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Football Value Bets | How to beat the bookies at football

Value betting is one of the most common terms punters use when they discuss long-term profit strategies in sports betting. The procedure of finding the added value on a set of odds is truly rewarding, but also extremely difficult. Online bookmakers generally make a living by balancing those odds, so they have a theoretical advantege at estimating the chances of sports results and predicting where the punter’s majority will bet.

A “value bet” (according to a punter’s view) is nothing more than a typical bet that contains some added value. After having made his research and estimations, a punter will come to the conclusion that the chances of one team winning are better than the bookie's offered odds.

Truth is, that value betting can only exist in sports betting, where no exact statistical possibilities of each outcome are found. In other forms of gambling, such as cards or roulette, strict probability laws govern the outcome. If a punter gambles on a European roulette wheel he knows that his theoretical long-term chance of winning when placing a bet in a single number is 1/37. Of course, this is not accurately measured in sports betting, especially in team sports, where players, referees or weather conditions can influence the outcome. Nobody can accurately set the correct odds on the outcome of a football, basketball or a tennis match.

How to find football value bets

  1. Bookmakers cannot predict the outcome of any match without a margin of error. They offer prices according to their estimations.
  2. Review your assessments regularly. It is an extremely crucial factor if you'd wish to develop an eye for betting value.
  3. Be persistent. Success in betting is closely knit to finding value bets and not giving up on your betting strategy, regardless of how improbable the outcome might seem at first glance.

So, how do bookmakers guarantee a steady profit? They offer their odds sets according to a number of criteria, more or less the same criteria a punter takes into consideration before he decides to place a bet: The teams' strengths and previous meetings, recent form, H2H results, injuries and suspensions, perhaps some "inside information" and the market's pulls and pushes. In that sense, they don’t precisely offer odds, but instead prices, that resemble the actual odds. And of course, being humans, they tend to make mistakes in their estimations, sometimes pretty significant ones.

Don’t expect however frequent, clear cut mistakes from a bookmaker. They’re relatively rare, but a few pricing errors do exist and there is a small percentage of gamblers who make their living, by taking advantage of them, on fixed odds sports betting. Two things are required to find value bets:

  • A thorough knowledge of the sport, league and betting markets.
  • Being familiar with how bookmakers set odds.

Best bookmakers for value betting

There are many ways and methods of acquiring a better understanding of sports betting. Many punters specialize in a mathematical approach and use rating systems based on past performances to predict future outcomes. Some spend hours each week focusing on sports journals and websites to gather as much information as they can about a particular event, including news about the weather, players' injuries and morale. Others study only the odds offered by the bookmaker. In any case, no punter can be sure that his odds are more accurate than the bookmaker’s.

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Since odds are simply prices, aka probabilities, value betting seems the only way to beat the bookmaker in the long term. Backing a team to win regardless of odds, fails to take into account the bookmaker's prices and may not be enough to guarantee a profit. After all, no matter how good your predictions are, you are bound to make some losing bets.

How to calculate a value bet

The most common formula is the following:

Value= (Probability*Decimal Odds)-1

Let’s consider a simple bet, a 2-way tennis match between two equal players, where each of them has a 50% chance of winning. Let’s say that a bookmaker is offering odds of 2.10 on one of them. According to the formula, this is a value bet.

(50%*2.10)-1=1,05-1=0,05

Some punters prefer to calculate a value bet with percentage of chances, with the following formula:

Probability=1/decimal odds

If we use the previous tennis example, the probability for the odds of 2,10 is 1/12,10=47,62%

Our estimated chances percentage should always be higher than the probabilities of the odds. The higher the difference, the more profitable the value bet will be.

A punter who focuses on value betting is in fact challenging the bookmaker’s estimations about the offered odds. Wherever the punter believes there’s a mistake, he practically discovers a value bet. This might look like an uneven battle, as the bookmaker’s experience, knowledge and powerful software tools can not be easily challenged, however the punter has the advantage of limiting his choices. Most bookmakers are obliged to offer tens of thousands of odds sets every day. A punter needs only to focus on a couple of matches.

The most difficult thing about identifying the value in a specific set of odds is that there’s no exact rule of doing so! Value betting is actually a bet where the actual chance of a win exceeds the estimation the bookmaker made.

Of course there are theories based on statistical analysis, mathematical formulas and other sets of facts, but finding the real value is a highly complicated procedure. The better you understand value betting, the more successful your picks will be.

Value bets explained

Let's say a punter estimates the likelihood for Team A to win 70%, with a 15% chance of Team B win and another 15% chance of a draw, meaning that he has the belief that Team A will easily win. According to these estimations, the odds set that would be considered fair is 1.43 for the Team A and 6.67 for Team B respectively. If there was a possibility that the match could be replayed 100 times, placing a bet on team A would be successful 70 times, but would lead to a 4,5% loss of the total amount of money he placed. On the other hand, betting on Team B every time would be successful only 15 times, but would also lead to a 12,5% profit. So the value bet immediately becomes backing Team B, despite having far less chances of winning at first sight.

In any case, a great way of finding value bets, is by setting your own odds in a match and comparing them to the bookmaker’s. This will help you hone your ability, as you try to calculate the same parameters of the match the same way bookmakers do every day.

You might not be successful at first, especially when you try to calculate your own odds, as you’ll find huge differences during the comparison. At first we recommend that you respect the bookmakers' view, as they are more experienced in this procedure, however setting your own odds will get you into thinking probability wise. Also, by checking the results of your own odds, it allows you to pit your betting wits against the experienced bookmakers, like Pinnacle. It will certainly take a while before you are well accustomed, but it's definitely worth your time.

You will rarely find the exact odds you might have like, but you must come to accept the fact that you are seeking even a marginal profit. Your own odds are in fact the odds you would not feel comfortable betting in the first place, your clear and non arbitrary odds. If the bookmaker’s odds are different, you must then back the Team that is offered on better odds than your own prediction.

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