Betting markets are highly efficient which can make it difficult to uncover value. This article discusses whether the timing and structure of an event can create unconventional opportunities for bettors.
The efficiency of betting markets makes value very difficult to find through conventional means. However, as I have discussed previously, this does not mean bettors should give up on trying to beat the market.
Whilst one-off events may be generally priced correctly, one potentially overlooked avenue for attempting to extract some value from an otherwise valueless market could be making use of the structure of an event.
The primary example of this is the way fixtures are structured within a sporting event which bettors can attempt to exploit through use of the outright market.
Taking advantage of timing: In theory
So let’s use a theoretical example. Team A can be bet on to score 0 total goals at a tournament through an outright bet. The odds are 5.10
This is how Team A’s fixtures are structured:
Match 1: Team A vs. Team B
Match 2: Team A vs. Team C
Match 3: Team A vs. Team D
Now imagine Team B and Team C are the two best teams at the tournament whilst Team D are amongst the worst. This makes Team A unlikely to score a goal against those two teams with Team D representing their greatest opportunity to score. The odds on the team not to score in the individual matches before the tournament could look something like:
To score vs. Team B 1.2
To score vs. Team C 1.7
To score vs. Team D 2.5
So the probability implied by the outright of the team not scoring are correct but they are much more likely to score in the final game compared to the previous two.
These however are not independent events. Do we expect the likelihood of the team to score vs Team D to increase or decrease based on whether they score vs. Teams B and C?
Instead the closing line odds right before the start of each game may look something like this:
|Opponent||Opening odds||Closing line odds|
In this case the bettor is actually getting odds of 5.1 on events where the line closing lines sum to 4.55. It’s possible the bettor could then simply bet on the team to score vs. Team D at the closing line odds to lock in his advantage.
Example: World Cup Group G
An example of what I’m talking about occurred during the 2018 World Cup Group G fixtures. Panama, one of the tournament’s weakest teams, played first against Belgium followed by England before playing their easiest fixture against Tunisia in the very last game of the group stage.
Panama were available at 9.00 to score the least goals of all teams in the tournament. A potentially viable strategy could have been to let them play their first two games against the strongest sides before hedging by betting on them to score vs. Tunisia, with full knowledge of how many goals the other teams in the tournament had scored.
As it happened Panama actually scored a shock goal against England which would have been harmful for bettors backing them not to score on a game by game basis. Through a fortunate turn of events every other team scored twice before Panama played Tunisia allowing this set of bets to be placed:
Panama to score the least goals at the tournament: 9.00
Panama to score vs. Tunisia: 1.57
By betting on the outright bettors could have given themselves a little more flexibility than betting ahead of each game.
What the example above does demonstrate however is that these types of bets can add some complexity to a bettors value calculations.
The bettor needs to know the probability of Panama scoring the least goals. This means not only knowing the probability of Panama scoring a set number of goals but also the other 31 teams in the competition. This is extra work but is also what can provide opportunity.
This extra effort could also highlight some other value bet opportunities. Did the fact England and Belgium played their weakest opponents in the opening two games help their golden boot candidates?
This stands to reason considering it meant easy fixtures, including the biggest mismatch at the tournament, followed by a beneficial rest ahead of the round of 16 in the group stage match they were least likely to score in.
This was more than likely reflected by the pre-tournament odds but there’s a chance there may have been an opportunity there.
Looking for unexploited edges
The point of this article is not to suggest that such advantages exist at all but more that bettors should keep an open mind to what can be done to find value in a betting market.
When the major markets are as efficient as they are, questions like, “can the structure of a tournament present an opportunity others have missed?” are ones that could uncover advantages. More variables in a betting market provides more opportunity for a probability to be incorrect.
A bettor has the advantage of being able to focus on one specific party of an event and being able to pass on bets with no value. As a result thinking outside the box certainly should not be dismissed.