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Sports Gambling 201


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#1 Shimmering Wang

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 10:59 AM

I've floated the idea of writing up a basic outline of my approach to finding value in the sports wagering market a few times, and there has been at least lukewarm interest, so I decided to put in the time and do it. I've mentioned a few times that I am a contrarian, but I've never fully explained exactly what the contrarian approach entails. Anybody with more than a passing interest in this history of economic thought, specifically the investment philosophy of J. Maynard Keynes, has likely heard the phrase "contrarian investing" before. Though I am far from the the first or best contrarian sports investor, I did stumble upon the basic concepts organically, coming up with the seed ideas during an econ class a while back. I believe my personal history with respect to sports betting is at least of passing interest, so I include it here:I've always been a gambler. I supported myself playing poker for a time, and still play with some regularity. Notions of value and sustainable equity have informed most decisions I've made for as long as I can remember. As a sports fan with tons of money floating around on various internet gambling sites, it is only natural that, at some point, I would be tempted to place some sports wagers. I knew, however, that the books were very, very good at their jobs, and with the juice they charge on all their bets, there was no way for me to simply pick enough winners to have an edge. I'd make a few bets, here and there, but there was no expectation of profit; it was simply for action, and I was perfectly comfortable with that. There was simply no way I could interpret the available information better than my counterparts running the show and setting the lines. Then, in Econ class one day, my professor started talking about John Maynard Keynes, and his personal fortune. Apparently, he was a contrarian, which meant -- very simply -- that he knew the public overreacted to recent news, good or bad, and tended to do the OPPOSITE of what the public at large was doing. If a stock was cold, he'd buy. If it was hot, he'd dump it or sell it short. He took positions that were contrary to public opinion, because the public overreacted, and he made a fortune. "Why can't this apply to sports betting," I thought. The idea took root, and I started fumbling around, trying to figure out exactly how the sports wagering markets work, and how rational investors behave. "If a team is exceedingly popular," I thought, "isn't it likely that the books will inflate the price on that side, and lower the price on the other?" If everyone loves North Carolina basketball, and the line for the national semi-final opens at UNC -4, and 75% of the public is betting on UNC, is there likely to be any value taking UNC and laying the points? CAN there be any value there? Have you ever seen a side that looks just too good to be true? A football team that's 2-4 in the conference and got blown out by a historically bad school the week before is favored by 3.5 at home against a 4-2 school that looks to be a program on the rise, and just came off a convincing road win? "Team A is terrible, and they're LAYING points? I can get Team B plus 3 points and a hook? I am going to load. up." And everyone does. Team B gets 80% of the action, and the line doesn't move. People just keep drilling and drilling. As far as everyone can tell, the line seems off by at least 7 points. What's going on?Every number -- every single number -- that the books put up serves a purpose. They don't feel charitable and decide to give everyone a huge edge one week. They don't lose their minds. They don't miss something, and get out-capped by those turds at Sigma Chi with their volleyball courts and double-popped polos. If they install Team A as a 3.5 point favorite, they KNOW what people are going to think. They know they're going to get one-sided action, and if Team B covers, they're going to lose money on the game. 5% vig won't help they have to pay out 80% of the players. So: the book puts itself in jeopardy, and allows the public to load up on a team. They know how the public is going to react going in, yet they still do it. Why? What conclusion can we draw from this? The books are rational, they're not profit maximizers (as they are slightly risk-averse in certain cases), but they're close. WHY is Team A a 3.5 point favorite?Because Team A is actually an even bigger favorite. The only way Vegas allows the public to load up on one side is if THAT SIDE HAS NEGATIVE VALUE. The ONLY situations in which the books put up what LOOKS like a bad number is because THEY WANT EVERYONE TO THINK it is a bad number, and wager accordingly. The books don't do bad numbers. They don't give value on public sides. In this situation, whether I can figure out the rationale behind the line or not, I'm going to be all over Team A. I'm going to trust the books and lay the points. And this is the fundamental nature of contrarianism. It's ugly. It's SICK. I'm backing a team that looks like it has no chance to win outright, AND I'm laying more than a fieldgoal. The books know which teams and which numbers the bettors will like, and they charge a premium to get on them. The fundamental mantras of contrarianism are:THE PEOPLE SETTING THE LINES KNOW MORE THAN YOU DO.DO NOT TRY TO OUT HANDICAP THE BOOKS.THERE IS NEVER ANY VALUE ON PUBLICLY BACKED TEAMS. IF IT LOOKS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT IS.ALIGN YOURSELF WITH THE BOOKS.These are the basic assumptions from which all my plays come. It's pure economics. If two goods have equal intrinsic value, but one is significantly more popular than the other, the market will lead to a higher price on one good and a lower price on the other. Only one good can show a profit. When the books take one-sided action, they suddenly have a financial interest in the outcome of the contest, and are -- like the bettors from whom they take action -- sweating the outcome. They're gambling. When the books gamble, you'd better believe they're doing it with an edge.And thus ends your very crude, very basic introduction to contrarian sports wagering. I'll address some of the more advanced topics in time, because there's more to it than just fading North Carolina and the Yankees every week, but I'd like to get some feedback first.If anybody has any questions (general or specific) or criticisms, I'd be happy to address them.Wang

