IN a brand new series at WLB, we're getting inside the minds of some of the betting industry's smartest minds by asking the experts to reveal their favourite resources, valuable insight and biggest wins in the game, with Dave Pilgrim (@StattoBets) up next.
When did you first start betting? Can you remember your first bet?
I've checked Wiki and can confirm it was 17th November 1993 – just a few days before my 15th birthday.
San Marino v England in the final World Cup qualifier which England needed to win. I thought England would win by more than six goals, so my dad, determined to teach me that betting was a mugs game, laid my bet (probably £1).
The history books recorded that not only was that my first bet, but also my first loser, as England duly won 7-1 – a goal short of the magical number (and who can forget that six-second goal for San Marino!).
It rather back-fired on my old man, and I have never looked back since!
What sports or leagues do you focus and bet on?
I've dabbled in various sports over the years, initially as an odds-compiler specialising in tennis and motor sports. Those have continued on, but these days I am more focused on football and darts.
As far as football goes, the breadth of games gives ample opportunity to still find niches. I tend to work up from National League, League Two, League One and the Championship, and also have an eye on the Scottish lower leagues. I keep data on the wider European Leagues and especially like to focus in on the bookings markets where I think there remains plenty of value.
I also love my darts, and keep data on every single dart thrown on the PDC circuit in order to target the stats based markets – particularly when some of the non-top-10 are involved in TV events.
What sites or sources do you use to follow them?
I source my data from a number of places, and tend to find that the harder it is to find, the more valuable it is. Anything too readily available will already be getting used by everyone else, so you sometimes need to put the effort in to cut it together as you need.
The darts data I keep is scraped for me by a good friend. If the data is there on a website, he can usually find it, cut it out and give it to me in a usable format. As an example, we have collated almost a million lines into the dart-by-dart database. For lower league football, I key my own shot-data and read the non-league paper most weekends.
On Twitter there are plenty of worthwhile follows amongst a lot more dross. @Experimental361 does some lovely graphics, @SwissRamble always intrigues me, and @MarkTaylor0 is also worth a follow, as is @colintrainor.
What are your favourite websites for research?
I probably use more than 30 sites regularly, but among the pick for me would be:
What stats do you consider the most important?
Everyone should know it, but xG is clearly more useful than the league table – especially early in the season. I tend to make hay most successfully between August and December, where the league tables still tell lots of porkies.
The bookmakers are much better at this sort of thing than they were five years ago unfortunately and I do think what works today is unlikely to be the same as in two years. You have to keep evolving.
For bookings, I tend to place more emphasis on the referee and competition than the two teams involved.
One other note on stats – I think the real edge with stats is understanding when a pattern is just “noise” and when it is meaningful. Flip a coin 50 times and see how many times “heads” looks to be “in-form” and you'll get the idea.
Are there any stats or trends you feel are irrelevant?
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt betting?
Why is value important in betting?
Have you any advice for punters looking to try and find an edge?
What’s your biggest betting win and how do you spend it?
Can I tell you two if they are linked?
I backed Lewis Hamilton at 100/1 to win the 2007 Sports Personality of the Year at the start of the 2007 F1 season. As a keen motorsport fan I knew how quick he might be in his debut season, and going into one of the top cars meant he was one of a handful of people who could win that season's championship.
I figured I'd rather back him for SPOTY than the F1 title, as I could still collect even if he finished second or third in the Drivers Championship. He missed out on the F1 title by a single point, and was an odds-on chance for SPOTY. I never hedged and he got beaten by a frenzied Welsh vote behind Joe Calzaghe. I've never forgiven myself!
I got my revenge, and my biggest ever win seven years later on the same event. SPOTY 2014, where Rory McIlroy fully deserved to be crowned winner after an incredible season and was well odds-on (around 1.4).
All the polls (which have been really reliable on SPOTY over the years) pointed to Hamilton being rewarded for his second world title however. The polls proved right, and I landed easily my biggest ever win – just into five figures. As I say, Rory should have won it. He deserved it. But I was happy for him to be the bridesmaid that year!
Do you review your bets and track your winners/losers?
How do you cope with losing bets?
What’s the best thing about betting?
About Dave Pilgrim
Dave Pilgrim (@StattoBets) has worked in the betting industry for almost 20 years operating on both sides of the punter/bookmaker fence. He loves nothing more than to talk about football, football data and how these translate to the betting markets. He is also a regular tipster and columnist for www.bettingemporium.com covering UK and European football.