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The Favourite-Longshot Bias

Value betting is the most mainstream concept in the modern betting landscape, writes Tony Keenan. It has passed into the lexicon of gambling and there can hardly be a punter around that hasn’t heard of the idea. We’ve reached a point where Tom Segal, the public face of value betting, is on The Morning Line more often than Tony McCoy and it has even spawned parody comments like ‘value loser’ and ‘you can’t eat value.’

For most, value betting means one thing: big prices. While a value bet can theoretically be a 1/3 shot that should be 1/10, in the main such examples aren’t referenced and the typical comment about a favourite in much racing writing and programming can be summed up as ‘he’ll probably win but he’s a bit short.’ Rarely do we hear mention of the odds-on shot that should be even shorter.

But perhaps the pendulum has swung too far the other way and the runners that appear short, far from being priced lower than their real chance of winning, actually aren’t short enough. This favourite-longshot bias certainly seemed at play over the recent Cheltenham Festival with some of the Mullins hotpots but it’s not just that; the place markets on the exchanges for the Grand National on Saturday were wildly out of sync with the same place odds available in an each-way bet with the bookmakers, the favourites seemingly bigger than they should be and the outsiders representing the flip-side.

I think this applies far more in day-to-day racing now than it used to and we need to be aware that markets are fluid and don’t remain the same: it is important to zig when most people are zagging. And that can be a problem for an old-style value punter who is used to looking on shorties with scorn. In fact, many of these punters – and I include myself here – would have personal betting rules like ‘never bet odds-on’, tenets that might have served you well in the past but have become outdated. As we’ll see later, taking that approach to the current Irish national hunt season would have meant there were 311 odds-on shots (judging on BSP) that you refused to back; 195 of them have won so you were taking out a large chunk of possible betting opportunities.

In the tables that follow, I will look at the fortunes of odds-on shots, defined as having a Betfair Starting Price of 2.0 or shorter, in recent Irish jumps campaigns. Using Horse Race Base, I’ve put together the numbers to see if there are any patterns emerging. When I refer to actual over expected in the final column of the table, it is done to official starting price rather than the Betfair equivalent as this is the method used on Horse Race Base.

Let’s first look at the number of odds-on shots to run over jumps in Ireland in each season since 2008/9:

 

NH Season Bets Wins Strikerate Level Stakes Actual/Expected
2008/09 164 104 63.4% +3.16 1.02
2009/10 217 125 57.6% -16.23 0.93
2010/11 180 109 60.6% -3.89 0.97
2011/12 227 130 57.3% -21.69 0.91
2012/13 272 162 59.6% -19.37 0.92
2013/14 250 159 63.6% +1.36 1.00
2014/15 303 184 60.7% -18.06 0.95
2015/16 311 195 62.7% -10.00 0.97
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The first thing that jumps out is the gradual rise in the number of odds-on shots; again, punters who are excluding themselves from betting in races with money-on pokes are ruling out a hell of a lot of races. We see that prior to last season, there was not a campaign with more than 272 odds-on shots but there were 303 last year and already we are at 311 in 2015/16 and there are three weeks of the season left. The other notable feature is that backing all these odds-on shots, though not profitable, has come close to breakeven point in each of the last three seasons judging by the actual over expected. Given that those figures are worked out from official SP suggests there is an edge here; Betfair SPs are typically bigger even allowing for commission while many of these winners will have been available at bigger prices before the off.

I suspect at least some of this edge is down to the attitude punters approach the market with, i.e. they want to oppose the fancied horses as they are perceived as too short. There are other reasons though. The concentration of talent in the Mullins yard has played a big part as has that trainer’s approach in that he tries to keep his horses apart as much as possible to maximise the number of races won, rather than run them in what might be seen as the most logical races. Racing has facilitated much of this with a greatly expanded programme book and I’d be in the camp that competitiveness has suffered because there is too much racing. Competitive racing, of course, produces much fewer odds-on shots.

Next, we have the record of odds-on favourites by month and instead of going back as far as 2008/9 here, I’ve worked from 2010/11 to the present day in the hope this will provide a better picture of the current state of the markets.

