Perspective over Narrative

One thing that I like to provide here at Winners Win other than chat/advise/stories on betting is some perspective. This past week there’s been the World Championships in Beijing, I haven’t watched any of it as I personally find athletics to be boring. But I haven’t escaped the ridiculous narrative that Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin were engaged in some sort of morality battle where the integrity of athletics was on the line.

Justin Gatlin was cast in the role of the villain, apparently the only sportsman ever to be charged with doping. While definitely, 100% clean Usain Bolt was playing the role of the hero.

After Bolt won both the 100m and 200m this past week, his victories have been labelled “inspirational” and “athletics has been saved”.

When stories are being spun on athletics, especially sprint events, around integrity and morality that’s when we need to step in and condense the nonsense.

Gatlin’s far from the only sprinter who’s ever took performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Some of the most famous sprinters ever have been caught or at least strongly suspected of cheating. He wasn’t even the only guy running in the 100m final last week to have been caught doping! Not that I want to condone his past actions, but painting people as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in the dirty world of sprinting, considering its long history of doping offences is ludicrous, especially when it relies upon the unquestioning belief that one guy is undoubtedly clean.

Show the photo below to your average sports fan, you know what they would probably say:

Ben Johnson winning the 100m final at the 1988 Olympics

“Look at how far Ben Johnson is ahead of the other guys. You could just tell he was doping.”

Even though this is now referred to as the “dirtiest race in history” as plenty of other guys doped including the golden boy of that time: Carl Lewis.

Now show this photo to your average Joe, and guess what they would say:

Usain Bolt winning the 100m final at the 2008 Olympics

Usain Bolt! The greatest of all time. Inspirational!

Even though Usain Bolt got a bad start, and was celebrating well before the line as he had such a large lead… and still he broke the World Record at that time! And people still have such unthinking conviction that he’s clean?!

Consider that Jamaica only has a population of about 2.8 million and has produced many sprinters, many of which have taken banned substances including Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell…but Bolt is definitely clean right?

But your average man in the street will believe whatever the media has him believe, and probably won’t know about the association Bolt has with a man called Angel Heredia. Heredia worked with Victor Conte at BALCO, he was caught as a steroid dealer and user, and later testified against CJ Hunter, Tim Montgomery, Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin (yes, him), providing comprehensive evidence of PED use. In 2008 Angel Heredia legally changed his name to Angel Hernandez. Also in 2008 Angel Heredia/Hernandez gave an interview with The New York Times where he acknowledged that he had helped clients use PEDs and avoid detection. He also referred to himself as a chemist, scientist and nutritionist.

In 2009 he began working with Usain Bolt as his ‘track coach’.

What? Why would the world’s greatest ever sprinter need the services of a shady ‘chemist’ who had been affiliated with BALCO and multiple dirty sprinters? It doesn’t make any sense.

The point I’m making is that when Bolt is marketed as a 100% clean athlete, that deserves to be questioned. I tend to think in terms of percentages here and I don’t think the chance that he’s clean is 100%.  I don’t think those chances are 0% either, but all things considered the chances for me are closer to 0% than 100%.

Bush 3-Peat? Jeb We Can!

A few months ago I wrote about the UK General Election. I have an interest in politics, I find it interesting. Right now the key focus of world politics is surrounding this man:

Despite being what I would consider a joke candidate without any credible policies, this man does have some skills. He’s an expert in surviving multiple bankruptcies, and he’s excellent at generated a great deal of publicity. Although when you have a ridiculous haircut and come out with a load of racist/sexist rubbish, it’s easy to get a lot of attention.

Despite the Trump hype machine I firmly expect to see Jeb Bush emerge as the Republican candidate for the 2016 presidential election. So I was surprised to see his odds around 2.5 (+150 US) to 2.75 (+1.75). Recently the US books had him at 3.0 (+200), now he’s is down to 2.8 (+180). Even at 2.5 (+150) that’s a cracking bet.

What can predict the Eventual Nominee?

