really seen a few teams coming to the fore that I guess we didn’t expect at the start of the year, namely West Coast in particular, and obviously Hawthorn, the juggernauts of the competition who have performed strongly in recent weeks. They’ve dropped a few games, that not many people thought they would have earlier in the year, but the promising thing, I guess, is that we’re confident going forward over this last third of the season of finals that we should be able to manage to find a bit of value is things have a lot of changes; injuries coming in and out and the stats kind of starting to get a bit more settled in our database. So looking forward to a good finish to the rest of the year at the very least.

Dave: So you mentioned West Coast as being one of the surprising teams. It’s probably three or four weeks ago now, you sent out an alert to members to get on them for the flag at around $11. Since then there’s quite a few more people that have jumped on the bandwagon, but what stood out at that stage is the West Coast being a genuine premiership threat.

Stephen: Yeah because we kind of try to get in the habit of running our future simulations every week but I think we let it go for a few weeks and we re-ran it and we had West Coast as sitting ranked second behind Hawthorn and couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw the price they were offering on some of the bookmakers. So just looking at their stats and what they’ve done this year completely blew away our expectations at the start of the year but it just … One thing we’ve around some of the measures that we create in terms to determine the strength and the form of the team is we use a couple of efficiency measures and by far and away West Coast are ranked the most efficient team on offence this year even higher than Hawthorn, which is a surprise, I guess, to most people.

So the measures that we use are inside 50s per goal and disposals per goal, so these measure how the team uses the ball around the field and the quality of their inside 50 entries. West Coast look dangerous enough up forward with Josh Kennedy leading the Coleman race and then they’ve got back Jack Darling and it makes them look even more unstoppable.

It’s exciting stuff, and as you said, we tipped them I think in round 13, so a couple of weeks ago now, at $11.00 and now they’ve come in to $6.50, so obviously the market’s responded a bit to their good form and also it moves a little bit after some followers got on, some money came for them, but they’re still rated as only number 4 in the market behind Sydney and Fremantle, so the public still isn’t 100% sold on them being a real top contender this year.

Dave: So going by game and also for totals you have your assessed price, your rated price and then you look into your overlays. In the futures, the premiership markets, so the do you actually have a probability, an assessed price for them at the moment, like how much of an overlay that is at 6.50?

Stephen: Yeah, at the moment we price Wet Coast around $4.00 for the flag and I see in the market you could get $6.50. I think I got that from Top Sport this morning and it could be higher or lower at other shops, depending on where you bet. But if I can compare say just to see the value elsewhere in the market, so Hawthorn is $2.60 favourite and we price that at about $2.50 so right on the money, but for Sydney and Freo our rated price is a lot higher than what the market is saying, so we’re not seeing any value there.

So Sydney is second favourite at $4.00 and Freo not far behind at $4.50 and we price them both around $8.00. So West Coast really the only ones that have value still in the market for us. So even though the price is a lot lower than it was when we picked it up, there’s still a bit of value left there in the market at the moment.

Dave: So with Sydney and Fremantle you’ve got them at a much bigger price that the market so a much lesser chance at winning the flag. Does that come from just the team stats they’re producing or is it the player ratings that you’ve incorporated this year?

Stephen: Yes. With our futures simulation, it’s less affected by player ratings just because it’s impossible to predict who’s going to get injured, suspended weeks into the future so we take a static view as at present, so we get our power ratings based on team stats and then project that into the future based on the team not changing at this point in time.

So if your best player goes down one week then that price isn’t really going to be accurate, but without completely knowing the goings on of future weeks is kind of the best we can do. But, yeah, this is more about team stats based as opposed to player ratings view, which is more of our week to week kind of analysis.

Dave: And how’s that gone since the first full season of having the player ratings incorporated. I’ve seen some of the write ups where you’ve said it’s the team changes that have been the impetus for this to be a bet. How’s that gone this year?

Stephen: Yeah, really strong. We’ve been running for a few years now with the team stats kind of model and so as you said we’ve been moving more starter line. At the end of last year we really started noticing the value that we were kind of not uncovering just by looking at a pure team stats point of view. In some games where the market might not pick up on it because you still have your Sam Mitchell’s and your Buddy Franklin’s still playing, but its that kind of core grade of players just below that that’s standard. It might not be the club’s number 1 player but when they lose those players it can really affect the team rating.

