Give Yourself An Edge play weak markets
Take a look at the highest rating sporting events on TV, then compare them to a list of the most popular betting events. The bookmakers follow these events closely, the punters follow them closely, so how are you supposed to make an edge?
Ask yourself this question: If a bookmaker has to price up English Premiership soccer, the Super Bowl and Australian NBL basketball all at the same time – which event is he more likely to make an error in?
Think about it – the vast majority of clients and the bigger bets are going to come for the higher profile events. Thus your bookie is going to spend 90% of his time doing the research, managing the risk, keeping an eye on the newswire and other prices on the big events as well. That makes it very tough for you to find an edge on those markets. Every little item gets reported on TV, on the internet, in the papers, so the markets tend to be well-formed with similar prices around the industry worldwide. Not to mention that nearly every time, someone else will always have faster access to the information trail.
Stop focusing on what’s on TV, or at least the result of the event you are watching, and more on what can make you money. You can find weak markets everywhere. Bookmakers are always trying to bring in new clients by offering extra markets. Within major events, you can always find weak markets by shopping around several firms. American sports for example have plenty of player ‘props’ – scoring or statistical matchups against another player, or under/over a certain number, within a game.
These markets are designed to encourage more bets from the recreational punter, and often put together with minimal effort. A quick look at some stats and trends, and the markets are whipped up in five minutes. These prop bets are often unique to a particular bookmaker – so there’s no fallback of tracking prices via BetBrain or Don Best either. As a punter, you have the advantage of picking and choosing which markets you wish to get involved in – make use of it by being rational and selective on the bets you make.
Invariably, these props will be based on statistics, so the information has to be out there somewhere. Most official sporting bodies have huge stats resources you can look through – American sports are all about information overkill (“And he’s batting .209 against left-handed pitchers on Monday nights in the month of May” – from the film Major League), and the AFL is catching on quickly. Where there is consumer interest in stats, then the bookies get involved too.
But surely there’s more to it than simply looking at stats tables? Exactly. Let’s say you have a player possession matchup in the AFL. The numbers look about right going on their last month’s performances, but what about the matchups, the history, the conditions? Does the player have a good record against this team? Who normally lines up against him? Does he rely on certain players to feed him the ball, eg a tap ruckman? Does he fare better in the tight spaces of the SCG, or the serene indoor conditions at Telstra Dome?
Every player has their favourite opponent to line up against, because for some reason not always evident on paper, he has a day out every time. So does the coach have a plan B this time? Factor in the likely on-field matchups, the history of previous meetings with this opponent – team and individual, and work out the relative chances of each selection.
The fewer runners in a market, the more chance you have of beating the bookie due to the low margin built in. But that’s not to say that you can’t find an edge in bigger fields providing you know your stuff – it’s just significantly harder to overcome the bookies’ built-in safety net. Multiple bets are the bread and butter of any bookmaker – because it’s margin plus margin plus margin, again and again. Stay out of them unless you can find a rare case of more than one value bet on the same day.
Formula 1 has been a favourite of mine over the years but persistent changes to the technology and regulations have made it hard to rely on – not to mention bookmakers tightening up on events they lose on.
With motor sport, it’s not just the ability of the drivers concerned. The reliability of the vehicle has to be a major factor in how each price is made up. So apart from just worrying about the grid, the odds to win the race and their driver rankings, you need to be aware of the manufacturer’s ability to get their car home in one piece. Guess the driver who had the most retirements in F1 over the 2005 season? Michael Schumacher with six retirements from 19 races – the defending champion, who despite a declining season, would be bookies’ favourite against most opponents. A 31% breakdown/crash rate means a large degree of uncertainty in any price formulation – and remember that a mechanical breakdown and retirement due to an accident have to be analysed differently as well.
One prime place to look for poorly-formed matchups is in golf tournaments. You might think on face value that pairing up two players who are 50/1 in the outright market means they should be level-pegging to beat each other over 72 holes. However there is probably a marked difference between the two players in their consistency, not to mention recent form and the statistics relevant to the upcoming event.
There are numerous players on the Tours that you will see regularly on the weekends, but rarely in genuine contention such as Scott Verplank, Fred Funk, David Lynn – they’re happy with their regular cheques for a top 30 finish with an occasional top 10. To a bookie though, when they have to factor in the each-way market, this type of player will end up at similar odds to the hit-or-miss rising stars such as Sean O’Hair, Ryan Moore and Paul Casey. A lazy bookmaker will take the easy option and pick players at similar prices for the matchups. Don’t expect it on every event, but when secondary events occur in WGC or major weeks, be on the lookout!
Some of the most successful punters I’ve met specialise in this style of betting. It does require proper research and strong discipline – but they are the secrets of successful gambling no matter how you do it. Do your homework, make meticulous notes and build up your confidence in forming prices on these markets. Make each bet a battle of wits against the bookie (or exchange punter) involved on the other side of the wager. Don’t expect every bet to win – that’s not how value betting works, but be confident that when you have this method worked out, the long-term results will bear fruit.