Jan-19: How much data is enough?: Crunching the numbers to find a profitable betting syndicate

5 October 2018 - 14:27, by , in Betting Blog, News, Comments off

How much data is enough?

Crunching the numbers to find a profitable betting syndicate…

If you’re sending a rocket to Mars, it makes sense to study a few facts and figures before you commit to lift-off.

But if you’re thinking about joining a betting syndicate, one that specialises in horseracing tips or professional football advice, then how many numbers, or pieces of information, or plain and simple bets, do you need to look at in order to make an informed decision to sign-up?

I’ve worked in the betting industry for over 25 years… and spent longer than I care to remember poring over print-outs, studying spreadsheets, and analysing data sets to the nth degree. And even now, I couldn’t say if there is one catch-all answer that says you need “this much information” or to see “that many bets” in order to accurately rate one football betting tipster over another, or to compare any professional horseracing backer against a rival.

As a potential member, and someone who wants to win money at football betting, or make money from golf tips, I would strongly advise you to look at a certain, minimum amount of information before taking the plunge.

I never guess. It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts

Not my words. Those of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, spoken through his most famous creation Sherlock Holmes. And surely there has never been a more fact-based, or data-driven, thinker than our fictional friend from 221B Baker Street.

Point being, it’s a mistake to think X or Y is a good or bad service until you’ve laid eyes on some hard figures. A set of results that give you the basis on which to form an objective opinion.

And over the years that’s the key thing I’ve found with my own personal data studies. You need to put your mind in neutral before looking at a set of results. Use these figures to drive the decision making process, and not the other way round… otherwise it will be a misleading case of the tail wagging the dog.

To quote another well-educated observer of this subject, Michael J. Gelb writing in “Innovate Like Edison”…

The ability to consider data without prejudice is a distinguishing characteristic of the greatest minds

He goes on…

Our ability to pursue rigorous objectivity is hampered when we prejudge data in an overly positive or negative way”.

You see. Brain in neutral.  Be led by the figures, not the ideas you already might have (maybe from past experience) that winning money from horseracing is impossible, or you can’t find the country’s most profitable football tipster by something as simple as a random Google search.

Again I bow to a more articulate commentator than myself, the legendary Scottish writer and philosopher, Andrew Lang, who perfectly summed up this risk of misusing information when he wrote…

An unsophisticated forecaster uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts – for support rather than for illumination”.

In other words, don’t apply any previously held views to the data you’re about to see.

And that’s how I operate when it comes to doing my own due diligence about a new source of football bets or golf tips.

Of course, I have to assess the calibre of the person who is sending me the information (their background, work experience, what I perceive to be their honesty, reliability and professionalism), but first and foremost, when I put them under the microscope, it’s like a trial. I’m the jury, they’re putting up their defence in a case of “Are you a good tipster?”… and how do the results affect the verdict. Innocent or guilty!

Always take on any data study, whether it’s to do with horseracing tips or house insurance, with as objective an approach as possible, otherwise the amount of data before you will be irrelevant, and will have no bearing on your ultimate decision – in this case the choice to join a winning betting syndicate.

So just how much is enough?

From this “brain in neutral” position, the question still remains, how much information do you need to make an informed decision about the seemingly highly profitable horseracing tipster or winning football betting system that’s just fallen into your hands.

How do you know when you have enough data? That is a difficult question to answer if you don’t know how much you need”.

I’ve taken this quote from a paper by Scott Norris at the University of Washington as it accurately illustrates the point I made at the outset. You’re not looking to fly to Mars, all you need to do is back the winner of the 3:30 at Kempton Park.

But still, how much research is needed to trust “the professional” at the other end of the advice you’re about to receive…

Speaking personally, whenever I start out with a new source of betting information, I ask for a minimum of 3 months advice or 50 bets… not to make a final judgement about them, not at all, but simply to be able to make an initial assessment.

At least with this amount of data I can monitor bet volume, tempo and frequency (and their overall professionalism). What markets they concentrate on, the type of bets they strike, the value or edge they have in each position. And only then, at the end, do I see whether they make money or not.

From there we can agree to move on with the venture, or shake hands and say at least we gave it a try.

And should both parties be happy to proceed, the proofing period can continue. But for how long?

It can be a long process (but worth it)

Opinions differ as to how much time you need to spend on this exercise… but I genuinely believe different sports, and different bet types, demand different periods of analysis (or varying amounts of data) to create a representative body of information from which a reliable, considered and, let’s remember, objective decision can be made.