#2 Poppy_Hillis

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 11:05 AM

As soon as I get to my next class I'm reading this masterpiece.

#3 Poppy_Hillis

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 11:29 AM

You're going to get me back into betting on sports, I just know it.Good write-up. Do more.

#4 Shimmering Wang

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 11:36 AM

View PostPoppy_Hillis, on Tuesday, July 15th, 2008, 3:29 PM, said:

You're going to get me back into betting on sports, I just know it.Good write-up. Do more.
This was just a stream-of-consciousness, spit it out type exercise. I want to write some more, but I'd like to know what makes sense to people and what doesn't. Do the examples seem rational? Does it seem intuitive? Counterintuitive? I can't wait until I get to explain the mindfuck that goes like this:"Okay, okay. I'm a contrarian. I like ugly. Ugly is good. Good is bad, though. Indians favored at home against Devil Rays? Ugly, and good. Red Sox road dogs in Houston? Good, and bad. Okay, okay. Contrarian. A-ha! I see the Giants are home favorites against the Cubs. That's surely going to be a play, let's see here.... who is on the mound. Oh! Lincecum! Wow, the price is really short, too, he's only -106. That's a great deal! Wait a second, that's a good deal. Like, a really, really good deal. Hmm. I wanted to back Lincecum, here, which means... I don't think I can back Lincecum. Bummer. Moving on. Ah, the Red Sox are... -240 at home against the Twins? That's disgusting. No team is that good, and the Twins have been on fire. I would have liked the Sox here at -150 or something, but -240 seems too high. What an awful be-... Dammit. Should I be laying all this chalk here with the Sox? I... think I should. What year is it? I am a Brachiasaurus"When you become a tried-and-true contrarian, bad numbers start to look so good to you that you are immediately distrustful of them, and vice-versa. It's weird. I'll say to myself: "If East Carolina opens as a 14pt dog, I'll stay away, but if they open as a 6 point dog I'll be on them for a double." So. Weird. Wang

#5 SBriand

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 02:50 PM

View PostShimmering Wang, on Tuesday, July 15th, 2008, 3:36 PM, said:

Moving on. Ah, the Red Sox are... -240 at home against the Twins? That's disgusting. No team is that good, and the Twins have been on fire. I would have liked the Sox here at -150 or something, but -240 seems too high. What an awful be-... Dammit. Should I be laying all this chalk here with the Sox? I... think I should.
I have a headache, been at work for 8 hours and have an hour to go and I never studied economics (damn liberal art major).Can you get more in depth on what you would do here and why?
QUOTE (digitalmonkey @ Wednesday, August 18th, 2010, 1:55 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
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#6 Poppy_Hillis

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 05:28 PM

View PostShimmering Wang, on Tuesday, July 15th, 2008, 12:36 PM, said:

