Ok, another one of those BV rants… you might want to grab a coffee and make yourself comfortable as this is a fairly lengthy article… this time on value betting and what it means to me specifically.
I say specifically me because everyone has a different interpretation of what constitutes a value bet, so I relate this to me and my own personal experiences and understanding of the subject. If it is at odds with your interpretation that is okay, this is just my take on the subject and definitely one that is open to debate so nothing is hard and fast here.
Firstly, value is very subjective. It is the opinion of the punter whether a bet represents value, and to what degree. Some punters think that the notion of value is rubbish, a bet is a bet, and grab the odds at what the market offers will do, and I can appreciate that is the way they operate and certainly wouldn’t put anyone off that approach if it suits them. I use to bet that way myself so I do relate to that.
However, as I have progressed through the years I have come to appreciate that there may be a different way to make money from horse racing, a more value focused approach. I think this first came about by following Pricewise and Marten Julian for a long while early in my betting days. Pricewise epitomised value betting, and expounded the virtues of finding and betting horses at odds bigger than they should be, and I fast became a disciple of that approach and adopted it myself across all my betting.
In the early days I was very favourite focused, believe it or not. I felt the favourite was always the best horse in the race, and the market knew best, so I usually bet the shortie in a race and was just constantly disappointed when they were turned over by horses at bigger odds… which was a dilemma for me I just had to work through and find the solution to.
I think this is why Pricewise became so important to me. And Marten Julian also. I liked the concept of value, and I liked the notion of betting horses with unknown factors that could turn out to be anything at good odds. Marten Julian was a regular on William Hill radio back then and I followed him religiously… his website tips, his radio tips, everything. And at good odds, they won! Or they came very close to winning, so this is what got me thinking value. A sort of strange beginning really.
Unfortunately Marten Julian was producing too many winners and William Hill dropped him, which was unfortunate… however I did like his dark horses approach and even to this day I still look at his website and reminisce about the days when he was my hero – though I would never dream of paying for his tips, the prices he charges now is astronomical – but you get what you pay for and the guy is good.
So the BV journey into value seeking had begun! Pricewise was the guru of value betting to me, and I continued to follow him, study his analysis, read the book even that Racing Post printed about Pricewise, and just generally thought… this is the way forward. But the regularity of tips from Pricewise was such that I wanted more action, not just on Saturday and a couple through the week, hence my discovery and use of ratings.
I have already alluded to ratings, and how I use them. I started using www.infineform.com initially, formulated a plan, calculated my own odds from the little information I had from the ratings, and then used that to compare against the market. It was a very feeble beginning and I regularly got it wrong, but I also frequently started getting it right, and I found myself getting some good priced winners home in front, which encouraged me to pursuit this concept even further.
In fact, I was making so much money from horse racing back then at that point that I gave up the day job! I invested in Proform Professional and started to really get serious about the whole game. My home office was a mass of computers, television screens, and this wonderful new concept of betting exchanges had created a huge amount of opportunities to back horses at prices considerably bigger than they were on the bookie prices. The bookies hated it, but suddenly 5/1 shots that could be backed at 9’s on Betfair seemed pretty damn good to me and I had a good few years of profits backing as many as 3-4 in a race at decent odds and opposing short priced favourites by laying them as well. It was (and still is) a punters dream!
But as time progressed, the long hours involved, the constant stress of knowing you had to turn over a large number of bets to show a profit, the new phenomenon of Betfair Trading that was distorting the prices, and the general drudgery of it all made me want to take things to a different level again, and this was actually just last year that I pulled back from most of that stuff, choosing a more relaxed way of betting. I even stopped for a good period of time completely and focused on other projects, but I still had the idea of value betting in my blood and I wanted to try and find a way where I could take the pressure off having to bet so many horses, and instead focus on less horses but get better prices about them.
