Stephen Green played Rugby League at a high level as a junior before working for corporate bookies and seeing how they price up games and how the best punters beat them. He knows league inside and out, watching every game while taking notes and collecting player, team, referee and weather statistics to stay a step ahead of the market. In season 2015 he made almost 11% Profit on Turnover from just over 160 bets. On the podcast he explains the work he does to find value in the NRL betting market:
- Why NRL offers great betting opportunities
- A typical week for him analysing games, keeping notes and collecting stats
- The process he goes through to find value bets each round
- The best teams of 2016 as well as two he believes are highly over-rated
Today’s Guest Stephen Green
Dave Duffield: You must be pretty excited because it’s not long now until the NRL season starts. So I wanted you to introduce yourself to the guys, just explain a bit about your background and your NRL prowess you might say. How did you get involved in NRL betting?
Stephen Green: I played rugby league growing up. I played other sports but rugby league was the one that I excelled at I suppose the most and enjoyed the most. I had a knee injury at nineteen so I quit and started looking for jobs when I was at university. One of them was a sports betting agency which leaped out at me because I like numbers and I like sports.
I worked for Canbet which was an international sports bookmaker then I moved to an Australian based one. One of their biggest sports was rugby league and it really all took off from there. That was Sports Acumen going over probably thirteen years ago now, twelve years ago. Being pretty keen on it and serious about it for a while, I suppose that’s where it all really started for me was working as a bookmaker at Sports Acumen.
Dave Duffield: That was more than a decade ago now. What did you learn on the other side of the fence? From the bookmaking side of things.
Stephen Green: The most important thing that I’ve taken away from it, one is I suppose the motivation that bookmakers can be beaten. I saw consistently punters make a living out of it and that was one lesson. There’s a common perception now the house always wins. Maybe on a roulette wheel if you’re playing … If you’ve got an edge, if you can develop an edge over the market, you can make a profit. I mean that was a motivation. I suppose the way they set the markets, what I learned all the way back then was it was actually very unsophisticated. There wasn’t really any science or maths or anything behind it. It was literally a bunch of blokes sitting around having a beer, talking about what they think the odds should be. That seemed to lack a bit of rigour.
Coming from the American experience, when I was at the other bookmaker, where things were done using pretty complex models. I thought well wait a minute, there’s an angle here where you can really professionalise this industry. That was one thing and also just that bookies aren’t really, when they set a market, they’re not even really trying to predict the outcome of the game sometimes. They’re actually trying to predict the flow of money. A dream book for a bookmaker is take hundred thousand dollars on each side at $1.90 either way and just lock in a profit. If they have that, they’re not concerned if you’re the one who realises that game should be a six point line. You take the value there.
They don’t care if you’re sneaking past and winning as long as they’re balancing their book. You might get cut off if you win too much or get chopped down in terms of your max bets which has happily, I suppose, happened to me in terms of success but also it’s a bit of a pain in the arse to get around that and find value. I suppose they were the things that I really took away from there. It’s a beatable market and that the bookmakers when they put the lines out, they’re really just trying to balance the book. While that’s sometimes similar to predicting the outcome, they really do set the market sometimes with heavily backed teams paying unders and unsupported teams paying overs. Just knowing that has also been a pretty helpful bit of information.
Dave Duffield: That was quite a while ago now. Since then you’ve taken the punt pretty seriously, but you’ve also got a corporate career in the legal profession. What’s a normal week for you during the NRL season in terms of doing the form?
Stephen Green: I’m blessed to have a very understanding wife who actually loves football herself. I watch every game every week, that’s the absolute standard if you’re going to call yourself a betting expert or something along those lines. You think you’re pretty good on the punt, you’ve got to watch every game. Which is amazing how many people don’t, even the analysts and so forth. You hear them say, “I missed that game but I still don’t think they’re playing well.” You’re like, “Well you haven’t seen the last game.
