“I turned 200€ into 8000€ in 9 months”. Spanish engineer created service WinnerOdds to search for value bets in tennis
Miguel Figueres – engineer and professor from Spain, who created his algorithm WinnerOdds to search for value bets in tennis automatically. Since May 2016 his algorithm made 35 172 bets with +7465 unit profit. Subscription for a month is available for 99€.
I arrived at sports betting after trying poker and forex. When playing poker, I liked to program software that helped me make fast decisions, like calculating the pot odds, the showdown probabilities or the expected value. In 2012 poker was regulated in Spain so that I could only play with Spanish players, the prizes became much lower and I quit. In Forex, I programmed several expert advisors, but the maintenance and review of the profitable methods required a full time dedication and I gave that up too.
Several years after that, a friend told me about his tennis betting method, and I thought that I could use my previous knowledge and experience to program an algorithm to find betting opportunities, as well as how much to bet, with an automatic method by using artificial intelligence.
Although I enjoy programming, I am not a computer engineer but a civil engineer. However, I learned programming and artificial intelligence applications at university.
My full time job is as a Civil Engineer in my own firm, IGM. I am also Professor at the University of Valencia. And finally I have to invest time in WinnerOdds too, as we are now developing the algorithms for sports other than tennis.
Аbout your project. Why did you decide to create it? How does it work? Why is it useful for bettors?
I decided to create WinnerOdds because I knew that all the bookies available in Spain restrict their users if they win in the long term. So I decided to share my method with my friends, then after that, I thought about turning it into a new business.
My first idea was to launch a product that wouldn’t require much time to maintain, but nowadays, I see I was wrong: I am always thinking of new ways to improve WinnerOdds. It is a challenge and quite time consuming, but at least, it is very exciting to see our users making significant profit using my algorithm, it is really rewarding.
WinnerOdds calculates the Minimum Profitable Odds (MPO), also known as “no bet under”, with a safety margin. It is very easy to use for both new bettors and experienced bettors: If you find odds above the MPO, you have to bet. We monitor the odds of many bookmakers, so that the user doesn’t spend time looking for the best odds. We also use a Kelly strategy for the bet size, proportional to the bankroll and the value, so that the growth of the bankroll would be exponential (if restrictions didn’t exist). It is useful for bettors because they can get value bets without making many decisions, they only have to bet above the MPO the recommended amount. The only recommendation is using as many bookmakers as possible, so they get more and better odds.
Why tennis only? Maybe you play yourself?
I started with tennis because it was the easiest sport to model. There is a lot of information available and there is no home/away influence. The odds range is not very extreme, like in horse racing, and the volatility is not very high, although there is always a risk to take in sports betting.
I don’t play tennis, but I play paddle tennis in amateur leagues and I also feel the pressure in the breakpoints or in the tie breaks, similar to following a match I have bet on 😄.
Do you consider yourself a sharp bettor? If the answer is positive, how much time did it take you to become a sharp bettor?
I don’t like to consider myself a sharp bettor. I like to think that my algorithms calculate the probability of the outcomes better and faster than the bookmakers and other bettors, so that I can take profit from “wrong” estimated odds with the available info.
It took me one complete year, 2014, to find a system that could beat the odds in the long term. At that time, I didn’t know much about p-value or drawdown estimation, so I had to test the algorithm during a full year, 2015, and see by myself and with my own money that the system was working. I turned 200€ into 8000€ in 9 months, at that moment I knew I was going to be restricted sooner or later and I decided to share the method.
I first read about WinnerOdds in a Pinnacle article, suggesting that tennis markets might not be as efficient as other sports, in terms of closing lines. What are your thoughts on this?
I think that there will always be a small percentage of matches that have value even at the closing line. It’s just a question of finding enough of them to make your system profitable. Doing that at pinnacle is very hard, because of the high volume of bets they accept, and also because of their system that takes into account if the bettors are sharp or not to adapt the odds, but it is not impossible.
I recognise that WinnerOdds doesn’t find most of its value at the closing lines, but you don’t need to beat Daniel Negranu to win money playing poker. You need to be better and faster than most of the bettors and get the best return of your investment as many times as possible. WinnerOdds does that with extraordinary success.
The video guide on your site shows US Open odds, bookies accept really big money on such competitions, so if the model is profitable, why don’t you just bet yourself?
There are several reasons. One of them is that, at least in Spain, it is not possible to place bets automatically, while WinnerOdds algorithm can find value bets 24/7. As I am not available all the time and cannot place all the bets, I share them with our users so that we can take profit from all of them. The other one is that even with those big matches, you get restricted sooner or later with the soft bookies available in Spain. Finally, in those matches, like Grand Slams, it is very hard to find value, as the bookies adjust the odds very well and the yield we can obtain is lower, while with CH and ITF competitions we have more volume and larger yield, so why not take advantage of all that profit potential?
