A few simple things firms could do to benefit punters
Tips & advice from the betting industry insider
The betting industry is full of ex-odds compilers and traders from fixed odds or spread firms who left to bet professionally.
Twitter is home to many of them, and they seem to enjoy spending their time criticising those who once paid their salaries.
Some harp back to “the good old days” before the exchanges, while others prefer to rewrite history and portray themselves as fearless layers of huge bets when in reality the majority had neither the inclination, nor in many cases the authority, to do so.
When my time came to cross over to the dark side one thing I said to myself was that I won’t become one of those guys. I won’t criticise every little mistake a bookmaker makes, I’ll remember how tough it was to please everyone and how, occasionally, everyone makes errors.
So what follows should be taken in the spirit in which it’s intended. There are talented and not-so-talented people at all firms, just as in any walk of life, but for the most part UK and Irish bookmakers don’t do a bad job. But for the good of the firms and customers alike, there are a number of things which could easily be fixed to improve the perception of the industry, which would surely benefit everyone.
1 Adjust the limits on massive outsiders
When an event is built in a firm’s software system, the trader can decide the limit which they are happy for any bet to win. If your appetite for risk on that particular event dictates you’re willing to lose £1,000 per bet then that’ll be a £500 maximum bet on a 2-1 shot, £250 on a 4-1 shot and so on.
It’s all very standard stuff, and most agree it’s a fair way to do it. Where it falls down is on events with huge outsiders, say a golf tournament with lots of 1,000-1 and 2,500-1 shots, or the FA Cup winners.
Recent stories in the media of normal, regular, punters trying to have £5 or £10 on Lincoln City to win the FA Cup but being auto-restricted to 70p online make the whole industry look pathetic. That, frankly, is because that kind of thing is pathetic. If the most you’re willing to take at 1,000-1 is 70p then don’t be 1,000-1. It’s that easy.
For most firms, they would actually be happy to take the bet, but the rules they themselves have set up force the system to auto-restrict. All that’s needed is someone to think ahead and sort it.
2 Get more value from your investments
When a bookmaker sponsors a sporting event, too often there appears to be little or no liaison with the organisers to ensure it is structured to their, and their customers’, benefit.
There have been a number of snooker tournaments recently, sponsored by a host of major bookmakers, where the tournament draw has not been made until the night before it started.
As a layer, how are you supposed to take as many bets as you’d like to on the outright book, or on first-round matches, when customers have so little time to bet? Barry Hearn, who runs snooker, is a fair man and he needs bookmakers’ sponsorship. If you ask him, he’ll listen.
3 Up the limits close to kick-off in huge matches/events, even for normally restricted customers
You don’t really want to take big bets from me on Sky Bet League Two first goalscorer markets? I get it. No problem.
But ten minutes before the start of Manchester United v Liverpool on the 1X2 market, those reasons for restricting me - or, surely, anyone? - become irrelevant. What do I know about who will win that game that you don’t, or that isn’t already in the market? By that stage of big matches, anything should go.
Every firm has someone keeping an eagle eye on those prices and their book for that game in the hour or two leading up to its commencement. So no one’s going to catch you out – or if they are, you’re doing a hell of a lot more wrong than knocking back a few bets you ought to be taking. Some firms already do a good job of this, but currently they remain in the minority.
The League Table Lies
At this stage of the season, one of the main reasons the league table may not be telling the story we need to make well-informed wagers is that teams’ performance levels in February can differ greatly from what they produced in the autumn.
Those teams still deserve the points they have on the board if they earned them by playing well pre-Christmas of course, and it goes without saying that no one can take them away, but as bettors we want to know what level a team is likely to play at this weekend, not what level they were playing at in September.
Perhaps the best current example in English football is Birmingham City. In many eyes, the Blues were seen as relegation candidates in pre-season but under Gary Rowett’s shrewd stewardship they got off to a flying start.
It was unlikely they’d be able to continue at that pace with the quality of players at their disposal and with a wage bill miles below several of the Championship‘s big-spenders, but it was an impressive start to the campaign nonetheless.
Fast forward to now, with Rowett replaced by Gianfranco Zola as a result of the new owners wanting a bigger name in charge.
The bright start is long-forgotten in every sense other than those points they accumulated in the autumn, which are now the only thing saving them from a relegation battle, like a squirrel who has stashed away some nuts to see himself through the bleak mid-winter.
The reality of the current situation is that Birmingham haven’t scored twice in a game in 2017. They’ve won one game since mid-December, in league or cup, and even then the winning goal came after the opposition had been reduced to ten men.
Birmingham almost certainly won’t be relegated this season, thanks to those points Rowett’s version of the club picked up. But if the season started from scratch, they would definitely be one of the favourites for relegation and it may prove worthwhile to oppose them.
Wolves to beat Birmingham
1pt 10-11 general