“Since 1980, the single best predictor of a party’s nominee is the number of endorsements from party elites — elected officials and prominent past party leaders — in the months before primaries begin”

 –political scientist Lynn Vavreck

Political Elites will endorse candidates that they believe can win the election for their Party. Endorsements also matter as voters can be directly influenced if they trust the judgement of their Representative/Governor/Senator etc. Plus each endorsement provides some positive media attention for a candidate.

GOP Endorse
Jeb Bush is leading the GOP endorsements

Money & Connections

Money matters. It’s a sign of a candidate’s strength and Jeb Bush has raised the most money by a large margin:

GOP Money

$120 million is an insane amount of money. Back in March Jeb Bush was asking wealthy donors not to donate more than $1 million. He had so much money he was asking people not to donate too much! By comparison Trump has ‘only’ raised $1.9 million.

Bush doesn’t just have the most money, he has the important money backing him. In December 73% of the Wall Street Journal’s richest CEOs have given him their backing.

Hillary Clinton will be the Democrat candidate, not even her latest scandal of a server-sized amount of missing emails will change that. The Republican party won’t want a political lightweight going up against Clinton, Jeb Bush is their best bet. Someone with as much/more in terms of family name, connections, power and money as Hillary.

2016: Clinton v Bush

NBA Utopia Project: Proposing the NBA Cup

I’ve been motivated into writing about something different this week, after reading an article by Daniel Leroux on a 58-game NBA season as part of the NBA Utopia project. The NBA Utopia project is platform to share ideas for how the league could work in an ideal world. Well, I’m sharing my vision for a NBA Cup…

I’m quite strict on who I consider to be a contender. Usually it’s about 3 teams that I consider as being good enough to win the title in a season. Last year I thought the title was going to one of Cleveland, San Antonio or Golden State. This year’s it’s the same 3 teams, but you could make a case for the Thunder or the Clippers to be contenders too.

According to the betting markets, there’s a 82.6% chance that the title is going to one of those 5 teams. As a reference point the top 13 teams in the NFL have a 83% chance of winning this year’s Superbowl (again according to the betting market).

The point I’m making is that for the vast majority of teams, they have next to no chance of winning any silverware this year. There’s only one trophy and only 3-5 teams’ fanbases can realistically dream of their team holding it come June.

As a gambler I like that each team plays 82 games. Hell, as a gambler I’d like them to play even more games! But as a fan I don’t want more games for the sake of it, I want more meaningful games. As the season is so long there are stretches where there isn’t much intensity in the games. Especially during the last few weeks of the regular season when certain teams have their playoff place & seed sown up and are avoiding injuries, while other teams are eliminated from the postseason and are thinking about their summer vacation (if they don’t have a new contract to play for). Around this time of year you often hear calls on Twitter to “just start the playoffs already goddamnit!”.

So, as a fan I wouldn’t mind if they played 10-25 games less. If they played everybody else just home & away that would be 58 games each, which Daniel Leroux previously wrote about. That’s more than enough games to find out the top 8 teams in each conference. What I’m proposing is setting aside about a 2-3 week period, so removing some regular season games, to have an NBA Cup.

A what now?

In most sports here in Europe there’s a league championship, where everybody plays everyone else home & away, and then there’s a cup competition; a series of single game knockout matches. In soccer, I’m sure most Americans are familiar with the English Premier League and the FA Cup, and also the League Cup (currently called the Capital One Cup). In the European basketball competitions there’s the domestic league, and during up to a week period in February; there’s a cup competition.

A cup competition provides the chance for a lot more teams to win some silverware. Team such as Atlanta, Dallas, Milwaukee, New Orleans etc have no real shot at the title. But (with some HCA) could conceivably win 5 knockout games in a row to win the NBA Cup. Even Lakers fans could convince themselves that they have at least some hope for a season!

Look at the success of college basketball. TV companies pay $10.8 billion to show March Madness as it has massive viewership. More people actually watch March Madness than the NBA playoffs. Part of the reason for this is due to the drama that a single game elimination format provides.

