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Idle Science

Data Science Meets Sports Gambling: How Researchers Beat the Bookies ( 78

"A trio of data scientists developed a betting strategy to beat bookmakers at football games," writes austro. [The game Americans call soccer.] New Scientist reports: The team studied 10 years' worth of data on nearly half a million football matches and the associated odds offered by 32 bookmakers between January 2005 and June 2015. When they applied their strategy in a simulation, they made a return of 3.5 per cent. Making bets randomly resulted in a loss of 3.32 per cent. Then the team decided to try betting for real. They developed an online tool that would apply their odds-averaging formula to upcoming football matches. When a favorable opportunity arose, a member of the team would email Kaunitz and his wife, one of whom then placed a bet.

They kept this up for five months, placing $50 bets around 30 times a week. And they were winning. After five months the team had made a profit of $957.50 -- a return of 8.5 per cent. But their streak was cut short. Following a series of several small wins, the trio were surprised to find that their accounts had been limited, restricting how much they could bet to as little as $1.25. The gambling industry has long restricted players who appear to show an edge over the house, says Mark Griffiths at Nottingham Trent University, UK.

The paper "illustrates how the sports gambling industry compensates market inefficiencies with discriminatory practices against successful clients," adds austro, noting that the researchers posted a paper explaining their methodology on arxiv last week. "They also made the dataset and source code available on github. And best of all, they made an online publicly available dashboard that shows a live list of bet recommendations on football matches based on their strategy here or here for anyone to try."
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Data Science Meets Sports Gambling: How Researchers Beat the Bookies

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  • Cheating (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Saturday October 21, 2017 @02:48PM (#55410291) Homepage

    Yet another reason not to gamble: the house cheats. Always. Win consistently against the house anywhere, and you will be asked to leave. Win too much off a slot machine, and it was "out of order".

    The betting houses and casinos exist to take people's money. One should not forget this.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      ... Win too much off a slot machine, and it was "out of order".

      Posting Anon...

      The slots are meant to pay out at a certain RTP. This is in regulated markets of course; but for the most part, most places are regulated in some way when it comes to slot machines.

      In some shady place in the world I would sure imagine this is something commonplace; as there is a message clearly saying "Malfunctions voids all pays and plays", it can surely be used as grounds for abuse. It's mostly meant for when a mistake like an unsigned int is deducted from further than 0 and ends up showing

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        Usually it's those casinos on the reservations that seem to have the reputation for having a slot machine that was faulty when it made a payout on those networked machines. But it happens in other places: [] [] []

        https://www.onlinecasinoselite... []

        • But at the better casinos at least they offer you a free steak dinner in lieu of the $43,000,000 payout:


    • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

      Wow, how insightful. Thanks for pointing out how different gambling is from all other entertainment industries. Of course, they are somewhat different. If you spend your money on movies, or books, or concerts, or theme parks, or video games you will never come home with more money than you originally had. With casinos, you might.

      • Correct, gambling should be viewed as a frequently expensive, and not infrequently addictive form of entertainment.

        Sure occasionally you might make some money, but the proportion of gambling trips that do in the end is small, and if enjoyed repeatedly the odds of being ahead at all decline to a very low order. In the end it is all outflow, the same as all other forms of entertainment. The occasional payout is really just like an occasional discount on a movie ticket or book, it reduces a bit the total you s

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Indeed. They are selling an illusion. The real problem is that most people do not understand that. In the lottery, you can win big, but chances are so small that it will never happen to you. In the forms of gambling where you actually have a fair chance of winning, other limiters, like what you describe, make sure you will never win much or over a longer time.

    • Yeah, it's almost like bookies and casinos are businesses trying to make a profit rather than charities!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Concerned citizens must apply elementary school playground standards.
    One should not be shown the exit when you play better using public and fair rules.
    It's worse than I'll go home with the ball; it's I will bully you to leave the Playground because you don't lose.

