Playing the Football Pools
Winning the football pools is a lovely idea! But probably as pie-in-the-sky as winning the National Lottery (the odds against picking the winning 6 numbers are 14 million to 1)?
Not at all!
It is possible to win the football pools on a fairly regular basis. Of course, the National Lottery is just that – a lucky dip, completely random (provided the lottery machinery works as it should). The outcome of the football pools is not completely random, and the odds can be worked in your favour. However, to win on a fairly regular basis, you do have to invest time and money, and most importantly, you must be persistent.
If you live in the UK and you are old enough, you may remember the ads for Horace Batchelor on Radio Luxembourg in the sixties, and his “Infra-Draw” method. Basically, he just divided up all the possible outcomes of the weekend’s matches and every punter had a stated set of match selections. With enough punters, someone was very likely to have a good set of selections. So, you might have tried the horses, you might have tried online poker, you might already have tried the stock market. You know the pitfalls:
– The performance of a horse is held back until that special event when they suddenly have a miraculous win – strange that it’s the one event you didn’t back the horse! Some people do make a good income, but they are usually the ones with the inside knowledge and the stable contacts.
– Online poker requires a good memory, a steady nerve and a high degree of skill, and sometimes you are truly playing against users who are using computers to watch the cards and calculate the odds. In fact, this is probably the best option for making money by ‘gambling’, if you have the brain for it!
– The stock market – well, there’s a fortune to be made if you have the patience and can identify a bargain. nevertheless, inside knowledge is important (yes insider trading nevertheless happens at all event governments say), and you are betting against a large number of computers and the arguably best brains in the world. And already they get it wrong in a big way!
Remember, every investment is a gamble and has a degree of risk – already buying a house. Look at how sub-chief mortgages caught everyone out – the risks had not been properly assessed. The meaningful thing is the level of risk involved. And remember, Risk is just another way of quoting odds. Finally, you know that there are people who can make a steady income from betting on horses, from playing poker (but not roulette), bridge, and the stock market. It’s about the detail and the odds, and in the case of poker and bridge, a high degree of skill.
So, what’s the secret?
No big secret, it’s obvious really. Special plans and perms are very well, and detailed football knowledge can be useful. OK, if you are a football fan, that’s good, but it doesn’t really help much if you can’t make the right selections to start with. The important thing is to stand back and look at the numbers. Emotional involvement clouds the issue. You have to be a detached observer, but football fans are usually quite passionate.
With 49 matches on a pools coupon, the number of lines (a line is 8 selections) required to cover all 49 matches – ‘a complete perm 8 from 49’ – would require an entry of 451 million lines. At a cost of 1p per line, this would come to a stake of GBP4.5 million pounds – and there might not already be 8 draws that week, or there might be 15 draws with prize pool shared out across hundreds of winners! So, this is prohibitive and does not make economic sense, already if the pools companies allowed it. They probably would take the bet though!
So, I come back to the words of that old 1940’s number and paraphrase: “press the positive, eliminate the negative, You are left with the likely draws, And don’t mess with mister in between”. (With apologies to Arlen and Mercer who wrote the original).
So, just find a way of identifying those matches which are least likely to be draws, and you are left with the likely draw games. You then have to estimate the probability of each of these, to improve your list of likely draws.
Then, you need to have a betting strategy to cover those likely draws. That’s the subject of a later article…
Copyright (c) 2009 Phil Marks