Archive for the ‘Fun’ Category

Horse racing

August 11, 2013

I’ve never got into horse racing, as I usually couldn’t tell a [insert name of some type of horse] from [insert another].

I know so little about it that I’m not tempted.

But I am fascinated by the complexity of betting on horse races. Terms like “I’ll have an each-way trixie and a lucky 31, all at SP.” And the bookie knows exactly how many horses names will be called (at least five and at most eight) and within minutes nearly 100 bet calculations will be made.

As I was sitting in a betting shop watching some cricket, I decided to try out an idea I’ve had about the way people bet.

I knew nothing at all about any of the horses, or the jockeys, or the trainers. I made no allowances for the race course, the horses recent performances ["form"], or racing conditions.

All I cared about was how many places would be paid out for an each way bet. Just a warning for Americans, you don’t use the same terms as in the UK or Ireland, so what we call a “place” isn’t the same as what you think it means.

I sat through five races and despite misgivings about one of them (too many horses ranked very close together), I duly picked and wrote down my choices. I did NOT however, go to a cashier and place any of these.

The Curragh (a race course in Ireland), the 4.15pm race. The payout for each way was 1/4 odds for either first or second. In the 4.45pm race at the same venue, the each way was 1/4 odds for the first three to finish.

Leicester (in the East Midlands of England), the 4.25pm race. One fifth odds for the first three to cross the line.

Downpatrick (which I assumed to be in Ireland), the 4.30pm race. Again one fifth odds for the first three.

Windsor the 4.40pm race, one quarter odds for the first two.

My picks were Hamza at 6/1, Brazen at 10/1, Ironmill Lad at 8/1, Understory at 5/1 and Sassaway at 8/1.

I chose them with the following principles: how many places were there? Take the horse that has odds putting it closest outside the each way places. So in my first race where the first two would pay out, Hamza was the third favourite. In a couple of races there was a cluster of choices on the same odds (Ironmill Lad’s race for example). There I picked the one that was drifting out. That means the horse the punters were moving their money AWAY from. This worked brilliantly with Sassaway but failed with Ironmill Lad. Where it looked like the odds might be getting shorter (say they were 8/1 but had been 9/1 earlier) I would “take the price”, otherwise I was taking “SP” (the price quoted as the race started).

My choice of bet was an “each way Lucky 31″. I would have put £1 on each selection, which would have cost me £62.

The fun is that this would have automatically selected for me the following combinations:

Five singles:

Hamza to finish first or second.

Brazen to finish first, second or third.

Ironmill Lad to finish first, second or third.

Understory to finish first or second.

Sassaway to finish first, second or third.

Ten doubles:

Hamza and Brazen.

Hamza and Ironmill Lad.

Hamza and Understory.

Hamza and Sassaway.

Brazen and Ironmill Lad.

Brazen and Understory.

Brazen and Sassaway.

Ironmill Lad and Understory.

Ironmill Lad and Sassaway.

Understory and Sassaway.

Ten trebles:

Every possible combination of three of the five horses.

Five fourfold accumulators:

Every possible combination of four of the five horses.

Finally, a fivefold accumulator: all five selections to win or place.

I was effectively making 62 selections (31 bets with either a win or a place) and there were 13 possible winning results for me. In three races, I was winning if my pick finished in the top three. In the other two races, a top-two finish would be needed. I had thirteen possible chances of winning something.

Hamza finished second. Brazen won. Ironmill Lad was in the top two for a long time but didn’t finish in the first five. Understory looked good for most of his race but was well beaten, with a top jockey (who I would have backed if I’d done any kind of research) winning by some distance. Sassaway won well.

If I’d put £10 on each to win, I’d have spent £50 and got £190 back, a profit of 280%.

My Lucky 31 going £1 each way would have cost £62. I would have got £250 back, a profit of 303.2%.

I’m not tempted, but I can see how it might be compelling. And I admit I would have been pretty excited while the races were running.

