Thursday, 29 December 2011

a possible answer

A possible technical explanation via BetAngel.

I remember several years ago when the site crashed when the bet ID reached an overflow number - worryingly, it was a customer who picked it up rather than any of the techie brains trust. Slightly different here being on the stake, a figure which is input by customers, and concerning too. Best theory I've heard of why it happened. And by christ there are some bloody stupid ones out there!

the verdict - never going to be anything other than void

Now that we've all had a little time to sit back and think about what happened at Betfair today, here's why I think it was entirely the right decision for them to void all bets. I did not have a financial interest in the race, and like it says up in the top corner, I am an ex-Betfair employee - but I hope neither have any bearing on my position on this.

The punter's biggest lament with bookies is when they cry 'palpable error'. Having worked both sides of the counter, on the whole, I don't have a problem with this rule - when there is no doubt an error has been made, by whatever reason. Do unto others as they would have do unto you. I have no sympathy at all for punters bitching and moaning on forums when they identified an obvious mistake with a bookmaker, and tried to put their life savings on it. Those guys have the moral code of John Terry or Ryan Giggs, and some might say the gene pool would be better off without them. When it does hit very thin ice is when bookies roll out the palpable error rule when it isn't blatant - when a reasonable person would struggle to differentiate between the right and wrong offers. Online bookies in offshore havens such as Malta or the Caribbean have been known to do this, and put a blight on the industry worldwide. The punter's comeback will be that they have no form of a comeback if they make a mistake - which is untrue. Every betting firm allows the customer to confirm their bet - it's there for a reason. Betfair (and other exchanges) are the only companies I know that allows the punter to switch off this confirmation - but that is not the default setting - if you switch off the option to confirm all bets, then you are stuck with what you enter.

There is no doubt whatsoever that this was a technical glitch of the highest magnitude. Occasionally you see lumpy bets with some joker trying to spoof the market, but nothing of this price or size. This offer was so big, it barely fit on the screen for most people. And the race comments from AtTheRaces tell us that the price was always way out of line as well:

held up towards rear, headway into 3rd before 3 out, travelled best to challenge entering straight, soon led and shaken up to assert before last, kept on well run-in, comfortably

Now it's drawing a long bow to suggest everyone would recognise it was a wrong price, after all, with no bookmakers with automated systems betting in-running, there is no 'right' price - it all comes down to opinions of individual punters. But, this wasn't a 10/1 shot, it was the second favourite which started at a Betfair SP of 2.96. For it to hit 29, it would need to be hard-ridden early and going backwards, with the favourite looking very strong.

In combination with the eight-digit offer, so big that the price never moved despite Voler la Vedette winning by 4 3/4 lengths, even a first-day novice would realise something was seriously wrong in the market.

Betfair's biggest problem in all of this is that the firm, in the UK at least, have sunk to an all-time low in popularity. Everything they do is seen as part of an agenda to screw punters for every penny they can get. Sure, as a start-up evolves into a multi-national corporation, then its values have to change - but it is the relationship with its customers which has faded severely: once regarded as welcome friends joining a cause against those 'evil' bookies, now seen as numbers with wallets which should be drained as efficiently as possible. Back in the old days (circa 2005), a site outage during a key period would result in compensation for everyone, such as a commission-free day. When was the last time you can recall a commission-free market? Such offers these days might cost a lot more... but so is a PR disaster like this one. It was pointed out that the company value of Betfair lost more than the £23m in question between 1400 and 1630 when the stock market closed today. Tech glitches which cause bets to be repeated, or you don't know if they have been matched for several minutes, races not being turned in-play on time, site going down at crucial times.... these are all major issues which piss punters off big time, and it's not as if they are unique. Compensating customers might be costly - but hiding behind the Ts&Cs every time really kills the trust factor from punters. (Yes they often will compensate individuals who complain, but it often seems quite selective on when and to whom).

Cynics will point to this scandal as being an 'obvious' sign that Betfair are trading in their own markets. I don't see that at all. Yes, there is a cross-matching bot involved, that is stated in the market rules, but it could have been any account with a bot (trading programme) which went haywire. To me (a non-techie with a reasonable knowledge of how the system worked a few years ago), it looks as if the liability cap failed in conjunction with the account balance on a single, largely automated, account. You might ask why they both failed - it's possible (in my mind at least) that the liability cap overrides the account balance (if checked elsewhere in the system), in an effort to remove redundant code and reduce transaction time.

