Most pro-punters’ betting strategy is simple — they bet when they think that a selection is a bigger price than it should be.
Conversely most gamblers make the mistake of trying to back winners, without taking the odds of reward into account. “A 6/4 winner is better than a 20/1 loser,” they say, which, in fairness, is true. But if you can back enough selections at 20/1 which really should be 8/1 then, in the long run, you will make a profit. That’s the key. It’s all about the odds.
The Odds Explained
Take a bag of 10 coloured balls, four blue, three red, two green, one yellow. If you draw one ball at random, there are four chances in 10 that it will be blue, and there are six chances in 10 that it won’t be blue. Therefore, the true odds of drawing a blue ball are 6/4.
There are three chances in 10 that the ball will be red (true odds of 7/3), two chances in 10 that the ball will be green (true odds of 8/2 or 4/1), and one chance in 10 that the ball will be yellow (true odds of 9/1).
If you were offered odds of 6/1 about the ball being green, that is a bet that you should have. It doesn’t mean that the drawn ball is more likely to be green than it is to be blue or red, it just means that odds of 6/1 are too big. On average, a green ball will come out once in every five draws and, if you can consistently bet on that outcome at 6/1, in the long run you will make a significant profit.
The edge in betting lies in going “Against the Crowd”, an idea that Alan Potts encapsulated in his 1995 book of that title.
Contrary to popular perception, the odds are determined these days by punters, not by bookmakers. Just have a look at the mid-price point on any betting exchange market on a Friday night and compare it with bookmakers’ Saturday morning prices.
Consequently, when you bet these days, even if you do not bet on the exchanges, you are actually betting against other punters, not against the bookmaker. If you can take a view that is contrary to that of the majority, and if your opinion is well informed and accurate, then, in the long run, you should make a profit.
Crucial to this strategy is the accuracy of the assessment of a horse, greyhound, or football team’s chances of winning. Consequently, you should bet on form, not on information.
But most punters love to get the inside track, they love to hear about a horse who is catching pigeons at home, or a football team that may field a lot of reserves in a first team match and should therefore be opposed.
Professionals, for the most part, prefer to bet on what they have seen rather than what they have heard —how many other people have received the same inside information? How many punters? How many bookmakers? How will the odds be affected?
Therefore most big players’ bets are on the higher class races, better competitions, or premier league games where the form is there for all to see and potential for improvement can be estimated.
Avoiding the Pitfalls
Even if you simply enjoy a sociable bet and have no grand illusion about becoming a high-rolling professional, there are pitfalls for you and your money everywhere.
Few years ago, a Bookmakers Afternoon Greyhound Service (BAGS) race saw three dogs return the same price, co-favourites at 2/1.
For anyone that scribbled “fav” on their betting slip whilst dashing to the counter, it meant they could not win on the race. It was impossible, as their stake was divided between the three co-favourites and, at 2/1, it simply returned them their money.
Meanwhile, if one of the other three dogs in the race had of won they would have lost their money.
Therein the tip of the month is never put “fav” on your betting slip.