How bookmakers track your every move & how to avoid it (from an industry insider)

This post originally appeared at www.daily25.com. It has been reposted here with the permission of Steve from the Daily25 blog. It is written by a guest contributor at the Daily25 blog. He works at one of Australia’s biggest bookmakers but does love his job so wishes to remain anonymous. Being one of many sportsbook insiders I converse with on a regular basis, I shall cleverly name him Spinsider. I email with a number of people who work at sportsbooks, they have all stumbled across this site and contacted me. You can imagine that we have a lot in common and a lot to talk about. I have found that all the workers of these big corporations are great guys. I always feel a tinge of guilt when calling out sportsbooks, as I personally know workers there, but it is not the workers who are the issue, it is the way the owners have created a culture in each company much like those seen in the wolf of wall-street. The goal of all employees is to make as much profit for the company as possible and this sometimes leads quite nice people into doing reprehensible things in the name of profit.

This article will give a small glimpse into the lengths that bookmakers go to profile every single customer and then weed out any that may one day make a profit. This is a major issue in our little sports-betting world, and an important story to get out there to the general public. I’ll hand it over to the Daily25 Spinsider and I’ll be back at the end of the post to add some of my own opinions.

 

From inside a corporate bookmaker

A while back, Steve reached out and wanted me to write an article for his increasingly popular blog, daily25.com. As I have had some personal things to settle and an international trip to complete, but finally, here it is. Normally I would not be writing an article like this, but in this particular situation I can relate to Steve trying to educate others. This will work towards a fairer world of betting, and I have understood from my previous conversations with Steve, that he is a genuine and a great person.
Who knows in the future, I might enjoy writing so much that I will publish my own blog. Hopefully Steve will give me some feedback on whether that would be possible to do or not.

A little about me; I have worked in the industry and world of gambling for about four years now in Australia, and I am currently working for a large corporation. Previously and currently I have done quite a bit of sports betting, and punting, and therefore I can relate to the two sides of sports betting. I have read articles, in papers such as The Age, that have annoyed me due to the one-sided nature of their writing. I have complete understanding for the bookie – and I will be the first to admit that I would not have a job if punters did not lose and paid my wages, but I also understand the perspective of the bettor, if their account gets limited or even closed. On the other hand, if bookmakers are incapable of turning a profit, you would, as a punter, have less opportunities to bet and exploit offers and campaigns.

It’s a circle. And the circle is of the vicious kind.

Why Bookmakers Limit Winning Players

The main objective of this article is to take a closer look at how betting accounts and profiles gets noticed, and the process of them being taken all the way to restriction and closure. No bettor ever wants to try to place a stake, and get rejected. “Why will they not take my money?” The short answer to that question: Yes, bookmakers limit or ban any consistently winning player. The most important takeaway from this article is how bookmakers profile players, but firstly, let us understand why they do it.

A corporate bookmaker has an overall objective of creating a profit for itself. This is the point of emphasis from the owners and the shareholders. If you are not able to create and increase your profits, you will be shown the door. Employees at the bookmakers look for ways to satisfy their individual targets and expectations set for them, and the easiest way for them to reach profitability and to increase their margins is to remove any punters that look like they might cut into these margins. Corporate bookmakers are not easy to understand and are a tough opponent to have. These corporations have a high number of employees, with different areas of expertise. All of them have a need to get paid, and the same goes for the owners and the shareholders. In my honest opinion, there is a culture of being unfair towards the customer on a constant basis, when there is no need for this. This means that bookmakers try to mislead and use the very people that pay their wages.

Personally it annoys me as a punter, because I know for a fact that they do it to me. The difference between me and other punters is that I understand how it works.

 

How Bookmakers Identify and Profile Winning Players

Now, let us get to the point of this article – how accounts are noticed. At the bookmakers where I have worked previously, we have had teams that work entirely with risk, and who monitor the activity of customers, trends in the market and at specific players, etc.