So a lot of weeks we’ve found teams that really below strength which they kind of base team stats off in previous weeks so I mean you’re missing 6 or 7 of your best 22, you can’t expect the historical stats to be useful because you’re starting to bring in some first gamers and some blokes have been running round in VFL or whatever, which is a completely different standard to an AFL game. So we’ve been kind of getting better at being able to see when there is an opportunity and really take advantage when there’s just a big discrepancy in there market to what we think should be the fair price.

Dave: Yeah, I noticed the weekend just gone when Hawthorn were playing Fremantle from the player ratings perspective just how many more elite and A grade players on your rankings that Hawthorn had as opposed to Freo and that’s actually the way it turned out as well.

Stephen: Yeah, I mean it’s the thing with Hawthorn, they’ve had a lot of big minuses this year and sometimes they haven’t come good because I can think of another occasion when we were on to cover the big start against Essendon and they just couldn’t kick straight, but despite that when they really fire up like that there’s really no stopping them. Freo were the best defense of the year by far, but once that Hawthorn machine gets rolling even Freo didn’t looking like scoring and didn’t look like stopping them either.

We kind of really got to see Hawthorn turn on last week which was kind of good because we’re having a few, I guess, sub par performances from them this year, namely at Essendon at Round 2 where they got done on the buzzer, and Sydney at home as well, where they went down to Sydney, so I think it would be a good test to see where they’re at now playing Sydney at ANZ this week. I think they’re a 1 goal favourite in the market at the moment, but it’s going to be … it’ll be a big ask for Sydney to stop them after what we saw last week.

Dave: How do you factor in any motivation or the emotional side of things into a quantitative model because someone like Hawthorn it seems like they’ll get up again to the best teams and show them what they can do, but I guess some of the middle of the road or bottom of tier teams are coming off back to back plays. They must just struggle to have nearly as much as motivation.

Stephen: Yeah that’s tough and Hawthorn is one of the teams historically where we have been pretty confident of backing a really big minues because moreso than other teams they never give up, they never stop playing their hearts out. That’s why you see so many times over the last few years they have put teams to the sword by almost a hundred plus on a few occasions. I think what it comes down to I guess is different teams have different win distribution, like margin of victory.

I think Hawthorn would be probably one of the ones that are to the higher end of … the longer tail of distributions, so they can beat these teams pretty regularly via a higher margin, but it is quite hard to factor in because at this stage we don’t really look at it per team approach because the data isn’t really there.
So we use data based on all teams, like a win distribution for all games played every week so in that case it kind of averages out to like a league average, which isn’t the best way to be done and there is improvements can be done there, but it’s a conservative approach and a good approximation at the very least.

Dave: And what about again with the model how do you factor in any changes to just the way the games played. I mean, there’s been a lot of talk this week about extra stoppages and stronger defences. How do you cope with those changes as opposed to keeping faith with the model that’s worked for a number of years?

Stephen: A lot of times we can’t really predict a strategy. We see someone like Western Bulldogs have just been putting a spare man in defence and their scores plummeted until the final quarter of that game against the Suns where they went gang busters, but generally like those kind of trends will come out in the stats but you just have to look for them.

So we don’t have the access to all of the fancy data that Champion Data procedures, which you might see on talkback shows and commentators at half time, used in their analysis, but we can still draw some conclusions on how efficient each team is playing and so this will give us I guess an indication of if the team is playing ineffective footy, kind of chipping around, that’ll come through in the numbers through one of our efficiency measures and that’ll come through in terms of how many scoring shots we predict they’ll to get in the game.
We do different factors of momentum, so if the team really changes strategy and takes a three week kind of … like a really new phenomenon, we can run a momentum factor that can weight the data more to recent weeks to really see how it’s affecting the numbers. And a lot of times it’s just a case where there’s too much speculation in that we think there’s a new style of play or we think there’s a factor that we’re not quite covering. We just take a conservative attitude and opt to not have a bet at all on the play instead of relying on one way or another kind of thing.

Dave: Because the style of play will affect the line bets, but also particularly the totals which I know you put a fair bit of work into and have had quite a bit of success with. So what’s your process in trying to work out whether the game’s going to go under or over?

