Category: Casino Reviews

Will Spanish eyes be smiling on Sunday night?

If we are being brutally honest, I don’t think anybody would have predicted a World Cup final between Holland and Spain. Many people felt that the Spanish would qualify for the final before the tournament began, while Holland were ranked alongside Germany and Italy as a country who had a decent pedigree, but perhaps wasn’t quite good enough to go all the way.

Certainly when the tournament started there was little to suggest either would make the final. Holland, though unbeaten, were more workmanlike than spectacular in their progress through the group, only coming to life with the superb and fully deserved quarter final victory over Brazil. This was followed by a 3-2 victory over Uruguay in the semis, a result that was perhaps a tad more comprehensive than the score suggests.

Spain on the other hand began remarkably poorly and were defeated by the Swiss in their opening game. They recovered well to defeat Honduras and Chile in their next games, thanks mainly to the brilliance of David Villa and it would be the Barcelona man whose goals took them past Portugal and Paraguay into the semi finals. In Durban, Carlos Puyol’s towering header gave the Spanish a narrow win over Germany to book their place in the final on Sunday night.

Both teams have plenty to offer the game on Sunday. Arguably the two most impressive players in the entire tournament, Holland’s Wesley Sneijder and Spain’s David Villa, will no doubt be the focal point for their team once again and it is fitting that the two best players in the tournament should face off in the final.

Oddly, there is no history between the two teams in major finals events. The 1920 Olympic final being their only meeting (Spain won 3-1). They played each other twice in the 1984 European Championship qualifiers, Spain winning 1-0 in Sevilla and Holland 2-1 in Rotterdam and in two friendly matches since, Holland have had the upper hand, defeating Spain 2-1 in Sevilla in 2000 and again 1-0 in Rotterdam in 2002 and from that 2002 game, only Carlos Puyol of Spain is likely to feature in the final.

Bookmakers make Spain the 11/10 favourites with Holland a more outside bet at 11/4 and a draw (obviously not withstanding penalties) a 9/4 shot (all odds with Bet365).

It is hard to argue with those odds. Spain, after a slow start, were imperious in their semi final with Germany. While they were a tad below par in the first half, they were outstanding in the second and their ball retention is second to none. Germany, starved of the ball, were reduced to long ball tactics during the second half, but still failed to create a meaningful chance against a well marshalled Spanish defence. Despite their dominance however, Spain struggled to create much against the German defence and this may well give Holland a realistic chance.

Certainly the Dutch are not to be underestimated. The Spanish defence, though strong against Germany, has hardly been impervious throughout the tournament thus far and it is hard to see the likes of Robben, Van Persie and Sneijder not creating something against the Spaniards. In contrast, the Dutch defence has looked very strong throughout the tournament and they are certainly the form team at the finals, having won all of their six games so far without requiring extra time in any.

For me, the game will be won and lost not by the likes of David Villa or Wesley Sneijder, but perhaps by the contribution of other players. For Holland to win they are going to have to break up Spain’s magnificent passing rhythm, which means the Dutch defensive players like Nigel De Jong and John Heitinga will have to impose themselves on Spain’s midfield trio of Alonso, Xavi and Iniesta. If they can do that, Holland have a great chance.

Spain will play like Spain have done for many years, a slick passing game based on control of the ball, clever movement and intricate passing to wear down a defence, before going for the kill. It is hard to imagine coach Del Bosque changing his victorious semi final line up for the final, which means Fernando Torres may have to be content with a place on the bench. Spanish success however will ultimately lie in creating enough chances for the likes of David Villa and Pedro to convert, against a mean Dutch defence.

So who is going to win? Throughout the tournament I’ve tried to champion the underdog whenever possible but for the final, I can’t disagree with the bookies here. As good as the Dutch have been, and worthy winners they would be, I think Spain just have the edge in terms of keeping the ball. It will be a tight final and it could be a great one if we are blessed with an early goal (particularly if Holland score it), but if I was going to put my money where my mouth is, I’d go for Spain. Just..

Get value each-way betting on the Open Championship

I must admit, of all the sporting activities that I like a flutter on, Golf is arguably my least favourite sport when it comes to making a bet.

The reason why I am not overly keen on wagering large amounts of money when it comes to golf is simply the margin for error. At any given professional tournament across the world there are hundreds of top class golfers in the field. This is even more the case when a major tournament comes around and only the world’s elite are fortunate to be handed an entry ticket.

