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The Myth of the "Professional"

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  • #6654
    carvillshill
    Participant
    • Total Posts 2778

    When I first got interested in racing, my uncle was my hero. He had allegedly won fortunes in the forties and fifties being the "man on the book" for Paddy Sleator, telling him where his horses were "best in" in England (used to be different handicappers for different courses then)
    By the time I was studying him however he was backing long oods-on shots, often for a place on the Tote- his philosophy was to try never to back a loser. Understandably I thought this was the "professional" way and spent my late teens backing short-odds horses in doubles and trebles. It took a few years and a lot of reading before I realised that to win worthwhile money you had to find bigger priced winners and sacrifice strike rate. The same myth of "the professionals" is still trotted out whenever a short price horse obliges- I remember when Dawn Run fell at the first and Wayward Lad subsequently got beaten in the Melling Chase at Aintree one year "the professionals" got their fingers burnt twice according to the paper.
    Time to debunk the myth: in my opinion anyone who is significantly in profit backing horses is avoiding short prices and finding winners shunned by the majority. Harry Findlay is therefore an enigma- I have no doubt that Denman was a value bet at 1/3 the other day but I struggle to believe he’s making a living trading regularly at long odds-on: the truth has to be that his sports betting or pool betting is value, not the short ones over a year. Any opinions?

    #142575
    Flash
    Member
    • Total Posts 1144

    I suppose there are people out there that make money by backing short priced horses, odds on even but its not for me I really don’t see how.

    Personally I have a rule never, ever to back any horse at under 2/1 or 9/4 on Befair (baring in mind commission) as I don’t think its worth risking money if you don’t stand to at least double your stake.

    You are not going to win every single bet its impossible in fact you will lose more than you win so you have to find decent priced winners.

    #142580
    non vintage
    Member
    • Total Posts 1268

    I don’t want to trot out the ‘value’ line again, but essentially I disagree carv. If someone is regularly backing horses with a 90% chance of winning at 1/3, they will do just as well as the person backing horses with a 20% chance of winning at 5/1.

    Research tends to show that the market actually swings back in the punters favour at really short odds – something probably explained by the reluctance of many to back (or be bothered to think about backing) horses at very short prices. The demand for bets on these horses is lower than might be expected for a solid favourite with outstanding claims, and bookmakers may lengthen their price in order to attract cash.

    #142586
    davidbrady
    Member
    • Total Posts 3901

    It’s fine to wheel out them statistics but punters are human beings who have two arms and five toes

    I’m a freak then cos I have 10 toes

    Sorry marb – couldn’t resist

    I’ll get me coat :oops:

    #142587
    Gingertipster
    Participant
    • Total Posts 27782

    A long odds-on chance can be value. The problem is an unlimited bank is needed to play at such odds. If a horse is offered at 1/6fav (85.7%) and I believe it has a 92% chance of winning, it is good value. To win a reasonable amount on it the stake needs to be massive and even in my working out it still has an 8% chance of losing. So it may be value, but if that value bet happens to lose it will knacker a year or mores profit / hard work. Which is why I do not bet at shorter than 4/5, and that usually only a saver bet.

    value is everything
    #142588
    % MAN
    Participant
    • Total Posts 5104

    Research tends to show that the market actually swings back in the punters favour at really short odds – something probably explained by the reluctance of many to back (or be bothered to think about backing) horses at very short prices. The demand for bets on these horses is lower than might be expected for a solid favourite with outstanding claims, and bookmakers may lengthen their price in order to attract cash.

    Which happened to a certain extent with Denman on Saturday – a number of layers on course opened 1/6 and 2/11 and the punters were not rushing to take their offers.

    Personally, whilst I cannot say I never back horses at long odds on prices, I do think very hard before doing so, simply to balance the potential loss against the potential gain. To that end I would be more likely to back odds on in a flat race than over jumps for the simple reason there are no obstacles to overcome, hence one significant less risk. Even the most fluent jumper can still get carried out or bought down.

    #142590
    non vintage
    Member
    • Total Posts 1268

    It depends marb.

    If most people placing money on a race think like you, someone who is comfortable studying long odds-on shots will have a massive advantage over most punters.

    They will be able to tell whether that 1/3 is a true reflection or not of the horse’s chance of winning, and will be able to back or lay accordingly, whilst other punters are either betting blind, looking at other horses (probably for each-way purposes) or looking at other races.

    There should be no difference in the process of assessing a horse, simply because it happens to have a much bigger chance of winning than most runners on a particular card or a particular raceday.

