Value Betting – The Definitive Guide

Value betting TheTrader's guide
Harry TheTrader 4 minutes

In this article we’re going to look at the concept of value betting; what does value mean?

What is a value bet?

How do you go about finding value bets?

Should you be looking for value bets?

Let’s get started!

Chapter 1

What is value?

What is value?

One of the first things to look at is what it is that bookmakers and betting operators do.

Everybody knows what they do, I hear you say. “that’s easy, they take bets on sporting events”.

This is true, though it’s important to consider how the bookmaker makes a continuous profit.

Essentially, bookmakers make their money by building a margin into their odds. 

For example, let’s say in a two-horse race, the bookmaker decides that one of the horses has a 50% chance of winning.

If the horse’s odds accurately reflected his chance of winning, they would be evens or 2.00, but the bookmaker would price at 10/11 (1.91) or shorter.

This is done to ensure a margin is taken.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the bookmaker makes a handsome profit by doing this a thousand times over, day in, day out. 

For most people, betting decisions are either made randomly, or they are made based on predictions.

For example, a bettor will decide to bet on Team A to beat Team B in a football match because, based on their knowledge of the two teams, they predict that Team A will win.

In this instance, the bettor is not concerned with the price.

Conversely, for the value bettor, price is everything. 

So, what is the value?

A bettor obtains value when they place a bet at odds greater than they should be. A bet where the odds are not greater than they should be is a bet that does not represent value.

Some people prefer to split the value into subcategories of good value and bad value, sometimes known as a positive and negative value.

A bet that has odds greater than it should be is a bet that represents good or positive value, whereas a bet that has odds lower than they should be is a bet that represents bad or negative value. 

At first, this can seem slightly confusing.

Think of it like this. We all look for value when spending money in everyday life, right?

Mostly, we want to get more for our money when shopping for food, or clothes or whatever it may be.

Imagine you were buying a house, you’ve seen the house you want, you know that the market value is £200,000, but the buyer wants a quick sale and agrees to sell the property for £190,000. You’ve bought a house for £10,000 less than it’s worth, therefore, you’ve received value for the money. 

The exact same principle can be applied to betting.

When searching for a bet, you want to get odds that are greater than they should be.

It’s the same process but just reversed.

Whereas you want to purchase a house, a car, a holiday, or a new pair of jeans for less than the price should be, you want to bet on something at odds higher than it should be.

Chapter 2

What does a value bet look like?

What does a value bet look like?

It’s one thing to understand the concept of value, but you still need to know what a value bet looks like. As with most things, this is best illustrated by an example.

Imagine you’re offered a bet in a race between greyhounds.

Let’s assume that each of the dogs has the same level of ability, everything about them is identical. Greyhound A and Greyhound B.

Therefore, each dog has a 50% chance of winning the race. If we translate a 50% chance into betting odds we get evens, 2.00 or +100 depending on the odds format used.

However, imagine a somewhat generous individual offered you odds of 2.1 (11/10, +110) on Greyhound B.

Would you take it?

A value bettor would, and they would do so because they’d place a bet that represents positive value, a bet that if repeated enough times, would yield profit.

You may lose initially, you may even lose in the mid-term, but as the greyhounds race more and more, the number of victories that each achieve starts to level out.

If you continued to bet that the heads, at odds of 11/10, over and over, thousands and thousands of times, you would eventually start to profit, and you would do as a direct result of receiving odds that are greater than the true odds.

Betting on either greyhound at odds greater than evens is an example of a bet that represents good or positive value.

You could also think of coin toss.

There’s an even-money chance that the coin will land on either side, but if somebody offered you odds of 2.1 on one coin landing on one side, you’d be getting value.

Like the dogs racing, you may not win the first time, you might lose several times, but the odds are weighted in your favour, so repeat the bet over time and you’re going to do well.

Chapter 3

What does a bet that represents negative value look like?

What does a bet that represents negative value look like?