Below I will go through a few techniques the bookmakers use to profile:

  • IP Addresses are tracked for accounts and for bets. This means that even though you create a new account with the names of, for example, your family, it will not work. If you ever place a bet or use the same account that has the same IP Address, the account will be flagged in an instance, and will be under observation in the time going forward.
    Another example is the MAC Address, as this is information that is captured, but to my knowledge is not used in the filtering process. In addition to this, bookmakers will notice if you and “your mom” begin placing the same bets, as your profiles will match each other.  

  • Unique Accounts are put in place to monitor every person on the site. This means that the bookmaker has the information necessary to positively identify you, for example through date of birth, address, and so on. In addition, they get the device id from your computer or phone. Whenever a new account is created somewhere, it is run through a database of information, to check whether it matches information from existing accounts. These accounts will then be grouped and monitored.

  • Cookies are used to track your movement on their sites, whether you are logged in or not. In Australia, cookies are automatic, meaning that you don’t really have a say in them being placed in your browser or not. In Europe, however, there have been created laws to protect users from cookies. Every movement on the website is tracked, gathered and analyzed, and there is no way around it. The information gathered here is used to put users in certain categories, and to offer different campaigns and bonuses to them. These might be offered to exploit your weaknesses, or they might be used to make sure that you will stay and use their site.

  • Social Media – The two bookmakers I have worked with, have had intricate systems that are concerned with CRM, Customer Relationship Management. These systems are in constantly evolving. The teams that are assigned to working with risk and customer service are constantly monitoring bettors that are active in social media surrounding betting, bettors that have industry knowledge, employees from other bookies, in addition to tipping service subscriptions. This information is saved at the account. Reports are compiled daily, on all betting-activity of the user, and these reports are monitored closely. People with similar twitter-activity are pooled together, whether they are official or not. This is the reason for why some accounts are closed immediately after creation. Even before creation of the account, the person is flagged for any of the reasons in this article, and might not be able to gain access to the intended site. I have seen examples of accounts being pre-created and banned, even before getting signed up.
    The easiest way to flag an account is when people post their betting-slips in social media, and are immediately removed from the bookmaker.

  • Staking – When an account is opened, the staking level is the same at every account. Once you start consistently winning over a longer period of time, for example weeks or even months, your staking level will be reduced to cut the losses they have on your account. However, if you seem to be a winning player in most sports, but for example struggle with winning in racing, your possible stake-amount will increase, only in this area. This can be done through shifting levels of staking between different bets, sports or competitions.
    This is why you sometimes notice that you can stake very high on cricket (because you constantly lose here), and have a reduced stake at racing (because you constantly win here). The bookmakers are clever in this sense, and figure; “Why ban you completely, when we can still turn a profit from you?” At the moment, most of this is manually performed, although the data to make the decision is automated.

  • Trends Betting – This occurs when you and your friends bet the same types of games at the same time of day. This will definitely get noticed.
    At one of the two bookmakers I have worked at, we had measures to collect data that would expose bettors that played the exact same bets, even across bookies, and ultimately looked for trends in the market. If a big group of people place the same bets at the same time, it is clear that they come from the same tipping service. Let me make one thing clear: Bookmakers subscribe to these services themselves, to make sure they are always in the loop of things.

  • Tipping – One of my favorites. If you and your friends have ever created a personal tipping competition, it is extremely likely that you have been grouped together. If one of the bettors in the “group” is great at recognizing what bets to take in one sport, the group as a whole is more than likely to have a reduced stake, due to this person’s expertise and probability of giving away this information.

  • Betting Back – Do not make the mistake of thinking that every bettor with a profit on the horizon will be removed, as the bookmaker’s eye yet another opportunity to make a profit. This happens by the bookmaker following their players’ bets, and placing the same ones at another bookie or exchange, and turn a potential loss into a potential win. I have heard somewhere, that bookmakers have systems to check players that utilize arbitrage betting on Betfair markets, but I have never seen or been made aware of this myself.

Why Believing You Are Better Than the Bookmaker is a Bad Idea

Since the Australian market has been in constant growth over the past five years, bookmakers have become highly advanced. Every participant in the market want a piece of the pie. Don’t be blinded by the offers and campaigns they swing your way, as these are all for show and work in their favor. When Tom Waterhouse challenges you to play the same as him with enhanced odds, do not take it, because of the high probability of losing. This is something he is very aware of.
Bookmakers have models that will give them an indication of who the winner of a race or matchup will be. Someone who does this for fun stands no chance against the fifty traders that do this for a living in companionship with highly developed models. You will never win.

