I've been analysing and betting on sports for over 30 years, started by picking out horses on the way to school and getting people to place my bets for me with the bookies, waiting outside in my school uniform for news of results, until I was legally able to enter betting shops on my own. With the online betting revolution, and the Betfair exchanges, there are far more options available to punters to make decent profits from sports betting – yet a very small percentage actually are able to do so. I've been betting professionally for over 15 years and am pleased to say that every single one of those years has been profitable, there have been some mistakes along the way, but I've learnt something from every one. Some key principals have enabled me to ‘beat the crowd' and so I thought I would share some of these insights below and what can prevent punters from making profits, some common mistakes and some rules to live by. It's important to note that you are not betting against a bookmaker but are actually betting against the millions of punters, gain an advantage over them and you will make decent profits over time. I have been running a sports advisory service for the best part of those 15 years and FormBet for over 10 years, making profits with my Best Bets advice for every single one of those years. You can get on board for the flat season and receive horse racing, golf and baseball advice via WhatsApp by signing up here for as little as £20 per month or £100 for the next 7 months till early November 2019.
RULE NUMBER 1 – SEEK THE VALUEIf you blindly back every selection you fancy, ignoring whether the odds you are getting offer any value, then you will lose over time. Harry Findlay was a big odds-on punter but he has bankrupted himself twice over his betting career, largely by betting on odds-on shots, and ignoring value. Odds-on shots can offer value but you need to be right a lot more often to show long-term profits. Conversely, if you back too many big-priced selections then you will also struggle because you will go through longer losing spells, which can destroy your confidence and decimate your bankroll – they key is balance, to back those shorter priced runners you think have a better chance of success than their current odds suggest and also by throwing in the odds mid-big priced selection that can give occassional bankroll boosts. My average strike-rate for Best Bets are just over 12% with average odds of selections being around 14/1. This means losing runs can be long but over the last 10 years they have produced +1751pts profit, equating to a 23% return on investment. You can download a full spreadsheet of all selections over those last 10 years here. This leads onto my next RULE.
RULE NUMBER 2 – PSYCHOLOGY OF BETTINGPart of the following is taken from this excellent article about Cognitive Bias in Sports Betting. When you are backing larger priced selections, you need to be patient, disciplined and not be affected by short-term results. It's vital to maintain a long-term mindset over an entire season, if not a year. Recency bias is when we give more importance to recent events when we make decisions. It’s a mental timesaver based on the idea that if something can be remembered easily, it must be important. There are multiple examples of this trap in betting. Here are a few:
- You make a right decision not to bet, but it wins (missed winner). So next time in the same situation you back it (even though it’s a bad bet)
- You make a terrible decision to bet, and it wins, so you make the same bad decision next time and back it again.
- When you’re on a winning streak or get a significant return, you bet more substantial amounts on more bets (instead of the correct amount on value bets) because you think when you bet, you win.
- You notice a specific characteristic in a recent winner, so decide that’s an important factor in picking future winners. For example, you choose to oppose every team that played a mid-week European (UCL or UEL) game because you had some success with this strategy one weekend.
- Increasing your volume just because you’re on a winning run.
- You quit your betting strategy and give up on your bankroll management because of a small losing run.
RULE NUMBER 3 – BANKROLL AND CONSISTENCYWhen betting, you HAVE to be consistent with your betting, staking, approach and maintain your bankroll. Recording of results is vital, if you do not do this, and analyse your betting patterns then you cannot fix any mistakes and do not have an idea of where your strengths lie. Every bet you place should be recorded in an Excel spreadsheet, you must know your strike-rate, return on investment and be able to analyse where your best results occur. For example, I know that backing horses shorter than 2/1 is very difficult to maintain long-term profitability, even if you are getting 2/1 about what you believe should be a shorter price, because you cannot always be right in your assessment and need some ‘wiggle room' – it's also vital to look back and recognise that even your losers were not a ‘wrong' bet but that your analysis was spot-on and you just didn't get lucky on that occassion. Finding the correct staking plan for you is always a balancing act between making sure you don’t over bet and risk going broke, but also betting enough to ensure you maximise your profits. Risk of Ruin is a concept used in gambling and finance relating to the likelihood of losing one’s bankroll to the point that it cannot be recovered and is worth reading up about before you get started. You must also maintain a bankroll and be consistent, not just with your analysis and approach, but with your staking. For example, when betting for value on bigger-priced selections, you should ideally be risking no more than 1%-2% of your total bankroll on any single wager. If you have a £1000 bank then each stake should be £10-£20 maximum – this ensures you can handle losing streaks, stakes will increase in-line with the bank increasing and decrease when your bankroll reduces. You also need to eliminate ‘hunch' or ‘fun' bets and always be professional in your outlook, treat it like an investment.