 

Month Bets Wins Strikerate Level Stakes Actual/Expected
January 174 107 61.5% -11.31 0.94
February 144 75 52.1% -30.36 0.80
March 126 71 56.4% -11.97 0.89
April 79 46 58.2% -5.97 0.92
May 115 72 62.6% +2.63 1.02
June 50 25 50.0% -8.06 0.82
July 83 55 66.3% +1.72 1.04
August 128 73 57.0% -9.21 0.92
September 67 50 74.6% +14.74 1.22
October 155 104 67.1% +6.37 1.05
November 206 129 62.6% -8.81 0.96
December 216 132 61.1% -11.42 0.95

 

The findings here are surprising. One might expect odds-on shots to do best in the traditional jumps season from November to April when Willie Mullins has his best horses running. In fact, the opposite is true as betting the odds-on over summer jumps is [much] more profitable with the exception of June. It may just be a quirk of sample size – there are fewer jumps races at this time of the year – but the pattern is still quite marked and it offers food for thought at least.

Different types of Irish national hunt race are also worth considering:

 

Race Type Bets Wins Strikerate Level Stakes Actual/Expected
Chase 413 261 63.2% -0.63 1.00
Hurdle 849 513 60.4% -54.64 0.94
Bumper 281 165 58.7% -16.38 0.95

 

Again, the results here are unusual. One might expect chases to be the least predictable of the three disciplines as fences bring in a great possibility of falling but the opposite is true as odds-on shots here do best and come very close to making a small profit off level-stakes.

Finally, the record of trainers with odds-on runners since 2010/11 and for the purposes of the table I’ve looked at those with at least 20 such qualifiers. The table is in alphabetical order.

 

Trainer Bets Wins Strikerate Level Stakes Actual/Expected
H. De Bromhead 56 39 69.6% +7.80 1.14
C. Byrnes 29 16 55.2% -2.90 0.89
G. Elliott 128 74 57.8% -10.76 0.91
J. Harrington 51 29 56.9% -3.97 0.92
T. Martin 38 20 52.6% -6.96 0.83
N. Meade 71 49 69.0% +5.31 1.06
M. Morris 20 10 50.0% -4.03 0.82
W. Mullins 640 403 63.0% -32.68 0.95
E. O’Grady 31 20 64.5% +0.83 1.04
D. Weld 36 23 63.9% -0.16 0.99

 

Willie Mullins has had just a staggering number of odds-on shots; in fact, in the period covered he has sent out 41.4% of the total odds-on favourites. Finding an edge with Mullins is difficult – though betting his shorties at the Cheltenham Festival makes sense – and I prefer to look at other trainers. Henry De Bromhead is one that stands out. He comes out best both on overall strikerate and actual over expected and the best spots to back his short-priced horses are in graded races and over fences and ideally a combination of both. Noel Meade also does well; his 69% return his hard on the heels of De Bromhead and, along with Edward O’Grady, they are the three trainers with actual over expecteds of greater than 1.00.

From a brief glance at the figures for the flat in Ireland, the rise in odds-on shots seems nothing like as marked but it is something I may return to over the summer. For now, be wary of opposing short-priced runners in Irish jumps races for the sake of it and, indeed, don’t be afraid to back some of them; though starting the project at Punchestown might be a little too brave as the meeting can produce some surprising end-of-season results.

- Tony Keenan

Follow Tony on twitter at @RacingTrends

Value Value VALUE

Where to find value...

Where to find value...

In the good old days, punters used to talk about 'the three D's'. These were discipline, discipline and discipline. Many of you - like me - will relate to that readily enough, as selectivity is generally the key to success in betting.

But in the modern day betting supermarket, where the exact same product (i.e. a horse in a race, or a team in a match) is offered at often curiously differing prices, depending on the brand (i.e. the bookmaker), the three V's - value, value and value - might be the new maxim for successful betting.

Now, obviously, discipline is still as relevant as it ever was. It will always be a fundamental cornerstone that sets apart those who win from those who don't. But life has become a lot easier with the advent of a) online bookmaker offers, and b) comparison portals. In a second we can see which bookmaker has the best offer on our fancy.

Better yet, if the bookie offers Best Odds Guaranteed, we have the chance of a price drift topping up our odds still further.

