I recall having a rather intense argument with a couple of friends about the universal morality of gambling with a narrower focus on soccer betting. Amidst the heated banter of it all came one of the most mind-boggling questions in my opinion- “So what’s the difference between investing and gambling?” Clearly, the import of the question was directed at the difference between speculation and soccer betting since investing and speculation are two different things and hence would have rendered the question moot.
I paused for a brief moment, thinking through the entirety of the betting process in relation to forex trading for instance. The Forex market is the most liquid market in the world with an average daily trading volume of $4.7 trillion and involves the buying and selling of currency pairs. The intricacies of the forex market though require some appreciable level of skill and experience with risk management and a basic understanding of technical and fundamental analysis. Regardless of your in-depth knowledge and know-how, even the most experienced traders are bound to make losses as financial markets are characterized with a high degree of uncertainty.
For the many that are not familiar with soccer betting, well it also involves risking some amount of money in anticipation of monetary rewards by predicting the outcome of a soccer game. The semblance with forex trading on this tangent is perhaps obvious save the fact that soccer betting allows for a third alternative of predicting – win, lose and draw.
Irrespective of the differences in their dynamics, they all involve some degree of prediction and probability except of course, forex traders will tell you that they don’t just “buy” and “sell” as their whim dictates. They study historical data by establishing major support and resistance levels of currency prices whilst interweaving fundamentals, age-old financial concepts and indicators on price charts to determine price trends and reversals, breakout patterns etc. That’s their justification for the speculation they involve themselves in.
The emergence of disruptive technologies like machine learning, AI (Artificial Intelligence), APIs and algorithms have attempted to provide some level of certainty and surety in forex trading with robots being able to provide signals about when to buy or sell a particular currency pair. So probably, forex trading may not just be “speculation” but let’s dive into the world of the gambler, shall we?
In my opinion, there are two types of gamblers. The average gambler and “The Gambler”. The average gambler believes his success rate is tied solely to luck. The Gambler on the other hand thinks otherwise and seeks to harness the gift of reasoning and tact to win. To him, it’s probably the math of probability or the psychology of human behaviour like in the case of poker. During the soccer season, major leagues all over the world entertain soccer lovers to scheduled series of matches every weekend with at least 30 games played worldwide. The Gambler can decide to diversify his risk here by betting against a “sure win” game based on past soccer data of a particular team in relation to its opponent, the current form of the individual players and even previous match results of both teams. The resulting conclusion and eventual outcome is dependent on the individual’s intellect and the “market risk” of uncertainty with respect to football. The Gambler “invests” in a single or fewer games with a certain expected outcome since the rules of soccer betting dictate that, assuming 5 bets are placed on 5 different soccer games, 4 wins out of 5 spells total loss of initial capital and possible returns. The conventional and most basic idea of risk diversification in stock trading involves buying stocks of different companies in different industries like those traded on the Ghana Stock Exchange and so the concept of risk management for both trader and gambler is ironically similar.
Fibonacci levels, Moving Averages, Support and Resistance Levels, Relative Strength Index, Triangle and Flag patterns, Candlesticks, Interest rates, Inflation, GDP, NFP’s and every other macroeconomic indicator mirrors in the soccer betting world as: Striker’s Conversion Rate, team performance in the last 5 games, Home and Away Effects, Transfers in and out, Past Coaching Performance, Current standing on the league table, Subsequent fixtures, Match groupings for major tournaments, Average number of completed passes and take ons of individual players etc. All of these variables can be plugged into bespoke models that are created for the purpose of soccer outcome predictions if we so wish.
The Elliot wave principle in financial markets perhaps exists in a different form in soccer but has not been researched or extensively explored. A lot in relation to gambling is not properly regulated and documented and so the masses are “led to believe” it is a working of luck – says The Gambler. Financial Analysts consistently attempt to predict future price movements of markets and assets despite the random walk theory. I recently came across an article that described how analysts at Goldman Sachs predicted the winner of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. They employed their AI tool that simulated one million possible scenarios and iterations of various variables. The firm used machine learning to mine individual and team attributes and arrived at a winner – Brazil. “We capture the stochastic nature of the tournament carefully using state-of-the-art statistical methods and we consider a lot of information in doing so,” they said. “But the forecasts remain highly uncertain, even with the fanciest statistical techniques, simply because football is quite an unpredictable game. This is, of course, precisely why the World Cup will be so exciting to watch.” Perhaps, if the same effort and resources were directed at soccer betting, we would have soccer betting analysts and proven concepts and principles established in books and journals because as it stands now, financial markets have evolved over decades of research and careful regulation but it is still early days for soccer betting.
We can only wait and see how things pan out.
Hello, I’m Herbert Dankyi, Chair of the CiC, University of Ghana Executive Board. I am currently pursuing a Banking and Finance major with a passionate desire for capital markets, investment banking and emerging technological trends. I personally believe that challenges and mishaps perforate the deepest parts of our thinking capacities, and in the process, whips our imaginative cognition inside out, demanding of it, ground-breaking solutions to society’s issues as unending means for survival; but in the end, you choose.
The opinions expressed by the author are solely his/her own and do not necessarily reflect those of Crystal Capital & Investments Ltd.