Getting betting value is essential

If you were to ask successful and experienced sports bettors what’s the single most important element of sports betting, they’d say it’s betting value. When it comes to sports betting, betting value is king and finding it and sticking to your principle that you only place a bet if there’s value is what separates the casual punter from the serious one. But let’s start at the beginning: what is betting value?


What is betting value?

We hear people talking about value all the time in everyday life. If you go to a restaurant in town and have a really good meal and enjoy good service and it costs you 15 quid whereas in most other places in the area you’d have to cough up 25 quid for a similar experience, you’d say the meal was good value.

If you go on a great holiday and got a good deal on flights, hotels and a few extras and it cost you less than you would have expected to pay, again you’d say it was a good value or a value-for-money holiday.

The same principle applies when it comes to betting. In layman’s terms, essentially it means you’re getting a better deal on your bet than you would have expected.  But a more accurate way of putting it is that you’re getting better odds than you would have expected. Or that the probability of something happening is better than what the odds on offer about it actually happening.

Let’s take an example. In November 2017 Burnley were away to Southampton in a Premier League match. Based on my calculations taking into account league position, head-to-head record, home and away form over the season, current form, team news and absences, the ability of the two Managers and other factors I considered important, I made a Burnley a 3/1 chance. So imagine my delight when I saw they were 5/1 (6.0) on Betfair. Burnley were value. As it happens Burnley won 1-0 which makes the story have a happy ending. But more important than the outcome of the bet was the fact that I placed a value bet to start with.


Why is betting value so important?

It’s what gives you the mathematical edge in the long run in terms of beating the bookies. In most bets you place, you’re actually placing them at slightly lower odds than what they should be. That’s because the bookmaker is factoring in their margin (or cut, if you prefer) into the bet.

Never is this more obvious than the toss market in cricket. We all learnt at junior school that the odds of the coin landing heads or tails is exactly 50%, yet no bookie will give you a price of 2.0. You can either take 1.9 with the fixed odds bookies who offer the market. Or take very close to 2.0 on Betfair and pay close to 5% commission on your winnings, which pretty much amounts to the same thing.

In other words, there’s absolutely no value in placing a bet like that. You might get lucky and win a couple of these ‘coin tosses of a bet’. But your payout is always less than what it should be. And that’s not smart betting.

Because in real terms you almost always get paid out slightly less than what you should get on most bets, it makes it very hard to get the better of the bookie. That’s why it’s so important to always get betting value. If you’re getting paid out more than you ‘should’ get on your wins, you make up for the fact the bookmaker’s prices have a margin factored in on most other bets.


How do you determine whether something is betting value?

Well, that’s the million dollar question. If Germany, the number 1 side in the FIFA World Rankings with their brilliant record at major tournaments were 15/1 to win the World Cup, it would be hard for anyone to argue they weren’t massive value.  But sadly, value like that is almost unheard of.

Going back to the ‘real world’, let’s say you’re out with four mates and you come across a beautiful leather jacket that you all like. You start talking about what would be the price you’d buy it at. You say 300 quid, someone else says 150, another 400, another 350 and lastly, 220.

You disagree because it’s a subjective question. It depends on how much you each like it, how much you’re prepared to pay for clothes and how well you off you are.

Betting value is the same. What’s good value to one is poor value to another. So it’s up to you to decide what is or isn’t value. Some people will use computer programs and spreadsheets to work out what is the mathematical probability of something happening. Others will just use their judgement and experience and come up with a number. It’s crucial that you whatever method you use, you trust your own judgement that your estimated price is correct.


What do you do once you’ve found the value?

Let’s say that you’ve been looking at a football match between Chelsea and Manchester United. It’s always preferable to do your homework before checking prices because you end up being influenced once you know what they are. This is what’s sometimes known as a tissue price, though that’s mostly associated with horseracing prices.

Based on whatever method you use for your calculations you come to the conclusion that Chelsea should be 2.5. Then check the actual prices…


If Chelsea are 2.8- Based on your calculations they’re value. You’re getting a better return on your money than expected. You should back them.

If Chelsea are 2.5- They’re exactly what you thought they’d be. They’re neither good value nor poor value. Don’t bet.

If Chelsea are 2.1- They’re poor value as regards you betting on them so don’t. But there’s a Plan B. The value in this case is on Chelsea not winning.  So you can go with Manchester United or a draw on the Double Chance market or lay Chelsea on Betfair, which amounts to the same thing.

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