Free Bets from the BBC and the ‘SAM’ Computer – Trial Conclusion!

Last October, I finally kicked off a trial of an idea I’d been toying with for ages.

In short, I was wondering whether the BBC’s weekly football predictions could make me some serious money.

Now, before you throw up your hands in horror, let me point out that I was not considering following Mark Lawrenson’s regular selections column.

No, I was hoping to benefit from the Beeb’s generous habit of publishing Premier League correct score predictions that are generated each week by Salford University’s expert system.

The capabilities of this august supercomputer are written up in gushing prose on the university’s own website. So I thought that maybe herein lay opportunity.

Matters got off to a flying start over the first few weeks, only to be followed by a setback in the middle period of the trial.

Still, I remained in credit overall by the time I wrote my second progress report…   So did we finish in the black?

Read on to find out…

(If however, you’d like to understand the full thinking behind the trial first, I recommend you have a look at my introductory article and earlier progress updates before returning here for my closing thoughts).

SAM - Sports Analytics Machine from Salford University
SAM – Sports Analytics Machine from Salford University

Sadly, after 238 bets, I’ve finished well in the red.

The last four weeks were dire leaving me with a total loss for the trial of over 35 points.

The summary is as follows:

Overall Performance 5% commission deducted from winning bets
Total Profit -36.5
Total No. of Bets 238
ROI -10.27%
Strike Rate 22.69%

The trial was really two trials in one.

This is because I normally put two wagers on each match:

  1. A back bet on the final exact scoreline;
  2. A punt on whichever match outcome represented best value in the light of SAM’s pre-match assessment of the game.

Now, I always put on a Correct Score bet as SAM made a precise prediction of the most likely final score of every Premier League match.

However, I didn’t always put on a Match Odds bet as well. This is because SAM doesn’t predict exact result outcomes (such as, ‘the match will produce a win for the home team’) but instead calculates the probabilities, in percentage format, of it ending as a home win, an away win or a draw.

So, whenever SAM came up with probabilities for the three match outcomes that were very similar to the Betfair prices, I just didn’t bother with a Match Odds bet. But when it was clear that SAM was highlighting that Betfair offered value on a particular result, I bet on that outcome.

As a result, I have placed more Correct Score bets (131) than Match Odds ones (107).

Unfortunately, neither the Correct Score nor the Match Odds bets were successful.

The Correct Score bets were particularly dispiriting as the strike rate was so low:

Overall Performance 5% commission deducted from winning bets
Total Profit -20.53
Total No. of Bets 131
ROI -15.7%
Strike Rate 11.5%

Match Odds betting produced a better strike rate but a similar net loss:

Overall Performance 5% commission deducted from winning bets
Total Profit -15.97
Total No. of Bets 107
ROI -7.1%
Strike Rate 36.4%


I’ve put quite a bit of effort into this trial but really have very little to show for it at the end.

I was hoping for great things from Salford’s supercomputer but it proved no better than any of the many run-of-the-mill tipsters I’ve tested on my site.

I also noticed that, very often, the Correct Score predictions seemed to be little more than announcements that the scoreline with the lowest price on Betfair would most likely be the outcome.

Did we really need to fire up a supercomputer to learn that?

So, as you can tell, right now, I’m feeling underwhelmed by technology.

Anyway, the full results log, if you’d like to investigate further, is available here. And that’s it from me.

AI may be the future, but there’s a chap at a racecourse in a trilby hat, holding a pencil and a copy of the Sporting Life, who happens to have the winner of the 3.40 at Chepstow.

And just at the moment, I’m a little more likely than usual to believe him.


ps Why not get hold of my free PDF on making £1000 a month from betting? It’s easy to understand, even if you’re a novice, and you can get free copy now just by clicking here!

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  1. Neil says

    Been following for a little while and doing my research and it seems that with the unpredictability of life, there really is no way of producing income regularly. Even betting on 1.1 odds you are probably going to get an upset one in every ten events to wipe out your gains.

  2. Tony says

    I was slightly amused by Lucy’s comment re the fact that the correct score predictions were pretty much the same as the lowest prices on betfair (and the bookie).

    Because every year there are competitions where people have to predict the scores to win prizes.

    And it never ceases to amaze me that 98% of all entrants apparently don’t realise that the most likely score is in fact the lowest price anvailable on betfair 95% of the time!

    The number of people who apparently think that a premiership game is more likely to be 2-2 than 1-1 for example.

    No wonder bookies come out on top all the time.

  3. Tony says

    But never mind my last comment ,I’ve always noticed that whenever computers work out the percentages of the outcomes of football matches they always make obvious mistakes!!

    Not knowing anything about computers i don’t know why this should be.

    But you only have to look at the very first % s of the first match on this site ,Chelsea v Leicester to see that something was amiss.

    Leicester ,a 33% chance to win at Chelsea?

    And I’m really not aftertiming here. I actually had to look up the score to see the outcome.

    What I usually find is that mathematics boffins are rubbis at betting on football.

    They just don’t get football .

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