One of the hardest things to explain to people with only a casual (and often stubborn) understanding of betting, is the concept of value. Explaining to a friend one weekend, that in the English Premier League, Everton could represent value to get a result at Old Trafford against a dominant Manchester United was like head-butting the dull end of an axe for half an hour. He ridiculed my attempts at explaining how success in betting is continually and patiently hitting value situations coupled with a staking plan that exploits such found value, regardless of how improbable the particular outcome may seem. "Stupid bet. United are going to kill them!"
My occasional-betting friend is now a convert to the principles of value. Why? Well merely because he saw it with his own eyes. Everton did get a result, however improbable it was with even 15 minutes to play. Had Man United "killed" them, he would have no doubt been gloating and maintaining his naive stance, a stance by the way that often distorts the market to the happy fortune of those ready to take advantage.
Understanding value is the key to long term betting success. It might seem like common sense to a seasoned betting veteran but to the inexperienced, it can be a difficult concept to adjust to. Learning to bet hard earned money on teams that nobody thinks are a chance to win can feel a little like learning to repel down the outside of a building. At some point you just have to let go and have faith in your preparation.
The task is of course, developing a sense of value you can have confidence in. And it's not an easy thing to develop, but there are things you can do, to start developing your own intuitive sense for value.
1 – Specialise
A least in the beginning of your betting career, it's a good idea to specialise in particular sports or leagues. And it's a good idea to do so in a sport or league you already know well. Start with the leagues you know best in terms of team performance and history. Once you begin to investigate the leagues you know well, you can then apply what you have learnt to other leagues you don't know as well. Yes, baseball offers a tremendous number of betting opportunities each season. But if you know little about the sport, you're wasting your time and it's doubtful you will quickly develop a sense of for value. Bet what you know best first before you begin to expand your field of expertise.
2 – Understand Probabilities
You don't need to be a maths wiz to be successful betting value long-term. But you do need to understand probability. After all, this is the business. Betting odds represent the probability of a particular outcome and I see far too often people betting in point-blank black and white terms. Like my casual punting friend, I'll often hear people declare that a team has no chance of winning or that there is no way another team is going to lose. The fact is, as far as professional sports is concerned, every team has a chance of winning and every team has a chance of losing. And identifying value is understanding what chance that is.
3 – Pricing Up
This is key to developing an intuitive sense for value. It's one of the first things I began to do when I started out. Long before developing spreadsheets and databases, I would sit down and without having seen the odds for the following week's matches, I would price up each of the games. The task is to come to what I refer to as 'the uncomfortable compromise'. You're not composing the odds you would like to see the bookmakers post, you are composing odds that you would not feel comfortable taking yourself. I can't emphasise how helpful this task can be to an aspiring punter just starting out. It gets your head thinking in terms of probabilities and by checking the results of your own prices, it allows you to pit yourself against the shrewd and experienced bookmakers. It takes time to do. It takes effort. There can be weeks where you can't be bothered doing it. But doing this religiously each week of the season for the sport or league you plan to specialise in can quickly sharpen your nose for value.
4 – It's a Market
Don't ever forget that it's a betting market. The pull and sway of general opinion is going to set the odds. Making this a habitual way of thinking is not only hard to do, but can at times reduce the sport your love so much, to a matter of mere economics. It's very rare now that I will watch a sporting event and not be thinking about it in terms of betting odds. And yes, sometimes I wish I could just watch a football match and not being wondering about how the outcome may impact next week's odds or how the overwhelming number of casual punters might persuade the odds for an upcoming match in a particular direction based on what they have seen in this match. Will that persuasion offer value in the opposite direction? Will the market over-react? Once your head gets wired in this way, it's very hard to undo. It might mean an end to your romantic notions of the noble purity of sport. But for understanding and identifying value, that's a good thing.
5 – Review & Analysis
You don't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been. Much of the work in developing a mindset for value is in reviewing how your previous assessments have performed. Where did you get it right? Where did you get it wrong? When you start out pricing up matches, you're prone to exhibit pre-conceived biases. Some may be accurate. Many will not. You can remedy this by reviewing your assessments at the conclusion of matches as well as undertaking analysis of how your sport or league has performed in recent years. For example, what is home-field advantage worth in real terms? Does the market over-value it? Does the market have a general and long-term bias for or against particular clubs or clubs playing in particular situations? All of this can help you tune your mind to value. Yes, it's work. What else did you expect it to be? Never think you know it all and always be prepared to reassess. It's this kind of study, review and analysis that will keep you one step ahead of the market.
6 – Persistence
Finally, recognise that it takes time. It's like developing any kind of craft. Even if you intend to develop sophisticated betting models for predicting the probable outcomes of matches, the development of an intuitive sense for value and 'gut feel' for the betting markets will often provide the basis for even such an abstract approach. Knowledge is power and the greatest knowledge is experience. Essentially, this is the task when developing a sense for value. In the end, it's a matter of developing rich and deep experience for the betting markets and experience worth anything is experience well earned.
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