A guest article by Peter the Punter
My brother really annoys me when we go racing. He backs all the short-priced favourites, just so that he can crow about how many winners he had. When I point out his paltry returns he just grins smugly and tells me that a winner is a winner, whatever the price. I tried to shut him up once by offering him a bet on the toss of a coin at the odds of 2-1 against heads, 2-1 on tails. Naturally he chose heads, but then I reversed the odds. Of course he wanted to change the bet. â€˜Ahâ€™, I said, â€˜but if you thought heads would win at 2-1 against, why change your mind now it is 2-1 on? After all, a winner is a winner, whatever the price.â€™ He never got the point and I am sure he still doesnâ€™t. Some people just donâ€™t get the idea of â€˜valueâ€™ in betting.
The point is that if you keep finding value, you must win in the long run. The search for profit in punting is nothing other than the search for value.
You can find it in the most surprising places. A team of professional gamblers once creamed a fortune at roulette because they had learned of a slightly faulty wheel which had tipped the odds in favour of a small group of numbers. They had the resources and patience to back them relentlessly until the odds in their favour rendered them their profit. To the casual observer, they were winning and losing at random but they had discovered value in this the most unlikely of places and knew all they had to do to exploit it was stick to their principles â€“ same numbers, same stake, and keep going.
Few will ever spot such a valuable opportunity but there is nevertheless plenty of value out there once you start to look for it. Top professional punter Dave Nevison once said that when he started, he struggled to find value, but now he sees it everywhere. Here are some tips that might help.
Study the form and without looking at the prices on offer, write down your own prediction of what the betting should be. Express the odds in percentages and make sure they add up to 100 (or close to it). Compare your odds with the actual odds on offer. If there are any major differences with no obvious explanation, you may have discovered some value.
Ask yourself at what price you would be prepared to back and at what point you would prefer to lay. The latter is particularly important now that the Betting Exchanges have thrown open to all punters the opportunity to become, in effect, bookmakers but even if you prefer to bet the traditional way, it is still an enormously valuable exercise to identify the â€˜layingâ€™ as well as the backing price. After all, if one price is too short, it follows that another, somewhere, must be too long and therefore represents value.
It will often alert you to the existence of value. Markets donâ€™t react, they overreact. When they do, there is almost certain to be value created somewhere. To exploit it, you will be moving against the crowd. After all, there cannot be much value in following the crowd because by definition the crowd will have driven the value out. If you think the crowd is right, let it pass. If the crowd is wrong, you have identified value.
Top prices donâ€™t last long. And if you miss them, donâ€™t chase the price down. The value has gone. Donâ€™t curse. Look for another bet.
Some people think this is wrong because you are betting against yourself. I think it is wrong to imagine only one price per event is sufficiently â€˜wrongâ€™ to represent value. Itâ€™s Dave Nevisonâ€™s point again: there is value everywhere.
It can be hard to get your head around this one because most of us are conditioned to putting small amounts on outsiders and bigger amounts on favourites. In fact we should be graduating our bets according to the value in them â€“ the greater the value, the larger the bet.
Donâ€™t be greedy and wait for a bigger one. If it does drift, bet again. After all, if it was value at the lower price, it is even better value now. (This piece of advice has probably won me more than any other.)
Whilst you should never bet more than you can afford to lose, it is equally important never to bet so little that you donâ€™t care if you lose. These â€˜interestâ€™ bets cannot possibly have any value in them. If they did, why didnâ€™t you put a proper amount on? Staking a sum large enough to care about is a good way of making yourself put in the necessary form study to establish that there is indeed some value in the bet.
If you put just some of these into practice, there is a very good chance you will start finding greater value in your bets. If you can do that, your betting profits are bound to increase, as I am sure you will agree.
Unless, that is, you happen to be my brother.
Peter the Punter is a regular contributor to pb and was a nominee for the 2006-7 poster of the year.
Mike’s book, “The Political Punter – How To Make Money Betting On Politics” is available online here.