Monday Musings: Value in Markets

Where to find value...

Where to find value…

Horse racing punters as a group have a legacy obsession with winners.

Boom! go the twitter fools as a 6/4 hound scrapes home. Oi oi! goes ‘Desperate Dan’ when even money obliges.

But these are the whoops and hollers of serial losers. Why? Because they’re stuck in the past, playing the old game. The winners game.

Players of the winners game try to find the answer in every race. They look for the most likely result. By doing so, they stay close enough to parity without having any chance of winning. After all, as I’m increasingly fond of saying, any fool can back 30% winners. (Just bet the favourite). The question is, do you want winners? Or profit?

For those who want profit, they play a different game from the winners game. They play the value game.

Let me first say that either (or both) of those individual wagers at 6/4 or evens above could have been tremendous value bets, because value is not a price. Rather, as most of you know, it is a situation. Specifically, it is a situation when the true odds of something happening are shorter than the odds available with one of more betting outlets (be that exchange, bookmaker, tote, whatever).

There are two ways to find value: the hard way and the easy way.

The hard way – and lots of ‘real punters’ (ahem) will tell you this is the only way – is to scour the form book, watch video replays, study pace maps, profile races, and so on. This will work. If you have the time, experience and patience for it. Personally, I have the experience and patience and, when time permits, I absolutely love scouring through a race to sniff out the value.

A very recent example was last Friday when I combed through the form for the Betbright Chase at Kempton. I spied a horse with poor recent form – and excuses for it – reverting back to optimal conditions. The horse was 12/1 with Ladbrokes, and 10/1 with Betbright, the race sponsors.

But the kicker was that Betbright were, again as many of you know, offering double the odds on the winner of the race. And that, my friends, is the easy way to find value. When bookmakers offer daft concessions (actually, they’re not daft, they’re called ‘loss leaders’: offers to get you to place a bet with them in the hope that some time in the future you’ll place further wagers; much the same as the supermarkets with their headline offers), we should take advantage if we can.

Because, unlike the supermarkets, where their ’20p for a tin of beans’ offer is designed to get you in to do a weekly shop, we can ‘buy’ (or bet) a single item, and do the rest of our ‘shopping’ (or betting) at other shops where the value – or price – is best. Make sense? Good.

Friday’s was a situation where both the hard and easy value angles harmonized: we could back a potential ‘live one’ at 12/1, with – as I said in my email Friday afternoon – the belief it would shorten significantly, and we could back it at 20/1! (Betbright were ‘only’ offering 10/1 Tour Des Champs, the horse in question, but that would double to 20/1 if it won).

Tour Des Champs was sent off the 9/2 favourite in the race. Those who took advantage of the Betbright new customer offer backed him at 20/1 for the win part of their bets. He finished a two length third and ran a blinder.

If you’re playing the winners game, you’d have been kicking the dog, blaming the jockey, cursing the gods, or otherwise finding a reason for this apparent reversal. If you’re in the value game, you’d have sighed contentedly – though with mild disappointment – that you had made a fantastic bet, and were right about both the form value of 10/1, and the market value of 20/1 on a horse sent off at 9/2.


The easy way to find value is in the markets or, to be precise, in market places. The standout best offer of the past weekend was double odds your fancy, and that was amplified by the truncation in price of the horse many of you backed.

It doesn’t matter that the horse lost. I’ll say that again: it doesn’t matter that the horse lost.

Here’s why.

The starting price betting market is by far the most accurate barometer of a horse’s true chance of winning a race. By the time a race goes off, all of the opinions have been expressed – in the form of number of bets and, much more importantly, volume of cash – and this translates into the starting prices.

The early prices can be, and usually are, very different in part to the starting prices. And many bookmakers offer best odds guaranteed, meaning you’ll get the better of the early price and starting price. This is the single greatest everyday concession available in racing and, if you’re not currently using it as standard, I’ afraid you’re probably a mug punter.

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(The exceptions to that rule are 1. when you’re not allowed to get on at BOG because you’ve already had your value from it, and 2. when you can get a better price with a non-BOG bookie or betfair, and are certain the horse will shorten).

If you consistently get a better price on your bets than the starting price, you will win long-term. It is impossible not to. Let me illustrate that with a little table:

Favourite performance by odds (2008+)

Favourite performance by odds (2008+)

The main columns of interest here are odds and strike rate. Let’s start with ‘evens’. We know that if we have a strike rate of 50% backing even money shots, we’ll come out level. We can see that backing even money shots since 2008 had an actual strike rate of 47.64%, which is pretty close to 50%.

But what if we actually backed our even money shots at an average of 11/10? We’d then need a strike rate of 47.61% to break even. So, if we could consistently back even money horses at an average of 11/10, we’d finish in front… just! Still with me?

(Real life strike rate of even money shots was 47.64%, true odds strike rate of 11/10 shots is 47.61%, meaning a hypothetical profit of 0.03%)

Now let’s look at 2/1 shots. We know that a true odds 2/1 chance should win 33.33% of the time. 2/1 shots actually won 29.5% of the time, meaning we’d need to back them at an average of somewhere between 9/4 and 5/2 to turn a profit.

With a keen eye for value, we can do this. Stat of the Day is a brilliant example of a value betting service. It consistently beats the market and, when the winners hit, they are enough to pay for the losers and leave some jam on our wagering bread. That service is 155.29 points up since we started in November 2011. From just one bet a day. (ROI 20.46%, strike rate 28.85%)

Those are phenomenal numbers, and the fact that it’s been a free service since inception means if you’ve been paying for services and not using this, well, you know…

Finding value in markets (or market places) is not difficult. If you’re not a form judge, the easy way is to look for those loss leader concessions. The most obvious is Best Odds Guaranteed, which is available every day.

