Ensemble modeling for football predictions – Is one model enough?

The intention of this blog post, was a bit different at the beginning. At first I wanted to improve my existing ML Poisson model by adding the team market values as additional features. But as I worked on the topic, one question came more and more to the fore: Is one single model enough to BeatTheBookie?

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ZIP model performance incl. minor leagues

Some days ago I extended my ZIP Poisson model by some additional leagues. These are: Championship, Seria B, La Liga 2, Eredivise, Liga Portugal. It’s always helpful to be able to select more possible bets. Playing more bets reduces the variance of your hit rate and provides a more stable average profit. So let’s have a look, how the ZIP Poisson model performs including the new leagues.

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Season 2022/23 – A sobering beginning

In the past I already posted some summaries in my pick history for different models. So everybody could get an impression, how a real life betting using my models could look like and to test, whether the profit, indicated by the backtesting, can also be reached in the future. With this post I want to start such a series again for my ML Poisson model and additionally compare it to the performance of the other models. So let’s start…

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Inflated ML Poisson model to predict football matches

My last blog post “Poisson vs Reality” did change something in my head. I realized, that I not yet checked single parts of my model enough, whether they differ from reality and whether I could reduce this difference and improve the model performance. That’s why I started creating a new model approach for the new season and focus on the improvement of single steps during the model process. After the training of multiple models, I will test against the fair profit, which kind of adaptions improve a Poisson distribution model the most.

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Poisson vs Reality

The Poisson distribution is widely used to predict the result of a football matches. Multiple articles can be found in the internet and I also already provided a comparison of different Vanilla Poisson models. But the Poisson distribution as some limitations. The Poisson distribution assumes the number of goals a team scores are independent. But everybody watching football knows, that a team being one goals behind is way more motivated to score a goal in comparison to being already 4 goals behind. So let’s have a look how a simple Poisson distribution compares to the actual scored goals.

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Why is it so hard to beat the Bookie?

Image you see following picture for two different profit lines. Both betting simulations are based on the same stacking method: Each identified value bet is set with 1 unit flat stack. Which of both simulation would you prefer? I think the answer is easy.

Of course everybody would prefer the green proft line. But both profit lines are based on the same predictive model. All predictions and bet selections are based on the EMA10 Vanilla Poisson xG model, which I already used for multiple blogs.
The difference between both lines: The yellow line represents the betting profit, when betting against the provided odds of a bookie. The green line represent the betting profit, when betting against a bookie without the bookie margin. This bookmaker margin eat up the whole advantage of the model.

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Scoring functions vs. betting profit – Measuring the performance of a football betting model

“What’s the best model?” – That’s a very important questions, when creating, training and testing new predictive models for football. Various machine learning algorithms and packages offer by default a set of scoring functions like accuracy, log-loss, brier score or ROC-AUC, which measure the accuracy of a probabilistic prediction. But I already recognized in older posts, that the best model based on a scoring function, was not always the best model, when it’s about using the prediction results for betting. So let’s have a look and compare the rank of some scoring functions in comparison to the betting profit of some models.

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