Author: Joe Kizlauskas
Last Updated: 1st March 2023
Betting on sports – and betting on football for that matter – has a history long as the sport itself with people wagering a lot of money on their favourite teams with different agendas.
Some punters – and we’ll call them casual bettors – will place a couple of pounds on a game just to add some thrill as they watch their favourite team in a bar with some friends and a pint or two. Others – and we will refer to them as the pro punters – will bet with a more simplistic aim. They want to make money and they have turned betting into a profession or a calling if you like.
Becoming a pro punter is much more than being a lucky lad who makes good guesses on high odds and wins plenty of money without losing much. On the contrary. Betting involves heavy losses, can be quite cruel and will separate winners from losers rather quickly. Naturally, everybody wants to be a successful bettor, but not everybody is keen to understand what it really takes to become one. Successful betting – at its core – is all about understanding and managing probabilities, finding value bets and gaining an edge over the bookies.
Mastering probability and finding value bets is the key to long-term betting success. A successful bettor would laugh at us at this point as value bets are common sense to them, but they themselves forget that making the switch from a casual sports fan and a recreational tipster to pro punter with a deep understanding of betting value can be an excruciating process.
How to Find a Value Bet?
In order to find a value bet, you first need to forget everything you consider to be a good bet. Instead of going over to the bookie’s and backing the favourite to win, you need to estimate the winning chance of the betting selection in question and compare the probability you find reasonable to the odds offered by the bookmaker.
To put it simply – a value bet is a betting selection which has better odds than chances of winning.
Let’s look at it this way. You are sitting in that favourite bar of yours, watching a game with your friend who claims Crystal Palace are bound to lose to Arsenal at Selhurst Park. The bookmakers agree with your friend’s evaluation and offer high-priced odd of 4.80 and up on Eagles to win, while at the same time down pricing Arsenal by reducing them to 1.84 or so.
Being familiar with current affairs in the Premier League you argue that Sam Allardyce’s men have a good chance of winning and upsetting the Gunners. You are prepared to back your claim by stating you feel Crystal Palace have 55% chance of winning the game and that – in your opinion – Arsenal stand a mere 30% chance. The rest will be attributed to a draw – 15%.
Crystal Palace go out and win the game comfortably 3-0 and you end up feeling disappointed you either didn’t remember or simply didn’t have the guts to back it up with a bet. This particular bet is what we consider to be a value bet – the one which has a better probability of coming than what the odds are showing.
This particular bet is hard to make, we give you that, as it can be rather uncomfortable to back a betting option against public opinion and common belief, but finding value bets is all about that – about making choices that are out of your comfort zone. After some time, a true value bettor will not be too concerned if he is backing an underdog, or even a team he thinks will not win as long as there is value given in the bookmaker’s odds.
How to Calculate Value Bets?
We will stick with that match at Selhurst Park between Crystal Palace and Arsenal to illustrate the easiest way to calculate a value bet.
But before we calculate the exact value of a bet we found, probability needs to be assessed through more than a wild guess. We are convinced that Crystal Palace will win and that there is a 55% of chance of a home win, but the implied probability will provide a better insight.
Implied probability is calculated by dividing 1 with decimal odds on a particular selection. With Crystal Palace being priced as 4.80, the probability will be determined as 1 / 4.80 = 20.83%. this means that the bookmakers see Crystal Palace at 20.83% chance of winning the game, which is a huge disparity to our prediction of 55%.
Next step is to determine the value of a selected bet, which is achieved through a simple formula. The mere comparison of the implied probability and the one you think is the more realistic one suggests that you have a value bet on your hands and simple maths is here to confirm it.
Value = (Probability x Decimal Odds) – 1
In our particular case: Value = (0.55(55%) x 4.8) – 1 = 1.64
Values greater than zero through this formula are considered value bets, which is why you should have visited a bookmaker and placed a bet on Crystal Palace.
Your aim is simple. Calculating the value bets allows you to find value by estimating the likelihood of an outcome better than a bookmaker and gaining a betting edge. It doesn’t matter if you quantitatively set out to find value by applying the formula to every bet you find interesting, or simply follow your hunch like in Crystal Palace’s case, establishing a betting edge is bound to bring betting success.
Ultimately, bookmakers themselves create odds on probabilities, which is why value betting actually might be the only way to beat the bookies.