If you are already familiar with the world of sports betting then you are probably also familiar with the concept of "value" and how important it is in helping you acheive long term profits. If you are not familiar with this concept and would like to make some serious money from betting on football matches, then it is crucial that you understand this.
Basically, a value bet is one where you are being offered better odds than you think you should be. Another way to look at this is that you think there is a higher chance of an outcome happening than the bookmakers do.
Heads Or Tails?
A simple example would be if you were offered odds of 5/4 that the toss of a coin will come up heads. You know that there is a 50% chance of this happening and so the true odds should be evens, and yet you are getting odds better than this. Betting £10 on this as a one-off bet means that you have a 50% chance of losing £10 and a 50% chance of winning £12.50, but when you look at things in the longer term, then the value of the bet becomes apparent.
With 100 coin tosses, you'd expect around 50 to come up heads and 50 to come up tails. So, if you always bet £10 on heads, you'd expect to have around 50 winning bets for a profit of £625 (50 * £10 * 5/4), and 50 losing bets for a loss of £500. This means that your overall expected profit from 100 bets is £125.
There are two ways you can use the figures in this example to see why it is a value bet. One way is to take the odds being offered (5/4) and see that this gives a higher number than the true odds of evens (1/1). The other way is to convert the odds being offered to a percentage by dividing the denominator by the sum of the numerator and denominator (in this case 5/4 becomes 4/5+4 which equals 44.4%) and seeing that this is lower than the true percentage chance of 50.
Home or Away?
When it comes to betting on football matches, things become a little bit more complicated. Firstly, there are three different outcomes (home win, away win and draw), and secondly it is a lot more difficult to estimate the percentage chances of these outcomes occurring.
To find a value bet, you must compare what you think the odds or percentage chances should be against those of various bookmakers. For example, if you are studying a particular match and your calculations suggest that the home team have got a 50% chance of beating the away team, then this would suggest that the odds on a home win should be evens. However, if Ladbrokes are offering odds of 5/4 and your calculations are accurate, then betting on a home win is a value bet.
Betting on Long Shots
If you're a newcomer to the subject of football betting, then you may find it difficult to get your head round this, but a value bet may involve you betting on one team to win a football match even though you think the other team will win.
Let's say a match is about to take place and you predict that there is a 60% chance of a home win, a 15% chance of an away win, and a 25% chance of a draw. So if someone asks you what you think outcome will be, you would obviously tell them you think it will be a home win.
Now let's say that the best odds available are 1/2 for a home win, 10/1 for an away win, and 3/1 for a draw. You'd be right to think that betting on a home win would give you the best chance of winning money, but this is not a value bet and assuming your calculations were accurate, you would lose a lot more money than you would win in the long run.
To demonstrate this, let's say that 100 matches with exactly the same profile and exactly the same odds are taking place. According to our calculations we'd expect 60 of these finish in a home win, 15 in an away win and 25 in a draw. If things did turn out this way and we bet £10 on a home win in every match, then we'd have 60 winning bets with winnings totalling £300. We'd also have 40 losing bets though, so over the course of the 100 matches, we'd be £100 worse off.
We'll now look at betting £10 on an away win in all 100 matches, even though we think away wins are the least likely of the three outcomes. If our calculations are correct, then we'd expect 15 winning bets at 10/1 each, giving us total winnings of £1,500. We then take off the £850 stake for our 85 losing bets and we're still left with a profit of £650.
Value bets at odds as high as these will mean a lot of losing bets and you may experience some bad losing runs in the short term. However, if you remain disciplined and your methods for finding your value bets are good, then your profits will be greater than your losses in the long run.
Betting on Sure Things
A common misconception is that value betting only involves betting on outcomes at high odds. This is not true.
If you are offered odds of 1/3 on a team winning (suggesting that there is 75% chance of this happening), but you think there is an 80% chance and that the odds should be 1/4, then this is also a value bet.
The Hard Bit
If you've followed everything above, then you should have no problem finding value bets given a set of football fixtures, a set of bookmakers' odds for these fixtures, and a set of odds (or percentage chances) that you think are more accurate than the bookmakers'.
The first two parts of these are easy and can be done by simply using a website such as Odds Checker. This lists up and coming football matches along with the odds offered by a number of bookmakers for home wins, away wins and draws as well as odds for lots of other markets such as first scorer and correct score.
Unfortunately, the third part (working out odds that are more accurate than those of the bookmakers) is not so easy, and so finding value football bets is a lot more difficult than it may have seemed earlier in this article. Difficult, but not impossible. The fact that there are people who make a living from betting on football matches proves this, and our Finding Value article briefly explains some of the ways in which this can be approached.