What Are Weak Odds and How to Spot Them?

betting oddsMany people question what it is that they can do in order to give themselves an advantage when it comes to sports betting. In various instances, it’s easy to consider knowledge and experience of the industry and betting as a positive. However, there are several other things to watch out for and learn about. One of those things is learning what weak odds are and how to spot them when engaging in sports betting.

Looking for weak odds should be a common part of sports wagering, and it’s something to incorporate into any strategy. In fact, most people do this by instinct when betting even if they don't realise it.  If you spot a market that you think has better odds than the real probability of the outcome then you would be inclined to back it, this is exactly what weak odds are. However, those that look for these lines more actively will put a lot of consideration into the price of the market versus the probable outcome and don't just do it on instinct.

While you may not notice an effect instantly where weak odds are concerned, but over time, it can result in a lot of added value. If you can spot weak odds, then you should be able to potentially turn the probabilities in your favour for certain outcomes.

What are weak odds and how you can pick them out from a crowd? After all, sports betting has so many options, you need to be able to see which odds are the best to go for and which ones are not.

What Are Weak Odds?

all oddsLet’s just say, for example, two different bookmakers are offering odds on Liverpool beating Manchester United. Two lines are given in this situation. Liverpool are favourites and one bookie has them at 3/4 and another at 1/2. You get to choose between them, and since 3/4 means that on a winning bet of £20 you win £15 and 1/2 provides a win of £10, there’s an obvious route to take. One bet allows you to come away with £35 in total and the other allows a total of £30, so which is the obvious route to take?

Naturally, you’re more than likely to go for the one that would allow you to finish up with £35 in the end. Why wouldn’t you select that one? However, many people don’t seek out the best deal from online sportsbooks. And that doesn’t really make sense when it comes to trying to get the most out of your betting money.  Getting the best value around, however, does not mean you are beating the odds, to do that you need to find odds that are better than the probable outcome.

When it comes to weak odds lines, these are markets that are essentially overpriced. To put it simply, the odds being given are better than the actual chances of the outcome in question occurring. Generally speaking, the most common cause for this being the case at a sportsbook is that imbalanced books are to blame. In this circumstance, the bookie has overexposed on one specific outcome, so in a bid to level things out, it provides the opposite outcome with much better odds. This encourages people to bet on that option, due to the fact that it has 'weak odds', and the sportsbook has then moved closer to everything being balanced again.  This way they ensure they make a profit whatever the result and they really don't care if the odds they offered were overpriced to do this.

If you can take advantage of weak odds effectively, then you can potentially see the value you get from your bet improve. People who can capitalise on these differences regularly can increase their chances of winning in the longer term.  What is 'weak', however, is still a subjective term and there is no true way to know if odds are overpriced but you can be fairly sure from previous form and other metrics if a price is too generous. 

What Creates Weak Odds?

bet builderAs noted earlier, it’s common for bookmakers to try and even their books out due to being overexposed in one direction more so than the other. However, other reasons can also be a factor in weak odds becoming available. Odds traders may simply price the markets badly at various times. Of course, bookmakers always try to make sure that the odds are always in their favour. That’s just the norm for the industry, they often check against each others odds to make sure they are in the right ball park. However, sports betting is not in any way similar to things like roulette or blackjack, for example. Calculations relating to sports betting odds are much trickier and prone to error.

It is because of this that bettors are able to find their way in. Is there a better way because of this to be able to calculate the odds yourself and beat the bookies at their own game? Lisandro Kaunitz at the University of Tokyo spoke of a method that allowed him and his friends to consistently make money from the online betting market with wagers placed on football.

Unfortunately, the work that he and his group of pals have done comes with quite the serious caveat at the same time. Kaunitz says that once bookies become aware of the success rates being experienced through exploiting weak odds on football, and they were limited heavily by the sites, and in many cases restricted from placing bets at all.

Bookmakers work as hard as possible to calculate accurate enough odds for their sportsbooks, with teams of statisticians and computer algorithms studying historical data related to the various sports. Sophisticated models are then employed so as to determine the most appropriate odds for each football match. That being said, Kaunitz has spoken of nobody being able to beat the system utilised by the sportsbooks. However, he and his friends have found the weakness in the way they operate, helping them to become successful.

Again, when two football teams play against one another, bookmakers set their odds of each team recording a win, loss or draw. Sometimes, a large number of people can opt to bet on a particular outcome, and this is due to reasons completely unconnected to the odds in question.

Let’s say England are playing France in an international football match.  There will be a disproportionate amount of people in the UK betting on England to win, which could mean the odds on France winning ends up becoming weak with a UK-facing bookmaker.  If England win the bookie knows it has to pay out a large proportion of the bets, if France win they may pay out at higher odds but they will pay far less people overall and so they are happy for those odds to be weak in order to balance that market.

This is why they opt to hedge their bets by providing more favourable odds on the alternative outcome. Therefore, in our example, bets on France become much more enticing with their odds. The bookie can then cover some of its potential losses. Of course, this creates an opportunity, if bettors are able to notice it at a site. And Kaunitz and co state that a method should be devised in order to consistently spot the odds that favour the bettor rather than the bookie.

