The Flat Earth Tipster: Why Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Absence
Posted 2nd October 2018
The other day I happened to be reading a funny thread about the Flat Earth theory. It went like this.
Denier: "You do realize the Greeks figured out the Earth was spherical about 2,000 years before agencies like NASA existed, right?"
Believer: "Can you prove it? Bshit they did---there you go again saying all/everything we learn is true."
Well, yes, we probably can prove that the Greeks showed how you could demonstrate that the Earth isn't flat (the Greek mathematician Eratosthenes did it with shadows and anyone can confirm it themselves), but this misses the point. The believer's challenge to the denier was really that they wouldn't be able to prove the Greeks did it because they aren't there to see them do it. More generally, we can't see the Earth is round. Flat Earthism is a theory based on the Zetetic Method where experimentation through observation, particularly sensory observation, is king. In contrast, mainstream scientific method, where a hypothesis is tested and either proved or falsified (in the Bayesian statistical sense), is regarded with scepticism and part of a great conspiracy. Apparently, NASA employees guard an ice wall at the edge of the earth disc to prevent people from climbing over and falling off. One wonders where they would fall to given that gravity is also a hoax but that's another story.
So what do you actually say to a Flat Earther when they ask you, "how do you know it's round?" Most of us lack sufficient scientific wherewithal to properly get to grips with such a challenge. OK, so we could say, "well, it's obvious, isn't it, we've got pictures and scientists tell us it's round and Newton's theory of gravitation seems to work." "All lies made up by people trying to control you," the believer will respond. "You haven't actually shown me it's round. If you can't prove it, well, then it might not be round."
Last week I challenged the sports betting tout vegasconsultants.com to demonstrate that the record he was claiming was genuine by agreeing to have his tips independently verified on an ongoing basis. His response: "why don't you stop talking s*** and you prove we are a scam, you haven't supplied one piece of evidence." This argument is very reminiscent of the Flat Earther. Because I can't prove the Earth is round, well, it can't be round. Because I can't prove his record isn't fake, well, then it can't be fake, right?
Such an argument is known as the argument from ignorance. It asserts that a proposition is true because it has not yet been proven false, or a proposition is false because it has not yet been proven true. This argument is a fallacy in informal logic, and one that excludes a third option, in which there may thus far have been insufficient investigation to prove the proposition to be either true or false. As Astronomer Royal Martin Rees has famously quipped, "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." Appeals to ignorance can be used to attempt to shift the burden of proof. That was exactly Vegasconsultants' strategy. Instead of agreeing to proper ongoing scrutiny of their service in an attempt to prove its authenticity and transparency, the burden of proof was shifted to me, as a challenge to prove the contrary.
We should resist such appeals to ignorance. Instead, let's look at the things we know or can show about Vegasconsultants. Having done so we might then be able to draw probabilistic conclusions regarding the likelihood of its owner: skilled tipster, blind chancer or deceitful scammer.
1) Vegas Consultants Ltd is a company registered in London by Bruno Miguel Plaza Caria, citizen and resident of Portugal. According to Companies House, Bruno registered it on 5th February 2018. Bruno is listed as the sole director and person with significant control of the company.
2) This company registration took place shortly after the domain Vegasconsultants.com was re-registered privately (6th January 2018), although there have been 3 previous registrants.
3) On the same day as Bruno registered his company, someone called David Davis, described as Founder CEO of Vegasconsultants, released a news statement on Cision PR Newswire announcing the launch of a VIP Late Alerts betting service for high rollers. According to the press release, "VegasConsultants.com dispatches an expert to watch games alongside clients, sharing insights and strategies for profitable sports betting." The recommended minimum wager for clients of this service is $10,000 per play. David Davis went on to say, "Our mission is to help ambitious sports betters maximize their performance and minimize their risk. Our experts have decades of combined experience, and our win-loss numbers speak for themselves."
The service operates out of Las Vegas; Atlantic City, NJ; Taipa (Macau, China); Marina Bay (Singapore); Paradise Island (Bahamas); London; Monte Carlo; and Sydney, Australia. At the time of the press release it had generated a winning percentage of 74%, although it didn't say over what period of time that had happened nor how many picks it was based on. Perhaps this was November 2017 when the PR statement explained that Mr. Davis' company was officially launched.
4) According to Companies House, Vegas Consultants Ltd knows or has reasonable cause to believe that there is no registrable person or registrable relevant legal entity in relation to the company with significant control. So who is David Davis the founding CEO? There are two possibilities. Firstly Vegas Consultants Ltd is a separate entity to Vegascunsultants.com and they have nothing to do with each other. It's just pure coincidence that two similar named entities are specialising in sports betting activities and David was announcing his service the very same day Bruno registered his company. Secondly, David Davis is simply a pseudonym used by Bruno to hide his real identity.