What this ultimately means is that you could be, for instance, in the beer aisle, looking at twelve cases of Old Gobhoblin Pale Fizzer. Each case is the same, and seven of them have the same price on them, £9.99. But the other five are different. Two say £10.50, two say £9.49, and the other one says £7.99. You really like Old Gobhoblin Pale Fizzer. Which one do you pick up?

It's a no brainer that you'd pick up the cheapest, right? I mean, that's a 20% difference in price in your favour and, if you drink a case of Pale Fizzer a day, you'll have almost enough money saved to pay for the liver transplant 😉

But here's where it gets better. When you get to the checkout, the cashier says, "Oh, this is on special offer this week. It's only £6.99". Bingo, you've saved another 10%.

This is EXACTLY how shopping around for the best odds, and using Best Odds Guaranteed, works. We're looking for the best bargain every time.

How many of us would knowingly pay 20% more for our shopping than we needed to? Not many, of course. And yet, there are still lots and lots and lots of punters who think it doesn't matter about getting the best price; that a point here or there makes no difference.

It's just weird. I mean, the survey we recently did revealed that most people who visit geegeez bet every day. And yet 42% have five or less chances to get a bargain - in other words, five or less accounts.

Let me just quickly say that if you mainly bet for fun/entertainment/to solve the puzzle, then it maybe doesn't matter. But to anyone who said they bet to win money, and they have just a few accounts, you are making it extremely difficult for yourselves.

OK, sermon over!

**

Things you need to know today then...

1. Racebets is the latest bookmaker to offer Best Odds Guaranteed. They are a growing brand in UK and appear in most odds comparison charts these days. They have a dizzying array of money back concessions, and offer a £50 deposit match for new customers. If you use BOG bookies, add this to your set.

Your first 30 days for just £1

2. How about a completely risk free no catch bet? Betbright are offering new customers a £30 no lose bet on the World Cup semi-finals. Here's how it works: you make a bet. If it wins, you get paid out. If it loses, you get your money back. You follow? You must use this link to qualify, as it has a special tracking code associated with it.

3. If you already have a Betbright account, note that they'll be refunding correct score and scorecast bets if a semi-final match ends 0-0. Given that the Dutch and the Argentinians have had real trouble scoring in the knockout phases, and that Brazil could be toothless without Neymar, and that Germany have had two 1-0's in their last three games, this looks a very good safety net if that's your sort of wager.

**

Let's talk about another manifestation of value. Tote pools. Not just any old tote pool. Some of them are rancid pools. But some are not. Those with guaranteed pool sizes where the amount of player cash falls short of the guarantee are value. Rollovers are value. Why? Because in both cases, someone else is putting money in the pot for you to potentially take out.

I've had enormous success with Colossus Bets during this World Cup, netting three Pick 4's worth over £3,700. Each of them to a 20p winning stake (though my total bet stake was significantly higher). Colossus is a pool bet on correct scores, and every pool is guaranteed, with many of them not reaching the guarantee figure from player funds. Put another way, the pools are being subsidised.

After my own success (£1,059 for a £36 bet), I formed a little syndicate - seven readers and I each put in £50, to make a pot of £400. On our first attempt, we scooped just over £1,500 (£1,570); and on our second attempt we scooped just under £1,500 (£1,485).

Each of these pools was attractive to me/the syndicate because it had either a rollover or a guaranteed minimum fund that I didn't believe would be matched. That is to say that each time I was helping myself to a spot of someone else's cash. Nice, right?

The last Colossus Bets Pick 4 of the World Cup starts with the first semi-final tonight, and then takes in semi-final 2, the 3rd/4th place match, and the final. Obviously, it involves some conjecture into which teams will make the final, but that's the same for everyone and adds spice to the mix!

Our syndicate has dissolved now, and I'll be having a solo crack at the £50,000 guaranteed pool. At the time of writing, there's just £3,880 in the pool, meaning there is a strong likelihood of the pot being subsidised by Colossus. Which means, of course, that there's free money up for grabs, if we're smart/lucky enough to nail a winning quartet of correct scores.

You can read my review of ColossusBets here. And if you've had a crack at these pools already, leave a comment and let people know what you thought, and how you got on.

**

Value, Value, VALUE. How good a value proposition is free? Answer, varying degrees of good.