A bookmaker will only survive if it manages to take your money. They are not anything alike a charity, they are a business.

How Bookmakers Will Identify Winning Players in the Future

The techniques listed above is just the most occurring ones, and there are plenty more. I am certain that personalization software will have the capability of pointing out every customer touchpoint or interaction that one has at any given time, so that they accurately can predict our next moves. Do you want to stay clear of the attention of the Bookies? – Well, Big Brother is always watching you.
- Do not make more than one account at each bookie, clear your cookies, do not involve social media in your betting, and throw the bookie off a little bit every now and then by placing a bad bet. Everything is automatically reported and monitored.

I could talk all day about an abundance of topics, but I’ll leave it there. Hope to speak to you again in the future.

End Comments by Steve from the Daily25. 

The first thing I want to do is to give a great thanks to your industry insider, Spinsider. While the list is not fully complete, it will serve a purpose, as you have learned the rules of the game and you can take certain measures towards improving your abilities of setting up accounts and keeping them for a long time. I am in the fortunate situation where I have been working with IT in the punting-area for fifteen years, ten of them with casinos and five of them with sports betting. The harsh truth is that creating clean accounts is a difficult process, but definitely a necessity in today’s world. If you are dedicated to place the correct bets every time, you will have to stay under the radar of the bookmakers, for good.

Techniques such as following your IP Address and MAC Address is easy to trick and work around. You also have the option of turning off cookies in the browser, and this can be easily avoided by using the incognito-option in the browser. Social Media, however, is a difficult part to stay away from, as from something as unremarkable as a “like” or a “follow” will lead the bookmakers to a large amount of information about you and your friends. The accounts where I have succeeded in staying away from the spotlight have all had non-present Social Media activity.

I am hoping that this article made you a little bit more aware of how much time and resources the bookmakers put into making sure that winners are kept out of their service, and that their winnings are limited as much as possible. Every bookie spends millions every year on staffing and the latest technology, to make sure their customers are only the losing ones. So much for the Australian ethos of a fair go. As most bookies are British, they do not understand that this will not be able to survive over a longer period of time. At least not in Australia.

Written by a guest contributor at www.daily25.com. Reposted here with the permission of Steve from the Daily25 blog.  

Hedging Bets: A strategy for reducing your risk when trading sports?

Key takeaways

  • Hedging sports bets can enable you to reduce your risk, but it will also reduce your potential ROI. Therefore it is a tradeoff between risk and reward that you as a trader have to make.

  • Be aware of potential pitfalls such as bookmakers voiding your bets as they can leave you exposed with high risk and no upside.

“A hedge is an investment to reduce the risk of adverse price movements in an asset.” - Investopedia

Russian Premier League: Ural vs Rostov

Russian Premier League: Ural vs Rostov

An Example of Hedging a Sports bet in a Russian Premier League Game

As a sports trader you can reduce your risk by hedging a trade you have placed. For instance on November 30th, 2016, Ural played Rostov in the Russian Premier League. The opening odds for the game offered by Pinnacle is included in the table below. Rostov both being higher placed in the League and being a team that beat Bayern Munich at 15 in odds in the Champions League the week before was the favorite to win the game.

Soft bookmakers typically place their odds lower than the odds offered by the sharp bookmakers such as Pinnacle, because they have a lower payout rate. 2,5 hours before kick-off, November 30th, the Norwegian bookmaker Norsk Tipping (NT) offered the game at 2.95 for a Ural win. However at this point in time the odds at Pinnacle had dropped to 2.17 (removing their 2,5% vig, the true odds would be 2.26) resulting in a 30.5 % edge [ ((2.95 / 2.26) -1) *100% ]. Next, Norsk Tipping most likely noticing a large amount of money placed on a Ural win adjusted their odds to 2.6 resulting in the odds below.