This was just a stream-of-consciousness, spit it out type exercise. I want to write some more, but I'd like to know what makes sense to people and what doesn't. Do the examples seem rational? Does it seem intuitive? Counterintuitive? I can't wait until I get to explain the mindfuck that goes like this:"Okay, okay. I'm a contrarian. I like ugly. Ugly is good. Good is bad, though. Indians favored at home against Devil Rays? Ugly, and good. Red Sox road dogs in Houston? Good, and bad. Okay, okay. Contrarian. A-ha! I see the Giants are home favorites against the Cubs. That's surely going to be a play, let's see here.... who is on the mound. Oh! Lincecum! Wow, the price is really short, too, he's only -106. That's a great deal! Wait a second, that's a good deal. Like, a really, really good deal. Hmm. I wanted to back Lincecum, here, which means... I don't think I can back Lincecum. Bummer. Moving on. Ah, the Red Sox are... -240 at home against the Twins? That's disgusting. No team is that good, and the Twins have been on fire. I would have liked the Sox here at -150 or something, but -240 seems too high. What an awful be-... Dammit. Should I be laying all this chalk here with the Sox? I... think I should. What year is it? I am a Brachiasaurus"When you become a tried-and-true contrarian, bad numbers start to look so good to you that you are immediately distrustful of them, and vice-versa. It's weird. I'll say to myself: "If East Carolina opens as a 14pt dog, I'll stay away, but if they open as a 6 point dog I'll be on them for a double." So. Weird. Wang
I followed you all the way, everything made sense. I think you could have something there, but how often would you say there are true +EV situations? I wouldn't think there would be all that many, and you would find yourself ultimately handicapping against the book without knowing and taking the games where you had a large discrepancy from what you thought the line should be and what it really is, although there is more to your theory than just that.I fully understand the last part. I tried to go a couple weeks in everyday life by doing the opposite of my natural instincts, and after awhile I had no idea what was me and what was the opposite. Anyway, I'll be looking forward to some in-depth stuff hopefully.

#7 BigDMcGee

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 07:05 PM

I have a question. Is there any way we, the wagering public, can have access to the information about how much money is going in on a game? Like, lets say 80 percent of the public is taking the bengals -8 over the browns. Is there anyway we can know that the public likes the bengals, so we should take the browns?
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#8 Shimmering Wang

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 07:25 PM

View PostSBriand, on Tuesday, July 15th, 2008, 6:50 PM, said:

I have a headache, been at work for 8 hours and have an hour to go and I never studied economics (damn liberal art major).Can you get more in depth on what you would do here and why?
Yes. I will address this at some point. In the particular game I'm talking about, I mentioned that the Sox were a good bet, but that I didn't have the stomach to lay that much chalk. The Red Sox won handily.

View PostPoppy_Hillis, on Tuesday, July 15th, 2008, 9:28 PM, said:

I followed you all the way, everything made sense. I think you could have something there, but how often would you say there are true +EV situations? I wouldn't think there would be all that many, and you would find yourself ultimately handicapping against the book without knowing and taking the games where you had a large discrepancy from what you thought the line should be and what it really is, although there is more to your theory than just that.I fully understand the last part. I tried to go a couple weeks in everyday life by doing the opposite of my natural instincts, and after awhile I had no idea what was me and what was the opposite. Anyway, I'll be looking forward to some in-depth stuff hopefully.
This topic should actually be covered in Sports Gambling 101. FIND REDUCED JUICE. If you're seeing splits like -110/-110, you're probably going to have a tough time showing a profit. One of the most important aspects of showing a profit betting on sports is posting up at a shop that spreads lines that look like -104/-104, or -- ideally -- at a place like Matchbook, where I pay a 1% commission on winning baseball wagers (2% on other sports), and nothing else. Worst case scenario, for bases, I'm looking at -102/-102. At that point, I am ONLY losing money if the true price is even-money, or -101/+101 either way. All things considered, with juice this low, there are very, very few spots where I'm going to be any worse than break-even in the long run. It is significantly, significantly more likely that I have positive equity than negative, which is a recipe for longterm success and profitability.

