Technology, where would we be without it? Gone are the days where we had to carve crude scriptures on cave walls to communicate and slaughter a defenceless animal for our tea (now we can get butchers to do that for us!). Today, we can do almost anything using our mobile devices, and that is very handy for punters indeed.
An innovation in sports betting that promised to shake the industry to its foundations is in-play betting, which was created some time in the mid-00s in a response to the technological advancements of our everyday gadgets.
So now punters can place bets pretty much right up until the final whistle is blown, the last ball is hit and the last hurdle jumped. Who benefits? The erstwhile punter of course - if they bet smartly that is. In-play betting can help turn the casual punter who places bets as a hobby into a hardened, sharp-minded sort who knows when and how to pull the trigger on a particular bet.
Why Betting Pre-Match is Risky
In an ideal world we would all win every bet we placed, the bookies would shake our hands as they hand over our winnings and the sun would be shining all the time. Unfortunately, that isn't possible, and even the very best 'professional' punters have a win ratio somewhere in the region of 50-60%, depending on the strategy they employ.
It was a surprise then when in-play betting was developed and released to the wider world. Here was a platform that enabled punters to actively minimise their risk by betting after 30 minutes, 45 minutes or indeed right up until the last minute in football, after a set or more in tennis and even up until the final fence of a horse race. Had the bookmakers lost their minds? Perhaps not, as the odds they compile in play still protect their financial position, but at least some of the edge has been handed back to those who have traditionally lined their pockets.
The sad truth is that you may have stumbled upon the best bit of value imaginable, done hours of research and found a 'dead cert' or even just backed a favourite, but sport is so unpredictable that all bets are beset by risk. Whether you back a horse just prior to starter's orders or a football match that is just about to kick off, there is a gamut of possible things that can go right or wrong with your wagers.
With so many hurdles to overcome, you would be forgiven for never placing a bet again. But don't be alarmed: in-play betting hands back the reins of power to the punter.
The good news is that there are stacks of in-play markets available that are relevant to each sport. It is perhaps easier to take each individually and explore further:
Most of the main markets are available in play as far as football is concerned, and while these don't necessarily cover 'individual' actions (first/last goalscorer, wincast/scorecast etc) a large number of outrights are catered for:
- Match Winner - As expected, you can bet on which team you think will win the match up until around the 80th minute - or a draw, if you prefer.
- Match/Team Goals/Both Teams to Score - As with the pre-match market, you can wager on how many goals you think there will be in the game or how many each team will score; over/under 0.5, 1.5, 2.5 goals etc. Alternatively, you can wager upon both teams to score.
- Next Team to Score - A great opportunity for punters who have got a live stream of the match or at least comprehensive stats updates, this market is great for taking advantage of a team's domination.
- Total Corners/Cards - As expected, punters can bet on how many cards/corners the match will witness up until the final whistle.
- Handicaps/Asian Handicaps - If the game is turning out to be one-sided according to the stats then a traditional or Asian handicap will help you to turn maximise your return.
Tennis is a brilliant sport to bet on in-play as there is a new market opened pretty much every 30 seconds!
- Point/Game/Set/Match Winner - All of these outright markets exist - and yes, you can even bet on the next point winner!
- Total Games/Sets - Take advantage of in-match swings by backing the total number of games in the match or sets.
- Handicaps - The handicap markets in play generally refer to games, although in Grand Slam matches that are best-of-five sets you can play a set handicap wager too.
Oddly, you might think, but you can actually bet on the winner of a horse even after a race has already started! Both win only and each way flutters are catered for.
A myriad of other sports, including cricket, golf, basketball, ice hockey and volleyball, amongst others, also cater for in-play betting.
Advantages of In-Play Betting
There are a number of advantages of betting in play, rather than pre-match, to the extent that live betting hands much of the bookmakers' edge back to the punter; not that you should feel bad for them, they factor this into their odds after all.
The most obvious benefit is that you can get a feel for the game before placing your bets; whether that's half an hour into the match, at half time or even after an hour's play. So taking a view will help you to take advantage of the flow of the game. Are one side on top and dominating proceedings? Has one of the teams suffered a spate of injuries/yellow cards? The odd things that can happen in any game of football at any time can help to inform your live betting decisions.
Another handy tool for in-play punters to take advantage of are the live stats. Most bookmakers will offer access to these, with bet365 listing Attacks, Dangerous Attacks, Possession, Shots on Target and Shots off Target in theirs. So even if you can't watch the game, at least you can gain a decent insight into how it is playing out.
There are potential arbitrage positions available courtesy of live betting too. Say you have backed Bournemouth in the Double Chance market against Manchester United pre-match. Should the Cherries go 1-0 up then you can then back United in-play to win the match and take advantage of a 'no loss' scenario. A myriad example of 'manipulating' in-play markets for arbitrage gains are out there.
The fast and frantic nature of live betting means that odds compilers can sometimes make mistakes when setting prices in play, particularly in the more obscure divisions. These won't be massive errors, but subtle pricing blunders that help you to eek a bit more profit out of your wager.
The proliferation of live streaming amongst most frontline bookmakers makes in-play betting all the more viable as a way of making money online. You can actually watch the action unfold - and all manner of obscure options are available - and thus make more informed betting decisions.
Those 'niche' offerings are also handy for curbing two of the most common pitfalls for punters: pre-conception and optimism bias. Do you really know anything about the Lithuanian Second Division or the ITF tennis tour? Probably not, so the advantage of that is that you won't have any pre-conceived notions about who is going to win or how the action will unfold. Just use the statistics as your guide….
In-Play Betting Strategies
Strategy #1: Back the Favourite
This can be applicable across all sports, and the idea is simple: should a clear favourite go a goal down early in the match or lose the first set, for example, their price will lengthen accordingly. If the relevant incident happens early enough, the favourite will still be expected to win - although their price will now represent greater value.
Strategy #2: Back the Dominant Force in the Dynamic Markets
By dynamic markets we mean those that are instant or will be expected to happen soon, e.g. next point, next goal, next score. It always makes sense to back the dominant team or player, so if Team A has enjoyed 15 'dangerous attacks' compared to their opponents' one, then it makes sense to back them in the Next Goal or Half Time Result brackets.
Strategy #3: Derby Days
It's not a myth: most local derbies tend to be contentious, feisty and ill-tempered, and it's not just football: check out ice hockey derbies in America for further insight! In football, these encounters tend to see a higher number of cards - the Old Firm derby in Glasgow being a fine example. Scan the fixture list each week for examples of matches that look likely to be card happy, and bet accordingly. Also, it's worth scanning the live events to see if any have 'degenerated'; you'll be able to tell by the little yellow and red icons on the live timeline.
Strategy #4 (football specific): The Late, Late Show
So many goals are scored late in football matches - indeed, more goals were scored in the 75-90th minute bracket in the English Premier League in 2015/16 season than any other - that is pays to keep your eyes peeled to matches of relevance. We've all seen those matches where a team will lay siege to their opponents' goal as the action nears its conclusion, so as late as the 80th minute a Next Goal wager can often be a smart investment.
Strategy #5 (tennis specific): Back the Big Servers on Grass
You may already be awareness of this, but the quickness of a grass court surface means that, more often than not, the server will win the majority of their points. This is particularly the case when the big servers - and we mean big in terms of pace but also big in accuracy - are involved. So, backing the server in the Next Point market in grass court matches will slowly but surely accumulate profit.