Playing the football pools? Playing? It's not a game is it, football is the game?
Well, no, it is a game in itself, because you are trying to beat the statistics.
Winning the football pools is a lovely idea! But probably as pie-in-the-sky as
winning the National Lottery (the odds against picking the winning 6 numbers are 14 million to 1)?
Not at all!
It is possible to win the football pools on a fairly regular basis. Of course, the National Lottery is just that
- a lucky dip, completely random (provided the lottery machinery works as it should). The outcome of the football
pools is not completely random, and the odds can be worked in your favour. However, to win on a fairly regular
basis, you do have to invest time and money, and most importantly, you must be persistent.
If you live in the UK and you are old enough, you may remember the ads for Horace Batchelor on Radio Luxembourg
in the sixties, and his "Infra-Draw" method. Basically, he just divided up all the possible outcomes of the
weekend's matches and every punter had a specified set of match selections. With enough punters, someone was very
likely to have a good set of selections. So, you might have tried the horses, you might have tried online poker,
you might even have tried the stock market. You know the pitfalls:
- The performance of a horse is held back until that special occasion when they suddenly have a miraculous win -
strange that it's the one occasion you didn't back the horse! Some people do make a good income, but they are
usually the ones with the inside knowledge and the stable contacts.
- Online poker requires a good memory, a steady nerve and a high degree of skill, and sometimes you are actually
playing against users who are using computers to watch the cards and calculate the odds. In fact, this is probably
the best option for making money through 'gambling', if you have the brain for it!
- The stock market - well, there's a fortune to be made if you have the patience and can spot a bargain. Still,
inside knowledge is important (yes insider trading still happens whatever governments say), and you are betting
against a large number of computers and the arguably best brains in the world. And even they get it wrong in a big
Remember, every investment is a gamble and has a degree of risk - even buying a house. Look at how sub-prime
mortgages caught everyone out - the risks had not been properly assessed. The key thing is the level of risk
involved. And remember, Risk is just another way of quoting odds. Finally, you know that there are people who can
make a steady income from betting on horses, from playing poker (but not roulette), bridge, and the stock market.
It's about the detail and the odds, and in the case of poker and bridge, a high degree of skill.
So, what's the secret?
No big secret, it's obvious really. Special plans and perms are very well, and detailed football knowledge can
be useful. OK, if you are a football fan, that's good, but it doesn't really help much if you can't make the right
selections to start with. The important thing is to stand back and look at the numbers. Emotional involvement
clouds the issue. You have to be a detached observer, but football fans are usually quite passionate.
With 49 matches on a pools coupon, the number of lines (a line is 8 selections) required to cover all 49 matches
- 'a full perm 8 from 49' - would require an entry of 450 MILLION LINES. At a
cost of 1p per line, this would come to a stake of GBP4.5 million pounds - and there might not even be 8 draws that
week, or there might be 15 draws with prize pool shared out across hundreds of winners! So, this is prohibitive and
does not make economic sense, even if the pools companies allowed it. They probably would take the bet though!
So, I come back to the words of that old 1940's number and paraphrase: "Accentuate the positive, eliminate the
negative, You are left with the likely draws, And don't mess with mister in between". (With apologies to Arlen and
Mercer who wrote the original).
So, just find a way of identifying those matches which are least likely to be draws, and you are
left with the likely draw games. You then have to assess the probability of each of these, to refine your list of
Then, you need to have a betting strategy to cover those likely draws. That's the subject of a later
© 2009 Phil Marks. All rights reserved.