View PostBigDMcGee, on Tuesday, July 15th, 2008, 11:05 PM, said:

I have a question. Is there any way we, the wagering public, can have access to the information about how much money is going in on a game? Like, lets say 80 percent of the public is taking the bengals -8 over the browns. Is there anyway we can know that the public likes the bengals, so we should take the browns?
Well, I'm glad you asked. There are a handful of ways to tell where the public is.1) Wagerline.The ultimate. Consensus data for all sports. Wagerline retards tend to blindly bet overs/favorites (or unders/favorites in baseball), but the information isn't provided by any individual sports book, which makes it significantly more trustworthy in my opinion.2) Vegas Insider.Consensus data, powered by sportsbook.com.3) The forums at Covers.Sports bettors go here to post their action and discuss sports betting. They are all idiots. It's easy to see which teams are popular by reading the forums and fading the shit out of them. Voila! You have your basic picture of the public's specific, game-by-game likes and dislikes.

#9 BigDMcGee

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 07:32 PM

View PostShimmering Wang, on Tuesday, July 15th, 2008, 7:25 PM, said:

1) Wagerline.The ultimate. Consensus data for all sports. Wagerline retards tend to blindly bet overs/favorites (or unders/favorites in baseball), but the information isn't provided by any individual sports book, which makes it significantly more trustworthy in my opinion.2) Vegas Insider.Consensus data, powered by sportsbook.com.3) The forums at Covers.Sports bettors go here to post their action and discuss sports betting. They are all idiots. It's easy to see which teams are popular by reading the forums and fading the shit out of them. Voila! You have your basic picture of the public's specific, game-by-game likes and dislikes.
Great stuff. So basically, you find out where the public is betting heavy on, and bet the opposite. Explain the ramifications of a static line, verses a line that moves, and how that would effect your wager. Now, say in football, lets say a line opens at -4, and the public pounds the favorite, until it's -7, and a second game opens at -4, and the public pounds the favorite, but the line stays the same. How would you analyze the two situations?
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#10 Shimmering Wang

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 07:51 PM

View PostBigDMcGee, on Tuesday, July 15th, 2008, 11:32 PM, said:

Great stuff. So basically, you find out where the public is betting heavy on, and bet the opposite. Explain the ramifications of a static line, verses a line that moves, and how that would effect your wager. Now, say in football, lets say a line opens at -4, and the public pounds the favorite, until it's -7, and a second game opens at -4, and the public pounds the favorite, but the line stays the same. How would you analyze the two situations?
The latter situation is much more attractive to me. When Vegas takes a stand and refuses to move a line that is getting very one-sided action, it is because they have no interest in getting balanced action on the game. They'll let the money pour in on the favorite, because they really like The Dog +4. If they like The Dog that much, I'm going to be on it for a larger amount than usual.Sometimes, you'll even see spots where, say, a team opens as a 7 point favorite, and the underdog gets just pounded, and gets like 65% of the action (very heavy for a dog). The book then moves the line to 7.5. The money is coming in on the dog, and the book gives them MORE points. This is called reverse line movement, and in this case would make the anti-public favorite a huge play for me. I'd be on it for a 4-unit bomb almost certainly, even after the book made me lay the hook. As far as the "find out where the public is betting and bet the opposite" statement, that's SOME of it, but not ALL of it. Sometimes the public will overvalue a certain team, but at the same time overvalue the opposing starter, or undervalue the starter for the overvalued team. There is going to be some noise you have to sift through, and it might not always be as simple as fading teams getting 60+% of the action at wagerline. If there's conflicting signals, I tend to pass. Sometimes the books are just going to set a good line, and let the chips fall where they may. In those cases, they'll be relying on the juice, and I'll probably be splashing around in a neutral or even slightly -EV spot. Wang

#11 DinkDonk

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 04:04 AM

Excellent stuff. This is one of my favorite threads on FCP.