Betfair have no bet confirmation option internally, apart from the checks performed on each bet. Of course they can't manually check every bet which goes on the site (nor can a bookie offering 100s of markets in-play) - so the safety net of the option to void has to be there. In an ideal world, that control would be placed in the hands of an independent body - but with financial authorities being shown as being asleep at the wheel before the financial crisis, would that genuinely make us feel any better?

Re why did it take so long to make the void decision if it was so clear-cut? The decision to void bets worth over £20m couldn't be taken lightly, and at this time of year, it is likely that key members of staff weren't in the country, let alone the office. It's not the decision of the graduate in Market Operation to make that decision - senior management would make the call. Also, being a listed company, it was probably deemed necessary/appropriate to wait until after the market closed at 1630 to make the announcement.

To the punters concerned, this void all in-running bets ruling will suck - but let's face it, most of them were well aware of what they were doing - if not initially, then certainly by the end of the race when there was still £20m or so available to back on Voler La Vedette at 29. But if Betfair had enough customers to take all of the offer, leaving someone with a liability of nearly £600m, do they honestly believe forcing them to pay up, effectively sending the company bankrupt, would be the best policy? What if it was another firm which didn't have strict rules on segregating client funds? Would you be happy if a legal challenge forced the company to go bust, taking remaining client funds with it? Thought not. There's no way known a customer would cough up on that debt if it was a technical glitch which caused it, and if it was owned by a billionaire, they'd lock this up in a court case which took years to settle. Remember, if you want all companies to be liable for episodes like this, then expect commission rates/overrounds to increase severely to cover it. You can't have the cake and eat it too.

A legal challenge is expected to be mounted, but I can't see it winning. Betfair might see value in settling out of court, but that would require an attitude change from them.

For Betfair - how do you fix the acidic relationship with customers now?
Invest heavily in solving the tech issues.
Be generous with compensation - no reasonable person expects you to pay the full amount here, but customers and investors need to see you are serious about solving the problems and mending the damaged relationships with customers.
Stop treating your most loyal customers as cashpoints who need to keep paying for the service - if they win, they have to keep paying the premium charge, they shouldn't have to wear avoidable errors through system failures.
Stop trying to be just another bookie - the reason most people joined is because you offered something different.
Put customers before profits for a change - it costs far more to acquire new customers than retain the old ones, if you look after what you have, the profits will take care of themselves.

And as I said in a tweet yesterday - this is about the 17th own goal that Betfair have handed to Betdaq - will they ever cash in on one?

Feel free to make comments below...


Further Betfair explanations:

In response to a number of customer questions on this matter, we would like to clarify that the account in question has no commercial relationship with Betfair other than being a customer.

Further update to 2pm Leopardstown race

Firstly, we would like to re-iterate that anyone betting in-running in yesterday’s Leopardstown race clearly received a very poor customer service and betting experience. We apologise once again for this.

We have identified the issue and replicated it in a test environment last night. A fix was applied overnight, and is now subject to rigorous testing. A further update on this will be made today.

Contrary to some media speculation, we can confirm that all in-running bets on this market would have been voided, had Voler La Vadette won or lost. There was never any chance of the account in question profiting yesterday. The account in question was also immediately suspended after the Leopardstown race.

There has been some criticism from customers, and in the press, that Betfair took too long to void. Quite simply, we made the decision after we were in full possession of the all the facts and input from the relevant internal departments. A decision was then made to void in accordance with our terms and conditions.

We will update when more information is available.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

All bets void

No great surprise from Betfair, will analyse further later...
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

It's all gone Pete Tong at Betfair!

The Christmas Hurdle from Leopardstown, a good Grade 2 race during the holiday period. But now it will go into history as the race which brought Betfair down.

Over £21m at odds of 29 available on Voler La Vedette in-running - that's a potential liability of over £500m.

You might think that's a bit suspicious, something's fishy, especially with the horse starting at a Betfair SP of 2.96. Well, this wasn't a horse being stopped by a jockey either - the bloody horse won!

Look at what was matched at 29. Split that in half and multiply by 28 for the actual liability for the layer(s). (Matched amounts always shown as double the backers' stake, never counts the layers' risk).

There's no way a Betfair client would have £600m+ in their account. Maybe £20 or even £50m from the massive syndicates who regard(ed) Betfair as safer than any bank, but not £600m. So the error has to be something technical. However, rumour has it, a helpdesk reply (not gospel, naturally) has implied it wasn't a Betfair issue.

I would be extremely surprised if this race was paid out in full - if it is a massive customer Betfair have offered credit to (has been offered in very selective cases), then the customer is quite likely to argue technical error that Betfair should have blocked and refuse to pay up. As mentioned above, I severely doubt it's a customer/syndicate with that much in cash reserves, and the other point to remember is that Betfair TSE Ltd are now under the regulatory control of Gibraltar authorities, who don't have a history of putting the punter first. Betfair aren't the kind of company who will take the whack on the chin if it was an internal balls-up, and £23m will make a serious dent into their all-important share price.

