For many punters, placing a bet a few hours or even minutes before the race/match is about to start is how they like to go about their business. This is fine, but these members of the betting community will be missing out on the benefits of a slightly different way of wagering: ante-post betting.
So what are the ante-post markets and how do you stand to benefit from them?
Ante Post Betting: A Definition
Quite simply, ante-post betting is placing a wager on ‘future markets’, i.e. those events which are set to happen in the future. One example would be placing a bet during the summer break on the team you think will win the Premier League title next season.
Ante-post markets can open up weeks, months or even years ahead of schedule (an example of the latter would be ‘how many Grand Slam events will Andy Murray win?’), although the origins of the phrase actually come from horse racing, where it translates literally as ‘before post’ betting. So all wagers placed before the declaration phase are considered ante-post.
Bookmakers are a canny old bunch, and they know that a great time to secure early wagers is to publish future markets immediately after a relevant event has just finished. Examples would be preparing The Open golf ante-post markets for a year in advance just as the previous year’s tournament has ended, the same with Wimbledon or the Tour de France, etc. There is a whole culture of this in horse racing, where ‘trial days’ and warm up meetings generate huge interest for a subsequent big race, i.e. the winner of the Dante Stakes will more often than not be fancied for The Derby.
Football is also rife with ante-post betting; large wagers were placed on Hull City to get relegated from the Premier League in 2016/17 on the same day that they secured promotion via the Championship play-offs in May! Similar market movements occurred in the Top Goalscorer bracket when Manchester United announced the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, so it is clear that ante-post market liquidity is affected almost instantly by real-world events.
How does Ante Post Betting differ from traditional wagering?
The basic tenets of ante-post betting are the same, however, the biggest caveat is in securing a refund on your stake should your selection not take part in the event as described. So, if you back a horse to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in an ante-post market and it doesn’t run for whatever reason, then sorry, no refunds.
Similarly, if you have already backed Novak Djokavic to win Wimbledon and he ends up getting an injury before it starts then your stake is lost. Backed Rory McIlroy to win the PGA Championship and he’s abducted by aliens? Guess what, your stake is lost.
This may seem unfair on the face of it, and in some respects it is, but you have to factor in the biggest of benefit of ante-post betting; the incredible value up for grabs for taking the early bet.
The Pros and Cons of Ante Post Betting
As with many things in life, there are pros and cons to seeking out ante-post markets in advance rather than waiting for the prices to be quoted immediately prior to an event starting.
The most obvious advantage of ante-post betting – aside from a healthy does of smug satisfaction when you are right – is that in the vast majority of cases you will be able to back your selections at better prices in advance than you would if you bet immediately prior.
Here’s a real-life example: around six months before the event, punters could back Dustin Johnson at 30/1 to win The Open Championship (golf). Johnson has always been a fine player, but had never quite got across the line in a major – hence the generous price. Fast forward six months and not only had Johnson won the US Open, he then backed that up a week later by clinching the prestigious WGC Bridgestone Invitational event. So, heading into The Open, he was the most in-form golfer on the planet and his starting price had shrunk to 9/1 favourite. In this instance, a bit of knowledge about the sport – and a gut feeling that he was about to hit form at the right time – would have banked customers a far greater return – if Dustin Johnson had actually won The Open that is.
The same philosophy is true across the sporting spectrum, so if you believe you have spotted a horse/player/team with bags of potential, clearly the ante-post markets are going to help you maximise your potential winnings. There are few things more satisfying in betting than picking out an ante-post winner at an inflated price; your pocket will thank you and your mates will envy you.
The most obvious downside – apart from feeling a little bit sheepish if it doesn’t work out – is that if your ante-post selection does not ‘run’ then you will not be eligible for a refund – the rule of ‘all in run or not’ applies. This is marked very clearly in a bookmakers’ terms and conditions, so the gamble you take in seeking out higher odds does have its potential drawbacks. As such, an ante-post punt could be considered a high risk investment compared to an ‘on the day’ wager.