Most free stuff is free for a reason. It will actually cost you time (and possibly money) to figure out it's no good.

Other free stuff is free for another reason: it showcases the value of a product or service and acts as a potential incentive for users to 'trade up'. It's great content from which the user can benefit, and there's no hard feelings if that user doesn't want to move to a premium level of service.

Welcome to Double Dutch, the daily free tip service on geegeez. It's a service that currently shows a profit of 68.08 points, from just 260 betting days. We bet two points a day, split across two horses in two races - a 2 x 2 double. And the return on stakes is over 13%, which is way better than a majority of premium services.

We love - perhaps I should say, I love - this service, and we're very proud to offer it. But for some reason it only gets around 200 views a day. Again, weird. Anyway, today's selections can be found in various ways:

i. Go to Horse Racing Tips in the top menu
ii. Click the post on the left hand side of the home page, called 'Double Dutch, 8th July 2014'
iii. Click here

And, if you like Double Dutch, then perhaps you'd like to know about our premium level tipping service, Stat of the Day. This is a one a day service, Monday to Saturday, which has been running since November 2011. In that time, it's accumulated £4,194.20 to £20 level stakes (as at end June; July is well in profit too).

Those aren't mythical 'past performance' figures, they're real time figures from a live service. We get amazing feedback on this service, and I really should put a file together because there must be over 200 - maybe more than that - incredible comments. Here are a couple from the last few days:

PauljD said:

Having been out all day this was a “fire and forget” bet so a very pleasant surprise when I got to the results! Very nice drift as well. I note that the DD came in too although I missed that one, got yesterday’s though. Very well done and a big thank you for this week’s tips.

Doshtosh said:

On days like this, and there are so many, I want to write in to thank you, Chris and Matt, for a service, the likes of which I have never seen before, and if I wasn’t involved, thank God I am, I wouldn’t have believed existed. It’s not just the winners and profit, though they are no 1 but so much more on the web site and notifications to our emails. Thanks, so very much and have a great weekend. I hope we meet, someday, even if there will be sore heads the following day…..at my expense, it would be a pleasure.

RonCombo said:

What a brilliant day on Saturday Chris. SoTD with a super drift and DD, all coming in as winners. Then I had De Rigeur (14s) from the Shortlist and Salvatore Fury (9/2) and Sandra’s Diamond (13/2), both from the Tracker system which I bought into. Thank you (yet again) GeeGeez!

And fatboyjim said:

Incredible stuff once again. Got to be the best value out there, I have finally learned how to use the race cards to suit my own style of punting and had some big winners over the weekend.

If anyone remembers the SotD highlighted the Haggas/Hanagan a couple of weeks ago, well they certainly did the job yesterday. Also had Mister Wiseman today using the cards.

Diamond in the service though is the wonderful SotD, brilliant. I use 2% of rolling bank and I am in dreamland.

Those comments related to just one winner on one day. Stat of the Day has had 248 winners from 861 runners as at the end of June, a strike rate of 29% - favourites win at about 30%! - and for a return on investment of a mouth-watering pant-wetting account-threatening 24%.

All from one bet a day.

Best of all? This is just one part of the Geegeez Gold service. Worth way more than £24 a month on its own, it is supported by the racecards, form tools and reports that you will have heard me talk about previously.

Value. Value Value VALUE. It underscores everything we try to do here at geegeez, from offering a tip service to helping people understand the 'easy' ways to get the best chance of winning at betting.

You can try Gold for ten days for free (now that's value!). And if you like it, you can stay on board for 80p a day. You know what the guys above think about it, so perhaps it's time you gave it a whirl. What have you got to lose?

Here's the link if you want to join the hundreds of Gold subscribers whose betting has gone to another level.

Oh, and while I'm at it, the three Gold subscribers below found 33/1 winner Prince Tom yesterday using their Gold subscription. It was a fairly obvious selection for a number of reasons highlighted on Gold. But with form figures of /PB-5P the public totally ignored it. It paid 44.81 Betfair SP.

Comments and tweets yesterday about Geegeez Gold

Comments and tweets yesterday about Geegeez Gold

.