Almost 40 mins later, and the race hasn't been settled. I doubt it will for a while yet either.


Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Bravo Italia

I am enjoying the arrests and ongoing investigations into Italian football matchfixing - it has been a long time coming, and for a country so entrenched in corruption, organised crime and simple acceptance of both, it has been heart-warming to see they are finally getting the message. If Italy really wants to be regarded as one of the premier football nations of the world, then it's time it cleaned up its act. Former Atalanta captain Cristiano Doni has admitted betting on fixed matches, only because it was his team set up to win. He is one of 16 players to have been arrested just before Christmas.

But the best gesture of the week goes to Italian national team coach, Cesare Prandelli. He will reward the player who blew the whistle on match-fixing, Gubbio defender Simone Farina, with an invitation to train with the national team. Prandelli is intent on improving the image of Italian football, suspending any player from the national team who has been disciplined for unsportsmanlike conduct at club level, and any player who gets into trouble off the field. I wonder how Fabio Capello feels about that policy....

Match-fixing whistle blower to train with Italy

ROME (AP) -- Italy coach Cesare Prandelli is planning to reward the Italian match-fixing whistle blower by letting the previously little-known Gubbio defender train with the national team.

"It's a way to thank him and underline what he represents,'' Prandelli told Italian daily La Repubblica on Friday. "He didn't just show courage, he also showed extraordinary inner strength.''

Last month, Simone Farina was approached and offered ?200,000 ($260,000) to influence the outcome of an Italian Cup match between Cesena and Gubbio on Nov. 30. The player refused and reported the incident to the police, and when the news broke alongside the arrests of 17 people across Italy on Monday, Farina was hailed as a hero.

Judicial officials said Monday that Farina was approached by his former teammate from Roma's youth system, Alessandro Zamperini, who was among those arrested.

The money Farina might have received would have been more than double his salary.

"Gestures like that don't come easy in the lower divisions,'' Prandelli said. "Now it's up to us not to abandon him.''

Saturday, 24 December 2011

additions to Idiots of the Year awards

How could I forget some of the bozo government bodies who allegedly police the industry for the protection of punters?

Jobsworths of the Year

Three-way tied effort between the ACT Gaming and Racing Commission, the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority and the racing stewards of Western Australia.

The ACT Gaming and Racing Commission awarded a sports and racing betting licence to SportsAlive, and under the terms of the licence, were supposed to monitor them very tightly, to ensure the protection of punters. This blatantly did not occur and like a typically useless government department, they have washed their hands of any blame. As an accountholder of the now defunct bookie, I have received a list of creditors of the company - it is long and ugly. There's sweet FA hope of the serious punters receiving any more than a few cents in the dollar (another bookie has picked up the tab for the little accounts, obviously hoping to pick up a lot of fish on the cheap). Since very few of the firm's clients would have resided in the piss-ant little territory of the ACT, the Commission's obvious first concern was tax revenues and not the sanctity of punter funds.

The Gibraltar Regulatory Authority followed a similar ethos, protecting one of their resident companies ( over the rights of winning punters in this racing sting. Now, I'm not a great fan of racing 'coups' - to get it all together on one day means they must have stopped horses from performing on their merits on previous occasions. How else do you get the odds you need to launch a sting? But, it is not the job of a licensing authority on a tax haven to declare such efforts illegal. The British Horseracing Authority declared no rules of racing had been broken. UK betting shops of BetFred paid out on the races in question, but the online division chose to weasel out of paying, under the protection of the GRA. Despicable.

The racing stewards of Western Australia ruined a great Railway Stakes race this year by taking the race off the Kerrin McEvoy-ridden He's Remarkable and awarding it to the second horse, Luckygray, based on a protest lodged by connections of the runner-up. There is no doubt the winner caused significant interference when leaving the fence on the turn. But the problem is, he interfered with one horse, Waratah's Secret (finished 4th) who then affected Ranger, the favourite, who finished well back. Luckygray, if anything, benefitted from the interference as it created space for him.

You might consider this a bit odd, but I backed the winner and was not that surprised to see him lose on protest. If a horse causes significant interference in order to win a (major) race, I have no issue with the race being taken off them. To only allow horses which finished close to the winner the right to protest actually encourages the rough rider to flatten a rival or two, putting them completely out of the race - winning by cheating. There was a prime example in the 1996 Golden Slipper, when Greg Hall riding Merlene, knocked down half the field in order to win the race. Hall received a massive suspension and fine, one of the biggest ever handed down in Australia, but he was riding for one of the richest men in the country - it didn't cost him a cent.

