The horse betting landscape has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. The internet, as in many other areas of life, has redesigned the way we bet. Back in 1997 I was teaching an introductory class in Internet based programming for the web at De Montfort University. To kick off the first session I wanted to take an overview of the way the internet was heading and what opportunities it offered. I needed an example of how it could radically change our way of doing business and my interest in betting gave me a perfect example. I told the students that selling jeans or t shirts was all well and good and certainly had a place on the net but the real winners would be those people who invented something that people wanted but before the internet, could not be fulfilled. As way of an example I showed them Interbet.com. You probably have never heard of it. It was a US based site and to my knowledge was in fact the first internet person to person betting site, well before Betfair emerged. I have to admit it was a bit of a ghost town in terms of liquidity but it allowed me to show the students a prime example of something totally new that could turn an industry on its head. Of course there are better examples of totally new products like Facebook but betting even to non betting students was something they could understand. I am not sure if I ruined the lives of any of those students but there have been no court cases so far.
Betfair arrived around the turn of the millennia and its arrival revolutionized the way we bet. If you cannot agree with that then you have sadly been left behind or perhaps I should say its has changed your betting but you are blissfully unaware.
Exchange betting is not the only tech’ led initiative that has changed how we bet. Back in 1986 I was making regular visits to London’s Colingdale newspaper library. On arrival I would fill in a form requesting a period of Sporting Life back issues, say January 1975 to July 1975. After waiting around half an hour, if you were lucky, an old guy would appear wheeling a trolley. The trolley had two purposes, to stop the old guy from falling over and to deliver newspapers to the waiting customers. When you finally got your hands on 6 months of back issues you set to work like a Dickens character on the night before Christmas, analyzing the current system you hoped would take you off this small island and onto a privately owned one. If you worked quickly without breaks you might get a second six month batch in but usually it was back to the train station.
Today we can buy or scrape data from the internet, write or buy some software to analyse it and get the answer that took me months to find out in a matter of seconds. In this data driven age betting has not escaped the big data revolution and I would suggest that the most prized skill any would be successful punter can possess today is Computer Programming skill. It gives you access to the three main skills I aim to introduce in this book.
The first is data gathering via web scraping. You can buy commercially, out of the box data for horse racing but web scraping allows you to gather data that perhaps is not currently available in such a format. We will use Python programming language to gather data.
The second skill is data modelling. Gathering data is all well and good but what are you going to do with it. How are you going to utilize it so that on a daily basis it will tell you what horse to bet and perhaps what horse to lay. To answer this question we will look at Machine Learning using Python once again and the Python Scikit-learn library.
Finally if you intend to spend time on more meaningful activities like installing solar panels on that island of yours you will need the computer to automatically carry out your daily modelling and auto execute your bets and lays. Once again Python will be the vehicle of choice along with the Betfair APING.
If you have done some rudimentary programming before then what follows should be within your compass. If you have not done any programming then I will suggest a decent Youtube introduction which will give you a foothold.
If you think this book may be for you then leave a comment in the comments section or you find me on Twitter at @smartersig