How often do short-priced favourites lose in football?
bettingexpert blog editor. Always taking the alternative route to finding the value.
Email: andrew at bettingexpert.com
Do short priced favourites ever lose in the major leagues of European football? How often do they go down to their less fancied opponents? Andrew breaks down 10 seasons of numbers to find out if short-priced favourites might be good or poor betting value as we head deeper into season 2011/2012.
A couple of years ago, I was reading a certain betting forum, and I stumbled upon a thread started by a particulary optimisitc young man (although naive perhaps is a better word). He was asking his fellow forum posters, what the tax laws were on winnings won on the betting markets in his country.
Why did he want to know the specific tax issues relating to winnings from betting on sports?
Well, it was because he had come up with, what I assume he believed was the brilliant plan, that by just beginning with a bank of $1000 and simply betting on teams favoured of odds 1.20 or lower and continually rolling the total bank into the next match, in no time at all, he would have $100,000.
He was assuming, and said so, that teams favoured of 1.20 would simply never lose and in doing so, bring his brilliant plan crumbling to the ground.
He was of course mocked and jeered by his more experienced members of the forum. Of course, even the shortest-priced favourites have the potential to lose.
Remembering this during the week, it got me thinking about how such short-priced favourites have performed in the major leagues of European football. How often do they lose? Or more importantly, how often do they fail to win? Do favourites of odds 1.20 or lower under perform in some leagues more than others?
How about halftime results? Are they slow starters when coming up against such inferior competition? How about goal totals?
And how have they performed against such slim odds? And in the Over/Under markets?
All of these questions came to mind. And so I opened up the old spreadsheet and database monster than is my 'number 2' computer, and dug into the last 10 seasons of numbers to answer the question: How often do short-priced favourites lose?
Winning at fulltime
Throughout this article we will be looking at the 8 major leagues of European football:
- English Premier League
- German Bundesliga
- French Ligue 1
- Italian Serie A
- Dutch Eredivisie
- Portuguese Primeira
- Scottish Premier League
- Spanish Primera
The odds used in this analysis are average odds from a number of bookmakers, adjusted to standard 4% bookmaker comission, e.g 1.92 'even money.'
So let's start by looking at overall winning percentages of favourites priced 1.20 or lower across these 8 leagues the last 10 seasons.
Overall there have been 521 matches across these leagues over the last 10 seasons that have involved teams favoured to win by 1.20 or less. The league which has seen the majority of these was the Scottish Premier League with 148 matches, all of which involved either Celtic or Rangers as the favoured club.
And it is in the Scottish Premier League where we see the highest losing percentage for short-priced favourites, with over 5% of the 148 matches ending in defeat for the highly fancied Celtic or Rangers.
Of leagues where there was at least 40 such matches featuring 1.20 or under favourites, Portugal's Primeira saw the highest draw percentage, with just over 11% of these matches ending with scores locked. This figure was just slightly ahead of the English Premier League, with 11% of 73 matches drawn the last 10 seasons.
When it comes to winning percentages, the Italian Serie A saw the highest winning percentage for short-priced favourites the last 10 seasons, with over 93% of these contests ending with the expected result. This was slightly ahead of the Spanish Primera with 92.8%.
All up we only see 12 instances where the underdogs have caused the upset, with 8 of those occuring in the Scottish Premier League. And in total, favourites of 1.20 or lower have avoided the humiliation of defeat in almost 98% of all matches across the 8 leagues, the last 10 seasons.
One interesting thing to note is the low number of matches in French Ligue 1 involving favourites of 1.20 or lower, with just 6 occuring the last 10 seasons.
Winning at the half
So let's now turn to how matches involving favourites of 1.20 or lower have been left going into halftime.
Here we see that the Portuguese Primeira has had the highest first half losing percentage for such short-priced favourites the last 10 seasons, with just under 9% of these matches going into the half with the underdogs in front. This was almost 2% points higher than the next league, the Spanish Primera with just over 7% of underdogs holding the lead at the half over the last 10 seasons.
The highest halftime draw percentage for leagues with over 40 matches, goes to the Spanish Primera with over 30% of matches involving short-priced favourites being tied at the half.
