Betting Exchange Advice
Don't be a cliff-jumper This is someone who watches the market, sees something shorten and jumps in at the lowest point in the belief that everyone else must be right. I'm sure temptation to do this exists in almost everyone. Humans are essentially pack animals and you can see evidence of this in everyday life. At Waterloo rail station, for instance, there are a couple of down escalators side by side. Yet rarely, if ever, do anything like the same number of people travel on each one at the same time. The first person (the Alpha male, as David Attenborough would call him) on is usually followed by the second and so on and usually one escalator will be three times as busy as the other (yes, I've watched it happen and yes, I am that sad).
It is a safety-in-numbers mentality that is bred into all of us and it manifests itself in the world of punting all the time.
The advantages of travelling on a less busy escalator are a more comfortable ride and an easier walk, the advantage of opposing the majority view on Betfair is a value bet. Swim against the tide and you will make money in the long run.
One of the best examples of the cliff-jumping mentality is in markets on who will be a football club's next manager. Such markets don't show tabloid newspapers in a great light but do give an indication of how people are prepared to believe anything they read.
Tabloids love to give you an exclusive and are quite prepared to present even the flimsiest rumour as the truth, especially if there is no chance of them getting sued for doing so.
The 2003-04 Tottenham manager market featured no fewer than five different odds-on favourites (not to mention Chris Hughton at 11-10), all influenced by what people read in the papers and all wide of the mark until Jacques Santini finally got the post. Start a rumour and you quickly provide the environment for the cliff-jumper to make his leap. Somewhere out there is a punter who was lulled into placing £10 at evens on Terry Venables to get the Leeds job in 2003. A few hours later El Tel was more than 100-1.
Don't overreact In desperation to back a winner, the mug can take some truly horrendous prices by overreacting, whether it is to an item of pre-event news, a goal, a putt or whatever.
This happens all the time and to prove it here are just a couple of examples from Euro 2004.
As Roonmania was taking Portugal by storm, many mug punters were taking leave of their senses. Immediately after Rooney scored his second goal (giving him four in total) against Croatia in England's final group match punters rushed to back him at evens to be the tournament's top scorer. Those taking the price probably did so in the belief that the person offering it was not watching the action.
But the opposite was almost certainly true. The person offering evens knew exactly what was going on and was sure that someone would fall into his trap. He put up an artificially short price knowing that someone would take it in the belief that they were availing themselves of a price that nobody else would have access to. They were right in the sense that nobody else would access the price but only because it was so short. By the following morning, the market had calmed down, reached its correct level and Rooney was back out to 7-2.
In the same tournament more than £20,000 had been matched at evens or shorter on the tournament producing fewer than 75 goals.
The initial trading price in a market of four possibilities (fewer than 75, 75-80, 81-85, more than 85) was 2-1 and by quarter-final time it was 150-1.
And after Greece shocked Portugal in the opening match of the tournament (as they would in the final itself), Otto Rehhagel's men were backed at 2.14 to beat Spain in their next match. They were back out to 6.2 by the time that game kicked off. So while the advice in this section is not to overreact, it must also be to look to take advantage of people who do overreact.
Beware the good thing I once passed on a tip for a horse to a friend, who had a tenner on it at 8-1. "Thanks for that," he said after it had bolted up. "If it had been 6-4 I'd have had £100 on."
I was astounded by his reaction, but the truth is that a large group of punters consider favourites to have a divine right to win. The betting shop mug does not stop to consider that a 6-4 favourite is actually odds-on to lose.
It took me a long time to realise that betting at odds-on is not necessarily a bad thing, but because something is a short price it doesn't mean you should step in without weighing up all the possibilities.
At the end of 2002, Betfair provided a list of all the events in which at least one contender had traded at 1.01 (1-100) in a particular three-month spell. Basically, they gave details of virtually every market that they trade in-running (or turn in-play, as they say) as at the end of any event the winner is almost always backed at 1.01.