The problem in the Railway Stakes case is that there is no rule in Australian racing that gives stewards the right to disqualify based on greater interference as I've described above. They can only look at the direct interference between the horses involved in the protest. The NZ horse (the winner) was robbed, the WA racing stewards have invented a rule to award the race to the home town runner, Luckygray.

Also, another prime contender for Hypocrite of the Year award deserves to receive the award in the individual category.

John McCririck.

I really don't understand why this guy is so popular in the UK industry. He is a hideous advertisement for the sport - patronising, sexist, acts like a clown, rants and raves without any facts to his arguments, and sticks his head on TV every time a controversial incident in racing appears. When the whip rule controversy emerged, he well and truly bit the hand that feeds him, calling HIS sport barbaric, and pandering to the tabloid press which loves seeing racing getting kicked. No other sport or industry would put up with a dickhead like this. His pathetic calls of 'they knew' every time a horse wins lead the casual fan to think the game is fixed. There is talk of several racecallers being under pressure to retain their positions. If only the 'pundits' had the same examinations going on...

Friday, 23 December 2011

Idiots of the year awards

Following on from earlier in the week....

Corrupt Bastard of the Year: It can only go to Sepp Blatter.

When faced with allegations of corruption, what do you do?
1. Get the accuser, and main rival, kicked out of FIFA because he is either as rotten to the core, or the only one who isn't, so therefore he must be removed.

2. Sacrifice an entire region (CONMEBOL) because they hold little power and blood must be shed, despite them only following the examples of their peers. CONCACAF is seemingly several times more corrupt but they hold far more power in FIFA voting ranks.

3. Hold an election where the ballot paper has only one name on it. Not even Kim Jong-Il (RIP) was vain enough to do that.

4. Go to the most corrupt country in the world, Zimbabwe, and lecture players about the evils of match-fixing and how any players caught being involved in corruption should be severely punished.

5. Blame every allegation against you on being a fabrication of the British media, who bear a heavy grudge against losing the bid for WC2018.

6. Make a big song and dance about bringing in a corruption investigator...then not allow him to investigate anything in the past.

And then there's the ludicrous 'shake hands and it will all be better' response to racism.

Clueless Sports Body of the Year:

The ICC, for their quest against spot-fixing making headlines around the world with the gaol sentences for Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif, Mohammed Amir and the fixer himself, Mazher Majeed. The only problem was, the ICC had virtually nothing to do with the detection and capture of evidence, it was all done by a now-defunct newspaper! The ICC's response to the verdicts - schedule more meaningless international matches and let the BCCI run the show as usual.

The Hypocratic Oafs:

The English FA. Always trying to take the moral high ground with FIFA and UEFA over issues such as corruption and racism, yet they allow John Terry to play on and keep the captaincy. In any other job, he'd be suspended immediately while under investigation. Destroys their moral arguments vs FIFA and UEFA.

What award do you give British/Irish racing - so many good stories, so many blunders.

The case for good:
- Frankel, Long Run, Kauto Star....
- Mickael Barzalona showboating before the finish line in the Derby
- The stiffness of the race-fixing penalties
- Increased exposure via Willie Carson on I'm A Celebrity and Wayne Rooney buying a horse with Tom Dascombe. Some might class the exposure bit as pointless wank but it gives vital positive exposure to the sport in the non-racing press which has had to endure, and will naturally highlight the section below.

The case for bad:
- The whip rule - the timing of the announcement (days before the new showpiece, QIPCO Champions Day), the severity of the penalties at the minor infringement levels and the refusal to accept that horses/riders which don't cheat are still penalised (winner should be thrown out every time otherwise you are encouraging cheating to win - the rule is inconsistent and toothless without that addition). I'm not against the concept of the change, but the implementation was appalling.
- The BHA wasting yet more hefty legal fees on challenging the ruling on Betfair customers not being bookmakers (pay a lawyer a lot of money and they will happily tell you they can prove the Moon is made of cheese)
- Continued resistance by course managers to use traffic cones/barriers etc to stop jockeys taking the wrong course, Willie Mullins giving a firm 'screw you' to punters by refusing to give news on status on Hurricane Fly for the Istabraq Hurdle (if a horse is nominated, the trainer should be compelled to make all information relating to health of animal public, if penalised if found to be duping the public)
- The inadequate penalty giving to Sam Waley-Cohen for pulling up a horse a lap early then lying through his teeth rather than admitting he fucked up, followed by his penalty only applying to amateur races which he doesn't need to ride in any more given he rides Long Run, is loaded and is far better than anyone else in amateur ranks - Obsession with fixing the SP system when there is one bad race a year against what is a solid system overall while at the same time horses with a run of duck eggs next to their name can miraculously have a major form reversal on the same day as a huge betting plunge but that apparently doesn't cast a bad light on the industry.

