In the world of modern punting, predicting the shifting shape of odds seems nigh on impossible, with values seeming to shorten and lengthen on a whim.
So, how do the bookies set their odds, what causes them to change, and how can you take advantage of an unlevel playing field?
When companies detail their odds, they clearly aren’t just plucking values from thin air. The best bookies have stayed in the game by knowing exactly how to go about setting odds that work for them by employing an external flock of ‘traders’. These individuals are the same breed of boffins that have been employed by financial companies to help foretell future markets and they are experts in the fields of risk analysis and odds compilation. Essentially, it is their job to find the variables for each game, crunch the numbers, and provide the companies with their starting odds.
But once the odds have been set, why do they so often change?
Even when the values have been determined, the variables used for their calculation will almost always shift. Players suffer injuries, teams become restructured, and events outside anyone’s control can influence the outcome of the event. Odds adjustment should therefore always be expected, but the direction and degree of tilt can often be very hard to call.
This was most recently seen in the political bets made on the 2017 snap general election, specifically those detailing who would serve as Prime Minister once the votes had been counted. The period saw Theresa May’s Conservatives start out with a massive 20-point lead, with May holding an 88% probability of re-election as PM. But as the campaign bore on, Jeremy Corbyn’s successes and May’s repeated gaffes saw their odds move closer and closer – with Corbyn’s odds dropping to 10/11 on the eve of the election before eventually balancing back to 20/1 as May fell into evens territory. The period also saw speculation about a new PM, with odds against Boris Johnson at 18/1, Amber Rudd at 35/1 and David Davis at 30/1.
Despite these fluctuations, it is important to remember that once you place your initial bet, your odds are safe. Your stake will be trapped in amber and any money lain down will not change.
But why do these last-minute changes happen with such regularity?
Some reasons include:
The professionals don’t tip their hand: Many seasoned gamblers do not want to start placing bets early. Locking in large sums of money will mean they are not privy to opportunities that can open up close to the culmination of the bet and the bookies are more likely to take bets of larger value on an impending deadline – rejecting any punters that seem to have spotted a unique ‘in’ if things appear too rich.
Perceived opportunity: In many ways, the final scramble for odds becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In placing bets at the last minute, punters shift the odds on the event. For example: If a large volume of punters stake against one team in a match, the required pay-out on the teams will force the bookies to shorten the odds. In seeing these odds change, more punters chip in to try and get in on the action. This becomes accepted practice and, like a snake eating its own tale, the cycle repeats.
The truth is out there: At this point, all key stats have been released to the public and, with the event about to start, the number of variables that can change are minimised. These are therefore perceived as the ‘true’ odds for the match and a sensible punter can be well-placed to take advantage.
What else can affect odds?
If you’re looking at what will influence the odds laid on at an event, the following will have the biggest impact:
Injuries: Simply, reports of genuine or unconfirmed injuries will greatly affect the odds set against a team or player. Along with tipping individual match odds, these will inevitably have a knock-on for accumulators for tournaments or series – meaning that a player’s match-fit record should always be closely scrutinised.
Line-up changes: Always hard to quantify, a last-minute adjustment to an established team or group can throw as spanner in the works. If a group has managed to maintained success through exceptional teamwork, a last-minute disruption to the alchemy can stymie any progress made.
Personal issues: Sadly, a lot of what happens on the pitch or track can have a knock-on effect for players or teams. Ongoing legal disputes, health issues and personal tragedies can have a huge knock-on effect on individuals and, while unfortunate, can dramatically affect odds.
Bookies s*****ing themselves: Nobody is infallible and situations can arise where the odds laid out are hugely sympathetic to the punters. Bookies will then engage in ‘book balancing’ to mitigate their losses from a likely final win. But it’s worth remembering that the house always wins even if that means they will artificially length the odds on another proposition.
What can I do to take advantage of them?
There are many ways that a well-informed punter can take advantage of shifting odds to move the market in their favour.
Keep an eye out for smaller markets: Whether it’s sports-news, social media, or online punditry; there is a wealth of information for both bookies and punters to sift through. It is worth remembering that the majority of opinions and observations will be offered on the larger markets and leagues due to their high popularity and the returns available for companies. Smaller leagues and divisions can therefore be used to help you build reliable means for return and spot mis-set initial odds or pre-empt the likelihood of a last-minute shift.
Develop your long and short game: Knowing when to set a stake down is a key discipline for any punter to learn. Placing an early punt on an outside shot can end up pay dividends as the odds change and your initial bet remains the same. Conversely, knowing when to identify and then swoop in to take a last-minute punt on shifted odds is a skill well worth learning.
Remember, you’re not alone: While you scour the odds on a site for value, it’s worth remembering that there are teams of individuals that are being paid to do the same for the bookie’s benefit. While social media has potentially made it easier for you to spot a value proposition, the same digital technology makes it quick and easy for companies to react to changes. If you have spotted something that can cause the odds to shift in a punt, it’s vitally important to act while there’s still an opportunity to do so!
Make your options work for you: Online punting has added a huge amount of variety to bets and there are any number of options available to take advantage of shifting odds. Options such as ‘Live Play’ let you take further advantage of shifting odds on an event and, using the final pre-match odds as a baseline, and potentially maximise your winnings. In addition, most reputable sites will allow the ability to ‘cash out’ of a live bet and create a safety net for your punting, although you have to make sure to pull the ripcord before anything goes too awry.