Getting a Handle on Value in Betting

Updated: 4371 Other

Most punters when they first study a betting event will look forwhat they will consider to be the likely winner of the event.That's a natural approach and while there's nothing wrong with itas a start to studying an event, it

Getting a Handle on Value in Betting
Darren Brett Tipster Competition Manager

Horse Racing, greyhounds and snooker specialist with thirty years experience of writing about sport across multiple platforms. A QPR and Snooker fan

Most punters when they first study a betting event will look for what they will consider being the likely winner of the event.

number 1

That's a natural approach and while there's nothing wrong with it as a start to studying an event, it shouldn't be the one and only aspect. 

In almost any event there's a clear favourite, priced up by the bookies at roughly the same odds, and that is seen by many to be the 'likely winner'. 

We have whole sections in the betting school on how to find winners but these articles fit neatly alongside becoming an expert in value betting.

Some punters will broaden their look and consider the first few in the betting as offering the 'likely winner' of an event, but regardless it is this reliance by punters on the 'likely winner' that the bookies put their faith in, and they are not poor as a result. 

They also rely on the fact that most punters won't have the time to study all the runners in an event. 

With so many betting events covering so many sports it's impossible. So again, the bookies rely on that, and they are not poor.

Winners Will Come Along

Do not just look for the winner but look for the odds that give you true value. If you back value over a period of time you will prosper.

But picking winners is only part of the way to a profit. 

Followers of odds-on shots, for example, will have a larger number of winning bets, but with returns so low that they will find it hard to make a profit from blindly betting them. 

With outsiders, it's the opposite - fewer wins, but bigger returns - yet the net result will almost certainly be the same if followed blindly. The bookies will win.

Not everyone is a supporter of the 'Value' approach to betting, but it is a logical approach - you will win in the long run if you can consistently get over the true odds of your selections. 

The big problem that faces anyone who adopts this approach is recognising 'value', and the preception of 'value'. 

There's no fixed formula to value betting, period. Value is subjective, and the recognition of it is down to the individual. Shoppers may look for lower prices for their shopping items and consider that they are getting 'value'. But others may take the view that so long as the shop makes a profit on the item, then you're not getting'value'.

Betting Value

You will win in the long run if you can consistently get over the true odds for your selections.

To begin with, let's take a look at something which is fixed, and which does provide clearly recognisable 'value';

If I were to hand a £10 note to you and say "I'll sell you this for £8.50", you would instantly see the value in that. 

You are gaining £1.50 on the deal, 

The value is there to see because you have that fixed worth of £10 that is easily recognisable, and you can confidently compare the asking price to it. If the seller wants £10.50, then that's bad value.

value puzzle

Let's extend this a little further to include betting into it. Let's take the good old coin-toss. 

Heads or tails - 50/50, with no other influencing factors like going, jockeyship, fitness, etc.

The coin-toss allows us to see things in simple terms, but still, apply betting to it.

Because the coin-toss is a 50/50 eventuality, the true odds on any toss are evens for heads, and evens for tails. 

Now, if a bookie were to offer you betting on a coin-toss the best prices you would likely get would be 10/11 the pair. 

So you can immediately see that if that were to happen there'd be no value at all because evens the pair are the true odds.

Let's say I toss the coin ten times, and ten times it comes up heads. 

On the next coin toss, what should the odds be? Some punters may consider that heads are on a roll and should be followed, while others will form the opinion that tails are 'due' - according to the law of averages. 

The Odds Are The Key

Imagine you could get 11/10 or 6/4 for a coin toss when we know there are only two possible outcomes, that is value.

But regardless of how many times you toss a coin, each individual toss has the same true odds - evens for heads, and evens for tails - because none of the previous tosses can have any physical influence on the next ones. The 'law of averages' can never be applied to a single event, because by definition the law is infinite. You may consider that after ten tosses of heads there will be ten tails to balance that out, but that can happen any time in the future if you continue to toss the coin. 

It can never simply be applied to the next toss. Nothing has any influence on the individual toss of a coin.

So why is this important? 

Well, it's all about the perception of value, and the recognition of the true odds of any event happening. Let's say, after ten tosses of heads a bookie was to offer you 4/6 tails, and 5/4 heads. Which would you take? The 4/6 because tails has to come soon, or the 5/4 because heads is on a roll? 

You ought to snap up the 5/4 heads, not because heads is on a roll but because the true odds of the next toss are the same as any other toss - evens heads, and evens tails. Taking 5/4 about an even-money eventuality is getting betting value.

Let's say you did that, and it came up tails. Let's say the bookie continued to price it up for the next four tosses at 4/6 tails and 5/4 heads, and you continued to take the 5/4 heads but it came up tails each time. You lost each time, but did you make a mistake? Were you wrong?

The answer might feel like it's 'yes' because you're currently losing, but you were actually correct because the benefits of 'value' can't be judged in individual bets or short bursts - it's a long term benefit. 


Suffering losing bets doesn't mean you are failing - providing your perception of value is sound. It can only be judged longer-term.

That's the problem that faces punters who try to look for value. it can be difficult to judge. 

A novice punter - unless he is a genius - will find it very difficult to perceive value. The same with punters who try to cover all sports. The best value-seekers are those who concentrate on one sport, and in many cases a small section of that sport. 

Take the famous Tom Segal of the Racing Post's Pricewise column. His reputation is there for all to see, and he has often spoken about his methods. 

He only concentrates on certain types of races, and looks for certain types of horses in those races, and also adds jockeyship as a deciding factor as well. But the final, most important factor, is the odds available.

Tom has a remarkable record, but he also has long losing streaks. His style produces big priced winners that, in the long run, are keeping him in profit. Any time he goes on a losing run, his detractors arise and start scoffing his selections. Other people complain that they follow him but don't make a profit. 

That's usually because they don't secure the odds that actually make the value. If you do follow Tom Segal and the occasion arises where the odds are slashed before you get on, it's better to leave his selection alone. He's not trying to pick individual winners, he's trying to pinpoint value odds, and that's what has to be understood.

 Value betting is not about trying to pick a winner of a race - it's about securing odds that are greater than the perceived true odds of an event happening. The value is in the odds, not the selection!


That 'perception' is what the value punter relies on. And it's not easy. 

It's subjective because there are so many variables in almost any betting event. 

Concentrating on just a few sports is one way to help things, while sports like tennis and football - one-on-one matches - offer somewhat easier-to-study options, that can help your perception of value.

No-one can simply just start 'value-betting'. 

You have to build your ability to perceive value in the sport(s) you concentrate on, and that can take time and experience.

Reading my article and other value betting articles will hopefully help you gain that experience - good luck. 

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