We’ve looked at an example that shows us obtaining good value, which is often referred to as just value. Now let’s look at an example of a bet that represents bad value or simply offers no value. 

Think of a roulette wheel. There are 36 numbers, 18 of which are black, 18 of which are red.

In a standard game of roulette, you can bet that the next number will be black or red at evens (2.00), which is a fair bet, right?

Wrong. A roulette wheel not only consists of numbers 1 to 36.

It also contains a zero, which is neither red nor black.

Therefore, there is a slightly less than 50% chance that the ball will land on either a red or black number, meaning that odds of even-money represent bad value because such odds imply that there is a 50/50 chance of the ball landing on a black or red number, but we know this isn’t true. 

By betting on red or black, you are accepting a bet on something that has less chance of occurring than the odds offered to suggest.

This is how the casino ensures that they always profit over the long term. It’s very much the equivalent of the bookmaker’s margin.

Betting on either black or red at odds of evens is an example of a bet that represents bad or negative value.

Chapter 4

Value in sports betting

Value in sports betting

Above we’ve seen a couple of stone-cold examples where value clearly exists, but how do we identify value when it comes to sports betting markets.

Well, this is less of exact science, and approaches vary.

At this point, it’s important to understand that when it comes to sports betting, value is perceptive. One bettor may deem a certain bet to represent value, while another may disagree. 

Some bettors build their own statistical models, models that take lots of variables and data into consideration before showing what odds a certain selection should be.

Such bettors can compare their own modeled odds with those on offer at a variety of bookmakers and then bet when a value exists.

Some bettors do this manually, considering lots of factors before deeming that a certain selection should be a certain price. They too will compare their own odds with those of the bookmakers and bet when there is a difference in their favour. 

To identify value, one way or another, punters need to form their own odds. Without having an opinion about what price a bet should be, you will be unable to decipher whether the odds offered by the bookmaker represent value or not.

To do this it is important to understand that betting odds are just an expression of a percentage. Become comfortable at translating odds, whether they be fractional or decimal, into a percentage.

Then use this knowledge to price up an event to 100%. An example of an event priced up to 100% is as follows: 

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Team A – EVENS (50%) Draw – 2/1 (33.33%) Team B – 5/1 (16.66%)

Fortunately, the hard work can be done for you at times. There are websites and services out there that devise win probabilities. For example, a service that provides win probabilities, expressed as a percentage, ahead of a selection of football matches.

Punters can then take these percentages, convert them into betting odds, compare the market odds and bet accordingly if a value exists. 

Another way of identifying value is to look for errors in pricing.

This time let’s use tennis as an example. It is not uncommon for odds to be changing ahead of an event.

The market will continually react to both supply and demand, as well as news.

Let’s say that in the build-up to a big tennis match, news breaks that the player who is currently an 8/11 (1.72) favourite has sustained a minor injury.

The market reacts and the other player quickly becomes the 8/11 favourite.

However, one bookmaker has been slow to react and still has the new favourite priced at odds of 5/4 (2.25).

Betting at these odds would be the smart move, as you’d be getting higher odds than the implied probability set by all the other betting operators.

Yes, the player who picked up a minor injury could still go on to be successful in the match, but if you’ve taken the value, something which is repeated over and over inevitably leads to profit. 

In today’s ever-evolving digital world, there’s no shortage of software available that can alert punters to bookmaker mistakes such as the one above.

The software does the hard work by scanning the odds at hundreds of betting providers and sends an alert whenever the opportunity to exploit a mistake in pricing arises.

Chapter 5

What should you avoid?

What should you avoid?

When it comes to value betting, there are a few things to avoid, or at the very least be wary of when setting out on your journey to become a value bettor.

The first thing to avoid is worrying about predicting the outcome of an event. You need to be mindful of the fact that value betting is all about price.

As a value bettor, you’re not concerned with predicting what will happen, only betting on something that you believe is more likely to happen than the available odds suggest. 

