Finding an Edge in Sports Betting was the first article in this series in which I discuss the tools necessary to become a successful gambler and while this is the single most important aspect if you want to beat the bookies, or your fellow betting exchange players, it is not the only requirement to be successful. Betting Discipline is perhaps the reason why many who can find that elusive edge don’t go on to make long term profits.

When I talk about betting discipline I mean your ability to handle the inevitable losing runs, and to only place bets when you feel you have an edge. Fun Bets or Interest bets are the downfall of many otherwise profitable gamblers. A fun bet is any bet you place that doesn’t meet your normal criteria for a ‘value bet’.  It could be a wager on the Monday night football just because it’s on TV, even though you have no strong fancy, or it might be a bet on a race at Wolverhampton while you’re waiting for your main bet to run at Newmarket. These type of bets are a drain on, and could even eliminate, the profits you make from your main bets, the ones you really fancy. The ones you’re confident you have an edge on the market with.

If you’re local casino had a special offer, where every hour on the hour they tossed a coin and offered everyone present 11/10 on heads, you would have found an edge. In the long term by backing heads each time you will win money on this offer, providing of course that Del Boy didn’t supply the coin! Let’s say this offer was limited to a €100 bet per person. Your expectation for each bet would be a profit of €5 ((50% of (100*2.1) – €100)). So if you pop into the casino just before the hour for six hours every day you will make on average a profit of €30 a day. You have an edge and you’re exploiting it to make an overall profit. If however you take up residence in the casino for the day, and whilst you’re waiting for your hourly bet, you play some blackjack. Let’s say the casino has an edge of 2% per hand and you play sixty hands an hour, meaning that if you bet €10 a hand you would have an expected loss of €12 an hour. So while your waiting to place your hourly ‘value bet’ your also placing lots of smaller bets that more than eliminate the profits your making from the coin toss bet.

The above example might not be realistic in that casinos rarely offer such incentives but many punters follow a similar line every day. They might go to their local bookies, or sit and watch the racing on TV, but the general policy will be to back a horse for interest in most races. Just like the casino example most punters don’t have the discipline to wait for the bets they think they have an edge with. Having a bet in every race is fine but only if you can find a bet you believe to be value. If you have four or five strong bets for the day and dilute them with numerous fun bets all your good work in coming up with the value selections will be wasted by your lack of discipline.

If I price a horse’s true odds at 2.26 and I decide I’ll lay it at 2.0 on Betfair, then unless my true odds change to account for new information, I won’t lay at any higher than that. If the horse is 2.02 many might think that’s close enough, but it’s not. There’s no point in having a maximum lay price or minimum back price if you’re going to break it. If you decide 2.02 is close enough, well then 2.04 is close to 2.02 and 2.06 is close to 2.04. Where do you draw the line? Before you know it you’re laying the horse at your true odds price, and after you’ve paid commission you will end up a loser if your true odds were right. So you could correctly predict the probability of an event happening but lose money long term because you couldn’t resist the temptation of having the bet even though the price wasn’t right.  If you want to bet for fun then that’s fine, and I can think of a lot worse things to do with your money but if you want to be a consistent long term winner than you have to have the temperament and discipline to knock those ‘fun bets’ and bets that don’t meet your price criteria on the head.

There are punters who normally only place bets where they feel they have an edge, and while they could be successful long term; a losing run can often be enough to derail their attempts to make a living from the game. Well that’s obvious I hear you say, and it is obvious that losing runs will dent profits, but it won’t prevent you from making money overall, but how you handle them might. Just because you make money long term doesn’t mean there won’t be periods of short term losses, I should know I’ve gone through loads of them. How you react to these set-backs is vital to your continued success. When I say ‘react to them’ maybe it wasn’t the best choice of words as the best thing to do is not to react at all. If a losing run is the only reason you need to change your methods, or causes you to chase your losses than you’re on the slippery slope to a career change, as more often than not the losing run will fall within an entirely expected sequence of results. For instance if you had an expected strike rate for a series of bets of 50% did you know that in a series of 40 such wagers you will get 14 or less winners over 5% of the time? Basically this means if you do 800 such bets and get 400 winners there will normally be one 40 bet series in which you only had 14 winners. If you take this series of bets in isolation you would be losing money backing at 11/10 and could incorrectly deduce your system was flawed in some way. That’s why certain statistical tests are used so you don’t overreact to short term results.

It’s vital to analyse your results to determine if the results are just due to bad luck or perhaps some variable might have changed which could explain your lack of success. If however after this analysis you can’t find any reason for the downturn and the results experienced fall within what might be expected in an unlucky period then don’t do anything different and your luck will turn. I will talk more of what type of analysis you can do in future articles.

The next time you’re looking at the TV contemplating having a bet on the 1/1 Fav ‘just for interest’, consider this. If your life depended on picking a winner and you had a choice between the 1/1 fav you were thinking of backing, and heads in a coin toss, which would you pick? If you picked heads then you can’t justify backing the horse, and for what’s it worth, I have a feeling your life expectancy might be a little bit longer too.

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