Bettor Expectations (Part Five)

Bookmakers have an advantage because of something called an ‘overround’ which means the odds on any market don’t quite add up and they gain from this gap in the figures…

For example, if two tennis players were playing each other and both had an equal likelihood of winning, fair odds would be evens, meaning you would double your money if the one you side with wins. But, the odds you are likely to find might be 1.83 (5/6) or 1.9 (9/10) on each, giving you a profit of 83p or 90p in winnings for every pound staked but leaving a shortfall were you to repeatedly make this bet blindly or randomly.

Because of this, if we only match the bookmakers knowledge then we will make a loss. We need to be a better bettor just to break even and have to go further still to have an advantage that leads to a profit. But it can be done and what follows is key to achieving this.

Tell Me Something I Don’t Know

  1. Walk into a bookmakers and find somebody about to make a bet.
  2. Ask them to hand you a copy of the Racing Post, or similar publication. (Chances are they won’t be holding such a paper, so for the purposes of this exercise you may need to take a copy with you, hand it to this person and then ask for it back again.)
  3. Firmly request that they tell you what they are about to bet on.
  4. Look it up in the paper you’ve just been handed and then challenge the unsuspecting bettor to tell you something about their wager that you still don’t know.

If you emerge from this exchange intact, both mentally and physically, then you will probably have very quickly established whether or not the person that you’ve just surprised is, a) violent, b) quite lonely and receptive to any opportunity to talk to someone, and c) likely to be a winning or losing bettor in the long-term, regardless of the success or otherwise of the selection you’ve just discussed.

The reason for this is quite straight-forward – if making a bet without knowing additional information to the masses or the odds compilers, then, in turn, it would be illogical to suspect an advantage is held; if there is no forthcoming reason to indicate that the odds are incorrect due to overlooking one or more relevant factors then such an approach will be simply playing (or, perhaps more appropriately, paying) into the bookmakers hands.

For example, if looking to bet on a football match at the top level, you and I, that man walking past outside and his dog will all know if a key player is currently injured. You can be also be pretty darn sure that Paddy Power and his merry band of odds compilers will know this and it will be factored into the prices. 

However, if you know that your local non-league side, or their opponents, has hit an injury crisis or suddenly has a number of key players unavailable then it is likely you have an advantage because you know something relevant and important that most don’t and, significantly, probably hasn’t been considered in the odds.

If you check the odds’ history and find they have remained the same since this news became available then you’ll know you stand in a position of strength.

In the quest for long-term profit, it’s crucial not to be thinking about what is the most likely outcome, but what is more likely to happen than the odds suggest. If you can find a reason that a horse, team or whatever outcome is more or less likely to prevail than other punters and bookmakers are thinking, then, by knowing such a factor that others haven’t considered, the odds will be in your favour which is the key to sustained profitability in the long-term.

This doesn’t have to be especially clever or original but it can be helped by remembering the advantage we have against bookmakers: they price everything and therefore have their resources hugely diluted across thousands of events and markets, but we can be selective. By being more focused in one area or in a little niche, we can spot things that may well have been missed.

In the medical world, we may go and see our GP from time to time. These General Practitioners know plenty about a wide range of ailments, especially certain important ones. But, in the case of specific problems we may be moved onto specialists who are more focused in what they consider.

Their knowledge is narrower but deeper and while you would hope your GP has a sound understanding of the entire body, it’s unlikely a foot surgeon often deals with ear complaints, so doesn’t need to be an aural expert and can instead spend their time deepening their knowledge of two of our cheesiest bits.

In this awkward and probably quite unnecessary analogy, the GP is the bookie, having to know enough about every area, whereas we can strive to be the foot surgeon. If we focus ourselves on specific areas we can ignore ears, elbows and Swedish netball because in our area we know more than the bookmaker and therefore can have an advantage.

We don’t need to consider anything else – we’re not going to be betting on it – but we can know what we know well and we can know it better than others who take a wider but shallower approach.

Earlier, non-league football was mentioned and concentrating on one league or even one team could be a way to gain enough of a positive edge.

Similarly, there are so many different types of horse race that to have a solid enough understanding of all of them is going to be stretching anybody’s time and memory to an extreme, but these can be broken down into smaller subsets, from sprinters to stayers, trainers to tracks, to give ourselves a reduced amount on which to build our knowledge and understanding.

However, to gain this knowledge and understanding takes time to build up and time to preserve. Not all of us have this and thus may choose to follow professional tipsters to give an increased chance of beating the bookies, making profitable bets and enhancing enjoyment of a sport we wish to follow…

Over the weekend, I’ll have two articles with examples of how a bit of extra knowledge and analysis can help to make this happen.

Miles currently runs an excellent racing service and you can give it a try by clicking the link below…


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