Getting the best odds - Betbubbles Sportsbook
Getting the best odds
As we saw in the previous section, if we only work with one bookmaker, we're invariably going to get hurt by the over–round and we'll struggle to find value on many occasions. If instead we look across a dozen or so bookmakers and betting exchanges, each offering slightly different odds (occasionally significantly different) then we stand a much better chance.
A significant point here is that we reduce the overall over–round, so that when we do have difficult periods – perhaps our probabilities are letting us down or the results just keep going against us – we don't erode our bank nearly as quickly. And when things are going as planned we make even more profit! The next few tables and paragraphs may help to illustrate this.
Let's consider the actuall odds available on Reading vs Chelsea two days before the game. For the purpose of illustrating the point we've shown odds from just four companies:
Reading win Chelsea win Draw Over–round
Ladbrokes 6.5 1.44 3.6 112.6%
bet365 7.5 1.4 4.33 107.9%
Betfred 6 1.5 3.5 111.9%
Betfair* 8.2 1.49 4.5 101.5%
Betfair (net 5%) 7.84 1.47 4.32 104.1%
Best 7.84 1.5 4.33 102.5%
* Betfair charge a base commission of 5% of profit (lower for high volumes of betting) so to work out the actual odds use: actual_odds = (quoted_odds – 1) * (1 – commission_rate) + 1
We can see that by taking the best odds from across the board we are able to reduce the over–round to just 2.5% and we are now able to base our value analysis on odds of 7.84, 1.5 and 4.33 for the home win, away win and draw respectively. Incidentally, to work out the over–rounds we have taken the sum of the implied probabilities, e.g. for Ladbrokes: 1/6.5 + 1/1.44 + 1/3.6 = 1.126 or 112.6%.
Let us assume that our assessment of this match leads us to believe that Reading have a 16% chance of getting the home win. The fair value odds, therefore, would be 6.25 (we divide one by 0.16). On this basis Ladbrokes, bet365 and Betfair all offer what we consider to be value odds. The point here is why take 6.5 with Ladbrokes when we can get 7.84 with Betfair? If we always go with the best odds, we either get a greater profit if Reading do in fact win, or we stake less in order to secure the same potential profit. It all makes a difference over time – perhaps the difference between healthy profits and the steady erosion of capital.
So, golden rule number one: always seek out the best possible odds before deciding whether to make a bet. Otherwise, quite simply, the odds will be stacked against.
Operate multiple betting accounts
This really follows on from the previous point. Its all very well looking at odds, its another matter to actually place bets. If you are reading this page because you're thinking about developing and putting your own system in to practice, then like we'll remind you throughout, preparation is everything. So unless you have a reasonable spread of betting accounts ready to go when you set off with your new system, you're going to get bogged down with online application forms and the depositing of cash when you really don't need the distraction.
In the online sportsbooks & Betting Exchange Directory you will find a short list of recommended, 'must have' betting accounts, prepared based on factors such as how often they offer the best odds and their typical over–rounds. Betfair, a betting exchange, is, in our opinion, an essential.
Ideally we would suggest depositing sufficient monies in each betting account to cover one or two standard size bets. Fortunately, with most companies, once you have an account set up with your debit card details on file, its a quick and simple process to deposit (and withdraw) funds – although read the terms and conditions carefully before you open your accounts as some firms don't make it quite so easy to withdraw funds!
And don't be shy of taking free bets!
Look at the early odds
Generally speaking, the biggest anomalies in bookmakers' prices will appear when they are first published – before they realise they are significantly out of line with the market. Most bookmakers will release odds around 5 or 6 days before an event, although this will vary widely depending on the type of event and its prominence. Certainly with football betting, you can expect to see odds appearing for the weekend fixtures at around the start of the week.
Bookmakers tend to realise they have mispriced when they start to see significant sums of money being placed on a particular outcome – disproportionate to the amounts on other outcomes of that event – or when they see what their competitors have published. A quick adjustment usually follows, although there are some bookmakers who will be looking to keep a small edge over their competitors.
The upshot is that if you can carry out your analysis nice and early, as soon as the previous fixtures are over, and you know what odds will constitute good value, you can quite often pick up some extra value. The caveat here is to watch out for the unexpected – for example a player withdrawing through injury – something you might not have certainty of until later in the week. But on the whole, early anomalies often equate to value.
Wait and review
Even though the early odds can reveal anomalies and value, this will not be the case for amny events and if there is no value, or the value is marginal, there probably isn't a bet. Instead watch the odds and look for value to emerges as you get nearer to the event – either due to shifting odds or as a result of new information such as injury news or squad selection. This will often be the case with the betting exchanges, like Betfair, as liquidity improves and the spreads (and therefore the over–round) narrow. Liquidity improves as more people want to place bets and this invariably will be as the event gets closer. On the exchanges this is especially noticable on the less popular markets such as the lower football leagues.
Pick up the shop coupons
This one will depend on your vicinity to the betting shops and the benefits of this approach will be occasional.