However, this was still a 15% edge versus Pinnacle. I placed the bet at 2.6 on NT with a stake of 850 NOK or approximately 100 USD. If Ural wins I would get a return of 260 USD and a profit of 160 USD (Stake returned - Initial stake). After I had placed my initial bet, I kept monitoring the odds at Pinnacle, which kept dropping. With such a large edge I now had the opportunity to hedge my bet to completely eliminate any potential losses if Ural failed to win, while making a smaller profit if they win. This was achieved by placing a bet on Rostov to win on the Asian Handicap line of +0.5 at Pinnacle at 1.96 in odds about 20 minutes after taking my initial position. Meaning that if the match ended in a draw, Rostov would have a 0.5 goal handicap, the result being a Rostov win. By hedging on Pinnacle I would have a return on investment of 11,7% given a Ural win [ 1 / (1/2.6 + 1/1.96) ]. While breaking even on any other outcome (a draw or a Rostov win), so basically I was freerolling the game without any risk of potential losses. An important point to note is that hedging differs from arbitrage, because the bets take place at different points in time. This enabled me to get a much higher ROI while taking positions on both sides than what I would have achieved through arbitrage at the time I placed my initial bet. 

Odds for hedging my bet

Odds for hedging my bet

Expected profits after hedging my bet

Expected profits after hedging my bet

New Information in the form of Lineup Changes Made the Odds Drop

The odds at Pinnacle kept on dropping all the way until kick-off as new information became known to the market. Most likely due to Rostov resting several key players, the pictures below compare the lineup Rostov fielded vs Bayern on the left and Ural on the right.

 

Lineup comparison for Rostov in this game vs their last game

Lineup comparison for Rostov in this game vs their last game

When the match started Ural had become the favorite and Rostov the underdog. Pinnacle offered the following odds:

Closing odds at Pinnacle

Closing odds at Pinnacle

The vig-free closing odds offered by Pinnacle at a Ural win would be 1.76 [ 1.71 / 0.973 ]. (You can read more about why the closing line is a good approximation of the true odds of a game here). The closing edge versus my initial trade at 2.6 would have been a 47,7% edge [ ((2.6 / 1.76) -1) * 100%) ]. It is also worth to note that I would have had better odds on my hedge trade if I had placed it closer to kick-off.

The Pros and Cons of Hedging a Sports Trade

The game ended with Ural winning 1-0, giving me a profit of $60. However, if I had simply stuck with my initial trade of a Ural win at 2.6 in odds without hedging I would have made a profit of $160. This highlights the pros and cons of hedging sports. The advantage of hedging was that I managed to eliminate my risk on the game. However, the disadvantage was that I reduced my potential ROI.

Btw, the winning goal was incredible! (27 seconds into the video)

Now, because of Norsk Tipping’s specific rules, the Ural - Rostov game was not offered as a single, meaning that I had to match it with another game to form an accumulator. I ended up combining it with another team scoring 2 goals or less in another game at 1.01 in odds. They ended up scoring 2 goals, so it was a close call, that ended with the trade being good. However this also meant that in reality my hedge trade was not completely risk free. If the 1.01 game had not gone in, I would have ended up losing the $100 I placed through Pinnacle. Also, bookmakers often reserve the right to void bets where the odds is wrongly set. This could potentially have left me with a huge -EV trade. So if you are going to hedge your trades, make sure you are familiar with your bookmakers rules and practices. 

Lessons Learned from Hedging a sports bet

What did I learn from this experience? One can only make decisions with the information one has available at that point in time. I could not know whether the market would continue dropping in odds on a Ural win after I placed my initial trade or whether it would swing the other way. Therefore I made the decision to hedge my trade and freeroll the game for a guaranteed profit if Ural ended up winning. In hindsight, I would have made the same decision if the trade had been a single on NT. However if I come across trades in the future where there are hedging opportunities, but the game is not offered as a single I would rather run the risk with the potential upside of a larger return on investment

Key takeaway

To sum it up hedging a sports bet can enable you to reduce your risk, but it will also reduce your potential ROI. Therefore it is a tradeoff between risk and reward that you as a trader have to make. In addition, you should be aware of potential pitfalls such as bookmakers voiding your bets as they can leave you exposed.

By

Marius Meling Norheim