RULE NUMBER 4 – DIVERSIFICATION & SPECIALISATIONIt's really useful to diversify with your investments and to not focus solely on one sport. However, you should always look to specialise in one particular sport and get to know as much about it as possible. I have been studying horses since I was 14 years old at the back of the newspapers, in the days before the internet, yes I am that old. I know the pattern race schedule, know the trainers, jockeys and sports inside-out. This enables me to really have a deep knowledge about horse racing and to constantly be looking for new up-and-coming trainers, jockeys, sires etc and to be constantly looking to build on that knowledge. However, I discovered many years ago the importance of diversifying into other sports, adding PGA golf betting into my armoury, which means a lower strike-rate but winners at often huge odds up to 100/1 – which again requires discipline and a long-term mindset. More recently, I have added in Major League Baseball into my betting armoury, learning as much as I can about the sport, not only betting on outright games, but branching out into Daily Fantasy Sports where you only need to be better than a few other players to show profits, even if the team you fancy loses. Don't take this too far and bet on everything, you need to maintain a certain amount of space and time for analysis and not spread your betting bank too thinly. Pick 2-3 sports and learn as much about them as possible. I also do spread betting on the financial markets, very much with a longer-term mindset as opposed to day trading, spending only an hour or so each day looking for new stock opportunities or to close out existing positions. I personally focus on Class 1/2/3 Handicaps and Group races, especially on the flat but that also applies to jump racing. This helps narrow the focus and allows for only a few bets midweek and a few more at weekends and the big meetings, you will learn how to look for the profile of a certain winner for a certain race and get to know the group of horses better. When betting for value you should largely avoid those races that tend to go to shorter-priced runners, like maiden races on the flat, novice hurdle and chases for example. All successful businesses specialise and betting should be no exception. By specialising you will understand better and research more ably your particular chosen field. Fewer, more focused wagers based on sound statistics and research is a much better way of investing hard earned money than employing a scatter-gun approach. Look closely at your betting patterns and see which area is ripe for specialisation.
RULE NUMBER 5 – USE SOFTWARE AND RESOURCESOne of the keys is to use software and resources to improve your analysis, both pre and post betting. There are a number of excellent racing software packages out there, many vary in price and you need to factor in these costs into your betting bankroll. For example, you could shell out an absolute fortune for the likes of Timeform, Proform or Raceform – however, these are all at high-end prices and most just have more ‘flashing lights', bells and whistles and are like taking a sledgehammer to a small nail, overkill. I developed my own ratings software many years ago and offered it a value price but the admin actually got in the way of my own betting and impacted on the time I could spend analysing selections. When I discovered GeeGeez Gold, built by my friend Matt Bisogno, it was a godsend. It can do everything all the more expensive packages can do and offers value, you can get on board for just £1 a month to trial it and the costs are significantly lower than the competitors without sacrificing anything in terms of resources and functionality. For golf, there are plenty of resources at PGATour.com and for Baseball both MLB.com and the excellent website Rotogrinders.com for all Fantasy Sports needs. You can create a spreadsheet and use Macros and Web Queries to download data that you require and perform your own analysis and build your own ratings models at the likes of FantasyLabs.com which can be invaluable to your analysis – you need to be keen and curious and research and study everything you can, but at the same time not invest too much time that takes you away from the actual betting and some spare time to create space in your life – the key is balance.
RULE NUMBER 6 – NEVER CHASE LOSSESIt's the easiest thing in the world to look for other bets if your initial selections go against you on any on any one day, it's important to master this and wait for another day, there will always be other days, don't rush yourself into chasing losses. If events are unfolding against you there is always a temptation to pour more money into the bet to try and force a profit. This tactic only increases the chances that you will lose more. Likewise, adopting the strategy after a loss that you must recoup your losses by betting more on the next event is also a recipe for disaster. Again this comes down to mastering your own Psychology, recognising biases and plugging ‘leaks'
RULE NUMBER 7 – GET THE BEST ODDSMost bookmakers nowadays close winning account, you can minimise this by opening accounts with as many bookmakers and exchanges as possible and always betting with the one that offers the best odds on your selections. Using Best Odds Guaranteed is also vital to ensure you can profit from drifters and maximise your returns. Using a resouce such as Oddschecker is vital in this regard. Also look for bookmaker offers, enhanced place terms and bonuses as these can help significantly. A number of bookmakers such as Bet365 and Betfair can offer you a FREE bet in another race if you select a winner at certain odds in specific races each day. SUMMARY If you follow the above rules, then you will succeed as a punter, ignoring any one of them will significantly decrease your chances of long-term profits. You need to master ALL of the above to achieve long-term profits with your betting investments, and view them as investments and not ‘fun' bets or take them lightly. Most punters lose because they ignore one or all of the above, work and study hard, have fun with it and always be curious and analyse each and every bet you place, both before and after the event to ensure you are not falling into any of the above pitfalls. Signup to the FormBet Tipster Service (FTS) to get selections based on all of the above, with detailed analysis provided via WhatsApp. Take out a subscription to GeeGeez Gold and build your own strategy and approach alongside the service selections and you will transform your own betting.