It’s a bit uninformed opinion.” I watch every game. I do my statistical analysis actually during the weekend as well. I don’t just sit there with a beer in hand, I’m sitting there with two or three computers, IPads and so forth just monitoring things and collecting stats as they go. I also take notes just on a Dictaphone of things that I think really I don’t want to forget about. Whether it’s an injury or something that could be important later in the week. Once the games are all wrapped up, Tuesday night is really the night that teams get named and the early markets are released. That’s when I usually try and make sure my stats are done. I have a pretty good idea of who is going to be playing and that’s when you can really get on with some good early money before the markets move.
I’ll then monitor the news during the week to see if there’s any news on injuries and so forth. If I think that there’s a late mail closer to kick off that I think I’ll just … I’m either more keen on an early prediction. Or I’ve got a new prediction based on ins or outs or weather or something like that. That’s kind of the course of the week. Twenty four hours beforehand I’ll have another look at each game and make sure I don’t have an opinion. It really is a seven day a week turnaround.
There’s footy on five days a week this year, Thursday to Monday. Tuesday teams get named, Wednesday pretty big day in terms of having a punt. Making sure you’ve got all your bets on and then before you know it Thursday games rolled around. I love it, but it’s a busy schedule. I’ve actually got reasonable hours for a lawyer. I’m not one of the get in at 7:00 and leave at 10:00. I’ve got pretty good hours so each night time … I don’t watch too much TV unless it’s NRL related during the week. Really sit in front of my laptop and my IPad doing my thing.
Dave Duffield: You’ve got obviously a lot of vision that you watch, articles that you read, notes that you take. Then you’ve got team statistics, player statistics. I know you track referees very closely, monitor weather conditions. How do you weight all those factors to come up with a rated price for each team?
Stephen Green: I mean that’s obviously the holy grail. When you’ve got multiple factors that all influence an outcome, weighting those factors is the key. I think the player and the team statistic aspect of it is really one and the same in the sense that I’ll build up a player rating score. Just looking at the individual players that have been named and then overlay that against more of the team stats. More of a trend based analysis so how have the team statistics been trending over the last few weeks.
The players are done basically on what is their average over, say, the last six to eight weeks. That’s another issue. You’ve got player stats but does a player’s round two performance … How much does that really matter by round twenty? I mean if a player was having a shocking start to the season, bit fat, had an injury, do you still want to be rating them having factored in what they were doing in round two? I’ve learned that basically the most important one out of all those is still the player statistics. I still really do stand by the fact that you want to know how good each player is in each team and the sum of all those.
That is the most important one then I overlay that with the team statistics to make sure that I’m not missing a bit of an upward trend. With team stats, I always look at, something which I think worth mentioning here, is I look at form in the sense that whether a team’s up in form or down in form. I’m not a massive racing expert but I know that if a horse goes from a country track to a metro track in a group one, they say he’s up in form or might win out in the sticks, but how’s it going to go in the big show? I think rugby league analysis also should take that onboard.
You hear they’ve won four on the trot but if you’ve beaten three of the bottom five teams all at home and the other one you beat was a controversial refereeing decision, just knowing okay the team’s won four in a row, I want to look at not only how many they won, how many metres have they conceded over those four weeks. How many errors did their opponents make? That team’s stats is more of a tweaking of the player stats. The player stats is telling me this but I’ve really got to factor in these team stats. I don’t have an enigma machine, a box that pops out the correct answer.
I do believe that you have to gather as much information as you can and then use your intuition, subjective analysis to work out what you think the line should be. That’s what you’re trying to pick. What is the line? What would you have? With the referees and weather – I collect them because I think they can, very occasionally, be very important. It’s not something that consistently moves my lines. But if I notice that there is a referee who is … The most important thing I suppose is that they’re a low scoring or high scoring referee. It comes down to the speed of the ruck. Some referees just love allowing short tens – eight, nine metres and the game’s very tight.
There’s not many points. That will suit certain defensive teams and maybe penalise more attacking teams. Once I identify that there is a ref that’s probably, in my opinion, not doing a great job. It’s not a matter of making bad calls, you can’t really predict that, but if you can predict the style of referee, how that will change and affect the game occasionally that’s a really important factor. The weather, similarly, it’s generally not an issue. If you do have torrential rain, the old story of a team with a good forward pack, you don’t want to be betting against that on a wet day. The pigs up the middle will probably triumph.
