The first and most important factor in your success or otherwise in gambling is to find an edge. Finding an edge in a particular sport or market is the ability to place bets that have a higher probability of happening than the odds you receive. In any sporting event the probability of something happening can never be known, but it can be predicted, which is what the bookies do when they price up an event. Your job is to bet in markets where you think you can predict the odds with a greater degree of accuracy than the market makers, be they the bookies, or a betting exchange. It’s not enough to be only slightly more accurate either as this in itself won’t guarantee your success, you need to be placing bets that have enough of a profit margin to beat either the bookies over round, or the commission you pay on the exchanges. You also need to be placing your bets at the best possible price. Getting the best price available can be the difference between winning and losing money gambling, and with the generous free bet offers most bookmakers have for new sign ups, there’s no excuse not to have accounts with all of them

It would be nice to just fire up Betfair or Betdaq, read the spotlight comments in the Racing Post, and decide the favourite is a good bet and expect to make a profit, but think about it for a second. The prices you’re betting at are based on the opinions of professional odds compilers and punters who have done their research, what makes you think you can have a quick look at a race and predict more accurately the chances of a particular runner than they can?

To beat the market you need to either have more information, which could be the result of your own research, or find another reason why the current odds might be wrong. You could for instance know that your competitors are ignoring vital information for various reasons. For instance patriotism in sport can lead to the bookies and punters ignoring their team’s deficiencies. The bookies know about them, but they also know the majority of their customers will back them regardless, and thus offer a shorter price than they would if they priced it to 100% and adjusted for their profit margin. Everyone has the same information, but the majority of the market has chosen to ignore some of it.

An old but useful example would be England’s make or break game against Croatia to qualify for Euro 2008. Despite Croatia appearing to be at least England’s equal throughout the qualifying they could be backed at a ridiculously high 7/1 to win the match. Why was this? The main reason would be that a large portion of the punters using the exchanges were English, and they couldn’t entertain the possibility that their side would be knocked out, thus the price on Croatia winning was hugely inflated over and above what the evidence suggested it should be. Even at 2-0 up Croatia could be backed at 4/5 on Betfair to win the match. In effect people were backing England at 5/4 to win the match by two goals or more from there on. Incredible!

This was an extreme example to get my point across, but basically to find an edge you either need to know something not many others know, or use the information that everyone knows, better than they do. Information is only of value if it’s reasonably exclusive and thus the market hasn’t fully moved to take it into account. For instance say a trainer tips up his horse in the racing post, and it‘s odds before anyone has read the article was 6/1. The horse could conceivable end up around 3/1 and some will back it at that price because the trainer fancied it. The problem is the market has already accounted for that fact, and has more than likely overreacted to it. If however you knew the trainers opinion before everyone else did and took the 6/1, you likely have a good price.

A sire’s offspring might do particularly well on soft ground, but once this becomes public knowledge, the market will then factor this knowledge into the horse’s price. If you had done your own research you could have used this information to your advantage before it became widely known. Once everybody knows about it, the stat becomes almost worthless as an angle into a race, but still has to be accounted for when forming an opinion of a horse’s chance. Researching sire stats is in fact a very worthwhile project, as apart from a few big name sires whose progeny’s preferences are well known, there are many lesser known sires whose offspring have marked going preferences that aren’t known by the majority. Finding these can result in numerous profitable wagers.

If Messi and Neymar were expected to play for Barcelona in an important match, and you witnessed both get injured in a training ground clash the day before the match, you could take advantage by laying Barcelona in the match, but if you heard about the injuries on that evenings news, then it is of no use to you other than to inform you why Barcelona have drifted. Many punters will hear that piece of news well after it was released, and proceed to lay Barcelona because they’re missing two important players, but they’re forgetting that everyone else knows this as well, and the market has already more than accounted for it.

Producing your own form or speed ratings is another possible way to get ahead of the crowd. If your ratings were just as accurate overall, as say Timeform’s, then you would pinpoint many profitable bets, as yours aren’t used by anyone but yourself. Backing the top rated on Beyer Speed figures would have turned over a healthy profit when first created, but as soon as they became publicly available the prices of the top rated dropped markedly.

Sectional Times are another angle into a race as they’re still not widely used and have to be taking manually in the UK and Ireland. Having info most of the betting public don’t have, or don’t have the knowledge to use properly, is very valuable. I will look at Sectional Times in more depth in future articles as well as other more advanced ways to find that elusive edge.

If you take anything from this article let it be this. Information is only of use for gambling purposes if the market, for whatever reason hasn’t already accounted for it. You could have a system that has made money for each of the past 20 years, but if your girlfriend is Rihanna and she accidentally puts it on her Facebook page, it will quickly turn into a loss maker. Strike rate will be the same but the price won’t. Her making it up to you could still be +EV though!

Okay so you’ve found an edge, all you have to do now is sit back and let the profits roll, right? I wish it was that easy but while you need an edge to make money, having one doesn’t guarantee long term profits. There are many other factors that will ultimately decide your success or otherwise and I will go through them in future articles. Next up is Betting Discipline and don’t forget to check out the free bets page to take the easiest, and vitally important step to being a successful punter, by always getting the best price.

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