Calling World Cup Goals Before They Happen, By Polling a Betting Site

[Ben] made an interesting discovery during the FIFA World Cup in 2018, and used it to grant himself the power to call goals before they happened. Well, before they happened on live TV or live streaming, anyway. It was possible because of the broadcast delay on “live” broadcasts, combined with the sports betting industry’s need for timely and detailed game state tracking.

He discovered that a company named Running Ball provides fairly detailed game statistics in digital form, which are generated from inside the stadium as events occur. An obvious consumer of this data are sports betting services, and [Ben] found a UK betting site that exposed that information in full inside their web app. By polling this data, he measured a minimum of 4 seconds between an event (such as a goal) being reported in the data and the event occurring on live TV. The delay was much higher — up to minutes — for live streaming. [Ben] found it quite interesting to measure how the broadcast delay on otherwise “live” events could sometimes be quite significant.

Knowing broadcast delays exist is one thing, but it’s a neat trick to use it to predict goals before they occur on “live” television. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen evidence of [Ben]’s special interest in data and using it in unusual ways; he once set up a program to play Battleship over the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), making it very probably the first board game played over BGP.

8 thoughts on “Calling World Cup Goals Before They Happen, By Polling a Betting Site

  1. I recall at a convention someone who used the Unscrambler claiming he was doing amazingly well with the sports spread or whatever the gambling event is. Figured out patterns when loading the historical data set and reviewing for factors or something and patterns were surprisingly obvious. Same goes with a presenter from the Mathworks noting how a client used a custom toolset for modeling financial application which started returning it’s investment and profiting in a few months (if I remember correctly due to capital effect and market margins being low in the sector applied). Then shortly after… seemed algorithmic trading (robo trading) started to become more main stream marketed. There are patterns and factors that weigh into predicting patterns specifically, repeatably, etc. validly. I started working on a self learning application and some don’t like that especially with signals.

    1. I forgot to note also why the trading markets have proprietary communications devices like lasers to be able to transmit data even faster.
      https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/176551-new-laser-network-between-nyse-and-nasdaq-will-allow-high-frequency-traders-to-make-even-more-money

      I recall some physicists working on neutrino communications though wasn’t able to have a high baud rate I think was the limitation… though can penetrate anything including the planet… oh yes… here is a great presentation that is newer from where I last left off:
      https://indico.phys.vt.edu/event/21/sessions/73/attachments/229/261/INSS_pb22.pdf

      Seems there were ways to intercept the online gambling sites also and view data of the players live… though I never really got into that. I’m sure the casino and online security group knows those systems more.

  2. Is this delay a natural delay caused by the time taken to transmit the video signal, encode it for TV etc or is this an artificial delay added so they can e.g. bleep swear words?

    1. Both. Digital encoding takes a notably finite time, streaming adds even more, and as you say, there is normally a ‘safety’ delay too in case anything untoward happens. It can quite easily be 30s+

  3. Experienced something similar watching a hockey game a few weeks back. We were watching it “live” via a cable company’s internet streaming service. One of the guys’ phone would ‘ding!’ and then about 5 seconds later we’d watch a team score. First goal we thought it was a fluke. 2nd goal was funny. Then the opposition scored and we told him to silence his phone!

  4. I ran into this once. I was fresh off the boat from Japan and living in Anchorage. We were watching the world cup, USA vs Japan. Of course, I was the only one rooting for the Japanese team, but I wanted to watch the broadcast in Japanese, so I vpn’d into my house in Japan and streamed the game to my phone. I didn’t know about the time delay thing and was surprised that I had a 10 second lead over the “Live” broadcast in the USA. Sadly, Japan lost, but it was an interesting thing to learn.

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