In some instances, most notably horse racing, there can be exceptions to the rule. Many bookmakers will provide ‘non-runner no bet’ exemptions or free bets in the case of non-runners at the bigger UK and Ireland meetings, which will help to mitigate your risk somewhat.
One example was Paddy Power at the Grand National of 2016, so that would have been a great place to wager ante-post on that competition; so if you plan on going down this route then do your research as to which bookies are offering such promotions and tip the balance in your favour.
Which sports/events accept Ante Post bets?
If you can bet on it and it’s happening in the future then you can expect an ante-post market to be available.
Football and horse racing are the two most popular sports amongst punters in the UK, and these are both full of ante-post options. You can place an ante-post wager on the Outright, Relegation, and Top Goalscorer markets for the top two divisions as soon as the last ball has been kicked in the preceding season, and these are good options in terms of accessing better value, but the prices offered are very volatile owing to transfer dealings and managerial sackings that take place in the offseason; Chelsea were available at 12/1 just a matter of weeks before the manager was sacked and replaced, a few weeks on and they were as short as 13/2.
For horse racing fans the potential riches are equally as lucrative. Most of the main meetings/races are covered by ante-post markets, including the Grand National, the feature races of each day at the Cheltenham Festival, the 1000 & 2000 Guineas, the Derby, the Oaks, the Kentucky Derby and so many more.
Of course all of the main tournaments in other sports are covered, so at any point during the year you are likely to be able to see ante-post prices for any of golf or tennis’ four majors, cricket’s World Cup and Ashes, the Super Bowl and athletics’ key meetings (Diamond League, London Marathon etc). Then there’s the Formula 1 world championship, snooker and darts’ big tournaments and proposed boxing bouts (usually based on theoretical odds for fights that may or may not happen within the next 12 months). The potential value is almost endless.
Ante Post Betting Strategies
There is no single strategy for taking advantage of the ante post markets, and really how you play them depends on a number of things; how confident in the selection are you and how many credible opponents are in place to bring your wager down being two of them.
The English Premier League is always a good place to start with discussions of this nature because it is a largely predictable division – if you forget about that 5000/1 Leicester City situation. Take Manchester City, who haven’t finished outside of the top four since 2010; they are clearly one of the best bets in the Outright ante-post market, and so punters are unlikely to get any better odds than those posted in the summer months. Playing the favourites way in advance in ‘static’ markets like this – Man City aren’t going to go bankrupt overnight or join a new league – is sensible, and this gives you a sound betting platform for the season ahead. Innovations like Cash Out have made ante-post betting a more attractive proposition too, so don’t be afraid to utilise these where necessary.
It’s the more volatile markets, like horse racing, where identifying ante-post strategies is more difficult. There is a train of thought that a good run in the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival can lead to a ‘promotion’ to the Champion Hurdle the next time around, but there are so many potential pitfalls here; what if the horse gets injured, suffers a lack of form, or gets supplemented into one of the meetings’ other blue riband races? This is the gamble of ante-post punting, and it’s why we advocate a short-term approach to this style of betting.
By this we mean placing ante-post wagers weeks before an event, rather than months. Quite simply you reduce your risk and, given that there is still time to go, are still be able to get your mitts on some generous pricing. This will also help to ensure that the quandary posed above regarding Cheltenham festival supplementation is managed rather more wisely than the fumbling in the dark you would associate with an ante-post tickle some six months or so in advance.
Don’t forget about the ‘non-runner no bet’ promotions that some bookmakers supply either as these will help avoid any last minute heartbreak, and keep your eyes peeled on those renewals that are loosely classed as ‘trials’ as these give a great indication of an owner’s intentions for his horses for the big races.
Finally, as far as individual sports are concerned, ante-post punters are advised to act with extreme caution. Remember, sports like tennis, golf, snooker, and darts are generally dominated by the players in form heading into the big tournaments, and with form coming and going at regular intervals, it is perhaps best to tackle the traditional markets here rather than hoping to find ante-post value in advance.