Book review: Trading Bases by Joe Peta

“Nothing about playing table games in a casino is anything other than gambling as entertainment.  On the other hand, risking money while possessing an edge, and while exercising prudent risk management, makes someone a trader.”

–          Joe Peta, Trading Bases

Sports books are far more enjoyable when you’re interested in the topic, even more enjoyable when they’re well-written and even more enjoyable than that when they include heart-felt, personal background as to why the author decided to write his book in the first place.

Such is the case with Joe Peta’s Trading Bases: A Story about Wall Street, Gambling and Baseball (not necessarily in that order).

Peta is a former high-stakes, Wall Street broker.  He’s also passionate about his baseball.  One afternoon in 2011, Peta was struck by an ambulance in downtown Manhattan.  He was left in a wheelchair and summarily fired from his position.  He’s quick to point out he was not fired because of his injury, however, they did “roll him off the trading floor.”

An avid sports fan who used to “treat the arrival of the new issue of Sports Illustrated like a weekly holiday,” Peta decided to use his fortune, and new misfortune, along with his affinity for both numbers and baseball, to see if there was any way he could predict trends and make consistent money by gambling on our national pastime.  Peta’s not the first to do so and certainly won’t be the last but would his model succeed where others have failed?

“Bringing together my love of trading and markets, models and sports betting, I decided to use the findings of baseball’s ‘sabremetric’ community to build a model that would beat the Las Vegas baseball line.  I’m talking about doing research, believing that work creates an edge over others, and then investing in that edge.  When trades with a positive expected value present themselves on the trading floor, you jump in with both feet.  Betting on baseball futures was no different.”

You just started paying attention, didn’t you?  Trust me, when I first heard about the book, I was skeptical, yet eager to find whether Peta’s “investments” paid off or whether he was just one of those slick suited, scam artists trying to guarantee us a winner.

He’s not.  His model worked and he goes into a fair amount of detail why, so buckle up and get your calculators ready.

One not need be familiar with the work of Bill James or Billy Beane to enjoy Trading Bases.  Peta introduces the reader to both.  In fact, at times the book is so numbers-intensive, Peta attempts to quantify “luck.”  Go figure.

Not only does Peta use his own brand of sabremetrics to determine season over/unders (against Las Vegas’), he uses his strategy to make money on single-game match-ups.  He finds value where he and Vegas differ, then bets accordingly.  He addresses how much to wager and why betting on baseball is more prudent than gambling on other sports.

The book is not only about baseball and gambling.  It’s about his experience on the floor as well.  At some points, Bases got a little too stocks-and-bondsy for me considering terms like hedge funds, basis points and equity-related derivatives don’t exist in my vocabulary but Peta effectively parallels the financial crisis and risk management to gambling, something too few us do after one too many cocktails at the blackjack table.

Using the 2011 season as his test case, Trading Bases details Peta’s renewed passion for baseball, the stock market and the inherent ups and downs of them both.  After experiencing positive returns in April and May, Peta hit a downturn the next two months, which led to panic from some of his backers.  He started to rethink his model, taking a closer look at what was going on.  He discovered that the “cluster luck” of a hot Minnesota Twins team, a team he had projected to do poorly, had messed with his model in the short-term.  After taking a closer look at their success, he banked things would work itself out over time.

So did they, you ask?  Well, obviously the model worked otherwise there would be no reason to write the book.  After one full season, Peta had bet on just over 2000 games, earning himself a 33% return on his investment, despite the ebbs and flows of a few teams that broke trends.  Not a bad year at the office.  He made another 12% return over the 2012 season.

When it’s all said and done, Peta does what most any educated gambler does when it comes to laying big money on games.  He finds inherent errors in a Vegas line then attacks.  He just lives to tell about it and does so with a lot more spreadsheets.

If you’ve never considered betting on baseball, Peta makes a convincing argument on its behalf as long as you do so responsibly.  Just be prepared to put some work in.

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19 Replies to “Book review: Trading Bases by Joe Peta”

  1. Pingback: Book review: Trading Bases by Joe Peta - BallHyped Blog Network, MLB | BallHyped Sports Blogs

  2. My dear ol’ dad always told me never to bet more than I can afford to lose.
    That’s why I don’t gamble anymore.

  3. Aer…

    I’m generally pretty cognizant and careful about how much I wager and on what.

    But I do use Peta’s approach in the sense that I look at a line that Vegas has established and, having come up with my own that differs from it, bet that game how I see fit.

  4. Interesting subject, Rev. I have to wonder… if almost any knowledgeable baseball fan/gambler/math geek couldn’t do just as well over a 2,000 game season?

  5. Chris

    I’ll only wager having studied tendencies of the teams especially as it relates to the NBA and the NFL . As I related to Ronbets , my forte when it came to wagering had more to do with the ponies .

    Tophatal …………..

  6. Han…

    Interesting thought and therein lies the rub.

    Upon researching for the book review, I found the author now has his own website, aka blog. On it, he recently wrote he was looking for work and had skipped on gambling on the 2013 season, which didn’t lean much credibility to his model.

