Making a profit through betting is hard. Lots of smart people are trying to do it, and the bookies are always trying to stop them. But there are strategies that can help you to be successful - or at the very least limit your losses. If you’re tired of chucking away £20 on your acca every weekend, read on.
What is Value Betting?
In simple terms, placing a value bet involves betting on outcomes which you feel bookmakers (via their odds) have underestimated the likelihood of. It is often contrasted with a “pick winners” strategy where the idea is to pick what you think will be the winning bet, regardless of what its odds are.
Value betting is all relative, and backing a short priced favourite can be a value bet just as much as backing a 10/1 outsider can be. The crucial element is in the difference between how likely the bookies think an event is, and how likely it actually is. Because no one can really know how likely an event actually is, this essentially means how likely you think an event is. You can then refine your system to work out probabilities once you see how your bets are performing.
To understand value betting first you need to understand something called implied probability.
What is implied probability?
The implied probability of odds is basically just how often the bookies expect this event to happen, given the odds they’ve set. It’s usually expressed as a percentage, and it’s just a bit easier to use than the odds it’s based on.
If you say, “Liverpool have a 55% chance of winning the match and Manchester United have a 20% chance” it’s easy to understand the relative chances of those things happening. If you say, “Liverpool are at odds of 1.82 and Manchester United are odds of 5.00” it is more difficult.
How to calculate implied probability of odds
Decimal odds are the default odds we use on KickOff, mainly because if you’re building a big acca fractional odds can quickly become quite unwieldy. Let’s say the odds of Leeds beating Tottenham are 3.50.
To get the implied probability of a decimal odd you simply divide 1 by whatever the odds are. In this case 1 / 2.50 = 0.40. You can then times that by 100 to get that expressed as a percentage = 40%.
Fractional odds are a little trickier but in this case you simply divide the denominator (what you stake) by the numerator (what you get back without your stake return) plus the denominator. So again, those Arsenal v Tottenham odds expressed as fractional odds would be 2/3. To convert that into a percentage probability you’d do 2/(3+2) = 2/5 = 0.4. Then x 100 = 40%.
The first thing to understand about value betting is that bookmaker’s build in a margin to all their odds. For example, let’s say the odds of BTTS in a game are 1.95 (implied probability of 51.3%) and the odds of No BTTS are 1.85 (implied probability of 54.1%). Adding 51.3 and 54.1 together you get a total probability of 105.4%. That 5.4% is the bookies’ edge.
The idea of value betting is to turn the tables on this inbuilt margin by finding bets where the bookies have underestimated the probability.
A value bet example
Let’s say the bookies price Burnley at 10/1 to beat Arsenal. This is a 9% implied probability. You think the bookmaker is overlooking something though - maybe an Arsenal player is injured, or they haven’t played well away from home recently, or Burnley have actually done well against teams in the top half. Whatever it is, you think that the true probability of a Burnley win is actually 15%. This would then be a good value bet at 10/1, even if you don’t really “expect” Burnley, and therefore your bet, to actually win on this one occasion.
A useful way to think about this can be to imagine an event happening not just once, but 100 times. Let’s imagine that time travel has been invented and Burnley vs Arsenal at 5.30pm on Sky Sports is going to be replayed 100 times.
Your prediction that Burnley had a 15% chance of winning turned out to be exactly accurate, they won 15 of the 100 matches. Arsenal still won 70 times. There were 15 draws. This means the bookmaker had underestimated Burnley’s chances, even though they were correct to say that Arsenal were “favourites”.
But, because you were value betting you still made a profit of £65. Here’s how:
Lost bets: -£85
Winning bets: £15 stake + £150 (10/1 x 15) = £165
This profit is essentially derived from the difference between the bookies’ implied probability (9%) and your predicted “true” probability (15%). 15 - 9 = 6%. This 6% is also called the “overlay”.
Obviously, we haven’t invented time travel and you can’t play the same match 100 times. But if every bet you make is a value bet, then this will happen over time across all your bets, even if lots of the individual bets lose.
It’s impossible to know for definite ahead of time whether a bet you made was a value bet, you can only work this out by tracking your bets over time. That said, at KickOff we do have an algorithm which we’re pretty proud of for predicting the “true” probability of events. More on that below.
Because you need to constantly analyse your betting history to refine your system, a key to successful value betting is tracking all your bets. Signing up for a KickOff account and placing your bets through it (or even just saving your selections) will automatically track all your bets for you. This is a crucial element of being a successful value bettor.
How do you work out the “true” percentage?
If this was easy, we’d all be billionaires and bookmakers would be out of business. As we’ve said, the best you can do is come up with a system, do the best research you can, and then track your betting history to see how you’re doing over a long period. And if you’re looking for a system...
KickOff Pros can use our algorithm to help you find value bets. Our algorithm gives each specific selection, let’s say it over 2.5 goals in Manchester City v Chelsea, a probability of occuring expressed as a percentage.
If the odds of over 2.5 goals in this game are 1.45 then this implies a probability of 69% (1/1.45). If the KickOff algorithm suggests the percentage chance of there being over 2.5 goals in the game is 75% then this would be a value bet. If it predicted 64% it suggests the opposite, that the odds are too short and you should avoid this bet.
To see which bets are over or undervalued use the Pro Menu to sort all bets by, for example, “top home wins”. You’ll then see that most of the odds are pretty similar, and run in ascending order down the right hand side. However, if you find a selection with odds that are higher than other bets with a similar percentage probability from the KickOff algorithm, this could be a value bet.
To check, simply multiply the algorithm’s prediction by the odds. What you’re looking for is a result over 100. This is a value bet as determined by KickOff’s algorithm.