Most high street bookmakers print weekend football coupons, which typically arrive in the shops around the tuesday before the weekend in question. These firms don't like pulling coupons of the shelves or re–printing them at significant cost. So if they do happen to miscalculate odds or there is an announcement during the week that will affect the probabilities (such as an injury), then it is quite possible that the coupons will stand and the odds will be honoured – the company will take the risk on the basis that most visitors to the shops are far from sophisticated in their approach to betting. And of course a 12% or 13% over–round will often help to minimise their risk.
If you're passing a betting shop why not pick up a coupon? Then at least if there is an announcement or something that shifts the market generally, you may be in a position to take advantage of it.
Perhaps its only a matter of time before technology catches up once again and coupons are printed in shop, on–demand or presented on a screen so that they can be changed if needed as they are on the internet.
Ask for better odds
This really only applies to betting exchanges where it is possible to place an unmatched bet for higher odds than currently quoted on the 'back' or 'bet' side of the screen. We cover this in more detail in the section betting exchanges but here's a brief example:
You want to back Fulham and you can see Betfair currently offers 2.18 to back. So you click on the blue button marked 2.18. The following box appears to the right:
This initially showed the 2.18 odds but you have decided to ask for better odds of 2.2 and at the same time specified the amount you wish to stake. Potential profit is also shown. You click on the submit button (not shown here) and the details will appear under the heading 'Unmatched'. This means that no other party has yet come forward to lay your bet and until that is the case, you have NOT made a bet. If another party agrees to your request, your bet is then said to be matched. Unmatched bets may be cancelled or amended, matched bets are firm commitments.
In taking this approach, especially if you have some time before the event starts, you will often achieve better odds than were originally on offer. The flipside is that the market could move against you, your bet doesn't get matched and you end up having to take worse odds that originally offered.
A word of advice: always keep an eye on your unmatched bets. In particular, check back on them before the event starts. There is nothing worse than thinking you have made a bet, seeing your selection win, then realising your bet was never matched and is therefore null and void.
Lay to back
This is also for the betting exchanges and works most often if there are only two or three outcomes to an event. If we think about the Fulham vs Charlton example we used above, we could say that Fulham winning is actually the same as Charlton NOT winning and The Draw NOT occuring. To bet that something won't happen is to 'Lay' it – and that's what the pink side of the Betfair screen is for.
So instead of backing Fulham at 2.18 (we wan't to match our bet straight away) we could instead consider laying Charlton and at the same time laying The Draw. The calculations here are tricky but fortunately we have provided a calculator tool for you to use. Here is a screen shot with the results:
The calculator follows the '1X2' football betting convention: 1=Home win, X=Draw, 2=Away win. Book % should match the numbers you see on some exchanges and indicates the efficiency of the market (the closer to 100% the better. 'Best' is the improved book after lay–to–back calculations.
What this table shows is that if we lay Charlton to the tune of £5.48 and lay The Draw for £6.45 it is the same as backing Fulham at the improved odds of 2.1935 (rather than at 2.18). These numbers may look a bit strange so it should help if we work through the scenarios:
Scenario 1: Fulham win
We gain £5.48 from Charlton not winning
We gain £6.45 from it not being The Draw
Total gain = £11.93
Based on a notional £10 stake the total return is £21.93
Effective odds 21.93 / 10 = 2.193
Scenario 2: Charlton win
We lose £16.44 on Charlton winning (odds of 4 include stake, hence 3 x £5.48)
We gain £6.45 from it not being The Draw
Total loss = £9.99 (1p away from our £10 stake due to rounding error)
Scenario 3: The Draw
We gain £5.48 from Charlton not winning
We lose £15.48 on The Draw (odds of 3.4 include stake, hence 2.4 x £6.45)
Total loss = £10.00
Several points to note when 'laying to back':
You will not always get an improvement in odds in which case you're better backing as normal
Occasionaly, especially in very active markets, you should be prepared that only one of the two lays gets matched, i.e. someone else lays before you do. To reduce this risk, 'refresh' the screen odds just before you submit the bets and if you do get caught, take action to avoid having a position you didn't intend to have. Before embarking on this type of betting you should become familiar with the workings of betting exchanges and the calculations necessary to take evasive action when required.
Close out if things change
This final point in this section is not so much about getting the best odds but about reversing your position if the odds you have taken no longer offer value. It is again relevent to bets placed on the betting exchanges, where it is possible to close out bets.
To 'close out' means to follow an earlier bet with another in the opposite direction, i.e. if you backed a selection earlier, you might now lay it. Closing out is normally done to reduce risk by locking in profits or limiting losses. It is an important part of exchange trading, which is covered in more detail in a later section.
In the context of this section we are looking at situations where we have already placed a bet, but where we gain knowledge that leads us to believe that those odds are no longer offering value. If we believe the value has deteriorated to a greater extent than the odds in the market have changed, we should consider losing out part or all of the bet. Obviously if the odds have shifted in proportion to the deterioration in value (or to a greater extent), then there may be little benefit in closing out.