We can also then see that while the Primera had the second highest fulltime winning percentage for short-priced favourites, they had the lowest halftime winning percentage for leagues with at least 40 matches involving favourites of 1.20 or lower.
Meanwhile, it was the English Premier League that gave the highest winning percentage for such favourites at the half, with 74% of these clubs leading going into the break over the last 10 seasons.
Overall clubs favoured at 1.20 or less won almost 70% of all first halves, with just 28 instances of the underdogs leading at halftime over the last 10 seasons across the 8 leagues.
Goal totals when the favourites win
Now let's take a quick look at goal totals and average margins in matches where the favoured clubs won.
Here we can see that the average number of goals across all leagues is well up on overall leagues averages. In 5 of the 8 leagues, we can see that the average goal total when favourites of 1.20 or lower win, is over 3 goals a match and in 2 cases, the Eredivisie and Primera, over 3.5 goals.
The leagues with the two lowest averages were the German Bundeslig and French Ligue 1. These however, were also the leagues with the smallest sample sizes, with just 23 and 6 matches respectively involving favourites of 1.20 or lower over the last 10 seasons.
Although the Dutch Eredivisie had the highest average winning margin in such matches, it was the English Premier League that saw the average margin as the highest proportion of the average goal total, with a margin of 2.68 goals accounting for over 82% of the total average goals in these matches.
Head to Head value
Now let's turn to how favourites of 1.20 have performed against the odds over the last 10 seasons. Here we will be betting at 'even stakes', for example £1, on each possible result, (win, draw or loss) and seeing how each result performed in terms of overall profit and return.
The first thing we are struck by, is the profitability of such short priced favourites. If you had bet £1 on every club favoured at odds of 1.20 over the last 10 seasons, you would have come away with a healthy return of over 4% profit.
What's more, only 2 leagues saw such favourites return a loss, and these were once again, the Bundesliga and Ligue 1, the leagues with the overall lowest representation of such heavily favoured clubs the last 10 seasons.
Further, we see that had you backed both the draw or against these favoured clubs the last 10 seasons, you would have been hammered by the books, giving up a loss of almost 37% and 60% respectively. The only league that returned a respectable figure for such underdogs as these, was the Scottish Premier League, giving a loss of almost 16%, still well below standard bookmaker commission.
Lastly let's take a look at how the Over/Under 2.5 goal markets have performed in matches featuring favourites of 1.20 or lower across the 8 leagues.
Overall we can see that had you bet on the Over at 'even stakes' £1 the last 10 seasons, you would have cleared a profitable return of almost 4%. But this is to be expected since we have already seen that the favourites in these matches have likewise been profitable, and are more likely to be involved in higher scoring matches when they defeat such inferior opposition.
In fact only one league with over 40 samples of such matches returned a profit for the Under 2.5 goal market, the Portuguese Primeira, with the most profitable Over 2.5 goal return coming from the Eredivisie at almost 10% over the last 10 seasons.
So what did we learn?
In conclusion, let's list some key points to come from this analysis. But also keep in mind, that although we have found some prominent trends over the last decade of football, we should never consider the odds as a constant. Bookmakers will always adapt to trends and we should never follow trends blindly. Sometimes a trend can just be a good looking coincidence. But we can always take what we have found here into consideration as part of our overall analysis for any given match as we make our way through season 2011/2012.
- Clubs favoured of odds 1.20 or lower have been profitable at 'even stakes' across the 8 leagues of study the last 10 seasons.
- Clubs favoured of odds 1.20 or lower have avoided a loss in almost 98% of matches across the 8 leagues the last 10 seasons.
- Clubs in the Spanish Primera favoured of odds 1.20 or lower have led at halftime in only just over 62% of matches the last 10 seasons.
- In matches featuring a favourite of odds 1.20 or lower the last 10 seasons, the Over 2.5 goals have been profitable at 'even stakes'.
Click here for the BettingExpert 2012/2013 Football Stats Guide. Detailed stats for the 8 biggest leagues of Europe.
You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewBexpert
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Hi Andrew! Nice stats from your side! As shortlisted favourites thats not profitable I suggest Zenit from Russia on home field! Cheers!