Take football betting tips, here I would require an absolute minimum of one full season, and preferably two. Because we all know how form changes from August to May.

Or horseracing. Well, the first question here is whether the information before you is flat, jumps or mixed, but 6-9 months minimum (and preferably 12) is needed. Because again, you have to iron out the ups-and-downs of each season starting and finishing.

Golf, another highly lucrative sport to bet on, is again slightly different. Here the sweet spot of the year is from late March, pre-US Masters, through to the end of the Summer. Some 6 months or thereabouts. I’d be wanting to see at least this period of tournament bets before I started to take any potential source of information seriously.

And other sports all have their own time frames which is required in order to make accurate analysis.

Now you might read this and think… just 12 months of racing bets, a season or two of footballs tips, 6 months of golf advice, that still seems a bit short to me.

And I wouldn’t disagree. What I would say to you is any service I operate, the reviewing process is never-ending. It’s always happening. And my golf service is now in Year 5, the football is about to end season No.4, and some of my horseracing content in Year 8 and counting.

But a word of warning, and something which sparked off this whole question in my mind…

Be careful you don’t overdo it

Just as you can have too little data… can you have too much?

Douglas Merrill, the US entrepreneur worth any number of dollars you care to name (with a lot of zeros on the end), put it this way…

With too little data, you won’t be able to make any conclusions that you trust. With loads of data you will find relationships that aren’t real”.

This is a crucial point. One also made at the start of a fascinating book I’m currently reading (and would recommend to you), called the “The Signal And The Noise” by Nate Silver. He writes…

The intellectual shortcut that we take when we have “too much Information” is to engage with it selectively, picking out the parts we like and ignoring the remainder”.

A bit like only seeing only the losers within a set of figures, or picking up on a low strike rate, and not recognising the single, overall important point – that the bets show a profit.

I can see the merits of this point, and I hope you can as well.

If faced with an overwhelming amount of information, you can sometimes get distracted from a main weakness, or strength, hidden within the numbers. Or over-think matters to the point where a “paralysis of analysis” kicks-in, as you’ve got so much of an information overload that you can no longer form a simple, solitary conclusion (and sign-up).

Why is data study important?

Which brings me back to my opening question, about how much data do you need to study in order to decide that a betting service is worth joining. And it’s the very same point which I made to a recent enquirer about the Scottish Football Income Booster, a successful football betting service which I’ve operated since 2015.

Upon enquiring about the service, and asking for more details, I emailed this would-be member [Ian] with a spreadsheet of all previous bets given by the service. At the time this was 651 bets spread over 3 seasons… and now it’s upwards of 750 bets.

And his reply was quite simply that this wasn’t enough data for him to make a judgement on the service. He would need, he said, in the region of 2,000 bets in order to be satisfied that the information was reliable enough and source suitably robust to warrant a membership.

Now I raised some of the issues already mentioned in this article to him, I also pointed out that he could join on a 30 day Money Back Guarantee if he liked (to see if the proof was in the pudding), and that in terms of football betting, more than 3 seasons worth of profitable data, and hundreds of proofed bets, both to me and an independent Third Party, should be enough to at least answer some of his preconceived ideas about betting services, and how many bets are needed to prove the value of joining any one of them.

Maybe this was an exceptional case. And I would argue, based on the years I’ve spent in the industry, that it’s a tad over cautious.

Failing that, as I said to this enquirer [Ian] in reply, I’ll make a diary note to contact him again in 2023!


OPINION: To summarise, I would not recommend joining any service on the basis of a handful of bets. But by the same token I wouldn’t say there is a need to wait, and wait, for so long that the demand for reassurance is outweighed by old and age infirmity. Strike a sensible balance given the subject matter you’re dealing with, and be mindful of the volume of bets in proportion to the period of study i.e. the less frequent the bets, the longer time frame of the data set that is required. And remember too, quality over quantity every time. This mantra counts for data as much as anything else. And finally,  although Mark Twain famously wrote about “lies, damned lies and statistics”, there are some numbers which are useful, informative and ultimately profitable.


You’re more than welcome to check the figures for yourself, and I’ll happily send you a full list of all bets which show how the Scottish Football Income Booster has performed well above the norm for a number of years, and has a long list of committed, and winning, members. Just sign-up to the Betting Wages mailing list on the front page of the website.

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