A couple of quite big sites have asked to trial Geegeez Gold, and the first of their reviews is due soon. This site is not known for effusive praise of products and services, and they never go overboard. In fact, subscribers pay specifically for their hard core unbiased reviews. Well, I've seen a draft copy of their Geegeez Gold review and... let's just say they like Gold. A lot!

Click here to take your ten day free trial of Geegeez Gold

Matt

p.s. I'll be back on Thursday with a preview of day one from Newmarket's excellent July Festival meeting.

p.p.s. Have you any thoughts on the above? Value? Colossus? Stat of the Day/Double Dutch? Geegeez Gold? Leave a comment to enlighten those who may not have seen what you've seen, or know what you know. (And thanks!)

“Any fool can pick 30% winners”

It CAN Be Done!

It CAN Be Done!

I've been reading a book by a young Irish fellow called Kevin Blake. It's about betting on horses, and specifically it's about how he made over £40,000 from betting on horses this year on Irish flat racing.

The keys, you may not be surprised to learn, were discipline, selectivity, discipline, form study, discipline, specialization, and discipline.

The book, "It Can Be Done", is a good read and it's full of strong insights.

But it might be a bit lacking in fun.

Most pro backers are serious types who spend much of their time studying the form book and video replays to eke out their profit. In fairness to Kevin, he doesn't fit that archetype too snugly.

If that sounds a bit dull, then I have some good news. The book was a catalyst for me taking an early look at my own betting profit and loss for the year (I normally do this at calendar year end), and the results were as pleasant as I expected.

In a nutshell, I'm showing a profit of £6,186 from my betting so far this year on a turnover of almost exactly £20,000. I want you to note two things:

1. I love a bet, and I have lots of action bets, and I have fun with my betting.

2. I do not bet massive amounts, in terms of stake size.

I want to remind readers of my unshakeable contention that betting for fun and profit is possible, and that these two are not mutually exclusive. And I'll share some of the keys to my philosophy, such as it, in this post.

Key Principle #1: Have fun!

Firstly, I do not set profit targets. My target is to have fun. I set enjoyment targets. That doesn't mean I don't want to win. Of course I do. But if winning is at the cost of entertainment, then I might as well get a job. (You know, a proper job, not goofing about on the internet scribbling a few paragraphs about whatever tickles my fancy).

No, it starts with fun. I'll bet almost every day. Some days, especially on Mondays when the racing is generally desperate, I might have one little bet in the afternoon, or do a placepot for a bit of interest while I'm doing whatever else I'm doing.

On Saturdays, I generally don't bet much because racing outside of the festival meetings is never more competitive than it is on a Saturday.

But on Sunday, and from Tuesday to Friday, I take a keener interest in what's happening.

Key Principle #2: Get V-A-L-U-E

If you still don't 'get' this, you're completely and utterly doomed. Betting 3/1 when you could have bet 4/1 is just plain unfettered idiocy. And, forgive me, if you're still doing this, you're either very rich and are keen to become less rich; or you're a plain unfettered idiot.

Look. You cannot can't CANNOT win if you habitually take under the odds about your fancies, no matter how smart you are. (And, in case you didn't get my, ahem, inference in the above, you're not very smart if you habitually take under the odds about your fancies).

geegeez trumpets the best bookmaker offers because the very best chance you have of winning is to avail of any concession you're still qualified so to do.

Let me put it another way, and this is becoming something of a catchphrase for me. Any fool can bet 30% winners.

Just grab a betting slip, or pull up a bookmaker site, and etch onto it/tick the box which says 'Fav'. Simple. Dull. Uninspired. And a little bit sad.

It will also ultimately cause a financial death by a thousand cuts. Slow. Painful. Inexorable.

Now don't get me wrong. There are plenty of occasions when a market leader can be a value bet. But simply backing the 'fav' is a mug's game. It's the ultimate mug's game. And if you do it, you're a mug. Get over it, and try something different. You might surprise yourself.

So what is value? Well, you've heard the coin toss example probably a million times. The problem is not 'what is value?', but rather 'how do I identify value?'

And here's a thing: that's an open book of a question. There is no right answer.

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Many people say to quantify value, you must create your own 'tissue', or forecast betting odds. That's all well and good, but on what do you base those odds?