I mean that’s all pretty common knowledge but sometimes the bookmakers seem to not react to the rain. It’s like they don’t know that the Bureau of Meteorology exists, you can log on and have a look at the rain that’s coming before it actually happens. I think weather and referees are a much more minor part of my analysis but they still are a factor.
Dave Duffield: Let’s look at a few teams then. I’ll start with the more fancied teams. What’s your take on the Brisbane Broncos? As we chat here, they’re not far off $5 to win the Premiership.
Stephen Green: Yeah, yeah fair enough. I mean they were within a minute of full time in 2015, they were the premiers. It really was a shock, last minute try for the Cowboys. An amazing extra time field goal by Thurston that won them the competition. Broncos I think are the rightful favourites heading into this season, favourites sorry, in this season. Recruited James Roberts, I actually read today they’ve signed Richie who is a Queensland cup player so he’s never played NRL but big wraps on him. He was moving to Sydney to play for West but Brisbane have pulled off a late minute coup.
As they seem to do with their never ending salary cap, no offence Broncos fans I love you but you do seem to always have a pretty damn strong team. Broncos are the pick of the bunch, great team to watch. Cowboys, their opponents, I think a grand final rematch, as much as it isn’t a very bold prediction, is probably the most likely outcome out of all the teams. The one that’s knocking on their door on paper, although their trial form was pretty awful, the one trial game they got smashed, is the Warriors. New Zealand, they’ve really bolstered their squad with Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke.
They effectively have the New Zealand team spine and some key forwards. The New Zealand team are the current number one team in the world. Surprisingly they are ahead of Australia whether you agree with that or not is another issue. When you’ve got nearly the national team that’s the best in the world, the key players playing for the Warriors, the only ones that aren’t are terrific players in themselves. Ryan Hoffman and so forth. I really think that once they … If they can get their mental side of things in order, they’ll be very hard to beat this year. It would not surprise me at all to see New Zealand win their first ever Premiership.
Dave Duffield: What about the Manly Sea Eagles?
Stephen Green: Manly, Raiders and Eels are all very similar in my book. In the sense that the squads have all undergone pretty dramatic transformation in key positions too in the last year, or two years, but in particular the last twelve months. Manly, I’ve actually got them a little bit more lower ranked than a lot of people do. I think people rave on about Martin Taupau, Nate Myles. They’re heavy hitters.
They’re big guys, they’re tough but, this is where my system I think sometimes gives me a bit of an edge, is that Nate Myles hasn’t played two good club games in a row for about three years. I mean he gets picked for Origin because he’s hard as nails and he adds something there but his error rate, his penalty rate. Some of their recruitments, Manly, I’m not as keen on as I think the general perception is. Though their back line is, as always, pretty amazing. I’m not massively keen on them. I wouldn’t be surprised to see if they’re on the edge of the eight. The Raiders and the Eels, however, their recruitment has actually been very strong. I think they really have now nailed the players …
They’ve perfectly suited the players that they’ve got. I actually think both of those teams are smokies for potentially a top four. You can get about $7 on the Raiders to make top four. They’ve got the easiest draw of the year. Another thing I do is do a pretty detailed draw analysis so looking at who … They don’t play … They play the top eight teams once each I think. It’s quite remarkable, they don’t play any of them twice. The top eight teams from last year. The Raiders if they can get their home record back up, last year it was atrocious, but long term it’s pretty good. If they can get that back up, I think they’ll be top eight team. You can still get decent money about that.
The Eels also I think will be a top eight team. They really could actually threaten with Michael Gordon, Kieran Foran and some really experienced top rated players coming. I think we’ll see a really competitive Eels side this year. Their game against the Broncos in a week’s time will really, I think, be the test. I think people will wake up and say, “Wow. This Eels team is a contender.” That’s my picks for the smokies,, top eight and so forth.
