Betting on value

Whether you’re placing horse racing bets, football bets, tennis bets or betting on any sport, the key to making money from sports betting must be winning, right? What if you were to to be told that might be wrong! Value could well be the key to successful betting. Many professional bettors will likely tell you that they in actual fact win less than half of all bets they place, but because they are finding value, they are doing enough to make money from sports betting at the bookmakers’ expense when betting over long term periods. There is no clear definition of betting value, which means the term often sparks confusion, but the concept of value is finding betting odds that you believe are greater than they should be.

If the bookmakers are offering best odds higher than they should be, then you’re gaining an advantage on them. If you find value nearly every time you bet, then you may be gaining a long term advantage over them. How do you find value? Value is most commonly determined with the use of statistics and probability. Bookmakers odds can be converted to implied probability, which ostensibly reflects the chances of success. Statistics and analysis can help you as a bettor determine whether an outcome is more or less likely than the bookmakers odds suggest.

Pros

  • If you successfully identify and bet on value, you may be able to afford to lose a higher percentage of your bets and still make money from sports betting.
  • There’s a difference between winning and finding value. If you find value, you can truly say you are beating the bookies.

Cons

  • Betting on value can coincide with a smaller win percentage, so if you don’t exercise discipline and stick to good betting strategy, this could cause frustration and poor decision making.
  • Some people that are new to betting often confuse the concept of value with just betting on bigger prices, which is a bad betting strategy that can lead to losses through unjustified risk.

Think about the question: How do you make profit when betting? You make profit by winning. You win when you successfully identify the correct outcome of a sporting event, and your profit is determined by the equation (returns - stake = profit). If you win more often than you lose, you’re doing well, right?

Well, not necessarily. So many bettors, particularly new ones, are more caught up in winning and having that winning feeling on a regular basis that it is sometimes easy to overlook the truth of your results. Winning is certainly a nice feeling, and if you know that you’re successful 55% to 60% of the time, you may think you’re doing enough to beat the bookies.

What if you were told that beating the bookies has little to do with win percentage and much more to do with finding value? Value is, for most, the biggest key to being a successful bettor. Of course you need a steady and stable plan for staking and managing your money, but you may struggle to beat the bookies in the long term if you do not find value.

So what is value?

In the most basic sense finding value is betting at the right price. A value bet is a bet that has more of a chance of winning than the bookmakers suggest. As an example imagine a coin toss. We know that there are two sides, and a flip will result in either heads or tails. Pick one and it’s deemed a 50/50 shot. If a bookmaker prices that at 2.05 then you can argue there is value.

Why? Converting 50% as a percentage to decimal odds is 2.00. So if we’re being given best odds of 2.05 on either side, we might be able to argue that this is good value. Betting on value is betting on a situation where you can see an edge on the bookmaker.

Keys to finding value

There are more complicated and in-depth ways of determining the true value of a team, such as poisson distribution which you can read about here, but even on a very basic level you may be able to assess if there is some value in a team.

But this is where it can get tricky. We knew that the odds for a single coin flip outweighed the true probability, so that is 100% proven value. We might think we’ve found value in a football bet, but where’s the fact you base that on? There isn’t one. The influence of form, weather, team news, situations and other variables are all, at the very most, our best guesses. But the same can be said for the bookmakers.

So here are some basic keys to finding value:

  1. Be a specialist: Don’t look for value in twenty different sports at once or even a variety of leagues. Zone in on the one sport or league you know best. After all, your own opinion always comes in to it even when finding value, so it’s best to be knowledgeable.
  2. Understanding probability is pretty key: You aren’t expected to know what 2.65 decimal betting odds is as a percentage off the top of your head, but you need to be aware that everything converts to implied probability, which is how likely bookmakers estimate an outcome to come to fruition.
  3. Keep in mind how the betting market is shaped: Whilst traders set the opening betting odds, it’s all on you the bettors from there. Bettors are the ones that shape their betting market, so don’t be afraid to go against the grain. Most bettors are only comfortable betting money where implied probability suggests they’re more likely to see a return, so ignore those drifting odds and short prices.
  4. Setting your own odds is a useful exercise: You can’t underestimate just how much power of persuasion seeing the bookmakers best odds alone can have. Far too many bettors believe the bookmakers are some all-knowing entity. They’re not booming businesses because they are all-knowing, but because they suck in losing bettors well and limit winning ones. Start your analysis off by resisting the urge to look at odds. Look at the stats to determine how often teams win, draw or lose. It really is that simple. If you understand probability (and the sport) well, then you’ll end up with a basic probability for each team winning, drawing or losing on the matchday you are analysing, and from there you can use your knowledge of the teams to assess how relevant form and trends may be to each particular game.

You’ll find that all types of bettors use the term value or good value. You might see quite often a social media platform like Twitter a novice tipster saying things like ‘United are good value today’, but in truth, they may not understand the term. To some people offering a tip because it’s ‘good value’ is seeing a bet they like the look of and over estimating a team's chances by using nothing by gut feeling and spur of the moment judgement. A professional bettor or very experienced tipster will have a set method of finding value. This will always involve some level of close statistical analysis. You can find value in any sport, but some sports, leagues or situations are more known for giving away value. For example you’re more likely to find value in a league with smaller margins and less interest, because less experienced traders may work these leagues. Finding value on a Premier League fixture could be much harder.

If you’re serious about betting on a professional level then there’s little argument against value being key - and data is at the centre of that, try sites like Football Data if you need a good data/stats source. Even if you are the most successful bettor in the world out there that doesn’t worry about the concept of value and just subscribes to winning, then you’re still losing out. You could be making more and the whole time you’re failing to find this value, the bookmakers have their built in margins to keep them safe. Remember, the bookmakers can potentially let you win all day at certain odds and remain comfortable, but it’s when you successfully find value that you’ll truly be beating the bookmakers. By making the slightest adjustments to your betting habits and taking the time to research the percentage of games any given team win, draw or lose at home or away, you’ll have a betting understanding of value.