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Better betting in 2012

The good thing about starting a new year is that you can also start a new page in your betting records. Set the dial back to zero and start again, resolve to do better, avoid the pitfalls that sucked you in last year. New calendar, new page, new resolutions. Here are five things that you might resolve to do in 2012:

  • Only bet when you think you are getting value

Value is one of the most over-utilised and mis-understood terms in betting, but it is the key to profitability. Good value does not necessarily equate to big prices. A 20/1 shot that should be a 50/1 shot – and there are plenty – represents poor value. A 6/4 shot who should be an even money shot represents good value. Simples.

Be strict on yourself on this one. This is by far the single most important ingredient in profitable betting. All your other resolutions will lack punch if you don’t get this one right. The key is to bet only when you are betting at a price that is greater than the price that you think the horse you are backing should be. Don’t be suckered into backing the horse that you think is the most likely winner of the race, regardless of odds. If you were to do that in every race, you would back most favourites, and we know that this game isn’t as simple as that.

Before you back any horse, ask yourself, what price should this horse be? If you think he should be a longer price than he is, then don’t back him. You will miss winners with this strategy for sure, you will have to sit and watch on occasion as the horse you were going to back dances in, but, if you do this right, and if your judgement is reasonably good, then in the long run it should have a positive impact on your annual P&L.

  • Always look to bet at morning prices

It pays to get up early. There are certain circumstances in which you may want to wait until closer to the race before you bet – it may be that the horse you want to back is very ground-dependent, and you want to see if the forecast rain materialises – but, in the normal course of events, it makes no sense not to bet at morning prices.

The starting price is usually shorter than the best of the morning prices, often significantly shorter. As well as that, if it is longer, with a lot of firms guaranteeing their morning prices, you can usually ensure that you are in a position to get paid out at the longer odds.

  • Shop around

You often hear it said these days that punters have never had it so good. It’s true. You can bet without paying betting tax, you have the option of betting with a betting exchange as well as with a fixed odds firm and, crucially, never before has there been as much competition among bookmakers for your bet.

Shop where you get the best prices, bet where you get the best odds. Why would you back a horse at 5/1 with one firm, the firm with which you have always historically bet, when it is available at 6/1 down the road? Also, some firms have some excellent offers, from the afore-mentioned guaranteed odds and non-runner-no-bet on ante post races, to very favourable each-way terms. Brand loyalty has no place in a bettor’s psyche.

  • Use betting exchanges wisely

Betting exchanges are good for certain things, not so good for others, and positively poor for others. At worst, they are another option. They are generally poor for ante post betting, and they are not so good for each-way betting, but, as well as (obviously) laying a horse, if you are into that type of thing, or betting in-running (ditto), they are also good for backing a horse in the 10 or 15 minutes immediately prior to a race.

By then, the exchange markets generally have plenty of liquidity in them, while there is little or no discrepancy in the odds being offered by traditional firms, as board prices take over from morning prices. At that point, you can usually bet at, at least, slightly better odds on the betting exchanges and, if the horse you want to back is a relative outsider, you can often get a significantly better price on Betfair or Betdaq.

  • Look for good each-way races

The best each-way race is the 16-runner handicap, with bookmakers betting ¼ the odds a place the first four, ideally with a fairly short-priced favourite. The second best each-way race is the 17-runner handicap, ideally with a short-priced favourite.

Statistically, a horse who is 12/1 to win such a race is generally much shorter than 3/1 to finish in the first four, or a horse who is 20/1 to win is generally much shorter than 5/1 to finish in the first four, so it is well worth seeking out these races, spending time assessing them, and betting the horse or horses you think are over-priced each-way. There are other each-way friendly races, but the big-field handicaps consistently offer each-way value.

Now, about that dial …

© The Racing Post, 10th January 2012