If you are someone who places regular football bets, you are likely to wonder about one thing more than any other. How accurate are bookies odds, is the question that punters often ask, and with many factors going towards the pricing of markets, the simple answer to this is yes.
While accuracy is a key component of football betting and the odds that underpin such wagers. Were the odds wildly out of sync, a bookmaker would likely not be in business for all that long or it would not have any business at all.
If the prices were considered too short by those looking to test their betting acumen, their footfall or digital clicks would go elsewhere. If the prices on offer were too large, it would quickly burn through any bookie’s cash reserve.
This is why you rarely see a bookmaker down on their luck when it comes to their finances. At the same time, it is why these businesses see a steady stream of customers throughout the football season – because the odds are accurate and fair.
But how do they generate such fairness and accuracy? The best way to look at it is via this equation:
Odds = Data + Market Activity + Bookmaker Edge
Those three components make up the odds, and now we will look at them in further detail.
With a huge amount of data now available, the task of setting the odds has become much easier than before football’s digital revolution came about. That is not to say it was impossible, as betting has been in place for a century or more, but it was a far more manual process.
Now, bookmakers will have teams of traders who are given the responsibility of collating data and using this to build statistical models. These models then serve as the bedrock for how the odds are crafted.
Crunching The Numbers Is Incredibly Important When It Comes To Odds
For example, if Manchester City and Aston Villa are playing in the Premier League, the data would highlight that Pep Guardiola’s men are not shy in front of goal and this data would be used when trying to price up the over/under 2.5 goals market.
With City usually averaging 2.5 goals a league game themselves, the odds for this market would highly lean towards over from a logical perspective and this is confirmed when capturing the pre-match prices:
Over 2.5 – 1.50
Under 2.5 – 2.62
As we can see, it is no surprise that over 2.5 is priced far shorter than that of under. Accounting for City’s prowess in the final third and Villa’s propensity to concede goals, the accuracy of the odds is rather high.
Making A Supermodel
While if we were to look at the 3-way handicap market, there are plenty more factors that the trading team will need to add to their models. Factors that will include:
Form of both teams – last six matches and also home or away form
Likely team news
Manager head-to-head records
These are just five more aspects that need to be considered before the prices are set and with the Etihad being something of a fortress for City, you would not envisage Unai Emery’s Villa to be the favourites on the road.
Something that is also reflected when looking at the odds in the 3-way handicap market:
Manchester City – 1.28
Draw – 5.75
Aston Villa – 10.00
As we can see, the hosts are priced as the favourites due to their far better record in the Premier League and their stronger starting eleven when compared to their upcoming opponents. Add a more impressive head-to-head record and any model is not backing the away win in Manchester.
Another aspect to consider is just how much activity takes place in any given market. Too many bets in one direction at a certain price and the bookmaker may find itself overexposed in terms of potential outlay.
For example, one thing to consider before any major international tournament is potential bias when selecting an outright winner. If the market is being set in the United Kingdom, then a large percentage of bets are going to be placed on England lifting a trophy.
Admittedly backing Gareth Southgate’s men to roar to glory is not the worst suggestion, but at the same time these bets are more likely to be steeped in the use of the heart rather than the head and this is why England’s odds are usually slightly shorter than you may expect.
A Flurry Of Activity Can Alter The Market
This is not because the bookmakers are trying to offer the shortest possible price, it is because of the volume of bets that they are receiving. If the true odds were offered, then once again the bookmaker’s bottom line could take a huge dent at the end of any World Cup or Euro’s.
With Euro 2024 serving as the next attempt for the Three Lions to finally their 60+ years of hurt, the outright odds are already available in the United Kingdom and they look as follows:
Germany – 5.50
France – 6.00
England – 6.50
Here we can see that England are third favourite 18 months before the tournament gets underway. Even now, an element of shortening odds has been factored into the price on offer. Fast forward 17 months and the flurry of bets that come with it and England is likely to drop to 5.50 or lower.
The last major component when it comes to odds being offered is the edge that must be applied to any market. An edge that makes sure that the house always wins in terms of the odds that are being set beforehand.
Without this edge, the odds would not offer enough margin to protect the bookmakers and it would also mean that punters could bet on multiple options within a different market and at the very worst break even.
Without The Edge There Is No Market
While the edge is best measured in terms of probability and if we combine the probability with an example set of odds, we can get a better idea of how it is applied:
Manchester City vs Aston Villa Draw No Bet
Manchester City – 1.40 (Probability, 71.4%)
Aston Villa – 3.00 (Probability 33.3%)
If we add the two probabilities together, the total is 104.7%. If the probabilities on both sides were equal and fair, the market would total 100%. As you can see, the bookmakers in this instance have applied a 4.7% edge.
In All Probability
Regardless of whether City or Villa win at the Etihad, from the bookmaker’s standpoint, they are expecting to pay out £100 for every £104.76 and because of the near 5% edge, this is how they always generate profit from any market.
Without the edge, the bookmaker would be undertaking far too much risk and it would not become a worthwhile bet for them to facilitate. With the edge, it is just enough balance between profit for themselves and fair odds as far as punters are concerned.
This is why this third component of the equation is perhaps the most important. Without this, the tension that comes with risk and reward would not be in place and football betting would certainly not be as popular as it is today.