    #142591
    non vintage
    Member
    • Total Posts 1268

    It’s fine to wheel out them statistics but punters are human beings who have two arms and five toes

    I’m a freak then cos I have 10 toes

    Sorry marb – couldn’t resist

    I’ll get me coat :oops:

    LOL! :D
    I feel obliged to say that in addition to arms and toes, I also possess legs and fingers, not necessarily in that order…

    #142593
    Cav
    Participant
    • Total Posts 4822

    Never bet at odds on myself, there are too many things that can go wrong for me to feel comfortable. That said I do believe there can be value at any price including odds on. Its all about probability versus the price you obtain.

    Findlay doesn’t strike me as someone who trawls the formbook looking for longer priced value so the shorter priced higher probability model probably suits him better. I’m sure he’s at 2% commision and the vast turnover he generates means a 4-5% edge is all he needs to be minted longterm. I’d imagine quite a few of the big players on BF operate on a similar principle.

    #142598
    aaronizneez
    Participant
    • Total Posts 1741

    NV

    "Research tends to show that the market actually swings back in the punters favour at really short odds – something probably explained by the reluctance of many to back (or be bothered to think about backing) horses at very short prices. The demand for bets on these horses is lower than might be expected for a solid favourite with outstanding claims, and bookmakers may lengthen their price in order to attract cash."

    Over the last year Feb- Feb there have been 403 odds on favourites running on turf on the flat of which 231 won (57.32%) which if bet to level stakes produces a loss of £24.93. Below is a detailed list which rather shows that it is still difficult to make a profit on backing odds on shots. You are right in the fact that losses are smaller the lower the price but its not an end of the market I would want to be betting at.

    Odds Wins Runs % Profit/Loss
    1/16& less 2 2 100.00% 0.13
     1-12& less 4 4 100.00% 0.29
     2-15& less 4 5 80.00% -0.71
     1-7& less 5 6 83.33% -0.57
     1-5& less 7 8 87.50% -0.17
     2-9& less 10 12 83.33% -0.5
     1-4& less 13 17 76.47% -1.75
     2-7& less 14 20 70.00% -3.46
     30-100& less 14 22 63.64% -5.46
     1-3& less 23 32 71.88% -3.46
     4-11& less 36 46 78.26% 0.26
     2-5& less 45 60 75.00% -1.14
     4-9& less 57 78 73.08% -1.8
     1-2& less 65 96 67.71% -7.8
     8-15& less 67 106 63.21% -14.74
     4-7& less 83 127 65.35% -10.59
     8-13& less 100 153 65.36% -9.13
     4-6& less 129 203 63.55% -10.8
     8-11& less 157 253 62.06% -12.43
     4-5& less 177 294 60.20% -17.43
     5-6& less 198 327 60.55% -11.93
     10-11& less 231 403 57.32% -24.93

    #142600
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    • Total Posts 17716

    I am reminded of Alex Bird, pro bettor and contemporary of Phil Bull, who made much of his fortune by betting in photo finishes. By definition, the great majority of his bets during this period would have been odds-on shots.
    He developed a method of standing in line with the winning post, with one eye closed, and always bet the nearside horse when he thought that one the winner.
    On one occasion, having seen one such horse prevail by around half a length, he enquired after a price and was offered something like 1/50.
    He took – and collected on – the bet, knowing full well he couldn’t lose.
    Who was the mug in this transaction, the one who bet the odds-on chance, or the one who thought he had value at 50/1?

    #142601
    non vintage
    Member
    • Total Posts 1268

    Thanks for the stats aaronizneez.

    (Slightly bizarrely, I was right about the 90% strike rate of 1/3 shots, although this was obviously an invented punter-friendly stat when I wrote it rather than any kind of prediction)

    Essentially, over the last year, backing odds-on shots blindly at S.P. to level stakes would have resulted in a loss of 6.2%.

    Whilst obviously not a bottomless honeypot, for me this makes it highly probable that knowledgable, discerning, disciplined betting at this end of the market could indeed turn in a decent profit.

    #142604
    non vintage
    Member
    • Total Posts 1268

    But marb – he knew he was on a winner…

    Start with a modest £1000 and successfully back a single 1/50 shot every day for a year. Then retire.

    I know what you mean about not being happy betting big sums at tiny odds, but there are possibilities down there…

    #142606
    Smithy
    Member
    • Total Posts 720

    Of course you can win backing odds-on shots if you are good at it. The trouble is, that most people either aren’t good at it, or haven’t got the mentality to handle a losing run.

    And marb, i think you have misunderstood reet hard’s point. He was betting 1/50 about the horse he knew had won the race – that seems fair business.

    #142607
    non vintage
    Member
    • Total Posts 1268

    Agreed Kwai, but I’m definitely not advocating betting them blind (or even with one eye closed). :wink:

    You don’t get money for nothing or everyone would be doing it, and there is the need to put the work in. However, with really short-priced horses, you are starting from a playing field which is almost level before you begin…

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