Rugby, cricket, but not football

August 14, 2011

This is no fluke. England has the best five-day cricket playing team. And the style by which this has been achieved, an innings and 242 run spanking of India, is distinctly un-English, for those who bleated for Tim Henman at Wimbledon or who persist in dreaming that “passion” will win the football team a World Cup.

Let’s be clear how much better England were than India: add another (third) Indian innings and they probably wouldn’t have equalled England’s first innings. Take away Alastair Cook’s 294 runs and his team would have needed 53 runs to win, which is how many Tim Bresnan, the bowler who comes in at No 8 to bat, scored. And India couldn’t get Bresnan out.

I warned that this England cricket squad is as good or nearly as good as the very best in the modern era.

It isn’t a fluke. The foundations for the achievement of becoming test cricket’s number one rated side go back beyond 2005, when England first mugged the then supreme team Australia in an Ashes series which was celebrated like winning a football world cup. There were some slip ups, but since the appointment of the South-African-born Andrew Strauss, this climb up the rankings (England was listed as the worst test playing team at one point) has been the result of the right attitude, preparation and keeping the “passion” to celebrating actual achievements, unlike soccer.

Now cricket joins rugby union as a sport in which the England team have, within the past decade, achieved global superiority. Football, a sport with vastly more money, more spectators and a depth of players, has, by contrast been an utter failure.

Here is England’s World Cup and European Championship record since 1966:

England (World Cup 4th [1990], European Championships 3rd [1968, 1996])

And here are some comparable achievements by countries not rated highly by English soccer fans, commentators or players:
Belgium (World Cup 4th [1986], European Championship 2nd [1980], 3rd [1972])
Bulgaria (World Cup 4th [1994])
Croatia (World Cup 3rd [1998])
Czech Republic (European championship 2nd [1996], 3rd [2004])
Czechoslovakia (European championship 1st [1976], 3rd [1980])
Denmark (European championship 1st [1992], 3rd [1984])
Greece (European championship 1st [2004])
Hungary (European championship 4th [1972])
Poland (World Cup 3rd [1974, 1982])
Russia (European championship 3rd [2008])
Sweden (World Cup 3rd [1994], European championship 4th [1992])
Turkey (World Cup 3rd [2002], European championship 4th [2008])
USSR (European championship 2nd [1972, 1988], 4th [1968])
Yugoslavia (European championship 2nd [1968], 4th [1976])

The teams with better records than England since 1966 also includes Germany, Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal, all of which have at least reached a final.

The first problem for English football is the difficulty in accepting what reasonable expectations to begin with and to work (as opposed to emote) to improve this. It’s hard to accept that Belgium is a more successful footballing country at World and European championships. But investigating why and how to improve on this is the way forward.

It’s a good idea for team spirit if all the players sing the National Anthem with feeling before a game. But it’s not a sufficient skill for winning.

England the best (nearly)

August 2, 2011

There is a tendency among English (and to a certain extent British) sports commentators and supporters to consider national teams either complete rubbish or world class. I’ve written an analysis of the England soccer team at the 2010 World Cup, compared with major rivals which goes into this in some detail. Some time (Real Soon Now, hopefully) I’ll publish it as a page here.

But for now, I want to take issue with Derek Pringle, a former Test player for England, and presently a commentator for the Daily Telegraph. He writes about yesterday’s England win over world number one India:

It was a pounding, delivered with the swaggering elan of the two finest sides of the last 30 years: the West Indies under Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards; and Australia under Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh.
They are not yet as consistently ruthless as those teams but successive wins against India appears to have given them an appetite for world domination judging from the one-sided nature of the cricket here.

Now I would bet that any English reader of the quote is going to assume that I want to criticise the comparison with the great West Indian or Australian sides. But that isn’t my complaint. It’s that Andrew Strauss, the South African-born England captain has already matched or surpassed the standards set by the four great captains listed above.

Here’s the record:

Andrew Strauss (England): Captained 37 times, won 19 (51.4%), lost 5 (13.5%), drawn 13 (35.1%).