#12 mrpaddyx

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 10:29 AM

Just read all that, very interesting, I guess its not just as simple as beting on the underdog?
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#13 Shimmering Wang

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 10:56 AM

View Postmrpaddyx, on Wednesday, July 16th, 2008, 2:29 PM, said:

Just read all that, very interesting, I guess its not just as simple as beting on the underdog?
Not by a long shot. Here's a good example for a baseball game I specifically remember from last week. The Indians, by all accounts the most disappointing team in all of baseball, were hosting the Devil Rays for a 4-game Thursday-Sunday series. The Rays had very recently swept the Red Sox on National TV, and were -- at the time -- in first place in the AL East. They were the new IT TEAM. The Indians had lost 10 straight, and recently dumped their ace to Milwaukee, sending up the white-flag and preparing for next year. Game 1 on Thursday featured Andy Sonnanstine for the Rays and Aaron Laffey for the Indians. And the Indians opened as small favorites. As one may expect, when the best team in baseball is getting plus money against a hapless, injury-ridden team, the good team is going to get drilled. Of course, they got more than two-thirds of the action at wagerline.In many cases, this would cause the price on the Rays to increase, and the Indians to drop. Given the volume of action on the Rays, if the book was concerned in this case about getting balanced action, the game would probably close with the Rays as favorites, in an effort to slow the onslaught of Rays' money coming in, and balance it with some Indians backers. Except, in this case, the Indians actually closed at a HIGHER price than they opened. (see above link for line moves) The book knew something the general public didn't, and they exploited the public's recent love-affair with the Rays. "You guys like the Rays? Here. We'll make it even CHEAPER for you to bet them." I was on the Indians here, and if I didn't have a strict, one-unit-per-game MLB policy (which I may discard after the All-Star Break), I would have been on this for at least a triple. Of course, the story would not be complete without a conclusion.It's not just about taking dogs, it's about taking dogs when the public thinks the number looks short, or favorites when the public thinks the number looks high. "USC is only favored by 9.5? OMG WHOLE BANKROLL ON USC THEY WIN BY AT LEAST 3 SCORES." Okay, well, I'll take whomever they're playing. I don't even care who it is.Wang

#14 AmScray

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 11:22 AM

Wang- if you're interested in the general concept of the economic applications of contrarianism (which I'm certain would have carry-over value to this strategy of sports wagering), I would suggest reading David Dreman "Contrarian Investment Strategies" and also "Irrational Exuberance" by Shiller. Both make great efforts to outline what patterns one should look for in crowd mania and irrational "news driven" thinking- ala 'the fallacy of vividness' per B. Miller- in any field that seeks to quantify value in real time (which would apply to sports lines). Both can be a bit 'fluffy' at times- they're written so assholes with a minimum of 105 IQ can read them in airports- but there's huge substance in them, as far as operative philosophy when one seeks to zig when everyone else is zagging and identifying the optimal times to do it. (you may have already read these books- if so, disregard, if not, consider looking into them. In reading your posts- my only understanding the most superficial aspects of sports wagering- it's clear that the practice of contrarianism itself has completely dual application and a lot of the strategies you took from econ and applied to sports wagering are valid)
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#15 Shimmering Wang

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 11:32 AM

View PostAmScray, on Wednesday, July 16th, 2008, 3:22 PM, said:

Wang- if you're interested in the general concept of the economic applications of contrarianism (which I'm certain would have carry-over value to this strategy of sports wagering), I would suggest reading David Dreman "Contrarian Investment Strategies" and also "Irrational Exuberance" by Shiller. Both make great efforts to outline what patterns one should look for in crowd mania and irrational "news driven" thinking- ala 'the fallacy of vividness' per B. Miller- in any field that seeks to quantify value in real time (which would apply to sports lines). Both can be a bit 'fluffy' at times- they're written so assholes with a minimum of 105 IQ can read them in airports- but there's huge substance in them, as far as operative philosophy when one seeks to zig when everyone else is zagging and identifying the optimal times to do it. (you may have already read these books- if so, disregard, if not, consider looking into them. In reading your posts- my only understanding the most superficial aspects of sports wagering- it's clear that the practice of contrarianism itself has completely dual application and a lot of the strategies you took from econ and applied to sports wagering are valid)
Yeah, I will absolutely do that. Contrarianism in economics was simply what sparked my interest in contrarian sports wagering, and, as such, I really never learned ANYTHING about general contrarian investment strategy. I'm going up to the mall to buy at least 1 shirt-with-buttons, and I'll stop by the bookstore and pick those up. Worst case scenario, I can leave them sitting around in my apartment too look smart/cool/rich. Thanks.