  • by ffkom ( 3519199 ) on Saturday October 21, 2017 @02:57PM (#55410327)
    What do you expect from an industry that lives off gambling?
    That they play fair, and thus are likely not to be the only consistent winner amongst the thousands of gamblers they call "customers"?
    • It's as if people forget that someone has to pay for all those people walking around in fancy suits and pay for the massive electrical bill a casino must generate.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        The question is how much is too much. Most people who think for a minute or two will understand the concept of the vig. It's also understood that the possibility that you might occasionally beat the vig is part of the attraction. The house sees that as part of the cost of doing business. They don't win on every customer every time.

        The question is really how far is too far to go in making sure they do win. Even in a game of chance, some people will beat the vig more often than others. How far is too far to g

    • What do you expect from an industry that lives off gambling?

      I expect that an industry offering a product called "gambling" offers a product that resembles gambling, which this does not. This is heads I win, tails you lose. The only uncertainty is the position of the minute hand on the wall clock marking your (rare) upticks in an otherwise constantly downward march.

      You're in prison. Everyday, you get to pick a number from 1 to 3. If you guess right, you get fed a nice meal. If you guess wrong, you don'

    • There is arguably a difference between a 'fair' game with lousy odds and straight up fraud:

      Casinos obviously don't tend to bother with games that lack a house edge(either games played against the house that have a less than 100% return rate or games between players with a house rake); but if the device operates precisely as the payout schedule says it will it isn't a fraudulent losing proposition.

      In the glorious world of online gambling, the combination of technical opacity and operators generally work
  • Q: Is this a game of chance?

    A: Not the way I play it.

  • I've met two people in different cities, both had systems to beat different sports, 1st guy made money off of horses and managed to fly under the radar, the other guy beat them on football (soccer), but he was a bit too good and got banned everywhere.

    I managed to take the online casinos for a couple of hundred via their introductory offer... but my 'system' was weak, might just have been luck. And I discovered how addictive online gambling can be and stayed away ever since, I recognised some dangerous emoti

    • I recognised some dangerous emotions.

      Lack of erection?

    • Re:Happens lots (Score:4, Interesting)

      by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi&evcircuits,com> on Saturday October 21, 2017 @04:39PM (#55410631) Homepage

      If it's your first time in a casino, you indeed happen to have a lot of 'luck'. I live near a few Indian reservations and have applied for a number of IT jobs in them. You would never want to play after you see what they have in modern times, nobody is going to break your arm anymore for winning, the odds will shift in their favor until you start losing. The small datacenter in the casino is not just for video recording.

      You walk in first time and you always get a "promotion", once a certain promotion has been fulfilled based on your demographic, the casino will expect a 'return' on it's promotion. This all gets calculated out based on the information you give them, location analysis, food and drink consumption etc.

  • "If you could beat the ponies, they wouldn't be running them."

  • How about we just block these barbarian filth from out internet?
  • The house always tips the odds in their favor. But in general that is also true of any business. Barriers, marketing, a good job at selling, exploiting emotions, an addictive product, etc. are all used to ensure there is no level playing field. Any business that wants a level playing field is insane, the want an advantageous position and captured markets.

    The only way to actually have anything resembling a Free Market is through careful regulation and government intervention.

  • From TFA:

    Online bookmakers have very tight profit margins, so some offer generous odds for very short periods of time on certain matches to lure automated or expert betting systems out into the open, says economist David Forrest at the University of Liverpool, UK. “They will try to trap the robots,” he says. “Anyone who responds has their account closed.”

    Some of the researchers’ accounts may have fallen foul of this system. In some cases they found they could not bet at all after signing up with certain bookies. If so, then this suggests their technique really was finding the best odds out there. But the house still always wins in the end.

  • "They also made the dataset and source code available on github. And best of all, they made an online publicly available dashboard that shows a live list of bet recommendations on football matches based on their strategy here or here for anyone to try."

    If everyone starts using the list of live recommendations, does this mean that the gambling industry won't want to let anyone 'gamble'? Sounds like a win for me :D

  • Now the gambling industry is going to thank the professor for helping them improve their odds setting strategy. The code is public domain, the house will use this, instead of guess work. In the end the house margin will improve from 3.3% to may be 6%

When you are working hard, get up and retch every so often.