A NBA Cup would generate a lot of interest in the NBA as it would draw in a lot of casual viewers. It could attain the broad appeal that the NCAA tournament has.

What’s the format of this NBA Cup going to look like?

  • Round 1: 14 games
  • Round 2: 8 games
  • Quarterfinals: 4 games
  • Semifinals: 2 games
  • Final: 1 game

As there’s 30 NBA teams, 2 teams will have a bye in the first round. This could be the previous year’s NBA champions and Cup winners. If a team did the ‘double’ (winning both the championship & the cup) then the team that has the best regular season record gets the other bye. I’d like to quickly mention the prestige in winning the double, it’s usually a sign of a historically good team. Recent English football double winners include the Manchester United teams of ’94 & ’99, Arsenal of 2002, and Chelsea of 2010.

Tournament format:


Above is a suggested tournament schedule. There’s a day off in between round for rest/travel. The worst case scenario is if a team has to play 5 games in 12 days. I think the best time to have this competition is after the Superbowl, but before March Madness (both for obvious reasons). So that leaves February, the month of the All Star Game.

Like the FA cup I like the idea of a random draw, broadcast live after each round.

Accrington Stanley! Who are they?!

The remaining teams each are represented by a ball and are drawn out to determine who will play at home to whom in the next round. Imagine the draw being carried out by 2 NBA HOFers, each introduced with a montage of the finest moments from their careers…

..But a better way to get that mainstream appeal is to copy the NCAA and have the full bracket determined before the first match. That way everyone in the country can fill out a bracket and form an interest in the competition from the start. Even people who couldn’t even name one college player fill out a bracket for March Madness. It appeals to people who don’t even normally watch basketball.

Either way, home court advantage would be present until the Final 4. This is where the 2 Semis and the Final are played at a designated city over a weekend. A bit like All Star weekend, expect there’s going to be some games actually worth watching! The Saturday in between the Semi and Final could be used for the All Star Game, for players who aren’t playing in the Final.  Personally, I think the ASG is terrible and never I watch it. But some other people like it. The ASG viewing numbers are better than the average regular season game, but obviously nowhere near as popular as the NBA Finals. You could use it to fill the gap between the Semis and Final.

So would you rather keep a 82-game regular season, or would you like to see an NBA Cup introduced?

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Hello loyal readers, Flash is back! I’ve been away the past few days for a wedding. It’s been about a week since the last post, which is the limit that I have set myself between posts. Ideally I’d like to get out at least 2 posts a week.

Anyway as it’s been a while, and considering the time of year: now’s the perfect opportunity to get a short quick post about Baseball out.

Baseball’s the only sporting interest I have this time of year. Even then I don’t watch a lot of games. But I do follow what’s going on and whilst I don’t often bet on individual games, every year I’ll bet on the division winners. There’s 162 regular season games in MLB, so during the long course of the season opportunities will arise for a highly trained, patient value-seeker.


  • If there’s an over-reaction or a under-reaction in the betting market to a team going on a winning/losing streak.
  • Opposing an overrated team. They may be overrated because every man and their dog tipped them to do well (Like Seattle pre-season). Or they may be overrated as they’re a big name team, or they were very good last season.
  • There may be an over-reaction or a under-reaction in the betting market as a result of a trade or injury.

Very nice. So who’s your money on then?

AL East

New York Yankees at 2.38 (+138 US)

Currently 0.5 games behind the Blue Jays. It’s not looking good. The Blue Jays have won their last 10 games and are slaughtering opponents like diseased pigs.

AL Central

No bets in this division. I’m kicking myself for not getting on the Royals when Detroit were on top. KC are 11 games up and most bookies aren’t even taking bets on them winning their division now.

AL West

Houston Astros at 11.00 (+1000)

The Astros started the season straight out of the blocks. So I took a punt on them in a tough division. They’re currently in first place with a 2 game lead over the LA Angels. The market currently has them at 1.83 now, which implies 54.6% chance of winning their division.