#16 AmScray

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 11:39 AM

If you're really into the cornerstones that go into finding value, LMK and I can send you* a PDF of Seth Klarmans "Margin Of Safety". It's the out of print book on Value Investing that sells for like $1500 on Amazon/Ebay and even the PDF is extremely hard to come by. His chapter on distressed debt (aka- 'finding dogs') would probably have lots of carry over value. The info in the book is total gold, which is why it sells for such idiot prices. (* This offer available to Wang only. Do not IM me begging for the file, as I will not send it no matter who you are)(* This offer available to Wang only. Do not IM me begging for the file, as I will not send it no matter who you are)(* This offer available to Wang only. Do not IM me begging for the file, as I will not send it no matter who you are)(* This offer available to Wang only. Do not IM me begging for the file, as I will not send it no matter who you are)(* This offer available to Wang only. Do not IM me begging for the file, as I will not send it no matter who you are)(* This offer available to Wang only. Do not IM me begging for the file, as I will not send it no matter who you are)(* This offer available to Wang only. Do not IM me begging for the file, as I will not send it no matter who you are)(* This offer available to Wang only. Do not IM me begging for the file, as I will not send it no matter who you are)(* This offer available to Wang only. Do not IM me begging for the file, as I will not send it no matter who you are)(* This offer available to Wang only. Do not IM me begging for the file, as I will not send it no matter who you are)(* This offer available to Wang only. Do not IM me begging for the file, as I will not send it no matter who you are)(* This offer available to Wang only. Do not IM me begging for the file, as I will not send it no matter who you are)(* This offer available to Wang only. Do not IM me begging for the file, as I will not send it no matter who you are)(* This offer available to Wang only. Do not IM me begging for the file, as I will not send it no matter who you are)(* This offer available to Wang only. Do not IM me begging for the file, as I will not send it no matter who you are)
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#17 wsox8

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 11:53 AM

View PostDinkDonk, on Wednesday, July 16th, 2008, 7:04 AM, said:

Excellent stuff. This is one of my favorite threads on FCP.
QFT

#18 BigDMcGee

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 12:18 PM

View PostAmScray, on Wednesday, July 16th, 2008, 11:39 AM, said:

If you're really into the cornerstones that go into finding value, LMK and I can send you* a PDF of Seth Klarmans "Margin Of Safety". It's the out of print book on Value Investing that sells for like $1500 on Amazon/Ebay and even the PDF is extremely hard to come by.(* This offer available to Wang only. Do not IM me begging for the file, as I will not send it no matter who you are)
Oh where oh where will I ever find a book like this? I was going to PM Scram, but he's made that abundantly clear it's not an option. Fck, what's a nigga gonna do? oh wait..http://www.torrentz....419df1e5a057771God damn, you're a drama queen.
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#19 SlapStick

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 12:58 PM

Such a good thread. Very impressed. I'm currently helping start up a bet site(don't worry I have no control over the odds) so I'm trying to get into it. All this insight is brilliant. In Ireland all my friends gambled like crazy on horses and it just seemed like such a dead end. Do you bet on horses? does the same theory apply?Great thread but I don't know the american odds or the spreads on teams so some of it is a bit of it is lost on me but its really intriguing
Luck123: Hi everyone :)
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My favourite thread in the whole wide world
http://www.fullcontactpoker.com/poker-foru...howtopic=126798

#20 AmScray

AmScray

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 01:11 PM

View PostBigDMcGee, on Wednesday, July 16th, 2008, 1:18 PM, said:

Oh where oh where will I ever find a book like this? I was going to PM Scram, but he's made that abundantly clear it's not an option. Fck, what's a nigga gonna do? oh wait..http://www.torrentz....419df1e5a057771God damn, you're a drama queen.
Download it and see what happens.Then get that pang of humiliation that occurs whenever one speaks about something they know nothing about and it turns out they're were wrong all along... (possible one has actually gotten out without password protection, but it's unlikely. If so, LOL @ me- what a drama queen D bag)
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