Clive Lloyd (West Indies): Captained 74 times, won 36 (48.6%), lost 12 (16.2%), drawn 26 (35.1%).
Viv Richards (West Indies): Captained 50 times, won 27 (54.0%), lost 8 (16.0%), drawn 15 (30.0%).
Mark Taylor (Australia): Captained 50 times, won 26 (52.0%), lost 13 (26.0%), drawn 11 (22.0%).
Steve Waugh (Australia): Captained 57 times, won 41 (71.9%), lost 9 (15.8%), drawn 7 (12.3%).

Now it is clear that Strauss can claim to be more successful than Lloyd, in a near dead heat with Richards and Taylor and behind Waugh. But consider the starting point. The West Indies under Lloyd and England under Strauss did not start from a position of undisputed world’s top test cricket teams. And Steve Waugh’s loss rate is worse than Strauss’ even though he started with the top team in the world.

The simple truth is this. A team coming up against Andrew Strauss’ England does not expect to win (his loss rate is the lowest of the five). Which is precisely what it was like to face those other great captains. I think it’s time to recognise this fact and enjoy it while it lasts.

As a result of the 319-runs win in the second test, taking a 2-0 lead in the four match series, England are on course to take over from India as the top test playing team in the International Cricket Council rankings. Already, Strauss’ team is guaranteed at least second place, leap-frogging South Africa.

Do we know what we don’t know?

June 15, 2011

There’s an interesting exposition of the reason why claims of alien (extra-terrestrial) contact with this planet is extremely unlikely.

I most agree with it: the distances, the length of time it would take technology to develop that would make interstellar travel possible, the sheer luck that would be needed to stumble upon another civilization.

In fact I would go further, I think there’s a chance civilizations discover something like limited control of anti-matter, which it only takes a single nutter to detonate, taking out an entire solar system. We call them “supernovas.” We assume they’re all natural phenomena. If the technology to travel between stars is as powerful but takes longer than the development of a self-extermination bomb, the latter will be developed first by a death cult (easier to make an UNCONTROLLED explosion than a controlled one). Therefore no two interstellar civilizations will ever meet. The upside of this is that this will always be fiction.

But that’s where I have to draw the line.
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Thoughts on the Ashes

December 17, 2010

Thoughts about the Third Ashes Test. The quote below is a draft comment I decided was too long for Brian Micklethwait’s blog.

Hussey is the only really bright spot of Australia’s batting, with useful support from Haddin and now Johnson. Watson is doing well, the rest have been poor. Looking at the stats I see Clarke has an 80 and Ponting a 51 not out.

The problem is the 23 innings (so far) of less than 10 (46% of the total). By comparison England have 12 (36%). At the other end Australians have hit 50 or more 13 times (26%) to England’s 11 (33%), but the over 100 scores read 5 to Engalnd (15%) and 2 to Australia (4%).

I assumed that Johnson not playing between the tests was a sign of confusion by Australia’s selectors (there are plenty of other signs!) but there clearly was some thinking going on which has paid off.

My view is that Collingwood should have been dropped and both Bresnan and Tremlett lined up for England. Collingwood has taken 6 catches (and a couple of great ones), but scores of 4, 42 and 5 (average 17) with no wickets for 21 overs (he only averages one test wicket per 20 overs in his career) is not good enough for this series. If he’d got the 42 yesterday when England were collapsing I’d take a different view.

The Broad injury looks like being followed by Finn. Overbowling for long spells, because there are only four proper bowlers in the team. In the first two tests this was excusable: caution over going behind. Not now. And Collingwood does not seem suited to this pitch as a bowler.

Meanwhile Bell (worst score 52, he’s been running out of partners) is wasted at number six. Move him, Prior and Swann up the line and put the extra bowler in. Shorter spells might not take more wickets, but injured bowlers off the pitch certainly won’t. I can see Anderson break down soon after his 48 hour flights as he gets overbowled covering for Finn and the absent fifth bowler. A couple of 10-over spells on a hot day should do it. Bad planning.

