Beat The odds and Make Your Own Luck

beat the oddsThere is no way to guarantee you will win a bet and no betting strategy in the world is fool proof.  Betting sites are private businesses that make profit, over time they will always win on average, and for this reason alone you should only ever gamble what you can afford for fun.  Now you may not be able to beat the bookie, but you certainly can beat the odds on occasion, so when you do win you can get more value.

What do we mean by beating the odds? This is looking for prices that are overly pessimistic, i.e. the bookie rates the chances of the event happening lower than they are in reality and therefore offer higher odds than they should do. If you can spot over-priced lines when they crop up you really can add a lot of long term value to your betting. This doesn't increase the chances of you winning, it simply means that when you do win you get the best payouts possible.

In this article we discuss how to spot over-priced markets and how to make better decisions in general when betting online in sportsbooks or casinos.

How are Odds Prices Set

Setting Odds PricesThere is no magic behind odds, ultimately fixed prices in sports are mainly decided by other humans and this means all odds pricing is open to human error. If you can spot the human error before the bookie does this can often allow you to take a price that is higher than the real chance of the outcome occurring.

The simplest and oldest form of gambling is between just two people. This relies on two different people having independent predictions on the result of an event. If one person thinks an event will go one way and another thinks it will go another then you can turn this into a bet. If the bet has an equal chance of occurring then the odds will be close to evens, if the change of an outcome occurring is more than 50% of the time then prices will be below evens and if there is less chance the price will be above evens.

But who decides what the actual chances are of something happening? In the modern world much of this comes down to software and other mathematics, but at the end of the day these things need programming and calculating and therefore odds are always a result of human judgement.

Modern bookies use many tools to set odds, but the ultimate decision is made by the objective and subjective assessments of odds traders. While these may be trained people they are still people and this means they can still make mistakes. Bookies are also overly reliant on statistics, such as previous form and win rate, and on public opinion, how many people have backed the outcome. Statistics and collective opinion are great at predicting events in the long terms but don't often take into account short term fluctuations that a punter can take advantage of.

Bookmakers are overly optimistic, i.e. they set odds prices for an outcome assuming it is more likely to happen than chance alone suggests. This is how bookmakers make profit, by building in margins into prices so that whatever you bet on they should always make money (as long as they have a balanced book). For example, think of a 'draw no win' bet between two evenly matched football teams. The odds for each team to win will be about 10/11, not evens. This means whoever wins the bookmaker makes a profit (if they have an equal amount wagered on both teams).

Over time, because of these margins, a betting company will always win.  If you are playing games this is especially true.  Casino and other games have fixed payout rates, and whilst these tend to be higher than sports on average, over a prolonged period of bets and time you are always guaranteed to lose. 

Sports is a little different in that the outcome is based in the real world and therefore open to error and variation, in a way a computer game cannot be.  Betting companies cannot get pricing of sports markets right all of the time.  Therefore the only real way to beat a bookie is to find a sports market on which they are way off and back it before they notice.  Even then, if the pricing is what they would call a palpable, or obvious error, then they may refuse to pay you out anyway.

How To Beat The Odds On A Regular Basis

how to beat the oddsBeating the odds is all about the ability to spot when an odds trader may have missed something or got it wrong. This doesn't happen too often as bookies will watch each other's prices as a benchmark, but it is possible.

In addition to using stats and form, odds prices are also based on public opinion, if lots of people back a horse for example then the price for that horse will fall. The underlying statistics for that horse haven't changed, only public opinion, if you think that everyone else has got it wrong, or missed something, then this is your chance to beat the odds.  The same is true of anything based on opinion, not just gambling.  Stocks and shares, property prices, commodities, etc., all follow the same dynamics, and this is why some people win and some people lose - but is it all down to luck?

Around 95% of so called "professional gamblers" actually lose in the long run. This means predominantly the bookmaker wins but it also means that 1 in 20 of these people regularly beat the odds and turn a profit. Here are some basic rules that could help you do this too.

Pick the Right Events and Markets

You are not going to get one up on the bookie very often when it comes to major football, tennis or top horse races markets for example. Bookmakers employ dedicated traders (often more than one) for each of the big sports and with so much information available that mistakes are rare.

Try to look for events where your research or knowledge is more likely to have an edge over the bookie. A common example would be novelty bets and specials, bookmakers rarely employ specialists for these less popular markets and are more likely to just benchmark themselves against other operators. This is your opportunity to find prices that are over generous if you know your stuff.

It is still possible to beat the odds for bigger events too if you pick the right line to bet on. The match result market for example is pretty solid but if you bet on other markets such as over/under, method of next goal, etc, you can sometimes find a top price that may have been missed by the traders.