This means that at any tournament you can have between 120+ golfers attempting to win the trophy.

Now at the start of the week, on a Thursday morning before the tournament begins, each of these golfers has a chance of success. Admittedly, it may not be a huge chance of success, but professional golfers are all of sufficient quality and ability to be able to consider that they are more than able and worthy of winning the tournament.

That is a very large field to narrow down.

Of course by Friday night, the field is cut and we have some semblance of a leader board and arguably only golfers within eight or ten strokes of the leader are likely to have a chance of victory on the Sunday at this point. Even so, often in events this can consist of a great many golfers, in some it can consist of almost all the field. This is still often in excess of 60 golfers.

Those odds don’t stack up to well with me.

Of course you can go on reputation. Tiger Woods was the sure fire bet for many until his well documented problems late last year. But bookmakers soon cottoned onto the “If it is golf, bet on the Tiger” method of betting and soon the American ace became almost impossible to back in any event he competed in. For sure, the likes of Mickelson, Westwood, Poulter and company all win events, but they don’t win enough to make backing them on a regular basis worthwhile or profitable.

So to me, backing an outright winner for any golf tournament is akin to a lottery.

However, with many betting companies now offering each way odds on golf tournaments down to at least a sixth or seventh placed finish and some offering odds on a top ten finish, this has allowed me far greater opportunity to peruse the odds available and consider putting my money where my mouth is.

I know you will be reading this on the Friday, possibly after the second round has begun, but I am writing this before the tournament starts, so if any of my tips below have had a nightmare start, then do feel free to discount them! However writing as of now, before the tournament begins, here are my three tips each offering good value odds for golfers who may finish in the top 10 at the Open Championship this week.

  1. Graham McDowell                   (11/4 Bet365)

The Northern Irishman surprised the world by lifting the US Open a month or so back, but that came on the back of some inspired golf at Celtic Manor two weeks previously when he lifted the Wales Open with final rounds of 64 and 63. He’s never finished inside the top 10 at an Open Championship and while winning may be beyond him, his game will be well suited to the peculiarities of the Old Course.

  1. Martin Kaymer                   (10/3 Bet365)

The Old Course at St Andrews will punish those who drive errantly. The rough will be allowed to grow so hitters who are accurate, long and excellent putters will arguably be in with the best chance. This seems to sum up Kaymer perfectly. The German has had an excellent year on the tour and looks a certainty to be a Ryder Cup selection later in the year. He is due a big performance at a major and St Andrews this week could be the perfect opportunity.

  1. Paul Goydos (28/1 Bet 365)

He’s faced a long journey from America to be in St Andrews for the week, but Goydos (pictured) is on a hot streak. He finished second in the John Deere classic last weekend and will be buoyed by a round of 59 during that competition. Graham McDowell followed up his low rounds of 64 and 63 with victory at Pebble Beach in the US Open two weeks later, can Goydos climb into the top ten at St Andrews? At 28/1 against it, I’m willing to bet that he can overcome the tiredness and can.

Boxing’s biggest problem

On Saturday, the chance of one of the greatest fights of the 21st century being arranged came…And went in a flurry of non-activity, posturing and the usual outpouring of boxing promoter/manager rhetoric.

Saturday saw promoter Bob Arum’s deadline for a proposed super fight, a term often used but rarely deserved but in this case fittingly so, between unbeaten American Floyd Mayweather Jr and Philipino congressman and boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao, pass without a deal being signed. The fight that everybody wants to see, will still be the fight that everybody wants to see.

It is a shambles and a stain on the image of professional boxing. It is no wonder MMA is bringing in new audiences. At least their top combatants are willing to fight each other and not hide behind macho posturing, financial postulating and false bravado to try and cover the fact that someone, somewhere, fears that their seemingly invincible title, will be destroyed and their arch-rival confirmed as a true legend of the sport.

It isn’t the first time the fight has fallen through. It seemed late last year that a deal had been agreed for the two giants to face off in May 2010. Then Mayweather’s camp insisted on blood tests 30 days before the fight. Pacquaio refused. A mere technicality, which could easily have been resolved, became a major stumbling block as the ego of each fighter and their advisors ensured that a minor issue of discussion became a full-blown crisis enough to postpone the fight.