Stephen: When it comes to totals, a lot of the edge comes through on the weather. Recently a lot of our plays have been based on reading that there’s a strong weather coming through, whether it be rain, wind or hail; some sort of element, but we have taken a few overs that have done real well, like on the weekend if you see a West Coast versus Adelaide match opening, your eyes light up; you know there’s going to be plenty of open footy and plenty of scores.

But I guess the way we look at it … say, when we’re looking at someone like West Coast, we … so I think they’re ranked second for inside 50s and they’re the most efficient with their inside 50s in terms of being able to score goals from them in the cold. If you combine that with looking at Adelaide’s defense, the match up’s look good, there are holes in their defense that can be found and just the fact that you put two kind of pretty efficient teams at the footy together and you I guess you can make a good assumption that the game’s going to be open; there’s going to be lots of running footy points scored, whereas if it’s two teams that are generally much better at contested footy and have a big number of stoppages; big number of tackles, it’s going to be generally more of a grind which is what we’ve seen from what the Western Bulldogs and Freo.

So I guess for us was really focused on finding real advantage in predicting the weather and how that’s going to affect the play, be it that there’s big rain forecast and we actually think nothing’s going to hit the game, so the over presents a lot of value or the other way round in that rain or wind might not be forecast as strong as we think it will be and then just kind of taking it under where there’s a significant chance where the games going to be affected by rain et cetera to make it a scrap.

Dave: Do you still get some good late mail from the weather bureau?

Stephen: Yeah, it’s something we’ve been trying to beef up on this year, so we’ve been doing a bit more research on how to read every aspect of the weather report using the Bureau of Meteorology and in the most cases it has been quite effective but I guess the only downside of that is if it’s a thing where we’ve kind of been releasing a few tips a few hours before the game, a real accurate look at how the weather’s going to be. Sometimes a forecast even 12 hours or 9 hours out from the jump can change so a lot of times we’re not confident on taking a bet much before that 2 hour mark before the game, especially if we think there’s going to be some sort of weather.
And it’s just to give ourselves as much time as possible because the last thing we want to do is take an over where we think there might be some rain and then 2 hours before the jump, sure enough, it’s almost a hundred percent certain that there is going to be rain and then we’re trying to bail out of our own bet, but its too late by then. I tell you, it’s really trying to I guess maximise our value by taking the bets where we know as much as we possibly can about what the conditions will be.

Dave: And speaking of value, I know you use closing line value as a metric outside of just the results of the game.

Stephen: Yeah, so closing line value is looking at the difference between the price of the line that you take in your bet and then what the line is at the close, when the bet jumps. So usually this is almost a more positive indicator of long profitability than short term betting results, just because its less subject to variance and to other factors, but generally I guess the theory is that by the time the match starts, the market should be as efficient as it would be in the whole week because the whole volume of money has come on from all your professional punters and all the sharp money.

So comparing that to what happens at the start of the week where a lot of times a few corporates like Bet365 and Sports Bet will open first and the market will be maybe 10 points off where it’s supposed to be. Pinnacle and TAB will set where the market’s going to go, so they start the week with some lower limits of one to two thousand dollars, and as the money comes on for a side it’ll just kind of start to get more efficient as the week goes on and then by game day the limits are really high; 20 grand or so generally we’ve been seeing.

Then as per volume of money comes on it’s generally its most efficient point just before the jump, so if you’re getting on earlier in the week when the limits are still there and beating the closing line by2 to 5 points, then you’re getting a serious amount of value and it should bode well to your long term performance.

So we just look at our bets for the year. We’ve had 115 bets so far and 68 of these have had a positive closing line value and 10 with a negative closing line value. So on average, we’re getting a closing line value of about 2 points on a line bet or a total bet, which is pretty good. If you’re just looking historically at games closing line value is about 5 points or more, the hit rate goes pretty high after that; above 60 percent. So it’s a promising sign and even though some of the results haven’t been there it’s good to see that we’re getting that closing line value.

Dave: Definitely. We’ll leave it there for now, Stephen. Really appreciate you coming back on the show and best of luck for rest of the season.

Stephen: Yeah, no worries and thanks for having us.

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