I stumbled across a very informative article yesterday while doing research for yesterday’s post. The author of this article, Simon Kuper, runs a consultancy called Soccernomics and his specialty is bringing data analysis to soccer. He’s a New York Times best seller and his wisdom is sought by clubs around the world. Basically, he’s legit.
This particular article talks about the data behind penalty kick shootouts. He explains how his firm has collected and analyzed the data behind more than 9,000 penalty kicks since 1995. The main premise is that data is sorely lacking in soccer and in particular, penalty kicks.
Kuper makes a number of interesting points and the article is worth a read for that alone. It’s incredible how much data one can gather on penalty kicks alone. It goes much further than looking at the past few PKs a player has taken and trying to infer which way he’ll go when he comes to the line. Anyways, it’s a good article but here’s where it ties into betting.
Getting an Advantage in Live Betting
What I found most interesting was a tidbit that ties in directly to soccer betting. Kuper’s team found that the single most important factor in determining who wins a shootout is who shoots first. That single factor plays a bigger role than the shooters, goalie and anything else from a bystander’s point of view.
Watch the coin flip and see which option the team captain chooses: to shoot first or defend first.
From the article:
“Few seem to know this initial advantage exists, says Palacios-Huerta. TV commentators rarely even mention the toss. Bookmakers don’t shift their odds immediately after the toss is done — a mistake from which gamblers could benefit.”
In the end, Kuper found that the team that shoots first wins the shootout 60% of the time. That may not be the most overwhelming number in the world, but it’s strong for sports betting standards. It’s a data-driven conclusion based on a large sample size of past penalty kicks.
I’m sure you can see where this might come in handy with live in-play betting. If the book still has bets on the outcome of the game when it goes to a shootout, you can drop a quick bet on the team that shoots first. Keep a close eye on the odds and make sure they don’t change before you book it.
You can still analyze the potential outcome based on other factors, but shootouts really do involve a lot of dumb luck. The outcome of the coin flip is the best info you’re likely to get in those last few minutes at the end of a match.
Even if the bookmakers wise up to this one day and adjust their in-play lines after the coin flip, it serves as a beautiful example of how winning sports bettors think. They don’t go by hunches and gut feelings. They make predictions based on concrete data. And in many cases, the best data is found by collecting it themselves.
You can look up all the statistics you want, but so can everyone else. That’s not to bash on common popular statistics. Stats are fine, but the real value comes from doing things that other people either don’t think of or aren’t willing to do.