Finding The Best Odds: As Important As Picking The Winner

Sports fans, we really do like to bet don’t we?

Apparently we’re happy to stake our money on anything from bullock racing to a bullfight. The consulting firm H2 Gambling Capital released statistics recently which reveal that the average UK adult or the US adult will lose around US$400 gambling each year. But they’re nowhere near the Australians (the most prolific bettors) who will lose more than $1,400 for every adult this year.

All these losses add up and popular sports betting markets like English Premier League soccer, NFL football, NBA basketball, NHL hockey, and MLB baseball turn over billions of dollars each year. And, as in other billion dollar industries, the competition for your custom is fierce. Online bookmaking operations today are slick, sophisticated, and making a killing. They employ expert staff to set appropriate starting prices and use complex statistical models to manage their risk in real time.

However, all this effort from the bookmakers is nothing in comparison to the time expended by punters themselves. Consider the time you spend turning a bet over in your mind before you place it and then multiply that by the number of bets placed each day. Hundreds of thousands of man-hours are spent trying to predict the outcome of sporting events every day.

But could this effort be better utilised?

There are only two things which determine the expected payout of a bet. The first is the likelihood of the predicted result and the second is the odds accepted for that result. Improving on either one of these factors improves the expected return of the bet. Yet, for all the effort expended attempting to predict the right result, it seems that proportionately very little effort is expended securing the best possible odds.

This is hardly logical. It is not possible to anticipate the result of a sporting event with any meaningful confidence and even guessing at the likelihood of a particular result is extremely hard. At least some of the time spent trying to predict the outcome of a sporting event would be better spent comparing the odds offered by the various bookmakers and selecting the bookmaker which offers the best return on this particular bet. It’s quick and easy to shop around the many online sportsbooks, compare odds, and find a better offer. There are even plenty of services out there that will do it for you for free.

Professional gamblers often have accounts with multiple bookmakers, pay close attention to the odds offered by each, and seek out the best odds before they place a bet. But the average punter tends to mindlessly accept the odds offered by his usual bookmaker. This is a large oversight and a costly missed opportunity.

Bookmakers often post noticeably different odds for the same event and it’s common to find mismatches of up to 10% from one bookmaker to another. This percentage is there for the taking and it mystifies me that more people aren’t shopping around for better odds.