Look Out For Early Prices

As any forecaster will tell you the further you look into the future the more unpredictable things become.  This can be a good thing for the punter and a bad thing for the bookie, if used sensibly.  The earlier you bet the less market information there will be.  Most bookies play it safe and wait for others to release odds then follow the crowd.  You therefore need to look for the bigger betting companies, such as Will Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral, BetVictor, etc., who have the confidence, experience and resources to price markets earlier than others.

Getting an early price before the odds shorten can be one of the best ways to improve your odds.  This is very common for ante-post horse racing markets around big races for example.  Let's say you've seen a horse jump early in the season in November and you are particularly impressed.  You think that horse is going to have a great season and maybe even win at the Cheltenham Festival the following March.  You therefore back the early price for the horse to win the Champion Hurdle at 20/1, by the time of the event the odds have shortened to 5/1.  If the horse then wins you have done four times better than you would have done taking a price on the day.

Of course uncertainly runs both ways and the odds could easily lengthen.  The horse could even end up injured and become a non-runner - and you won't get your stake back.  Taking early prices on any sport can be highly rewarding but also highly risky if you don't do your homework first.

Do your Homework and spot the weak links

When the British intelligence service tried to break the Enigma code during WWII many said it couldn't be done. How can you break a machine with a 15 billion billion different ways to encrypt a message without even a modern day computer? Well they did it and it was all about spotting the weak link, the machine may have been complicated but it was built by humans, humans make errors and errors can be exploited. Finding holes in bookmakers odds is not hugely different.

Studying form and statistics is not going to be enough, the odds traders have far more resources here than you and therefore it is unlikely you will beat them this way. Instead research things they don't look at so much. For example, if betting on a tennis match look into the recent personal situations of the players. If a player recently had a baby, for example, or a relationship break-up they may be more tired or have less focus on the match. This could make them less likely to win in a way that may not be reflected in the odds.

Whatever the market there is always an edge and if you do research, stay focused and don't get misled by emotion then it is possible to find those needles in the haystack. Don't expect the edge to last forever and always keep looking for new avenues. Bookmakers are not stupid, if they see a loop hole they will close it pretty damn fast.

Only Bet if the Odds Are Better Than Your Own Prediction

If an outcome has odds of say evens and you think the result has about an even chance of happening then this is not the right bet. If the odds are better than 50:50 and you think there is an even chance then this is the time to take the price.

Do your own research and make your own prediction then go out and look for odds that beat this. Try to give yourself a benchmark, say 20% better than your own guess. If you stick to over time it should mean that when you do win your payout value is higher, and over time, this gives you more chance of turning a profit.

Here is an example, you think the chances of an event happening is 5/1. In this instance you should be looking for a price of 6/1 or more, this will give you 20% extra on your own guess.

Rare Occurrences

For more obscure and rare outcomes betting sites are less certain when setting the price, after-all everything is relative and if something hasn't happened before they are more uncertain as to where to set the price.

The best example of this is when Leicester won the English Premier League in 2016. Bookmakers priced Leicester at 5000/1 to win the league at the start of the season. If you think about those odds that means in 5000 years Leicester (or a team like Leicester) would only win the league once. This means if the Premier League had been running since the Pyramids were first built in Egypt then Leicester still shouldn't have won the league. In hind sight this now seems ridiculous and those few lucky punters who backed Leicester truly did beat the odds.

If you were to back every team each year at 1000/1 or more chance to win a league then I think you would be more likely to win than once every thousand years.  Then again if it takes 100 years to happen you will be long dead and a lot poorer.  Of course rare events carry high odds and for this strategy to work you need to place lots of these high priced bets in the hope that the occasional one will pay off.

Hard to Predict Outcomes

The other option is to look for hard to predict events. The 2016 US Presidential election is a good example of this. All polls suggested a Hilary Clinton win, yet Donald Trump won a majority of seats, so how did this happen? This is again down to human error.

The assumption was made that the polls were reflective of public opinion but in fact they missed a huge demographic of people who voted for Trump, perhaps based on anti-establishment motives rather than purely on policy.

Bookies over rely on these polls (and all statistics in general) when setting prices, therefore if you did your own research and worked out this might happen in advance then this is a great option to beat the odds.

Unknowns and New Comers

Bookies can only base their prices on things that they know. If they don't have a benchmark to go by then they can only make their best guess, and even educated guesses can be wrong.

Horses, for example, begin racing life unclassified and can only be rated based on how they perform over their first year of racing. Horses are then classified or handicapped based on those ratings. If you get in early and think you've spotted the next future star then this is your best opportunity to beat the odds.