Another is racebets’ raft of  insurance measures (if you’re sure your horse will not drift in the betting). They offer first fence faller insurance; beaten by a nose insurance; refuses to race insurance; and, first past the post insurance. Now, you might only suffer from these eventualities once a month, but that could be the difference between winning and losing. At the very least, it will put you closer to parity.

What about bet365’s 4/1 free bet offer? bet365 will give you a free bet to the same stake if you back a 4/1 or bigger winner in certain races. If you fancy one in those races (all Channel 4 races, and at least one feature race a day – today’s are 2.20 and 3.50 Musselburgh), and it’s bigger than 4/1 then why wouldn’t you bet with bet365, all other things being equal? (They’re also best odds guaranteed)

These are everyday offers which you really ought to be keeping in mind.

Other examples of ‘no brainer’ offers I’ve highlighted recently were Big Buck’s at 6/4. He got beaten but was sent off at 6/5, meaning we were getting 0.3 points more if he won. Or what about the Hurricane Fly offer? I’m sorry to those involved, but I had to laugh when I read in the comments how some people wouldn’t touch that bet.

I’m afraid it’s just ignorance, even after the exact rationale for making the bet (i.e. VALUE) has been outlined. Hurricane Fly was being offered at 3/1 for new customers to Paddy Power. He was sent off at 4/7! It simply doesn’t matter whether you like him for the race or not, and whether he won or not (he did win), because the point is this is preposterous value for no effort.

Put it like this, there are plenty of fancied horses for Cheltenham races that I’m not that keen on. But there isn’t a single runner in any race where I wouldn’t back them at a certain price. If you don’t already, you need to start seeing the wagering world like this.

If you are struggling to grasp this concept, I’d seriously suggest you re-read this post and/or ask questions in the comments. Because this is really, REALLY important. The new game in town is value. The people who are winning are value judges. The people whose money they are winning are ‘winner merchants’. In which group do you want to be?

Here’s one more example. Regular readers, especially regular Monday readers, will know of my deep affection (borne out of pleasure and profit) for the Irish tote. The Irish tote run two ‘players’ bets’ – the Jackpot and the Pick 6. The jackpot is a four leg bet where players are asked to find the winners of races three to six. The Pick 6 bolts on races one and two and requests the winners of the full sextet of races.

For UK punters, this sounds hard. But, let me tell you, it’s really not. As recently as last Sunday, I scooped the Pick 6. Yes, I picked six straight winners. What a judge I am! Well, actually, no. I didn’t need to be Einstein’s racing-mad brother to choose the five favourites and one second favourite that comprised the right answers to this particularly simple punting examination.

Those six winners paid €619.20. I had that dividend twice, from a €56 total spend. See below. The SP accumulator came to roughly half those odds!


That’s the fifth time since last September I’ve won the Pick 6, from eleven attempts. A couple have been quite clever plays, granted, but more have been ‘top of the market’ efforts.

So, how does a bet like this represent value? It does it in one – or both – of two ways.

Firstly, the Irish tote guarantee their pools. Yesterday’s pool, for instance, was a guaranteed €25,000. From that gross pool, they deduct 30%, meaning the net pool was €17,500. The actual amount bet into yesterday’s Pick 6 pool was less than the guaranteed amount at just over €20,000.

The SP’s of the six winners were 5/1, 7/4F, 2/13F, 7/1, 4/1 and 2/1F. The dividend paid €5,833.30. The SP accumulator paid 2,283/1. Not the easiest to catch, but far from the hardest. And the dividend was two and a half times the SP acc’a.

And secondly, there are very often rollovers. A rollover is when the last time the bet was offered, it was not won. The amount bet that day (or those days when it’s not been won over a series of days) is the starting fund for the new day’s Pick 6. In other words, there is a free money in the pool.

The example pictured above had over €20,000 carried forward – or rolled over – into a pool which was eventually €45,000. In other words, almost half the money in the pot was free money. No surprise then that such an easily achievable (five jollies and a second fav) dividend paid twice the SP.

My point is that not only is this a winnable bet, it’s also one loaded with value. For now. I suspect that it won’t be long before the shrewdies (finally) cotton on to this. To be frank, I’m amazed they haven’t already.

The key takeaway here – and I make zero apology for labouring it – is that if you see bargains and ignore them, you’ve got too much money but won’t have for long. It’s daft to give money away. Don’t be daft!!! 😉


As those of you still awake will know, it’s now just two weeks until the Cheltenham jamboree – pronounced jamm-boh-reee for effect – and we are about to be deluged by a tsunami of market place value from those generous bookie types.

Here’s how it works: in the days running up to Cheltenham, bookies are killing each other to get you to load up your account with them. They are offering money back this, free bet that, enhanced odds the other. We MUST capitalize. We WILL capitalize. I’ll do my best to surf the tidal wave of concessions and report back on the best of the best.

On the first day of Cheltenham, it will be free-bet-o-rama, and again we need to cash in.

On the second day of Cheltenham, there will be a few tasty offers still knocking about.

On the third day of Cheltenham, there might be one or two fair offers between the lot of ’em.

On the fourth day of Cheltenham, you’ll be lucky to get a free pen to write out a betting slip.

Management summary: ALL of the goodness from bookies happens between now and day two of the Festival. Be ready to take advantage!

That’s all for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with some important geegeez news, so stay tuned for that.


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