For someone who says he bets millions of dollars on tennis a year, sports gambler Elihu Feustel doesn’t watch many matches.
“Which one is Granollers?” Feustel says, referring to Marcel Granollers, a Spaniard ranked 35th in the world. “Is he the one that’s good on clay courts?”
Feustel, from South Bend, Indiana, says he doesn’t need to pay attention to who the players on the men’s ATP World Tour are to double his money. He relies on an algorithm he created using data from 260,000 matches to make about 30 bets a day on Grand Slams such as the Australian Open, which started Jan. 13.
Gamblers and investment funds are increasingly vying for profits from tennis by using computer models to win money from more casual bettors, according to Scott Ferguson, a former Betfair Group Plc (BET) education officer. Such quantitative analysts, or so-called quants, are focusing on tennis in the same way their counterparts are employed by hedge funds to predict moves for stocks, bonds and other assets.
Betfair, a London-based company that enables bettors to wager against each other online, matched almost 50 million pounds ($82 million) of bets on the 2012 final in which Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal. Djokovic is an 8-11 favorite to win a fourth straight title in Melbourne with U.K. bookmaker William Hill Plc, meaning a successful $11 wager would return $8 plus the original stake.
Granollers prefers clay courts, according to his men’s tour profile, and lost his first-round match with Marin Cilic of Croatia in five sets on the second day of play on the hard courts of this year’s Australian Open.
…Tennis is an “attractive” sport to create an algorithm for because there are only two players in a singles match and statistics are freely available, according to William Knottenbelt, an associate professor of computing at London’s Imperial College. He co-wrote a tennis algorithm that he says would have made a 3.8 percent return on bets on 2,173 ATP matches in 2011.
Feustel, who says he puts in a 60-hour week checking and improving his model, works with a computer programmer and trader. The programmer trawls the Internet for data such as serve speed and break-point conversions. That’s plugged into the model which comes up with “fair” betting prices for scheduled games.
If those odds diverge from market prices, Feustel says, his trader — who lives outside the U.S. — will gamble as much as the market will allow at bookmakers including Pinnacle Sports, based on the Caribbean island of Curacao. That can be about $30,000 on a match result in later tournament rounds.
There is more here, and for the pointer I thank Hugo Lindgren, who is joining Hollywood Reporter as acting editor.