Why Compare Betting Odds?

Published: 27/09/2010

Bookmakers do their level best to offer fair odds. After all, it is to their advantage to attract backers on both sides of any bet. If the amount of wagering on the favourite is identical to what’s bet on the underdog, they are assured of a profit. That’s because they take a commission from the winnings—the so-called margin, juice, or vigorish.

That said, bookmakers do not always agree on what odds will “balance the action.” They use slightly different methods to determine which side should win and by how many points. Some take their lead from the larger bookmakers, watching for the early opening odds on an event and than adjusting their own odds slightly to be competitive. However these slight variances are arrived at, they can pose a huge opportunity for savvy bettors.

For example, if Bookmaker A offers Man City at 8/5 and Bookmaker B has the odds set at 17/10, there is a good reason to choose one over the other. Betting £10 at the former would yield £16 for a win, while the same £10 wagered at the latter would be worth £17. Placing a bet at A rather than B would be like throwing away a pound.

Knowing this, savvy punters always compare the odds offered at various bookmakers. This need not take a lot of time. Bookmarking their web sites provides an easy way to navigate among them. Or, to save even more time and trouble, one can simply check with any of a number of “odds comparison sites,” which compile all the information and present it in easily to read tables.

Does this mean wagers should always be placed with the bookmaker offering the highest odds? Not necessarily. It would never be advisable to bet with a dubious bookie, no matter how high the odds offered might be. That’s just common sense. But there can be instances where a bookmaker is offering a promotion, such as a “guaranteed winner” or a free matching bet. In such cases, the bonus may be worth much more than the slight difference in odds.

It is also important to remember that betting odds are not static. They can change over time, and they often do. The so-called “opening line” is the very first opportunity to wager. If betting is heavy on one side or the other, bookmakers will adjust the odds to attract more wagers on the side that is trailing. It can be well worth the bettor’s while to check back frequently to see how the odds are changing for a major event.

Take the case where Man United are favoured over Man City by a goal. For an Asian handicap bet, the opening spread might be set at -1.5 points on Man United in order to attract Man City backers. When wagers come in heavily on the underdog, Bookmaker A may adjust the spread to -0.5 points, discouraging additional Man City wagers and hoping to pull in Man United fans.

Several opportunities come up as the line moves. Of course, Man United fans will welcome the lower handicap and bet more if they have wagered already. If Bookmaker B is still holding onto the opening line, Man City fans who have already wagered can still get in on the higher odds and increase their bets. Or, Man City backers may choose to “hedge” by placing a separate wager on Man United at the new odds.

Hedging is like taking out insurance. Instead of risking a full £10 bet on Man City at +1.5, placing an additional £5 bet on Man United at -0.5 will have following effect. It will limit the loss to £5 plus the bookmaker’s commission if Man United win by two goals or more; it will pay a profit of £5 plus the bookmaker’s margin if Man United fail to win by a goal or more; and if they win by exactly one goal, as expected, it will payout £l5 minus the vigorish.

The same kind of hedge betting can be applied anytime the discrepancy between the Asian handicap odds at two bookmakers is a full point or more. It is impossible to lose both bets. Obviously, it pays to shop around not only for the best odds, but also to compare odds over time with a view to limiting losses and increasing payouts.

Published on: 27/09/2010

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