Now Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter has pointedly stated “Floyd for whatever reason, and I’m a sure he’s got some valid reason, did not want to commit,” stated Arum in a news conference on Saturday morning. Arum confirmed that the blood testing issue, which scuppered the last fight had been “resolved” – whatever that means.

While the language used was carefully chosen for its conciliatory tone, there can be no doubting the general meaning. Mayweather didn’t fancy putting his unbeaten record on the line against Pacquiao, even with some blood testing agreement in place and a reported split of the purse, of an estimated $200 million fight, 60-40 in the favour of the American.

Make of that what you will.

Of course, Mayweather’s camp will now be on the offensive. No doubt over the next few days we will probably likely hear of the unreasonable demands the Philippine stars camp made of Mayweather and boxing fans will have to make do with the two legendary figures of the modern era knocking down fighters who they have already proved they are better than.

It is hardly a glowing reference for professional boxing.

Imagine if Muhammed Ali had refused to fight George Foreman in 1974, Sugar Ray Leonard turned down the chance to fight Marvin Hagler. Their legacy would forever be tainted. These boxers are revered because they fought the best in their era. They may not have necessarily won every fight, but they were willing to put everything on the line.

A fact that Mayweather and Pacquiao would do well to remember.

They may hide behind their ego, fabulous wealth, apparent disharmony over the ‘unfair’ deal and their entourage of hangers on who agree to every vapid word they say with the mindless abeyance of the entirely servile, but until they climb into the ring to face each other and that bell sounds, neither will be a true champion, regardless of what either camp maintains.

Schumi to shine at German Grand Prix?

Five years ago, if you had said that going into a German grand prix race, that Michael Schumacher would be a 60-1 outsider with Betfair to win the race. Most people would have tried to have you sedated and committed somewhere. At the time, the German legend was imperious over his rivals. It wasn’t so much that he and Ferrari had by far the better car, it was just that Schumi was simply too good; a class apart from his rivals.

After a three year break from the sport, Schumacher returned to F1 this season to spearhead a new Mercedes team which grew from the ashes of last year’s surprise constructors championship winners Brawn GP. Much was expected of the new German based team with fellow German Nico Rosberg expected to push on from his promising 2009 season.

Unfortunately for Rosberg, Mercedes and Schumacher thus far, the 2010 season has been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster.

The team are well off the pace shown by McLaren and Red Bull in particular. Rosberg has showed promise but Schumacher has too often found himself engaged in contests for 11th,12th or 13th place and often outmanoeuvred by the new generation of drivers and cars.

As a result, Mercedes hopes for a triumph in their home GP look slim. Rosberg is currently around 42-1 on the Betfair exchanges and you can get 60-1 against Michael Schumacher winning at Hockenheim. Stunning odds, but ones to steer well clear of.

The reason is simply that Mercedes are no match for the pace of Ferrari, let alone McLaren and Red Bull and not even the slight advantage of being on home soil for the Mercedes team is going to be enough to bridge the gulf in class between them and the top three teams at the moment.

Certainly in the race on Sunday it looks like being a four way competition to take the chequered flag and all of Germany will be hoping if Schumi can’t complete a victory, then another German, Sebastian Vettel, will be stood atop the podium at the end of the race.

The Red Bull driver certainly has a lot to prove. With magnificent support from his home crowd and without doubt the best car in qualifying this season, Vettel should be on the front row for the race come Sunday.

There is also the very real need for Vettel to finally allay Mark Webber’s vocal disquiet from the British GP last time out, when the outspoken Aussie blasted his team for taking a wing from his car, to place onto Vettel’s, admonishing them as he crossed the finishing line as the victory by stating “Not bad for a number two driver.” Red Bull have since insisted that no hierarchy exists with their drivers and there is no better way for Vettel to prove this than by winning with his own car and his own team in his home GP on Sunday. Betfair have him as the 3-1 favourite at present and those odds look tempting.

Not that he will have it easy. Team mate Mark Webber will be going for his second GP victory in a row and the third for the Red Bull team, while the British McLaren pair of Jenson Button and Drivers World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton will also no doubt be right on the pace once again. A crucial point given the speed of Hockenheim, which despite the changes made in recent years, remains one of the quickest F1 circuits on the current calendar. However Red Bull’s dominance of qualifying this year could mean that it will be a good weekend for Vettel and his team. But perhaps not the best weekend once again for poor old Schumi.

