Bookies and betting experts often talk about value when it comes to betting on sports, but what exactly do they mean? The ability to spot value is one of the key skills that you need to be successful at betting, but it's not always easy. After all, bookmakers don't want to offer you incredible value – they wouldn't stay in business for long if they did.
With the highly sophisticated mathematical and technological tools that they have at their disposal these days, they invariably have the upper hand. But there is value out there to be found, if you know what you're doing. Here, we offer some tips on finding those value bets.
If you believe that the probability of an event happening is greater than the probability suggested by the bookmaker’s odds, then you find yourself in a value situation.
This is subjective, of course – your assessment of how likely an outcome is will differ from others, which is why it's important to gain as much knowledge and information about the event as possible so you can make a good judgement on whether a bet offers good value.
Value is often to be found in the underdogs, as they can sometimes be underrated by the bookies. Odds are not based purely on calculations of probability but also on how people are betting.
If customers are putting a lot of money on one team in a match because they consider them overwhelming favourites, then the bookmaker will shorten the odds on that favourite in order to protect themselves.
As a result, the odds on the underdog may lengthen. For example, if one of the top teams in the Premier League plays at home, they will always be a strong favourite to win the match. However, last season’s unpredictable campaign proved that the big teams often struggled to win even these games.
Both Manchester City and Arsenal failed to win seven of their 19 home league matches. So if you have a good hunch about the underdog, there is often good value in backing them.
The more research you do into a particular event, the better placed you are to find value bets. The bookmakers have huge amounts of data at their disposal, along with people and technology to analyse the data.
But with so much information readily available online, there is no reason why, with a bit of time and effort, you can't carry out your own analysis.
You don't have to spend hours going through statistics and records, but by studying aspects such as form, injuries and head-to-head records you can make a sound judgement on the probability of a team or player winning.
Use any specialist or inside information that you have, too. For example, if the football team you support are strong favourites for a match, but you know there have been some off-the-field incidents that have affected team spirit that the bookies might not know about, there could be good value in backing the opposition. The bookies don't know everything, so try to look for signs that they might have missed.
The bookies tend to focus their resources and attention on the major leagues and competitions, because that's where most money is placed. They are not so thorough when it comes to more obscure events, though, so you are more likely to find good value in the German second division than you are in the Premier League.
Although they also offer a smaller range of markets on these events, a bit of research can give you the upper hand. Again, you can use specialist knowledge if you support a team in a lower league or if you're particularly interested in a less mainstream sport.
Speaking a foreign language can be an advantage if you're betting on a foreign league or team, allowing you to access information that the bookies might not be able to. Finding value is not easy. You are up against big companies with masses of data, sophisticated technology and industry experts on their side.
But they are not always right and events are not always as predictable as they look on paper. There are value bets out there, particularly in more obscure events, you just need to be prepared to go out and find them.
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