I've done it a few times, and it's an interesting exercise for sure. Comparing your tissue with the actual starting prices will tell you what sort of a handle you have on the market.

But generally, I determine value by feel. If that sounds cheap - perhaps even a cop out - then so be it. The fact is, I don't have all the time in the world to review the racing. I run a business akin to a (very) small iceberg, the main visible element of which is this site.

It takes a lot of maintaining. There are a lot of people involved. I have a young son and a lovely partner with whom I want to spend time. And I like beer. Not as much as I used to, but I still like it.

Time is limited for me, as it is for most other people. But that doesn't mean we can't bet profitably, and enjoy the process as well. Value is key.

Here's a shortcut to finding value

By far the biggest blind spot in the early markets is a recency bias. Specifically, a bad run last time out can double a horse's odds. Take Bobs Worth as an example. He was 5/2 for the Gold Cup before disappointing in the Betfair Chase last weekend. He's now 5/1. Has his chance halved as a result of that seasonal setback? Well, time will tell of course, but to my eye he has so many more positive runs to that one negative effort.

And, here's where the concession thing comes in, if he runs poorly again he might not even go for the Gold Cup. So, backing him at top price with a bookmaker offering non-runner free bet, feels like a smart thing to do. My entire Cheltenham ante-post portfolio so far - which is only about six or seven bets - has been struck with BetVictor, with no bet bigger than the £50 limit on that free bet concession.

Why would I bet anywhere else if they're matching the top price? To do so shows at best a lack of value acumen, and at worst, plain unfettered idiocy. 😉

The point: look beyond a bad run, especially if there's a probable reason for the bad run. Ground, trip, fitness, pace setup, missing the break, whatever. If a horse failed to get his normal luck in running - or ideal race conditions - last time, there's a good chance the market has under-estimated that horse's chance today, assuming race conditions are more in its favour this time.

[Post script: Bobs Worth didn't win the Gold Cup, but he was sent off the 6/4 favourite. 5/1? About a 6/4 shot? Any and every day, please.]

Here's another shortcut to finding value

Check the bookmaker concessions. Check the best odds available. And be sure to bet at the best odds available, and the best concessions. For as long as you can before they close you down.

I've got a good few winning accounts, and a few losing accounts. For whatever reason, I've only got one restricted account. [Update: I've got several more restricted accounts now]

If you don't currently have an account with the firm offering the best price, open an account with them. Here are three reasons why:

1. You'll get the best odds on your fancy today

2. They'll almost certainly give you some free bet bait to sign up (always great when you were going to sign up anyway)

3. Next time they're top price, you won't have to faff about.

And here's a third shortcut to finding value (lesser known)

Look out for tote rollovers. In Britain, these tend to be the exclusive preserve of the relatively high ticket bets, the totejackpot and the Scoop6. But in Ireland, there are frequent rollovers for their jackpot (which consists of just four legs), Pick 6 (which often features a couple of 'gimme' races), and trifecta, which is always on race six, even when that's a seven horse National Hunt Flat race!

There was nothing especially clever in the below winning bets, except that I was smart enough to know that the rollover meant I was getting value:

Tote value, across the Irish Sea

Tote value, across the Irish Sea

A couple of things to note on there.

Firstly, that €120 Pick 6. I would never normally play that Pick 6, because I consider it too hard. But the first race featured a 1/5 shot, which duly won. And the fourth race featured Hurricane Fly - at 1/16! - who scraped home.

Not only that, but Ruby Walsh rode the first FIVE of those six winners, and none was outside of the first two in the betting.

Leg six was a big handicap, which is why I took plenty of bullets (ten). It was won by a 10/1 shot.

The dividend for this most easy of six race accumulators was €648.20. The cumulative odds were just 311/1. More than double the odds. Thank you rollover.

And what about that jackpot there? That was nice, eh? €72 staked and €1,786.80 returned.

Listowel's Harvest meeting, and just races three to six to solve. Aidan O'Brien's 5/1 third choice wins the opening leg; the 9/2 favourite wins leg two, a handicap; Johnny Murtagh trains and rides the 10/1 winner of the penultimate leg; and, clear form pick, Hidden Cyclone takes the final leg at odds of 2/1.

Cumulative odds of 1,088/1, pay out at 1,785.8/1. That time it was due to a jackpot guarantee for the festival meeting.