- And Paul Roy, most to blame for the top-level incompetence, is still in charge.

Head in the Sand award

The WTA for, like the ATP and ITF, being in denial about how big tennis betting actually is. Betting is evil, we can't be seen to promote it.... Just this week, they have announced a great new broadcast deal with the Perform Group - whose client base is predominantly online bookmakers!

Have I missed any? I haven't got any international names there. Feel free to nominate them in the comments....

Monday, 19 December 2011

my awards of the year

Felt like writing some end of year material, and what better way than some made-up awards. I fear this might turn into a few posts and genres, so I'll start with the ones for sporting excellence, before I move onto ranting about numpties and corruption.

Awards of the year:

Athletics - Sally Pearson. Outstanding season, acknowledged as the fastest non-juiced women's hurdler in history. Absolute perfection when she won the world title in Daegu. Other nominations - Yohan Blake for winning the men's 100m, albeit without Usain Bolt. He will be a contender in London. Anyone else?
Brickbats to anyone who thought refunding all money bet on Bolt (a 1.05 shot) and taking deductions out of other runners would be a good idea - clueless.

Biathlon - Magdalena Neuner. She's stunning, world champion, German sportswoman of the year again and she will retire at the end of this season aged 25. Huge loss to the sport.
Other nominations: Tarjei Boe, the latest Norwegian superstar in the sport, taking over from where Ole Einar Bjorndalen left off.

Cricket - Alistair Cook. Run machine who broke Aussie hearts in the Ashes and then continued on his merry way throughout 2011. Other names could be slotted in there but he has been brilliant in consecutive seasons whereas some of the others have ebbed & flowed a little. As for bowlers - hands up if you knew the top three Test wicket-takers of the year were Saeed Ajmal, Ishant Sharma and Devendra Bishoo??

Cycling - maybe a slight Aussie bias, but what a win it was for Cadel Evans in the Tour de France. Historic moment for Australian sport, and he joins the elite group of non-European winners (only Greg LeMond and Louis Armstrong had done it before).

Golf - Clarke, Donald and McIlroy fighting it out for BBC Sports Personality of the Year, but my vote goes to Adam Scott - after all, he managed to land Ana Ivanovic again!

Hockey - player award goes to Jamie Dwyer, the Lionel Messi of the sport, for winning the FIH Player of the Year award for the fifth time A phenomenal achievement.

Motor Sport - rather than giving the award to Sebastian Vettel for a year of domination, I shall give it to those who have fallen in 2011 - Dan Wheldon, Marco Simoncelli, and most recently, NZ V8 Supercar driver Jason Richards who succumbed to cancer last week at the age of 35. May they rest in peace...

Jockey: no rider has dominated like Aussie Craig Williams this season - Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate, should have ridden the Melbourne Cup winner (suspended), 2nd in the Japan Cup, won the Hong Kong Vase, and I'm sure I've missed a few other big wins in there too.

Horse: Frankel has been a superstar in the UK this year, however, he hasn't travelled anywhere, hasn't raced outside set weights races and hasn't run time. The greatest accolades go to those horses who will take on anyone, anywhere and smash the clock in doing so. I give you Black Caviar - she takes them on in handicaps, she runs brilliant time and only a minor injury in May stopped her from stepping up in distance which will happen next campaign. And she draws in the non-racegoers in a flood unseen since the days of the mighty Phar Lap. Disappointingly, we are yet to see Frankel's pulling power at the attendance gates, at least at anywhere near the levels of the mighty mare from Melbourne.

Harness horse - the mighty Smoken Up who keeps winning the big races, even as a 9yo, and it shows on the clock too. Outstanding.

Swimming - Ryan Lochte was the outstanding man in the pool in a year where Michael Phelps was returning to the water after a break. Four individual golds plus relays, finally shaking the monkey off his back and taking centre stage. In the women, the emergence of a new star - Missy Franklin. This girl will clean up in London, you heard it here.

Tennis - No doubt Novak Djokovic was the star of the men's tour for 2011, but look at the big movers in the rankings - Dolgopolov 48 to 15, Nishikori 98 to 25, Raonic 156 to 31, Bogomolov 166 to 33, Young 129 to 39, Tomic 208 to 42, all massive leaps.

