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Bet City School
Don’t Bet Outsiders

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This is part of a series of articles by Matt Bisogno from GeeGeez

 

Again, I know this may be draining all the fun out of betting on horses, but here is a sobering fact:

In UK racing since the start of 2009, just 1.75% of all races have been won by a horse starting at 20/1 or bigger. And those horses account for a bigger amount of lost betting points than all lower priced horses put together (roughly 35,000 compared with roughly 31,500).

That’s a quite staggering stat to my eye.

Generally speaking, big priced horses are big prices for a reason. Lack of talent, maybe. Lack of form. Or unsuitability of conditions are three obvious reasons.

Trying to be clever is the best thing you can possibly do when betting. But we have to acknowledge the time and the place for contrarian thinking.

This is the logical slot for my ‘wisdom of the crowds’ reference… this has been discussed in great detail by far, far more erudite and intelligent bods than me, but in essence what we’re saying here is that if three people have to guess the number of sweeties in a jar, they could be miles away from the actual number, when their guesses are averaged out.

But if three thousand people estimate the number of sweeties in that jar, and their guesses are averaged, there’s a pretty strong probability that the mean average will be very close to the actual number. [You can read more about the wisdom of the crowds here.]

In betting terms, this means that a bookmaker may open his book with a horse at say 8/1, but it will take very little time for the crowd to ‘assist’ the bookie in moving the horse’s odds far closer to the true price. This might mean it shortens or lengthens, but generally it will move. By off time, the market will have a very solid idea of who should win, and the likelihood thereupon.

And we can see the effectiveness of this collective betting wisdom by looking at the patterns of market rank (i.e. favourite, second favourite, third favourite, etc) and market odds.

This table, taken from horseracebase.com, shows the direct correlation between odds and win strike rate (and, actually, also losses).

Odds Bets Wins WinStrike SP_PL
A) Less than 1/2 1042 766 74% -30.71
B) Btw 1/2 & 10/11 3291 1757 53% -265.05
C) Btw Evens & 6/4 5017 2096 42% -282.66
D) Btw 13/8 & 9/4 10883 3377 31% -890.79
E) Btw 5/2 & 4/1 32822 7006 21% -3144.8
F) Btw 9/2 & 6/1 31966 4509 14% -4170
G) Btw 13/2 & 8/1 34509 3559 10% -4799
H) Btw 17/2 & 12/1 41145 2964 7% -7356.5
I) Btw 14/1 & 20/1 47408 2116 4% -10788
J) Btw 22/1 & 40/1 41723 842 2% -16591
K) 50-1 or above 30667 181 1% -18633

And this one illustrates the market rank principle in the same way:

Market Rank Bets Wins WinStrike SP_PL
1 31851 10156 32% -2365.2
2 29822 5673 19% -3865
3 29633 3982 13% -3899.1
4 29396 2806 10% -5421.2
5 28257 2200 8% -4480.5
6 26632 1438 5% -7052
7 23855 1017 4% -7485
8 20472 655 3% -7937.5
9 16752 468 3% -5826
10 13318 293 2% -5205
11 10191 190 2% -4173
12 7298 125 2% -3172
13 4870 74 2% -1936
14 3042 38 1% -1461
15 1869 26 1% -936
16 1085 15 1% -375
17 679 6 1% -395
18 411 5 1% -184
19 296 2 1% -211
20 168 1 1% -139

Again, we can see the direct relationship between market rank and win strike rate.

This is why I, and many others who are generally shrewder than me, look for a ‘sweet spot’ in the market. This is somewhere between the ‘blindingly obvious’ of short priced favourites, and the ‘blind pin-sticking’ of backing 20/1 and longer shots habitually.

A couple of important caveats to this are as follows:

1. If you identify a horse in the morning that you genuinely believe has been wrongly priced, then that’s fair game. You will know by race time whether you were right to do this. If the horse has contracted into the ‘money zone’ (18/1 or shorter), well done, and good luck. If the horses are the same price or longer pretty much as often as you bet them, you may need to re-evaluate your technique.

2. If you identify a horse in an ante-post market that you genuinely believe has been wrongly priced, then that too is fair game. Again, you’ll know by race time whether you made a smart call or not. And again, too many bad calls means it’s time to get the metaphorical drains up and review the proverbial plumbing of your picking processes.

Either way, if your horse starts at 20/1+, you now know your chances of collecting!

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