Tennis, Anyone?

I have a pro client who's only been betting sports six months. After dot-com he left his analyst job (he failed some certification exam, but I'm told that's Neither-Here-Nor-There) to trade his own account. He survived 08-09, and claims the Flash Crash was the most profitable day of his life. But he gave up last summer.
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I have a pro client who's only been betting sports six months. After dot-com he left his analyst job (he failed some certification exam, but I'm told that's Neither-Here-Nor-There) to trade his own account. He survived 08-09, and claims the Flash Crash was the most profitable day of his life. But he gave up last summer.

He was doing OK, he says, but Greece told him it was time to move on. His kids are still young enough that they think their Dad is cool. He planned to spend their summer vacation with them. But he said this tear-gas-in-Europe stuff “left him only vaguely aware of two short people sharing his home” as he stared at screens at 4 a.m. So he's moved to the slow lane, betting sports, which takes much less time.

I take Pro Client's action because he's honest, he wins, and whatever he bets me I can push out the back door three to five times. Pro Client called asking for a moment of my time. For him, always.

Pro Client wanted to know why we don't take Tennis. Well, that's an easy question:

...there's little steady interest and we don't like getting beat on stuff we can't get rid of. Injury info is hard to get and that's crucial in an individual sport. And then there was that match-fixing thing two years ago. Surely he understood risk vs. reward?

Of course he did. And he's the guy who, given five minutes, could talk Rush Limbaugh into championing Obamacare. To make a long story short, we're offering tennis as of Thursday, he's making the numbers, and it's a 50/50 split.

I'm happy for a few reasons. First, as it sits, I basically open July and August as a service to customers. I don't make money. Half my regulars are out of town and the other half only have baseball to bet on. Tennis is going to be on ESPN so we might get some bets.

Second, I want to see what he can do with the bookie's vig on his side. He knows I'll be looking over his shoulder to make sure his prices aren't so far out of market that we're setting ourselves up as an easy arb. But he's got opinions and he knows numbers. It's going to be peanuts for starters, but who knows where it ends.

Last, when it comes to the NBA, Pro Client is my hero. Never mind tennis being fixed. Not so long ago, an NBA ref got to bring his whistle to Club Fed 3-on-3 tournaments because he was there as a guest of the Government. I sweat NBA results each and every night: I swear that this player isn't trying, that coach is insane, or this or that.

Woe is me—but not Pro Client. Pro Client went 3-for-4 on Christmas Day and is 56% on the NBA with me for the season. He bets me two grand, I bet out five or ten.

I just blindly follow his bets, like some Gambling Zombie. To beat the standard bookie's vig, a bettor needs to win 52.4% of his games against the spread. Pro Client's mercurial brain is better than that, and that's what a Gambling Zombie like me feeds on.

Many bookies kick their winners out. I've no idea why. Winners you can blindly follow are better than losers. The losers might stiff you. The winners just win, and let you win beside them.

And that's business I cannot afford to lose. A majority of my clients bet $100 or $200 a night. I don't make a lot of money off them. But Pro Client's a winner and my profit potential is limited only by the size of my 'nads.

Don't get me wrong—I want his tennis to win. I'm on for half. But if it's only small bets here and there, Pro Client has now become a business partner, and I'll keep getting some of his basketball bets. He's probably playing at ten different places; now I'm sure to stay in the mix.

I'm not sure how we're going to do this tennis. Bets to win the tournament, individual matches, etc. I know they measure serve speed. Do they measure who grunts the loudest? I guess I'm going to find out.