The plan to do this was towards the end of 2014. I started tipping up at Betting Tools early 2015 and it really served as an experiment. I still remember filling out the form on the BT website to become a tipster, the whole idea scared the hell out of me to be truthful. I had never done that before, but I knew I had to become value focused, and sort of model my betting on a Pricewise framework if I was to succeed – and Betting Tools provided the ideal platform for me to proof my tips and work on the concept and develop it further.
I still remember having to provide reasoning for a selection that had run recently, and the example was of a horse I had bet that day, but reasoning???? What on earth was that? I managed to make something up to justify why I had backed it, and it must have sounded good because Brian opened the doors and let me in… might have been the fact it won at around 10/1 I think that swayed it, I don’t know :).
I started putting together a number of bespoke data sources, building ratings, and generating tissue prices from there on. I started comparing the prices I had as a tissue price, with what was on offer in the market, and betting the ones that I felt were too big a price compared to the tissue. Sometimes this involved still having 2-3 in a race at decent odds running for me, but I had determined to use just small stakes and build up gradually from there. I didn’t want any big exposures, and this seemed like the ideal way to do it, small downside if they lose, big upside if they win, and it worked well. I remember doing something in the forum last year where we had Meebo at 33/1 win for us using something along these lines. It was a good result.
And this to me is the concept of value. When you can buy the chances of a horse at 10/1 that you believe should be closer to a 9/2, that represents value to me. Win or lose, if you have a sound set of ratings (both collateral form ratings and speed ratings), and you can generate a fairly good tissue price, then you have something to move forward with then, something to take into the market and use as the basis of comparison.
I love a good bargain! If I can buy the chances of a horse I rate at 4/1 for 10/1 then that to me is a bargain! Win or lose, the odds of a decent payout are in my favour. To some, if they can back a shortie at 2/1 that should be 5/4 then that is a bargain. The point is… if the market odds on offer are greater than the perceived chance in your mind, then it is a value bet. How you arrive at your conclusion is completely up to you, the ratings you use, the tissue prices, etc – they are all subjective, but if, in your mind, a horse should be a 9/2 shot, and the market says it’s a 10/1 shot, then take the market on!
But, before you do take the market on, make sure it is definitely a 9/2 shot in your own mind first. The market believes it is 10/1 for a reason, find that reason and then compare it to your own analysis to determine whether or not the market is placing too much emphasis on a negative, or too little on a positive.
Another aspect of value betting that I had to get used to, and found it really hard (even to this day I struggle with this sometimes) is selections running well but not winning. In the early days I was backing favourites a lot and they won a lot and I thought I was the dogs ears until I realised that despite them winning often I was losing money at the odds I was betting them at. I loved the thrill of having the winner, but hated the return I got from having found it, pittance!
So transforming myself from a shortie lover to a shortie hater was difficult to be honest. I wanted to back the shortie for the winning feeling it gave me, but I also wanted to oppose it because I knew that at the odds I could get a better return finding something to back against it.
It is a hard transition to make. And it’s one a lot of punters struggle with. I notice when I have a good win on the board I get new followers, which is great, but then a few losing tips and it’s ‘goodbye mate’ from a lot of them. They cannot handle losing… and certainly not for periods of time. Why should they have to handle it, it represents failure to a degree in most punters minds, and I fully understand that, I thought that way myself for a good period of time.
BUT, this is where it is important to realise that there is a difference between winning…. And winning BIG. The thrill of having a couple of quid on a winning 2/1 fav pales in comparison to having a couple of quid on a 50/1 shot! That I do know.
But the notion that you have to patiently wait for those 50/1 opportunities, back losers for a period of time before they surface even, is foreign to a lot of punters. They jump on-board AFTER the horse has bolted up, without realising that the next bolting up horse at 50/1 could be a way away – and they might have to suffer a lot of losers on the road to the next one. It’s harsh, but true, which is why I have gone to such great lengths to warn people off following me if they need regular winners – it’s nice to have regular winners, but I had a massive losing run for a long while back in March last year and dropped from +£803 profit to -£485 in the space of a couple of months without a big priced winner coming up – but with just 3-4 decent ones I got back up there again (and a few at midrange prices also).
