Pinball Wizard: In-Running Betting Introduction

Pinball Wizard: An Introduction to In-Running Betting Part 1

In many ways, horse racing doesn’t really lend itself to in-running betting when compared with sports such as football, tennis, cricket, or golf, writes Russell Clarke. All of those aforementioned sports produce results over hours (or even days) compared with the minutes that are involved in the sport of kings. During a football match you have at least 90 minutes to evaluate odds as a game progresses, in horse racing you may not have 90 seconds! Like in a game of pinball, your eyes are fixed on the movement of the ball (odds) and your fingers click in response.

It is fast moving, betting on steroids! Enthralling and frightening in equal measure. The odds move around at a far greater pace than pre-race. They appear to flit around, like the silver ball, in a random dance, giving the impression of a ‘lottery’ and yet, on closer inspection, the dance is choreographed to a degree, predictable to a degree, trending to a degree and yes, in part, random. The odds respond to pre-race expectation, pace, tactics, horse and jockey idiosyncrasies, distance remaining to the line and human psychology.

Betting ‘in-running’ on horse racing is a marmite pastime. It currently represents about 20% of the betting turnover on any given race on the betfair exchange. The description is apt because there can’t be more than a fifth of the population that get involved in marmite consumption, can there?

For the past year I have become more engrossed in the fresh challenge of betting in-running. I have spent more hours than is healthy in study and research and, of course, practical application. It has given me new insight into our sport and rekindled a passion.

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In times gone by, the playing field for in-running betting was rarely level. It was more like Derby County’s Baseball Ground. Those that were reliant upon TV pictures were at a disadvantage compared with those who invested in ‘fast pics’, SIS feeds, betting from rooms at the tracks and, more recently, drone footage. That ‘time delay’ handicap was generally enough to ensure losses in the long term for those who were ill-prepared. The reality today is that the pictures you receive via your betfair account are approximately 0.5 seconds behind ‘live’. I tested this myself recently at Stratford racecourse on my mobile phone. Suffice to say, the current playing field is as level as it has ever been.

So, given this is a helter-skelter, whirly world of warp speed betting, the obvious question is… “why would I subject myself to that madness when I can carefully consider my bets in my own time pre-race?” It’s also a very good question! To answer it, I’m going to go back in time and a little into my personal history.

Almost 20 years ago I discovered that the in-play football betting market was less efficient than the closing line of the pre-race football markets. For a number of years I took advantage of that fact. The same is true, perhaps even more so, of the in-running horse racing markets (*I think*, which is the closest you will get to a disclaimer from me!).

In reality, the in-running market gives us more information. You can see the pace of the race, the tactics being deployed and how individual horses are running. All of that you can add to your pre-race analysis. It favours those who do their homework, it favours those who understand the effect of pace, it favours those who are skilled and experienced in race-reading. It is also a market full of traders taking poor value prices to ensure they ‘green up’ their screens. It is also addictive (in a good way… an ice-cream sort of way)


“How do you think he does it?” (The Tools Required)

To compete in such a fast-moving market, dedicated software is required. This is available at reasonable cost from any number of providers: Bet Angel, Gruss, Racing Trader, Bet Mover and others all provide bet placement with just one click of a key on your computer. They all place your bets (back or lay) in the most efficient manner possible. Personal preferences will be due to familiarity, layout, options, price etc.

In addition to software, you will need access to live coverage of the races. Betfair provides the coverage I mentioned earlier with a 0.5 second delay. A similar delay is experienced with Racing TV. However, Sky Sports Racing has much longer delays and, therefore, cannot be used for in-running betting, nor can terrestrial TV coverage.

You may (or may not… there are many ways to compete in the in-running market) require a subscription to a high-quality horseracing database where you can do pre-race study of pace, draw, stats and racehorse idiosyncrasies… oh wait, Geegeez is your friend here!

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So that’s my introduction, I promise it will get more interesting as we progress. I’m now all-in on in-running betting. It currently accounts for the vast majority of my own betting and, although at 60 I’m far from being the fastest finger (or most supple wrist) at the keyboard, I can generally extract some value from the in-running markets.

In Part 2, I look at the psychology of in-running betting and whether you should bet or trade in such a fast-paced environment. You can read that here.

- RC

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