Friday, 18 July 2014

Starting later and finishing sooner......

One question that continually crops up in my email box every Summer when I start helping subscribers out with advice for the season ahead is around whether my ratings are as potent at the start of a season and the end of a season.

I remember covering this a few years ago after the second season started horribly in September 2011 but based on the backtested data and live results then, I didn’t think there was anything in it. I remember the same discussion last Summer after the season ended badly in May 2013 and I decided that there were so few bets in May, it is impossible to really draw any conclusions.

Roll on another season and we now have 4 seasons of live results and shock horror, yesterday, someone asked me this very question when they saw the historical results for their portfolio and the fact that September and May were not making any money for their portfolio over the last 4 seasons and therefore, should they consider waiting until a couple of more games are played in each league and stopping the season when there are two games left?

Now, before I share the updated results by calendar month, my own view remains unchanged. I don’t think we can predict when my ratings will work and when they won’t work and the same goes for any subset of bets. A few people are still licking some significant wounds after dropping League Two Aways last season as after all, with losses over the first 3 seasons, surely my ratings had no edge in that league…..wrong!  League Two Aways were the best subset of bets by far last season and a massive correction took place after 3 very poor seasons.

I think the difference between something like League Two Aways poor performance and the poor performance at the start and end of the season is that I had no explanation for the performance of League Two Aways as I admitted. League One Aways were fine, Conference Aways were fine and therefore, it was always a little puzzling that League Two Aways were loss making. I think it’s not too difficult to come up with a theory of why my ratings may not work at the start of the season (after 6 games) and at the end of the season.

Before we start trying to come up with theories, let’s see the updated results of all live system bets since inception of the service (I’ve excluded Under/Over bets as they are no longer part of the service):

 Now, I can imagine people are starting to lick their lips at this picture and will be thinking that they have an extra few weeks off this Summer as they are not starting following the bets until October but I’m not sure it’s as straightforward as this if I’m honest.

I think it maybe helps to look at the breakdown by season first and then come back to the overall results. Here’s the breakdown by season and month:

I always think it’s interesting to look at all TFA results like this as there are so many systems and different types of bets, looking at things at a high level sometimes helps as at times, you can’t see the wood for the trees.

I think the key point from this for me is the fact that every season, there has been a month or two that has been a disaster. In season 1, it was February and April. In season 2, it was September and February. In season 3, it was January and May. In season 4, it was September and March.

So, we have 2 Septembers, 1 January, 2 Februarys,1 March, 1 April and 1 May.  8 shocking months over 4 seasons.

When you look at the overall results for each month above, only September and May have been loss making over the 4 seasons. So, although February had two poor months, it has also had 2 amazing months and therefore, the overall month looks fine!

We can see September has also had an amazing month in Sep-12 but two amazingly bad months in Sep-11 and Sep-13.

May has only really had one shocking month in May-13 but apart from this, May has been OK.

Can we read too much into this?

Lastly, before we try to draw any conclusions, as we know from last season, we can’t ignore the underlying results as at the end of the day, no matter how good or bad my ratings are, they will be impacted by the underlying trends in results.

Here’s the underlying results for the last 4 seasons by month:

I think we have everything we need to start to draw any conclusions.

If I deal with the underlying results first, I think we can see that November is the easiest month of the season for the last 4 seasons based on the underlying results and therefore, it’s no great surprise to see November’s TFA results being so strong.

However, beyond this, it gets difficult to blame the underlying results for the mess we’ve seen with the TFA bets in September and May. September is not an easy month by any means but when you look at January to April, you’d have to say that all 4 months are tougher than September and yet, my ratings cope no bother in these months.

May is a funny month as based on the underlying results and the big Away bias in the month, I’d bet my systems would do great but unfortunately, this isn’t the case. I find this more interesting than September if I’m honest and possibly, there may be something about May which nullifies my ratings to a degree. Again, you wouldn’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to think it’s a motivational thing going on here but again, it’s difficult to be sure.

Overall, I’m not sure the Underlying results are to blame for the issues in either September or May and therefore, I can’t use this as an excuse.

I guess after 2,749 bets in September, it may appear to be the case the ratings have no edge in this month but I think when you know this is based on only 4 seasons of results, it’s difficult to know for certain that no edge exists.

I say this a lot with TFA but it is up to each individual with the service to determine which bets they have and whether or not they decide to start later or stop earlier in the season. I personally will be hoping the systems get off to an amazing start in September and I really hope those who don’t start placing bets then will regret their decision but on the other hand, as long as people have made the decision based on the data and their own thoughts, then no one should worry too much about September results.

I guess deep down, my own issue would be that we can see from the results that the systems have an amazing month 3 or 4 times a season. Hence, if I drop a month, this means that there is a good chance this month may be September or May and therefore, my P&L will be badly impacted for the season. On the other hand, if anyone drops September and it’s a nightmare month, I can guarantee they will have a decent season as if you can dodge a nightmare month, you should have a great season!

Is it worth the risk? IMO, definitely not and having seen these results, I may decide to play smaller stakes nearer the end of the season and I’ll be keeping a very close eye on September to see how it goes this season but I’m not sure I could cope if September 2014 ended up like September 2012 and I didn’t have any bets that month.

What do others think? Are 4 data points enough to draw conclusions about monthly performance? Do people buy into this idea that ratings may not work at the start of the season (I wait 6 games, others wait 8 or 10 games) and therefore, are they happy to sit out the first few weeks of bets?

As always, the above is my view and if September is a nightmare again, please don’t blame me. I give you the data and results, it’s up to all of you to determine what you do with it…….


  1. I would caution against altering one's approach to exclude these parts of the season. Turnover is very important, and if the system overall has a positive expectation, there's no reason to exclude particular months if the system still has positive expectation. It's notable that November and February have abnormally good returns compared to other months; the conclusion shouldn't be that there's something particular about those months causing it.

    I am not sure what metrics you use (though I do know that one of the best ones does start being reliable after 6 games), but if one follows your system they need to trust that you know how many games it takes for your ratings to start being meaningful.

    I personally might apply subjective filtering to some of the picks, especially in the latter stages of the season when motivation becomes a factor, but that is NOT something I would recommend anyone else to do.

  2. Hi Prabhat.

    Thanks for the comment. I agree completely with what you say and I personally struggle to buy into the theory that the monthly results are anything apart from variance. I guess because the worst two months are the first and last month’s means it’s easy to come up with a theory of why this may happen but like you say, do we really think the higher profits in other months mean anything? I would say no.

    As always, the great thing about TFA is that people can choose when to start following and when to stop following. I already know a couple have said they’d wait until round 9 in each league to start this season following TFA (same as when Footie Investor starts) and I guess that’s their own choice. I still hope the first two rounds are profitable for the systems though as I’ll be following from round 6 as usual.

    Good luck for the season ahead.