There are those who believe there is some kind of shortcut to instant riches when betting on sports.
Sadly, there is no ‘sure thing’ in betting, and even if you blindly backed favourites – be it in football, horse racing, tennis, or any other sport – you are highly unlikely to yield any sort of sustainable long-term profit.
There has to be some sort of strategy applied that will enable you to return consistent winners – that’s not to suggest you will win with every bet, of course, but a solid strategy should help boost the numbers.
Think of your betting as a secondary income stream. If you have a bank account or an ISA, your rate of interest can be anything from 0-2% on your money; if your betting can yield, say, 5% a year, then you will be in a better position than any bank will leave you in. Plus, it’s enjoyable.
You can improve as a bettor by learning from your experiences (i.e. your mistakes), but the quickest road to improvement in your betting is to apply a series of strategies that will give you the discipline and the framework from which you can succeed.
Later on in this guide to successful sports betting we’ll talk you through the basic tenets of bankroll management – how to protect your investment by staking accordingly – and the avoidance of chasing losses and so on.
We’ll also dispel one of the oldest myths in sports betting: that wagering on the favourite is some kind of sure fire way to win time after time.
But first, we want to offer five strategies or tips that will improve your betting immediately.
Strategy #1 – Finding Value
In life, we all have an inherent idea of what represents value and what doesn’t. We use our judgement in this way every time we go shopping.
Of course, the notion of value is unique to us as individuals, but we know that a seven-day holiday at a five star resort is value if it is priced at £10 per person, and we know it probably isn’t going to be good value at £10,000 per person.
When we shortlist our bets, we can look at a football team, a horse, a tennis player and so on and determine whether their likelihood of winning is matched by their odds.
If you believe a selection has a better chance of winning than their odds imply, then you have found a ‘value’ bet.
A value selection can be a 1/2 favourite or a 50/1 outsider, but the key principle is that a) it has some chance of winning and b) that chance is greater than the odds imply.
The key thing to note is that betting odds represent an implied probability of something happening. Odds can be represented as probabilities as follows:
- Odds of 1/5, Implied Probability of 83.3%
- Odds of 2/7, Implied Probability of 77.8%
- Odds of Evens, Implied Probability of 50%
- Odds of 11/8, Implied Probability of 42.1%
- Odds of 10/1, Implied Probability of 9.1%
- Odds of 100/1, Implied Probability of 1%
In essence, we are looking to bet on teams, players and horses whose actual probability of winning is greater than the implied probability presented by the odds. This is value betting.
Are you a value bettor?
Maybe you already are, and the best way to measure this is by examining what price you took on a bet and what odds that selection is at the time of the event starting – the so-called ‘closing line’.
So, if you bet on Liverpool to win at 11/10 and they are priced at 5/6 when the game kicks off, you have beaten the closing line.
Does beating the closing line consistently guarantee you profit? No, of course not. But it does show that you are a ‘sharp’ bettor that has something of an edge – crucial to long-term betting success.
Strategy #2 – Be Price Sensitive
The advent of the internet has handed the reins of power from the ‘seller’ to the ‘buyer’.
The reason for that is simple: we are now able to compare prices on a whole range of products, enabling us to get complete value for money when we shop around.
That applies to televisions, insurance, energy providers and much more besides, and increasingly the betting industry is becoming more and more competitive with regards to odds-making.
Thanks to numerous odds comparison sites, we can now compare the prices offered by bookmakers for a specific market, e.g. Novak Djokovic to win Wimbledon. We can scan across the screen to find which bookie is offering the most generous odds, and bet with them accordingly.
Now, you might think that taking 6/5 over 5/4 may not make a difference in your betting, but when you multiply those additional profits over the course of a year and beyond it’s easy to see why being price sensitive is so important.
Our advice? Open as many betting accounts as you can and always take the best price available on your selection, it doesn’t take long to compare odds.
Strategy #3 – Avoid Multiples At All Costs
As we’ve already touched upon in this guide, betting odds simply reflect the probability of an event happening – theoretically at least.
That gives you an idea of the likelihood of each outcome, and consequently you can analyse whether the price you are being offered is value or not.
But what happens when you start adding legs to your betslip, turning your wager into a double, treble, or accumulator?
Regardless of how confident you are in your selections, each added leg will decrease your probability of winning exponentially – here’s a quick example to show how your potential win rate is affected.
- One selection at 1/3 – Implied Probability of 75%
- Two selections at 1/3 & 21/20 – Implied Probability of 36%
- Three selections at 1/3, 21/20 & 4/5 – Implied Probability of 19%
Take a look at that: a treble, with prices that are odds-on or just over, has a less than one-in-five chance of landing, according to probability theory. Incidentally, this accumulator offers a return of around 4/1….with a risk factor of 81%.
Is that value? Not a bit of it.
So you really ought to be avoiding betting on accumulators where possible. Yes, the rewards are clear and you will be titillated by seeing those huge winning betslips on social media. But these are rare, and the reality is that multiple bets are easy money for the bookies based upon the reasons outlined above.
If you cannot resist the temptation, be sure to take advantage of the bookies’ special offers. Many now offer some kind of ‘acca insurance’, where at least your stake will be refunded if one leg lets you down.