Related

Maddeningly Bad Luck

March Madness has been a disaster: two of my best customers, who know each other, combined to go 2-for-39 on the first two weekends. Faithful Assistant has been laughing at their tought breaks, but I've been trying to soothe them. I need these guys to keep playing, losing, and paying. Their luck really has been atrocious. 18 of the losses have been by three points or less. One of them asked me if I'd ever heard anything worse. I guess there's Tsotomu Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi was on a business trip in Hiroshima when the A-bomb dropped. Wounded, he figured he'd better get out of Dodge ASAP, so he barrelled home the next day – to Nagasaki. I reminded the client that his bad luck paled in comparison to Yamaguchi's, and that Yamaguchi lived another 65 healthy years...plenty of time to make more bets. But now I'm dealing with more than bad luck. These guys have now declared that sports are rigged. This month's point-shaving scandal at Auburn hasn't helped, and it brings others of recent years to mind. The NBA has Tim Donaghy. Overseas, it looks like half the Turkish soccer league is going to jail, and half of Italy has already been. I actually believe that most of sports are on the level. Disagree if you want, that's OK. But what really gets my goat are the people who think the bookies want the games rigged. We don't. If people think the games are fixed, and thus become afraid to bet, I'm out of business. It's the same story for the guy running a poker game or the CEO of a retail brokerage. No faith, no business. There's a really simple reason somebody with the available cash or credit can get down a $500,000 bet on the NFL, but might not be able to easily bet $50 on Wrestlemania: the market can take the $500,000 football bet, adjust the price slightly, and bettors will come for the other side. There is no market for Wrestlemania, because nobody trusts it. So these clients are generally miffed, but also fixated on one game: Syracuse vs. Kansas State. The price started moving 20 minutes before tip when a K-State star was ruled ineligible. These guys took the new price on K-State thinking they got a deal, when it was just the market reacting to information. Well, Syracuse rolled and now it's allegedly a “fix”. Of course it's not a fix—it's just betting dumb with less info than everybody else. They should have checked why the spread was moving. Emotion trumps reason, though, and there was no reasoning with these guys. And maybe that's why these guys bet with me instead of going online somewhere—they're so Old School, the building probably only had one room. If you want to be a pro gambler these days, there's a ton of free information all over the Internet. I'm not saying it's easy to win over time—it's not. But there's a bucket of info out there on any game you want to study, and all sorts of arcane stats to help inform your decisions. And since everyone else is studying, you better too. When I worked in Chicago, we had a good customer who worked at O'Hare. He would bring us out-of-town sports sections that travellers left behind as they boarded planes. We got useful injury information from beat writers in other cities that the rest of the Chicago market just didn't have. That was 20 years ago, but when I tell that story to Faithful Assistant, he usually asks if Orville and Wilbur Wright were flying the planes. He's been on the Internet since middle school, and pretends he can't remember life without it. So I'm not sure what to do with these guys—they bet six times a day, but haven't called since Saturday. I think I'll give them a free bet equivalent to what they lost on Kansas State. I know I don't have to, but I'm not willing to risk losing the business. That's the worst part of all this—and the reason why I'm trying to get out of this racket. I don't just need the customers to lose, I need them to lose slowly and have fun doing it. I'm not a psychiatrist trained to actually convince people that betting really is a random thing for the vast majority of gamblers and losing streaks just happen. I wonder if I should join the Army. I'm not much for getting shot, but I hear the poker games are good. Baseball starts next week and the guys who just bet bases are much easier to deal with. They understand the nature of a game where the very best teams win 65% of their games and the absolute worst teams still win 35% of the time. I can't wait. Anybody know if Tim Tebow needs someone to take his action? He's on every channel, everywhere.

By Apavlo at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Swamped

Summertime, and the livin' is easy. The NBA is through its first round of playoffs, there hasn't been a college board of a hundred games in over two months, and football is so far away that HBO still has a casting call out for Hard Knocks. Baseball's the main attraction, and baseball bettors are gentlemen and so old school the periodic table only has about 50 elements. How did we get here? It was one of those darkest-before-the-dawn moments, that moment that feels like it's darkest-before-it's-totally-black. I strolled in on the last day of the NBA regular season, a Thursday, fashionably late. He asked me where the hell I had been. I always show up late on summer Thursdays, and leave early. There's little baseball, and little else. But Faithful Assistant pointed to a screen and said “I'm fucking buried on the Wizards game”. The Washington Wizards are a bad basketball team. They were matched up against the Miami Heat, a very good basketball team. The Heat have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and that guy who Shaq said looks like Ru Paul. Except the market said the Heat didn't give a flying fuck about that game, and the Wizards were 8-point favorites. I asked him if maybe the Heat were the favorites. No, said Faithful Assistant, it was the Wizards. And our clients, all of whom fancy themselves smarter than the average bear, had bet $25K on the Wizards, -7.5, -8, -8.5, -9.5. So dump it, I said. We can lay off 50K with one phone call, usually more. “I can't. He's got jury duty.” What was this world coming to, bookmakers being summoned to sit on juries. So I told him to keep calling every half hour or so. In the meantime I'd handle any more Wizards bets myself. They kept calling for the Wizards. Over and over and over again. The market was -8, and I was dealing it -10 and getting buckets of abuse. “-10? Get outta here. ESPN says they're -8.” I quickly broke my clientele into two groups. The clients I didn't care about, I told them “OK, fine. Call up ESPN and give them your bet.” Some of them screamed. Several questioned my parentage. Most of them laid -10. My better clients got better treatment. I explained how the book was hopelessly one-sided and my layoff guy was “in court”. (I let them imagine he was the guy in the orange jumpsuit, not somebody who would be leaving by the front door.) I took their bet at -10, but told them that if and when my guy came through, I'd call them back and give them the -8. They thanked me like I was doing them a favor. Great. The first people who weren't angry all day. The pros called too. One nibbled on the Heat +8 at even money, but the rest passed. Court let out at 4:30. My guy didn't make the jury: something about his wife's job getting in the way. He took our bet for all we could eat at -7.5 and I started calling the clients back changing their -10 to not -8 but -7.5. People were thanking me as if I'd given them a kidney. Faithful Assistant's quick tally when the game tipped off saw him scream “We cannot lose!” I pointed out that while we would indeed win money, that wasn't the same as being invulnerable. For the sake of peace, love, and client happiness, we needed these lowly Wizards to win by a pile. Happy customers keep coming back, and there'd be no talk of conspiracies, fixed games off funny betting lines, and so on. The Wizards rolled. Up by 25 at half, they cruised to a 34-point win. The Heat played their B team all night. (The Tepid?) No LeBron, no Wade, no Ru Paul, no problem. The clients were ecstatic. One of them even sent us flash-frozen steaks. It's actually helped us change the summer baseball operation. Now when people call up looking for a team at such-and-such a price, if we don't have it and they're willing to leave the order open, we take the order and call them back when we fill it. A good client now calls us his “betting con-au-pairs”. I think he means “concierges”, but I don't speak French. Whatever. It's working out.