Spotting Weak Odds

how to beat the oddsThe base method utilised by Kaunitz and his friends is to start by making the assumption that sportsbooks are good at setting their odds and that their prices are an accurate reflection of the real probabilities that a win, draw or loss will occur, plus their own margin as well. A good measure of such probabilities is to discover the average of the odds offered by all online bookmakers. This gives the average odds, which does provide highly accurate information on the real probabilities.

From there, it’s a simple matter of analysing all of the odds being offered and locating which ones lay on the outside of the average. From there, Kaunitz and co state that it’s necessary to work out how favourable the outlying odds are, too. Should they be of a good enough level to guarantee a nice profit, the bet should pay off in the long run.

Obviously, there are so many online sportsbooks operating these days, that that could be a difficult thing to do for a standard bettor. Kaunitz and his pals built their own Web crawler, which went around gathering odds offered by sportsbooks on football events from around the globe. They then calculated the average odds, discovered which sites had outlying odds and then worked out if the bet would favour them in the end or not.

Finding value in the odds is the very best way for you to make money from sports betting. And, when you think about it realistically, it’s pretty much the only consistent way of doing so – or at least, for as long as the online sportsbook doesn’t limit your account dramatically. However, at the moment, because most bettors instead opt to bet on what they believe will be the likely outcome rather than betting on value, they suffer from a fundamental flaw. Despite possibly winning a lot of their sports bets, the likelihood is that they won’t make any overall profit in the end.

Most people tend to believe that the idea behind sports betting is to pick as many winners as you possibly can. Actually, the most successful sports bettors money-wise are those who find the times when the odds go heavily in their favour. This is why it’s important to understand the concept of value.

The biggest reason for weak odds is having imbalanced books and the biggest cause of this is the general public.  Odds will move the more that is bet on an outcome, not matter what the real chances are.  Going against public opinion can often be the best way to find weak lines.

How To Identify Value in Sports Betting

winnerHow do you go about identifying value and therefore taking advantage of the weak odds when sports betting? And not have to use any sort of grandiose technology to do it? Well, it essentially requires you to follow two separate steps:

  1. Assess the probabilities of the possible final outcomes
  2. Compare the probabilities to the implied probabilities of the relevant odds

Sports events are, unfortunately, exceptionally unpredictable overall. This makes the first step a little bit harder than it may sound. It’s impossible to assign 100% precise probabilities to the various potential outcomes as there are too many variables in operation. It is necessary instead to make the most accurate assessments as is possible. This depends upon how you, the gambler, interpret the information available.

It's imperative though that you don’t rely solely on your existing sports betting knowledge when assessing all the outcomes. Let’s use an example on how to try and accurately identify value.

For arguments sake, let’s say that again, Liverpool are facing off against Manchester United. We’re intending to bet on the match winner, so it’s a necessary step to investigate both teams and try to make an assessment when it comes to which one is more likely to be the winner. We check statistics relating to where they currently are in the league, and in our example, Liverpool are third with an 11-2 record, while Manchester United is 4th with a 9-4 record. They similarly matched in this respect, although Liverpool definitely has the advantage.

Following some additional research, we give Liverpool a 55% chance of being the victorious team and Man U a 45% chance. From there, we visit a sportsbook online and see that the following odds are being offered on the match: Liverpool 1.73 (8/11) to win, Manchester United 2.10 (11/10).

A simple formula can then be used to calculate the implied probability for Liverpool winning, which is as follows:

(1/odds) x 100

In our example, it would be 1/1.73 x 100 = 57.80%. When we gave them a 55% chance of winning, this means that there is no positive value that comes in choosing to back Liverpool at this sportsbook. The actual probability needs to be higher than the implied probability. The implied probability for Man U winning is 47.62%, and this is again with no positive value to it. In this instance, it’s better to save your funds and look for a better event to wager on.

Weak odds would see the positive value in backing a specific team or player be higher than the implied odds. You just need to know how to find that percentage out, and in doing so, provide yourself with much more of an insight into how your sports bets are likely to go. And furthermore, in whether you’re likely to make profit or not.

Markets With Weak Lines

novelty aWith something like top level football it is really very hard to find weak lines.  The bookies have a lot of statistical information around these events and a lot of experience in pricing these markets.  Therefore you are only going to find weak lines if the book becomes unbalanced or there is an error by the odds traders.  Although even in the case of errors if these errors are 'obvious' bookies can actually void bets on the basis of it being a palpable error.

The best way to find weak lines is to look for sports and events that bookmakers struggle to price, either because there is no previous form or because the outcome is based on public opinion, which is very unpredictable.  Let's take an example of TV show contest or novelty betting, here there are a lot of variables the bookies have to take into account that can mean they overprice markets and those with knowledge can spot these and take advantage.

Still, the betting companies know this and you will often find the maximum payout levels for more minor sports and events or novelty lines are much lower compared to say football.  In fact, looking for the markets with the lowest maximum payout levels is a good clue to finding the ones the bookies have the least confidence in and therefore are more prone to being weak.

Effectively you need to look for markets where you think the information the bookies are using to price them is weak in itself, which means there is more volatility and more chance of traders pricing the lines badly.  It also helps to look at sites that price markets early.  Bookies set their prices against each other but someone has to go first, often the first bookie to price an market in advance are the most prone to errors.