There’s a huge wave of match-fixing in tennis after the covid break. Can WinnerOdds highlight these cases?
I am sure we have bet in many of those matches. I have seen some very strange behaviour, such as different attitudes in one set with respect to the whole match, very unlikely comebacks, extremely low conversion of break points (BP). I always think that, for example, if the probability of converting a BP was as low as 0.35, what is the probability of getting a 2 of 15 or less, for example? With the binomial function, we can calculate it is still 6%. So it is difficult to demonstrate, we will never know. I think that bookies would have more info if they observe strange betting patterns.
How did covid influence tennis and tennis betting in general? Maybe new trends?
Covid has affected the tennis player performance in two ways. First, the difference in level between all the players has been reduced, especially because the better players have interrupted their normal training. And second, the performance of all players is also very irregular. They have more injuries and also psychologically seem to be less concentrated.
What bookie offers the most efficient odds?
Pinnacle, there is no doubt about. At least in tennis and football, they are the markets I have the best knowledge of, their odds are the best adjusted odds.
Is it possible to be a profitable bettor without at least basic knowledge of probability theory relying just on the exceptional understating of particular sports?
I think it is very unlikely. You need to know some concepts like the expected value, variance, long term… We are not picking the player or team that is going to win. When betting, you need to know which odds are higher than the required probability.
People confuse Value Betting with ‘picking winners’, our aim isn’t to know who is likely to win any given game, our aim is to find odds that don’t reflect the true probability of an outcome and exploit them.
You have an article about money-management in sports betting. Can you explain why it is so important?
There are two principles I follow: Fractional Kelly size betting and limited maximum drawdown. From my point of view, the bet size should be proportional to the bankroll and the expected value and inversely proportional to the bet odds in order to maximize profit. This way, when you lose, you reduce your bet size, and after winning, you can increase the bet size. You bet more when you estimate you have more value, and you bet less when the bet odds are high, in order to reduce the risk.
Additionally, every bettor needs to know which is the risk he is exposed to. I like using the expected maximum drawdown (EMDD) and I choose a bet sizing so that the EMDD in one year is approximately 30% or lower. We have recently posted an online calculator to get the expected maximum drawdown very fast and easy (), so that everyone can perform the calculation of their EMDD.
If you don’t follow an adequate money management system, the risk of bankruptcy (Which is equivalent to death in sports betting), can be much higher than you think.
Can you explain how to beat the line for dummies?
There is no secret: Place bets only when you are sure enough that the bookie odds are higher than the inverse of the real probability of that result. The problem is how to properly estimate the probability and its error.
Here is a simple explanation of the concept of Value Betting.
What is the difference between amateur bettors and professionals?
There are many differences between amateur and professional bettors. The main one is that amateur bettors are betting only for fun and emotion and attempt to win money fast with low effort. They bet like playing the lottery. However, professionals don’t worry about what they are betting for, if they like the sport, the team or the player or not, they only look for value and they must leave their emotions at home.
What are basic mistakes in betting you can warn newcomers against?
The basic mistake is to think that betting is a fast and easy way to win money. You need money management, a strategy profitable in the long term, a relatively big bankroll, and a lot of patience and mentally strength to overcome the bad streaks, that are unavoidable.
Books or sites about sports betting to start with?
There are three books I would recommend. The first one, that I think is a must, is “Squares & Sharps, Suckers & Sharks: The Science, Psychology & Philosophy of Gambling”, by Joseph Buchdahl. You can learn a lot with this book. Perhaps it is a little bit advanced for beginners, for them I would recommend the e-book I published some time ago, “How to beat the bookies”. And finally, a book that is not specifically about sports betting, but I think is important to understand how our brain works when dealing with probabilities and money, is “Thinking fast and slow”, by Daniel Kahneman.
3 best punters you know and the worlds 3 best bookies? Why?
The three best punters I know and I trust are “Nishikori The tipster”, Nil Munné and of course, WinnerOdds.
The world’s three best bookies from my point of view are Pinnacle, Bet365 and Marathonbet. Pinnacle because of his odds and high volume accepted. Bet365 because they offer more markets than anyone else. And finally Marathonbet because although they also restrict winning users, offer very low margins and reasonable bet limits.
I would like to thank you for your interest in my betting career and my method. I believe that the questions raised bring my point of view of sports betting, which is somewhat different from the average. If you want to ask anything else directly, you can find me at my twitter @Miguel_Figueres.
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