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Thursday, 2 June 2016

Mark Lawrenson - Smarter than he looks

For a few seasons now, I’ve been amazed that despite the fact that everyone considers his predictions something of a joke, if you’d actually bet on them, Mark Lawrenson’s predictions would be profitable.

This started back in 2012/13 when I was putting together my first ‘Football and Data’ event and wanted to see how accurate a supposed ‘expert’ was and I was staggered to find that Lawro’s predictions would make money.

Considering this season’s predictions would have placed Leicester in 12th (with relegated Newcastle predicted to finish 11th) surely this season would finally show him up as a know-nothing?
Lawro's predictions over the season (via BBC Sport)
Well, actually 2015/16 would have been another profitable season if you’d followed Lawro’s tips. With a £10 stake on each of his 376 predictions, (4 matches were rearranged and not predicted) then you would have made £271 profit.

Odds were taking from Pinnacle's quoted market from the fantastic Football-Data site and Lawro's predictions from MyFootballFacts.  Pinnacle's margin was 2% so picking at random and placing £10 on each of 376 selections an average punter would expect to lose around £75.

As seen in previous seasons this profit was not made by daring longshots but by being willing to sit on the fence and profit from draws which are often overpriced, in relation to the ‘true’ probability more money goes on a win as the typical punter fancies a positive result.

Sometimes a question will be phrased (either to someone or even within their own thoughts as) ‘Who do you think will win on Saturday’ already suggesting you ignore the draw but even if it’s considered as ‘What do you think the result will be’ then sitting on the fence is considered a pretty boring option even if it makes good betting sense.
Yet again it's the draws that bring in the profit for Lawro
Fans of a lot of teams (especially West Ham this season but also Swansea most seasons), feel that Lawro has a grudge and in West Ham's case it does seem as if Lawro had a blind spot to their form, as a Swans fan it's a bit weird to see Lawro predicting us to finish 18th but still making an £80 profit on matches involving us.
Profit/Loss by Team: Total of  this would double count overall profit as counting each match twice
Where some may change their opinion as more games are played, you could probably predict Lawro's predictions would a fair degree of accuracy at the start of the season. It's not the optimal strategy but it does make some sense, rather than chasing the noise and being overly influenced by recent results, Lawro plots a course and stays with it no matter what. Trying to figure when (if ever) Chelsea would come good or Leicester/West Ham finally drop off would have been a hard task.

As he does every season, Lawro keeps his scores simple with 99 of the 101 predicted draws being predicted as 1-1 (which actually is the most frequent occurring draw)
Lawro's Score Predictions - the three in red (2-0,2-1,1-1) being his three main tips of choice
Lawro's advantage comes from him not being afraid of 'being boring', where the bookies love the 'Have a bang on that' kind of punter who blows £10-£20 on an accumulator (which compounds the issue of a bookies margin), profit is usually derived from a large number of small gains (which could arguably just as easily apply to football itself).

Another example of 'Boring Lawro' is his response when asked about his apparent success:

“If I could successfully predict all the results, do you really think I'd be here? I'd be on a yacht in the Caribbean…“


“If I could really seriously predict football results, I would be sitting on my ocean-going yacht, which would be moored off the Bahamas.”