Dave Duffield: Is there a team that you think is definitely overrated?
Stephen Green: Yes, massively. It’s already gone in the sense that the price that you could get on the Roosters to really bum out this year, only a couple of weeks ago you get a 100/1 on them to get the most losses.$3 on them to miss the top eight, I got on all these. Even before the infamous Mitchell Pearce dog issue, they had lost Maloney. They had lost Tuivasa-Sheck, Boyd Cordner and Waerea-Hargreaves are out for the first ten weeks. Their two best forwards in my opinion. Now with Pearce, you’re looking at five-eight, half back and full back gone. Sorry Michael Jennings has gone per-season, their gun centre. They’re in all sorts of trouble. Actually even before this happened, I had them missing the eight, I really think now, that until first year rounds, I think there will be a bit of money to be made against betting against the Roosters. I think the market will click pretty quickly.
I think it’s blindingly obvious. It’s really just people can’t accept that the Roosters, who have been one of the most successful clubs over the last three years, are now really going to struggle. I also think that Souths are slightly overrated. Sam Burgess coming back has got everyone excited. Amazing player but they also did lose players. Their squad’s not as strong as it once was. The team that won the grand final doesn’t look anything like this team now. Lots of changes. I think Souths and Roosters you could make a bit of money. Souths play Roosters round one which isn’t great because I would like them to have been playing two lower ranked teams. They will probably be getting one of the lower ranked teams as outsiders. I think Souths will be far too good but then after that, I think betting against Souths and Roosters for the first few weeks could prove quite profitable. I’ll have to see what odds the bookies go after round one there but they’re the two that I’m least keen on. I think they’re highly overrated.
Dave Duffield: You’ve touched on round one there. Round by round, throughout the season, how many bets would you normally have each week?
Stephen Green: If there is an occasion where the bookmakers just have it spot on, I really don’t force a bet. I think you’ve got to be disciplined and sometimes walking away is the best way to not lose money. I mean there is still, on your average week, there still is four or five good propositions a week. Some weeks it’s actually up to seven. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bet on every game but I have had seven bets in a week. The lowest I’ve probably had is maybe one or two on very rare occasions. I mean whether it’s a line, head to head or even a total points market, out of those three core major markets, there’s usually some value to be found. I’d say on average four to five a week.
Dave Duffield: One of the reasons for you coming on the podcast was for the guys to hear from someone that does very well on NRL. Obviously the other purpose was just to introduce you to people that might be interested in a membership package. You’re aboard with us this season replacing Scott Woodward, who has got a contract with an NRL team and I’m really excited about what you can contribute. You’ll basically be previewing every game of the round and then, as you said, four or five of the best bets each round. We’d be hopeful that you would be hitting somewhere pretty close to 60% on those.
Stephen Green: Yeah. Certainly that’s kind of how I’ve tracked over the last few seasons. I’m very excited about the opportunity. I have done subscription services on my own in the past. It’s a really good challenge and I think it actually helps me because it really does make me more disciplined and methodical. I’m very excited. I think 60% win-rate is very achievable. Hopefully I also, along with just the bread and butter four or five standard bets, sometimes believe that there is some money to be made in some of the exotic markets.
You can’t get too much on, but every now and then a 30/1 ot 50/1 shot on some of the exotic markets can be value. I mean one, just a random example, first try scorer players in the wet. There are some front rowers, they price all front rowers pretty similar, 50/1 where some front rowers haven’t scored a try in four seasons and other front rowers have scored three or four tries a season. Every now and then if I see that Aaron Woods from the West Tigers has scored multiple tries and multiple forms of the game is being priced at 40 ot 50/1, a small quarter of a unit bet on something like that, you can bet on those markets. You can therefore win quite a bit if you do land it. As well as the major core bets, I wouldn’t say these are fun bets but they’re more exotic. I’ll explain my rationale as the season goes on as to why I think some of these are value.
Dave Duffield: Excellent all right. Once again welcome aboard. We’ll answer a lot of the members’ questions in another forum but all the best for season 2016.
Stephen Green: Thanks very much David.
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