Amongst the women, it's not so clearcut - Kvitova, Li and Stosur for winning their first majors, Petkovic climbing from 32 to 10, Lisicki bouncing back after injury from 159 to 15, Cetkovska 142 to 31, Begu 214 to 40, McHale 115 to 42. I'll give it to Li for the effect it will have on Asian tennis.

match-fixing in the news in Italy again

No great surprise here, although you'd think the games in question could have been a little more obvious. The three Serie A games listed didn't involve draws which traded at 1.55 on Thursday!

Match-fixing arrests reach 17 in Italy

CREMONA, Italy -- Former Atalanta captain Cristiano Doni and 16 other people have been arrested across Italy in an ongoing investigation into soccer match-fixing and illegal betting.

The inquiry is focused on several matches in Serie B over the past two seasons, with Atalanta involved in three matches. Three Serie A matches from last season are also under investigation: Brescia vs. Bari, Brescia vs. Lecce and Napoli vs. Sampdoria.

"This is not the end, but just a starting point," Cremona prosecutor Roberto Di Martino said Monday. "Let's hope it's a starting point in cleaning up the beautiful game that is football. One of the suspects has admitted that these operations have been going on for over 10 years.

"At the top of the organization are men from Singapore, who are those who move the money, but the shareholders are divided from the West, to the Far East, to South America and they manage with their men how to change the outcome of football matches."

Prices and results from BetExplorer:

Brescia v Bari - 2-0, Brescia 2.10. 19th v 20th (on end-of-season table)

Brescia v Lecce - 2-2, draw 3.20. 19th v 17th (on end-of-season table)

Napoli v Sampdoria - 4-0. Napoli 1.55, 3rd v 18th on the table (on end-of-season table)

Monday, 12 December 2011

blast from the past: The Betfair Academy

Well after the eventful interview in yesterday's post, I thought it was time to share the last piece of Betfair training material I'd been hanging onto. It's been three years since I left now and the company haven't done anything with it, so it shouldn't be left sitting in my archives any longer.

The Betfair Academy was a training course I devised with the help of a couple of others. Its aim was to create Betfair trainers rather than more advanced punters but it works just as well for both. There were plenty of guys who enrolled in the course just to improve their trading. The vast majority of Betfair users will find something of use in there, even if it's just a keyboard shortcut or an extra trading strategy they'd never considered. The trading techniques aren't necessarily profitable, they are there to make you think about what else you can do on an exchange, rather than just simple backs and lays.

Here's the link - Betfair Academy handbook - it's an 8MB .pdf file and the link will take you the Mac download site ( The link will remain active for 60 days (just email me or comment and I'll reactivate it if necessary).

Bear in mind, this handbook was the accompanying text to an interactive seminar, so it's written to encourage discussion, not as the definitive text. Also, it was originally written in 2006 and then revised for this final 2008 edition - quite a few things have changed on the Betfair site since then, but most of the information is still useful.

And best of all - it's free! Can't guarantee I'll be able to answer everyone's questions promptly or in full detail, but I'll do my best. Ask via the comments or email me via the address on my profile.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

in the press this week...

I've been pretty popular this week - first being probed by France24 over the Dinamo Zagreb - Lyon match

read it here (best to use Google Translate unless you are fluent in French)

and then asked by another blogger, Tennis Sultan, for a full interview re my time and thoughts on Betfair. If you like controversy and my preference of not holding back, then you'll enjoy it

read it here

Hong Kong International Vase assessment

Local runners have a poor record in this race - understandable as they don't really do distance racing - with just two placegetters in the last 10 editions. I think Thumbs Up is pretty exciting, but the rest of them have no hope.


Trailblazer: top run in the Japan Cup, finishing 4th and 2.5L behind the mighty mare Buena Vista. He was ahead of Arc winner Danedream and one his main rivals today, Sarah Lynx. Drawn ideally, still a 4yo with steadily improving ratings - he is right in contention for this.

Jakkalberry: wins Group races in Italy, comes up short when he visits the UK. Came fifth in this race last year, can't see him doing any better this time.

Silver Pond: finished midfield in the Arc de Triomphe when he drew the outside and had no alternative but to go back to last. Good form around Bekhabad and Sarafina before that and drawn ideally. French horses have a n exceptional record in this race (8 wins in 17yrs).

Campanologist: won his last two starts, claiming 'softer' Group 1 races in Italy and Germany. Stable won this last year with Mastery. Not a big fan of the horse, but he will be in the mix.