 

My Outside Bet: Fulham  6/1 (William Hill)

With Roy Hodgson gone, it remains to be seen who will manage Fulham next season after Martin Jol rejected the job this week. Sven Goran Eriksson and Dave Jones seem to be the favourites but neither will instil great confidence in Fulham fans. When Hodgson took over, Fulham seemed destined for the drop and on a meagre budget he not only kept them up, but took them into Europe and to the final of the Europa league. It is hard to see the team repeating this success without their manager and I fear Fulham could well struggle next season.

The question is do you go for the safety of a smart money bet, or do you take a chance with a risk and reward policy of going for an outsider?

That, my friend, is entirely up to you!

The Ferrari Effect

Admit it, even if you didn’t have some money on Felipe Massa winning the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim over the weekend, you’d have had plenty of sympathy for those punters who had backed the Brazilian to win the race beforehand.

The ‘coded’ message to Massa, which being honest, wasn’t the most difficult to decipher – it is a good job Ferrari weren’t asked to work on the enigma machine- was quite clearly a team order, taken by someone sat in an office far away from Germany, totalling up the potential financial gains to be made by the company should Fernando Alonso win the World Championship.

Their subsequent fine of $100,000 is therefore laughable. In the first three months of 2009, turnover for the Ferrari F1 team was 441 million euro with a trading profit of 54 million euro. That is in three months of the year.

So you can imagine how much of a deterrent that $100,000 dollar fine is and how unlikely Ferrari are now to repeat this nonsense again in future.

This is the equivalent of the Football Association in England fining Manchester United £50,000 for fixing a game.

In all honesty, it makes a mockery of the sport. Ferrari blatantly ignored the rules laid down at the start of the season regarding team orders. There is not one person present at that race, or who witnessed it on television, that can be in any doubt of that. I am sure I am not the only person who felt real sorrow for Massa, who to me isn’t a particularly likeable driver, but who was denied a maiden victory following his horrific injury last year, simply because his team deemed it more profitable for them, or have secretly agreed with Alonso that he is number 1 driver thus allowing him to win at Massa’s expense.

The way to stop such nonsense is annoyingly simple. In cases such as this, where the evidence is incontrovertible, then the team should be stripped of all the points it has earned in that race. In addition the driver who profited from the team order should be deducted his points. I don’t think it is fair however, that Massa loses his too. So he would be allowed to keep them, though they would not count towards Ferrari’s total for the constructors title.

Unfortunately, as we have seen all too readily in the past, the powers that be in F1 seem afraid to say anything to the team to Marinello in terms of discipline. McLaren were heavily fined and supremo Ron Dennis forced to resign in another scandal that blighted the sport a couple of years back, when McLaren were accused of trading team secrets. When Ferrari were found guilty of the same thing with Renault, the result was a small fine.

Parity? I think not.

Motor sports aficionados will know that there is one rule for Ferrari and one rule for the rest. Indeed, so blatantly one sided does this entire F1 disciplinary system seem to be, it is almost as if Jean Todt, president of FIA, is a former team principle and CEO of Ferrari.

Ah… Suddenly, it all becomes so much clearer.

One thing is for certain, punters backing Felipe Massa in future had better hope that Fernando Alonso is nowhere near him in the race, otherwise it seems you are wasting your money. many points and with some of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, Oakland will stack the line to stop Chris Johnson. The Titans should still win, but it will be much closer than many are predicting.

 

League Soccer

As I said in an earlier article, it remains very much a two horse race for me. Arsenal and Liverpool haven’t made any inroads into the gap with Chelsea and Manchester United and though Manchester City are trying, they still don’t have the proven pedigree. The hunger of missing out last season will drive Manchester United on I believe and they’d be my tip for the top. Chelsea will push them close and City will nip into third, especially if they can find a 20+ a season striker.

Spain: 1. Barcelona 2. Real Madrid 3. Atletico Madrid

It’s hard to see Real making any real inroads into Barcelona’s dominance. The Catalan’s will be bolstered by replacing an ageing and out of sorts Henry with the younger, dangerous David Villa and they look to be even stronger this season. With the midfield hub of Iniesta and Xavi running things I can’t see next season’s title race being as close as this. Atletico I think will sneak into third ahead of Sevilla and Valencia, who I feel will struggle to replace the loss of the two Davids, Villa and Silva.