The same principle applies when horses move between grades, change to jump racing or come back from injury. The rule can be applied to any sport, spot the next tennis champion or the next Lionel Messi and you could make a few quid before the bookies cotton on too.

Look for less popular markets and Outcomes

As we know odds are based mainly based on form and stats but also on opinion. If everyone is backing an event then this can cause the odds to fall, however the converse is also true, if no one backs an outcome the odds can lengthen. If you can spot these lines then it can be a great way to add value to your wagers when you do win.

Most bets have an emotional or personal angle and it is a fact that people don't like to bet on things they don't want to see. Very few people will bet on 'no goalscorer' or even the draw. This means if you back these outcomes they can sometimes have better value than other markets on the same match.

Open Multiple Accounts and Shop Around for the Best Prices

This is the most obvious thing to do yet it is amazing how many punters (even so called professionals) stick with one or two betting sites. By opening several accounts you can not only take advantage of the great welcome deals available but also give yourself the best chance of getting the top prices on a weekly basis. Find the line you want to bet on, set your own prediction, and then look on odds comparison websites to find the best price available. This is the easiest way of adding regular value to your bets.

The other reason why it is advisable to hold several accounts is to prevent operators closing your account. Betting sites, after all, are private businesses and If you are winning regularly or betting on only certain types of markets the bookmaker can simply close or limit your account without warning. By spreading your bets between different operators you decrease the likelihood of this happening.

Loss Leaders and Enhanced Odds

Bookmakers, just like supermarkets, run loss leading lines. When you walk into a store you often see great priced deals run at a loss at the front of the shop. The merchant is doing this for two main reasons. First they hope you might buy other things while you are there that they will make a profit on and secondly they hope that if you get a good deal that you will come back again.

Betting websites run loss leading headline markets all of the time to get you in through the door. These price boosts and enhanced odds promotions, used sensibly, can be very valuable. Again it makes sense to have several accounts open to take best advantage of these.

It is critical that you are not lead by the enhancement, first of all find the bet you want to place and then look for a price boost, if you do it the other way around then you are being led by the bookie. If a price is enhanced you can also ask why? Maybe they know something you don't? Always, always do your own research.

Take advantage of good offers

Bookies run offers for the same reason that they run loss leaders, to get you to bet. If you are sensible and take the offer on its own then this can enhance your chances of winning over time. Look for offers, like price boosts, that will give you cash winnings rather than free bets or bonus cash. If you do take an offer with a free bet or promo cash check out the rollover requirements. Wagering requirements are a method used by bookies to ensure that you need to bet your winnings several times over in the hope that you will lose some, or all, of the winnings. The lower the rollover the more chance you have of winning on the offers regularly.

There are some standout reliable deals that are available year round to ensure you get great value. For example when it comes to horse racing offers there are a glut of money back and free bet offers for any live ITV races. You'll also find enhanced places and place odds as well as best odds guaranteed on all horse races. Over time if you are a regular punter and you place your bets with these bookies it can ensure that you get the best payouts when you do win.

Request A Bet and Boost your Own Odds

The best way to bet is to make your prediction first and then find the right market at the right price.  The problem is quite often we don't find a line that fits our prediction exactly, we therefore end up settling for a market that is close enough to our guess but not perfect.

Those kinds of compromises can be costly.  Fortunately one of the best aspects of modern online betting is the ability to request your own odds.  Through simple contact forms, mobile apps and social media you can now request prices from leading bookmakers with odds that will be returned to you in minutes rather than days.  This means you can ask for and place the exact bet you want to.  This should mean if your predictions are good that you can enhance your returns over time.

The same problem is true with enhanced odds betting promotions.  Many price boosts are very attractive but very often they are not boosting the line that you want to back. One of the absolute best offers to come out lately from the really high end bookies, such as Ladbrokes, is the ability to select the bet you want to boost, and you can do this up to once a day.  This really is a way to beat the odds.

Exchange Betting and Arbing

exchange betting and arbingThink of an exchange as a room with lots of micro bookmakers. Here you are betting against peers and the operators simply takes a commission. This means you have more chance of turning the odds in your favour as you are only pitting your wits against another person rather than the resources of a betting site and odds traders. Many professionals choose to use exchanges for this reason.

Some people that lay odds on an exchange may do so more for emotional reasons than an odds trader would. For example, they may lay higher odds than you would expect on a team to lose because they have an emotional connection to them. If you can spot these types of bets it is a great way to beat the odds you would have got on a fixed odds book.

