Value Betting in Football Matches
We’ve all heard of Sun Tzu’s Art of War book. Published some time around the 5th century it contains 13 chapters from a military mastermind about how to win wars. Man, that’s a bit heavy for a football betting article you’re thinking. Well, one quote we should keep in mind as we continue to attempt to ‘beat the bookies’ is this one; “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.” If we really want to beat the bookies, we must become just like them.
How to Beat the Bookies
How then do we become just like a bookie? First of all we need to learn about how bookies set their odds. In a recent article called ‘How Bookies Set Betting Odds’ we spoke about how bookies go about setting their odds for football matches. Basically, bookies use incredibly complicated algorithms to calculate the probability of events happening in football matches, (well, some of them just copy the prices of larger sportsbooks, but let’s leave that for another day) then they add their cut of the pie (overround/vig/juice) and then they give you the prices, so, an example we used in that article was this:
“Liverpool play Man United today, the bookies have worked out that the likelihood of Over 2.5 goals is 50%, in probability terms that’s 2.0, so fair odds would be 2.0. However, the bookies commission is 5% so you’ll be offered odds of 1.95.“
This is obviously a simple example, the bookies would factor in far more factors, including teams news, injuries, suspensions, team form, home/away form, weather conditions, new manager(s), new players, team morale, etc.
One important thing is to know that bookies don’t offer fair odds, they want to make money so they charge a commission on every bet placed with them. In our example above they’re only making 5%. It’s pretty normal for highstreet bookies in the UK to make far more than that, some of them can make up to 12% per wager. A bookie that charges such commission is called a ‘softbook’ a bookie that charges lower commissions of 2-4% is called a ‘hardbook’ or a ‘sharpbook’. We recommend that you should have at least one account with a hardbook as you’ll be getting fairer odds.
What’s this got to do with value betting? It’s easy, let’s say you can buy bread in your local shop down at the corner for £1, but at the supermarket half a mile away it’s 0.75p. There are only two good arguments for buying the more expensive bread. Number 1, you’re too lazy to go to the cheaper shop and No. 2, you want to keep a local business operating. Number 2 is honorable and fair play to you, every town needs independent traders however, we’re talking about bookies here who turn profits of millions and millions of pounds, many of them running their businesses from tax havens, so really, by using a softbook you’re doing nobody any favours. If you gamble with a hardbook, for example, SBObet, Marathon Bet, Pinnacle etc. you’ll get far more bang for your buck.
Value Betting in Football Matches
Let’s take another example, this weekend Liverpool take on Spurs at Anfield, Liverpool are favourites to win. On Marathon Bet, Liverpool to win is currently at 1.55, on Bet365, they’ve only 1.50. In the goals markets there is an even larger difference. Over 3.5 goals with Marathon is 2.42, with Bet365 it’s 2.30. If you put a tenner on it with Marathon you could win £14.20, if you put your tenner on it with Bet365, you’ll only win £13.00.
After much research and asking some professional gamblers about value betting one answer kept coming back to us. You need to be able to beat closing lines. This means that to bet with value we need to be able to bet at prices that are higher than when a match starts.
We’ve also written an article about Dropping Odds, so have a read of it. But at its essence it’s that prices move thanks to the reaction of the market. Let’s say Man City play Chelsea this weekend and Over 2.5 goals opens at 2.0. However, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus get injured the Wednesday before the match and the price rises to 2.20. Just prior to kickoff, manager Pep Guardiola announced Aguero will start, the price falls to 2.05 at kickoff. If you had placed a bet at any price higher than 2.05 you have value on your side, if you bet at 2.05 or lower then you have no value at all and in the long run you’ll lose.
It’s important to learn how to read markets so that you can get value on your side and one of the most difficult things to learn in betting is that you’re not actually looking to predict what will happen, you’re looking for the value pick. West Ham will probably beat Sheffield United this weekend, but maybe the value pick is Sheffield United +0.5 and instead of thinking about the match as a one-off event, think about if this match was played a hundred times, or a thousand times, what would be the value pick then?
There are so many things to learn when looking for value picks in sports betting, but learning how to beat the closing odds is one of the sure signs that you’re on the right track to beating the bookies.