Mistakes & Misinformation effecting in-play bets
There is no disputing Betfair revolutionised gambling.
The introduction of the betting exchange was one of those earth-shattering moments which overnight changed a landscape which had previously worked on geological time.
No sooner had we come to terms with the ability to play bookmaker the company, founded by Andrew Black and Edward Wray, unleashed another polished diamond in the shape of in-running betting (or in-play betting as it’s often called).
It may have been polished but the vast majority of punters understanding of ‘live’ was very much flawed. It had never struck the viewing public that the TV screen was doing anything other than working like a looking glass relaying live action as fast as the speed of light.
They were mistaken and, like all mistakes, it proved costly.
Those looking for an edge soon found one and in no time there was a scramble to find an internet connection at racecourses where sit-at-home punters, obliviously watching pictures delayed by five seconds and betting in running, could be picked off like flies.
The more adventurous went further afield, sending spotters equipped with mobile telephones to America’s major golfing events. Live happenings relayed back to blighty down the phone lines gave traders an enormous exploitable lag between what they knew and what armchair punters were about to witness.
Nowadays, while time delays remain, Betfair players are fully aware that punting in-running is fraught with danger. Doing so in a horse race where the field is entering the final furlong (on your TV screen) is foolhardy. That’s just one example. Personally I’d very much shirk tennis and any other fast moving events originating from a foreign land.
There are some exceptions, SKY Sports have their darts coverage down to an instantaneous pat, and the ‘slow sports’ as I call them, such as Formula 1 races which last for 90 minutes and are complimented by live ‘lap times’ via the internet.
This information source is proven to be instantaneous and it still provides a wry smile when a ‘fastest lap’ is credited to a driver seven or eight seconds before it is relayed on the graphic of a TV screen before you.
Generally however the days of big opportunities have gone but that is not to say mistakes are still not made by a betting public eager to wager their hard-earned when they believe there’s a buck to be made.
Eyes Believe Themselves for in-running betting
One of the best pieces of advice I learned during my poker days was: “The eyes will believe themselves, but the ears will believe other people!”
It is so true yet this idiom repeatedly provides savvy punters an edge over an often gullible and susceptible armchair punting viewer.
Midway through the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix dual F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso was behind Pastor Maldonado and seeking to take the lead of the race.
Maldonado, driving a William’s race car which had not won a race in 132 starts, was seeking his first F1 victory and attempting to better his best ever finishing position by seven places.
The Venezuelan driver started the race as a 10/1 shot despite starting from pole-position. He was reportedly backed for small money prior to qualifying at 500/1.
Understandably many could sense blood but Maldonado did not start from pole position by accident and it is notoriously difficult to overtake at the Barcelona circuit. More Impossible than impractical.
Given the circuit, Maldonado’s undoubted pace and fresher tyres than his pursuer, he looked a rightful odds-on shot to hold on for a race victory. Betfair agreed, 1.8 was the point where bet met lay.
However, SKY Sports commentator Martin Brundle was then asked which car he would prefer to be driving he replied: “Unquestionably the Ferrari of Alonso, he should be able to take the Williams [of Maldonado].” Just moments after his words had been directed at the microphone the race leader’s price drifted out to 4.5!
Brundle’s support was misinformation at its very best and with this statement the former F1 racer, who never won a race in 158 career starts, clearly demonstrated that in-running punters will back someone else’s judgement before trusting their own.
Maldonado never relinquished the lead and never truly looked liked doing so.
This was not an isolated incident, the commentary teams on athletics have an incredible record of giving a firm mid-race opinion on the destination of a gold medal in marathons, which generally misses the target.
Countless times a runner has been “sitting on his rivals shoulder waiting to pounce and I’d say he will take up the lead at the five mile marker”. Shortly afterwards they go odds on and shortly after that they fade back into the pack. Shortly after that the commentator then counters with something like “he cannot be fully over the virus he had been suffering from over the winter as usually you would expect him to devour these runners.” Enter stage right the next athlete to go odds-on ‘in-running’.
While these statements are not the opinions of experts, it is the conventional commentator that has seen so much money burnt down the years.
Not a year has gone by without an Irish racecourse commentator misidentifying a horse at some point of a race. Often this mistake is not spotted or rectified until it crosses the line. The damage has been monumental with the misidentified ‘winner’ being traded at 1.01 and the real winner done at treble digits.
Another sport where this happens aplenty is cycling albeit there is very little liquidity on stage winners even in the Tour de France.
Commentator’s frailties and expert views which are misguided are just two examples of how in-running markets can be unreflective of the probability of a result on events which are currently unfolding.
There are other spectacles where viewers are innocently misguided, the Eurovision Song Contest being one example.
Here producers receive the votes from all participating countries long before announcing them and they know the winner the moment voting closes.
However, in the spirit of TV entertainment they then select an order for countries to announce their votes. This running-order has been calculated in a way to make the outright winner unclear for as long as possible.
Consequently countries which have given maximum points to countries other than the likely high scorers are always asked to give their results first.
During this first chaotic five minutes of points announcements the betting markets are thrown into turmoil as people are fooled into thinking the early results are a true reflection of the overall picture. They are quite the opposite.