That helps to redress the balance somewhat, but on the whole betting on accumulators should be avoided at all costs.
Strategy #4 – Think Long Term
Why do you bet on sports?
Everyone will have their own answer for that question, but in the vast majority of cases it will be because you feel as though you know a particular sport or two inside and out, and you want to increase your enjoyment of it/them by having some ‘skin in the game’.
If you plan on being profitable from your betting, it is essential that you think long term.
You categorically will not make 100% ROI on your bets over a period of more than a few months; if you do, you are an absolute statistical anomaly or you have an edge on the bookies that is extraordinary. Congratulations!
In reality, 99.9% of punters will fall into the category of winning some bets and losing some others. That’s fine: even the professionals experience losses.
In the long term, if you take value bets more often than not and your bankroll management is effective (more on that later), you are far more likely to be profitable.
But what does profitability mean?
This will not mean you can retire to your super yacht in Monte Carlo. And so we refer you again to the concepts of personal banking and interest rates. Do not plough all of your life savings into your betting account – that’s a given – but think about any investment accounts you may have. What is the rate of interest? 0.5%? 1%? 5%?
The truth is that it is very difficult to access generous interest rates these days, and so if your annual betting can yield a profit of 5% or more of your investment, you will be beating the banks in terms of the money you are making.
And if you target 5% ROI annually you will automatically decrease your risk, because you won’t be chasing big wins with risky non-value selections.
When it comes to betting, you should always be looking at the bigger picture.
Strategy #5 – Money Management
You can be the sharpest punter with a genuine edge and encyclopedic knowledge about your chosen sport(s), but if you don’t manage your money effectively you simply won’t be successful in the long run.
Let’s be honest here: you will not win on 100% of the bets you place. Your strike rate may not even be 70%, it may even be less than 50%.
That doesn’t matter too much, depending on your strategy, however your ability to turn a profit will be dictated by knowing how to stake accordingly.
One option is to use the ‘unit’ model favoured by many tipsters. That way, you can scale your bet depending on the percentage likelihood you give for it being successful. So, if you have an inkling about an outsider but with minimal confidence you might risk one unit. If you are particularly sweet on a selection then that could be a five unit play, and so on.
All you have to do is decide the monetary value of one unit, and then scale up/down accordingly.
To do that, most use a percentage system which determines how much a unit costs. Clearly, some common sense is required here – betting 50% of your bankroll on a single wager is a catastrophic plan, and most professional bettors will opt for something like 2.5-5% of their total bankroll. That way, they can scale up without being compromised by a losing streak.
Our final tip? Avoid using progressive staking systems like Martingale and Fibonacci. They may make some sense on paper, but if you embark on a streak of losers your stake size could reach eye-watering proportions that you can no longer meet, leaving you broke.
Fallacy of the Favourite
’The bookmakers win because the favourite loses.’
Think about that statement for a minute, and you realise that it is undeniably true. Remember, the favourite in a betting market – no matter what its odds – is the horse, team, or player that has had more money wagered on it than any other.
And thus, if it loses, the bookies are in an excellent position when they come to cash up their bets.
An article in the The Mirror newspaper reported that around 32% of favourites win in UK based flat races across the year.
That’s fine, you might think, but don’t forget that means that 68% of favourites lose – some of which are at odds-on prices. Thus, the same report reveals that blindly backing said favourites would have lost you 5.6% on your investment.
So, should you be avoiding betting on the favourite altogether?
Of course not, but there are strong favourites and weak favourites, which confirms that some market leaders are ‘better’ than others. Being discerning in your selections is key.
There is no such thing as a sure bet, and in recent years we have seen horses as short as 1/4 lose – and we’re not talking nags on a cold afternoon in Wolverhampton, but quality operators at the Cheltenham Festival.
To end this section, we ask you again to re-read the paragraphs above on ‘finding value’. This should be your guiding light in your betting, and any notions of blindly backing the favourite should be forgotten immediately.
Know Your Onions
It was the poet Alexander Pope who wrote; “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” – and as far as sports betting is concerned he completely hit the nail on the head.
You see it a lot from sports fans. When the Cheltenham Festival or Grand National comes around, you can rest assured that your friends and work colleagues will become overnight experts, spouting about weights and going and form until they are blue in the face.
The same is true when there is a stellar boxing match – everyone knows about the guy’s ability to fight on the inside all of a sudden; and the best is when the Olympic Games are on: suddenly, everyone is shouting tactics and ploys at curling teams or telling a steeplechaser to ‘up their pace’!
This is what Pope refers to: just because you have read a few previews or tweets you are not suddenly an expert in the field.
In betting, with your hard-earned money on the line, you should absolutely and unequivocally stick to what you know. If you love horse racing, are passionate about it and watch hours of races each week, then stick to investing in the sport you know the most about – don’t bung a random tenner on England to win the Six Nations rugby just because you want to feel involved.
Again, we refer you back to managing your betting as if it was a business. You wouldn’t invest in random products that you know nothing about, and you would always do your due diligence before partnering with a specific supplier.
In sports betting, knowledge is key.