Dunaden: the Melbourne Cup winner who will be at much bigger odds in Europe if you fancy him. Trainer is confident, jockey is in incredible form, big chance.

Mighty High: poor race record for locals and his last two starts have been poor. Would surprise.

Mr Medici: less chance than Mighty High.

Redwood: ran second in this race last year (result and replay). Doesn't appear to be going as well as last year, but has no qualms about travelling. Drawn wide, will get double the UK price in Australia.

Thumbs Up: impressive in his first run over 2000m in almost two years - replay. Flew home down the outside, giving the impression that a further step up in distance won't worry him. Might find it a little harder to flash from the back from gate one, but is a leading contender.

Red Cadeaux: beaten by a pixel in the Melbourne Cup, carrying 1kg less than Dunaden. His trainer knows exactly what he is doing with travelling his horses, back to 2400 won't bother him.

Super Satin: Derby winner of 2010, hasn't run a place in 2011. Nope.

Sarah Lynx: well-travelled French mare, recently running in the Woodbine International (won at 22/1with a dream rails run - check out the awful racecall) and the Japan Cup (12th, never fired). Gets a small weight advantage, not sure she's good enough to win.

Vadamar: quality French 3yo, was fancied in the Epsom Derby but was overshadowed by the other French horse Pour Moi. Had a three month break and was set for this race. Won the Prix De Conseil de Paris at his last start, and with only seven starts under his belt, has plenty of improvement left in him. Versatile, can go forward or back.


Like Trailblazer and Vadamar here, with Silver Pond, Campanologist, Dunaden, Red Cadeaux, Thumbs Up going into the exotics.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Hong Kong International Mile assessment

The locals have an impeccable record in this race - winning seven of the last 10 runnings, with two wins from Japan, and one from UAE/Godolphin. Apart from two French placegetters last year, it's not much different on the lower steps of the 'podium'. Best form race is The Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Mile from three weeks ago, here's the result and replay.

Cityscape: Highest-rated horse in the field yet he hasn't won a G1. That rating was achieved in running third to Canford Cliffs and Goldikova at Royal Ascot, and again in a G3 at St Cloud, beating a field who, apart from one runner, I've never heard of. Not convinced on him.

Jimmy Choux: New Zealand's superstar who looked to have the Cox Plate won until Pinker Pinker emerged after the softest run you'd ever find. Then ran a close 4th in the G1 Emirates Stakes (handicap), carrying 58kg giving away at least 4kg to all the placegetters. Boxed on his own at the racetrack, so he's been given a mirro to think there are other horses there and listens to an iPod, I kid you not. Trainer believes he is best at the mile, will go damn close.

Rajsaman: dead-heated for fourh here last year as a 3yo. Has won a couple of G2s in France since, narrowly beating Rio De La Plata last time (who I don't rate that highly) and Byword (who I do rate, but received 3kg that day) back in May. In with a chance, will be much bigger odds with Aussie bookies than in the UK.

Beauty Flash: won this race last year. Best when he gets an easy lead, and doesn't appear to be much pace in this edition. Ran fourth in Champions Mile in April, beaten under a length by Xtension after drawing out in the car park. Strong form through local stars Ambitious Dragon and Destined For Glory, has G.Mosse on board, big chance.

Xtension: Former British horse, was trained by Clive Cox. Ran 4th in the 2000 Guineas last year, just behind Dick Turpin and Canford Cliffs. Won Champions Mile in April, flew home last start for a close-up fifth off a muddling pace. Gets back, needs a genuinely run race.

Able One: 9yo local who won this race in '07 and '10, but was also fav last yr before being scratched at the barrier. Not far away in six runs this year, but hasn't managed a place. Not a winning chance, big unders.

Flying Blue: up and comer who came third to Destined For Glory and Ambitious Dragon recently (see link at the top), beaten 3/4 of a length at odds of 27. Drawn well, needs to step up another level to win, but lightly raced and is capable of doing that.

Destined For Glory: impressive horse who raced in Ireland as Wade Giles. I was keen on the horse before he went to HK, and he has made the steps forward expected of him, most recently defeating local superstar Ambitious Dragon in the Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Mile, carrying 5lbs less than him and having the easier run. Drawn one which could be a negative off a slow pace, but overcame that hurdle last time. Trainer claims that he is now a specialist miler after sending a blood sample off to a genome testing unit. Took a big step forward last time, capable of doing it again.

Outdoor Pegasus: gets a run after the withdrawal of Fair Trade. A long way off this lot.

