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Finding Value in Sports Betting

An Explanation of Value Betting

Last weekend I began my fourth season of writing for Matchbook and in the previous 3 seasons I have been lucky enough to return a profit.

I am very pleased about this as the reality is, in the majority of case I do not get to choose which games I write on. The matches are pretty much all of the major televised games, in the European Leagues and Champions League.

By following the same procedure for each game, in the majority of cases I can highlight some type of value.

Now value is a word you will see in a lot of betting articles but what exactly does it mean?

And why is it important that we find it?

The Toss of a Coin

First let’s look at an example, using the toss of a coin.

Now as we know the toss of a coin can either land on heads or tails, so it is a 50/50 call.

Long term 50% of the time the coin will land on heads and 50% of the time it will land on tails. As there are no other options than heads or tails, the fair odds for a toss of the coin is Evens or (100% divided 50% = 2.00) 2.00.

So if you were betting on the toss of a coin you would expect to bet at odds of 2.00

Now for example should I offer you odds of 11/10 (2.10) on the coin landing on heads this WOULD offer value long term.

The reason for this is that I am now offering you the odds of a 47.62% chance, (100% divided by 2.10 = 47.62%) when the true odds are 50% that the coin will land on heads.

So in mathematical terms should you toss a coin 100 times and you were betting on heads at the true odds of 50% (2.00) and the coin landed 50 times on heads, your return would be the following;

50 winners x 2.00 = 100 points and when taking away your 100 points stake, the return would be 0 points.

However should you be backing heads at the value odds of 11/10 (2.10) and the coin landed 50 times your return would be;

50 winners x 2.10 = 105 points, and when taking away your 100 points stake the return would be a profit of 5 points.

Similarly if I was to offer you odds of 9/10 (1.90) on the coin landing on heads this would NOT offer value as you are placing money on a 52.63% chance of the event happening, when the real odds are only 50%.

So in this case you would see 50 winners x 1.90 = 95 points, and when taking away your 100 points stake the return would be a loss of -5 points.

So as you can see from the above example price really does matter.

Finding Value

Finding Value

Now finding value is not easy and in truth there is no right or wrong way to go about this.

It should always be remembered that sports are not like a coin toss where we know that on a coin toss there is a 1 in 2 (50%) chance that we will be right.

Assessing the chances of Liverpool beating Stoke is a completely different matter as there are so many variables that have to be taken into account before the game kick off. Such as players’ fitness, attitude of the team, along with recent and long term form.

Personally to source value I use my Ratings System Sheets, along with various spreadsheets and software.

Other punters will have developed their own systems, such as those that rely on factors such as team news or the anticipated conditions etc.

As previously stated there is no right or wrong way to do this and it is really down to personal preference and what you find works best for you.

Backing Winners as Opposed to value

Where a lot of novice punters go wrong is they believe finding a winner is more important than finding value.

However backing consistent winners does not always lead to a profit.

As an example let’s have a look at Barcelona in the Spanish La Liga when away to Grade C & D sides (mid table and bottom half sides).

Since 2005 Barcelona have visited Grade C & D sides in 137 matches and they have won an impressive 85 (62%) of these games. However if you had backed Barcelona at the very best odds you would now be showing a loss of -15.23 points.

The probability is in your mind you would have thought that Barcelona would have won all of these matches, and indeed you would be correct. The probability was that in each individual game Barcelona were rightfully favourites.

However the reality is you would have failed to asses Barcelona’s chance of winning in probabilistic terms as the price they were available at, probably offered NO value.

The reality of the above scenario, is that if you had layed Barcelona on every match you would suffer some long losing runs and indeed at one stage during 2012 Barcelona won 13 of 14 away matches against these sides.

Now if you were following a strategy of laying Barcelona every time they were away to a Grade C or D side during this period you would have suffered a huge loss.

Also psychologically as this run lasted the good part of a year the question is, would you be mentally strong enough to be willing to carry on with this strategy in the future after suffering such a poor run?

Summary

The plain reality is once the 2 teams walk out onto the pitch we cannot say for certain which way the match will go and unfortunately losing is a part of this process. However if you believe you are backing to value then long term you should show a profit. Although there are bound to be tough times along the way as with the Barcelona example above.

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