It is safe to say that value is the single most important factor in being a successful long-term punter. Without value you will almost certainly be down, whilst if you are able to identify it, you are likely to be in profit.
I have spent my gambling career chasing value, in one form or another. This has included arbitrage, trading, live betting, multiples as well as simple straight bets. Any gambler who is successful in the long run has necessarily discovered how to identify value, whether they have heard of the term or not!
A value bet is one in which the odds offered are greater than the true probability of that event occurring.
The easiest way to illustrate this is by using the tried-and-tested coin toss.
Now a non-loaded coin has an equal chance of landing on heads or tails, it is a 50:50 bet. Displayed as odds gives us +100 for the coin landing on heads and +100 for tails (or 2.00 in decimal terms).
If a bookmaker offered you odds above +100, this bet is a value bet, that is, whilst the true odds are +100, you are being offered +1xx. The greater the ‘x’, the greater value.
Well in isolation it doesn’t matter that much. If you only ever place 1 bet in your life then sure, you would rather have the best odds going but it is unlikely to make much of a material difference. The real importance comes in the long term…
Let’s revisit our coin.
The more times you flip the coin, the closer to a 50:50 spread between heads and tails you get. From a monetary point of view, if you wagered $1 on heads each time at odds of +100, then the more flips you have of the coin, the more likely it is that you will neither lose, nor win money.
The principle here is that the more times an event is repeated, the closer we get to the true probability. Flipping a coin an infinite number of times gives us 50% heads and 50% tails.
How about if the odds offered to us were not +100? What if they were +110? So instead of doubling our money each time we flip heads, we double it, plus we add an extra 10% of winnings on top. Whilst flipping this coin an infinite number of times still gives us 50% heads, we are being paid an extra bonus each time it lands so we will earn ourselves 10%.
The greater the number of value bets we place therefore, the greater the chances are that we will be in profit. Placing an infinite number of value bets yields a 100% chance of profit.
Now the tricky part. If everybody was able to identify value then bookmakers would go out of business and the betting world as we know it would collapse. Bookmakers build a margin into their prices whereby they discount what they believe to be the true odds by a percentage, this is known as ‘vigorish’ or more simply, their commission. In order for the ordinary punter to find value they will need to overcome this commission.
Bookmakers are not perfect though, their odds are only as good as the information that they have to go on. For some ideas about where you might start to look for value, take a look at the following:
1) Better information
Whilst bookmakers do indeed have access to a wealth of reports and statistics, nobody possesses everything. Local knowledge can be invaluable and don’t ignore social media where information and injuries, injury rumours and motivation can be gleaned;
2) Better use of information
It takes a lot to go from taking a vast array of statistics around a match to compiling odds on that match and details can be overlooked. Many of the markets offered by bookmakers are derivations of other markets, so ‘1st set winner’ will be derived from ‘match winner’ in tennis and ‘team to score the first goal’ in soccer will be derived automatically from ‘team to win the match’. Whilst it is generally correct to say that if a tennis player is more likely to win the match then they are more likely to win the first set, it isn't necessarily always true.
If you do your homework, you will find anomalies. A great example relates to an unnamed WTA tennis player who had the unfortunate record of losing 20 matches in a row once she was a break of serve ahead in the final set. Knowing this would mean that every time she broke her opponent's serve in the final set you would be getting a fantastic value bet on her opponent to win, as the odds would be naturally be high given the match situation.
Pre-match odds are constantly shifting for a number of reasons. Team news, weather news, rumours plus simple volume of bets will move odds to and fro. If you are quicker to the punch than the bookmaker then you may be able to pick off the value prices before they move.
There are many, many bookmakers and not all of them get it right all of the time. Some have a fantastic reputation for their odds accuracy and the smart punter can use the odds from these bookmakers as a basis to compare against the market. Once you are able to recognise which bookmakers generally have ‘correct’ odds, then these can be used to estimate value from odds offered by the competition.
We are passionate about improving all punters’ chances of being profitable in sports gambling and are open to answering any questions that you may have. Please send us a message if anything is unclear or if you would like information on a certain aspect of sports gambling, after all, if you are writing the question it is likely that many others are thinking it.