NL East

New York Mets at 5.50 (+450)

I was the least happy with this bet shortly after placing it. You know when you place a bet and sometimes a day or two later you’re questioning whether you should have placed it. Perhaps I was over thinking things as when I placed it I felt it was good odds with Washington being too short as the hot favourites to win this division.

The Mets are currently up 3.5 games over the Washington Nationals. The odds are all over the place for this division: some bookies have the Mets slightly over evens, others have the Nationals slightly over evens.

NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals at 2.10 (+110)

The Cards are up 7 games over the Pirates and they are currently at 1.11, which is probably a touch too low. I won’t be hedging my position. Like the vast majority of my bets, I won’t hedge winning positions as I don’t hedge losing ones. Consistency: one bet and ride it out.

NL West

LA Dodgers at 1.50 (-200)

Considering the talent at their disposal, and the largest payroll in MLB, the Dodgers are ‘only’ 3.5 games up over the Giants. It’s the lowest price I’ve backed in these markets, but the Dodgers definitely have a better chance than the implied 67% I backed them at.

Trivia Question of the Week Fortnight

I should keep on top of this.. a while ago I asked:

Which sport is played on the largest playing field?

I wouldn’t blame you if you said AFL/Aussie Rules, that pitch is huge. But the correct answer is Polo. The outdoor Polo field is 300 yards long and 160 yards wide, slightly larger than nine football fields. No wonder they need a horse to get about!

Next question, which I’ll answer before the year is out:

In soccer, which is the only club that has won the Champions League/European Cup more times than it has won it’s domestic League?

Britain at the Bookies

These past 3 weeks in the UK there’s been a decent programme on the BBC (for a change) called Britain at the Bookies. If you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend watching it:

Either on the BBC website here. Or if you can’t have access to that because of which country you live in then you can view it on YouTube here.

The programme shows a portrayal of the British public’s relationship with gambling. One of the UK’s biggest bookies; Coral, let the makers of Britain at the Bookies into its shops and head office.

One thing that surprised me was that Coral makes around half of their profits from their Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT) in their high street shops. (After some research, apparently slot mahines make up about 70% of the average US casino’s income).

What are FOBTs?

A FOBT is an electromechanical device that allows players to bet on the outcome of various games with fixed odds. The most commonly played game is roulette. Other games include bingo, simulated horseracing/greyhound racing, and a range of slot machine games.

The minimum bet per spin is £1 and the max bet cannot exceed a payout of £500. And, of course, the “house” (i.e. the bookmaker in this case) has a built-in advantage.

Adapted from Wikipedia article on FOBTs

And they look like this:

Ugly things

Half their profits come from these machines where each & every bet you place has –EV (negative expected value). Can you believe that?!

I find it hard to understand why people actual play these games in the first place. It’s not like sports betting you may at least think you have an edge. With FOBT you don’t. You will lose money.

I believe that the general population has a need for instant gratification. Instead of placing a bet on a game, and waiting for the game to finish. A FOBT provides an instant result. A FOBT just allows a mug punter to lose his money quicker.

There is a law that states shops are allowed up to four terminals. But the has been some calls for lawmakers to step up their regulation as FOBT are perceived to be highly addictive. They have been called the “crack cocaine” of the high street (apart from actual crack cocaine I assume).

I think some of the outcry against FOBT is due to what is seen and what is unseen. What is seen is a few bookies on the high street with four FOBT in each. Seen is people walking into these shops and then putting their money into FOBTs and losing that money (expectedly considering the -EV).

What is unseen is that you can play the most popular FOBT game; roulette, online on your PC/laptop/ipad/phone without even leaving your home. There’s all manner of ways in which to lose a load of your money online, and not just by gambling.

I’m sure that they have ruined lives…hang on, I’ll rephrase that, the FOBT haven’t ruined lives all on their own. People have allowed their use of FOBTs to ruin their lives. But I believe in individual freedom. And I don’t think the government should protect people from themselves. There’s an unlimited number of ways in which an individual can make poor decisions that affects their life. Whether it’s drinking too much, smoking, losing your money gambling, watching too much TV etc.