Assessing Value

Around a year ago I read a book written by a professional horse-racing punter. The underlying theme throughout was of the importance of value in making your selections. The upshot being that if the true chance of a horse winning a race is 33% and you can get odds of 3/1 then this represents value and you should have a bet.

Well duh! I am sure (at least I hope) that everyone reading this is fully aware that if someone offers you 6/5 on the toss of a coin you should take it and that if you know anybody who accepts the 10/11 that is actually offered by bookies on whether there will be an odd or even number of corners in a football match then you should keep them away from sharp objects until the men in white coats arrive.

The difficulty lies not in understanding the importance of value but in knowing what the true chances of an event coming to pass actually are and assessing value accurately. Sadly the author of the book in question was not forthcoming and this is hardly surprising given that it is largely impossible.

Sometimes you have an instinctive feeling as to whether or not something represents ‘value’. I took a price of 6/1 on Golden Horn for the Arc as I felt that with the ground to his liking he was the most likely winner. What his actual percentage chances of winning were, however, is anybody’s guess. I told people I couldn’t see him being beaten but clearly no horse’s chances are ever 100%. If you re-ran Frankel’s Queen Anne a million times there would be some occasions where he would have reared leaving the stalls and deposited Tom Queally on his backside or clipped the heels of another horse and been sent sprawling.

Then you get the other end of the spectrum where your gut tells you that something is not a value proposition. I had a fancy for Aumerle at Chelmsford the weekend before last and noted that his price was around 9/4 at the bookies and 3.5 or so at Betfair. On returning to place the bet I watched it tumble before my eyes. It went off at an SP of 11/8 and a Betfair SP of 2.52. To me this no longer represented value so I left it alone, which made it all the more frustrating when it came in by three lengths. But was the horse no longer value simply because the price crashed? Clearly not in this case as it won, but if the race had been run 19 times would it have won 8, as the starting price suggested, or more or less than that? Only if you can be confident of the answer to that question can you know whether the SP represented a value bet or not and the chances of my being accurate about how many times any competitor in a Class 6 handicap at Chelmsford would win out of 19 runnings is not something I would recommend that anybody place any store by.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that definitive value is a somewhat tricky thing to find and, you might say, could be regarded as being the Holy Grail of successful betting. Well you might say that if you were planning on linking tortuously to mentioning the Holy Grail football betting system perhaps.

You will hopefully have read the recent update as to how the system is performing here ( so I won’t reiterate too much of what has been said already. I have been trialing the system for a couple of weeks and so far I am impressed. Naturally the four bets I have failed to place through my own ineptitude have all won, but that is no more than I expect given my general luck in these areas at the moment.

The emails sent confirming the qualifiers refer to the Kelly staking plan, which may well improve your returns, but I prefer to see if a system works at level stakes before attempting any enhancements. Given that the software only picks a team to win and never selects the draw I am also keen to see how it fares if the ‘Draw No Bet’ option is played instead. Logic tells me this will reduce the amount won slightly, but will also significantly reduce losing runs.

I find myself drawn to the concept behind the Holy Grail as (if I have understood correctly) it uses a plethora of facts, figures and statistics within a computer model which calculates its own odds and flags up those teams who are priced higher than the software believes they should be. This takes away the need for me to agonise as to whether Chesterfield would win away at Swindon once every three, four or five and 17/23rds occasions.

Obviously computers can only process the information they are given and there is always the ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’ factor to contemplate when considering software generated selections but past results suggest that the guys behind The Holy Grail seem to know their stuff even if the cold, disciplined approach to such a system requires you to do things which your head questions. Sunderland to win at Everton? Really??!!

Still, let’s allow the results to speak for themselves. So far, despite the Sunderland debacle, I can report that, after 68 bets in total, the level stake bank is up by over 11 points for a return of 16.89%. The ‘Draw No Bet’ approach suffered due to a higher than usual number of outright defeats this weekend but is still over 4 points up for a yield of around 6%. I will keep monitoring both for a while to see if these relative positions change much over time.

What I like about the Holy Grail is that it promises a high volume of bets with a low, but regular, yield. The current season is showing an ROI of almost 17% to the Kelly plan, which is remarkable and higher even than the expectations of the people behind the system. I have been told that they are confident of maintaining a return of over 10% and with over 20 bets a week for the three weeks I have been receiving the tips, and with other leagues being trialed quite positively as I type, a 10% return could well turn out to be very tidy indeed.


Paul Dixon is a lifelong sports fan and author of the book Fun and Games in Fife and Gretna– a humorous look at an Englishman’s journey into Scottish football. He has been making regular profits from betting since 2012.