If you are to have any chance of winning money in the long run by betting on sports you must find value bets. Value bets are when the odds of a selection set by a bookmaker implies a lower probability than the ‘true’ probability of that selection winning. Value is ultimately subjective no matter what form of analysis you do to arrive at it, however, there are certain dos and don’ts and misconceptions when it comes to the all-important search for value.

The first is making sure that you do your research. You cannot take one bookie’s word for it that they offer the best odds. Before placing a bet make sure that you assess the options available to you to ensure you get the best odds possible. Our amazing enhanced odds offers will just about always offer the best odds around and because they are such huge price boosts, they are effectively always value bets, but here we focus more on bets and markets with “standard” odds, as opposed to promotional odds and offers.

Generally speaking, the more competitive a market, the closer the implied probability of a selection winning will be to the ‘true’ probability. A good example of this is huge football matches – Champions League knock-out games or Premier League clashes that are shown live on TV. Such matches are so popular and so competitive, that the bookies know if they offer poor value their customers will simply bet on the match with another firm. Therefore they have to be competitive and offer good prices which means their implied probability goes down and the odds go up.

Contrast this with a run-of-the-mill European Tour event in golf. There are around 150 golfers in the field and most bookies only pay out each way bets on those who finish in the top four as standard. That means that a huge number of the runners in the market will be losers. Moreover, a large proportion of the players have only a tiny chance of winning, something the bookies know all too well. There are always a large number of players priced at larger odds than 200/1 whose true probability of winning is much smaller and whose odds should really be considerably higher. Those who know their onions can land some big price winners when betting on golf but that does not mean that the market as a whole offers good value, especially if you just pick a number of outsiders at random.

Do Bigger Odds Mean Better Value?

That brings us on to an important point which can often be misunderstood. Bigger odds do not necessarily mean better value. You can have a bet priced up at 1/5 which represents great value and a bet of 100/1 that represents horrible value.

Consider a football match between two high-scoring teams. If the analysis shows that there is a 90% chance that there will be at least two goals in the match and the over 1.5 goals selection is priced at 1/5, that is a value bet. If, however, statistical analysis of a golfer who has never won a tournament on a links venue shows a 1% chance of winning the Open Championship but that player is given odds of 50/1 (which implies an almost 2% chance of success) that is poor value. That can seem counter intuitive, because the odds imply a greater chance of success, which could sound good. However, what that really means is that those odds represent the chances of someone with a 2% chance of winning, but your pick only has a 1% chance of success and is therefore a bad bet.

Bookmakers – unsurprisingly – are in the business of making books. They set prices so that they can be almost certain of making profit in the long term and balance their books so that they can accurately manage their risk. It is much easier to balance a book of a liquid market – one which has seen a high amount of money bet on it – than an illiquid one. Long term markets or relatively unpopular markets with many runners are more difficult to balance and so you often find a high number of poor value selections to tilt the balance back in the favour of the bookies.

Better Odds on Favourites

Related to the issue of better odds in more competitive and liquid markets, is the fact that you will generally get better value odds on favourites, as opposed to outsiders. This is for a range of reasons already touched upon:

More Competitive – more people are backing favourites, so there is more competition and bookies don’t want you to take your business elsewhere

Better Value – on an outsider at, say, 50/1, there is no need for bookies to be generous as punters already feel they are getting a huge price, even if those odds aren’t great value. The mind finds it harder to process such long odds and so even though a horse should really be 1,000/1, bookies know they can get away with 100/1

Liquidity – as said, a market with lots of money in it is easier to balance and because most money goes on selections at shorter odds, grabbing a good chunk of that money is vital to online and mobile bookmakers

So, in conclusion, the key tips are to make sure that you compare the odds of one bookmaker with another to see how competitive the price they are offering is; aim for the most popular, liquid markets; and, be wary, big odds are not always all they are cracked up to be, so only back outsiders when you are sure they offer genuine value.

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