In the beginning, you may want to ease your way in, perhaps you’re following somebody else who has a profitable record of identifying value bets. There is nothing wrong with doing this, though you need to be careful not to fall into the trap of focusing on the selection itself.

The focus needs to be on price. If a tipster recommends a value bet at a certain price, then you should only bet at that price. It’s not uncommon for tipsters, especially if they’re popular or are betting on an event that isn’t hugely mainstream, to recommend a bet, only for the odds to fall after their followers have clambered over each other to get in on the action.

If you’re not able to get on at the recommended value odds, then you should avoid placing a bet. Your concern is striking at the right moment, getting the right price/odds, not whether the bet wins or loses. 

If you are new to betting according to value or are about to embark on a journey as a value bettor, then there are other considerations to be made too. Firstly, you should ask yourself what you want from betting. And be honest about it.

Are you looking for quick profits?

Are you looking to bet now and then, just for fun, without putting much effort in? Or are you looking to grind out a small profit over the long term?

It’s important to decide on your goal. If you’re not looking to adopt a serious approach, then value betting has little to offer.

Searching for and exploiting value probably isn’t the right fit if what you want is a quick fix, as it is certainly no shortcut to success.

Chapter 6

What do value bettors do?

What do value bettors do?

We know what value is, we know what a value bet looks like, and we’ve gone over how value bettors might go about identifying betting opportunities that represent value, but what else does a value bettor do?

Those capable of identifying and exploiting value bets consistently are looking to make a steady profit in the long term. They’re not concerned about winning every day, every week, or even every month.

Value bettors do not rely on their ability to predict outcomes, they aim to beat the market on a regular basis and achieve a small percentage of profit over time. 

Aside from the basic principles that must be adhered to, here are some other things that value bettors do. 

Specialise

Any serious bettor will specialise, as in they’ll focus on a certain area.

There is simply too much action to get involved in everything, so the value bettor locks onto something specific.

For example, if your strong sport is football/soccer, you may choose to specialise in a certain league, say France’s Ligue 2. Know the teams in that league, know the players, keep tabs on as much as possible, collate as much data on the division as you can. 

It’s also a good idea to narrow things down even further and specialise when it comes to markets too. An example is only betting on ‘Asian Handicap’ markets in your chosen league. Stay on top of everything related to your chosen market.

Price up events

As mentioned earlier in this article, to identify value, value bettors form their own odds, which they then use in comparison with those offered by betting operators.

If you’re serious about getting to grips with value betting, then it is essential to price up events for yourself.

Best odds

Value bettors take the best odds available. Even if you’re able to bet at a price that you deem to represent value, you want to get the best odds available.

Use comparison sites to do this. Think of it like this. You want to buy a new pair of shoes.

You know the sort of shoes you’re looking for, and you know that they generally cost £40. You see the shoes in the first shop you enter, they’re available at £40. You could buy them, but you know there are several other retailers nearby, so you decide to check them out.

One of those retailers sells the shoes for £35. By shopping around, you’ve saved £5. The same principle should be applied to betting. 

Record bets

Keep track of what you’re doing. Record everything.

By recording everything, including event, bet type, odds, stake, outcome, and profit/loss, you will be able to gain a clear picture of your performance.

Over time, this should help you to assess whether things are going well or not and whether you need to fine-tune things a little.

Chapter 7

What do value bettors do?

What do value bettors do?

In conclusion, value betting, which is the practice of obtaining odds greater than the bettor believes they should be, is ideal for those bettors who’re willing to put the work in.

It isn’t for everybody.

Some punters want the quick thrill, some just want to predict the outcome of an event and go for it. Such approaches are fine if you’re happy to walk away as a loser in the long run. 

However, if you’re somebody that is serious about being a profitable bettor, then value betting is the way to go.

By seeking out the value and only betting when a perceived value exists, bettors give themselves the best possible chance of long-term success.

Those who simply rely on predictions and discard the importance of value may enjoy fruitful days, weeks, or even months, but luck always runs out, and if you’re consistently accepting poor odds, losing is the only option. 

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