Bernie Madoff Was Just Trying To "Change The Way Money Was Managed," Not That Anyone Cares

For about a year now, Bernie Madoff has been holding court with various members of the press about something that's been plaguing him: the fact that few people if any are willing to give credit where credit is due. Yes, he may have pleaded guilty to a $50 billion crime that ruined countless people's lives, including those of his wife and children, one of whom committed suicide as a result, but he did a lot of other stuff too, like run a "successful business" for which he won lots of "industry awards" during his "legitimate years." And, yet, everyone seems to forget all that when his name comes up, much like they conveniently forgot about how Mussolini made the trains run or time, or how Hitler built those wonderful autobahns, or how Ted Bundy made women feel special. And since he's serving a 150 year sentence, Berns has had lots of time to ponder why his years of legitimate achievements go unmentioned and the one thing he keeps coming back to? Irving Picard, who's pulled a fast one on you all, by suggesting that Bernie's crime started wayyyyy before it did, when, in fact, Madoff Securities was only running a Ponzi scheme for barely even 20 years. Examine the evidence Madoff shared with Forbes contributor Diana B. Henriques via email: Jan. 17, 2011 11:05 A.M. … Also remember that the U.S. Attorney admitted that they had no evidence that the crime started in the 80’s and could establish that Montauk and the N.Y. homes in Ruth’s name were not purchased with tainted funds … Mar. 10, 2011 7:35 A.M. … I would love to know what evidence [Picard] has to date my crime back to 1983 … THE FACT IS THAT THERE IS NONE. 8:05 A.M. … I say once again the fraud started in the 90’s … Mar. 18, 2011 9:26 A.M. … I guess I’m obsessed with this START OF CRIME ISSUE. Don't you see, idiots of the media?! That's the real issue here. Not the crime itself but the start of the crime. Do the math. Oct. 11, 2011 7:20 A.M. ... You can do a back of the envelope calculation as follows. From 1963 I made substantial arbitrage profits for the Picower, Shapiro and Chais families joined by the Levy family in 1970. [M]ost of these profits were re­invested and the amounts compounded. In 1970 Saul Alpern formed his partnerships later [run] by Avellino and Bienes. In 1980 I started trading for [French banker] Albert Igoin and his French and Swiss banking associates. All of these accounts averaged about 20% annually and were involved in various forms of convertible arb using bonds, pfds [preferreds], Rts. [rights] and units. [A]nd ALL WERE LEGITIMATE TRADING. THIS CONTINUED THRU THE EARLY 90’S. Nov. 24, 2011 6:51 P.M. … When you look at my RIDDLE [in the Nov. 23 letter], consider the fact that there was in fact no crime until I did not have enough capital in the firm to cover the losses. There is your real STORY The interesting thing here is not that there was an 11-figure fraud, okay? The interesting thing is how long the 11-figure fraud went on. And it stinks to high hell that that slippery fuck Picard and Co. are claiming it dates back to 1983 and that you're all buying it, hook, line and sinker. Come on, people. They're lawyers. Who are you gonna trust, them or a Ponzi schemer? But don't feel sorry for Bernie. Feel sorry for yourselves, for what could have been and what never was. Near the end of that e-mail the clouds of self-deception close in again, and Madoff turns himself into a pitiful martyr: “I made the tragic mistake of trying to change the way money was managed and was successful at the start, but lost my way after a while and refused to admit that I failed at one point.” HE WAS TRYING TO THE WAY MONEY WAS MANAGED! A legitimate way to make Ponzi scheme payments, before it was tragically snuffed out. Oct. 11, 2011 7:36 A.M. … I will never get over the distortions being presented by everyone as to the poor and now homeless when in fact they all signed documents when opening their accounts that they were sophisticated and had enough wealth to withstand the possible losses of short term trading. I wish I had saved the hundreds of letters I received thanking me for how I was responsible for their happiness over the years and their pleading with me to keep their accounts open when I tried to close them … when I worried about the wreckage I might cause if I couldn’t recover. Is the REAL STORY that the investor agreements specifically authorized BLMIS to make Ponzi scheme payments (a totally legitimate type of securities transaction, a short term trade if you will)? Unless someone pulls their head out of their ass, the world will never know. Exclusive: The Secret Madoff Prison Letters [Forbes]