Italy: 1. AS Roma 2. Inter 3. AC Milan

I think this is the year of change in Serie A. After five years dominance, Inter’s reign will end narrowly as Claudio Ranieri’s Roma may just have enough to give veteran striker Francesco Totti one final hurrah before he draws a close on his career. AC Milan will flatter to deceive under new coach Massimiliano Allegri and the fact that both AC and Juve both have somewhat ageing squads will hinder the progress of both sides next season, in my humble view!

Germany: 1. Bayern Munich 2.Wolfsburg 3.Werder Bremen

Louis Van Gaal’s Bayern look the strong and classy outfit in the Bundesliga once again and despite rumours of unhappy players or imminent departures, they still look to be the class act in this league and should win the title once again. Steve McLaren I think will settle well at Wolfsburg and put them into contention and if Bremen can hang onto Mesut Oezil and perhaps ally him with a freescoring striker, then Bremen I think have the ability to snatch third place ahead of Hamburg and Schalke.

France: 1.Lyon 2.Marseille 3.Lille

Last season the French league was arguably the most open and keenly contested in Europe. Several sides were in with a realistic chance over the last few months of the season before Marseille under Didier Deschamps triumphed. Bordeaux will be hit by the loss of Laurent Blanc to the national team and I think Lille will be stronger, especially with the impressive Gervinho still in their ranks, but for champions, this is the season I think Lyon’s financial strength will once again pay dividends.

And now, all we have to do is sit back and enjoy nine months of glorious football and see how inaccurate my predictions are come May!

Fancy a new kind of flutter? Try NFL handicap betting!

Most punters prefer to stick with what they know in terms of their betting and good advice this is too. Knowledge and understanding are powerful allies against the bookmaker and backing what you think will happen based upon your sound judgement and clever intuition is usually preferable to having a wild stab-in-the-dark guess as to what may happen.

Occasionally however we may endure a run of poor luck or form with our bets, or we may feel a change is needed. I was in that situation a while back and I sated myself by looking for a new market to bet on. I found it with the NFL handicap market.

Now, I have to state here, that I am a big NFL fan. So I have a decent understanding of the game and the teams who play in it. However the handicap system of betting means that even the novice has as good a chance of success as the more experienced NFL fan and to explain how the handicap system works (which is very similar to Asian Handicap betting), I’ll take a real life example…

The NFL season kicks off on the 10th September with the current Superbowl holders the New Orleans Saints taking on the Minnesota Vikings in a rematch of the NFC title game from last season. Currently with TitanBet you can get odds of the New Orleans Saints winning with a -4 point handicap of 1.96 while the Vikings with a +4 handicap are 1.85.

This means that if you back the Vikings to win and they either win the game, or lose it by 1, 2 or 3 points, then you will win your bet. Their +4 handicap meaning that your bet has more chance of winning.

In contrast, if you back the Saints to win the game and they only win by 1,2 or 3 points, you lose the bet as their handicap of -4 means that when it is applied, the Vikings would still win the game.

Handicaps usually range from + or – 0.5 to + or – 7. For example in the games that weekend, the Tennessee Titans (who finished last season strongly with 8 wins in their last 9 games) take on Oakland (who had another poor season, winning only a handful of games) in Memphis, Tennessee. As a result, Tennessee’s handicap is -7 and Oakland +7, meaning the Titans have to win by eight points to win the bet.

This form of betting is hugely popular in America where millions of dollars are bet on the outcome of each game with regards to the handicap and experts in the field will often proclaim to have some foolproof system to help pick out the matches which offer the best handicap value for the punter.

Though, I remain a firm believer in my own gut reaction.

So if you are looking for a new challenge this September and an exciting new market to try out, then have a look at NFL handicap betting. It can be as profitable as it is enjoyable. And if you fancy starting out on the opening weekend, here are my tips.

Back the Indianapolis Colts (-3) as they visit Houston Texans (+3). Peyton Manning will pick apart a Houston defence that ships points and although the Texans are strong on offense, they won’t trouble a young and improving Colts defense unduly. The Colts should win this one by 10+.

Avoid Tennessee Titans (-7) against the Oakland Raiders (+7). Oakland have nothing to lose at LP Field and the Titans will be expected to win. However the Titans are notoriously slow starters, don’t score