Value betting is a risky proposition, which is why the potential upside is so huge when they pan out the way you anticipate they will. How many actual 2/1 shot favourites running for the bookie would it have taken to pull back that sort of a deficit? Well, in all honestly you wouldn’t live enough years to find out.
But how many 2/1 shots on the tissue, available to back at 33/1 or bigger would it take. Not many!
That’s the concept of value, looking for those 2/1 shots that are available to back at 40/1, and having the courage to punt them until you get a result. That’s a value bettor to me personally. It’s making yourself immune to losers, to preparing yourself to find winners at prices bigger than they should be, and having the guts to put faith in yourself as a punter to put money on those selections in the knowledge that they are running for you and not the bookie – that win or lose, that was a damn good bet feeling! And if you can say that after each bet, win or lose, you are a value bettor to me.
If you punted a horse that was 15/2 on your tissue price, and you could buy it at 9/1 in the market, and back it – only to see it come 2nd, hate the result, but know that it was a good bet and start looking for others like it, that is the value mind-set to me personally. I had that today with Top Offer, exactly that as quoted, and it was a disappointing result that it didn’t win, but you know what? It came 2nd… the market said it was 9/1 in the morning, and I said it was 15/2, was the market right or was I right. It would have won albeit for the heavily backed shortie in the race and horses that were a lot shorter in the betting were unplaced.
It’s about having faith in your judgement! Value betting is about grabbing an opportunity to profit at odds bigger than they should be, and having the guts to follow your instinct, win or lose. It’s about becoming immune to the losers and 2nd place getters, getting back to the stats, ratings, and form book, and finding the next value bet.
Which brings me to the next point. Not every 16/1 shot is a value bet. Not every 5/1 shot is a value bet, not every 50/1 shot is a value bet, they are only value if you can determine the odds they should be are considerably less than the odds they are at present.
More and more I am realising how important it is as a value bettor to have my own margin, a profit margin in a sense. I don’t always do it, but I am starting to think more and more that I should be. This process involves looking for a percentage over and above the tissue price. A bit like a retailer putting a mark-up on a product in effect. If a selection is 5/1 on the tissue then a 100% profit margin would make it 10/1 to buy.
This makes absolute sense and I must start using this more. My biggest wins have come about when I adopt this approach, so it makes sense to make it an essential part of my overall value betting strategy! Less bets, bigger profit potential sounds like a plan (it’s ok, I am talking to myself right now! A sign of madness I know, but then no one can ever accuse me of being sane, not when they see some of the donkeys I put up sometimes anyway! I’m still having nightmares about Donna’s Pride on Saturday!).
Do you remember Jaadu recently? That horse went off 4/1, I think it was 9/1 or 10/1 when I put it up, and we missed that one by a horse’s nose hair. That’s how close we came to getting the shortie beat in that race. For a big price horse to get that close to winning, was it ever truly a 9 or 10/1 shot, of course it wasn’t. I had it on the tissue as favourite at very short odds, and it almost proved to be the case with the run we got.
I punt for value, I punt for a bargain. As does Brian with his footie tips and others like him. We look for opportunities to back outcomes at odds bigger than they should be. That is value betting, the concept is proven to make money long term if you are good at finding value bets. You don’t win every time; you simply cannot as a value bettor. But if you can win often enough at odds bigger than they should be, then you will make a good profit over time.
As a punter you have to decide what is more important, regular winners at shorter odds that are generally running with a huge bookie margin, or a value punter who looks to strip out the bookie margin and punt at bigger prices on horses that should be shorter in the betting, despite this meaning that losers are bound to be more frequent.
If you want regular winners, then bet short. It’s a no brainer, but it’s not a profitable option unless you have a distinct edge you can exploit regularly – if you want proof of this take a look at the BV Select System selections and notice that the strike rate overall is something like just under 40%, which in anyone’s mind is pretty damn good, but overall if you back the shorties alone you are looking at a considerable loss despite the strike rate, the odds are against you!
Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Until next time…. BV.