5. David Davis is a name that has been used elsewhere to promote Vegasconsultants.com. He was posting free picks on Bitcointalk and Covers from the 14th February 2018.
6) On the 17th February 2017 David Davis posted the following entry on both forums.
"Today we received an email criticizing our bad day, but it wasn't our first and we guarantee it won't be our last. What we do guarantee is we will have more winning days then losing days long term. When you win 60% it means you lose 40%, meaning we will have plenty of losing days.
We tried explaining to the free trial member how 98% of sports bettors lose long term and he should be delighted to have the opportunity to be part of the 2% club free of charge for a week then have the opportunity to be part of the 2% club long term. We also tried explaining how Billy Walters that is considered the most successful sports bettor in the world wins 57% of his bets and has many losing days. And, we also tried explaining to him that anyone that can win 57-58% long term is considered a professional and anyone that can win 60% long term is considered a genius.
Not sure what this free trial member is expecting from sports betting. Our goal is to work with elite members, members that are looking for long term results and use a decent money management strategy and understand the ups and downs of sports betting.
We also told him if he wants higher quality plays, then our VIP Late Alerts is the best option, and we can only win 70% with those because those plays count on full time work of 24 experts and each expert needs to only release one soccer play and one US sports play every 45 day period, meaning we are only getting the best from each expert.
With this being said, we welcome all future members with open arms if they are disciplined and are looking to make a profit long term. Any member expecting to win every day shouldn't be sports betting or be involved in any kind of investing, because that is definitely not a reality in the real world, sorry to break the news to you."
7) On the 21st April 2018, David Davis posted the following 'important announcement' on Goldentalk and BettingAdvice
"Dear Sports Bettor,
Due to the fact that there are so many negative attitudes and offending bettors online, VegasConsultants.com is going back to being a Private Group, our last day online will be April 30, 2018. We in no way want to be part of this online negativity; we are too busy beating the sports books to deal with negative attitudes and offending bettors online.
Since July 13, 2015 our experts are 714-304-64 (70%), and since we launched online November 20, 2017 our experts are 127-54-11 (70%).
Online bettors don't know how to value what we have done over the years, they have no money management, they are GAMBLERS! No matter how good we are, when dealing with sports bettors that have lack of discipline, we could never be good enough for them.
With this being said, we would like to bring a few good guys into our group before we go private, therefore we have put together a very attractive Starter Plan to help you join our Private Group and build confidence in our service before you start wagering larger amounts.
Starter Plan offer valid until April 30, 2018, contact us for details.
If you are a serious sports bettor and are looking for great results long term we look forward to having you on board. If you have lack of discipline and 70% is not good enough for you because you wager more then you should and a few less better days will hurt you, please do not signup.
Until April 30, 2018 you can contact us at email@example.com, following that date you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org."
8) On the 2nd August 2018, a member using the handle BMPC3577 started posting on the BettingAdvice forum, promoting the Vegasconsultants service. It would seem almost impossible that the letters BMPC do not stand for Bruno Miguel Plaza Caria. Thus it would seem to rule out the possibility that Vegas Consultants Ltd and Vegasconsultants are two completely unrelated entities, and that assuming Bruno has not lied to Companies House, David Davis and Bruno are in fact one and the same.
9) Bruno remarks that a handicapping strike rate of 57% is evidence of professionalism, something that legendary sports bettor Billy Waters is believed to have managed over a lifetime of betting, although Mr. Walters' recent history of fraud conviction and imprisonment might suggest that this was aided by unscrupulous means. 60%, meanwhile, is evidence of genius. Bruno is not wrong.
In the world of US sports handicapping and point spread one needs a win percentage of about 52% to cover the typical bookmaker's margin. According to the well respected ProfessionalGambler.com website "professional sports bettors rarely sustain a long-term winning percentage higher than 55%, and it's often as low as 53 or 54%." They continue: "the difference between the percentage of bets won by successful sports bettors and the percentage of bets won by chronic losers is relatively very small." Bettors familiar with the topic of randomness will understand completely why this is the case.
Bruno appeared to understand it. And yet he then goes on to claim a 70% win percentage. Not from a small sample of tips, from over 1,000. As of writing, his homepage is claiming an 867-363 (70%) win-loss record for his Private Club package.
10) In purely statistical terms, how likely is a 70% handicappers win percentage? Let's start by assuming the handicapper has no skill. We can use simple binomial theorem to calculate the probabilities of any win percentages, assuming we treat all wagers as simple coin tosses, which is essentially what they are. About 1 in 10 to 15 unskilled bettors could expect to achieve a rough break-even win percentage of 52% in 1,230 wagers (after accounting for the bookmaker's margin). By contrast only 1 in 500 will achieve 54%, whilst 1 in 5,000 will make 55%. By the time we get to Billy Walter's lifetime performance of 57%, the figure falls to just 1 in 2.5 million. Evidently there aren't very many Billy Walters about. Of course, if there were, you'd presumably have heard of many more of them.