However, so are many losers. And after totting up almost £40m worth of bets, it was found that backers at 1.01 were actually down to the tune of £350,000. Most of us find it hard to believe that people could be so stupid as to back a 1-100 loser, but it happens on a frequent basis for the simple reason that the vast majority of punters have no idea about true market value.
Greed also plays a part in in-running trading. There is a clamour to get on as an event nears its climax which often results in a price shortening up prematurely. I am pretty sure there are some punters who make a decent living purely from betting at long odds-on, but to do so you need an extraordinary strike rate. It is certainly not for the novice exchange punter.
Don't be afraid to be unrealistic Because the market is rarely static, the price you are originally offered may not be the best you can get and purely by asking for something bigger and monitoring the situation you can squeeze out that extra bit of value.
All unmatched bets are cancelled before a market is turned in-play anyway, so you are not doing yourself any harm by leaving it until the last second, unless your selection is being heavily supported beforehand and you miss a price you probably would have considered acceptable had you not opted to go for even bigger riches. It is a question of judgement.
The next tactic will appeal only to bigger punters, but if you want to ask for an unrealistic price you can set a trap for telephone punters by requesting bets in units of £50.
Unlike online players who can bet as little as £2, phone punters are restricted to a minimum bet of £50. Strange as it may seem, a telephone punter can lay £100 at 1.01 for a potential loss of £1 but can't lay £20 at 5-1 for the potential loss of £100. He or she has to lay a minimum of £50.
Telephone punters are far from stupid, but they have to make a decision on the spot because a Betfair phone operator is not going to sit and provide a running commentary on the state of the market until such time that his client sees fit to place a bet. They are, therefore, more likely to be forced into rash choices. But if only £20 is up there, your bet can't be taken by them.
Don't trust your TV When you are sitting on your couch at home watching a football match or a golf tournament, you are probably under the impression that what you are viewing is live. It is not. All transmissions are subject to some time delay.
When you are talking about a matter of a couple of seconds the difference is irrelevant, but if it is more than that there is a chance that someone is in a position to know more than you.
It should be well known by now to horse-racing punters that some cable TV is behind digital TV, which is behind SIS, which is in turn behind terrestrial analogue coverage. My own calculation of the difference from cable to analogue in 2002 was five seconds - that's about 100 yards in a race.
In other sports there can also be people in a position to know more than you. The best example is golf. It is pretty obvious that a lot of the coverage you see cannot be live as at any one time there are at least two groups of people on any one hole (except par-threes). And that doesn't take into account the frequent ad breaks.
In America there is quite often a delay and many people have been taking advantage of the PGA Tour's Tourcast service, which gives real-time positions of everyone on the course right down to the details of what lie an individual has in the rough or the exact distance of a putt.
Tourcast is not easy for everyone to subscribe to because payment is only accepted from a credit card registered to an American address, but having used the service I can vouch for the fact that it is often, but not always, well ahead of both the PGA Tour's regular website and the TV.
With a bit of lateral thinking, you can get by perfectly well without Tourcast. All you have to do is watch the market. When there is a significant shortening in price before you see any pictures, you can be sure that Tourcast punters are getting on. So what do you do now?
You certainly don't become a cliff-jumper and follow the money in. Instead, offer to lay at an even shorter price than is now available because when that putt hits your TV screens there will be a second wave of punters itching to get on. Moments later the market will settle and you will be in a position to lock in a profit.
Keep an eye on all related markets You may be sitting in front of your TV trading a football match without realising that value can lie elsewhere once a goal is scored. Tournament betting provides good illustrations of this, as Euro 2004 showed.
Remember, when a goal is scored, in-running 90-minute match betting is suspended, but outright markets are not. A classic example came in the final batch of group D matches in Portugal, with Holland needing to beat Latvia and then hope that Germany failed to defeat the already-qualified Czechs.
The Germans took the lead, at which point Holland were backed at 80 outright, while Ruud van Nistelrooy touched 100 for the Golden Boot. The Czechs turned it around, though, van Nistelrooy bagged a brace against Latvia and by the end of the night you could have laid the Dutch at 6 and van Nistelrooy at 1.8, even though, of course, neither won.