It is possible to arbitrate (arbing) whereby you back a favourable price on an exchange or with a fixed odds bookie and then lay that same bet at favourable odds on an exchange. In this scenario you guarantee a profit whatever happens. Arbing, while not illegal, is not promoted in the industry, betting sites share information and if you are a suspected arber you may have your accounts closed.

Predict Coincidences

predict coincidenceCoincidences are a classic example of human misunderstanding of how chance works. Coincidences seem to us to occur more often than random chance would suggest, but in fact if you look at probability theory you will realise they don't. Bookmakers can fall into this trap just as easily as anyone else so predicting coincidences can not only be profitable but can also make you look good when you do.

In a typical football match for example there is an over 90% chance that two players will have a birthday within one day of each other. On the face of it this seems unlikely, there are only 22 players but 365 days in a year, but in fact you can pair off the 22 players in 231 combinations and based on probabilities the 90% prediction holds true.

Odds traders can commonly fall into two traps. One they underestimate the chances of a coincidence and secondly they will tend to push these lines harder to punters because they are more headline grabbing. If you can spot these then you can beat the odds.

Lets take a simple real sporting example. We predict the chances of Liverpool winning at the weekend are 75% and Everton winning are 60%. The chances of both teams winning is a simple multiplication between the two probabilities (0.6 x 0.75 = 0.45), 45%. The chances of one team winning is (0.6 + 0.75 – 0.45 = 0.9) 90% and the chances that neither team win ((1-0.6) x (1-0.75) = 0.1) is 10%. In this scenario you are looking for odds better than 6/5 for both teams to win, 9/1 for neither team to win and 1/10 for at least one team to win. Scout around for odds and offers and see if you can do this regularly. A bookie might be running odds for 2/1 for both teams to win in this example, this is far higher than the chances of it actually happening.

Bigger Bets and Loss Limits In The Casino

casinoCasino games often have lower margins than sports markets. This means you are more likely to win an average casino bet compared to an average sports bets. The problem however is in casinos we tend to place many small bets, that over time can reduce our chances of winning.

Casinos work on the theory of large numbers. This means over time the casino is guaranteed to turn small margins into big profits. Even with a less than 2% margin, as you get with some forms of roulette, over thousands of spins the 'house edge' will always guarantee the casino wins. This means the more bets you place the more likely you are to lose.

If you want to be that casino player that wins then pick a game with a smallest house edge (e.g. roulette or black jack) and decide how much you are prepared to lose. Now avoid making lots of small bets as this is what gives the casino the most chance of winning. Of course the best way not to lose is not to play in the first place, although that isn't much fun.

Make Better Decisions and Have More Fun

added valueWe all makes predictions every minute of every day, most are not for money but rather are aspects of our daily life. You might predict that you will get home quicker if you take a certain route or you might decide to take one job proposal over another. All these choices are made based on uncertain scenarios and we therefore use our knowledge and life experience to judge any situation. Most decisions we do not think about, rather they are made using instinct.  Instincts however can be effected by many things, emotion being the biggest factor, and this can cause us to make poor decisions.  Recognising this, especially when gambling, can be a huge advantage. This section isn't so much about beating the odds but more about getting the most enjoyment out of your bets.

There is a branch of probability known as decision theory. This takes into account not only the chances of an event occurring but also consequences that could arise in each case. Let' say you've heard a rumour that a night club is going to be built at the end of your road and you are wondering if you should move. Rank the consequences of both staying and moving on a scale between -10 and +10. Now if you move and the night club is built this will be a positive, if however you move and its isn't built this may be a negative. Likewise if you stay and the night club is built it is a negative and if you stay and it isn't built it’s a positive (well, unless you want a nightclub on your road).

Now multiply the consequences (on the -10 to +10 scale) by the real world chances of the event occurring. In the case of the nightclub lets say there is a 30% chance of it being built, now this also means there is a 70% of it not. Add together the results from the two consequences of staying and likewise add together the two consequences of moving. The outcome with the highest score is the one you should take. Of course this is still subjective based on your own assessment of the consequences and chances of them happening, but in the long run this should mean you make better decisions for you.

How does this apply to placing a sports bet I hear you say? Well it's about thinking of the bet in the context of the overall scenario. If you are betting on your own team then the consequences of them winning is not just that you will win money, it is also that you will feel happier that they won. This is why many people don't like to bet against their own teams, because they may win money but they won't be happy about it. The converse is true when betting on teams or contestants that you don't like. After all we gamble for fun (or at least we should do) so making a better decisions for you in the long run won't necessarily earn you more money but it will mean you are happier about the bets you do win.