The exercise of identifying whether or not money down is professional or public can be a difficult one to get right. When it comes to sports betting, perhaps the most obvious example of when large of amounts of professional money are put down is in horse racing. Often, when a horse that has started at 8/1 in the morning hardens in the market and eventually ends up at a price nearer evens, you know that either the online bookmakers – or professional punters – know something.
Notable examples of horses shortening in the market in the past have come from race-fixing. Professional con men would run their horses in aces that didn’t suit their animals and then, when the horse ran badly enough and became a big enough price for his next race, the man would run his horse in a race that did suit, and from there back his animal off the boards. This is a rather hackneyed example, but the concept is the same: horses that start off at a big price, and whose prices drop dramatically, are likely to have been subject to professional betting.
It is not just the professional gamblers’ money that causes horses to shorten in the market. Indeed, online bookmakers such as Paddy Power Sports employ ‘form-readers’ whose job it is to interpret a horse's form in order to put it in a particular place in the market. These form-readers, along with the opinions of those ‘in the know’, talk to the trainers and owners of their respective horses and gauge what kind of a chance their horses have. With this information, online bookmakers can price their horses accordingly, and this is why you sometimes see a horse that hasn’t run for a year at the head of the market, or a horse that hasn’t finished in his last three starts halve in price, for example.
It is hard, though, to tell the difference between public and professional betting. Tom Segal, the country’s most successful tipster, causes markets to fluctuate all by himself, with his tips affecting public money betting in a significant way. If, on the morning of a particular sporting event, you noticed a well-known tipster in a widely-read newspaper urging his readers to go for one outcome over another, you can expect public money betting to respond accordingly, causing a considerable swing in the market.
Gambles can also be staged at sporting venues themselves. In particular, as far as greyhounds are concerned, people have been known to lump on to a specific dog that may not have run particularly well in its last outing, or a dog that is weak in the betting. This is an easy way of spotting the chances the dog may have, and, often, it is wise not to ignore the fluctuations of the market.
If a horse or dog – or football team, for that matter – shortens considerably in the market as an event is about to start, then you know that this is either professional punters or public money down. This is because online bookmakers usually shorten the odds of a participant long before the occasion, so that it can take as little money as possible – if a horse was at longer odds and the public latched on to the fact that it had a chance, it would render the bookmakers’ form-readers useless.
In essence, it’s wise to follow both public and professional betting, whether or not it has been orchestrated because, if you follow the money, you’re not likely to go far wrong. The same goes for a horse, dog, individual or team on the drift: don’t follow the market that is not being backed.