Swann is occasionally getting whacked around. If there’s a turning pitch coming up England could pick both spinners, with left and right arm options available. I suspect Panesar might get Swann some more wickets. Clearly not this match (unless Australia’s dropping of Beer is an error), but perhaps the next two?

Overall, for all the talk, England have played like a team that think the Ashes are already won after day one of this test.
Final thought about Ponting. Dropping him for averaging only about 30 in the past two years is bizarre. I don’t think Mark Taylor was as good and he kept his place.

One thought niggles me. Whatever happened to the “Cricket Academy” the Australians had which was supposedly the source of greatness in the 1990s and early 2000s?

Quote of the day

December 7, 2010

“The Germans are such a cruel and inhuman race, they have no word for fluffy.”

Edmund Blackadder [H/T my German host]

Testing the Wisdom of Crowds

February 8, 2010

On January 11th, I spoke at a gathering of the Libertarian Alliance about James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds book (previous post here).

I got 15 responses to a questionnaire I handed around at the meeting (recording here) and can now report on my findings.

The questions were as follows:

Question 1. Regardless of what you think will happen, which political party or parties, if any, do you want to win the next British general election?

Question 2. Below is a list of six Premier League football clubs, please list them in order of closest to this place [near Senate House, Malet Street London WC1], to furthest (1 is closest, 6 is furthest. [Ranked in alphabetical order: Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, Hull City, Manchester United and Wigan Athletic]

Question 3. Guess my weight (in kilogrammes, stones or pounds). [I stood in front of the audience]

Question 4. Which of these four themes is part of the 2010 Spring Collection, according to the latest trends being pushed by fashion houses?
[Stiletto heels; Kitten heels; Pompadour heels; Achilles heels]

Question 5. Regardless of what you want to happen, which political party will have a majority after the next British general election? If you think no party will have a majority, write “None”.

I also asked respondents to rate how they thought the group would do as a whole. However, I have not reported these as it is clear from the responses that this instruction was not well explained by me (some responded in relative terms, others in absolute terms).

Responses and my comments below the fold…
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Has the State nationalized Global Warming?

January 11, 2010

I can only offer one suggestion for the very cold weather throughout the northern hemisphere, given that my acceptance of the scientific explanation of sunspots causing weather changes has me branded a “denier.”

The government must have nationalized climate change: that’s why the warming is late and crap.

The UK’s Meterological Office (a tax funded body which is up to its neck in the warmist propaganda) has already decided that this is the warmest winter for years. Dominic Lawson writes here [hat tip: Instapundit]:

one of its staffers sniffily protested in an internet posting to a newspaper last week: “This will be the warmest winter in living memory, the data has already been recorded. For your information, we take the highest 15 readings between November and March and then produce an average. As November was a very seasonally warm month, then all the data will come from those readings.”

Headline news

December 28, 2009

I hope these story headlines from the BBC are NOT related news:

OTHER TOP STORIES
Labour MP dies after heart attack
Pope on first visit since assault
Six held on suspicion of murder
Cameron urges ‘good clean fight’
High-speed rail report expected
‘Simple’ anti-theft ads launched

The possibility that HH Pope Benedict XVI might have assaulted a Labour MP (who died of a heart attack), with six accomplices (including David Cameron) because simple anti-theft advertisements are launched to prevent the stealing of high-speed trains, would be disturbing, to say the least.

I need a new electorate

December 15, 2009

The people have spoken, again.

Changes in your ranks:
#41 cutest (lost 1 place)
#43 hottest (lost 1 place)
#43 person with the prettiest eyes (lost 1 place)
#44 sexiest (lost 1 place)
#45 most dateable (lost 1 place)

Not wishing to sound like a bad loser, but OUCH!!!

Faithful Igor

“So, Antoine, what’s it like to be Igor‘s ugly twin?”


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