What goes into KickOff’s Algorithm?
We put all the data we have into our algorithm - that data points from every game going back years, to try to give you the best possible chance of beating the bookies.
This next bit is pretty advanced. If you’re not that into maths you might want to skip straight on to the tipster section.
One question people ask about football stats and our algorithm is this: how do you turn two teams who average 1.7 and 1.6 goals per game into a real predicted scoreline? A team can’t actually score 1.7 goals per game, they can only score goals in whole numbers - they could score 0, 1, 2, 3 or even 4 plus, but they can’t score 1.7 or 1.6.
Poisson distribution is a way of working out how likely it is that this team will score, say, 1 goal or 2 goals in their next match. That’s the information we really want to know.
The formula for poisson distribution is given below.
Let’s say a team has scored 1.7 goals per match in their previous 20 matches. What is the probability they score 0 goals, 1 goal, 2 goals, 3 goals or even 4 goals in their next match?
Here’s the formula to calculate the probability of 0 goals:
0 goals = 0.182 (18%)
1 goal = 0.311 (31%)
2 goals = 0.260 (26%)
3 goals = 0.149 (15%)
4 goals = 0.064 (6%)
So you can see that for a team who averages 1.7 goals the most likely number of goals they will score is 1, followed by 2, and then 0, and then 3. The likelihood of them scoring 2 or more goals is actually 51%.
One of the most popular ways to bet is with accumulators, or accas as they’re often known. Accumulators are typically seen as a more exciting way to bet than placing singles and doubles, with a lot going on at once, and goals that could make or break your bet flying in all over the place.
Technically speaking, accumulators are bets with three or more different selections - bets with two or three different selections are known as doubles and triples respectively.
Accumulators are usually placed on outcomes in multiple different games. however they can also be placed on multiple outcomes (e.g. bookings, goalscorers, total goals and correct score) within the same game using a betbuilder.
We’ve mentioned how accumulators can create a new level of excitement for bettors. This is obviously good for bookies as it draws in more punters. However, there is another reason bookies like to push accumulators, and that is because it compounds their profit margin.
We’ve just talked about value betting, and the concept of the bookmakers’ inbuilt margin. With accumulators this margin is added together. Let’s say a bookmaker has four bets with the following margins:
Bet 1: 4%
Bet 2: 3%
Bet 3: 5%
Bet 4: 2%
If these are put together in an acca, the bookies’ margin becomes 14% (4+3+5+2).
Of course, the idea of value betting is that you find a bet where you have the margin. In that case, accumulators combine your margin in the same way, for potentially large rewards.
The problem though, is that accumulators increase the chances of one of the bets not being a value bet. If your margin is tight, one wrong selection could wipe it out.
So while accumulators can be loads of fun, it’s even more important to make sure you do your research and find the right bets. Otherwise it’s a quick way to lose your bankroll.
If that all sounded like too much maths for you, then don’t panic. There is another way. You can simply find tipsters who make a profit, and then copy their tips.
How do you know who to trust?
There are lots of football tipsters on the internet, and many of them know their stuff. However, it’s also true that anyone can pick a couple of lucky winners and you might come across a tipster when they’re on just such a lucky streak. So how do you separate the real knowledgeable bettors from the chancers?
Proven Track Records
At KickOff we track every bet our tipsters place through the site. Then we rank our tipsters by how much profit they’ve made, and you can see a record of all their bets dating back to when they joined. This means you always know that their profit figure is real. It also means you can see how many bets a tipster has placed. You should look for tipsters with hundreds of bets as by this stage “luck” should have evened out and what’s left should be their ability to make profit through skill.
Understand tipsters’ strategies
When picking a tipster to follow or copy, you can still choose tipsters who match your style, your desired level of risk and who are using some of the strategies we’ve already talked about.
For example, you’ll see some of our tipsters regularly back unfancied teams, when they think the bookmakers have underestimated their chances, and are therefore focused on value bets.
One member of the KickOff community who places lots of this kind of bet is Profithunter. Profithunter is also one of our most successful bettors, with over £8000 profit since joining in May 2016. Some of Profithunter’s latest winning bets included Chelsea to beat Man City in the FA Cup semi-final at 4.75 and Everton to beat Liverpool at 7.00. These are mixed with bets such as Chelsea to beat Sheffield United at 1.50. Chelsea were clear favourites in this match, but the value comes in the odds. Odds of 1.50 means the implied probability of Chelsea winning that match was only 66%. This was very low given the performance of the two clubs at the time.
Similarly, if you like the thrill of a big acca, you can find tipsters who specialise in exactly that, whereas if you’re now less sure and want a steadier type of bettor with singles and doubles, we have plenty of those too.
Find the best tipsters by league and club
Remember when we talked about getting to know a league or club really well to be a successful bettor? Well, we understand that while you might desperately trawl through Athletic articles for every scrap of news about the club you support, you probably don’t have time (or desire!) to do it for any other team, let alone a whole division.
Or maybe you like to bet on your own club but feel that too often your heart rules your head? You’d really like to find the best tipster for your club, so you can sit back, relax and enjoy the match safe in the knowledge your bet is taken care of.
Either way, we’ve got you covered. We rank all our tipsters by how successful their bets on a particular league have been, and even a specific club.
We take every bet a KickOff user makes (no matter what the stake or what bet it’s part of) and place a hypothetical £50 stake with it. Then we use the profit figure to rank them, and show you all the tipsters with relevant live tips.
So if you’re looking for the best Premier League tips from the best Premier League tipsters - you know where to go.