Binomial tells us we really can't expect very many geniuses. A win rate of 60% can be expected just once in about a trillion. That's about 100 times the size of the global population. And what about 70%? Well, my Excel binomial calculator gives up at a win rate of 61%, it simply can't cope with the large numbers. With a little bit of algorithmic trickery I've managed to extrapolate out to 70%. At this level of success we are talking in the region of 1 in 10 to the power 50, that's 1 with 50 zeros, or half way to a Googol in terms of the exponent number.
At this point you might rightly point out a flaw. Skilled punters will not have a base rate (or expected win percentage) of 50-50 win-lose so we can't really apply it for bettors who are. That is true. However, the same rules of statistical variance still apply. Let's choose a different base rate. Let's suppose instead that a highly skilled bettor, for example like Billy Walters, has a true expected win percentage of 57%. What, then, is the probability of making 70% in 1,230 wagers? It's still way beyond the realms of feasibility at about 1 in 10 to the power 22 (or ten billion trillion in old money).
OK, let's suppose Bruno truly is a genius and his long term expected win percentage is 60%. How likely is 867 wins in 1,230 wagers (which is actually 70.5%)? It's still 1 in 100 trillion. Let's go all in and give Bruno a 65% expected win percentage, 10% more than good professional punters and 8% more than some of the best ever. He'll still have to show 1-in-40,000 good luck to make his quoted success rate. Not just a genius, then, but one of the luckiest geniuses ever to have been born.
11) How do Bruno's stats compare to other tipsters? In my time as a betting analyst and advisory service verifier I've seen a lot of tipsters. I verified about 300 of them over a 14-year period. The best tipster of these was roughly 1-in-100,000 (assuming a no-skill base rate). I analysed records of a further 6,000 or so from the tipster supermarket Pyckio. The best of these was 1-in-2.5 million. Evidently, Bruno is so far removed from real world observations, either in terms of skill or luck (or both), as to suggest he might be the second son of God.
12) Is there actually any verifiable evidence of Bruno's quoted success rate? No, which is precisely the reason I have challenged him to prove his claims. To his credit, however, he did spend 10 days submitting his picks to the verification service PickMonitor.com. Evidently, these picks were not equivalent to his Private Club Service because there were 331 of them, compared to 1,230 since 2015, but it's the only large independently verified sample of his work we've got. How did he do? 70%? 60%? Well, no, it was actually 51.33% at average odds of 2.05. Because of his staking, this sample did actually return a 10.4% profit, although to level stakes it was just 3.0%. This is not a 1-in-100 trillion or even a 1-in-40,000 performance, it's a 1-in-3 (with a long term expected win % of 50%), and a 1-in-completely-useless if you're meant to be a genius like Bruno.
14) On the 13th September, Bruno posted on the BettingAdvice forum that he was not fan of tips monitors. Despite repeated challenges to say why, he refused to answer. He did say from that day he would "be back with 3rd party verification, so we will chat again in the near future." But that was 3 weeks ago and in that time all Bruno has managed to achieve is blocking me on twitter and boast about his wealth.
So we are told by Bruno that geniuses win 60% of their plays (where the base rate win expectation of these plays is 50%). We now know that if Bruno is a betting genius his record of 70.5% is lucky to the tune of once in 100 trillion times. We know that Bruno did verify 331 tips over 10 days and that the win rate was 51% with a modest and statistically insignificant level stakes profit far removed from the 40% yields that would accompany a 70% win rate. We know that Bruno doesn't like pick monitors and has so far refused to agree to ongoing independent verification. We know that either Bruno uses fake aliases or he lied to Companies House about who has significant control over Vegas Consultants Ltd. We know Bruno registered his company in February 2018 and acquired his domain a month earlier, not November 2017, as his alter ego David Davis claims. And we know that Bruno charges $5,000 for 10 plays, and $10,000 for 40 plays form his Private Club.
Give all of these observations, any prospective purchaser who was even lucky enough to hold such wealth must surely ask the question: do I really want to take chance on a person such as Bruno? Sports betting itself involves taking risks with one's capital. Why would anyone want to take more risks with even more capital when there are no verifiable assurances that Bruno is truly the spectacularly lucky genius he claims to be? Bruno may say to me again that I've proved nothing. Perhaps. Perhaps the Earth is flat too. Need I remind you all, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
P.S. As Bruno has so kindly pointed out, me bringing his service to your attention has the potential to increase his profile and the possibility of attracting new customers. I will live with that risk and trust that anyone with enough moeny to invest in Bruno, the super lucky genius, actually pays serious attention to the message contained here and does their due diligence. Hopefully that will mean having a read, having a laugh, and moving on, but you're free to make up your own mind without any further influence from me.