The image is unedited - those are all of the Irish tote bets I've had since 20th September. (Spot the action bets!)

Be aware of when and where the rollovers are. And if you don't have an Irish tote account, get one!

Key Principle #3: "Let The Bet Make You"

There's an American bloke called Michael Pizzola. He writes about racing, and he lives in Las Vegas, and he lounges in the racebooks (betting shops) there. He writes very, very articulate and compelling books, and some of his core ideas are generic. One I really like is his strap line, "Let The Bet Make You".

What he means is simply that if you don't fancy something in a race, don't have a bet. You don't have to bet. You won't stop breathing if you don't bet. Most days, you won't even have to wait more than ten minutes for another wagering opportunity.

If you really must have a bet when you don't have an opinion, make it a very small bet. When it wins, you can buy a cup of tea and a sticky bun. When it loses, you won't kick yourself too hard.

That's the thing about discipline: it doesn't need to be a straightjacket. It's your leisure pound, and you can spend it as freely as you choose. But once it's spent, it's spent. Unless you backed a winner. Bet more when you have more of a view. But never bet too much.

Key Principle #4: Contrast is Key

Have you seen the Instant Expert reports on this site? You know, the traffic light thingies, with loads of numbers on them. The idea is that they'll help you see, at a glance, horses in a race which are suited by today's going, class, course, distance and field size, and that may be handicapped to win.

The amber and red box outlines are deliberately similar colours, in order to accentuate the dark green boxes which symbolize a positive profile.

The ideal situation is a horse which has a line of dark green in a race where very little else can offer much, if any, of that verdant hue. Here's an example from the day I wrote this post:

Spot the well treated horse...

Spot the well treated horse...

Although Seebright had no form in today's class (normally a key consideration for me), he was strong in all other departments, and within sniffing distance of his last winning mark.

Moreover, his last winning mark was last time out, implying that he's still progressive. And, furthermore, and materially in this race, none of his rivals had previously shown any alacrity in this grade before.

Seebright won at 7/4. I had £20 on him at 9/4 with a Best Odds Guaranteed bookmaker. He was favourite. I backed the favourite. At half a point bigger than his SP, it was a value bet, irrespective of the outcome.

But, despite knowing that Seebright had won his only previous start after a layoff, I didn't especially fancy him - or anything else - this day, and so I bet accordingly. It was, in truth, an interest bet.

My only other bet that day was a £20 double with Seebright and Neptune Equester. The latter was second, albeit beaten half the track. An interest bet loser. No major damage inflicted.

Other days are, obviously, further from the payout window.

Summary

The point of this piece was not to gloat (especially) about winning at betting. After all, there are plenty of people out there with far more to gloat about than me. Rather, what I've tried to outline is a vague blueprint for profitable and enjoyable betting.

Profitable and enjoyable betting.

Those are the cornerstones of what geegeez is about, and it's testament to the approach that our three daily tipping features - Stat of the Day, Double Dutch and The Shortlist - have been profitable to follow since inception.

They all use best odds guaranteed bookmaker offers, and none would be profitable without them (except the top-rated The Shortlist selections - read about their amazing profitability here). The same is true of Tom Segal's excellent Pricewise column. The same is true of Hugh Taylor's excellent value pieces on the ATR site. Higher profile they may be, but the principle is alive and well all over the place, if you care to look, and to act.

Finally, here's the summary of my betting activities, based on a sanitized download of my bank statement (i.e. I removed the occasional non-betting bank transaction - you know, like the mortgage, and the electricity bill).

Betting P&L 2013

Betting P&L 2013

There may be some who don't believe this account to be true, and frankly I've long since grown tired of the bitches and the trolls that hide behind their screens in cyberspace, so I won't be saying anything further than that I can assure you this is the full and complete record of my wagering deposits and withdrawals...

...except that it doesn't include things like the €344 I have in my Irish tote account, or the £700 of unsettled bets I have running on. 😉

Good luck with your betting. First and foremost, enjoy it. And if you've any tips for readers on how to improve their own bottom line or fun factor, leave a comment below, and share your investment advice!

Matt

p.s. Want to know more about Instant Expert? Take a look at this page.