Sichuan Success: has been progressing through the ranks in HK but has drawn wide. Top run last start when blocked for most of the straight in the Sha Tin Trophy. Had the weight advantage that day and started favourite, so obviously held in very high regard. The John Size/Douglas Whyte combination has been deadly in HK for many years. Has won six of his 12 career starts, by boom Australian sire Fastnet Rock - underestimate at your peril. Note - Aussie firms, who bet on HK regularly, much shorter (8) than most UK firms (13), who probably haven't watched the tapes...

Fat Choy Oolala: 100/1 with some bookies and for good reason. Rated more than a stone lower than the benchmarks of this field.  Best thing going for him is that Maxime Guyon is aboard.

Dubawi Gold: 3yo British colt trained by Richard Hannon, best known for running second to Frankel in that Guineas win. Not the biggest horse in training, nor the soundest - has apparently failed a vet test to be sold to HK this year. I just don't think he's a winner at the top level, he keeps finding better opposition on a regular basis. Drawn 14, needs plenty of luck.

Sahpresa: French mare not afraid to travel. Huge run to finish third in the Japan Autumn International Mile Championship last start. watch her flashing down the outside. Multiple G1 winner, but only against the girls. Keeps running third or fourth when the boys join in. That makes her too short in the betting for me.

Apapane: very good Japanese mare who beat Buena Vista in the G1 Victoria Mile in May. Like Sahpresa in that she has won several G1 races for fillies and mares, but yet to break the duck against the boys. Seems to prefer racing wide or with plenty of room (last three wins from barriers 17, 15 and 16). In the mix.


This is a very even race with only two horses you can rule a line through. It's the strong local record which steers me away from the Europeans.  Hard to split several of them here and I'll be going wide in the exotics.

Sichuan Success
Jimmy Choux
Flying Blue
Destined For Glory

Friday, 9 December 2011

Hong Kong International Day races

They bill it as the World Turf Championships, and while the standard is pretty good, I think that's a little bit rich this year. But, despite not having a Black Caviar or Frankel on the card, it's still a great day of racing. I intend to hit the big four races heavily on the exotics so will run through the runners in the big four races like I did for the Melbourne Cup later this evening. That's if my five-week old son will let me do some form study and typing tonight!

Tune in again tomorrow.....

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Betfair getting ready for California launch

With the law permitting exchange-base wagering on horse racing taking effect in May 2012, Betfair/TVG are getting everything ready to go. Coming up this week is the first public test of the model at an annual racing industry event.

TVG Betfair to Demonstrate Exchange-Bet Model

A test model of the first exchange wagering system proposed for the United States will be demonstrated at the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing & Gaming in Tucson beginning Dec. 6.

The system, developed by TVG Betfair, is a “first stage application,” the company said Dec. 5. The racing network TVG is based in California and owned by Great Britain-based Betfair, which operates the largest exchange wagering platform in the world.

... ...

A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle said TVG Betfair is proposing a 10% commission, two-thirds of which would go to racing and one-third to Betfair. Racetracks, horsemen, and others would then split the two-thirds according to regulations and contracts.

Firstly, there is still a long way to go in negotiations with racetracks and horsemen. The latter are renowned as some of the most stubborn bastards on Earth and their support for wagering matters only seems to be gained when the % takeout increases - despite all forms of economics showing that volume, and thus income, decreases when takeout percentages rise. Contrast the wagering figures between Tampa Bay Downs and any Californian track for evidence.

The SF Chronicle said the commission would be 10% on stakes, which seemed a little odd, although being an American paper not fully au fait with the workings of exchange betting, they can be excused if it was in fact in error - but with tote takeouts coming via stakes, perhaps it is a plan to compare like-for-like. That figure appears high for regular BF punters, but let's not forget, this is something completely new for Californian punters, and it's still a big improvement on their only current option - the tote.

No mention yet of whether any cross-border action will be permitted - tough to get the market moving without people who understand the product properly, particularly layers. Without any fixed-odds alternatives, it's gonna be slow out of the blocks unless they can tap into some experience.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Tattsbet buys the TOTE

Tasmania's wagering service, the TOTE, has been sold this week to Tattsbet, which currently runs the state TABs of Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory. The TOTE holds the exclusive off-course betting rights in Tasmania, namely betting shops and hotel outlets plus racecourse operations. They also supply all the Australian tote betting services to Betfair, and are currently linked into the SuperTAB pools for selected markets, something which will surely change.

TOTE sold to Tatts group

TOTE Tasmania has been sold to Tattsbet Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tatts Group Limited. Premier Lara Giddings made the announcement at a hastily convened press conference at Hobart Airport this afternoon before leaving the state for the national Labor Conference.

TOTE was sold for approximately $103 million.