    So let me get this straight. You were once making seven figures, probably cashed in a pretty penny on insurance from your accident, wrote a book that probably sold quite a few copies and you’re currently looking for work?

    Sometimes I wonder.

  7. Chris,

    I’m skeptical only because I’ve been in the biz not one or 2 seasons but forty(40). A good measuring stick for success is not short term but by the decade. Granted, sabermetric quants have achieved pretty good grades. For me to believe this Peta dude, I need documentation. Sounds like a stepping stone for a tout service. We’ll see.

  8. Speaking of the ponies, they’re another reason I quit gambling. Talk about a losing streak.

  9. Bets…

    I’m not sure any system works. That’s why there are so many casinos in Vegas raking in the cash.

    I just like finding where I think Vegas has gone wrong, which is rare, and going from there.

    Remind me to tell you about the night my buddy and I won 11 grand by betting four long dogs in the NBA money line.

    Oh, and do you ever think sports wagering will be legalized elsewhere? Is it live in Jersey yet?

  10. Aer…

    I don’t know that I’ve ever walked away from the dog or horse track a winner but believe it or not, I have done fairly well at jai-alai.

  11. Chris
    If recreational gamblers are hoping for individual states to legalize single out sportsbetting they are in for a gouging if passed. The profit margin is so minute for the offshores can you imagine government bureaucrats surviving on a 2% hold? Hey look, I’ve been laughed at by ppl saying that the more options the better. My reply is a steadfast NO ACTION IS BETTER THAN BAD ACTION. Case in point………NYC OTB.

  12. Bets…

    I understand and totally agree. You’d think though that casinos like the Hard Rock would be able to subsidize their sports book with the money they’re making on slots and table games.

    I don’t expect sports gambling to be legalized in my lifetime, unfortunately, because I have a retirement savings to build upon… or blow through.

  13. Ronbets


    Peta knows that stats can be made to look like fools’ gold . Isn’t that what the government does when it relates to the statistics they put out as it relates to the economy and other issues be they social or otherwise .

    Josh Hamilton gets booed by Texas Rangers’ fans . Unless I’m mistaken when you sleight your former teammates the ball club and the state of Texas , then your @ss is fair game as far as I’m concerned !

    This Rutgers’ fu#k up is playing out as what not to do , in order not how to cover all of the bases . Robert L Branchi , Rutgers’ President , Tim Pernetti , the now former AD , Mike Rice , have to be three of the dumbest mutha-$$@kers on the face of the planet ! Three years of racial abuse , homophobic slurs and physical assaults on players and those morons thought they could cover it all up ? Where are their brains , much less traits of decency ? Oh Chris , another reason for you to denote , racism is still alive and kicking , bro ! Here in Florida as well in the state of New Jersey . So now what ?

    You still think that the Trayvon Martin homicide wasn’t a racial issue and incident ? C’mon and that wasn’t an isolated incident as there have been five other such crimes of this nature that has taken place in the state over the last eighteen months . Not widely reported though but it’s there .

    They did what and why? And their explanation, was what again ?

    We’ll start with the sublime and then move on to the ridiculous . Oh sorry we’re talking baseball , so it remains ridiculous

    Tophatal …………….

  14. Chris

    Seeing the Rays get pounded like a prison ##tch was nothing new , as it reminded me of the pre and early Maddon years when the team was woefully inadequate in every aspect of the game !

    How lucky is Rick Pitino ? Soon to be inducted into the Hall of Fame . He guided Louisville into the championship game match-up against Michigan and his horse wins the Grade I Santa Anita Derby and is now seen as one of the presumptive favorites for the Kentucky Derby .

    Left you a response in both cases to my most recent pieces .

    Tophatal ……………..

  15. Two thumbs up on the review and the site! Looks great, as always, just like Chump himself!!

  16. Al…

    Hamilton was understandably booed. He burned plenty of bridges on his way out the door.

    I’ll have my thoughts on the Rutgers situation up soon, don’t worry.

    Pitino’s earned his spot in the Hall. Guy’s a regular in the Final Four. That’s one thing that scares me in tonight’s ball game.

  17. So Rutgers’ president , Robert Barchi believes it prudent to pay off his former AD Tim Pernetti $1.3 million and now disgraced head basketball coach Mike Rice , another $1 million, that includes benefits . How fu#ked is the faculty at Rutgers , and which of the moronic a$sholes providing them legal counsel hasn’t used West’s Law as a referral as a reference to see how to relieve both officials without having to compensate either ? Three years of this goddamn bull$hit and Barchi sought to apportion blame elsewhere for Rice’s insidious action .

    I hear the school will now be offering two new college elective classes that will allow students to obtain a BSc ? Homophobia 101 and Ni#ga-bating 666 …… or how to subjugate minorities and keep them in their place . One of the professors for the second elective who’ll provide lectures , will be Longhorns’ AD DeLoss Dodds , because that’s how they also like to do things in Texas , especially if you just happen to be a minority who just happens to be a female .

    It never rains but it pours, and then some

    Tophatal …………..

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