If you are a long-time reader of BallinEurope, you have read the outstanding interviews we posted with people involved with bets on basketball games. This time we talked to Philip Carpenter, an odds compiler at SportingBet.com, the official partner of the Euroleague. When Philip sent in the interview, I was amazed by his answers – Make sure you read this article, in which he discusses bets in the USA as well as who will win the Euroleague and the Olympics.
What exactly does an odds compiler like you are have to do? Is it a 24/7 job?
As an odds compiler, the main aim is to assess the likelihood of each outcome of a specific event. As a basketball trading team, we are responsible for analysing and producing prices on season outrights and individual matches, including handicaps and total points lines, for about a dozen leagues across Europe, ranging from the Spanish ACB to the Adriatic NLB. We will also cover all major tournaments, like the Olympics this summer, and European tournaments such as the Euroleague, of which SportingBet is the sponsor.
To work in this climate, you have to understand that news filters through at all times of day, due to time differences across Europe and the Americas. This means you have to be flexible in your approach and to ensure that there is always somebody available to react to any major news that can drastically affect a price. For example, the recent move by Josh Childress from Atlanta in the NBA to Olympiakos in the Greek A1.
What is your strategy for making odds? For example, how much and what kind of research do you do?
I work in a team that consists of four or five traders of which we individually cover two or three leagues. As teams in Europe generally play once a week, it is relatively simple to follow teams’ progress and track them across the season. Domestic league homepages are a great source of information and help provide all manner of statistics from which to work from. As we cover several games live each weekend,we are able to see firsthand how teams perform, which obviously helps us in the pricing process not only for the next match, but for the season outright books we offer.
The internet is obviously a massive tool that can be utilised, and enables us to access forums and discussion websites to get more information that statistics cannot supply. When approaching a match, you want to look at many factors, with important ones being current from over the last five or six matches, the venue, home advantage in, say, a Turkish or Greek arena, is very important. Injuries have to be looked at for obvious reasons, however, fortunately in the European game, they play once a week, so injuries can be better assessed, whereas in America, where they play three or four times a week, injuries play a more important role.
Do you think it’s possible to make a living with basketball bets?
I am privileged to work with a lot of devices that makes it possible to access a lot of information for which I am able to assess whether a price is correct or out of line. These tools, such as websites that contain statistics, come at a price and charge for their services. This will eat into any profits made and are essential for successful betting, and you must understand that losing streaks are unavoidable. It is possible with the right staking plan and the dedication it takes to return a profit. Many people do not understand that it is a very time-consuming occupation as a professional gambler as there is always information to be gained. It is possible but you must have the right attitude and be patient. Obviously luck plays an important role, especially in basketball, as the game is very volatile, as one point generally can have a massive impact when betting on handicaps and totals.
What is more interesting, NBA bets or European basketball bets?
I find that the NBA is very interesting, as they play many times a week. There are a lot of mitigating factors caused by this, which helps to level the playing field a bit, as the number one team can lose to the 30th ranked team. This can be put down to a host of reasons, such as venue when a team goes on a road trip and doesn’t play a home game for 10 days or so, fatigue, minor injuries that players sometimes wouldn’t play through (as they would in Europe). So that gives a bit of an edge to the gambler, as you cannot guarantee that a team will try 100%. They play 82 games per season, so losing one game doesn’t have the impact that it would on a team that plays only 30 games in Turkey.
The major problem with betting on the NBA is that the country doesn’t really appreciate the concept of betting. It’s only legal in certain areas of the country. Las Vegas is predominantly recognised in America as the centre for betting. So they have their own oddsmakers. As they are exposed to more coverage and more statistics, they are viewed as very well-informed and so few bookmakers across Europe will ever release any lines until Las Vegas has put up lines in their casinos. Now if Las Vegas moves a handicap, the average bookmaker thinks they know something that he doesn’t and so will automatically follow them. Because of this nature there are very few opinions out there as everybody is following Las Vegas lines, and there is little deviation. There are very little differences in the prices being offered, so that can be somewhat limiting for the bettor.
Do you think that bets on women’s basketball are easier to make than on men’s games?
I think that anybody trying to adopt betting as a lifestyle has more of a chance to make a living out of betting on women’s matches. I say this primarily because there is less coverage on women’s matches, and less coverage means the availability on information is lower, which means that the bettor has a bigger chance of beating the bookmaker if they can use the information more effectively than the bookmaker. You will often see on a men’s match that there will be nearly 50 companies all offering a very similar match price, with handicaps within one point of one another. Whereas only several companies will offer a woman’s match and that can lead to greater differences in handicaps. To realise a profit, though, you must be dedicated and use the information, but the women’s game is just as volatile as the men’s.
Since you must know a lot about international Basketball, who will win the Olympic tournament this summer?
It is always hard to look past the USA whenever they come to a major tournament; those who have over the last few years have probably made good profits. This year, however, they are taking it very seriously. They finished the season earlier, so that they can practice a more European style of offensive and defensive play, which they have struggled with in recent years, and have also been coached with international refereeing, which is different to that of the NBA. They would be my recommendation, as they are taking a very strong team – even with Le Bron’s recent injury. But if you are looking at an outsider, then the Greeks looked very strong at the qualifying tournament (albeit they were at home) or Argentina, who are placed in the weaker group and, if all goes to plan, avoid the USA until the final.
And of course … who will win the Euroleague 2009 in Berlin…?
Tough question, but Olympiakos have made some good signings over the summer, and with the playoffs moving to five-game series instead of three-, Greece is a very difficult place to go. Also keep an eye on Efes Pilsen: They were going strong last year until players refused to go to Belgrade for a match (they were all subsequently cut), and they have been very active over the summer trying to rebuild for the Euroleague this year.
Thank you very much, Philip, for this great interview!